Philippians 1:23
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
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(23) Having a desire . . .—Properly, having my own desire for departure. The verb “depart” corresponds exactly to the substantive used in 2Timothy 4:6, “The time of my departure is at hand.” It is itself used only here and in Luke 12:36, “When he shall return (break up) from the wedding.” The metaphor is drawn either from “loosing” from the shore of life, or (perhaps better) from striking tents and breaking up a camp. The body (as in 2Corinthians 5:1) is looked upon as a mere tabernacle. Each day is a march nearer home, and death is the last striking of the tent on arrival.

To be with Christ.—This is contemplated by St. Paul as the immediate consequence of death, even while still “out of the body,” and before the great day. The state of the faithful departed is usually spoken of as one of “rest” (1Corinthians 15:51-52; 1Thessalonians 4:14-16; Revelation 14:13), although not without expectation and longing for the consummation of all things (Revelation 6:10-11). Such a condition of rest, and suspension of conscious exercise of spiritual energy, is, indeed, that which human reason and analogy would suggest, so far as they can suggest anything on this mysterious subject. But such passages as this seem certainly to imply that this rest is emphatically a “rest in the Lord,” having an inner consciousness of communion with Christ. His “descent unto Hades,” not only brings out the reality of the unseen world of souls, but also claims it as His. As on earth and in heaven, so also in the intermediate state, we are “ever with the Lord;” and that state, though not yet made perfect, is spiritually far higher than this earthly life. The original here is an emphatic double comparative, “far, far better.”

1:21-26 Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good. The apostle's difficulty was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison; but between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Not between two evil things, but between two good things; living to Christ and being with him. See the power of faith and of Divine grace; it can make us willing to die. In this world we are compassed with sin; but when with Christ, we shall escape sin and temptation, sorrow and death, for ever. But those who have most reason to desire to depart, should be willing to remain in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. And the more unexpected mercies are before they come, the more of God will be seen in them.For I am in a strait betwixt two - Two things, each of which I desire. I earnestly long to be with Christ; and I desire to remain to be useful to the world. The word rendered "I am in a strait" - συνέχομαι sunechomai - means to be pressed on or constrained, as in a crowd; to feel oneself pressed or pent up so as not to know what to do; and it here means that he was in perplexity and doubt, and did not know what to choose. "The words of the original are very emphatic. They appear to be derived from a ship when lying at anchor, and when violent winds blow upon it that would drive it out to sea. The apostle represents himself as in a similar condition. His strong affection for them bound his heart to them - as an anchor holds a ship to its moorings and yet there was a heavenly influence bearing upon him - like the gale upon the vessel - which would bear him away to heaven." Burder, in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc.

Having a desire to depart - To die - to leave this world for a better. People, as they are by nature, usually dread to die. Few are even made willing to die. Almost none desire to die - and even then they wish it only as the least of two evils. Pressed down by pain and sorrow; or sick and weary of the world, the mind may be worked up into a desire to be away. But this with the world is, in all cases, the result of misanthropy, or morbid feeling, or disappointed ambition, or an accumulation of many sorrows. Wetstein has adduced on this verse several most beautiful passages from the classic writers, in which people expressed a desire to depart - but all of them probably could be traced to disappointed ambition, or to mental or bodily sorrows, or to dissatisfaction with the world. It was from no such wish that Paul desired to die. It was not because he hated man - for he ardently loved him. It was not because he had been disappointed about wealth and honor - for he had sought neither. It was not because he had not been successful - for no man had been more so. It was not because he had been subjected to pains and imprisonments - for he was willing to bear them. It was not because he was old, and infirm, and a burden to the world - for, from anything that appears, he was in the vigor of life, and in the fullness of his strength. It was from a purer, higher motive than any of these - the strength of attachment which bound him to the Saviour, and which made him long to be with him.

And to be with Christ - We may remark on this expression:

(1) That this was the true reason why he wished to be away. It was his strong love to Christ; his anxious wish to be with him; his firm belief that in his presence was "fulness of joy."

