Why Does Paul Quote the Law in 2 Cor 13:1?

Not open for further replies.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Can someone help explain to me the significance of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 13:1?

"This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

From Matthew Poole:

He alludes to the law of God, Deuteronomy 19:15, concerning witnesses in any case. God ordered, that the testimony of two or three persons should determine all questions in their law; and that should be taken for certain and established, which such a number of persons asserted. The apostle would from hence have them conclude, that he would certainly come, because this was the third time that he had resolved upon it, and was preparing for it.

I'm unsure why the law in Deuteronomy is able to be applied to Paul here. Doesn't it have to be three seperate witnesses and not the same person saying/doing something three times?

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I understand "two or three witnesses" as a euphemism for ostensibly credible evidence, rather than something to be understood in a woodenly literalistic fashion. Paul's three visits to Corinth, therefore, would constitute something roughly equivalent to two or three witnesses to an event.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
They have no excuse if they do not repent of the sins he is confronting them about. They have had ample warning: three chances, three "witnesses" against them.

Or... Don't be slandering us and others unless you have sufficient evidence and witnesses, which you don't.

Either is possible from the context, but I say the first is more likely.

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
Can someone help explain to me the significance of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 13:1?

"This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."

Hi Jonathan,

Not at all disagreeing with what Jack and Daniel said above, I would like to add that, as a general principle, the Old Testament Law has very much to teach the New Testament Church. This concept is clearly taught in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I love the way Jesus puts it in the passage below.

Matthew 13:51‭-‬52 KJV​
Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them; therefore, every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

I have made it my practice to read approximately three times as much in the Old Testament as the New. The reason is simple. The Old Testament is roughly three times longer than the New. I recommend this practice to you while still young and have plenty of formative time left (if God will). It'll make you a well-rounded whole Bible Christian with greater wisdom than someone who concentrates mainly on the New.


Puritan Board Sophomore
John Chrysostom:
And here, "This is the third time I am coming to you. At the mouth of two witnesses or three shall every word be established." He joins the unwritten to the written, as he has done also in another place, saying, "He that is joined to an harlot is one body; for the two," says He, "shall become one flesh." 1 Corinthians 6:16 Howbeit, this was spoken of lawful marriage; but he diverted its application unto this thing conveniently, so as to terrify them the more. And so he does here also, setting his comings and his warnings in the place of witnesses. And what he says is this: 'I spoke once and again when I was with you; I speak also now by letter. And if indeed ye attend to me, what I desired is accomplished; but if you pay no attention, it is necessary henceforth to stop speaking, and to inflict the punishment.'


Puritan Board Freshman
I came here largely to echo what has already been written. Paul's three visits likely constituted three independent witnesses. However, Paul might have also called Timothy, Titus and God as witnesses, rather than asking the church at Corinth to testify against itself. This verse from Deuteronomy in 19:15 is basically about how Israelites are to conduct themselves in the promised land, and the ruling in this verse appears elsewhere. Examples include Deuteronomy 17:6 and Numbers 35:30. The practice is also referenced in 1 Kings 21:10, 13. It also appears elsewhere in the New Testament - Matthew 18:16 and allusions to the ruling in John 8:17, Hebrews 10:28, and the practice is also referenced in 1 Timothy 5:19. Titus 3:10 also alludes to this. Textual critics would take issue with many of Paul's interpretations of OT references, but this is a failure on the part of textual criticism, not on the part of the Apostle Paul. I have a book with some references in rabbinical texts also. If you think those would be helpful, let me know and I'll include them in this post.


Puritan Board Doctor
Regarding the question in the OP: well, the verse number was just sitting there, so he had to write something. Heh.


Staff member
The observations made are good ones. Might another be helpful? When Matthew gives an order for dealing with a brother in error, was he alluding to a practice already established by those who knew the law? In other words, might Paul here be establishing that someone approached the apostles after confronting the sin and that the apostles have been more than patient in dealing with the church's effort to resolve the issue? That's hinted at in the passage:

"On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others."
Not open for further replies.