2 Corinthians 3:7
But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
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(7) But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious.—More accurately, engraved in a writing (i.e., in a written formula) upon stones. The word for “writing” is the same as the “letter” of the preceding verse, and the whole might, perhaps, be best translated, if the ministration of death in the letter, engraved upon stones, was glorious. The English version, by using the two participles, creates a false antithesis between “written” and “engraved,” and misses the sequence of thought indicated by the continued use of the word for “letter” or “writing.” For “was glorious,” more accurately, came into being with glory. The thoughts of the Apostle have travelled to the record of the circumstances connected with the giving of the Law as the foundation of the first covenant, and of them he proceeds to speak fully. We can almost picture him to ourselves as taking up his LXX. version of the Law, and reproducing its very words and thoughts.

So that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold . . .—The narrative in Exodus 34:29-35 records that when Moses came down from the mount with the second tables of stone, “the skin of his face shone,” and the “people were afraid to draw nigh unto him.” The English version—that “till Moses had done speaking with them he put a vail on his face,” and that “when he went in before the Lord he took it off until he came out”—suggests the thought that he appeared to the people, after the first manifestation of the unconscious glory, as a veiled prophet. It is doubtful, however, whether this is the natural meaning of the Hebrew, and Exodus 34:35 repeats the statement that the Israelites saw the glory. The LXX., Vulgate, and most modern versions give, “When he ceased speaking he put a veil on his face.” They saw the brightness, they shrank from it in awe, they were not allowed to watch it to the end and gaze on its disappearance. This was the sequence of facts that St. Paul had in his thoughts, and which he certainly found in the LXX.; and it is of this, accordingly, that he speaks. The children of Israel could not bear to look on the glory, even though it was perishing and evanescent. The English rendering, “which glory was to be done away,” reads into the participle a gerundial force that does not properly belong to it; and it may be noted that it is the first of the great English versions that does so, the others giving, “which is made void,” or “which is done away.” It would be better expressed, perhaps, by, which was in the act of passing away. The Greek word is the same as that on which our translators have rung so many changes in 1Corinthians 13:8-11. It was a favourite word with St. Paul at this period of his life, occurring twenty-two times in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, and three times only in his other Epistles.

It may be noted that the Vulgate rendering of Exodus 34:29, “ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies ejus” (he knew not that his face was horned”), has given rise to the representations of Moses with horns, or rays of light taking the place of horns, as in Michael Angelo’s statue in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli at Rome, and pictorial representations generally.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8. But — The apostle having signified that he and the other true servants of Christ were intrusted with the ministry of the new covenant, in opposition to the old, proceeds now to show the great superiority of their dispensation to that which had preceded it. This he does in three important particulars. If the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones — That is, the Mosaic dispensation, the most important part of which was engraven on two tables of stone, and which proved a ministration of death to those who preferred it to the gospel, and which still subjects such to death, pronouncing an awful curse upon all that in any respect violate it; was glorious — Was attended with a signal and undeniable glory, a glory even reflected on the face of its minister, in such a degree that the Israelites could not bear steadfastly to behold the splendour of his countenance; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit — The Christian dispensation, under which the Holy Spirit, in his gifts and graces, is much more largely communicated than it was under the law; be rather glorious — Since the operations and graces of the Spirit of God in the heart of a rational being are so much more important than any dead characters which could be engraven on insensible stones. To be a little more particular: — The law, even the best part of it, that engraven on stones, is here properly termed the ministration of death — Because, 1st, It condemned wilful transgressors in certain cases, (as sabbath-breakers, adulteresses, and those disobedient to parents,) to temporal death; so that they died without mercy under two or three witnesses attesting their guilt, Hebrews 10:28. nding all dead, or doomed to die, temporally, it had no resurrection to announce or promise. 3d, Spiritual, as well as temporal death, having entered into the world by the first great transgression, and all being involved therein, namely, destitute of the favour of God, (which is life, Psalm 30:5,) of union with him, and a spiritual mind, (Romans 8:6,) it could not quicken them, or make them alive to God. Its sacrifices could not procure men God’s forfeited favour, much less assure them of it. Its precepts, through men’s inability to keep them, could not introduce them to union with him, and its carnal ordinances and worldly promises could not render them spiritually minded. Thus the letter, that external, emblematical, and shadowy dispensation, killed such as adhered to it, and rejected the gospel; but the Spirit giveth life. As the Spirit of God is the grand promise of the new covenant, (see Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:21; Joel 2:28; John 7:37-38,) so by this the gospel doctrines, precepts, and promises, are made spirit and life to us; repentance unto life and living faith are begotten in us, the favour of God is manifested, and union with God imparted, productive of a spiritual mind, which is life and peace.

