2 Corinthians 1:17
When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Did I use lightness?—This, then, was the charge which he is anxious to refute. The question meets us, however, When had the Corinthians heard of the plan thus detailed? It had been already abandoned, as we have seen, before the first Epistle was despatched. Had it been communicated in a lost letter (see Note on 1Corinthians 5:9)? or was this what Timotheus, who started before the first letter was written (1Corinthians 4:17), had been authorised to announce? Either alternative is possible, and there is no evidence to enable us to decide which is most probable.

Do I purpose according to the flesh . . .?—The construction is somewhat involved. He may mean: (1) “Do I form my purposes after the flesh” (i.e., from worldly motives), “so as to catch the praise of consistency from those who harp on the rule that ‘Yes should be yes, and No, no’?” or (2) “Am I weak and worldly in my purpose, changing my plans, and saying Yes’ and ‘No’ in almost the same breath?” On the whole, (2) seems to give the better sense. It is obvious that the words on which he dwells had been used of him by others. Some teacher of the party of the circumcision had, apparently, quoted the rule of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:37) and of St. James (James 5:12), and had asked, with a sneer, when the First Epistle came and showed that the original plan had been abandoned, whether this was the way in which St. Paul acted on it? The passage has accordingly the interest of being indirectly a reference to our Lord’s teaching, showing, like Acts 20:35, that “the words of the Lord Jesus” were habitually cited as rules of life.

2 Corinthians 1:17-20. When I therefore was thus minded — Having, therefore, purposed this; did I use lightness — Did I lightly change my purpose? or, the things that I purpose in general; do I purpose according to the flesh — Are my purposes grounded on carnal or worldly considerations? that with me there should be yea and nay — Sometimes one, sometimes the other; that is, variableness and inconstancy in my counsels and actions, that none should know how to depend upon me for what they had to expect from me? But as God is true — I solemnly protest, that, as the God whom I serve is faithful; our word to you — On this and other occasions, and the doctrine we have preached to you; was not yea and nay — Wavering and uncertain; but that my behaviour and testimony have been always uniform, invariable, and consistent with my professions. For the Son of God, who was preached by us — That is, our preaching concerning him, was not yea and nay — Was not variable and inconsistent with itself; but in him was yea — As he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, the declarations of his Word, and the engagements of his covenant, are inviolably the same. For all the promises of God — Many and precious as they are; in him are yea and amen — Are made with truth, and fulfilled with fidelity; or are surely established and accomplished in and through him. They are yea with respect to God promising; amen with respect to men believing; yea with respect to the apostles; amen with respect to their hearers. Unto the glory of God by us — As is declared by us in our ministry.

1:15-24 The apostle clears himself from the charge of levity and inconstancy, in not coming to Corinth. Good men should be careful to keep the reputation of sincerity and constancy; they should not resolve, but on careful thought; and they will not change unless for weighty reasons. Nothing can render God's promises more certain: his giving them through Christ, assures us they are his promises; as the wonders God wrought in the life, resurrection, and ascension of his Son, confirm faith. The Holy Spirit makes Christians firm in the faith of the gospel: the quickening of the Spirit is an earnest of everlasting life; and the comforts of the Spirit are an earnest of everlasting joy. The apostle desired to spare the blame he feared would be unavoidable, if he had gone to Corinth before he learned what effect his former letter produced. Our strength and ability are owing to faith; and our comfort and joy must flow from faith. The holy tempers and gracious fruits which attend faith, secure from delusion in so important a matter.When I therefore was thus minded - When I formed this purpose; when I willed this, and expressed this intention.

Did I use lightness? - The word ἐλαφρια elaphria (from ἐλαφρός elaphros) means properly lightness in weight. Here it is used in reference to the mind; and in a sense similar to our word levity, as denoting lightness of temper or conduct; inconstancy, changeableness, or fickleness. This charge had been probably made that he had made the promise without any due consideration, or without any real purpose of performing, it; or that he had made it in a trifling and thoughtless manner. By the interrogative form here, he sharply denies that it was a purpose formed in a light and trifling manner.

