The Problem with 2 Corinthians

I’m not quite sure what I should do about the book of 2 Corinthians; that’s the bottom line. On the one hand, I want to just blog right through it like I do with other books; when I’ve completed that, I will have blogged all of the books of the New Testament.

Yeah… that would be a good thing.

Only we’re talking about 2 Corinthians here: 2 Corinthians is different. How is it different? Well, for one thing, it is really Paul’s fourth letter to Corinth, at least it’s the fourth one we know about. For another thing, it deals with a whole set of circumstances we can only surmise from its pages; we have nothing rock-solid to base our understanding upon. Traditionally we have treated 2 Corinthians like the unattractive step-sister of 1 Corinthians. We want to take 1 Corinthians to the dance, with her beautiful phrases, and her brilliant theological content that spans the ages, but poor little 2 Corinthians goes to the dance all alone, waiting off in the corner for someone to ask her to dance.

In 1 Corinthians, the context was tricky to follow, and as you will no doubt recall, there were many times when I had to pause to re-state the context of a passage so that we could see it clearly and avoid applying it incorrectly. With poor 2 Corinthians, context isn’t tricky, it’s downright dodgy. What we can surmise is this: About the time Paul sent 1 Corinthians to Corinth, or a little after that, there was a big blowup in Corinth. It was (probably) caused by outsiders chiming in against Paul’s integrity… but maybe it was insiders. Paul travelled to Corinth to deal with things, but the trip was a complete disaster− there were harsh things said. Paul then returned to Ephesus and fired off a scourging letter (that does not survive), along with Titus.

The following year (probably) Paul arranged to get a briefing from Titus in Troas, but Titus didn’t show up. After that, in a different location (most likely) they get together and Titus reported that all was well in Corinth because the Corinthians had dealt with the responsible parties and finally came to their senses. Paul returns to Ephesus (we think) and writes 2 Corinthians to sort of explain himself (we theorize) and to prop up the legitimacy of his apostleship and ministry… or so it would appear.

After that, he returned to Corinth for three months (or longer) and wrote Romans, and then returned to Jerusalem with the offerings collected for the church there.

See what I mean? Of course, with a dicey context, 2 Corinthians is a gold mine if you are looking for proof texts to use in arguments to “prove” something Paul wasn’t talking about.

Well, I’ll think about the 2 Corinthians problem some more, and let you know what I decide…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to The Problem with 2 Corinthians

  1. You hit the nail on the head! I didn’t realize how much I even avoid 2 Corinthians. Come to think of it, most of the time I refer to a scripture out of Corinthians, it is from 1 Corinthians.

  2. Steve B says:

    I was reading another commentary where he says it was the 3rd letter. Anyway does it really matter how many letters Paul wrote to who? It is what is scripture which matter. I believe some king in Jordan sent a letter to Jesus granting him sanctuary if needed and Jesus replied but still not scripture.

    Why do people find 2 Corinthians difficult? Seems simple to me. The Corinthians were blockheads, no different from the blockheads of today, he confronted them, failed, then had a reset button which is this letter. Did it work? Who knows. All those original churches have long since disappeared and churches still come and go. Why? Because of the blockheads. 🙂

  3. photojaq says:

    It sounds like you are getting a little tired, Don.

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