2 Corinthians 8:2
How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
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(2) In a great trial of affliction.—We do not know what is specially referred to, but a community of Christians in a heathen city was always exposed to trials of this kind, and the temper shown before by the rulers at Philippi and the Jews of Thessalonica (Acts 16:19-20; Acts 17:5-6; 1Thessalonians 2:14) makes it almost certain that they would carry on at least a petty persecution with more or less persistency. The “poverty” at Philippi may possibly be connected with the preponderance of women in the Church there, as indicated in Acts 16:13. In the absence of the bread-winners of a household, Christian women in a Græco-Roman city would find but scanty means of subsistence. In part, however, the churches were but sharers in a widely-spread distress. Macedonia and Achaia never recovered from the three wars between Cæsar and Pompeius, between the Triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and between Augustus and Antonius. Under Tiberius, they petitioned for a diminution of their burdens, and were accordingly transferred for a time from the jurisdiction of the senate to that of the emperor, as involving a less heavy taxation.

Unto the riches of their liberality.—The primary meaning of the word, as in 2Corinthians 1:12 (where see Note), is simplicity, or singleness of purpose. That singleness, when shown in gifts, leads to “liberality,” and so the word had acquired the secondary sense in which it seems here to be used. Tyndale, and Cranmer, however, give “singleness,” and the Rhemish version “simplicity.” “Liberality” first appears in that of Geneva.

8:1-6 The grace of God must be owned as the root and fountain of all the good in us, or done by us, at any time. It is great grace and favour from God, if we are made useful to others, and forward to any good work. He commends the charity of the Macedonians. So far from needing that Paul should urge them, they prayed him to receive the gift. Whatever we use or lay out for God, it is only giving him what is his own. All we give for charitable uses, will not be accepted of God, nor turn to our advantage, unless we first give ourselves to the Lord. By ascribing all really good works to the grace of God, we not only give the glory to him whose due it is, but also show men where their strength is. Abundant spiritual joy enlarges men's hearts in the work and labour of love. How different this from the conduct of those who will not join in any good work, unless urged into it!How that, in a great trial of affliction - When it might be supposed they were unable to give; when many would suppose they needed the aid of others; or when it might be supposed their minds would be wholly engrossed with their own concerns. The trial to which the apostle here refers was doubtless some persecution which was excited against them, probably by the Jews; see Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5.

The abundance of their joy - Their joy arising from the hopes and promises of the gospel. Notwithstanding their persecutions, their joy has abounded, and the effect of their joy has been seen in the liberal contribution which they have made. Their joy could not be repressed by their persecution, and they cheerfully contributed largely to the aid of others.

And their deep poverty - Their very low estate of poverty was made to contribute liberally to the needs of others. It is implied here:

(1) That they were very poor - a fact arising probably from the consideration that the poor generally embraced the gospel first, and also because it is probable that they were molested and stripped of their property in persecutions (compare Heb). Acts 10:34);

(2) That notwithstanding this they were enabled to make a liberal contribution - a fact demonstrating that a people can do much even when poor if all feel disposed to do it, and that afflictions are favorable to the effort; and,

(3) That one cause of this was the joy which they had even in their trials.

If a people have the joys of the gospel; if they have the consolations of religion themselves, they will somehow or other find means to contribute to the welfare of others. They will be willing to labor with reference to it, or they will find something which they can sacrifice or spare. Even their deep poverty will abound in the fruits of benevolence.

Abounded - They contributed liberally. Their joy was manifested in a large donation, notwithstanding their poverty.

Unto the riches of their liberality - Margin, "Simplicity." The word (ἁπλότης haplotēs) used here means properly sincerity, candor, probity; then Christian simplicity, integrity; then liberality; see Romans 12:8 (Margin,); 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 9:13. The phrase "riches of liberality," is a Hebraism, meaning rich, or abundant liberality. The sense is, their liberality was much greater than could be expected from persons so poor; and the object of the apostle is, to excite the Corinthians to give liberally by their example.

2. trial of affliction—The Greek expresses, "in affliction (or, 'tribulation') which tested them"; literally, "in a great testing of affliction."

abundance of their joy—The greater was the depth of their poverty, the greater was the abundance of their joy. A delightful contrast in terms, and triumph, in fact, of spirit over flesh.

their deep poverty—Greek, "their poverty down to the death of it."

abounded unto the riches of their liberality—another beautiful contrast in terms: their poverty had the effect, not of producing stinted gifts, but of "abounding in the riches of liberality" (not as Margin, "simplicity"; though the idea of singleness of motive to God's glory and man's good, probably enters into the idea); (compare Ro 12:8, and Margin; 2Co 9:11, Margin; see on [2316]2Co 9:13; Jas 1:5).

