2 Corinthians 12:2
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.—Better, I know a man. The Greek verb, though a perfect tense in form, is invariably used with the force of a present. It is all but impossible to connect the facts that follow with any definite point of time in the Apostle’s life as recorded in the Acts. The date of the Epistle may be fixed, without much risk of error, in A.D. 57. Reckoning fourteen years back, we come to A.D. 43, which coincides with the period of unrecorded activity between St. Paul’s departure from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and his arrival at Antioch (Acts 11:26). It would be giving, perhaps, too wide a margin to the words “more than fourteen years ago” to refer the visions and revelations of which he here speaks to those given him at the time of his conversion, in A.D. 37. The trance in the Temple (Acts 22:17) on his first visit to Jerusalem may, perhaps, be identified with them; but it seems best, on the whole, to refer them to the commencement of his work at Antioch, when they would have been unspeakably precious, as an encouragement in his arduous work. It may be noted that Galatians 2:2 specifically refers to one revelation at Antioch, and it may well have been preceded by others. The term “a man in Christ,” as a way of speaking of himself, is probably connected with the thought that “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature” (2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). As one who lived and moved and had his being in Christ, he was raised to a higher region of experience than that in which he had lived before. It was in moments such as he describes that he became conscious of that “new creation” with a new and hitherto unknown experience.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell.—No words can describe more accurately the phenomena of consciousness in the state of trance or ecstasy. It is dead to the outer world. The body remains, sometimes standing, sometimes recumbent, but, in either case, motionless. The man may well doubt, on his return to the normal condition of his life, whether his spirit has actually passed into unknown regions in a separate and disembodied condition, or whether the body itself has been also a sharer in its experiences of the unseen. We, with our wider knowledge, have no hesitation in accepting the former alternative, or, perhaps, in reducing the whole revelation to an impression on the brain and the phenomena known as cataleptic. St. Paul, however, would naturally turn to such records as those of Ezekiel’s journey, in the visions of God, from the banks of Chebar to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1), and find in them the analogue, though, as he admits, not the solution, of his own experience. The lives of many of the great movers in the history of religious thought present, it may be noted, analogous phenomena. Of Epimenides, and Pythagoras, and Socrates, of Mahomet, of Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Aquinas, and Johannes Scotus, of George Fox, and Savonarola, and Swedenborg, it was alike true that to pass from time to time into the abnormal state of ecstasy was with them almost the normal order of their lives. (See article “Trance” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, by the present writer.)

Such an one caught up to the third heaven.—Rabbinic speculations on the subject of Heaven present two forms: one which, starting probably from the dual form of the Hebrew word, recognises but two heavens, both visible—the lower region of the clouds and the upper firmament; and a later, which, under the influence of ideas from the further East, spoke of seven. A remarkable legend in the Talmud (Bereshith Rabba, 19, fol. 19, col. 3) relates how the Shechinah, or glory-cloud of the Divine Presence, retired step by step from earth, where it had dwelt before the sin of Adam, at every fresh development of evil; into the first heaven at the fall, into the second at the murder of Abel, and so on, till it reached the seventh heaven on Abraham’s going down to Egypt, and descended again by successive steps from the birth of Isaac to the time of the Exodus, when it came once more to earth and dwelt in the Tabernacle with Moses. If we assume St. Paul to have accepted any such division, the third heaven would indicate little more than the region of the clouds and sky. It is more probable, however, from the tone in which he speaks, as clearly dwelling on the surpassing excellency of his visions, that he adopts the simpler classification, and thinks of himself as passing beyond the lower sky, beyond the firmament of heaven, into the third or yet higher heaven, where the presence of God was manifested. The seven heavens re-appear naturally in the legends of the Koran (Sura lxvii.) and in the speculations of mediæval theology as represented by Dante. We probably hear a far-off echo of the derision with which the announcement was received by the jesting Greeks of Corinth and by St. Paul’s personal rivals in the dialogue ascribed to Lucian, and known as the Philopatris, in which St. Paul is represented as “the Galilean, bald, with eagle nose, walking through the air to the third heaven.”

