2 Corinthians 12:4
How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
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(4)That he was caught up into paradise.—The stress laid on this second vision hinders us from thinking of it as identical with the former, either in time or in object-matter. Paradise (see Note on Luke 23:43) was emphatically the dwelling-place of the souls of the righteous, the reproduction in the unseen world of the lost beauty of the Garden of Eden—the “paradise of joy,” as the LXX. in Genesis 2:15 translates the name. There, flowing about the throne of God, was the fountain of the water of life, and the tree of life growing on its banks (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:1-2). Speculations on the question whether St. Paul thought of it as nearer or farther from earth than the third heaven are obviously idle and profitless. The nearest approach which we can make to an adequate distinction between the two visions is that the first revealed to his gaze the glory of the Throne of God, with angels and archangels round it, and seraphim and cherubim,—a vision like that of Moses (Exodus 24:10), and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-3), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4-28), and St. John (Revelation 4:2-11)—thoughts like those of Hooker’s death-bed (Walton’s Life)—while the latter brought before his spirit the peace and rest ineffable, even in their intermediate and therefore imperfect state, of the souls who had fallen asleep in Christ and were waiting for their resurrection.

Unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.—The first two words present the tone of a paradox—speech unspeakable, or utterances unutterable. The verb in the second clause hovers between the text, “it is not lawful” and “it is not possible.” The hymns which St. John records in Revelation 4:8-9; Revelation 5:12-14; Revelation 7:12; Revelation 15:3, may give us some faint approach to what dwelt in St. Paul’s memory and yet could not be reproduced. Sounds of ineffable sweetness, bursts of praise and adoration, hallelujahs like the sound of many waters, voices low and sweet as those of children, whispers which were scarcely distinguishable from silence and yet thrilled the soul with a rapturous joy—this we may, perhaps, think of as underlying St. Paul’s language. In the mystic ecstatic utterances of the Tongues—themselves needing an interpreter, and helping little to build up those who heard them, though they raised the life of those who spoke with them to a higher level—we may, perhaps, trace some earthly echoes of that heavenly music. (See Notes on Acts 2:4; 1Corinthians 14:2.)

2 Corinthians 12:4. How that he was caught up into paradise — The seat of happy spirits, in their separate state between death and the resurrection. See note on Luke 23:43. Most of the ancients, (except Origen,) as Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Tertullian, and, among the moderns, Bull, Whitby, Bengelius, were of opinion that the apostle had two different raptures; because, as Methodius very well argues, If one rapture only were spoken of, the repetition of whether in the body, &c., would have been needless, when speaking of his being caught up into paradise. And heard unspeakable words — Or things, words being frequently used by the Hebrews to denote matters: which it is not lawful — Or possible, as the word εξον properly signifies, and as the apostle doubtless means; for a man to utter — Men having no terms of speech fit to express such sublime ideas as the apostle was there taught to understand: nor, probably, would it be consistent with the schemes of Providence, which require that we should be conducted by faith rather than by sight, to suffer such circumstances as these to be revealed to the inhabitants of mortal flesh. It is justly observed by Dr. Macknight here, that since the things which he saw and heard in paradise could not, or might not, be expressed in human language, “it is plain that the purpose for which he was caught up was not to receive any revelation of the gospel doctrine, because that could have served no purpose, if the apostle could not communicate what he heard. But it was to encourage him in the difficult and dangerous work in which he was engaged. Accordingly, by taking him up into paradise, and showing him the glories of the invisible world, and making him a witness of the happiness which the righteous enjoy with Christ, even before their resurrection, his faith in the promises of the gospel must have been so exceedingly strengthened, and his hope so raised, as to enable him to bear with alacrity that heavy load of complicated evils to which he was exposed in the course of his ministry. Not to mention that this confirmation of the apostle’s faith is no small confirmation of ours also.” Some suppose that it was here the apostle was made acquainted with the mystery of the future state of the church, and received his orders to turn from the Jews, and go to the Gentiles.

