The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2017

2 Cor 3:12-18 THE SUPERIORITY OF THE GOSPEL DISPENSATION GIVES ITS MINISTERS RIGHT TO SPEAK WITH BOLDNESS AND AUTHORITY

A Summary of 2 Cor 3:12-18~The hope of greater glory which belongs to the New Testament ministry, and which, though already come, is to continue and develop, gives the Apostles confidence and assurance in announcing the Gospel clearly and openly. To explain and enforce this St. Paul contrasts the Jews who, not recognizing Christ, do not grasp the meaning of their own Old Testament, with the Christians who plainly understand Christ and are trans formed into His glorious image.

2 Cor 3:12. Having therefore such hope, we use much confidence:

Such hope of one day enjoying the fulness of the glory which belongs to the New Testament ministry. “Christianity was young and undeveloped when this was written: we have seen its maturity and the fulfillment of the Apostle’s hope” (Rick.).

Confidence. Better, “Boldness of speech” (παρρησίᾳ = parresia from πᾶς [pas] and ῥέω [rheo]). “We preach everywhere, hiding nothing, but speaking plainly, nor are we afraid of wounding your eyes, as Moses dazzled the eyes of the Jews” (St. Chrys.). The Apostle is hinting at the comparative silences of the Old Testament, e.g., as to the resurrection and eternal life (Plum.).

2 Cor 3:13. And not as Moses put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel might not steadfastly look on the face of that which is made void.

And not as Moses put a veil, etc. The meaning is that the Apostles do not cover their faces as Moses did. From the Hebrew and the Septuagint of Ex 34:29 ff. it appears that Moses when communicating with God had no covering on his face, and that when he came forth and spoke to the people his face was likewise unveiled until he had finished speaking to them; then he again covered his face so that the Israelites might not see the fading of the brightness from his countenance. The passing of the splendor from the face of Moses was a symbol of the transitory nature of the Old Covenant (Ex 34:33), and God did not wish to reveal this feature of the Law to the Jews of the time. “There was an excuse, then, for their not seeing that the Old Covenant was transient; it was different now after God had revealed the fact through the Prophets and declared it openly through the Apostles” (MacR.).

Look on the face should be “look on the end,” namely, the fading away of the brightness of Moses’ face. All the Greek MSS., except A, and all the Greek and Latin Fathers read “end” (τέλος = telos) here in place of “face.”

Of that which is made void, i.e., the fading away of the brightness from Moses’ face, which was a symbol of the transient character of the Old Testament.

The in faciem of the Vulgate should be in finem.

2 Cor 3:14. But their senses were made dull. For, until this present day, the selfsame veil, in the reading of the old testament, remaineth not taken away (because in Christ it is made void).

Although the Apostles wear no veil, but speak openly and plainly of Christ, the Jews do not understand, because their senses, i.e., their minds, are blinded through their own fault. Little by little, through the Prophets, God lifted the veil which hung over the face of the Law, so that the Jews could have perceived the nature of the Old Dispensation, which was intended to lead them to Christ (Gal. 3:24); but, influenced by
the devil (2 Cor 4:4), they willingly closed their eyes and their hearts to the light and warmth of the Gospel (Isa. 6:8 ff.; Acts 28:25 ff.).

Until this present day the Old Testament continues to be a veiled book to the Jews, because just as they could not perceive the vanishing glory of the face of Moses, so now, of their own choice, are they unable to understand the transitory nature of the Scriptures which they read.

The selfsame veil means that the symbolism of the veil is the same, namely, the inability to see that which was passing. The Jews read their Scriptures, but the veil hangs over what they read because they will not believe in Christ through whom alone their darkness can be lifted: in Christ it (the veil) is made void, i.e., is done away with.

2 Cor 3:15. But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.

When Moses is read. The meaning is that even when St. Paul wrote this letter a veil hung over the hearts of the Jews, as a people, while they heard read every Sabbath in their synagogues the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jews remained insensible to the truth, because they kept their powers of perceiving truth covered.

Moses here stands for the entire Old Testament, because the Prophets were read every Sabbath, as well as the Law.

2 Cor 3:16. But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken
away.

But when they shall be converted, etc. According to the Greek MSS. and Fathers, and the older Latin editions this verse should read: “But when he turneth to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” The Apostle is alluding to Ex 34:34, where it is said that Moses removed his veil, when he turned to converse with the Lord. The action of Moses is allegorically applied to the Jews who shall be enlightened, when they shall have turned to the Lord.

The auferetur of the Vulgate should be aufertur.

2 Cor 3:17. Now the Lord is a Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there
is liberty.

The first clause here reads as follows in Greek : “Now the Lord is the Spirit,” i.e., the Holy Ghost is the Lord, a Divine Person (St. Chrys., Theod., etc.); or Christ (verse 16), to whom the Jews, typified by Moses, are to turn, is the Spirit, i.e., is the Holy Ghost mentioned above, in verses 6, 8, the life and principle of the New Law, inasmuch as the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Christ, or, inasmuch as Christ and the Holy Ghost have the same divine nature (Bisping, Maier, etc.); or the Lord here does not mean Christ, but God, the quickening Spirit of the New Covenant (verse 6), in contradistinction to the letter of the Old (Comely). But it is difficult to see how Κύριος (= Kyrios = Lord) here can mean Yahweh, to whom the Jews as a people had always turned. There seems rather to be question of Christ to whom they refused to turn. When, therefore, the Jews shall have turned from the letter of the Law which killeth to the Spirit of the Gospel which quickeneth, the blindness of their minds shall disappear, and they shall be freed from the servitude which now enslaves them.

There is liberty, i.e., from the bondage of the Law, from its ceremonial precepts. The Spirit makes us children of God (Rom. 8:14 ff.) and free “by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free” (Gal. 4:31).

This verse is a proof of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, as all the Greek Fathers argue.

2 Cor 3:18. But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.

We are beholding, etc., i.e., unlike the Jews whose faces are veiled, all we Christians through our faith reflect, with uncovered countenance as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord resplendent in Holy Scripture, and especially in the Gospel, and are continually being transformed into the divine image we behold, because through faith and charity we receive a new form which renders us sons of God and brothers of Christ, and therefore conformable to the image of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29).

From glory to glory, i.e., the process of transformation is gradual, from one stage to another, from lesser to greater glory (cf. Rom. 1:17).

As by the Spirit of the Lord. The Greek here may be rendered in many ways. Perhaps one of the best is: “As by the Spirit who is the Lord”; and the meaning is that by the influence of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, Christians are step by step made similar to the glorified image of Christ, and consequently of God (2 Cor 4:4).

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