ATS Bible DictionaryCorinthians
EPISTLE 1. This was written by Paul at Ephesus, about A.D. 57, upon the receipt of intelligence respecting the Corinthian church, conveyed by members of the family of Chole, 1 1 Corinthians 1:11, and by a letter from the church requesting advice, 1 1 Corinthians 7:1, probably brought by Stephanus, etc., 1 1 Corinthians 16:17. Certain factions had arisen in the church, using his name and those of Peter, Apollos, and of Christ himself, in bitter partisan contentions. In the first part of this letter he endeavors to restore harmony among them, by reuniting them to the great and sole Head of the church. He then takes occasion to put them on their guard against teachers of false philosophy, and resting their faith on the wisdom of men instead the simple but mighty word of God. He proceeds, in 1 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, to reprove them for certain gross immoralities tolerated among them, such as they had formerly practiced like all around them, but which he charges them to banish form the church of Christ. He replies to their queries respecting celibacy and marriage, and the eating of food offered to idols; and meets several errors and sins prevalent in the church by timely instructions as to disputes among brethren, decorum in public assemblies, the Lord's supper, the resurrection of believers, true charity, and the right use of spiritual gifts, in which the Corinthian Christians excelled, but not without a mixture of ostentation and disorder. He directs them as to the best method of Christian beneficence, and closes with friendly greetings.
EPISTLE 2. This was occasioned by intelligence received through Titus, at Philippi. Paul learned of the favor reception of his former letter, and the good effect produced, and yet that a party remained opposed to him-accusing him of fickleness in not fulfilling his promise to visit them; blaming his severity towards the incestuous person; and charging him with an arrogance and assumption unsuited to his true authority and his personal appearance. In the course of his reply he answers all these objections; he enlarges upon the excellence of the new covenant, and the duties and rewards of its ministers, and on the duty of the Corinthian Christians as to charitable collections. He then vindicates his own course, his dignity and authority as an apostle, against those who assailed him. His last words invite them to penitence, peace, and brotherly love. This epistle seems to have been written soon after the first.
International Standard Bible EncyclopediaCORINTHIANS, FIRST EPISTLE TO THE
I. AUTHENTICITY OF THE TWO EPISTLES
1. External Evidence
2. Internal Evidence
3. Consent of Criticism
4. Ultra-Radical Attack (Dutch School)
II. TEXT OF 1 AND 2 CORINTHIANS
Integrity of 1 Corinthians
III. PAUL'S PREVIOUS RELATIONS WITH CORINTH
1. Corinth in 55 A.D.
2. Founding of the Church
IV. DATE OF THE EPISTLE
V. OCCASION OF THE EPISTLE
1. A Previous Letter
2. Letter from Corinth
1. General Character
2. Order and Division
(1) 1 Corinthians 1-6
(2) 1 Corinthians 7-10
(3) 1 Corinthians 11-16
VII. DISTINGUISHING FEATURES
1. Party Spirit
2. Christian Conscience
3. Power of the Cross
I. Authenticity of the Two Epistles.
1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, all belong to the period of Paul's third missionary journey. They are the most remarkable of his writings, and are usually distinguished as the four great or principal epistles; a distinction which not only is a tribute to their high originality and intrinsic worth, but also indicates the extremely favorable opinion which critics of almost all schools have held regarding their authenticity. Throughout the centuries the tradition has remained practically unbroken, that they contain the very pectus Paulinum, the mind and heart of the great apostle of the Gentiles, and preserve to the church an impregnable defense of historical Christianity. What has to be said of their genuineness applies almost equally to both.
1. External Evidence:
The two epistles have a conspicuous place in the most ancient lists of Pauline writings. In the Muratorian Fragment (circa 170) they stand at the head of the nine epistles addressed to churches, and are declared to have been written to forbid heretical schism (primum omnium Corinthiis schisma haeresis intredicens); and in Marcion's Apostolicon (circa 140) they stand second to Gal. They are also clearly attested in the most important writings of the subapostolic age, e.g. by Clement of Rome (circa 95), generally regarded as the friend of the apostle mentioned in Philippians 4:3; Ignatius (Ad Ephes., chapter xviii, second decade of 2nd century); Polycarp (chapters ii, vi, xi, first half of 2nd century), a disciple of John; and Justin Martyr (born at close of let century); while the Gnostic Ophites (2nd century) were clearly familiar with both epistles (compare Westcott, Canon, passim, and Index II; also Charteris, Canonicity, 222-224, where most of the original passages are brought together). The witness of Clement is of the highest importance. Ere the close of the let century he himself wrote a letter to the Corinthians, in which (chapter xlvii, Lightfoot's edition, 144) he made a direct appeal to the authority of 1 Cor: "Take up the letter of Paul the blessed apostle; what did he write to you first in the beginning of the gospel? Verily he gave you spiritual direction regarding himself, Cephas, and Apollos, for even then you were dividing yourselves into parties." It would be impossible to desire more explicit external testimony.
2. Internal Evidence:
Within themselves both epistles are replete with marks of genuineness. They are palpitating human documents, with the ring of reality from first to last. They admirably harmonize with the independent narrative of Acts; in the words of Schleiermacher (Einltg., 148), "The whole fits together and completes itself perfectly, and yet each of the documents follows its own course, and the data contained in the one cannot be borrowed from those of the other." Complex and difficult as the subjects and circumstances sometimes are, and varying as the moods of the writer are in dealing with them, there is a naturalness that compels assent to his good faith. The very difficulty created for a modern reader by the incomplete and allusive character of some of the references is itself a mark of genuineness rather than the opposite; just what would most likely be the ease in a free and intimate correspondence between those who understood one another in the presence of immediate facts which needed no careful particularization; but what would almost as certainly have been avoided in a fictitious composition. Indeed a modicum of literary sense suffices to forbid classification among the pseudepigrapha. To take but a few instances from many, it is impossible to read such passages as those conveying the remonstrance in 1 Corinthians 9, the alternations of anxiety and relief in connection with the meeting of Titus in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, or the ever-memorable passage which begins at 2 Corinthians 11:24 of the same epistle: "Of the Jews five times received I," ere, without feeling that the hypothesis of fiction becomes an absurdity. No man ever wrote out of the heart if this writer did not. The truth is that theory of pseudonymity leaves far more difficulties behind it than any it is supposed to solve. The unknown and unnamable literary prodigy of the 2nd century, who in the most daring and artistic manner gloried in the fanciful creation of those minute and life-like details which have imprinted themselves indelibly on the memory and imagination of mankind, cannot be regarded as other than a chimera. No one knows where or when he lived, or in what shape or form. But if the writings are the undoubted rescripts of fact, to whose life and personality do they fit themselves more exquisitely than to those of the man whose name stands at their head, and whose compositions they claim to be? They suit beyond compare the apostle of the missionary journeys, the tender, eager, indomitable "prisoner of the Lord," and no other. No other that has even been suggested is more than the mere shadow of a name, and no two writers have as yet seriously agreed even as to the shadow. The pertinent series of questions with which Godet (Intro to New Testament; Studies on the Epistles, 305) concludes his remarks on the genuineness may well be repeated: "What use was it to explain at length in the 2nd century a change in a plan of the journey, which, supposing it was real, had interest only for those whom the promised visit of the apostle personally concerned? When the author speaks of five hundred persons who had seen the risen Christ, of whom the most part were still alive at the time when he was writing, is he telling his readers a mere story that would resemble a bad joke? What was the use of discussing at length and giving detailed rules on the exercise of the glossolalia at a time when that gift no longer existed, so to say, in the church? Why make the apostle say: `We who shall be alive (at the moment of the Parousia)' at a time when everyone knew that he was long dead? In fine, what church would have received without opposition into its archives, as an epistle of the apostle, half a century after his death, a letter unknown till then, and filled with reproaches most severe and humiliating to it?"
