Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Pastoral Epistles (Part 2 of 2): Authorship

Each of the three letters claims to be from “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus,” followed by personal comments by him (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 2 Tim. 1:15-18; 4:9-13; Tit. 1:5; 3:12). In Titus the appellation doulos theou (“a slave of God”) is added (as in Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1).1 By the time of Irenaeus (ca. 125-200) the Pastorals were unquestionably regarded as genuinely Pauline (Against Heresies 1.1; 1.16.3; 2.14.7; 3.14.1). These letters were utilized by Polycarp, Justin, Heracleon, and others. Clement of Rome betrays familiarity with these writings; also Ignatius, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and the Muratorian Fragment. In fact, “the external attestation for the [Pastoral] Epistles … is as strong as that for most of the other Epistles of Paul, with the exception of I Corinthians and Romans” (D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 585-86). No early Christian writer ever doubted the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals.  
Nonetheless, the Pastorals are the most disputed of all the writings in the NT bearing Paul’s name and are widely regarded among current NT scholars as forgeries composed in the apostle’s name near the end of the 1st century or early in the 2nd century.2 As far back as 1807, F. D. E. Schleiermacher was disputing the Pauline authorship of these letters (Über den sogenannten ersten Brief des Paulus an Timotheus), followed by F. C. Baur in 1835 (Die sogenannten Pastoralbrief des Apostels Paulus). However, not everyone assented to the Schleiermacher-Baur tradition (e.g. J. B. Lightfoot, Biblical Essays 399-418; T. Zahn, Introduction 2:1-133). H. Richards comments: “The reader might like to make his own mind up on this question, since a good case can be made for both sides. Whatever conclusion he comes to, he is assured of being in good company” (St Paul and His Epistles 143).3

The Main Issues

1. The language and writing style of these epistles are quite different when compared to the other letters in the Pauline corpus.

2. The historical situation behind the Pastorals does not fit the framework of Acts.

3. The established positions of episkopoi (“overseers”) and diakonoi (“deacons”) reflect a later, more sophisticated form of church organization.

4. The theology of the Pastorals lacks emphasis on typical Pauline doctrines.

5. Marcion’s canon (mid-2nd century) did not contain the Pastorals, and they are missing from the mid-3rd-century Chester Beatty Papyri (P46).

Responses to these objections

1. The role of amanuenses in Paul’s writings, as well as differences in time, circumstances, addressees, and subject matter, would readily account for any apparent differences in language and style. With reference to the criteria of vocabulary, style and theological motifs, E. E. Ellis observes: “the pseudepigraphal viewpoint was undermined by three new insights of twentieth-century criticism: the role of the secretary; the function of cosenders; and the presence of a considerable number of preformed, non-Pauline pieces in almost all of Paul’s letters” (“Pastoral Letters” 659, cf. 661; also “Pastorals and Paul” 45).4 If heavy use was made in the Pastorals of traditional material, the appearance of so-called “non-Pauline vocabulary” does not make a legitimate case against Pauline authorship (see J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 399-400).
M. Prior argues that at least some of the differences between the Pastorals and the other letters of Paul may be due to the fact that the Pastorals were written as personal letters by Paul alone, whereas the rest were written with secretarial assistance (Letter-Writer 50). Other factors would include Paul’s advancing age and the potential effect of the Latin environment of Rome (E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 364-65). Since these were the final letters in the Pauline corpus to have been written, differences in writing style would be expected. Scholars have observed stylistic differences between the first and seventh books of Julius Caesar’s Gallic War, likely the result of several years between compositions (see J. C. Sang, Selections from Julius Caesar’s Gallic War 2). Further, approximately 80% of the Pastorals’ hapax legomena are found in the LXX, the text in which the apostle Paul was steeped.
If an amanuensis had been used to draft these letters, it is interesting that several words in the Pastorals which have been identified as “non-Pauline” are found in Luke’s writings, and since Luke was with Paul at least when 2 Timothy was written (4:11), it has been suggested that Luke may have been his writing partner.5 Remembering that Luke was a physician, it is of further interest to consider that only in the Pastorals is the metaphorical use of certain words that mean to be sick and to be well. The theme of true and false riches is especially prominent in Luke’s writings and in the Pastorals, and a clear parallel is evident between Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 4:7 and Luke’s record of Paul’s statement in Acts 20:24. “Perhaps the Lukan affinities in the Pastorals have a simpler explanation. Luke was Paul’s longtime companion. It is likely that the two would have had some mutual influence on the language and expression of each other” (J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 400).6

2. The simplest explanation for why the Pastorals do not fit the framework of Acts is that the letters were written after the historical account in Acts was concluded.7

3. The absence of organization and a lack of perceived sophistication in the early stages of Christianity is an unwarranted assumption (cf. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:6; 20:17; Phil. 1:1). Even R. E. Brown acknowledges that an argument “that draws on comparative theology is very weak, since ‘advanced’ theological insights did not all come at the same time in every place” (An Introduction to the NT 697).

