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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2016


i. Paul asserts that he does not seek or need the praise of men, as the Judaising false apostles sought it: the fruit of his preaching is, he says, sufficient commendation.
ii. He states (ver. 6) the cause of this to be that the Apostles and other ministers of the New Testament and of the Spirit were adorned by more honour and glory than were Moses and the other ministers of the Old Testament and of the letter.
iii. He points out (ver. 13) that the Jews have still a veil over their heart in reading the Old Testament, and so do not see Christ in it; but that they will see Him when this veil shall be taken away by Christ at end of the world.

2 Cor 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need (as some do) epistles of commendation to you, or from you?

Do we begin again to commend ourselves?  At the end of the Apostle had seemed to praise himself and seek the favour of the Corinthians, hence he meets here any suspicion of vain glory.

Or do we need (as some do) epistles of commendation to you, or from you? ie., written by you to commend me to others.

2 Cor 3:2 You are our epistle, written in our hearts, which is known and read by all men:

You are our epistle. You, 0 Corinthians, converted by my efforts, are to me like an epistle of commendation read and understood by all, which I can show as my credentials to whom I like. As the work recommends the workman, and the seal faithfully is represented by its image, so do you commend me as though you were a commendatory letter, sealed by yourselves. For all know what you were before your conversion—drunken, gluttonous, given up to impurity and other evil lusts. Corinth was then an emporium, as famous for its vices as its wares. But now all men see that you have been completely changed, through my preaching, into different men—temperate, chaste, meek, humble, devout, liberal. This your conversion, therefore, is my commendatory letter, i.e., the public testimony of my preaching before all people.

Written in our hearts. You have been converted by me, and indelibly written and engraven on my heart. This “epistle” was twice written by S. Paul. (1.) He wrote it actually when he instilled into the mind of the Corinthians the faith and Spirit of Christ. (2.) He wrote it and imprinted it on his own heart by his care and love of them. (3.) Christ again was inscribed on their hearts by Paul’s ministry, as if by a pen; and Christ, Himself, by Paul’s preaching, imprinted on them his faith, hope, charity, and other graces, not with ink, but by the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God, who filled their hearts with charity and all virtues.

2 Cor 3:3 Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written: not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone but in the fleshly tables of the heart.

In fleshy tables of the heart. Not in hard stone, as was the law of Moses, but in a heart tender, soft, and teachable. There is an allusion to Jer 32:33. The Apostle, we should notice, makes a distinction between σάρκινος (= sarkinos = “fleshly”), used here, and οαρκικός (= sarkikoi): the first denotes the natural condition of flesh—its softness, &c.; the other that which has the vices and corruptions of flesh. Cf. Rom 7:14 and 1 Cor 3:3. Other writers, however, do not observe this distinction. Nazianzen, e.g., applies the latter of these terms to the incarnation and manhood of Christ.

2 Cor 3:4 And such confidence we have, through Christ, towards God.

And such confidence we have. The Greek word used here, denotes that confident conviction which makes the mind strive to attain some difficult end that it longs for, as though it were certain of success. Such is the confidence which is inspired into the Saints by the Holy Spirit enabling them to work miracles or other heroic works of virtue. This confidence God is wont to demand as a fitting disposition, and to give beforehand, both in him who performs and in him who receives the benefit of the miracle or other Divine gift, in order that the soul may, by this gift, expand and exalt itself, and become capable of receiving Divine power.  S. Paul says in effect. “This confident persuasion that you are our epistle, written by the Spirit of the living God, we have before God through the grace of Christ; we have hope and sure confidence in God that, as He has begun, so will He finish this epistle by His Spirit.” In the second place this trust is the confidence S. Paul had before God, which enabled him to glory confidently in God of this epistle of his and of God, and of the dignity of his ministry, and of its fruit, when compared with the ministry of Moses and of other Old Testament ministers.

2 Cor 3:5 Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God.

Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves. To think anything that is good and is ordained to faith, grace, merit, and eternal salvation, so as to make a man an able minister of the New Testament. But if no one is able to think any such thing, he is still less able to do it. Cf. Council of Arausica (can. 7) and S. Augustine (de Prædest. Sanct. c. ii.).

1. From this passage S. Augustine lays down, in opposition to the semi-Pelagians, in which he is followed by the Schoolmen, that the will to believe and the beginning of faith and salvation, and every desire for it, come, not from free-will but from prevenient grace. Hence Beza wrongly charges the Schoolmen with teaching that the beginning of good is from ourselves, though weakly and insufficiently; for they all alike teach that the beginning of a good and holy life, of good thoughts and actions, and salvation in general is supernatural, and has its origin in the grace of God, not in nature or the goodness of our will.

2. Calvin is mistaken in inferring from this passage that there is no power in free-will which may be exerted in the works of grace, but that the whole strength and every attempt and act spring from grace. The Apostle says only that free-will is in itself insufficient, not that it has no power whatever. Just as an infirm man has a certain amount of strength, but not enough for walking, and has enough for walking if any one else help him, and give him a start and support, so too free-will is of itself insufficient for good works, but is sufficient if it be urged on, strengthened, and helped by prevenient grace.

It may be said that the sufficiency Paul speaks of here may be, as Theophylact and the Syriac render it, power, strength, or might. I answer that this is true; for the power and strength of free-will for a supernatural work, and of grace, which makes it supernatural, pleasing, to God, and worthy and meritorious of eternal life, are not from free-will, but from exciting and co-operating grace. When free-will has this, it is sufficiently able to believe freely, to love, and to work any supernatural work whatever. For free-will has for every work natural strength able to produce a free work; therefore these two causes concur here in the same work, one natural, viz., free-will, the other supernatural, viz., grace. Each, too, has its corresponding effect: the effect of grace is that it is a supernatural work, of free-will that it is free and the work of man. In the same way an infirm man is not only not strong enough, but wholly unable to walk, because it is a task beyond his strength; but he becomes able if he is given strength by a friend, or from some other source, and then he unites his own strength, however little it be, with that lent to him, and is able to walk. Still the strength that comes from without has to start him and begin his walking, and the whole force and energy with which he walks is to be found in the strength that is given him. That he tries to walk beyond his strength is not from himself but from without; but when it is once given, he puts forth his own strength and co-operates with it, and produces an effect commensurate to his efforts. In the same way free-will co-operates with exciting grace, and acts as a companion to it in every super- natural work in such way as its strength enables it.

We learn from this passage to recognise in every good work our own weakness, and to ascribe to Christ’s grace all the goodness and worth of what we do. S. Gregory (Morals, lib. xxii. c. 19), says: “Let no one think himself to have any virtue, even when he can do anything successfully; for if he be abandoned by the strength that cometh from above he will be suddenly overthrown helplessly on the very ground where he was boasting of his firm standing.”  S. Augustine (contra Julian, lib. ii. c. 8) commends the refutation of the Pelagians by S. Cyprian in the words: “They trust in their strength and exclaim that the perfection of their virtue is from themselves; but you, 0 Cyprian, reply that no one in his own strength is strong, but is safe only under the merciful indulgence of God.” The Psalmist, too, says the same thing (Ps 59:9): “My strength will I guard unto Thee,” meaning that he would lay it up in safety under his ward, hoping to over-come his enemies in God’s strength and not in his own, because God is the Fount of all virtue and strength. Cf. Ezek 29:3:5, where Pharaoh is forewarned of his fate for ascribing his power and success to himself.

Again, this passage teaches us to pray to God constantly that He would direct our thoughts, and inspire us with heavenly thoughts and desires, for such are the fount and beginning of all good works. This is beautifully expressed in the Collect for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity. S.Bernard (Serm. 32 in Cantic.) says learnedly and piously: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything good as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. When, therefore, we find evil thoughts in our heart, they are our own; if we find a good thought, it is the word of God: Our heart utters the former and hears the latter. ‘I will hear,’ it says, ‘what the Lord God will say in me, for He shall speak peace to His people.’ So, then, he speaks in us peace, righteousness, godliness; we do not think such things of ourselves, but we hear them within ourselves; but murders, adulteties, thefts, blasphemies, and such things proceed from the heart: we do not hear them, we say them,” or at all events they are suggested to us by the devil.

