corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

2 Corinthians 12



Other Authors
Verse 1

Revelations ( ἀποκαλύψεις )

See on Revelation 1:1.

Verse 2

I knew ( οἶδα )

Rev., correctly, I know.

Above fourteen years ago ( πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων )

Above, of A.V., is due to a misunderstanding of the Greek idiom. Lit., before fourteen years, that is, fourteen years ago, as Rev.

Caught up ( ἁρπαγέντα )

Compare Dante:

“Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light”

Paradiso,” i., 75.

The verb suits the swift, resistless, impetuous seizure of spiritual ecstasy. See on Matthew 11:12; and compare Acts 8:39; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5.

Third heaven

It is quite useless to attempt to explain this expression according to any scheme of celestial gradation. The conception of seven heavens was familiar to the Jews; but according to some of the Rabbins there were two heavens - the visible clouds and the sky; in which case the third heaven would be the invisible region beyond the sky. Some think that Paul describes two stages of his rapture; the first to the third heaven, from which he was borne, as if from a halting-point, up into Paradise.

Verse 4


See on Luke 23:43.

Unspeakable words ( ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα )

An oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken.

Verse 7

Abundance ( ὑπερβολῇ )

Rev., more correctly, the exceeding greatness.

Thorn ( σκόλοψ )

Only here in the New Testament. Frequent in classical Greek in the sense of a pale or stake. It occurs once in Euripides, meaning a stump (“Bacchae,” 983). It is a stake for a palisade, or for impaling; a surgical instrument; the point of a fish-hook. In the Septuagint it occurs three times, translated thorn in Hosea 2:6, where, however, it is distinguished from ἀκάνθαις thornsbrier in Ezekiel 28:24, and prick in Numbers 33:55. Nine different Hebrew words are rendered by thorn, for which, in the great majority of cases, Septuagint gives ἄκανθα . The rendering thorn for σκόλοψ has no support. The figure is that of the impaling stake. Herodotus, alluding to this punishment, uses ἀνασκολοπίζειν (i., 128; 3,132). In the ninth book of his history, Lampon says to Pausanias: “When Leonidas was slain at Thermopylae, Xerxes and Mardonius beheaded and crucified ( ἀνεσταύρωσαν ) him. Do thou the like by Mardonius … . for by crucifying ( ἀνασκολοπίσας ) thou wilt avenge Leonidas” (ix., 78). The verb seems, therefore, to have been used interchangeably with crucify; and clear instances of this occur in Philo and Lucian. At least one text of the Septuagint gives ἀνασκολοπίζω in Esther 7:10, of Haman's being hanged. See further, on Galatians 2:20. The explanations of the peculiar nature of this affliction are numerous. Opinions are divided, generally, between mental or spiritual and bodily trials. Under the former head are sensual desires, faint-heartedness, doubts, temptations to despair, and blasphemous suggestions from the devil. Under the latter, persecution, mean personal appearance, headache, epilepsy, earache, stone, ophthalmia. It was probably a bodily malady, in the flesh; but its nature must remain a matter of conjecture. Very plausible reasons are given in favor of both epilepsy and ophthalmia. Bishop Lightfoot inclines to the former, and Archdeacon Farrar thinks that it was almost certainly the latter.

Messenger of Satan ( ἄγγελος Σατᾶν )

The torment is thus personified. Messenger is the word commonly rendered angel in the New Testament, though sometimes used of human messengers, as Luke 7:24, Luke 7:27; Luke 9:52; James 2:25; see also on the angels of the churches, Revelation 1:20. Messenger and Satan are not to be taken in apposition - a messenger who was Satan - because Satan is never called ἄγγελος in the New Testament. Messenger is figurative, in the sense of agent. Satan is conceived in the New Testament as the originator of bodily evil. Thus, in the gospel narrative, demoniac possession is often accompanied with some form of disease. Compare Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38, and see on 1 Corinthians 5:5.

Buffet ( κολαφίζῃ )

Connect with messenger, which better suits depart; not with thorn, which would be a confusion of metaphor, a stake buffeting. For the verb, meaning to strike with the fist, see Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65; 1 Peter 2:20. Compare Job 2:5, Job 2:7, where the Septuagint has ἅψαι touchand ἔπαισε smotei0.

Verse 8

For this thing ( ὑπὲρ τούτου )

Rev., concerning this thing. But it is better to refer this to messenger: concerning this or whom. For, of A.V., is ambiguous.

