This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) This is the third time I am coming to you.—The words may point either to three actual visits—(1) that of Acts 18:1; (2) an unrecorded visit (of which, however, there is no trace), during St. Paul’s stay at Ephesus; and (3) that now in contemplation—or (1) to one actual visit, as before; (2) the purposed visit which had been abandoned (see Notes on 2Corinthians 1:16); and (3) that which he now has in view. The latter interpretation falls in best with the known facts of the case, and is in entire accordance both with his language in 2Corinthians 12:14, and with his mode of expressing his intentions, as in 1Corinthians 16:5.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.—There seems no adequate reason for not taking these words in their simple and natural meaning. The rule, quoted from Numbers 35:30, Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15, was of the nature of an axiom of Jewish, one might almost say of natural, law. And it had received a fresh prominence from our Lord’s reproduction of it in giving directions as for the discipline of the society which He came to found. (See Note on Matthew 18:16.) What more natural than that St. Paul should say, “When I come, there will be no more surmises and vague suspicions, but every offence will be dealt with in a vigorous and full inquiry”? There seems something strained, almost fantastic, in the interpretation which, catching at the accidental juxtaposition of “the third time” and the “three witnesses,” assumes that the Apostle personifies his actual or intended visits, and treats them as the witnesses whose testimony was to be decisive. It is a fatal objection to this view that it turns the judge into a prosecutor, and makes him appeal to his own reiteration of his charges as evidence of their truth.2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you — Or, as some understand it, am preparing to come: see on 2 Corinthians 12:14. For in the Acts of the Apostles no mention is made of his being at Corinth more than once before this second epistle was written. It must be observed, however, that that history by no means contains all the apostle’s transactions: and it is not improbable that, as Macknight supposes, during the eighteen months which passed from St. Paul’s first coming to Corinth, to the insurrection in the proconsulship of Gallio, the apostle left Corinth for a while, and travelled through Laconia, Arcadia, and the other countries of the province of Achaia, where he converted many, (2 Corinthians 1:1,) having preached the gospel to them gratis, as at Corinth, (2 Corinthians 11:10,) and founded several churches, referred to 2 Corinthians 9:2, and called Achaia, that is, churches of Achaia. If therefore the apostle made the excursion here supposed, and spent some months in it, his return to Corinth would be his second visit; consequently, the coming spoken of in this verse was his coming the third time to them. In the mouth of two or three witnesses — Agreeing in the attestation of any thing; shall every word be established — I will hold that to be true which shall be so proved.2 Corinthians 12:14. For an interesting view of this passage, see Paley's Horae Paulinae on this Epistle, No. 11: It is evident that Paul had been to Corinth but once before this, but he had resolved to go before a second time, but had been disappointed.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses ... - This was what the Law of Moses required; Deuteronomy 20:16; see the note on John 8:17; compare Matthew 18:16. But in regard to its application here, commentators are not agreed. Some suppose that Paul refers to his own epistles which he had sent to them as the two or three witnesses by which his promise to them would be made certain; that he had purposed it and promised it two or three times, and that as this was all that was required by the Law, it would certainly be established. This is the opinion of Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, Grotius, Hammond, Locke, and some others. But, with all the respect due to such great names, it seems to me that this would be trifling and childish in the extreme. Lightfoot supposes that he refers to Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, who would be witnesses to them of his purpose; see 1 Corinthians 16:17. But the more probable opinion, it seems to me, is that of Doddridge, Macknight, and others, that he anticipated that there wound be necessity for the administration of discipline there, but that he would feel himself under obligation in administering it to adhere to the reasonable maxim of the Jewish Law. No one should be condemned or punished where there was not at least two or three witnesses to prove the offence. But where there were, discipline would be administered according to the nature of the crime.
2Co 13:1-14. He Threatens a Severe Proof of His Apostolic Authority, but Prefers They Would Spare Him the Necessity for It.