4. It is not realistic to expect Paul to have addressed the exact same themes in all of his letters (irrespective of audience, circumstances, and occasion), particularly in view of the fact that the Pastorals are addressed to his close colleagues who were already intimately familiar with the doctrines he taught.8 Furthermore, the letters to Timothy were sent to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), where Paul had previously spent three years proclaiming the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27, 31). Even the “preeminent” epistle to the Romans lacks some notable Pauline themes (e.g. the Lord’s Supper, the church, Christ’s second coming).

5. Marcion was a heretic who rejected any writings that did not support his views, including Matthew, Mark, John, and portions of Luke (cf. Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5.1, 21). The Chester Betty Papyri are fragmentary, and the latter part of P46 (where the Pastorals would have been included) has not survived. Toward the end the copyist responsible for P46 appears to have been progressively writing in a smaller hand, thus the seven missing leaves could have contained the Pastorals (J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 399). Alternatively, in view of the fact that Philemon is also missing from P46, J. D. Quinn proposes two separate collections of Paul’s writings, one for congregational letters and one for letters addressed to individuals, and that P46 only represents the former (“P46–the Pauline Canon?” 379-85).


If the Pastorals were in fact written by someone other than Paul, by using Paul’s name and other personal comments supposedly from or about the apostle,9 the pseudonymous writer was obviously being deceptive – the fact of which is perplexing in view of the warnings given in each letter against deceivers (1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:13; Tit. 1:10).10 While accepting the self-claims of authorship of only the seven undisputed letters of Paul and the book of Revelation (by an unknown John) and attributing the rest of the NT documents to pseudonymous authors, B. D. Ehrman casually remarks: “A large number of books in the early church were written by authors who falsely claimed to be apostles in order to deceive their readers into accepting their books and the views they represented” (Jesus Interrupted 136). Unfortunately, this is the all-too-common assumption that undergirds the bulk of scholarly literature today.
The least complicated and least problematic solution is to simply accept what the texts claim for themselves. A number of critical scholars still argue in favor of (or at least lean toward) the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, including D. A. Carson, D. J. Moo and L. Morris, An Introduction to the NT 359-71; E. E. Ellis, “Pastorals and Paul” 45-47; Paul’s Use of OT 5-9; D. Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles 48-53; J. P. Holding, “A Defense”; G. W. Knight, Pastoral Epistles 21-45; C. Spain, Letters 8-15; B. Witherington III, Paul Quest 110-13; K. Wuest, Pastoral Epistles 13-15, 21-23; see also the commentaries of J. Jeremias, J. N. D. Kelly, R. C. H. Lenski, and C. Spicq. While some do not recognize the authenticity of all the Pastorals, they support the Pauline authorship of 1-2 Timothy (A. Kenny, Stylometric 80-100) or at least 2 Timothy (J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life 356-59).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 J. D. Quinn and W. C. Wacker, First and Second Letters to Timothy 1-23; J. Veitch, Faith for a New Age 165-66.
     3 For a survey of arguments for and against Pauline authorship, see D. Barr, NT Story 167-71; E. E. Ellis, “Pastoral Letters” 659-61; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 584-622; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 351-63.
     4 See also I. H. Marshall, “Prospects” 137-55; C. F. D. Moule, “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles” 430-52; M. Prior, Letter-Writer 24-35, 45-59; B. Witherington, Paul Quest 10 n. 3, 110-13.
     5 See C. F. D. Moule, Essays in NT Interpretation 113-32; “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles” 430-52; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 365-66; G. D. Fee, First and Second Timothy, Titus 26; E. E. Ellis, Pauline Theology: Ministry and Society 104-111.
     6 See also G. W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles 50-52. Others have granted an even greater compositional role to Luke (cf. S. G. Wilson, Luke and the Pastorals; J. D. Quinn, “The Last Volume of Luke” 62-75).
     7 See What Happened After Acts? 
     8 For valid responses to arguments based on the nature of the false teaching addressed, theology, church organization, and social/ethical perspective, see J. B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters 400-404; also D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 589-606.
     9 1 Tim. 1:1; 1:3, 12-20; 2:1, 7, 8, 12; 3:14-15; 4:13; 5:14, 21; 6:13; 2 Tim. 1:1; 1:3-6, 8, 11, 12, 15-18; 2:1-2, 7, 9, 10; 3:10-11; 4:1, 6-21; Tit. 1:1; 1:3, 5; 3:12-15.
     10 See D. A. Caron and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 337-50; D. Guthrie, NT Introduction 671-84; “Development of Canonical Pseudepigraphy” 43-59; B. M. Metzger, “Literary Forgeries” 3-24.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Pastoral Epistles (Part 1 of 2): Introduction