Verse 9

He said ( εἴρηκεν )

Rev., correctly, He hath said. The force of the perfect tense is to be insisted on. It shows that the affliction was still clinging to Paul, and that there was lying in his mind when he wrote, not only the memory of the incident, but the sense of the still abiding power and value of Christ's grace; so that because the Lord hath said “my grace,” etc., Paul can now say, under the continued affliction, wherefore I take pleasure, etc., for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong. A more beautiful use of the perfect it would be difficult to find in the New Testament.

My strength

The best texts omit my, thus turning the answer into a general proposition: strength is perfected in weakness; but besides the preeminent frigidity of replying to a passionate appeal with an aphorism, the reference to the special power of Christ is clear from the words power of Christ, which almost immediately follow. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:3, 1 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Hebrews 11:34. Rev., rightly, retains my italicized.

May rest upon ( ἐπισκηνώσῃ )

Only here in the New Testament. The simple verb σκηνόω todwell in a tent is used by John, especially in Revelation. See on John 1:14. The compound verb here means to fix a tent or a habitation upon; and the figure is that of Christ abiding upon him as a tent spread over him, during his temporary stay on earth.

For Christ's sake

This may be taken with all the preceding details, weaknesses, etc., endured for Christ's sake, or with I take pleasure, assigning the specific motive of his rejoicing: I take pleasure for Christ's sake.

Verse 11

I am become a fool in glorying

Ironical. By the record I have presented I stand convicted of being foolish.

I ought to have been commended of you

You ought to have saved me the necessity of recounting my sufferings, and thus commending myself as not inferior to those preeminent apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5).

Verse 12

Signs ( σημεῖα )

See on Matthew 24:24. Stanley observes that the passage is remarkable as containing (what is rare in the history of miracles) a direct claim to miraculous powers by the person to whom they were ascribed. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:4; Romans 15:19.

Were wrought ( κατειργάσθη )

The testimony was decisive. They were fully wrought out.

Verse 13

Except that I was not a burden

Alluding to the possible objection that his refusal to receive pay was a sign either of his want of power to exact it, or of his want of affection for them (2 Corinthians 11:7).

Forgive, etc.


Verse 15

Be spent ( ἐκδαπανηθήσομαι )

Only here in the New Testament. To spend utterly. Later Greek writers use the simple verb δαπανάω toexpend, of the consumption of life.

Verse 16

With guile

Alluding to a charge that he availed himself of the collection for the poor to secure money for himself. He uses his adversaries' words.

Verse 20

Strifes ( ἐριθεῖαι )

Rev., better, factions. See on James 3:14.

Wraths ( θυμοί )

For the plural, compare deaths, 2 Corinthians 11:33; drunkennesses, Galatians 5:21; bloods, John 1:13(see note); the willings of the flesh, Ephesians 2:3; mercies, Philemon 2:1. Excitements or outbursts of wrath.

Whisperings ( ψιθυρισμοί )

Psithurismoi the sound adapted to the sense. Only here in the New Testament. Secret slanders. In Sept., Ecclesiastes 10:11, it is used of the murmuring of a snake-charmer. Ψιθυριστής whispereroccurs Romans 1:29.

Swellings ( φυσιώσεις )

Only here in the New Testament. Conceited inflation. For the kindred verb φυσιάω topuff up, see on 1 Corinthians 4:6.

Tumults ( ἀκαταστασίαι )

See on 2 Corinthians 6:5.

Verse 21

Among you ( πρὸς ὑμᾶς )

Better, as Rev., before. In my relation to you.

Shall bewail ( πενθήσω )

Lament with a true pastor's sorrow over the sin.

Many ( πολλοὺς )

With special reference to the unchaste.

Sinned - already ( προημαρτηκότων )

Rev., heretofore. Only here and 2 Corinthians 13:2. The perfect tense denotes the continuance of the sin. Heretofore probably refers to the time before his second visit.

Have not repented ( μὴ μετανοησάντων )

The only occurrence of the verb in Paul's writings. Μετάνοια repentanceoccurs only three times: Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Of the uncleanness ( ἐπὶ τῇ ἀκαθαρσίᾳ )

Connect with bewail, not with repent. There are no examples in the New Testament of the phrase μετανοεῖν ἐπί torepent over, though such occur in the Septuagint.

Lasciviousness ( ἀσελγείᾳ )

See on Mark 7:22.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology