2 Corinthians 12:1-5
1. It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory: I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
1. Gloriari sane non expedit mihi: veniam enim ad visiones et revelatones Domini.
2. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth,) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
2. Novi hominem in Christo ante annos quatuordecim (sive in corpore, nescio: sive extra corpus, nescio, Deus novit) eiusmodi, inquam, hominem raptum fuisse usque in tertium coelum:
3. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth,)
3. Scio de eiusmodi homine (sive in corpore, nescio: sive extra corpus, nescio, Deus scit.)
4. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
5. De eiusmodi homine gloriabor: de me ipso non gloriabor, nisi in infirmitatibus meis.
1. It is not expedient for me to glory. Now, when as it were in the middle of the course, he restrains himself from proceeding farther, and in this way he most appropriately reproves the impudence of his rivals and declares that it is with reluctance, that he engages in this sort of contest with them. For what a shame it was to scrape together from every quarter commendations, or rather to go a-begging for them, that they might be on a level with so distinguished a man! As to the latter, he admonishes them by his own example, that the more numerous and the more excellent the graces by which any one of us is distinguished, so much the less ought he to think of his own excellence. For such a thought is exceedingly dangerous, because, like one entering into a labyrinth, the person is immediately dazzled, so as to be too quick-sighted in discerning his gifts, 3 while in the mean time he is ignorant of himself. Paul is afraid, lest this should befall him. The graces conferred by God are, indeed, to be acknowledged, that we may be aroused, -- first, to gratitude for them, and secondly, to the right improvement of them; but to take occasion from them to boast -- that is what cannot be done without great danger.
For I will come 4 to visions. "I shall not creep on the ground, but will be constrained to mount aloft. Hence I am afraid, lest the height of my gifts should hurry me on, so as to lead me to forget myself." And certainly, if Paul had gloried ambitiously, he would have fallen headlong from a lofty eminence; for it is humility alone, that can give stability to our greatness in the sight of God.
Between visions and revelations there is this distinction -- that a revelation is often made either in a dream, or by an oracle, without any thing being presented to the eye, while a vision is scarcely ever afforded without a revelation, or in other words, without the Lord's discovering what is meant by it. 5
2. I knew a man in Christ. As he was desirous to restrain himself within bounds, he merely singles out one instance, and that, too, he handles in such a way as to show, that it is not from inclination that he brings it forward; for why does he speak in the person of another rather than in his own? It is as though he had said, "I should have preferred to be silent, I should have preferred to keep the whole matter suppressed within my own mind, but those persons 6 will not allow me. I shall mention it, therefore, as it were in a stammering way, that it may be seen that I speak through constraint." Some think that the clause in Christ is introduced for the purpose of confirming what he says. I view it rather as referring to the disposition, so as to intimate that Paul has not here an eye to himself, but looks to Christ exclusively.
When he confesses, that he does not know whether he was in the body, or out of the body, he expresses thereby the more distinctly the greatness of the revelation. For he means, that God dealt with him in such a way, 7 that he did not himself understand the manner of it. Nor should this appear to us incredible, inasmuch as he sometimes manifests himself to us in such a way, that the manner of his doing so is, nevertheless, hid from our view. 8 At the same time, this does not, in any degree, detract from the assurance of faith, which rests simply on this single point -- that we are aware that God speaks to us. Nay more, let us learn from this, that we must seek the knowledge of those things only that are necessary to be known, and leave other things to God. (Deuteronomy 29:29.) He says, then, that he does not know, whether he was wholly taken up -- soul and body -- into heaven, or whether it was his soul only, that was caught up.
Fourteen years ago. Some 9 enquire, also, as to the place, but it does not belong to us to satisfy their curiosity. 10 The Lord manifested himself to Paul in the beginning by a vision, when he designed to convert him from Judaism to the faith of the gospel, but he was not then admitted as yet into those secrets, as he needed even to be instructed by Ananias in the first rudiments. 11 (Acts 9:12.) That vision, therefore, was nothing but a preparation, with the view of rendering him teachable. It may be, that, in this instance, lie refers to that vision, of which he makes mention also, according to Luke's narrative. (Acts 22:17.) There is no occasion, however, for our giving ourselves much trouble as to these conjectures, as we see that Paul himself kept silence respecting it for fourteen years, 12 and would not have said one word in reference to it, had not the unreasonableness of malignant persons constrained him.