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.Into paradise - The word "paradise" (παράδεισος paradeisos) occurs but three times in the New Testament; Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7. It occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of the word garden; Genesis 2:8-10, Genesis 2:15-16; Genesis 3:1-3, Genesis 3:8,Genesis 3:16, Genesis 3:23-24; Genesis 13:10; Numbers 24:6; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13; Ezekiel 31:8-9; Joel 2:3. And also Isaiah 1:30; Jeremiah 29:5; and of the word פּרדס pardēc in Nehemiah 2:8; Ecclesiastes 2:5; Sol 2:13. It is a word which had its origin in the language of eastern Asia, and which has been adopted in the Greek, the Roman, and other western languages. In Sanskrit the word "paradesha" means a land elevated and cultivated; in Armenian, "pardes" denotes a garden around the house planted with trees, shrubs, grass for use and ornament. In Persia, the word denotes the pleasure gardens and parks with wild animals around the country residences of the monarchs and princes. Hence, it denotes in general a garden of pleasure; and in the New Testament is applied to the abodes of the blessed after death, the dwelling-place of God and of happy spirits; or to heaven as a place of blessedness. Some have supposed that Paul here by the word "paradise" means to describe a different place from that denoted by the phrase "the third heaven;" but there is no good reason for this supposition. The only difference is that this word implies the idea of a place of blessedness; but the same place is undoubtedly referred to.

And heard unspeakable words - The word which is rendered here as "unspeakable" (ἄῤῥητα arrēta) may either mean what cannot be spoken, or what ought not to be spoken. The word means unutterable, ineffable; and whichever idea we attach to it, Paul meant to say that he could not attempt by words to do justice to what he saw and heard. The use of the word "words" here would seem to imply that he heard the language of exalted praise; or that there were truths imparted to his mind which he could not hope to convey in any language spoken by people.

Which it is not lawful for a man to utter - Margin, "Possible." Witsius supposes that the word ἐξὸν exon may include both, and Doddridge accords with the interpretation. See also Robinson's Lexicon. The word is most commonly used in the signification of lawful. Thus, Matthew 14:4, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." Acts 16:21, "which it is not lawful for us to observe;" Acts 22:25, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman," etc. In the same sense of lawful it is used in Matthew 12:2, Matthew 12:10, Matthew 12:12; Matthew 20:15; Mark 2:26; Mark 10:2. When it refers to possibility it probably means moral possibility; that is, propriety, or it means that it is right. It seems to me, therefore, that the word here rather means that it was not proper to give utterance to those things; it would not be right to attempt it. It might be also true that it would not have been possible for language to convey clearly the ideas connected with the things which Paul was then permitted to see; but the main thought is, that there was some reason why it would not be proper for him to have attempted to communicate those ideas to people at large The Jews held that it was unlawful to pronounce the Tetragrammaton. that is, the name of four letters יהוה Yahweh; and whenever that name occurred in their scriptures, they substituted the name אדני ‛Adonaay in its place. They maintain indeed that the true pronunciation is utterly lost, and none of them to this day attempt to pronounce it. But this was mere superstition; and it is impossible that Paul should have been influenced by any such reason as this.

The transaction here referred to is very remarkable. It is the only instance in the Scriptures of anyone who was taken to heaven, either in reality or in vision, and who returned again to the earth and was then qualified to communicate important truths about the heavenly world from personal observation. Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven; but they returned not to converse with people. Elijah appeared with Moses in conversation with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration; but they conversed with him only about his decease, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem; Luke 9:31. There would have been no propriety for them to have spoken to Jesus of heaven, for he came down from heaven and was in heaven John 3:13, and they were not permitted to speak to the disciples of heaven. Lazarus was raised from the dead John 11, and many of the saints which had slept in their graves arose at the death of Jesus Matthew 27:52, but there is no intimation that they communicated any thing to the living about the heavenly world.

Of all the million who have been taken to heaven, not one has been permitted to return to bear his testimony to its glories; to witness for God that he is faithful to his promises; to encourage his pious friends to persevere; or to invite his impenitent friends to follow him to that glorious world. And so fixed is the Law; so settled is the principle, that even Lazarus was not permitted to go, though at the earnest request of the rich man in hell, and warn his friends not to follow hint to that world of woe; Luke 16:27-31. Muhammed indeed feigned that he had made a journey to heaven, and he attempts to describe what he saw; and the difference between true inspiration and false or pretended inspiration is strikingly evinced by the difference between Paul's dignified silence - verba sacro digna silentio (Horace) and the puerilities of the prophet of Mecca. See the Koran, chap. 17. As the difference between the true religion and imposture is strikingly illustrated by this, we may recur to the principal events which happened to the impostor on his celebrated journey.

