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 12:19-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 13, 2017


A Summary of 2 Corinthians 12:19-21~At times St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians as if he were on trial before them, as if they were his judges (2 Cor 10:7; 11:1, etc.); but here he gives them to understand that such is not the case. It does not pertain to children to judge their father. Only God is the judge of the Apostles. He writes these things for their edification, that they may correct their vices.

2 Cor 12:19. Of old, think you that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ; but all things, my dearly beloved, for your edification.

Some authorities understand the conclusion of the Epistle to begin with this verse. But see Introduction VI 5.

Of old (παλαι = palai). A less probable reading has παλιν (= palin), again. The meaning, according to the better reading, is “All this time are you thinking that we are defending ourselves to you?” The sentence may be interrogative or declarative. The answer to it is: “No, for we speak before God, i.e., God is our judge” (1 Cor. 4:3), and in Christ, i.e., as ministers of Christ, to whom we are most intimately united. Therefore, in writing as we do, we seek not to excuse ourselves, but only to edify you, that you be not scandalized in us (Rick.), but that, on the contrary, you be strengthened in faith and grace.

2 Cor 12:20. For I fear lest perhaps when I come I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found by you such as you would not. Lest perhaps contentions, envyings, animosities, dissensions, detractions, whisperings, swellings, seditions, be among you.

The reason he has seen fit to defend himself with a view to their edification is now explained. It is because they are still so deficient in the first elements of the Christian life. He greatly fears that when he arrives both he and the Corinthians will be unpleasantly disappointed. Such surely will be the case if he finds among them factions and party spirits, together with all the evils that follow a wilful lack of unity.

Among you (Vulg., inter vos) is not in the Greek.

2 Cor 12:21. Lest again, when I come, God humble me among you: and I mourn many of them that sinned before, and have not done penance for the uncleannesss, and fornication, and lasciviousness, that they have committed.

The Apostle’s fears are aggravated by the thought that when he comes he may find that his previous admonitions against impurity have not been heeded, and that many of the Corinthians have lapsed back into their former pagan uncleannesses. It would thus be a great humiliation to him to have to mourn over those who saddened him on his previous visit by not repenting and doing penance for their sins. It would likewise be a grievous pain to him to see many of those that sinned before, i.e., before their conversion, or before his second visit, or before his previous letter, back in their sins.

Have not done penance, etc. This shows that, besides amendment of life, penance is necessary for those who have sinned (Estius).


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