Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 1:8

Verse 8 begins with the word For, which connects the mention of suffering in general in verse 7 with mention of specific suffering in verses 8-10. Revised English Bible translates this word as “In saying this.”

We do not want you to be ignorant: in Greek two negatives are used: “We do not want you not to know.” In English this is expressed more naturally with a positive expression such as “we want you to know,” or “we want you to be quite certain” (New Jerusalem Bible), or more dynamically, “Make no mistake…” (Knox). Contemporary English Version takes this as an epistolary plural and thus translates “I want you to know.” Parallel expressions occur in Rom 1.13; 11.25; 1 Cor 10.1; 12.1; and 1 Thes 4.13, but with a first person singular subject.

Brethren: in his letters Paul frequently addressed his readers with the word “brothers.” The context in many instances supports the view that Paul most likely was addressing both men and women. While there is an unmistakable male bias in most of the biblical books, some modern translations prefer to translate “brothers” with a word that does not exclude women when it seems that Paul was including women along with the men. So Revised English Bible and Contemporary English Version translate “brothers” in this verse as “my friends” (see also 8.1, 23; 9.3, 5; 11.9, 26; 13.11). The English word “siblings” includes both men and women, but this word would sound very unnatural in English translations. Many languages, however, do have a commonly used word that includes women and men; and in the above verses translators may want to use that word rather than a word such as “brothers,” which does not include women. Note that New Revised Standard Version translates “brothers and sisters.” In some languages it will be necessary to add a possessive pronoun and say either “my brothers [and sisters]” or “our brothers [and sisters].”

Though Paul does not indicate here whether the affliction was sickness or external dangers against his life, the latter seems more probable. Affliction may be translated as “trouble” (Good News Translation, Revised English Bible) or “hardships” (New Jerusalem Bible).

We experienced … we were … we despaired: perhaps Paul is speaking about himself only, using the epistolary plural (so An American Translation: “the distress that I experienced … I was … I despaired”). If translators choose to retain the plural subject, it should be taken as including only Timothy and not the recipients of the letter.

Asia is the Roman province (see Good News Translation and Revised English Bible) of which Ephesus was the chief commercial center. It included most of the western part of Asia Minor. In modern geography Asia Minor corresponds to the peninsula that forms the western half of the country of Turkey. Asia in Paul’s letters should not be confused with the modern continent that we call Asia.

We were so utterly, unbearably crushed: Paul is using figurative language here. The Greek is literally “excessively, beyond [our] power [to cope] we were burdened.” Some possible models for translation into the receptor language may be “we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” (New International Version) or “the burdens on us were so heavy that there was no way that we could tolerate them.”

We despaired of life itself: some models other than Good News Bible may be “we lost hope that we could possibly survive” or “we felt certain that we were going to die.”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:17

Good News Translation omits the word For, which links verses 16 and 17. This word is important, however, in that it clearly links verse 17 to the question in the previous verse. The sense is that Paul is certainly not sufficient, since (for) he preaches the gospel in its purity and, unlike so many other preachers, he relies on God.

As in verses 14-16, the pronoun we probably does not include the readers.

Instead of the words like so many, some manuscripts have “like the others.” The editors of the UBS Greek New Testament consider this second reading “too offensive an expression for Paul to have used in the context.” Even so, some translations follow the reading “like the others” (Moffatt and An American Translation, which reads “like most men”); and New Revised Standard Version lists the reading “like the others” in the footnote.

Peddlers of God’s word: the meaning is apparently that many others were preaching for the sole motive of making a profit. Revised English Bible says “We are not adulterating the word of God for profit.” Paul does not appear to be claiming that others were falsifying the gospel, though that is possible if 4.2 refers to the same persons. God’s word does not refer to the Old Testament. As also in 4.2, the reference is to the message from God, especially the message about Christ.

But as men of sincerity: literally “but as from sincerity.” Since Paul’s associates included women as well as men, some translations avoid using the word men and use a word such as “persons” (New Revised Standard Version), or they restructure the wording (Good News Translation, Revised English Bible) in order to avoid suggesting that Paul was referring to men only.

In the sight of God we speak in Christ: these same words occur in 12.19. “To speak in the sight of God” appears to suggest that Paul is speaking openly and truthfully before God, who judges wrongdoing. “To speak in Christ” is to speak as one who lives in union with Christ (see comment in 1.21). A possible model for this expression may be “we speak as Christians in the very presence of God.” One translation restructures the whole verse as follows: “We are not like many people who add other business to the affairs [or, business] of God. But we speak the whole truth in the eyes of God, because we are people of Christ, and it is God who has sent us.”

