2 Corinthians 5:16
Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
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(16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh.—The logical dependence of this sentence on the foregoing lies in the suppressed premise, that in living not to ourselves, but to Christ, we gain new standards of judgment, new ways of looking at things. To know a man “after the flesh” is to know him by the outward accidents and circumstances of his life: his wealth, rank, culture, knowledge. St. Paul had ceased to judge of men by those standards. With him the one question was whether the man was, by his own act and choice, claiming the place which the death of Christ had secured for him, and living in Him as a new creature. That is the point of view from which he now “knows,” or looks on, every man.

Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh.—What, we ask, gave occasion to this strange parenthesis? What did it mean? To what stage of the Apostle’s life does it refer? (1) The answer to the first question is probably to be found in once more reading between the lines. There was, we know, a party at Corinth claiming a special relation to Christ (1Corinthians 1:12). They probably did so as having been personal disciples. If they were like those who elsewhere claimed to speak in the name of James (Acts 15:24; Galatians 2:12), they were likely to urge his claims as the brother of the Lord. To St. Paul such a way of judging would be to know Christ after the flesh—to judge of Him, as of others, by the lower standard of the world. (2) The next question is more difficult. The hypothetical form of the proposition practically implies an admission of its truth. It is hardly conceivable that he refers to the time before his conversion, and means that he too had once seen and known Jesus of Nazareth, judging of Him “after the flesh,” by an earthly standard, and therefore had thought that He ought to do many things against him; or that, after the revelation of Christ in him, at the time of his conversion, he had, for a time, known Him after a manner which he now saw to be at least imperfect. The true solution of the problem is probably to be found in the fact that he had once thought, even before he appeared as the persecutor of the Church, of the Christ that was to come as others thought, that his Messianic expectations had been those of an earthly kingdom restored to Israel. Jesus of Nazareth did not fulfil those expectations, and therefore he had opposed His claim to be the Messiah. Now, he says, he had come to take a different view of the work and office of the Christ. (3) It follows, if this interpretation is correct, that he speaks of the period that preceded his conversion. not of an imperfect state of knowledge after it, out of which he had risen by progressive stages of illumination and clearer vision of the truth. Now and from henceforth, he seems to say, we think of Christ not as the King of Israel, but as the Saviour of mankind.

2 Corinthians 5:16. Wherefore henceforth — So that from this time that we knew the love of Christ; know we no man — Neither ourselves nor you, neither the rest of the apostles, (Galatians 2:6,) nor any other person; after the flesh — According to his former state, country, descent, nobility, riches, power, wisdom. We fear not the great. We regard not the rich or wise. We account not the least less than ourselves. We consider all, only in order to save all. Who is he that thus knows no one after the flesh? In what land do these Christians live? Yea, if we have known Christ after the flesh — So as to love him merely with a human love; or, so as to regard our external relation to him, as being of the same nation with him, or our having conversed with him on earth, or so as to expect only temporal benefits from him; or have governed ourselves by any carnal expectations from the Messiah as a temporal prince who should exalt our nation to dignity, wealth, and power. Mr. Locke thinks this is said with a reference to “their Jewish false apostle, who gloried in his circumcision, and perhaps in his having seen Christ in the flesh, or being some way related to him.” Yet now, henceforth — Since our illumination and conversion; know we him no more — In that way, but wholly after a spiritual and divine manner, suitable to his state of glory, and our expectations of spiritual and eternal salvation from him.

5:16-21 The renewed man acts upon new principles, by new rules, with new ends, and in new company. The believer is created anew; his heart is not merely set right, but a new heart is given him. He is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Though the same as a man, he is changed in his character and conduct. These words must and do mean more than an outward reformation. The man who formerly saw no beauty in the Saviour that he should desire him, now loves him above all things. The heart of the unregenerate is filled with enmity against God, and God is justly offended with him. Yet there may be reconciliation. Our offended God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ. By the inspiration of God, the Scriptures were written, which are the word of reconciliation; showing that peace has been made by the cross, and how we may be interested therein. Though God cannot lose by the quarrel, nor gain by the peace, yet he beseeches sinners to lay aside their enmity, and accept the salvation he offers. Christ knew no sin. He was made Sin; not a sinner, but Sin, a Sin-offering, a Sacrifice for sin. The end and design of all this was, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, might be justified freely by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Can any lose, labour, or suffer too much for Him, who gave his beloved Son to be the Sacrifice for their sins, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him?Wherefore henceforth - In view of the fact that the Lord Jesus died for all people, and rose again. The effect of that has been to change all our feelings, and to give us entirely new views of people, of ourselves, and of the Messiah, so that we have become new creatures. The word "henceforth" (ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν apo tou nun) means properly from the present time; but there is no impropriety in supposing that Paul refers to the time when he first obtained correct views of the Messiah, and that he means from that time. His mind seems to have been thrown back to the period when these new views burst upon his soul; and the sentiment is, that from the time when he obtained those new views, he had resolved to know no one after the flesh.

