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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

2 Corinthians 2



Verse 1

With myself ( ἐμαυτῷ )

Rev., better, for myself. Paul, with affectionate tact, puts it as if he had taken this resolution for his own pleasure.

In heaviness ( ἐν λύπῃ )

Meaning, apparently, the apostle's own sorrowful state of mind. This is wrong. He refers to the sorrow which his coming would bring to the Church. Compare to spare, 2 Corinthians 1:23. Rev., with sorrow.


Referring to a former unrecorded visit.

Verse 2

If I make, etc.

I is emphatic, implying that there are enough others who caused them trouble.

Who then is he, etc.

The thought underlying the passage, 1:24-2:3, is that the apostle's own joy is bound up with the spiritual prosperity of the Church. Compare Philemon 4:1. As the helper of their joy he would receive joy through their faith and obedience. So long as their moral condition compelled him to come, bringing rebuke and pain, they could not be a source of joy to him. If I must needs make you sorry with merited rebuke, who can give me joy save you who are thus made sorry?

Verse 4

Anguish ( συνοχῆς )

Only here and Luke 21:25. Lit., a holding together, constraining, or compressing. See on taken, Luke 4:38. So anguish, from the Latin, angere to choke: anger, which, in earlier English, means affiction, mental torture: anxious: the Latin anguis a snake, marking the serpent by his throttling. In Sanscrit, anhas, from the same root, was the name for sin, the throttler. It reappears obscurely in our medical term quinsy, which was originally quinancy, Greek κυνάγκη dog-throttlingmed., cynanche f0.

Verse 5


Referring to the incestuous person.

Not to me

Not that Paul did not grieve over the offender; but he desires to emphasize the fact that the injury caused by the sin was not to him personally, but to the Church.

But in part, that I may not overcharge you all ( ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ μέρους ἵνα μὴ ἐπιβαρῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς )

For overcharge, Rev., press too heavily, in order to bring out more distinctly the idea of the verb, laying a burden ( βάρος ) upon. Overcharge, however, is not incorrect, though possibly ambiguous in the light of the various uses of charge. Charge is from the Latin carrus a wagon. Compare the low Latin carricare to load a wagon, and carica a freight-ship. Hence charge is a load; compare the interchange of charge and load applied to the contents of a gun. So cargo, and caricature, which is an exaggerated or overloaded drawing. Hence expense, cost, commission, accusation, all implying a burden, either of pecuniary or of other responsibility, or of guilt. In part does not refer to Paul, as if he had said, “You have not grieved me alone and principally, but in part, since my sorrow is shared by the Church.” With in part is to be construed, parenthetically, that I press not too heavily, that is, on the offender: the whole clause being intended to mitigate the charge against the offender of having wounded the whole Church. Thus you all depends upon he hath caused sorrow, not upon that I press not too heavily upon. Render, as Rev., He hath caused sorrow, not to me, but in part (that I press not too heavily ) to you all.

Verse 6

Many ( τῶν πλειόνων )

Rev., correctly, the many: the majority of the Church.

Verse 7

Forgive ( χαρίσασθαι )

The idea of freeness ( χάρις , see on Luke 1:30) lies in the word forgive, which is forth-give.

Overmuch sorrow ( τῇπερισσοτέρᾳ λύπῃ )

Rev. gives the force of the article, his sorrow. Overmuch, excessive, through the refusal of pardon.

Verse 8

Confirm your love ( κυρῶσαι ἀγάπην )

The verb is found only here and Galatians 3:15. From κύρος supremepower, authority. Hence to take judicial resolution to treat the offender with brotherly love.

Verse 9

The proof of you ( τὴν δοκιμὴν ὑμῶν )

See on Romans 5:4. Your tried quality. See on 1 Peter 1:7. Compare Philemon 2:22.

Verse 10

In the person ( ἐν προσώπῳ )

Better, as Rev., in margin, presence; or face, as if Christ were looking on. See on 2 Corinthians 1:11.