The whole account may be seen in Prideaux's Life of Muhammed, pp. 43ff. He solemnly affirmed that he had been translated to the heaven of heavens; that on a white beast, less than a mule, but larger than an ass, he had been conveyed from the temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem; had successively ascended the seven heavens with his companion Gabriel, receiving and returning the salutations of its blessed inhabitants; had then proceeded alone within two bow-shots of the throne of the Almighty, when he felt a cold which pierced him to the heart, and was touched on the shoulder by the hand of God, who commanded him to pray 50 times a day, but with the advice of Moses he was prevailed on to have the number reduced to five; and that he thru returned to Jerusalem and to Mecca, having performed a journey of thousands of years in the tenth part of a night.

The fact that Paul was not permitted to communicate what he had seen is very remarkable. It is natural to ask why it is so? Why has not God sent down departed saints to tell people of the glories of heaven? Why does he not permit them to come and bear testimony to what they have seen and enjoyed? Why not come and clear up the doubts of the pious; why not come and convince a thoughtless world; why not come and bear honorable testimony for God that he is faithful to reward his people? And especially why did he not suffer Paul, whom he had permitted to behold the glories of paradise, to testify simply to what he had seen, and tell us what was there?

To these questions, so obvious, it is impossible to give an answer that we can demonstrate to be the true one. But we may suggest some reasons which may furnish a plausible answer, and which may serve to remove some of the perplexity in the case. I would, therefore, suggest that the following may have been some of the reasons why Paul was not permitted to communicate what he saw to human beings:

(1) It was designed for the support of Paul himself in view of the very remarkable trials which he was about to endure. God had called him to great toils and self-denials. He was to labor much alone; to go to foreign lands; to be persecuted, and ultimately put to death; and it was his purpose to qualify him for this work by some special manifestation of his favor. He accordingly gave him such views of heaven that he would be supported in his trials by a conviction of the undoubted truth of what he taught, and by the prospect of certain glory when his labors should end. It was one instance when God gave special views to prepare for trials, as he often does to his people now, preparing them in a unique manner for special trials. Christians, from some cause, often have more elevated views and deeper feeling before they are called to endure trials than they have at other times - special grace to prepare them for suffering. But as this was designed in a special manner for Paul alone, it was not proper for him to communicate what he saw to others.

(2) it is probable that if there were a full revelation of the glories of heaven we should not be able to comprehend it; or even if we did, we should be incredulous in regard to it. So unlike what we see; so elevated above our highest comprehension; probably so unlike what we now anticipate is heaven, that we should be slow to receive the revelation. It is always difficult to describe what we have not seen, even on earth, so that we shall have any very clear idea of it: how much more difficult must it be to describe heaven. We are often incredulous about what is reported to exist in foreign lands on earth which we have not seen, and a long time is often necessary before we will believe it. The king of Siam, when told by the Dutch ambassador that water became so hard in his country that people might walk on it, said, "I have often suspected you of falsehood, but now I know that you lie." So incredulous might we be, with our weak faith, if we were told what actually exists in heaven. We should not improbably turn away from it as wholly incredible.

(3) there are great truths which it is not the design of God to reveal to human beings. The object is to communicate enough to win us, to comfort us, to support our faith, not to reveal all. In eternity there must be boundless truths and glories which are not needful for us to know now, and which, on many accounts, it would not be proper to be revealed to man. The question is not, do we know all, but have we enough safely to guide us to heaven, and to comfort us in the trials of life.

(4) there is enough revealed of heaven for our guidance and comfort in this world. God has told us what it will be in general. It will be a world without sin; without tears; without wrong, injustice, fraud, or wars; without disease, pestilence, plague, death; and it is easy to fill up the picture sufficiently for all our purposes. Let us think of a world where all shall be pure and holy; of a world free from all that we now behold that is evil; free from pain, disease, death; a world where "friends never depart, foes never come;" a world where all shall be harmony and love - and where all this shall be eternal, and we shall see that God has revealed enough for our welfare here. The highest hopes of man are met when we anticipate an eternal heaven; the heaviest trials may be cheerfully borne when we have the prospect of everlasting rest.

