Second Epistle to the Corinthians

CORINTHIANS, SECOND EPISTLE TO THE (κορίνθιους, δεύτερα ἐπιστολὴ πρὸς τούς; the second of two books or epistles in the New Testament addressed by St. Paul to the Christian community at Corinth).

Background.

The period of Paul’s contacts with the Corinthians is indicated in Acts (Acts 18:1-18; 20:2, 3). During the latter part of the first visit to Corinth which Paul made, Gallio became proconsul at that city. Since sources date the beginning of Gallio’s proconsulship in a.d. 51 or 52, the first visit of Paul to Corinth can be dated with confidence. Some five or six years later Paul spent three months in Greece, presumably at Corinth, following which he went to Macedonia and from there to Jerusalem. For his relationships with the Corinthians between these two visits we are dependent upon the correspondence which he had with them.

In attempting to determine the extent of the correspondence which Paul had with the Corinthians, the most widely-discussed hypothesis refers to four letters. The first letter is commonly referred to as the “lost letter” (cf. 1 Cor 5:9) in which Paul specifically required that Christians in Corinth were to separate themselves from immoral persons. The second letter is the “pastoral letter,” more commonly known as the canonical epistle (1 Cor) in which Paul treated a number of problems existing in the Christian congregation at Corinth. The hypothesis refers to a third letter, frequently described as the “painful letter” (cf. 2 Cor 2:4), which prob. was written in the aftermath of a serious crisis between Paul and the Corinthians. In this letter Paul was attempting to relieve the strained relations. The fourth letter is the “thankful letter,” more commonly known as the canonical epistle (2 Cor). In this letter Paul’s spirit overflows with relief at the news of improved relations which Titus reported.

Involved in the consideration of the extent of the Corinthian correspondence is the related matter of the number of visits which Paul made to Corinth. Reference already has been made to the two visits which are recorded in Acts. It is not possible to say that these were the only visits to Corinth. In the light of this impossibility, there is a strong inclination today to consider the probability of another visit. This probability rests upon data gleaned from 2 Corinthians. According to this epistle, relations had become very critical. Upon realizing how serious the deterioration really was, Paul sent Titus to Corinth with the “painful letter” (cf. 2 Cor 2:4).

In explaining the identity of this “painful letter” two points of view have had much more impressive support than other points of view. The one point of view is the traditional equating of 1 Corinthians with the “painful letter.” This view does not consider seriously the possibility of more than two visits by Paul to Corinth. The other point of view, on the basis of more recent study, considers it improbable that Paul’s state of mind when writing 1 Corinthians can be described by his words in 2 Corinthians 2:4. In the light of this improbability and also in the light of the impossibility of limiting Paul’s visits to Corinth to two, there is a decided shift to the hypothesis that Paul made another visit. This turned into a humiliating experience for Paul. Following this he wrote in an attempt to rectify the situation. Consequently, most contemporary views consider the probability of another letter. To the inquiry concerning the availability of such a letter, there are two contemporary replies. One reply is that such a letter has been preserved, at least in part, in 2 Corinthians 10-13. This reply is subjected to strong criticism because of the insufficient evidence upon which it is based. The other reply is that the letter has been lost, just as the letter alluded to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 is regarded lost. While this reply encounters fewer difficulties than the first reply, it provides no data for obtaining any knowledge of the contents of such a letter.

It may be that some progress can be made toward a partial understanding of the contents of the letter by correlating Paul’s probable second visit to Corinth and the strained relations involved with the “painful letter” which he wrote in an attempt to alleviate the tense crisis. Assuming that Paul wrote such a letter after such a painful visit to Corinth, he may well have written concerning matters which distressed him greatly and which had occasioned his hurried and humiliating departure from Corinth. This “painful letter” was taken by Titus to Corinth. Meanwhile, Paul prepared to leave Ephesus for Macedonia, where he expected Titus to rejoin him and report on developments at Corinth. After a lapse of time extending for some days or weeks, Titus reached Paul and gave him a heartening report. The Corinthians were repentant and wanted reconciliation (2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:9, 10). For Paul, the grief and anxiety gave way to thankful joy (2 Cor 7:6, 7, 13-16). He knew that he could return to Corinth without fear of being rejected or facing a rebellious congregation.

