Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
Note: Theodor Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament, trans. from 3rd German ed., 3 vols. (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1977; 1909 English edition).
Answer to the much mooted question as to what took place between the two extant letters to the Corinthians and as to what in general are the historical presuppositions of 2 Cor., must be sought mainly from the first section of the letter (chaps, i.-vii. ), which is retrospective, particularly from what is said between the first and second of the three historical notices (i. 12-ii. 11) that form the framework of the first division of the Epistle, together with what follows the third of these notices (vii. 5-16); since what is said between the second and third of these remarks (ii. 14-vii. 1 or vii. 4) is of a more general character, and much less closely connected with the historical notices that precede and follow. On the other hand, what is said between the notice of the dangers that threatened Paul's life at or shortly after his departure from Ephesus (i. 8-11) and the notice of his journey through Troas (ii. 12 f.), is evidently inserted at this point because it relates mainly to this particular journey from Ephesus to Macedonia by way of Troas, and to events closely associated with the same.
Mention of the prayers of the Corinthians, of which he feels sure he shall have the benefit in all future dangers, such as those he had encountered in Asia (i. 11), gives him opportunity to call his conscience to witness that he had acted always, particularly in his relation to the Corinthians, simply and sincerely, not being governed by a spirit of worldly cunning, but acting under the guidance of the grace of God (ver. 12). That the criticisms which Paul here answers, both that of insincerity and that of acting in an unsanctified and wilful manner, were actually current in Corinth, and had been made to the apostle himself by the Church, either through Titus or in a communication which Titus brought, is clear from the apologetic explanation beginning at this point. From the sentence, "We write nothing but what ye read or indeed understand" (ver. 13), we infer that Paul had been criticised for having written something in his letters or in one of them which afterwards he wanted them to understand in a sense opposed to the language, and impossible for any ordinary reader to infer. We are reminded at once of the misinterpretation of a passage in his first letter (now lost) which Paul corrects in 1 Cor. v. 9-11. That this is the case he had in mind is rendered all the more certain, by the fact that the language in which Paul corrects the misinterpretation in 1 Cor. agrees exactly with the language of the criticism here presupposed. In making this correction, he does not say, "When I wrote the passage I meant it to be taken as now explained, not as you understood it," but very pointedly, "This and nothing else is what I wrote to you"; so that it was very natural for the Corinthians, when they looked at the earlier communication again, and found language which really admitted the construction which Paul declared to be foolish and unfair, to retort, "In his letters Paul writes what his readers cannot find in them nor read out of them." So Paul gets back his own criticism of their lack of εἰλικρίνεια (1 Cor. v. 8), though, as the tone of his reply indicates, in a manner entirely polite, perhaps even deferential, designed less to criticise Paul than to justify themselves for having formerly misunderstood him.
One misunderstanding was now cleared up. And with the expression of the hope that hereafter so long as he lives the Church will understand him, and understand him fully, he passes to the discussion of a second point with regard to which there was disagreement between himself and the Church. This disagreement concerned the journey to Corinth, which had been announced long before, and which was now being carried out in a way different from that which he had originally intended and announced. When, some time previously,--just how long is not indicated,--Paul had intended, and, as the context shows, promised the readers to come to Corinth sooner than he was now actually doing, or to come to Corinth before he went to Macedonia, whither he had now gone without having come to Corinth at all (cf. i. 23), he made the promise in the confidence that the Corinthians would understand and appreciate his reasons. He meant then to arrange his plans so as to go directly from Ephesus to Corinth and from Corinth to Macedonia, whence he planned to return to Corinth and thence to journey to Jerusalem. His thoughtful intention was by paying them two visits to give the Corinthians not only a single, but a twofold proof of his love; for such, in any case, his visit was to be regarded. Now, in view of the criticism that in making his original plan, which was never carried out, and informing his readers of it, Paul had acted with fickleness (i. 17a), it must be assumed that it had become quite clear to the Corinthians, either from Paul's evident intentions inferred from something he had said or done, that this plan had been given up, and, over and above this, the solemn assurance of i. 23-ii. 2 makes it clear beyond all question that in its last analysis the dissatisfaction of the Church was caused by Paul's continued absence from Corinth--in other words, by the fact that he had not carried out his original plan, but had gone first to Macedonia, and kept putting off his arrival in Corinth by the slowness of his movements. In reply, Paul assures them that this failure to come to them, which they thought showed a lack of love on his part, was due only to his desire to spare them.
