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|Paul in the Bible|
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1 Corinthians · 2 Corinthians
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1 Timothy · 2 Timothy
Titus · Philemon
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|New Testament manuscripts|
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, commonly referred to as Second Corinthians or in writing 2 Corinthians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the church in Corinth and Christians in the surrounding province of Achaea, in modern-day Greece.[2Cor.1:1]
While there is little doubt among scholars that Paul is the author, there is discussion over whether the Epistle was originally one letter or composed from two or more of Paul's letters.:8
Although the New Testament contains only two letters to the Corinthian church, the evidence from the letters themselves is that he wrote at least four and the church replied at least once:
1 Corinthians 7:1 states that in that letter Paul was replying to certain questions regarding which the church had written to him.
The abrupt change of tone from being previously harmonious to bitterly reproachful in 2 Corinthians 10–13 has led many to infer that chapters 10–13 form part of the "letter of tears" which were in some way appended to Paul's main letter. Those who disagree with this assessment usually say that the "letter of tears" is no longer extant. Others argue that although the letter of tears is no longer extant, chapters 10–13 come from a later letter.
The seemingly sudden change of subject from chapter 7 to chapters 8–9 leads some scholars to conclude that chapters 8–9 were originally a separate letter, and some even consider the two chapters to have originally been distinct themselves. Other scholars dispute this claim, however.
Some scholars also find fragments of the "warning letter", or of other letters, in chapters 1–9, for instance that part of the "warning letter" is preserved in 2 Cor 6:14–7:1, but these hypotheses are less popular.
The book is usually divided as follows:
Paul's contacts with the Corinthian church can be reconstructed as follows:
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he again refers to himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God and reassures the people of Corinth that they will not have another painful visit, but what he has to say is not to cause pain but to reassure them of the love he has for them. It is shorter in length in comparison to the first and a little confusing if the reader is unaware of the social, religious, and economic situation of the community. Paul felt the situation in Corinth was still complicated and felt attacked.
Some challenged his authority as an apostle, and he compares the level of difficulty to other cities he has visited who had embraced it, like the Galatians. He is criticized for the way he speaks and writes and finds it just to defend himself with some of his important teachings. He states the importance of forgiving others, and God's new agreement that comes from the Spirit of the living God (2 Cor. 3:3), and the importance of being a person of Christ and giving generously to God's people in Jerusalem, and ends with his own experience of how God changed his life (Sandmel, 1979).
According to Easton's Bible Dictionary,
This epistle, it has been well said, shows the individuality 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.
Adolph Hausrath, Der Vier-Capitel-Brief des Paulus an die Korinther (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1870). James Houghton Kennedy, "Are There Two Epistles in 2 Corinthians?" The Expositor 6 (1897); reprinted in idem, The Second and Third Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians (London: Methuen, 1900).