2 Cor 1:15-2:4

The Deferred Visit and the Letter of Tears

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15 And in this confidence I planned formerly to come to you, so that you might have a second mark of my goodwill; I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to return to you and be sent on by you to Judea. 17 So then, did I perhaps make use of that 'levity' of mine, when I planned this? Or rather, do I decide the things that I decide as the world takes decisions, so that yes being yes and no being no rests with me? 18 God is faithful, in that  our word to you is not ‘yes and no’; 19 for the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, who was proclaimed among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not ‘Yes' and 'No’, but in him ‘Yes’ has come into being. 20 For as many as are the promises of God, in him the ‘yes’ to them has come into being. Therefore through him we also say ‘Amen’ to God, so that through us his glory might be revealed. 21 ‘It is God who is establishing us, together with you, in the Anointed One, who has anointed us, 22 who, indeed, has marked us with a seal and has given as a pledge the Spirit in our hearts. 23 Now I call upon God as witness against my soul, that it was to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. 24 Not that we rule over your faith. Rather, we work with you to bring you joy, for it is by faith that you stand firm.  2 For I made up my mind not to return to you bringing sorrow; 2 for if I were to cause you sorrow, who then would make me glad, if not the one who had been made sorrowful by me? 3 I wrote this very thing, so that when I came I should not have sorrow from those who ought to make me glad. I wrote, trusting in you all, that my joy is the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart, through many tears, not to cause you sorrow, but to make known to  you the abundant love that I have for you.


Following the Corinthian revolt the apostle revised the plan of vv. 15-16, and announced in 1 Corinthians that he would go first to Macedonia; he hoped then to spend the winter in Corinth (16:5-7). However the church, in view of their sharp disagreement over the incestuous affair, asked him to change his plans again: they wanted him to come to them first, before leaving for Macedonia. In the Letter of Tears Paul declined this request (see also on 2:3). As Zahn points out, 'the solemn assurance of i.23-ii.2 makes it clear beyond all question that in the 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 …' [1]


The apostle faces a second charge: that his handling of the crisis was reckless and irresponsible. How could he have been sure that his letter, which had caused the church such pain (2:4; 7:6-10), would be enough to head off the divine judgment that he claimed to fear? He should have gone directly to Corinth and taken charge. His actions, it has been alleged, are incompatible with his words: he cannot be trusted.


Paul explains that his decision to postpone his planned visit to Corinth was not irresponsible, nor did his actions contradict his words or invalidate his gospel; rather, his actions were grounded in his trust in the faithfulness of God, who has given a binding guarantee both of his own ultimate salvation in Christ and that of his addressees. As he made clear in the Letter of Tears, his decision was motivated by his love for his addressees: he wanted to spare them (1:15-2:4).



Καὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πεποιθήσει ἐβουλόμην πρότερον πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν, ἵνα δευτέραν χάριν[2] σχῆτε, 16 καὶ δι' ὑμῶν διελθεῖν εἰς Μακεδονίαν καὶ πάλιν ἀπὸ Μακεδονίας ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ὑφ' ὑμῶν προπεμφθῆναι εἰς τὴν 'Ιουδαίαν.


‘And in this confidence [3] I planned [4] formerly [5] to come to you, so that you might have [6] a second [7] mark of my goodwill; [8] 16 I planned [9] to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to return to you and be sent on by you [10] to Judea.’


Being confident of his spiritual partnership with the Corinthians – that they will be proud of him on the Day of the Lord, just as he will be proud of them (v. 14) - Paul had desired formerly (before 1 Corinthians) [11] to come to Corinth en route to Macedonia, so that they might have a second mark of his goodwill. For having founded the church and left them for a mission in western Macedonia,[12] Paul had revisited them in en route to Syria (Acts 18:18); [13] but the visit had been an unhappy occasion (cf. 12:20-13:2). He had hoped to lay this memory to rest as he passed through Corinth again, this time en route to Macedonia. He would visit them again in passing through, and (as a reciprocal benefit for his good will) have them provide for his journey to Judea. [14] But he had changed his mind. In the Greco-Roman culture, 'the reception of a benefit implies the existence or establishment of a friendship ([Seneca, Ben.] 2.2.11; 2.18.5; Ep.  19.11-12). In this friendship the parties seek to render to each other the services they require. Thus Seneca can refer to this friendship as an exchange of obligations (2.18.2)'. [15] Receiving a benefit is receiving a debt (Ben. 2.23.2). In describing his visit as a χάρις, Paul signals that he had hoped to initiate an exchange of benefits; his expression of goodwill in visiting the church would have placed them in his debt, and he was confident that they would be eager to discharge this debt, when he returned from Macedonia, by meeting his need for practical assistance for his journey to Judea (cf. Seneca, Ben. 2.2.1). Such an exchange would have reaffirmed the bond of friendship between apostle and church. [16]



τοῦτο οὖν βουλόμενος μήτι ἄρα τῇ ἐλαφρίᾳ ἐχρησάμην; ἤ ἃ βουλεύομαι κατὰ σάρκα βουλεύομαι, ἵνα ᾖ παρ' ἐμοὶ τὸ ναὶ ναὶ καὶ τὸ οὒ οὔ;