Know we no man - The word "know" here (οἴδαμεν oidamen) is used in the sense of, we form our estimate of; we judge; we are influenced by. Our estimate of man is formed by other views than according to the flesh.

After the flesh - A great many different interpretations have been proposed of this expression, which it is not needful here to repeat. The meaning is, probably, that in his estimate of people he was not influenced by the views which are taken by those who are unrenewed, and who are unacquainted with the truths of redemption. It may include a great many things, and perhaps the following:

(1) He was not influenced in his estimate of people by a regard to their birth, or country. He did not form an attachment to a Jew because he was a Jew, or to a Gentile because he was a Gentile. He had learned that Christ died for all, and he felt disposed to regard all alike.

(2) he was not influenced in his estimate of people by their rank, and wealth, and office. Before his conversion he had been, but now he learned to look on their moral character, and to regard that as making the only permanent, and really important distinction among people. He did not esteem one man highly because he was of elevated rank, or of great wealth, and another less because he was of a different rank in life.

(3) it may also include the idea, that he had left his own kindred and friends on account of superior attachment to Christ. He had parted from them to preach the gospel. He was not restrained by their opinions; he was not kept from going from land to land by love to them. It is probable that they remained Jews. It may be, that they were opposed to him, and to his efforts in the cause of the Redeemer. It may be that they would have dismissed him from a work so self-denying, and so arduous, and where he would be exposed to so much persecution and contempt. It may be that they would have set before him the advantages of his birth and education; would have reminded him of his early brilliant prospects; and would have used all the means possible to dissuade him from embarking in a cause like that in which he was engaged. The passage here means that Paul was influenced by none of these considerations.

In early life he had been. He had prided himself on rank, and on talent. He was proud of his own advantages as a Jew; and he estimated worth by rank, and by national distinction, Philippians 3:4-6. He had despised Christians on account of their being the followers of the man of Nazareth: and there can be no reason to doubt that he partook of the common feelings of his countrymen and held in contempt the whole Gentile world. But his views were changed - so much changed as to make it proper to say that he was a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17. When converted, he did not confer with flesh and blood Galatians 1:16; and in the school of Christ, he had learned that if a man was his disciple, he must be willing to forsake father and mother. and sister and brother, and to hate his own life that he might honor him, Luke 14:26. He had formed his principle of action now from a higher standard than any regard to rank, or wealth, or national distinction; and had risen above them all, and now estimated people not by these external and factitious advantages, but by a reference to their personal character and moral worth.

Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh - Though in common with the Jewish nation we expected a Messiah who would be a temporal prince, and who would be distinguished for the distinctions which are valued among people, yet we have changed our estimate of him, and judge of him in this way no longer. There can be no doubt that Paul, in common with his countrymen, had expected a Messiah who would be a magnificent temporal prince and conqueror, one who they supposed would be a worthy successor of David and Solomon. The coming of such a prince, Paul had confidently expected. He expected no other Messiah. He had fixed his hopes on that. This is what is meant by the expression 'to know Christ after the flesh.' It does not mean that he had seen him in the flesh, but that he had formed, so to speak, carnal views of him, and such as people of this world regard as grand and magnificent in a monarch and conqueror. He had had no correct views of his spiritual character, and of the pure and holy purposes for which he would come into the world.

