2 Corinthians 12:2 MEANING

2 Corinthians 12:2
(2) I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago.--Better, I know a man. The Greek verb, though a perfect tense in form, is invariably used with the force of a present. It is all but impossible to connect the facts that follow with any definite point of time in the Apostle's life as recorded in the Acts. The date of the Epistle may be fixed, without much risk of error, in A.D. 57. Reckoning fourteen years back, we come to A.D. 43, which coincides with the period of unrecorded activity between St. Paul's departure from Jerusalem (Acts 9:30) and his arrival at Antioch (Acts 11:26). It would be giving, perhaps, too wide a margin to the words "more than fourteen years ago" to refer the visions and revelations of which he here speaks to those given him at the time of his conversion, in A.D. 37. The trance in the Temple (Acts 22:17) on his first visit to Jerusalem may, perhaps, be identified with them; but it seems best, on the whole, to refer them to the commencement of his work at Antioch, when they would have been unspeakably precious, as an encouragement in his arduous work. It may be noted that Galatians 2:2 specifically refers to one revelation at Antioch, and it may well have been preceded by others. The term "a man in Christ," as a way of speaking of himself, is probably connected with the thought that "if any man be in Christ he is a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). As one who lived and moved and had his being in Christ, he was raised to a higher region of experience than that in which he had lived before. It was in moments such as he describes that he became conscious of that "new creation" with a new and hitherto unknown experience.

Whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell.--No words can describe more accurately the phenomena of consciousness in the state of trance or ecstasy. It is dead to the outer world. The body remains, sometimes standing, sometimes recumbent, but, in either case, motionless. The man may well doubt, on his return to the normal condition of his life, whether his spirit has actually passed into unknown regions in a separate and disembodied condition, or whether the body itself has been also a sharer in its experiences of the unseen. We, with our wider knowledge, have no hesitation in accepting the former alternative, or, perhaps, in reducing the whole revelation to an impression on the brain and the phenomena known as cataleptic. St. Paul, however, would naturally turn to such records as those of Ezekiel's journey, in the visions of God, from the banks of Chebar to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1), and find in them the analogue, though, as he admits, not the solution, of his own experience. The lives of many of the great movers in the history of religious thought present, it may be noted, analogous phenomena. Of Epimenides, and Pythagoras, and Socrates, of Mahomet, of Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Aquinas, and Johannes Scotus, of George Fox, and Savonarola, and Swedenborg, it was alike true that to pass from time to time into the abnormal state of ecstasy was with them almost the normal order of their lives. (See article "Trance" in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, by the present writer.)

Such an one caught up to the third heaven.--Rabbinic speculations on the subject of Heaven present two forms: one which, starting probably from the dual form of the Hebrew word, recognises but two heavens, both visible--the lower region of the clouds and the upper firmament; and a later, which, under the influence of ideas from the further East, spoke of seven. A remarkable legend in the Talmud (Bereshith Rabba, 19, fol. 19, col. 3) relates how the Shechinah, or glory-cloud of the Divine Presence, retired step by step from earth, where it had dwelt before the sin of Adam, at every fresh development of evil; into the first heaven at the fall, into the second at the murder of Abel, and so on, till it reached the seventh heaven on Abraham's going down to Egypt, and descended again by successive steps from the birth of Isaac to the time of the Exodus, when it came once more to earth and dwelt in the Tabernacle with Moses. If we assume St. Paul to have accepted any such division, the third heaven would indicate little more than the region of the clouds and sky. It is more probable, however, from the tone in which he speaks, as clearly dwelling on the surpassing excellency of his visions, that he adopts the simpler classification, and thinks of himself as passing beyond the lower sky, beyond the firmament of heaven, into the third or yet higher heaven, where the presence of God was manifested. The seven heavens re-appear naturally in the legends of the Koran (Sura lxvii.) and in the speculations of mediaeval theology as represented by Dante. We probably hear a far-off echo of the derision with which the announcement was received by the jesting Greeks of Corinth and by St. Paul's personal rivals in the dialogue ascribed to Lucian, and known as the Philopatris, in which St. Paul is represented as "the Galilean, bald, with eagle nose, walking through the air to the third heaven."