(2) Paul believed that the soul of the Christian would be immediately with the Saviour at death. It was evidently his expectation that he would at once pass to his presence, and not that he would remain in an intermediate state to some far distant period.

(3) the soul does not sleep at death. Paul expected to be with Christ, and to be conscious of the fact - to see him, and to partake of his glory.

(4) the soul of the believer is made happy at death. To be with Christ is synonymous with being in heaven - for Christ is in heaven, and is its glory. We may add:

(a) that this wish to be with Christ constitutes a marked difference between a Christian and other people. Other people may be willing to die; perhaps be desirous to die, because their sorrows are so great that they feel that they cannot be borne. But the Christian desires to depart from a different motive altogether. It is to be with Christ - and this constitutes a broad line of distinction between him and other people.

(b) A mere willingness to die, or even a desire to die, is no certain evidence of preparation for death. If this willingness or desire is caused by mere intensity of suffering; if it is produced by disgust at the world or by disappointment; if it arises from some view of fancied Elysian fields beyond the grave, it constitutes no evidence whatever of a preparation for death. I have seen not a few persons who were not professed Christians on a bed of death, and not a few willing to die, nay, not a few who wished to depart. But in the vast majority of instances it was because they were sick of life, or because their pain made them sigh for relief, or because they were so wretched that they did not care what happened - and this they and their friends construed into an evidence that they were prepared to die! In most instances this is a miserable delusion; in no case is a mere willingness to die an evidence of preparation for death.

Which is far better - Would be attended with more happiness; and would be a higher, holier state than to remain on earth. This proves also that the soul of the Christian at death is made at once happy - for a state of insensibility can in no way be said to be a better condition than to remain in this present world. The Greek phrase here - πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον pollō mallon kreisson - is very emphatic, and the apostle seems to labor for language which will fully convey his idea. It means, "by much more, or rather better," and the sense is, "better beyond all expression." Doddridge. See numerous examples illustrating the phrase in Wetstein. Paul did not mean to say that he was merely willing to die, or that he acquiesced in its necessity, but that the fact of being with Christ was a condition greatly to be preferred to remaining on earth. This is the true feeling of Christian piety; and having this feeling, death to us will have no terrors.

23. For—The oldest manuscripts read, "But." "I know not (Php 1:22), BUT am in a strait (am perplexed) betwixt the two (namely, 'to live' and 'to die'), having the desire for departing (literally, 'to loose anchor,' 2Ti 4:6) and being with Christ; FOR (so the oldest manuscripts) it is by far better"; or as the Greek, more forcibly, "by far the more preferable"; a double comparative. This refutes the notion of the soul being dormant during its separation from the body. It also shows that, while he regarded the Lord's advent as at all times near, yet that his death before it was a very possible contingency. The partial life eternal is in the interval between death and Christ's second advent; the perfectional, at that advent [Bishop Pearson]. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far, far better; a New Testament hope (Heb 12:24), [Bengel]. For I am in a strait between two; because he knew not what to choose for the best, he was held in suspense, Luke 12:50 Acts 18:5, as one drawn both ways with weighty reasons, which he amplifies with respect to himself and the church, that Christ might be honoured in both: his love to the enjoyment of Christ and the edification of his members constraining him on each hand; the former was more delightful to him, and the latter more profitable for them.

Having a desire to depart; being held not only with a bare inclination, but an ardent and perpetually active desire, to loose from this clayey tabernacle, Psalm 42:1,2 Ec 12:7 Luke 2:29 12:36 2 Corinthians 5:1,4 2 Timothy 4:6: so to depart as to abide in a better place.

And to be with Christ; which is far better; upon being absent from the body to be present with Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:8, in paradise, Luke 23:43 1 Thessalonians 4:17; so to leave the body as to live with and enjoy him in heaven, is by far much better for me.