Do I purpose according to the flesh - In such a manner, as may suit my own convenience and carnal interest. Do I form plans adapted only to promote my own ease and gratification, and to be abandoned when they are attended with inconvenience? The phrase "according to the flesh" here seems to mean "in such a way as to promote my own ease and gratification; in a manner such as the people of the world form; such as would be formed under the influence of earthly passions and desires, and to be forsaken when those plans would interfere with such gratifications." Paul denies in a positive manner that he formed such plans; and they should have known enough of his manner of life to be assured that that was not the nature of the schemes which he had devised? Probably no man ever lived who formed his plans of life less for the gratification of the flesh than Paul.

That with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? - There has been a great variety in the interpretation of this passage; see Bloomfield, Critical Digest in loco. The meaning seems to be, "that there should be such inconstancy and uncertainty in my counsels and actions, that no one could depend on me, or know what they had to expect from me." Bloomfield supposes that the phrase is a proverbial one, and denotes a headstrong, self-willed spirit which will either do things, or not do them as pleases, without giving any reasons. He supposes that the repetition of the words "yea and nay" is designed to denote positiveness of assertion - such positiveness as is commonly shown by such persons, as in the phrases, "what I have written I have written," "what I have done I have done." It seems more probable, however, that the phrase is designed to denote the ready compliance which an inconstant and unsettled man is accustomed to make with the wishes of others; his expressing a ready assent to what they propose; falling in with their views; readily making promises; and instantly, through some whim, or caprice, or wish of others, saying "yea, nay," to the same thing; that is, changing his mind, and altering his purpose without any good reason, or in accordance with any fixed principle or settled rule of action. Paul says that this was not his character. He did not affirm a thing at one time and deny it at another; he did not promise to do a thing one moment and refuse to do it the next.

17. use lightness—Was I guilty of levity? namely, by promising more than I performed.

or … according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea, yea … nay, nay?—The "or" expresses a different alternative: Did I act with levity, or (on the other hand) do I purpose what I purpose like worldly (fleshly) men, so that my "yea" must at all costs be yea, and my "nay" nay [Bengel, Winer, Calvin], (Mt 14:7, 9)? The repetition of the "yea" and "nay" hardly agrees with Alford's view, "What I purpose do I purpose according to the changeable purposes of the fleshly (worldly) man, that there may be with me the yea yea, and the nay nay (that is, both affirmation and negation concerning the same thing)?" The repetition will thus stand for the single yea and nay, as in Mt 5:37; Jas 5:12. But the latter passage implies that the double "yea" here is not equivalent to the single "yea": Bengel's view, therefore, seems preferable.

When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? Though the apostle doth not in so many words tell us so, yet it is apparent from this verse, that some of the Corinthians had taken occasion from his not coming at this time to Corinth, to charge him with levity and inconstancy, as if his words were not to be regarded. It is very observable, how little things the men of the world will take advantage from, to vilify and lessen the reputation of God’s faithful ministers and people. How many others might have promised to be in such a place at such a time, and have failed, without the reproach of the men of the world! Who would have been so charitable to them, as to have excused them, by saying: They spake according to their present intentions and resolutions, but they were hindered by the providence of God; but if Paul fails, they will interpret it to be from the lightness and inconstancy of his mind: so charitable is the world to its own; so uncharitable to those who are not of the world, but by God called out of the world. From this imputation the apostle cleareth himself, denying that he used lightness, and that his not coming proceeded from any levity or inconstancy of mind; for he did fully purpose to have come.

Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh? Or (saith he) did I purpose after the manner of carnal men, who make no conscience of their word, who promise and deny both in a breath?

That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay; should there be in me such a spirit as to speak a thing with my lips which my heart doth not agree to? This lets us know, that truth and steadiness are things which do highly commend either a minister or a Christian, but especially him who is a minister of the gospel.

When I was therefore thus minded, did I use lightness?.... When I had thus determined to come to you, and had signified the same by writing, or messengers, did I use lightness in my resolutions and promises? did I act rashly, unadvisedly, and without consideration? did I promise certainly that I would come, without annexing any condition to it? did I not say, I would come to you shortly, if the Lord will? see 1 Corinthians 4:19.

