2 Corinthians 11:20
For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
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(20) For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage.—Every word in the sentence clearly points to something that Titus had told him of the action of these rival teachers. They reproduced, in their worst form, the vices of the Pharisaism of Palestine (Matthew 23:4; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 23:25). They enslaved the consciences of men (the same word is used of the same class of men in Galatians 2:4) by pressing on them an iron code of rules which left no room for the free play of conscience and of reason in those over whom they claimed to act as directors.

If a man devour you.—The word again reminds us of our Lord’s denunciation of the teachers who “devoured widows’ houses” (Matthew 23:14).

If a man take of you . . .—The words in italics are wrongly supplied, and turn this clause into a feeble repetition of the preceding. Better, if a man takes you in. In 2Corinthians 12:16, we have the same construction (“I caught you with guile”) obviously with this sense.

If a man smite you on the face.—This last form of outrage was, as St. Paul was soon to experience (Acts 23:2), not unfamiliar to Jewish priests and scribes, as the most effective way of silencing an opponent. We have an earlier instance of its application in the action of Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah (1Kings 22:24). That it had found its way into the Christian Church in the apostolic time is seen in St. Paul’s rule that a bishop should be no “striker” (1Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). It is obvious that he had heard of an instance in which this had actually been done at Corinth, and he taunts them with the tameness of their submission. Did he forget, or had he not as yet heard the law of Matthew 5:39; or was he, knowing it, for a time unmindful of it, in this rush of emotion which he himself feels to be simply human, and therefore not inspired?

11:16-21 It is the duty and practice of Christians to humble themselves, in obedience to the command and example of the Lord; yet prudence must direct in what it is needful to do things which we may do lawfully, even the speaking of what God has wrought for us, and in us, and by us. Doubtless here is reference to facts in which the character of the false apostles had been shown. It is astonishing to see how such men bring their followers into bondage, and how they take from them and insult them.For ye suffer ... - You bear patiently with people who impose on you in every way, and who are constantly defrauding you, though you profess to be so wise, and you may bear with me a little, though I have no such intention. Seriously, if you bear with boasters who intend to delude and deceive you in various ways, you may bear with one who comes to you with no such intention, but with an honest purpose to do good.

If a man bring you into bondage - (καταδουλοῖ katadouloi). If a man, or if anyone (εἴ τις ei tis) "make a slave of you," or reduce you to servitude. The idea is, doubtless, that the false teachers set up a lordship over their consciences; destroyed their freedom of opinion; and made them subservient to their will. They really took away their Christian freedom as much as if they had been slaves. In what way this was done is unknown. It may be that they imposed on them rites and forms, commanded expensive and inconvenient ceremonies, and required arduous services merely at their own will. A false religion always makes slaves. It is only true Christianity that leaves perfect freedom. All pagans are slaves to their priests; all fanatics are slaves to some fanatical leader; all those who embrace error are slaves to those who claim to be their guides. The papist everywhere is the slave of the priest, and the despotism there is as great as in any region of servitude whatever.

If a man devour you - This is exceedingly sarcastic. The idea is, "Though you are so wise, yet you in fact tolerate people who impose on you - no matter though they eat you up, or consume all that you have. By their exorbitant demands they would consume all you have - or, as we would say, eat you out of house and home." All this they took patiently; and freely gave all that they demanded. False teachers are always rapacious. They seek the property, not the souls of those to whom they minister. Not satisfied with a maintenance, they aim to obtain all, and their plans are formed to secure as much as possible of those to whom they minister.

If a man take of you - If he take and seize upon your possessions. If he comes and takes what he pleases and bears it away as his own.

If a man exalt himself - If he set himself up as a ruler and claim submission. No matter how arrogant his claims, yet you are ready to bear with him. You might then bear with me in the very moderate demands which I make on your obedience and confidence.

If a man smite you on the face - The word rendered here as "smite" (δέρω derō) means properly "to skin, to flay"; but in the New Testament it means "to beat, to scourge" - especially so as "to take off the skin"; Matthew 21:35; Mark 12:3, Mark 12:5. The idea here is, if anyone treats you with contumely and scorn - since there can be no higher expression of it than to strike a man on the face; Matthew 26:67. It is not to be supposed that this occurred literally among the Corinthians; but the idea is, that the false teachers really treated them with as little respect as if they smote them on the face. In what way this was done is unknown; but probably it was by their domineering manners, and the little respect which they showed for the opinions and feelings of the Corinthian Christians. Paul says that as they bore this very patiently, they might allow him to make some remarks about himself in self-commendation.

