Paul’s visits and letters to Corinth (2 Corinthians 2)

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The chronology of Paul’s visits and letters to Corinth is difficult to track and somewhat disputed, but the following sequence is a reasonable interpretation of the Biblical record:

  • First visit (A.D. 50-52): Paul visited Corinth during his second missionary journey, staying on for almost two years with Aquilla and Priscilla, who were refugees from Italy because of emperor Claudius’ decree in A.D. 49 expelling the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:1-18). Paul was summoned before the proconsul Lucius Junius Gallio in the summer of A.D. 51.
  • In A.D. 52 Paul, in the company of Priscilla and Aquilla, left Corinth, moving his centre of ministry to Ephesus, where he laboured for about three years (Acts 18:18-19:41). During his absence Apollos visited Corinth on Paul’s behalf
  • Paul wrote his first letter (now lost) to Corinth; it included a warning against associating with immoral people (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
  • Paul dispatched Timothy and Erastus to Corinth (Acts 19:22, 1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10) and received from Chloe’s household news about quarreling within the church (1 Corinthians 1:11), as well as questions from the congregation delivered by Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaius (1 Corinthians 16:17).
  • From Ephesus (ca. A.D. 55/56) Pauls sent a second letter (1 Corinthians) to the church there, including instructions on collecting money for needy Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). Aquilla and Priscilla remained in Ephesus, and Titus and Timothy returned to Paul from Corith (both are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:1, 12:18).
  • Second visit (A.D. 56): Paul experienced a “painful” visit to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:19, 2 Corinthians 2:1-2).
  • Shortly after this visit he wrote a third letter (also lost), sending it via Titus as a letter of “many tears”, pleading with the Corinthians to change their behaviour (2 Corinthians 2:3-9, 13, 7:6-15, 8:6). Some scholars believe that this letter of “tears” was either 1 Corinthians or 2 Corinthians 10-13.
  • Paul proceeded to the seaport of Troas in Asia, where he expected to meet Titus, who failed to arrive (Acts 20:1, 2 Corinthians 2:13). Paul later found him in Macedonia. Titus reported some success with the Corinthians: The congregation had dealt with their offender (2 Corinthians 2:7-8, 7:5-16), but their submission to Paul’s leadership had declined (2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10).
  • Paul dispatched a fourth letter (probably 2 Corinthians) to Corinth via Titus, who oversaw the collection for Jerusalem and prepared for Paul’s visit (2 Corinthians 8:6-24, 13:1-10). This letter was written approximately one year after 1 Corinthians. The churches throughout Macedonia donated generously for the needy in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
  • Third visit: Paul stayed in Corinth for three months to finalize the collection and reconcile with the church (Acts 20:2-3, 2 Corinthians 12:14, 13:1). Priscilla and Aquilla returned to Rome, while Timothy remained with Paul (Acts 20:4, Romans 16:3, 21). The Achaean churches contributed for the poor in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26).
  • Around A.D. 57-61 Paul delivered the relief gift in Jerusalem, after which he found himself imprisoned in Caesarea and Rome (Acts 21:15-28:31). In approximately A.D. 61 Paul was released from prison and set out once again to preach (Philippians 1:25-26, 2:24, Philemon 22).

 

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