By Adolf Jülicher
§ 7. The Two Epistles to the Corinthians
1. In order to understand Paulʼs Epistles to the Corinthians it is necessary to form an adequate idea of the state of the Corinthian community and of its relations to Paul, a task which is made possible by certain passages in the Acts1 and by various allusions scattered through the Pauline Epistles. On his first journey to Europe—probably in the year 53— Paul, after passing through Macedonia and Athens, had arrived at Corinth, the capital of Achaia, a city which, standing as it did beside two seas, formed the connecting link between the commerce of the East and of the West. According to 2. 1. 19—words which certainly have the appearance of a later gloss, though their substance is confirmed by 1. and 2. Thessalonians—Silvanus and Timothy had helped him in his preaching, but even if we do not follow Acts xviii. 5 in assigning a later date for their arrival, Paul might still consider himself2 as the true father, founder and creator of the Corinthian church. It was by his means that the Gospel had first been brought to it,3 and this is borne out by the fact that the firstfruits of Achaia, the house of Stephanas4— which had deserved so well of the Corinthian Christians— were among the few members of the community5 baptised by Paul himself. ʽIn weakness and in fear6 he had entered upon his work in this strange city, and his success was great beyond his expectations7; for from the very multiplicity of the factions that arose in the new community it is clear that it cannot have been a small one. It was composed for the most part of poor and uneducated folk, many of them, as might be expected, slaves8; yet, as the presence of individual members of good position may be inferred even from this passage, so the existence of considerable difference of social standing among the Corinthian Christians follows from xi. 20 fol. According to 1. xii. 2, they had formerly been idolaters. It does not actually follow from 1. vii. 18 that there was a small minority of Jews among them, but in itself this is quite probable. The Jewish couple, Aquila and Prisca,9 belonged for a time to the community, and their labours for the new creed among the circle to which they had access are not likely to have been entirely unavailing.
In Acts xviii. 11, Paul is represented as having devoted more than a year and a half to the Corinthians, though probably with certain brief interruptions during which he sought to win converts to the new faith in other districts of Achaia.10 Nevertheless the relations between them were not so intimate that he would have consented to accept support from them as he had from the Philippians: he maintained himself while at Corinth by his own labours,11 though he says12 that this reserve on his part was not due to any want of love, but to prudence, that all occasion for malevolent suspicion might be avoided. He had then departed for a considerable time, and in the interval a Jewish Christian from Alexandria, by name Apollos,13 had laboured for the Gospel at Corinth—not in antagonism to Paul, but probably in a more conspicuous manner,14 for we are told in 1. iii. 5-9 that the community had been increased through him. And notwithstanding iii. 10-15 Paul speaks of this ʽbrotherʼ with great respect again in iv. 6 and xvi. 12, where we learn that he had left Corinth for Ephesus and had there met Paul, but had not yet, at the time when Paul wrote, allowed himself to be persuaded to resume his work among the Corinthians. Through him Paul had of course obtained more recent news of his old community over-sea, and this had again been supplemented a little later by the arrival of certain members of the house of Chloe,15 who seem to have removed from Corinth to Ephesus; but, besides this, three members of the community, Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, were at his side while he was writing the First Epistle,16 men who had apparently been deputed to bear a letter17 from the Corinthians to their Apostle, and who were probably charged at the same time with an urgent invitation to Paul and Apollos to renew their visits to Corinth. But Paul may have heard much from other sources also as to the state of things at Corinth,18 for the communication between that city and Ephesus was frequent and easy. And in vv. v.9 and 11 of the First Epistle we hear, almost by chance, of an earlier letter, previous to 1. Corinthians, addressed to fhe community, in which Paul had forbidden them to ʽkeep company with fornicatorsʼ; but this warning had been misunderstood—perhaps by design— and taken as though Paul had meant fornicators among the Gentiles and thus made an absolutely impracticable demand. The letter seems to have been a short one, and was certainly not written without urgent need; but it has disappeared, together with the above-mentioned epistle from the Corinthians, in which perhaps that foolish misconstruction was pleaded as their defence.
2. Accordingly, we shall not have very far to seek for the causes which led Paul to write the so-called First Epistle to the Corinthians. He had been asked by the community for his pastoral advice on a series of questions of morality— doubtless as to where the Christian conscience, for instance, should draw the line in the matter of the relations between the sexes; how the Christian was to judge concerning the eating of meat sacrificed to idols (εἰδωλόθυτα), which had been sold in the market-place or set before him at a friendʼs table; and finally as to the signs by which the true presence of the Spirit might be recognised, and as to the best way of insuring that all ʽspiritual gifts,ʼ the utterances of religious enthusiasm, should be given due place and honour. Besides these, there may have been requests for information about Apollos and the matter of the Collection. Perhaps Paul was merely asked to give the messengers brief and verbal instructions on these points; but fortunately for us, Paul neither could nor would settle questions of so much importance with terse commands like those of 1. xvi. 1-4 and 12. He worked them out before the inquiring community, first in himself and then in the Epistle, with all his peculiar energy of religious thought and all the delicacy of his moral sense; and, in spite of his world-contemning idealism and his attachment in principle to established custom, we may well admire his power of avoiding both extremes, and of distinguishing between matters of universal and eternal value and those of mere individual moment.