The term “Pastoral” to describe 1 Timothy was coined by Thomas Aquinas in 1274 and was used by D. N. Berdot in 1703 and popularized by Paul Anton in 1726 as a collective designation for 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. However, the title “is not technically quite correct in that the Epistles … certainly do not contain a manual of pastoral theology” (D. Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles 11). Nevertheless, because of its familiarity and convenience, “the Pastorals” as a succinct reference to the three letters addressed to two of Paul’s most faithful companions continues to be widely used. Since qualifications of pastors (i.e., shepherds, overseers, elders) are given in 1 Timothy and Titus, the moniker is not entirely illegitimate. While the Pastorals are treated together here for the sake of convenience, they should still be regarded as individual documents.

Distinctive Features

Each of the three letters is written in the name of Paul alone, with no mention of a co-sender. While Paul’s name appearing unaccompanied does not rule out the possibility of secretarial assistance (cf. Rom. 1:1; 16:22), it is interesting that the most disputed Pauline letters (Ephesians and the Pastorals) designate Paul alone in the opening address, with no indication elsewhere in the letters of secretarial involvement. This suggests, contrary to popular scholarly opinion, that these “disputed” letters actually reflect the purest Pauline vocabulary and style, while the rest betray a compositional blend of Paul and his collaborators (see next article).
The stereotypical Pauline greeting (“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ”) is considerably modified in the Pastorals.1 The term eleos (“mercy”) is added in 1 and 2 Timothy. The usual order of Iēsou Christou (“Jesus Christ”) is reversed in the Pastorals, kuriou (“Lord”) is positioned at the end of the sequence instead of the beginning, hēmōn (“our”) follows Christou Iēsou (“Christ Jesus”) rather than theou patros (“God [the] Father”), and kuriou (“Lord”) is replaced with sōtēros (“Savior”) in Titus.
Besides Philemon, these are the only extant Pauline letters addressed to individuals. However, it is apparent that behind the author’s thought of Timothy and Titus is that of the congregations with which they worked. Each of the letters ends with a grace-wish to “you” (plural) (1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Tit. 3:15). Chronologically, these letters are the final documents in the Pauline corpus.