For I am in a strait betwixt two,.... Life and death; or between these "two counsels", as the Arabic version reads; two thoughts and desires of the mind, a desire to live for the reasons above, and a desire to die for a reason following. The apostle was pressed with a difficulty in his mind about this, as David was when he was bid to choose which he would, either seven years' famine, or three months' flight before his enemies, or three days' pestilence; upon which he said, I am in a great strait, 2 Samuel 24:14; to which passage it is thought the apostle alludes; the same word as here is used by Christ, Luke 12:50,

having a desire to depart; to die, a way of speaking much in use with the Jews, as expressive of death; thus Abraham is represented by them speaking after this manner on account of his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, the one being righteous and the other wicked (c),

"says he, if I bless Isaac, lo, Ishmael will seek to be blessed, and he is wicked; but a servant am I, flesh and blood am I, and tomorrow , "I shall depart out of the world", or "die"; and what pleases the holy blessed God himself in his own world, let him do: "when Abraham was dismissed" or "departed", the holy blessed God appeared to Isaac and blessed him:

and again it is said (d),

"iniquities are not atoned for, until , "a man is dismissed", or "departs out of the world";

and once more (e),

"when a man , "departs out of this world"; according to his merit he ascends above;

See Gill on John 13:1; the same word is used in the Syriac version here; death is departing out of this life, a going out of the body, a removal out of this world; it is like moving from one place to another, from the world below to the world above; with the saints it is no other than a removing from one house to another, from the earthly house of their tabernacle, the body, to their Father's house, and the mansions of glory in it, preparing for them. Death is not an annihilation of men, neither of soul nor body; it is a separation of them, but not a destruction of either; it is a dissolution of the union between them for a while, when both remain in a separate state till the resurrection: now this the apostle had a desire unto, which was not a new and sudden motion of mind; it was a thought that had long dwelt with him, and still continued; and this desire after death was not for the sake of death, for death in itself is a king of terrors, very formidable and terrible, and not desirable; it is an enemy, the last enemy that shall be destroyed; it is contrary to nature, and to desire it is contrary to a first principle in nature, self-preservation; but death is desired for some other end; wicked men desire it, and desire others to put an end to their lives, or do it themselves to free them from some trouble they are in; or because they are not able to support under a disappointment of what their ambition or lust have prompted them to: good men desire death, though always when right, with a submission to the will of God, that they may be rid of sin, which so much dishonours God as well as distresses themselves; and that they may be clothed upon with the shining robes of immortality and glory; and as the apostle here,

to be with Christ: for the former clause is to be strictly connected with this; he did not desire merely to depart this life, but chiefly to be with Christ, and the former only in order to the latter; the saints are in Christ now, chosen in him, set upon his heart, and put into his hands, are created in him, and brought to believe in him, and are in him as branches in the vine; and he is in them, formed in their hearts, lives and dwells in them by faith, and they have sometimes communion with him in private duties and public worship; he comes into them and sups with them, and they with him: but this is only at times, he is as a wayfaring man that continues but for a night; hence the present state of the saints is a state of absence from Christ; while they are at home in the body, they are absent from the Lord, especially as to his bodily presence; but after death they are immediately with him, where he is in his human nature; and their souls in their separate state continue with him till the resurrection morn, when their bodies will be raised and reunited to their souls, and be both for ever with him, beholding his glory, and enjoying uninterrupted communion with him; which will be the completion and full end of Christ's preparations and prayers: hence it appears that there is a future being and state after death: the apostle desires to depart this life, and "be", exist, be somewhere, "with Christ"; for the only happy being after death is with him; if souls are not with him, they are with devils and damned spirits, in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: and it is also manifest that souls do not sleep with the body in the grave until the resurrection; the souls of the saints are immediately with Christ, in the enjoyment of his presence, in happiness and glory, hoping, believing, and waiting for the resurrection of their bodies; had the apostle known that he must have remained after death in a state of inactivity and uselessness, deprived of the communion of Christ and of his church, it would have been no difficulty with him to determine which was most eligible, to live or die; and it would have been much better for him, and more to the advantage of the churches, if he had continued upon earth to this day, than to be sleeping in his grave, senseless and inactive; whereas he adds,