20. For—Ye may well "bear with" fools; for ye even "bear with" oppressors. Translate, "Ye bear with them."

a man—as the false apostles do.

bring you into bondage—to himself. Translate "brings," not "bring"; for the case is not merely a supposed case, but a case actually then occurring. Also "devours" (namely, by exactions, Mt 23:24; Ps 53:4), "takes," "exalts," "smites."

take of you—So the Greek for "take" is used for "take away from" (Re 6:4). Alford translates, as in 2Co 12:16, "catches you."

exalt himself—under the pretext of apostolic dignity.

smite you on the face—under the pretext of divine zeal. The height of insolence on their part, and of servile endurance on yours (1Ki 22:24; Ne 13:25; Lu 22:64; Ac 23:2; 1Ti 3:3).

If any domineer over you, as if you were their slaves, or if any bring you into subjection to the rites of the ceremonial law; if they

devour and make a prey of you, take wages of you, and do nothing without hire; if they carry themselves proudly, exalting themselves above you; nay, if they

smite you, you will suffer and bear with such: this is more than to bear with a little folly and indiscretion in me. This is observable, that men of corrupt hearts and loose lives will better bear with teachers that will humour and spare them in their lusts, than with such as are faithful to their souls in instructing and reproving them, though they carry themselves with the greatest innocency and justice towards them.

For ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage,.... They not only suffered and tolerated the foolish boasting of these men with pleasure, but patiently and stupidly bore their oppressions, injuries, and insults, things that were intolerable, which no man of any sense and wisdom would ever suffer; and yet they took all quietly from them, made no objection, but patiently submitted to them, and therefore might well bear a little with him; they were voluntarily led captive, and brought into bondage by them, to the yoke of the ceremonial law, to the observance of circumcision, meats and drinks, days, months, times and years; and to the yoke of human doctrines, traditions, tenets, laws, and rules: if a man devour or eat; though they devoured their houses, as the Pharisees did; ate up their substance, were insatiable in their covetousness; were greedy dogs that could never have enough, could not satisfy their voracious appetites, without devouring and consuming all they had, yet they took it patiently:

if a man take of you; not food and raiment, or a proper stipend, or wages which might be voluntarily raised, and cheerfully given; but they took away their goods from them by force, as the Arabic version reads it, whether they would or not, to which they quietly submitted:

if a man exalt himself; as these men did, extolling their nation, their descent and lineage, their parentage and education, and fleshly privileges; in suiting the Corinthians as persons of a mean and base extraction, as having been Heathens and sinners of the Gentiles, yet not a word was returned in answer thereunto:

if a man smite you on the face; though they gave them very opprobrious language, vilifying and reproaching them as uncircumcised persons, upbraiding and hitting them on the teeth with their former idolatries and manners of life; yet all was taken in good part, so much were they under the government and influence of these men.

{8} For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.

(8) Before he comes to the matter, he talks directly to the Corinthians, who persuading themselves to be very wise men, did not mark in the meanwhile that those false apostles had abused their simplicity for advantage.

2 Corinthians 11:20. Argumentum a majori for what is said in 2 Corinthians 11:19, bitterly sarcastic against the complaisance of the Corinthians towards the imperious (καταδουλοῖ), covetous (κατεσθίει), slyly capturing (λαμβάνει), arrogant (ἐπαίρεται), and audaciously violent (εἰς πρόσωπον δέρει) conduct of the false apostle.

καταδουλοῖ] enslaves. Comp. on Galatians 2:4; Dem. 249. 2, and the passages in Wetstein. Paul has used the active, not the middle, as he leaves quite out of view the authority, whose lordship was aimed at; beyond doubt, however (see the following points), the pseudo-apostles wished to make themselves lords of the church, partly in religious, i.e. Judaistic effort (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:24), partly also in a material respect (see what follows).

κατεσθίει] swallows up, devours, sc. ὑμᾶς, a figurative way of denoting not the depriving them of independence in a Christian point of view (Hofmann), which the reader could the less guess, since it was already said in καταδουλ., but the course of greedily gathering to themselves all their property. Comp. Psalm 53:5; Matthew 23:13; Luke 15:30; Add. to Esther 1:11; Hom. Od. iii 315: μή τοι κατὰ πάντα φάγωσι κτήματα, Dem. 992. 25; Aesch. c. Tim. 96. So also the Latin devorare (Quintil. viii. 6). Comp. also Jacobs, ad Anthol. X. pp. 217, 230. Rückert, who will not concede the avarice of the opponents (see on 2 Corinthians 11:12), explains it of rending the church into parties. Quite against the meaning of the word; for in Galatians 5:15 ἀλλήλους stands alongside. And would it not be wonderful, if in such a company of worthlessness avarice were wanting?