2 Corinthians 12:2-3. I knew a man in Christ — That is, a Christian. He must undoubtedly have meant himself, or the whole article had been quite foreign to his purpose. Indeed, that he meant himself is plain from 2 Corinthians 12:6-7. Fourteen years ago — So long, it seems, the apostle had concealed this extraordinary event; a circumstance which shows how little disposed he was to speak vauntingly of himself. Whether in the body — And by the intervention of its senses; or out of the body — And without any such intervention, the things which I saw and heard were communicated to me; I know not — It is equally possible with God to present distant things to the imagination in the body, as if the soul were absent from it, and present with them, as seems to have been the case with Ezekiel in the visions mentioned Ezekiel 11:24, and Ezekiel 37:1; and with John in those recorded Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10; or, as the Spirit caught away Philip, (Acts 8:39,) to transport both soul and body for what time he pleases to heaven; or to transport the soul only thither for a season, and in the mean time to preserve the body fit for its re-entrance. But since the apostle himself did not know whether his soul was in his body when he had these visions, &c.; or whether one or both were actually in heaven; for us to inquire into that matter would be vain curiosity, and extreme folly. “It is of more importance to observe, that he supposed his spirit might be carried into the third heaven, and into paradise, without his body. For, from his making such a supposition, it is plain he believed his spirit could exist out of his body; and that, by the operation of God, it could be made to hear and see, without the intervention of his bodily organs.” Such a one caught up into the third heaven — The habitation of the divine glory, far above the aerial and the starry heavens. For, “in the language of the Jews, the first heaven is the region of the air, where the birds fly, which therefore are called the fowls of heaven. The second heaven is that part of space in which the stars are. This was called, by the Jews, the heaven of heavens. See 1 Kings 8:27. The third heaven is the seat of God, and of the holy angels, into which Christ ascended after his resurrection, but which is not the object of men’s senses, as the other heavens are.”12:1-6 There can be no doubt the apostle speaks of himself. Whether heavenly things were brought down to him, while his body was in a trance, as in the case of ancient prophets; or whether his soul was dislodged from the body for a time, and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he knew not. We are not capable, nor is it fit we should yet know, the particulars of that glorious place and state. He did not attempt to publish to the world what he had heard there, but he set forth the doctrine of Christ. On that foundation the church is built, and on that we must build our faith and hope. And while this teaches us to enlarge our expectations of the glory that shall be revealed, it should render us contented with the usual methods of learning the truth and will of God.I knew a man in Christ - I was acquainted with a Christian; the phrase "in Christ" meaning nothing more than that he was united to Christ or was a Christian; see Romans 16:7. The reason why Paul did not speak of this directly as a vision which he had himself seen was probably that he was accused of boasting, and he had admitted that it did not become him to glory. But though it did not become him to boast directly, yet he could tell them of a man concerning whom there would be no impropriety evidently in boasting. It is not uncommon, moreover, for a man to speak of himself in the third person. Thus, Caesar in his Commentaries uniformly speaks of himself. And so John in his Gospel speaks of himself, John 13:23-24; John 19:26; John 21:20. John did it on account of his modesty, because he would not appear to put himself forward, and because the mention of his own name as connected with the friendship of the Saviour in the remarkable manner in which he enjoyed it, might have savored of pride. For a similar reason Paul may have been unwilling to mention his own name here; and he may have abstained from referring to this occurrence elsewhere, because it might savor of pride, and might also excite the envy or ill-will of others. Those who have been most favored with spiritual enjoyments will not be the most ready to proclaim it. They will cherish the remembrance in order to excite gratitude in their own hearts and support them in trial; they will not emblazon it abroad as if they were more the favorites of heaven than others are. That this refers to Paul himself is evident for the following reasons:

(1) His argument required that he should mention something that had occurred to himself. Anything that had occurred to another would not have been pertinent.

(2) he applies it directly to himself 2 Corinthians 12:7, when he says that God took effectual measures that he should not be unduly exalted in view of the abundant revelations bestowed on him.

About fourteen years ago - On what occasion or where this occurred, or why he concealed the remarkable fact so long, and why there is no other allusion to it, is unknown; and conjecture is useless. If this Epistle was written, as is commonly supposed, about the year 58 a.d., then this occurrence must have happened about the year 44 ad. This was several years after his conversion, and of course this does not refer to the trance mentioned in Acts 9:9, at the time when he was converted. Dr. Benson supposes that this vision was made to him when he was praying in the temple after his return to Jerusalem, when he was directed to go from Jerusalem to the Gentiles Acts 22:17, and that it was intended to support him in the trials which he was about to endure. There can belittle danger of error in supposing that its object was to support him in those remarkable trials, and that God designed to impart to him such views of heaven and its glory, and of the certainty that he would soon be admitted there, as to support him in his sufferings, and make him willing to bear all that should be laid upon him. God often gives to his people some clear and elevated spiritual comforts before they enter into trials as well as while in them; he prepares them for them before they come. This vision Paul had kept secret for fourteen years. He had doubtless often thought of it; and the remembrance of that glorious hour was doubtless one of the reasons why he bore trials so patiently and was willing to endure so much. But before this he had had no occasion to mention it. He had other proofs in abundance that he was called to the work of an apostle; and to mention this would savor of pride and ostentation. It was only when he was compelled to refer to the evidences of his apostolic mission that he refers to it here.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell - That is, I do not pretend to explain it. I do not know how it occurred. With the fact he was acquainted; but how it was brought about he did not know. Whether the body was caught up to heaven; whether the soul was for a time separated from the body; or whether the scene passed before the mind in a vision, so that he seemed to have been caught up to heaven, he does not pretend to know. The evident idea is, that at the time he was in a state of insensibility in regard to surrounding objects, and was unconscious of what was occurring, as if he had been dead. Where Paul confesses his own ignorance of what occurred to himself it would be vain for us to inquire; and the question how this was done is immaterial. No one can doubt that God had power if he chose to transport the body to heaven; or that he had power for a time to separate the soul front the body; or that he had power to represent to the mind so clearly the view of the heavenly world that he would appear to see it; see Acts 7:56. It is clear only that he lost all consciousness of anything about him at that time, and that he saw only the things in heaven. It may be added here, however, that Paul evidently supposed that his soul might be taken to heaven without the body, and that it might have separate consciousness and a separate existence. He was not, therefore, a materialist, and he did not believe that the existence and consciousness of the soul was dependent on the body.

God knoweth - With the mode in which it was done God only could be acquainted. Paul did not attempt to explain that. That was to him of comparatively little consequence, and he did not lose his time in a vain attempt to explain it. How happy would it be if all theologians were as ready to be satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, and to leave the mode of explaining it with God, as this prince of theologians was. Many a man would have busied himself with a vain speculation about the way in which it was done; Paul was contented with the fact that it had occurred.

Such an one caught up - The word which is used here (ἁρπάζω harpazō) means, to seize upon, to snatch away, as wolves do their prey (John 12:10); or to seize with avidity or eagerness Matthew 11:12; or to carry away, to hurry off by force or involuntarily; see John 6:15; Acts 7:39; Acts 23:10. In the case before us there is implied the idea that Paul was conveyed by a foreign force; or that he was suddenly seized and snatched up to heaven. The word expresses the suddenness and the rapidity with which it was done. Probably it was instantaneous, so that he appeared at once to be in heaven. Of the mode in which it was done Paul has given no explanations; and conjecture would be useless.