3:1-11 Even the appearance of self-praise and courting human applause, is painful to the humble and spiritual mind. Nothing is more delightful to faithful ministers, or more to their praise, than the success of their ministry, as shown in the spirits and lives of those among whom they labour. The law of Christ was written in their hearts, and the love of Christ shed abroad there. Nor was it written in tables of stone, as the law of God given to Moses, but on the fleshy (not fleshly, as fleshliness denotes sensuality) tables of the heart, Eze 36:26. Their hearts were humbled and softened to receive this impression, by the new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. He ascribes all the glory to God. And remember, as our whole dependence is upon the Lord, so the whole glory belongs to him alone. The letter killeth: the letter of the law is the ministration of death; and if we rest only in the letter of the gospel, we shall not be the better for so doing: but the Holy Spirit gives life spiritual, and life eternal. The Old Testament dispensation was the ministration of death, but the New Testament of life. The law made known sin, and the wrath and curse of God; it showed us a God above us, and a God against us; but the gospel makes known grace, and Emmanuel, God with us. Therein the righteousness of God by faith is revealed; and this shows us that the just shall live by his faith; this makes known the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.But if the ministration of death - In the previous verses, Paul had referred incidentally to the institutions of Moses, and to the superiority of the gospel. He had said that the former were engraved on stones, but the latter on the heart 2 Corinthians 3:3; that the letter of the former tended to death, but the latter to life 2 Corinthians 3:6. This sentiment he proceeds further to illustrate, by showing in what the superior glory of the gospel consisted. The design of the whole is, to illustrate the nature, and to show the importance of the ministerial office; and the manner in which the duties of that office were to be performed. That the phrase "ministration of death" refers to the Mosaic institutions, the connection sufficiently indicates, 2 Corinthians 3:13-15. The word "ministration" (διακονία diakonia) means, properly, ministry; the office of ministering in divine things. It is usually applied to the officers of the church in the New Testament, Acts 1:17, Acts 1:25; Romans 11:13; 1 Corinthians 12:5.

The word here, however, seems to refer to the whole arrangement under the Mosaic economy, by which his laws were promulgated, and perpetuated. The expression "a ministration - written and engraved on stone," is somewhat harsh; but the sense evidently is, the ministration of a covenant, or of laws written on stones. The word "ministration "there refers to the arrangement, office, etc. by which the knowledge of these laws was maintained; the ministering under a system like that of the Jewish; or, more strictly, the act and occasion on which Moses himself ministered, or promulgated that system to the Jews, and when the glory of the work was irradiated even from His countenance. And the purpose of the apostle is to show that the ministry of the gospel is more glorious than even the ministry of Moses, when he was admitted near to God on the holy mountain; and when such a glory attended his receiving and promulgating the Law. It is called the "ministration of death," because it tended to condemnation; it did not speak of pardon; it was suited only to deepen the sense of sin, and to produce alarm and dread; see the note on 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Written and engraven in stones - The Ten Commandments - the substance of all the Mosaic institutes, and the principal laws of his economy - were written or engraved on tables of stone.

