the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Dr. Constable's Expository Notes Constable's Expository Notes
- 2 Corinthians
by Thomas Constable
First Corinthians did not dispel the problems in the church at Corinth completely. While it resolved some of them, opposition to the Apostle Paul persisted and Paul’s critics continued to speak out against him in the church. One man in particular seems to have been the ringleader of the opposition (2Co_10:7). He had rallied the support of a significant minority. The issue was Paul’s apostolic authority. His critics were claiming authority equal with Paul’s. This was in effect a claim to apostolic authority on their part and or a denial of the full apostolic authority of Paul.
News of continuing problems in Corinth reached Paul in Ephesus during his prolonged stay there during his third missionary journey. He then made a brief visit to Corinth. However his efforts to resolve the conflicts proved unsuccessful (2Co_2:1; 2Co_12:14; 2Co_13:1-2). Paul apparently suffered insult and lost face during that visit (2Co_2:5-8; 2Co_7:12). Consequently this was a painful visit for Paul. He then returned to Ephesus.
Paul’s next step in dealing with the situation in Corinth was to send a severe letter from Ephesus by the hand of Titus and another unnamed brother (2Co_2:3-4; 2Co_7:8-12; 2Co_12:18). He apparently directed this letter, now lost, at the party opposed to him and particularly its leader. Some commentators believe that 2 Corinthians 10-13 contains part of this letter, but the evidence for this is not convincing. [Note: See Richard Batey, "Paul’s Interaction with the Corinthians," Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1985):139-43.]
Paul evidently intended to receive Titus’ report concerning the effects of this severe letter in Ephesus. However, persecution there made it expedient for Paul to leave that city earlier than he had anticipated (Act_20:1). He found an open door for the gospel to the north in Troas. Eager to meet Titus, who was taking the land route from Corinth back to Ephesus, Paul moved west into Macedonia (2Co_2:12-13). There Titus met him and gave him an encouraging report (2Co_7:6-16). Most of the church had responded to Paul’s directives, and the church had disciplined the troublemakers (2Co_2:5-11). Unfortunately some in the congregation still refused to acknowledge Paul’s authority over them (2Co_10:1 to 2Co_13:10).
Many scholars have tried to explain the different subject matter and tone of chapters 10-13, compared with chapters 1-9. Some believe chapters 10-13 were a separate letter, specifically, Paul’s "severe letter." Others argue that it was originally part of 2 Corinthians, and that Paul wrote the whole book at one time. Most believe chapters 10-13 were originally a different letter from chapters 1-9 and the "severe letter:" a fifth letter from Paul to the Corinthians. Perhaps the best explanation is that chapters 10-13 were originally part of 2 Corinthians, but Paul wrote these chapters after he had written chapters 1-9 and after he had met Titus. [Note: See Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 430-36.]
In chapters 10-13, Paul rejoiced at the repentance of the majority in the church. However his concern for the unrepentant minority and his desire to pick up the money the Corinthians had begun to collect for their poorer brethren in Jerusalem led him to write 2 Corinthians. Along with these primary motives Paul also felt compelled to refute the charge of fickleness leveled at him by his critics. He had changed his travel plans and had not come to see them as he had said he would. The whole situation provided him an opportunity to clarify the nature of Christian ministry. Like 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians is an "occasional" letter: one occasioned by concrete issues.
Paul wrote the Second Epistle to the Corinthians from Macedonia, perhaps Philippi, Thessalonica, or Berea, probably in the fall or winter of A.D. 56. A date a year earlier or later is possible.
Some commentators believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians after his painful visit and after he wrote the severe letter. [Note: E.g., Alford, Bernard, Denney, Hughes, Lenski, Lightfoot, Sanday, Zahn, et al.] Others, and I, believe it is more probable that he wrote 1 Corinthians before these two events. [Note: E.g., Allo, Bachmann, Barnett, Barrett, Bruce, Guthrie, Harris, Kent, Lowery, Plummer, Tasker, Windisch, et al.] It is very difficult to reconstruct the details of Paul’s activities since the data available to us is incomplete.
|Paul’s Corinthian Contacts|
|Paul’s founding visit||His "former letter"||The Corinthians’ letter to him||First Corinthians||Paul’s "painful visit"||His "severe letter"||Second Corinthians||Paul’s anticipated visit|
"2 Corinthians is very different from the letters between which it was written, 1 Corinthians and Romans. Whereas each of those letters is, in its own way, systematic and orderly, 2 Corinthians is, on the face of it, uneven and digressive. It is no surprise, therefore, that many scholars have suggested that 2 Corinthians is really a collection of letters put together later as a single letter." [Note: Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 15.]
"Second Corinthians presents many inspiring texts and passages to the reader and teacher of God’s Word. A quick survey reveals approximately eighty individual verses lending themselves to extended meditation and exposition, apart from the sixty or so constituent paragraphs of the letter. This letter is a rich lode for the edification of God’s people." [Note: Ibid., p. 47.]
I. Introduction 2Co_1:1-11
II. Answers to insinuations about the sincerity of Paul’s commitment to the Corinthians and to the ministry 2Co_1:12 to 2Co_7:16
III. Instructions concerning the collection for the poor saints in Judea 2Co_8:1 to 2Co_9:15
IV. Appeals concerning Paul’s apostolic authority 2Co_10:1 to 2Co_13:10
V. Conclusion 2Co_13:11-14
The benediction 2Co_13:14
Brommall’s simple, memorable outline is worth noting. [Note: Wick Broomall, "The Second Epistle to the Corinthians," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1262-63.]
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