2 Cor 3:6 Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter but in the spirit. For the letter killeth: but the spirit quickeneth.

Not in the letter but in the spirit. I am a minister of the New Testament, but not in such a way that I bring tables of the law and of the covenant and its words, as did Moses in the Old Testament, but so that God may by my words inspire into you heavenly thoughts and desires. Cf. Augustine. (de Spirit. et Lit. c. iii.).

For the letter killeth. (1.) Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine (de Doctr. Christ. lib. iii. c. 4) explain this to be that the letter of the law convicts and condemns them to death who do not obey this letter, i.e., the precepts of the law relating to righteousness and charity. For this letter of the law enacts that whosoever breaketh the law is to die the death. (2.) S. Augustine gives another explanation. If you abuse the literal meaning, and neglect the sense of Scripture, and fall into error, as Jews and heretics do, then the letter killeth. (3.) When metaphorical sayings are taken literally (S. Augustine, ibid. c. v., vi.). (4.) When types of the new law contained in the old are understood to be still binding in their literal meaning (ibid. Cf. also Origen, contra Celsum, lib. iii.; Didymus, de Spirit. Sanct. lib. iii.). The Fathers in general frequently say that the letter, i.e., the literal meaning of the law killeth, but the spirit, i.e., the spiritual and allegorical meaning, giveth life. This is because it is not now lawful to Christians to observe the ceremonies and ritual precepts of the old law literally under penalty of death; but they are bound to do what those ceremonies allegorically signified if they wish to attain the life of grace and glory. (5.) S. Augustine again in the same place says that the letter, both of the old and new law, killeth if separated from the spirit; but that this passage refers to the old law alone, because Moses, when he gave the law, gave only the letter, but Christ gave the spirit and the letter, and from this he lays down that the law cannot be fulfilled by the strength of nature alone, but requires the grace of Christ. (6.) S. Augustine once more and Anselm say that the letter killeth by giving occasion to sin; for the law is the occasion by which concupiscence is kindled and sin produced which kills the soul. This sense and the first are the most literal.

But the Spirit quickeneth. (1.) The Spirit gives to the soul the supernatural life of grace and charity. (2.) He gives motives and strength for good works and for fulfilling the law. (3.) He guides us towards that eternal life promised by the law to them that keep it. Of this life and Spirit the Apostles were sent by Christ as ministers.


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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2016

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief overview of all of 2 Cor 3 followed by his comments on verses 1-6. Text in purple inidcates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


Among the charges preferred by the false teachers against the Apostle, was that of indulging in self-praise. He defends himself against this charge, for which he might have given some grounds in the seventeenth verse of the preceding chapter, as well as in chapter 9 of his first Epistle, by retorting upon his adversaries, and showing that he did not, like them, require any recommendation with the Corinthians. For, having been converted by his ministry, they were his letters patent, or, more properly speaking, the Epistle of Christ himself who, by the ministry of the Apostle, engraved on their hearts, with the grace of the Holy Ghost, the characters of true sanctity (2 Cor 3:1–3). The glory of all this he refers to God, through whose grace alone, man can elicit even as much as a single good or supernatural thought, conducive to salvation (2 Cor 3:4-5). And to God he acknowledges his obligation for his call to the exalted function of the Apostolic ministry. He contrasts this ministry with that of Moses, and he shows the superior excellence of the former (2 Cor 3:6). He shows that the glory attached to his own ministry, so incomparably surpasses that attached to the ministry of Moses, that the glory of the latter might, comparatively speaking, be termed no glory at all (2 Cor 3:7-10). His ministry, and the new covenant, excelled the Mosaic on another ground also—viz., on the ground of perpetuity (2 Cor 3:11). His practical conclusion from the hope of the glory attached to his ministry is, to preach the gospel openly, and with much boldness of speech (2 Cor 3:12), and not act, as did Moses, who placed a veil upon his face, when speaking to the people (13). He explains the mystical signification of this veil, which signified the spiritual blindness of the Jews, who see not Christ represented in the beaming effulgence of the face of Moses (2 Cor 3:14-15). It is only by believing in Christ, that this veil will be taken away (2 Cor 3:16). He says that the Lord is the spirit to whom he has been referring, as distinguishing the Covenant of grace from that of Moses; he it is that removes the veil of darkness and obstinacy (2 Cor 3:17). The Apostle concludes the second number of the antithesis, instituted at verse 13, and shows how clearly the revelation of God has been made by the Holy Spirit to the ministers of the gospel beyond that of Moses, so that they can, like so many suns, enlighten others (2 Cor 3:18).

2 Cor 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need (as some do) epistles of commendation to you, or from you?

1. Is it to be inferred from the foregoing (2:17), that we are again anxious to praise ourselves and be commended to your favour? Or, do we require commendatory letters to you or from you (as is the case with some others)?

“Again,” has reference to chapter 9 of the First Epistle, where he is forced, in his own defence, as well as here, to refer to his labours and privations. “Epistles of commendation,” were propably letters of introduction, or, the tesseræ hospitalitatis common among the Greeks, Romans, and Jews, and in frequent use in the primitive Church. (“As some do,”) viz., the false teachers, who made this a charge against the Apostle, of which they themselves alone were guilty.

2 Cor 3:2 You are our epistle, written in our hearts, which is known and read by all men:

2. We require no such recommendation; you yourselves, converted to the faith through our labours and ministry, are a sufficient recommendation of us, and a proof of our true apostleship, written on our hearts (owing to our anxiety for you). You are our letters patent, known to all men, since the several nations of the earth, with which you hold relations of commerce, know us, to be your Apostle.

“Written on our hearts.” Owing to our anxiety and affection for you. “Which is known and read,” &c., may also mean, it is known and read by all that you are engraven on our hearts, in consequence of our constant mention and remembrance of you in every place.

2 Cor 3:3 Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written: not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God: not in tables of stone but in the fleshly tables of the heart.

3. It should rather have been said, that, by your faith and good works, it is made manifest regarding you, that you are the Epistle of Christ himself, on whom, as on a chart, are inscribed his sacred laws and precepts written by our ministry; not with ink, but with the grace of the Holy Ghost, which has impressed, on you the characters of true sanctity; not on tables of stone, but on the softer and more pliant tablets of the heart.

He corrects his assertion, to the effect that they were his Epistle; they were rather “the Epistle of Christ,” whose law is written on their hearts. “The Epistle of Christ” may also mean the Epistle written by Christ, and of which Christ is the principal author. The former, which is adopted in the Paraphrase, is the interpretation of the Greeks. The latter interpretation, wherein it is insinuated that the Corinthians, or, rather the fruits of their conversion to the faith, are the work of Christ, better suits the following words:—“Ministered by us,” i.e., written by our ministry as a subordinate agent. “Not with ink,” with which human instruments are ordinarily written, “but with the spirit,” &c., i.e., the grace of the Holy Ghost. “Not in tables of stone,” like the Law of Moses, to which these words are evidently allusive, “but in the fleshy tablets,” &c. The word “fleshy,” is opposed to hard, stony, impenetrable; but not to spiritual. The Apostle is most probably alluding to the difference between both testaments referred to, chapter 31, of Jeremiah, and quoted in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 8:8). How many are there, alas! whose hearts, harder than adamant, always resist the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. How fervently should we pray, not to be delivered over to an impenitent heart—to a spirit of obduracy and insensibility in the ways of God!

2 Cor 3:4 And such confidence we have, through Christ, towards God.

4. And this confidence and matter for glorying in you as our converts before God, we have not from any merits of our own, but from the merits of Christ.

The Apostle boasts before God for having been made the instrument in the conversion of the Corinthians, not through any merits of his own, but through the merits of Christ. He claims no merit for himself, notwithstanding his immense labours and boundless success in the propagation of the gospel and conversion of the world. “Dens, qui universum mundum B. Pauli Apostoli prædicatione docuisti,” is the language of the Church (January 25). What a lesson is here conveyed to such as wish that their most trifling efforts in the cause of religion should be bruited abroad, and that a twofold glory should redound to themselves!—“receperunt mercedem suam.”

2 Cor 3:5 Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God. 

5. We glory in our ministry and its successful issue with you, not that we are sufficient of ourselves, from our own natural strength to elicit even a good thought of the supernatural order—a thought conducive to salvation—much less perform a good work of the same kind, since all our sufficiency, in that respect, must come from the grace of God.