(5) one other reason may be assigned why it was not proper for Paul to disclose what he saw, and why God has withheld more full revelations from men about heaven. It is, that his purpose is that we shall here walk by faith and not by sight. We are not to see the reward, nor to be told fully what it is. We are to have such confidence in God that we shall assuredly believe that, he will fully reward and bless us, and under this confidence we are to live and act here below. God designs, therefore, to try our faith, and to furnish an abundant evidence that his people are disposed to obey his commands and to put their trust in his faithfulness. Besides, if all the glories of heaven were revealed; if all were told that might be; and if heaven were made as attractive to mortal view as possible, then it might appear that his professed people were influenced solely by the hope of the reward. As it is, there is enough to support and comfort; not enough to make it the main and only reason why we serve God. It may be added:

(a) That we have all the truth which we shall ever have about heaven here below. No other messenger will come; none of the pious dead will return. If people, therefore, are not willing to be saved in view of the truth which they have, they must be lost. God will communicate no more.


4. unspeakable—not in themselves, otherwise Paul could not have heard them; but as the explanation states, "which it is not lawful … to utter" [Alford]. They were designed for Paul's own consolation, and not for communication to others. Some heavenly words are communicable (Ex 34:6; Isa 6:3). These were not so. Paul had not the power adequately to utter; nor if he had, would he have been permitted; nor would earthly men comprehend them (Joh 3:12; 1Co 2:9). A man may hear and know more than he can speak. See Poole on "2 Corinthians 12:3"

How that he was caught up into paradise,.... Not the earthly paradise in which our first parents were; this was destroyed by the flood, and the place where it was not now to be known; and to what purpose the apostle should be carried thither cannot be guessed at; though some have thought that this is here meant: but not this, nor any place distinct from the "third" heaven, or place of the blessed, is meant; which is the sense of many of the ancients, who suppose the third heaven and paradise to be two distinct places, and that the apostle had two separate raptures. Clemens Alexandrinus (m), reads the words thus, "I knew a man in Christ caught up to the third heaven, , from thence to paradise"; and so Theophilact upon the place says, "from the third heaven he was immediately called up into paradise"; and so Oecumenius, "he was caught up unto the third heaven, and so again from thence into paradise"; and some modern writers have been inclined to think there were two raptures, and the rather inasmuch as the apostle is said to be caught "up to" the one, and caught "up into" the other, and makes use of the words "caught up" twice; or otherwise he would be guilty of a tautology, both in that and in repeating his ignorance of the manner of the rapture; to which is added, that he proposed to speak of "visions" and "revelations" in the plural number, 2 Corinthians 12:1, and afterwards calls this vision an "abundance of revelations", 2 Corinthians 12:7, but as it was at the same time that he was caught up to the third heaven, and into paradise, there being one and the same date of fourteen years ago to both; and as, in the account of the one and the other, he was equally ignorant of the manner how he was caught up, whether in the body, or out of the body; and seeing that there is no account of what he saw and heard in the third heaven, but only what he heard in paradise, which is referred to be told in the after account of this vision; and as the third heaven and paradise are one and the same place, it seems most reasonable to conclude, that not two raptures and two visions are here designed, but only one; and without any show of a vain repetition, the apostle having begun the account of this vision, might reassume what he had said, in order to give a more plain and clear account of it; and especially as there were some things he had not yet mentioned, and the whole was not easy to be understood and taken in, and the manner of it even unknown to himself; and this he might do to raise the attention the more unto it, as being something wonderful and extraordinary; besides, if his design had been to have given an account of two raptures, he would have distinguished them in a numerical way; and would have told us that he was twice caught up, as well as he afterwards says that he besought the Lord "thrice", at another time; and this would have been necessary to have prevented a mistake, of taking the one and the other for the same rapture, as is generally done; heaven is called paradise, because as the garden of Eden, which bears that name, was of God's planting, so is this made and prepared by him; as that was a delightful place, so is this; also because of Christ the tree of life, which is in the midst of it, besides an innumerable company of angels, and spirits of just men made perfect, the pure and undefiled inhabitants of it; and because of the river of divine love, of endless pleasures, the saints there are made to drink of. It was usual with the Jews to call heaven , "the garden of Eden", or paradise; and which they (n) sometimes speak of as upper and lower; the lower they suppose the souls of men are introduced into, immediately upon their dissolution; where they stay a while, and then go up to the upper paradise, the world of souls, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are. The Jews ought not to object to the apostle's being had into paradise before his death, for they tell us of several that entered there whilst alive;