Verse 2. - I knew; rather, I know. A man. St. Paul speaks in this indirect way of himself (see vers. 5, 7). In Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). To St. Paul every true Christian was a man whose personal life was lost in the life of Christ. Above fourteen years ago. The note of time is very vague. If we are at all able to identify the vision alluded to, it must have been the vision in the temple, referred to in Acts 22:17, which was, roughly speaking, "about fourteen years" before this time. The vision on the road to Damascus had occurred about twenty years earlier than the date of this Epistle. Whether in the body, etc. A powerful description of the absorption of all conscious bodily modes of apprehension. In their comments on. these verses, many commentators enter into speculations which seem to me to be so entirely arbitrary and futile that I shall not even allude to them. St. Paul's bodily and mental state during this vision is familiar to all who know the history of Oriental and mediaeval mysticism. Caught up (Ezekiel 11:24; Acts 8:39; Revelation 4:1, 2). Into the third heaven. It is most unlikely that St. Paul is here in any way referring to the Jewish hagadoth about seven heavens. The expression is purely general, and even the rabbis did not expect to be taken au pied de la lettre. Hence all speculations about first, second, and third heavens are idle and useless. Even as late as the Clementine writings in the middle of the second century, an attempt is made, in reference to this passage, to disparage St. Paul by sneering at visions as a medium of revelation, on the ground that they may spring from self-deception; and this rapture of the "bald hook-nosed Galilean" to the third heaven is also sneered at in the 'Philopatris' of the pseudo-Lucian. Yet how modest and simple is St. Paul's awestruck reference to this event, when compared, not only with the lying details of Mohammed's visit to heaven, but even with the visions of St. Theresa or Swedenborg!

12:1-6 There can be no doubt the apostle speaks of himself. Whether heavenly things were brought down to him, while his body was in a trance, as in the case of ancient prophets; or whether his soul was dislodged from the body for a time, and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he knew not. We are not capable, nor is it fit we should yet know, the particulars of that glorious place and state. He did not attempt to publish to the world what he had heard there, but he set forth the doctrine of Christ. On that foundation the church is built, and on that we must build our faith and hope. And while this teaches us to enlarge our expectations of the glory that shall be revealed, it should render us contented with the usual methods of learning the truth and will of God.I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago,.... Which is to be understood of himself, as appears from 2 Corinthians 12:7, where he speaks in the first person; and the reason why he here speaks in the third, is to show his modesty and humility, and how much he declined vain glory and popular applause; and whilst he is speaking of himself, studies as it were to conceal himself from being the person designed, and to draw off the mind of the reader from him to another person; though another cannot be intended, for it would not have been to his purpose, yea, quite beside it, when he proposes to come to visions and revelations he had of the Lord, to have instanced in the rapture of another. Moreover, the full and certain knowledge he had of this man, of the place he was caught up to, and of the things he there heard, best agrees with him; as also his attesting, in such a solemn way, his ignorance of the manner of this rapture, whether in the body or out of the body, and which he repeats and refers to the knowledge of God, clearly shows he must mean himself; besides, it would otherwise have been no instance of any vision of his, nor would the rapture of another have at all affected his character, commendation, and praise, or given him any occasion of glorying as this did: though he did not choose to take it, as is clear by his saying that if he gloried of it he should not be a fool, yet forbore, lest others should entertain too high an opinion of him; and after all, he was in some danger of being elated with this vision along with others, that the following sore temptation was permitted, to prevent his being exalted with it above measure: and when he calls this person, meaning himself, a "man", it is not to distinguish him from an angel, whose habitation is in the third heaven, and so no wonderful thing to be found there; or from any other creature; nor perhaps only to express his sex, a man, and not a woman, though the Syriac version uses the word peculiar to the masculine sex; but merely to design a person, and it is all one as if it had been said, I knew a person, or I knew one in Christ: and the phrase "in Christ", is not to be connected with the word "know", as if the sense was, that he called Christ to witness the truth of what he was about to say, and that what he should say was not with a view to his own glory, but to the glory and honour of Christ only; but it is to be connected with the word "man", and denotes his being in Christ, and that either, as Dr. Hammond thinks, in a singular and extraordinary manner; as John is said to be "in the spirit", Revelation 1:10, that is, in an ecstasy; and so here this man was in the Spirit of Christ, and transported by him to see visions, and have revelations; or rather it intends a spiritual being in Christ, union to him, the effect of which is communion with him. The date of