Provenance, Destination, and Date

On one end of the spectrum, the Pastorals have been dated as late as the 120s-130s (see L. M. White, From Jesus to Christianity 428-33). On the other end, B. Reicke places 1 Timothy in the summer or autumn of 56, Titus in 58, and 2 Timothy in 60 (Re-examining Paul’s Letters 51, 68, 85); J. A. T. Robinson consigns 1 Timothy to autumn 55, Titus to late spring 57, and 2 Timothy to autumn 58 (Redating the NT 67-84).
Around spring of 62, near the end of Paul’s two-year detention in Rome (Acts 28:30), the apostle was anticipating probable release (Philem. 22; Phil. 1:19, 25-26; 2:24), and he later speaks of his “first defense” and deliverance (2 Tim. 4:16-17). Having regained his freedom, Paul traveled to places like Macedonia, Ephesus, Crete, Nicopolis, Troas, Miletus, and possibly also to Corinth, Colosse, and/or Spain  (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; Tit.1:5; 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:13, 20; cf. Philem. 22; Rom. 15:28).2 
Probably from Macedonia Paul wrote 1 Timothy, sending the letter to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). He  hoped to visit Timothy in Ephesus but understood that he might be delayed (1 Tim. 3:14-15). On his way to Nicopolis Paul wrote his letter to Titus, sending it to the island of Crete (Tit. 1:5; 3:12). The location of Nicopolis is uncertain, since different cities shared this same name in various places, including Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is possible that this particular Nicopolis was in Thrace (near the borders of Macedonia) or in Cilicia, but more likely in the province of Epirus in northwestern Greece (modern-day Smyrtoula).3 
While there is no way of knowing for sure how long this limited period of freedom was for Paul, these two letters were conceivably drafted sometime around 62-64. Assuming Paul was released from his first Roman detention around spring of 62, this time period would have afforded him the opportunity to travel to the places mentioned in the Pastorals and to have been back in Rome when Nero’s persecution broke out in the summer of 64. According to tradition, Paul suffered martyrdom around this time (see below).
At some point Paul ended up back in Rome as a prisoner and wrote 2 Timothy about 64-65. The apostle was in Rome and was imprisoned at the time of writing (2 Tim. 1:8, 16-17). He implies that his upcoming trial was the second one, and this time he was expecting almost certain death (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16). Luke was presently with him, and Paul requests that Timothy and Mark come to him before the onset of winter (2 Tim. 4:9-21). According to tradition Paul was executed during the reign of Nero, who instigated his persecution of Christians in the summer of 64 and committed suicide in the summer of 68 (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.25.1-8).
            In the next post we will address the question of authorship.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 See also Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.22.1-7; I Clement 5.1-7; Jerome, De uiris illus. 5.
     3 See BDAG 673; also D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Letters 16-17; E. F. Harrison, Introduction to the NT 349; McClintock and Strong 7:80-81.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Is it scriptural for a congregation to withdraw from another congregation?

     The concept of brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17; 5:9), along with numerous biblical examples, supports the regular association and cooperation among churches of Christ (e.g. 1 Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:19; 11:8-9; et al.). But is Christian brotherhood limited to only pleasant circumstances and enjoyable activities? Does not the “brother’s keeper” principle (Gen. 4:9) enjoin on all members of God’s universal family the responsibility of warning, admonishing, and restoring those who are drifting away from the Lord? (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). Does not brotherly love also require the exercise of certain actions which may be somewhat difficult or unpleasant? (cf. Jude 20-23). As fellowship is not limited to the congregational level alone, neither are cooperation, association, warning, admonishing, correcting, or restoring. To suggest that a congregation cannot publicly warn, rebuke, or turn away from a sister congregation that is in error is an attempt to tie the hands of the faithful and to give the devil free course to continue his destructive work. If a faithful congregation cannot withdraw from an apostatizing group, it is therefore forced to continue its association with no means of protecting its members from subversive influences.
     Since the Lord himself cuts off entire congregations when they drift too far away from the prescribed standard of conduct (Rev. 2:5; 3:16; cf. John 15:2-6), should any less be expected from those who remain in fellowship with God? It is true that there were faithful Christians even among the errant congregations of Asia Minor (cf. Rev. 2:24; 3:4), but bear in mind that the Lord did not happily accept the condition of these churches and expect them to maintain their status quo. He called upon them to either repent or face the consequences. Individuals who are true to the Lord, even within the unsound congregations, have the responsibility of admonishing and restoring the unfaithful (Gal. 6:1; James 5:19-20) and severing their affiliation with those who refuse to repent (1 Cor. 5:13; 2 Thess. 3:6; cf. 2 Cor. 6:17). Perpetual silence and toleration in the midst of unrepentant sin are not marks of faithfulness (cf. 1 Kings 18:21; Ezek. 3:17- 21; Rev. 2:20).
     Every Christian and every local congregation belongs to the universal body of Christ. Congregational autonomy does not negate the common bond we all share as a spiritual family. Certainly no single congregation has the right or authority to rule over the affairs of another, but warning, rebuking, and withdrawing from an erring group of Christians is not an infringement on church autonomy. A congregation has both the right and the obligation to refuse association with any person or group that fails to abide within the boundaries set forth by God’s word. Local leaderships will be held accountable for the souls entrusted to their care (Heb. 13:17), for their faithfulness to God or lack of it (Rev. 2:10, 23), and for the messages of approval or disapproval conveyed to their brethren (1 Cor. 11:2, 17).
     A word of caution is in order here. Before an entire congregation (or even an individual for that matter) is excluded from one’s circle of associations, the reasons and motives for such strong measures must be prayerfully scrutinized in the light of God’s word. It is fairly easy to make general allegations of “unfaithfulness” or “false teaching” or “liberalism” or “legalism” or “divisiveness” bolstered by numerous scripture references. But without the substantiation of specific details and reliable information, there is a risk of making illegitimate claims and premature or unwarranted judgments. There is no place for hasty decisions, unbridled emotionalism, or irresponsible proof-texting when dealing with something as precious as the fellowship of God’s people. And because this is such an important matter, sometimes the best course to take is disassociation.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Who is the “I” of Romans 7:7-25?