This passage has been adduced by St. Augustine and the Council of Orange to refute the errors of the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians, and to show the necessity of divine grace for performing a good action or for eliciting a good thought conducive to salvation. It is of supernatural actions the Apostle here speaks; for he is treating of works appertaining to the Apostolic ministry of preaching the gospel. “Of ourselves as of ourselves;” i.e., of our own natural strength, and independent of any other assistance.

2 Cor 3:6 Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter but in the spirit. For the letter killeth: but the spirit quickeneth.

6. Who, among the other gifts bestowed upon us, has also rendered us fit ministers of the new testament, not of the written law given by Moses, but of the spiritual covenant of grace, which grace is given to be abundantly dealt out to others. For, the law of Moses, written on tables of stone, is of itself the occasion of death in its infraction, and by stimulating concupiscence; but the spiritual covenant vivifies, by the charity and grace which it communicates to our hearts.

“Who also,” i.e., who, among the other blessings bestowed on us, “hath made us fit ministers of the new testament.” This has reference to the sixteenth verse of the preceding chapter, “and for these things who is so fit?” “Not in the letter” (the Greek is, οὐ γράμματος ἀλλὰ πνευματος, = ou grammatos alla pneumatos = not of the letter, but of the spirit), i.e., not ministers to announce the mere letter of the Law of Moses, viewed in itself, and without grace; but to announce a spiritual covenant, which administers abundant grace. “For the letter killeth.” The Apostle here views the letter without the spirit, as he views science without charity—(1 Cor 7), and in this sense “the letter kills,” because it gives no grace of itself to fulfil the precepts which it imposes. Again, “it kills,” by becoming the occasional cause of spiritual death, inasmuch as it stimulates, by the very prohibition, to its transgression, and excites concupiscence, as the Apostle expressly declares in his Epistle to the Romans.

In this passage the Apostle undertakes to show the superiority of the Christian law and ministry over the Mosaic. This is directed against the false teachers, who wished to unite the Mosaic with the Christian law.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 22, 2016

This post opens with Fr. Callan’s brief summary of 2 Cor 3:1-6 followed by his commentary.

A Summary of 2 Corinthians 3:1-6.

Often the Apostle had felt it necessary to speak to the Corinthians about himself and his authority. His enemies had made use of this to accuse him of boasting and arrogance, and thus tried to lead away the neophytes from one who, as they said, had to praise himself to get a following. Having, therefore, in the closing verses of the preceding chapter again spoken of himself and his ministry he is reminded of the sneer of his adversaries, and he consequently now, before going on with his general apology, takes occasion to tell his readers that he is in no need of self-recommendation, since the faithful themselves are his testimonial. If he speaks with assurance and authority it is because he has been divinely constituted a minister of the New Testament.

2 Cor 3:1. Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need (as some do) epistles of commendation to you, or from you?

Do we begin again, etc. This implies that the Apostle had already been accused of self-recommendation. Perhaps the reference is to such passages as 1 Cor. 2:16; 3:10; 4:9-16; 9:1-5, 15-22, etc., which might lead to such accusations. If chapters 10-13 is a part, or contains portions of the lost letter between 1 and 2 Corinthians the “again” here is easily understood; for in those chapters the Apostle felt constrained to indulge considerably in what his enemies called boasting.

Or do we need, etc., i.e., are St. Paul and his companions who founded the Corinthian Church in need of recommendation to, or by the faithful there? Does a father need recommendation to his own children? If a preacher who has not founded, or taken part in founding, a Christian community comes to them, letters of recommendation are indeed necessary (Acts 15:25-27; 18:27; 1 Cor. 16:10-11); but it is not so with the founder and spiritual father.

From you implies that the Judaizers got the Corinthians to give them commendatory letters.

2 Cor 3:2. You are our epistle, written in our hearts, which is known and read by all men:

The Corinthians themselves were to St. Paul and Timothy something far better than an ordinary letter of recommendation; they were the Apostle’s letter, written not with ink on perishable papyrus, but in lasting characters of love and affection on immortal souls.

Read by all men, i.e., all men could see the ties of affection that existed between St. Paul and the Corinthian faithful. This statement is rendered more literally true by the civil and social prominence of Corinth.

2 Cor 3:3. Being manifested, that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, and written not with ink, but with the spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshy tables of the heart.

Being manifested, etc., i.e., it is widely known that the Corinthian
faithful were converted by Christ, through the grace of the
Holy Ghost and the ministry of St. Paul and his companions.
Christ, therefore, is the principal author of the Apostle’s letter
of commendation, because it was His word and the grace of His Holy Spirit that brought the Corinthians to the faith.

With the spirit, etc. Christ, by the Spirit of the living and life- giving God, wrote on the hearts of the Corinthians through the preaching of the Apostles, a knowledge of the truths of faith which has been so fruitful in virtue and sanctity of life that it is entirely evident that the human agents of that divine message were true and genuine Apostles.

Tables of stone is a reference to the Ten Commandments which
were written in the desert, on two stone tables (Exod. 31:18; 32:15-16).

In the fleshy tables of the heart. Better, “On tables (that are) hearts of flesh.” The Vulgate cordis should be cordibus, according
to the best Greek.

2 Cor 3:4. And such confidence we have, through Christ, towards God.

And such confidence, etc. The Apostle means to say that his confidence that the faith of the Corinthians is a sure testimony of the validity of his Apostleship is felt even when he puts himself in the presence of God. His assurance did not come from his own merits or personal ability, but through the grace of Christ.

2 Cor 3:5. Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God.

The preceding verse is now better explained. St. Paul means to say that solely of our natural strength and ability it is not possible that we should be able even to think, much less to wish or to do, anything supernaturally good and meritorious of life eternal. For the beginning, as well as the completion, of each and every salutary act we need the grace of God; and such is the doctrine of the Church against the Pelagians, who denied all need of grace, and against the Semi-pelagians, who denied the necessity of grace for the beginning of a salutary act (cf. St. Aug., De dono persev. 13; De praedest. sanct. 2; cont. duos epis. Pel. 8, etc.; St. Thomas, h. 1. ; Counc. of Orange, can. 7).

The words of ourselves, as of ourselves are to be connected with not that we are sufficient. Our whole sufficiency in supernatural things is from God, as from its primary and principal cause.

We are sufficient (Vulg., sufficientes simus) should be “we were
sufficient,” sufficientes essetnus, according to the best MSS.

2 Cor 3:6. Who also hath made us fit ministers of the new testament, not in the letter, but in the spirit. For the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.

The Apostle and his companions have not only received all their supernatural sufficiency from God, but by Him also have they been enriched with the gifts necessary to be fit, i.e., competent, ministers of the New Covenant of grace established between God and man by Jesus Christ (Jer. 31:31 ff.; Heb. 8:8; 9:15).

Not in the letter, etc. “He has been urging the superiority of his own claims on their affection and obedience to those of his Judaizing opponents. He now points to the boundless superiority of the dispensation of which he is the minister to that which the Judaizers represent” (Plummer). The latter represent the Old Covenant, which was founded on the written law, indicating, indeed, the good to be done and the evil to be avoided, but without giving the necessary grace to fulfil its mandates. The New Covenant, on the contrary, which is the law of the Spirit, gives all the help required to observe its precepts. See on Rom. 4:15; 5:20; 7:7; 8:2-3.

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2015


I. The Apostle goes on to remind the Corinthians of the glories of heaven, saying that in exile here and in the tabernacle of the flesh he longs for them, and wishes to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.

II. He shows (ver. 9) that it is his endeavour to please not men but Christ alone, who shall come to judgment.

III. He declares (ver. 14) that he is constrained to do this by the love of Christ, who has reconciled us by His death; and therefore that he no longer knows any one according to the flesh, but only him who is a new creature in Christ.

IV. He professes himself (ver. 18) to be a minister and ambassador of Christ, and he prays them to be reconciled to God for Christ’s sake.

2Co 5:14 For the charity of Christ presseth us: judging this, that if one died for all, then all were dead.