But he also gave his flock instructions—and commands— for which he had not been expressly solicited. As in Thessalonica—though in a different form—so in Corinth, doubts had been expressed as to the possibility of a resurrection from the dead; and in many points, survivals of the old heathen life, as yet unsubdued, were still manifest. For instance, the prosperous members of the community fared sumptuously at the common evening meal, while the needy went hungry; so little was the idea of brotherhood carried out in practice. They were not ashamed of carrying petty quarrels between members of the Church before a Gentile tribunal; and one man actually lived in incest with his stepmother, and had not yet been cast out by the Church. In other ways again their enthusiasm passed the bounds of decency; women wished to take an active part in the Church services, and appealed to the constraining force of that Spirit which had been bestowed also upon them, and even to the teaching of the Apostle himself— there is neither man nor woman, but all are one in Jesus Christ.ʼ They discarded the veil, which was intended to protect them from insult, at the religious festivals; and there was some danger lest certain gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking with tongues and prophecy, should be practised in mere levity by men of pushing ambition, to the detriment of true edification. And besides all this the Corinthians were full of self-satisfaction—of a vanity which thought it could dispense with all external guidance. This may have become evident to Paul from the communityʼs letter, even though we need not actually believe that it tried to call Paul to account, used a tone of disrespect, or was the work of one of his adversaries; but it showed itself at any rate with peculiar offensiveness in an impertinent criticism of all Christian authorities. Greek party-spirit had infected even the young community, and Paul knew of at least four competing cliques in Corinth, each with its particular watchword—and in i. 12 he does not even pretend to give a complete list—; they were the partisans of Paul, of Apollos, of Peter and of Christ. At present, apparently their party spirit was mainly nourished by a love of singularity, for Paul had not heard of any serious religious differences among them; but deplorable results had not failed to ensue, as each faction could only assert its own superiority at the expense of the leaders of the others, and Paul himself had been subjected to criticism of the most hostile kind.19 The party of Apollos probably boasted of their leaderʼs cleverness and skill in argument, and no doubt it was in opposition to them that the Paulinists first arose; another small body again—probably composed of Jewish Christians lately arrived there, for it is surely a bold assumption to say that they consisted only of wandering Apostles from Palestine—insisted that if an Apostle must needs be their champion, it was Peter, the Pillar of the Church, who should be so regarded.
By the ʽparty of Christʼ we should probably understand —taking Galatians into account—not the apostles of a state of independence unfettered by any traditions, but persons who, like the ʽfalse brethrenʼ or the emissaries of James mentioned in Galatians,20 set their claims still higher, and, since Peter did not seem to them infallible enough, used Christ himself as their authority, acknowledging no other law than that which they had received from the Messiah in his own lifetime, or that which the glorified Messiah had revealed to them. Verse ix. 1 seems to be directed against the party of Peter, for Paul would not have insisted without reason upon the facts that he too was an Apostle, he too had seen the Lord Jesus; and xi. 1—ʽbe ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christʼ"— may be aimed against the party of Christ. But, so far as Paul knew, it had not yet come to any actual attack upon the substance of his Gospel, and he looked upon the whole existence of these parties as stupidity rather than wickedness—an attitude which would indeed be most astonishing if he had already had bitter experience of the disturbance of his Galatian communities by these apostles of Peter or of Christ. He could still praise the community for ʽkeeping the ordinances as I delivered them unto you.ʼ21 At present what troubled him most were the moral shortcomings which had arisen in consequence of this factiousness, and might give the enemies of the Gospel opportunity for exultation and scoffing. But he dreads a still more serious state of things; in iil. 17 he already speaks of a ʽdestroyer of the temple of God,ʼ and it is surely not without reference to Corinth that in iii. 10-15 he dwells upon those who built with worthless materials—wood, hay and stubble—upon the foundation ʽJesus Christ.ʼ This situation was grave enough in his eyes to induce him—since he could not immediately visit it in person22——to make an earnest appeal to the conscience of the community by letter.
3. Paul took no trouble to weave the various threads of his Epistle into an artistic whole, but availed himself of the freedom of style allowed in letter-writing, and probably from chaps. vii. to xvi. followed the order, broadly speaking, of the epistle from Corinth. After the address and greeting23 and the customary words of thanks,24 he takes up the subject of the mischievous party-spirit25 of the Corinthians in a tone of great excitement, which, however, gives place towards the end to words of fatherly exhortation; nor does the concluding verse —ʽWhat will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of meekness?ʼ--express any rekindling of his wrath. Then in chaps. v. and vi. he pronounces a sentence of excommunication upon the fornicators, and once more defines the attitude which it were fitting that a Christian community should take up with regard to fornication, in the midst of which he inserts an appeal26 to the Christian sense of honour against going to law before a heathen judge. In chap. vii. he answers the question touching the relations between the sexes, and then that of the difference between duty and expediency, as arising out of the problem of meat sacrificed to idols27; next he combats the innovating spirit of the women28; and finally the abuses at the celebrations of the Lordʼs Supper.29 The last two passages are closely connected with each other, as they both deal with offences against propriety at religious gatherings. The transition is easy to chaps. xii.-xiv., in which ʽspiritual giftsʼ are judged according to a standard which the lofty utterance of chap. xilii—a Canticle, as it were, in praise of love—expresses in so exalted a way. In chap. xv. he lays down and defends a part of his Gospel not generally understood at Corinth—the certainty of a resurrection from the dead, as the necessary consequence of the rising again of Jesus. Finally, in chap. xvi. there are directions as to the mode of gathering the collection for the poor; plans of travel; information as to the approaching visit of Timothy; all winding up with advice after the manner of 1. Thessalonians v.,30 with greetings, and a conclusion from Paulʼs own hand.
Here it might be well to say that the idea of 1. Corinthians being a mere conglomerate of disjointed utterances upon the most various subjects should be absolutely rejected. The question of incest and fornication,31 for instance, had been led up to by the emphasising of Paulʼs paternal right of chastisement: here was a case in which strict chastisement was a duty; in chap. vi., again, we have the discussion upon judging, because in v. 12 Paul had exhorted his readers to exercise judgment, while chap. vii. is also the natural development of the ethical problems touched upon in v. and vi.