In a great trial of affliction; how great the afflictions of the churches in Macedonia were, both from the Jews and pagans, may be read in Acts 16:1-40 and Acts 17:1-34. Afflictions are called trials, because under them God maketh a trial of our faith, patience, and constancy; and the devil also, ordinarily, by them trieth to draw out our lusts and corruptions.

The abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded into the riches of their liberality; God made their inward peace and joy in the Holy Ghost so to abound in them under their trials, that though they were poor, (deeply poor), yet they abounded in the riches of liberality; not ministering to the necessities of their poor brethren in proportion to their abilities, or as might have been expected from men under their circumstances, but showing themselves rich in their liberality, though poor in their estates, and as to what they had of this world’s goods.

How that in a great trial of affliction,.... The apostle proceeds to show the condition these churches were in when, and the manner in which, they contributed to the relief of others. They were in affliction: they received the Gospel at first in much affliction, as did the church at Thessalonica, which was one of them; and afterwards suffered much from their countrymen for the profession of it, by reproaches, persecutions, imprisonments, confiscation of goods, &c. They were under trying afflictions, which tried their faith and patience, and in many of them. Now for persons in prosperity, when all things go well with them, to be liberal is no such great matter; but for persons in adversity, under trying dispensations of Providence, amidst many afflictive ones to communicate generously to the relief of others, is something very remarkable, and worthy of notice and imitation, which was the case of these churches: for notwithstanding this,

the abundance of their joy, and their deep poverty, abounded unto the riches of their liberality; so that it appears likewise that they were not only in great afflictions, but in deep poverty; had but an handful of meal in the barrel, and a little oil in the cruse, their purses almost empty, and their coffers almost exhausted; they had gotten to the bottom of their substance, had but very little left; and yet freely gave, with joy, even with an abundance of it. The allusion seems to be to the words of David, in 1 Chronicles 22:14 now behold, which the Septuagint render by , "according to my poverty, I have prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold", &c. for by "the abundance of their joy", is not so much meant the joy they felt in the midst of their afflictions, so that they could glory in them, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, as the cheerfulness of their spirits in contributing to the necessities of others; glad at heart they were that they had hearts to do good, and an opportunity of doing it; which they gladly laid hold on, observing the divine rule, "he that sheweth mercy", let him do it "with cheerfulness": and this they did, considering the small pittance they were possessed of, very largely; for though their poverty was deep, and their purses low, their hearts were large and full, and their hands ready to communicate; so that their poverty "abounded to the riches of their liberality": though their poverty was great, their liberality was rich and large; though it might be but little they gave in quantity, it was much in quality, much in liberality; like the poor widow, who, of her want and penury, cast in more than all the rich besides, not in quantity, but in liberality; they only giving some, and a disproportionate part, she her all.

How that in a {b} great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

(b) For those manifold afflictions with which the Lord tried them did not stop their joyful readiness, but also made it much more excellent and well-known.

2 Corinthians 8:2. A more precise explanation of τὴν χάριν κ.τ.λ., so that ὅτι (that, namely) is dependent on γνωρίζομεν. This exposition consists, as was seen by Chrysostom, Theodoret, Erasmus, Luther, Grotius, and many others, of two statements, so that after τῆς χαρᾶς αὐτῶν we must mentally supply the simple ἐστί.[265] This scheme of the passage, which Osiander and Hofmann also follow, is indicated by ἡ περισσεία in the one half, and ἐπερίσσευσεν in the other, whereby two parallel predicative relations are expressed, as well as by the fact that, if the whole be taken as one sentence, and consequently ἡ περισσ. τ. χαρᾶς αὐτῶν be taken along with the following καὶ ἡ κατὰ βάθους πτωχεία αὐτῶν as the subject of ἐπερίσσευσεν (so by most expositors since Beza), this subject would embrace two very diverse elements, and, besides, there would result the combination not elsewhere occurring: ἡ περισσεία ἐπερίσσευσεν. Hence it is to be explained: that, namely, in much attestation of affliction the abundance of their joyfulness is, i.e. that, while they are much put to the test by sufferings, their joy is plentifully present, and (that) their deep poverty became abundant unto the riches of their single-heartedness, i.e. that they, in their deep poverty, plentifully showed how rich their single-heartedness wa.

