I was reading 2 Corinthians 12:2 (vv.1-7) the other day and noticed that the New Living Translation (NLTse) was the only major translation that rendered it the way it did–quite different from the other translations. The NLT made a big change in how it interprets this verse. In other translations, the one who went to the third heaven was the man in Christ whom Paul knew for 14 years. But in the NLT, Paul is now speaking about himself who went to the third heaven. Moreover, the NLT translators had to change the rendering of the rest of the passage in order to make it it sound uniform; otherwise, there would be a glaring difference. I only posted v.2 but you should also read vv.1-10 to see the recomposition between various translations.
I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. (NLTse)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. (NASB)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. (TNIV)
I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven 14 years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. (CSB)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. (ESV)
I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. (NRSV)
οιδα ανθρωπον εν χριστω προ ετων δεκατεσσαρων ειτε εν σωματι ουκ οιδα ειτε εκτος του σωματος ουκ οιδα ο θεος οιδεν αρπαγεντα τον τοιουτον εως τριτου ουρανου (NT Greek)
This brings up a lot of questions in my mind:
- in the Greek, ουκ οιδα means “do not know.” When Paul says that he doesn’t know if this man was in the body or out of the body, it could still be Paul himself.
- What is the justification for making Paul the person who went to the third heaven?
- One could say that the “thorn” was given to Paul because of the revelation. Does it make sense that Paul should boast about the vision of this man?
- Paul said he heard things that cannot be expressed and it should be kept secret. Could Paul be this same man who heard secret things? And if so, then, why would Paul say “I know this man” when he is the man?
- And why would Paul say: “I will boast about a man but will not boast about myself”?
- Was it simply because Paul wished to remain humble by not boasting about himself?
- In reading Paul’s words in this context, it does makes sense that this man was Paul himself.
- If the NLT’s translation is correct, should the translation in this passage be adjusted to such an extent in order to make the entire passage fit this unconventional interpretation?
In reading Paul’s words in this very different context, it also seems to make sense that this man could also have been Paul himself. But if the NLT’s translation is correct, should the rendering of this whole passage be adjusted to such an extent just to make it fit the new interpretation?