For the charity of Christ presseth us. This love of Christ by which He loved us, and gave Himself for us, compels us to follow His example, and give ourselves for all men to save them from death. And hence, as occasion requires, we are at one time beside ourselves, at another, sober. It is better to understand the love of Christ objectively, rather than subjectively.

That if one died for all, then all were dead. The bearing of this verse is explained by the next, which also gives its connection with the preceding. So great was the love of Christ that He died for all. Hence it follows that we were dead, for He died to set us free (by taking it on Himself) from death, bodily and spiritual, which sin had brought on us. Hence plainly appears Christ’s compassion and love; and they constrain us to love Christ in return, and to work in every way for the salvation of our neighbour; to exclude no one, but to labour for all, whether rich or poor, even as Christ did.  S. Thomas explains it otherwise. “All ought to be dead to the old life, and account themselves dead, that they may live, not to themselves, but to Christ.” But this is somewhat obscure and far fetched, and is identical with what is said in the next verse, which yet is distinct from this.

All were dead. Except, says S. Anselm, the Blessed Virgin, who never incurred original sin and spiritual death. Secondly and better, all died in Adam because in him all came under the necessity of sin and of death, even the Mother of God herself, so that she and all others without exception needed to be redeemed by the death of Christ. In Adam, therefore, the Blessed Virgin sinned and died, but in herself she incurred neither sin nor spiritual death, because she was kept from them by God’s prevenient grace, as was said in the notes to Rom_5:12.

2Co 5:15 And Christ died for all: that they also who live may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again.

And Christ died for all, &c. We judge also that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live for their own glory, or pleasure, or their desires, but for Christ, who by right of redemption has made us His servants; and as a servant does not labour and live for himself but for his lord, so should each of us be able to say: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;” and, “My soul shall live to Him.” Anselm says: “The soul of man should fail in itself to avail in Christ, who died that we should die to our sins, and who rose that we should rise to works of righteousness. What else is ‘living not for themselves but for Him,’ but living not according to the flesh in the hope of earthly vanities, but according to the Spirit, in hope of the resurrection which has already taken place in themselves in Christ?”

2Co 5:16 Wherefore henceforth, we know no man according to the flesh. And if we have known Christ according to the flesh: but now we know him so no longer.

Wherefore henceforth, we know no man according to the flesh. Because the love of Christ for us is so great, and constrains us, therefore we regard carnal things, that is things external and temporal, such as fame, health, friendships, kindred, of no account out of Christ. So Chrysostom takes no one to stand for “nothing,” as does Vatablus; and S. Augustine (contra Faust. lib. ix. c. 7) takes it in the same way. But by the flesh he understands the corruption and mortality of the flesh to be meant; and the sense then would be: We no longer know this carnal and mortal life, because, filled with a sure hope, we meditate on and seek for a future life, that blissful spiritual life awaiting us after the resurrection, in which Christ is even now preparing us a place. This meaning is suitable but somewhat far-fetched, for the Apostle is here setting in opposition to the flesh, or the carnal man, the new creature which is in this life, and which lives through faith and grace in Christ; therefore he adds: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.”

In the third place, then, we may more simply and properly explain the verse thus: We henceforth know none of those outward relation-ships of kindred, friendship, nationality, rank, breeding, or learning, for we are dead to these natural affections, and having been regenerated in Christ, we live to Him alone, and love Him alone, and all others in Him, according to the spirit of charity, and not according to the flesh. In other words, we seek not to please men, or the praise and glory of men, but of God only. S. Paul’s rivals, the Judaising false apostles, as we shall see in chapter 11., were wont to boast that they were Hebrews and of the seed of Abraham, and this boasting he calls, in 11:18, “glorying after the flesh.” Hence this verse is a tacit rebuke to them, where he says that he knows no one in the way of earthly love or boasting, or because of relationship and friendship according to the flesh, not even in Abraham himself. Similarly, in Phil 3:3, he says, “We rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh;” i.e., we once rejoiced that we were Hebrews and nobly born according to the flesh, but now we are dead to those affections, for all our praise and rejoicing is Christ. So Gagneius.

And if we have known Christ according to the flesh. If at any time we, whether I, Paul, myself, or the other Apostles, regarded and saw Christ present with us in a mortal body and subject, like us, to bodily sufferings, such as hunger and thirst and cold, now we know Him not save as immortal and passible. So Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the Seventh General Synod. This interpretation too is supported by what follows.

Secondly, and better, Gagneius takes the meaning to be: If we formerly knew, i.e., thought of great account, and made our boast of Christ after the flesh, that Christ by birth was a Jew and of our nation, so that we Hebrews were relations of Christ after the flesh, as the false apostles boast; and if we were proud of having lived with Christ on terms of intimacy, then are we now dead to all such feelings, and, being re-created by Christ, we think more highly of Him, and now know Him only according to the Spirit, i.e., as the God-man, the Redeemer of the world, our Teacher, the Author of grace and salvation; and as we live and labour for such an one, so do we preach Him throughout the whole world.

Thirdly, others with great probability think that Paul is referring to that time in his own life when he was a persecutor of Christ. Although once, he would seem to say, I had an unworthy opinion of Christ, thinking that He was to be a mere temporal king, such as the Jews expect the Messiah to be, yet I no longer know Him or regard Him as such.

Hence, fourthly, we may see the error of Faustus the Manichean, in explaining S. Paul to mean that in the beginning he thought Christ to have had a real body, but afterwards saw his error, and that he means the same in Phi_2:7, when he says that Christ was made in the likeness of men, as if He had a fantastical and apparent body, but not one that was real and substantial. Eutyches again twisted this passage to suit his heresy. He said that “we know not Christ according to the flesh” means that, by the Incarnation the flesh and human nature of Christ were swallowed up by His Divinity; and he laid down that in Christ was one nature as well as one person, and that that one was Divine.

We may see here how heretics twist and wrest aside the Scripture to suit their own fancies, just as if it were a nose of wax. So did the Iconoclasts of olden times, and lately Calvin (de Reliquiis) twist these words of the Apostle against the veneration of relics and of images of Christ and the Saints, just as though the Apostle had said: Now after the resurrection we know not Christ after the flesh; whatever in Him was carnal must be consigned to oblivion and sent about its business, that we may devote all our energies to seeking Him and possessing Him according to the spirit. But it is most evident that this is not the Apostle’s meaning; for if it were, he would have us forget the flesh, the death, and Passion of Christ, and be unmindful of it and unthankful for it, the very opposite of which Christ commanded when He instituted the Eucharist as the perpetual memorial of His death. Whence S. Paul himself says (1Cor 11:26): “As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” Therefore the Apostle’s meaning here is not Calvin’s, but the one I have given above. Cf. Second Council of Nice, act 6, following Epiphanius and Cyril.

2Co 5:17 If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new.

If then any be in Christ a new creature. If any one is with me regenerate in Christ, and recreated and changed, as it were, into a new creature, even as I am not what I was, Saul being changed into Paul, then the old rites of Judaism, the old former affections and judgments, such as knowing any one according to the flesh, have all passed away. In such an one all is made new: he has new affections, new thoughts about the realities and hopes of Christianity, a new life, a new hope of the resurrection, new grace, sanctification, and justification. On this newness, cf. S. Anselm and S. Augustine (de Cantic. Novo. vol. ix.).

S. Bernard (de Assumpt. B. Mariæ) assigns its cause He says: “All things are made new, i.e., the old fortress is overturned, a new one raised. Lust having been banished, the heart expands with a mighty longing; and after its arrival the mind yearns far more for heavenly things than it had ever before longed for earthly. Now is the wall of continence raised up, the bulwark of patience. But this work rises on the foundation of faith, and grows by 1ove of one’s neighbour till it reaches even to the love of God.”

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:13-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 17, 2015

13. For whether we are out of our mind, to God; whether we are sober, to you.
14. For the charity of Christ impels us: reckoning this, that if one died for all, all therefore died.
15. And for all Christ died; that those also who live, may now live not for themselves, but for Him, Who died for them and rose again.