Verse 11

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us ( ἵνα μὴ πλεονεκτηθῶμεν ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ )

Lit., in order that we be not made gain of, or overreached, by Satan. Rev., that no advantage may be gained over us. The verb, from πλέον moreand ἔχω tohave, appears in the noun πλεονεξία greedof gain, covetousness. See on Romans 1:29.

Are ignorant - devices ( ἀγνοοῦμεν - νοήματα )

A paronomasia (see on Romans 1:29-31). As nearly as possible, “not know his knowing plots.”

Verse 12

I came to Troas

Bengel remarks: “The whole epistle is an itinerary.” The fact is another illustration of the strong personal feeling which marks the letter. “The very stages of his journey are impressed upon it; the troubles at Ephesus, the repose at Troas, the anxiety and consolation of Macedonia, the prospect of moving to Corinth.”


The full name of the city was Alexandria Troas. It was founded by Antigonos, one of the successors of Alexander the Great, and originally called by him Antigonia Troas. It was finished by Lysimachus, another of Alexander's generals, and called by him Alexandria Troas. It stood upon the seashore, about four miles from ancient Troy, and six miles south of the entrance to the Hellespont. It was, for many centuries, the key of the traffic between Europe and Asia, having an artificial port consisting of two basins. Its ruins, with their immense arches and great columns of granite, indicate a city of much splendor. The Romans had a peculiar interest in it, connected with the tradition of their own origin from Troy; and the jus Italicum was accorded it by Augustus, by which its territory enjoyed the same immunity from taxation which attached to land in Italy. Both Julius Caesar and Constantine conceived the design of making it a capital. The ruins enclose a circuit of several miles, and include a vast gymnasium, a stadium, a theatre, and an aqueduct. The Turks call it “Old Constantinople.” The harbor is now blocked up.

A door

See on 1 Corinthians 16:9.

Verse 13

Rest ( ἄνεσιν )

Rev., relief. See on liberty, Acts 24:23.

Taking my leave ( ἀποταξάμενος )

The verb means, primarily, to set apart or separate; hence to separate one's self, withdraw, and so to take leave of. The A.V. gives this sense in every case, except Mark 6:46, where it wrongly renders sent away. See Luke 9:61; Acts 18:18, Acts 18:21. Ignatius, ἀποτάξαμενος τῷ βίῳ havingbid farewell to the life, that is, this lower life (Epistle to Philadelphia, 11).

Verse 14

Causeth to triumph ( θριαμβεύοντι )

This rendering is inadmissible, the word being habitually used with the accusative (direct objective) case of the person or thing triumphed over, and never of the triumphing subject. Hence, to lead in triumph. It occurs only here and Colossians 2:15. It is not found in any Greek author later than Paul's date. It is derived from θρίαμβος ahymn to Bacchus, sung in festal processions, and was used to denote the Roman “triumph,” celebrated by victorious generals on their return from their campaigns. The general entered the city in a chariot, preceded by the captives and spoils taken in war, and followed by his troops, and proceeded in state along the sacred way to the Capitol, where he offered sacrifices in the temple of Jupiter. He was accompanied in his chariot by his young children, and sometimes by confidential friends, while behind him stood a slave, holding over his head a jewelled crown. The body of the infantry brought up the rear, their spears adorned with laurel. They shouted “triumph!” and sang hymns in praise of the gods or of their leader. Paul describes himself and the other subjects of Christ's grace under the figure of this triumphal pomp, in which they are led as trophies of the Redeemer's conquest. Render, as Rev., which always leadeth us in triumph in Christ. Compare 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The savor of His knowledge

According to the Greek usage, savor and knowledge are in apposition, so that the knowledge of Christ is symbolized as an odor communicating its nature and efficacy through the apostle's work, “permeating the world as a cloud of frankincense” (Stanley). For a similar usage see on 2 Corinthians 1:22. The idea of the Roman triumph is still preserved in this figure. On these occasions the temples were all thrown open, garlands of flowers decorated every shrine and image, and incense smoked on every altar, so that the victor was greeted with a cloud of perfume. Compare Aeschylus on the festivities at the return of Agamemnon from Troy:

“The altars blaze with gifts;

And here and there, heaven high the torch uplifts

Flame, - medicated with persuasions mild,

With foul admixture unbeguiled -

Of holy unguent, from the clotted chrism

Brought from the palace, safe in its abysm.”