which is far better: to depart and be with Christ is better than to live in the flesh in this sinful world, in the midst of a variety of sorrows and troubles, and in which communion with Christ is but now and then enjoyed, though such a life is better than sleeping in the grave; but upon a soul's departure and being with Christ, it is free from sin and sorrow, and in the utmost pleasure, enjoying communion with him without interruption; and this is better than labouring in the ministry: for though no man took more pleasure in the work of the ministry than the apostle did, and no man's ministry was more profitable and useful; yet it was toilsome, laborious, and wearisome to the flesh; wherefore dying and being with Jesus could not but be desirable, since he should then rest from his labours, and his works would follow him; at least it was better for him, and so the Syriac version adds, "to me", far better for me; and so the Arabic: to live longer might be better and more to the advantage of Christ, the glory of his name, the good of his churches, it might be better for others; but leaving the world and being with Christ were better for him; and this was an argument swaying on the side of death, and inclining him to desire that, and made it so difficult with him what to choose,

(c) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 11. fol. 202. 3.((d) Zohar in Numb. fol. 51. 3.((e) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 1.

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Php 1:23. Respecting the τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω, Paul expresses himself more fully in Php 1:23-24, proceeding with the explicative δέ; for δέ is not antithetical (Hofmann: “on the contrary”), but, in fact, the reading γάρ is a correct gloss, since the situation now follows, which necessitates that relinquishment of a choice. But I am held in a strait (comp. Luke 12:50; Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Wis 17:11; Dem. 396. 22, 1484. 23; Plat. Legg. vii. p. 791 E, Theaet. p. 165 B; Heind. ad Plat. Soph. 46) of the two points, namely the ἀποθανεῖν and the ζῆν,[75] of which he has just said, τί αἱρ. οὐ γνωρ. These δύο are not conceived in an instrumental sense, which is expressed with συνέχ., by the dative (Matthew 4:24; Luke 8:37; Acts 18:5; Plat. Soph. p. 250 D; Eur. Heracl. 634), but as that from which the συνεχέσθαι proceeds and originates (Bernhardy, p. 227 f.; Schoem. ad Is. p. 348; Mätzner, ad Antiph. p. 167).

τὴν ἐπιθυμ. ἔχων κ.τ.λ.] since my longing is to die. The article denotes, not “votum jam commemoratum” (Hoelemann), for Paul has not indeed as yet expressed an ἐπιθυμεῖν, but doubtless the desire, which Paul has. He says that his desire tends towards dying, etc.,[76] but that life is more necessary; and therefore he knows that not that for which he longs, but that which is the more necessary, will come to pass, and that he will remain alive (Php 1:25). Augustine aptly observes: “Non patienter moritur, sed patienter vivit et delectabiliter moritur.”

ἀναλῦσαι] comp. 2 Timothy 4:6; Isaiah 38:12. Dying is conceived as a breaking up (a figure taken from the camp) for the departure, namely, from this temporal life to Christ (comp. ὑπάγειν, Matthew 26:24; ἘΚΔΗΜΕῖΝ, 2 Corinthians 5:8 f.; and similar passages); hence the ΚΑῚ ΣῪΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ ΕἾΝΑΙ immediately added.[77]

πολλῷ γ. μᾶλλ. κρεῖσσον] by much in a higher degree better; a cumulative expression in the strength and vividness of feeling. As to μᾶλλον with the comparative, see on Mark 7:36; 2 Corinthians 7:13; and Kühner, II. 2, p. 24 f., and ad Xen. Mem. iii. 13. 5; Bornemann, ad Cyrop. p. 137, Goth. If here interpreted as potius (Php 1:12), it would glance at the preference usually given to life; but nothing in the context leads to this. The predicate κρεῖσσον (a much better, i.e. happier lot) refers to the apostle himself; comp. below, διʼ ὑμᾶς. Eur. Hec. 214: θανεῖν μου ξυντυχία κρείσσων ἑκύρησεν.

[75] It is therefore more in harmony with the context to refer ἐκ τῶν δύο to what precedes than to what follows (Luther, Rheinwald, Corn. Müller, and others). Note that the emphasis is laid on συνέχομαι, which is the new climactic point in the continuation of the discourse. The word συνεχ. itself is rightly rendered by the Vulgate: coarctor. The mere teneor (Weiss and earlier expositors) is not sufficient according to the context. Paul feels himself in a dilemma between two opposite alternatives.