With reference to the original plan, the carrying out of which would have met their wishes, the only criticism they make is that it was not well considered. If Paul were conscientious, they thought, he ought not to have made such a plan unless he were sure he could carry it out; and he ought not to have aroused their expectations by announcing it unless he were resolved to come at any cost. Possibly, in connection with this charge of fickleness in the matter of his earlier plan, the criticism was also made, that in changing his plans he was influenced by purely worldly designs and by motives of self-interest. If, as seems probable from i. 12, this was actually the case, the apostle gives the criticism an unexpected turn, when he asks whether generally, in making plans, he is accustomed to act in so worldly a manner as to make his yes and no in such matters absolute. It is not the making and subsequent alteration of his plans which, in his judgment, would be a βουλεύεσθαι κατὰ σάρκα, but the subsequent demand of the Corinthians that a promise impossible of fulfilment be considered irrevocable, and that a course decided upon be persisted in at all hazards. In answer to the criticism that his promises were untrustworthy and ambiguous, he avers that what he and his helpers had said to the Corinthians was by no means both yes and no, but just as simple and straightforward as their preaching of Christ in Corinth had been; and as far as any appearance of hesitancy on his part, dictated by worldly or selfish motives, or any criticisms to that effect are concerned, he calls God to witness, who makes him steadfast and endows him with the Spirit as a pledge of his future perfecting and as a seal of the genuineness of his present motives. He calls upon God to witness to the truth of his assurance that it was his considerate desire to spare the Corinthians, which, up to this time, had kept him away from Corinth. Even though remembering the pain he had suffered in connection with an earlier visit, he felt inclined to spare himself the renewal of such sorrow; it was, after all, the Church most of all which he would spare sorrow, because he felt it his duty to minister rather to their joy (i. 18-ii. 2).
It may be assumed that Paul is here answering complaints of the Church which had been reported to him orally by Titus, or which had been expressed in a letter from the Church to Paul brought to him by Titus. The latter is more probable, in view of the definite form these complaints must have had, if we may judge by Paul's reply. Their primary occasion, however, could not have been the journey of Paul through Troas to Macedonia. For Paul must have sent Titus to Corinth before this journey was begun, since at the time when he set out he was expecting to meet Titus in Troas, whither he was to come from Corinth through Macedonia.
If, now, we ask how the Corinthians learned about the plan for the journey which Paul was now carrying out, and which, judging from the fact that he defends it, must have been well under way, nothing is more natural than to assume that Titus, who left Paul before he began the execution of this plan, informed the Corinthians of Paul's purpose not to come to them directly by sea, but by the longer route through Macedonia. But if, as was certainly the case, Titus was sent, and arrived later than Fortunatus, Achaicus, and Stephanas, who were the bearers of 1 Cor., he had nothing new to say to the Corinthians about Paul's plans. For example, this same plan which he was engaged in carrying out at the time when 2 Cor. was written, Paul himself had set forth in detail in 1 Cor. xvi. 5-7. Between this communication by letter and the apologetic discussion of 2 Cor. i. 15-ii. 2 nothing intervened save the partial carrying out of this plan, hence nothing had occurred in this interim that could occasion the complaints about the carelessness with which Paul made his plans, and the arbitrariness with which he changed the plans that had been already made and announced. The occasion for the complaints answered in 2 Cor. i. 1 5-ii. 2 must be, therefore, in part things said in 1 Cor., in part things said before 1 Cor. was written. That this is the case is proved by a careful consideration of the manner in which Paul speaks of his journey in 1 Cor. xvi. 5-9. He does it with a detail and emphasis which is intelligible only if the readers had other expectations at the time. He does not stop with saying that he will come to Corinth after he has passed through Macedonia, but adds, "For I do pass through Macedonia." This last phrase does not add any new thought, so that its purpose must be to strengthen the preceding statement (present διέρχομαιi of a future journey, used with ἐλεύσομαι), and, by the position of the second Μακεδονίαν, to emphasise strongly that this was the route that he intended to take. Change of route involved also a change in the time of his arrival and the length of his stay in Corinth, and this contrast is expressed even more strongly, both in positive and negative form, than is that between the two possible routes. He has made up his mind not to visit them immediately, which would necessitate his coming directly by sea instead of through Macedonia, and that would mean only a flying visit; whereas, according to the plan he now lays before them, while arriving considerably later, he hopes to be able to pay them a much longer visit. From the detail with which he speaks in ver. 6 and again in ver. 7 of the greater length of his visit in Corinth if the new plan is carried out, we see that he is making an effort to justify his present plan. It shall be only for their advantage that he does not now come directly by sea, but arrives considerably later, coming by the longer route through Macedonia.
