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2 Corinthians 3

A Living Letter

3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of recommendation to you or from you as some other people do, do we? 1  3:2 You yourselves are our letter, 2  written on our hearts, known and read by everyone, 3:3 revealing 3  that you are a letter of Christ, delivered by us, 4  written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets 5  but on tablets of human hearts.

3:4 Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. 3:5 Not that we are adequate 6  in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy 7  is from God, 3:6 who made us adequate 8  to be servants of a new covenant 9  not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Greater Glory of the Spirit’s Ministry

3:7 But if the ministry that produced death – carved in letters on stone tablets 10  – came with glory, so that the Israelites 11  could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face 12  (a glory 13  which was made ineffective), 14  3:8 how much more glorious will the ministry of the Spirit be? 15  3:9 For if there was glory in the ministry that produced condemnation, 16  how much more does the ministry that produces righteousness 17  excel 18  in glory! 3:10 For indeed, what had been glorious now 19  has no glory because of the tremendously greater glory of what replaced it. 20  3:11 For if what was made ineffective 21  came with 22  glory, how much more has what remains 23  come in glory! 3:12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, 24  3:13 and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites 25  from staring 26  at the result 27  of the glory that was made ineffective. 28  3:14 But their minds were closed. 29  For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. 30  It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. 31  3:15 But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds, 32  3:16 but when one 33  turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 34  3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, 35  there is freedom. 3:18 And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, 36  are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, 37  which is from 38  the Lord, who is the Spirit. 39 

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1 tn The Greek construction anticipates a negative reply (“No, we do not”) which is indicated in the translation by the ‘tag’ at the end, “do we?”

2 tn That is, “letter of recommendation.”

3 tn Or “making plain.”

4 tn Grk “cared for by us,” an expression that could refer either to the writing or the delivery of the letter (BDAG 229 s.v. διακονέω 1). Since the following phrase refers to the writing of the letter, and since the previous verse speaks of this “letter” being “written on our [Paul’s and his companions’] hearts” it is more probable that the phrase “cared for by us” refers to the delivery of the letter (in the person of Paul and his companions).

5 sn An allusion to Exod 24:12; 31:18; 34:1; Deut 9:10-11.

6 tn Or “competent.”

7 tn Or “competence.”

8 tn Or “competent.”

9 sn This new covenant is promised in Jer 31:31-34; 32:40.

10 tn Grk “on stones”; but since this is clearly an allusion to the tablets of the Decalogue (see 2 Cor 3:3) the word “tablets” was supplied in the translation to make the connection clear.

11 tn Grk “so that the sons of Israel.”

12 sn The glory of his face. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Decalogue, the people were afraid to approach him because his face was so radiant (Exod 34:29-30).

13 tn The words “a glory” are not in the Greek text, but the reference to “glory” has been repeated from the previous clause for clarity.

14 tn Or “which was transitory.” Traditionally this phrase is translated as “which was fading away.” The verb καταργέω in the corpus Paulinum uniformly has the meaning “to render inoperative, ineffective”; the same nuance is appropriate here. The glory of Moses’ face was rendered ineffective by the veil Moses wore. For discussion of the meaning of this verb in this context, see S. J. Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel (WUNT 81), 301-13. A similar translation has been adopted in the two other occurrences of the verb in this paragraph in vv. 11 and 13.

15 tn Grk “how will not rather the ministry of the Spirit be with glory?”

16 tn Grk “the ministry of condemnation”; translated as an objective genitive, “the ministry that produced condemnation.”

17 tn Grk “the ministry of righteousness”; translated as an objective genitive, “the ministry that produces righteousness.”

18 tn Traditionally, “abound.”

19 tn Grk “in this case.”

20 tn The words “of what replaced it” are not in the Greek text, but have been supplied to clarify the meaning.

21 tn Or “what was fading away.” See note on “which was made ineffective” in v. 7.

22 tn Or “through” (διά, dia).

23 tn Or “what is permanent.”

24 tn Or “we employ great openness of speech.”

25 tn Grk “the sons of Israel.”

26 tn Or “from gazing intently.”

27 tn Or “end.” The word τέλος (telos) can mean both “a point of time marking the end of a duration, end, termination, cessation” and “the goal toward which a movement is being directed, end, goal, outcome” (see BDAG 998-999 s.v.). The translation accepts the interpretation that Moses covered the glory of his face with the veil to prevent Israel from being judged by the glory of God (see S. J. Hafemann, Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel [WUNT 81], 347-62); in this case the latter meaning for τέλος is more appropriate.

28 tn Or “was fading away”; Grk “on the result of what was made ineffective.” The referent (glory) has been specified in the translation for clarity. See note on “which was made ineffective” in v. 7.

29 tn Grk “their minds were hardened.”

30 tn Grk “the same veil remains at the reading of the old covenant”; the phrase “they hear” has been introduced (“when they hear the old covenant read”) to make the link with the “Israelites” (v. 13) whose minds were closed (v. 14a) more obvious to the reader.

31 tn Or “only in Christ is it eliminated.”

32 tn Grk “their heart.”

33 tn Or perhaps “when(ever) he turns,” referring to Moses.

34 sn An allusion to Exod 34:34. The entire verse may refer to Moses, viewing him as a type portraying the Jewish convert to Christianity in Paul’s day.

35 tn Grk “where the Spirit of the Lord is”; the word “present” is supplied to specify that the presence of the Lord’s Spirit is emphasized rather than the mere existence of the Lord’s Spirit.

36 tn Or “we all with unveiled faces beholding the glory of the Lord as in a mirror.”

37 tn Grk “from glory to glory.”

38 tn Grk “just as from.”

39 tn Grk “from the Lord, the Spirit”; the genitive πνεύματος (pneumato") has been translated as a genitive of apposition.

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