Friday, November 11, 2016

2 Corinthians 12:1-5 and the Third Heaven: Who's That Man?

While reading 2 Corinthians 12:1-5, one could possibly conclude that Paul is making a conceptual distinction between himself and the anonymous man, who beheld visions, whether in or out of the body. For he writes:

hUPER TOU TOIOUTON KAUXHSOMAI hUPER DE EMAUTOU OU KAUXHSOMAI EI MH EN TAIS ASQENEIAIS (2 Cor. 12:5).

If the man who saw the visions is to be strictly identified with Paul (in a conceptual sense), then how could he boast over the man without boasting about himself?

On the other hand, the apostle indicates that he is really the man (in an ontological sense) mentioned at 2 Cor. 12:2-4 by what he states in v. 7. Furthermore, it would make sense that it is Paul in view of his reason for telling this experience, to wit, the superfine apostles were challenging his apostolic office. Being ushered to the third heaven stamped Paul as a genuine apostle of Jesus Christ. It was therefore no surprise that he produced the signs of an apostle among the Corinthians "by all endurance, and by signs and portents and powerful works" (2 Cor. 12:12).

By using the terminology "third heaven," Paul seems to be effectively saying, "You can't top that, superfine apostles!" since the third heaven is also the locus dei et gloriae: one cannot be exalted any higher than the third heaven.

Finally, it's possible that Paul was being humble as well as employing a literary device when he prima facie created a disjunct between himself and a certain man in union with Christ. Then again, the excess of revelations did not technically happen to Paul, but to a man whom God allowed to be blessed with visionary insight. In other words, Paul the apostle was evidently placed in a trance so that the anonymous "man" of whom he spoke could behold things of which it is not lawful to utter. So we could say that the apostle was potentially "ecstatic," from the Greek EKSTATIKOS, EKSTASIS.

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