Therefore, at the time when 1 Cor. xvi. 5-7 was written, Paul must have been expected to arrive in Corinth very shortly from Ephesus, directly by sea. For such an expectation only the apostle himself could have been responsible. Some time before 1 Cor. was written he must have expressed this intention, the inference being that he had done so in his earlier Epistle (1 Cor. v. 9). Paul had all the more reason for fearing that the Church, or those members of it who held an immediate visit to be desirable, would be dissatisfied with the new plan which he now laid before them, involving as it did further postponement of his visit; since there were some in Corinth who interpreted his delay heretofore as due to cowardice, and who expressed the opinion that he would never appear in Corinth again (1 Cor. iv. 18); therefore the detail with which he lays his newly-made plan before his readers, in 1 Cor. xvi. 5-9, aiming to forestall such complaints. It is now clear that the original plan, knowledge of which is presupposed in I. xvi. 5-7, is the same as that which he defends in II. i. 15-17 against the charge of having been made without due care; and also that the new plan laid before the readers in I. xvi. 5-7 is identical with the plan that had been practically carried out at the time when 2 Cor. was written, and which is defended in II. i. 15-ii. 2 against the charge of changeableness, of selfish arbitrariness, and of inconsiderateness.
In spite of his careful precautions, the fears which he had when writing I. xvi. 5-7 were realised. This communication, and his subsequent journey by way of Troas to Macedonia, had caused the dissatisfaction in Corinth which in II. i. 12-ii. 2 Paul seeks to allay. This, taken along with the fact that in spite of its general character II. i. 13 manifestly has special reference to the misunderstanding discussed earlier in I. v. 9-11, and to the conclusion which had there been reached concerning the matter, proves those to be in error who assume a lost Epistle between 1 and 2 Cor., especially those who suppose that a visit took place between the writing of these two letters. The principal cause for the origin of the first of these hypotheses is the observation that the news from Corinth, which is presupposed in II. i.-vii., was not brought by Timothy,--although from what is said in I. iv. 17, xvi. 10 f., we should expect Timothy to report to Paul the effect of 1 Cor.,--but by Titus, of whom no mention is made in 1 Cor. If, now, as from II. i. 8 appears to be the case, Timothy was with Paul when he started on his journey from Ephesus to Macedonia, and if, as indicated by II. vii. 14, he was also with Paul at the time when Titus was sent to Corinth, it seems as if a situation had been created by the sending and the return of Titus entirely different from that produced by 1 Cor., which ended with the return of Timothy to Paul. Inasmuch, now, as mention is made in II. ii. 3, 9, vii. 8-12 of a letter of Paul's which had been received in Corinth shortly before, the effect of which is reported to Paul by Titus, it was very natural to assume that this letter was not our 1 Cor., but a later Epistle of Paul's which Titus had taken with him the first time he went to Corinth. This assumption seems all the more necessary, according as it is felt that what is said in II. ii. 3, 9, vii. 8-12, cannot be made to apply to 1 Cor. without doing considerable violence to the language. In addition to what has been said above in proof of the inseparable connection between 1 and 2 Cor., the following is to be remarked: From the fact that Timothy returned to Paul before the latter's departure from Ephesus, it does not follow that the expectations expressed in I. xvi. l0 f. were all realised. Indeed, the expectation that Timothy will arrive in Corinth after the arrival of 1 Cor. is not unconditionally expressed; so that it is not unlikely, either that Timothy did not reach Corinth at all, but for some reason unknown to us had occasion to return to Paul in Ephesus directly from Macedonia; or that, while he did go to Corinth, he arrived and departed again before 1 Cor. reached its destination. In either case, Timothy could not have brought Paul the news about the effect of 1 Cor., which Paul hoped he would bring. It was for this reason, then, that immediately after Timothy's return he despatched Titus, in company with another Christian, to Corinth, in order that they might bring the news concerning the effect of 1 Cor. which he awaited with so much anxiety. That this was the purpose for which Titus was sent we are justified in assuming, since nothing is said of any other object, and since this assumption is in entire harmony with all the hints concerning the result of the journey.
