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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

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Commentary on 2 Corinthians

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Introduction ( 1:1–11 )

( 1:1–2 ) Address

The address is in keeping with the normal pattern of Paul's letters (e.g. 1 Cor 1:1–3 ). Timothy is listed as the co-author. Although Sosthenes and Silvanus are also given this role in other letters, Timothy is most frequently mentioned (cf. Phil 1:1–2; Col 1:1–2; 1 Thess 1:1–2 ; Thess 1:1–2 ). It is not easy to evaluate the significance of this joint enterprise in modern terms. On the one hand, it is clear that Timothy's authority in the church was not equal to that of Paul; he was dependent upon Paul. On the other hand, Paul worked very closely with associates and they were instrumental to the success of his mission. Paul exercised his leadership as part of a team and it is misleading to think of the relationship between Paul and his fellow-workers as unilaterally hierarchical. In fact, the importance of the role of Paul's associates emerges especially clearly in 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 2:13; 7:6–16; 8:6, 16–24 ). At the very least we may say that Timothy is mentioned because he is with Paul and his presence serves to bolster the authority of Paul's message. In particular Timothy's previous work with the Corinthians means that his influence could enhance (or likewise detract from) Paul's position. Along with Silvanus he was involved in the establishment of the church in Corinth (2 Cor 1:19; cf. 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10–11 ). The addressees are described in such a way as to further corroborate this image of a network of relationships. They are described as the church of God in Corinth, including the ‘saints’ (a general term in the NT for believers, see OCB s.v.) throughout Achaia (the Roman province with Corinth as its capital). The church in Corinth belongs to a wider community held together by emissaries, letters, and hospitality. 2 Cor 1–9 and possibly also 2 Cor 10–13 were written from Macedonia (2 Cor 2:12–13; 7:5; 8:1; 9:2 ).

( 1:3–11 ) Blessing

As is usually the case in Paul's letters, a blessing or thanksgiving follows the greeting. Typically, the community is praised and their past relationship with the apostle is recalled. Themes to be developed at a later point are introduced. In this text the solidarity of the Corinthians with Paul in affliction is emphasized. Likewise, community and apostle share the hope of consolation. Implicitly, church members are being praised for their strength in the face of suffering. Particularly striking is the repetition of the term ‘consolation’ and its cognates (paraklēsis). It is a notion that is especially prominent in 2 Corinthians. For example, it is taken up again in 2 Cor 7:4–13 , a passage illustrating that the affliction/consolation opposition must be understood in the light of the difficult relations and complicated exchanges between Paul and the Corinthians. Within the Pauline corpus, the term ‘affliction’ (thlipsis) occurs most frequently in 2 Corinthians. It is a term that can carry a wide variety of meanings (Garrett 1995 ), ranging from the apostle's own physical (?) sufferings (2 Cor 1:8 ), to the pain of a broken relationship with the Corinthians that inspired the ‘severe letter’ (2 Cor 2:4; cf. 7:7–8 ), to impoverishment (2 Cor 8:13 ). The affliction in Asia of which Paul speaks in 2 Cor 1:8 seems to have been so devastating that he narrowly escaped with his life. While other explanations cannot be ruled out entirely, some type of physical suffering is probably in view, brought about by persecution (perhaps in Ephesus, cf. 1 Cor 15:32 ) or disease. Recalling Christ's suffering in 2 Cor 1:5 serves the apostle's purposes well in order to convey the hope of comfort in the midst of affliction; as members of Christ's body, believers continue to share in his afflictions (cf. Col 1:24 ), but will also be comforted through him. The consolation/affliction opposition is one of many rhetorical strategies Paul employs to reinforce his authority in Corinth. The apostle's leadership clearly recalls the suffering Christ. Like Christ's authority, the apostle's authority is articulated in an unexpected way—through affliction. But this affliction carries the promise of consolation. It is meaningful because it leads to the consolation of believers, relating Paul's (and ultimately Christ's) life intimately to the circumstances of the Corinthians. The association of the consolation/affliction opposition with expressions of confidence (e.g. 2 Cor 1:7; 7:4 ) makes its function as an assertion of authority especially clear (Meeks 1983: 123).

Paul the Conciliator ( 1:12–9:15 )

( 1:12–2:13 ) Explanations and Future Plans

( 1:12–14 ) The Community as Paul's Boast

Paul begins with a declaration of the significance of his relationship with the Corinthians before he offers the explanation of the events that have caused the Corinthians to doubt his sincerity and authority. Although it implies assertiveness, it is misleading to think of boasting as a type of bragging. Rather, it is a term that Paul employs to communicate his ultimate priorities as an apostle and to express his confidence in his mission. It is a notion that appears frequently in 2 Corinthians. Not surprisingly, Paul also speaks of his ground for boasting when he defines his rights as an apostle in 1 Cor 9:15–16 . Particularly intriguing is the phrase, ‘on the day of the Lord we are your boast even as you are our boast’. The reference to the ‘day of the Lord’ (cf. 1 Cor 5:5; Phil 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess 5:2 ) suggests that Paul is convinced that his relationship with the Corinthians is fundamental to the participation of both parties in the culmination of the Christ event. On that day all will be judged and the apostle is confident that his conduct will be shown to be above reproach. Moreover, the parallelism in the phrase implies mutual dependence between the two parties. The meaning of Paul's apostleship is fundamentally related to the fruit of his labours. A similar sentiment surfaces in Rom 15:22–33 where acceptance of the collection (and ultimately of his Gentile mission) by the Jerusalem church appears to be fundamental to Paul's confidence in the legitimacy of his apostleship. In 2 Corinthians, the body of the Corinthian community (the church which Paul founded) is his boast: this is the manifestation of his apostleship. The boast of the Corinthian community, however, is also rooted in their connection, and no doubt loyalty, to Paul (cf. 5:12 ). Closely related to the theme of boasting is Paul's claim of having behaved in the world with ‘frankness’ (haplotēs). Although there is strong MS evidence for the alternative reading of ‘holiness’, the immediate and broader context suggests that ‘frankness’ (cf. 2:17 ) is the most likely possibility (for a summary of the evidence see Furnish 1984: 127). The reference to frankness reflects the ancient Greek notion of the rights of citizens to speak freely and to be open, even generous, in mutual dealings. It is a term which Paul uses to describe the nature of his ministry along with the synonym ‘sincerity’; this language resembles notions found elsewhere in 2 Corinthians ( 2:17; 3:12; 10:2 ). Frankness, boldness, confidence, and the act of boasting are expressions of the value placed on assertiveness in the ancient Mediterranean world. Assertiveness, especially among men, was a means of preserving one's honour—one's reputation—and was integral to claims of authority. Especially in Acts the assertiveness of the apostles functions as a means of reinforcing the validity of their message (e.g. Acts 4:13, 29, 31; 9:27–9; Reese 1993: 9–11).

