1. He proceeds to illustrate the "glorying in infirmities"
He gave one instance which might expose him to ridicule
he now gives another, but this one connected with a glorious revelation
of which it was the sequel: but he dwells not on the glory done to
himself, but on the infirmity which followed it, as displaying
Christ's power. The oldest manuscripts read, "I MUST
NEEDS boast (or glory) though it be not expedient; for I
will come." The "for" gives a proof that it is "not expedient to
boast": I will take the case of revelations, in which if anywhere
boasting might be thought harmless. "Visions" refers to things
seen: "revelations," to things heard (compare
or revealed in any way. In "visions" their signification was not
always vouchsafed; in "revelations" there was always an unveiling of
truths before hidden
(Da 2:19, 31).
All parts of Scripture alike are matter of inspiration; but not
all of revelation. There are degrees of revelation; but not of
of--that is, from the Lord; Christ,
2. Translate, "I know," not "I knew."
a man--meaning himself. But he purposely thus
distinguishes between the rapt and glorified person of
2Co 12:2, 4,
and himself the infirmity-laden victim of the "thorn in the
Such glory belonged not to him, but the weakness did.
Nay, he did not even know whether he was in or out of the body when the
glory was put upon him, so far was the glory from being his
[ALFORD]. His spiritual self was his highest and
truest self: the flesh with its infirmity merely his temporary self
Here, however, the latter is the prominent thought.
in Christ--a Christian
above--rather, simply "fourteen years ago." This Epistle was
written A.D. 55-57. Fourteen years before will
bring the vision to A.D. 41-43, the time of his
second visit to Jerusalem
He had long been intimate with the Corinthians, yet had never mentioned
this revelation before: it was not a matter lightly to be spoken of.
I cannot tell--rather as Greek, "I know not." If in the body, he must have been caught up bodily; if out of the body, as seems to
be Paul's opinion, his spirit must have been caught up out of the
body. At all events he recognizes the possibility of conscious
receptivity in disembodied spirits.
to the third heaven--even to, &c. These raptures
(note the plural, "visions," "revelations,"
had two degrees: first he was caught up "to the third heaven,"
and from thence to "Paradise"
[CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA,
Miscellanies, 5.427], which seems to denote an inner recess of
the third heaven [BENGEL]
Paul was permitted not only to "hear" the things of Paradise, but to
see also in some degree the things of the third heaven (compare
The occurrence TWICE of "whether in the body
. . . I know not, God knoweth," and of "lest I should be
exalted above measure," marks two stages in the revelation. "Ignorance
of the mode does not set aside the certain knowledge of the
fact. The apostles were ignorant of many things" [BENGEL]. The first heaven is that of the clouds, the
air; the second, that of the stars, the sky; the third is
3. Translate, "I know."
out of--Most of the oldest manuscripts read "apart from."
4. unspeakable--not in themselves, otherwise Paul could not have
heard them; but as the explanation states, "which it is not lawful . . .
to utter" [ALFORD]. They were designed for Paul's own consolation, and
not for communication to others. Some heavenly words are communicable
These were not so. Paul had not the power adequately to utter; nor if
he had, would he have been permitted; nor would earthly men comprehend
A man may hear and know more than he can speak.
5. of myself--concerning myself. Self is put in the background,
except in respect to his infirmities. His glorying in his other self,
to which the revelations were vouchsafed, was not in order to give
glory to his fleshly self, but to bring out in contrast the
"infirmities" of the latter, that Christ might have all the glory.
6. For--Not but that I might glory as to "myself"
"FOR if I should desire to glory, I shall not be a
fool"; for I have things to glory, or boast of which are good matter
for glorying of (not mere external fleshly advantages which when he
he termed such glorying "folly,"
2Co 11:1, 16, 17).
think of me--Greek, "form his estimate respecting me."
heareth of me--Greek, "heareth aught from me." Whatever haply he
heareth from me in person. If on account of healing a cripple
(Ac 14:12, 13),
and shaking off a viper
the people thought him a god, what would they have not done, if he had
disclosed those revelations? [ESTIUS]. I wish each
of you to estimate me by "what he sees" my present acts and
"hears" my teaching to be; not by my boasting of past
revelations. They who allow themselves to be thought of more highly
than is lawful, defraud themselves of the honor which is at God's
(Joh 5:44; 12:43).
7. exalted above measure--Greek, "overmuch uplifted." How
dangerous must self-exaltation be, when even the apostle required so
much restraint! [BENGEL].
abundance--Greek, "the excess"; exceeding greatness.
given . . . me--namely, by God
thorn in the flesh--
ALFORD thinks it to be the same bodily affliction
Ga 4:13, 14.