4, Nothing can be gathered from the address as to the circumstances under which the Epistle was written. Paulʼs coadjutor in the task, Sosthenes, who can scarcely be identified with the ʽruler of the Synagogueʼ of Acts xviii. 17, is otherwise unknown to us; he must have been one of Paulʼs helpers, who possessed probably the same sort of authority with the Corinthians, and for the same reasons, as Timothy or Silvanus. The latter -we do not find in Paulʼs vicinity after the period of activity in Corinth, and Timothy had already been sent by Paul to Corinth,32 probably before the letter from the Corinthians had reached its destination. He was to return, according to Paulʼs wish, straight to him from Corinth; but probably he had had other tasks to discharge as well, and had gone to Achaia by way of Macedonia, so that Paulʼs Epistle, though despatched later, may have arrived in Corinth earlier than he. It was entrusted, we may suppose to the three representatives of the community who had delivered the Corinthiansʼ epistle into Paulʼs hands, and these would have performed both journeys by the shortest route, i.e. by sea. The Epistle was written from Ephesus,33 where Paul was surrounded by a considerable staff of brethren,34 including Apollos. He can send greetings from the Churches of Asia,35 and must therefore have been working in the district for some time36; while according to xv. 82, where he speaks of fighting with wild beasts, he had already experienced persecution at Ephesus; a few years also seem to have elapsed since his departure from Corinth,37 and there is nothing to indicate that since his foundation of the community Paul had paid it another visit—in fact verse ix. 18 almost excludes the possibility. And since he speaks of a possible wintering at Corinth,38 and intends to make the Jewish feast of Pentecost the latter limit of his stay in Ephesus, the Epistle must have been written in the spring. If we were quite sure that Paul kept to the plan of operations outlined in xvi. 1, 3 and 5, we should certainly be obliged to assign 1. Corinthians to the end of his sojourn at Ephesus, and in that case scarcely enough space would be left for Galatians between the despatch of 1. Corinthians and Paulʼs hasty departure. But Paul altered his plans of travel again and again—sometimes of his own accord and sometimes of necessity (as indeed in Ephesus itself, according to Acts xix. 10, not long afterwards)—and thus the arguments brought forward on p. 76 still hold good, and 1. Corinthians may be assigned with much probability to the year 56.
5. The other Epistle of Paul to the Corinthian community that we still possess—it is about two-thirds the length of the First, and even more clearly than the First includes within its scope the Christians scattered through Achaia—is the most problematical of all the Pauline Epistles. Its arrangement isin some respects exceedingly simple, in others all but inexplicable. The three main divisions, chapters i—vii., viii.—ix., and X.-xili., are marked off unmistakably from one another, even by their tone. The smaller middle part deals entirely with the matter of the Collection. Here the Apostle seeks to stimulate the zeal of those he is addressing both with earnestness and love; but, though the matter is so dear to his own heart, he is not sure of its reception by the Corinthians, and hence arise the numerous repetitions and occasionally turgid sentences. The difficulty of making a clear translation of these chapters, in spite of their exceedingly simple subject matter, is due to this condition of embarrassment under which they were penned. Then, however, with the abruptest change of front, Paul turns from chap. x. onwards to defending himself against certain persons at Corinth who had sought to vindicate their disobedience by the most malignant slander. Their accusations are set forth with a running commentary in chap. x.; in xi. 1-15 Paul proceeds to a vehement attack upon these deceitful false apostles, and further39 draws a comparison remarkable for its bitter irony as well as for its moving pathos between his own promises and performance and theirs; however painful such boasting may be to him, he dare not injure his cause out of false modesty. Finally, he implores his readers in a somewhat quieter tone40 to settle their most serious differences and complete the victory of truth before his approaching third visit to Corinth. The abruptness of the three concluding verses, xiii. 11-13, is especially remarkable when contrasted with their parallels in the First Epistle.41
In the first part, however (chaps. i—vii.), which of course begins with address and greeting, Paul passes by an almost imperceptible transition from his thanksgiving to a description of his recent sad experiences and to a discussion of the differences subsisting between himself and the Corinthians. He first blesses God42 for the consolation—to which the Corinthians themselves had contributed by their sympathetic prayers on his behalf— granted him for the terrible experiences he had undergone in Asia. He had almost ceased to count upon their sympathy, and the fear of losing their hearts had tortured him more during those dark days than all his external calamities. How deeply the confidence between the Apostle and the community had been shaken can be seen from vv. i. 11, 12, 17, where Paul defends himself against the charges of insincerity and untrustworthiness that had been brought against him. He had only given up his promised visit to Corinth, he declares, out of forbearance towards the community, and because the letter he wrote them in its stead had had the desired effect, since the community had corrected the man who had sinned against him. Now, however, after punishment, they were free to forgive him. He, Paul, had not been seeking his own honour in the whole affair, but had let himself be guided by his love for the Corinthians, which had driven him irresistibly towards them, even from his fruitful field of work in the Troad. Then, with true loftiness of tone, he continues his defence43 against the charge of vain and conceited arrogance, in such a manner that the sublime truth and force of his gospel are set before the very eyes of his readers.44 He declares himself the Apostle of the new covenant, the covenant of the Spirit, of freedom and of glory; he dwells upon the fact that all his trouble and weakness have only increased in him the certainty of eternal life and the longing for home, together with the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit,45 and he insists that his labours have been solely devoted to the reconciliation of mankind with God, and the founding of a new creation.46 Upon this follows, by way of epilogue, an earnest exhortation to his readers to show forth this newness in their conduct—a newness having no further connection with the old life47—and finally a hearty expression of his restored confidence towards them; for the good news which Titus had brought with him of the repentance of the Corinthians had comforted his mind and confirmed him most joyfully in his ancient good opinion of their disposition.