To the third heaven - The Jews sometimes speak of seven heavens, and Muhammed has borrowed this idea from the Jews. But the Bible speaks of but three heavens, and among the Jews in the apostolic ages also the heavens were divided into three:

(1) The aerial, including the clouds and the atmosphere, the heavens above us, until we come to the stars.

(2) the starry heavens, the heavens in which the sun, moon, and stars appear to be situated.

(3) the heavens beyond the stars. That heaven was supposed to be the residence of God, of angels, and of holy spirits. It was this upper heaven, the dwelling-place of God, to which Paul was taken, and whose wonders he was permitted to behold - this region where God dwelt; where Christ was seated at the right hand of the Father, and where the spirits of the just were assembled. The fanciful opinions of the Jews about seven heavens may be seen detailed in Schoettgen or in Wetstein, by whom the principal passages from the Jewish writings relating to the subject have been collected. As their opinions throw no light on this passage, it is unnecessary to detail them here.

2. Translate, "I know," not "I knew."

a man—meaning himself. But he purposely thus distinguishes between the rapt and glorified person of 2Co 12:2, 4, and himself the infirmity-laden victim of the "thorn in the flesh" (2Co 12:7). Such glory belonged not to him, but the weakness did. Nay, he did not even know whether he was in or out of the body when the glory was put upon him, so far was the glory from being his [Alford]. His spiritual self was his highest and truest self: the flesh with its infirmity merely his temporary self (Ro 7:25). Here, however, the latter is the prominent thought.

in Christ—a Christian (Ro 16:7).

above—rather, simply "fourteen years ago." This Epistle was written A.D. 55-57. Fourteen years before will bring the vision to A.D. 41-43, the time of his second visit to Jerusalem (Ac 22:17). He had long been intimate with the Corinthians, yet had never mentioned this revelation before: it was not a matter lightly to be spoken of.

I cannot tell—rather as Greek, "I know not." If in the body, he must have been caught up bodily; if out of the body, as seems to be Paul's opinion, his spirit must have been caught up out of the body. At all events he recognizes the possibility of conscious receptivity in disembodied spirits.

caught up—(Ac 8:39).

to the third heaven—even to, &c. These raptures (note the plural, "visions," "revelations," 2Co 12:1) had two degrees: first he was caught up "to the third heaven," and from thence to "Paradise" (2Co 12:4) [Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 5.427], which seems to denote an inner recess of the third heaven [Bengel] (Lu 23:43; Re 2:7). Paul was permitted not only to "hear" the things of Paradise, but to see also in some degree the things of the third heaven (compare "visions," 2Co 12:1). The occurrence TWICE of "whether in the body … I know not, God knoweth," and of "lest I should be exalted above measure," marks two stages in the revelation. "Ignorance of the mode does not set aside the certain knowledge of the fact. The apostles were ignorant of many things" [Bengel]. The first heaven is that of the clouds, the air; the second, that of the stars, the sky; the third is spiritual (Eph 4:10).

Some doubt whether en cristw, in this place, be so well translated

in Christ, ( so signifying, that the person spoken of was a Christian, one that had embraced the gospel), as by Christ, (as the particle is sometimes used), so signifying, that this vision was given to him by the grace and favour of Christ. The

man he speaketh of was, doubtless, himself, otherwise it had been to him no cause or ground of glorying at all. Thus several times in Scripture, the penmen thereof speaking in commendation of themselves, they speak in the third person instead of the first. In his saying, it was

about fourteen years ago, and in that we do not read that he did ever before publish it, he avoids the imputation of any boasting and glorying; and showeth, that had he not been now constrained, for the glory of God, and the vindication of his own reputation, to have spoken of it, he would not now have mentioned it.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body. I cannot tell: what the circumstances of the apostle were in this ecstasy, he professeth not to know; and therefore it seems too bold for us curiously to inquire, or positively to determine about it. It is not very probable that his soul was separated from his body; but whether his body was, by some angel, carried up to the sight of this vision, or things absent were made present to him, the apostle himself, being deprived of the use of his senses, could not tell. But

such an one (he saith) he knew,

caught up to the third heaven; by which he means the highest heavens, where God most manifesteth his glory, where the blessed angels see his face, and where are the just souls made perfect. The Scripture, dividing the world into the earth and the heavens, calleth all heaven that is not earth or water; hence it mentioneth an aerial heaven (which is all that space between the earth and the place where the planets and fixed stars are); hence we read of the fowls of the heaven, Daniel 4:12, of the windows of heaven, Genesis 7:11, of a starry heaven, where the stars are, which are therefore called the stars of the heaven, Genesis 22:17; and then the highest heaven; which was meant in the Lord’s prayer, when we pray: Our Father which art in heaven; and is called the heaven of heavens. This is the heaven here spoken of. I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago,.... Which is to be understood of himself, as appears from 2 Corinthians 12:7, where he speaks in the first person; and the reason why he here speaks in the third, is to show his modesty and humility, and how much he declined vain glory and popular applause; and whilst he is speaking of himself, studies as it were to conceal himself from being the person designed, and to draw off the mind of the reader from him to another person; though another cannot be intended, for it would not have been to his purpose, yea, quite beside it, when he proposes to come to visions and revelations he had of the Lord, to have instanced in the rapture of another. Moreover, the full and certain knowledge he had of this man, of the place he was caught up to, and of the things he there heard, best agrees with him; as also his attesting, in such a solemn way, his ignorance of the manner of this rapture, whether in the body or out of the body, and which he repeats and refers to the knowledge of God, clearly shows he must mean himself; besides, it would otherwise have been no instance of any vision of his, nor would the rapture of another have at all affected his character, commendation, and praise, or given him any occasion of glorying as this did: though he did not choose to take it, as is clear by his saying that if he gloried of it he should not be a fool, yet forbore, lest others should entertain too high an opinion of him; and after all, he was in some danger of being elated with this vision along with others, that the following sore temptation was permitted, to prevent his being exalted with it above measure: and when he calls this person, meaning himself, a "man", it is not to distinguish him from an angel, whose habitation is in the third heaven, and so no wonderful thing to be found there; or from any other creature; nor perhaps only to express his sex, a man, and not a woman, though the Syriac version uses the word peculiar to the masculine sex; but merely to design a person, and it is all one as if it had been said, I knew a person, or I knew one in Christ: and the phrase "in Christ", is not to be connected with the word "know", as if the sense was, that he called Christ to witness the truth of what he was about to say, and that what he should say was not with a view to his own glory, but to the glory and honour of Christ only; but it is to be connected with the word "man", and denotes his being in Christ, and that either, as Dr. Hammond thinks, in a singular and extraordinary manner; as John is said to be "in the spirit", Revelation 1:10, that is, in an ecstasy; and so here this man was in the Spirit of Christ, and transported by him to see visions, and have revelations; or rather it intends a spiritual being in Christ, union to him, the effect of which is communion with him. The date of

