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Verse 12. For now we see through a glass. Paul here makes use of another illustration to show the imperfection of our knowledge here. Compared with what it will be in the future world, it is like the imperfect view of an object which we have in looking through an obscure and opaque medium, compared with the view which we have when we look at it "face to face." The word glass here (esoptron) means, properly, a mirror, a looking-glass. The mirrors of the ancients were usually made of polished metal, Ex 38:8 Job 37:18. Many have supposed, (see Doddridge, in loc., and Robinson's Lexicon,) that the idea here is that of seeing objects by reflection from a mirror, which reflects only their imperfect forms. But this interpretation does not well accord with the apostle's idea of seeing things obscurely. The most natural idea is that of seeing objects by an imperfect medium, by looking through something in contemplating them. It is therefore probable that he refers to those transparent substances which the ancients had, and which they used in their windows occasionally; such as thin plates of horn, transparent stone, etc. Windows were often made of the lapis specularis, described by Pliny, (xxxvi. 22,) which was pellucid, and which admitted of being split into thin laminae or scales, probably the same as mica. Humboldt mentions such kinds of stone as being used in South America in church windows.—Bloomfield. It is not improbable, I think, that even in the time of Paul the ancients had the knowledge of glass, though it was probably at first very imperfect and obscure. There is some reason to believe that glass was known to the Phenicians, the Tyrians, and the Egyptians. Pliny says that it was first discovered by accident. A merchant vessel, laden with nitre or fossil alkali, having been driven on shore on the coast of Palestine near the river Belus, the crew went in search of provisions, and accidentally supported the kettles on which they dressed their food upon pieces of fossil alkali. The river sand, above which this operation was performed, was vitrified by its union with the alkali, and thus produced glass.—See Edin. Ency., art. Glass. It is known that glass was in quite common use about the commencement of the Christian era. In the reign of Tiberius, an artist had his house demolished for making glass malleable. About this time, drinking vessels were made commonly of glass; and glass bottles for holding wine and flowers were in common use. That glass was in quite common use has been proved by the remains that have been discovered in the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. There is, therefore, no impropriety in supposing that Paul here may have alluded to the imperfect and discoloured glass which was then in extensive use; for we have no reason to suppose that it was then as transparent as that which is now made. It was, doubtless, an imperfect and obscure medium, and therefore well adapted to illustrate the nature of our knowledge here, compared with what it will be in heaven.

Darkly. Marg., in a riddle, en ainigmati. The word means a fiddle, an enigma; then an obscure intimation. In a riddle, a statement is made with some resemblance to the truth; a puzzling question is proposed, and the solution is left to conjecture. Hence it means, as here, obscurely, darkly, imperfectly. Little is known; much is left to conjecture: a very accurate account of most of that which passes for knowledge. Compared with heaven, our knowledge here much resembles the obscure intimations in an enigma compared with clear statement and manifest truth.

But then. In the fuller revelations in heaven.

Face to face. As when one looks upon an object openly, and not through an obscure and dark medium. It here means, therefore, clearly, without obscurity.

I know in part. 1 Co 13:9.

But then shall I know. My knowledge shall be clear and distinct. I shall have a clear view of those objects which are now so indistinct and obscure. I shall be in the presence of those objects about which I now inquire; I shall see them; I shall have a clear acquaintance with the Divine perfections, plans, and character. This does not mean that he would know everything, or that he would be omniscient; but that in regard to those points of inquiry in which he was then interested, he would have a view that would be distinct and clear—a view that would be clear, arising from the fact that he would be present with them, and permitted to see them, instead of surveying them at a distance, and by imperfect mediums.

Even as also I am known. In the same manner, (kaywv,) not to the same extent. It does not mean that he would know God as clearly and as fully as God would know him; for his remark does not relate to the extent, but to the manner and the comparative clearness of his knowledge. He would see things as he was now seen and would be seen there. It would be face to face. He would be in their presence. It would not be where he would be seen clearly and distinctly, and himself compelled to look upon all objects confusedly and obscurely, and through an imperfect medium. But he would be with them; would see them face to face; would see them without any medium; would see them in the same manner as they would see him. Disembodied spirits, and the inhabitants of the heavenly world, have this knowledge; and when we are there, we shall see the truths, not at a distance and obscurely, but plainly and openly.

{a} "through a glass" 2 Co 3:18 {*} "darkly" "a dim glass"

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