‘So then, did I perhaps [17] make use of [18] that levity of mine [19] when I planned this? [20] Or rather, [21] do I decide [22] the things that I decide as the world takes decisions,[23] so that yes being yes and no being no [24] rests with me? [25]


Paul now alludes to the church's criticism of his decision not to come directly to Corinth: 'When I planned this, did I perhaps employ that ἐλαφρία of mine?' The charge Paul is addressing may be reconstructed as follows: If the situation in Corinth was really as serious as the Letter of Tears portrayed it to have been then, having received new information after the composition of 1 Corinthians, he should have reverted to his original plan. The church was facing the terrifying prospect of divine judgment; he should have come to Corinth immediately and taken charge. Instead, or so he claims, he recklessly exposed himself to the same danger, relying on the persuasive power of a mere letter! His language (χράομαι + the impersonal dative object ἐλαφρία) suggests the charge that he has a track record of a certain studied stupidity: that he is, at times, wilfully irrational and reckless; probably the allusion is to his failure to visit the church when he first learned that all was not well (cf. 1 Cor 4:18-19; 5:9; 16:7-9). In response, Paul asks whether the plan he has just outlined was wilfully reckless? Obviously not. His purpose, when he planed to visit the church again in passing through, was a serious one: he wished to give them a second mark of his goodwill, and thereby to lay to rest the shameful memory of the first such visit. His purpose, when he planned a further visit after he had been to Macedonia, was to give them the opportunity to provide for his needs on his journey to Judea. Since his decision making when he formed this plan was careful, rational and motivated by his love for and partnership with the church, it is hardly likely that his revised plan was careless and reckless.


The pair of rhetorical questions that make up v. 17 are co-ordinated by the particle ἤ: the second question anticipates the answer to the first (the apostle did not employ levity when he formed the plan outlined in vv. 15-16), and sharpens the point. With the new information supplied by vv. 15-16 Paul's readers now know that his carefully constructed earlier plan was superseded by his plan to go first to Macedonia, and his readers may recall that he has already given certain reasons for this decision also (1 Cor 16:5-9). In light of this new information he now asks, ‘Or rather, when I decide the things that I decide, do I decide in a worldly fashion (κατὰ σάρκα), so that yes being yes and no being no rests with me?’ The phrase κατὰ σάρκα (literally, 'according to the flesh') is opposed in Rom 8:4, (comporting oneself) κατὰ σάρκα is opposed to κατὰ πνεῦμα ('according to the Spirit'), and the same nuance seems to be implied here.  Paul expects his readers to agree that he does not take decisions as one dominated by sinful desires (κατὰ σάρκα). Rather, though he takes personal responsibility for the decisions that he takes (1:23; 2:1f; 1 Cor 16:5-9), in his decision making he is guided by the Spirit (he plans κατὰ πνεῦμα). Despite 2:2, therefore, Paul is claiming that his decisions to go first to Macedonia (1 Cor 16:5-7), and then to decline the church’s subsequent request that he visit them first ('no being no'), were not in a self-centred, godless fashion: he did not employ ἐλαφρία, nor did he take these decisions κατὰ σάρκα. It may be inferred that his further decision (conveyed in the Letter of Tears), to reject the church's request that he abandon the plan of 1 Cor 16:5-7 and come directly to Corinth, was taken under the guidance of the Spirit. He will reveal shortly that the deciding factor was the need to spare  both the church and himself the pain and heartbreak of a devastating confrontation (1:23-2:2; cf. 3:2-3; 10:8; 13:10).



πιστὸς δὲ θεὸς ὅτι λόγος ἡμῶν πρὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἔστιν ναὶ καὶ οὔ.


God is faithful, [26] in that [27] our word to you is not 'Yes' and 'No'.


The affirmation πιστὸς ὁ θεός, ‘God is faithful’, appears in 1 Cor 1:8-9, where Paul stresses God’s covenantal commitment to strengthen (βεβαιώσει) the Corinthian saints, whom he has called into the fellowship of his Son, so that they will be found blameless at the Parousia. It appears again in 1 Cor 10:13. Collier points out that 1 Cor 10:1-13 is a carefully crafted, self-contained unit.[28] Vv. 1-11 recall the judgment of the Exodus generation of Israel under the old covenant; these things happened to them, Paul says, and were recorded, 'as a paradigmatic warning for us, upon whom the fulfilment of the ages has come' (v. 11). Vv. 12-13 are chiastic, centring on πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, and the point of the pericope is the following: 'God, who destroyed most of our fathers for their sins, is nevertheless faithful, for he provides an escape from the temptation of such evil cravings as they had. The one who bears up under such temptation will do so by the power of the same God who has final ability to destroy utterly.' [29] Equivalent expressions are found in 1 Thess 5:24 (πιστὸς ὁ παρακαλῶν ὑμᾶς) and in 2 Thess 3:3 (πιστὸς δέ ἐστιν ὁ κύριος): the One who comforts the Thessalonians is faithful, and will sanctify them so that they will be found blameless at the Parousia (1 Thess 5:23f); the Lord, who is faithful, will strengthen them and guard them from Satan (2 Thess 3:3). In each instance the formula expresses God’s reliability in respect of the promises of the new covenant: he will enable his covenant people to withstand every trial and temptation. In 2 Cor 1:18 also the expression is almost certainly confessional, expressing this same assurance:[30] the reliability of the apostle's word to the Corinthians is an aspect of God's faithfulness. In particular, his decisions concerning visiting Corinth in no way contradict or deny the promises of the gospel (cf. on 1:12-14).



τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν δι᾽ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς, δι᾽ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου, οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὒ ἀλλὰ ναὶ ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν.


For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed among you by us, by me and Silvanus and Timothy, has not proved to be [31] "Yes and No", but in him 'Yes' has come into being.[32]


The word of  God's envoy to the Corinthians is not ‘yes and no', for (γάρ) the Messiah, who was preached among them by Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, [33] is none other than the Son of God [34] (2 Sam 7:12-14; 1 Chron 22:10; Pss 2:7; 89:26f; cf. Exod 4:22f; Jer 31:9). [35] For as John Nolland points out,


It is important to note that even in connection with the messiah 'son' is not simply another word for 'messiah': sonship refers to a special status and relationship with God which the messiah may experience. It is sonship as status and relationship which ties together the different strands involved in identifying Jesus as Son of God. [36]


Through the proclamation of the gospel the Corinthians have entered into relationship, indeed into spiritual union, with the risen and glorified Son of God, who died for them and whose status and relationship with God has been established beyond all doubt by his glorious Resurrection. The logical connection that is assumed here is spelled out at length in Romans 8; Hengel comments,


It is striking that the title [Son of God] appears 3 times right at the beginning of Romans, in the introduction, and that Paul uses it to describe the content of his gospel (1.3, 4, 9). It occurs 3 times again at the climax of the letter, in ch. 8, the point of which could be summed up in a single sentence: The "Son of God" makes us "sons of God", who are to participate in his heavenly doxa (8.3, 29, 32)'. [37]



ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ ναί· διὸ καὶ δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἀμὴν τῷ θεῷ πρὸς δόξαν δι᾽ ἡμῶν.



For as many as are [38] the promises of God, in him the ‘Yes’ to them [39] has come into being.[40]  Therefore [41] through him we also say [42] ‘Amen’ to God, so that through us his glory might be revealed.’ [43]


With two elliptical sentences Paul now begins to expand upon his declaration, ναὶ ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν ('in him, "Yes" has come into being'). The two clauses of the first sentence need both copulas and αὐταῖς: ὅσαι γὰρ εἰσιν ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ γέγονεν τὸ ναί αὐταῖς. [44] The implied verbs of the second sentence must be supplied from context. As Wright points out, '[The word "Christ"] is not simply, for Paul, a proper name. It is a title which means “Messiah”. “Messiah” implies “Israel”; to call this Jesus “Messiah” means to claim that Israel’s destiny has reached its fulfilment in him.' [45] Christ is the Seed who is to receive the inheritance promised to Abraham (Gal 3:16); he is the Last Adam, who is restored to Paradise (1 Cor 15:21-22; cf. v. 45). All God's promises to Israel stand fulfilled in him; God's covenant faithfulness has been given complete expression in the person of his Son, Jesus the Messiah, the crucified, risen and glorified Lord. The apostle has already expressed his confidence in the Corinthians, that they participate in the perfect consolation of God's Son (1:7, 14).


The second sentence appears to be so constructed that the δι' αὐτοῦ of the first clause (τὸ ἀμὴν τῷ θεῷ) is balanced by the δι' ἡμῶν of the second (πρὸς δόξαν δι' ἡμῶν),[46] implying a parallel of some kind between the two prepositional phrases. The use of personal pronouns in the immediate context indicates that the referent of δι' ἡμῶν does not include the Corinthians, for in vv. 18f ‘we’ clearly refers to Paul and his co-workers Timothy and Silvanus, who are explicitly differentiated from those to whom they preached (ἐν ὑμῖν δι' ἡμῶν); and this distinction is maintained in the first clause of v. 21 (ἡμᾶς σὺν ὑμῖν).[47] Paul is still answering the charge that he mishandled the recent crisis: that the church was facing divine judgment and eschatological loss, and he had responded with 'levity' (1:17). Alluding to the Letter of Tears, the apostle has replied that his response to the crisis was in fact fully consistent with his responsibilities (1:12-14). It seems best, therefore, to supply for the first clause of the second sentence, λέγομεν, ‘we say’: ‘Therefore through him [Jesus Christ] we also say the Amen to God’. In Christ the 'Amen' to the promises of God has come into being; Paul therefore (διό) offers the only rational response: he says 'Amen'. Consequently, the apostle conducts his ministry in the confidence that all God's promises have been fulfilled in Christ. In particular, it is implied, when he postponed his planned visit to Corinth and instead stood with the Corinthians before the judgment of God, Paul did so trusting that he was in Christ, and therefore a co-heir to all the promises of God. He entrusted himself to 'God who raises the dead' (v. 9). Through Christ (δι' αὐτοῦ) he said ‘Amen’ to God, trusting that if he participated in Christ's sufferings he would also participate in his consolation (vv. 3-5).


