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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

2 Corinthians 5



Verse 1

Our earthly house of this tabernacle ( ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους )

Earthly, not, made of earth, which would be χοΐ́κός as 1 Corinthians 15:47; but upon the earth, terrestrial, as 1 Corinthians 15:40; Philemon 2:10. Tabernacle ( σκῆνος ) tent or hut. In later writers, especially the Platonists, Pythagoreans, and medical authors, used to denote the body. Thus Hippocrates: “A great vein by which the whole body ( σκῆνος ) is nourished.” Some expositors think that Paul uses the word here simply in this sense - the house which is the body. But while Paul does mean the body, he preserves the figurative sense of the word tabernacle; for he never uses this term elsewhere as synonymous with the body. The figure of the tent suits the contrast with the building, and would naturally suggest itself to the tent-maker. The phrase earthly house of the tabernacle expresses a single conception - the dwelling which is, or consists in the tabernacle, the tent-house. The transient character of the body is thus indicated. Compare houses of clay, Job 4:19. See on the kindred words σκήνωμα tabernacle 2 Peter 1:13; and σκηνόω todwell in or to fix a tabernacle, John 1:14. Tabernacle is so habitually associated with a house of worship, and is so often applied to durable structures, that the original sense of a tent is in danger of being lost. It would be better to translate here by tent. The word tabernacle is a diminutive of the Latin taberna a hut or shed, which appears in tavern. Its root is ta, tan, to stretch or spread out.

Dissolved ( καταλυθῇ )

Lit., loosened down. Appropriate to taking down a tent. See on Mark 13:2; see on Luke 9:12; see on Acts 5:38; and compare 2 Peter 3:11, 2 Peter 3:12, and the figure of the parting of the silver cord on which the lamp is suspended, Ecclesiastes 12:6. Also Job 4:21, where the correct rendering is: Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them? So Rev. O.T.

We have

The building from God is an actual possession in virtue of the believer's union with Christ. It is just as we say of a minor, before he comes into possession of his property, that he has so much. Compare Matthew 19:21.

Building of God ( οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ Θεοῦ )

In contrast with tent. The reference is to the resurrection body. Compare the city which hath the foundations, Hebrews 11:10. For of God, read, as Rev., from, God; proceeding from ( ἐκ ) Heinrici, von Gott her: compare God giveth, 1 Corinthians 15:38, and ἔχετε ἀπὸ Θεοῦ yehave from God, where the reference is to the natural body, 1 Corinthians 6:19. Construe from God with building, not with we have.

In the heavens

Construe with we have.

Verse 2

In this

Tabernacle. As if pointing to his own body. See on 1 Corinthians 15:54.

Earnestly desiring ( ἐπιποθοῦντες )

The participle has an explanatory force, as Acts 27:7, “because the wind did not suffer us.” We groan because we long. Rev., longing. The compounded preposition ἐπί does not mark the intensity of the desire, but its direction.

To be clothed upon ( ἐπενδύσασθαι )

Only here and 2 Corinthians 5:4. Compare ἐπενδύτης fisher'scoat, John 21:7(see note). Lit., to put on over. The metaphor changes from building to clothing, a natural transformation in the mind of Paul, to whom the hail-cloth woven for tents would suggest a vesture.

House ( οἰκητήριον )

Not οἰκία houseas 2 Corinthians 5:1. This word regards the house with special reference to its inhabitant. The figure links itself with building, 2 Corinthians 5:1, as contrasted with the unstable tent.

From heaven ( ἐξ οὐρανοῦ )

As from God, 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Verse 3

If so be ( εἴ γε )

Assuming that.

Being clothed

Compare Job 10:11.

