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Bible Dictionaries
2 Corinthians

Holman Bible Dictionary

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After writing 1Corinthians, Paul continued his ministry at Ephesus. This ministry was so successful that “they which dwell in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10 ). Not so successful, however, was his attempt to solve the problems at Corinth. Even after the writing of 1Corinthians, trouble continued to grow worse, especially the Corinthians' harsh attacks upon Paul. Divisions within the church and their attacks upon Paul denied the very essence of the gospel that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19 ).

Contacts between Paul and the Corinthians continued. Reports from Corinth indicated increasing hostility toward Paul. Timothy, whom Paul had sent with the hope that he could resolve the problems, returned to Ephesus and was with Paul when he wrote 2Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1 ).

Paul made a painful visit to Corinth that is not recorded in Acts. Second Corinthians contains three references to this visit. After making this visit, Paul wrote, “But I determined this with myself, that I would not come again to you in heaviness” (2 Corinthians 2:1 ). The first visit of Acts 18:1-18 was not a painful visit; therefore, the painful visit was a second visit. Also, 2 Corinthians 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:1 indicate that Paul's forthcoming visit would be his third visit.

Paul also wrote a letter of strong rebuke that he regretted after sending it (2 Corinthians 7:8 ). Later, he rejoiced because the letter provoked them to repentance. Titus probably was the bearer of this letter (2 Corinthians 8:7 , 2 Corinthians 8:16-17 ). This letter was not preserved unless it is 2 Corinthians 10-13 of 2Corinthians.

After Titus departed for Corinth, Paul left Ephesus. His heart was heavy because of Corinth. He expected Titus to meet him at Troas with news of reconciliation. Titus did not meet him. Even though Paul found an open door at Troas, his heart was so heavy that he could not minister (2 Corinthians 2:12-13 ). He went on to Macedonia, where Titus finally met him (2 Corinthians 7:6-7 ) and reported improved conditions at Corinth. In response, Paul wrote 2Corinthians, promising an early visit to them.

Questions have been raised concerning the unity of 2Corinthians. These questions concern 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and 2 Corinthians 10-13 . Some see 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 as a part of the previous letter mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9 . Two arguments favor this view: (1) The verses interrupt the thematic connection between 2 Corinthians 6:13 and 2 Corinthians 7:2 . (2) Their content fits the description of the letter in 1 Corinthians 5:9 . Two arguments oppose this view: (1) There is no manuscript evidence for these verses ever existing outside of 2Corinthians. (2) It was characteristic of Paul to insert other matters into his main argument.

The suggestion has been made that chapters 10–13 refer to the letter written “out of much affliction and anguish of heart” (2 Corinthians 2:4 ). Two arguments favor this: (1) The tone changes between 2 Corinthians 9:1 and 2 Corinthians 10:1 . 2 Corinthians 1-9 reflect restored relations and the absence of hostility. 2 Corinthians 10-13 are filled with rebuke and Paul's defense of his apostleship and conduct. (2) 2 Corinthians 1-9 reflect Paul's joy and optimism. This is hard to account for if even a minority remained stubborn. Two arguments are given against 2 Corinthians 10-13 being the harsh letter: (1) There is no manuscript evidence for such a division. (2) 2 Corinthians 1-9 could be addressed to the repenting majority and 2 Corinthians 10-13 to an unrepenting minority.

We can be sure that all was written by Paul and is God's message given to Paul through divine inspiration. Paul wrote 2Corinthians to deal with problems within the church and to defend apostolic ministry in general and his apostleship in particular. In so doing, Paul revealed much about himself, his apostleship, and his apostolic ministry. This epistle is essential for anyone who would know as much as possible about Paul.

Second Corinthians is relevant for today in its teachings concerning ministers and their ministries. Among these teachings are the following: (1) God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and has given to us a ministry of reconciliation. (2) True ministry in Christ's name involves both suffering and victory. (3) Serving Christ means ministering in His name to the total needs of persons. (4) Leaders in ministry need support and trust from those to whom they minister.


Salutation (2 Corinthians 1:1-3 )

I. The Nature of Apostolic Ministry (2 Corinthians 1:3-7:16 )

A. Defined in terms of Paul's relations with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:3-2:17 )

B. Defined in light of its glory and shame (2 Corinthians 3:1-7:16 )

II. The Expression of Apostolic Ministry Through the Collection for Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15 )

A. Examples of sacrificial giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-15 )

B. Care in handling the collection (2 Corinthians 8:16-24 )

C. An appeal for a generous response (2 Corinthians 9:1-15 )

III. Paul's Defense of His Apostolic Ministry (2 Corinthians 10:1-12:13 )

A. Defended by answering allegations (2 Corinthians 10:1-18 )

B. Defended by resorting to the foolishness of boasting (2 Corinthians 11:1-12:13 )

IV. Paul's Future Plans (2 Corinthians 12:14-13:10 )

A. Anticipation of a third visit to Corinth (2 Corinthians 12:14-21 )

B. Paul's warning that he will deal forthrightly when he comes (2 Corinthians 13:1-10 )

Farewell (2 Corinthians 13:11-14 )

See Claudius; Gallio; New Testament Chronology; Paul; and Roman Empire.

R. E. Glaze

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for '2 Corinthians'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/2/2-corinthians.html. 1991.
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