2 Corinthians


8. Paul defends his ministry, 10:1-12:21

v] Paul's vision and revelation


Paul continues with his foolish / worldly boasting, and this for the sake of the Corinthian believers. Just as he can boast of his sharing in the sufferings of Christ, so he can boast of visions and revelations from the Lord. Given that he would rather boast of his weakness, a weakness particularly evident in his skoly, "thorn", v7, Paul chooses to describe his privileged heavenly experience as if it were a third-party experience. Paul is not willing to play the fool and boast, but none-the-less, for the sake of the Corinthians, he will give them a glimpse of his heavenly privilege - the vision which he experienced some fourteen years ago.


i] Context: See 11:1-15.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Paul's vision and revelation:

A rather special boast - an ecstatic rapture, v1;

Snatched up into paradise, the third heaven, v2-4;

The only boast worth anything - weakness, v5-6.


iv] Interpretation:

It is important to note the link between Paul's rapture to the third heaven and his "thorn in / for the flesh", v7. His rapture is an amazing experience and outdoes the "boast" of his opponents, but for Paul it cannot be compared to weakness, for it is in weakness where the power of Christ is operative. For Paul, his "thorn" comes in conjunction with his rapture, possibly even immediately at the conclusion of the rapture. Prayer was never going to remove it, but he was promised Christ's power to endure it. So, Paul finds his boast in weakness, not glory.


Paul's vision: Betz, in Tradition, 1972, argued that Paul's account of his rapture is nothing more than parody. He argues that Paul is employing a self-parody to mock the self-praise of his opponents. This view has been accepted by a number of commentators, but most regard Paul's words as descriptive of a real religious experience.

It has also been argued that Paul is speaking of the visions of a ministry colleague, Paul himself being more focused on revelations than visions. Yet, given the context, what is the point? See Thrall who argues against this view, a point of view originally put by Goulder.


Paul's cosmology: Paul does not develop his cosmology and so we are left in the dark as to what he means by the "third heaven." Jewish pseudepigrapha of the time refers to numerous levels in heaven - in Enoch there are seven. God's presence is in all levels, the top level being the ultimate manifestation of God's presence, the divine throne room, the heavenly holy of holies. In line with the Apocalypse of Moses, 37:5 and 2 Enoch 8:1, Paul aligns paradise (God's garden, of which Eden was an earthly representation) with the third heaven into which he was aJrpazw, "caught up." Paul may hold that there are more than three levels, possibly seven, with paradise being the third level, the only level a raptured person may reach. Yet, it is also possible that in Paul's view there are only three levels and he was raptured into the top one.

Given that Paul is quick to express his lack of understanding on this matter, we are best to follow my friend Joseph Matumbo who knew nothing of levels. As far as he was concerned, "in the end, there is just you and Jesus." I can live with that!

Text - 12:1

Paul's vision and revelation: i] A rather special boast - an ecstatic rapture, v1. As Paul sees it, "it is not expedient to boast, but it might be even more inexpedient not to boast", Barrett. So, Paul will boast of visions and revelations.

kaucasqai (koucaomi) pres. mid. inf. "[I must go on] boasting" - [it is necessary] for me to boast. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary"; "to boast is necessary." The NIV expresses the durative nature of the present tense; "it is necessary to continue to boast."

men .... de "-" on the one hand [not being better, profitable, useful], but on the other hand [i will go to visions and revelations of lord]. Adversative comparative construction:

ou sumferon (sumferw) pres. part. "although there is nothing to be gained" - not being profitable. The participle could be classified as a substantive, so Long, although its function is verbal. So, it could be adverbial, concessive, "although ...", or viewed as an independent participle / accusative absolute, but better classified as a present periphrastic with the verb to-be estin assumed, so Harris.

eiV + acc. "to" - [i will go] to, into = toward. Probably used instead of proV, "toward", so Zerwick, and with the verb ercomai, "to go", "I will go toward", expressing an idiomatic sense for moving onto a new subject; "I shall move on to ..." "Still, I will go on and tell you about visions and revelations granted by the Lord", Cassirer.

kuriou (oV) gen. "from the Lord" - of the lord. Probably ablative, expressing source / origin, as NIV (= content), although Long also suggests verbal, objective, "about the Lord", while Cassirer above opts for subjective, "granted by the Lord."


Boast he should, but Paul just can't do it in full flight, so his boast of visions and revelations is presented in third-party fashion, v3-5. Paul speaks of his mysterious rapture to paradise, the third heaven; in body, out of body, he knows not, only God knows. And the little he does know must remain a mystery.

oida (oJraw) perf. "I know" - i know [a man]. The word has a wide meaning, to know, perceive, recall, experience, understand, ...., so possibly "I am aware of."

en + dat. "in" - in [christ]. Local, incorporative union, "in union with Christ" = "a believer / Christian."

pro + gen "[fourteen years ago]" - before [fourteen years]. Temporal use of the preposition, usually of a point in time, so as NIV. The "fourteen" produces a date around AD 40/42, a time when Paul was ministering in Syria and Cilicia, although we have no record of the event other than what Paul tells us here.

