2 Corinthians 3:7 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

2 Corinthians 3:7, NIV: Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was,

2 Corinthians 3:7, ESV: Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

2 Corinthians 3:7, KJV: But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

2 Corinthians 3:7, NASB: But if the ministry of death, engraved in letters on stones, came with glory so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,

2 Corinthians 3:7, NLT: The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses' face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.

2 Corinthians 3:7, CSB: Now if the ministry that brought death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses's face because of its glory, which was set aside,

What does 2 Corinthians 3:7 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul is comparing two covenants between God and His people. Paul had lived under both covenants, first the Old Covenant of God's law for Israel and then the new covenant of God's grace for all who come to Him through faith in Christ. In fact, Paul had been a minister of both covenants. First, he was a Jewish religious leader called a Pharisee, then an apostle of Jesus Christ. He is especially qualified to call out the differences between the two.

He starts by describing the Old Covenant as "the ministry of death, carved in letters of stone." That may sound harsh, but Paul is careful never to dismiss God's Old Covenant with Israel. It was instituted by God, after all. Instead, Paul shows how it served the purpose of making all who attempted to live under it aware of their own sinfulness and inability to obey God. Since our sin deserves eternal death and separation from God, the Old Covenant provided the awareness that those who followed it lived under a death sentence (Romans 7:10–11).

The Old Covenant was delivered with the glory of God, however. That glory was reflected in a supernatural glow on Moses' face after he had been talking to God (Exodus 34:29–30). That reflected glory terrified the people even as it was fading away from Moses' face. Why? They recognized themselves as being unworthy to look at God's glory because of their own sinfulness.

In the following verse, Paul shows that the ministry of the Spirit, under the new covenant, brings an even greater glory.