ἐν πολλῇ δοκιμῇ θλίψεως] Instead of writing simply ἐν πολλῇ θλίψει, Paul designates this situation according to the wholesome moral aspect, in which it showed itself amongst the Macedonians to their praise. Δοκιμή, namely, is here also not: trial, but, as Paul always uses it, verification (Romans 5:4; 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Php 2:22). Chrysostom aptly says: οὐδὲ γὰρ ἁπλῶς ἐθλίβησαν, ἀλλʼ οὕτως ὡς καὶ δόκιμοι γενέσθαι διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς. The verification of their Christian character, which the θλίψις effected in them, was just the moral element, in which the joyfulness πολλὴ καὶ ἄφατος ἐβλάστησεν ἐν αὐτοῖς (Chrysostom), and existed among them in spite of the θλίψις itself, which, moreover, would have been calculated to produce the opposite of χαρά. Regarding the θλίψις of the Macedonians, see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14 ff.; Acts 16:20 ff; Acts 17:5. The χαρά, the virtue of Christian gladness of soul, rising above all afflictions (Galatians 5:22; 2 Corinthians 6:10; Romans 14:17; comp. on John 15:11), is not yet defined here more precisely as regards its special expression, but is already brought into prominence with a view to the second part of the verse, consequently to the liberality which gladly distributes (2 Corinthians 9:7; Acts 20:35).

ἡ κατὰ βάθους πτωχεία] the deep poverty,[266] literally, that which has gone down to the depth (Winer, p. 357 [E. T. 477]); comp. βάθος κακῶν, Aesch. Pers. 718, Hel. 303; ἐς κίνδυνον βαθύν, Pind. Pyth. iv. 368, and the like; Blomfield, ad Aesch. Pers. Gloss. 471. The opposite is βαθύπλουτος, Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 286.

ἐπερίσσευσεν] became abundant, i.e. developed an exceedingly great activity, and this εἰς τὸν πλοῦτον κ.τ.λ.,[267] unto the riches of their singleness of heart. This is the result (Romans 3:7; 2 Corinthians 9:8) of the ἐπερίσσ.; so that their simple, upright spirit showed itself as rich, in spite of their poverty, through the abundance of kind gifts which they distributed. Note the skill and point of the antithetic correlation purposely marking the expressions in the two parts of the verse.

The ἉΠΛΌΤΗς[268] is the upright simplicity of heart (Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22); honestly and straightforwardly it contributes what it can to the work of love without any selfish design or arrière pensée (as e.g. the widow with her mite). Comp. on 2 Corinthians 12:8. And so it is rich, even with deep poverty on the part of the givers. The genitive is, as in περισσεία τῆς χαρ., the genitivus subjecti, not objecti (rich in simplicity), as Hofmann, following older commentators, holds. The αὐτῶν is against this latter view, for either it would have been wanting, or it would have been added to ΠΛΟῦΤΟΝ, because it would belong to that word.

[265] Not ἦν; for the present corresponds to the perfect δεδομ., and that, which took place in the happy state of things thus subsisting, is then subjoined by the aorist ἐπερίσσευσεν.

[266] As a grammatical supplement the simple οὖσα is sufficient; hence it is not to be taken, with Hofmann, as the poverty sinking deeper and ever deeper, but as the deep-sunk poverty. On κατά with genitive, comp. the Homeric κατὰ χθενός, Il. iii. 217; κατὰ γαίης, Il. xiii. 504; κατὰ σπείους, Od. ix. 330 (down into the cave), xii. 93. See in general, Spitzner, De vi et usu praepos. ἀνά et κατά ap. Homer. 1831, p 20 ff.

[267] The neuter form, τὸ πλοῦτος (Lachm. Tiseh. Rück.), is attested here by B C א 17, 31, but more decidedly in Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Ephesians 3:16; Php 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2.

[268] Hofmann conjectures that the prominence given to the ἁπλότης was called forth by the want of it among the Achaean Christians. In this case there would be in it a side-allusion, which is not justified in what follows. But the ἁπλότης, which had shown itself among the Macedonians in a specially high degree, was to serve them as an example, by way of stimulating emulation, not exactly of putting them to shame.

2 Corinthians 8:2. ὅτι ἐν πολλῇ δοκιμῇ κ.τ.λ.: how that in much proof of affliction, i.e., in spite of the severe afflictions by which they were tried, probably a reference to persecution and annoyance from their heathen neighbours (see Acts 16:20, Php 1:28, 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 Thessalonians 3:3-9), the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty (κατὰ βάθους = “reaching deep down”; cf. the phrase in Strabo, ix., 419, ἄντρον κοῖλον κατὰ βάθους) abounded unto the riches of their liberality. ἁπλοῦς means primarily “simple,” “single-minded” (Matthew 6:22), and ἁπλότης is thus used by St. Paul in chap. 2 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22; but single-mindedness or “heartiness” of giving (see 1 Chronicles 29:17) involves “liberality” in giving (cf. 2 Corinthians 9:7), and thus in many passages (see reff. and cf. Jam 1:5) liberality is the best rendering. The whole of Greece, except the Roman colonies of Patrae and Corinth, was in a dire condition of poverty and distress at this period (see Arnold’s Roman Commonwealth, ii., 382, quoted by Stanley); and the contribution of the Macedonian Christians was really comparable to the giving of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:44). It is noteworthy that no warnings against the temptations of wealth occur in 1 and 2 Thess. or Phil. See, however, Lightfoot, Bibl. Essays, p. 247.