3. Consent of Criticism:
One is not surprised, therefore, that even the radical criticism of the 19th century cordially accepted the Corinthian epistles and their companions in the great group. The men who founded that criticism were under no conceivable constraint in such a conclusion, save the constraint of obvious and incontrovertible fact. The Tubingen school, which doubted or denied the authenticity of all the rest of the epistles, frankly acknowledged the genuineness of these. This also became the general verdict of the "critical" school which followed that of Tubingen, and which, in many branches, has included the names of the leading German scholars to this day. F. C. Baur's language (Paul, I, 246) was: "There has never been the slightest suspicion of unauthenticity cast on these four epistles, and they bear so incontestably the character of Pauline originality, that there is no conceivable ground for the assertion of critical doubts in their case." Renan (St. Paul, Introduction, V) was equally emphatic: "They are incontestable, and uncontested."
4. Ultra-Radical Attack (Dutch School):
Reference, however, must be made to the ultra-radical attack which has gathered some adherents, especially among Dutch scholars, during the last 25 years. As early as 1792 Evanson, a retired English clergyman, rejected Rome on the ground that, according to Acts, no church existed in Rome in Paul's day. Bruno Bauer (1850-51-52) made a more sweeping attack, relegating the whole of the four principal epistles to the close of the 2nd century. His views received little attention, until, in 1886 onward, they were taken up and extended by a series of writers in Holland, Pierson and Naber, and Loman, followed rapidly by Steck of Bern, Volter of Amsterdam, and above all by Van Manen of Leyden. According to these writers, with slight modifications of view among themselves, it is very doubtful if Paul or Christ ever really existed; if they did, legend has long since made itself master of their personalities, and in every case what borders on the supernatural is to be taken as the criterion of the legendary. The epistles were written in the 1st quarter of the 2nd century, and as Paul, so far as he was known, was believed to be a reformer of anti-Judaic sympathies, he was chosen as the patron of the movement, and the writings were published in his name. The aim of the whole series was to further the interests of a supposed circle of clever and elevated men, who, partly imbued with Hebrew ideals, and partly with the speculations of Greek and Alexandrian philosophy, desired the spread of a universalistic Christianity and true Gnosis. For this end they perceived it necessary that Jewish legalism should be neutralized, and that the narrow national element should be expelled from the Messianic idea. Hence, the epistles The principles on which the main contentions of the critics are based may be reduced to two:
(1) that there are relations in the epistles so difficult to understand that, since we cannot properly understand them, the epistles are not trustworthy; and
(2) that the religious and ecclesiastical development is so great that not merely 20 or 30 years, but 70 or 80 more, are required, if we are to be able rationally to conceive it: to accept the situation at an earlier date is simply to accept what cannot possibly have been.
It is manifest that on such principles it is possible to establish what one will, and that any historical literature might be proved untrustworthy, and reshaped according to the subjective idiosyncrasies of the critic. The underlying theory of intellectual development is too rigid, and is quite oblivious of the shocks it receives from actual facts, by the advent in history from time to time of powerful, compelling, and creative personalities, who rather mould their age than are moulded by it. None have poured greater ridicule on this "pseudo-Kritik" than the representatives of the advanced school in Germany whom it rather expected to carry with it, and against whom it complains bitterly that they do not take it seriously. On the whole the vagaries of the Dutch school have rather confirmed than shaken belief in these epistles; and one may freely accept Ramsay's view (HDB, I, 484) as expressing the modern mind regarding them, namely, that they are "the unimpeached and unassailable nucleus of admitted Pauline writings." (Reference to the following will give a sufficiently adequate idea of the Dutch criticism and the replies that have been made to it: Van Manen, EB, article "Paul," and Expository Times, IX, 205, 257, 314; Knowling, Witness of the Epistles; Clemen, Einheitlichkeit der p. B.; Sanday and Headlam, Romans, ICC; Godet, Julicher and Zahn, in their Introductions; Schmiedel and Lipsius in the Hand-Commentar.)
II. Text of 1 and 2 Corinthians:
Integrity of 1 Corinthians:
The text of both epistles comes to us in the most ancient VSS, the Syriac (Peshito), the Old Latin, and the Egyptian all of which were in very early use, undoubtedly by the 3rd century. It is complete in the great Greek uncials: Codex Sinaiticus (original scribe) and a later scribe, 4th century, Codex Vaticanus (B, 4th century), Codex Alexandrinus (A, 5th century, minus two verses, 2 Corinthians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 12:7), and very nearly complete in Codex Ephraemi (C, 5th century), and in the Greek-Latin Claromontanus (D, 6th century); as well as in numerous cursives. In both cases the original has been well preserved, and no exegetical difficulties of high importance are presented. (Reference should be made to the Introduction in Sanday and Headlam's Romans, ICC (1896), where section 7 gives valuable information concerning the text, not only of Roman, but of the Pauline epistles generally; also to the recent edition (Oxford, 1910), New Testament Graecae, by Souter, where the various readings of the text used in the Revised Version (British and American) (1881) are conveniently exhibited.) On the whole the text of 1 Corinthians flows on consistently, only at times, in a characteristic fashion, winding back upon itself, and few serious criticisms are made on its unity, although the case is different in this respect with its companion epistle Some writers, on insufficient grounds, believe that 1 Corinthians contains relics of a previous epistle (compare 1 Corinthians 5:9), e.g. in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24; 1 Corinthians 9:1-10:22; 15:1-55.
