2 Corinthians 2:16 NASB

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.

What is the first “life” here referring to? (Assuming the first “death” is our dead nature in sin, i.e. Ephesians 2:1).

1 Answer 1


While written in Greek, this is quintessential Hebrew idiom. Let me quote a similar example directly from the Hebrew:

  • Gen 2:17, 3:4, - ... dying you shall die

The highlighted phrase is just two words, both verbs, which idiomatically mean, "you will surely die".

Thus, the meaning is simple - a contrast between how the saved vs unsaved receive the messengers of the gospel as shown by some versions that uses the metaphor of an aroma/smell:

  • NIV: an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.
  • HCSB: an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life.
  • GNT: For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life.
  • ISV: To some people we are a deadly fragrance, while to others we are a living fragrance.

In Hebrew idiom, the repetition of the word is used for emphasis. Thus, there are not two "deaths" and two "lives", just literary style and idiom.

  • Ahhh I see. This was very helpful, thank you! Jun 14, 2022 at 19:51

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