In the second clause of the second sentence, it is proposed that τὸ φανερωθῆναι [48] be supplied: πρὸς τὸ φανερωθῆναι δόξαν δι' ἡμῶν, ‘in order that [his] glory might be made manifest through us (δι' ἡμῶν).’ For Paul, the glory of God is a transforming power (3:18; cf. Rom 6:4). In 2:14-4:12 he shows that his experiences of extreme suffering and divine deliverance reveal God's glory in the epiphany of the crucified and risen Messiah. Through the Messiah (δι' αὐτοῦ) Paul says 'Amen' to God's promises, so that through his sufferings (δι' ἡμῶν) Christ's glory might be revealed.



δὲ βεβαιῶν ἡμᾶς σὺν ὑμῖν εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ χρίσας ἡμᾶς θεός, 22   καὶ σφραγισάμενος ἡμᾶς καὶ δοὺς τὸν ἀρραβῶνα τοῦ πνεύματος ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ἡμῶν.


‘It is God who is establishing [49] us, together with you, in [50] the Anointed One, who has anointed [51] us, 22 who, indeed, has marked us with a seal [52] and has given as a pledge [53] the Spirit in our hearts.’


The symmetry of this sentence suggests that θεός is the predicate, which is preceded by, and then followed by, a pair of substantival participles. [54] The first participle, a present, is set apart by its tense; the other three are aorists. The present tense points to a repeated action: in response to Paul's 'Amen' to his promises, God confirms Paul's status in the Anointed One ('in Christ'), and thereby he confirms also the status of the  Corinthians, with whom Paul stands, as belonging to Christ. When the apostle suffers mortal danger on the Corinthians' behalf, participating abundantly in the sufferings of the Messiah, God delivers him. As Paul's spiritual partners the Corinthians also participate in the sufferings of the Messiah, and God delivers them also (1:6-7). As Fee observes, 'The emphasis seems to lie first of all on Paul’s being presently “confirmed” by God (and by extension therefore all of them); at the same time, the whole emphasizes the absolutely central and crucial role taken by God.' [55] The term βεβαιόω (‘to put something beyond doubt; confirm, establish’), [56] and its cognates, commonly denoted ‘legally guaranteed security’. [57]


The predicate θεός has a certain prominence. Continuing his rebuttal of the charge of recklessly jeopardising both his own and the church’s good standing at the eschatological judgment (v. 17), Paul points out that it is God who is establishing (βεβαιῶν) him, together with his addressees (ἡμᾶς σὺν ὑμῖν), in their guaranteed legal status in Christ, the Anointed One. [58] In dealing with the recent crisis Paul did not rely on himself – he did not travel to Corinth to confront the church. Rather, he relied on God, who is faithful (v. 18), whose promises are all ‘Yes’ in the Messiah (v.20), who raises the dead (v. 9).


The following participles (introduced by an epexegetical  καί) specify three indelible markers of Paul's and his addressees' legal status in the Anointed One: First, God has ‘anointed’ them (χρίσας ἡμᾶς), the word-play Χριστὸν - χρίσας (‘Anointed One’ – ‘anointed’) highlighting the fact that through the Messiah they have been granted royal status. [59] God has also marked them with his seal (ὁ καὶ σφραγισάμενος ἡμᾶς), [60] confirming their legal status, [61] and has given the pledge (ἀρραβῶν) of the Spirit in their hearts. By the giving of the pledge God has entered into a binding contract with Paul and the Corinthians: he recognises irrevocably their legal status in the Anointed One, and will fulfil to them all the promises of the new covenant. [62] In dealing with the recent crisis therefore, being fully confident of his position in Christ, and of the position of his addressees (though at the height of the crisis, due to his human failty, his confidence was shaken for a time), Paul put his hope in God’s promises.



Ἐγὼ δὲ μάρτυρα τὸν θεὸν ἐπικαλοῦμαι ἐπὶ τὴν ἐμὴν ψυχήν, ὅτι φειδόμενος ὑμῶν οὐκέτι ἦλθον εἰς Κόρινθον.


‘Now I call upon [63] God as witness against [64] my soul, [65] that it was to spare [66] you that I came no more [67] to Corinth.’


Returning to the first person singular (cf. v. 17), Paul now declares with an oath that the reason he has stayed away from Corinth so long is that he wants to spare (φείδομαι) the church. Some years had passed since the left Corinth for the second time. He had been grieved to find that, even then, some were involved in serious sin. He had left them with a stern warning: when he returned, he would not spare (φείδομαι) them again (13:2). Apollos had worked among them (1 Cor 3:5f; cf. Acts 18:27-19:1); but then, with the arrival of certain false teachers, the pastoral situation had deteriorated sharply. Though he had planned a visit (vv. 15-16), he had not returned to them, for he had no desire to carry out his threat (cf. 2:1-2; 10:1f, 8; 12:10-21; 13:10). If he is lying, he says in effect, then may God bear witness against him by putting him to death!




οὐχ ὅτι κυριεύομεν ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως ἀλλὰ συνεργοί ἐσμεν τῆς χαρᾶς ὑμῶν· τῇ γὰρ πίστει ἑστήκατε.