( 1:15–22 ) Change of Travel Plans

Here Paul is apparently responding to some charge of inconsistency based on a change of plan. It is impossible to be precise about the actual circumstances, but it seems that Paul's plans had changed at least twice. In 1 Cor 16:5–7 Paul announced his intention to visit Corinth briefly before going on to Macedonia. However, the plan he is accused of forfeiting here involved a visit both on the way to Macedonia and after leaving Macedonia; he would then have gone on from Corinth to Judea (probably bearing the collection). (See reconstructions of Paul's itinerary in Betz 1992: 1151; Furnish 1984: 143–4.) Although it is possible that Paul cancelled only the return phase of the anticipated double visit, most commentators believe the entire visit was cancelled ( 1:23 ). The reference to a double favour (v. 15 ) has a somewhat sarcastic ring. It may be in response to those who accused Paul of using flattery to win his audience; he had flattered the Corinthians with promises of a double visit (setting them above the Macedonians?) when he really had no intention of going twice (Furnish 1984: 144). Paul's response is unequivocal. He has not been fickle, answering yes and no in the same breath. In keeping with points he has made earlier in the chapter ( 1:12 ), he stresses that his actions as an apostle are based not on a human agenda but on divine initiative. He uses his critics' accusation of vacillation as an invitation to meditate on the absolute consistency of God and complete obedience of Jesus to God's will. In other words, since God is on Paul's side, inconsistency is ruled out. The place of Paul and the Corinthian community in God's plan is announced in vv. 21–2 . As the one appointed by God to bring the gospel to the Corinthians, Paul in essence facilitates their joining with him as members of Christ's body. Their mutual relationship with Christ is so close that they have been anointed; they are now ‘in Christ’, incorporated into the Messiah, the anointed one. Receipt of the Spirit is also in keeping with messianic identity (cf. 1 Sam 16:13; Isa 61:1 ). Paul's arguments are not confined to doctrine. He also appeals to liturgical experiences, in his reference to the community's usual manner of giving assent: ‘amen’ (v. 20; cf. 1 Cor 14:16 ). He also recalls the experience of baptism by referring to the ‘seal’ and the Spirit as the first instalment of the divine promises (cf. Eph 1:13–14 ). In Colossians and Ephesians, remembrances of baptism play a central role in encouraging appropriate communal behaviour.

( 1:23–2:13 ) The Painful Visit and the Letter of Tears

Paul explains that it was to spare the Corinthians that he did not make another visit. We are probably to understand that between the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians and the composition of 2 Corinthians (or any segment of this document), Paul paid a visit to the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor 12:14; 13:1 ). This may well have been an emergency visit (perhaps from Ephesus) brought about by a report of trouble in the community. It is to be distinguished from the cancelled visit described in 1:16 (cf. 1:23 ). The ‘painful visit’ probably involved a conflict with an individual and a resulting lack of support from the community. Paul's language calls to mind broken relationships and betrayal but also great love ( 2:4 ); it seems that he felt his place among the Corinthians was jeopardized severely ( 2:5–11; 7:8–12 ). His visit was apparently followed by a ‘tearful letter’ which was probably brought to the community by Titus and which was interpreted by some as being unduly severe ( 7:8 ). It was Titus who brought news of the turnaround in events after the community had received the letter ( 7:6–8 ). Some have identified the ‘tearful letter’ with chs. 10–13 . However, because the problem mentioned in 2:5–11 concerns an individual offender and not ‘super-apostles’ as in chs. 10–13 , others believe that the ‘painful letter’ no longer exists. Although the incest case of 1 Cor 5 which Paul discusses in uncompromising terms might lead to the suggestion that the ‘tearful letter’ is in fact 1 Corinthians, few hold this point of view today. We are limited to conjecture, but these verses offer information about Paul's comings and goings, and hints about the setting of the composition of 2 Corinthians (or parts therof). It seems that from Ephesus (1 Cor 16:5–8 ) Paul travelled to the seaport of Troas where he hoped to find his ‘brother’ Titus (for other brother-helpers, cf. Phil 2:25; Philem 16 ). Paul's longing for Titus offers us a poignant glimpse into the significance of Paul's relationship with his fellow-workers ( 2 COR 7:5–7 ). In Troas, Paul had considerable missionary success. The metaphor he uses calls to mind the importance of the household and workshop as an arena for conversion in the ancient world (see Hock 1980; MacMullen 1984: 25–42). Evangelical opportunity is described as a door being opened for him in the Lord ( 2:12 ). From Troas, Paul set out for Macedonia where he met up with (Titus 7:6 ). It is probable that it was from Macedonia that Paul wrote 2 Corinthians (or parts thereof). It is clear that by the time of the composition of these verses the problem of breakdown in relations between Paul and the Corinthians, caused by the case of the offender, had been resolved. The nature of the offence is to be distinguished from that discussed in 1 Cor 5 where Paul insists that the wicked person be driven out from the community like a malady that must be purged from the body (1 Cor 5:13 ; on the differences between 1 Cor 5:1–5 and 2 Cor 2:5–11 see detailed discussion in Furnish 1984: 164–6). In the case of 2 Corinthians, the offender has been punished by the community enough and now should be forgiven and consoled. Is Paul's leniency rooted in the nature of the offence, i.e. a challenge to his authority and not a case of immorality which is worse even than that found among the pagans (1 Cor 5:1 )? It has been suggested that this offender was someone external to the community (see Barrett 1973: 212), but this theory has not gained wide acceptance. The pain/consolation opposition throughout the text is in keeping with the suffering/consolation opposition in 1:3–11 . Paul uses language of contrast to move the discussion from a previously painful situation to a celebration of the nature of the reconciliation and love that now exists. But the frequently attested theme of the apostle who suffers unjustly surfaces here as well ( 2:3 ). Despite the presence of Christ, Paul and the community members will remain vulnerable to the intervention of evil until the day of the Lord. Satan can interfere with community matters and with the apostle's agenda ( 2:11; 11:3, 14–15; 12:7; cf. 1 Thess 2:18 ). He can cause innumerable misfortunes and suffering and one must always be watchful of his designs (Neyrey 1990: 176).

( 2:14–5:19 ) The Authority of the Apostle

( 2:14–3:6 ) The Legitimacy of Paul's Apostleship

This section opens with a formula of thanksgiving which has perhaps been inspired by the good news brought by Titus of the community's compliance with the apostle's wishes ( 7:6–7; Thrall 1965: 129). Rich imagery is used to communicate what God has accomplished in Christ. Believers are described as being led in the manner of the triumphal procession of the general who returns victorious from battle. The notion of triumph in weakness which is so central to Paul's theology in 2 Corinthians may be in view here. It is important to note that it was the prisoners-of-war who were paraded through the streets during such processions and Paul may be identifying the apostles with them (Furnish 1988: 1194). ‘Fragrance’ refers to the odour of incense in sacrifice. Paul may be thinking of rituals associated with Roman celebrations of triumph or with Jewish temple practice. The image may also have been influenced by Sir 24:15 where fragrance is a sign of the presence of God/Wisdom (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 819). In the accounts of martyrdom in later church literature, beautiful fragrance was a sign of God's presence and that God was on the side of the Christians (see Mart. Pol. 15). First the gospel and then the apostles are compared to a fragrance. The fragrance spreads throughout the world by means of the apostles and for some represents life, but for others, death. This black-and-white language offers a good example of ‘language of belonging’ and ‘language of separation’ which demarcates the boundaries of the community (Meeks 1983: 85–96). Here the negative perception of the outside society is particularly evident. But the fragrance is also said to spread ‘in every place’, implying a universal mission. There is a certain tension in Paul's letters between openness to the external society in the hope of winning new members and a strong desire to remain separate (MacDonald 1988: 32–42). In 2:16 the tone changes abruptly from thanksgiving to interrogation of the community concerning the specifics of their relationship with Paul. Before Paul engages in a dialogue concerning the objections raised against his apostleship, he raises a question designed to lead believers to the conclusion that apostolic claims must ultimately rest only in God. With the question ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ he hopes to make them see the error of the presumption that an apostle's superior personal attributes are responsible for success in carrying out God's plan. The same idea is repeated in 3:5 . Perhaps distinguishing himself from others who claim superior attributes, he makes the point emphatically that he is not a charlatan. The language is very strong and, given the suspicions about Paul's financial arrangements which are echoed later in the work, it is tempting to conclude that this label had been applied to him. Paul speaks literally of those who hawk (kapēleuein) the word of God. The Greek term occurs nowhere else in the NT but was employed by ancient critics of itinerant teachers to speak of the ‘huckstering of wisdom’ (Furnish 1984: 178). To those who would rebuke him for his lack of letters of recommendation, Paul replies that nothing could compare with the proof of commendation that lies in their existence as a church: the Corinthians themselves are the letter. Letters of recommendation were an accepted means of ensuring hospitality and receipt of some favour in the ancient world (cf. Acts 9:2; 22:5 ). One of the benefits that a patron might extend to his client was such a letter. Rom 16:1–2 makes it clear that Paul himself could make use of such letters in order to introduce a church member to the community; but in his personal dealings with the Corinthians such tools were not necessary. Perhaps the letters in question came from the Jerusalem church or from a patron thought to be more impressive than Paul. We are left to wonder whether the tendency to peddle God's word and/or the absence of letters of recommendation were accusations made by the offender ( 2:5–11 ) against Paul which found support among others in Corinth. What is clear is that Paul thinks such problems do exist with other would-be apostles. In response to possible objections Paul does two things: (1) he reminds the Corinthians that apostleship makes sense only if it comes from God (ultimately, Paul's only patron). Paul's ministry is a ministry of a ‘new covenant’, a theme developed in depth in 3:7–18 ; (2) he appeals to his confidence, sincerity, and forthrightness which are important means of establishing his credibility as an authoritative teacher in the ancient world ( 2:17; 3:4–6; 4:1–4; 5:6–8 ; cf. 2 COR 1:12–14 ).