Or the things that I purpose, do l purpose according to the flesh? do I consult myself? my own interest and advantage? do I seek the gratification of any carnal affection, as covetousness, ambition, or vain glory? &c. what sinister end could have been obtained, if I had come as I purposed, or is answered by my not coming? or when I have purposed anything, have I resolved upon it in my own strength? have I thought it lay in my own power to effect it?

that with me there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? as if I could make my "yea" continue "yea", and my "nay, nay?" when all actions are weighed by God, and all events are at his dispose; man appoints, and God disappoints; and who can help these things? or thus, has there appeared such contradictions in my words, and such inconstancy in my conduct, that my "yeas" are "nays", and my "nays yeas?" that I say one thing at one time, and another at another time, or both in the same breath? that I should say one thing, and mean another, on purpose to deceive, and change my mind and conduct without any reason?

{9} When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the {p} flesh, that with me there should be {q} yea yea, and nay nay?

(9) He dismisses their slander and false report by denying it, and first of all in that different ones went about to persuade the Corinthians, that in the preaching of the Gospel, Paul agreed not to himself: for this was the matter and the case.

(p) As men do who will rashly promise anything, and change their purpose constantly.

(q) That I should say and not say a thing?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 1:17. Wishing this therefore (according to what has just been said), did I then behave thoughtlessly? Was this proposal of mine made without duly taking thought for its execution? μήτι supposes a negative answer, as always, in which case ἄρα (meaning: as the matter stands) makes no alteration, such as the suggesting, perhaps, a thought of possible affirmation. Such a sense, as it were, of a mere tentative nature feeling its way, which is foreign here, could only be suggested by the context, and would have nothing to do with ἄρα (in opposition to Hartung, whom Hofmann follows). See Klotz, ad Devar. p. 176 f.

τῇ ἐλαφρίᾳ] The article marks the thoughtlessness not as that with which the apostle was reproached by the Corinthians (Billroth, Olshausen, Rückert, de Wette), which he must have indicated more precisely, in order that it might be so understood, but thoughtlessness as such in general, in abstracto: have I then made myself guilty of thoughtlessness? ἐλαφρία belongs to the substantives in -ρια formed late from adjectives in -ρος. See Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 343. For the ethical sense (wantonness), comp. Schol. Aristoph. Av. 195, and ἐλαφρός in Polyb. vi. 56. 11; ἐλαφρόνοος, Phocylides in Stob. Flor. app. iii. 7.

ἢ ἃ βουλεύομαι, κατὰ σάρκα βουλεύομαι] is not aut (Billroth, Rückert, Osiander, Hofmann, after the Vulgate and most expositors), but an; for without any interrogation the relation of the two sentences is: My proposal was not thoughtless, unless it should be the case that I form my resolves κατὰ σάρκα. See Hartung, II. p. 61.

Mark the difference between ἐχρησάμην as aorist (historical event) and βουλεύομαι as present (behaviour generally).

κατὰ σάρκα] according to the flesh, after the standard of the σάρξ, i.e. so that I let myself be guided by the impulses of human nature sinfully determined, Galatians 5:16 ff.