2. trial] The Greek word is always used of that which has been tried and has stood the test See notes on 1 Corinthians 11:19 and James 1:12 in this series. The meaning here is that tribulation has brought out the genuine Christian qualities of the Macedonian Churches. For this tribulation see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Acts 17:5.

affliction] Translated more usually tribulation. See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:4. The Apostle refers to the persecutions which they shared with him, which, if not endured in the proper spirit, would have shut them up in the contemplation of their own sorrows, instead of making them anxious to relieve those of others.

the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty] Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26. “In spite of their troubled condition they had displayed great joyfulness, and in spite of their poverty they had displayed great liberality.” De Wette. The Geneva Version instead of ‘deep poverty’ has the poverty which had consumed them even to the very bottom. The literal rendering of deep is down to the depth, or according to depth. “Munificence,” says Chrysostom, “is determined not by the measure of what is given, but by the mind of those who bestow it.” Cf. Luke 21:3. “The condition of Greece in the time of Augustus was one of great desolation and distress … It had suffered severely by being the seat of the successive civil wars between Caesar and Pompey, between the triumvirs and Brutus and Cassius, and lastly, between Augustus and Antonius … The provinces of Macedonia and Achaia petitioned in the reign of Tiberius for a diminution of their burdens, and were considered deserving of compassion.” Arnold’s Roman Commonwealth. Corinth (see Introduction to First Epistle), from its position, would no doubt recover more speedily from such a condition of depression.

the riches of their liberality] (singleness, Tyndale and Cranmer, simplicity, Rhemish, after Vulgate). It is worth remarking that nowhere, save in 1 Timothy 6:17, does St Paul use the word riches of material, but, with that one exception, solely of moral or spiritual wealth. Dean Stanley remarks on the fact that both the Greek word translated liberality, and its English equivalent, have a double meaning, the original meaning of the Greek word being singlettess of heart, absence of all selfish motives (see ch. 2 Corinthians 1:12), and that of the English word the habit of mind engendered by a state of freedom.

2 Corinthians 8:2. Θλίψεως, of distress (pressuræ) [of affliction]) joined to poverty, 2 Corinthians 8:13, θλιψις, a burden of distress.—περισσεία καὶ πτωχεία, abundance and poverty) An oxymoron and hendiadys pleasantly interwoven.—Κατὰ βάθους) Βάθους is the genitive, governed by κατὰ: comp. κατὰ, Matthew 8:32 : also E. Schmid., 2 John, 2 Corinthians 8:3. He quotes his own syntax of Greek particles, an excellent book.—ἁπλότητος, of [liberality] simplicity) Simplicity renders men liberal, ch. 2 Corinthians 9:11 [ἀπλότητα, which Engl. V. renders bountifulness].

Verse 2. - In a great trial of affliction; rather, in much testing of affliction; i.e. in an affliction which put to the proof their Christian character. "They were not simply afflicted," says St. Chrysostom, "but in such a way as also to become approved by their endurance." (For the word rendered "trial," see Romans 5:4, and in this Epistle, 2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 9:13; 2 Corinthians 13:3.) "Affliction" seems to have befallen the Churches of Macedonia very heavily (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14), chiefly through the jealousy of the Jews, who excited the hatred of the Gentiles (Acts 16:20; Acts 17:5, 13). The abundance of their joy. Another reference to joy in sadness (see on 2 Corinthians 7:4). There is not the least necessity to understand the verb "is" or "was" after this clause. "The abundance... abounded" is indeed a pleonasm, but is not at all unlike the style of St. Paul. He means to say that their joy overflowed their affliction, and their liberality overflowed their poverty (Mark 12:44). Their deep poverty; literally, their pauperism to the depth; their abysmal penury. Though they were βαθύπτωχοι, they showed themselves in generosity to be βαθυπλουτοι. Stanley refers to Arnold's 'Roman Commonwealth,' where he mentions that the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia, which had suffered greatly in the three civil wars, appealed successfully to Tiberius for a diminution of their burdens. The gift of the Macedonians was like the widow's mite (Luke 21:3, 4, where similar words occur - perisseuo, husterema). Of their liberality; rather, of their singleness of purpose or simplicity (Ephesians 6:5). The "grace" and single-heartedness to which he alludes showed themselves in liberality. 2 Corinthians 8:2
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