( 3:7–18 ) A Minister of the New Covenant

By playing with various contrasting notions such as ‘letter of law/Spirit,’ ‘death/life’, ‘old covenant/new covenant’, Paul compares the old relationship between God and his people with the new relationship established by God through Christ (on covenant, see ABD i. 1197–202). The issue of the letters of recommendation in 3:1–6 allows him to introduce the issue of the letter of the Jewish law. Beginning in 3:6 , and continuing to v. 11 , the law—the centre of the old covenant—is depicted in categorically negative terms. The letter kills and ministry based on letters chiselled on stone tablets (Ex 24:12; 31:18 ) leads to death (on death and the law, see ABD ii. 110–11; iv. 254–65). A very strong statement of the law's inadequacy for salvation is also found in v. 11 where the law is described as ‘what was set aside’ (cf. v. 7 ). Paul admits that the old covenant was glorious, but it has been far surpassed in glory (vv. 7–11 ). These verses have been judged as shedding light on Paul's view of life under the law and generally as important for understanding the birth of the church in a Jewish context. Stressing that Paul's conviction that the law condemns and kills is based on his post-conversion understanding, and is not rooted in particular personal experiences of the law's limitations for Jewish life, E. P. Sanders has argued that the apostle represented the Mosaic covenant as less glorious simply because he had found in Christ something more glorious. Paul's thought and language proceeded from his conviction about Christ as the centre of salvation and it developed in very black-and-white terms: ‘I cannot see how the development could have run the other way, from an initial conviction that the Law only condemns and kills, to a search for something which gives life, to the conviction that life comes by faith in Christ, to the statement that the Law lost its glory because a new dispensation surpasses it in glory’ (Sanders 1983: 138). But there remains some ambiguity in Paul's thought (ibid. 138–9). On the one hand, the law has been set aside and does not save. But on the other hand, the old covenant may still be read profitably by members of the church: when Jews who are not members of the church read it, it is veiled, but when believers read it, it is unveiled (vv. 14–16 ). The reference to veiling recalls the covering that Moses placed over his face during his descent from Mt. Sinai (Ex 34:33–5; cf. 34:29–35 ). Some have understood the comparison between Paul's ministry and Moses' ministry that runs throughout vv. 7–18 in terms of a response to Paul's adversaries (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 819). It has even been suggested that the source of the conflict is a midrashic document on Ex 34:29–35 that was composed by Paul's opponents and which Paul modified in these verses in the hope of correcting a mistaken view of Moses and the Mosaic covenant (Georgi 1986: 264–71). There has been considerable interest in Paul's use of Scripture here, including his dependence on the LXX and extra-biblical sources (Belleville 1993: 165–85; Stockhausen 1993: 143–64). The emphasis in vv. 7–18 is on freedom from the law (cf. Gal 5:18 ) and the transformation of believers. The believer's image, reflected in a mirror, becomes that of Christ (cf. 4:6; 1 Cor 11:7 ); and salvation involves increasing conformity to him (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 820). The identification of Spirit with Lord (in Paul's letters usually referring to Christ) has raised doctrinal questions, but many commentators believe ‘Lord’ in vv. 16–18 refers directly to God (Thrall 1965: 136–7; Furnish 1984: 234–6).

( 4:1–6 ) The Honourable Apostle

Paul apparently responds to those who are denigrating his ministry by setting himself apart from his rivals. Paul's ministry is characterized by the persistence and boldness that are qualities of an honourable apostle ( 2 COR 1:12–14 ). The values of honour (public acknowledgement of worth) and shame (public denial of worth) frame the text. Shame also can have a positive value in the ancient world in the sense of ‘having shame’: that is, having appropriate concern for one's reputation. In this text what is shameful refers to the absence or loss of honour (on honour and shame see Plevnik 1993: 95–104). The shameful things that Paul has renounced are clearly negative: literally, ‘the things of shame that one hides’. Has Paul been accused of dishonourable activity which is sequestered and secretive? The setting of the churches in private homes could certainly have fostered that impression. Paul believes that to act in a shameful manner is to display cunning and to falsify God's word (cf. 2:17 ). Behind Paul's declaration that he refuses to adopt shameful tactics probably lies an attempt to distance himself from rival apostles who mislead and exploit the congregation (cf. 11:20 ). Language of honour and shame is useful in communicating what should be valued most, i.e. what is the basis of true apostleship. Because honour and shame are rooted in the importance in the ancient Mediterranean world placed on public appraisal, these concepts also are useful in conveying the scope of evangelical mission. The central message is that the Corinthians have come to know the light of the gospel only through Paul's preaching (Furnish 1988: 1194). The reference to the veil is in keeping with 3:12–18 but gains further nuance in relation to the themes of secrecy and openness introduced here. The image of the sometimes blinding veil is part of Paul's admission that his preaching is not always successful: public acknowledgement which should follow honourable display and open statement of the truth is not always quickly forthcoming. The blindness of unbelievers, however, is not the result of Paul's tactics as an apostle but has been caused by the god of this world: Satan or Beliar ( 2 COR 6:14–7:1 ). The frequent notion of Paul's apostleship having purely divine origins is found again in vv. 5–6 . In response to competitors who would ‘preach themselves’ (seek to gain acceptance by drawing upon personal attributes), Paul argues that he proclaims only ‘Christ as Lord’ (a confessional formula, Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3; Phil 2:10–11 ). The description of Paul as the Corinthians' slave for Jesus' sake is in keeping with the frequent use of slavery as a metaphor in Pauline Christianity (cf. 1 Cor 9:16–23 ). Paul's self-enslavement has been recognized as a practical strategy for evangelization (low-status persons may be won through the evangelist's self-lowering) and as a rhetorical strategy for conveying the nature of his leadership. But the theological importance of the metaphor is especially visible here. Paul's self-abasement, communicated through the image of slavery, is closely associated with the theology of the cross ( 4:13–18 ): humiliation is followed by exaltation. It has been suggested that the effectiveness of the metaphorical representation of slavery as salvation is related to the fact that in Graeco-Roman society, slavery was an ambiguous and multifaceted concept, carrying connotations both of abasement and upward mobility (Martin 1990: 129–32). There is very strong language of separation here which is reinforced by an allusion to Gen 1:3 (v. 6 , cf. 2 COR 2:14–3:6 ); church members see, but unbelievers are blind and perishing. The light of the gospel (v. 4 ) shines through Paul in a world that is otherwise dark and still very much influenced by evil.