III. Paul's Previous Relations with Corinth.
1. Corinth in 55 A.D.:
When, in the course of his 2nd missionary journey, Paul left Athens (Acts 18:1), he sailed westward to Cenchrea, and entered Corinth "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). He was doubtless alone, although Silas and Timothy afterward joined him (Acts 18:5 2 Corinthians 1:19). The ancient city of Corinth had been utterly laid in ruins when Rome subjugated Greece in the middle of the 2nd century B.C. But in the year 46 B.C. Caesar had caused it to be rebuilt and colonized in the Roman manner, and during the century that had elapsed it had prospered and grown enormously. Its population at this time has been estimated at between 600,000 and 700,000, by far the larger portion of whom were slaves. Its magnificent harbors, Cenchrea and Lechaeum, opening to the commerce of East and West, were crowded with ships, and its streets with travelers and merchants from almost every country under heaven. Even in that old pagan world the reputation of the city was bad; it has been compared (Baring-Gould, Study of Paul, 241) to an amalgam of new-market, Chicago and Paris, and probably it contained the worst features of each. At night it was made hideous by the brawls and lewd songs of drunken revelry. In the daytime its markets and squares swarmed with Jewish peddlers, foreign traders, sailors, soldiers, athletes in training, boxers, wrestlers, charioteers, racing-men, betting-men, courtesans, slaves, idlers and parasites of every description. The corrupting worship of Aphrodite, with its hordes of hierodouloi, was dominant, and all over the Greek-Roman world, "to behave as a Corinthian" was a proverbial synonym for leading a low, shameless and immoral life. Very naturally such a polluted and idolatrous environment accounts for much that has to be recorded of the semi-pagan and imperfect life of many of the early converts.
2. Founding of the Church:
Paul was himself the founder of the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:6, 10). Entering the city with anxiety, and yet with almost audacious hopefulness, he determined to know nothing among its people save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Undoubtedly he was conscious that the mission of the Cross here approached its crisis. If it could abide here, it could abide anywhere. At first he confined himself to working quietly at his trade, and cultivating the friendship of Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2 f); then he opened his campaign in the synagogue where he persuaded both Jews and Greeks, and ultimately, when opposition became violent, carried it on in the house of Titus Justus, a proselyte. He made deep impressions, and gradually gathered round him a number who were received into the faith (Acts 18:7, 8 1 Corinthians 1:14-16). The converts were drawn largely but not entirely from the lower or servile classes (1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 7:21); they included Crispus and Sosthenes, rulers of the synagogue, Gaius, and Stephanas with his household, "the firstfruits of Achaia" (1 Corinthians 16:15). He regarded himself joyfully as the father of this community (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15), every member of which seemed to him like his own child.
IV. Date of the Epistle.
After a sojourn of eighteen months (Acts 18:11) in this fruitful field, Paul departed, most probably in the year 52 (compare Turner, article "Chron. New Testament," HDB, I, 422), and, having visited Jerusalem and returned to Asia Minor (third journey), established himself for a period of between two and three years (trietia, Acts 20:31) in Ephesus (Acts 18:18 onward). It was during his stay there that his epistle was written, either in the spring (pre-Pentecost, 1 Corinthians 16:8) of the year in which he left, 55; or, if that does not give sufficient interval for a visit and a letter to Corinth, which there is considerable ground for believing intervened between 1 Corinthians and the departure from Ephesus, then in the spring of the preceding year, 54. This would give ample time for the conjectured events, and there is no insuperable reason against it. Pauline chronology is a subject by itself, but the suggested dates for the departure from Ephesus, and for the writing of 1 Corinthians, really fluctuate between the years 53 and 57. Harnack (Gesch. der altchrist. Litt., II; Die Chron., I) and McGiffert (Apos Age) adopt the earlier date; Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveler), 56; Lightfoot (Bib. Essays) and Zahn (Einl.), 57; Turner (ut supra), 55. Many regard 57 as too late, but Robertson (HDB, I, 485-86) still adheres to it.
V. Occasion of the Epistle.
1. A Previous Letter:
After Paul's departure from Corinth, events moved rapidly, and far from satisfactorily. He was quite cognizant of them. The distance from Ephesus was not great-about eight days' journey by sea-and in the constant coming and going between the cities news of what was transpiring must frequently have come to his ears. Members of the household of Chloe are distinctly mentioned (1 Corinthians 1:11) as having brought tidings of the contentions that prevailed, and there were no doubt other informants. Paul was so concerned by what he heard that he sent Timothy on a conciliatory mission with many commendations (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10 f), although the present epistle probably reached Corinth first. He had also felt impelled, in a letter (1 Corinthians 5:9) which is now lost, to send earnest warning against companying with the immoral. Moreover, Apollos, after excellent work in Corinth, had come to Ephesus, and was received as a brother by the apostle (1 Corinthians 3:5, 6; 1 Corinthians 16:12). Equally welcome was a deputation consisting of Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Corinthians 16:17), from whom the fullest information could be gained, and who were the probable bearers of a letter from the church of Corinth itself (1 Corinthians 7:1), appealing for advice and direction on a number of points.
2. Letter from Corinth:
This letter has not been preserved, but it was evidently the immediate occasion of our epistle, and its tenor is clearly indicated by the nature of the apostle's reply. (The letter, professing to be this letter to Paul, and its companion, professing to be Paul's own lost letter just referred to, which deal with Gnostic heresies, and were for long accepted by the Syrian and Armenian churches, are manifestly apocryphal. (Compare Stanley's Corinthians, Appendix; Harnack's Gesch. der altchrist. Litt., I, 37-39, and II, 506-8; Zahn, Einleitung., I, 183-249; Sanday, Encyclopedia Biblica, I, 906-7.) If there be any relic in existence of Paul's previous letter, it is possibly to be found in the passage 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; at all events that passage may be regarded as reminiscent of its style and message.) So that 1 Corinthians is no bow drawn at a venture. It treats of a fully understood, and, on the whole, of a most unhappy situation. The church had broken into factions, and was distracted by party cries. Some of its members were living openly immoral lives, and discipline was practically in abeyance. Others had quarrels over which they dragged one another into the heathen courts. Great differences of opinion had also arisen with regard to marriage and the social relations generally; with regard to banquets and the eating of food offered to idols; with regard to the behavior of women in the assemblies, to the Lord's Supper and the love-feasts, to the use and value of spiritual gifts, and with regard to the hope of the resurrection. The apostle was filled with grief and indignation, which the too complacent tone of the Corinthians only intensified. They discussed questions in a lofty, intellectual way, without seeming to perceive their real drift, or the life and spirit which lay imperiled at their heart. Resisting the impulse to visit them "with a rod" (2 Corinthians 4:21), the apostle wrote the present epistle, and dispatched it, if not by the hands of Stephanas and his comrades, most probably by the hands of Titus.