Before Paul could return to Corinth for the third visit, two matters needed attention. For one thing, Paul was in Macedonia for the purpose of making sure that the churches had prepared their collections which he was to take to Jerusalem. For another, the unsettled and tense relations between Paul and Corinth had interrupted the efforts to complete the collection in Corinth. With the memory of humiliating rejection removed, and with the anticipation of another visit to Corinth, Paul wrote the “thankful letter” (2 Cor), which was considered to be his last known letter to Corinth.

Unity.

The MS evidence for the unity of 2 Corinthians is particularly impressive. The present arrangement of the epistle is found in all the MSS. None of the MSS divide the epistle, and among the MSS there is no variation which suggests disunity. Consequently, there is no evidence from the MSS to create any doubt concerning the unity of the letter.

Notwithstanding the MS support for the unity of 2 Corinthians there have been and continue to be impressive attempts to show that there is internal evidence of disunity. This disunity is borne out by the difference in the tone of chs. 1-9 which is “thankful,” and the tone of chs. 10-13 which is “severe.” In addition to the difference in the tone of the two sections, it is pointed out that there is a difference in reference to point of time. The first section contains references to the past (1:23; 2:3, 9), while the second section contains references to the future (10:6; 13:2, 10).


The arguments for the unity of the epistle are: (1) there is no evidence of MS disturbance which would permit the supposition that 2 Corinthians was originally two letters, or parts of two letters, incorporated into one letter; (2) while chs. 1-9 have a “thankful” tone, this is not the only tone found in this section (cf. 1:23), and while chs. 10-13 have a “severe” tone, this is not the only tone found in this section (cf. 12:20), thus minimizing the incompatibility of the two sections; (3) the attempt to date chs. 10-13 chronologically earlier than chs. 1-9 and to identify it with parts of the “severe letter” has not yet been validated in the light of MS evidence supporting the unity of the epistle; (4) the uncertainty of assertions which indicate that portions of the “severe letter” are extant.

Authorship, date and origin.

The author is unquestionably Paul, for none other than Paul has ever been suggested as the author. It is more characteristic of his style and manner than any of the other epistles in the NT which are attributed to him. It contributes significantly to our knowledge of Paul by providing much autobiographical material and revealing glimpses into his personality, including his emotions, his personal sense of integrity and his incisive grasp of what it meant to be a genuine apostle of the Lord. External evidence attests his authorship, for it has been a well-documented fact that 2 Corinthians was circulated throughout the churches as early as a.d. 140. At this early date, the epistle was recognized without question as Pauline. That recognition remains as strong today as ever.


Purpose.

The chief purpose of 2 Corinthians is to prepare the church at Corinth for Paul’s visit which he is soon to make. However, this effort to prepare the church should not obscure the influence of the critical situation through which Paul had just passed in his relations with the Corinthians. Nor should it obscure Paul’s sigh of relief and his attitude of joyous thankfulness over the fortunate change of attitude on the part of the Corinthian church. The complexity of the occasion requires that oversimplification of stating the purpose be avoided. The letter was written in a period of greatly improved relations between Paul and the Corinthians. Immediately preceding this period there had been serious differences which endangered Paul’s leadership at Corinth. With the threatened rebellion no longer troubling Paul to the extent he was troubled at the height of the crisis, he wrote to the Corinthians, communicating to them his thankful relief. Moreover, he wrote to them concerning the collection which he expected to gather for the church at Jerusalem. This project had fallen behind in the critical situation that developed. Furthermore, apparently because there remained residual elements of unrepentant minorities, Paul wrote with extraordinary vigor and vehemence concerning his authority as an apostle. In anticipation of his coming visit to Corinth, Paul wrote with great force concerning his claim to unequivocal apostolic leadership over the Corinthian congregation. His opponents who had challenged his apostolic authority were, in return, challenged by Paul himself as he marshaled impressive evidence authenticating his apostolic authority and leadership. All of this constrains Paul to write to the Corinthians that he expects to visit them shortly.

Content, including outline.