Naked ( γυμνοὶ )

Without a body. The word was used by Greek writers of disembodied spirits. See the quotation from Plato's “Gorgias” in note on Luke 12:20; also “Cratylus,” 403, where, speaking of Pluto, Socrates says: “The foolish fears which people have of him, such as the fear of being always with him after death, and of the soul denuded ( γυμνὴ ) of the body going to him.” Stanley cites Herodotus' story of Melissa, the Corinthian queen, who appeared to her husband after death, entreating him to burn dresses for her as a covering for her disembodied spirit (v., 92). The whole expression, being clothed - naked is equivalent to we shall not be found naked because we shall be clothed.

Verse 4

Being burdened ( βαρούμενοι )

Compare weight ( βάρος ) of glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Not for that we would be unclothed ( ἐφ ' ᾧ οὐ θέλομεν ἐκδύσασθαι )

Lit., because we are not willing to divest ourselves (of the mortal body). Regarding the coming of the Lord as near, the apostle contemplates the possibility of living to behold it. The oppression of soul (groan ) is not from pains and afflictions of the body, nor from the fear of death, but from the natural shrinking from death, especially if death is to deprive him of the body (unclothe ) only to leave him without a new and higher organism. Therefore he desires, instead of dying, to have the new being come down upon him while still alive, investing him with the new spiritual organism (clothed upon ), as a new garment is thrown over an old one, and absorbing (swallowed up ) the old, sensuous life.

“For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,

This pleadng anxious being e'er resigned,

Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,

Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?”

Gray, “Elegy.”

Swallowed up

A new metaphor. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:54.

Verse 5

Wrought ( κατεργασάμενος )

The compound is significant, indicating an accomplished fact. Through the various operations of His Spirit and the processes of His discipline, God has worked us out (Stanley, worked up ) for this change. The process includes the dissolution of what is mortal no less than the renewal. The one is a step to the other. See 1 Corinthians 15:36.

Earnest of the Spirit

See on 2 Corinthians 1:22, and compare Romans 8:11. Of the Spirit is appositional, the Spirit as the earnest.

Verse 6

At home ( ἐνδημοῦντες )

Ἑν in δῆμος peopleOnly in this chapter. To be among one's own people, and not to travel abroad.

We are absent ( ἐκδημοῦμεν )

Lit., we live abroad. Only in this chapter. Compare Philemon 1:23; Philemon 3:20; Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 13:14. There is a play upon the words which might be expressed by at home, from home.

Verse 7

By sight ( διὰ εἴδους )

The correct rendering is appearance. The word is not used actively in the sense of vision. Faith is contrasted with the actual appearance of heavenly things. Hence the marginal reading of the Rev. should go into the text.

Verse 8

Are willing ( εὐδοκοῦμεν )

The translation might well be made stronger as well as more literal: we are well-pleased.

To be absent - present ( ἐκδημῆσαι - ἐνδημῆσαι )

The same verbs as in 2 Corinthians 5:6: to be from home, at home.

Verse 9

We labor ( φιλοτιμούμεθα )

Used by Paul only, here, Romans 15:20(note), 1 Thessalonians 4:11. Labor is a feeble translation, not bringing out the idea of the end contemplated, as the motive of the toil. Rev., we make it our aim.


Verse 10

Appear ( φανερωθῆναι )

Rev., better, be made manifest. Appear is not strong enough, since it implies only presence at the judgment-seat. The important fact is our being revealed as we are.

Judgment seat ( βήματος )

See on Acts 7:5.

May receive ( κομίσηται )

See on 1 Peter 1:8. Compare Ephesians 6:8; Colossians 3:25.

In the body ( διά )

Lit., through the body as a medium.

Bad ( φαῦλον )

See on James 3:16.

Verse 11

Terror of the Lord ( φόβον τοῦ Κυρίου )

Rev., better, the fear of the Lord. Not that which is terrible in the Lord, but being conscious of fearing the Lord.

We persuade ( πείθομεν )

Convince of our integrity.

Verse 13

We are beside ourselves ( ἐξέστημεν )

See on Luke 24:22; see on Acts 2:7; and see on the kindred ἔκστασις astonishment Mark 5:42. Some such charge appears to have been made, as at Acts 26:24.

