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12:1 I must needs glory [kauchasthai dei]. This is the reading of B L Latin Syriac, but Aleph D Bohairic have [de] while K M read [dē]. The first is probably correct. He must go on with the glorying already begun, foolish as it is, though it is not expedient [ou sumpheron]. Visions [optasias]. Late word from [optazō]. See on Lu 1:22; Ac 26:19. Revelations of the Lord [apokalupseis Kuriou]. Unveilings (from [apokaluptō] as in Re 1:1). See on 2Th 1:7; 1Co 1:7; 14:26. Paul had both repeated visions of Christ (Ac 9:3; 16:9; 18:9; 22:17; 27:23f.) and revelations. He claimed to speak by direct revelation (1Co 11:23; 15:3; Ga 1:12; Eph 3:3, etc.).
12:2 I know a man [oida 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 [pro etōn dekatessarōn]. Idiomatic way of putting it, the preposition [pro] (before) before the date (Robertson, Grammar, p. 621f.) as in Joh 12:1. The date was probably while Paul was at Tarsus (Ac 9:30; 11:25). We have no details of that period. Caught up [harpagenta]. Second aorist passive participle of [harpazō], to seize (see on Mt 11:12). Even to the third heaven [heōs 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).
12:3 I do not know [ouk oida]. Paul declines to pass on his precise condition in this trance. We had best leave it as he has told it.
12:4 Into Paradise [eis paradeison]. See on Lu 23:43 for this interesting word. Paul apparently uses paradise as the equivalent of the third heaven in verse 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, [rētos] from [reō], only here in N.T. Not lawful [ouk exon]. Copula [estin] omitted. Hence Paul does not give these words.
12:5 But on mine own behalf [huper 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 (11:30).
12:6 I shall not be foolish [ouk esomai aphrōn]. Apparent contradiction to 11:1, 16. But he is here speaking of the Paul “caught up” in case he should tell the things heard (condition of the third class, [ean] and first aorist subjunctive [thelēsō]. Of me [eis eme]. To my credit, almost like dative (cf. [en emoi] in 1Co 14:11).
12:7 By reason of the exceeding greatness [tēi huperbolēi]. Instrumental case, “by the excess.” That I should not be exalted overmuch [hina mē huperairōmai]. Present passive subjunctive in final clause of [huperairō], 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 [skolops 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 [tēi 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 [aggelos Satana]. Angel of Satan, the affliction personified. Buffet [kolaphizēi]. See on Mt 26:67; 1Co 4:11 for this late and rare word from [kolaphos], 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.
12:8 Concerning this thing [huper toutou]. More likely, “concerning this messenger of Satan.” That it might depart from me [hina apostēi aph’ emou]. Second aorist active (intransitive) subjunctive of [aphistēmi] in final clause, “that he stand off from me for good.”
12:9 He hath said [eirēken]. 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 [arkei]. Old word of rich meaning, perhaps kin to Latin arceo, to ward off against danger. Christ’s grace suffices and abides. Is perfected [teleitai]. Present passive indicative of [teleō], to finish. It is linear in idea. Power is continually increased as the weakness grows. See Php 4:13 for this same noble conception. The human weakness opens the way for more of Christ’s power and grace. Most gladly rather [hēdista mallon]. Two adverbs, one superlative [hēdista], one comparative [mallon]. “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 (Ro 5:2; 2Ti 4:6-8). May rest upon me [episkēnōsēi ep’ eme]. Late and rare verb in first aorist active subjunctive with [hina] (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. Lu 9:34), the power [dunamis] of the Lord Jesus.
12:10 Wherefore I take pleasure [dio eudokō]. For this noble word see on Mt 3:17; 2Co 5:8. The enemies of Paul will have a hard time now in making Paul unhappy by persecutions even unto death (Php 1:20-26). He is not courting martyrdom, but he does not fear it or anything that is “for Christ’s sake” [huper Christou]. For when [hotan gar]. “For whenever,” indefinite time. Then I am strong [tote dunatos eimi]. At that very time, but not in myself, but in the fresh access of power from Christ for the emergency.
12:11 I am become foolish [gegona aphrōn]. Perfect active indicative of [ginomai]. In spite of what he said in verse 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 11:1,16. He has been swept on by the memory of the ecstasy. For I ought to have been commended by you [egō gar ōpheilon huph’ humōn sunistasthai]. Explanation of “ye compelled me.” Imperfect active [ōpheilon] of [opheilō], to be under obligation, and the tense here expresses an unfulfilled obligation about the present. But [sunistasthai] 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 (11:5f.), that he is no whit behind “the super-extra apostles” (the Judaizers), “though I am nothing” [ei kai ouden eimi]. Even boasting himself against those false apostles causes a reaction of feeling that he has to express (cf. 1Co 15:9; 1Ti 1:15f.).