Was glorious - Was attended with magnificence and splendor. The glory here referred to, consisted in the circumstance of sublimity and grandeur in which the Law of Moses was given, It was:

(1) The glory of God as he was manifested on Mount Sinai, as the Lawgiver and Ruler of the people.

(2) the glory of the attending circumstances, of thunder, fire, etc. in which God appeared. The Law was given in these circumstances. Its giving - called here the "ministration" - was amidst such displays of the glory of God. It was,

(3) A high honor and glory for Moses to be permitted to approach so near to God; to commune with him; and to receive at his hand the Law for his people, and for the world. These were circumstances of imposing majesty and grandeur, which, however, Paul says were eclipsed and surpassed by the ministry of the gospel.

So that the children of Israel ... - In Exodus 34:29-30, it is said, that "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone, while He talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him." The word rendered "steadfastly behold" (ἀτενίσαι atenisai), means to gaze intently upon; to look steadily, or constantly, or fixedly; see the note on Acts 1:10. There was a dazzling splendor, an irradiation; a diffusion of light, such that they could not look intently and steadily upon it - as we cannot look steadily at the sun. How this was produced, is not known. It cannot be accounted for from natural causes, and was doubtless designed to be to the Israelites an attestation that Moses had been with God, and was commissioned by him. They would see:

(1) That it was unnatural, such as no known cause could produce; and,

(2) Not improbably they would recognize a resemblance to the manner in which God usually appeared - the glory of the Shechinah in which he so frequently manifested himself to them. It would be to them, therefore, a demonstration that Moses had been with God.

Which glory was to be done away - The splendor of that scene was transitory. It did not last. It was soon destroyed (τὴν καταργουμένην tēn katargoumenēn. It was not adapted or designed long to continue. This does not mean, as Doddridge supposes, "soon to be abolished in death;" or, as others, "ceasing with youth;" but it means, that the shining or the splendor was transitory; it was soon to cease; it was not designed to be permanent. Neither the wonderful scenes accompanying the giving of the Law on Sinai, nor the shining on the countenance of Moses, was designed to abide. The thunders of Sinai would cease to roll; the lightenings to play; the visible manifestations of the presence of God would all be gone; and the supernatural illumination of the face of Moses also would soon cease - perhaps as Macknight, Bloomfield, and others suppose, as a prefiguration of the abrogation of the glory of the whole system of the Levitical law. Paul certainly means to say, that the glory of Moses, and of his dispensation, was a fading glory; but that the glory of the gospel would be permanent, and increasing forever.

7. the ministration of death—the legal dispensation, summed up in the Decalogue, which denounces death against man for transgression.

written and engraven in stones—There is no "and" in the Greek. The literal translation is, "The ministration of death in letters," of which "engraven on stones" is an explanation. The preponderance of oldest manuscripts is for the English Version reading. But one (perhaps the oldest existing manuscript) has "in the letter," which refers to the preceding words (2Co 3:6), "the letter killeth," and this seems the probable reading. Even if we read as English Version, "The ministration of death (written) in letters," alludes to the literal precepts of the law as only bringing us the knowledge of sin and "death," in contrast to "the Spirit" in the Gospel bringing us "life" (2Co 3:6). The opposition between "the letters" and "the Spirit" (2Co 3:8) confirms this. This explains why the phrase in Greek should be "in letters," instead of the ordinary one which English Version has substituted, "written and."

was glorious—literally, "was made (invested) in glory," glory was the atmosphere with which it was encompassed.

could not steadfastly behold—literally, "fix their eyes on." Ex 34:30, "The skin of his face shone; and they were AFRAID to come nigh him." "Could not," therefore means here, "for FEAR." The "glory of Moses' countenance" on Sinai passed away when the occasion was over: a type of the transitory character of the dispensation which he represented (2Co 3:11), as contrasted with the permanency of the Christian dispensation (2Co 3:11).

