Re: 2 Corinthians 12:3

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Tue Jun 24 1997 - 12:52:43 EDT

On Mon 23 Jun 97 (23:20:03), wrote:
> Now, I want to ask about verse three: "...whether in the body or out
> of the body..."-- eite en swmati eite cwris tou swmatos. COULD this
> construction suggest, as one scholar seems to think, that when Paul had
> the unutterable experiences of the third heaven (paradise), he was
> possibly literally dead (out of the body), as could have happened
> during the stoning at Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14)? Some who were
> present thought he was dead. At this point, I don't remember the actual
> dating of the events at Lystra/Derbe or the writing of the Second
> Corinthian Epistle, as that might soundly disprove such a theory.
> [snip]

 You raise some interesting questions. Is this a psychic experience, such as
 is claimed by adepts of TM today? On the surface of it, it appears to be an
 "out of body" experience; but whether the body was clinically dead or just in
 a coma from which it recovered, hO QEOS OIDEN. Dr Luke, the beloved physician,
 carefully refrains fron pronouncing the body dead, or from claiming any
 miracle. Commentators say that this stoning at Lystra was retribution in kind
 for his stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Although Paul (Saul) did not himself
 throw a stone, he fully approved of those who did, and was guilty by
 association, an accessory before, during and after the act.

 As to the date of the stoning at Lystra (Acts 14:19-20): Paul states that his
 experience was "fourteen years ago" (verse 2). The dating of the Corinthian
 Correspondance is no simple matter; but a conservative date for 2 Corinthians
 would be around 56-58 AD, shortly before his third visit (Acts 20:2; 2 Cor
 12:14; 13:1-2). Therefore, that would give 42-44 AD as the time of his
 experience. Herod Agrippa I died in Spring 44, at which time Paul was in
 Tarsus or Antioch. He did not visit Lycaonia until 47 or 48; only ten years
 before his penning of 2 Corinthians 12.

 The AV (KJV) inserts "above": "I knew a man in Christ, ABOVE fourteen years
 ago...". This assumes that Paul had his conversion experience on the Damascus
 Road in mind: about 20 years previously. There is no MSS evidence for this,
 but 2 Corinthians 12:1-3 is a passage notorious for its textual cruxes. But
 Paul could not have had his conversion in mind. That was a descent of Jesus
 to earth, not an ascent of Paul to Paradise. Paul was hARPAGENTA, carried
 away; compare Philip in Acts 8:39, and the Rapture of the saints still alive
 on earth in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

 Was Paul in the body or out of it? Philip was definitely "in the body" when
 he was snatched away from the Ethiopian; the resurrected saints are
 definitely in their new resurrection bodies, changed EN ATOMWi, in their
 atomic structure (1 Corinthians 15:52). The Greeks (Leucippus) invented the
 Atom, the smallest particle of matter; not the shortest period of time, EN
 hRIPH OFQALMOU, which is mentioned separately.

 NT chronology is bafflingly difficult. James L Boyer, of Grace Theological
 Seminary, puts the Crucifixion in 30 AD. Others put it even earlier in
 29 AD. Herod's death in 44 is a fixed point like the pivot of a Chiasmus for
 the chronology of /Acts/; the death of Nero in 69 is a /terminus ad quem/.
 HW Hoehner, in /Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ/, places the
 crucifixion in 33 AD, the "traditional" date. This creates difficulties with
 Boyer's dating of the conversion of St Paul and harmonising the "after three
 years" of Galatians 1:18 and the "fourteen years after" of Galatians 2:1.

 It must have been at some climactic point during his 14 years' preparation
 for his missionary ministry that Paul had the ecstatic experience of 2
 Corinthians 12:3. Compare it with John's experience in Revelation 4:1-2.
 He went up to the highest heaven, and recorded what he saw and what he heard.
 Paul went up to the "third heaven" and reported nothing of what he saw; only
 that he had heard things that he was not permitted to repeat. So whereas
 John's experience was a vision to share with all the faithful, Paul's was a
 private one to strengthen his own faith in view of his forthcoming
 persecutions and difficulties. Not something to brag about, KAUCASQAI,

 Revd Ben Crick, BA Bristol, 1963 (hons in Theology)
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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