2-Corinthians - 3:2

2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;

Verse In-Depth

Explanation and meaning of 2-Corinthians 3:2.

Differing Translations

Compare verses for better understanding.
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
our letter ye are, having been written in our hearts, known and read by all men,
Our letter of recommendation is yourselves - a letter written on our hearts and everywhere known and read.
You yourselves are our letter, whose writing is in our heart, open for every man's reading and knowledge;

*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.

Historical Commentaries

Scholarly Analysis and Interpretation.

Ye are our Epistle. There is no little ingenuity in his making his own glory hinge upon the welfare of the Corinthians. "So long as you shall remain Christians, I shall have recommendation enough. For your faith speaks my praise, as being the seal of my apostleship." (1-Corinthians 9:2.) When he says -- written in our hearts, this may be understood in reference to Silvanus and Timotheus, and in that case the meaning will be: "We are not contented with this praise, that we derive from the thing itself. The recommendations, that others have, fly about before the eyes of men, but this, that we have, has its seat in men's consciences." It may also be viewed as referring in part to the Corinthians, in this sense: "Those that obtain recommendations by dint of entreaty, have not in the conscience what they carry about written upon paper, and those that recommend others often do so rather by way of favor than from judgment. We, on the other hand, have the testimony of our apostleship, on this side and on that, engraven on men's hearts." Which is known and read It might also be read -- "Which is known and acknowledged," owing to the ambiguity of the word anaginoskesai, [1] and I do not know but that the latter might be more suitable. I was unwilling, however, to depart from the common rendering, when not constrained to do so. Only let the reader have this brought before his view, that he may consider which of the two renderings is the preferable one. If we render it acknowledged, there will be an implied contrast between an epistle that is sure and of unquestionable authority, and such as are counterfeit. [2] And, unquestionably, what immediately follows, is rather on the side of the latter rendering, for he brings forward the Epistle of Christ, in contrast with those that are forged and pretended.


1 - Calvin has had occasion to notice the double signification of this word when [23]commenting on 2-Corinthians 1:13. An instance of the ambiguity of the word occurs in Matthew 24:15, where the words ho anaginoskon noeito are understood by Kypke as the words, not of the evangelist, but of Christ, and as meaning -- "He who recognises this, (that is, the completion of Daniel's prophecy by the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not,') let him take notice and reflect, while most other interpreters consider the words in question as an admonition of the evangelist to the reader -- "Let him that readeth understand or take notice." -- Ed.

2 - "Celles qui sont attitrees et faites à plaisir;" -- "Such as are procured by unfair means, and are made to suit convenience."

Ye are our epistle - compare 1-Corinthians 9:2. This is a most beautiful and happy turn given to the whole subject. The sense is plain. It is, that the conversion of the Corinthians, under the faithful labors of the apostle, was a better testimonial of his character and fidelity than any letters could be. To see the force of this, it must be remembered:
(1) That Corinth was an exceedingly dissolute and abandoned place (see the introduction to the First Epistle);
(2) That a large number of them had been converted, and a church organized;
(3) That their conversion, and the organization of a church in such a city were events that would be known abroad; and,
(4) That it had been accomplished entirely under the labor of Paul and his companions.
To their knowledge of him, therefore, and to his success there, he could confidently appeal as a testimonial of his character. The characteristics of this commendatory epistle, he proceeds immediately to state. The general sense is, that they were the letter of recommendation which God had given to him; and that their conversion under his ministry was the public testimonial of his character which all might see and read.
Written in our hearts - A few mss. and versions read thus, "your hearts;" and Doddridge has adopted this reading, and supposes that it means that the change produced not only in their external conduct, but in their inward temper, was so great, that all must see that it was an unanswerable attestation to his ministry. But there is not sufficient authority for changing the text; nor is it necessary. The sense is, probably, that this letter was. as it were, written on his heart. It was not merely that Paul had a tender affection for them, as Clarke supposes; nor was it that he regarded them as "a copy of the letter of recommendation from Christ written in his heart," according to the fanciful conceit of Macknight; but Paul's idea seems to have been this. He is speaking of the testimonial which he had from God. That testimonial consisted in the conversion of the Corinthians. This he says was written on his heart. It was not a cold letter of introduction, but it was such as, while it left him no room to doubt that God had sent him, also affected his feelings, and was engraved on his soul. It was to him, therefore, far more valuable than any mere letter of commendation or of introduction could be. It was a direct testimonial from God to his own heart of his approbation, and of his having appointed him to the apostolic office. All the difficulty, therefore, which has been felt by commentators in this passage, may be obviated by supposing that Paul here speaks of this testimonial or epistle as addressed to himself, and as satisfactory to him, In the other characteristics which he enumerates, he speaks of it as suited to be a letter commendatory of himself to others.
Known and read of all men - Corinth was a large, splendid, and dissipated city. Their conversion, therefore, would be known afar. All people would hear of it; and their reformation, their subsequent life under the instruction of Paul, and the attestation which God had given among them to his labors, was a sufficient testimonial to the world at large, that God had called him to the apostolic office.

Ye are our epistle - I bear the most ardent love to you. I have no need to be put in remembrance of you by any epistles or other means; ye are written in my heart - I have the most affectionate remembrance of you.
Known and read of all men - For wherever I go I mention you; speak of your various gifts and graces; and praise your knowledge in the Gospel.

Ye are our epistle,.... Here a reason is given why they stood in no need of letters of commendation, to or from the church at Corinth, because that church was their living epistle, and which was much preferable to any written one. The apostle calls them their epistle in the same sense, as they are said to be his "work in the Lord, and the seal of his apostleship", 1-Corinthians 9:1 they were so as persons regenerated by the Spirit and grace of God, in whose conversion he was an instrument; now it was the work of conversion in them, which was the epistle said to be
written in our hearts; some think it should be read, "in your hearts"; and so the Ethiopic version reads it; and it looks as if it should be so read, from the following verse, and from the nature of the thing itself; for the conversion of the Corinthians was not written in the heart of the apostle, but in their own; and this was so very notorious and remarkable, that it was
known and read of all men; everyone could read, and was obliged to acknowledge the handwriting; it was so clear a case, what hand the apostle, as an instrument, had in the turning of these persons from idols to serve the living God; and which was so full a proof of the divinity, efficacy, truth, and sincerity of his doctrine, that he needed no letters from any to recommend him.

our epistle--of recommendation.
in our hearts--not letters borne merely in the hands. Your conversion through my instrumentality, and your faith which is "known of all men" by widespread report (1-Corinthians 1:4-7), and which is written by memory and affection on my inmost heart and is borne about wherever I go, is my letter of recommendation (1-Corinthians 9:2).
known and read--words akin in root, sound, and sense (so 2-Corinthians 1:13). "Ye are known to be my converts by general knowledge: then ye are known more particularly by your reflecting my doctrine in your Christian life." The handwriting is first "known," then the Epistle is "read" [GROTIUS] (2-Corinthians 4:2; 1-Corinthians 14:25). There is not so powerful a sermon in the world, as a consistent Christian life. The eye of the world takes in more than the ear. Christians' lives are the only religious books the world reads. IGNATIUS [Epistle to the Ephesians, 10] writes, "Give unbelievers the chance of believing through you. Consider yourselves employed by God; your lives the form of language in which He addresses them. Be mild when they are angry, humble when they are haughty; to their blasphemy oppose prayer without ceasing; to their inconsistency, a steadfast adherence to your faith."

Ye are our recommendatory letter - More convincing than bare words could be. Written on our hearts - Deeply engraven there, and plainly legible to all around us.

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