“Agamemnon,” 91-96, Browning's Translation.

Verse 15

A sweet savor of Christ ( Χριστοῦ εὐωδία )

Compare Ephesians 5:2; Philemon 4:18. As so often in Paul's writings, the figure shifts; the apostolic teachers themselves being represented as an odor, their Christian personality redolent of Christ. It is not merely a sweet odor produced by Christ, but Christ Himself is the savor which exhales in their character and work.

Verse 16

To the one a savor, etc. ( ὀσμὴ )

Returning to the word used in 2 Corinthians 2:14, which is more general than εὐωδία sweetsavor, denoting an odor of any kind, salutary or deadly, and therefore more appropriate here, where it is used in both senses. The two words are combined, Ephesians 5:2; Philemon 4:18.

Of death ( ἐκ θανάτου )

Rev., better, giving the force of the preposition, proceeding from, wafted from death. The figure is carried out with reference to the different effects of the Gospel, as preached by the apostles, upon different persons. The divine fragrance itself may have, to Christ's enemies, the effect of a deadly odor. The figure was common in rabbinical writings. Thus: “Whoever bestows labor on the law for the sake of the law itself, it becomes to him a savor of life; and whoever does not bestow labor on the law for the law's sake, it becomes a savor of death.” “Even as the bee brings sweetness to its own master, but stings others, so also are the words of the law; a saving odor to the Israelites, but a deadly odor to the Gentiles.” These are specimens of a great many.

Some find here an allusion to a revolting feature of the Roman triumph. Just as the procession was ascending the Capitoline Hill, some of the captive chiefs were taken into the adjoining prison and put to death. “Thus the sweet odors which to the victor - a Marius or a Julius Caesar - and to the spectators were a symbol of glory and success and happiness, were to the wretched victims - a Jugurtha or a Vercingetorix - an odor of death” (Farrar).

Sufficient ( ἱκανός )

See on Romans 15:23.

Verse 17

Which corrupt ( καπηλεύοντες )

Only here in the New Testament. From κάπηλος ahuckster or pedler; also a tavernkeeper. The κάπηλοι formed a distinct class among the Greek dealers, distinguished from the ἐυπόροι merchantsor wholesale dealers. So Plato: “Is not retailer ( καπήλους ) the term which is applied to those who sit in the market-place buying and selling, while those who wander from one city to another are called merchants?” (“Republic,” 371; compare “Statesman,” 260) The term included dealers in victuals and all sorts of wares, but was especially applied to retailers of wine, with whom adulteration and short measure were matters of course. Galen speaks of wine-dealers καπηλεύοντες τοὺς οἴνους playingtricks with their wines; mixing the new, harsh wines, so as to make them pass for old. These not only sold their wares in the market, but had καπηλεῖα wine-shopsall over the town, where it was not thought respectable to take refreshments. The whole trade was greatly despised. In Thebes no one who had sold in the market within the last ten years was allowed to take part in the government. So Plato, speaking of the evils of luxury and poverty: “What remedy can a city of sense find against this disease? In the first place, they must have as few retail traders as possible” (“Laws,” 919. The whole passage is well worth reading). The moral application of the term was familiar in classical Greek. Lucian says: “The philosophers deal out their instructions like hucksters.” Plato: “Those who carry about the wares of knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them to any customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike; though I should not wonder if many of them were really ignorant of their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally ignorant, unless he who buys of them happens to be a physician of the soul” (“Protagoras,” 313). Paul here uses the term of those who trade in the word of God, adulterating it for the purpose of gain or popularity. Compare 1 Timothy 6:5, Rev. In the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” occurs the word χριστέμπορος aChrist-monger (ch. xii., 5).


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

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

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