2 Corinthians 4

The Paradox of Christian Life

Treasure Hoarded in Clay

But we have this treasure in clay jars (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Earthen vessels, or clay jars, were both common and easily broken. They are found in virtually every archeological dig in the ancient world. This is because clay, after being fired, was not susceptible to rot or decay. In fact, they were a common container in which the ancients stored valuables, particularly if they were buried in the ground. This display was photographed at the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin.

A Narrow Space

We are pressed on every side, yet not distressed (2 Corinthians 4:8).

The word translated “pressed” here is sometimes used in Greek literature to refer to being hemmed in, to being in a constricted or narrow place. Petra was a Nabatean stronghold that was near the height of its power in Paul’s day. Access to the hidden valley was only by a narrow canyon, known as the Siq, making the city easily defensible. Walking down this narrow gorge can give the sense of being constricted or pressed upon.

A Struggling Fighter

We are struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:9).

This statue depicts a gladiator in a defensive position. Only the torso of this statue was recovered, and the other parts have been restored. It is thought to be a copy of an original from the 5th century BC that was first created by the sculptor Myron. This statue was photographed at the Capitoline Museums in Rome.


Therefore we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:16).

A well-known example in Paul’s day of someone who lost heart was the Persian king Darius III. He met Alexander the Great in battle several times and fled each time. This mosaic from Pompeii depicts Darius fleeing; both his posture and the look on his face indicate he has lost heart. Although this mosaic dates to the late 2nd century BC (125–120 BC), it is thought to be a copy of an earlier, 4th century BC painting by Philoxenos. It comes from the exedra of the House of the Faun at Pompeii.

Temporal Decay

For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18).

This object was once a beautiful, shiny bronze jug, probably highly polished and of high value. Its temporal nature is clear from the corrosion and deformation it has experienced over the centuries. This jug was photographed at the Merida Archaeological Museum.

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