Yet now henceforth know we him no more - We know him no more in this manner. Our conceptions and views of him are changed. We no more regard him according to the flesh; we no longer esteem the Messiah who was to come as a temporal prince and warrior; but we look on him as a spiritual Saviour, a Redeemer from sin. The idea is, that his views of him had been entirely changed. It does not mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that Paul would have no further acquaintance with Christ, but it means that from the moment of his conversion he had laid aside all his views of his being a temporal sovereign, and all his feelings that he was to be honored only because he supposed that he would have an elevated rank among the monarchs of the earth. Locke and Macknight, it seems to me, have strangely mistaken this passage. The former renders it, "For if I myself have gloried in this, that Christ was himself circumcised as I am, and was of my blood and nation, I do so now no more any longer," The same substantially is the view of Macknight. Clarke as strangely mistakes it, when he says that it means that Paul could not prize now a man who was a sinner because he was allied to the royal family of David, nor prize a man because he had seen Christ in the flesh.

The correct view, as it seems to me, is given above. And the doctrine which is taught here is, that at conversion, the views are essentially changed, and that the converted man has a view of the Saviour entirely different from what he had before. He may not, like Paul, have regarded him as a temporal prince; he may not have looked to him as a mighty monarch, but his views in regard to his person, character, work, and loveliness will be entirely changed. He will see a beauty in his character which he never saw before. Before, he regarded him as a root out of dry ground; as the despised man of Nazareth; as having nothing in his character to be desired, or to render him lovely Isaiah 53:1-12; but at conversion the views are changed. He is seen to be the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely; as pure, and holy, and benevolent; as mighty, and great, and glorious; as infinitely benevolent; as lovely in his precepts, lovely in his life, lovely in his death, lovely in his resurrection, and as most glorious as he is seated on the right hand of God. He is seen to be a Saviour exactly adapted to the condition and needs of the soul; and the soul yields itself to him to be redeemed by him alone.

There is no change of view so marked and decided as that of the sinner in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ at his conversion; and it is a clear proof that we have never been born again if our views in reference to him have never undergone any change. "What think ye of Christ?" is a question the answer to which will determine any man's character, and demonstrate whether he is or is not a child of God. Tyndale has more correctly expressed the sense of this than our translation." Though we have known Christ after the flesh, now henceforth know we him so no more."

16. Wherefore—because of our settled judgment (2Co 5:14),

henceforth—since our knowing Christ's constraining love in His death for us.

know we no man after the flesh—that is, according to his mere worldly and external relations (2Co 11:18; Joh 8:15; Php 3:4), as distinguished from what he is according to the Spirit, as a "new creature" (2Co 5:17). For instance, the outward distinctions of Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, slave or free, learned or unlearned, are lost sight of in the higher life of those who are dead in Christ's death, and alive with Him in the new life of His resurrection (Ga 2:6; 3:28).

yea, though—The oldest manuscripts read, "if even."

known Christ after the flesh—Paul when a Jew had looked for a temporal reigning, not a spiritual, Messiah. (He says "Christ," not Jesus: for he had not known personally Jesus in the days of His flesh, but he had looked for Christ or the Messiah). When once he was converted he no longer "conferred with flesh and blood" (Ga 1:16). He had this advantage over the Twelve, that as one born out of due time he had never known Christ save in His heavenly life. To the Twelve it was "expedient that Christ should go away" that the Comforter should come, and so they might know Christ in the higher spiritual aspect and in His new life-giving power, and not merely "after the flesh," in the carnal aspect of Him (Ro 6:9-11; 1Co 15:45; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1, 2). Doubtless Judaizing Christians at Corinth prided themselves on the mere fleshly (2Co 11:18) advantage of their belonging to Israel, the nation of Christ, or on their having seen Him in the flesh, and thence claimed superiority over others as having a nearer connection with Him (2Co 5:12; 2Co 10:7). Paul here shows the true aim should be to know Him spiritually as new creatures (2Co 5:15, 17), and that outward relations towards Him profit nothing (Lu 18:19-21; Joh 16:7, 22; Php 3:3-10). This is at variance with both Romish Mariolatry and transubstantiation. Two distinct Greek verbs are used here for "know"; the first ("know we no man") means "to be personally acquainted with"; the latter ("known Christ … know … more") is to recognize, or estimate. Paul's estimate of Christ, or the expected Messiah, was carnal, but is so now no more.