1. General Character:
In its general character the epistle is a strenuous writing, masterly in its restraint in dealing with opposition, firm in its grasp of ethical and spiritual principles, and wise and faithful in their application. It is calm, full of reasoning, clear and balanced in judgment; very varied in its lights and shadows, in its kindness, its gravity, its irony. It moves with firm tread among the commonest themes, but also rises easily into the loftiest spheres of thought and vision, breaking again and again into passages of glowing and rhythmical eloquence. It rebukes error, exposes and condemns sin, solves doubts, upholds and encourages faith, and all in a spirit of the utmost tenderness and love, full of grace and truth. It is broad in its outlook, penetrating in its insight, unending in its interest and application.
2. Order and Division:
It is also very orderly in its arrangement, so that it is not difficult to follow the writer as he advances from point to point. Weizsacker (Apos Age, I, 324-25) suggestively distinguishes the matter into
(1) subjects introduced by the letter from Corinth, and
(2) those on which Paul had obtained information otherwise.
He includes three main topics in the first class: marriage, meat offered to idols and spiritual gifts (there is a fourth-the logia or collection, 1 Corinthians 16:1); six in the second class: the factions, the case of incest, the lawsuits, the free customs of the women, the abuse connected with the Supper and the denial of the resurrection. It is useful, however, to adhere to the sequence of the epistle In broadly outlining the subject-matter we may make a threefold division:
(1) chapters 1-6;
(2) chapters 7-10; and
(3) chapter 11 through end.
(1) 1 Corinthians 1-6:
After salutation, in which he associates Sosthenes with himself, and thanksgiving for the grace given to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), Paul immediately begins (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) to refer to the internal divisions among them, and to the unworthy and misguided party cries that had arisen. (Many theories have been formed as to the exact significance of the so-called "Christus-party," a party whose danger becomes more obvious in 2 Cor. Compare Meyer-Heinrici, Comm., 8th edition; Godet, Intro, 250; Stanley, Cor, 29-30; Farrar, Paul, chapter xxxi; Pfleiderer, Paulinism, II, 28-31; Weiss, Intro, I, 259-65; Weizsacker, Apos Age, I, 325-33, and 354. Weizsacker holds that the name indicates exclusive relation to an authority, while Baur and Pfleiderer argue that it was a party watchword (virtually Petrine) taken to bring out the apostolic inferiority of Paul. On the other hand a few scholars maintain that the name does not, strictly speaking, indicate a party at all but rather designates those who were disgusted at the display of all party spirit, and with whom Paul was in hearty sympathy. SeeMcGiffert, Apos Age, 295-97.) After denouncing this petty partisanship, Paul offers an elaborate defense of his own ministry, declaring the power and wisdom of God in the gospel of the Cross (1:14-2:16), returning in chapter 3 to the spirit of faction, showing its absurdity and narrowness in face of the fullness of the Christian heritage in "all things" that belong to them as belonging to Christ; and once more defending his ministry in chapter 4, making a touching appeal to his readers as his "beloved children," whom he had begotten through the gospel. In chapter 5 he deals with the case of a notorious offender, guilty of incest, whom they unworthily harbor in their midst, and in the name of Christ demands that they should expel him from the church, pointing out at the same time that it is against the countenancing of immorality within the church membership that he specially warns, and had previously warned in his former epistle Ch 6 deals with the shamefulness of Christian brethren haling one another to the heathen courts, and not rather seeking the settlement of their differences within themselves; reverting once more in the closing verses to the subject of unchastity, which irrepressibly haunts him as he thinks of them.
(2) 1 Corinthians 7-10:
In 1 Corinthians 7 he begins to reply to two of the matters on which the church had expressly consulted him in its ep., and which he usually induces by the phrase peri de, "now concerning." The first of these bears (chapter 7) upon celibacy and marriage, including the case of "mixed" marriage. These questions he treats quite frankly, yet with delicacy and circumspection, always careful to distinguish between what he has received as the direct word of the Lord, and what he only delivers as his own opinion, the utterance of his own sanctified common-sense, yet to which the good spirit within him gives weight. The second matter on which advice was solicited, questions regarding eidolothuta, meats offered to idols, he discusses in chapter 8, recurring to it again in chapter 10 to end. The scruples and casuistries involved he handles with excellent wisdom, and lays down a rule for the Christian conscience of a far-reaching kind, happily expressed: "All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify. Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor's good" (10:23, 14). By lifting their differences into the purer atmosphere of love and duty, he causes them to dissolve away. Chapter 9 contains another notable defense of his apostleship, in which he asserts the principle that the Christian ministry has a claim for its support on those to whom it ministers, although in his own case he deliberately waived his right, that no challenge on such a matter should be possible among them. The earlier portion of chapter 10 contains a reference to Jewish idolatry and sacramental abuse, in order that the evils that resulted might point a moral, and act as a solemn warning to Christians in relation to their own rites.
(3) 1 Corinthians 11-16:
The third section deals with certain errors and defects that had crept into the inner life and observances of the church, also with further matters on which the Corinthians sought guidance, namely, spiritual gifts and the collection for the saints. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 has regard to the deportment of women and their veiling in church, a matter which seems to have occasioned some difficulty, and which Paul deals with in a manner quite his own; passing thereafter to treat of graver and more disorderly affairs, gross abuses in the form of gluttony and drunkenness at the Lord's Supper, which leads him, after severe censure, to make his classic reference to that sacred ordinance (verse 20 to end). Chapter 12 sets forth the diversity, yet true unity, of spiritual gifts, and the confusion and jealousy to which a false conception of them inevitably leads, obscuring that "most excellent way," the love which transcends them all, which never faileth, the greatest of the Christian graces, whose praise he chants in language of surpassing beauty (chapter 13). He strives also, in the following chapter, to correct the disorder arising from the abuse of the gift of tongues, many desiring to speak at once, and many speaking only a vain babble which no one could understand, thinking themselves thereby highly gifted. It is not edifying: "I had rather," he declares, "speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19). Thereafter follows the immortal chapter on the resurrection, which he had learned that some denied (1 Corinthians 15:12). He anchors the faith to the resurrection of Christ as historic fact, abundantly attested (verses 3-8), shows how all-essential it is to the Christian hope (verses 13-19), and then proceeds by reasoning and analogy to brush aside certain naturalistic objections to the great doctrine, "then they that are Christ's, at his coming" (verse 23), when this mortal shall have put on immortality, and death be swallowed up in victory (verse 54). The closing chapter gives directions as to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem, on which his heart was deeply set, and in which he hoped the Corinthians would bear a worthy share. He promises to visit them, and even to tarry the winter with them. He then makes a series of tender personal references, and so brings the great epistle to a close.
