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Closing Months (1)

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Closing Months (1) Macedonia .. 2 Corinthians 1–9
Closing Months (2) 2 Corinthians 1-9 (cont.)
Closing Months (3) Collection .. Third Visit to Corinth .. Romans
Closing Months (4) Romans (cont.) .. Travel Plans .. Third Jerusalem Visit (Proposed) .. The End of the Trail
Closing Months (5) Summary Chart #4  

     

On to Macedonia

Letter H ( = 2 Corinthians 10 - 13) had been dictated, and Paul had entrusted it to Titus for delivery to Corinth, across the Aegean Sea by sailing vessel, with good weather perhaps less than a week’s voyage away. Titus could provide verbal assurances of  Paul’s love for the Corinthians, and of his determination to impose appropriate discipline upon the wayward party or parties in Corinth. 
     

In spite of the dire tone of the letter which Titus was bearing, Paul had sent him off with some boastful comments about the Corinthians, which would turn out to be justified by their readiness to return to obedience to Paul. It goes without saying that Titus would also be Paul’s ears and eyes, so that upon his return he could provide Paul an honest picture of the situation. The plan was for Paul to go on to Troas from Ephesus to preach for a period of time; there he would be joined by Titus and would learn about the reception of his letter.

2 Corinthians 7:14   For if I have been somewhat boastful about you to him, I was not disgraced; but just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting to Titus has proved true as well.
     

   

2 Corinthians 7:14.

   

   

2 Corinthians 2:12-13.   

   

Following Titus’ departure, but before Paul was ready to leave Ephesus, Paul was evidently subjected to yet another episode of persecution, this one serious enough that his life was in danger. 

2 Corinthians 1:8-10   8We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. 9Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again.
     

   

   

Though Paul was undoubtedly taken into custody, he does not seem to have been held very long; after his narrow escape from death he was released and was thus free to leave Ephesus for Troas. There he found considerable opportunity to preach the gospel; but when Titus did not appear he became impatient and set out for Macedonia, planning to intercept him there (probably in Philippi).

2 Corinthians 2:12-13   12When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; 13but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.
2 Corinthians 7:5   For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way— disputes without and fears within.
   

            

While we presume that the episode in Asia means Ephesus, the scenario does not change materially if it took place elsewhere in the province.

Upon arriving in Macedonia, Paul’s situation was far from placid. Whatever the troubles were, it is by no means improbable that the “fear within” had to do with worries about the Corinthian response to Letter H, his “make or break” letter.

Titus, in the meantime, traveling the last stage to Corinth by land across the Corinthian Isthmus after the sea voyage from Ephesus to Cenchreae, finally delivered this letter, 2 Corinthians 10–13, to the congregation, to be read aloud and taken to heart. The effect of the letter was everything Paul had hoped for: a generous and warm reception of Titus; repentance from their rebellious ways; a renewal of their loyalty to Paul; a readiness to support him in every way possible; and an eagerness to discipline the unnamed leader of the mutiny. Did the Corinthians also show the door to the intrusive teachers, the “super-apostles?” or did they leave of their own accord? Either way, their influence was greatly diminished, if not ended.

Having seen and heard all that he needed to, Titus bade the Corinthians farewell and headed off toward Troas by way of Macedonia. It was in Macedonia, of course, that he found Paul, perhaps at a pre-arranged alternative meeting point, such as Philippi. We can only imagine Titus’ joy and Paul’s immense relief and elation when he reported on the good reception of the letter in Corinth.

What is more, with the settling of the Corinthian dispute, Paul could proceed with the completion of the collection in Corinth for the Jerusalem saints, the project which was a controlling principle in his post-conference work.

The product of this glad meeting was Letter R, the rich personal, pastoral and theological banquet which we did not find in Letter H.
   

   

   

   

   

   

     

    
For details of the letter’s effect, click on “Good News”.