‘[I am] not [saying] [68] that we rule over [69] your faith; rather, we work with you to bring you joy; [70] for it is by faith that you stand firm.’ [71]


Paul does not want to be misunderstood; he is not saying that his spiritual relationship with the Corinthians is that of a master with his slaves. Rather, he works with them in partnership (cf. 1:14). He works with them for the promotion of their joy, for it is by faith that they stand firm (in their faith). Like thanksgiving, joy is their natural and inevitable response to the recognition and experience of God’s faithfulness, and through the experience of joy they are strengthened (cf. Psa 28:7; Neh 8:10).


Van Unnik has shown that in composing vv. 18-24, Paul likely reflected on the Hebrew root אמן,[72] which in the LXX stands behind both the adverb ἀμήν and the adjective πιστός. [73] There appears to be a clear echo in v. 24 of Isa 7:9,


אם לא תאמינו כי לא תאמנו

'if you will not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all’ (NIV). [74]


Ahaz, king of Judah, was alarmed because Ephraim and Syria had formed an alliance and were advancing against Jerusalem. But Isaiah prophesied to him words of reassurance (Isa 7:3-9); Childs comments,


The climax of the oracle comes as a direct charge for a response in faith to the promise of divine support: If you do not believe, you will not be sustained … Ahaz is challenged to ground his action upon God’s promise to support him before his enemies. Undergirding the promise lies the divine covenant made with the house of David (2 Sam. 7:12ff), which had been directly threatened by the coalition (cf. v. 13). [75]


Faced with a major spiritual attack upon the church, Paul acted in accordance with the promises of the gospel, to which he (along with Silvanus and Timothy) had said the ‘Amen’. He now urges them, implicitly, to follow his example (cf. 1 Cor 4:16; 11:1), knowing that the church will survive only if they take their stand on the promises and faithfulness of God. 



Ἔκρινα γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ τοῦτο τὸ μὴ πάλιν ἐν λύπῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν. 2 εἰ γὰρ ἐγὼ λυπῶ ὑμᾶς, καὶ τίς ὁ εὐφραίνων με εἰ μὴ ὁ λυπούμενος ἐξ ἐμοῦ;


‘For I made up my mind [76] that[77] I would not to return [78] to you bringing sorrow. [79] 2 For if I were to cause you sorrow, [80] who then [81] would make me glad, [82] if not the one who has been made sorrowful by [83] me?’


Paul’s language may appear ambiguous in that, in the clause τὸ μὴ πάλιν ἐν λύπῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν, grammar does not settle whether πάλιν qualifies ἐν λύπῃ, ‘I decided not to make another painful visit to you’, or ἐλθεῖν, ‘I decided not to return to you bringing sorrow’. The latter option is required by the situational context, however, for he correlates avoiding λύπῃ with 'sparing' the church (1:23). After founding the church he had returned only once, and on that occasion he had spared them (13:1-2); so there was no question of another painful visit.


In 2 Corinthians Paul uses the key terms λύπη / λυπέω sixteen times in connection with the recent crisis; [84] there are only five other instances in the undisputed Pauline Corpus. He now explains further (γάρ) his decision to reject the church's request that, despite 1 Cor 16:5-7, he visit them en route to Macedonia. ἐγώ is emphatic, and corresponds to ἐξ ἐμοῦ, at the end of the sentence: contemplating a severe disciplinary confrontation Paul asks, if he were to grieve the church, [85] who would be left to make him glad? Surely not those he himself had made sorrowful! The καί of the apodosis stresses the inevitability of this outcome; the effect is to stress once more the importance the apostle attaches to his partnership with the church. As he said in the Letter of Tears, he would have left himself inconsolable, broken-hearted, if he had gone directly to Corinth. In view of the role of Psalm 69 in the OT intertexture of 2 Cor 1-7, it seems likely that Paul had in mind here Psa 69:21(20), 'Insults have broken my heart so that I am in despair: I looked for pity, but there was none: and for comforters, but I found none' (NRSV).[86] This text is uniquely linked in the Hebrew OT (MT) with Jer 23:9, a text invoked by Paul in his portrayal in the Letter of Tears of the devastating consequences of a premature visit.




καὶ ἔγραψα τοῦτο αὐτό, ἵνα μὴ ἐλθὼν λύπην σχῶ ἀφ'  ν ἔδει με χαίρειν, πεποιθὼς ἐπὶ πάντας ὑμᾶς ὅτι ἡ ἐμὴ χαρὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐστιν.


I wrote this very thing, [87] so that when I came I should not be grieved by those [88] who ought [89] to make me glad. [90] [I wrote,] trusting [91] in you all, that my joy means the joy [92] of you all.’


'This very thing' (τοῦτο αὐτό) will refer to 2:1-2. In the Letter of Tears, Paul had declined the church’s request that he visit in the early summer, en route to Macedonia, commenting that if he were to come to Corinth as requested he would break his own heart. He took this decision, he says, so that when he came he would not be grieved by those who (as his spiritual children) should have made him glad.. It may be inferred that, in his letter, he had urged the community to return to covenantal obedience, so that when he came their reunion might be joyous and not filled with pain. He wrote, trusting in them all, that ‘my joy means the joy of you all’. Modern commentators have questioned Paul's apparent concern here with his own joy, rather the joy of his addressees. Berger rightly remarks, however,


Paul can speak in a quite unabashedly "egotistical" way about how he wants to feel joyous ... In speaking this way, Paul is referring quite directly to the reciprocal love he expects to receive from the community. Nevertheless, a distinction between private feelings and public displays of joy applies to neither party here. [93]


By repeating ‘you all’, the apostle stresses that he was confident of the whole community, and not just the faction that were supporting him in the matter of the incestuous affair.



