Veiled Hearts: The Translation And Interpretation Of 2 Corinthians 3 -- By: Duane A. Garrett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 53:4 (Dec 2010)
Article: Veiled Hearts: The Translation And Interpretation Of 2 Corinthians 3
Author: Duane A. Garrett


Veiled Hearts: The Translation And Interpretation Of 2 Corinthians 3

Duane A. Garrett

Duane Garrett is John R. Sampey professor of Old Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, KY 40280.

I. Introduction

Paul’s interpretation of Moses’ veil (Exod 34:29-35 as discussed in 2 Cor 3:7-18) is burdened with difficulties. The Greek is elliptical and allusive but precise in its use of vocabulary, albeit not in a manner interpreters find easy to handle.1 As it appears in many translations, Paul says that Moses put on the veil so that the Israelites would not see that the glow in his face was fading away.2 But there is no good reason for Moses to do this. Any attempt

to conceal the fading would be trickery,3 and Exodus 34 never implies any such motivation on his part. In fact, Exodus 34 never indicates that the glow was fading at all. Also, in a move that seems arbitrary, Paul transfers the veil from Moses’ face to his opponents’ hearts at verse 15. According to many translations of verse 14, moreover, the veil is some kind of inability to understand Torah that can only be removed “in Christ.” But in Exodus 34, the veil is purely a practical measure for dealing with the discomfort people had in looking at Moses’ shining face.4 In fact, Paul seems to interpret Moses’ actions in a manner that is absurd from the standpoint of what Exodus 34 actually says.5 It is, perhaps, for all of these reasons that NT scholars often treat 2 Corinthians 3 as though it really had little to do with Exodus 34,6 having no point of contact beyond the fact that Paul alludes to Moses’ veil and glowing face.7

II. The Narrative In Exodus 19-34

The narrative context for the episode of Moses’ glowing face actually begins in Exodus 19...

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