ἵνα ᾖ παρʼ ἐμοὶ τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ] By ἵνα is expressed simply the immoral purpose, which would be connected with the βουλεύεσθαι κατὰ σάρκα; in order that with me there may be the Yea, yea, and Nay, nay, i.e. in order that with me affirmation and denial may exist together; that I, according as the case stands, may assent to the fleshly impulse, and in turn renounce it; to-day yea, and to-morrow nay, or yea and nay as it were in one breath. Billroth errs in thinking that in this explanation καί must be taken as also. That it means and, is proved by 2 Corinthians 1:18-19. The duplication of the ναί and οὔ strengthens the picture of the untrustworthy man who affirms just as fervently as he afterwards denies. Failing to discern this, Grotius and Estius wished to prefer the reading of the Vulgate, τὸ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὔ, which has very weak attestation. The article marks the ναὶ ναί and the οὒ οὔ as well-known and solemn formulae of affirmative and negative asseveration (as they were also in Jewish usage; see Wetstein, ad Matthew 5:37). Comp. on ναὶ ναί, Soph. O. C. 1743. As to the main point, namely, that the ναὶ ναί and the οὒ οὔ are taken as the subject of , this explanation has the support of Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Estius (though conjecturing ἵνα μή instead of ἵνα), Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Mill, Wolf, and others; also of Rosenmüller, Emmerling, Flatt, Schrader, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Neander, Maier, and others; even Olshausen, who, however, sets up for ναί and οὔ the “peculiar” signification (assumed without any instance of its being so used) of “truth” and “falsehood.” The diplasiasmus ναὶ ναί and οὒ οὔ is not without reason (as Billroth and Hofmann object), but quite accords with the passionate excitement of the moral consciousness; whereas afterwards, in 2 Corinthians 1:18, where his words go on quietly with a glance towards the faithful God, the bare ναὶ καὶ οὔ is quite in its place. Note, further, that the simple expression of the coexistence of the yea and nay (to which Hofmann objects) is more striking, than if Paul had given a more precise explanation of the maxims of yea and nay. The readers knew him, and even his evil-wishers could not but know that he was no yea-and-nay man. Others consider the second ναί and the second οὔ as predicates, so that a wholly opposite sense is made out of the words: in order that with me the Yea may be yea, and the Nay be nay, i.e. in order that I may stubbornly carry through what I have proposed to myself. Comp. Jam 5:12. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Oecumenius, Erasmus, Castalio, Bengel, and others, and recently Billroth; Winer, p. 429 [E. T. 481], gives no decision. The context, however, before (“levitatis et inconstantiae, non autem pertinaciae crimen hic a se depellere studet,” Estius) and after (2 Corinthians 1:18-19), is decisive against this view. Hofmann imports into παρʼ ἐμοί a contrast to παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ, so that the idea would be: to assent to or refuse anything on grounds taken from one’s own self, without reservation, because purely as an expression of self-will, with which Jam 4:13 is compared.[132] Such a contrast could not but be based upon what went before, in itself as well as in the sense assumed. Besides, to this pretended emphasis on παρʼ ἐμοί the order ἵνα παρʼ ἐμοὶ ᾖ would have been suitable; and the idea of speaking no absolute yea or nay, would have demanded not καί but between the ναί and the οὔ. And was Paul, then, the man in whose resolves “the yea is always meant with the reservation of a nay”? Luther’s translation (comp. Ambrosiaster and Erasmus) comes back to the result, that the mark of interrogation is placed after κατὰ σ. βουλ., and in that case there is supplied nequaquam, of which negation ἵνα κ.τ.λ. specifies the purpose. This is intolerably arbitrary. Regarding the erroneous translation of the Peshito (Grotius agrees with it), which distorts the meaning from misconception, see Fritzsche, Diss. II. p. 2.

[132] Similarly Ewald, but he takes παρʼ ἐμοί (with Camerarius) as penes me (“merely after my own pleasure to say and to do the one or the other”), as if, therefore, it were ἐν ἐμοί. Ewald compares Psalm 12:5.

2 Corinthians 1:17. τοῦτο οὖν βουλόμενος κ.τ.λ.: when therefore I was thus minded, did I shew fickleness? The article τῇ before ἐλαφρίᾳ can hardly be pressed so as to convey the meaning “that fickleness which you lay to my charge”; it is merely generic.—ἢ ἃ βουλεύομαι κ.τ.λ.: or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that there should be with me the Yea, yea, and the Nay, nay? That is, “Are my plans made like those of a worldly man, that they may be changed according to my own caprice, Yes to-day, No to-morrow?” His argument is that, although the details of his original plan had been altered, yet in spirit and purpose it was unchanged; there is no room for any charge of inconsistency or fickleness. His principles of action are unchangeable, as is the Gospel which he preaches. He had promised to go to Corinth, and he would go. For a similar use of the phrase κατὰ σάρκα see reff., and cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 5:16. The reduplication ναὶ ναὶοὔ οὔ is not altogether easy to explain; but we have ναὶ ναὶ repeated similarly in Matthew 5:37, and perhaps we may also compare the Ἀμὴν, Ἀμήν of St. John’s Gospel (e.g., 2 Corinthians 10:1). Some critics (e.g., Steck) have regarded ναὶ ναὶοὔ οὔ here as an actual quotation from Matthew 5:37. But apart from the fact that this opinion rests on a quite untenable theory as to the date of this Epistle (see Introd., p. 12), the context of the words will not lend itself to any such interpretation (see above).