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: words of sense in Scripture ordinarily signify more than the act of that sense which they express; particularly this term know ordinarily signifieth to approve and acknowledge; and so it signifies here. We know, that is, we regard, we acknowledge no man in the discharge of our office; we regard no man with respect to any external fleshly consideration. Under which notion he comprehends all things not spiritual, whether carnal relations, riches, &c.

Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh; not from any sight of him, for we read not that Paul at any time saw Christ, but, Acts 9:1-43, when he saw him, not according to the flesh, but as exalted at the right hand of God: but by the hearing of the ear Paul had known Christ, as one that had lived in the flesh, and who had conversed with men for above thirty years;

yet (saith he) we know him no more, we shall neither see nor hear him any more in the flesh; we now only know him as he hath a glorious body, with which he sitteth at the right hand of God.

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh..... Since the death and resurrection of Christ, which has broken down the middle wall of partition, and has took away all distinction of men, we know, we esteem, we value no man on account of his carnal descent, and fleshy privileges, as being of the Jewish nation, a descendant of Abraham, and circumcised as he was; or on account of their outward state and condition, as being rich and honourable among men, or on account of their natural parts and acquirements, their learning, wisdom, and eloquence; nor do we own any man to be a Christian, that lives after the flesh, to himself, and not to Christ; nor do we make account of the saints themselves as in this mortal state, but as they will be in the resurrection, in consequence of Christ's having died for them, and rose again.

Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh: some of them had seen him in the flesh; others valued him on account of his being of the Jewish nation, and of his relation to them according to the flesh; and all of them had formerly entertained carnal apprehensions of him, and his kingdom, as though it would be a temporal one:

yet now henceforth know we him more; no more in this mortal state, being risen from the dead; nor do we value ourselves upon having seen him in the flesh; for though such a sight and knowledge of him was desirable, yet a spiritual knowledge is much more preferable; and many there were who knew him in the flesh, who neither enjoy his spiritual presence here, nor will they be favoured with his glorious presence hereafter. Moreover, we do not judge of him as we did before we had a spiritual knowledge of him, and as our countrymen did, by his outward circumstances, by his parentage and education, his poverty and afflictions, his company and conversation, that he could not be the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore was worthy of death; we have quite other thoughts and apprehensions of him now, believing him to be the Christ of God, a spiritual Saviour and Redeemer, whose kingdom is not of this world; we have relinquished all our national prejudices, and former notions, concerning the Messiah, his kingdom, and people. Some copies add, "after the flesh"; and the Arabic version, "yet now know we him no more in that".

{9} Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: {10} yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

(9) He shows what it is not to live to ourselves but to Christ, that is, to know no man according to the flesh. That is to say, to be conversant among men and yet not to care for those worldly and carnal things, as those do who have regard for a man's family, his country, form, glory, riches, and such like, in which men commonly dote and weary themselves.

(10) An amplification: This is, he says, so true, that we do not now think carnally of Christ himself, who has now left the world, and therefore he must be thought of spiritually by us.

2 Corinthians 5:16. Inference from 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 opposed to the hostile way of judging of his opponents (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:13). Hence it is with us quite otherwise than with our opponents, who judge regarding others κατὰ σάρκα: we know henceforth no one according to flesh-standard. Since all, namely, have (ethically) died, and every one is destined to live only to Christ, not to himself, our knowing of others must be wholly independent of what they are κατὰ σάρκα. Accordingly, the connection of thought between 2 Corinthians 5:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 demands that we take κατὰ σάρκα here not as subjective standard of the οἴδαμεν, so that we should have to explain it: according to merely human knowledge, without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:26): “as one might know Him in a way natural to man” (Hofmann, Osiander, and, earlier, Lyra, Calovius, and others; comp. also Ernesti, Urspr. d. Sünde, I. p. 69), but as objective standard (comp. 2 Corinthians 11:18; John 8:15; Php 3:4), so that εἰδέναι τινὰ κατὰ σάρκα means: to know any one according to merely human appearance, to know him in such a way, that he is judged by what he is in virtue of his natural, material form of existence, and not by what he is κατὰ πνεῦμα, as a Christian, as καινὴ κτίσις (2 Corinthians 5:17). He who knows no one κατὰ σάρκα has entirely left out of account, e.g. in the Jew, his Jewish origin; in the rich man, his riches; in the scholar, his learning; in the slave, his bondage; and so forth (comp. Galatians 3:28). Comp. Bengel: “secundum carnem: secundum statum veterem ex nobilitate, divitiis, opibus, sapientia.” It is inaccurate to say that this interpretation requires the article before σάρκα (Osiander). It might be used, but was not necessary, any more than at Php 3:3 ff., Romans 1:3; Romans 9:5, al., where σάρξ everywhere, without the article, denotes the objective relatio.