aJrpagenta (aJrpazw) aor. pas. part. "who ..... was caught up" - [such a one] having been caught away. The word takes the sense "snatched up, away", as an animal would snatch its prey. Something like "transported" my be in Paul's mind, or better "raptured", cf., Rev.12:5. The participle, although anarthrous, is usually taken to be adjectival, attributive, limiting "man".

eJwV + gen. "to" - to [the third heaven]. Spacial; "into / to".

eite ... eite "whether ...... or ...." - whether [in body, i do not know], or [out of the body, i do not know, god knows]. A correlative construction, disjunctive.

ektoV + gen. "out of [the body]" - As with en, "in [the body]", local, expressing space, but an adverbial use may be intended, modal, expressing manner; "whether it was bodily or spiritually I do not know - God knows."


kai "and" - and [i know such a man ......]. Plummer, as with many of the patristic commentators, thinks that Paul is speaking of a second spiritual experience in v3-4, but the mention of "fourteen years" probably discounts this idea. So here kai is most likely ascensive, "I even know that this man ...."


oJti "-" - that [he was caught up]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul knows, "I know such a man ....... that he was caught up .....", or epexegetic, limiting by specifying "such a man", "who was caught up ...."

eiV "to [paradise]" - into [the paradise]. Local, space; "into". The noun paradeisoV, "paradise", is a Greek word derived from Persia and is used in the LXX of the Garden of Eden, Gen.2:8. In Jewish pseudepigrapha it takes on eschatological overtones, of the reappearance of God's garden in the end time.

arrhta hJrhmata "inexpressible things" - [and heard] unutterable words. Either a revelation which Paul is unable to express, or is not permitted to express, although given the following relative clause, not permitted to express is obviously intended. The idea of hidden mysteries would be well understood by Paul's readers, given the prevalence of Mystery cults in the East. Even the word arrhtoV, "unutterable", is commonly found in Greek religious texts.

ouk exon (existin) pres. part. "no [one] is permitted" - [which to speak] is not permitted, allowed, sanctioned, authorized [to / for man]. The participle is probably a present periphrastic with the verb to-be assumed. The dative anqrwpw/, "man", is either interest, "for man", or reference / respect, "it is not permitted, with respect to man, to tell."

lalhsai (lalew) aor. inf. "to tell" - to speak. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is not permitted."


If a person is to boast about anything, being raptured to heaven and enabled to see and hear mysteries beyond human reason would have to be the grandest of all boasts. Yet, Paul has little interest in such a boast, for humiliation is far superior.

uJper "about" - on behalf of [such a one i will boast, but] on behalf [of myself i will not boast]. Expressing representation, "on behalf of", but possibly advantage, "for the benefit of", even instead of peri, reference / respect, "with reference to." "On behalf of this man I will boast", ESV

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrast, as NIV; "but about myself I'm not willing to say another word apart from the humiliations", Peterson.

ei mh "except" - except [in the = my weaknesses]. Introducing an exceptive clause expressing a contrast by designating an exception; "except about the things that show my weakness", Barclay.


Paul is well entitled to brag about his heavenly experience, and he would not be singing his own praises in doing so because he is only recounting what actually happened, none-the-less he refrains from bragging. "I don't want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you'd encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk", Peterson. The logic of this verse is problematic, given that according to Paul, boasting, whether true or not, is a foolish act. Now he seems to say that if the boasting is based on truth then it does not amount to playing the fool. In Paul's mind, speaking of his rapture is not "acting out of line with prudence and good judgment", Guthrie. We probably shouldn't push the point, because in the end Paul refrains from boasting, and in any case, the word "fool" carries a double meaning, given that it is probably how his opponents refer to him.

gar "even" - for. The NIV treats gar as kan, so Martin, but this is unlikely, so Thrall, Harris. More reason than cause, explanatory; here developing the thought expressed in v5b; "for if ......"

ean + subj. "if" - if, [as may be the case, i want to boast, then i will not be foolish]. Introducing a third class conditional clause where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true, although given the context it will not come true, ie., Paul will not boast.

kauchsasqai (kaucaomai) aor. inf. "to boast" - The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will, want, desire."

gar "because" - because [i will be speaking truth]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why he wouldn't be a fool if he boasted; "because I would be speaking nothing but the truth."

de "but" - but/and [i spare you]. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument to a contrasting point, as NIV. The verb "to spare" takes the present tense; Barrett suggests that it is conative, "I am trying to spare you."

mh + subj. "so no [one will think]" - lest [a certain one reckons, gives credit]. Although missing iJna, this construction indicates a negated purpose clause; "so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me", ESV.

eiV + acc. "more of [me]" - to [me]. Here expressing advantage, as NIV. "I do not want anyone to have a higher opinion of me than he can form on the basis of what he sees me do and hears me say", Barclay.

uJper + acc. "than is warranted" - beyond [what he sees me or hears]. Here expressing a comparison; "than he sees."

ex (ek) + gen. "-" - of me. Expressing source / origin; "from me."


2 Corinthians Introduction

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