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CORINTHIANS, SECOND EPISTLE TO THE
I. TEXT, AUTHENTICITY AND DATE
1. Internal Evidence
2. External Evidence
II. RESUME OF EVENTS
III. THE NEW SITUATION
1. The Offender
2. The False Teachers
3. The Painful Visit
4. The Severe Letter
IV. HISTORICAL RECONSTRUCTION
V. INTEGRITY OF THE EPISTLE
1. 2 Corintians 6:14-7:1
2. 2 Corintians 10:1-13:10
VI. CONTENTS OF THE EPISTLE
1. 2 Corintians 1-7
2. 2 Corintians 8-9
3. 2 Corintians 10-13
VII. VALUE OF THE EPISTLE LITERATURE
I. Text, Authenticity and Date.
1. Internal Evidence:
Compare what has already been said in the preceding article. In the two important 5th-century uncials, Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Ephraemi (C), portions of the text are lacking. As to the genuineness internal evidence very vividly attests it. The distinctive elements of Pauline theology and eschatology, expressed in familiar Pauline terms, are manifest throughout. Yet the epistle is not doctrinal or didactic, but an intensely personal document. Its absorbing interest is in events which were profoundly agitating Paul and the Corinthians at the time, straining their relations to the point of rupture, and demanding strong action on Paul's part. Our imperfect knowledge of the circumstances necessarily hinders a complete comprehension, but the references to these events and to others in the personal history of the apostle are so natural, and so manifestly made in good faith, that no doubt rises in the reader's mind but that he is in the sphere of reality, and that the voice he hears is the voice of the man whose heart and nerves were being torn by the experiences through which he was passing. However scholars may differ as to the continuity and integrity of the text, there is no serious divergence among them in the opinion that all parts of the epistle are genuine writings of the apostle.
2. External Evidence:
Externally, the testimony of the sub-apostolic age, though not so frequent or precise as in the case of 1 Corinthians, is still sufficiently clear to establish the existence and use of the epistle in the 2nd century Clement of Rome is silent when he might rather have been expected to use the epistle (compare Kennedy, Second and Third Corinthians, 142); but it is quoted by Polycarp (Ad Phil., ii.4 and vi.1), and in the Epistle to Diognetus 5 12, while it is amply attested to by Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria.
It was written from Macedonia (probably from Philippi) either in the autumn of the same year as that in which 1 Corinthians was written, 54 or 55 A.D., or in the autumn of the succeeding year.
II. Resume of Events.
Great difficulty exists as to the circumstances in which the epistle was written, and as to the whole situation between 1 and 2 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians Paul had intimated his intention of visiting the Corinthians and wintering with them, coming to them through Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5-7; compare also Acts 19:21). In 2 Corinthians 1:15, 16 he refers to a somewhat different plan, Corinth-Macedonia-Corinth-Judaea; and describes this return from Macedonia to Corinth as a second or double benefit. But if this plan, on which he and his friends had counted, had not been entirely carried out, it had been for good reason (2 Corinthians 1:17), and not due to mere fickleness or light-hearted change to suit his own convenience. It was because he would "spare" them (2 Corinthians 1:23), and not come to them "again with sorrow" (2 Corinthians 2:1). That is, he had been with them, but there had been such a profound disturbance in their relations that he dared not risk a return meantime; instead, he had written a letter to probe and test them, "out of much affliction and anguish of heart. with many tears" (2 Corinthians 2:4) Thank God, this severe letter had accomplished its mission. It had produced sorrow among them (2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 7:8, 9)but it had brought their hearts back to him with the old allegiance, with great clearing of themselves, and fear and longing and zeal (2 Corinthians 7:11). There was a period, however, of waiting for knowledge of this issue, which was to him a period of intense anxiety; he had even nervously regretted that he had written as he did (2 Corinthians 7:5-8). Titus, who had gone as his representative to Corinth, was to return with a report of how this severe letter had been received, and when Titus failed to meet him at Troas 2 Corinthians 2:13, he had "no relief for his spirit," but pushed on eagerly to Macedonia to encounter him the sooner. Then came the answer, and the lifting of the intolerable burden from his mind. "He that comforteth the lowly, even God, comforted" him (2 Corinthians 7:6). The Corinthians had been swayed by a godly sorrow and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8), and the sky had cleared again with almost unhoped-for brightness. One who had offended (2 Corinthians 2:5 and 2 Corinthians 7:12)-but whose offense is not distinctly specified-had been disciplined by the church; indeed, in the revulsion of feeling against him, and in sympathy for the apostle, he had been punished so heavily that there was a danger of passing to an extreme, and plunging him into despair (2 Corinthians 2:7). Paul accordingly pleads for leniency and forgiveness, lest further resentment should lead only to a further and sadder wrong (2:6-11). But in addition to this offender there were others, probably following in his train, who had carried on a relentless attack against the apostle both in his person and in his doctrine. He earnestly defends himself against their contemptuous charges of fleshliness and cowardice (chapter 10), and crafty venality (2 Corinthians 12:16, 17). Another Jesus is preached, a different spirit, a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). They "commend themselves" (2 Corinthians 10:12), but are false apostles, deceitful workers, ministers of Satan, fashioning themselves into ministers of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:13, 14). Their attacks are vehemently repelled in an eloquent apologia (chapters 11 and 12), and he declares that when he comes the third time they will not be spared (2 Corinthians 13:2). Titus, accompanied by other well-known brethren, is again to be the representative of the apostle 2 Corinthians 8:6, 17. At no great interval Paul himself followed, thus making his third visit (2 Corinthians 12:14; 2 Corinthians 13:1), and so far fulfilled his original purpose that he spent the winter peacefully in Corinth (compare Acts 20:2, 3 Romans 15:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 16:23).
III. The New Situation.
It is manifest that we are in the presence of a new and unexpected situation, whose development is not clearly defined, and concerning which we have elsewhere no source of information. To elucidate it, the chief points requiring attention are:
(1) The references to the offender in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, and to the false teachers, particularly in the later chapters of the ep.;
(2) the painful visit implicitly referred to in 2:1; and
(3) the letter described as written in tears and for a time regretted (2:4; 7:8).
1. The Offender:
The offender in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 had been guilty of incest, and Paul was grieved that the church of Corinth did not regard with horror a crime which even the pagan world would not have tolerated. His judgment on the case was uncompromising and the severest possible-that, in solemn assembly, in the name and with the power of the Lord Jesus, the church should deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. On the other hand, the offender in 2 Corinthians 2:5 is one who obviously has transgressed less heinously, and in a way more personal to the apostle. The church, roused by the apostle to show whether they indeed cared for him and stood by him (2 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 13:7), had, by a majority, brought censure to bear on this man, and Paul now urged that matters should go no farther, lest an excess of discipline should really end in a triumph of Satan. It is not possible to regard such references as applying to the crime dealt with in 1 Corinthians. Purposely veiled as the statements are, it would yet appear that a personal attack had been made on the apostle; and the "many" in Corinth (2 Corinthians 2:6), having at length espoused his cause, Paul then deals with the matter in the generous spirit he might have been expected to display. Even if the offender were the same person, which is most improbable, for he can scarcely have been retained in the membership, the language is not language that could have been applied to the earlier case. There has been a new offense in new circumstances. The apostle had been grievously wronged in the presence of the church, and the Corinthians had not spontaneously resented the wrong. That is what wounded the apostle most deeply, and it is to secure their change in this respect that is his gravest concern.
