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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

- 2 Corinthians

by Philip Schaff


SHORT as was the period that elapsed between the writing of the First and the Second Epistle to the Corinthians a few months only it was one of the most critical in the whole career of the apostle, calling forth the deepest and most conflicting emotions of his soul, which all find vent in this Second Epistle. So intense was his anxiety to learn the effect produced at Corinth by his First Epistle, that having sent Titus thither, he could find no rest to his spirit till he should meet him on his way back. Accordingly, having left Ephesus after “the uproar” (Acts 20:1), he repaired to Troas, where he expected to meet him; but disappointed in this, and still full of anxiety, he went on to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 2:12-13), but with no better success: “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears” (2 Corinthians 7:5). But at length Titus arrived, and brought him such tidings, that the sorrow out of which he wrote his First Epistle was turned into overflowing joy. And though Titus had to qualify the good news, and to tell the spiritual father of that church that Judaizing emissaries had succeeded in fanning into a flame the opposition to his apostolic claims and character, and shaking the faith of some of the converts, while old licentious habits were reappearing in others, he could now boldly confront the one class, and sternly, though sorrowfully, warn the other.

To do this was the main object of the Second Epistle. But there was another object on which his heart was set. The great collection from the Gentile churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem during the famine (Acts 11:28) which the apostle had set on foot had been brought before the Corinthians more than a year before; the proposal had been well received, and had made a good beginning; insomuch that when this was reported to the Macedonian churches (at Philippi, Thessalonica, and BerÅ“a, with perhaps other clusters of disciples in that region), “their zeal had provoked very many” (2 Corinthians 9:0); but as it seemed to have slackened, the apostle was afraid lest he should have to be “ashamed of his boasting of them, and was concerned for the reputation of their Christian liberality” (2 Corinthians 9:1-4). He therefore takes occasion to introduce into the heart of this Epistle (chap. 8, 9), as a sort of episode, this important subject; and all the rather, as it would shew how little they knew of his yearning love for his own nation who dared to calumniate him for the want of it.

It will be seen, then, that this Epistle is, as has been well said by Dean Stanley, the most personal of all the letters of our apostle, while yet the principles enunciated in it are of enduring interest and value.

The genuineness of this Epistle is as undisputed and indisputable as that of the First. The patristic testimony to it is clear, and all who can appreciate internal evidence feel and own that it shines in its own light. [1]

[1] See the acute and unanswerable remarks on this Epistle in Paley’s Horae Paulinae, Chapter 4

The date is easily discovered. After Pentecost, in the year A.D. 57, the apostle was no longer at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8). He had gone to Troas in search of Titus, and failing in this had proceeded on to Macedonia, in some part of which he found him. And the whole letter bears evident marks of having been poured forth there and then, out of the fulness of a heart long ready to burst with anxiety and grief, but now relieved. In the fall of the year 57, therefore, this Epistle must have been written.

The style of some parts of it is only to be explained by the tempest of feeling under which they were written, or rather dictated to an amanuensis in all likelihood Timothy, whom he joins with himself in the opening salutation. To use the words of Meyer, “the excitement and varied play of emotion with which Paul wrote this letter, probably in haste too, certainly make the expression not seldom obscure and the sentences less flexible, but only heighten our admiration of the great delicacy, skill, and power with which this outpouring of Paul’s spirit and heart, possessing as a defence of himself a high and peculiar interest, flows and gushes on till finally, in the last part, it overwhelms the hostile resistance.”

The Epistle divides itself naturally into three parts. In the first part chap. 1-7 the apostle pours forth all the feelings which the state of the Corinthian church, both before and after the coming of Titus, had awakened in his breast; the second part chap. 8, 9 is devoted to the subject of the great collection which was to be made by the Gentile churches for their Jewish fellow-Christians at Jerusalem in their famine-stricken condition, to urge upon the Corinthians the hastening of their contributions. In the third part, chap. 10-13, he repels with scorn the insinuations thrown out by self-seeking emissaries against his apostolic claims and Christian character, describing and denouncing them in withering terms, and with affecting detail telling them what his services in the Gospel had cost him; and closing with the hope that, though he feared his next visit would, in the case of some backsliders, be far from pleasant either to himself or to them, it might prove to the church itself and to him a refreshment and a blessing.

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