The book of 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1)

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Paul’s authorship of this letter (2 Corinthians 1:1) is not disputed, although many scholars are vexed by 2 Corinthians because of its abrupt changes in tone and topics. They wonder whether what we call “2 Corinthians” is in fact an accumulation of several different letters from Paul to Corinth.

Some scholars have broken up 2 Corinthians into several smaller, hypothetical letters and have tried to relate them to each other, to 1 Corinthians and to what we know from Acts of Paul’s dealings within the Corinthian church. For example, some argue that the letter written with many tears mentioned in 2 Corinthians 2:4 was actually 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10. Put another way, they hypothesize that 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10 was a separate epistle written before the letter of reconciliation found in 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:13 (and in a few other portions of 2 Corinthians).

Against this, we have no manuscript evidence for breaking up 2 Corinthians into several smaller letters. It is possible that 2 Corinthians was one letter that was written over a relatively lengthy period and that circumstances changed while Paul was midway through the letter. On the assumption that 2 Corinthians is a unified lette, however, readers can relate it to Paul’s travels and other letters (see Paul’s visits and letters to Corinth under 2 Corinthians 2). It was probably written from Macedonia around A.D. 55.

Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Corinth.

Like 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians was Paul’s response to diverse situations in the Corinthian church. On the one hand, the Corinthians had heeded his rebukes in several areas, and he wanted to share his relief and thanks (1:1-2:13). But on the other hand, he found it necessary to encourage the Corinthian believers to avoid being “yoked with unbelievers” (6:14-7:1) and to rebuke those who had submitted to the religious tyranny of the “super-apostles” (10:1-13:10). He also wanted to teach these believers the true nature of Christian ministry (2:14-7:4) and to encourage their generosity (8-9). In short, Paul was continuing the work of trying to bring his church to maturity and stability.

As you read, note the personal nature of this letter. What types of conflicts are addressed? What advice did Paul give regarding contentious interpersonal relationships within the church? Watch for new information about Paul that appears nowhere else in Scripture.

Did you know that ink applied to parchment or papyrus documents tended to fade and was easily erased or blocked out (3:3)? Did you know that treasures were frequently concealed in clay jars, which had little value or beauty in themselves and did not attract attention (4:7)? Did you know that in the ancient secular world “reconciliation” was a diplomatic term referring to the harmony established between enemies by peace treaties (5:18)?


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