[76] It is thus explained why Paul did not write τοῦ ἀναλῦσαι (as Origen reads). εἰς is not dependent τὴν ἐπιθ. (ἐπιθ. is never so construed; comp. Corn. Müller); but τὴν ἐπιθ. is absolute, and εἰς τὸ ἀναλ. expresses the direction of τὴν ἑπιθ. ἔχων: having my longing towards dying. Comp. Thuc. vi. 15. 2.

[77] Bengel: “Decedere sanctis nunquam non optabile fuit, sed cum Christo esse ex novo testamento est.” This Christian longing, therefore, has in view anything rather than a “having emerged from the limitation of personality” (Schleiermacher).—The translation dissolvi (Vulgate, Hilary) is to be referred to another reading (ἀναλυθῆναι).

Php 1:23. συνέχομαι δέ (with most authorr.). δέ = “rather”. Cf. Romans 4:20.—συνέχ. ἐκ. Apparently the idea is that of a strong pressure bearing upon him from (ἐκ the source) two sides and keeping him motionless.—ἐπιθυμ. εἰς. Cf. Thuc., iv., 81, ἐπιθυμίαν ἐνεποίει τοῖς Ἀθην. συμμάχοις ἐς τοὺς Λακεδ.—ἀναλῦσαι. Aor. of momentary action (see Burton, MT[56], p. 50). Only here in N.T. in this sense. Cf. 2 Timothy 4:6, ἀνάλυσιν; Philo, Flacc. ad fin., τὴν ἐκ τοῦ βίου τελευταίαν ἀνάλυσιν. Frequent in LXX and late Greek = depart. In Polyb. it usually means castra movere.—σὺν Χ. εἶναι. From this passage and 2 Corinthians 5:8 (but see also 1 Thessalonians 5:10) as compared with others, e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 15:51, Beyschl. (N.T. Theol., ii., 269 ff.), Teichmann (op. cit. pp. 57–59), Grafe (Abhandl. C. v. Weizsäcker gewidm., p. 276) and others conclude that the Apostle changed his views on eschatology in his later years, and esp[57] when death stared him in the face. Instead of supposing a sleep (κοιμᾶσθαι) until the Parousia, or else the direct experience of that event, he now believes that after death the soul is immediately united to Christ. It is, however, hazardous to build up eschatological theories on these isolated utterances of the Apostle. He has, apparently, no fixed scheme of thought on the subject. The Resurrection is not before his mind at all in this passage. His eschatology, as Dsm[58] (Th. LZ[59], 1898, col. 14) well observes, must rather be conceived as ἐλπίς. Death cannot interrupt the life ἐν Χριστῷ. This is the preparation for being σὺν Χ. Even contemporary Jewish thought was familiar with a similar idea. So, e.g., Tanchuma, Wajjikra, 8: “When the righteous leave the world they ascend at once and stand on high” (Weber, Lehren d. Talmud, p. 323). See also Charles, Eschatology, p. 399 ff.—πολλῷ κ.τ.λ. It seems necessary for the sense to insert γάρ with the best authorities. The double comparat. is fairly common.

[56] Moods and Tenses (Burton, Goodwin).

[57] especially.

[58] Deissmann (BS. = Bibelstudien, NBS. = Neue Bibelstudien).

[59] Theologische Literaturzeitung.

23. For] Read But, with conclusive evidence. The word here marks addition rather than distinction. An English writer would have dispensed with a transitional particle, probably.

in a strait betwixt two] More precisely, with R.V., the two; the two alternatives just spoken of, life and death.—The imagery is of a man hemmed in right and left, so as to be stationary. Quite literally the words are, “I am confined from the two (sides)”; the position is one of dilemma, viewed from whichever side.

Wonderful is the phenomenon of this dilemma, peculiar to the living Christian as such. “The Apostle asks which is most worth his while, to live or to die. The same question is often presented to ourselves, and perhaps our reply has been that of the Apostle. But may we not have made it with a far different purport?… Life and death have seemed to us like two evils, and we knew not which was the less. To the Apostle they seem like two immense blessings, and he knows not which is the better.” (Ad. Monod, Adieux, No. ii.)

