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23Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

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23. Are they ministers of Christ? Now when he is treating of matters truly praiseworthy, he is no longer satisfied with being on an equality with them, but exalts himself above them. For their carnal glories he has previously been scattering like smoke by a breath of wind, 857857     Car quant a leurs gloires charnelles, qui n’estoyent que choses vaines, iusques yci il les a fait esuanoir comme en soufflant dessus.” — “For as to theft carnal glories, which were but vain things, he has hitherto made them vanish by, as it were, blowing upon them.” by placing in opposition to them those which he had of a similar kind; but as they had nothing of solid worth, he on good grounds separates himself from their society, when he has occasion to glory in good earnest. For to be a servant of Christ is a thing that is much more honorable and illustrious, than to be the first-born among all the first-born of Abraham’s posterity. Again, however, with the view of providing against calumnies, he premises that he speaks as a fool “Imagine this,” says he, “to be foolish boasting: it is, nevertheless, true.”

In labors. By these things he proves that he is a more eminent servant of Christ, and then truly we have a proof that may be relied upon, when deeds instead of words are brought forward. He uses the term labors here in the plural number, and afterwards labor What difference there is between the former and the latter I do not see, unless perhaps it be, that he speaks here in a more general way, including those things that he afterwards enumerates in detail. In the same way we may also understand the term deaths to mean any kind of perils that in a manner threatened present death, instances of which he afterwards specifies. “I have given proof of myself in deaths often, in labors oftener still.” He had made use of the term deaths in the same sense in the first chapter. (2 Corinthians 1:10.)

24. From the Jews. It is certain that the Jews had at that time been deprived of jurisdiction, but as this was a kind of moderate punishment (as they termed it) it is probable that it was allowed them. Now the law of God was to this effect, that those who did not deserve capital punishment should be beaten in the presence of a judge, (Deuteronomy 25:2, 3,) provided not more than forty stripes were inflicted, lest the body should be disfigured or mutilated by cruelty. Now it is probable, that in process of time it became customary to stop at the thirty-ninth lash, 858858     The custom of excepting one stripe from the forty is made mention of by Josephus: πληγὰς μίας λειπούσης τεσσαράκοντα, “forty stripes save one.” (Joseph. Antiq. lib. 4. cap. 8. sect. 21.) It is noticed by Wolfius, that the Jews in modern times make use of the same number of stripes — thirty-nine — in punishing offenders, there being evidence of this from what is stated by Uriel Acosta, who, in his Life, subjoined by Limborch to his Conversation with a learned Jew, declares that he had in punishment of his departure from the Jews, received stripes up to that number. — Ed. lest perhaps they should on any occasion, from undue warmth, exceed the number prescribed by God. Many such precautions, 859859     Plusieurs semblables pouruoyances et remedes inuentez par los Rabbins:” — “Many similar provisions and remedies, invented by the Rabbins.” prescribed by the Rabbins, 860860     “The Mishna gives this as a rule, (MISH. Maccoth. fol. 22:10,) ‘How often shall he, the culprit, be smitten? Ans. אלכעין חסר אחד, forty stripes, wanting one, i.e., with the number which is nighest to forty.’ They also thought it right to stop under forty, lest the person who counted should make a mistake, and the criminal get more than forty stripes, which would be injustice, as the law required only forty.” — Dr. A. Clarke. “As the whip was formed of three cords, and every stroke was allowed to count for three stripes, the number of strokes never exceeded thirteen, which made thirty-nine stripes.” — Bloomfield.Ed. are to be found among the Jews, which make some restriction upon the permission that the Lord had given. Hence, perhaps, in process of time, (as things generally deteriorate,) they came to think, that all criminals should be beaten with stripes to that number, though the Lord did not prescribe, how far severity should go, but where it was to stop; unless perhaps you prefer to receive what is stated by others, that they exercised greater cruelty upon Paul. This is not at all improbable, for if they had been accustomed ordinarily to practice this severity upon all, he might have said that he was beaten according to custom. Hence the statement of the number is expressive of extreme severity.




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