ἡμεῖς] i.e. we on our part, as opposed to the adversaries who judge κατὰ σάρκα. The taking the plural as general embracing others (Billroth, by way of suggestion, Schenkel, de Wette), has against it the evidently antithetic emphasis of the pronoun; it is only with the further inference in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that the discourse becomes genera.

ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν] after the present time, i.e. after our present (Christian) relation, and with it also the κρίναντας κ.τ.λ., has begun. Paul has ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν only here. Beyond this Luke alone in the N. T. has i.

οἴδαμεν] not acstimamus (Grotius, Estius, and others, including Emmerling and Flatt), but novimus; no one is to us known κατὰ σάρκα; we know nothing of him according to such a standard. Comp. on εἰδέναι οὐδένα or οὐδέν in the sense of complete separation, 1 Corinthians 2:2. οἶδα is related to ἔγνωκα, cognovi, as its lasting sequel: scio, quis et qualis si.

εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κ. σ. Χριστὸν κ.τ.λ.] apologetic application of the assertion just made, ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν οὐδένα οἴδαμεν κ. σ. This remark is added without δέ (see the critical remarks), which is accounted for by the impetuous liveliness of the representation. If even (as I herewith grant to my opponents, see Hermann, ad Viger. p. 832) the case has occurred that we have known Christ according to flesh-standard, this knowing of Him now exists with us no longer. The emphasis of this concessive clause lies on the praeterite ἐγνώκαμεν, which opposes the past to the present relation (οἴδαμεν, and see the following γινώσκομεν). Therefore Χριστόν is not placed immediately after εἰ καί, for Paul wishes to express that in the past it has been otherwise than now; that formerly the γινώσκειν κ. σάρκα had certainly occurred in his case, and that in reference to Christ. This in opposition to the usual interpretation, according to which Χριστόν is invested with the chief emphasis. So e.g. Billroth: “if we once regarded even Christ Himself in a fleshly manner, if we quite misjudged Him and His kingdom;” Beyschlag similarly: “even with Christ I make no exception,” etc. Rückert, without any reason whatever, conjectures that Paul erroneously inserted Χριστόν, or perhaps did not write it at all. The right interpretation is found in Osiander, Ewald, Kling, also substantially in Hofmann, who, however, would attach εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κ.τ.λ. to ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦνσάρκα, and thus separate it only by a comma,—a course by which, owing to the following contrast ἀλλὰ κ.τ.λ., the sentence is without sufficient ground made more disjointed.