17. did I use lightness?] Literally, the lightness, i.e. either the lightness with which St Paul had been reproached, or perhaps merely the abstract quality. The reproach of fickleness was cast upon the Apostle for his change of purpose. It is to be remarked that this is the only charge he is attempting to meet in this and the next six verses. One of the special features of this Epistle, according to Robertson, is its exhibition of “the way in which a Christian may defend himself when maligned or misrepresented … An uncontradicted slander is believed readily, and often for long, and meanwhile influence is crippled or lost. Conceive what might have ensued, had St Paul not met the slander against his character with denial at once! For few persons take the trouble to sift a charge which is not denied.”

according to the flesh] i.e. ‘Are they the decisions of my human will, which is subject to change through caprice, or are they decisions made according to the promptings of God’s Spirit, and, as such, removed out of the region of human inconstancy of purpose?’ Cf. Acts 19:21. See also note on ch. 2 Corinthians 5:16, and ch. 2 Corinthians 10:2-3.

that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay] Some have rendered this (1) that with me the yea should be yea and the nay nay, as though in this last member of the sentence St Paul was shewing how impossible it was for him to be obstinate and to refuse to change his purpose for a reasonable cause. But the context is against this. Chrysostom, who adopts this view, lays the stress upon the words ‘with me,’ as though St Paul’s private and individual will were contrasted with the dictates of the Spirit, which he was bound to follow, whether they laid him open to the charge of inconsistency or not. But the best way is (2) to interpret the passage in the usual manner, and to regard the Apostle as denying that he was infirm of purpose, and as reminding the Corinthians that he had but one definite end in view which he was resolutely bent upon attaining, namely, the ministering to them the Spirit of Jesus Christ To this one purpose all minor plans and resolutions must give way. See last note on 2 Corinthians 1:19.

2 Corinthians 1:17. Τῇ ἐλαφρίᾳ, lightness) by promising more than I performed.—) or? [an? the second part of a disjunctive interrogation].—κατὰ σάρκα, according to the flesh) Paul gives them to understand that, if he were to consult according to [to listen to the suggestions of] the flesh, he must rather have come, than not; for they who consult according to the flesh, endeavour by all means to make the yea of the promise, whatever may occur, to appear in the fulfilment, for the purpose of maintaining their consistency [whether good or evil may result from it.—V. g.] But the Apostle was neither inconsistent, nor carnally consistent: either of which might have been suspected by persons under the influence of prejudice against him. He had made a conditional promise, and afterwards he delayed his visit for an important reason, which had occurred to prevent it.—τὸ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὐ) See Appendix. Crit. Ed. ii. on this passage. Simple yea and nay[6] is quite approved of by Paul in the following verse, in which he denies the yea and nay, concerning the same things; but he affirms it, 2 Corinthians 1:17, concerning different things. The word , should be, is emphatic; as it may be said, for example, of an unsteady [inconsistent] person. You can never be sure of finding either his “It is,” or his “it is not,” to be as he says—that is, no one can trust his word; or as if it were to be said of a consistent man, His “It is,” and his “It is not,” always hold good.

[6] Although this reading is declared to be not quite so good in the margin of 2d Ed., yet, with the previous concurrence of the Gnomon, it is introduced into the Germ. Ver.—E. B.