( 4:7–15 ) Power in Weakness

Paul's theology of the cross is proclaimed throughout 4:7–18 (cf. 1 Cor 1:17–2:5 ). The event of the death and resurrection of Christ means that the appearance of weakness and humiliation can carry the promise of power and exaltation (v. 14 ). Paul's theology of the cross (and statements about suffering) in 2 Corinthians must be understood in the light of a particular polemical context where Paul seeks to undermine the position of rivals who make too much of their personal superiority in relation to Paul's weakness. Moreover, the theology of the cross is not about passivity in suffering, but about power in suffering. With sometimes biting irony, Paul protests against his rivals who find God on the side of strength and power ( 10:10–11 ). In 2 Corinthians the paradox of the crucified Messiah is proclaimed boldly. The ambiguous symbol of a suffering saviour offers Paul many possibilities to expose the folly of those who would attack him. Paul's theology of the cross has been of interest to feminist biblical commentators, who warn of the dangers of lifting Paul's message out of context and using it to advocate passivity and meekness in the face of suffering and oppression (Matthews 1994: 214–15). But there is no doubt that the symbol locates God on the side of the suffering, the weak, and the oppressed (vv. 8–10, cf. 1 Cor 1:18–31; Bassler 1992: 331–2). In these verses the focus is on power in physical weakness. This notion is communicated through the beautiful image of the fragile clay pots which contain hidden treasure. It is also conveyed through the catalogue of hardships (vv. 8–9 ). Similar lists are found throughout 2 Corinthians and elsewhere in Paul's letters ( 6:4–5; 11:23–9; 12:10; Rom 8:35; 1 Cor 4:9–13 ). Scholars have examined the literary relationships between the lists within 2 Corinthians and have even speculated about what these relationships might reveal about the literary integrity of the work (Witherington 1995: 398–9). The tribulations are described with vivid language which is reminiscent of the terms employed by philosophers in the ancient world who described their struggles in the overcoming of passion and search for wisdom (Fitzgerald 1988: 65–70; 148–201). Suffering is not glorified; on the contrary, it is experienced by the apostle as unjust (Neyrey 1990: 177–9); yet it is given meaning in two ways. First, suffering allows for identification with Jesus and, ultimately, resurrection with Jesus (vv. 10–14 ). Secondly, Paul's suffering mirrors Jesus' suffering and hence makes Jesus' life visible in the world. ‘Flesh’ (sarx) in v. 11 is a synonym for ‘body’ (sōma) in v. 10 , but the term ‘flesh’ (see OCB 231) places more emphasis on physical existence, a connotation which is highlighted throughout this text (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 821) Because his suffering bears witness to Jesus, Paul is able to argue that his suffering is for the sake of the Corinthian church which he founded and more broadly for the sake of his evangelical mission. The reference to Ps 116:10 in v. 13 allows him to link preaching (speaking) with proclamation of faith in the midst of suffering.

( 4:16–5:1 ) The Fragility of Mortal Existence

Interest in the limited nature of physical existence is maintained throughout these verses. Paul is strikingly honest about his own frailty (perhaps in response to those who would claim that physical weakness is incompatible with apostleship; cf. 10:10 ). He uses the contrast between his outer nature (his visible body) and inner nature (the faith and commitment to Christ which cannot be seen) to point to ultimate reality: that which is eternal and transcends physical existence. While in other places Paul gives the impression that he expects to live until Christ's return (1 Thess 4:15, 17 ), here Paul confronts the harsh reality of death ( 5:1 ). Several architectural images are conflated to convey the notion of heavenly existence. The literary-historical background of these images has been of considerable interest. It has been noted that the use of the image of a tent to refer to the mortal body occurs in many Hellenistic religious and ethical texts (Furnish 1984: 293). There has been extensive discussion of the meaning of the ‘house not made with hands’. Often Paul has been understood as referring to the new spiritual body which will be given to believers (1 Cor 15:51–4 ). Others have argued that the text should be read in the light of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic traditions which include the notion of an eschatological temple and new Jerusalem (2 Apoc. Bar. 4:3; 2 Esd 10:40–57; cf. Mk 14:58 ). Parallels between this passage and Phil 3:12–21 have been noted. The symbol of the heavenly commonwealth in Phil 3:20 resembles the heavenly dwelling of 5:1 . If this interpretation is accepted, 5:1 should be understood as speaking primarily about believers as already belonging to another age and as having a new existence, rather than as addressing specifically the issue of the new spiritual body (Furnish 1984: 294–5; Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 821). A similar conflation of body imagery with architectural imagery occurs in Eph 2:19–22 , but there the focus is clearly ecclesiological. Although many commentators have understood 5:1 as introducing a new subject, it has been included in this section because it acts as the climax of 4:16–18 which emphasizes the temporality and fragility of mortal existence (Furnish 1984: 291).

( 5:2–10 ) Present Existence and Future Fulfilment

The emphasis shifts somewhat from the limits of mortality to the ultimate shape of life with God and the nature of existence in this new eschatological age. It has been said that 5:1–10 is one of the most difficult passages in all of Paul's letters to explain adequately (Thrall 1965: 142). It has often been thought that Paul's recent escape from death ( 1:9 ) led him to doubt his previous belief that he and others would be alive at the Parousia (1 Thess 4:13–18; 1 Cor 15:51–2 ). The reference to nakedness in v. 3 has been instrumental to the theory that Paul is responding to fear surrounding an interim period between death of the physical body and resurrection of a new spiritual body. But this theory has also been disputed (Furnish 1984: 292–3). Paul does not really seem to be deliberately responding to a problem in the way that is so evident in 1 Thess 4:13–18 . The fear of being naked may indeed refer to concern about an intermediate state between life and the adoption of the spiritual body (1 Cor 15:37–8; Barrett 1973: 154–5). Paul may be expressing his preference to avoid the intermediate condition altogether: that is, to live on earth until the resurrection (With-erington 1995: 391). But the reference to nakedness may also be a reminder of the harsh reality of final judgement (cf. 2 Cor 5:10 ) when a person's culpability will be exposed (Isa 47:3; Ezek 23:28–9; Murphy-O'Connor 1991: 52). An awareness of the importance of the values of honour and shame in the ancient Mediterranean world may also prove useful here ( 2 COR 4:1–6 ). In the HB nakedness is strongly associated with shame and sin. To be shamed is to be involuntarily stripped naked (Neyrey 1993: 119–21). Presence before an honourable God requires that one may not be found naked, but have put on the heavenly garment/tent (ibid. 122). Although the NRSV translation ‘when we have taken it off’ fits best with the theory that Paul is referring to an interim period between death and adoption of a new spiritual body, there is good reason to adopt the strongly attested alternative reading ‘when we have put it on’ (Furnish 1984: 268). An understanding of the values of honour and shame may also help explain how this text fits within the broader discussion of apostolic suffering and authority. When the Corinthians turn against Paul might they be stripping him naked and/or rendering themselves exposed before a God who makes believers accountable for what has been done ‘in the body’ (v. 10 )? That questions about Paul's apostleship are not far removed from the main argument here is made clear by the double assertion of confidence by which Paul reinforces his role as an honourable apostle (vv. 6–8 ; 2 COR 1:12–14 ). Some have viewed the merger of the images of ‘dwelling’ and ‘clothing’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:53–4; Gal 3:27; Rom 13:14 ) to be somewhat awkward on Paul's part. However, they actually work well for Paul's purposes since they tie personal affiliation (the garment which must be put on) closely with communal commitment (the household that must be joined, the dwelling that must be entered). The main purpose of the imagery is to announce the nature of the new mode of existence: real life that ‘swallows up’ (katapiein; v. 4 ) all that is mortal. Comparison with Rom 8:18–27 is especially useful since it also refers to ‘groaning’ (Rom 8:23, 26 ) and highlights the role of the Spirit, as creation waits to be released from futility and suffering. Continuing to be plagued by limitations, groaning under his ‘burdens’ (cf. 1:6; 4:8, 17 ), Paul is moving towards his ultimate goal. The contrast between being ‘at home’ in the body and ‘at home’ with the Lord in vv. 6–10 reflects the tension between present salvation and future fulfilment that is characteristic of Paul's thought. The term for being away from home (ekdēmein), has a wider significance than leaving one's house: literally it refers to the act of leaving one's country or going on a long journey (BAGD 238). Paul's present life is shaped by Christ whom one must continue to please until one enters the heavenly commonwealth (cf. Phil 3:20 ). The presence of the Spirit acts as a foretaste of future fulfilment.

