2 Corinthians 2:16
Parallel Verses
New International Version
To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

New Living Translation
To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

English Standard Version
to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

New American Standard Bible
to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

King James Bible
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this?

International Standard Version
To some people we are a deadly fragrance, while to others we are a living fragrance. Who is qualified for this?

NET Bible
to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
To the latter, the stench of death for death, and to the former, the fragrance of The Life for life. And who shall be worthy for these things?

GOD'S WORD® Translation
To some people we are a deadly fragrance, while to others we are a life-giving fragrance. Who is qualified to tell about Christ?

Jubilee Bible 2000
to the one we are the savour of death unto death and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

King James 2000 Bible
To the one we are the fragrance of death unto death; and to the other the fragrance of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

American King James Version
To the one we are the smell of death to death; and to the other the smell of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

American Standard Version
to the one a savor from death unto death; to the other a savor from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Douay-Rheims Bible
To the one indeed the odour of death unto death: but to the others the odour of life unto life. And for these things who is so sufficient?

Darby Bible Translation
to the one an odour from death unto death, but to the others an odour from life unto life; and who [is] sufficient for these things?

English Revised Version
to the one a savour from death unto death; to the other a savour from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Webster's Bible Translation
To the one we are the savor of death to death; and to the other the savor of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Weymouth New Testament
to the last-named an odor of death predictive of death, and to the others an odor of life predictive of life. And for such service as this who is competent?

World English Bible
to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

Young's Literal Translation
to the one, indeed, a fragrance of death to death, and to the other, a fragrance of life to life; and for these things who is sufficient?
Parallel Commentaries
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

2:12-17 A believer's triumphs are all in Christ. To him be the praise and glory of all, while the success of the gospel is a good reason for a Christian's joy and rejoicing. In ancient triumphs, abundance of perfumes and sweet odours were used; so the name and salvation of Jesus, as ointment poured out, was a sweet savour diffused in every place. Unto some, the gospel is a savour of death unto death. They reject it to their ruin. Unto others, the gospel is a savour of life unto life: as it quickened them at first when they were dead in trespasses and sins, so it makes them more lively, and will end in eternal life. Observe the awful impressions this matter made upon the apostle, and should also make upon us. The work is great, and of ourselves we have no strength at all; all our sufficiency is of God. But what we do in religion, unless it is done in sincerity, as in the sight of God, is not of God, does not come from him, and will not reach to him. May we carefully watch ourselves in this matter; and seek the testimony of our consciences, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, that as of sincerity, so speak we in Christ and of Christ.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 16. - The savour of death unto death; rather, a savour from death to death. To those who are perishing, the incense of the Name of Christ which our work enables them to breathe, seems to rise from death, and to lead to death. They (for here again the outlines of the metaphor shift) are like the doomed captives, who, as they breathed the incense on the day of triumph, knew where that triumph would lead them before the victors can climb the Capitol. To them it would seem to bring with it not "airs from heaven," but wafts from the abyss. So Christ was alike for the fall and for the rising again of many (Luke 2:34). To some he was a Stone of stumbling (Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8), which grinds to powder those on whom it falls (Matthew 21:44). This contrast between the intended effect of the gospel as the power and wisdom of God, and its accidental effect, through man's sin and blindness which converts it into a source of judgment, is often alluded to in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 24; John 3:19; John 9:39; John 15:22, etc.). St. Paul is fond of intensified expressions, like "from death unto death," as in Romans 1:17; "from faith to faith," etc. (2 Corinthians 4:17). Savour of life unto life; rather, a savour from life, as before. It came from the Source of life; it is issued in the sole reality of life. Similarly the rabbis spoke of the Law as "an aroma" alike of death and of life. "Why are the words of the Law likened to princes (Proverbs 8:6)? Because, like princes, they have the power to kill and to give life. Rays said to those that walk on its right, the Law is a medicine of life; to those that walk on the left side, a medicine of death" ('Shabbath,' f. 88, 2; 'Yoma,' f. 72, 2) Everything is as a two-edged sword. All Christian privileges are, as they are used, either blessings or banes (Wordsworth). And who is sufficient for these things? St. Paul always implies that nothing but the grace of God could enable him to discharge the great duty laid upon him (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:10).

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

To the one we are the savour of death unto death,.... Who are for death, or appointed to it; see Jeremiah 43:11. What the apostle says of the Gospel, and Gospel ministers, the Jews his countrymen used frequently to say of the law, and to which he seems to refer;

"saith Rabba (f), to them that go on the right hand of it, (the law,) it is , "the savour of life"; but to them that go on the left hand of it, it is , "the savour of death".''