The apostle is manifestly comparing the ministry of the gospel with the ministry of the law, and showing the excellency of the former above the latter. In the former verse he had called the law, the letter; and the gospel, in opposition to it, he had called, the spirit: here he calleth the ministration of the law,

the ministration of death; because it only showed man his duty, or things to be done, but gave no strength or help by which he should do them; only cursing man, but showing him no way by which he might escape that curse: so it did kill men, and led them to eternal death and condemnation, without showing them any means of life and salvation. He also undervalueth the law, in comparison with the gospel, as being only

written and engraven in stones; whereas (as he had said before) the gospel is written in the fleshy tables of men’s hearts. Yet (saith he) the ministration of the law (which was indeed but the ministration of death) was glorious: there was a great deal of the glory and majesty of God attended the giving of the law, of which we read, Exodus 19:1-25.

So that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance: of this we read, Exodus 34:29,30: When Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. So as it was glorious to be but a minister of the law, that is, of the revelation of the will of God, as to man’s duty,

which glory (saith the apostle) was to be done away: Moses’s face did not always so shine, neither was the glory of his ministration to abide always, but to cease by the coming in of the new covenant.

But if the ministration of death,.... The apostle having observed the difference between the law and the Gospel, the one being a killing letter, the other a quickening spirit, enlarges upon it, and more, fully explains it; and proceeds to take notice of other things in which they differ; and to show the superior glory and excellency of the one to the other; for that by "the ministration of death", he means the law, as delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, is clear from its being said to be

written and engraven in stones; as that was by the finger of God himself: rightly does the apostle say, that it was both "written" and "engraven"; for the two tables of the law are expressly said to be written with the finger of God, Exodus 31:18 meaning either the Spirit of God, who is sometimes so called, Luke 11:20 compared with Matthew 12:28 or the power of God, which at once caused this writing to exist; and it is in so many words affirmed, that "the writing" was "the writing of God"; and not of man, nor of any creature, no not of an angel, Exodus 32:16 yea, even the two tables which were hewn out by Moses, after the first were broken, were written upon by the Lord himself, and not Moses, Exodus 34:1. So that as the work of the tables was the work of God, and wonderfully made, the form of the letters, as Abarbinel (x) observes, were miraculously made by him; for this law was, , "in letters", as the apostle here says; and as it was written in the Hebrew language, very likely it was in the same form of letters now in use with the Jews; though some have thought that the Samaritan letters are the original ones: moreover, the law was not only written, but "engraved"; for so it is said, that the writing was graven upon the tables, Exodus 32:16 and though the word so rendered is no where else used but there, it is rightly rendered graven, as appears by the apostle in this place; and which may lie confirmed by the Targumist on that, who renders it by "engraven"; and by the Septuagint which signifies the same; and so in the book of Zohar (y), the letters are said to be "engraven" on the tables: and that the tables were tables of stone, it is certain; they are often so called, Exodus 24:12 wherefore the apostle very properly says, that the law was engraven "in stones"; but what stones these tables were made of cannot be said; the Jews, who affect to know everything, will have them to be precious stones, but what they were they are not agreed in; for though they generally say (z) they were made of the sapphire stone, and sometimes say (a) they were hewed out of the sapphire of the glorious throne of God; yet at other times they call them marble tables (b); and Aben Ezra (c) was of opinion, that the tables which Moses hewed were not of any precious stone, for he asks where should a precious stone of such size be found? though others pretend to say (d), that Moses in a miraculous manner was shown a sapphire quarry in the midst of his tent, out of which he cut and hewed the stones; but very likely they were common ones; however, certain it is, that the tables of stone, as written and engraven by the Lord himself, were made, as the apostle here says, "in glory", ; and so Jarchi on Exodus 32:16 "and the tables were the work of God", says, this is to be understood literally "and in" or "for his glory"; or by his glorious power he made them: now this law, though thus written and engraven, and glorious, it was "the ministration of death"; and is so called, because it threatened and punished the transgressors of it with a corporeal death; they that sinned against it died without mercy upon proper evidence and witnesses; every precept of it had this penalty annexed to it, in ease of disobedience; as the having any other goals but one, making of graven images, taking the name of God in vain, the violation of the sabbath, dishonouring of parents, murder, adultery, theft, and covetousness; instances there are of each of these being punishable by this law with a bodily death: and besides, it is the ministration of eternal death, the wages of sin the transgression of the law; which is that wrath of God, a sense of which it is said to work; the curse it threatens with and the second death or lake of fire it casts into: and may be said to be the "ministration" of it; as it shows persons they are deserving of it, pronounces the sentence of it on them, and will execute it upon them, if grace prevent not; now though it was the ministration of death, yet it