2. Corinthians is, strictly speaking, the most personal of the extant Epistles of Paul. Apart from its business discussions it is entirely occupied with self-defence and controversy; but yet no other is richer in profound teaching as to the foundation, the aims and moral effects of his gospel; the individuality of the Apostle shows itself here in its most many-sided form: in all its burning love, its bitter wrath, its considerate wisdom in the direction of earthly affairs, and its all forgetting absorption in the mysteries of the other world. Above all, we are left with the impression that this man and his religion are one.
6. The circumstances under which the Epistle was composed appear at first sight to be easily ascertainable. Paul had been forced to leave Asia, ie. Ephesus, under imminent danger of death, and had then turned his steps northwards, waiting awhile in Troas for the return of Titus, whom he had sent to Corinth, but finally going on to meet the latter in Macedonia.48 Here he had happily fallen in with him and had received the most cheering reports of Corinth from his lips.49 At the moment of writing he was gathering in the money collected in Macedonia—to which he hopes considerable additions may be made in Corinth50—and was intending to reach that city shortly, accompanied by certain Macedonian Christians,51 there to receive the sums his readers had collected. In order to encourage the energetic prosecution of this Collection he had sent a few trusted friends before him to Corinth, with Titus again at their head,52 and these had probably taken charge of his Epistle, which he had written in haste at their urgent request. He mentions his approaching visit again a little further on.53 His companion in writing the Epistle was Timothy, whom according to Acts xix. 22 he had sent into Macedonia before his own departure from Ephesus. All this agrees admirably with the situation described in Acts xx. 2; the Epistle was written a few weeks or months before Paulʼs last appearance in Corinth, whence, it will be remembered, he started on his circuitous54 journey to Jerusalem, gathering in contributions to the Collection on his way—the last journey that he was destined to undertake as a free man. 2. Corinthians must, then, be assigned to a date some nine months previous to his arrest: that is, in the autumn of the year 57.
7. It is also easy to give a general answer to the question of the occasion or object of the Epistle. Paul had just received unequivocal proof from Titus that the majority of the Corinthian Christians recognised Paulʼs rank as an Apostle, and his right to be regarded by them as a father, and that they regretted all expressions to the contrary. Paul now assures them in the warmest way that his feelings were the same, and that he bore them a love which took thought only for their welfare. This alone would have been too much to entrust to a verbal message, but he was besides extremely anxious to stimulate the ardour of the Achaians in the matter of the Collection, and, above all, he had to settle his account with that small body of implacable opponents who were still carrying on their agitations in Corinth. By refuting each of their charges separately he must prevent any repetition of a situation put an end to with so much difficulty, in which a community assumed the position of judge over its own Apostle, putting him as it were on trial.
But many difficulties present themselves as soon as we attempt to distinguish clearly the lines of connection between the First and Second Epistles, and to investigate more minutely what had actually passed between Paul and the Corinthian Church to make the explanations of the Second Epistle necessary. Nor is there anything else within the limits of our subject which has called forth so bewildering a variety of attempts at solution as have these questions. It is bad enough, to begin with, that it should be thought necessary or possible to solve them all. Two facts, however, are placed beyond all doubt: first, that the Second Epistle was written later than the First, for the party divisions treated in the First as relatively harmless appear from the Second to have wellnigh severed the bond between Paul and the Corinthians. It is true that we hear nothing more of the earlier party names, of the factions of Apollos, Peter, and Paul, but the opposition of the ʽparty of Christ,ʼ supported from outside,55 had proved to be all the more formidable; it was more dangerous even than the Judaistic movement in Galatia, for its leaders did not come forward with the special demands of Judaism, but merely strove to drive the hated Paul out of Corinth by means of a campaign of slander. He was a braggart, it was said; he ʽwalked in the fleshʼ; he lacked the calling and power of an Apostle, and played the Evangelist out of greed.
The other fact is equally indisputable—that before this Epistle Paul had addressed yet another, of which we now hear for the first time, to the Corinthians.56 This last had been written ʽout of much anguish of heart with many tearsʼ and with the object of calling forth the sorrow and repentance of his readers. He had demanded satisfaction in it for an insult offered him by an unnamed member of the community.57¯ Subsequently he had become extremely uneasy as to the effect which his very imperious58 communication might have had upon its readers59; but at last Titus arrived with the news of a happy result60; the great majority of the Corinthians had punished the offender,61 and had declared their loyalty to Paul. With great joy he welcomes their surrender—which, by the way, according to vii. 7, they could hardly have expressed to him by letter—and now he asks them himself to pardon the wrong-doer and to consider the affair at an end. To identify this offender (ἀδικήσας)—who had not, as Paul insists, caused him personal sorrow62—with the incestuous person of 1. v. would be almost as monstrous, when we consider the mildness with which Paul treats him, as to identify the First Epistle, or even the epistle mentioned in 1. v. 9, with the stern letter described in the Second. There is nothing in the First Epistle which corresponds to what we must needs imagine as the contents of the letter ʽwritten with many tearsʼ; and it is impossible that Paul should suddenly have become uneasy, a year or two after, as to the effect which a letter written before 1. and answered by the community with perfect calmness before 1., might have had. I am unable to discover in 1. Corinthians this mighty wrath flashing out at all points, this forced calm which wrung tears from Paulʼs deeply sensitive nature, this most bitter pain; and if the First Epistle were written ʽin heaviness,ʼ what epithet must we apply to the Second, which, though written in joy, has its real outbreaks of fierce anger? Of course a spirit of determined malignity might so distort even an epistle which, like 1. Corinthians, says so much that is loving and good of its recipients, that its pages might appear to teem with insults, but even if we do attribute such malice to the Corinthians, it would still be strange that, though Paul had immediately had pricks of conscience on account of this very moderately written Epistle, he should within a few months afterwards have ventured to address a document so far more violent as was the Second Epistle to the same newly pacified community. It is not so bad, however, to ascribe to him this act of folly as to hold him capable of a shuffling diplomacy dictated by boundless opportunism, of assuming an air of indifference in the Second Epistle63 towards the incestuous person of the First64—of saying he had merely wished to test the obedience of the community and its zeal on his behalf—merely because his judgment of the offender in the earlier Epistle had not given satisfaction.