4. In paradise. 15 As every region that is peculiarly agreeable and delightful 16 is called in the Scriptures the garden of God, it came from this to be customary among the Greeks to employ the term paradise to denote the heavenly glory, even previously to Christ's advent, as appears from Ecclesiasticus. (Sirach, 40, 17, 27.) It is also used in this sense in Luke 23:43, in Christ's answer to the robber -- "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," that is, "Thou shalt enjoy the presence of God, in the condition and life of the blessed."
Heard unspeakable words. By words here I do not understand things, as the term is wont to be made use of after the manner of the Hebrews; 17 for the word heard would not correspond with this. Now if any one inquires, what they were, the answer is easy -- that it is not without good reason that they are called unspeakable 18 words, and such as it is unlawful to utter. Some one, however, will reply, that what Paul heard was, consequently, needless and useless, for what. purpose did it serve to hear, what was to be buried in perpetual silence? I answer, that this took place for the sake of Paul himself, for one who had such arduous difficulties awaiting him, enough to break a thousand hearts, required to be strengthened by special means, that he might not give way, but might persevere undaunted. 19 Let us consider for a little, how many adversaries his doctrine had, and of what sort they were; and farther, with what a variety of artifices it was assailed, and then we shall wonder no longer, why he heard more than it was lawful for him to utter.
From this, too, we may gather a most useful admonition as to setting bounds to knowledge. We are naturally prone to curiosity. Hence, neglecting altogether, or tasting but slightly, and carelessly, doctrine that tends to edification, we are hurried on to frivolous questions. Then there follow upon this -- boldness and rashness, so that we do not hesitate to decide on matters unknown, and concealed.
From these two sources has sprung up a great part 20 of scholastic theology, and every thing, which that trifler Dionysius 21 has been so daring as to contrive in reference to the Heavenly Hierarchies, It becomes us so much the more to keep within bounds, 22 so as not to seek to know any thing, but what the Lord has seen it good to reveal to his Church. Let this be the limit of our knowledge.
1 "Parolles inenarrables, ou, qui ne se doyuent dire;" -- "Words unutterable, or, that ought not to be spoken."
2 "I1 n'est possible, ou loisible;" -- "It is not possible, or lawful."
3 "Ses dons et graces;" -- "His gifts and graces."
4 "I will come Marg 'For I will' Our Translators have omitted (
5 "C'est qu'il sign/fie en ce qui s'est presente a nous;" -- "What he intends in what is presented to our view."
6 "Ces opiniastres ambitieux;" -- "Those ambitious, obstinate persons."
7 "Que Dieu a tellement besongne et precede enuers luy;" -- That God had in such a manner wrought and acted towards him."
8 "Est incomprehensible a nostre sens;" -- "Is incomprehensible to our mind."
9 "Ne se contentans point de ceci;" -- "Not contenting themselves with this."
10 "Mais nous n'auons point delibere, et aussi il n'est pas en nous de satisfaire a leur curiosite;" -- "But we have not determined as to this, and it does not belong to us to satisfy their curiosity."
11 "Es premiers commencemens de la religion;" -- "In the first elements of religion."
12 "This vision Paul had kept secret for fourteen years. He had doubtless often thought of it; and the remembrance of that glorious hour was doubtless one of the reasons why he bore trials so patiently, and was willing to endure so much. But before this he had had no occasion to mention it. He had other proofs in abundance that he was called to the work of an Apostle; and to mention this would savour of pride and ostentation. It was only when he was compelled to refer to the evidences of his apostolic mission that he refers to it here." -- Barnes. -- Ed.