( 5:11–19 ) Warnings against Reliance on External Appearances

This text relates Paul's ministry to a reversal of earthly standards and the dawning of a new creation. The reference to ‘persuasion’ has been understood as a reference to rhetoric, the art of persuasion. Paul is acting like an ancient rhetor who will be judged by the Corinthians according to their consciences. The picture of the ambassador who entreats the assembly ( 5:20 ) also fits with this context. Paul presents God as his ultimate judge, but this passage functions as an indirect acknowledgement of the fact that the Corinthians have put Paul on trial, and of how important it is to Paul that the Corinthians recognize his authority (v. 11; Witherington 1995: 392–3). Paul says that he is not going to commend himself to the Corinthians again (v. 11 ), but in fact this is exactly what he does. In saying that he will not commend himself he means that he will not adopt the self-aggrandizing tactics of his rivals who boast in outward appearances. Paul may be distinguishing himself from apostolic rivals whom he feels adopt the disreputable tactics of sophists. Sophists were commonly accused of paying too much attention to external forms (appearance, clothing, delivery) at the expense of content (Witherington 1995: 393–4; 348–50). In v. 13 Paul offers an interesting insight into the nature of the comparisons the Corinthians were making. ‘Madness’ here perhaps refers to religious ecstasy (Furnish 1984: 308). His rivals probably displayed ecstatic experiences in public, and accused Paul of failing to produce these experiences as evidence of his apostleship. Paul seems to be claiming that ecstatic experiences should be reserved for private worship (cf. 12:1–7 ). The text invites comparison with 1 Cor 14:18–19 where Paul claims to speak in tongues frequently, but where he also makes it clear that in the public arena of the ekklēsia he prefers understandable speech (which can include tongues if they are interpreted) to ecstatic speaking. In 1 Cor 14:23–5 he even expresses his fear that non-believers (potential converts) might witness uncontrolled glossolalia and assume that church members are mad! Warnings against reliance on external appearance, form, and display also underlie the statement that Paul no longer makes judgements from a human point of view. Paul admits that before his acceptance of Christ he judged Christ by worldly standards, perhaps according to the pathetic image of a crucified messianic impostor (v. 16 ). This passage offers an excellent illustration of how Paul's theological thought is fundamentally tied to the interpersonal struggles of human communities. It is reflection on the misguided nature of his rivals that leads him to locate his own priorities in the love of Christ and to articulate one of the strongest statements of universal salvation in his epistles (vv. 14–15 ; as reflecting credal affirmations cf. 1 Cor 15:3 ). By means of the doctrine of ‘reconciliation’ in vv. 18–19 Paul presents God's initiative, Christ's role, and his own mission (Paul is a minister of ‘reconciliation’). Here Paul also may be drawing on a traditional formula (cf. Col 1:19–20; Eph 2:13–16 ) which he interprets in a new way. Given the predominance of the structures of patronage in the ancient world, however, it has been suggested that Paul may be casting God here as the great benefactor, Christ as the means of benefaction, and Paul as the human agent (or broker) of the stores of salvation: Paul is the one who serves (Danker 1989: 82–3; Witherington 1995: 396). In order to justify his mission and break with worldly standards, Paul ultimately relies on support for his conviction that God has transformed the world radically through Christ. The emphasis on newness and the proclamation in v. 17 ‘there is a new creation’—although some would translate this as ‘he/she is a new creation’ (see Witherington 1995: 395)—function as justifications of the birth of a new religious movement.

( 5:20–7:16 ) Appeals for Reconciliation with the Apostle

( 5:20–6:2 ) God Speaks through Paul

This passage is thematically very closely related to the previous section. However, it introduces a new type of exhortation. As is frequently the case in Paul's letters, an appeal (v. 20 ; parakaleō) follows an affirmation (v. 19 ), the imperative follows the indicative. In fact, v. 20 sets in motion a series of appeals (appeals for reconciliation with Paul and concerning the collection) which continue until 9:15 (Furnish 1988: 1196). Here, Paul's apostolic authority is expressed in the very strongest of terms. Paul's human powers (his ability as a teacher or sage to influence an audience in antiquity) are secondary at this point; what is important is that God has conveyed legitimacy upon his mission. God has granted Paul authority and in fact speaks through him. It is God who appeals through Paul to the Corinthians. The move from doctrinal affirmation to ethical imperative in this text makes Paul's conviction explicit: the act of reconciliation which overcomes humanity's estrangement from God is played out on the societal level in the reconciliation which must occur between Paul and the Corinthians. As in the related text of Rom 5:1–11 , language of justification (righteousness, OCB s.v.; ABD v. 757–68) is combined with language of reconciliation (Meeks 1983: 186). The appeal is very strong, linking a broken relationship with God to a broken relationship with the Corinthians. Paul may even have feared that the Corinthians were in danger of committing apostasy (Witherington 1995: 397). The citation from Isa 49:8 emphasizes the present nature of salvation, but also reinforces the urgency of the situation. The reference to the one who knew no sin having been made sin (v. 21 ) may refer to the sinless Christ taking on sin as a burden or being treated as a sinner for the sake of humanity (Gal 3:13 ); sin may also refer to a sin-offering here (Rom 8:3; cf. Isa 53:4–10 ).