12:12 Of an apostle [tou apostolou]. “Of the apostle” (definite article). Note the three words here for miracles wrought by Paul [sēmeia], signs, [terata], wonders, [dunameis], powers or miracles) as in Heb 2:4.
12:13 Wherein ye were made inferior [ho hēssōthēte]. First aorist passive indicative of [hēssoomai], the text of Aleph B D instead of the usual [hēttēthēte] from the common [hēttaomai] to be inferior or less from the comparative [hēttōn]. See [hēssōn] in verse 15. [Ho] is the neuter accusative with the passive verb (Robertson, Grammar, p. 479). Forgive me this wrong [charisasthe moi tēn adikian tautēn]. Consummate irony to the stingy element in this church (cf. 11:9).
12:14 Third time I am ready to come [triton touto hetoimōs echō]. Had he been already twice or only once? He had changed his plans once when he did not go (1:15f.). He will not change his plans now. This looks as if he had only been once (that in Ac 18). Note the third use of [katanarkaō] (11:9; 12:13, 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 [ou ta humōn, alla humas]. The motto of every real preacher. To lay up [thēsaurizein]. For this use of the verb see 1Co 16:2 (Mt 6:19-21; Jas 5:3).
12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent [hēdista dapanēsō kai ekdapanēthēsomai]. Both future active of old verb [dapanaō] (Mr 5:26) to spend money, time, energy, strength and the future passive of [ekdapanaō], late compound to spend utterly, to spend out, [ek-], to spend wholly. Only here in N.T.
12:16 I did not myself burden you [egō ou katebarēsa humas]. First aorist active of late verb [katabareō], to press a burden down on one. Only here in N.T. Crafty [panourgos]. Old word from [pan], all, and [ergo], 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 [dolōi]. Instrumental case of [dolos], 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.
12:17 Did I take advantage [epleonektēsa]. Paul goes right to the point without hedging. For this verb from [pleon] and [echō], to have more, see on 2Co 2:11; 7:2. By any one of them [tina—di’ autou]. An anacoluthon for [tina] is left in the accusative without a verb and [di’ autou] takes up the idea, “as to any one by him.” Whom [hōn]. The genitive relative is attracted from the accusative [hous] into the case of the unexpressed antecedent [touton]. [Mē] expects the negative answer as does [mēti] in 18.
12:18 The brother [ton adelphon]. Probably the brother of Titus (cf. 8:18). Did Titus take advantage of you? [mēti epleonektēsen humas Titos?]. That puts the issue squarely. By the same Spirit [tōi 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” [tois autois ichnesin] is in locative case.
12:19 Ye think all this time [palai dokeite]. Progressive present indicative, “for a long time ye have been thinking.” We are excusing ourselves [apologoumetha]. He is not just apologizing, but is in deadly earnest, as they will find out when he comes.
12:20 Lest by any means, when I come, I should find you not such as I would [mē pōs elthōn ouch hoious thelō heurō humas]. An idiomatic construction after the verb of fearing [phoboumai] with [mē pōs] as the conjunction and with [ouch] as the negative of the verb [heurō] (second aorist active subjunctive of [heuriskō], [mē] the conjunction, [ouch] the negative. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 995. And I be found [kagō heurethō]. Same construction with first aorist passive subjunctive. Such as ye would not [hoion ou thelete]. Neat change in voice just before and position of the negative here. Lest by any means [mē 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 [katalaliai]. Late and rare word. In N.T. only here and 1Pe 2:1. If it only existed nowhere else! Whisperings [psithurismoi]. Late word from [psithurizō], to whisper into one’s ear. An onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer (Ec 10:11). Only here in N.T. Swellings [phusiōseis]. From [phusioō], to swell up, late word only here and in ecclesiastical writers. Did Paul make up the word for the occasion? See on 1Co 4:6 for verb. Tumults [akatastasiai]. See on 2Co 6:5.
12:21 When I come again [palin elthontos mou]. Genitive absolute. Paul assumes it as true. Lest my God humble me [mē tapeinōsēi me ho theos mou]. Negative final clause [mē] and first aorist active subjunctive), going back to [phoboumai] in 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 [tōn proēmartēkotōn]. Genitive plural of the articular perfect active participle of [proamartanō] to emphasize continuance of their sinful state as opposed to [mē metanoēsantōn] (did not repent) in the aorist tense.
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