All the old authorities, excepting the Vulgate, support the double ναὶ and οὐ; even the Fuld. MS. of the Vulg. as corrected by Victor of Capua, has “Est, est, non, non,” and so agrees with the weightiest authorities (est, est= ναὶ, ναὶ; non, non=οὐ, οὐ.)—ED.

Verse 17. - When I therefore was thus minded. Without saying in so many words that all this plan was now given up, he proceeds to defend himself against the charges which had been evidently brought against him by his opponents. The Corinthians were aware that he no longer meant to come to them direct from Ephesus. They had certainly been informed of this by Titus, and he had indeed briefly stated it in 1 Corinthians 16:5. Their disappointment had led some of them into angry criticisms upon the "indecision" of the apostle, the more so because he had (out of kindness, as he here shows) spared them the pain of expressing his reasons. Did I use lightness? Was this change of plan a sign of "the levity" with which some of you charge me? Or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, etc.? Every phrase in this clause is of ambiguous meaning. For instance, the "or" may imply another charge, namely, that his purposes are carnal, and therefore capricious; or it may be the alternative view of his conduct, stated by way of self-defence - namely, "Does my change of plan imply that I am frivolous? or, on the contrary, are not my plans of necessity mere human plans, and therefore liable to be overruled by God's will?" Thus the meaning of the "or" is doubtful, and also the meaning of" according to the flesh." Generally this phrase is used in a bad sense, as in 2 Corinthians 10:2 and Romans 8:1; but it may also be used to mean "in a human way," as in 2 Corinthians 5:16. That with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay. There is probably no clause in the New Testament of which the certain sense must be left so indeterminate as this.

(1) The Authorized Version gives one way of taking the clause. The grammar equally admits of the rendering.

(2) That with me the yea should be yea, and the nay nay. Whichever rendering we adept, it may be explained in accordance with the view indicated in the last note. "I was not showing the levity which my opponents speak of, but my purposes are necessarily mere human purposes, and therefore my 'yes' and 'no' can be only 'yes' and 'no' when I make a plan. My 'yes' or 'no' may be overruled by the Spirit (Acts 16:7) or even hindered by Satan, and that more than once (1 Thessalonians 2:18)." "With me," i.e. as far as I am concerned, I can only say "yes" or" no;" but l'homme propose, Dieu dispose. His intended double visit to them was prevented, not by any frivolity of his, but, as he afterwards shows, by their own unfaithfulness and his desire to spare them. There is yet a third way of taking it which involves a different meaning - "In order that with me the 'yea yea ' may be also ' nay nay,'" Am I inconsistent? or, are my purposes merely carnal purposes, in order that my "yes yes" may be, as far as I am concerned, no better than "no no" - like the mere shifting feebleness of an aimless man? A fourth way of taking the clause, adopted by St. Chrysostom and many others, is, "Do I plan after the flesh, i.e. with carnal obstinacy, so that my ' yea' and 'nay' must be carried out at all costs?' This suggestion can hardly be right; for St. Paul was charged, not with obstinacy, but with indecision. The phrases, "yea" and "nay," as mentioned in Matthew 5:37 and James 5:12, throw no light on the passage, unless indeed some one had misquoted against St. Paul our Lord's words as a reason for adhering inviolably to a plan once formed. Of these various methods I adopt the first, because it seems to be, on the whole, most in accordance with the context. For on that view of the passage he contents himself with the remark that it cannot be inconsistency or levity on his part to alter plans which are liable to all the chance and change of ordinary circumstances; and then tells them that there was one part of his teaching which has nothing to do with mere human weakness, but was God's everlasting , "yes;" after which he explains to them the reason why he decided not to come to them until he had first visited Macedonia, and so to give them one visit, not two. 2 Corinthians 1:17Did I use lightness (τῇ ἐλαφρίᾳ ἐχρησαμην)

Rev., shew fickleness. Ἑλαφρία, lightness, only here in the New Testament. Compare ἐλαφρός light, Matthew 11:30; 2 Corinthians 4:17. His change of plan had given rise to the charge of fickleness.

The yea, yea, and the nay, nay

That I should say "yes" at one time and "no" at another; promising to come and breaking my promise.

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