October 14, 2007
Paul is the author of 2 Corinthians and it contains more autobiographical material than any other of his writings. It was written about 55 AD. Scholars believe it is a patchwork of several letters. This is because the letter reveals sudden changes in subjects–rather abrupt shifts in several places. However, there is no manuscript evidence to support this supposition.
The simplest explanation for such obvious gaps in this letter is that 2 Corinthians is actually a compilation of at least two or more letters brought together later, most likely in the second century. Therefore, scholars traditionally divide it into two or three letters. The first letter, according to this reconstruction, is found in chapters 1-8 or 9; another letter is sometimes found in chapter 9; and yet another is found in chapters 10-13.
Supporting the unity of 2 Corinthians, however, is the fact that there is only one opening and concluding formula in the current book, leading to the possibility that the final section comprising chapter 10-13 may have simply been an addendum written before the letter was sent, when news came to Paul of the renewed unfaithfulness of the Corinthian saints.
Other explanations include the possibility not only that the two or three sections of the current book of 2 Corinthians are different letters but that their order has been transposed in copying. Accordingly, this option posits that the first letter to the Corinthians is preserved in 2 Corinthians 8-9; the second letter is 10-13, which would be the same as Paul’s otherwise lost “letter of many tears” or “severe letter”; and the third letter is preserved in 1-7, which would thus end Paul’s Corinthian correspondence on a postive, reconciled note. This is the way I’m going to approach the study of 2 Corinthians in these notes.
This reconstruction suggests that the Corinthian letters should be read in a specific order if the original context is to be preserved and if interpretation is to be more precise. However, no matter how we organize the Corinthian correspondence, these letters reveal Paul’s efforts to continue his ministry among the churches he founded in Corinth, even during his absence.
2 Corinthians Chapters 8-9
v. 2 & 9: How do trial and affliction relate to abundance and joy? How do poverty and riches relate? What does this teach us about sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice is Paul specifically speaking about with regard to the Corinthians and regard to Jesus? How do the two relate?
v. 7: What is required in our giving? How does this relate to the above question(s)?
2 Corinthians Chapters 10-13
Reading the last line of this chapter, what do you think Paul is contending with? How does verse 10 apply to us today? If a non-member were to read the words of the modern prophets for the first time, especially Pres. Hinckly, and then see (them) him speak, what might their impressions be? What do we expect an apostle of the Lord to be like? What do we expect a disciple of the Lord to be like? What do we expect a potential convert to be like? What does Paul teach us about the reality of each of these people?
v. 6: Why does Paul consider his speech “rude?” To whom is he comparring himself? For an explanation on rhetoric and rhetoricians, see HERE.
v. 7: In what way did Paul preach the gospel of God “freely?” How were other religions preaching their gospels? What does this teach us about the true church?
v. 9: What does this verse teach us further about the true church? What does it teach us about being a witness for Christ?
v. 13-15: What can we expect whenever and where ever the gospel is being preached? How does a true apostle of Christ become such? What is the transformation that occurs? Does this relate to the list of trials in v. 22-28? See Rev. 19:10 here.
v. 22-28: Why does Paul include this list of his experiences in this letter? What does it teach us about adversity, discipleship, conversion? Jump over to 12:9-10. What do we learn further in answer to these questions?
v. 29: What is Paul telling us about his weaknesses and offenses received? Why are these things worthy of glory? see 12:9-10. What does this teach us about discipleship?
v. 1: Paul had spent 18 months with the Corinthians so they had firsthand knowledge of his character. What does this teach us about Paul’s behavior? Are we able to cite our past as evidence of our integrity?
v. 2-4: “Man” is Paul, himself, per TPJS p. 305. Why did he have this experience? Why does he relate it? Why here?
v. 11: What “nothing” is Paul referring to, especially in light of 2 Cor. 10:10?
v. 13: Is Paul being ironic here?
v. 14: What does Paul mean with this comparrision? What can we learn by it, today?
v. 1: Here we have the reference to there being 3 letters. Why does Paul consider his 3 letters to constitute separate witnesses?
2 Corinthians Chapter 1-7
v. 20-22: What promises is Paul speaking of? What does “stablisheth” mean? What does “sealed” mean?
Re: “earnest” the Greek word ἀρραβών (arrabwn) denotes the first payment or first installment of money or goods which serves as a guarantee or pledge for the completion of the transaction. In the NT the term occurs later in 2 Cor 5:5, and also in Eph 1:14. What does it mean that God has given a “first installment, pledge or deposit?” How does this happen and when is another installment made or even the payment in full?
v. 1: Why would Paul not want to return to Corinth? Paul was not speaking absolutely about not making another visit, but meant he did not want to come to the Corinthians again until the conflict he mentioned in 2 Cor 2:4-11 was settled. Have you ever had a similar experience?