Saint Paul s opponents said he was out of his mind, in consequence of the lofty view he took of the destinies of man, redeemed in Christ, and the absolute nothingness of earthly things. The same charge was afterwards made against him by the Roman governor, Festus. (Acts 26:24.) His reply here is, If I am mad it is for God s sake, lest you despise Him in despising His messengers and the message we deliver, and so perish in His anger–St. Chrysostom. The madness he was accused of was nothing but the simple narration of what he had seen, heard, and done. Theodoret. If we are sober, use the language of humility, it is for you, that you also may learn to think and speak humbly of yourselves. In either case it is not in my own cause that I am mad or sober, but for God and for you.

What impels me is the consideration of the infinite charity of Christ, Who never sought His own, and submitted to a painful and ignominious death, regardless, of life and reputation, to save mankind. And if He died for us all, He died to save us from eternal death, to which; we were all therefore liable. But He died for us, that we, restored to hope of life by His death and resurrection, may no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. And in giving all my life and energies to His service I am doing that to which every consideration of reason,, gratitude, duty, and affection irresistibly impels and urges me. This idea is further amplified in the following verse.

16. Therefore we henceforward know no one after the flesh. And if we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we know Him not.

We, as dead, risen, living in Christ, and for Him alone, no longer regard, respect, or love any human being for considerations of earth, whether Jews or Gentiles, rich, or poor, relatives or strangers, aliens or citizens, but only with reference to Christ, and for God s sake. And if formerly we have known Christ Himself in the flesh during His mortal life (he says this in the name of other disciples of Christ, who regarded him with simply personal affection, as Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas observe),, we have learned now to regard Him with a higher and more spiritual reverence, as our God, Redeemer, and Lord. Probably some of Saint Paul s opponents, who were Jews, had listened to the teaching of Christ in Judea, and took advantage of this circumstance to claimauthority as teachers; and it is to such persons that Christ referred in Matt 7:22-23. I know you not.

17. If there is therefore in Christ a new creature, the old has passed away: behold all things are become new.

And what is true of us, the Apostles, is equally true of you, and of all baptised Christians. Your baptism has been a new creation. The old world has passed away. Its affections, ambitions, objects of desire, are all, for you,, past and over. They are replaced by a new life and a new world, new motives, new objects, a new principle of existence; to you, as to us, all things are become new.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 29, 2014


A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:35-58~The fact of the resurrection being established, the Apostle now goes on to describe how it will take place. He first shows, by illustrations drawn from what takes place in the natural order of the world around us, that the risen body will be indeed the same body that was buried, but vested with vastly different qualities (verses 35-50). The manner of the resurrection, the transition from the present to the future life, and the effects of the resurrection are next discussed (verses 51-58).

51. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: but we shall not all be changed.

Coming now to describe the way the dead shall rise at the end of the world, the Apostle first solves a difficulty that might arise out of the preceding verse, namely, if our corruptible bodies cannot inherit incorruptible life, what about the just who will be living when Christ appears on the last day? In reply the Apostle says: I tell you a mystery, i.e., a truth of revelation, which human means could not discover (1 Thess 4:14). What is this mystery? It is that the just who are living at the Second Coming of Christ shall not die, but shall be suddenly changed from their corruptible to an incorruptible and glorious state.

This interpretation is (a) according to the best reading of the second part of this verse; (b) it is in harmony with the context, verses 50 and 52, and with the whole drift of St. Paul’s argument; (c) it agrees with the explanation of the same doctrine given by St. Paul elsewhere (1 Thess 4:15-17; 2 Cor 5:1-9; 2 Tim 4:1), and with the teaching of St. Peter on the subject (1 Peter 4:5); (d) it alone gives to mystery the proper and obvious meaning of that term; (e) it finds approval in the words of the Creed, “He shall come to judge the living and the dead”; (f) it has the support of practically all the Greek Fathers, and of all modern exegetes.

There is no “mystery” in St. Paul’s mind about the dead, good or bad, rising again. Neither is there any sense in: We shall not all be changed of this verse, and “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” etc., of the following verse. In fact, we shall not be changed here is in direct contradiction with the words, we shall be changed of the next verse.

The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse, which is found in our version, in the Codex Bezae, and in the Vulgate, and which was commonly accepted by all the Latin Fathers and Latin versions from the time of Tertullian, must be rejected as erroneous for the reasons given above. The Council of Trent, in making the Vulgate the official version of the Church, was well aware that it contained some wrong readings; but when these are of minor importance, or can receive a correct interpretation from other parallel passages of Scripture, as in the present instance, there is no difficulty. Moreover, the Council approved of all the parts of the original Vulgate, “as they were wont to be read in the Catholic Church”; but the East never read this verse as it is in the Vulgate. “If the Vulgate in the present passage were interpreted to mean that all the just without exception are to rise from the dead at the last day, it would not merely contradict the inspired text and the Creeds, but would be hopelessly at variance with itself” (Lattey, in Westm. Ver.).

The reading, therefore, of the second part of this verse which is adopted by all modern scholars, Catholic and non-Catholic, and which has the support of the Greek MSS. B E K L P, of practically all cursives, and of most versions, is: “We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed.” A rival reading of  א C F G and of the cursive no. 17, if read without punctuation, might have the same meaning, thus:  “we shall all sleep (die) not but we shall all be changed.” Generally, however, this reading is understood to agree with that of the Vulgate, and is given as follows: “We shall all sleep (die), but we shall not all be changed.”

While it is practically certain that the reading of this verse which we have adopted is the only correct one, it must be admitted that the Vulgate reading, taken by itself, can receive an orthodox explanation. Thus, we shall all indeed rise again may be taken to refer to mankind as a whole, without including the few that will be alive at the end (cf. Titus 1:12, 13; Heb 9:27). In like manner, the words, we shall not all be changed can mean that all the dead shall not be glorified.

It is objected against the above interpretation (a) that verse 22 of this chapter, Rom 5:12, and Heb 9:27 seem to say that all men must die; (b) that St. Paul seemed to expect to be still alive when Christ would come. Answer: (a) Even though all men do not actually die, still there is in them all the liability to death, but the penalty can be taken away by God (St. Thomas, Summa, 1a 2ae, qu. 81, a. 3, ad 3). (b) St. Paul did not really believe or mean to teach that the end of the world was at hand in his time. Doubtless he had no revelation on this subject. If here he associates himself with those who are to be alive at the last day, he elsewhere (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14) speaks of being among those who are to be raised up from the dead at that time. Hence he seems to have been uncertain about the time of the Lord’s coming.

52. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible: and we shall be changed.

In a moment, etc. These words indicate the swiftness with which the dead shall be called from their graves and the bodies of the living just glorified at the last day.

The last trumpet, i.e., the last sign by which the living and the dead shall be summoned to judgment. Perhaps it will be the voice of Christ (John 5:28), or the voice of an archangel (1 Thess 4:15), or some other signal from on high. The expression, “trumpet,” is metaphorical, being borrowed from the instrument used by the Jews to convoke their religious assemblies (Num 10:2-10).

The dead shall rise again incorruptible, i.e., the just shall rise clothed with glorified bodies.

We shall be changed, i.e., the just who are alive at the last day shall not die as others do, but shall pass in the twinkling of an eye from their mortal to an immortal and glorious state.

53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality.

The Apostle again insists upon the necessity of the transformation already spoken of in verse 50. The just who are in their graves must put on incorruptible bodies, and those who are still living must exchange their mortal frames for immortal and glorified bodies.

54. And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory.

Most authorities repeat here both clauses of the preceding verse. The Vulgate reading in this place, however, is found in the Sinaitic MS. and in some other versions. When the transformation spoken of in the preceding verse is effected, then shall come the complete triumph of Christ over death.

Death is swallowed up, etc. The Apostle is referring to Isaiah 25:8, where the Hebrew reads: “He (Jehovah) hath swallowed up death forever.” The Prophet is announcing that in the heavenly Jerusalem there shall be no more death, or pain, or the like; and St. Paul, slightly modifying the same words, proclaims the victory of Christ in the Resurrection over death and its consequences (Gen 3:19).

In the LXX this passage of Isaias is very obscure: “Death having prevailed swallowed up” (κατεπιεν ο θανατος ισχυσας). With the resurrection, death, the last enemy of man, shall be defeated and life shall triumph in all its glory.

55. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?

At the thought of the final triumph over death the Apostle bursts forth in a hymn of exultation, freely citing the Septuagint of Hosea 13:14. Literally, the Prophet was foretelling the restoration of Israel, which was a figure of the redemption of Christ.