The whole question turns upon a letter of Paul's concerning the effect of which upon the Church he was so anxious before Titus' arrival, that for the time being he regretted having written it (vii. 8). In these circumstances, it is not surprising that in Troas he was so disturbed, when Titus failed to meet him there according to expectations (ii. 13), as to be practically unable to preach. That the letter in question is our 1 Cor. may seem doubtful if ii. 3 be interpreted to mean that Paul had actually written in that letter what is expressed in the verses just preceding, namely, his determination not to come at once to Corinth as he was expected to do, but to remain away temporarily in order not to be in Corinth a second time in sorrow (i. 23-ii. 2). For although the plan he was now engaged in carrying out had been set forth in I. xvi. 5-7, in contrast to the earlier plan which would have brought him to Corinth by the direct route and at once, in that presentation the essential point of the statement in 2 Cor. expressly referred to by τοῦτο αὐτό is lacking, namely, the motive here indicated for the change in the plan of the journey (i. 23-ii. 2). There is, however, nothing to prevent us from translating: "And I wrote for this very purpose, that when I come, I may not have sorrow from those who ought to give me joy; (and I wrote) with confidence in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all." What has just been declared to have been his reason and purpose in remaining away from Corinth, or for changing the plan of his journey, is here assigned as the reason and purpose for his writing. Instead of making his visit at once according to the announcement, he had sent the long letter, at the close of which he had carefully explained that he was not coming to Corinth at once, and why he had made the change.
The opinion that what Paul says in ii. 4 about his state of mind when the letter in question was written, does not harmonise with the quiet tone of 1 Cor., is not made more intelligible by being repeated. With what tremendous wrath against the alien destroyers of the Church (I. iii. 16 fl., ix. 1, xvi. 22), against the scandalous members of the same (v. 1-5), against the Church itself which was so unruly and at the same time so self-conscious, and against the noisy brawlers (iv. 7, 18-21, v. -2, viii. If., xi. 16, xiv. 37 f.), does every line of the Epistle quiver! The tone of the eloquent description in iv. 8-13 and of the apostle's half ironical self-judgment in vii. 25, 40 is that of bitterest agony. It required effort on the apostle's part to reply as calmly as he did to the arrogant communication which the Church had sent to him. But that is the very situation which brings tears to the eyes of a man of deep feeling. Moreover, in entire keeping with 1 Cor. is the necessity which he now feels of protesting that in the communication in question he had no deliberate intention of causing the Church pain (II. ii. 4, cf. vii. 8-11). So far as we are able to judge from letters which are extant, there is no other Church whose open sores are so ruthlessly exposed as those of the Corinthians (I. iii. 3, iv. 6-10, v. 1 f., vi. 1-10, 18-20, viii. 10-12, x. 20-22, xi. 17-30). When, after a deeply humiliating discussion, he says that he did not write thus in order to shame the Corinthians (iv. 14), manifestly the effect is not less painful than in another passage, where he says in so many words that his intention was to shame them (vi. 5).
The same is true also of the passage where he introduces the discussion of all sorts of disorders and of wilful violations of the custom of the Church, by the commendatory remark that they follow his instructions (xi. 2). There is not to be found throughout this entire long letter a single real commendation of any feature of the moral or religious life of the Church, and Paul was not usually sparing of such commendations. The only thing that he praises is what God has done for them (i. 2, 9, 26, iii. 6-10, 16, iv. 15, vi. 11, 20, xv. 1 f.) and bestowed upon them in the way of spiritual gifts (i. 4-7). In referring to a letter of this kind, he had just as much occasion to protest that he had not written it with any intention of causing the Corinthians pain, though it actually had this effect, as he had the right to assure them that they ought rather to regard it as a special token of his love (II. ii. 4, cf. vii. 8-11). Incidentally we learn that disparaging remarks had been made in Corinth to the effect that Paul praised himself (II. iii. 1, v. 12, x. 12, cf. iv. 5) and defended himself when there was no sufficient occasion for it (xii. 19). For such strictures as these ample occasion was furnished by 1 Cor. Quite in the manner of an accused person he had questioned the competency of the tribunal before which it seemed he was charged (I. iv. 1-5).
In another passage, of which there are reflections in II. iii. 1-3 (I. ix. 1-3), he had made a very concise defence before his accusers and judges. He had justified at length the way in which he had preached at Corinth, I. i. 18-iii. 2, and defended single points in his judgments which had been questioned, e.g. what he had said about the happiness of the unmarried state, I. vii. He had pictured eloquently the self-sacrifice which his calling involved, I. iv. 9-13, xv. 32. Again and again he had commended his example to the Church, I. iv. 16 f., viii. 13, ix. 26 f., x. 33, xi. 1. Not only had he spoken emphatically of the validity of his apostleship (I. i. 1, ix. 1), and of his relation to the Church as its sole founder (iii. 6, 10, iv. 15), but he also claimed to have fulfilled his office in Corinth in a manner both skilful and faithful (iii. 10, iv. 4). What sort of reward and praise he hoped one day to receive from the just Judge (iii. 8, 13, iv. 5, ix. 18) he left them to infer from his proud assertion, that he laboured more abundantly than all the other apostles (xv. 10).