Letter R (2 Corinthians 1—9)

This letter is appropriately called “the Letter of Reconciliation;” it was written after Paul learned from Titus that the Corinthians had been brought to their senses and now again acknowledged Paul’s apostolic authority. His joy and relief are amply expressed in this letter.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4   3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4who consoles us in all our affliction . . . .
2 Corinthians 7:6-13   6But God, who consoles the downcast, consoles us by the arrival of Titus. . . . 9Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance . . . . 13In this we find comfort. In addition to our own consolation, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his mind has been set at rest by all of you.
     

 

 

For the extent of Letter R, see below, What’s in Letter R?

Further, Letter R shows how the outstanding problems which had been aggravating relations between Paul and Corinth have been dealt with in the process of reconciliation.

   • The offender, who had treated Paul unjustly, has been disciplined by the congregation; Paul forgives him and advises them not to be too severe in their punishment. “But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent . . . to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him . . . . ” (2 Corinthians 2:5-7).
     

   

   

   

   

Compare 2 Corinthians 7:12.

   • Because of insinuations that Paul and Titus had diverted funds from the collection for themselves (2 Corinthians 12:16-18), Paul was careful in Letter R to explain that a kind of “auditing committee” of two brothers was to accompany Titus in the collection work (2 Corinthians 8:16-23).
     
   • As Paul looked back on how he had made a fool of himself in Letter H with boasting of his self-support, his accomplishments and sufferings, and his visions and revelations, he now in Letter R justified his self-commendation and foolishness: “We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:12).
   
    

2 Corinthians 11:1, 10, 16-19, 21-30; 12:1.

Compare 2 Corinthians 3:1-2.

What’s in Letter R?

How much of chapters 1–9 is to be included in Letter R has no simple answer. 

   • 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 is certainly out of place, and probably non-Pauline (click on Letter P).
     

   • 2 Corinthians 2:14 to 6:13;  7:2-4 is a complicated problem. A plausible case can be made for separating out 2 Corinthians 2:14–6:13; 7:2-4 from R as an earlier apology (or defense), dating from the time before Letter H, the Harsh Letter. On the other hand, one can read Letter R convincingly with the inclusion of this material, the apologetic note sounding even after the battle is won. Paul still pleads his case retrospectively, in part laying to rest any remaining grounds for criticism, in part pleading for a more congenial attitude on the part of the Corinthians (6:11-13; 7:2-4). Hence there seems to be no necessary reason for separating it out from Letter R.
     
 

So G. Bornkamm, “Die Vorgeschichte des sogennanten Zweiten Korintherbriefes,” in Gesammelte Aufsaetze, IV. BEvT 53 (Muenchen: Kaiser, 1971) 176-8; also W. Marxsen, Introduction to the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968) 80; and H. D. Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 97, 143.
     

   • The question of the inclusion of 2 Corinthians 9 in Letter R is close to being a toss of the coin. On the one hand, chapter 9 opens in such a way as to suggest that Paul is introducing the collection as a new topic, and strangely so, since he has just spent chapter 8 discussing the collection. Thus chapter 9 may be read with less difficulty as a separate letter, the purpose of which is to follow up on the appeal in chapter 8 to resume work on the collection and apply additional pressure for the Corinthians to bring the project to completion before his arrival with delegates from Macedonia.
     

          

2 Corinthians 9:1, Now concerning the offering for the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you . . . .

     

On the other hand, the arguments for including chapter 9 are weighty, and it is true that the chapter may also be read as part of Letter R.

Thus the partition of chapter 9 seems to be elective surgery, attractive but not necessary.

We conclude (with some tentativeness, to be sure) that all of 2 Corinthians 1–9 is part of Letter R, with the exception of 6:14–7:1.

     

See the arguments and the interpretation in Furnish 1984, 428-33, 438-53. 
     
Revised February 9, 2003
     
Click Next button below for continuation of Letter R , in Closing Months (2).

 

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