Where is thy victory over the dead who are risen again from their graves? Where now is the sting of thy cruel dominion over them?

56. Now the sting of death is sin: and the power of sin is the law.

The sting of death is sin, i.e., death wounds us, like a poisonous serpent, through sin. The reference is to original sin by which death first stung and poisoned our race. And the Mosaic Law which was later given only served, by its numerous regulations and prohibitions, to stir up and strengthen the baneful consequences of original sin (cf. Rom 4:5 ff.; 5:13; 7:7-11).

57. But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What the Law could not do, Christ our Lord has done for us. By His death He has conquered both sin and death, satisfying for our transgressions and delivering us from bondage.

Who hath given (Vulg., qui dedit). The Greek has the present tense, which better expresses the victory already begun, although its completion is reserved for the resurrection.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 29, 2014

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief summary analysis of 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 and is followed by his notes on today’s reading (2 Cor 5:1, 6-10). Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions

In the first part of this chapter, the Apostle proceeds to account for his own cheerful intrepidity, as well as that of his colleagues, in the midst of dangers and persecutions. It proceeds from the consideration of their future glory, from their firm belief in the future glorification of their bodies (2 Cor 5:1), which glory they are anxious to have imparted to them without bodily dissolution, as nature recoils so strongly from death (2 Cor 5:2-4). But bearing in mind, that it is God who fits them for future glory, of which he has given them a sure earnest, they have great courage and confidence in undergoing all hardships for the Gospel with the hope of arriving at this supreme felicity (2 Cor 5:5–9), to attain which they endeavour, under all circumstances to please God; and keeping before their eyes his tremendous judgement, they so act as to prove to men their sincerity, lest they should be a stumbling-block or a scandal to anyone (2 Cor 5:10-11). He guards against the misconstruction which the false teachers might put upon the circumstance of his praising himself, by an assurance that whether he praises or speaks humbly of his own exploits—he has, in both cases, the glory of God and his neighbour’s good in view (2 Cor 5:12-13). He is moved to pursue this disinterested line of conduct by the example of Christ, whose purchased slaves we are all become by Redemption, who has, therefore, a right to all our services (2 Cor 5:14-1515). Hence, the Apostles, dead to themselves and living only to Christ, regard no one, not even the Redeemer himself, from human considerations; but they regard all from the highest spiritual motives (2 Cor 5:16). This should not be peculiar to the Apostles, as every Christian, after having entered on his new spiritual existence, should do the same (2 Cor 5:17). He refers the merit of all these blessings resulting from our new spiritual existence, to their true source, viz., God, who made us sharers in them by having reconciled us with himself (2 Cor 5:18). He explains the mode in which this reconciliation was effected (2 Cor 5:19). He points out the exalted dignity of the ministers of religion (2 Cor 5:20); and, lastly, assigns a new reason for confidently expecting reconciliation with God, founded on the death of Christ (2 Cor 5:21).

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

 For, we assuredly know by faith, that when this body of earth, in which the soul dwells for a time, as in a temporary abode or tabernacle, is dissolved by death, we shall have a lasting dwelling from God, viz., a spiritual body given us in the resurrection, unlike the works of art made to last but for a time, this body is not made by human hands, but by the power of God himself.

“For,” connects the following with the foregoing. The Apostle assigns a reason why he and his colleagues undervalue temporal things, and regard not passing and momentary tribulations. He wishes to point out the future glory that awaits us, both as regards body and soul.

“Of this habitation.” In Greek, τοῦ σκηνους, of this tabernacle, implying that as a tabernacle is only a temporary abode, so the body, in its mortal state, is to be the tenement of the soul only for a time. “A building of God,” in Greek, εκ θεοῦ, Vulgate, ex Deo, “from God,” by which is commonly understood, the body in its glorified state after the resurrection; for it is by the hopes of the glory of the resurrection, the Apostles were encouraged to labour manfully in the work of the gospel, and to it he refers (verse 14) of preceding chapter. This interpretation derives great probability from (verse 3), where the same idea is more fully developed.

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

Having, therefore, this firm faith, and sure earnest of future glory, we cheerfully undergo all sufferings in the cause of the gospel, knowing that as long as we are in the body, we are sojourners from the Lord.

. In consequence of the sure earnest of God’s spirit in our hearts, we always act with courage and cheerfulness under crosses and afflictions—the most secure road of safely arriving at our end—knowing that while we are in this body, we are sojourners from the Lord; we, therefore, hasten towards that country of which we are enrolled as citizens, and in which is our everlasting inheritance.

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

(For, in this life we are tending towards our heavenly country, guided by the obscure and glimmering light of faith; but we have not yet arrived at the enjoyment of the clear and intuitive vision of God).

This verse is to be included in a parenthesis—(see Paraphrase).

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.

We have, I say, courage cheerfully to undergo all sufferings for the gospel, and we regard it as a blessing to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord to enjoy his vision.

He continues the subject digressed from in the preceding verse: We have courage, I say, under adversity, and we even prefer to be freed from the body to remaining in it, and thus to enjoy God’s beatific vision.

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

And therefore, we exert our utmost might, whether absent or present in the body, to be pleasing and acceptable to him.

If while here “present” in the body, we merit heavenly bliss, and please God, we shall please Him hereafter, when “absent” from the body; we shall be objects always pleasing in His sight, and we shall merit that this happiness be not taken from us for eternity.

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.

For we must all, without exception, stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the Supreme Judge of all, and have our deeds then publicly manifested and exposed, so that each one may receive either the reward or punishment due to him, conformably to the life which he led in the body, according as that life was good or wicked.

In this verse is given a reason why we should always endeavour to please God; because we must all stand and be examined before the judgment seat of Christ, to whom the Father has transferred all judgment, and whom he has constituted Judge of the living and of the dead. In this judgment, five circumstances are here noticed by the Apostle:—First, it is to be universal—“we all.” Second, inevitable—“we must.” Third, clear and evident, exposing both interior actions and intentions; and hence a source of shame and confusion—“be manifested.” Fourth, irrevocable, as occurring before a supreme Judge, Christ—“before the judgment seat of Christ.” Fifth, most just; being grounded on all the actions, thoughts, &c., of our entire life, “according as he hath done.” What a subject of most serious reflection!

“The proper things of the body.” In Greek, τα δια τοῦ σώματος, the things by the body. The Vulgate interpreters read, ιδια τοῦ σώματος, propria corporis, the reading of Origen. ιδια seems to communicate a stronger or more emphatic meaning: one’s own body.



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Father McEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 29, 2014

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of 2 Corinthians 4:1-18 followed by his comments on today’s reading (2 Cor 4:14-5:1). Text in purple represent the author’s paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on.


2 Cor 4:14 Knowing that he who raised up Jesus will raise us up also with Jesus and place us with you.

 Firmly impressed with the belief, that he who raised Jesus from the dead, will so raise us, and bestow on us a like glory with Jesus, and give us a place with you in his heavenly kingdom.

“Raised up Jesus.” In the common Greek, raised up the Lord Jesus. (The Codex Vaticanus has not the word Lord). “With Jesus.” (In the common Greek, δια Ιησου, through Jesus). The Codex Vaticanus has, συν ιησου (together with Jesus), the Vulgate reading retained by St. Jerome. This firm belief in their future resurrection animates the Apostles to proclaim it aloud and preach the gospel intrepidly amid the most appalling dangers. “And place us with you.” He uses this form rather than place you with us, to show the great value he attaches to them, so as to prefer them to himself in glory, since he is only to come in for a share of glory of which they will be in possession.

2 Cor 4:15 For all things are for your sakes: that the grace, abounding through many, may abound in thanksgiving unto the glory of God.

 I said, give us a place with you, for all our ministrations are ordained for your salvation, that the grace of the gospel, being diffused amongst many, whilst many are returning thanks for it, may redound to the glory of God.