But the serious demands which he made had also tested severely the obedience of the Church (II. ii. 9), especially what he had said in connection with the case of incest (I. v. 1-13). Assuming that practically all that happened between the two letters was the sending of Titus, and his return with news from Corinth, this must be the case referred to in II. ii. 5-11, vii. 11. f. There is no reason why we should be surprised at the position which Paul now takes, nor is there any justification for replacing the data supplied by existing sources for the explanation of these passages by conjectures which cannot be proved. If the view of Paul's original demand set forth above be correct, it is quite in keeping with the principle of Church discipline clearly stated in II. x. 6. In the first place, Paul must have waited for the Church to concur in his previous judgment; for only after this agreement had been declared could the judgment be executed by the joint action of Paul and the Church in the manner that Paul had proposed in 1 Cor. But, as a matter of fact, as appears from II. ii. 6-11, the Church had referred the question back to Paul for his further decision. And, indeed, the judgments of Paul in 2 Cor. sound so much like answers to definite communications and questions, that the conjecture forced upon us earlier by i. 8-ii. 4 is fully confirmed, namely, that the Corinthians had recently communicated with Paul, not only orally through Titus, but also in a letter which Titus brought to Paul. Paul's verdict, which begins with the words, "Sufficient for this man is the punishment decreed by the majority" (ii. 6), presupposes ( 1 ) that the offender had been definitely punished either by word or by deed, and that Paul had been informed of the fact; (2) that this punishment had been decreed not unanimously, but only by the decision of the majority; (3) that the Church had submitted to Paul for his decision the question whether this punishment was sufficient. This in turn presupposes (4) that the opinion had been expressed in Corinth that the punishment was by no means sufficient, or that Paul would not be satisfied with it, or both. Paul at once declares the punishment to be sufficient, not, however, in the sense that the matter is thereby settled, but with the added remark that the punishment is enough to enable the Church now to show mercy to the evil-doer and uphold him by their encouragement, lest he be entirely overcome by his great sorrow. For the Church to forgive him, Paul says, is not only permissible, but, in view of the harm which may thereby be avoided, it becomes their duty.
There seems, therefore, to be sufficient reason for the apostle's request that it be formally decided to show love to the offender (ver. 8). But by the τουναντίον μᾶλλον this verdict of Paul is set in strong contrast to another judgment, which went to the opposite extreme. Instead of increasing the sentence already passed, they are to lighten the same by formal decree, or otherwise to render it less severe. Inasmuch as the judgment expressed at the outset is opposed to the opinion that the punishment already decreed is by no means sufficient, the τουναντίον μᾶλλον renders it quite certain that this other view had been submitted to the apostle by the Church for his decision. This must have been the opinion of the minority, since the punishment actually decreed represented the mind of the majority. We learn at the same time that the Church was uncertain whether Paul in turn would be satisfied with what had been done; for he finds it necessary expressly to assure the Church that he concurs in the act of forgiveness decided upon (ver. 10).
What this punishment was which had been decided upon by the majority, naturally we are not able to determine with entire certainty. Manifestly it was not the punishment suggested by Paul in I. v. 3-5; since (1) the infliction of this punishment required Paul's co-operation in a manner which necessitated prearrangement, and since (2) this punishment involved the death of the offender; so that there could have been no question about a subsequent increase of penalty, or about Paul's satisfaction with what had been done. More likely it was an ordinary case of discipline according to the rules laid down in I. v. 11; 2 Thess. iii. 14 f. The severer penalty demanded by the minority, and which the Church thought that Paul also might insist upon, can hardly have been any other than that which Paul proposed in I. v. 3-5. Consequently in the communication, to which Paul replies in II. ii. 6-11, the Church must have asked him whether, under the altered conditions, he still held to his original judgment. Paul reverses his decision, and earnestly requests that the punishment under which the offender is at present suffering be lessened by formal decree, lest he completely yield to despair. He was able to do this without prejudice to the seriousness of the affair, or to his own personal dignity. How strongly he felt himself under obligation to take this position, is indicated by ii. 11. He knows that nothing would please Satan more than to see him, influenced by the motive of worldly consistency which he had condemned in i. 17, stand by his original judgment and proposal. All such suggestions he rejects as cunning temptations of Satan to keep him from permitting clemency. The primary purpose of his original judgment had been to save the soul of the offender (I. v. 5). That purpose was now being accomplished without resort to the extreme measures he had at first proposed; the offender was deeply penitent. It seems also that this person had done all in his power to prove to the Church that he regretted his action, and, in so far as this was possible, to atone for the wrong which he had done to his father against whom primarily the sin had been committed. But if the severe disciplinary measures adopted by the Church were enforced longer, or if they were increased, there was, Paul now thought in the light of the news that had come to him, extreme danger that the purpose of reforming the offender and of saving his soul would be defeated altogether. For if this person were wholly overcome by his sorrow, he would fall into the hands of Satan, who, by the suggestion that Paul ought persistently to stand by his first decision, was endeavouring to lead even the apostle astray. Paul gives up the means which he had previously suggested, in order to secure the end which it was altogether desirable to accomplish.