v. 13: Regarding Titus: Our materials for the biography of this companion of Paul must be drawn entirely from the notices of him in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and to Titus himself, combined with the Second Epistle to Timothy. He is not mentioned in the Acts at all. Taking the passages in the epistles in the chronological order of the events referred to, we turn first to (Galatians 2:1,3) We conceive the journey mentioned here to be identical with that (recorded in Acts 15) in which Paul and Barnabas went from Antioch to Jerusalem to the conference which was to decide the question of the necessity of circumcision to the Gentiles. Here we see Titus in close association with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch. He goes with them to Jerusalem. His circumcision was either not insisted on at Jerusalem, or, if demanded, was firmly resisted. He is very emphatically spoken of as a Gentile by which is most probably meant that both his parents were Gentiles. Titus would seem on the occasion of the council to have been specially a representative of the church of the uncircumcision. It is to our purpose to remark that, in the passage cited above, Titus is so mentioned as apparently to imply that he had become personally known to the Galatian Christians. After leaving Galatia., (Acts 18:23) and spending a long time at Ephesus, (Acts 19:1; 20:1) the apostle proceeded to Macedonia by way of Troas. Here he expected to meet Titus, (2 Corinthians 2:13) who had been sent on a mission to Corinth. In this hope he was disappointed, but in Macedonia Titus joined him. (2 Corinthians 7:6,7,13-15) The mission to Corinth had reference to the immoralities rebuked in the First Epistle, and to the collection at that time in progress, for the poor Christians of Judea. (2 Corinthians 8:6) Thus we are prepared for what the apostle now proceeds to do after his encouraging conversations with Titus regarding the Corinthian church. He sends him back from Macedonia to Corinth, in company with two other trustworthy Christians, bearing the Second Epistle, and with an earnest request, ibid. (2 Corinthians 8:6,17) that he would see to the completion of the collection. ch. (2 Corinthians 8:6) A considerable interval now elapses before we come upon the next notices of this disciple. Paul’s first imprisonment is concluded, and his last trial is impending. In the interval between the two, he and Titus were together in Crete. (Titus 1:5) We see Titus remaining in the island when Paul left it and receiving there a letter written to him by the apostle. From this letter we gather the following biographical details. In the first place we learn that he was originally converted through Paul’s instrumentality. (Titus 1:4) Next we learn the various particulars of the responsible duties which he had to discharge. In Crete, he is to complete what Paul had been obliged to leave unfinished, ch. (Titus 1:5) and he is to organize the church throughout the island by appointing presbytery in every city. Next he is to control and bridle, ver. 11, the restless and mischievous Judaizers. He is also to look for the arrival in Crete of Artemas and Tychicus, ch. (Titus 3:12) and then is to hasten to join Paul at Nicopolis, where the apostle purposes to pass the winter. Zenas and Apollos are in Crete, or expected there; for Titus is to send them on their journey, and to supply them with whatever they need for it. Whether Titus did join the apostle at Nicopolis we cannot tell; but we naturally connect the mention of this place with what Paul wrote, at no great interval of time afterward, in the last of the Pastoral Epistles, (2 Timothy 4:10) for Dalmatia lay to the north of Nicopolis, at no great distance from it. From the form of the whole sentence, it seems probable that this disciple had been with Paul in Rome during his final imprisonment; but this cannot be asserted confidently. The traditional connection of Titus with Crete is much more specific and constant, though here again we cannot be certain of the facts. He said to have been permanent bishop in the island, and to have died there at an advanced age. The modern capital, Candia , appears to claim the honor of being his burial-place. In the fragment by the lawyer Zenas, Titus is called bishop of Gortyna. Lastly, the name of Titus was the watchword of the Cretans when they were invaded by the Venetians.
v. 2-3: What is the metaphore Paul is making here? How does this apply to you? See the footnotes for the cross-references here. What are the stone tables vs. the fleshy tables? An allusion to Exod 24:12; 31:18; 34:1; Deut 9:10-11.
v. 6: What is the new testament or new covenanet they are ministers of? This new covenant is promised in Jer 31:31-34; 32:40.
v. 14-18: What is the veil spoken of here? Does it relate to the veil over our minds from birth? The veil in the temple? An allusion to Exod 34:34.
v. 5: Note that δοῦλος (doulos) is normally translated “servant,” the word does not bear the connotation of a free individual serving another. BDAG notes that “‘servant’ for ‘slave’ is largely confined to Biblical transl. and early American times…in normal usage at the present time the two words are carefully distinguished” (BDAG 260 s.v.). The most accurate translation is “bondservant” (sometimes found in the ASV for δοῦλος), in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force.
v. 13: A quotation from Ps 116:10.
v. 2-4: What do you make of the fact that the word clothed (“enduo” in Greek) is the same word as found in Luke 24:49?
v. 20: Herein is the title for this lesson. What does it mean to be an “ambassador for Christ?” Consider the word. In what way was Paul such and in what way are we such?
See v. 4-10. What is this a list of? Why does Paul write in comparrisons here? i.e.
v. 14: Is Paul speaking specifically about marriage between a Christian & a pagan here? Where else in the scriptures does “yoke” appear and in what context? Are these related or separate?
v. 15-18: Paul quotes or referenced at least 6 Old Testament scriptures here. (Judges 20:13; Lev. 26:12; Isa 52:11; 2 Sam 7:14 & Isa. 43:6) Why does he do this?
v. 3: Paul repeats what he wrote in 2 Cor. 1:4-7.
v. 8: Paul speaks of a previous letter sent, sometimes called the “severe letter” or “letter of tears” referred to in 2 Cor. 2:4. Apparently it had an ultimately positive affect upon the Corinthians.
v. 9: What is the difference between being “sorry” and being “sorry to repentance?” What is “godly sorry?” See the following verse. How might disciples of Christ affect this kind of sorry in those they teach or interact with? Does it require a letter or sermon? What does Christ teach us about this kind of intent or effort in Matt. 7? With this kind of prerequisite, what do you know of Paul’s efforts?
v. 16: See how this letter wraps up on a positive note, speaking of a previous reprimand which has been taken to heart. The next chapter, 8, writes of an entirely different issue, that of collecting donation for suffering saints in Jerusalem.