It is not without cause that he placed them first; for they, or rather their salvation, is the end for which all his labours are designed. From making them sharers in his own glory this good shall result, viz., that the benefits of the gospel being more widely diffused and more extensively communicated, may redound to the glory of God, whilst the many on whom they are conferred will join in returning God thanks for them. Acts of thanksgiving, therefore, contribute much to God’s glory. The Greek, την ευχαριστιαν περισευσση εἰς την δοξαν τοῦ θεοῦ, admits the construction of Erasmus, viz., that the grace abounding through many may abound with thanksgiving unto the glory of God, in which the verb “abound” has a transitive signification, as in 2 Cor 11:8.

2 Cor 4:16 For which cause we faint not: but though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Propped up by this hope of future glory (verse 14), we faint not in adversity. For, although our bodies, the exterior portion of our persons, be attenuated by the sufferings we undergo for Christ, and tending to dissolution; still, our interior part, the soul, is daily becoming more and more vigorous and renovated.

It is the hope of future glory in heaven that animates the just in the midst of sufferings and persecutions. By the “outward man,” is meant the outward and sensible portion of man, viz., his frail and corruptible body. This is attenuated and worn by sufferings. But the “inward man,” the invisible soul, from these same sufferings receives vigour, and is renovated from the oldness of sin to the newness of truth and justice.

2 Cor 4:17 For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation worketh for us above measure, exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.

For the fleeting and light afflictions of the body, which we endure at present, shall beget and insure for us hereafter an eternal weight of glory, which ineffably and incomparably exceeds the light and passing afflictions of the present life.

The Greek reading runs thus:—τὸ γὰρ παραυτικα ελαφρὸν τῆς θλιψεως καθʼ ὑπερβολην εἰς ὑπερβολην κατεργαζεται, “for the present lightness of affliction from excess to excess worketh for us above measure,” & c.. From excess to excess, or, as we have it, “above measure exceedingly,” means that this weight of eternal glory, which our present light and passing afflictions merit for us, is also ineffable, superlatively immense. This form of expression is common with the Hebrews to express what is ineffably great in its kind; or, the words may mean, that this glory inexpressibly exceeds the sufferings undergone here to gain it. The lightness of our sufferings, and their momentary continuance, are contrasted with the weight and eternal duration of the glory, that shall one day be exchanged for them. “O! our tribulation:” “our” is not in the Codex Vaticanus, as in the above quotation.

2 Cor 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen, are eternal.

Whilst we keep steadily in view, not the goods of the present life, viz., honours, riches, &c., which fill beneath the senses—but the good of the life to come, which are not seen, but only believed. For, the things of this life, which are seen, are fleeting and temporary, while the invisible things of the life to come are eternal and never-ending.

“While we look not at the things which are seen.” The Greek word for “look,” σκοπουντων means keeping steadily in view. Oh! were we, with the eyes of the understanding, and in the light of faith, to consider the nothingness of earthly enjoyments and pleasures, in duration exceedingly brief, and even this very brief enjoyment alloyed with bitterness and remorse and disappointments of all sorts; and on the other hand, were we to contemplate the things of the invisible world, their never-ending duration, their intensity exceeding all human comprehension; were we but to “consider in the heart,” on the awful import of these words, “EVER,” “NEVER;” ever to continue, never to end; what a stimulus to walk in the way of virtue, and keeping God always in view, to look to the remuneration he has in store for us; what a consolation under the crosses and afflictions with which this loving Father may visit us, in order to chasten us with the rod of discipline, and wean us from the nothingness of earthly pleasures. O God! increase in us a spirit of lively faith, so as to view temporal and eternal things, the fleeting affairs of this visible world, and the never-ending concerns of the invisible world, as they are; ever to bear in mind that there are two worlds, the visible and invisible—the one to pass away, as regards us, very soon, nay, sooner than we may imagine; the other never to end, to continue as long as God shall be God—and be influenced in our conduct, with reference to them, according to their relative importance.

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

 For, we assuredly know by faith, that when this body of earth, in which the soul dwells for a time, as in a temporary abode or tabernacle, is dissolved by death, we shall have a lasting dwelling from God, viz., a spiritual body given us in the resurrection, unlike the works of art made to last but for a time, this body is not made by human hands, but by the power of God himself.

“For,” connects the following with the foregoing. The Apostle assigns a reason why he and his colleagues undervalue temporal things, and regard not passing and momentary tribulations. He wishes to point out the future glory that awaits us, both as regards body and soul.

“Of this habitation.” In Greek, τοῦ σκηνους, of this tabernacle, implying that as a tabernacle is only a temporary abode, so the body, in its mortal state, is to be the tenement of the soul only for a time. “A building of God,” in Greek, εκ θεοῦ, Vulgate, ex Deo, “from God,” by which is commonly understood, the body in its glorified state after the resurrection; for it is by the hopes of the glory of the resurrection, the Apostles were encouraged to labour manfully in the work of the gospel, and to it he refers in the preceding chapter (2 Cor 4:14). This interpretation derives great probability from (2 Cor 5:3), where the same idea is more fully developed.

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Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:6-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 3, 2013

This post opens with the Bishop’s brief analysis of chapter 9 of Second Corinthians as a whole, followed by his notes on verses 6-10. Text in purple represents the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

2Co 9:6  Now this I say: He who soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings shall also reap blessings.

What I mean to convey is this: the man who dispenses charity sparingly, shall meet a recompense in the same proportion, and the man who dispenses it liberally and generously, shall also reap a proportionate, i.e., a liberal, recompense from God.

He says that the man who gives alms—which is meant by “sowing”—“sparingly,” “will reap,” i.e., will receive but a small reward, not trifling or small in itself, but in comparison with that which shall be received by him, who shall sow or dispense “in blessings,” i.e., plentifully and abundantly. Such a person will obtain an abundant reward.

2Co 9:7  Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Let each person, however, contribute just according to his will and inclination; but let him do so cheerfully, and not as a man acting from reluctance or constraint, because God loves and remunerates a cheerful giver.

He now recommends this quality of cheerfulness in the giving of alms. With God, who sees the heart, no alms deeds are acceptable, unless given from a cheerful heart. Hence, St. Augustine says—if you give away your bread with sadness, you lose both your bread and its reward.

2Co 9:8  And God is able to make all grace abound in you: that ye always, having all sufficiently in all things, may abound to every good work,

(Let no groundless fears of personal want, resulting from the exercise of charity to the poor, deter you); for God is able to bestow upon you such an abundance of good gifts, that, having in all things, and at all times, an ample sufficiency, you may be fully equal to every good work of charity.

Having explained the conditions of alms-deeds, he now meets a difficulty, which the timid fears of some might suggest, viz., that if they were to contribute generously, they themselves might perhaps be reduced to want. He tells them to banish such groundless apprehensions; for, that God, who is generous to those who are themselves liberal, can make their substance prosper, so as to enable them to exercise without difficulty the works of charity.

2Co 9:9  As it is written: He hath dispersed abroad, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever.

As we find it written in Psalm 111 regarding the just man:—Like a sower, he hath scattered his wealth, he liberally distributed it to the poor, his alms deeds remain in their effects, both for time and eternity.

He employs the authority of Sacred Scripture in banishing all such groundless fears. The same thing shall happen them, that is recorded of the just man (Psalm 112), of whom it is said, “he hath dispersed,” &c.—(See Paraphrase). “His justice,” by which is meant alms-deeds, to which the designation of “justice,” is applied in the Gospel (v.g.): “See, you do not your justice before men.”—(Matt. chap. 6.) “Remaineth for ever;” it remains in time, in the temporal benedictions and graces which it merits, and in eternity, in the glory with which it shall be abundantly rewarded.

2Co 9:10  And he that ministereth seed to the sower will both give you bread to eat and will multiply your seed and increase the growth of the fruits of your justice:

Therefore, banish all groundless fears, because God, who supplies you with the means of dispensing your charities, will also furnish you with the necessaries of life, and will even multiply your temporal substance which you dispense to the poor, and increase the spiritual fruits of your justice and sanctification.