But more than this, what he had designed by his earlier proposition to accomplish in the Church was in large part accomplished, and promised soon to be entirely realised. The only intention which can be directly inferred from I. v. 1-13 is the intention to move the Church to a more modest judgment of itself and a more rigorous disciplining of its sinful members. When, now, in II. ii. 9, vii. 12, Paul says that he wrote as he did in order to prove whether the Church was ready to render entire obedience, and to give it an opportunity to show an earnest desire to please its founder, the statement can only be regarded as an expression of his original intention in the light of the accomplished result. From the stirring description of the effect of the earlier letter, vii. 7-12, which clearly has its climax in the reference to the case discussed earlier in ii. 5-11, we learn that now the Church was deeply impressed with the magnitude of the offence committed against Paul and in the sight of God, and that it was not only exceedingly anxious to conciliate the apostle, but had also visited its displeasure and punishment upon the offender (vii. 11). While as yet the majority had not agreed to Paul's earlier proposal, they had nevertheless, in reporting the disciplinary measures proposed, and in stating the manner in which the entire action had been taken, practically resubmitted the whole case to him for his opinion and decision (ii. 6-8). Finally, they had endeavoured, not unsuccessfully, to justify themselves in this matter. Perhaps in his joy at what had been accomplished, Paul expresses himself a little extravagantly when he writes, "In every way ye have shown yourselves to be pure in this matter" (vii. 11, where the εἶναι is not to be overlooked). Although this is not equivalent to the statement that the Church had proved itself to be quite without fault, it does show that Paul had been convinced by the Church's explanation (ἀπολογία)--for mere oral communication through Titus could hardly be so designated--that the situation was not just what he supposed it was when he wrote I. v. 1. Essentially the case seems to have been as Paul had heard it, and possibly there were other members of the Church who knew of it besides those who had given the information to Paul. But the matter was not so generally known in the Church as Paul had supposed, and the charge that the Church as a body had shown more than heathen indifference with regard to a case of flagrant immorality proved to be ungrounded. No one could rejoice that it was so more than Paul, and he would not have been the large-hearted man and the sincere Christian that he was, had he stood stubbornly by his first judgment and proposal. It would be inconsistent with his dignity and our own to defend him, otherwise than by a statement of the facts, against the unworthy charge of endeavouring to cover up by false diplomacy an alleged defeat which he is supposed to have suffered, either by the failure of the miraculous punishment which he had predicted, or by the defiant opposition of the Church.
The greater his anxiety before the arrival of Titus lest the effect of 1 Cor. should be the entire alienation of the Church, the more easily we are able to understand the exuberant joy caused by Titus' tidings. This does not, however, prevent him, in the first division of the letter, which concludes with an extravagant expression of this joy, from taking very seriously and answering very decidedly the complaints of the Church that had reached him about the ambiguity of his letters (i. 13), the untrustworthiness of his decisions, and the lack of love which they thought was evidenced, both by the change in the plan of his journey, and by the tone of his earlier letter (i. 15-ii. 5, cf. vi. 12, vii. 3). Rejoicing that his greatest anxiety is now finally relieved, Paul looks forward to the future with confidence in the Church (vii. 16). He hopes for a complete restoration of understanding and confidence (i. 13a). This involves the admission that this hope was yet far from being realised. He must still ask the Corinthians not to close their hearts to him (vi. 13), and to restore to him the place in their midst which belonged to him (vii. 2). Between these two requests stands the exhortation suggested in vi. 1 and introduced directly in vi. 11, that they avoid altogether dangerous associations with the immoral practices of their heathen neighbours, especially with idolatry, confident that their Father will compensate them richly for all the sacrifices which they make for His sake, and that they endeavour also to live in holiness (vi. 14-vii. 1). Just as these exhortations are made in view of the special case of heathen immorality, with regard to which Paul's mind had been set at rest by the news brought by Titus and by the communication which the Church sent by him, so it is certain that the happy turn which this matter had taken was the principal reason why Paul was so joyful. He is able now again with joyful confidence, with perfect frankness, and with a heart full of love and with sympathy for the entire Church, to exhort them and to make requests of them. And there are still many things with reference to which there is need for request and exhortation.