1. This is the third time I am coming to you—not merely preparing to come to you. This proves an intermediate visit between the two recorded in Ac 18:1; 20:2.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established—Quoted from De 19:15, Septuagint. "I will judge not without examination, nor will I abstain from punishing upon due evidence" [Conybeare and Howson]. I will no longer be among you "in all patience" towards offenders (2Co 12:12). The apostle in this case, where ordinary testimony was to be had, does not look for an immediate revelation, nor does he order the culprits to be cast out of the church before his arrival. Others understand the "two or three witnesses" to mean his two or three visits as establishing either (1) the truth of the facts alleged against the offenders, or (2) the reality of his threats. I prefer the first explanation to either of the two latter.2 Corinthians 13:1-4 Paul threateneth to vindicate his authority at his
in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established; referring to Deuteronomy 19:15 which he applies much in the same manner Christ does in Matthew 18:16 and which it is probable he had in view; signifying hereby, that he proceeded in a judicial way, according to due form of law, and in such a manner as Christ had directed; and that they were to look upon his several comings in the sense now explained, to be as so many witnesses, whereby the several charges exhibited against them were fully attested and confirmed, so that things were now ripe for judgment, and for a final sentence to pass upon them.This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Corinthians 13:1. As Paul has expressed himself by μήπως ἔρις κ.τ.λ. in 2 Corinthians 12:20, and in 2 Corinthians 12:21 has explained himself more precisely merely as regards that μήπως ἐλθὼν οὐχ οἵους θέλω εὕρω ὑμᾶς (see on 2 Corinthians 12:20), he still owes to his readers a more precise explanation regarding the κἀγὼ εὑρεθῶ ὑμῖν οἷον οὐ θέλετε, and this he now gives to them. Observe the asyndetic, sternly-measured form of his sentences in 2 Corinthians 13:1-2.
τρίτον τοῦτο ἔρχομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς] The elaborate shifts of the expositors, who do not understand this of a third actual coming thither, inasmuch as they assume that Paul had been but once in Corinth, may be seen in Poole’s Synopsis and Wolf’s Curae. According to Lange, apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 202 f. (comp. also Märcker, Stellung der Pastoralbr. p. 14), τρίτον τοῦτο is intended to apply to the third project of a journey, and ἔρχομαι to its decided execution: “This third time in the series of projects laid before you above I come.” Linguistically incorrect, since τρίτον τοῦτο ἔρχ. cannot mean anything else than: for the third time I come this time, so that it does not refer to previous projects, but to two journeys that had taken place before. On τρίτον τοῦτο, this third time (accusative absolute), that is, this time for a third time, comp. Herod. v. 76: τέταρτον δὴ τοῦτο … ἀπικόμενοι, LXX. Jdg 16:15 : τοῦτο τρίτον ἐπλάνησάς με, Numbers 22:28; John 21:14. Bengel correctly remarks on the present: “jam sum in procinctu.”
ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων κ.τ.λ.] On this my third arrival there is to be no further sparing (as at my second visit), but summary procedure. Comp. Matthew 18:16, where, however, the words of the law are used with another turn to the meaning. Paul announces with the words of the law well known to his readers, Deuteronomy 19:15, which he adopts as his own, that he, arrived for this third time, will, without further indulgence, institute a legal hearing of witnesses (comp. 1 Timothy 5:19), and that on the basis of the affirmation of two and three witnesses every point of complaint will be decided. Not as if he wished to set himself up as disciplinary judge (this power was vested ordinarily in the church, Matthew 18:16, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, and was, even in extraordinary cases of punishment, not exercised alone on the part of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 5:3-5), but he would set agoing and arrange the summary procedure in the way of discipline, which he had threatened. Nor did the notoriety of the transgressions render the latter unnecessary, seeing that, on the one hand, they might not all be notorious, and, on the other, even those that were so needed a definite form of treatment. Following Chrysostom and Ambrosiaster, Calvin, Estius, and others, including recently Neander, Olshausen, Raebiger, Ewald, Osiander, Maier, have understood the two or three witnesses of Paul himself, who takes the various occasions of his presence among the Corinthians as testimonies, by which the truth of the matters is made good, or the execution of his threats (Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others, comp. Bleek, Billroth, Ewald, Hofmann) is