2. The False Teachers:
Esp. in the later chapters of 2 Corinthians there are, as we have seen, descriptions of an opposition by false teachers that is far beyond anything met with in 1 Corinthians. There indeed we have a spirit of faction, associated with unworthy partiality toward individual preachers, but nothing to lead us to suspect the presence of deep and radical differences undermining the gospel. The general consensus of opinion is that this opposition was of a Judaizing type, organized and fostered by implacable anti-Pauline emissaries from Palestine, who now followed the track of the apostle in Achaia as they did in Galatia. As they arrogated to themselves a peculiar relation to Christ Himself ("Christ's men" and "ministers of Christ," 2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 11:13), it is possible that the Christus-party of 1 Corinthians (and possibly the Cephas-party) may have persisted and formed the nucleus round which these newcomers built up their formidable opposition. One man seems to have been conspicuous as their ring-leader (2 Corinthians 10:7, 11), and to have made himself specially obnoxious to the apostle. In all probability we may take it that he was the offender of 2 Corinthians 2 and 7. Under his influence the opposition audaciously endeavored to destroy the gospel of grace by personal attacks upon its most distinguished exponent. Paul was denounced as an upstart and self-seeker, destitute of any apostolic authority, and derided for the contemptible appearance he made in person, in contrast with the swelling words and presumptuous claims of his epistles It is clear, therefore, that a profound religious crisis had arisen among the Corinthians, and that there was a danger of their attachment to Paul and his doctrine being destroyed.
3. The Painful Visit:
2 Corinthians 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 13:1, 2 speak of a third visit in immediate prospect, and the latter passage also refers to a second visit that had been already accomplished; while 2:1 distinctly implies that a visit had taken place of a character so painful that the apostle would never venture to endure a similar one. As this cannot possibly refer to the first visit when the church was founded, and cannot easily be regarded as indicating anything previous to 1 Corinthians which never alludes to such an experience, we must conclude that the reference points to the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians. It was then beyond doubt that the visit "with sorrow," which humbled him (2 Corinthians 12:21) and left such deep wounds, had actually taken place. "Any exegesis," says Weizsacker justly, "that would avoid the conclusion that Paul had already been twice in Corinth is capricious and artificial" (Apostolic Age, I, 343). Sabatier (Apostle Paul, 172 note) records his revised opinion: "The reference here (2 Corinthians 2:1) is to a second and quite recent visit, of which he retained a very sorrowful recollection, including it among the most bitter trials of his apostolical career."
4. The Severe Letter:
Paul not only speaks of a visit which had ended grievously, but also of a letter which he had written to deal with the painful circumstances, and as a kind of ultimatum to bring the whole matter to an issue (2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:8). This letter was written because he could not trust himself meantime to another visit. He was so distressed and agitated that he wrote it "with many tears"; after it was written he repented of it; and until he knew its effect he endured torture so keen that he hastened to Macedonia to meet his messenger, Titus, halfway. It is impossible by any stretch of interpretation to refer this language to 1 Corinthians, which on the whole is dominated by a spirit of didactic calm, and by a consciousness of friendly rapport with its recipients. Even though there be in it occasional indications of strong feeling, there is certainly nothing that we can conceive the apostle might have wished to recall. The alternative has generally been to regard this as another case of a lost epistle Just as the writer of Acts appears to have been willing that the deplorable visit itself should drop into oblivion, so doubtless neither Paul nor the Corinthians would be very anxious to preserve an epistle which echoed with the gusts and storms of such a visit. On the other hand a strong tendency has set in to regard this intermediate epistle as at least in part preserved in 2 Corinthians 10-13, whose tone, it is universally admitted, differs from that of the preceding chapters in a remarkable way, not easily accounted for. The majority of recent writers seem inclined to favor this view, which will naturally fall to be considered under the head of "Integrity."
IV. Historical Reconstruction.
In view of such an interpretation, we may with considerable probability trace the course of events in the interval between 1 and 2 Corinthians as follows: After the dispatch of 1 Corinthians, news reached the apostle of a disquieting character; probably both Titus and Timothy, on returning from Corinth, reported the growing menace of the opposition fostered by the Judaizing party. Paul felt impelled to pay an immediate visit, and found only too sadly that matters had not been overstated. The opposition was strong and full of effrontery, and the whole trend of things was against him. In face of the congregation he was baffled and flouted. He returned to Ephesus, and poured out his indignation in a severe epistle, which he sent on by the hands of Titus. Before Titus could return, events took a disastrous form in Ephesus, and Paul was forced to leave that city in peril of his life. He went to Troas, but, unable to wait patiently there for tidings of the issue in Corinth, he crossed to Macedonia, and met Titus, possibly in Philippi. The report was happily reassuring; the majority of the congregation returned to their old attachment, and the heavy cloud of doubt and anxiety was dispelled from the apostle's mind. He then wrote again-the present epistle-and forwarded it by Titus and other brethren, he himself following a little later, and finally wintering in Corinth as he had originally planned. If it be felt that the interval between spring and autumn of the same year is too brief for these events, the two epistles must be separated by a period of nearly 18 months, 1 Corinthians being referred to the spring of 54 or 55, and 2 Corinthians to the autumn of 55 or 56 A.D. (Reference on the reconstruction should especially be made to Weizsacker's Apostolic Age, English translation, I; to Sabatier's Note to the English edition (1893) of his Apostle Paul; and to Robertson's article in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes).)
V. Integrity of the Epistle.
Although the genuineness of the various parts of the epistle is scarcely disputed, the homogeneity is much debated. Semler and some later writers, including Clemen (Einheitlichkeit), have thought that 2 Corinthians 9 should be eliminated as logically inconsistent with chapter 8, and as evidently forming part of a letter to the converts of Achaia. But the connection with chapter 8 is too close to permit of severance, and the logical objection, founded on the phraseology of 9:1, is generally regarded as hypercritical. There are two sections, however, whose right to remain integral parts of 2 Corinthians has been more forcibly challenged.