This was the case with regard to the matter of the collection, to which the second division of the letter is devoted (chaps, viii.-ix.). The fact that we do not find here the same mingling of strong expressions of joy and of endeavours to secure beforehand entire understanding between himself and his readers that characterises chaps. i.-vii., is explained, partly by the different subject-matter in the two sections, partly by the circumstance that in the matter of the collection he is dealing not with the Church in Corinth alone, but also with all the Christians in Achaia, who had no share in the conflicts between the Corinthians and Paul. Still the underlying tone is the same in this as in other parts of the letter. His generous recognition of the willingness of the Macedonians to make sacrifice, of the zeal of Titus, of the merits of those who accompanied him, as well as of the Christian virtues of the readers (viii. 7), and his mention of the praiseworthy zeal with which the Corinthians had begun the collection more than a year before (viii. 10, ix. 2), all express indirectly his displeasure at the delay and parsimony which the Corinthians had recently shown in the matter. His various exhortations, that now this matter be brought finally to a close, are pressed upon them not so much by fault-finding, as by a statement of urgent reasons.
Quite a different tone, however, pervades the third division of the letter (chaps, x.-xiii.). Being an expression of Paul's own personal feelings, it is distinguished from the preceding sections, which were written also in Timothy's name, by the introductory phrase, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐγώ, x. 1 (cf. xii. 13: also ἐγώ, xii. 16, in like contrast to his companions; ἐγώ μὲν Παῦλος, 1 Thess. ii. 18). He has still upon his heart a request affecting his personal relation to the Church, which, he intimates, must be expressed in a spirit of gentleness and mildness, because he is compelled continually to restrain the anger which he feels when he thinks of the followers of Peter, who are chiefly responsible for the disturbed relation between the Church and its founder, and who continue to keep this relation disturbed (xi. 1-12, 18), and of the members of the Christ party, who, assuming a superior air of neutrality, are continually criticising him, his letters, his personal appearance in Corinth, and his conflict with the foreign teachers who were his rivals (x. 7-18). While he everywhere distinguishes sharply between these false apostles and members of the Church, calling the former tempters and aliens, in the case of those who boasted that they were followers of Christ this was not possible. Therefore he blames the Church as a body for the currency in their midst of the disrespectful remarks of these people (x. lb, 26, 9-10, 13a, 14a, xii. 19a, xiii. 3). Particularly does he find fault with the Church for not having silenced and ejected the followers of Peter, thereby compelling him to defend his own case against these servants of Satan (xii. 11, v. 12). The request which Paul has to make of the Church is suggested in x. 1, but its full statement is postponed by the interjection of his prayerful wish that he may be spared the necessity of acting with severity when he comes to them (x. 2, cf. xiii. 7-9; 1 Thess. iii. 10), and of the explanations which follow (x. 3-6). Nor is this request stated, except in incomplete form in x. 7 (especially if βλέπετε is an imperative), xi. 1, 16, xiii. 5. But summing up the impression as to its purpose which we get from this entire section of the letter, this request may be stated somewhat as follows: "See to it before I come that my visit be mutually peaceful, pleasant, and profitable, by repudiating the foreign teachers, by informing the haughty members of the Christ party what is their proper place, and, under threats of the severest discipline, by setting those right who are living unchaste lives." The tone of this part of the Epistle differs from that of chaps, i.-vii., in that Paul here openly attacks the opponents, with whom it was impossible to come to terms, reminding the Church in a connected statement of their duty with reference to such persons. This explains why his self-defence, which is continued through this section, takes on uniformly a tone of irony, which we do not discover in chaps, i.-vii. Naturally, also, in chaps, i.-vii., where, after days of anxious care, his unburdened heart first gives itself vent, there is an overflowing expression of joy, acknowledgment, and hope. On the contrary, in chaps, x.-xiii., where he discusses grievances not yet adjusted, naturally a prominent place is given to the expression of his displeasure and anxiety, lest things should not turn out as he wished.
