In the previous verse Paul refers to all the troubles he and his group had in Asia. This must refer to Acts 19, the uproar in Ephesos. They were being accused and were close to being killed. In the following verse, Paul mentions how they were rescued from death at that time, but the danger is not over. Wherever they go they are in danger of being killed.Stephen Carlson wrote:Many translations, such as the NRSV and NASB quoted above, suggest that Paul's death sentence (or the feeling of it) was entirely in the past, but is this really the best understanding of the perfect ἔσχήκαμεν?2 Cor 1:9 wrote:ἀλλὰ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς τὸ ἀπόκριμα τοῦ θανάτου ἐσχήκαμεν, ἵνα μὴ πεποιθότες ὦμεν ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῖς ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τῷ θεῷ τῷ ἐγείροντι τοὺς νεκρούς ·
Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (NRSV)
indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; (NASB)
Also, is there some idiom with ἔχω ἐν ἑαυτῷ?
NLT gives a good rendering of the overall meaning of the text in these verses:
"8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
So, IMO this is not metaphorical, but real death, or rather death threats and being in mortal danger. On the other hand, it is not (yet) an official Roman death sentence that has been delivered in a court case. It was the verdict/response (ἀπόκριμα) of the crowd.
The perfect is quite appropriate for this stative verb. In aorist it normally means "acquire, get, take ownership of". They did get a virtual death sentence in Ephesos, but escaped alive, but they still live expecting to be killed any time. So, they do have a death threat hanging over their heads.
I am not sure what to do with ἐν ἑαυτοῖς. One option is that it means they had "taken it to heart". They had accepted the gravity of the situation and the threats. They took it seriously. Another option is the recognition that left to themselves, they would have been dead, but God rescued them, and the next sentence does have a contrast between trusting in their own efforts and abilitites to save themselves up against trusting in God's abilitity to save them. I think I prefer the second option, based on context.