Read & Study the Bible Online - Bible Portal

2 Corinthians 3:1 - Exposition

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? The last verse of the last chapter might be seized upon by St. Paul's opponents to renew their charge—that he was always praising himself. He anticipates the malignant and meaning smiles with which they would hear such words. The word "again" implies that this charge had already been brought against him, perhaps in consequence of such passages as 1 Corinthians 2:16 ; 1 Corinthians 3:10 ; 1 Corinthians 4:11-14 ; 1 Corinthians 9:15-23 ; 1 Corinthians 14:18 , etc. Such passages might be called self-laudatory and egotistical, were it not that (as St. Paul here explains) they arose only from a sense of the grandeur of his office, of which he was the almost involuntary agent, used by God as it seemed best to him. Hence he says later on ( 2 Corinthians 7:1-16 :18) that self-praise is no commendation, and that the true test of a man is God's commendation. The verb "I commend," technically used in the same sense as our "commendatory letters," occurs also in Romans 16:1 . Or need we, etc.? The reading, ἢ μὴ , thus translated, is better supported than εἰ μὴ , unless, which would have a somewhat ironical force. The μὴ in the reading ἢ μὴ implies, "Can you possibly think that we need," etc.? Generally, when a stranger came to some Church to which he was not personally known, he carried with him some credentials in the form of letters from accredited authorities. St. Paul treats it as absurd to suppose that he or Timothy should need such letters, either from the Corinthians or to them. As some . He will not name them, but he refers to the Judaists, who vaunted of their credentials in order to disparage St. Paul, who was too great to need and too independent to use them. We can hardly, perhaps, realize the depth and bitterness of antagonism concealed under that word "some" in 1 Corinthians 4:18 , Galatians 1:7 ; Galatians 2:12 . It is not meant that there was anything discreditable in using such letters (for Apollos had used them, Acts 18:27 ), but the disgraceful thing was that St. Paul should be disparaged for not bringing them. Epistles of commendation. The phrase, ἐπιστολαὶ συστατικαί "introductory letters"—was familiar in later Greek. In days when there were few public hostels, and when it was both a duty and a necessity for small and persecuted communities like those of the Jews and Christians to practise hospitality ( Romans 12:13 ; Hebrews 13:2 . etc.), it was customary both for synagogues and Churches to provide their friends and emissaries with authentic testimonials. Otherwise they might have been deceived by wandering impostors, as, in fact, the Christians were deceived by the vagabond quack Peregrinus. We can easily see how the custom of using such letters might be abused by idle, restless, and intriguing persons, who have never found it very difficult to procure them. We find traces of their honest use by Phoebe, by Silas and Jude, by Apollos, by Mark, and by Zenas, in Romans 16:1 ; Acts 18:27 ; Acts 15:25 ; Colossians 4:10 ; Titus 3:13 ; and of their unfair use by certain Judaists, in Galatians 1:7 and Galatians 2:12 . Nothing can more forcibly illustrate the necessity for St. Paul's protest against the idle vaunt of possessing such letters, than the fact that, more than a century afterwards, we find malignant innuendoes aimed at St. Paul in the pseudo-Clementines, under the name of" the enemy" and "Simon Magus" and "a deceiver." He is there spoken of as using letters from the high priest (which, indeed, St. Paul had done as Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9:1 , Acts 9:2 ); and the Churches are warned never to receive any one who cannot bring credentials from James; so deep-rooted among the Judaists was the antagonism to the independent apostolate and daring originality of the apostle of the Gentiles! Dr. Plumptre quotes Sozomen ('H.E.', James 5:16 ) for the curious fact that the Emperor Julian tried to introduce the system of "commendatory letters" into his revived paganism. Or letters of commendation from you. The substitution of "letters" for "epistles" is an instance of the almost childish fondness for unnecessary synonyms, which is one of the defects of the Authorized Version. The true reading probably is "to you or from you" ( א , A, B, C). The word "commendatory" ( sustatikon ) is omitted in A, B, C. Or from you . It was worse than absurd to suppose that St. Paul should need those literae formatae to a Church of which he was the thunder; and nothing but the boundless "inflation" which characterized the Corinthians could have led them to imagine that he needed letters from them to other Churches, as though, forsooth, they were the primary Church or the only church ( 1 Corinthians 14:36 ).

Be the first to react on this!

Scroll to Top

Group of Brands