No, between the First and Second, Paul had had an extremely painful dispute with the Corinthians, and between these two, as well as before the First, an epistle was sent by Paul to the Corinthian Church which has not found its way onto the Canon. The self-esteem of the community was no doubt very early concerned in the suppression of both these documents, which were not exactly flattering to their recipients, and probably only possessed a temporary value. And in the case of the second this would doubtless have been the wish of Paul himself. But where and how did this offence against the Apostle on the part of a Corinthian Christian take place? What the wrong consisted in does not interest us so much; it was of course connected with the movement of personal persecution which had soon envenomed the party spirit of the city; and we know already what unworthy things were publicly said there, by the ʽparty of Christ,ʼ about the detested Paul.65 In this case we must assume that the attacks had taken a peculiarly coarse and insolent form. But if only we knew whether Paul had experienced them in person, or had merely heard of them from others! In the former case we must assume a visit of the Apostle to Corinth which
§ 7.] THE TWO EPISTLES TO THE CORINTHIANS 93
the Acts do not mention, and, moreover, one which took place after the writing of the First Epistle; for that letter refers only to Paulʼs earliest pioneering labours in Achaia. In spite of the silence of the Acts indeed, we are forced to recognise three sojourns of the Apostle in Corinth, by Paulʼs own plain statements in 2. xii. 14 and xiii. 1, according to which his approaching visit would be the third. Besides these statements, the words of 2. ii. 1 can only be understood to refer to a second visit which Paul looks back upon with horror; and if it was one performed ʽin heaviness,ʼ the experience denoted by the same expression in 2. ii. 5, may very well have occurred during its course. Such a visit, with results unsatisfactory to Paul, we should also infer—although without his direct testimony—from the words of x. 1, 10 and xi. 21, for it could not have been in reference to his first brilliant activity in Corinth that his opponents would have pointed to the contrast between the ʽweightinessʼ of his Epistles and the ʽweakness of his bodily presence.ʼ i. 1566 is no argument to the contrary, for Paulʼs abandoned purpose was, not to give the Corinthians the benefit of a second visit, but to combine his journeys to Achaia and Macedonia in such a way that Corinth might twice receive the blessing of his presence. This plan, moreover, which certainly does not correspond with that of 1. xvi. 5, might just as well have held the field for a time after the despatch of 1. Corinthians as before it.
Thus the course of affairs between the First and Second Epistles may be imagined as something like this: the First Epistle had had no effect in Corinth on the party divisions, and Timothy would have informed Paul on his return thence that the anti-Pauline agitation, grasping at every pretext, had made formidable progress and that he had stood perplexed and impotent before it. This was the reason why Timothy was not made use of again for missionary work in Corinth. Paul, however, believed that he himself would produce a greater effect, and sailed across the short stretch from Ephesus to Achaia, perhaps without warning; but he failed to strike the right note, had to put up with a personal insult from one of the members of the community, and very soon travelled back again, grieved to the heart, and, in the opinion of his opponents, completely driven off the field. He may have waited in vain for some time for some intimation of repentance on the part of his Corinthian children; later tidings were probably highly unsatisfactory, and he then wrote that third letter in which he sharply lashed the ingratitude, disobedience and immorality of the Corinthians and offered them a choice between submission67 and a final rupture. The delicate task of conveying this letter and afterwards of bringing those to whom it was addressed into a responsive frame of mind, he entrusted to Titus, who was as yet unknown to the Corinthians.68 The results of this manʼs judicious and energetic proceedings69 were that the greater part of the community70 complied with Paulʼs demands— which are unknown to us in detail—and repelled the calumnies of the ʽfollowers of Christ,ʼ while Titus could even successfully introduce the matter of the Collection without further delay.71
Of course he did not accomplish all this in a day, and his stay in Corinth was prolonged beyond his expectation. When he had started on his journey Paul was still at Ephesus, but was intending to depart shortly and to go through the Troad to Macedonia; his route having been arranged so accurately with Titus beforehand that the latter could not fail to meet the Apostle at some point on his return from Corinth. The earlier plans announced by Paul in i. 15, however, according to which he thought of going from Asia through Corinth to Macedonia and from there back again to Corinth, cannot in this case have been communicated to the Corinthians by Titus or by the intermediate epistle, for that epistle had probably served as a substitute for the first of these two visits; and we know that complaints of the Apostleʼs vacillation had already been made to Titus.72 Paul had rather promised something of this kind to the Corinthians 1 during his second visit, or through some intermediate channel at the time of it. That he had formed exactly the same plans in the First Epistle73 as we may gather from the Second74 that he actually carried out at last is a mere coincidence: he was forced by the stress of circumstances to revert to the original plan of 1. xvi. in spite of a more recently arranged modification intended especially for the advantage of Corinth. This modification was of later date than 1. xvi., for according to 2. ii. 1 Paul would have kept to it had not his determination not to visit Corinth again in heaviness, but to wait for her submission, obliged him to make a direct journey to Macedonia. The most probable hypothesis is that in bidding farewell to his friends after his prematurely curtailed second visit he had promised them compensation in the form of two visits ata later time. And we know also from Acts xx. 3, that Paul was again unable to perform the Collection journey to Jerusalem direct from Corinth by sea, as he had desired, but that he first travelled northwards once more to Macedonia and then along the eastern side of the Ęgean Sea southwards to Palestine.
