My interest in 2 Corinthians was first aroused in 1984, when I ran across a copy of C. K. Barrett's commentary in a public library. Seven years later, as I prepared an exegesis paper as a student at Trinity College Bristol, Barrett's comments on 2 Cor 1:23-2:4 triggered a train of thought that led me to a reconstruction of the sequence of events leading up to the composition of 2 Corinthians. Early in my doctoral studies, I learned that my reconstruction was not original, but had been proposed in 1830 by Friedrich Bleek; my dissertation (1999) was a development of Bleek's ideas. I attempted to revise the dissertation with a view to publication, but ill health intervened and the project became more and more difficult. As I worked, however, I became increasingly convinced that I needed to write my own commentary on the letter in order to refine and validate my reconstruction; and I found that I could work much more effectively with a hyperlinked web than with the linear argument of a book. Since my health has now improved somewhat and since, after more than a decade the project is still far from complete, it seems desirable to make available a snapshot of at least some of my results, as they currently stand. I hope to update the site periodically and, the Lord willing, in due course to see the completed work published. In the meantime, this material may perhaps be of some use to scholars and others with a serious interest in the Corinthian Correspondence.
When I began my study of 2 Corinthians in 1991, most scholars denied the literary unity of the letter; it was viewed as the work of a later redactor, who had constructed the canonical epistle from a number of Pauline sources and, perhaps, even a non-Pauline source (6:14-7:1). With the rise of rhetorical criticism, however, the burden of proof has shifted to those who advocate such theories, and the recent major commentaries of Harris (2005); Schmeller I (2011); Guthrie (2015) maintain the original unity of the letter. I hope eventually to demonstrate that the letter is not only a literary unity but a rhetorical and pastoral tour de force.
No one reading through this site could fail to notice my scholarly debt to Margaret Thrall, and especially her commentary on 2 Corinthians (I:1994; II:2000). That my reading of 2 Corinthians often differs so radically from hers at every discourse level (and, indeed, from all previous readings), is due in no small part to the fact that, though it enjoyed substantial support in 19th century Germany, for a century now the main points of Bleek's reconstruction have been generally rejected. I have not, at every point, attempted to defend here my own exegesis against competing views; this should not be taken to mean that I have not considered other readings. My aim in this project is simply to establish the credibility of my development of Bleek's reconstruction, and to offer a new reading of the letter. I believe that the reading that the emerging reading is eliminating many of the tensions and anomalies that have led scholars to question either the literary integrity of this letter or the coherence of Paul's thought. The present offering is very incomplete; in due course, if the Lord is willing, I hope to add further introductory essays; to complete the verse-by-verse commentary; and to discuss the overall structure and argument of the larger discourse units and of the letter as a whole.
I am profoundly grateful to my wife Evelyn for her constant support and encouragement, and for her labours as my research assistant and webmaster. I am most thankful, too, for those many friends who have supported and encouraged me during the various stages of my long journey. I am especially grateful to my parents, my children, my doctor-father Professor John Nolland, and my former research student Dr. Keith Krell. I would also like to thank those who helped me financially during my doctoral studies: Jessica, Angela, Martin, your generosity has not been forgotten! I would also like to acknowledge the kind help and advice of the staff of Tyndale House, Cambridge.
May the Holy Spirit speak through the Scriptures. To God be the glory, great things he has done … !
Scarborough UK, April 2012 (revised January 2013)