fourteen years ago, may refer either to the time when the apostle first had the knowledge of his being in Christ, which was at his conversion; he was in Christ from all eternity, being given to him, chosen in him, loved by him; set as a seal upon his heart, as well as engraven on the palms of his hands, and represented by him, and in him, in the everlasting covenant; and so in time, at his crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God; in consequence of all which, when the set time was come, he became a new creature, was converted and believed in Christ, and then he knew himself to be in him; he was in him secretly before, now openly; and this was about fourteen years before the writing of this epistle; the exact time of his conversion might well be known and remembered by him, it being in such an extraordinary manner: or also this date may refer to the time of his rapture, which some have thought was some time within the three days after his conversion, when he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank; some have thought it to be eight years after his conversion; but the most probable opinion is, that it was not at Damascus, but when he was come again to Jerusalem, and was praying in the temple, and was in a trance or ecstasy, Acts 22:17, though the difference there is among chronologers, and the uncertainty of their conjectures, both as to the time of the apostle's conversion, and the writing of this epistle, makes it very difficult to determine this point. They that make this rapture to be at the time of his conversion, seem to be furthest off of the truth of things; for whether his conversion be placed in the 34th year of Christ, as some, or in the 35th, as others, or in the 36th; and this epistle be thought to be written either in the 56th, or 58th, or 60th, the date of fourteen years will agree with neither: they indeed make things to agree together best, who place his conversion in the year 36, make this rapture to be eight years after, in the year 44, and this epistle to be written in the year 58. Dr. Lightfoot puts the conversion of the apostle in the year 34, the rapture of him into the third heaven, in the year 43, at the time of the famine in the reign of Claudius, Acts 11:28, when he was in a trance at Jerusalem, Acts 22:17, and the writing of this epistle in the year 57. That great chronologer, Bishop Usher, places Paul's conversion in the year 35, his rapture in the year 46, and the writing of this epistle in the year 60. So that upon the whole it is hard to say when this rapture was; and it may be, it was at neither of the visions recorded in the Scripture, which the apostle had, but at some other time nowhere else made mention of: when, as he here says,

such an one was caught up to the third heaven, the seat of the divine Majesty, and the residence of the holy angels; where the souls of departed saints go immediately upon their dissolution; and the bodies and souls of those who have been translated, caught up, and raised already, are; and where the glorified body of Christ is and will be, until his second coming. This is called the "third" heaven, in respect to the airy and starry heavens. The apostle refers to a distinction among the Jews of , "the supreme heaven, the middle heaven, and the lower heaven" (f); and who also make a like division of worlds, and which they call , "the supreme world, and the middle world, and the lower world" (g); and sometimes (h) the world of angels, the world of the orbs, and the world of them below; and accordingly the Cabalistic doctors talk of three worlds; , "the third world", they say (i), is the supreme world, hidden, treasured, and shut up, which none can know; as it is written, "eye hath not seen", &c. and is the same with the apostle's "third heaven". The state and condition in which he was during this rapture is expressed by the following words, put into a parenthesis,

whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell, God knoweth: whether his soul remained in his body, and he was caught up soul and body into heaven, as Elijah was carried thither soul and body in a chariot with horses of fire; or whether his soul was out of his body, and he was disembodied for a time, as Philo the Jew (k) says that Moses was "without the body", during his stay of forty days and as many nights in the mount; or whether this was not all in a visionary way, as John was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's day, and Ezekiel was taken by a lock of his head, and lifted up by the Spirit between earth and heaven, and brought "in the visions of God to Jerusalem", cannot be said. The apostle did not know himself, and much less can any other be able to say how it was; it is best with him to refer and leave it to the omniscient God; one of the four persons the Jews say entered into paradise, who are hereafter mentioned in See Gill on 2 Corinthians 12:4, is said to have his mind snatched away in a divine rapture (l); that is, he was not himself, he knew not where he was, or whether in the body or out, as says the apostle.

(f) Targum in 2 Chron. 18. (g) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 1. 4. & 3. 2, 3.((h) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 83. 2.((i) Zohar in Numb. fol. 66. 3.((k) De Somniis, p. 570. (l) Cosri, p. 3. sect. 65. fol. 190. 1. 2.

I knew a man {a} in Christ above fourteen years ago,

(whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the {b} third heaven.

(a) I speak this in Christ, that is, it is spoken without boastfulness, for I seek nothing but Christ Jesus only.

(b) Into the highest heaven: for we do not need to dispute subtly upon the word third. But yet this passage is to be marked against those who would make heaven to be everywhere.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 12:2. He now quotes instar omnium a single event of such a nature, specially memorable to him and probably unique in his experience, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4.

