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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical

- 2 Corinthians

by Robert Jamieson; A.R. Fausset; David Brown



Commentary by A. R. FAUSSETT


THE following reasons seem to have induced Paul to write this Second Epistle to the Corinthians: (1) That he might explain the reasons for his having deferred to pay them his promised visit, by taking Corinth as his way to Macedonia (1 Corinthians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 1:15; 2 Corinthians 1:16; compare 1 Corinthians 16:5); and so that he might set forth to them his apostolic walk in general (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 6:3-13; 2 Corinthians 7:2). (2) That he might commend their obedience in reference to the directions in his First Epistle, and at the same time direct them now to forgive the offender, as having been punished sufficiently (2 Corinthians 2:1-11; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16). (3) That he might urge them to collect for the poor saints at Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-9; 2 Corinthians 8:15). (4) That he might maintain his apostolic authority and reprove gainsayers.

The external testimonies for its genuineness are IRENÆUS [Against Heresies, 3,7,1]; ATHENAGORAS [Of the Resurrection of the Dead]; CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [Miscellanies, 3, p. 94; 4, p. 101]; TERTULLIAN [On Modesty, 13].

The TIME OF WRITING was after Pentecost, A.D. 57, when Paul left Ephesus for Troas. Having stayed in the latter place for some time preaching the Gospel with effect (2 Corinthians 8:15- :), he went on to Macedonia, being eager to meet Titus there, having been disappointed in his not coming to Troas, as had been agreed on between them. Having heard from him the tidings he so much desired of the good effect produced on the Corinthians by his First Epistle, and after having tested the liberality of the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 8:1), he wrote this Second Epistle, and then went on to Greece, where he abode for three months; and then, after travelling by land, reached Philippi on his return at Passover or Easter, A.D. 58 (Acts 20:1-6). So that this Epistle must have been written about autumn, A.D. 57.

Macedonia was THE PLACE from which it was written (Acts 20:1-44.20.6- :, where the present tense, "I boast," or "am boasting," implies his presence then in Macedonia). In Asia (Lydian Asia) he had undergone some great peril of his life (2 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:9), whether the reference be [PALEY] to the tumult at Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:9- :), or, as ALFORD thinks, to a dangerous illness in which he despaired of life. Thence he passed by Troas to Philippi, the first city which would meet him in entering Macedonia. The importance of the Philippian Church would induce him to stay there some time; as also his desire to collect contributions from the Macedonian churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem. His anxiety of mind is recorded (2 Corinthians 1:9- :) as occurring when he came into Macedonia, and therefore must have been at Philippi, which was the first city of Macedonia in coming from Troas; and here, too, from 2 Corinthians 1:9- :, compared with 2 Corinthians 7:5, must have been the scene of his receiving the comforting tidings from Titus. "Macedonia" is used for Philippi in 2 Corinthians 7:5- :, as is proved by comparison with Philippians 4:15; Philippians 4:16. So it is probably used here (2 Corinthians 7:5). ALFORD argues from 2 Corinthians 8:1, where he speaks of the "grace bestowed on the churches (plural) of Macedonia," that Paul must have visited other churches in Macedonia, besides Philippi, when he wrote, for example, Thessalonica, Berea, c., and that Philippi, the first on his route, is less likely to have been the scene of his writing than the last on his route, whichever it was, perhaps Thessalonica. But Philippi, as being the chief town of the province, was probably the place to which all the collections of the churches were sent. Ancient tradition, too (as appears from the subscription to this Epistle), favors the view that Philippi was the place from which this Epistle was sent by the hands of Titus who received, besides, a charge to prosecute at Corinth the collection which he had begun at his first visit (2 Corinthians 8:6).

The STYLE is most varied, and passes rapidly from one phase of feeling to another now joyous and consolatory, again severe and full of reproof; at one time gentle and affectionate, at another, sternly rebuking opponents and upholding his dignity as an apostle. This variety of style accords with the warm and earnest character of the apostle, which nowhere is manifested more beautifully than in this Epistle. His bodily frailty, and the chronic malady under which he suffered, and which is often alluded to (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; compare Note, see on 2 Corinthians 12:7-47.12.9- :), must have been especially trying to one of his ardent temperament. But besides this, was the more pressing anxiety of the "care of all the churches." At Corinth, as elsewhere, Judaizing emissaries wished to bind legal fetters of letter and form (compare 2 Corinthians 3:3-18) on the freedom and catholicity of the Church. On the other hand, there were free thinkers who defended their immorality of practice by infidel theories (1 Corinthians 15:12; 1 Corinthians 15:32-36). These were the "fightings without," and "fears within" (2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 7:6) which agitated the apostle's mind until Titus brought him comforting tidings from Corinth. Even then, while the majority at Corinth had testified their repentance, and, as Paul had desired, excommunicated the incestuous person, and contributed for the poor Christians of Judea, there was still a minority who, more contemptuously than ever, resisted the apostle. These accused him of crafty and mercenary motives, as if he had personal gain in view in the collection being made; and this, notwithstanding his scrupulous care to be above the possibility of reasonable suspicion, by having others besides himself to take charge of the money. This insinuation was palpably inconsistent with their other charge, that he could be no true apostle, as he did not claim maintenance from the churches which he founded. Another accusation they brought of cowardly weakness; that he was always threatening severe measures without daring to execute them (2 Corinthians 10:8-16; 2 Corinthians 13:2); and that he was vacillating in his teaching and practice, circumcising Timothy, and yet withholding circumcision from Titus; a Jew among the Jews, and a Greek among the Greeks. That most of these opponents were of the Judaizing party in the Church, appears from 2 Corinthians 13:2- :. They seem to have been headed by an emissary from Judea ("he that cometh," 2 Corinthians 13:2- :), who had brought "letters of commendation" (2 Corinthians 13:2- :) from members of the Church at Jerusalem, and who boasted of his purity of Hebrew descent, and his close connection with Christ Himself (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:23). His partisans contrasted his high pretensions with the timid humility of Paul (1 Corinthians 2:3); and his rhetoric with the apostle's plain and unadorned style (2 Corinthians 11:6; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 10:13). It was this state of things at Corinth, reported by Titus, that caused Paul to send him back forthwith thither with this Second Epistle, which is addressed, not to Corinth only (2 Corinthians 10:13- :), but to all the churches also in Achaia (2 Corinthians 10:13- :), which had in some degree been affected by the same causes as affected the Corinthian Church. The widely different tone in different parts of the Epistle is due to the diversity which existed at Corinth between the penitent majority and the refractory minority. The former he addresses with the warmest affection; the latter with menace and warning. Two deputies, chosen by the churches to take charge of the contribution to be collected at Corinth, accompanied Titus (2 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:19; 2 Corinthians 8:22).

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