1. 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1:
The passage 2 Corinthians 6:14 to 2 Corinthians 7:1 deals with the inconsistency and peril of intimate relations with the heathen, and is felt to be incongruous with the context. No doubt it comes strangely after an appeal to the Corinthians to show the apostle the same frankness and kindness that he is showing them; whereas 7:2 follows naturally and links itself closely to such an appeal. When we remember that the particular theme of the lost letter referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:9 was the relation of the converts to the immoral, it is by no means unlikely that we have here preserved a stray fragment of that epistle
2. 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10:
It is universally acknowledged that there is a remarkable change in the tone of the section 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10, as Compared with that of the previous chapters In the earlier chapters there is relief at the change which Titus has reported as having taken place in Corinth, and the spirit is one of gladness and content; but from chapter 10 onward the hostility to the apostle is unexpectedly represented as still raging, and as demanding the most strenuous treatment. The opening phrase, "Now I Paul" (2 Corinthians 10:1), is regarded as indicating a distinctive break from the previous section with which Timothy is associated (2 Corinthians 1:1), while the concluding verse, 2 Corinthians 13:11 to end, seem fittingly to close that section, but to be abruptly out of harmony with the polemic that ends at 2 Corinthians 13:10. Accordingly it is suggested that 13:11 should immediately follow 9:15, and that 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:10 be regarded as a lengthy insertion from some other epistle. Those who, while acknowledging the change of tone, yet maintain the integrity of the epistle, do so on the ground that the apostle was a man of many moods, and that it is characteristic of him to make unexpected and even violent transitions; that new reports of a merely scotched antagonism may come in to ruffle and disturb his comparative contentment; and that in any case he might well deem it advisable finally to deliver his whole soul on a matter over which he had brooded and suffered deeply, so that there might be no mistake about the ground being cleared when he arrived in person. The question is still a subject of keen discussion, and is not one on which it is easy to pronounce dogmatically. On the whole, however, it must be acknowledged that the preponderance of recent opinion is in favor of theory of interpolation. Hausrath (Der Vier-Capitel-Brief des Paulus an die Korinther, 1870) gave an immense impetus to the view that this later section really represents the painful letter referred to in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7. As that earlier letter, however, must have contained references to the personal offender, the present section, which omits all such references, can be regarded as at most only a part of it. This theory is ably and minutely expounded by Schmiedel (Hand-Kommentar); and Pfleiderer, Lipsius, Clemen, Krenkel, von Soden, McGiffert, Cone, Plummer, Rendall, Moffatt, Adeney, Peake, and Massie are prominent among its adherents. J. H. Kennedy (Second and Third Cor) presents perhaps the ablest and fullest argument for it that has yet appeared in English. On the other hand Sanday (Encyclopaedia Biblica) declares against it, and Robertson (Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes)) regards it as decidedly not proven; while critics of such weight as Holtzmann, Beyschlag, Klopper, Weizsacker, Sabatier, Godet, Bernard, Denney, Weiss, and Zahn are all to be reckoned as advocates of the integrity of the epistle.
VI. Contents of the Epistle.
The order of matter in 2 Corintians is quite clearly defined. There are three main divisions:
(1) chapters 1-7;
(2) chapters 8-9; and
(3) chapters 10-13.
1. 2 Corinthians 1-7:
The first seven chapters in 2 Corinthians as a whole are taken up with a retrospect of the events that have recently transpired, joyful references to the fact that the clouds of grief in connection with them have been dispelled, and that the evangelical ministry as a Divine trust and power is clearly manifested. After a cordial salutation, in which Timothy is associated, Paul starts at once to express his profound gratitude to God for the great comfort that had come to him by the good news from Corinth, rejoicing in it as a spiritual enrichment that will make his ministry still more fruitful to the church (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). He professes his sincerity in all his relations with the Corinthians, and particularly vindicates it in connection with a change in the plan which had originally promised a return ("a second benefit") to Corinth; his sole reason for refraining, and for writing a painful letter instead, being his desire to spare them and to prove them (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 2:4, 9). Far from harboring any resentment against the man who had caused so much trouble, he sincerely pleads that his punishment by the majority should go no farther, but that forgiveness should now reign, lest the Adversary should gain an advantage over them (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). It was indeed an agonizing experience until the moment he met Titus, but the relief was all the sweeter and more triumphant when God at length gave it, as he might have been sure He would give it to a faithful and soul-winning servant of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:12-17). He does not indeed wish to enter upon any further apologies or self-commendation. Some believe greatly in letters of commendation, but his living testimonial is in his converts. This he has, not of himself, but entirely through God, who alone has made him an efficient minister of the new and abiding covenant of the Spirit, whose glory naturally excels that of the old dispensation which fadeth because it really cannot bring life. Regarding this glorious ministry he must be bold and frank. It needs no veil as if to conceal its evanescence. Christ presents it unveiled to all who turn to Him, and they themselves, reflecting His glory, are spiritually transformed (2 Corinthians 3:1-18). As for those who by God's mercy have received such a gospel ministry, it is impossible for them to be faint-hearted in its exercise, although the eyes of some may be blinded to it, because the god of this world enslaves them (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is indeed wonderful that ministers of this grace should be creatures so frail, so subject to pressure and affliction, but it is not inexplicable. So much the more obvious is it that all the power and glory of salvation are from God alone (2 Corinthians 4:7, 15). Yea, even if one be called to die in this ministry, that is but another light and momentary affliction. It is but passing from a frail earthly tent to abide forever in a heavenly home (2 Corinthians 5:1). Who would not long for it, that this mortal may be swallowed up in immortality? Courage, therefore, is ours to the end, for that end only means the cessation of our separation from Christ, whom it is a joy to serve absent or present. And present we shall all ultimately be before Him on the judgment throne (2 Corinthians 5:10). That itself unspeakably deepens the earnestness with which preachers of the gospel seek to persuade men. It is the love of Christ constraining them (2 Corinthians 5:14) in the ministry of reconciliation, that they should entreat men as ambassadors on Christ's behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20). So sacred and responsible a trust has subdued the apostle's own life, and is indeed the key to its manifold endurance, and to the earnestness with which he has striven to cultivate every grace, and to submit himself to every discipline (2 Corinthians 6:1-10). Would God the Corinthians might open their hearts to him as he does to them! (Let them have no fellowship with iniquity, but perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.) He has never wronged them; they are enshrined in his heart, living or dying; he glories in them, and is filled with comfort in all his affliction (2 Corinthians 6:11-13; 2 Corinthians 7:2-4). For what blessed comfort that was that Titus brought him in Macedonia to dispel his fears, and to show that the things he regretted and grieved to have written had done no harm after all, but had rather wrought in them the joyful change for which he longed! Now both they and he knew how dear he was to them. Titus, too, was overjoyed by the magnanimity of their reception of him. The apostle's cup is full, and "in everything he is of good courage concerning them" (2 Corinthians 7:16).