οἶδα ἄνθρωπον κ.τ.λ.] I know a man … who was snatched away. Paul speaks of himself as of a third person, because he wishes to adduce something in which no part of the glory at all falls on the Ego proper. And how suitable in reality was the nature of such an event to the modest mode of representation, excluding all self-glory! In that ecstasy the Ego had indeed really ceased to be the subject of its own activity, and had become quite the object of the activity of others, so that Paul in his usual condition came before himself as other than he had been in the ecstasy, and his I, considered from the standpoint of that ecstasy, appeared as a he.

ἐν Χριστῷ] a man to be found in Christ (as the element of life), 1 Corinthians 1:30, a Christian; not: “quod in Christo dico, i.e. quod sine ambitione dictum velim,” Beza, connecting it with οἶδα (comp. Emmerling).

πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων] belongs to ἁρπαγέντα, from which it is separated by the parenthesis. We may add that this note of time is already decisive against those, who either find in this incident the conversion of the apostle (or at least something connected therewith), as Damasus, Thomas, Lyra, L. Capellus, Grotius, Oeder, Keil, Opusc. p. 318 ff.; Matthaei, Religionsgl. I. p. 610 ff., and others, including Bretschneider and Reiche, and quite recently Stölting, Beitr. z. Exeg. d. Paul. Br. 1869, p. 173—or identify it with the appearance in the temple, Acts 22:17 ff., as Calvin (but uncertainly), Spanheim, Lightfoot, J. Capellus, Rinck, Schrader, and others; comp. also Schott, Erört. p. 100 ff.; Wurm in the Tüb. Zeitschr. 1833, 1, p. 41 ff.; Wieseler, p. 165, and on Gal. p. 591 ff.; Osiander. The conversion was upwards of twenty years earlier than this Epistle (see on Acts, Introd. § 4). See, besides, Estius and Fritzsche, Diss. I. p. 58 ff.; Anger, rat. temp. p. 164 ff. In fact, even if the definition of the time of this event could be reconciled with that of the appearance in the temple, Acts 22:17 ff., still the narrative of this passage (see especially 2 Corinthians 12:4 : ἤκουσεν ἄῤῥητα κ.τ.λ.) is at any rate so essentially different from that in Acts 22, that the identity is not to be assumed.[354] The connection which Wieseler assumes with the Damascene history does not exist in reality (comp. on 2 Corinthians 11:32 f.), but with 2 Corinthians 12:1 there begins something new. The event here mentioned, which falls in point of time to the stay at Antioch or to the end of the stay at Tarsus (Acts 11:25), is to us quite unknown otherwise. The reason, however, why Paul added the definition of time is, according to Chrysostom, Pelagius, Theodoret, and others, given thus: “videmus Paulum ipsum per annos quatuordecim tacuisse, nec verbum fuisse facturum, nisi importunitas malignorum coëgisset,” Calvin. But how purely arbitrary! And whence is it known that he had been so long silent regarding the ecstasy? No; the specification of time flowed without special design just as naturally from the pre-eminently remarkable character which the event had for Paul, as from the mode of the representation, according to which he speaks of himself as of a third person, in whose case the notice of an already long past suggested itself spontaneously; for “longo tempore alius a se ipso quisque factus videtur” (Bengel).

εἴτε ἐν σώματι] sc. ἡρπάγη from what follows. Regarding εἴτεεἴτε, whether … or, see Hartung, Partikell. II. p. 202 f., also Dissen, ad Dem. de Cor. p. 224. He puts the two cases as quite equal as respects possibility, not the first as more probable; hence with the second εἴτε no καί is added; see Dissen. In that ecstasy his lower consciousness had so utterly fallen into abeyance, that he could not afterwards tell (according to Athan. c. Ar. Serm. 4 : dared not tell) whether this had taken place by means of a temporary withdrawal of his spirit out of the body, or whether his whole person, the body included (ἐν σώματι), had been snatched away. By this alternative he expresses simply the utter incomprehensibleness for him of the manner of the occurrence. It is to him as if either the one or the other had taken place, but he knows neither the former nor the latter; hence he is not to be made responsible for the possibility or eventual mode of the one or other. “Ignoratio modi non tollit certain rei scientiam,” Bengel. Following Augustine, Genes. ad lit. xii. 5, Thomas and Estius explained ἐν σώματι: anima in corpore manente, so that Paul would say that he does not know whether it took place in a vision (ἐν σώματι) or by an actual snatching away of the spirit (ἐκτὸς τοῦ σ.). But if he had been uncertain, and had wished to represent himself as uncertain, whether the matter were only a seeing and perceiving by means of the spiritual senses or a real snatching away, it would not have had at all the great importance which it is held to have in the context, and he would only have exposed to his rivals a weak point, seeing that inward visions of the supernatural, although in the form of divinely presented apparitions, had not the quite extraordinary character which Paul manifestly wishes to ascribe to the event described. This also in opposition to Beyschlag, 1864, p. 207, who explains the alternative εἴτε ἐν σώματι only as the bestowal of a marvellous “range” and “reach” of the inward senses—in spite of the ἁρπαγέντα. Moreover, we must not ascribe to the apostle the Rabbinical opinion (in Schoettgen, Hor. p. 697) that he who is caught into paradise puts off his body and is clothed with an ethereal body; because otherwise he could not have put the case εἴτε ἐν σώματι.[355] So much, however, is clear, that for such a divine purpose he held as possible a temporary miraculous withdrawal of the spirit from the body without death.[356] The mode[357] in which this conceived possibility was to take place must be left undetermined, and is not to be brought under the point of view of the separability of the bare πνεῦμα (without the ΨΥΧΉ) from the body (Osiander); for spirit and soul form inseparably the Ego even in the trichotomistic expression of 1 Thessalonians 5:23, as likewise Hebrews 4:12 (see Lünemann in loc.). Comp. also Calovius against Cameron. Hence also it is not to be said with Lactantius: “abit animus, manet anima.”