In Romans 7 Paul seems to be using a rhetorical device that employs first person terminology to convey a general truth, similar to Rom. 3:5-7 and 1 Cor. 10:29-30. Some scholars refer to this as “speech-in-character.1 But even in a general sense, who would be included in the I references?

Paul is writing to “all in Rome … called saints” (Rom. 1:7)and sends greetings to what appears to be three or more separate house churches (16:5, 14, 15) comprised of both Gentile and Jewish believers.3  At times in the letter his focus seems to be on Gentile Christians (1:5-6, 13; 11:13-24; 15:14-21), and at other times Jewish Christians (2:17; 6:14-15; 7:4; 16:3, 7, 11). Although there are allusions to physical Israel (e.g. 9:1-5), the apostle plainly states: “for not all those of Israel are [truly] Israel” (9:6b), and “the children of the flesh, these are not children of God, but the children of the promise are considered a posterity” (9:8; cf. 10:12). This follows the previous affirmations that Abraham is the father of all the Roman believers, both Jewish and Gentile (4:12, 16).  

Paul is writing as an evangelist to those who have already been evangelized (note 6:3-5), so whatever he discusses is most likely an internal Christian matter. While he wants to secure the support of the Roman brethren for his planned mission to Spain (15:24-29), he also needs to address the apparent division between Gentile and Jewish believers (14:1–15:13). There were multiple circumstances that “led Paul to write a letter in which he carefully set forth his understanding of the gospel, particularly as it related to the salvation-historical question of Jew and Gentile, law and gospel, continuity and discontinuity between the old and the new” (D. A. Carson and D. J. Moo, An Introduction to the NT 407; also D. J. Moo, Romans 16-22).

The discussion in Rom. 7 particularly relates to “those who know the law” (v. 1), albeit having been “delivered from the law” (v. 6). Paul was not anti-law (cf. 3:31; 7:7, 12, 14). Rather, he understood that apart from the faith of Christ justification before God cannot be secured by meritorious works of the law (3:20-31; 9:30-32). The argumentation in Rom. 7 is from the perspective of a mid-first-century Jewish Christian (like Paul himself), the application of which was almost certainly not intended to be limited so narrowly.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1See, e.g., S. K. Stowers, “Romans 7.7-25 as a Speech-in-Character, in Paul in His Hellenistic Context (ed. T. Enberg-Pedersen): 180-202. 
     2Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     3See K. L. Moore, A Critical Introduction to the NT 148-50.

Related PostsWas Paul Anti-Law? 

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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Chronology of Paul’s Work in Corinth

