Is Paul referring to a specific person in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8? If so, what is the “punishment inflicted by the majority” that verse 6 talks about?

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In short, were are not explicitly told to whom this specifically refers. However, the likely candidate is the same person in as in 1 Cor 5 who perused an incestuous relationship and had to be disfellowshiped from the local congregation as the punishment, 1 Cor 5:13.

Ellicott observes:

(5) But if any have caused grief.—The man who had been the chief cause of his sorrow is now prominent in his thoughts. He will not name him. He is, as in 1Corinthians 5:1-5, and here in 2Corinthians 2:7, “a man,” “such a one.”


If any have caused grief - There is doubtless here an allusion to the incestuous person. But it is very delicately done. He does not mention him by name. There is not anywhere an allusion to his name; nor is it possible now to know it. Is this not a proof that the names of the offending brethren in a church should not be put on the records of sessions, and churches, and presbyteries, to be handed down to posterity? Paul does not here either expressly refer to such a person. He makes his remark general, that it might be as tender and kind to the offending brother as possible. They would know whom he meant, but they had already punished him, as Paul supposed, enough, and note all that he said in regard to him was as tender as possible, and suited, as much as possible, to conciliate his feelings and allay his grief. He did not harshly charge him with sin; he did not use any abusive or severe epithets; but he gently insinuates that he "had caused grief;" he had pained the hearts of his brethren.


  1. he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all] According to the A. V. the meaning is that the Apostle, anxious not to lay too heavy a charge at the door of the Corinthian Church, to which (see 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Corinthians 5:6) he considers the guilt to attach, declares that the offender has only pained him to a certain extent. But the words are capable of another rendering, ‘But if any one hath caused pain, it is not me whom he has pained, but to a certain extent—not to press too heavily upon him—all of you.’ This rendering is susceptible of two interpretations (1) he has caused pain to the whole community; but not to be too severe upon him, the Apostle is willing to admit that this pain is to a certain extent lessened by the mutual sympathy of the members of the Church. Or perhaps (2) there is a slight reproof here, implying, as in 1 Corinthians 5:2, that the Corinthians had not sufficiently felt the disgrace brought on them all by such a crime. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:14. The Apostle thus, with no less adroitness than simple honesty, places the personal aspect of the question in the background, and deals with it as a matter of public principle, with which every member of the Church is as intimately concerned as himself. The whole passage refers to the offender mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5.

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