This epistle is not as systematically structured as 1 Corinthians. The most likely explanation is that Paul has more of an emotional rather than a logical order for the letter. The first part reveals a deep emotional outpouring of grateful thanksgiving over the easing of the tense situation. In this part Paul reveals his delicate sensitiveness to the strained relations. He also shows great joy over the restoration of Corinthian loyalty to him. The second section discloses a fervent appeal for liberality in the collection for the church at Jerusalem. Paul informs the Corinthians that Titus and others are coming to help them in this project. The third section manifests an indignant spirit as Paul vehemently asserts the authority of his apostolic office and ministry. The epistle is outlined as follows:

Outline

Themes.

“A man in Christ.”

In 1 Corinthians where Paul counsels on church problems, the self-portrait is that of a Christian minister. In 2 Corinthians where he gives strikingly intimate glimpses into his own person, the self-portrait is that of “a man in Christ” (12:2). In utter frankness, he spoke of his bodily presence as weak and his speech as contemptible (10:10). He shared the weakness of humanity and felt the gusts of emotion, whether in affectionate love or vehement indignation. He wrestled with the problems of human existence. Yet it is unmistakably clear that a newness has come into his life. As a man in Christ, Paul is a new creature (5:17). He knew this by personal experience.


“The ministry.”

Perhaps nowhere in the NT is the theme of the ministry set forth in its sublimity as in 2 Corinthians (cf. 2:14-5:21). Paul treats this theme in terms of a pageant of triumph, followed by a predicament of trial and concluding with a proclamation of a theme. Describing the work of the ministry as a long triumphant march, Paul gives thanks to God (2:14). Evidence of this triumph is no less than the Corinthian church. The Spirit of God working through the ministry of Paul has accomplished this (3:2, 3). Neither psychological persuasion nor sociological trends adequately explain the phenomenon of the Christian community at Corinth. The explanation is found in the work of the ministry, which has succeeded because of the triumphant power of the Spirit (3:4-6). God, who in the beginning said, “Let there be light,” has spoken the same words to the hearts of the Corinthians (4:6).

Next, Paul discusses the work of the ministry in connection with the predicament of trial. This triumphant ministry is committed to earthen vessels subjected to great affliction and tribulation (4:7-10). This is the paradox of the ministry. Although it is as a valuable treasure, it is entrusted to vessels of far inferior value. In a vivid series of four contrasts, Paul declared that a constant succession of serious crises afflicting him never defeated him (4:8, 9). His point is that every desperate situation which has threatened these earthen vessels has become an occasion for God’s triumphant power and glory. Paul willingly served and suffered, even as Jesus did, but he was not overpowered through affliction. Instead, God’s power has made him victorious. Although the tribulations have taken an exhausting toll of the outward man, the power of God has renewed the inner man (4:16). The glory of the Lord has transfigured the afflictions (4:17).

Finally, Paul describes the theme of the ministry. It is the ministry of reconciliation (5:18). No passage of Paul’s letters is more important than his passage on the ministry of reconciliation (5:14-19). In this Scripture he declares that God in love has effected not simply a legal acquittal but more significantly a vital personal relationship to God and an inner transformation of life (5:17). This is the heart of the apostolic gospel ministry engaged in proclaiming reconciliation. The reconciling work of God through Christ involved a great paradox. It is this: the One who died for all knew no sin, yet it was this One whom God made to be sin for us (5:21). The theme of the ministry is that reconciliation has been accomplished. Paul affirmed that he was faithful in the performance of this ministry (6:3-10).

“The collection.”

Paul’s collection for needy Christians at Jerusalem had an important role in his missionary efforts. He has devoted two chs. (8, 9) to this matter. This is significant for it indicates that it is to make a major contribution in the relations between Paul and the Corinthians. His motivation for taking a collection was not only his response in human sympathy to those in need, but also his ecumenical concern for the unity between the Jerusalem Christians and his Gentile churches.