2. 2 Corinthians 8-9:
In the second section, 2 Corinthians 8-9, the apostle, now abundantly confident of their good-will, exhorts the Corinthians on the subject of the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. He tells them of the extraordinary liberality of the Macedonian churches, and invites them to emulate it, and by the display of this additional grace to make full proof of their love (2 Corinthians 8:1-8). Nay, they have a higher incentive than the liberality of Macedonia, even the self-sacrifice of Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 8:9). Wherefore let them go on with the good work they were so ready to initiate a year ago, giving out of a willing mind, as God hath enabled them (2 Corinthians 8:10-15). Further to encourage them he sends on Titus and other well-known and accredited brethren, whose interest in them is as great as his own, and he is hopeful that by their aid the matter will be completed, and all will rejoice when he comes, bringing with him probably some of those of Macedonia, to whom he has already been boasting of their zeal (2 Corinthians 8:16-9:5). Above all, let them remember that important issues are bound up with this grace of Christian liberality. It is impossible to reap bountifully, if we sow sparingly. Grudging and compulsory benevolence is a contradiction, but God loveth and rewardeth a cheerful giver. This grace blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Many great ends are served by it. The wants of the needy are supplied, men's hearts are drawn affectionately to one another, thanksgivings abound, and God himself is glorified (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).
3. 2 Corinthians 10-13:
The third section, 2 Corinthians 10-13, as has been pointed out, is a spirited and even passionate polemic, in the course of which the Judaizing party in Corinth is vigorously assailed. The enemies of the apostle have charged him with being very bold and courageous when he is absent, but humble enough when he is present. He hopes the Corinthians will not compel him to show his courage (2 Corinthians 10:2). It is true, being human, he walks in the flesh, but not in the selfish and cowardly way his opponents suggest. The weapons of his warfare are not carnal, yet are they mighty before God to cast down such strongholds as theirs, such vain imaginations and disobedience. Some boast of being "Christ's," but that is no monopoly; he also is Christ's. They think his letters are mere "sound and fury, signifying nothing"; by and by they will discover their mistake. If he should glory in his authority, he is justified, for Corinth was verily part of his God-appointed province, and he at least did not there enter on other men's labors. But it would be well if men who gloried confined themselves to glorying "in the Lord." For after all it is His commendation alone that is of any permanent value (2 Corinthians 10:3-18). Will the adepts - Corinthians bear with him in a little of this foolish boasting? Truly he ventures on it out of concern for them (2 Corinthians 11:2).
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Easton's Bible Dictionary
Corinthians, First Epistle to the
Was written from Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8) about the time of the Passover in the third year of the apostle's sojourn there (Acts 19:10; 20:31), and when he had formed the purpose to visit Macedonia, and then return to Corinth (probably A.D. 57).
The news which had reached him, however, from Corinth frustrated his plan. He had heard of the abuses and contentions that had arisen among them, first from Apollos (Acts 19:1), and then from a letter they had written him on the subject, and also from some of the "household of Chloe," and from Stephanas and his two friends who had visited him (1 Corinthians 1:11; 16:17). Paul thereupon wrote this letter, for the purpose of checking the factious spirit and correcting the erroneous opinions that had sprung up among them, and remedying the many abuses and disorderly practices that prevailed. Titus and a brother whose name is not given were probably the bearers of the letter (2 Corinthians 2:13; 8:6, 16-18).
The epistle may be divided into four parts:
(1.) The apostle deals with the subject of the lamentable divisions and party strifes that had arisen among them (1 Corinthians 1-4).
(2.) He next treats of certain cases of immorality that had become notorious among them. They had apparently set at nought the very first principles of morality (5; 6).
(3.) In the third part he discusses various questions of doctrine and of Christian ethics in reply to certain communications they had made to him. He especially rectifies certain flagrant abuses regarding the celebration of the Lord's supper (7-14).
(4.) The concluding part (15; 16) contains an elaborate defense of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which had been called in question by some among them, followed by some general instructions, intimations, and greetings.
This epistle "shows the powerful self-control of the apostle in spite of his physical weakness, his distressed circumstances, his incessant troubles, and his emotional nature. It was written, he tells us, in bitter anguish, `out of much affliction and pressure of heart...and with streaming eyes' (2 Corinthians 2:4); yet he restrained the expression of his feelings, and wrote with a dignity and holy calm which he thought most calculated to win back his erring children. It gives a vivid picture of the early church...It entirely dissipates the dream that the apostolic church was in an exceptional condition of holiness of life or purity of doctrine." The apostle in this epistle unfolds and applies great principles fitted to guide the church of all ages in dealing with the same and kindred evils in whatever form they may appear.
This is one of the epistles the authenticity of which has never been called in question by critics of any school, so many and so conclusive are the evidences of its Pauline origin.
The subscription to this epistle states erroneously in the Authorized Version that it was written at Philippi. This error arose from a mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 16:5, "For I do pass through Macedonia," which was interpreted as meaning, "I am passing through Macedonia." In 16:8 he declares his intention of remaining some time longer in Ephesus. After that, his purpose is to "pass through Macedonia."
Corinthians, Second Epistle to the
Shortly after writing his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul left Ephesus, where intense excitement had been aroused against him, the evidence of his great success, and proceeded to Macedonia. Pursuing the usual route, he reached Troas, the port of departure for Europe. Here he expected to meet with Titus, whom he had sent from Ephesus to Corinth, with tidings of the effects produced on the church there by the first epistle; but was disappointed (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 1:8; 2:12, 13). He then left Troas and proceeded to Macedonia; and at Philippi, where he tarried, he was soon joined by Titus (2 Corinthians 7:6, 7), who brought him good news from Corinth, and also by Timothy. Under the influence of the feelings awakened in his mind by the favourable report which Titus brought back from Corinth, this second epistle was written. It was probably written at Philippi, or, as some think, Thessalonica, early in the year A.D. 58, and was sent to Corinth by Titus. This letter he addresses not only to the church in Corinth, but also to the saints in all Achaia, i.e., in Athens, Cenchrea, and other cities in Greece.
The contents of this epistle may be thus arranged:
(1.) Paul speaks of his spiritual labours and course of life, and expresses his warm affection toward the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1-7).
(2.) He gives specific directions regarding the collection that was to be made for their poor brethren in Judea (8; 9).
(3.) He defends his own apostolic claim (10-13), and justifies himself from the charges and insinuations of the false teacher and his adherents.
This epistle, it has been well said, shows the individuallity of the apostle more than any other. "Human weakness, spiritual strength, the deepest tenderness of affection, wounded feeling, sternness, irony, rebuke, impassioned self-vindication, humility, a just self-respect, zeal for the welfare of the weak and suffering, as well as for the progress of the church of Christ and for the spiritual advancement of its members, are all displayed in turn in the course of his appeal."--Lias, Second Corinthians.
Of the effects produced on the Corinthian church by this epistle we have no definite information. We know that Paul visited Corinth after he had written it (Acts 20:2, 3), and that on that occasion he tarried there for three months. In his letter to Rome, written at this time, he sent salutations from some of the principal members of the church to the Romans.