He dispels their fears by recounting the rewards attached to almsgiving. God, who supplies them with temporal means (“the seed”), wherewith to relieve their distressed brethren, like the master who supplies the husbandman with seed to sow in his field, will supply them with food and the other necessaries of life; he will even multiply their “seed,” i.e., their temporal substance, and reward them in this life with graces, which are the seed of glory in the life to come. The ordinary course of God’s providence is to reward aims-deeds with temporal benedictions in this life, and whenever he departs from this course, as he sometimes does, it is for the trial and good of his elect, and for his own greater glory. The words “will multiply,” &c., are read optatively in the common Greek, χορηγησαι και πληθυναι, &c., may he, who … give and multiply, &c. According to this reading, the Apostle begs a blessing for them. The Vulgate reading in the future, χορηγησει, και πληθυνεῖ, &c., is, however, generally preferred by critics, on the authority of the chief MSS. Note: “optatively.” Words in the grammatical optative mood are to be taken as expressing a hope, desire, or wish.


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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 15, 2013

Synopsis of 2 Corinthians 8:

1. He exhorts the Corinthians to imitate the generosity of the Macedonian Christians in sending alms to the poor at Jerusalem.

2. He points (ver. 9) to the example of Christ, who for our sakes was made poor, that through His poverty we might be rich.

3. He urges them (ver. 10) to fulfil their purpose and half-promise, and bids each one give according to his means.

4. He says (ver. 13) that by so doing rich and poor will be equalised, through the former giving their temporal goods in return for spiritual benefits.

5. He reminds them (ver. 16) that he had sent Titus and other Apostles to make this collection, and warns them that if they put His messengers to shame they themselves will also be put to shame before them.

The first example of the almsgiving referred to in this and the next chapters is related by S. Luke (Act_11:28). This famine under Claudius is referred by many to his fourth year, by Baronius to his second, i.e., A.D. 44. From S. Luke’s narrative it appears that the Christians of Antioch zealously met the famine beforehand by sending alms by the hands of Barnabas and Paul. Many years afterwards, in A.D. 58, the collection spoken of in this chapter was made in Corinth and the neighbouring places. Further, a greater and more lasting cause of the poverty of the Christians of Jerusalem was the constant persecution suffered by them at the hands of the Jews since the death of Stephen, frequently taking the form of banishment and confiscation of their goods (Act_8:1, and Heb_10:34). From that time forward the Jews were sworn foes to Christ: and bitterly persecuted the Christians; and since the Church of Jerusalem was the mother of all others, the custom prevailed amongst Christians in all parts of the world of sending, help to the poor of that Church. When Vigilantius found fault with this custom in the time of Theodosius, S. Jerome, writing against him, testifies to its prevalence with approbation. He says: “This custom down to the present time remains, not only among us, but also among the Jews, that they who meditate in the law of the Lord day and night, and have no lot in the earth save God only, be supported by the ministry of the synagogues, and of the uhole earth.”

In this chapter, then, the Apostle is urging the Corinthians, as being rich, to the duty of almsgiving. Corinth was the most frequented emporium of Greece, and in it were many wealthy merchants

2Co 8:1  Now we make known unto you, brethren, the grace of God that hath been given in the churches of Macedonia.

Now we make known unto you, brethren, the grace of God. God has given to the Macedonian Christians great patience, liberality, and pity for others.

2Co 8:2  That in much experience of tribulation, they have had abundance of joy and their very deep poverty hath abounded unto the riches of their simplicity.

That in much experience of tribulation, they have had abundance of joy. When greatly tried by sundry tribulations, they were very joyful.

And their very deep poverty hath abounded. Having sounded the depths of poverty, the Macedonians, as it were, broke out into plentiful and abundant kindness and almsgiving.

Simplicity denotes a pure, liberal, and ready will to give. Liberality is measured not by the greatness of the gift, but by the promptitude of the mind, as Chrysostom and Theophylact say. “Simplicity” says Ambrose (Ep. 10), “weighs not pros and cons, has no mean suspicions or dishonest thoughts, but overflows with pure affection.” Cf. Rom 12:8.

2Co 8:3  For according to their power (I bear them witness) and beyond their power, they were willing:

For according to their power…they were willing.  Of their own free will, without being solicited, they came forward and contributed as much as and more than they were able to afford.

2Co 8:4  With much entreaty begging of us the grace and communication of the ministry that is done toward the saints.

Begging of us. Begging us to undertake the gracious work of collection, and take our part in it. The Apostle often applies the word χάρις (gift) to what is gratuitous and munificent. Here he applies it to the work of collection. In ver. 7 and elsewhere he applies it to the alms itself.

2Co 8:5  And not as we hoped: but they gave their own selves, first to the Lord, then to us by the will of God;

Not as we hoped. They gave much more than we expected.

They gave their own selves, first to the Lord, then to us. They first surrendered themselves to the will of God and then to ours, to do and give whatever I wished.

Observe here that they who give alms ought, if they are to do it properly, first to give their hearts to God, and in token that they have so surrendered themselves to Him, they ought then to give alms, as tribute paid to Him.

By the will of God. God wishes people to follow our directions, and regard our wish as His, and us as the interpreters of His will, so what we will God also wills to be done by those under us. He Himself says: “He that heareth you heareth Me” (Anselm and Theophylact).

2Co 8:6  Insomuch, that we desired Titus, that, as he had begun, so also he would finish among you this same grace.

Insomuch that we desired Titus. We asked Titus to collect these alms, just as we had collected them in Macedonia. We doubted not for a moment that the liberality of the rich Corinthians would not be outshone in readiness and amount by the poverty of the Macedonians. This is to stimulate the Corinthians to liberality by the example of the Macedonians.

2Co 8:7  That as in all things you abound in faith and word and knowledge and all carefulness, moreover also in your charity towards us: so in this grace also you may abound.

So in this grace also you may abound. See that, as ye abound in faith, care, and love towards me, so ye abound in almsgiving to the poor (Anselm).

2Co 8:8  I speak not as commanding: but by the carefulness of others, approving also the good disposition of your charity.

I speak not as commanding: but by the carefulness of others. I do not command, but seek to move you by the example of the Macedonians, who were so anxious to help the poor.

And improve the good disposition of your charity. I say this to make test of your love, sincerity, and goodness, and to stimulate you by others’ example. The Latin ingenium, which is the rendering of the Greek γνήσιον, does not here denote the good disposition of charity, as Anselm thinks, in which case the meaning would be: I say this, not to test and show that your charity has a good disposition, by its suggesting, dictating, and advising that you do this good deed without any order from me; but γνήσιον denotes, not ingenium, but ingenuum, or an innate disposition. Again, the word for prove has the double idea of testing and then demonstrating. Maldonatus, indeed (Notæ Manusc.), renders it, “longing to prove to others;” for, as he says, the Greek verb here denotes not the effect but the affection.

2Co 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich he became poor for your sakes: that through his poverty you might be rich.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a fresh stimulus to almsgiving. Christ, the King of kings, for your sakes became poor when He was born in the stable, because there was no room for Him in the inn. Instead of His royal throne He had a manger; for bedding, hay; for fire, the breath of ox and ass; for curtains, spiders’ webs; for sweet perfumes, stable ordure; for purple, filthy rags; for His stud, ox and ass; for a crowd of nobles, Joseph and Mary. So, too, His whole after-life was stamped with poverty, or, as Erasmus renders the Greek here, with beggary. From this it appears that Christ was not merely poor, but was also an actual beggar.

That through His poverty you might be rich. Rich with spiritual riches, with lessons of godliness, with forgiveness of sins, righteousness, holiness, and other virtues. The Corinthians are tacitly bidden, if they wish to imitate Christ closely, to enrich the poor with their alms, to impoverish themselves so as to enrich others. Cf. Anselm on the riches and poverty of Christ, and Chrysostom (Hom. 17), who points out how the Christian should not be ashamed of or shrink from poverty.

S. Gregory Nazianzen (Oral. 1 in Pascha) beautifully contrasts our benefits and Christ’s loving-kindness. He says: “Christ was made poor that we through His poverty might be rich. He took the form of a servant that we might regain liberty. He descended that we might be exalted. He was tempted that we might overcome. He was despised that He might fill us with glory. He died that we might be saved. He ascended, to draw to Himself those lying prostrate on the ground through sin’s stumblingblock.” S. Augustine again says beautifully: “What will His riches do if His poverty made us rich?” Lastly, from these words of the Apostle, Bede infers: “All good faithful souls are rich: let none despise himself. The poor in his cell, being rich in his conscience, sleeps more quietly on the hard ground than he that is Rich in gold sleeps in purple.”

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