Verse 14

The love of Christ

Christ's love to men. See on 1 John 2:5.

Constraineth ( συνέχει )

See on taken, Luke 4:38; see on Acts 18:5. It is the word rendered I am in a strait, Philemon 1:23. Compare Luke 12:50. The idea is not urging or driving, but shutting up to one line and purpose, as in a narrow, walled road.

Verse 16

After the flesh ( κατὰ σάρκα )

“He who knows no man after the flesh, has, for example, in the case of the Jew, entirely lost sight of his Jewish origin; in that of the rich man, of his riches; in that of the learned of his learning; in that of the slave, of his servitude” (Alford). Compare Galatians 3:28.

Yea though ( εἰ καὶ )

Not with a climactic force, as A.V., and not with the emphasis on Christ, but on have known. The proper sense will be brought out in reading by emphasizing have. We know no man henceforth after the flesh: even if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, etc. Paul refers to his knowledge of Christ before his conversion, a hearsay knowledge, confined to reports of His personal appearance, His deeds, His relations to the Jews, His alleged crime and punishment. When the glorified Christ first spoke to him out of heaven, he asked, “Who art thou?” Compare to reveal His Son in me, Galatians 1:16.

Verse 17

A new creature ( καινὴ κτίσις )

Or creation. Compare Galatians 6:15. The word κτίσις is used in three senses in the New Testament. The act of creating, as Romans 1:20. The sum of created things, as Revelation 3:14; Mark 13:19. A created thing or creature, as Romans 8:39. The Rabbins used the word of a man converted from idolatry. “He who brings a foreigner and makes him a proselyte is as if he created him.”

Old things ( τὰ ἀρχαῖα )

Rev., correctly, the old things. See on 1 John 2:7, and see on Revelation 12:9.

Passed away ( παρῆλθεν )

Lit., passed by. So Luke 18:37; Mark 6:48. As here, James 1:10; Matthew 5:8; Matthew 24:34, etc.


As if contemplating a rapidly shifting scene. As in a flash, old things vanish, and all things become new.

Verse 18

And ( δὲ )

Better, Rev., but; as if anticipating a possible failure to discern the primary agency of God in this moral transformation. All things - all that are involved in this mighty change - are from God.


God is the prime-mover in the work of reconciliation. See on Romans 5:10, through Christ, as the medium.

Verse 19


Emphatic. It was God, as in 2 Corinthians 5:18.

Was - reconciling ( ἦν καταλλάσσων )

These words are to be construed together; the participle with the finite verb marking the process of reconciliation. The emphasis is on the fact that God was reconciling, not on the fact that God was in Christ. God was all through and behind the process of reconciliation. The primary reference of the statement is, no doubt, to God's reconciling manifestation in the incarnation and death of Christ; yet, as a fact, it includes much more. God was engaged in reconciling the world from the very beginning, and that in Christ. See on John 1:4, John 1:5, John 1:9, John 1:10.

Hath given to us ( θέμενος ἐν ἡμῖν )

Lit., lodged in us.

Verse 20

We are ambassadors ( πρεσβεύομεν )

Only here and Ephesians 6:10.

Verse 21


Omit. It is a later addition, in order to soften the abruptness of the following clauses.

Made to be sin ( ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν )

Compare a curse, Galatians 3:13. Not a sin-offering, nor a sinner, but the representative of sin. On Him, representatively, fell the collective consequence of sin, in His enduring “the contradiction of sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:3), in His agony in the garden, and in His death on the cross.

Who knew no sin ( τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν )

Alluding to Christ's own consciousness of sinlessness, not to God's estimate of Him. The manner in which this reference is conveyed, it is almost impossible to explain to one unfamiliar with the distinction between the Greek negative particles. The one used here implies the fact of sinlessness as present to the consciousness of the person concerning whom the fact is stated. Compare John 8:46.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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