Taken as a whole, however, the picture of the condition of the Church and of its relation to its founder which we get from the third section of the letter, is the same as that which we get from the first section. Where there was occasion for demands such as are made in vi. 14-vii. 1, there is place also for concern such as is expressed in xii. 21, and for threats such as those in xiii. 2. The complaints which Paul found it necessary to reply to in i. 12-ii. 2 were not less serious than those in x. 1 f. The incidental denial in vii. 26 has the same value as the plain discussion of xii. 13-18. The demand at the same time that the Church sound the praises of their own apostle in opposition to the followers of Peter, thereby putting a stop to their mischievous work and sparing the apostle the necessity of commending, praising, and defending himself, which recurs so frequently in xi. 4-xii. 19, is made also in v. 12 (cf. iii. 1). Only in this latter instance it is incidental, which was appropriate in view of Paul's purpose to discuss the matter by itself later. The hope which he expresses in i. 13b is expressed in more general form in xiii. 6 (cf. also v. 11). His assurance to them of his love, which they had failed to appreciate, and his complaint because of their failure to reciprocate it (xi. 11, xii. 14), not only have a general resemblance in content to i. 15, 23, ii. 4, vi. 11-13, but are expressed in similar language (xii. 15, περισσοτέρως ὑμᾶς ἀγαπῶ, cf. ii. 4; ἀγαπητοί, vii. 1, xii. 19). The request of vii. 2a could stand equally well at the beginning of chap. xi.
When in x. 6 expression is given to the expectation that in the near future the Church will return to a condition of entire obedience, it is practically admitted that there are yet some things lacking, of which he purposes now finally to speak. This involves no contradiction to his joyful acknowledgment that, as a result of 1 Cor., the Church had shown itself ready to submit entirely to the apostle's judgment--particularly with regard to the case of incest (ii. 9, vii. 12). Nor is it inconsistent in any way with Titus' praise that the entire Church had received him, the messenger of the apostle, in a spirit of obedience, and even of fear and trembling, i.e. as a lord and master (vii. 15, cf. Eph. vi. 5). It is only an illustration of a habit of the apostle's, which may be observed variously both in his relation to men and to God, to begin by giving utterance to praise, thanksgiving, and acknowledgment for good received, and then to express the anxiety and urgency which he still felt, in request, demand, and complaint. And this was the wise way to proceed, if he wanted to put right the affairs of a Church which a few months before had apparently been inclined to sever its relations with him and the Gentile Church which he had been instrumental in organising, but which now, confessing its manifold faults, showed itself eager to make its peace with its founder and to win back his love, which it seemed to them they had all but forfeited.
We have no definite information as to the reception accorded by the Corinthians to this last message of Paul on his way from Ephesus to Corinth. This deficiency is, however, supplied by the facts. If in all essential respects this letter did not accomplish its purpose (xiii. 10), particularly if the Church allowed the followers of Peter to keep on with their work, it was impossible, after what had taken place, for the life and death struggle between Paul and the Corinthian Church to be kept up longer. And if Paul had suffered defeat in this struggle, it would have led necessarily to the separation of the Corinthian Church from the Gentile Church. But no such separation took place. Some forty years later the Roman Church felt called upon, in consequence of a rebellion which, under the leadership of a few gifted younger members, had broken out in Corinth against the venerable head of the Church, to interfere in the confused affairs of its sister Church by sending it a weighty letter of exhortation. Just as there were things in the situation which reminded Clement, the author of this letter, of the existence of cliques in the apostolic age, spoken of in 1 Cor. i.-iv. (Clem. 1 Cor. xlvii.), so we in turn are able to discover in the picture of the Corinthian Church, found in Clement's letter, certain characteristics of that Church to be observed from the Epistles of Paul. But between the troubles of the year 57 and those of 95-97 there is no direct connection. On the contrary, we learn that for a long time, to the joy of the entire Church, the Corinthians had been living a peaceful life, adorned with every Christian virtue (Clem. i. 2-iii. 1), so that the revolution that had now broken out seemed a breach with the entire past history of the Church back to the days of Paul. Clement directs them to take up again Paul's 1 Cor. (xlvii. 1), the Romans feeling sure that they are at one with the Corinthians in paying honour to Paul.
This condition was the fruit of the "weighty and powerful letters" of the apostle (2 Cor. x. 10). Had Paul been under necessity of securing his victory, which, according to the witness of subsequent conditions, he certainly did win, by personal encounter with his opponents and with the Church which remained rebellious in spite of his letters, it is not likely that all traces of such conflict would have so completely disappeared. We learn of a three months' sojourn of Paul in Greece, ending in the spring of 58 (Acts xx. 2 f.), but nothing is said of any battles which he had to fight during that visit. If Romans was written during this period in Corinth, its quiet tone and the careful working out of its elaborate plan prove that for Paul this period was not one of harassing struggle, but of recuperation and of preparation for new work in the far West.
© Copyright 2017 Rediscovering the Bible. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us | Email Webmaster