Bibliography

J. H. Kennedy, The Second and Third Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1900); K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul (1911); A. Menzies, The Second Epistle of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1912); A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1915); R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (1935); R. H. Strachan, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1935); H. Lietzmann, An die Korinther I - II, 4th ed. (1949); F. V. Filson, “The Second Epistle to the Corinthians” (The Interpreter’s Bible) (1953); R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (1958); E. P. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians (1962).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

I. TEXT, AUTHENTICITY AND DATE

1. Internal Evidence

2. External Evidence

3. Date

II. RESUME OF EVENTS

III. THE NEW SITUATION

1. The Offender

2. The False Teachers

3. The Painful Visit

4. The Severe Letter

IV. HISTORICAL RECONSTRUCTION

V. INTEGRITY OF THE EPISTLE

1. 2 Corintians 6:14-7:1

2. 2 Corintians 10:1-13:10

VI. CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLE

1. 2 Corintians 1-7

2. 2 Corintians 8-9

3. 2 Corintians 10-13

VII. VALUE OF THE EPISTLE LITERATURE

I. Text, Authenticity and Date.

1. Internal Evidence:

Compare what has already been said in the preceding article. In the two important 5th-century uncials, Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi (C), portions of the text are lacking. As to the genuineness internal evidence very vividly attests it. The distinctive elements of Pauline theology and eschatology, expressed in familiar Pauline terms, are manifest throughout. Yet the epistle is not doctrinal or didactic, but an intensely personal document. Its absorbing interest is in events which were profoundly agitating Paul and the Corinthians at the time, straining their relations to the point of rupture, and demanding strong action on Paul’s part. Our imperfect knowledge of the circumstances necessarily hinders a complete comprehension, but the references to these events and to others in the personal history of the apostle are so natural, and so manifestly made in good faith, that no doubt rises in the reader’s mind but that he is in the sphere of reality, and that the voice he hears is the voice of the man whose heart and nerves were being torn by the experiences through which he was passing. However scholars may differ as to the continuity and integrity of the text, there is no serious divergence among them in the opinion that all parts of the epistle are genuine writings of the apostle.

2. External Evidence:

Externally, the testimony of the sub-apostolic age, though not so frequent or precise as in the case of 1 Corinthians, is still sufficiently clear to establish the existence and use of the epistle in the 2nd century Clement of Rome is silent when he might rather have been expected to use the epistle (compare Kennedy, Second and Third Corinthians, 142 ff); but it is quoted by Polycarp (Ad Phil., ii.4 and vi.1), and in the Epistle to Diognetus 5 12, while it is amply attested to by Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria.

3. Date:

It was written from Macedonia (probably from Philippi) either in the autumn of the same year as that in which 1 Corinthians was written, 54 or 55 AD, or in the autumn of the succeeding year.

II. Resume of Events.


III. The New Situation.

It is manifest that we are in the presence of a new and unexpected situation, whose development is not clearly defined, and concerning which we have elsewhere no source of information. To elucidate it, the chief points requiring attention are:

(1) The references to the offender in 2Co 2 and 7, and to the false teachers, particularly in the later chapters of the ep.;

(2) the painful visit implicitly referred to in 2:1; and

(3) the letter described as written in tears and for a time regretted (2:4; 7:8).

1. The Offender:

The offender in 1Co 5:1-5 had been guilty of incest, and Paul was grieved that the church of Corinth did not regard with horror a crime which even the pagan world would not have tolerated. His judgment on the case was uncompromising and the severest possible--that, in solemn assembly, in the name and with the power of the Lord Jesus, the church should deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. On the other hand, the offender in 2Co 2:5 ff is one who obviously has transgressed less heinously, and in a way more personal to the apostle. The church, roused by the apostle to show whether they indeed cared for him and stood by him (2Co 2:9; 13:7), had, by a majority, brought censure to bear on this man, and Paul now urged that matters should go no farther, lest an excess of discipline should really end in a triumph of Satan. It is not possible to regard such references as applying to the crime dealt with in 1 Corinthians. Purposely veiled as the statements are, it would yet appear that a personal attack had been made on the apostle; and the "many" in Corinth (2Co 2:6), having at length espoused his cause, Paul then deals with the matter in the generous spirit he might have been expected to display. Even if the offender were the same person, which is most improbable, for he can scarcely have been retained in the membership, the language is not language that could have been applied to the earlier case. There has been a new offense in new circumstances. The apostle had been grievously wronged in the presence of the church, and the Corinthians had not spontaneously resented the wrong. That is what wounded the apostle most deeply, and it is to secure their change in this respect that is his gravest concern.