λαμβάνει] sc. ὑμᾶς, captures you. Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:16. The figure is taken from hunting, and denotes the getting of somebody into one’s power (Dem. 115. 10, 239. 17) in a secret way, by machinations, etc. (hence different from καταδουλοῖ). Comp. Reiske, Ind. Dem., ed. Schaef. p 322: “devincire sibi mentes hominum deditas et veluti captas aut fascino quodam obstrictas.” This meaning is held by Wolf, Emmerling, Flatt, Billroth, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, and others. The usual older interpretation: if any one takes your goods from you (so also Ewald), is to be set aside, because ὑμᾶς would necessarily have to be supplied, and because already the far stronger κατεσθίει has preceded. The same is the case with Hofmann’s interpretation: if any one seizes hold on you (“treats you as a thing”), which after the two previous points would be nothing distinctiv.

ἐπαίρεται] exalts himself (proudly). See the passages in Wetstein. As in this clause ὑμᾶς cannot be again supplied, and thus the supplying of it is interrupted, ὑμᾶς is again added in the following claus.

εἰς πρόσωπ. δέρει] represents an extraordinary, very disgraceful and insolent maltreatment. Comp. 1 Kings 22:24; Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2; Philostr. vit. Apoll. vii. 23. On the impetuous fivefold repetition of εἰ, comp. 1 Timothy 5:10.

2 Corinthians 11:20. ἀνέχεσθε γὰρ κ.τ.λ.: for ye bear with a man if he (we cannot press τις so as to point to any special individual; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:7) enslave you (in contrast to any such tyranny, St. Paul describes himself as the δοῦλος of the Corinthians; see 2 Corinthians 4:5, and cf. Acts 15:10); if he devour you, i.e., robs you of your substance by greedily demanding maintenance, as these “superfine Apostles” did (see on 2 Corinthians 11:12, and cf. Romans 16:18, Php 3:19); if he take you captive (λαμβάνειν is thus used of catching fish, Luke 5:5; cf. chap. 2 Corinthians 12:16. Field defends the A.V. “taketh of you,” i.e., takes money, by appealing to the Peshitto, and also by the usage of good Greek writers); if he exalt himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:12, 2 Corinthians 11:18); if he smite you on the face. A blow in the face was, and is, a common form of insult in the East (cf. 1 Kings 22:24, Matthew 5:39; Matthew 26:67, Acts 23:2, 1 Corinthians 4:11); and the despotic teachers whom the Corinthians tolerated had very likely inflicted this last indignity upon them, Cf. 1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7, where it is forbidden to the ἐπίσκοποι to be “strikers”. “Such are your teachers,” he says to them, “I am but weak in comparison with these strenuous spiritual directors.”

20. For ye suffer] (susteynen, Wiclif). “This may be understood in three ways. (1) He may be understood as reproving the Corinthians ironically, because of their inability to bear with anything, or (2) as charging them with sluggishness of spirit, because they had shamefully enslaved themselves to the false Apostles, or (3) he repeats in the person of another what was maliciously affirmed regarding himself, namely, that he claimed a tyrannical authority over them.” Calvin. If, with him and many ancient commentators, we adopt (2), the sense is, as Calvin goes on to say, ‘You bear with all kinds of indignities from others, why not with far less from me, who am in every respect their equal, if not their superior, in the very qualifications by which you set so much store?’ This interpretation agrees best with the context (see next verse). The connection of this verse with the former will then be as follows: ‘You pride yourselves on being sensible people, and certainly you have immense toleration for folly. You even endure the foolish—or worse than foolish—insults of men who have no claim whatever to lord it over you. Why then not bear with me, when I condescend for a moment to the level of their folly? You will crouch to worthless pretenders, why resist the voice of real authority?’

if a man bring you into bondage] Literally, enslave you. Our translation is Tyndale’s. Cf. Galatians 2:4; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1.

devour you] Cf. Matthew 23:14; and the LXX. of Isaiah 9:12. These false teachers were animated by none of St Paul’s delicacy as regards money matters. It could not be said of them that they were no Apostles, because they had no claim to be maintained by the Churches.