     Lucius Junius Gallio Novatianus (a.k.a. Gallio) began his one-year office as proconsul of Achaia in June 51. An inscription discovered at Delphi and published in 1905 (with additional fragments found and then published in 1970) dates between April and July 52. From this we can deduce that Gallio was the proconsul of Achaia in the previous year (cf. Acts 18:2, 12).
     Emperor Claudius had dispelled Jews (including Aquila and Priscilla) from Rome in 49 (his 9th year as emperor). The dating of Claudius’ edict comes primarily from the 5th-century historian Paulus Orosius (Hist. Adv. Pag. 7.6.15-16), and even though there is a degree of uncertainty as to the exactness of this date (cf. J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life 9-10), it is consistent with other chronological data (Josephus, Dio Cassius, Suetonius) and is based on historical information available to Orosius that is no longer extant. 
     Paul and Barnabas met with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to discuss the circumcision controversy (Acts 15:1 ff.) early in the year 50, fourteen years after Paul’s visit in 36 (Gal. 2:1).1 Afterwards, over the next few months, Paul’s missionary team started churches in the region of Macedonia, viz. in the cities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, then on to Athens (Acts 16–17).
Paul’s Work in Corinth
     The apostle would have arrived in Corinth from Athens around late autumn of the year 50. He labored with Aquila, Priscilla, Silas and Timothy until spring of 52, leaving behind an established Christian community (Acts 18:1-18). After his departure via the seaport of Cenchrea, Paul seems to have had no further communications with the Corinthian brethren until sometime during his three years’ ministry in Ephesus (Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:8).
     Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians in which he warned them not to associate with immoral persons (1 Cor. 5:9), and Timothy was sent to Corinth to remind them of the apostle’s teachings (1 Cor. 4:17). Paul received reports from Chloe’s people of certain disorders among the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:11), and he welcomed a delegation from Corinth, namely Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus (1 Cor. 16:17), who delivered a letter from the brethren seeking his advice on various questions (1 Cor. 7:1). In response Paul wrote the epistle of 1 Corinthians from Ephesus in the spring of 56 (cf. 1 Cor. 4:19; 16:8).
     An unsuccessful attempt had been made to get Apollos to revisit Corinth (1 Cor. 16:12), while Paul was planning to return to Corinth himself (1 Cor. 4:18-19; 11:34; cf. 2 Cor. 11:10; 12:21) to impart “a second blessing [cháris]” (2 Cor. 1:15). This could refer to his next return since the inaugural campaign (cf. 2 Cor. 12:14; 13:2; discussed further below). Another possibility is the fact that two upcoming visits had been planned – one on the way to Macedonia (2 Cor. 1:16a) and the other from Macedonia (v. 16b) – thus the first and second “blessing,” although the first of these did not eventuate.
     His initial intention was to stop in Corinth on his way to Macedonia, then revisit the Corinthians on his way from Macedonia to Judea and be assisted by them (2 Cor. 1:16; cf. 1 Cor. 16:6; Acts 19:21). However, for reasons presumably beyond his control, he had to change his travel plans and go to Macedonia first (1 Cor. 16:2-7; cf. 2 Cor. 1:12-24) via Troas (2 Cor. 2:12-13), although he did not want to visit the Corinthians while he was agitated with them (2 Cor. 1:23; 2:1-4; cf. 12:20-21; 13:10).
     Titus had been to Corinth and met Paul in Macedonia, reporting on the situation among the Corinthian disciples (2 Cor. 7:5-7, 13-15). From Macedonia (2 Cor. 7:5; 9:2-4) Paul and Timothy wrote 2 Corinthians in the summer and/or autumn of 56. Some interpret the evidence differently and propose three visits and four letters to Corinth (e.g. L. Morris, First Corinthians 22-25; C. Kruse, Second Corinthians 17-25; cf. G. Guthrie, 2 Corinthians 18-32).
     Paul states: “this [is the] third [time] I am ready to come to you” (2 Cor. 12:14), and “this [is the] third [time] I am coming to you” (13:1).2 These statements seem to be alluding to: (a) his inaugural visit to Corinth (Acts 18); (b) the intended visit on the way to Macedonia that did not occur (2 Cor. 1:15-17); and (c) the upcoming visit he is planning to make. This conclusion is corroborated by the next statement in 13:2, “I have warned and I am warning, as being present the second [time] and being absent now … if I come again …” This would indicate that Paul had been to Corinth once before (Acts 18), and though his previous plan to return did not eventuate, this letter is a prelude to his upcoming second visit (cf. 2 Cor. 9:1-5; 10:2, 11; 12:20-21; 13:10). Titus and other brothers were sent back to Corinth probably to deliver the letter and to help get the contribution ready which the Corinthians had proposed a year earlier (2 Cor. 8:6-24; 9:2-5; 12:17-18).
Paul’s Return to Corinth
     Paul did eventually return to Corinth, spending the three winter months of 56-57 in Greece (Acts 20:2-3), during which time he and Tertius wrote the epistle to the Romans. While it is possible that Paul revisited Corinth after his release from the first Roman imprisonment around 62-64 (cf. 2 Tim. 4:20), this cannot be confirmed.
     Paul was not in the habit of making converts and then leaving them to fend for themselves (see They Returned). His documented work in Corinth demonstrates that he invested significant time and energy in fulfilling the great commission by making disciples and establishing congregations with ongoing contact and follow up.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 The question here is whether to understand the three years of Gal. 1:18 and the fourteen years of Gal. 2:1 concurrently or consecutively. Adding the fourteen years to Paul’s initial post-conversion Jerusalem visit does not present any insurmountable chronological difficulties. What creates a greater degree of uncertainty, however, is the ancient practice of counting a portion of the first and last years as a full year in the calculation.
     2 Unless otherwise noted, English translation of scripture is the author’s own.

Related Posts: Ancient Corinth 

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