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 5:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 6, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 5:1-10~The closing subject of the last chapter is continued through this section. These verses are, in reality, a part of the previous chapter and would better be joined to it. St. Paul has just been saying that the unhesitating hope of a future glorious resurrection is the stay of the Apostles in their sufferings and tribulations. This he again asserts and confirms by the certitude of the glorious transmutation of those whom Christ at His coming will find still living. Neither do the Apostles refuse death, since that will bring their souls home to Christ. Hence St. Paul and his companions, in the discharge of their Apostolic functions, strive only to please Christ, their judge, who will reward everyone according to his merits.

2 Cor 5:1. For we know, if our earthly house of this habitation (tent) be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven.

For (γαρ) shows the close connection with what precedes.

We know, etc., i.e., the Apostles and all Christians (verse 4) were confident, through faith, that the dissolution of their mortal bodies meant only a passing to a higher state of existence.

House of this habitation. Literally “Tent-dwelling” (οικια του σκηνους), i.e., a dwelling that has only a transitory existence. “The camp-life of the Israelites in the wilderness, as commemorated by the annual feast of Tabernacles, was a ready and appropriate symbol of man’s transitory life on earth” (Lightfoot).

We have. The present tense indicates the certainty of the fact, and also that the just, already by faith, are in possession of their glorified state.

A building of God, etc., i.e., a spiritual habitation from God of unending duration. The reference is to the glorified body, to which the soul will be joined at the end of the world, and which, together with the soul, will not dwell on earth, but in heaven.

2 Cor 5:2. For in this also we groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our habitation
that is from heaven.

St. Paul now confirms the certainty of the future resurrection by the desire which the Apostles and all the just have of
clothing themselves with their glorified bodies without passing through death. Such an eager longing God will not permit to be in every way vain (verse 5).

In this (ἐν τούτῳ = en touto) may mean “for this reason” ; or, more likely, “in this tent,” in which we now live, we groan (Rom. 8:19 ff.), desiring to take on the resurrection body over our natural body, and so escape death. This shows that the glorified body will be essentially the same as our present body, although endowed with surpassing gifts.

Habitation (τὸ οἰκητήριον = ho oiketerion) here is a permanent dwelling-place, unlike the transitory habitation (σκήνους = skenous = tent) of verse 1.

From heaven, i.e., heavenly, spiritual (1 Cor. 15:49).

2 Cor 5:3. Yet so, that we be found clothed, not naked.

This verse is an explanation of the latter half of verse 2. It is intended to make clear what will be required in order that we be clothed upon, i.e., that we be able to put on our glorified bodies over our mortal ones, without losing the latter. For this it will be necessary that we be clothed (γυμνοὶ = gymnoi), not naked, i.e., that we be still alive, with our mortal bodies, at the Second Coming of Christ. The dead who shall have lost their bodies at the Second Advent shall be clothed anew, but it cannot be said that they shall be “clothed upon.” This is the most probable explanation of a very difficult verse. For various other, but less likely, explanations see Comely, h. 1. ; MacR., h. 1.

Yet so. Better, “If only,” or “if indeed” (εἴ γε = ei ge with א C K L P, or εἴγε [= eige] with B D F G; the two terms are sometimes interchanged in meaning), i.e., we can “be clothed upon,” if indeed we shall be still living with our present bodies.  Note: ei ge represents two word (yet so); eige is a singe word which can be variously translated (if indeed; seeing that, unless, etc.).

2 Cor 5:4. For we also, who are in this tabernacle, do groan, being burthened; because we would not be unclothed, but clothed upon, that that which is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

After the parenthetical explanation given in verse 3, the Apostle returns to the thought of verse 2.

We also, etc., i.e., we Christians, living in our material dwellings, do groan, i.e., long to be free from our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:23) ; and yet we are burthened, i.e., oppressed with the fear of death, because we do not want to pass through death to resurrection, but rather from this present life to a higher, immortal existence, so that our bodies may not go into corruption, but be transformed from a perishable into an imperishable state (2 Cor 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:54).

2 Cor 5:5. Now he that maketh us for this very thing, is God, who hath given us the pledge of the Spirit.

Now. Better, “But” (δὲ = de), which implies the introduction of a surprising truth, namely, the realization of the wish in verse 4, which shall be fulfilled in those who are alive at the Second Coming; or, perhaps, the possession of a glorified body by all the just (verse 1).

This very thing refers to what is mortal being absorbed by life (verse 4), or to the glorification of the body (verse 1). As an earnest of the realization of these blessings God has given the faithful at their conversion His Holy Spirit and special gifts (cf. Rom. 8:15-17, 23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).

2 Cor 5:6. Therefore having always confidence, knowing that, while we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord.

The thought begun here, and broken by the parenthesis of verse 7, is completed in verse 8: Having always confidence (6) . . . we are confident (8), etc.

The Apostle now begins to sum up the results of faith in future glorification of both body and soul. Confident of the glory that awaits them hereafter, and knowing that presence in the body is an impediment to the realization of their glorious union with Christ, St. Paul and his companions are willing to suffer death, much as they loathe it (verse 4), if this be necessary “to be present with the Lord” (verse 8), that is, if Christ does not come during their life-time and transform their mortal bodies without death.

2 Cor 5:7. (For we walk by faith, and not by sight.)

It might be objected against the Apostle that the just are already united to Christ by faith. Wherefore he observes that in this world we have, through faith, only an indirect and imperfect knowledge of God, whereas we long for direct vision and complete union with Him (1 Cor 13:12).

2 Cor 5:8. But we are confident, and have a good will to be absent rather from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

See above, on verse 6. The Apostles were hoping that Christ might come during their mortal lives, and thus they would be glorified without passing through the portals of death. But if Christ was not to come, then welcome death, so that they might be at home with the Lord. This verse affords a clear proof that purified souls immediately after death are admitted to the vision of God (St. Thomas, h. 1. ; Denz. Ench. 11th ed., no. 693).

2 Cor 5:9. And therefore we labour, whether absent or present, to please him.

The one supreme aim of the Apostle’s life and labors was to please Christ and have the divine approval. This secured, it made little difference after all whether the day of judgment found him present, i.e., still living in the body, or absent, i.e., separated from his body by death. It is clear from this verse that St. Paul had no revelation regarding the time of the Second Advent.

2 Cor 5:10. For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil.

The importance of striving above all things and at all times to please Christ is seen in this that, whether living or dead at the time of the Second Coming, all men must appear before the tribunal of Christ to be judged according to what they have done while in the body.

We must all, etc., i.e., all men, even children who die before the use of reason, must appear in the General Judgment. Sinless children will be present then, “not to be judged, but to see the glory of the Judge, in order that both the mercy and justice of God may be manifested in their case” (St. Thomas).

The proper things, etc., should be: “The things done in the body,” according to the Greek.

According as he hath done. This shows that we are to be judged hereafter according to our works, and not alone according to our faith, as some teach.

In the Vulgate propria corporis should be ea quae per corpus (gessit).


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