If we consider the multitude of events which would thus have taken place between 1. and 2. Corinthians, we must divide the two Epistles from one another by about a year and a half, and if 1. was written in the spring of 56, 2. must be assigned to the autumn of 57, and so on; for only thus would there be time for the intermediate visit and letter and the long interval of waiting. It is true that Paul could not in this case have left Ephesus at Pentecost in the same year in which he wrote the words of 1. xvi. 8, but must have extended his activity there for another twelve months; but this is attested by his own words in 2. viii. 10 and ix. 2, where we hear that the Corinthians had shown goodwill towards the matter of the Collection since the previous year (ἀπὸ πέρυσι). But the starting-point of their goodwill, in spite of the agreement between viii. 10 and viii. 6 (προενάρχεσθαι) could not have been the appearance of Titus, but the zeal of the Corinthians for the Collection attested in or aroused by the words of 1. xvi. 1.
8. Just as the Church could not admit that at least one Epistle of Paulʼs to Corinth and another addressed to him thence had disappeared—and therefore attempted to make up for them by a forged correspondence, which, arising out of the 'Acts of Paul,ʼ was preserved both in Latin and Armenian and enjoyed full recognition in the Armenian Bible for 1000 years—so modern criticism thinks itself bound to discover considerable portions at least of the lost epistles to the Corinthians within the limits of the canonical pair. The most recent critics have set themselves to this productive task with amazing energy, contending, for instance, that relics of the earliest Corinthian Epistle are to be found in several passages scattered through what is now the First,75 and, naturally, this has not been accomplished without once more attacking the genuineness of individual sentences. An hypothesis which assumes that the passage vi. 14 to vii. 1 of the Second Epistle is such a relic has indeed gained the approval of a much wider circle. Here the admission that there are at any rate no grounds for regarding these verses as non-Pauline is satisfactory; a few ἅπαξ λεγόμενα of the sort contained in the paragraph—ἑτεροζυγεῖν, Βελίαρ, μετοχή, συμφώνησις, συγκατάθεσις, μολυσμός—are of no importance, especially in an epistle so rich in peculiarities as 2. Corinthians, while the use of σάρξ in the sense of ʽthe outer manʼ in vii. 1 has good parallels elsewhere.76 Nor are the tone and ideas by any means un-Pauline. On the other hand, it will not be denied that the context would not suffer by the rejection of these verses; vii. 2 would follow excellently upon vi. 18, and the rejected passage would be perfectly appropriate in a letter such as that described in 1. v. 9-18. But what is most convenient is not necessarily right; it is not impossible that vi. 14 fol. should follow upon vi. 12 and 13 any more than that vii. 2 fol. should follow upon vii. 1. The entreaty to break with unbelief and all its works is fully prepared for, for instance, by v. 10 and vi. 1 and 2, and the somewhat violent transition to this fundamental moral demand may be psychologically explained by the Apostleʼs anxiety lest in this letter, occupied as it was with assurances of friendship, self-justification and efforts for the Collection, the most important point—the edification of a community little accustomed as yet to ʽwalking in the Spirit,ʼ but rather in need of a strict discipline—should not be sufficiently emphasised.
Almost more misleading than this suggestion about 2. vi. 14 and the following verses is the so-called hypothesis of the Four Chapter Epistle, which was first put forward by A. Hausrath. According to this theory, chaps. x.—xiii. are to be severed from chaps. i—ix. in the form of a separate epistle, and are to represent that intermediate letter mentioned in chaps. ii. and vii.; it can scarcely be disputed, indeed, that chaps. i—ix. as well as x.—xiii. could each constitute a complete epistle in themselves—except that the ending of the one (and might not ix. 15 perhaps be sufficient ending?) and the address of the other had been struck out—and the vehemence and sharpness with which Paul attacks his readers after the conciliatory explanations of i.—vii. and the friendly requests of viii. and ix. are certainly startling. Nor does he confine himself by any means to dealing with the agitators, the ʽChristʼ party; he appears indignant with the disobedience of the community, which he distinguishes clearly from the ʽfewʼ against whom a life and death struggle must be waged77; he fears that it will let itself be perverted78; he takes note of its want of firmness towards the calumniators79; he is even prepared for an unsatisfactory reception of his apologia.80 Nor does he expect to find the community in anything but an unsatisfactory state,81 and this corresponds ill with the self-congratulatory tone of chaps. i. and vii. The Corinthians seem to have demanded a proof that Christ was speaking by him,82 and to have formally assumed towards him the position of Judge.83 Such a letter might well be said to have been written ʽwith many tears,ʼ84 and to be calculated to test their obedience85; and that an epistle containing threats like those of xii. 20 fol. and xiii. 2 (vv. i. 23 and ii. 1 would in this case sound like a reference to xiii. 10) should have called forth ʽsorrowʼ86 from its readers, may be easily understood. The ʽwrong-doerʼ who must have been spoken of in the intermediate letter87 seemed also to be present in the ʽFour Chapter Epistleʼ; he was the ʽsuch a oneʼ of x. 7-11, and he was referred to in xi. 18 and x. 11 by the same indefinite word (ὁ τοιοῦτος) as was used for the ʽwrong-doerʼ of i. 6. And no doubt remained as to the nature of the wrong after the words of x. 10.
