2 Corinthians2:16

Previous Verse


Indeed, for one it is an odor from death to death,

Go to footnote number

to the other an odor from life to life.

Go to footnote number

And who is adequate for such things?

Go to footnote number


Indeed, for some it is a deadly odor, the confirmation that death is near and certain; for others it is a reviving odor, one that confirms they are on the right track toward a blessed life. But how is it that we are capable of being such a fragrance to the world?



Some see in the repetition of these verbs (death to death and life to life) a pattern that was common in the Hebrew Old Testament and was used as a form of emphasis. However, the Hebrew phrases were different in that there was not preposition involved. Here we have two prepositions used, “from death to death.” That is why others see in these phrases an emphasis on origin, direction and final result. If your origin was that of a foreign king, and your direction was that you had been resistant and antagonistic to the Roman emperor, the final result would be that your life would soon come to a violent end.


The opposite was true in that the Roman citizens assembled for the parade would smell the incense being burned and know that their way of life would continue and they were blessed to be on the right side of that particular conflict.

Paul used the analogy to point out that if someone was seeking God and choosing to follow God, the “smell” of Christ in a believer’s life would encourage him in his quest for God. However, if someone was resistant to God and constantly fighting against God, the smell of Christ in a believer’s life would highlight his guiltiness and make him hate God and Christians all the more.


Paul never answers that question. However it is assumed that the answer is a positive one. We are not truly adequate, but God makes us adequate for the task by His Holy Spirit in our lives.