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 12:11-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 12:11-18~How distasteful to the Apostle it was to boast of his labors and of his divine gifts we are constantly reminded by the frequent apologies he makes for so doing. The fact of the matter is that he has been forced to glory by the silence of the Corinthians in not defending him against the calumnies of his adversaries. His deeds among them were a proof that he was a genuine Apostle. The only thing they could complain about was his refusal to accept anything from them ; but this same policy he will continue on his forthcoming visit, being solicitous only for the welfare of their souls. They know that neither he nor his disciples have imposed on them.

2 Cor 12:11. I am become foolish: you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you: for I have no way come short of them that are above measure apostles, although I be nothing.

Foolish. Reflecting on all he has been saying in his own praise St. Paul admits that he has been acting foolishly; not that his glorying was in reality folly (cf. 2 Cor 12:6; 11:16), but only that it seemed so. In not defending him against his adversaries the Corinthians have forced him to boast. And they are inexcusable in their neglect, because he was in no way inferior to his enemies when he preached at Corinth.

Above measure apostles. See on 11:5.

Although I be nothing. These words are most probably to be connected with what precedes. The Apostle considered equality with his adversaries to be mere nothing.

2 Cor 12:12. Yet the signs of my apostleship have been wrought on you, in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

Yet the signs, etc. Better, “Indeed, the signs,” etc. That St. Paul is not inferior to his enemies is placed beyond doubt by the way in which the Church of Corinth was founded.

The signs, or characteristic notes, of true Apostleship, i.e., the visible proofs of the mission of a true Apostle, were wrought by St. Paul among the Corinthians. The first of these signs was patience in bearing all things rather than come short of the mission entrusted to him (2 Cor 6:4; 11:23 ff.); secondly there were the signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds, i.e., the various miracles, which God wrought through him in confirmation of his preaching at Corinth. All of St. Paul’s great Epistles bear witness to the miracles he worked to confirm his doctrine. “It is simply impossible that evidence of this kind for the special purpose for which it is adduced should be otherwise than true. It is given quite incidentally; it is not didactic, i.e., it is no part of an argument the object of which is to produce a belief in miracles; it refers to notorious matter of fact, to fact equally notorious for St. Paul himself and for those to whom he is writing; it shews that he could appeal to it without fear of being challenged” (Sanday).

2 Cor 12:13. For what is there that you have had less than the other churches, but that I myself was not burthensome to you? Pardon me this injury.

Another reason why the Corinthians should have defended the Apostle was that they had been witnesses and recipients of the same benefits as other Churches. He had exercised even greater regard for them by not burdening them with his support, but since they have been induced by his enemies to consider this as an injury done them, he sarcastically asks pardon for it. That he is speaking in sarcasm is clear from the following verse where he says he will continue this injury of taking nothing for his support.

2 Cor 12:14. Behold now the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burthensome unto you. For I seek not the things that are yours, but you. For neither ought the children to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

Irony now gives place to earnest affection. Being their spiritual father St. Paul will continue not to seek the temporal goods of the Corinthians, but themselves.

Behold now the third time, etc. Better, “Behold this is the third time,” etc. In view of 2 Cor 13:1 this can only mean that the forthcoming visit to Corinth would be his third. See on 2:1; Introduction, I.

That St. Luke does not mention St. Paul’s second visit “in sorrow” (2 Cor 2:1) to the Corinthians is no more to be wondered at than his failure to speak of the Apostle’s visit to Arabia (Acts 9:20-26; cf. Gal. 1:17).

2 Cor 12:15. But I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls; although loving you more, I be loved less.

So great is his affection for the Corinthians that he is willing to spend all he has, including his life, for their souls. This he will gladly do, in spite of their want of affection for him. Some critics make the second clause here independent, and read it interrogatively: “If I love you more abundantly, am I to be loved the less?”

2 Cor 12:16. But be it so : I did not burthen you : but being crafty, I caught you by guile.

The Apostle makes his adversaries speak. They will say: “Granted that you yourself did not take money from us, yet you were cunning enough to get it out of us through your legates. You did not burden us, but you got others to do so.”

2 Cor 12:17. Did I overreach you by any of them whom I sent to you?

This verse makes it clear that St. Paul had already sent several of his disciples to Corinth.

Overreach you, by extorting money from you.

2 Cor 12:18. I desired Titus, and I sent with him a brother. Did Titus overreach you? Did we not walk with the same spirit? did we not in the same steps?

What mission of Titus is referred to here? Perhaps we shall encounter fewest difficulties if we suppose three visits of
Titus to Corinth: (a) an earlier one in which he and a brother, literally, “the brother,” started the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, to which the present passage and 2 Cor 8:6 seem to allude; (b) the visit following the painful letter (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6, 13); ( c ) the visit on which he and two brethren were to complete the collection (2 Cor 8:6, 17, 18, 22).

Did we not walk, etc., i.e., were we not the same in spirit and outward conduct?


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