( 6:3–13 ) Commendation through Hardships

A common goal of ancient rhetoric was to establish the speaker's ethos or character (Witherington 1995: 44, 398). Paul begins with assurances that he has placed no ‘obstacle’ before the Corinthians. He seems to have believed that ministers were very influential in facilitating or preventing access to salvation (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 822). Paul presents eloquent wisdom (rhetoric devoid of content) as being able to empty the cross of its power in 1 Cor 1:17 . In contrast to the self-commendations adopted by others, Paul has commended himself as a servant of God ( 2 COR 4:1–6 ). As elsewhere in 2 Corinthians the metaphor of slavery, the theology of the cross, and the list of apostolic hardships work together to communicate the notion of a reversal of norms for judging claims of authority ( 2 COR 4:7–15 ). Paul's listing of a catalogue of sufferings is in keeping with the Stoic and Cynic theme that the hardships of the sage demonstrate virtue and character (Fitzgerald 1988: 199–201). Paul gives these traditional elements distinctive meaning in relation to the Christ event (Witherington 1995: 400). The stress on reputation and recognition in vv. 8–9 illustrates the importance of public acknowledgement of worth in the ‘honour and shame’ societies of the ancient world. But here Paul is willing to entertain the reversal even of these most basic cultural values. The military metaphor in v. 7 is developed further in 10:3–5 and even more extensively by the author of Ephesians (Eph 6:11–17 ). The inclusion of poverty in the list of hardships (v. 10 ) is especially intriguing given the concerns about the collection which underlie chs. 8–9 , and the fact that questions about Paul's acceptance and/or refusal of support from church members was at the heart of confrontation with opponents ( 11:7–11; 12:14–18; cf. 1 Cor 9:1–18 ). In vv. 11–13 Paul repeats that he has demonstrated the open speech and boldness which are the hallmarks of an honourable apostle ( 2 COR 1:12–14 ) and he characterizes his relationship with the Corinthians as resembling the exchange between a father and his children (cf. 12:14 ).

( 6:14–7:1 ) Warnings against Contact with Unbelievers

This text seems to interrupt the appeals of 6:11–13 which are resumed at 7:2–3 . A large number of occurrences of hapax legomena have been noted. The stringing together of a series of citations from Scripture which are not found elsewhere in Paul's letters (the allusions in 6:16–18 include Lev 26:12; Isa 52:11; Ezek 20:34; 2 Sam 7:14 ) has invited discussion. The vocabulary and ideas, especially the dualism, have been judged to be closer to the Qumran community than to Paul. Thus a great deal of doubt has been raised about the authenticity of these verses. There have been theories ranging from an ‘anti-Pauline fragment’ (Betz 1973: 88–108) to a ‘Pauline interpolation of non-Pauline material’ (Furnish 1984: 383), to a ‘deliberative digression’ which fits well within the present context of 2 Corinthians (Witherington 1995: 402). Some have understood this section to be part of the letter to the Corinthians mentioned in 1 Cor 5:9–11 . In addition to the many literary problems this passage raises, the uncompromising distinction between believers and unbelievers (which seems to leave little room for the winning of new members) is surprising. It is difficult, for example, to harmonize the strong statement that one should not be mismatched with unbelievers (apistoi) with Paul's allowance for marriages between believers and non-believers to continue because of their evangelizing potential (1 Cor 7:12–16 ). However, there are points of contact between this text and others in Paul's letters where the church is envisioned as the temple of God made up of sanctified believers (1 Cor 3:16, 19 ) which must be kept pure. The corollary of this notion of holy temple is the view that members who threaten to bring impurity into the community should be treated as outsiders (1 Cor 5:1–5; Newton 1985: 110–14). On the question of maintaining community boundaries, it is also useful to compare this passage to 1 Cor 8 and 10 where the problem of food sacrificed to idols is discussed. Beliar is a name for Satan (or an evil spirit under Satan) which occurs frequently in Jewish intertestamental literature.

( 7:2–16 ) Restoration of Good Relations

The appeals of 6:11–13 are resumed in vv. 2–4 . Many of the concepts related to the honour of Paul's apostleship such as ‘boasting’ and ‘confidence’ are reiterated ( 2 COR 1:12–14 ). The nature of the intimate connection between apostle and community and the theme of comfort and affliction ( 2 COR 1:3–11 ) are developed further in vv. 5–16 . Many commentators have understood v. 5 as a resumption of the comments in 2:12–13 , and this view figures prominently in theories about the partitioning of the letter ( 1:1–2:13; 7:5–16; 13:11–13 have been described as a ‘letter of reconciliation’; Betz 1992: 1149–50). But these theories have also been disputed. It is also possible to understand the narrative beginning at v. 5 as an example of the comfort that occurs in affliction (v. 4 ); a comfort that is ultimately divine consolation (v. 6; Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 823). Without going so far as a theory of partition, it has been argued from a rhetorical perspective that vv. 5–16 constitute an amplification of some of the things mentioned in the narratio (explaining the disputed matter) of chs. 1 and 2 . In other words, these verses represent a kind of retelling in a manner that would help Paul make his case as convincing as possible. The recapitulation may offer an indication that Paul was very concerned about the fact that he was being perceived as inconsistent with respect to his travel plans and about the results of the ‘tearful letter’ ( 2 COR 1:23–2:13; Witherington 1995: 407). Paul informs listeners that the setting of the events where he experienced comfort in affliction was Macedonia. The afflictions from which his body had no rest are described as coming from ‘within’ and from ‘without’. It is possible that he is referring to bodily suffering in the form of internal anguish and external malady (cf. 4:16 ). But the terms might also have communal connotations, referring to suffering resulting from encounters with those outside the body of Christ (cf. 1 Tim 3:7 ) and from problems within the church community (or a combination of community difficulties and physical afflictions, such as suffering resulting from contacts with non-believers and those occurring as a result of disease). With related terminology, Paul refers throughout his correspondence to those on the outside as non-believers (1 Cor 5:12, 13; Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:12 ). In v. 5 Paul may be continuing to speak with an uncompromising voice towards non-believers as he did in 6:14–7:1 . In discussing the arrival of Titus, Paul fills in many details which are alluded to in 2 Cor 2 . Paul was consoled by Titus' arrival and by the news that issues concerning the offender ( 2:6–8 ) had been resolved. The ‘letter of tears’ ( 2:3–4 ) had apparently produced the desired effect of instilling repentance (v. 10 ). Paul describes the Corinthians as having proved themselves to be guiltless (v. 11 ): they exonerated themselves by dealing appropriately with the offender and by showing that they did not have misplaced loyalties (vv. 11–12 ). ‘The one who did wrong’ refers to the offender ( 2 COR 1:23–2:13 ) and ‘the one who was wronged’ refers to Paul (v. 12 ). That what is at stake transcends the particular events of the dispute and involves the fundamental nature of Paul's relationship with the Corinthians is made clear by Paul's description of the consolation which has occurred as a longing, mourning, and zeal for the apostle (v. 7; cf. v. 12; 11:2 ). It is interesting to note that although Paul seeks concrete expressions of his authority by calling for loyalty to his position and by insisting that the offender be punished, at the same time he denies the ultimate importance of his personal authority; rather, the ‘tearful letter’ precipitated a rediscovery of the inseparable link between loyalty to Paul and loyalty to God (vv. 12–13 ). The contrast between godly grief and worldly grief in vv. 9–11 also represents a bestowing of salvific meaning upon the dispute. The painful experience (the Corinthians were grieved by Paul's letter, v. 8 ) was in actual fact the kind of godly grief which leads to ‘repentance’ (metanoia, vv. 9–10 ; see OCB 646–7; ABD v. 672–3 ). This is one of the few places where Paul employs the term (Rom 2:4; cf. 12:21; 2 Tim 2:25 ). Here it does not refer to repentance prior to entry into the church, but to believers repenting of some sin; it involves rediscovery of commitment to Paul, his gospel, and ultimately to God (Witherington 1995: 409). The subordination or denial of the obvious or earthly significance of the events in favour of an argument about divine purpose is an example of what sociologists of knowledge have called ‘legitimation’: the means by which the institutional world is explained and justified (Berger and Luckmann 1981: 79). Legitimation is involved in the construction and maintenance of the ‘symbolic universe’ (MacDonald 1988: 16, 10–11). Opposition, deviance, or heresy can give impetus to theorizing about the symbolic universe. The development of theological thought is accelerated by challenges posed to the tradition by opponents, deviants, or heretics. In the process of theorizing, new implications of the tradition emerge and the symbolic universe is transformed (Berger and Luckmann 1981: 125). Paul's evocative theology of comfort in affliction is articulated by means of this process. The information about Titus in this passages offers a good example of the importance of Paul's co-workers to his mission. Titus may be counted as a member of the small group of Paul's closest co-workers who were clearly subject to Paul but also could act as his representatives (Holmberg 1980: 57–67). An important companion of Paul, Titus was taken along to Jerusalem where he was the focus of a dispute about whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised. Paul vigorously resisted the appeal that his Greek co-worker be circumcised (Gal 2:1–3 ). Although he had apparently not met the Corinthians previously, Titus became Paul's representative in an attempt to bring about a reconciliation (v. 14 ). It is indicated at 8:6, 16–24 , that Titus was sent to Corinth a second time to conduct work in support of the collection for Jerusalem (cf. 2 Cor 12:18 ). The close relationship between Paul and Titus is made clear by the fact that Titus' very presence is a comfort to Paul (vv. 6–7 ). Titus' connection with the Corinthian community is also cast in personal and emotional terms (vv. 13–15 ). He somehow participates in Paul's apostleship. It is useful to view Titus as a broker of Paul's authority. The attitude of the Corinthians with respect to Titus is one of obedience and they welcome him with fear and trembling (v. 15 ). An understanding of the centrality of the values of honour and shame in first-century society can shed light upon what was at stake in Titus' visit to Corinth. Because Paul has previously ‘boasted’ to Titus about the model behaviour of the Corinthians, the community can strip Paul of all honour if it fails to live up to its reputation; the community has the power to revoke all public recognition of the apostle's worth. How they treat Titus has a direct bearing upon their patron (v. 14 ).