fourteen years ago, may refer either to the time when the apostle first had the knowledge of his being in Christ, which was at his conversion; he was in Christ from all eternity, being given to him, chosen in him, loved by him; set as a seal upon his heart, as well as engraven on the palms of his hands, and represented by him, and in him, in the everlasting covenant; and so in time, at his crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of God; in consequence of all which, when the set time was come, he became a new creature, was converted and believed in Christ, and then he knew himself to be in him; he was in him secretly before, now openly; and this was about fourteen years before the writing of this epistle; the exact time of his conversion might well be known and remembered by him, it being in such an extraordinary manner: or also this date may refer to the time of his rapture, which some have thought was some time within the three days after his conversion, when he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank; some have thought it to be eight years after his conversion; but the most probable opinion is, that it was not at Damascus, but when he was come again to Jerusalem, and was praying in the temple, and was in a trance or ecstasy, Acts 22:17, though the difference there is among chronologers, and the uncertainty of their conjectures, both as to the time of the apostle's conversion, and the writing of this epistle, makes it very difficult to determine this point. They that make this rapture to be at the time of his conversion, seem to be furthest off of the truth of things; for whether his conversion be placed in the 34th year of Christ, as some, or in the 35th, as others, or in the 36th; and this epistle be thought to be written either in the 56th, or 58th, or 60th, the date of fourteen years will agree with neither: they indeed make things to agree together best, who place his conversion in the year 36, make this rapture to be eight years after, in the year 44, and this epistle to be written in the year 58. Dr. Lightfoot puts the conversion of the apostle in the year 34, the rapture of him into the third heaven, in the year 43, at the time of the famine in the reign of Claudius, Acts 11:28, when he was in a trance at Jerusalem, Acts 22:17, and the writing of this epistle in the year 57. That great chronologer, Bishop Usher, places Paul's conversion in the year 35, his rapture in the year 46, and the writing of this epistle in the year 60. So that upon the whole it is hard to say when this rapture was; and it may be, it was at neither of the visions recorded in the Scripture, which the apostle had, but at some other time nowhere else made mention of: when, as he here says,

such an one was caught up to the third heaven, the seat of the divine Majesty, and the residence of the holy angels; where the souls of departed saints go immediately upon their dissolution; and the bodies and souls of those who have been translated, caught up, and raised already, are; and where the glorified body of Christ is and will be, until his second coming. This is called the "third" heaven, in respect to the airy and starry heavens. The apostle refers to a distinction among the Jews of , "the supreme heaven, the middle heaven, and the lower heaven" (f); and who also make a like division of worlds, and which they call , "the supreme world, and the middle world, and the lower world" (g); and sometimes (h) the world of angels, the world of the orbs, and the world of them below; and accordingly the Cabalistic doctors talk of three worlds; , "the third world", they say (i), is the supreme world, hidden, treasured, and shut up, which none can know; as it is written, "eye hath not seen", &c. and is the same with the apostle's "third heaven". The state and condition in which he was during this rapture is expressed by the following words, put into a parenthesis,

whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell, God knoweth: whether his soul remained in his body, and he was caught up soul and body into heaven, as Elijah was carried thither soul and body in a chariot with horses of fire; or whether his soul was out of his body, and he was disembodied for a time, as Philo the Jew (k) says that Moses was "without the body", during his stay of forty days and as many nights in the mount; or whether this was not all in a visionary way, as John was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's day, and Ezekiel was taken by a lock of his head, and lifted up by the Spirit between earth and heaven, and brought "in the visions of God to Jerusalem", cannot be said. The apostle did not know himself, and much less can any other be able to say how it was; it is best with him to refer and leave it to the omniscient God; one of the four persons the Jews say entered into paradise, who are hereafter mentioned in See Gill on 2 Corinthians 12:4, is said to have his mind snatched away in a divine rapture (l); that is, he was not himself, he knew not where he was, or whether in the body or out, as says the apostle.

(f) Targum in 2 Chron. 18. (g) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 1. 4. & 3. 2, 3.((h) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 83. 2.((i) Zohar in Numb. fol. 66. 3.((k) De Somniis, p. 570. (l) Cosri, p. 3. sect. 65. fol. 190. 1. 2.

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