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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

The Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians - Introduction

Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth is a combination of shorter letters written over several months. Chs. 1–7 focus mostly on Paul's understanding of his apostolic ministry. Embedded within them is a short section that appears to have been composed separately ( 6.14–7.1 ). Chs. 8–9 deal with the collection for Christians in Jerusalem, a project of great importance for Paul. In chs. 10–13 Paul is on the defensive, answering charges brought against him by his opponents. It is difficult to determine the chronological order of these individual letters. Many scholars think chs. 10–13 were written first, shortly after Paul returned from a painful visit to the church in Corinth. Their polemical * tone suggests that they were written in the heat of controversy, or shortly thereafter. Chs. 1–7 , by contrast, do not show as much anger. Instead, they begin on a note of great relief, which suggests that they were written after the crisis was over. The chapters on the collection may consist of shorter letters Paul sent to the church over a period of time encouraging them to contribute to the project. In spite of its uneven literary character, 2 Corinthians gives valuable insight into Paul's self-understanding as an apostle. *

After Paul sent 1 Corinthians, his situation in Ephesus worsened (2 Cor 1.8–11 ), and his plans to visit Corinth changed (1 Cor 16.5–8; 2 Cor 1.15–24 ). The situation in Corinth also changed. Other Christian missionaries arrived there and began working with the church. Their specific identity is unknown, but Paul clearly regarded them as rivals and saw them as a threat to the work he had done in Corinth ( 10.10–11; 11.4–6, 12–15, 22–23; 12.11 ). They may have accepted financial support from the church, thereby interfering with the Corinthians' plans to contribute to the collection fund for Jerusalem Christians. At some point, Paul decided to make a personal visit to Corinth to address a deteriorating situation ( 2.1–3 ). He made the trip, confronted an unnamed individual ( 2.5–11 ), and returned to Ephesus convinced that the trip had been a disaster. This prompted him to write chs. 10–13 , sometimes called the “severe letter” ( 2.4 ). After sending it, he had to leave Ephesus without knowing how the letter had been received ( 2.12–13 ). But he heard from Titus, one of his co-workers who had been sent to Corinth, that the letter had hit the mark ( 7.5–16 ). This greatly relieved Paul and prompted him to write chs. 1–7 . Echoes of the controversy are still heard in these chapters, but it is clearly past ( 3.1; 4.2 ). One of the controversy's benefits was that it caused him to reflect extensively on his own theology of ministry, which he details in 2.14–6.13 .

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