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2 Corinthians 8:9:

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [ESV]

9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. [KJV]

9 for ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that because of you he became poor -- being rich, that ye by that poverty may become rich. [YLT]

The words rich, poor and poverty appear 4 times in total in 2 Cor 8:9. The first half of the verse states that Jesus was at some point rich, but for our sake decided to become poor. The second half states that, as a consequence, Jesus' state of poverty enabled us to become rich.

Questions

  1. The word rich is used twice in the verse, first to describe the original state of Jesus (though he was rich), and second to describe the final state of the believer (so that you by his poverty might become rich). What is meant by rich in both cases? Is rich used with the exact same meaning twice? Does the believer become rich in the exact same way that Jesus was originally rich?
  2. What is meant by poor and poverty? My personal thoughts on these words include that:
    • they indicate the opposite of rich and, therefore, we have to make sure that our interpretation of poor and poverty is semantically consistent with our interpretation of rich,
    • it is clear that Jesus experienced a transition from rich to poor at some point, and
    • Jesus' poverty enables his disciples (in a cause-effect sense) to become rich, so there is something special and powerful about Jesus' poverty (whatever that means).
  3. (Meta question) Is it possible to answer questions 1 and 2 unambiguously? If not, can we at least narrow down our choices to a few candidate interpretations of the words rich, poor and poverty, ranked from most to least likely?

Addendum - an example of what I'm looking for.

I by no means claim this to be the correct interpretation, but one possibility would be to define rich as being divine (i.e. having divine, glorified attributes) and poor and poverty as being human (i.e. having a sinful, Adamic, fallen nature). If we disambiguate the words in this way, one could paraphrase 2 Corinthians 8:9 as follows:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was in a divine, glorified state [pre-mortal existence], yet for your sake he became human [incarnation], so that you by his humanness [culminating in his crucifixion] might be able to reach a divine, glorified state [in the resurrection].

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  • yes, that's the only right answer, you can find that from the context of every book of the NT, it is talking about his sacrifice through (mortal) incarnation. John 3:16.
    – Michael16
    Jun 5 at 13:54
  • Jesus sure was more than human when he walked here on earth. The wind and waves obeyed him, and he could read peoples thoughts, besides doing humanly impossible miracles, like raising people from the dead. One would think that he was pretty divine in his humanness. He did also say something like "those who the word of god comes to are gods" Jun 5 at 14:18
  • @Constantthin - the apostles also did many miracles in the power of the Spirit (see book of Acts). About Jesus' ability to read thoughts, this question might be of interest. Jun 5 at 14:20
  • It seems that the apostles' and Jesus' somewhat similar abilities (which you pointed out), was due to the Father who similarly was in Jesus and the apostles. Jesus did say something like "don't pray to me the Father himself loves you and will do through you what he did through me" (John 16). Furthermore, "I know where you are coming from" means, "I know from where you have derived your opinion, or I know what is the source of your fact." (Google) Jun 5 at 15:00
  • Maybe "becoming poor" do mean that Jesus lowered himself to other people's levels. He was very knowledgeable in most spiritual areas. He confessed to not know certain things about the future, like the timing of events. But, he did say that "there are many things that I'd like to tell you, but you are not able to bare it". He, (or the Father in him) therefore, chose to speak in parables to create footholds for difficult truth’s that couldn't be shared outright. Jun 6 at 14:26
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Wealth is defined in God’s economy by its externality.

Anything that has an expiration date, is not considered a true wealth in the real sense of the word, also referred to as unrighteous wealth.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since ALL these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:10-13‬ ‭

Note also Jesus in the same sense referring to wealth as true riches and unrighteous wealth, unrighteous because it’s not eternal, it has an expiration date, at the end of the ages when there will be a whole new earth and a whole new heaven

“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭16:11‬ ‭

Therefore riches means, something of value that does not expire

Poor means, to take on something that will expire (ultimately)

Jesus who had eternal wealth, became poor by taking on poverty, that which is temporary (even if it will have an 8,000 year lifespan), so that through his poverty we might gain the true wealth, eternal life (with Him).

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First some semantics:

Poor/poverty, etc

  • πτωχεύω (ptocheuo) is the verb, to be or become poor as a beggar, be (extremely) poor (BDAG), 2 Cor 8:9
  • πτωχεία (ptocheia), is cognate noun, state of being deficient in some means of support, poverty, 2 Cor 8:2, 9, Rev 2:9
  • πτωχός (ptochos), is the cognate adjective, for which BDAG provides four basic meanings:
  1. pertaining to being economically disadvantaged, eg, mark 12:42, 43, Luke 21:3, 6:20, etc
  2. pertaining to being thrust on divine resources, poor, ... not only to unfavorable ... from an economic point of view ... they are oppressed and disillusioned ... in special need of God's help, Matt 11:5, Luke 4:18, 7:22
  3. lacking in spiritual worth, Rev 3:17
  4. pertaining to being extremely inferior in quality, miserable, shabby, Gal 4:9, 1 Cor 15:10.