The anarthrous ἐν σώματι means bodily, and that his own body was meant by it, and τοῦ σώματος with the article is not anything different, was obvious of itself to the reader; ΣῶΜΑ did not need the article, Stallbaum, ad Plat. Phaed. p. 83 C.

ἁρπαγέντα] the stated word used of sudden, involuntary raptures. See Acts 8:39; Revelation 12:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The form of the 2d aorist belongs to the deteriorated Greek. See Thomas Mag. p. 424; Buttmann, I. p. 381.

τὸν τοιοῦτον] summing up again (Kühner, II. p. 330): such an one, with whom it was so. Comp. 1 Corinthians 5:5.

ἕως ΤΡΊΤΟΥ ΟὐΡ.] thus, through the first and second heaven into the third.[358] As the conception of several heavens pervades the whole of the O. and N. T. (see especially, Ephesians 4:10; Hebrews 4:14); as the Rabbins almost unanimously (Rabbi Juda assumed only two) reckon seven heavens (see the many passages in Wetstein, Schoettgen, Hor. p. 718 ff.; comp. also Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judenth. I. p. 460; Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 247); and as Paul here names a definite number, without the doctrine of only three heavens occurring elsewhere; as he also in 2 Corinthians 12:4 specifies yet a higher locality situated beyond the third heaven: it is quite arbitrary to deny that he had the conception of seven heavens, as was done by Origen, contra Celsum, vi. p 289: ἑπτὰ δὲ οὐρανοὺς, ἢ ὅλως περιωρισμένον ἀριθμὸν αὐτῶν, αἱ φερόμεναι ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις οὐκ ἀπαγγέλλουσι γραφαί. The rationalistic explanations of more recent expositors, such as that of Billroth (following Schoettgen): that he only meant by this figurative (?) expression to express the nearness in which his spirit found itself to God, have as little exegetical warrant as the explanation of Calvin, Calovius, and others, that the holy number three stands κατʼ ἐξοχήν Proverbs summo et perfectissimo, so that τρίτου denotes “the highest and most perfect sphere of the higher world” (Osiander);[359] or as the assertion of others (Estius, Clericus, Bengel, and others), that it is a doctrine of Scripture that there are only three heavens (the heaven of clouds, the heaven of stars, and the empyrean; according to Damascenus, Thomas, Cornelius a Lapide, and others, “coelum sidereum, crystallinum, empyreum;” according to Grotius: “regio nubifera, reg. astrifera, reg. angelifera”), or the fiction of Grotius and Emmerling, that the Jews at that time had assumed only these three heavens. It is true that, according to the Rabbins, the third heaven was still no very exalted region.[360] But we do not know at all what conception of the difference of the seven heavens Paul followed (see below), and are therefore not at all justified in conjecturing, with Rückert, in opposition to the number seven, that Paul was not following the usual hypothesis, but another, according to which the third heaven was at least one of the higher;[361] but see on 2 Corinthians 12:4, where a still further ascent from the third heaven into paradise is mentioned. Even de Wette finds the usual view most probable, that by the third heaven is meant the highest; “in such things belonging to pious fancy nothing was established until the Rabbinical tradition became fixed.” But the third heaven must have been to the readers a well-known and already established conception; hence we are the less entitled to depart from the historically attested number seven, and to adopt the number three (nowhere attested among the Jews) which became current in the church only on the basis of this passage (Suicer, Thes. II. p. 251), while still in the Test. XII. Patr. (belonging to the second century) p. 546 f., the number seven holds its ground, and the seven heavens are exactly described, as also the Ascensio Jesaiae (belonging to the third century) has still this conception of Jewish gnosis (see Lücke, Einl. in d. Offenb. Joh. I. p. 287 f., ed. 2). How Paul conceived to himself the several heavens as differing, we cannot determine, especially as in those Apocryphal books and among the Rabbins the statements on the point are very divergent. Erroneously, because the conception of several heavens is an historical one, Hofmann (comp. also his Schriftbeweis, II. 1, p. 535) has regarded ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ as belonging to the vision, not to the conception (in connection with which he lays stress on the absence of the article), and spiritualizes the definite concrete utterance to this effect, that Paul in the vision, which made visible to him in a spiritual manner the invisible, “saw himself caught away beyond the lower domains of the supermundane and up into a higher region.” This is to depart from the clear literal meaning and to lose oneself in generalities. It is quite unwarranted to adduce the absence of the article with τρίτου, since with ordinal numbers the article is not at all required, Matthew 20:3; Mark 15:25; Acts 2:15; Acts 23:23; John 1:40; Thuc. ii. 70. 5; Xen. Anab. iii. 6. 1; Lucian, Alex. 18; 1 Samuel 4:7; Susann. 15; see Kühner, ad Xen. Anab. vii. 7. 35; Nägelsbach on the Iliad, p. 292, ed. 3.

[354] According to Wieseler, the ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα were the preparatory basis for the delegation of the apostle in Acts 22:18; Acts 22:21. But there is no hint of this in either text. And the revelation laying the basis for his vocation among the Gentiles had been received by Paul much earlier than the appearance in the temple, Galatians 1:15.

[355] Just as little is the case put to be made conceivable as a momentary transfiguration of the body (Osiander). The bodily transfiguration is simply an eschatological event (1 Corinthians 15:51 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:17), and a transformation of such a nature, that after it the return to the previous condition is quite inconceivable.

[356] Comp. the passage already quoted in Wetstein from Philo, de Somn. I. p. 626, where Moses ἀσώματος γενόμενος is said to have fasted forty days.