Paul had known Christ κατὰ σάρκα, so long as the merely human individuality of Christ, His lower, earthly appearance (comp. Chrysostom and Theodoret), was the limit of his knowledge of Him. At the time when he himself was still a zealot against Christ, and His persecutor, he knew Him as a mere man, as a common Jew, not as Messiah, not as the Son of God; as one justly persecuted and crucified, not as the sinless Reconciler and the transfigured Lord of glory, etc. It was quite different, however, since God had revealed His Son in Paul (Galatians 1:16), whereby he had learned to know Christ according to His true, higher, spiritual nature (κατὰ πνεῦμα, Romans 1:4).[233] Comp. also Holsten, z. Ev. d. Paul, und Petr. p. 429, who, however, refers the Χριστόν, which denotes the entire historical person of the God-man, only to the heavenly, purely pneumatic personality of the Lord, which had been pre-existent and in this sense was re-established by the resurrection. Klöpper, p. 66, has substantially the right view: the earthly, human appearance of Christ according to its national, legal, and particular limitation. The Judaistic conception of the Messianic idea was the subjective ground of the former erroneous knowledge of Christ, but it is not on that account to be explained with many (Luther, see his gloss, Bengel, Rückert, and others): according to Jewish ideas of the Messiah; for, according to what precedes, κ. σ. must be the objective standard of the ἐγνώκαμεν. In that case ΧΡΙΣΤΌΝ cannot be appellative, the Messiah (especially Baur, I. p. 304, ed. 2, and Neander, I. p. 142 f.), but only nomen proprium, as the following εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ shows. Olshausen, who rightly, as to substance, refers Κ. Σ. to the life of Christ before His resurrection, deduces, however, from ΕἸ ΚΑῚ ἘΓΝΏΚ. that Paul even before his conversion had seen Christ in his visits to Jerusalem, which Beyschlag also, in the Stud. u. Krit. 1864, p. 248, and 1865, p. 266, gathers from our passage and explains it accordingly, and Ewald, Gesch. d. apost. Zeitalt. p. 368, ed. 3, thinks credible. This is in itself possible (though nowhere testified), but does not follow from our passage; for ἐγνώκ., in fact, by no means presupposes the having seen, but refers to the knowledge of Christ obtained by colloquial intercourse, and determined by the Pharisaic fundamental point of view,—a knowledge which Paul before his conversion had derived from his historical acquaintance with Christ’s earthly station, influence as a teacher, and fate, as known to all.[234] Besides, the interpretation of a personal acquaintance with Christ would be quite unsuitable to the following ἈΛΛᾺ ΝῦΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. It would be at variance with the context. See also Klöpper, p. 55 ff. According to de Wette, the sense is: “not yet to have so known Christ as, with a renouncing of one’s own fleshly selfishness, to live to Him alone,” 2 Corinthians 5:15. But in this way there would result for κατὰ σάρκα the sense of the subjective standard (against which see above); further, the signification of κατὰ σ. would not be the same for the two parts of the verse, since in the second part it would affirm more (namely, according to fleshly selfishness, without living to Him alone); lastly, this having known Christ would not suit the time before the conversion of the apostle, to which it nevertheless applies, because at this time he was even persecutor of Christ. And this he was, just because he knew him κατὰ σάρκα (taken in our sense), which erroneous form of having known ceased only when God ἀπεκάλυψε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ (Galatians 1:16). While various expositors fail to give to it a clear and definite interpretation,[235] others have explained it in the linguistically erroneous sense of a merely hypothetical possibility. Thus Erasmus: “Nec est, quod nos posteriores apostolos quisquam hoc nomine minoris faciat, quod Christum mortali corpore in terris versantem non novimus, quando etiam, si contigisset novisse, nunc eam notitiam, quae obstabat spiritui, deposuissemus, et spiritualem factum spiritualiter amaremus;” so in the main also Grotius, Rosenmüller, Flatt. For a synopsis of the various old explanations, from Faustus the Manichaean (who proved from our passage that Christ had no fleshly body) downward, see Calovius, Bibl. ill. p. 463 ff.

ἀλλά] in the apodosis, see on 2 Corinthians 4:16.

γινώσκομεν] sc. κατὰ σάρκα Χριστόν.

[233] According to Estius, the meaning is taken to be: “If we once held it as something great to be fellow-countrymen and kinsmen of Christ.” But the words do not convey this. Similarly also Wetstein, who makes the apostle, in opposition to the (alleged) boasting of the false apostles that they were kinsmen and hearers of Christ, maintain, “cognationem solam nihil prodesse;” et Christum non humilem esse, as on earth, sed exaltatum super omnes. Comp. Hammond, and also Storr, Opusc. II. p. 252, according to whom Paul refers to such, “qui praeter externa ornamenta et Judaicam originem et pristinam illam suam cum apostolis Christo familiaribus conjunctionem nihil haberent, quo magnifice gloriari possent.” An allusion to the alleged spiritualism of the Christine party, who had reproached the apostle with a fleshly conception of Christ (Schenkel, Goldhorn), is arbitrarily assumed.

[234] Certainly to him also had the cross been a stumbling-block, since, according to the Jewish conception, the Messiah was not to die at all (John 12:34); but we must not, with Theodoret, limit κατὰ σάρκα to the παθητὸν σῶμα of Christ.

[235] Hofmann, e.g., describes the knowing of Christ κατὰ σάρκα as of such a nature, that it accommodated itself to the habit of the natural man, and therefore knew Christ only in so far as He was the object of such knowledge.