Note that "poverty" is used both in the literal economic sense and in the metaphoric/spiritual sense. This is seen precisely where these two states are contrasted in the same sentence, Rev 3:17.

Rich/wealthy

  • πλουτέω (plouteó), verb,
  1. to be relatively high on a scale of opulence, be rich, eg, Luke 1:53, 1 Tim 6:9
  2. to be plentifully supplied with something, eg, 1 Tim 6:18, Luke 12:21, Rom 10:12, 1 cor 4:8, 2 Cor 8:9, Rev 3:18 (all these are in the spiritual sense)
  • πλουτίζω (ploutizó), verb, to cause to abound in something, make rich, eg, 2 Cor 6:10, 9:11, 1 Cor 1:5 (all in a spiritual sense)
  • πλοῦτος (ploutos), noun,
  1. abundance of many earthly goods, wealth, eg, Matt 13:22, Mark 4:19, Luyke 8:14, 1 Tim 6:17, James 5:2, Rev 18:17, etc.
  2. plentiful supply of something, a wealth, abundance, eg, 2 Cor 8:2, Rom 9:23, Eph 1:18, 3:16, Col 1:27, etc. in a spiritual sense: Rom 11:33, Phil 4:19, Eph 3:8, Rev 5:12, heb 11:26
  • πλούσιος (plousios), Adjective,
  1. pertaining to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normal experience, rich wealthy, eg, Matt 27:57, Luke 12;16, 18:23, 19:2, etc.
  2. pertaining to being plentifully supplied with something, abound (in), rich (in), eg, James 2:5, Eph 2:4, Rev 2:9, 3:17, 2 Cor 8:9 - all in a spiritual sense.
  • πλουσίως (plousiós), Adverb, richly, abundantly, Col 3:16, 1 Tim 6:17, Tit 3:6, 2 Peter 1:11 - all in a spiritual sense.

Again, note that these words are used in a literal sense as well as in a metaphoric/spiritual sense and are often deliberately contrasted such as in Rev 3:17.

This also done in 2 Cor 8 where Paul begins by discussing earthly wealth and the need to donate to those in earthly poverty (V1-8). He then progresses to the example of Christ who, in the spiritual realm, was rich (enjoyed heavenly ubundance and status) and became poor so that we could become rich (v9) - and our becoming rich in the same sense that Jesus was rich - enjoy the unbounded privileges of heaven as a result of the grace that Christ extends to each person who chooses to accept that salvation.

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Jesus Christ, being rich, became poor, so that we, being poor, may become rich.

I have given this Answer, to the question (related to the present one), When was Jesus rich? 2 Corinthian 8:9, and I have been asked to "post an answer to this question".


As two Answers have already been given, and the Question has an Addendum, I will try to answer examining the proposed disambiguation/paraphrasis (or is paraphrase?) of 2 Corinthians 8:9. This:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was in a divine1, glorified stateN.B. [pre-mortal existence], yet for your sake he became human2 [incarnation], so that you by his humanness2 [culminating in his crucifixion] might be able to reach a divine, glorified state3 [in the resurrection]. [2 Corinthians 8:9 - with proposed "disambiguation"]

  1. Jesus is divine, nay the Son of God (=rich) because he is the incarnation of God's logos (John 1:14) and this very incarnation took place thanks to the operation of God's hagion pneuma in the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:35). Jesus was glorified with his Resurrection, Ascension and being Seated at the Right of the Almighty.

N.B. What about the "glorified state", what about John 17:5? My answer is that Jesus "existed", before he was born, not as a person (or even Person), but as a a plan of God, and prayed to God that God would glorify him with the glory that was reserved for him in God's plan.

  1. The personal existence of Jesus started with his conception, and doesn't imply "pre-mortal existence". Because he was the incarnation of God's logos (John 1:14) he is divine. At the same time, because he is the son of the Virgin Mary, he is fully human. Jesus may have regarded his divine nature as a "booty" (ἁρπαγμός - Strong's G725 - harpagmos) to be held on to. Instead, he "He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!" (Phil 2:8)

  2. "As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

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  • It looks like you are a proponent of the "notional pre-existence" interpretation of John 17:5. If so, I think this question might be of interest to you. Jun 6 at 20:20
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Thank you for the link. Briefly, the essential difference with "notional pre-existence" it that I believe that Jesus is the Son of God (fully divine) because God's logos is incarnated in him, and he is fully human because he is the son of the Virgin Mary. Jun 6 at 20:26

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