2 Corinthians xii.Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. If I must glory. St. Paul in the whole of this discourse shews the repugnance he had of speaking in his own praise, and that if he did it, it was only through constraint, and for the advantage of the Corinthians; as also to defend himself from his calumniators. (Calmet)

Ver. 2. I know a man, &c. He speaks of himself, as it were of a third person. — Whether in the body, I know not. If St. Paul himself knew not, how can we pretend to decide, whether his soul was for some moments separated from his body, or in what manner he saw God. (Witham) — It appears that this took place about the period when the Holy Ghost commanded that he should be separated for the work whereunto he was called. (Acts xiii. 2.)

Ver. 4. Caught up into paradise. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are of opinion that this third heaven and paradise are the same place, and designate the abode of the blessed. In order to understand the language of the apostle, we must observe that the Hebrews distinguished three different heavens. The first comprised the air, the clouds, &c. as far as the fixed stars. The second included all the fixed stars; and the third was the abode of Angels, in which God himself discovered his infinite glory, &c. The first is called in Scripture simply the heavens, the second the firmament, and the third the heaven of heavens. (Calmet)

Ver. 7-10. A sting of my flesh,[1] an angel, or a messenger of Satan, to buffet me. The Latin word signifies any thing that pricks or stings, the Greek word a sharp stick or pale: he speaks by a metaphor, as also when he says to buffet me; that is, by causing great trouble or pain. Some understand by it a violent headache or pain, or distemper in the body. St. Augustine mentions this opinion, and does not reject it, in Psalm xcviii. tom. 4. p. 1069.; in Psalm cxxx. p. 1465. St. Jerome also speaks of it in chap. iv. ad Galatas, tom. 4. p. 274, Ed. Ben. But St. Chrysostom, by the sting, and the angel of Satan, understands that opposition which St. Paul met with from his enemies, and those of the gospel; as Satan signifies an adversary. Others understand troublesome temptations of the flesh, immodest thoughts, and representations, suggested by the devil, and permitted by Almighty God for his greater good. — Thrice I besought the Lord. That is, many times, to be freed from it, but received only this answer from God, that his grace was sufficient to preserve me from consenting to sin. And that power and strength in virtue should increase, and be perfected in weakness, and by temptations, when they are resisted. St. Augustine seems to favour this exposition, in Psalm lviii. Conc. 2. p. 573. St. Jerome, in his letters to Eustochium, to Demetrias, and to Rusticus, the monk. And it is the opinion of St. Gregory, lib. 23. moral. tom. 1. p. 747. and of many others. (Witham) — If there were any danger of pride from his revelations, the base and filthy suggestions of the enemy of souls must cause humiliations, and make him blush. But these are to be borne with submission to the will of God, for his power is more evident in supporting man under the greatest trials, than in freeing him from the attacks. — Power is made perfect. The strength and power of God more perfectly shines forth in our weakness and infirmity; as the more weak we are of ourselves, the more illustrious is his grace in supporting us, and giving us the victory under all trials and conflicts. (Challoner) — When I am weak. The more I suffer for Christ, the more I perceive the effects of his all-powerful grace, which sustains, enlightens, and strengthens me: the more also the glory and power of God appeareth in me. The pagans themselves were not ignorant that calamity was the soil in which virtue usually grows to perfection. Calamitas virtutis occasio est. (Seneca) — Optimos nos esse dum infirmi sumus. (Pliny vii. ep. 26.)