2. The False Teachers:

Esp. in the later chapters of 2 Corinthians there are, as we have seen, descriptions of an opposition by false teachers that is far beyond anything met with in 1 Corinthians. There indeed we have a spirit of faction, associated with unworthy partiality toward individual preachers, but nothing to lead us to suspect the presence of deep and radical differences undermining the gospel. The general consensus of opinion is that this opposition was of a Judaizing type, organized and fostered by implacable anti-Pauline emissaries from Palestine, who now followed the track of the apostle in Achaia as they did in Galatia. As they arrogated to themselves a peculiar relation to Christ Himself ("Christ’s men" and "ministers of Christ," 2Co 10:7; 11:13), it is possible that the Christus-party of 1 Corinthians (and possibly the Cephas-party) may have persisted and formed the nucleus round which these newcomers built up their formidable opposition. One man seems to have been conspicuous as their ring-leader (2Co 10:7,11), and to have made himself specially obnoxious to the apostle. In all probability we may take it that he was the offender of 2Co 2 and 7. Under his influence the opposition audaciously endeavored to destroy the gospel of grace by personal attacks upon its most distinguished exponent. Paul was denounced as an upstart and self-seeker, destitute of any apostolic authority, and derided for the contemptible appearance he made in person, in contrast with the swelling words and presumptuous claims of his epistles It is clear, therefore, that a profound religious crisis had arisen among the Corinthians, and that there was a danger of their attachment to Paul and his doctrine being destroyed.

3. The Painful Visit:

2Co 12:14 and 2Co 13:1,2 speak of a third visit in immediate prospect, and the latter passage also refers to a second visit that had been already accomplished; while 2:1 distinctly implies that a visit had taken place of a character so painful that the apostle would never venture to endure a similar one. As this cannot possibly refer to the first visit when the church was founded, and cannot easily be regarded as indicating anything previous to 1 Corinthians which never alludes to such an experience, we must conclude that the reference points to the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians. It was then beyond doubt that the visit "with sorrow," which humbled him (2Co 12:21) and left such deep wounds, had actually taken place. "Any exegesis," says Weizsacker justly, "that would avoid the conclusion that Paul had already been twice in Corinth is capricious and artificial" (Apostolic Age, I, 343). Sabatier ( Apostle Paul, 172 note) records his revised opinion: "The reference here (2Co 2:1) is to a second and quite recent visit, of which he retained a very sorrowful recollection, including it among the most bitter trials of his apostolical career."

4. The Severe Letter:

Paul not only speaks of a visit which had ended grievously, but also of a letter which he had written to deal with the painful circumstances, and as a kind of ultimatum to bring the whole matter to an issue (2Co 2:4; 7:8). This letter was written because he could not trust himself meantime to another visit. He was so distressed and agitated that he wrote it "with many tears"; after it was written he repented of it; and until he knew its effect he endured torture so keen that he hastened to Macedonia to meet his messenger, Titus, halfway. It is impossible by any stretch of interpretation to refer this language to 1 Corinthians, which on the whole is dominated by a spirit of didactic calm, and by a consciousness of friendly rapport with its recipients. Even though there be in it occasional indications of strong feeling, there is certainly nothing that we can conceive the apostle might have wished to recall. The alternative has generally been to regard this as another case of a lost epistle Just as the writer of Ac appears to have been willing that the deplorable visit itself should drop into oblivion, so doubtless neither Paul nor the Corinthians would be very anxious to preserve an epistle which echoed with the gusts and storms of such a visit. On the other hand a strong tendency has set in to regard this intermediate epistle as at least in part preserved in 2Co 10-13, whose tone, it is universally admitted, differs from that of the preceding chapters in a remarkable way, not easily accounted for. The majority of recent writers seem inclined to favor this view, which will naturally fall to be considered under the head of "Integrity."