2 Corinthians 5:16. ὥστε ἡμεῖς ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν κ.τ.λ.: so that, sc., because of our conviction, that we should not live unto ourselves but unto Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15), we, sc., Paul as contrasted with his opponents at Corinth, from henceforth, sc., this conviction having mastered us, know no man after the flesh, i.e., are quite indifferent as to his mere external qualifications as a preacher of the Gospel, his eloquence, Jewish birth, etc.: we are not like those who glory ἐν προσώπῳ and not ἐν καρδίᾳ (2 Corinthians 5:12); cf. Galatians 2:6.—f1εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κ.τ.λ.: even though we have known (the distinction between οἴδαμεν and ἐγνώκαμεν is hardly to be pressed) Christ after the flesh, i.e., though there was a time in my life when I, like my Judaising opponents now, laid great stress on the local and hereditary, and, so to speak, fleshly “notes” of the Messiah who was to come, yet now we know Him so no more, i.e., I know better now, for I have learnt since my conversion that the national Messiah of the Jews is Himself the Incarnate Word, to whom every race of men is alike related, for He is the Christ of the Catholic Church of God. In personal religion the merely historical must yield precedence to the mystical element; it is of great interest and of real value to learn all that can be known about the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, but it is the present Life of Christ, “in whom” we may be found if we will, that is of religious import, as is further explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17. This “is the same feeling which appears in the fact … that no authentic or even pretended likeness of Christ should have been handed down from the first century; that the very site of His dwelling place at Capernaum should have been entirely obliterated from human memory; that the very notion of seeking for relics of His life and death, though afterwards so abundant, first began in the age of Constantine. It is the same feeling which, in the Gospel narratives themselves, is expressed in the almost entire absence of precision as to time and place” (Stanley). Beyschlag and others (see Knowling, Witness of the Epistles, p. 2) conclude from the words εἰ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν κατὰ σὰρκα Χριστόν that St. Paul had seen, and possibly heard, Jesus during His public ministry at Jerusalem (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1); on this interpretation the words would be introduced at this point to indicate that, however much stress the other Apostles and their adherents might lay on such outward knowledge, yet to St. Paul, though he could lay claim to it as well as they, this did not seem the essential matter. But (a) the words do not necessarily imply this; it is noteworthy that he says Χριστόν, not Ἰησοῦν, which we should expect on Beyschlag’s hypothesis. (b) The explanation given above is quite in accordance with the usage of κατὰ σάρκα with a verb (see reff.), and the order of the words here and in the preceding clause does not allow us to take κατὰ σάρκα with οὐδένα in the one case and with Χριστόν in the other. (c) As Schmiedel points out, if St. Paul really had had personal experience of the public ministry of Jesus, he would hardly have failed to mention it in the great apologetic passage, chap. 2 Corinthians 11:22-33. Other writers, e.g., Jowett, explain the latter clause of this verse by supposing that the Apostle is contrasting his more mature preaching with his preaching at an earlier stage of his Christian ministry when he had not yet emancipated himself from Jewish prejudices. But of his consciousness of such a “development” in his views, subsequently to his conversion, there is no trace in the Epistles. The contrast is really between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles.

16. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh] i.e. we regard no man from a purely fleshly point of view (see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:17), but look upon him as endowed with a new vital principle from above which has changed his heart. Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:1-11; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16. “Even in Christ a transition took place analogous to that which happened to man in regeneration. In the Resurrection the life according to the flesh passed over into a life according to the Spirit.” Olshausen. “He who knows no man after the flesh has entirely lost sight in the case of a Jew, for example, of his Jewish origin, in the case of a rich man of his riches, in that of a learned man of his learning, in that of a slave of his slavery, and so on.” Meyer. Cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11.

yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh] i.e. from a purely human point of view, as the Son of David simply (Romans 1:3), not as the Incarnate Son of God, the Divine Word. See Bishop Wordsworth’s note here. St Paul, and many others of the first preachers of the faith (cf. Acts 1:6), had started with such carnal conceptions, but they had disappeared before the light of God’s truth.

