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2 Corinthians 12 General Notes

Structure and formatting

Paul continues his defense.

Special concepts in this chapter

Paul’s vision

Paul continues his defense as an apostle by telling about a wonderful vision of heaven he had. It was so great, God gave him a physical handicap to keep him humble. When Paul was with the Corinthians, he proved himself to be an apostle by his powerful deeds. He has not ever taken anything from them and now that he is coming for the third time, he will still not take anything. He hopes that when he visits, he will not have to be harsh with them. (See: rc://en/tw/dict/bible/kt/heaven and rc://en/tw/dict/bible/kt/apostle)

Third heaven

Many scholars believe this is a reference to the dwelling place of God. This is because Scripture uses the term “heaven” in reference to the sky (the “first” heaven) and in reference to the universe (the “second” heaven).

Important figures of speech in this chapter

Rhetorical questions

Paul uses many rhetorical question defending himself against accusations from his enemies: “For how were you less important than the rest of the churches, except that I was not a burden to you?” “Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same way? Did we not walk in the same steps?” and “Do you think all of this time we have been defending ourselves to you?” (See: rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-rquestion)


Paul uses sarcasm, a special type of irony, when he reminds them how he had helped them at no cost. He says, “Forgive me for this wrong!” He also uses regular irony when he says: “But, since I am so crafty, I am the one who caught you by deceit” to introduce his defense against this accusation by showing how impossible it was to be true. (See: rc://en/ta/man/translate/figs-irony)

Other possible translation difficulties in this chapter


A paradox is a seemingly absurd statement that appears to contradict itself, but it is not absurd. This sentence in 12:5 is a paradox: “I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.” Most people do not boast about being weak. And this sentence in 12:10 is a paradox: “For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” In 12:9 Paul explains why both of these statements are true. (2 Corinthians 12:5)

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