was glorious. There were many things which made it so; but what the apostle here particularly takes notice of is the glory that was upon the face of Moses, when he received it and brought it from the Lord, which was very great;

so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses, for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away. The history of this may be read in Exodus 34:29 it was a real visible glory that was upon the skin of his face, so that it shone again; it is said, "the skin of his face shone"; and this shining of his face the apostle very properly calls "the glory of his countenance": agreeably to the Septuagint version, which renders it, "the appearance of the skin, or colour of his face, was glorified"; and still nearer to the paraphrase of Onkelos, which is, "the splendour of the glory of his countenance was great"; and to the Targum of Jonathan, which also assigns the reason of it, and which seems to be the true one, "the splendour of the form of his countenance was glorious, because of the splendour of the glory of the majesty of God, at the time he talked with him". The Vulgate Latin version has led many wrong, to paint Moses with two horns, rendering it, "his face was horned", the Hebrew word having the signification of an horn in its derivative; because glory darted from him like horns, as rays of light do from the sun; see Habakkuk 3:4 and this brightness and glory were so very great, and so dazzling, that Aaron and the people of Israel were afraid to come nigh; which Jarchi, a Jewish writer, imputed to their sin, and shame, and fear, having worshipped the calf; but our apostle ascribes it to the lustre of his countenance, which was such that they could not steadfastly look upon it; they saw it indeed, as it is said in Exodus 34:35 yet they could not look wistly at it, nor bear the splendour of it; though this was only a glory, which was to continue but a while; according to the opinion of Ambrose (e), this glory continued on Moses's countenance as long as he lived; but be it so, it at last was done away: now this glory was put there to bear a testimony to the divine authority of the law, that it came from God, and was to be received at the hands of Moses, with awful reverence as from God, and to make them afraid of violating a law which came with such majesty and glory; and also to command awe and respect from the Israelites to Moses, whom they were inclined at every turn to treat with contempt, and to let them see that he had communion with God, which this was the effect of: now this was a circumstance which rendered the law glorious, and was expressive of a real glory in it; which, though as this on Moses's face, "was to be done away"; wherefore the apostle argues;

(x) In loc. (y) In Exod. fol. 35. 1.((z) Zohar ib. Targum Jon. in Dent. xxxiv. 12. (a) Targum in Cant. 1. 11. Targum Jon. in Exodus 31.18. (b) Targum Jon. in Deut. ix. 9, 10. (c) In Exodus 32.15. (d) Jarchi in Exodus 34.1. Pirke Eliezer, c. 46. (e) Comment. in Psal. cxix. 135.

But if the ministration of death, written {g} and engraven in stones, was {h} glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

(g) Imprinted and engraved: so that by this place we may plainly perceive that the apostle speaks not of the ceremonies of the Law, but of the ten commandments.

(h) This word glorious indicates a brightness, and a majesty which was in Moses physically, but in Christ spiritually.

2 Corinthians 3:7. Δέ] leads on to a setting forth of the great glory of the Christian ministry, which is proved from the splendour of the ministry of Moses by a conclusion a minori ad majus.[161]

ἡ διακονία τοῦ θανάτου] i.e. the ministry conducing to the rule of death; for τὸ γράμμα ἀποκτείνει, 2 Corinthians 3:6. It is not the law itself that is meant, but the ministry of Moses, which he accomplished by bringing down to the people the tables of the law from Sinai. Rückert erroneously thinks that the whole ministry of the Levitical priesthood is meant, against which what follows is clearly decisive. The reason assigned by Rückert, that Moses as μεσίτης τῆς παλ. διαθήκης can only be treated as on a parallel with Christ, and not with the apostles, is not valid, since in the context the prevailing conception is not that of μεσίτης but that of διάκονος, and as such Moses is certainly parallel to the ministers of the new covenan.

ἐν γράμμασιν ἐντετυπ. λίθοις] A comma is not to be put after γράμμ. (Luther, Beza, Piscator, Estius, and others, including Schrader and Ewald), which would require the repetition of the article before ἐν γρ., and would make the sentence drag; but it is: which was imprinted on stones by means of letters. The death-promoting ministry of Moses was really graven on stones, in so far as the Decalogue engraven on the two tables was actually the ministerial document of Moses, as it were the registration of his office. In this case ἐν γράμμασιν is not something of an idle addition (in opposition to de Wette, who defends the reading ἐν γράμματι, and attaches it to τοῦ θανάτου), but in fact an element emphatically prefixed, in keeping with the process of argument a minori, and depicting the inferior unspiritual character. Rückert (forced by his reference to the service of the Levitical priesthood) erroneously thinks that Paul means not only the tables of the law, but the whole Pentateuch, and that he has been not quite so exact in his use of the expression (ἐντετυπ. λίθοις!).

ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ] took place in splendour, was surrounded by splendour, full of splendour, see Buttmann, neut. Gram. p. 284 [E. T. 330]. Bengel says rightly: “nacta est gloriam; γίνομαι fio, et εἰμὶ sum, 2 Corinthians 3:8. differunt.” Comp. Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opusc. p. 284. It relates to the external radiance, which in the intercourse with God on Sinai passed from the divine glory (Exodus 24:16 to the countenance of Moses, so that he descended from the mountain with his face shining (Exodus 34:29 ff.). For a Rabbinical fiction that this splendour was from the light created at the beginning of things, see Eisenmenger, Entdeckt. Judenth. I. p. 369 f. Others (Vatablus, and more recently, Flatt, Billroth, Rückert) take ἐν δόξῃ, not of that glorious radiance, but of grandeur, glory in general. So also de Wette and Hofmann. But this is opposed to the context, for in what follows it is not merely a visible proof of the δόξα which is adduced (as Rückert thinks), or a concrete representation of it (Hofmann), but the high degree (ὥστε) of the very δόξα which is meant by ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ. It is said, indeed, that 2 Corinthians 3:8, where the glory spoken of is no external one, does not admit of our reference. But even in 2 Corinthians 3:8 the δόξα is an external glory (see on 2 Corinthians 3:8); and further, we have here an argument a minori ad majus, in which every reader was historically aware that the minus, the δόξα of Moses, was an external one, while as to the majus, the δόξα of the ministry of the N. T., it was self-evident that it is before the Parousia merely something ideal, a spiritual possession, and only becomes also an external reality after the Parousia (and to this 2 Corinthians 3:8 applies).

ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι κ.τ.λ.] Philo gives the same account, Vit. Mos. p. 665 A; Exodus 34 has only: ἐφοβήθησαν ἐγγίσαι αὐτῷ, which was more precisely explained by that statemen.

διὰ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ πρ. αὐτ.] would have been in itself superfluous, but with the addition τὴν καταργ. strengthening the conclusion it has a solemn emphasis. Philo, l.c., calls this δόξα: ἡλιοειδὲς φέγγος.