Some languages will require that this whole verse be restructured by saying something like the following:
• Many people treat the message from God as if it were a second-rate product for sale. But we are not like that. Rather we speak with sincerity in God’s presence because he sent us as servants of Christ.

Or similarly:
• A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God’s message. But we are God’s sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness. (Contemporary English Version)

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:14

The participle knowing links verse 14 to the preceding verse by expressing the reason that Paul acts as he does. It may be best rendered as beginning a new sentence, as in Good News Translation, Barclay, and several other modern versions.

Good News Translation (also Bible en français courant) makes explicit that “God” is he who raised the Lord Jesus. Good News Bible also makes explicit that God raised Jesus from death “to life.”

Lord Jesus: some manuscripts omit the word Lord. Though the UBS Greek New Testament includes this word, the editors were divided over whether Paul wrote “Lord Jesus” or whether a later scribe added the word “Lord.” Nueva Biblia Española and Knox omit the word “Lord,” but most versions include it.

Will raise: is Paul referring to an event in the near future or in the more distant future? Since he apparently expected to be alive at the time of Christ’s second coming (1 Thes 4.17; 1 Cor 7.29), the near future seems more likely. Raise does not necessarily mean “from death,” but in some cases it may mean only “raise up to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4.17), referring to people who will still be alive at the second coming of Christ.

With Jesus: since Jesus had already been raised from the dead when Paul wrote, the words with Jesus do not mean “at the same time as Jesus.” The sense is either “will raise us in the same way that Jesus was raised,” or “will raise us to be with Jesus,” or “will raise us in virtue of our union with Jesus.” The last one mentioned is more probable. The more probable meaning may have to be rendered in some languages as “will raise us up because we are united with Jesus.” The King James Version rendering “by Jesus” seems to refer to Jesus as the means by which they will be raised. This, however, is not what is intended.

The verb translated bring in Revised Standard Version means “to present [someone]” or “to make [someone] stand.” Since Paul was not with Jesus at the time he was writing, the English word “take” (Good News Translation) correctly expresses the movement involved. Some other possibilities are “present” (Anchor Bible and New International Version) or “summon” (Knox).

The pronouns us are exclusive, since the readers (you) are mentioned separately.

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:7

Truthful speech is literally “in a word of truth.” The sense may be that what Paul says is honest and trustworthy, that is, his speech is truthful (Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version). But it is also possible to understand these words as parallel to the power of God, in which case “the word of truth” refers to the gospel message (so Good News Translation). In support of the Good News Bible translation, see Col 1.5, where “the word of the truth” is called “the gospel.” In languages that require separate sentences for each item in Paul’s list, one may wish to say here “we proclaim the true message” or something similar.

The power of God: this may be rendered “we act by the power of God” or “God’s power works in us.”

Weapons of righteousness: there are three possible interpretations of these words: (1) “weapons for the defense of righteousness,” where righteousness is a synonym for “the gospel”; (2) “weapons that we have because we have been made righteous”; the sense is then that Christians have been given the moral qualities that come as a result of having been made righteous by God; and (3) “righteousness as our weapon” (Good News Translation, and apparently most translations). Most interpreters favor this third interpretation.

For the right hand and for the left: the precise sense of these words is debated. According to a widely accepted view, the right hand represents the hand used for offense, that is, for attacking with a sword or spear; and the left hand represents the hand used for defense, that is, for protecting oneself with a shield (so Good News Translation, Bible en français courant, New Jerusalem Bible, Parola Del Signore: La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente, Parola Del Signore: La Bibbia in Lingua Corrente). Another view sees the mention of both hands as a more general way of emphasizing the idea of being completely equipped.

If the interpretation followed by Good News Translation is accepted, translators should recognize that this is figurative language. Paul is not talking about attacking and defending oneself in a physical sense. Barclay captures the sense well: “Goodness has been our armour both to commend and to defend the faith.” New Century Version says “We use our right living to defend ourselves against everything.”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:5

This: the reference is back to the act of giving on the part of the Macedonians, explained in verses 3 and 4. New Century Version makes this more explicit by repeating the verb: “and they gave [in a way that we did not expect].”

