This letter continues the correspondence which Paul undertook with the wayward, disoriented Christians of Corinth. As with 1 Corinthians, there is no serious dispute concerning Pauline authorship. The date of the book is somewhat harder to pin down because it seems to have been composed over a period of time. Yet it must be dated within a few years of 1 Corinthians, so that a date for the whole series around the year 58 CE is not out of the question. Some scholars have suggested that what we call 2 Corinthians is actually a collection of two or three letters that have been combined over the course of time. Rudolf Bultmann, a very important New Testament exegete from the first half of the 20th century, suggested that 1 and 2 Corinthians actually consist of 4 letters plus one that has not been preserved:
Letter A- 1 Corinthians
Letter B- "The Tearful Letter" (now lost)
Letter C- 2 Corinthians 2:14-7:4, 9:1-15, 10:1-13:14
Letter D- 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:13, 7:5-16, 8:1-24
Bultmann saw 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 as a non Pauline interpolation.
The intriguing thing about Bultmannís suggestion is that if these 4 letters are read in this sequence, they show a progressive improvement in Paulís relationship with the Corinthians. If they are not read in this order, they are confused and "rollercoaster" like in the respect that they move swiftly from one idea to another without any cohesion or order. I think that Bultmann is correct in his reconstruction of the order of these letters. It seems that an early scribe simply combined Letters C and D, while ignoring (or not having access to) Letter B.
The possibility exists, nevertheless, that 2 Corinthians is not a composite as suggested above, but an integrated letter as 1 Corinthians is. In light of that possibility, the following outline is offered which may show the purpose of Paul in writing this document:
1- Greeting and Personal Remarks (1:1-11)
2- Bad Relationships with the Corinthians and the Letter of Tears (1:12-2:13)
3- Personal Defense! (2:14-7:16) (with 6:14-7:1 interpolated by another writer)
4- The Collection for Jerusalem (8-9)
5- Paul Responds to those who Challenge His Authority (10:1-13:10)
6- Conclusion (13:11-13)
Paulís letter(s) to the Corinthians contained in 2 Corinthians is his most personal and tragic. In this document (or set of letter s) we have a quite humeen hurt and who is resentful of challenges to his authority. He is Ďscornedí by the very people he has preached to, and he does not appreciate it at all. This book should be read by every Christian to gain an insight into the difficulties and trials of the ministry- but it should also be read by every cleric to see that he or she is not alone in the struggle for authentic ministry.
ASSIGNMENT: Read Galatians, and Brownís Introduction, chapter 19.
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