τὴν καταργουμένην] “Claritas illa vultus Mosis transitoria erat et modici temporis,” Estius. Ex. l.c. gives us no express information of this; but 2 Corinthians 3:13 clearly shows that Paul regarded the radiance which Moses brought down from his converse with God as only temporary and gradually ceasing, which, indeed, is self-evident and correctly inferred from the renewal of the radiance on each occasion. In this passing away of that lustre,—which even during its passing away was yet so great that the Israelites could not gaze fixedly on him,

Paul undoubtedly (in opposition to Hofmann) found a type of the ceasing of the Mosaic ministry (2 Corinthians 3:13); but in our present passage this is only hinted at in a preliminary way by the historical addition τ. καταργ., without the latter ceasing to belong to the historical narration. Hence the participle is not to be taken, with Vulgate, Luther, Calvin, and others, including Rückert, in a purely present sense: “which yet ceases,” nor in the sense of transient (Ewald), but as the imperfect participle; the transitory, which was in the act of passing away.

[161] Without doubt this whole comparison of the ministry of the New Testament with that of Moses (vv. 7–11), as well as the subsequent shadow which is thrown on the conduct of Moses (ver. 13), and the digression on the obstinacy of the Jews (vv. 14–18), is not put forward without a special purpose, but is an indirect polemic against the Judaists. Comp. Chrysostom: ὅρα πῶς πάλιν ὑποτέμνεται τὸ φρόνημα τὸ Ἰονδαϊκόν.


7–18. The Ministration of the Spirit superior to that of the Law

7. But if the ministration of death] He does not say ‘which causeth,’ but ‘the ministration of death,’ for that which caused death was sin, while the Law made the sin manifest, but did not cause it. Chrysostom. See Romans 7:7; 1 Corinthians 15:56; Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:21. As St Paul was the minister of Christ when he proclaimed the good tidings of salvation to mankind, so the law was the minister of death when it proclaimed the sentence of death to the soul that had sinned. See Ezekiel 18:4.

written and engraven in stones] Wiclif, nearer to the original, writun lettris in stones. The reference is to the two tables of the law, Exodus 31:18. Some editors read ‘the ministration of death in the letter, engraved in stones.’

was glorious] Perhaps rather, was constituted, came into being, in glory, i.e. accompanied by glory. Exodus 19:16-20; Exodus 24:6-11; Exodus 34:4-8.

so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold (literally, gaze at) the face of Moses] The brightness of God’s glory was reflected upon the face of Moses (Exodus 34:29-30) to such an extent that the children of Israel dared not approach him. See note on 2 Corinthians 3:13. The Hebrew word used for the rays of light emitted by Moses’ face is derived from a word signifying a horn, according to a simile common among Eastern writers by which the first rays of the sun are called horns, and even the sun itself a gazelle by the Arabs. This the Vulgate renders by cornuta, a rendering which, as Dr Plumptre reminds us, has been the cause why the celebrated Moses of Michael Angelo, familiar to all who have visited Rome and to many who have not, is represented with beams of light in the shape of horns upon the head.

which glory was to be done away] Rather, was being brought to nought. The original meaning of the word rendered ‘done away,’—which (see note on 1 Corinthians 13:8) is rendered in various ways in the A. V.—is to make thoroughly useless or unprofitable, and hence to do away with, abolish, bring to nought. The Apostle does not mean to say here that the brightness on Moses’ face was destined to fade, but that it was fading.

2 Corinthians 3:7. Ἡ διακονία, the ministry) which Moses performed.—ἐντετυπωμένη) LXX. κεκολαμμένη, Exodus 32:10.—λίθοις, in stones) There were then two different tables, not of one stone. Exodus 34:1 : engraven in stones, is an explanation of this clause, in letters.[17]—ἘΓΕΝΉΘΗ ἘΝ ΔΌΞᾼ, obtained glory [was glorious]) γίνομαι, I become, and εἰμὶ, I am [ἔσται], 2 Corinthians 3:8, are different.—ΜῊ ΔΎΝΑΣΘΑΙ ἈΤΕΝΊΣΑΙ) Exodus 34:30, ἘΦΟΒΉΘΗΣΑΝ ἘΓΓΊΣΑΙ ΑὐΤῷ.—ΜΩΫΣΈΩς, of Moses) engaged in the duties of his office.

