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2 Corinthians 11:23 KJV;

  1. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I {cf15I am} more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.

2 Corinthians 11:23 ASV;

  1. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft.

2 Corinthians 11:23 NIV;

  1. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

It is apparent that Death again and again is not "exposing" to death again and again.

Death again and again is apparently alligoric, i.e: died again and again (oft) means exposed to dangers that resembles death, but not actually died. While "exposing" to death is literal.

So what is the accurate translation of the phrase?

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The phrase in question of 2 Cor 11:23 is just three words in the Greek, namely,

ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις

This is literally, "in deaths often" and is typical of many of Paul's comments which verbally minimal, sometimes to point of almost cryptic! The variety of translations illustrates how this has been rendered:

  • NIV: been exposed to death again and again.
  • NLT: faced death again and again
  • ESV: often near death
  • BSB: in frequent danger of death
  • BLB: in deaths often
  • NASB: often in danger of death
  • CSB: many times near death
  • CEV: have been in danger of death more often
  • HCSB: near death many times
  • NET: facing death many times
  • YLT: in deaths many times

Thus, there is a spectrum of translation from very literal ("in deaths often") to more interpretive versions such as "facing death often" or "near death often" etc.

The "accurate" translation is not disputed, ie, "in deaths often" - what Paul meant is most probably a series of situations where he nearly died or death threatened as listed above.

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The first definition of death is “the action or fact of dying or being killed”.

So with that in mind, in this instance it refers to being in danger of death.

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  • Hi wabrrnt, welcome to BHSE! Please take the Site Tour when you get a chance. This is a very basic answer that doesn't engage with the source text at all - you could improve it significantly by 'showing your work' with appropriate quotations and references. Have a great day.
    – Steve Taylor
    Feb 19 '20 at 10:47
  • in my opinion if few words explain the situation why waste more. thanks for the negativity.
    – wabrrnt
    Feb 22 '20 at 21:53
  • Exactly - what I'm trying to say is that your few words don't actually give any kind of hermeneutical justification for your reading, and so they don't really explain the situation at all. I'm not trying to be negative - I'm trying to help you understand how to use the site. :)
    – Steve Taylor
    Feb 23 '20 at 8:48
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The Greek literally does say "in deaths often" - ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις (en thanatois pollakis).

The phrase ἒἰμὶ ἐν θανάτοις - to be in death - is sometimes idiomatic and means something like "to face death" or "to be likely to die" (see Louw-Nida Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 23.117).* As Paul wrote in his first epistle, I die daily (1 Cor 15:31).

Something like "faced death often", while not strictly literal, probably conveys the meaning of the phrase. The accepted answer has listed the various ways other Bible versions have translated the phrase. (I only add this one to indicate the Louw-Nida reference).


* The non-idiomatic usage appears to be much more common. See, e.g., Job 27:15 LXX: οἱ δὲ περιόντες αὐτοῦ ἐν θανάτῳ τελευτήσουσιν, χήρας δὲ αὐτῶν οὐθεὶς ἐλεήσει (Those who survive him shall be buried in death, and no one will have pity on their widows).

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