Thursday, July 27, 2006

Letter of Christ

‘You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts’ (2 Cor 3:2-3)

I started work on the fascinating passage above today. What an intricate mix of metaphors!

The major question for me is whether evpistolh. Cristou/ (‘letter of Christ’) is a subjective or objective genitive. The vast majority of scholars choose the subjective, i.e. that Christ writes the letter. However, in a recent monograph, Bernd Kuschnerus maintains the objective-genitive interpretation in the sense that the letter is about Christ, in which Christ is the Inhalt.

I want to understand the phrase as a subjective genitive, but what I want and what is true may be two very different things. Could this be a case in which the amusingly called ‘vocal minority’ is correct?


At 7/27/2006 10:39 PM, Anonymous Steve Sensenig said...

Does the phrase "...written...with the Spirit" shed any light on the best interpretation of the "of Christ" part?

steve :)

At 7/28/2006 12:40 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Well, Kuschnerus simply thinks that God writes 'with the Spirit, a letter about Christ in the hearts. So that factor doesn't decide issues I don't think.

At 7/28/2006 4:57 AM, Anonymous Justin Jenkins said...

Well I guess the ESV sides with the "majority" ...

3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

At 7/28/2006 9:55 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Justin, yes, most translations do. Though some of the slightly older 10th century versions don't.

I'm going to have to spend some time on this issue, as the exegetical fors and againsts are pretty well balanced in my mind at the mo.

At 8/08/2006 4:47 PM, Anonymous tigger said...


I've been reading through this passage as part of my lectionary readings.

One thought...

Paul is taking the context (that the Corinthians are asking Paul to 'prove' the validity of his ministry and are 'requiring' written references from him) to make the point that their very existence validates his ministry. The later comments about the differences between the 2 covenants (that of death and that of the Spirit) ties it to this idea that any 'ministry of the new covenant' (a common theme in 2 Corinthians) will involve the Spirit doing a 'new thing', and the very fact that the Corinthians (who are gentiles) are now 'in' on what God is doing is evidence that the Spirit has been doing a 'new thing' in them and, since Paul was the instigator of this, that his ministry is thus 'proven' in and through them.

The 'new thing' is obviously 'beholding Christ/God's glory' with 'unveiled minds' and thus the 'letter' that the Corinthians incarnate is the 'fact' of Christ among them.

In this light the 'letter of Christ' appears to be a 'letter(=proof) about Christ' i.e. that he is 'among them' and, thus, that the Spirit (through Pauls ministry) has effected a 'new thing'.


At 8/14/2006 7:43 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Tigger,
Thanks for those thoughts, really helpful. Yes, those who affirm an objective genitive reading of 2C3:3 make teh point that what matters is simply the existence of the letter, not its content (as the subjectivists want it read). However, the repetition of the verb in 2 Cor 2:17 may speak for the subjectivists.


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