2 Corinthians


2. Paul defends his integrity, 1:8-2:13

i] Lifted up by prayer


Paul now recounts, in broad terms, the qliyiV, "tribulation", he experienced in the province of Asia. This trouble was a near death experience from which he was delivered, and will be deliverd by the hand of God at the behest of the prayers of many.


i] Context: See 1:1-7. In the section before us, 1:8-2:13, Paul sets out to defend himself against the slander of his opponents in the Corinthian church. As indicated in the background notes, it seems likely that Paul's main opposition party is primarily made up of Judaizers, members of the circumcision party. The Judaizers oppose Paul theologically, although the issue addressed here concerns Paul's integrity. As is usually the case, an opposition party is often made up of those with many and varied grudges. On the question of integrity, their charge against Paul is that he is fickle, insensitive and domineering. Paul is bound to answer this charge because, if it is sustained, then the theological integrity of his gospel will be compromised. Paul "asserts that so fare from indicating capriciousness or overlordship, his recent relations with the church at Corinth had demonstrated his pastoral concern and fatherly love. Any apparent indications to the contrary, such as changes of travel plans, a stern letter, or a call for church discipline, should be seen in this light", Harris.

Paul's defense against criticisms leveled against him by the opposition party in the Corinthian fellowship (that he is weak, vacillating and fickle), covers 1:8-2:13:

*Paul commences with a defense of his stern / painful letter, v8-14 (1 Corinthians, or possibly the first letter now lost, cf., 1Cor.5:9, but unlikely a letter which now forms the last four chapters of 2 Corinthians; see the introductory notes on "The Compilation Hypothesis").

*First, he points out that his intention to visit Corinth was not a smoke screen; he is not the type of person who says "yes" when he means "no", v15-17.

*Paul then defends himself theologically, v18-22. As an apostle of an unambiguous gospel, Paul points out that his personal life can't help but reflect the dependability of the promises contained in the gospel. Paul then explains that he failed to follow through on his intended visit to Corinth out of consideration for them, not out of consideration for his own welfare, v23-24.

*Paul then explains why he wrote the painful letter rather than returning to visit the church as he said he would - he didn't want to cause them pain, 2:1-4.

*Paul concludes with an instruction to offer forgiveness to the immoral brother singled out in the letter, v5-11.

*This is followed by a note on his intended visit to Troas, v12-13.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Lifted up by prayer:

A broad description of the "tribulation", v8-9;

Delivery from the tribulation, v10;

The part of prayer in overcoming tribulation, v11.


iv] Interpretation:

This passage focuses on Paul's qliyiV, "tribulation". It is not unreasonable to presume that the event Paul is alluding to is the riot led by Demetrius in Ephesus, his imprisonment and forced departure from town, cf., Acts 19. This assumes that "Asia" stands for "Ephesus", which is somewhat of a gamble. If not in Ephesus, then the events occurred after leaving Ephesus, between the writing of 1st. and 2nd. Corinthians. It has been suggested that Paul possibly underwent another term in prison at this time, possibly in Laodicea, so Duncan in St. Paul's Ephesian Ministry. Others have suggested that Paul is describing a severe illness. In Semitic thought, death is often used to describe a severe illness and "bring back to life" can mean "healed of an ailment." Alexander in St. Paul's Infirmity argues that Paul is referring to a recurring malady, the skoloy, "thorn", this time a very serious bout, possibly at Troas after leaving Ephesus. At any rate, the circumstances were devastating for Paul, personally overwhelming, v8, and undermining his confidence and reliance on God, v9. Paul feels blessed that he is now through it all, for the moment at least, and looks for the supportive prayers of God's people.

Text - 1:8

Lifted up by prayer, v8-11: i] The tribulation, v8-9.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, developing / explaining v3-7, although at times this conjunction is used as a connective, indicating the next step in the argument.

agnoien (agnoew) pres. inf. "to be uninformed" - [we do not want you] to be ignorant [brothers]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to will / want." Translating the double negative as a positive; "we want you to be quite certain", NJB. "Brothers" = "brethren" (non sexist). The plural my indicating Paul and his missionary team, or it may just be a royal plural.

uJper + gen. "about" - Reference / respect; "with respect to, concerning, about."

thV genomenhV (ginomai) gen. aor. mid. part. "[we] experienced" - [the tribulation, affliction of us] having happened. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "tribulation"; "the tribulation which we experienced in Asia.

en + dat. "in [the province of Asia]" - in [asia]. Local, expressing space.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we" = Paul wants them "not to be ignorant of" = "to know", namely, that he was utterly burdened beyond his strength.

kaq (kata) + acc. "we were under great [pressure]" - according to [excess]. The preposition here is adverbial and so with the noun "excess, exceeding" produces the adverb "exceedingly"; "we were exceedingly burdened beyond our power" = "we were completely overwhelmed", Phillips.

uJper + acc. "far beyond" - beyond [our power]. Here spacial / comparative; "beyond". "Unbearably crushed", TEV.

wJste + inf. "so that" - so that = causing [to despair us]. This construction is consecutive, expressing result; "with the result that we despaired." The accusative pronoun hJmaV, "us", serves as the subject of the infinitive, so "we despaired."

kai "-" - and. Here ascensive; "even of life

tou zhn (zaw) pres. inf. "of life itself" - of the to live. The genitive article + inf. will often form a purpose clause, "in order to", but here it obviously indicates that the infinitive serves as a substantive, genitive of direct object after the ek + apo prefix verb "to despair of", here as an infinitive; "despaired of our lives."