Not as we expected: more literally “not according as we had hoped.” This element may fit more naturally into the structure of the receptor language at the end of the verse than at the beginning. Having stated what the churches of Macedonia did, one may say in a separate sentence something like “That was not at all what we had expected” or “We did not think that they could give like that.”

The word first may have temporal significance, meaning that the first thing they did was to give themselves to the Lord (so Good News Translation, Bible en français courant). But the meaning can be that the most important thing they did was to give themselves to the Lord. Revised English Bible reflects the second interpretation: “for first of all they gave themselves to the Lord and, under God, to us” (also New American Bible).

They gave themselves to the Lord and to us: the Macedonian Christians submitted their will to that of the Lord and to the apostles. The Lord is most likely Christ, not God the Father.

By the will of God: the sense is that they did that which God wished. These words are frequently used in the introductions to Paul’s letters to explain how he became an apostle (see 1.1). In this context one may wish to translate using a verbal expression such as “because God desired it” or “just as God wanted them to” (Contemporary English Version).

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 9:14

They long for you: the Greek participle “longing” may mean “to have a great affection or love” (so Good News Translation, New Jerusalem Bible, New International Version, Nouvelle version Segond révisée, Biblia Dios Habla Hoy, Reina-Valera revisada). On the other hand it is often used by Paul to indicate his desire to see his converts face to face. If this meaning is present here also, then the sense is that the Jerusalem Christians long to see the Gentile Christians who are giving financial help to them. Contemporary English Version adopts this second interpretation, translating “[they] want to see you.”

The surpassing grace: on the meaning of grace here, see comments on 8.1. Surpassing indicates that this grace is far beyond the ordinary. Compare 3.10, where the same verb is used.

Grace of God in you is better translated in some languages as the grace that God has “given you” (Revised English Bible, New Revised Standard Version, New International Version) or “shown you” (Good News Translation).

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:13

The masculine plural pronouns, nouns, and participle in verse 13 may refer to males only (Revised Standard Version, Good News Translation), or they may include women as well as men. To allow for the latter possibility, Revised English Bible says “Such people,” and New Revised Standard Version says “such boasters.” The reference is to the superapostles of 11.5.

False apostles are people who claim to be apostles but really are not. In some languages one may translate the idea here by saying “such people are not apostles at all, even though they claim to be.” See comments on the heading for this section.

Deceitful workmen: Paul considers these “false apostles” to be deceitful. Pretending to seek the spiritual well-being of the Corinthian Christians, they really seek their own well-being. Perhaps Paul intends a criticism by calling them workmen, that is, they take money from the Corinthians for what they do while Paul did not (11.7-9). Revised English Bible renders this “confidence tricksters,” where New English Bible has “crooked in all their practices.” In some languages these two words may be better rendered by a verbal expression such as “they work at fooling people” or “they deceive people in their work.”

Disguising themselves: the idea of disguise will be translated in some languages as “trying to make themselves look like…” or “they trick people into thinking they are….”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

Translation commentary on 2 Corinthians 12:13

In what were you less favored: the apostle Paul is the implicit agent of the verb were less favored, that is, “In what way did I treat you any worse than the other churches?” This will be a good way to avoid the passive construction of Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation. Another possibility is “What did I do for the other churches that I have not done for you?”

The rest of the churches refers to other churches in other cities where Paul had been and from which he had received financial support.

I … did not burden you: the pronoun is emphatic in Greek as in Revised Standard Version, I myself. Perhaps Paul has in mind the false apostles, who did burden the Corinthian church. In this context the clear meaning is that he did not accept any “financial help” (Good News Translation) from the Corinthians. The verb used here is the same as in 11.9, and it is repeated in the following verse.

Paul is using sarcasm in this verse. His plea that they Forgive me this wrong! is not really a plea for forgiveness but is sarcasm. Revised Standard Version and Good News Translation attempt to communicate this sarcasm by the use of an exclamation mark. Languages that do not use sarcasm in this way may need to restructure and find some way to indicate that Paul is saying just the opposite of what he really means. Williams has a note which states that Paul’s words here are sarcastic. Though the Greek does not state explicitly against whom the wrong was done, Contemporary English Version correctly says “Forgive me for doing you wrong.”

Quoted with permission from Omanson, Roger L. and Ellingworth, Paul. A Handbook on Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. (UBS Handbook Series). New York: UBS, 1993. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .