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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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This third time I am coming 1
to you. "On the testimony of two or three witnesses a fact shall be
I warned those who sinned earlier 2
and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on
my second visit, that if I come again I will not be lenient,
3 since you are looking for proof of Christ speaking
in me. He is not weak toward you but powerful in you.
For indeed he was crucified out of weakness,
but he lives by the power of God. So also we are weak in him, but toward you we
shall live with him by the power of God.
4 Examine yourselves to see whether you are
living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in
you? - unless, of course, you fail the test.
I hope you will discover that we have not
But we pray to God that you may not do evil,
not that we may appear to have passed the test but that you may do what is
right, even though we may seem to have failed.
For we cannot do anything against the truth,
but only for the truth.
For we rejoice when we are weak but you are
strong. What we pray for is your improvement.
5 I am writing this while I am away, so that
when I come I may not have to be severe in virtue of the authority that the
Lord has given me to build up and not to tear down.
6 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Mend your ways,
encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of
love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the
holy ones greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love
of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you.
1  This third time I am coming:
designation of the forthcoming visit as the "third" (cf
⇒ 2 Cor 12:14) may indicate that, in addition to
his founding sojourn in Corinth, Paul had already made the first of two visits
mentioned as planned in ⇒ 2 Cor 1:15, and the next
visit will be the long-postponed second of these. If so, the materials in
⇒ 2 Cor 1:12-⇒ 2:13
plus ⇒ 2 Cor 7:4-16 and 2 Cor 10-13 may date from
the same period of time, presumably of some duration, between Paul's second and
third visit, though it is not clear that they are addressing the same crisis.
The chronology is too unsure and the relations between sections of 2 Cor too
unclear to yield any certainty. The hypothesis that 2 Cor 10-13 are themselves
the "tearful letter" mentioned at ⇒ 2 Cor
2:3-4 creates more problems than it solves.
2  I warned those who sinned
earlier: mention of unrepentant sinners (⇒ 2 Cor
12:21 and here) and of an oral admonition given them on an earlier
visit complicates the picture at the very end of Paul's development. It
provides, in fact, a second explanation for the show of power that has been
threatened from the beginning (⇒ 2 Cor 10:1-6), but
a different reason for it, quite unsuspected until now. It is not clear whether
Paul is merely alluding to a dimension of the situation that he has not
previously had occasion to mention, or whether some other community crisis, not
directly connected with that behind 2 Cor 10-13, has influenced the final
editing. I will not be lenient: contrast Paul's hesitation and reluctance to
inflict pain in ⇒ 2 Cor 1:23 and ⇒ 2
Cor 2:1-4. The next visit will bring the showdown.
3 [3-4] Paul now gives another motive
for severity when he comes, the charge of weakness leveled against him as an
apostle. The motive echoes more closely the opening section
(⇒ 2 Cor 10:1-18) and the intervening development
(especially ⇒ 2 Cor
11:30-⇒ 12:10). Proof of Christ speaking
in me: the threat of ⇒ 2 Cor 10:1-2 is reworded to
recall Paul's conformity with the pattern of Christ, his insertion into the
interplay of death and life, weakness and power (cf the note on
⇒ 2 Cor 12:10b).
4 [5-9] Paul turns the challenge
mentioned in ⇒ 2 Cor 13:3 on them: they are to put
themselves to the test to demonstrate whether Christ is in them. These verses
involve a complicated series of plays on the theme of dokime (testing, proof,
passing and failing a test). Behind this stands the familiar distinction
between present human judgment and final divine judgment. This is the final
appearance of the theme (cf ⇒ 2 Cor 10:18;
⇒ 11:15; ⇒ 12:19).
5  Authority . . . to build up
and not to tear down: Paul restates the purpose of his letter in language that
echoes ⇒ 2 Cor 10:2,
8, emphasizing the positive purpose of his
authority in their regard. This verse forms an inclusion with the topic
sentence of the section (⇒ 2 Cor 12:19), as well
as with the opening of this entire portion of the letter (⇒ 2
6 [11-13] These verses may have
originally concluded 2 Cor 10-13, but they have nothing specifically to do with
the material of that section. It is also possible to consider them a conclusion
to the whole of 2 Cor in its present edited form. The exhortations are general,
including a final appeal for peace in the community. The letter ends calmly,
after its many storms, with the prospect of ecclesial unity and divine
blessing. The final verse is one of the clearest trinitarian passages in the New
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