Paul's tribulation was severe, but at least it did result in reliance on God rather than self. As indicated above, Paul's description of the qlipsiV, "tribulation, trouble", can be taken as a reference to a severe illness. Again the plural "we" may be a royal plural, an oblique reference to Paul himself. On the other hand, Paul may be referring to himself and Timothy / Titus ....

alla "indeed" - but. Strong adversative. The counterpoint is set against v8a;"we do not want you to be ignorant" of the burden we faced in the province of Asia, "but the fact of the matter is we felt we had received the sentence of death."

autoi "we" - we ourselves. Emphatic use of the pronoun.

en + dat. "felt" - [have had] in [ourselves the sentence of death]. Local, "within", with the reflective pronoun eJautoiV serving to intensify, "we were convinced within our very being." The perfect verb eschkamen, "we have", is usually read as an aorist, although the ongoing consequences of the action may be intended, eg., ongoing complications of an illness.

tou qanatou (oV) gen. "of death" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "death sentence", although it could be classified as verbal, objective, "a judicial sentence to die", or epexegetic, "a sentence which was death", so Long.

iJna + subj. "but it happened that [we might] not" - that. Usually taken here to express purpose such that God brought about the deadly circumstances that Paul faced in order that he might rely, not on himself, but on "the God who raises the dead." The addition of "but this happened" in the NIV prompts this sense; "this was meant to teach us", REB, "the purpose of it all", Cassirer. Of course, this construction can also express hypothetical result / result, such that the deadly circumstances resulted in Paul relying, not on himself, but on God; "we received the sentence of death with the result that we relied, not on ourselves, but on the God who raises the dead." I find it very difficult to conceive of a God who hurts people to gain their attention. It is the maladjusted child in the playground who thinks that friendships are gained by handing out sweets, or by inflicting pain, and I am inclined to believe that our God is not such a person.

pepoiqoteV (peiqw) perf. part. "rely" - [we may be not] trusting. The participle + the present subjunctive verb to-be forms a periphrastic perfect construction, probably emphasizing aspect, an ongoing reliance on God; "we should place our confidence in", Cassirer.

ef (epi) + dat. "on [ourselves]" - upon [ourselves]. Spacial, "upon, on."

all (alla) "-" - but [upon god]. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ..... but ..."

tw/ egeironti (egeirw) dat. pres. part. "who raises [the dead]" - the one raising [the dead]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "God". The God we trust is a life-given God, and sometimes, in the rough and tumble of life, this reality intrudes itself into the cause and effect sequencing of an age destined to destruction.


ii] Delivered from the deadly peril, v10. For the sake of the gospel, Paul firmly believes that "God rescued, and will rescue, [him] from situations of immense and mortal peril", Thrall.

ek + gen. "from" - [who] of [so great a death he has delivered / preserved / rescued us and will deliver us]. Expressing separation, "from, away from."

thlikoutou qanatou "such a deadly peril" - A plural textual variant thlikoutwn qanatwn exists, so "it was he who rescued us from such threats of death", Barclay, as Thrall above. Given the singular "sentence of death" in v9, the plural reading is the more difficult reading, but none-the-less the singular seems more likely.

eiV + acc. "on [him]" - into [whom]. Adverbial here, reference / respect, "with respect to whom / him we have set our hope", so Long. "On him we have fixed our hope."

oJti "that [he will continue to deliver us]" - [we have hoped] that [also yet he will deliver us]. Variant, as with eti, "yet", although most likely original. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is hoped. Depending on how we understand the tribulation: "We have every hope that he will continue to deliver us from those who would destroy our message and our witness", Junkins, or "I trust him to keep me alive / get me through any reoccurring bouts of illness." Not so much a faith healing perspective, but rather faith in the fulfillment of God's gospel program and Paul's part in it.


iii] The part of prayer in tribulation, v 11. This verse is rather complex, but the point is simple enough; Paul indirectly encourages the Corinthians to pray for him "that they, in turn, might give thanks for God's gracious answer to their prayers", Barnett.

"We rest in the hope that He will continue to deliver us (v10)

while you aid us by / with your prayers,

with the result that / resulting in thanksgiving from many people to God = your thanksgiving to God

for us / with regard to us,

for the gifts / divine favor given us by the prayers of many believers = by your prayers."

sunupourgoutwn (sunupourgew) gen. pres. part. "as you help" - [you and =also] working together, aiding, cooperating, labouring, joining in service. Genitive absolute participle along with the genitive subject uJmwn, "you", is usually treated as temporal, "It is on him that we have set our hope that he will deliver us again, while you, for your part aid by praying on our behalf", Cassirer, but possibly causal, "because you are helping me", Williams.

uJper "[us]" - for [us]. Here expressing advantage / benefit; "for the sake of, for the benefit of." "Join in helping us by your prayers for us", Harris.

th/ dehsei (iV ewV) dat. "by your prayers" - by the = your supplication, prayer. Instrumental dative, expressing means.

iJna + subj. "then [many will give thanks]" - that [thanks may be given for us from many faces = persons with respect to the gift to us by many]. The NIV opts for a consecutive clause expressing result, rather than a final clause expressing purpose.

ek + gen "[many]" - out of, from [many]. Expressing source / origin.

uJper + gen. "on [our] behalf" - for [us]. Expressing advantage, as above.

to .... carisma (a atoV) + acc. "for the gracious favor" - the gift. Accusative of respect, "with respect to God's gracious favor."

eiV + acc. "granted [us]" - to [us]. Here expressing advantage, "for us."

dia + gen. "in answer to the prayers of [many]" - by [many]. Instrumental, expressing means. "By the prayers of the many / many believers" = "by your prayers."


2 Corinthians Introduction


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