"nine (they say (o)). , "entered in their life time into the garden of Eden", or paradise; and these are they, Enoch the son of Jared, and Elijah, and the Messiah, and Eliezer the servant of Abraham, and Hiram king of Tyre, and Ebed Melec the Ethiopian, and Jabez the son of Rabbi Judah the prince, and Bethiah the daughter of Pharaoh, and Sarah the daughter of Asher; and there are some that say also (p) Rabbi Joshua ben Levi";

and in another place (q),

"four , entered into paradise; and these are they, Ben Azzai, and Ben Zoma, another, and R. Akiba;''

upon which is (r) added,

"they entered into paradise as it were by the hands of God, and they did not ascend up above really, but it seemed to them as if they ascended;''

how far this may serve to explain and illustrate the apostle's case, I leave, with this observation more concerning another use of the word paradise with them; which sometimes signifies a considerable share of knowledge of mysterious things, relating to the nature of God, angels, &c. of which Maimonides having spoken, says (s),

"these things the former wise men called "paradise", as they say, "four entered into paradise": and although they were the greatest men of Israel, and exceeding wise men, yet they had not all of them power to know and comprehend all these things clearly; and I say, that he is not fit to walk "in paradise", but he whose belly is filled with flesh and bread, and it is bread and flesh to know what is forbidden, and what is lawful, and the other precepts of a like nature;''

and again (t),

"a man that is filled with all these virtues (meaning with wisdom, and understanding, and government of the passions and appetites) is perfect in his body, as he that enters into paradise, and inclines himself to these things which are great and afar off:''

once more (u),

"the words of the tradition are comprehended in the written law, and the exposition of them in the oral law; and the things which are called paradise, are contained in the Talmud;''

this they (w) call , "the paradise of wisdom"; whether this sense and use of the word may be applied to the passage before us, and so be expressive of that large share of divine knowledge which was communicated in an extraordinary way to the apostle, may deserve some consideration: however, this is certain, that when he was caught up into paradise, he

heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter; to instance in particular things, which be then either saw or heard, as some have done, is bold and daring; as that he saw the divine Being with the eyes of his understanding, the several angelic forms, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, and the glory and beauty of the souls of departed saints; and heard the harmonious music of each of these happy creatures; had a view of the book of life, and was shown the order and method of divine predestination; was let into the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles, and the change that will be on living saints, and heard the whole account of the dispensation of things, in the church of Christ to the end of the world: the things were unspeakable, never yet related, and so not to be known: they were such things which the apostle himself, when out of the rapture, might have but very inadequate ideas of, and such as he was not able to put into proper words and language to be understood by others; and which as he heard them not from a mere man, but from the Lord, so no mere man was able to utter them, none but he of whom he had heard them: and besides, whatever conceptions the apostle might have of them himself, and how capable soever he was of expressing them; yet they were not fit and proper to be told in the present state of things, being no part of the counsel of God relating to man's salvation, the whole of which he faithfully declares; and yet were necessary to be heard by him, in order to establish his faith in the Gospel, to animate him in his ministry, and fortify his mind against all the afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions, he was to meet with for the sake of Christ. The phrase seems to be the same with , "it is impossible to say it" (x); and of such like secret things in paradise, or the world of souls, the Jews say (y) that


How that he was caught up into {c} paradise, and heard {d} unspeakable words, which it is not {e} lawful for a man to utter.

(c) So the Greeks name that which we call a park, that is to say, a place where trees are planted, and wild beasts kept. And those that translated the Old Testament out of Hebrew into Greek, called the garden of Eden by this name, into which Adam was put immediately after his creation, as a most delicate and pleasant place. And from this it occurred that the blessed seat of the glory of God is called by that name.

(d) Which no man is able to utter.

(e) Which the saints themselves are not by any means able to express, because it is God himself. This is the way that Clement of Alexandria explains this passage, Strom. 5.

