2 Corinthians 12:3
And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;)
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) And I knew such a man.—Better, as before, I know.

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.And I knew such a man - It is not uncommon to repeat a solemn affirmation in order that it may be made more emphatic. This is done here. Paul repeats the idea, that he was intimately acquainted with such a man, and that he did not know whether he was in the body or out of the body. All that was known to God. 3. Translate, "I know."

out of—Most of the oldest manuscripts read "apart from."

Ver. 3,4. How that he was caught up into paradise: some by

paradise understand a place distinct from

the third heaven before mentioned, and think the apostle here speaks of more visions than one; but they speak much more probably, who interpret it of the third heaven before mentioned, called paradise, in regard of the delight and pleasures of it. Thus the term is used by our Saviour to the thief upon the cross, Luke 23:43, and thus it is used, Revelation 2:7.

And heard unspeakable words; what these unspeakable words, or things, were, which the apostle heard in this ecstasy, is vainly inquired; whenas the apostle hath told us twice, that he could not tell whether he was in or out of the body; and that the words or things were such as were unspeakable.

Which it is not lawful for a man to utter; such as were either impossible to be uttered, or at least which he was prohibited to utter; so they could be made known to none but only to him that heard them. If any inquireth, for what purpose God showed them to Paul, if he might not communicate them for the good of others? The answer is easy; that this vision might be for his own confirmation, as sent of God, and for his consolation under all those hazards and dangers which he was to undergo in the ministry of the gospel, to which God had called him. And I knew such a man,.... The same man, namely himself, is here designed, and the same rapture spoken of, and the condition he was in expressed in the same words: which repetition is made for the more strong affirmation of what he delivered, and to signify the marvellousness of this vision, and how surprising and unaccountable it was. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 12:3-4. And I know such a man … that he, namely, was caught away, etc. The expression is here the well-known attraction οἰδά σε τίς εἶ. Most expositors consider the matter itself as not different from what is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:2, so that τρίτος οὐρανός and ὁ παράδεισος would be one and the same. But it is decisive against this view, that ὁ τρίτος οὐρανός cannot without arbitrariness be taken otherwise than of a region of heaven comparatively low (see on 2 Corinthians 12:2). Besides, the whole circumstantial repetition, only with a change in designating the place, would not be solemn language, but battology. This also in opposition to Hofmann, who imports the modification: “The one time emphasis is laid only on the surroundings, into which he found himself transported away from the earth; the other time on the contrast of the fellowship of God, into which he was transported away from the church of God here below.” Clemens Alexandrinus, Irenaeus, Origen, Athanasius, and several Fathers and schoolmen (see Estius and Bengel on the passage), also Erasmus[362] and Bengel,[363] have rightly distinguished paradise from the third heaven. Comp. also Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 246; Osiander, Hilgenfeld, and others. Still we are not, with Bengel (comp. de Wette), to regard (see on 2 Corinthians 12:2) paradise as interius quiddam in coelo tertio, quam ipsum coelum tertium (comp. Cornelius a Lapide); but Paul relates first how he was caught up into the third heaven, and then adds, as a further point in the experience, that he was transported further, higher up into paradise, so that the ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ was a break, as it were, a resting-point of the raptus. Thus, too, the repetition of the same words, as well as the repetition of the parenthesis, obtains its solemn character; for the incident is reported step by step, i.e. in two stages.

The paradise is here not the lower, i.e. the place in Sheol, in which the spirits of the departed righteous are until the resurrection (see on Luke 16:23; Luke 23:43), nor as Hofmann, Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 489, substitutes in place of this historical conception the abstraction: “the present communion of the blessed dead with God, as it is on this side of the end of things;” but the upper, the paradise of God (Revelation 2:7; Enoch 35:1) in heaven, where God’s dwelling is. This distinction is one given historically, and necessary for the understanding of the passage, and is rightly maintained also by Osiander, Hahn, and others. Comp. the Rabbinical passages in Eisenmenger, entdeckt. Judenth. I. 296 ff., and generally, Thilo, ad Ev. Nic. 25, p. 748 ff.; Gfrörer, Jahrh. d. Heils, II. p. 42 ff. The idea, however, that Christ has carried the believing souls out of Hades with Him to heaven (Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 414) goes beyond Scripture, and is not presupposed even in this passag.

ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα] an oxymoron:[364] dicta nefanda dictu, speakings, which may not be spoken (Dem. 1369. 25, 1370. 14; Soph. O. R. 465; Eur. Hel. 1370; and Pflugk in loc.), i.e. which may not be made the subject of communication to others. The revelations which Paul received were so sublime and holy, that the further communication of them would have been at variance with their character; what was disclosed to him was to be for him alone, for his special enlightenment, strengthening, comforting, with a view to the fulfilment of his great task; to others it was to remain a mystery, in order to preclude fanatical or other misuse; comp. Calvin. That ἄῤῥητα here does not mean quae dici negueunt (Plato, Soph. p. 238 C), as Beza, Estius, Calovius, Wolf, and many others, including Billroth and Olshausen, hold (Rückert is not decided), is shown by the solemn epexegetical ἃ οὐκ ἐξὸν ἀνθρώπῳ λαλῆσαι, in which ἐξόν means licet, fas est, and is not—as Luther and many older and later commentators, including Billroth and Olshausen, wish to take it, quite at variance with the signification of the word—equivalent to δύνατον. The Vulgate aptly renders: “et audivit arcana verba, quae non licet homini loqui,” i.e. which a man may not utter aloud. Lucian, Epigr. 11 (Jacobs, Del epigr. VII. 66): ἀῤῥήτων ἐπέων γλώσσῃ σφρηγὶς ἐπικείσθω, Soph. El. 1000, Aj. 213. Comp. Revelation 10:3 f.

ἀνθρώπῳ] for they are reserved only for divine communication; a man, to whom they are revealed, may not utter them.

As to what it was that Paul heard for himself, the Fathers and schoolmen made many conjectures after their fashion. See Cornelius a Lapide and Estius. Theodoret well says: αὐτὸς οἶδεν ὁ ταῦτα τεθεαμένος.[365] From whom as the organ of communication he heard it, remains veiled in apocalyptic indefiniteness. Revealing voices (comp. Rev. l.c.) he did hear.

[362] “Raptus est in tertium usque coelum, hinc rursum in paradisum,” Erasmus in his Paraphr. Comp. Clemens Alex.: ἕως τρίτου οὐρανοῦ, κἀκεῖθεν εἰς παράδεισον (Strom. v. p. 427).

[363] Who as to the repetition of the same words judges very rightly: “Non solum suaviter suspendunt acuuntque lectorem, et gloriationi consideratae pondus addunt, sed etiam plane duplex rei momentum exprimunt.”

[364] See regarding similar juxtapositions in general, Lobeck, Paralip. p. 229 f. Comp. Plat. Conv. p. 189 B: ἄῤῥητα ἔστω τὰ εἰρημένα, Soph. Oed. Col. 1005: ῥητὸν ἄῤῥητον, Aj 213: λόγον ἄῤῥητον.

[365] It is most natural (comp. the Apocalypse) to think of disclosures regarding the end of the world, which, however, must have gone further than what occurs in the Epistles of the apostle (as 1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 11:25 f.). More definite statements (see Ewald) must be left in abeyance.2 Corinthians 12:3-4. καὶ οἶδα τὸν τοιοῦτον κ.τ.λ.: and I know such a man (he speaks with such caution and reticence of this momentous event in his spiritual life that he will not even describe it in the first person) … how that he was caught up into Paradise (see previous note), and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter; such words are reserved for the Divine voice which speaks to man, although this restriction does not apply to all Divine words.2 Corinthians 12:3. Καὶ, and) The particle here is expressive of a new movement in this transaction. Suppose, that the third heaven and paradise, were quite synonymous; the force of Paul’s language will be greatly diminished.—τὸν τοιοῦτον, such a one) τὸν ἐν Χριστῷ, him who was in Christ.—εἴτε, whether) This word is repeated, because, even if in the body he was caught up to the third heaven, nevertheless, rising to a higher degree, he might have been caught up to paradise without the body.
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