2 Corinthians 5:16. Ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν, henceforth) From the time that the love of Christ has engaged [has pre-occupied] our minds. Even this epistle differs in degree from the former.—οὐδένα, no man) neither ourselves, nor the other apostles, Galatians 2:6; nor you, nor others. We do not fear the great, we do not consider the humble more humble than ourselves; we do and suffer all things, and our anxiety is in every way to bring all to life. In this enthusiasm [ἔκστασις, being beside ourselves], 2 Corinthians 5:13, nay in this death, 2 Corinthians 5:15, we know none of them that survive,[30] even in connection with our ministry,—ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ, according to the flesh) according to the old state, arising from nobility, riches, resources, wisdom, [so as that from more natural considerations, we should either do or omit to do this or that.—V. g.]—εἰ δὲ καὶ ἐγνώκαμεν) ΟἾΔΑ and ἜΓΝΩΚΑ,[31] differ, 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 2:111 Corinthians 8:1. Such knowledge was more tolerable, before the death of Christ: for that was the period of the days of the flesh.—κατὰ σάρκα, according to the flesh) construed with ἐγνώκαμεν, we have known.—Χριστὸν, Christ) He does not say here Jesus. The name Jesus is in some measure more spiritual than the name Christ; and they know Christ according to the flesh, who acknowledge Him as the Saviour, not of the world, 2 Corinthians 5:19, but only of Israel, ch. 2 Corinthians 11:18, note: and who congratulate themselves on this account, that they belong to that nation from which Christ was descended, and who seek in His glory political splendour, and in their seeing Him when He formerly appeared, and in their hearing of His instructions of whatever kind, before His sufferings, some superiority over others, and in the knowledge of Him, the enjoyment of the mere natural senses: and who do not strive to attain that enjoyment which is here described, and which is derived from His death and resurrection, 2 Corinthians 5:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 : comp. John 16:7; Romans 8:34; Php 3:10; Luke 8:21.

[30] i.e. Those not yet dead with and in Christ, but living in the flesh: note on οἱ ζῶντες, 2 Corinthians 5:15.—ED.

[31] οἶδα seems to be used as scio (of an abstract truth well known), or novi (of a person, with whom we are well acquainted). ἔγνωκα as agnosco, or cognosco, come to the knowledge of, I perceive, or recognize.—ED.

Verse 16. - Know no man after the flesh. It is a consequence of my death with Christ that I have done with carnal, superficial, earthly, external judgments according to the appearance, and not according to the heart. Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh. The word for "know" is different from the one just used (οῖδα, scio; ἔγνωκα, cognovi), and may be rendered, "though we have taken note of." The whole phrase, which has been interpreted in multitudes of different ways, and has led to many different hypotheses, must be understood in accordance with the context. St. Paul is saying that he has now renounced all mere earthly and human judgments; and he here implies that the day has been (whether - which is a very unlikely view - before his conversion, when he looked on Christ as a "deceiver," or just after his conversion, when possibly he may only have known him partially as the Jewish Messiah) when he knew Christ only in this fleshly way; but henceforth he will know him so no more. Probably this "knowing Christ after the flesh" is a rebuke to those members of the Christ party at Corinth who may have boasted that they were superior to all others because they had personally seen or known Christ - a spirit which Christ himself not only discouraged (John 16:7) but even rebuked (Matthew 12:50). To St. Paul Christ is now regarded as far above all local, national, personal, and Jewish limitations, and as the principle of spiritual life in the heart of every Christian. In the view which he took of his Lord St. Paul henceforth has banished all Jewish particularism for gospel catholicity. He regards Christ, not in the light of earthly relationships and conditions, but as the risen, glorified, eternal, universal Saviour. 2 Corinthians 5:16After the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα)

"He who knows no man after the flesh, has, for example, in the case of the Jew, entirely lost sight of his Jewish origin; in that of the rich man, of his riches; in that of the learned of his learning; in that of the slave, of his servitude" (Alford). Compare Galatians 3:28.

Yea though (εἰ καὶ)

Not with a climactic force, as A.V., and not with the emphasis on Christ, but on have known. The proper sense will be brought out in reading by emphasizing have. We know no man henceforth after the flesh: even if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now, etc. Paul refers to his knowledge of Christ before his conversion, a hearsay knowledge, confined to reports of His personal appearance, His deeds, His relations to the Jews, His alleged crime and punishment. When the glorified Christ first spoke to him out of heaven, he asked, "Who art thou?" Compare to reveal His Son in me, Galatians 1:16.

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