[357] The remark of Delitzsch in this connection: “because what is experienced compresses itself, after the fashion of eternity, into a moment” (Psychol. p. 357), is to me obscure and too strange to make it conceivable by me.

[358] In Lucian, Philopatr. 12, Christ (Γαλιλαῖος) is mocked at as εἰς τρίτον οὐρανὸν ἀκροβατήσας καὶ τὰ κάλλιστα ἐκμεμαθηκώς.

[359] The old Lutherans, in the interests of the doctrine of ubiquity, maintained that the third heaven and paradise denote “statum potius alterius saeculi quam locum,” Hunnius.

[360] The Rabbinical division was different, e.g. (1) velum; (2) expansum; (3) nubes; (4) habitaculum; (5) habitatio; (6) sedes fixa; (7) Araboth or ταμεῖον. Others divide in other ways. See Wetstein.

[361] Rückert appeals to the fact that R. Juda assumed only two heavens. But this isolated departure from the usual Rabbinical type of doctrine cannot have any application here, where a third heaven is named. Passages would rather have to be shown, in which the number of heavens was assumed to be under seven and above two. In the absence of such passages, Rückert’s conjecture is groundless.2 Corinthians 12:2. οἶδα ἄνθρ. ἐν Χρ. κ.τ.λ.: I know (not “I knew” as the A.V. has it) a man in Christ, i.e., a Christian (see reff.), fourteen years ago (for the constr. πρὸ ἐτ. δεκ. cf. John 12:1)—whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not (the words distinctly indicate St. Paul’s belief that perception is possible for a disembodied spirit); God knoweth—such an one caught up to the third heaven. Cf. Ezekiel 8:3. “The Spirit lifted me between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem.” The date of this trance must have been about 41 or 42 A.D., years of which we have no details so far as St. Paul’s life is concerned; probably he was then at Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Acts 11:25; cf. the reference to St. Paul in the dialogue Philopatris, § 12; ἐς τρίτον οὐρανὸν ἀεροβατήσας). The mention of “the third leaven” raises interesting questions as to Jewish beliefs. There is no doubt that a plurality of “heavens” is recognised all through the O.T. (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 68:33; Psalm 148:4); but it has been matter of dispute whether the Rabbinical schools recognised seven heavens or only three. However it is now fairly well established that, in common with other ancient peoples (e.g., the Parsees, and probably the Babylonians), the Jews recognised seven heavens. This view not only appears in the pseudepigraphical literature, but in some of the Fathers, e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Its most detailed exposition is found in the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, a Jewish apocalypse written in Greek in the first century of our era (now only extant in a Sclavonic version). In chap. viii. of this work we find that Paradise is explicitly located in the “third heaven,” which is the view recognised here by St. Paul (see Charles’ Sclavonic Enoch, pp. xxxi: ff.).2. I knew a man] That this is the Apostle is proved by 2 Corinthians 12:7. The word knew should, both here and in 2 Corinthians 12:3, be rendered know.

in Christ] i.e. after his conversion, when he had become united to Christ.

above fourteen years ago] And yet, as Chrysostom and Calvin remark, he had kept silence about it all this time. The secret raptures of the soul should be matters between it and God, not subjects of boasting save where necessity compels it. After all the main point (2 Corinthians 12:6) is what a man is, not what he has seen, even of things beyond the sphere of sense. Whether this were the ‘revelation’ spoken of in Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2, we cannot tell. St Paul had many such revelations (see note on 1 Corinthians 9:1), and he gives here no distinct intimation of the time at which the vision occurred.

whether out of the body] “The Apostle here by implication acknowledges the possibility of consciousness and receptivity in a disembodied state.” Alford.

I cannot tell] The fact of the vision was certain enough. He saw clearly what God gave him permission to see, but whether the soul was rapt from his body left without life, or whether body and soul were caught up together to the third heaven and to Paradise, was known only to God.

