What does 2 Corinthians 12:3 mean?
ESV: And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
NIV: And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows--
NASB: And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
CSB: I know that this man--whether in the body or out of the body I don't know; God knows--
NLT: Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know
KJV: And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
Verse Commentary:
Using as much humility as is possible, Paul is describing his experience of being taken to the "third heaven" 14 years prior. In order to avoid being given any personal credit for the experience, he begins by saying that it happened to a man he knows. He clearly means the Corinthians to understand that this is his story, however (2 Corinthians 12:6–7).

Paul describes himself as being "caught up" into paradise. This is a form of the same Greek word, harpazo, that he uses in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to describe what will happen to the believers who remain alive when Christ returns. Some traditions describe this future event as the "rapture" of the church.

In the previous verse, Paul called his destination the third heaven. Now he refers to it as paradise. In both cases, believers understood this to be the dwelling place of God and angels. Jesus told the believing criminal on the cross next to Him that "today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).

Paul repeats once more that he does not know whether he travelled to paradise in his body or through some type of vision. He is confident that it happened, however, and that God knows whether he was there in person or in spirit.
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 12:1–10 contains Paul's description of an astonishing experience. He was transported, in some sense, to the third heaven or paradise, where he received an unspeakable revelation from God. To keep him humble afterwards, God gave him a ''thorn in the flesh'' and refused to remove it despite Paul's pleas. Instead, God told Paul His grace was more than enough, and that His power was made perfect in Paul's weakness. Paul declares once again that he will boast in his weakness and be content in his suffering—because when Paul is weak, it more clearly proves that Christ is powerful.
Chapter Summary:
With as much humility as possible, Paul describes an astounding experience. He was caught up to the ''third heaven'' and received a revelation from God that he cannot reveal on earth. He refuses to brag about it, but mentions it in order to introduce the consequences of that experience. To keep Paul humble, God gave him a ''thorn in the flesh,'' some malady which the Bible does not explicitly explain. Paul has learned to be content in his suffering since God's power is made perfect in his weakness. He chastises the Corinthians for not commending him since they know him. He defends himself against a charge of crafty swindling, and he expresses concern that he will find some still living in sin when he arrives in Corinth.
Chapter Context:
Second Corinthians 12 follows Paul's sarcastic ''boasting'' about his suffering for Christ. The chapter continues with Paul refusing to take credit for an astounding revelation from God. Given a ''thorn in the flesh'' to keep him humble, Paul learned to be content with his suffering since God's power was made perfect in his weakness. Still, the Corinthians should have defended him to the false apostles and not believed lies about him swindling money from them with no evidence. He is concerned that when he comes to visit them, he will find some still unrepentant of specific sins. This leads Paul to his final warnings and the close of his letter, in chapter 13.
Book Summary:
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
Accessed 2/25/2024 9:28:19 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.