IV. Historical Reconstruction.

In view of such an interpretation, we may with considerable probability trace the course of events in the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians as follows: After the dispatch of 1 Corinthians, news reached the apostle of a disquieting character; probably both Titus and Timothy, on returning from Corinth, reported the growing menace of the opposition fostered by the Judaizing party. Paul felt impelled to pay an immediate visit, and found only too sadly that matters had not been overstated. The opposition was strong and full of effrontery, and the whole trend of things was against him. In face of the congregation he was baffled and flouted. He returned to Ephesus, and poured out his indignation in a severe epistle, which he sent on by the hands of Titus. Before Titus could return, events took a disastrous form in Ephesus, and Paul was forced to leave that city in peril of his life. He went to Troas, but, unable to wait patiently there for tidings of the issue in Corinth, he crossed to Macedonia, and met Titus, possibly in Philippi. The report was happily reassuring; the majority of the congregation returned to their old attachment, and the heavy cloud of doubt and anxiety was dispelled from the apostle’s mind. He then wrote again--the present epistle--and forwarded it by Titus and other brethren, he himself following a little later, and finally wintering in Corinth as he had originally planned. If it be felt that the interval between spring and autumn of the same year is too brief for these events, the two epistles must be separated by a period of nearly 18 months, 1 Corinthians being referred to the spring of 54 or 55, and 2 Corinthians to the autumn of 55 or 56 AD. (Reference on the reconstruction should especially be made to Weizsacker’s Apostolic Age, English translation, I; to Sabatier’s Note to the English edition (1893) of his Apostle Paul; and to Robertson’s article in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes).)

V. Integrity of the Epistle.

Although the genuineness of the various parts of the epistle is scarcely disputed, the homogeneity is much debated. Semler and some later writers, including Clemen (Einheitlichkeit), have thought that 2Co 9 should be eliminated as logically inconsistent with chapter 8, and as evidently forming part of a letter to the converts of Achaia. But the connection with chapter 8 is too close to permit of severance, and the logical objection, founded on the phraseology of 9:1, is generally regarded as hypercritical. There are two sections, however, whose right to remain integral parts of 2Co has been more forcibly challenged.

1. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:

The passage 2Co 6:14 to 2Co 7:1 deals with the inconsistency and peril of intimate relations with the heathen, and is felt to be incongruous with the context. No doubt it comes strangely after an appeal to the Corinthians to show the apostle the same frankness and kindness that he is showing them; whereas 7:2 follows naturally and links itself closely to such an appeal. When we remember that the particular theme of the lost letter referred to in 1Co 5:9 was the relation of the converts to the immoral, it is by no means unlikely that we have here preserved a stray fragment of that epistle

2. 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10:

It is universally acknowledged that there is a remarkable change in the tone of the section 2Co 10:1-13:10, as Compared with that of the previous chapters In the earlier chapters there is relief at the change which Titus has reported as having taken place in Corinth, and the spirit is one of gladness and content; but from chapter 10 onward the hostility to the apostle is unexpectedly represented as still raging, and as demanding the most strenuous treatment. The opening phrase, "Now I Paul" (2Co 10:1), is regarded as indicating a distinctive break from the previous section with which Timothy is associated (2Co 1:1), while the concluding verse, 2Co 13:11 to end, seem fittingly to close that section, but to be abruptly out of harmony with the polemic that ends at 2Co 13:10. Accordingly it is suggested that 13:11 should immediately follow 9:15, and that 2Co 10:1-13:10 be regarded as a lengthy insertion from some other epistle. Those who, while acknowledging the change of tone, yet maintain the integrity of the epistle, do so on the ground that the apostle was a man of many moods, and that it is characteristic of him to make unexpected and even violent transitions; that new reports of a merely scotched antagonism may come in to ruffle and disturb his comparative contentment; and that in any case he might well deem it advisable finally to deliver his whole soul on a matter over which he had brooded and suffered deeply, so that there might be no mistake about the ground being cleared when he arrived in person. The question is still a subject of keen discussion, and is not one on which it is easy to pronounce dogmatically. On the whole, however, it must be acknowledged that the preponderance of recent opinion is in favor of theory of interpolation. Hausrath (Der Vier-Capitel-Brief des Paulus an die Korinther, 1870) gave an immense impetus to the view that this later section really represents the painful letter referred to in 2Co 2 and 7. As that earlier letter, however, must have contained references to the personal offender, the present section, which omits all such references, can be regarded as at most only a part of it. This theory is ably and minutely expounded by Schmiedel (Hand-Kommentar); and Pfleiderer, Lipsius, Clemen, Krenkel, von Soden, McGiffert, Cone, Plummer, Rendall, Moffatt, Adeney, Peake, and Massie are prominent among its adherents. J. H. Kennedy (Second and Third Cor) presents perhaps the ablest and fullest argument for it that has yet appeared in English. On the other hand Sanday (Encyclopaedia Biblica) declares against it, and Robertson (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes)) regards it as decidedly not proven; while critics of such weight as Holtzmann, Beyschlag, Klopper, Weizsacker, Sabatier, Godet, Bernard, Denney, Weiss, and Zahn are all to be reckoned as advocates of the integrity of the epistle.