Again (g),

"everyone that studies in the law for the sake of it, to him it becomes , "the savour of life", according to Proverbs 3:18, but everyone that studies in the law, not for the sake of it, to him it becomes , "the savour of death";''

once more (h),

"if a man is worthy or righteous, to him the law becomes , "the savour of life"; but if he is not righteous, it becomes to him , "the savour of death":''

and this they not only say of the written law, but also of their oral law (i), and are not contented with those general descriptions of persons to whom the law is so, but particularly mention the Gentiles;

"the words of the law (say they (k)) are , "the savour of life", to the Israelites; and , "the savour of death", to the nations of the world:''

that the law should be the savour of death, since it is the ministration of it, and cannot give life, see Galatians 3:21, is no wonder; but that the Gospel and the ministers of that, should be the savour of death unto death, may seem strange, but so it is. These preach up salvation by the death of Christ, and so are the sweet savour of the death of Christ; but this being despised and rejected by the sons of men, is "unto the death", and issues in the eternal death of the despisers and rejecters of it; likewise this doctrine preached by them, strikes with death all a man's wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, and declares that life and salvation are only by Christ and his righteousness; and besides, is attended with persecution and death, and therefore is foolishness to them that perish; and so becomes "the savour of death unto death"; a savour, but not a sweet savour, nor the sweet savour of Christ; a sweet savour indeed to God, whose justice, holiness, power, and wisdom, are displayed in the death and righteous destruction of sinners, but not to them:

to the other, the savour of life unto life; those who are ordained to eternal life. The Gospel preached by Christ's faithful ministers is the means of quickening souls, and giving them "spiritual life"; and of supporting and maintaining that life, and of nourishing them up unto "eternal life"; and so becomes "the savour of life" spiritual, "unto life" eternal. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and so the Ethiopic version, read both clauses, "from death to death, and from life to life"; with which compare Romans 1:17, and then the meaning may be, either as Grotius observes, that the ill report of the Gospel from men dead in sin, brings death to those who give credit to it; and the good report of it from God, the author of life, to which may be added from ministers, who are alive in a spiritual sense, is the means of life to others: or they are the means of adding death to death, death eternal, to death spiritual, or moral; death for sin, to death in sin, the Gospel being despised; and of increasing spiritual life, the comforts of it; and of adding eternal life to spiritual life: upon the whole of which, the apostle makes this exclamation,

and who is sufficient for these things; the meaning of which is either, who is able to search and find out the reason of this different influence of the Gospel ministry upon the souls of men? no man can do it; it must be ascribed to the sovereign will and pleasure of God, who hides the Gospel from some, and reveals it to others; or who is sufficient for the preaching of the Gospel? no man is sufficient of himself, very insufficient in the best sense, and none so but by the grace of God, and gifts of his Spirit; or who is sufficient to give success to the Gospel when preached? none can do this; Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone that gives the increase.

(f) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 88. 2.((g) Taanith, fol. 7. 1.((h) Yoma, fol 72. 2.((i) Zohar in Gen. fol. 19. 3.((k) Vajikra Rabba, fol. 147. 1. Debarim Rabba, fol. 233. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 9. 4.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

16. savour of death unto death … of life unto life—an odor arising out of death (a mere announcement of a dead Christ, and a virtually lifeless Gospel, in which light unbelievers regard the Gospel message), ending (as the just and natural consequence) in death (to the unbeliever); (but to the believer) an odor arising out of life (that is, the announcement of a risen and living Saviour), ending in life (to the believer) (Mt 21:44; Lu 2:34; Joh 9:39).

who is sufficient for these things?—namely, for diffusing aright everywhere the savor of Christ, so diverse in its effects on believers and unbelievers. He here prepares the way for one purpose of his Epistle, namely, to vindicate his apostolic mission from its detractors at Corinth, who denied his sufficiency. The Greek order puts prominently foremost the momentous and difficult task assigned to him, "For these things, who is sufficient?" He answers his own question (2Co 3:5, 6), "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who hath made us able (Greek, 'sufficient') ministers," &c.

2 Corinthians 2:16 Additional Commentaries
Context
Triumph in Christ
15For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? 17For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
Cross References
Numbers 15:3
and you present to the LORD food offerings from the herd or the flock, as an aroma pleasing to the LORD--whether burnt offerings or sacrifices, for special vows or freewill offerings or festival offerings--

Luke 2:34
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,

John 9:39
Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

2 Corinthians 3:5
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

1 Peter 2:7
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,"
Treasury of Scripture

To the one we are the smell of death to death; and to the other the smell of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

the savour of death.

Luke 2:34 And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, Behold, this …

John 9:39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they …

Acts 13:45-47 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, …

Acts 20:26,27 Why I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men…

1 Peter 2:7,8 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which …

who.

2 Corinthians 3:5,6 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of …

2 Corinthians 12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; you have compelled me: for I ought …

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed …

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