13 "Par dessus tons les cieux;" -- "Above all the heavens."
14 "Non content de nommer simplement le ciel;" -- "Not contented with simply employing the term heaven."
15 "The word paradise (
16 "Toute region delectable et excellente en fertilite et abundance de biens de la terre;" -- "Every region that is delightful and distinguished by fertility and abundance of the good things of the earth."
17 Calvin's meaning evidently is, that
18 "Secretes, ou impossibles a dire;" -- "Secret, or such as it is impossible to utter."
19 "Mais qu'il perseuerast constamment, sans se laisser vainere;" -- "But might persevere steadfastly, without allowing himself to be overcome."
20 "La plus grande partie;" -- "The greatest part."
21 Calvin refers here to one Dionysius, whose writings appear to have been looked upon by many in Calvin's times, as having been composed by Dionysius the Areopagite, who was converted by Paul at Athens. (Acts 17:34.) A copy of the work referred to, printed at Paris in 1555, bears the following title: "S. Dionysii Areopagitae, Martyris Inclyti, Athenarum Episcopi, et Galliarum Apostoli, opera-Translatio Noua Ambrosii Florentini," etc.; -- "The works of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the renowned Martyr, Bishop of Athens, and Apostle of the Gauls -- a New Translation by Ambrosius Florentine," etc. -- Calvin, in his Institutes, (volume 1,) when treating of angels, adverts to the writings of Dionysius, in the following terms: "None can deny that Dionysius (whoever he may have been) has many shrewd and subtle disquisitions in his Celestial Hierarchy, but on looking at them more closely, every one must see that they are merely idle talk. The duty of a theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful. When you read the work of Dionysius, you would think that the man had come down from heaven, and was relating, not what he had learned, but what he had actually seen. Paul, however, though he was carried to the third heaven, so far from delivering any thing of the kind positively, declares, that it was not lawful for man to speak the secrets which he had seen. Bidding adieu, therefore, to that nugatory wisdom, let us endeavor to ascertain from the simple doctrine of Scripture, what it is the Lord's pleasure that we should know concerning angels." -- Beza, in his Annotations on 1 Corinthians 3:15, when expounding the expression -- "he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire," makes mention of Dionysius, as having been, in his opinion, Bishop of Corinth, and speaks of him as having devoted himself to unprofitable speculations, and as harassing himself, for the most part in vain, in describing the Celestial Hierarchy. -- The Rhemish Translators, when commenting on Acts 17:34, contend for the genuineness of the writings referred to. "Dionysius Areopaita. This is that famous Denys that first converted France, and wrote those notable and divine works -- ' De Ecclesiastica et Caelesti Hierarchia, de diuinis nominibus,' and others; in which he confirmeth, and proveth plainely, almost all things that the Church now useth in the ministration of the Holy Sacrament, and affirmeth that he learned them of the Apostles, giving also testimony for the Catholike faith in most things now controuersed, so plainely that our adversaries have no shift but to deny this Denys to have been the author of them, raining that they be another's of later age." To these statements Dr. Fulke, in his elaborate work in refutation of the errors of the Rhemish Translators, (p. 403,) replies as follows: "That Dionysius Areopagita was author of those bookes which now beare his name, you bring no proofe at all. We alleage that Eusebius, Hierome, Gennadius, neuer heard of his writings, for if they had heard, Dionysius Areopagita should have been registered by them among ecclesiasticall writers." -- It is stated by Mosheim in his Ecclesiastical History, (London 1825,) volume 2, n. (u), that "the spuriousness of these works is now universally granted by the most learned and impartial of the Roman Catholic writers, as they contain accounts of many events that happened several ages after the time of Dionysius, and were not at all mentioned until after the fifth century." Turretine in his Theology brings forward, at considerable length, evidence to show, that the work referred to was not, as pretended, the production of Dionysius the Areopagite, who was "
22 "I1 faut que nous soyons d'autant plus sobres et modestes;" -- "It is necessary, that we should be so much the more sober and modest."