[17] ἐν γράμμασιν, in letters. Eng. Ver. written, etc., at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 3:7.

So AC, and acc. to Lachm. G (but Tisch. makes G support γράμματι) fg Vulg. Orig. 1, 708f: 3, 498c: 4, 448a. But B and D(Λ) corrected later. γράμματι.—ED.

Verse 7. - The ministration of death. The ministration, that is, of the Law, of "the letter which killeth." St. Paul here begins one of the arguments a minori ad majus which are the very basis of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Written and engraven in stones; literally, engraved in letters on stones (Exodus 31:18). The reference shows that, in speaking of "the letter," St. Paul was only thinking of the Mosaic Law, and indeed specifically of the Decalogue. Was glorious; literally, occurred in glory, or, proved itself glorious. In itself the Law was "holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12), and given "at the disposition of angels" (Acts 7:53); and its transitory glory was illustrated by the lustre which the face of Moses caught by reflection from his intercourse with God (Exodus 24:16). Could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses (Exodus 34:29, 30). St. Paul has been led quite incidentally into this digression in the course of defending himself by describing the nature of his ministry; but it bore very definitely on his general purpose, because his chief opponents were Judaists, whose one aim it was to bind upon the Church the yoke of Mosaism. That they could not "behold" the face of Moses is the hagadah, or traditional legend, derived from Exodus 34:30, which says that "they were afraid to draw nigh to him. The reader may recall the beautiful lines of Cardinal Newman-

"Lord l grant me this abiding grace -
Thy words and saints to know;
To pierce the veil on Moses' face,
Although his words be slow."
Because of the glory of his countenance. This circumstance is so often alluded to as to have become identified with the conception of Moses. The Hebrew words for "a ray of light" and "a horn" are identical; hence, instead of saying that his face was "irradiated," the Vulgate says, Cornnta erat ejus facies; and even in our version of Habakkuk 3:4 we find "And he had horns [i.e. 'rays of light'] coming out of his hand." To this is due the mediaeval symbol of Moses with horns, as in the matchless statue by Michael Angelo. Which glory was to be done away. The Greek might be expressed by "the glory - the evanescing glory - of his countenance." It was not "to be done away," but from the first moment they saw it it began to vanish. The verb "to do away," implying annulment, and the being abrogated as invalid, is a characteristic word in this group cf Epistles, in which it occurs twenty-two times. This illustrates the prominence in St. Paul's thoughts of the fact that the Law was now "antiquated" and "near its obliteration" (comp. Hebrews 8:13). But in dwelling on the brief and transient character of this radiance, St. Paul seizes on a point which (naturally) is not dwelt upon in Exodus 34. 2 Corinthians 3:7The ministration of death (ἡ διακονία τοῦ θανάτου)

Because it is the ministry of the letter which killeth. The law meant death to the sinner.

Written and engraven in stones (ἐν γράμμασιν ἐντετυπωμένη λίθοις)

Lit., engraven on stones by means of letters. The use of these words to describe a ministration is peculiar. The ministration of death (see above) is that of Moses, and does not apply to his entire career as Israel's lawgiver, but to his particular ministry in receiving on Sinai and transmitting to the people the law of God. The ministration may be said to have been graven on stones, since the whole purport of that economy which he represented was contained in the tables, and he was its minister in being the agent through whom God delivered it to the people.

Was glorious (ἐγενήθη ἐν δόξῃ)

A very inadequate translation. Ἑγενήθη means came to pass or took place, not simply was. A glory passed from God to Moses, so that his face became shining. It is much more graphic and truthful to render ἐν δόξῃ literally, in or with glory, than to convert the two words into a single adjective, glorious. Rev., much better, came with glory.

Steadfastly behold (ἀτενίσαι)

See on Luke 4:20.

Passing away (καταργουμένην)

Lit., being done away or brought to nought. See on Luke 13:7; see on Romans 3:3.

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