It certainly was something personal, affecting him individually, and
not as an apostle: causing at once acute pain (as "thorn"
implies) and shame ("buffet": as slaves are buffeted,
messenger of Satan--who is permitted by God to afflict His saints,
to buffet me--In Greek, present: to buffet me even now
continuously. After experiencing the state of the blissful angels, he
is now exposed to the influence of an evil angel. The chastisement from
hell follows soon upon the revelation from heaven. As his sight and
hearing had been ravished with heavenly "revelations," so his
touch is pained with the "thorn in the flesh."
8. For--"concerning this thing."
thrice--To his first and second prayer no answer came. To his third
the answer came, which satisfied his faith and led him to bow his will
to God's will. So Paul's master, Jesus, thrice prayed on the Mount
of Olives, in resignation to the Father's will. The thorn seems (from
"that he may buffet me") to have continued with Paul when he
wrote, lest still he should be "overmuch lifted up."
the Lord--Christ. Escape from the cross is not to be sought even
indirectly from Satan
"Satan is not to be asked to spare us"
9. said--literally, "He hath said," implying that His answer is enough
is sufficient--The trial must endure, but the grace shall also endure
and never fail thee [ALFORD],
The Lord puts the words into Paul's mouth, that following them up he
might say, "O Lord, Thy grace is sufficient for me" [BENGEL].
my strength--Greek, "power."
is made perfect--has its most perfect manifestation.
in weakness--Do not ask for sensible strength, FOR My power is perfected in man's "strengthlessness"
(so the Greek). The "for" implies, thy "strengthlessness" (the
same Greek as is translated "weakness"; and in
"infirmities") is the very element in which My "power" (which moves
coincident with "My grace") exhibits itself more perfectly. So that
Paul instead of desiring the infirmity to "depart," "rather" henceforth
"glories in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest
(Greek, 'tabernacle upon,' cover my infirmity all over as with a
tabernacle; compare Greek,
upon" him. This effect of Christ's assurance on him appears,
1Co 2:3, 4;
The "My" is omitted in some of the oldest manuscripts; the sense is the
same, "power" (referring to God's power) standing absolutely, in
contrast to "weakness" (put absolutely, for man's weakness). Paul often
repeats the word "weakness" or "infirmity" (the eleventh, twelfth, and
thirteenth chapters) as being Christ's own word. The Lord has more need
of our weakness than of our strength: our strength is often His rival;
our weakness, His servant, drawing on His resources, and showing forth
His glory. Man's extremity is God's opportunity; man's security is
Satan's opportunity. God's way is not to take His children out of
trial, but to give them strength to bear up against it
10. take pleasure in--too strongly. Rather as the Greek, "I am
well contented in."
infirmities--the genus. Two pairs of species follow, partly
coming from "Satan's messenger," partly from men.
when--in all the cases just specified.
strong--"powerful" in "the power of Christ"
11. in glorying--omitted in the oldest manuscripts. "I am become a
fool." He sounds a retreat [BENGEL].
ye--emphatic. "It is YE who have compelled me; for I ought to have
been commended by you," instead of having to commend myself.
am I behind--rather as Greek, "was I behind" when I was
the very chiefest--rather, as in
"those overmuch apostles."
though I be nothing--in myself
(1Co 15:9, 10).
12. Truly, &c.--There is understood some such clause as this, "And
yet I have not been commended by you."
in all patience, in signs, &c.--The oldest manuscripts omit
"in." "Patience" is not one of the "signs," but the element IN which
they were wrought: endurance of opposition which did not cause me to
leave off working [ALFORD]. Translate, "IN . . . patience, BY
signs," &c. His mode of expression is modest, putting himself, the
worker, in the background, "were wrought," not "I wrought." As
the signs have not been transmitted to us, neither has the
apostleship. The apostles have no literal successors (compare
Ac 1:21, 22).
mighty deeds--palpable works of divine omnipotence. The silence of
the apostles in fourteen Epistles, as to miracles, arises from the
design of those Epistles being hortatory, not controversial. The passing
allusions to miracles in seven Epistles prove that the writers were not
enthusiasts to whom miracles seem the most important thing.
Doctrines were with them the important matter, save when convincing
adversaries. In the seven Epistles the mention of miracles is not
obtrusive, but marked by a calm air of assurance, as of facts
acknowledged on all hands, and therefore unnecessary to dwell on.
This is a much stronger proof of their reality than if they were
formally and obtrusively asserted. Signs and wonders is the regular
formula of the Old Testament, which New Testament readers would
necessarily understand of supernatural works. Again, in the Gospels the
miracles are so inseparably and congruously tied up with the history,
that you cannot deny the former without denying the latter also. And
then you have a greater difficulty than ever, namely,
to account for the rise of Christianity; so that the infidel has
something infinitely more difficult to believe than that which he
rejects, and which the Christian more rationally accepts.
13. wherein you were inferior--that is, were treated with less