the third heaven] Some commentators have explained this passage by the Jewish tradition (see Dean Stanley in loc.) of seven heavens. But if St Paul had this in his mind, he here meant the clouds, a notion combated by Irenaeus, who (see next note) had unusually good opportunities of knowing the Apostle’s meaning. He says distinctly (Adv. Haer. ii. 30) that the third heaven is regarded by St Paul as a place preeminently exalted, and he rejects the idea of the seven heavens as taught by the Valentinian heretics, regarding it as absurd to suppose that four heavens remained as yet unexplored by St Paul. Some of the Jewish teachers held that there were two, others that there were seven heavens. So in Chagigah f. 12 b, “R. Jehuda said there are two heavens, as it is said in Deuteronomy 10:14, ‘the heavens and the heaven of heavens.’ Rish Lakish said there were seven, &c.” See also Debarim Rabba, § 2, fol. 253. 1. Rashi on Isaiah 44:8 says, “ye are my witnesses because I have opened to you the seven heavens (firmaments),” i.e. I have disclosed to you all that pertains to the knowledge of God.2 Corinthians 12:2. Οἶδα· εἶτε· ἁρπαγέντα, I knew: whether: caught up) These things, repeated in the next verse, not only keep the reader in pleasant suspense, sharpen his mind, and add weight to well-considered [just] glorying (boasting); but also plainly express a double movement in this action. Clemens Alex. Strom. 50. v. ἓως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ, κᾀκεῖθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον, f. 427. So also Irenaeus, l. 2, c. (56) 55 (where Grabius adds Justinus M., Methodius, and of more recent writers Jeremy Taylor), likewise 50:5, c. 36, where (comp. Matthew 13:23; John 14:2) he infers different habitations from the diversity among those who produce fruit [fruits of faith], and fixes a difference of abode, διαστολὴν οἰκήσεως, for those who have their joy in heaven, in paradise, in the splendour of the city. Athanasius in Apol., καὶ ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ ἡρπάσθη καὶ εἰς τὸν παράδεισον ἀνηνέχθη, “and he was caught up into the third heaven, and was borne up into paradise.” Orig. or his translator, on Romans 16, has these words, into the third heaven, and thence into paradise. Oecumenius, ἡρπάγη ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ καὶ πάλιν ἐκεῖθεν εἰς τὸν παράδεισον, “he was caught up to the third heaven, and again thence into paradise.” That different revelations are mentioned in this passage is acknowledged by Hilariu[82] Diac. Primasius, Anselm, Pope Gregory in Estius, as well as Jerome on Ezekiel 28., Pelag. on this passage, Cassiodor. Haymo, Aquinas. The occurrence of the expression, lest I should be exalted, twice, corresponds to the fact, that he was twice caught up. Certainly paradise, coming last in the gradation with the emphatic article, denotes some inner recess in the third heaven, rather than the third heaven itself; an opinion which was very generally held by the ancients. See Gregor. Obs., c. 18; comp. Luke 23:43, note, and Revelation 2:7. Therefore the privilege was vouchsafed to Paul only to hear the things of paradise; but he was permitted also to see the things of the third heaven; comp. the preceding verse; although even of the latter he speaks somewhat sparingly. The force of the verb οἶδα, I know, falls particularly upon the participle caught; comp. ὅτι, how that, 2 Corinthians 12:4.—πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων, fourteen years ago) construed with ἁρπαγέντα, caught. He recounts something that had occurred in former times: after a long period every one seems to have become different from himself (what he was before); so that he may the more freely relate the good and evil which he has experienced. [Truly it was a long silence (he had maintained as to the revelations to him), and yet he had been engaged (conversant) among the Corinthians not for a short time, and was united to them in the closest bonds of intimacy.—V. g.]—ἐν σώματι, in the body) This is without the article; then ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος, out of the body, with the article; and so consistently with this, the words are found in the next verse. Paul seems to be of opinion, that he was out of the body. Howsoever this may be, Claudianus Mamertus de Statu animae, c. 12, righty concludes from this, that the better part of man is incorporeal; and this, the soul itself, was the part caught up. Whatever existed, independently of the body of Paul, was without the body, or else within it.—οὐκ οἶδα, I know not. Ignorance of the mode does not take away the certain knowledge of the thing. The apostles were ignorant of many things.—ἁρπαγέντα, caught up) Comp. Acts 8:39, note.—ἕως) even to, far into the third heaven; comp. εἰς, into, 2 Corinthians 12:4. Is therefore paradise not included in the third heaven? Ans. ἕως, even to, is inclusive, as Luke 2:15, etc.—τρίτου, third) The first heaven is that of the clouds; the second is that of the stars; the third is spiritual. The dual number in שמים denotes the two visible heavens. The nomenclature of the third, which eye hath not seen, has been reserved for the New Testament; comp. Ephesians 4:10, note.

[82] ilarius (a Latin father: died 368 A.D.) Ed. Maurinorum, Paris. 1693.Verse 2. - I knew; rather, I know. A man. St. Paul speaks in this indirect way of himself (see vers. 5, 7). In Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). To St. Paul every true Christian was a man whose personal life was lost in the life of Christ. Above fourteen years ago. The note of time is very vague. If we are at all able to identify the vision alluded to, it must have been the vision in the temple, referred to in Acts 22:17, which was, roughly speaking, "about fourteen years" before this time. The vision on the road to Damascus had occurred about twenty years earlier than the date of this Epistle. Whether in the body, etc. A powerful description of the absorption of all conscious bodily modes of apprehension. In their comments on. these verses, many commentators enter into speculations which seem to me to be so entirely arbitrary and futile that I shall not even allude to them. St. Paul's bodily and mental state during this vision is familiar to all who know the history of Oriental and mediaeval mysticism. Caught up (Ezekiel 11:24; Acts 8:39; Revelation 4:1, 2). Into the third heaven. It is most unlikely that St. Paul is here in any way referring to the Jewish hagadoth about seven heavens. The expression is purely general, and even the rabbis did not expect to be taken au pied de la lettre. Hence all speculations about first, second, and third heavens are idle and useless. Even as late as the Clementine writings in the middle of the second century, an attempt is made, in reference to this passage, to disparage St. Paul by sneering at visions as a medium of revelation, on the ground that they may spring from self-deception; and this rapture of the "bald hook-nosed Galilean" to the third heaven is also sneered at in the 'Philopatris' of the pseudo-Lucian. Yet how modest and simple is St. Paul's awestruck reference to this event, when compared, not only with the lying details of Mohammed's visit to heaven, but even with the visions of St. Theresa or Swedenborg! I knew (οἶδα)

Rev., correctly, Iknow.

Above fourteen years ago (πρὸ ἐτῶν δεκατεσσάρων)

Above, of A.V., is due to a misunderstanding of the Greek idiom. Lit., before fourteen years, that is, fourteen years ago, as Rev.

Caught up (ἁρπαγέντα)

Compare Dante:

"Thou knowest, who didst lift me with thy light"

"Paradiso," i., 75.

The verb suits the swift, resistless, impetuous seizure of spiritual ecstasy. See on Matthew 11:12; and compare Acts 8:39; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 12:5.

Third heaven

It is quite useless to attempt to explain this expression according to any scheme of celestial gradation. The conception of seven heavens was familiar to the Jews; but according to some of the Rabbins there were two heavens - the visible clouds and the sky; in which case the third heaven would be the invisible region beyond the sky. Some think that Paul describes two stages of his rapture; the first to the third heaven, from which he was borne, as if from a halting-point, up into Paradise.

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