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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

2 Corinthians 12



Other Authors
Verse 1

I must needs glory (καυχασται δειkauchasthai dei). This is the reading of B L Latin Syriac, but Aleph D Bohairic have δεde while K M read δηdē The first is probably correct. He must go on with the glorying already begun, foolish as it is, though it is not expedient (ου συμπερονou sumpheron).

Visions (οπτασιαςoptasias). Late word from οπταζωoptazō See Luke 1:22; note on Acts 26:19.

Revelations of the Lord (apokalupseis Kuriou). Unveilings (from apokaluptō as in Revelation 1:1). See note on 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 14:26. Paul had both repeated visions of Christ (Acts 9:3; Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17; Acts 27:23.) and revelations. He claimed to speak by direct revelation (1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3, etc.).

Verse 2

I know a man (οιδα αντρωπονoida anthrōpon). Paul singles out one incident of ecstasy in his own experience that he declines to describe. He alludes to it in this indirect way as if it were some other personality.

Fourteen years ago (προ ετων δεκατεσσαρωνpro etōn dekatessarōn). Idiomatic way of putting it, the preposition προpro (before) before the date (Robertson, Grammar, p. 621f.) as in John 12:1. The date was probably while Paul was at Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25). We have no details of that period.

Caught up (αρπαγενταharpagenta). Second aorist passive participle of αρπαζωharpazō to seize (see note on Matthew 11:12).

Even to the third heaven (εως τριτου ουρανουheōs tritou ouranou). It is unlikely that Paul alludes to the idea of seven heavens held by some Jews (Test. of the Twelve Pat., Levi ii. iii.). He seems to mean the highest heaven where God is (Plummer).

Verse 3

I do not know (ουκ οιδαouk oida). Paul declines to pass on his precise condition in this trance. We had best leave it as he has told it.

Verse 4

Into Paradise (εις παραδεισονeis paradeison). See note on Luke 23:43 for this interesting word. Paul apparently uses paradise as the equivalent of the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Some Jews (Book of the Secrets of Enoch, chapter viii) make Paradise in the third heaven. The rabbis had various ideas (two heavens, three, seven). We need not commit Paul to any “celestial gradation” (Vincent).

Unspeakable words (arrēta rēmata). Old verbal adjective (a privative, αρρητα ρηματαrētos from αreō), only here in N.T.

Not lawful (ρητοςouk exon). Copula ρεωestin omitted. Hence Paul does not give these words.

Verse 5

But on mine own behalf (υπερ δε εμαυτουhuper de emautou). As if there were two Pauls. In a sense there were. He will only glory in the things mentioned above, the things of his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 11:30).

Verse 6

I shall not be foolish (ουκ εσομαι απρωνouk esomai aphrōn). Apparent contradiction to 2 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:16. But he is here speaking of the Paul “caught up” in case he should tell the things heard (condition of the third class, εανean and first aorist subjunctive τελησωthelēsō).

Of me (εις εμεeis eme). To my credit, almost like dative (cf. εν εμοιen emoi in 1 Corinthians 14:11).

Verse 7

By reason of the exceeding greatness (τηι υπερβοληιtēi huperbolēi). Instrumental case, “by the excess.”

That I should not be exalted overmuch (ινα μη υπεραιρωμαιhina mē huperairōmai). Present passive subjunctive in final clause of υπεραιρωhuperairō old verb to lift up beyond, only here in N.T. This clause is repeated at the end of the sentence.

A thorn in the flesh (σκολοπς τηι σαρκιskolops tēi sarki). This old word is used for splinter, stake, thorn. In the papyri and inscriptions examples occur both for splinter and thorn as the meaning. In the lxx it is usually thorn. The case of τηι σαρκιtēi sarki can be either locative (in) or dative (for). What was it? Certainly it was some physical malady that persisted. All sorts of theories are held (malaria, eye-trouble, epilepsy, insomnia, migraine or sick-headache, etc.). It is a blessing to the rest of us that we do not know the particular affliction that so beset Paul. Each of us has some such splinter or thorn in the flesh, perhaps several at once.

Messenger of Satan (αγγελος Σαταναaggelos Satana). Angel of Satan, the affliction personified.

Buffet (κολαπιζηιkolaphizēi). See Matthew 26:67; 1 Corinthians 4:11 for this late and rare word from κολαποςkolaphos fist. The messenger of Satan kept slapping Paul in the face and Paul now sees that it was God‘s will for it to be so.

Verse 8

Concerning this thing (υπερ τουτουhuper toutou). More likely, “concerning this messenger of Satan.”

That it might depart from me (ινα αποστηι απ εμουhina apostēi aph' emou). Second aorist active (intransitive) subjunctive of απιστημιaphistēmi in final clause, “that he stand off from me for good.”