ἐκ γὰρ πολλῆς θλίψεως καὶ συνοχής καρδίας ἒγραψα ὑμῖν διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων, οὐχ ἵνα λυπηθῆτε ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀγάπην ἵνα γνῶτε ἥν ἒχω περισσοτέρως εἰς ὑμᾶς.


‘You see, I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish [94] of heart, through many tears, not that you might be made sorrowful, [95] but that you might come to know [96] the abundant love that I have for you.’


Paul now supports (γάρ) his assertion that he wrote, trusting that the Corinthians would share in his joy. He wrote as a father to his children (cf. 1 Cor 4:15), exhorting them while showing leniency; being deeply pained by their rebellion, he was moved to tears. His intention (ἵνα) in writing, he says, was not to cause them sorrow (though in fact the letter did cause them sorrow, 7:7-10); rather (ἀλλά), he wanted to make known to them his abundant love for them. The fronting of  τὴν ἀγάπην in the second ἵνα clause lays stress on the contrast introduced by ἀλλά. Indeed, he told them in his letter that, despite their behaviour, they were in his heart, ‘to die together and to live together’ (cf. 7:3). [97]


Through his letter, as Christ’s envoy, Paul sought to reveal to the Corinthians the surpassing love of Christ himself; cf. Gal 2:20. His unshakeable confidence in and commitment to his spiritual partnership with the community was given powerful expression in his decision to maintain solidarity with them even when, by refusing to discipline the offender, they laid both themselves and their apostle open to divine judgment.

[1] Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament 323.

[2] אc B L P 88 614 915 2005 copbo al read χαράν (‘joy’) for χάριν, but the accepted reading is strongly attested (א* A C D G K Ψ 33 1739 Majority Text Lect it vg syrp, h copsa arm).

[3] BDAG s.v. πεποίθησις 1b.

[4] BDAG s.v. βούλομαι 2aβ.

[5] πρότερον construes with ἐβουλόμην, and means ‘formerly’, not ‘first’; BDAG s.v. πρότερος 1b.

[6] BDAG s.v. ἔχω 7aγ, ‘to experience something’.

[7] ‘Second’, not ‘double’; BDAG s.v. δευτέρος 1.

[8] BDAG s.v. χάρις 3a.

[9] Each of the four infinitives is dependent directly upon ἐβουλόμην.

[10] BDAG s.v. προπέμπω 2, ‘send on one’s way with food, money, by arranging for companions, means of travel, etc.’

[11] The vast majority of interpreters assume (in my view, mistakenly) that the travel plan outlined here was formed after 1 Corinthians, and superseded the plan of 1 Cor 16:5-7. In any reading of 2 Corinthians the question is of fundamental; see The Corinthian Revolt.

[12] Cf. Rom 15:19.

[13] It is proposed that with the statement, Παῦλος ἔτι προσμείνας ἡμέρας ἱκανὰς τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ('Paul, having remained with the brothers many days', Acts 18:18), Luke glosses over the fact that during this period the apostle visited Western Macedonia (Rom 15:19).

[14] Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 74, argues cogently that Paul had been expecting the Corinthians to fund his journey to Macedonia: ‘In 2 Cor 1.16, the clause καὶ δι' ὑμῶν διελθεῖν εἰς Μακεδονίαν is to be seen in parallel with καὶ ὑφ' ὑμῶν προπεμφθῆναι εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν. The δι' ὑμῶν denotes agency as does the ὑφ' ὑμῶν. The verb προπεμφθῆναι is clearly used in the sense ‘help on one’s journey’, with financial assistance, help with travel arrangements, and the like, and consequently the (δι' ὑμῶν) διελθεῖν will mean the same.’

[15] Peterman, Paul's Gift from Philippi 54.  For the distinction between the system of Roman patronage and the more general social construct of Greco-Roman social reciprocity, see MacGillivray, Revaluating Patronage and Reciprocity in Antiquity and New Testament Studies.

[16] Peterman, Paul's Gift from Philippi 54.  

[17] BDF §440.2; ATR 1190; BDAG s.v. μήτι.

[18] BDAG s.v. χράομαι 1a, ‘make use of’, ‘employ’.

[19] '[ἐλαφρία] is a rare word, and in every case its meaning – other than the literal sense of "lightness" – is stupidity, irresponsibility … This is the meaning in all the patristic instances in PGL. It is also the only meaning allowed for by the lexicographers, apart from a mysterious entry in Hesychius: ὀλιγότης'; A. E. Harvey, Renewal Through Suffering 39; 40 n 15. Lampe himself renders ἐλαφρία ‘levity’, ‘light heartedness’. Cf. BDAG s.v., 'condition of treating a matter frivolously, as by irresponsible change of mind'. Furnish, II Corinthians 132 translates 2 Cor 1:17a, ‘Then did I really act irresponsibly when I wanted this?’; cf. Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 128. The article (τῇ ἐλαφρία) seems to be anaphoric, alluding to an accusation; Thrall, Second epistle to the Corinthians I 140.