VI. Contents of the Epistle.

The order of matter in 2 Corintians is quite clearly defined. There are three main divisions:

(1) chapters 1-7;

(2) chapters 8-9; and

(3) chapters 10-13.

1. 2 Corinthians 1-7:


2. 2 Corinthians 8-9:

In the second section, 2Co 8-9, the apostle, now abundantly confident of their good-will, exhorts the Corinthians on the subject of the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. He tells them of the extraordinary liberality of the Macedonian churches, and invites them to emulate it, and by the display of this additional grace to make full proof of their love (2Co 8:1-8). Nay, they have a higher incentive than the liberality of Macedonia, even the self-sacrifice of Christ Himself (2Co 8:9). Wherefore let them go on with the good work they were so ready to initiate a year ago, giving out of a willing mind, as God hath enabled them (2Co 8:10-15). Further to encourage them he sends on Titus and other well-known and accredited brethren, whose interest in them is as great as his own, and he is hopeful that by their aid the matter will be completed, and all will rejoice when he comes, bringing with him probably some of those of Macedonia, to whom he has already been boasting of their zeal (2Co 8:16-9:5). Above all, let them remember that important issues are bound up with this grace of Christian liberality. It is impossible to reap bountifully, if we sow sparingly. Grudging and compulsory benevolence is a contradiction, but God loveth and rewardeth a cheerful giver. This grace blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Many great ends are served by it. The wants of the needy are supplied, men’s hearts are drawn affectionately to one another, thanksgivings abound, and God himself is glorified (2Co 9:6- 15).

3. 2 Corinthians 10-13:


(1) In relation to his converts, it shows us how sensitive he was, how easy it was to touch him on the quick, and to wound his feelings. The apostle was very human, and nowhere are his kindred limitations more obvious than in these present incidents. He would probably be the first to acquiesce, if it were said that even with him the creed was greater than the life. In the hastily written and nervously repented passages of that severe epistle; in the restless wandering, like a perturbed spirit, from Troas to Macedonia, to meet the news and know the issue of his acts, we see a man most lovable indeed, most like ourselves when issues hang in the balance, but a man not already perfect, not yet risen to the measure of the stature of Christ. Yet we see also the intensity with which Paul labored in his ministry--the tenacity with which he held to his mission, and the invincible courage with which he returned to the fight for his imperiled church. He loved those converts as only a great soul in Christ could love them. His keenest sorrow came in the disaster that threatened them, and he flew to their defense. He had not only won them for Christ, he was willing to die that he might keep them for Christ.

(2) The epistle is charged with a magnificent consciousness on the apostle’s part of his high calling in Christ Jesus. He has been called with a Divine calling to the most glorious work in which a man can engage, to be to this estranged earth an ambassador of heaven. Received as Divine, this vocation is accepted with supreme devotion. It has been a ministry of sorrow, of strain and suffering, of hairbreadth escapes with the bare life; with its thorn in the flesh, its buffering of Satan. Yet through it all there rings the note of abounding consolation in Christ Jesus, and never was the "power of Christ," resting on frail humanity, more signally manifested.

LITERATURE.

See the references to both epistles, and to 2 Corinthians alone, under this heading in the preceding article. To the list there given should be added Moffatt’s Introduction to the Literature of the nodetitle, 1911; valuable for its critical presentation of recent views, and for its references to the literature.

R. Dykes Shaw