Yes, only it is a pity that the similar ʽὁ τοιοῦτοςʼ of xii. 9,5 refers to Paul; that worse calumnies than those proceeding from the anonymous person of x. 10 were according to x. 2 hurled against him by many persons; that the constant alternation between singular and plural in his attack on the ʽoutsideʼ apostles88 excludes the idea that the Apostleʼs wrath was here chiefly directed against a definite person for a piece of particular insolence; and that the man who ʽtrusteth in himself that he is Christʼs89 (and who, moreover, cannot be identified with the ʽhe that comethʼ of verse xi. 4), had evidently forced himself in from outside and was not a member of the community, so that he could hardly be treated as, according to ii. 6, the ʽwrong-doerʼ had been. The forgiveness which Paul had desired for this man, and of which he had assured him on his own part, he could not have granted to an enemy of the Cross of Christ, and still less could he have made use of the reason furnished by verse ii. 10 in such a case; and if the wrong-doer belonged to the category of agitators described in chaps. x. fol. the statement of the object of the Epistle as given in vii. 12 would be flagrantly untrue. Nor does Paul make any demands concerning an offender in these chapters, as according to ii. 5 fol. and vii. 12 he must have done in the intermediate letter. Another forcible argument is that any hostile expressions as to the harshness of his epistles90 in contradistinction to the weakness of his bodily presence would certainly have been explicable after the arrival of such a letter of punishment (chaps. x.—xiii..—of which he wrote several in the course of his life—but not before: not, that is to say, simply on the ground of 1. Corinthians and the pre-canonical epistle, which certainly cannot have bristled with threats. Finally, verse xii. 18 is decisive. Here we are told that Paul had sent Titus and ʽa brotherʼ to Corinth, and these words, were it only for the verbs used, viz. παρεκάλεσα, which corresponds to viii. 6 and 17, συναπέστειλα, with which compare viii. 18 and 22, and συνεπέμψαμεν—can only refer to the second deputation mentioned in chapter viii. as having already started.91 Even if they referred, however, to the mission of Titus, which had just reached a happy termination in Macedonia, an epistle which treated that event as past cannot have been the intermediate letter of which Titus was himself the bearer, or which rendered the intervention of Titus necessary.
Hence it would be more reasonable to employ the hypothesis of the Four Chapter Epistle in such a way as to assume yet a fifth epistle to the Corinthians, one written after chaps. 2. i-ix. and when the deputation for the Collection had already arrived at Corinth92; in that case we should be free to place Paulʼs second visit between the two divisions of the epistle, and should understand why this visit had been made so prominent in the last four chapters only, while it would not be absolutely necessary for the comprehension of i-ix. But such a visit could only have occurred as a useless détour from Macedonia, for Paul could not while at Ephesus have asked so confidently: ʽDid Titus take any advantage of you?ʼ93 and we may not place it too close to the third and last, because of vv. xii. 20 fol. Moreover, the relations between Paul and the Corinthian Church become a psychologically insoluble riddle, if Paul had not only abandoned the plans of chaps. viii. and ix. yet again, but had also paid a visit to Corinth after the reconciliation effected by Titus, solely in order to leave an impression of weakness behind him, to threaten measures of punishment at his next coming, and to have insults flung in his face. Thus by his ill-judged appearance he would have completely ruined a delicate matter which had been running quite smoothly; and this again would be hardly consistent with the note of confidence struck in various places94 throughout these chapters.
We should do well, then, to accept these four chapters, on the evidence of tradition, as written contemporaneously with 2. Cor. i-ix., for they can neither be of earlier nor of later date, nor could anyone but Paul have written them. To us, indeed, some things in them seem strange; the rapid change in tone and attitude strikes us as astonishing: but then we have a far more imperfect knowledge of the situation of the writer than the earliest readers of the Epistle, by whom alone Paul desired to be understood.
In any case, Paul would certainly not have dictated so long a letter all at once; and often a change of tone or an imperfect connection may be explained by that alone. It is possible, even, that there may have been an interval of some length between the beginning and the completion of the letter, that it was interrupted by the hasty despatch of Titus, and that after the departure of this gentle mediator resentment obtained the ascendancy in Paulʼs mind. Nor, perhaps, had even Titus had nothing but good news to report, and it is possible that Paul had but just received tidings from another source of new and base attacks upon him by the ʽmen of Christ.ʼ But indeed we have no need for such explanatory hypotheses. Paul had probably intended from the outset to deal in succession with the three subjects which now filled his mind whenever he thought of Corinth—first with the positive and then with the negative. In the first place it would certainly be expedient to give a gracious answer to the repentant advances of the community—wisdom and love both pointed to such a course. But not only do the digressions of chaps. ii—vi. prove how much Paul thought his readers still in need of deeper instruction and more careful guidance; it is distinctly stated here, and not only in chaps. x.—xiii., that but a partial result had as yet been attained, and that the community was far from having purged itself of all distrust of its Apostle. There are a large number of passages95 which reveal definite grievances and anxieties on Paulʼs part with regard to the Corinthians; and even in the matter of the Collection he is obliged to approach them with great caution and formality, whereas with the Macedonians restraint rather than encouragement had been needed. And since he was writing to the whole community and not to the submissive majority only,96 since he desired to find all clear on his arrival, and not to be hindered in his pastoral labours by disputes with the lying apostles, at whose door lay all the strife, or with their thoughtless followers, he must and would express his attitude towards these rebellious persons and their doctrines finally and in writing. And who will wonder that a man of Paulʼs stamp should again have struck a harsher note than before towards the whole community, as he recalled how easily the Corinthians had suffered themselves to be imposed upon concerning him—with what inconstancy, shallowness and at the same time arrogance they had behaved?