take of you] Rather, seize you, i.e. as a hunter his victim, or a man his property (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 12:16). The earlier versions rendered simply by take, as though doubtful of the meaning. It was the Geneva that first added ‘your goods.

smite you on the face] An utterly extraordinary and inconceivable piece of presumption, according to our modern notions. But we do not habitually realize the immense extent to which Christianity has leavened our habits. Dean Stanley refers us to 1 Kings 22:24; Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2; 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; and to the canon of the Council of Braga (a.d. 675), which orders that no bishop at his will and pleasure shall strike (the original, however, seems to imply scourging) his clergy, lest he lose the respect which they owe him. He might have referred also to the famous Latrocinium, or Robber-Synod of Ephesus, in which one patriarch of the Church and his adherents literally stamped another to death, and even to a period so late as the Council of Trent, in which it is admitted, even by the Jesuit historian Pallavicino, that scenes of personal violence occurred among those who were or should have been teachers of religion. See his History of the Council of Trent, Book viii. ch. 6.

2 Corinthians 11:20. Γὰρ, for) An intensive particle; ye suffer fools; for ye even suffer oppressors. Cleon in Thucydides, lib. iii.—πέφυκεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος τὸ μὲν θεραπεῦον ὑπερφρονεῖν· τὸ δὲ μὴ ὑπεῖκον θαυμάζειν, the man was naturally disposed to treat with contempt flattering attentions, but to admire independence.—εἴ τις, if any one) as the false apostles, who were given to much boasting.—καταδουλοῖ, bring you into bondage) The genus; two pairs of species follow.—κατεσθίει) So LXX., Psalm 53:5.—λαμβάνει, takes) viz. from you; for ὑμᾶς, you, is not necessarily to be supplied, as appears if we compare the following clause.—ἐπαίρεται, exalt himself [is exalted]) under the pretext of the apostolic dignity.—εἰς πρόσωπον δέρει, smite you on the face) under the appearance of divine zeal. That may have happened to the Corinthians: comp. Isaiah 58:4; 1 Kings 22:24; Nehemiah 13:25; 1 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:3.

Verse 20. - For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage. The verse gives us an unexpected and painful glimpse of the enslaving (Galatians 2:4), greed-loving (Matthew 23:14; Romans 16;18), gain-hunting (1 Peter 5:2, 3), domineering (3 John 1:9). and even personally violent and insulting character of these teachers; whom yet, strange to say, the Corinthians seem to take at their own estimate, and to tolerate any extreme of insolence from them, while they were jealously suspicious of the disinterested, gentle, and humble apostle. If a man devour you. As the Pharisees "devoured" widows' houses (Matthew 23:14). Take of you; rather, seize you; makes you his captives. The verb is the same as "caught you," in 2 Corinthians 12:16. Smite you on the face. They must have brought their insolence with them from Jerusalem, where, as we see, not only from the details of our Lord's various mockeries, but from the accounts of the priests in Josephus and the Talmud, the priests made free use of their fists and staves! The fact that so many of the converts were downtrodden slaves and artisans would make them less likely to resent conduct to which they were daily accustomed among the heathen. Neither Greeks nor Orientals felt to anything like the same extent as ourselves the disgrace of a blow. That sense of disgrace rises flora the freedom which Christianity has gradually wrought for us, and the deep sense of the dignity of human nature, which it has inspired Christ had been so smitten, and so was Paul himself long afterwards (Acts 23:2), and he had to teach even Christian bishops that they must be "no strikers" (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). The "syllogism of violence" has, alas! been in familiar use among religious teachers in all ages (1 Kings 22:24; Nehemiah 13:25; Isaiah 58:4; Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; 1 Corinthians 4:11). 2 Corinthians 11:20Bringeth you into bondage (καταδουλοῖ)

Only here and Galatians 2:4, where it is used of the efforts of the Jewish party to bring the christian Church under the ceremonial law. Compare Galatians 5:1.

Devour (κατεσθίει)

Your property. Compare Matthew 23:14.

Take (λαμβάνει)

A.V. supplies of you, evidently with reference to property, which has already been touched upon in devour. The meaning is to take as a prey, as Luke 5:5.

Exalteth himself (ἐπαίρεται)

As 2 Corinthians 10:5. It is noticeable that these are the only two instances out of nineteen in the New Testament where the word is used figuratively.

Smite you on the face

The climax of insult. Compare Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2. Also the injunction to a bishop not to be a striker, 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7. Stanley notes the decree of the Council of Braga, a.d. 675, that no bishop, at his will and pleasure, shall strike his clergy.

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