Verse 9

He hath said (ειρηκενeirēken). Perfect active indicative, as if a final word. Paul probably still has the thorn in his flesh and needs this word of Christ.

Is sufficient (αρκειarkei). Old word of rich meaning, perhaps kin to Latin arceo, to ward off against danger. Christ‘s grace suffices and abides.

Is perfected (τελειταιteleitai). Present passive indicative of τελεωteleō to finish. It is linear in idea. Power is continually increased as the weakness grows. See note on Philemon 4:13 for this same noble conception. The human weakness opens the way for more of Christ‘s power and grace.

Most gladly rather (ηδιστα μαλλονhēdista mallon). Two adverbs, one superlative (ηδισταhēdista), one comparative (μαλλονmallon). “Rather” than ask any more (thrice already) for the removal of the thorn or splinter “most gladly will I glory in my weaknesses.” Slowly Paul had learned this supreme lesson, but it will never leave him (Romans 5:2; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

May rest upon me (επισκηνωσηι επ εμεepiskēnōsēi ep' eme). Late and rare verb in first aorist active subjunctive with ιναhina (final clause), to fix a tent upon, here upon Paul himself by a bold metaphor, as if the Shechinah of the Lord was overshadowing him (cf. Luke 9:34), the power (δυναμιςdunamis) of the Lord Jesus.

Verse 10

Wherefore I take pleasure (διο ευδοκωdio eudokō). For this noble word see note on Matthew 3:17 and note on 2 Corinthians 5:8. The enemies of Paul will have a hard time now in making Paul unhappy by persecutions even unto death (Philemon 1:20-26). He is not courting martyrdom, but he does not fear it or anything that is “for Christ‘s sake” (υπερ Χριστουhuper Christou).

For when (οταν γαρhotan gar). “For whenever,” indefinite time.

Then I am strong (τοτε δυνατος ειμιtote dunatos eimi). At that very time, but not in myself, but in the fresh access of power from Christ for the emergency.

Verse 11

I am become foolish (γεγονα απρωνgegona aphrōn). Perfect active indicative of γινομαιginomai In spite of what he said in 2 Corinthians 12:6 that he would not be foolish if he gloried in the other Paul. But he feels that he has dropped back to the mood of 2 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 11:16. He has been swept on by the memory of the ecstasy.

For I ought to have been commended by you (εγω γαρ ωπειλον υπ υμων συνιστασταιegō gar ōpheilon huph' humōn sunistasthai). Explanation of “ye compelled me.” Imperfect active ωπειλονōpheilon of οπειλωopheilō to be under obligation, and the tense here expresses an unfulfilled obligation about the present. But συνιστασταιsunistasthai is present passive infinitive, not aorist or perfect passive. He literally means, “I ought now to be commended by you” instead of having to glorify myself. He repeats his boast already made (2 Corinthians 11:5.), that he is no whit behind “the super-extra apostles” (the Judaizers), “though I am nothing” (ει και ουδεν ειμιei kai ouden eimi). Even boasting himself against those false apostles causes a reaction of feeling that he has to express (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15.).

Verse 12

Of an apostle (του αποστολουtou apostolou). “Of the apostle” (definite article). Note the three words here for miracles wrought by Paul (σημειαsēmeia signs, τεραταterata wonders, δυναμειςdunameis powers or miracles) as in Hebrews 2:4.


Verse 13

Wherein ye were made inferior (ο ησσωτητεho hēssōthēte). First aorist passive indicative of ησσοομαιhēssoomai the text of Aleph B D instead of the usual ηττητητεhēttēthēte from the common ητταομαιhēttaomai to be inferior or less from the comparative ηττωνhēttōn See ησσωνhēssōn in 2 Corinthians 12:15. οHo is the neuter accusative with the passive verb (Robertson, Grammar, p. 479).

Forgive me this wrong (χαρισαστε μοι την αδικιαν ταυτηνcharisasthe moi tēn adikian tautēn). Consummate irony to the stingy element in this church (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:9).

Verse 14

Third time I am ready to come (τριτον τουτο ετοιμως εχωtriton touto hetoimōs echō). Had he been already twice or only once? He had changed his plans once when he did not go (2 Corinthians 1:15.). He will not change his plans now. This looks as if he had only been once (that in Acts 18). Note the third use of καταναρκαωkatanarkaō (2 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 12:13, 2 Corinthians 12:14). They need not be apprehensive. He will be as financially independent of them as before. “I shall not sponge on you.”

Not yours, but you (ου τα υμων αλλα υμαςou ta humōnτησαυριζεινalla humas). The motto of every real preacher.

To lay up (thēsaurizein). For this use of the verb see note on 1 Corinthians 16:2 (Matthew 6:19-21; James 5:3).