( 8:1–9:15 ) Appeals about the Collection

( 8:1–15 ) A Call to Fulfil Previous Commitment

Chs. 8–9 have figured prominently in theories about the fragmentation of 2 Corinthians. It has been argued that ch. 8 constitutes an ‘administrative letter’ which was delivered to Corinth by Titus and two ‘brothers’ ( 8:18–23 ). Comparison with literary parallels has revealed similarity to letters of appointment given to political or administrative emissaries (Betz 1985: 37–86, 131–9). Ch. 9 has also been viewed as an administrative letter. It may have had an advisory purpose: enlisting the help of the Achaians in bringing the collection in Corinth to fruition (ibid. 87–128, 139–40). Such partition theories have not seemed convincing to everyone. The mention of Macedonia and Titus, for example, in ch. 7 may prepare the way for the issues in chs. 8–9 and might be taken as a sign of literary integrity (Witherington 1995: 410, 413). While there is some disjunction suggested, for example, by the break in subject between 8:24 and 9:1 (with the usual formula: ‘peri de’, ‘now concerning’, e.g. 1 Cor 7:1; 8:1, 4; 12:1; 16:1 ), the evidence has sometimes been judged as insufficient to demand that ch. 9 be viewed as a separate letter (Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 823; Witherington 1995: 413). These chapters have been called an example of deliberative rhetoric (persuasion or dissuasion with a future orientation) designed to ensure that the audience fulfil a commitment previously made concerning the collection, and to illustrate that the apostle's behaviour with respect to the collection has been above reproach (Witherington 1995: 411). 1 Cor 16:1–4 provides the background illustrating that the collection for the relief of the Jerusalem church is something that had been initiated previously. It appears that Titus had made some progress in reviving the commitment to the collection and was being sent back to complete the task ( 7:6 ). Perhaps he used the atmosphere of reconciliation as an opportunity to invite the Corinthians to demonstrate the honour of their community by means of fulfilling their commitment to the collection ( 7:7–8, 10–11 ). In order to persuade the Corinthians, Paul appeals to the example of the Macedonians (including the Thessalonians and Philippians) who exceeded Paul's expectations in their generosity despite their extreme poverty (vv. 1–5 ). The Corinthians, in contrast, are described as having a surplus (v. 14 ). The implicit argument might be stated as follows: ‘If the Macedonians in their extreme need are capable of such generosity, surely you are capable of as much!’ Paul supports his argument with Christological thought. In a manner which recalls Phil 2:6–11 , Paul speaks of Christ who was rich (perhaps a reference to pre-existence) becoming poor in order that the Corinthians might benefit from spiritual wealth (v. 9 ). But when Paul develops the implications of this theology for life in the community, the results are surprising (vv. 10–15 ). We do not hear a call to imitate Christ in the radical manner of the gospel invitations to give up all to follow him. Rather the focus is one of equity, balance, reciprocity, and accommodation. Gifts should be according to one's means (v. 11 ). Relief for the Jerusalem church should not cause strife for the Corinthians (v. 13 ). The Jerusalem church's abundance (spiritual benefits, Rom 15:26–7 , or future monetary surplus) may in turn come to address the Corinthians' need (v. 14 ). This call for fair balance and partnership is supported by a citation from the LXX (Ex 16:18 ). Paul operates upon the premiss that believers should not be in need. He calls for generosity, but it is important to note that he does not call for a radical redistribution of wealth here. Paul's attitude to wealth has sometimes been judged as one of ‘love-patriarchalism’: social differences are allowed to continue but relationships must nevertheless be transformed by concern and respect. This attitude may have contributed to the organizational effectiveness of the Pauline churches in integrating members from different strata in an urban environment (Theissen 1982: 107–8). A second aspect of Paul's approach in governing his churches is detectable in the statement that ‘he does not say this as a command’ (cf. 1 Cor 7:6 ). The respect for the autonomy of the congregation and their freedom in decision-making is a striking feature of some of Paul's exhortations (Meeks 1983: 138–9). This type of assertion of authority may be contrasted with the rule-like statements which emerge in household codes of the Deutero-Pauline letters (Col 3:18–4:1; Eph 5:21–6:9 ).

