"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses' face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory?" (2 Corinthians 3:1-8 NRSV).
What is the metaphysical interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:1-8?
The epistle we call 2 Corinthians is actually a confusing blend of fragments from several letters Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, at different times and in different moods. He had founded the church, but after he left Corinth for Ephesus, other teachers came whose views of Jesus were greatly at odds with Paul's. They taught that Jesus was a great Jewish prophet calling people to be obedient to the Law of Moses. To Paul the religious movement of Moses and the Law was complete. Jesus had opened a new door to a new relationship with God.
In this chapter Paul begins by reminding the Corinthians of their long history together. He doesn't need letters of reference; they know him firsthand. Indeed, the fact that they are even aware of the Christ energy 'written on their hearts' is due to his work and ministry. Paul then quietly draws the line in the sand that sets his message apart from the teachings of the Law. The Law was written on tablets of stone; the message of the Christ is written on "tablets of human hearts." Obedience to the 'letter of the Law' produces a consciousness that believes in judgment, punishment and the finality of death. Acceptance of the Christ produces a heart-centered consciousness of eternal spiritual life. The "ministry of death" was not wrong; it was fine for its time. But in the teaching and example of Jesus that time is complete, and a new ministry is born. If the limited understanding of the Law produced a powerful glory on Moses' face, how much more glorious will be the coming of the Christ.
Metaphysically, we're talking about the age-old conflict between head and heart. The Law is important, as Jesus makes clear again and again. But the heart—the Christ Presence of God expressing as us—is meant to place the law in a perspective of creative love. Our intellect works with sensory input from the dualistic world of appearance in which we live. That information is important and useful. The heart, however, frames it all in an essential understanding of spiritual Truth that allows us to see beyond the obedience-directed law to the creation-directed Christ.