to be decided (Theophylact: ἐπὶ τῶν τριῶν μου παρουσιῶν πᾶν ῥῆμα ἀπειλητικὸν κατασταθήσεται καθʼ ἱμῶν καὶ κυρωθήσεται, ἐὰν μὴ μετανοήσατε· ἀντὶ μαρτύρων γὰρ τὰς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ τίθησι). But if Paul regarded himself, under the point of view of his different visits to Corinth respectively, as the witnesses, he could make himself pass for three witnesses only in respect of those evils which he had already perceived at his first visit (and then again on his second and third), and for two witnesses only in respect of those evils which he had lighted upon in his second visit for the first time, and would on his third visit encounter a second time. But in this view precisely all those evils and sins would be left out of account, which had only come into prominence after his second visit; for as regards these, because he was only to become acquainted with them for the first time at his third visit, he would only pass as one witness. Consequently this explanation, Pauline though it looks, is inappropriate; nor is the difficulty got over by the admission that the relations in question are not to be dealt with too exactly (Osiander), as, indeed, the objection, that the threat is directed against the προημαρτηκότες, avails nothing on the correct view of 2 Corinthians 12:21, and the continued validity of the legal ordinance itself (it holds, in fact, even at the present day in the common law) should not after 1 Timothy 5:10 have been doubted. Nor does the refining of Hofmann dispose of the matter. He thinks, forsooth, that besides the προημαρτηκότες, all the rest also, whom such a threat may concern, are now twice warned, orally (at the second visit of the apostle) and in writing (by this letter), and his arrival will be to them the third and last admonition to reflect. This is not appropriate either to the words (see on 2 Corinthians 13:2) or to the necessary unity and equality of the idea of witnesses, with which, in fact, Paul—and, moreover, in application of so solemn a passage of the law—would have dealt very oddly, if not only he himself was to represent the three witnesses, but one of them was even to be his letter.
καί] not in the sense of ἤ, as, following the Vulgate, many earlier and modern expositors (including Flatt and Emmerling) would take it, but: and, if, namely, there are so many. Paul might have put ἤ, as in Matthew 18:16, but, following the LXX., he has thought on and, and therefore put i.
πᾶν ῥῆμα] everything that comes to be spoken of, to be discussed. Comp. on Matthew 4:4.
σταθήσεται] will be established (יַקוּם), namely, for judicial decision. This is more in keeping with the original text than (comp. on Matthew 26:25): will be weighed (Ewald).
 Most of them, like Grotius, Estius, Wolf, Wetstein, Zachariae, Flatt, were of opinion that Paul expresses here, too, simply a third readiness to come, from which view also has arisen the reading ἑτοίμως ἔχω ἐλθεῖν instead of ἔρχομαι in A, Syr. Erp. Copt. To this also Baur reverts, who explains ἔρχομαι: I am on the point of coming. But this would, in fact, be just a third actual coming, which Paul was on the point of, and would presuppose his having come already twice. Beza and others suggest: “Binas suas epistolas (!) pro totidem ad illos profectionibus recenset.”
 Grotius, in consistency with the view that Paul had been only once there, quite at variance with the words of the passage pares down the meaning to this: “cum bis terve id dixerim, tandem ratum erit.” Compare also Clericus. The explanation of Emmerling: “Titum ejusque comites certissimum edituros esse testimonium de animo suo Corinthios invisendi,” is purely fanciful. The simple and correct view is given already by Erasmus in his Paraphr.: “Hic erit tertius meus ad vos adventus; in hunc se quisque praeparet. Neque enim amplius connivebo, sed juxta jus strictum atque exactum res agetur. Quisquis delatus fuerit, is duorum aut trium hominum testimonio vel absolvetur vel damnabitur.”
 It corresponds quite to the German expression “zwei bis drei.” Comp. Xen. Anab. iv. 7. 10 : δύο καὶ τρία βήματα. See Krüger and Kühner in loc. In this case καί is atque, not also (Hofmann).
2 Corinthians 13:2. After νῦν Elz. has γράφω, in opposition to decisive evidence. A supplementary addition. Comp. 2 Corinthians 13:10.—2 Corinthians 13:4. εἰ] is wanting in B D* F G K א* min. Copt. Aeth. It. Eus. Dem. Theoph. Bracketed by Lachm. and Rück. Looking to the total inappropriateness of the sense of καὶ εἰ, those authorities of considerable importance sufficiently warrant the condemnation of εἰ, although Tisch. (comp. Hofm.) holds the omission to be “manifesta correctio.” Offence was easily taken at the idea that Christ was crucified ἐξ ἀσθενείας, and it was made problematical by the addition of an εἰ, which in several cases also was assigned a position before καί (Or.: εἰ γὰρ καί).
καὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς] Elz. has καὶ γὰρ καὶ ἡμεῖς, in opposition to far preponderating evidence. The second καί is an addition, which arose out of καὶ γάρ being taken as a mere for, namque.
ἐν αὐτῷ] A F G א, Syr. Erp. Copt. Boern. have σὺν αὐτῷ. So Lachm. on the margin. An explanation in accordance with what follow.
ζησόμεθα] Lachm. Rück. Tisch. read ζήσομεν, in favour of which the evidence is decisiv.
εἰς ὑμᾶς] is wanting only in B D*** E*** Arm. Clar. Germ. Chrys. Sedul., and is condemned by Mill, who derived it from 2 Corinthians 13:3. But how natural was the omission, seeing that the first half of the verse contains no parallel element! And the erroneous reference of ζήσομεν to eternal life might make εἰς ὑμᾶς appear simply as irrelevant.—2 Corinthians 13:7. εὔχομαι] Lachm. Tisch. and Rück., following greatly preponderant evidence, have εὐχόμεθα, which Griesb. also approved. And rightly; the singular was introduced in accordance with the previous ἐλπίζω.—2 Corinthians 13:9. τοῦτο δέ] This δέ is omitted in preponderant witnesses, is suspected by Griesb., and deleted by Lachm. Tisch. and Rück. Addition for the sake of connection, instead of which 73 has δή and Chrys. γάρ.
In 2 Corinthians 13:10, the position of ὁ κύριος before ἐδωκ. μοι is assured by decided attestation.
Continuation of the close of the section as begun at 2 Corinthians 12:19. At his impending third coming he will decide with judicial severity and not spare, seeing that they wished to have for once a proof of the Christ speaking in him (2 Corinthians 13:1-4). They ought to prove themselves; he hopes, however, that they will recognise his proved character, and asks God that he may not need to show them its verification (2 Corinthians 13:5-9). Therefore he writes this when absent, in order that he may not be under the necessity of being stern when present (2 Corinthians 13:10). Concluding exhortation with promise (2 Corinthians 13:11); concluding salutation (2 Corinthians 13:12); concluding benediction (2 Corinthians 13:13).2 Corinthians 13:1-10.
IF HE COMES AGAIN, HE WILL NOT SPARE: CHRIST IS HIS STRENGTH: LET THE CORINTHIANS SEE TO IT THAT HE BE THEIRS ALSO.2 Corinthians 13:1. This is the third time I am coming to you] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 12:14. For the Greek present in the sense of an intention see 1 Corinthians 16:5.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established] This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 19:15, and is an intimation of St Paul’s intention to enter upon a full investigation of the condition of the Corinthian Church, if such a step be rendered necessary by their conduct. He will assume nothing, take nothing for granted of what he has heard, but will carry on his investigation on the principles alike of the Old Testament and of the New (Matthew 18:16).2 Corinthians 13:1. Τρίτον) The decisive number, the third time. So the LXX. τρίτον τοῦτο, Numbers 22:28.—ἔρχομαι, I am coming) I am now in readiness to come.—μαρτύρων, of witnesses) Therefore in this matter the apostle thought of depending not on an immediate revelation, but on the testimony of men; and he does not command the culprits to be cast out of the Church before his arrival.Verse 1. - This is the third time I am coming to you. I have thrice formed the intention, though the second time I had to forego my plan (2 Corinthians 1:15-17). In the mouth of two or three witnesses. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 19:15. It has been explained as a reference to examinations which he intended to hold on his arrival at Corinth. It is much more probable that St. Paul is representing his separate visits as separate attestations to the truths which he preaches.
The great mass of modern expositors hold that Paul made three visits to Corinth, of the second of which there is no record.
I am coming
The third visit which I am about to pay. Alford observes that had not chronological theories intervened, no one would ever have thought of any other rendering. Those who deny the second visit explain: this is the third time that I have been intending to come.
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