[20] BDAG βούλομαι s.v. 2, 'intend, plan, will’.

[21] The particle ‘often does not introduce an alternative to a previous question, but substitutes instead another question which is more specific and intended to anticipate the answer to the first (or rather, or precisely)’, Smyth §2860.

[22] BDAG s.v. βουλεύω 2, ‘to reach a decision about a course of action’.

[23] κατὰ σάρκα – cf. 10:2-3; Rom 8:4-5, 12-13.

[24] With Chrysostom, Patrologia graeca 61 col. 408 (NPNF XII:288), Zahn, Introduction to the New Testament 353-4, Schlatter, Paulus 479 and Young, Note on 2 Corinthians 1:17b, I take ᾖ παρ' ἐμοι to be the predicate of the clause, and the articles to be subject markers.

[25] παρ' ἐμοί, BDAG s.v. παρά 4.

[26] Supplying ἐστιν.

[27] Taking ὅτι to be the equivalent of ἐν τουτῷ ὅτι, ‘in that’. BDAG s.v. 2b; cf. Rom 5:8.

[28] See his detailed structural analysis, That We Might Not Crave Evil 60-63

[29] Collier, That We Might Not Crave Evil 62-63

[30] Rightly Plummer, Second Epistle 34f.

[31] BDAG s.v. γίνομαι 7.

[32] BDAG s.v. γίνομαι 1.

[33] Cf. Acts 18:5; Silvanus is evidently the 'Silas' of Acts.

[34] Cf. Rom 1:3-4, 9; Gal 1:15-16; 1 Thess 1:10; Acts 9:20. The position of  γάρ lays stress on τοῦ θεοῦ (BDF §475[2]).

[35] 1 Sam 7:14 is quoted in 4Q174:10-13; cf. 4Q246 2.1 (Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God 724); also in 4QFlor I.11f, where it is applied to the Isaianic 'shoot of David' (Hengel, Son of God 44).

[36] Nolland, Matthew 158.

[37] Hengel, Son of God 8.

[38] Supplying εἰσιν.

[39] Supplying αὐταῖς.

[40] Supplying γέγονεν from the preceding clause.

[41] διό καί, 'therefore ... also', 'denoting that the inference is self-evident'; διό = δι᾽ ὅ (BDAG s.v. διό).

[42] Supplying λέγομεν.

[43] Supplying τὸ φανερωθῆναι.

[44] Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 148 n 151.

[45] Wright,  NTPG 107-8; cf. Wright, Climax of the Covenant 2-3.

[46] E. Hill, Construction of three passages from St Paul, CBQ 23 (1961): 296-301.

[47] Plummer, Second Epistle 38; Hughes,  Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians 38; Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 150.

[48] BDAG s.v. φανερόω 2, ‘to cause to become known’.

[49] BDAG s.v. βεβαιόω 1.

[50] Taking εἰς in the sense, ‘with reference to’, BDAG s.v. 5.

[51] BDAG s.v. χρίω.

[52] BDAG s.v. σφραγίζω 3.

[53] BDAG s.v. ἀρραβῶν. The term can also mean ‘first payment’ or ‘down payment’, which in Greek contract law committed the purchaser to the completion of the transaction.

[54] Fee, God's empowering presence 290.

[55] Fee, God's empowering presence 290.

[56] βεβαιόω can also mean ‘strengthen’; BDAG s.v. 2. The verb occurs also in 1 Cor 1:8f in association with the formula πιστὸς ὁ θεός.

[57] MM s.v. βέβαιος, citing Deissmann, Bible Studies 104-109; cf. MM s.v. βεβαιόω.

[58] BDAG s.v. Χριστός.

[59] The verb χρίω is used in the LXX of the consecration, through anointing with oil, of the High Priest (Exod 29:7; Lev 8:12), of the king (e.g. 1 Kgdms 9:16; 15:1, 17; 16:12); and of Elisha as prophet (3 Kgdms 19:16).

[60] BDAG s.v. σφραγίζω 3. It is possible that the image also evokes the notion of sealing against destruction; cf. Ezek 9:4-6; Rev 7:2-8; 9:4; Thrall, Second epistle to the Corinthians I 157.

[61] Seals were used to mark an object as the property of its owner; on documents, to prove identity and to provide legal validation (cf. Jer 39[32]:10-11, 44 LXX; Jer 39:25, LXX only) and a protection against violation; religious devotees might be marked (‘sealed’) with the emblem of their god. Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 156-7.

[62] For a brief note on the history of scholarship concerning Paul's phrase 'in Christ', see Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians 189-90. For a thoughtful discussion of Christ as corporate Person, see Moule, The Origin of Christology 56-91.

[63] ἐπικαλοῦμαι τινὰ μάρτυρα is a legal terminus technicus, ‘call on someone as a witness’; BDAG s.v. ἐπικαλέω 4.

[64] BDAG s.v. ἐπί 15.

[65] Lit. ‘against my life’, a Semitic idiom, BDAG s.v. ἐπί 15; s.v. ψυχή 2g (Danker also suggests that it is Paul’s eternal salvation that is stake; BDAG s.v. ψυχή 2c, but this is unlikely).