( 8:16–24 ) Recommendation of Titus and the Brothers

Here Paul explains the specific arrangements he has made in order to bring the collection to completion. In vv. 16–17 he highlights the independence of his co-worker Titus: a close relationship between Titus and the Corinthians is presupposed and the fact that he is going to Corinth of his own accord is stressed (cf. 8:6; 12:18; 2 COR 7:2–16 ). Paul appears to be setting in motion mechanisms to distance himself from the process of gathering the collection in Corinth even though he clearly believes that the activity has divine sanction ( 8:8–15 ). This ‘distancing’ can be further detected in the exhortation concerning the brother in vv. 18–20 . Paul refers to the first individual who is to accompany Titus as ‘the brother’ (v. 18 ), while the second individual is described as ‘our brother’ (v. 22 ). The possessive suggests a more personal relationship with the apostle: the person probably was a regular member of Paul's entourage (Furnish 1988: 1197). Paul presents the first brother's initiative as being tied to the mission of the delegation and appears to take comfort from the fact that this brother is famous in all the churches for proclaiming the good news (v. 18 ). But he also discloses that this brother has been ‘appointed by the churches’ and implies that serious difficulties have dictated the necessity of an ‘external auditor’ of Paul's initiatives (vv. 19–20 ). Paul clearly attaches special significance to the involvement of Titus in the delegation; he is described as Paul's partner and co-worker. In addition, the two unnamed individuals are described with the Greek term apostolos, a term which conveys leadership and authority, often translated as ‘apostle’ in Paul's letters (see OCB 41–2). But apostolos has a fluid meaning in the Pauline correspondence and in this case it seems to be a designation for an official messenger or envoy (vv. 18–19; cf. Phil 2:25 ). vv. 20–1 offer a very strong indication that Paul was suspected of wrongdoing with respect to the collection and that he understood the involvement of the delegation as an integral part of his defence (cf. 12:14–18 ). It has been suggested that the complicated relationship between Paul and the Corinthians can be understood in terms of a struggle to establish patronage, and the collection issue probably played an important part in that struggle. While the securing of support from a wealthy patron was a usual means that itinerant teachers used to earn a living, it was a means that Paul resisted for many reasons including fear that it would contribute to factions in Corinth. Instead the apostle continued to insist that he would earn his own living (cf. 1 Cor 9:12, 18 ). Some Corinthians probably wished to act as Paul's patron and subjected him to attack because of his departure from normal social conventions. The attack seems to have included, ironically, accusations of greed and back-handed dealings concerning money (cf. 2:17; 4:2; 6:3; 7:2; 12:16–17 ). Paul, in turn, sought to reverse the situation and place himself clearly in the position of patron (or agent of Christ, their ultimate benefactor; Witherington 1995: 417–19). Against such a background, the collection emerges as a particularly thorny issue, for it must be accepted by Paul in a way that does not diminish his status as a patron and does not put him in the position of being the Corinthians' client. vv. 23–4 illustrate that while he is interested in establishing the credibility of Titus and the brothers, they are brokers of his apostolic authority. He is their patron and the patron of the Corinthians, but their success as his agents in winning the Corinthians is crucial to protecting his honour. In order to encourage success, Paul calls the Corinthians to live up to their reputation, to demonstrate the reason Paul boasted about them to Titus ( 7:14 ). The implication is the same as in 7:14 : if they fail to live up to their reputation, Paul will be disgraced—he will be shamed. The emotional pleas of v. 24 thus become more easily explained in the light of what is at stake. The Corinthians must prove their love openly for the delegation (love for them is love for Paul).

( 9:1–5 ) An Appeal to Community Honour

Although it is by no means a unanimous opinion, ch. 9 has sometimes been judged to be a fragment of a separate letter (cf. 2 COR 8:1–15 ). One feature which appears to support the fragment theory is that in v. 2 Corinth is the subject of praise in relation to Macedonia, while in 8:2 the situation is reversed. However, there is no real contradiction here since Paul is referring to what the Macedonians have been told about the Corinthians' commitment to the collection, a commitment which they have as yet to fulfil. Both the argument about the Macedonian generosity and the point about the zeal of the Corinthians inspiring the Macedonians work together to galvanize the community into action. It is somewhat surprising that the focus in v. 2 is on Achaia while the focus in ch. 8 has been specifically on Corinth. But such a shift from the specific to the broader context of the province in which Corinth was located is in keeping with the opening of the letter ( 1:1 ). The reference to the brothers in v. 3 presupposes the discussion in 8:18–23 . The emphasis on Paul's boasting about the Corinthians in vv. 2–4 is designed to repeat the same warning that has been articulated previously: the Corinthians must live up to their reputation. The importance of the values of honour and shame in shaping ethical injunctions and community life in general is clearly evident in v. 4 . If Paul brings some of the Macedonians with him to Corinth and the community members have not as yet fulfilled their commitment, both the apostle and the Corinthian church will be humiliated; that is, shamed. As is also the case with the arrival of Titus and the brothers, the arrival of the Macedonians offers a potential occasion for the shaming of Paul and the Corinthian community, and this dishonour must be avoided at all costs (cf. 7:14; 8:24 ). Suspicions surrounding Paul's handling of the collection emerge once again in v. 5 (cf. 8:20–1 ). Once again Paul gives the impression that he wants to distance himself from the process of gathering the collection by insisting that the delegation bring matters to a close before he arrives in Corinth (cf. 2 COR 8:16–24 ). Paul wishes the collection to be perceived as a voluntary gift and not as an ‘extortion’. The Greek term translated as extortion (pleonexia) occurs in the list of vices in Rom 1:29 , referring to covetousness (cf. 1 Cor 5:10, 11; 6:10 ). Related terminology also occurs in 2 Corinthians ( 2:11; 7:2; 12:17–18 ). No doubt is left by 12:17–18 that Paul was accused of fraudulent activity with respect to the collection (Furnish 1984: 428).

( 9:6–15 ) Appeals to Scripture

In this passage Paul justifies his exhortation in 9:1–5 on the basis of Scripture and with broad concepts of the significance of God's gracious actions in the world. A citation of the LXX (Ps 112:9 ) is included in v. 9 , but there are many other allusions to Scripture throughout. The statement that ‘one reaps what one sows’ in v. 6 closely resembles Gal 6:7–9 , but is based on a maxim which pervades the Wisdom tradition (e.g. Job 4:8; Prov 11:18, 24; 22:8; Sir 7:3; Furnish 1988: 1198). That the community's giving should not be under compulsion is in keeping with Paul's desire to respect the freedom of the congregation (cf. 8:8; Philem 8–14; 2 COR 8:1–8 ). Paul justifies his statement with a slightly modified reference to the LXX (Prov 22:8–9 ) in the proclamation that God loves the cheerful giver (cf. Rom 12:8 ). The premiss announced loudly in v. 8 and which underlies many of these verses is that God is the giver who makes all things possible (cf. v. 15 ). For the one who has received—the believer—giving in return becomes a natural expression of one's participation in God's bounty. To communicate the notion of the believer's state as ‘having enough of everything’, Paul uses the term autarkeia which expresses the Greek ideal of self-sufficiency, the precondition for human freedom. Paul modifies traditional notions, however, with his insistence that self-sufficiency is not a purely human accomplishment but is made possible by God's beneficence (Betz 1985: 110). The emphasis on divine initiative continues with the citation of Ps 112:9 where Paul probably means us to understand ‘his righteousness’ not as a reference to the righteousness of the person who helps the poor (as in the psalm), but as a reference to God's righteousness (Furnish 1988: 1198). There are allusions to Isa 55:10 and Hos 10:12 in v. 10 which also support the notion of divine initiative. The images of harvest, growth, and plenty prepare the way for the announcement that the one who gives will be enriched even more (v. 11 ). vv. 11–13 make it clear, however, that generosity has more than the immediate effect of satisfying the need of the Jerusalem poor; it allows the Corinthians to contribute actively to the worship of God. The result of their giving is an abundance of thanksgivings to God. An alternative translation of dokimē in v. 13 as ‘proof’ rather than ‘testing’ (cf. 8:2, 8, 22 ) makes the connection with the sentiments expressed in 8:24 stand out more clearly. The collection allows for an open demonstration of their love and of their glorification of God. It is fundamentally an expression of their obedience to the gospel of Christ. Paul explains further that the generosity of the Corinthians will result in the Jerusalem Christians praying for them and expressing their love for them (v. 14 ). Rom 15:31 makes it clear that the apostle associates the acceptance of the collection for the Jerusalem church with the acceptance by the authorities there of what God has accomplished through Paul's ministry among the Gentiles (cf. Rom 15:31; Murphy-O'Connor 1990: 825). Perhaps Paul has these associations in mind when he joyously gives thanks to God for his indescribable gift (v. 15 ).

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