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 7:8-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 7, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 7:8-16~St. Paul knew that his recent letter had caused the Corinthians great sorrow; nevertheless he says that this salutary sadness is now the cause of greater joy. Their sorrow was not of a worldly kind, but according to God, as is evident from the fruits it has borne. This was the end the Apostle had in view when he wrote that severe letter, and therefore he is now comforted. The joy experienced by Titus among the Corinthians has
also added to the Apostle’s comfort, and has justified all that he had said to his envoy in their praise. Titus loves them much, and the Apostle trusts them in everything.

2 Cor 7:8. For although I made you sorrowful by my epistle, I do not repent; and if I did repent, seeing that the same epistle (although but for a time) did make you sorrowful;

By my epistle. Literally, “In the letter,” i.e., in the letter he wrote. This again (cf. 2 Cor 2:3, 4, 9) seems to be an allusion to the lost letter of severity which was written after 1 Cor., because it is very hard to see anything in our First Corinthians that could have caused the Apostle so much sorrow and regret as he expresses in this verse and in the other passages of this Epistle just referred to.

The punctuation and connection of clauses in this verse, as well as the reading of the last clause of it, cause not a little confusion. If we put a full stop after the first clause and a comma after the last, perhaps our English version has the best rendering of the verse, thus: “For although I made you sorrowful by my epistle, I do not repent. And if I did repent, seeing that the same epistle (although but for a time) did make you sorrowful, now I am glad,” etc. (verse 9). This rendering agrees almost exactly with that of Lachmann, Tisch., W. H., Comely, MacR., Rick., etc. It gives very good sense, and hence the Vulgate ought likely to be corrected so as to agree with it.

I do not repent, now that I learn through Titus how much good the letter produced. Before meeting his legate and learning from him the fruits of his severe letter, St. Paul did repent having sent it.

2 Cor 7:9. Now I am glad: not because you were made sorrowful; but because you were made sorrowful unto penance. For you were made sorrowful according to God, that you might suffer damage by us in nothing.

According to God, i.e., according to the will of God (Rom. 8:27), as God would have you sorrowful, namely, unto spiritual profit.

Might suffer damage, etc., i.e., by our silence and neglect. It was God’s will that the Corinthians should suffer a passing temporal sorrow in order to escape eternal loss.

2 Cor 7:10. For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation; but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

The salutary effect of sorrow according to God is now explained. Such sorrow springs from the love of God and produces penance steadfast, etc., i.e., penance that is not repented of (ἀμεταμέλητον = ametameleton), but endures unto salvation.

Steadfast (Vulg., stabilem) is therefore to be connected with penance, and not with salvation, for it is absurd to speak of regretting or repenting of salvation (against MacR.).

The sorrow of the world, i.e., sorrow that comes from worldly considerations and from an attachment to earthly things without regard for God. Sorrow of this kind leads to eternal death, while spiritual sorrow tends to eternal life.

2 Cor 7:11. For behold this selfsame thing, that you were made sorrowful according to God, how great carefulness it worketh in you; yea defence, yea indignation, yea fear, yea desire, yea zeal, yea revenge: in all things you have shewed yourselves to be undefiled in the matter.

The Corinthians are a definite illustration of the good results of sorrow that is according to God. What great carefulness, i.e., earnestness (σπουδήν = spouden) it wrought in them, as opposed to their previous indifference and neglect in not punishing the offender. It produced a defence, i.e., a clearing of themselves (ἀπολογίαν = apologian) before Titus, and so indirectly before St. Paul, of any sympathy with the sinner (ii. 5). It caused indignation at his crime; it caused fear of the Apostle’s punishment, desire, i.e., a longing, for his visit, zeal, i.e., a wish to punish the offender, and revenge, i.e., an actual avenging of the crime of the offender.

In all things, etc., i.e., in all these ways just mentioned you have shown yourselves to be guiltless in the matter of the sinful man. That the offender referred to here and in 2 Cor 2:5 was the incestuous man of 1 Cor. 5:1 ff. is by no means certain, or even probable for those who hold the hypothesis of a lost letter between 1 and 2 Cor. The phrase ἁγνοὺς εἶναι ἐν τῷ πράγματι (= hagous en to pragmati) means nothing more than “to be guiltless of an unpleasant affair.”

2 Cor 7:12. Wherefore although I wrote to you, it was not for his sake that did the wrong, nor for him that suffered it; but to manifest our carefulness that we have for you.

Although I wrote to you, etc. The painful letter written between 1 and 2 Cor. is again referred to, according to the
modern opinion, which seems more probable to us. It was not so much for the sake of the offender (2 Cor 2:5), nor for the sake of the one who suffered the offence, namely, St. Paul himself, in the opinion we adopt, that the severe letter was written; but to manifest, etc., i.e., to show our zeal and solicitude for your spiritual welfare; or, according to an equally good reading, to make manifest among you in the sight of God the earnestness and zeal you have for us.

2 Cor 7:13. Before God : therefore we were comforted. But in our consolation, we did the more abundantly rejoice for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.

Before God. These words belong to the preceding verse, and should be followed by a full stop. They show the sincerity of the Apostle’s solicitude for the Corinthians, and the great consolation he experienced at the good report of Titus. But besides the comfort of meeting Titus, he experienced a special joy at seeing his legate so full of gladness. Titus had gone to Corinth distressed in spirit, not knowing what he might encounter there, but to his surprise, he was and is refreshed and rejoiced by the docility and loyalty of all the Corinthians.

By you all, i.e., by the majority that inflicted the punishment on the offender (2 Cor 2:5), and also by that ultra-loyal minority that thought the punishment inflicted should have been greater (see on 2 Cor 2:6).

2 Cor 7:14. And if I have boasted anything to him of you, I have not been put to shame; but as we have spoken all things to you in truth, so also our boasting that was made to Titus is found a truth.

And if. Rather, “For if” (ὅτι εἴ = hoti ei). The Apostle explains why he rejoiced. He has praised the Corinthians to Titus, and now Titus has seen that the praise was deserved.

As we have spoken all things to you, etc., i.e., both when speaking to them, and when speaking about them the Apostle is found to be true, i.e., sincere.

2 Cor 7:15. And his bowels are more abundantly towards you; remembering the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him.

His bowels are, etc., i.e., his affections go out to you. This shows the good effect produced in Titus. The affection of his heart goes out to the Corinthians as he recalls their docility and obedience, which were manifested in the fear and trembling with which they greeted him and were ready to do all that he desired. The Apostle regards as done to himself what was done to his legate.

The in vobis of the Vulgate should be erga vos, to agree with the Greek.

2 Cor 7:16. I rejoice that in all things I have confidence in you.

The Apostle’s closing words are calculated to conciliate the Corinthians towards Titus and towards himself, and form a fitting introduction to the plea for charity which is made in the next two chapters. Shortly he will send Titus back to Corinth to look after the collection for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:6), and he is encouraged (θαρρῶ  = tharro) to trust the Corinthians in everything.

Here ends the first main division of this Epistle.


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