Ver. 11-13. Although I am nothing. These words are a demonstration of the humility of St. Paul, when forced to speak his own praises. — The signs and marks of my apostleship….on you, by your conversion, especially being accompanied by wonders and miracles. — Pardon me this injury. A reproach by irony, against such as seemed to value him less, because he lived in poverty, and took nothing of them. (Witham)

Ver. 14. Now the third time I am ready to come. So he says again in the next chapter. That is, he was once with them, he had purposed to come a second time, and now a third time. — I seek not the things that are yours, but you. That is, says St. Chrysostom, your souls, not your goods; your salvation, not your gold. — For the children. A modest pretty turn in their favour, by saying that fathers and parents are commonly supposed to leave their goods and riches to their children, not children for their parents. (Witham) — St. Paul came to Corinth for the first time in the year 52[A.D. 52], remaining with them 18 months. (Acts chap. xviii.) He came the second time in 55, but did not remain long with them; on which account it is omitted by St. Luke in the Acts. The date of this letter is in 57, when St. Paul again came to them towards the end of the year. (Calmet) — Other interpreters, with no less authority question this sentiment, see ver. 1. of the following chapter, and say he only went twice; the first time as mentioned in Acts xviii. 1.; the second time, as we may draw from Acts xx. 2 and 3, after this epistle, as it is evident from comparing 2 Corinthians i. 15.

Ver. 15. I most gladly will spend [2] all, and even my life, for your sake, and so as to be spent, and even sacrificed, for your souls; though the more I love you, the less you or some of you love me, a kind and modest reproach. (Witham)

Ver. 16-18. I caught you by guile. He answers an objection or suspicion of his adversaries, as if he took no presents himself, but employed others to do it for him: he appeals to them, if Titus did not serve them in all things as he had done, in the same spirit, treading the same steps. Think you, as some pretended of old, formerly, or of a long time, that we make vain and false excuses to you, and at the bottom aim to be gainers by you? He appeals with an oath to God, that he does all things for their good, for their advantage, and edification. (Witham)

Ver. 19. After having answered one of their objections with regard to his disinterestedness, he thus proceeds: I perceive that of old, or for a long time, you have regarded this lengthened discourse merely as an apology to justify myself from the suspicion of avarice. But we speak before God in Christ; or, God is my witness that I have acted thus only for your edification. (Theodoret) — Seeking not the things that are yours, but yourselves, most willingly to spend our strength and life, and to be spent or completely exhausted for the sake of your souls.

Ver. 20-21. He puts them in mind to be all of them reformed, to lay aside animosities, dissensions, swellings,[3] proceeding from pride, uncleanness, fornication, &c. which indeed will be a humiliation and trouble to him, to be forced to use his power by severities; for if he find them such as he would not, they will also find him such as they would not. (Witham) — Ton me metanoesanton. This, according to St. Augustine, is spoken here of doing great penance for heinous sins, and not merely of repentance, as some moderns would fain interpret it. (ep. 198.)


[1] Ver. 7. Stimulus carnis meæ, angelus Satanæ, qui me colaphizet, skolops te sarki (in carne mea) aggelos Satan, ina me kolaphize. See St. Chrysostom, om. ks. where he says, me genoito. See Tillemont, chap. x. on S. Paul; Cornelius a Lapide; &c.

[2] Ver. 15. Libentissimè impendam, & superimpendar, edista dapaneso, kai ekdapanethesomai, comsumam, & consumar.

[3] Ver. 20. Inflationes, phusioseis, tumores; a metaphor for being puffed up with pride, vain glory, &c.

Bible Text & Cross-references:

His raptures and revelations. His being buffeted by Satan. His fear for the Corinthians.

1 If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed:) but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

2 *I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not, God knoweth, such a one caught up to the third heaven.

3 And I know such a man, whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not, God knoweth:

4 That he was caught up into paradise: and heard secret words, which it is not allowed to man to utter.

5 Of such a one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing, but in my infirmities.

6 For even if I would glory, I shall not be foolish: for I shall say the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or any thing he heareth from me.

7 And lest the greatness of the revelations should puff me up, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.

8 For which thing I thrice besought the Lord, that it might depart from me:

9 And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly, therefore, will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I powerful.

11 I am become foolish: you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you: for in nothing am I less than those, who are above measure apostles: although I am nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

17 Did I circumvent you, by any of those whom I sent to you?

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

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

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

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



2: Acts ix. 3.