Verse 15

I will most gladly spend and be spent (ηδιστα δαπανησω και εκδαπανητησομαιhēdista dapanēsō kai ekdapanēthēsomai). Both future active of old verb δαπαναωdapanaō (Mark 5:26) to spend money, time, energy, strength and the future passive of εκδαπαναωekdapanaō late compound to spend utterly, to spend out, (εκek̇), to spend wholly. Only here in N.T.

Verse 16

I did not myself burden you (εγω ου κατεβαρησα υμαςegō ou katebarēsa humas). First aorist active of late verb καταβαρεωkatabareō to press a burden down on one. Only here in N.T.

Crafty (πανουργοςpanourgos). Old word from πανpan all, and εργοergo to do anything (good or bad). Good sense is skilful, bad sense cunning. Only here in N.T. and Paul is quoting the word from his enemies.

With guile (δολωιdolōi). Instrumental case of δολοςdolos bait to catch fish with. The enemies of Paul said that he was raising this big collection for himself. Moffatt has done well to put these charges in quotation marks to make it plain to readers that Paul is ironical.

Verse 17

Did I take advantage (επλεονεκτησαepleonektēsa). Paul goes right to the point without hedging. For this verb from πλεονpleon and εχωechō to have more, see note on 2 Corinthians 2:11, note on 2 Corinthians 7:2.

By any one of them (τιναδι αυτουtinȧ̇di' autou). An anacoluthon for τιναtina is left in the accusative without a verb and δι αυτουdi' autou takes up the idea, “as to any one by him.”

Whom (ωνhōn). The genitive relative is attracted from the accusative ουςhous into the case of the unexpressed antecedent τουτονtouton). ΜηMē expects the negative answer as does μητιmēti in 2 Corinthians 12:18.

Verse 18

The brother (τον αδελπονton adelphon). Probably the brother of Titus (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:18).

Did Titus take advantage of you? (μητι επλεονεκτησεν υμας Τιτοσmēti epleonektēsen humas Titoṡ). That puts the issue squarely.

By the same Spirit (τωι αυτωι πνευματιtōi autōi pneumati). That translation refers to the Holy Spirit and makes the case instrumental. The locative case, “in the same spirit,” makes it mean that Paul‘s attitude is the same as that of Titus and most likely is correct, for “in the same steps” (τοις αυτοις ιχνεσινtois autois ichnesin) is in locative case.

Verse 19

Ye think all this time (παλαι δοκειτεpalai dokeite). Progressive present indicative, “for a long time ye have been thinking.”

We are excusing ourselves (απολογουμεταapologoumetha). He is not just apologizing, but is in deadly earnest, as they will find out when he comes.

Verse 20

Lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not such as I would (μη πως ελτων ουχ οιους τελω ευρω υμαςmē pōs elthōn ouch hoious thelō heurō humas). An idiomatic construction after the verb of fearing (ποβουμαιphoboumai) with μη πωςmē pōs as the conjunction and with ουχouch as the negative of the verb ευρωheurō (second aorist active subjunctive of ευρισκωheuriskō), μηmē the conjunction, ουχouch the negative. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 995.

And I be found (καγω ευρετωkagō heurethō). Same construction with first aorist passive subjunctive.

Such as ye would not (οιον ου τελετεhoion ou thelete). Neat change in voice just before and position of the negative here.

Lest by any means (μη πωςmē pōs). Still further negative purpose by repeating the conjunction. With graphic pen pictures Paul describes what had been going on against him during his long absence.

Backbitings (καταλαλιαιkatalaliai). Late and rare word. In N.T. only here and 1 Peter 2:1. If it only existed nowhere else!

Whisperings (πσιτυρισμοιpsithurismoi). Late word from πσιτυριζωpsithurizō to whisper into one‘s ear. An onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer (Ecclesiastes 10:11). Only here in N.T.

Swellings (πυσιωσειςphusiōseis). From πυσιοωphusioō to swell up, late word only here and in ecclesiastical writers. Did Paul make up the word for the occasion? See note on 1 Corinthians 4:6 for verb.

Tumults (akatastasiai). See note on 2 Corinthians 6:5.

Verse 21

When I come again (παλιν ελτοντος μουpalin elthontos mou). Genitive absolute. Paul assumes it as true.

Lest my God humble me (μη ταπεινωσηι με ο τεος μουmē tapeinōsēi me ho theos mou). Negative final clause (μηmē and first aorist active subjunctive), going back to ποβουμαιphoboumai in 2 Corinthians 12:20. He means a public humiliation as his fear. The conduct of the church had been a real humiliation whether he refers to a previous visit or not.

That have sinned heretofore (των προημαρτηκοτωνtōn proēmartēkotōn). Genitive plural of the articular perfect active participle of προαμαρτανωproamartanō to emphasize continuance of their sinful state as opposed to μη μετανοησαντωνmē metanoēsantōn (did not repent) in the aorist tense.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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