To the question, “Is life worth living?” this is the Christian answer.

having a desire] Lit., the desire. That is, the whole element of personal preference lies that way, not merely one desire among many.—We may paraphrase, “my longing being towards departure &c.”

to depart] The verb (analuein) occurs only here and Luke 12:36, where A.V. and R.V. render “when he shall return from the wedding,” but where we may equally well render, “when he shall depart, set out homewards, from the wedding.” The cognate noun analusis, whence our word analysis is transliterated, occurs 2 Timothy 4:6, in a connexion exactly akin to this; “the time of my departure is at hand.” The root meaning of the verb has to do with loosing, undoing; and by usage it can refer to either (a) the dissolution of a compound (so the Vulgate here, cupio dissolvi), or (b) the unmooring of a ship, or striking of a tent or camp. It does not occur in the LXX., but is not infrequent in the Apocrypha, and there usually means to go away, or, as another side of the same act, to return (cp. Tob 2:8; Jdt 13:1). Such a meaning is doubtless to be traced to the imagery of (b) above, but appears to have dropped all conscious reference to it. This apocryphal usage, and the comments here of the Greek expositors (St Chrysostom paraphrases our text by “migration from hence to heaven”), are decisively in favour of our Versions as against the Vulgate. St Paul desires to leave for home; to break up his camp, to weigh his anchor, for that better country. See the same thought under other phraseology 2 Corinthians 5:1-8; where we see a “tent taken down,” and a wanderer “going to be at home with the Lord.”

Suicer (Thesaurus, under ἀναλύω), says that Melanchthon on his death-bed called the attention of his learned friend Camerarius to this word, dwelling with delight on the passage, correcting the “dissolution” of the Vulgate, and rendering rather, “to prepare for departure,” “to migrate,” or “to return home.”—Luther renders here abzuscheiden, “to depart.”

and to be with Christ] The other side of the fact of departure, and that which makes its blessedness. From this passage and 2 Corinthians 5 quoted above we gather that as it were not a space, but a mathematical line, divides the state of faith this side death from the state of sight that side; see esp. 2 Corinthians 5:7, in its immediate context.—“Those who blame as … presumptuous the fervours and speciality of devout affection, such as eminent Christians have expressed in their dying moments, know probably nothing of Christianity beyond the bare story they read in the Gospels, and nothing of human nature … as affected by religion, beyond what belongs to the servile sentiments of a Pelagian faith, better called distrust … Christianity meets us where most of all we need its aid, and it meets us with the very aid we need. It does not tell us of the splendours of the invisible world; but it does far better when, in three words, it informs us that (ἀναλῦσαι) to loosen from the shore of mortality is (σὺν Χριστῶ̣ εἶναι) to be with Christ.” (Isaac Taylor, Saturday Evening, ch. xxvi.)

It is divinely true that the Christian, here below, is “with Christ,” and Christ with him. But such is the developed manifestation of that Presence after death, and such its conditions, that it is there as if it had not been before.—Cp. Acts 7:59; words which St Paul had heard.

which is far better] Probably read, for it is &c. And the Greek, quite precisely, is “much rather better”; a bold accumulation, to convey intense meaning. R.V., for it is very far better.

Observe that it is thus “better” in comparison not with the shadows of this life, but with its most happy light. The man who views the prospect thus has just said that to him “to live is Christ.” Death is “gain” for him, therefore, not as mere escape or release, but as a glorious augmentation; it is “Christ” still, only very far more of Christ.