[66] BDAG s.v. φείδομαι 1.

[67] BDAG s.v. οὐκέτι 1, ‘the extension of time up to a point but not beyond’.

[68] Supplying λέγω.

[69] BDAG s.v. κυριεύω 1, ‘to exercise authority or have control’. The verb does not carry the connotation of arrogance or oppression, and should not be rendered 'lord it over' (as, e.g., NIV); Clark, K. W., 'The Meaning of [ΚΑΤΑ]ΚΥΡΙΕΥΕΙΝ', pp. 100-105 in J. K. Elliott (ed.), Studies in New Testament Language and Text (cited by Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 214).

[70] BDAG s.v. συνεργός, ‘helper, fellow-worker’; on the genitive τῆς χαρᾶς, Danker compares Xenophon, Cyropoedia 2, 4, 10; 3, 3, 10 συνεργοὺς τοῦ κοινοῦ ἀγαθοῦ.

[71] BDAG s.v. ἵστημι C4.

[72] HALOT s.v. אמן, 'basic meaning to be firm, trustworthy, safe'.

[73] Van Unnik, W. C., “Reisepläne und Amen-Sagen, Zusammenhang und Gedankenfolge in 2 Korintherbrief”, in Sparsa Collecta  144-59, 149f; citing Deut 7:9; Isa 49:7; Ps 89:38; Prov 14:5, 25.

[74] The LXX is slightly different: καὶ ἐὰν μὴ πιστεύσητε οὐδὲ μὴ συνῆτε (''and if you do not  believe, neither shall you understand' (NETS).

[75] Childs, Isaiah 64.

[76] Literally, ‘I decided in myself’; BDAG s.v. κρίνω 4; s.v. ἐμαυτοῦ b.

[77] τοῦτο is the accusative object of ἔκρινα, cf. Rom 14:13b; BDF §290(3). The articular infinitive clause τὸ μὴ πάλιν ἐν λύπῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν is in apposition with τοῦτο,  ATR 700; 1078.

[78] Cf. 1:16, πάλιν ἀπὸ μακεδονίας ἐλθεῖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, where πάλιν, ἀπὸ μακεδονίας and πρὸς ὑμᾶς each qualify ἐλθεῖν.

[79] BDAG s.v. λύπη, ‘pain of mind or spirit’.

[80] BDAG s.v. λυπέω 1, ‘to cause severe mental or emotional distress’.

[81] Καί here emphasises the logical force of the apodosis; see Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 166-7.

[82] BDAG s.v. εὐφραίνω 1.

[83] BDAG s.v. ἐκ 3dα, ‘of the effective cause by, because of.’

[84] λύπη: 2:1, 3, 7; 7:10 [twice]; λυπέω: 2:2 [twice], 4, 5 [twice], 7:8 [twice], 9 [thrice], 11). Paul also uses λυπέω in the catalogue of his apostolic sufferings, 6:4-10 (v.10).

[85] 'The term, ὁ λυπούμενος, "the person grieved", is general rather than particular, referring to the Corinthian reader (any Corinthian reader) who might cheer Paul, were he not saddened by him' (Thrall,  Second epistle to the Corinthians I 165-6). Cf. Barrett,  Second Epistle to the Corinthians 86f; Plummer,  Second Epistle 48, 'The rhetorical τίς is necessarily singular, and thus the community is spoken of as an individual’.

[86] The LXX has 'Reproach my heart expected - and misery, and I waited for one that would sympathize, and none existed, and for comforters (καὶ παρακαλοῦντας), and I did not find' (NETS). Cf. Lam 1:21; here too the sufferer has been struck by God.

[87] BDF §290; BDAG s.v. αὐτός 1g; cf. εἰς τοῦτο ... ἔγραψα, 2:9.

[88] Supplying  ἀπὸ τούτων before ν; BDAG s.v. χαίρω 1; Smyth §2509.

[89] BDAG s.v. δεῖ 2a, 'to indicate that something that did not take place really should have happened'; BDF §358.

[90] BDAG s.v. χαίρω 1, 'to be in a state of happiness and well-being'.

[91] The perfect participle πεποιθώς is present in meaning, ‘to be so convinced that one puts confidence in something’ (BDAG s.v. πείθω 2a). The participle is, however, dependent on ἔγραψα, and describes therefore Paul's state of mind at the time of writing.

[92] A second χαρά seems to be implied.

[93] Berger, Identity and Experience in the New Testament 166.

[94] BDAG s.v. συνοχή 2.

[95] BDAG s.v. λυπέω 2a.

[96] BDAG s.v. γινώσκω 1, ‘to arrive at a knowledge of someone or something’.

[97] In his discussion of ethos (the rhetorical projection of persona), Quintilian observes that the moderation shown by an offended father to his son (or a guardian to his ward, or a husband to his wife) emphasizes his affection for the wrongdoer; 'there is no desire to do anything that will excite dislike against them save by the manifestation of the fact that they still love them'. The one offended 'should be really deeply moved' (Institutio Oratoria 6.2.14, tr. H. Edgeworth Butler; cited by Walker, Paul's Offer of Leniency 268).