But, however bitterly he writes in these passages, it had not been his intention to do so; his admonition was to have been given in ʽmeekness and gentleness,ʼ97 since he was already certain of the complete rout of his antagonists.98 It is, however, only at the end99 that he recovers once more the tranquility which he had not always been able to maintain in his argument with such adversaries. For our part, we may perhaps think that he would have done better to place the controversial part at the beginning of his letter, and to have left his readers with the final impression that wherever there was any desire to make peace with him, he on his side was ready to give any proof of his hearty willingness to forgive and to trust again. But he had good reason for his procedure. Chaps. i-ix. seem to have been written in Timothyʼs name as well as his own, while chaps. x.—xiii. were meant to be understood as spoken by himself alone. The αὐτὸς δὲ ἐγὼ Παῦλος of x. 1, does not stand in contradistinction to the long-forgotten ʽbrethrenʼ of ix. 8 and 5, but introduces a personal explanation on Paulʼs part—probably written, like Galatians, with his own hand—in which, as though between man and man, he lays the bare truth before the faithful portion of the Corinthian community, demonstrating both to them and to us what was and had been the question at issue between himself and them. ʽThey were to feel that the only course which remained to them was, either to lose their Apostolic father or else to come to a definite breach with these Judaistic disturbers of the peace. Chaps. i-ix. proclaim the conclusion of a truce in the matter of the offender, and chaps. x.-xiii. lay down the conditions of a lasting peace. The situation that confronts us in x.-xiii. is none other than that of i.-ix., but in the two divisions the same circumstances are regarded from entirely different points of view. And that they did require such two-sided illumination is just what we should expect from the nature of such a situation. Paul seems to have judged it aright, for soon after the completion of this Epistle he stayed at Corinth for three months, and—to judge from a work most probably composed during his stay there, the Epistle to the Romans —not by any means in a disturbed or gloomy state of mind.
1) xviii. 1-18, 27 fol., xix. 1, xx. 2 fol.
2) 1, iv. 15, iii. 6-10; 2, xii. 14.
3) 1, ix. 1,2; 2, iii. 3.
4) 1, xvi. 15.
6) ii. 3.
7) 1, i. 4-7.
8) 1, i. 26-29,
9) 1, xvi. 19.
10) 1, 1. 1; 2, i. 1, xi. 10.
11) 1, iv. 12; ix. 6, 11-15, 18; 2, xi. 7-10.
12) 2, xi. 12.
13) Cf. Acts xviii. 24 fol.
14) Cf. 1, i. 17, iv. 10; 2, xi. 6.
15) 1, i. 11.
16) xvi. 17 fol.
17) vii. i.
18) 1, v. 1, xi. 18.
19) i,-iv. and ix. 1-13.
20 Gal. ii. 4, 12.
21) xi. 2.
22) iv. 18 fol.
23) i, 1-3.
24) i. 4-7,
25) i, 10-iv. 21.
26) vi. 1-11.
27) viii.-xi. 1.
28) xi, 2-16.
29) xi. 17-34
30), Vv. 12, 13.
31) Chaps. v. and vi.
32) iv. 17, xvi. 10 fol
33) xvi. 8.
34) xvi. 20, and cf. Gal. i. 2.
35) xvi. 19.
36) Cf. verse 9.
37) Acts xviii. 18, and cf. 1. Cor. iv. 18.
38) xvi. 6.
39) xi, 16-xii. 18.
40) xii, 19-xiii. 10.
41) 1, xvi. 13-24.
42) i. 3-11.
43) From chapter iii. onwards.
44) iii. l-iv. 6.
45) iv. 7-v. 10.
46) v. 11-vi. 10.
47) vi. 11-vii. 1.
48) i. 8-10; ii. 12 fol.
49) vii. 5-7.
50) viii. 6 fol.
51) ix. 4.
52) viii. 6, 16-24, ix. 3-5.
53) xii, 14, 20. fol., xiii. 1 fol. and 10.
54) Acts xx. 3 fol.
55) iii, 1, x, 12, 18, xi, 4.
56) ii. 3, 4, 9, vii. 7-12.
57) ii. 5, vii. 12.
58) x. 9-11.
59) ii. 13, vii. 5.
60) Ch, vii.
61) ii, 5 fol., vii, 11.
62) ii. 5.
63) Chs. ii. and vii.
64) Ch. v.
65) x. 7, xi. 13, 23.
66) 'And in this confidence I was minded to come unto you before, that ye might have a second benefit: and by you to pass into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come unto you.ʼ
67) 2, ii. 9. x. 6.
68) vii. 14,
69) vii. 15.
70) ii. 5 fol,
71) viii. 6.
72) i, 13, 15 fol.
73) xvi. 5 fol.
74) 2, i. 23, ii. 1,12 fol ix. 5,
75) E.g., iii, 10-23, vii. 17-24, ix. 1-x. 22, x, 25-30, xii. 20 fol., xiv. 33b-36, xv. 1-55 and 57 fol.
76) iii. 3, iv. 10-12, v. 16; Gal. iv. 13; and compare especially the ʽrelief for our spiritʼ of 2, ii. 13 and the ʽrelief of our fleshʼ of 2, vii. 5.
77) x. 2, 6, 7, 12, etc.
78) xi. 3.
79) xi. 20.
80) xii. 19
81) xii. 20.
82) xiii. 3.
83) xiii. 5.
84) ii. 4,
85) ii. 9.
86) vii. 8-11
87) vii. 12, ii. 5 fol.
88) xi. 5-xii. 11; cf. Gal. v. 10 beside v. 12 and iv. 17.
89) 7. a. 4.
90) x. 1, 9, 10 and 11.
91) That here only one brother is spoken of, while in chapter viii. it seems that two were accompanying Titus, is no argument for a different situation, since Paul may well have felt himself responsible only for that one whom he had himself tested (viii. 22) and had himself despatched to Corinth, while the other appears rather as joining the party on his own initiative, as representative of the Churches.
92) xii. 17 fol.
93) xii. 18.
94) x, 2, 5, 6, xi. 1 fol., xii. 20 fol., xiii. 10-12.
95) E.g., i. 12 fol. (ver. 14, ἀπὸ μέρους), i. 23 fol., ii. 5, 9, 17, iii. 1, 5, iv. 2, 5,7 fol., v. 11 fol. 20, vi. 1, 3, 4-13, vii. 2 fol., viii. 22, ix. 3.
96) ii. 6.
97) x. 1.
98) x. 2-6
99) xiii. 6-13.