4. how that he was caught up into paradise] Was this a second vision, or only an extension of the first? St Paul’s language makes the latter more probable. Early tradition is not very clear upon the subject, but the general opinion seems to have been that St Paul was not only caught up to the highest heaven, and there saw visions of God like those of Isaiah and St John, but that he was transported among the saints departed to that particular region of heaven called Paradise, and was permitted to hear the words there uttered. The word Paradise is probably an Aryan word, and is found in Sanscrit and Persian as well as in Greek. But it is also found in Hebrew, Arabic and Syriac. It signifies originally a park or pleasure-ground. It is used apparently in this sense in Revelation 2:7. But in St Luke 23:43 it clearly means the place (or rather state, since it is difficult to predicate place of a disembodied spirit) of rest and refreshment to which the Lord conducted the soul of the penitent thief as well as (1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6, cf. Iren. Adv. Haer. iv. 27) the souls of those who were waiting in the unseen world for the revelation of Him. So says Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 2 Corinthians 12:5), who, quoting as he often does the words of the Elders who had seen the Apostles, with whom he had often conversed, describes Paradise as a state of things “prepared for righteous men and men led by the Spirit, who remain there until the consummation, as a preparation for immortality.” Some have thought that Paradise is a yet more exalted place than the third heaven. But if we are right in regarding the third as the highest heaven, it is scarcely possible to see in Paradise something higher still. For visions of this kind cf. Isaiah 6:1; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 3:22; Ezekiel 3:24; Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 11:24; Ezekiel 37:1; Ezekiel 40:1-3; Ezekiel 43:5; Revelation 1:10, and in a lesser degree Acts 8:39.

unspeakable words] Literally, unspoken words, which may in this case have been the fact, since if St Paul were out of the body, as he himself tells us he may have been, the words could not have been spoken in our sense of the word. But the epithet usually has the sense which the context attaches to it here, words not to be uttered. Calvin asks to what purpose then were they uttered to St Paul, and replies that he needed such spiritual consolation to sustain him in the heavy load of afflictions and cares which was laid upon him. We may also hence learn, he continues, that there are depths in the counsels of God which we must not hope or even wish to penetrate while here on earth. Dean Stanley contrasts the reticence of St Paul with the full details of his supposed visions given by Mahomet, and he might have added many others who have given detailed accounts of things seen in their ecstasies.

2 Corinthians 12:4. Ἄῤῥητα) unspeakable words, not in themselves; otherwise Paul could not have heard them; but not to be spoken by man, as the word follows presently after, and therefore, by Paul himself. Who spoke those words? God, or Christ, or an angel or angels, or the spirits of the just? and to whom? Paul does not tell, if he knew. They were certainly words of great sublimity, for all heavenly words are not unspeakable, for example Exodus 34:6; Isaiah 6:3, and yet these are very sublime.—οὐκ ἐξὸν, it is not lawful) ἐξὸν and δυνατὸν, lawful and possible are said of that which neither the thing itself, nor the law forbids. Therefore, unspeakable words, and it is not lawful mutually explain each other, and affirm either that man cannot speak these words, or that it is not lawful for him to do so. Others, who did not hear them, cannot; Paul, who did hear them, is not sufficiently able; and though he were able, yet it would not be lawful, it would not be proper in the state of mortality; because the inhabitants of the earth would not understand them, John 3:12. Hearing has a wider range than speaking.—ἀνθρώπῳ, for a man) construed with it is lawful. The power of speaking is often narrower than that of knowledge.

Verse 4. - Into Paradise. Here, again, we encounter long speculations as to whether Paradise is the same as the third heaven; whether St.,Paul is referring to two visions or two parts of one vision. Such questions are clearly insoluble, and I leave them where I find them. We shall never understand this passage otherwise than in the dim and vague outline in which St. Paul has purposely left it. All that we can know from the New Testament about Paradise must be learnt from this verse and Luke 23:43 and Revelation 2:7, and it is extremely little. Unspeakable words. A figure of speech called an oxymoron. Utterances (or "things") incapable of utterance. Not lawful for a man to utter. How futile, then, must be the attempt to guess what they were, or on what subject! 2 Corinthians 12:4Paradise

See on Luke 23:43.

Unspeakable words (ἄῤῥητα ῥήματα)

An oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken.

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