Php 1:23. Συνέχομαι, I am in a strait [I am perplexed]) He suitably expresses this hesitation, when he dwells upon this deliberation.—δὲ, but [for]) He hereby declares the cause of his doubt.—ἔχων, having) The participle, expressive of the feelings of the mind, for the indicative.—εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι) to depart from bonds, from the flesh, and from the world. There is no need to seek for metaphor. The use of this word is of wide extent [application], Luke 12:36; 2 Timothy 4:6σὺν Χριστῷ, with Christ) there, whither Christ has gone before him. Paul takes it for granted as a certainty, that, after his martyrdom, he will be immediately with Christ, and that his condition will be greatly superior to what it was in the flesh. [How delightful it is to rejoice in this hope! Reader, dost thou love Christ? Think then what will be the feeling of thy mind, if, after an interval of some months or days, thou shalt be with Christ. If that were indeed sure in thy case, what wouldst thou think should be done? See then that thou art doing this very thing at the present time.—V. g.]—πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον, far the more preferable [far better]) This short clause is to be referred to the verb to be, not to depart, whether we take it as a predicate, or rather understand it absolutely, by supplying ὂν, in this sense, since that is much better. For the comparative is cumulative; comp. 2 Corinthians 7:13, note. To depart is better than to remain in the flesh; to be with Christ is far far better. The Vulgate alone, so far as I know, has rightly, multo magis melius, much more better [preferable]. To depart was always a thing wished for by the saints, but to be with Christ is in accordance with the New Testament [a privilege peculiar to the New Testament]; comp. Hebrews 12:24.

Verse 23. - For I am in a strait betwixt two; rather, but (so the best manuscripts) I am straitened, hemmed in (Bishop Lightfoot) betwixt the two alternatives, life and death, pressing upon me, constraining me on either side. Having a desire to depart; having my desire set towards departing εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι). The word occurs again in 2 Timothy 4:6, Ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως It is used of a ship, to loose from its moorings; or a camp, to break up; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved (καταλυθῇ)." Probably here the metaphor is taken from tent life; to loosen, to remove the tent, the temporary abode, in the journey to the heavenly city. And to be with Christ. The holy dead are with Christ, they rest from their labors; they live unto God (Luke 20:38); they do not sleep idly without consciousness, for they are described in Holy Scripture as witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) of the race set before living Christians (comp. also 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 and Acts 7:59). Yet they are elsewhere described as sleeping (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 15); for the rest of the spirits of just men in Paradise is as a sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss of God's elect, both in body and soul, in his everlasting glory. Which is far better; read and translate, for it is by much very far better. He piles up comparatives, as if unable to find words capable of expressing the glory of his hope. Philippians 1:23I am in a strait betwixt two (συνέχομαι ἐκ τῶν δύο)

See on 2 Corinthians 5:14. The picture is that of a man pressed on both sides. Lit. I am held together, so that I cannot incline either way. Betwixt two, lit., from the two. The pressure comes from both sides. Note the article, the two, the two considerations just mentioned, departing or abiding in the flesh.

Having a desire

Lit., the desire: my desire, as expressed in Philippians 1:21, for death with its gain.

To depart (ἀναλῦσαι)

The verb means originally to unloose, undo again. So of Penelope's web: "During the night she undid it" (Homer, "Odyssey," ii., 105). Of loosing a ship from her moorings: of breaking up a camp. So 2 Macc. 9:1. Antiochus, having entered Persepolis, and having attempted to rob the temple and to hold the city, was put to flight by the inhabitants, and broke up (ἀναλελυκὼς) and came away with dishonor. We have the same figure in popular usage of one who changes his residence: "He broke up at Chicago and removed to New York." Paul's metaphor here is the military one, to break camp. Compare 2 Corinthians 5:1, where the metaphor is the striking of a tent. Some prefer the nautical image, casting off from shore; but Paul's circumstances naturally suggested military figures; and, what is somewhat strange in the case of one so familiar with the sea, nautical metaphors are rare in his writings. There is one at 1 Timothy 1:19, of those "who concerning the faith have made shipwreck;" at Ephesians 4:14, "tossed as by waves, and borne about by every wind." Κυβερνήσεις governments, 1 Corinthians 12:28 (see note), is from κυβερνάω to steer.

To be with Christ

Compare 2 Corinthians 5:6, 2 Corinthians 5:8; Acts 7:59; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Which is far better (πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον)

Lit., much more better. For similar cumulative expressions, see on 2 Corinthians 4:17. The best texts insert γὰρ for. So Rev., for it is very far better.

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