Reconstructing the Corinthian Crisis

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Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to a deeply divided church, its factions declaring personal loyalty to one leader over against another (1:12; 4:6).[1]  Some were engaging in gluttony, drunkenness and sexual immorality in the idol temples (6:12-20; 10:1-22; 15:32-34); [2] there were serious disorders in community worship (11:17-22), and one man was even openly engaging in an affair with his step-mother (5:1). Timothy had already been dispatched to Corinth with a mandate 'to remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus' (4:17). Nevertheless the church, which Paul had founded, had asked his advice (7:1), and in 1 Corinthians 'nothing hinders him from taking them to task'. [3] Despite all the disorders, Paul was planning to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, and then to travel through Macedonia to Corinth, where he might well spend the winter (1 Cor 16:5-9). He saw no difficulty with this plan, even though he might have to come “with a rod” (4:21).

In 2 Corinthians, however, though he has travelled to Macedonia and is en route to Corinth, Paul has apparently cancelled a planned visit to the city (2 Cor 1:23; 2:1). The letter refers to an earlier letter (the 'Letter of Tears') written 'out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears' (2:4, cf. 7:8, 12), and to a man who has grieved the whole church and has been expelled from the community (2:5-11; 7:12). The offender was evidently disciplined in response to the Letter of Tears (7:8-12). The cancellation of the planned visit was related to this man's offence, and until he was expelled from the community some degree of guilt attached also to the whole church (1:23; 7:9, 11). The sequence of events may be summarised as follows: (i) the commission of the offence; (ii) Paul's letter about it; (iii) the Corinthians' favourable reaction, and the imposition of a penalty on the offender; (iv) Titus' return to Paul with the good news about the reception of the letter; (v) Paul's response in 2 Cor. 2:5-11 and 7:5-13. [4]

A few scholars identify the Letter of Tears with 1 Corinthians; [5] the great majority, however, believe that this letter was subsequent to 1 Corinthians, and deduce that a major crisis occurred between the canonical letters. At its centre was 'the offender', the man referred to in 2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:12.  The almost unanimous exegetical tradition of the ancient church was that this man is to be identified with the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5.[6]  Of the Fathers, only Tertullian opposed this view, and his position was certainly not impartial, as Thrall points out: 'he was contesting the Catholic Church's claim to have the power to reconcile penitent fornicators, and was determined to deprive the Catholics of what might appear to be scriptural support for their position i.e. Paul's lifting of the sentence of excommunication he had originally imposed on the incestuous man.' [7]

The ancient consensus that the Letter of Tears was 1 Corinthians was broken in 1830 by F. Bleek.[8] Bleek postulated that this letter is in fact lost. Following Chrysostom and Erasmus and arguing from 2 Cor 2:1, 12:14, 13:1f, Bleek also postulated a visit by Paul to Corinth between his founding of the church and the composition of 1 Corinthians: 'We may suppose that before the journey from Corinth to Ephesus recorded in Acts xviii. 18, 19 the apostle had left Corinth and returned thither again, so that in the Acts the two visits are blended into one', though 'it is just possible that this second visit of the apostle was paid after the journey of Acts xviii. 18.' [9] He concluded that the incident mentioned in 2 Cor 2:5-11, 7:12 must have been the subject of the missing letter: the offender was the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5:1, who acted at the instigation of Judaistic opponents. [10]

The Development of the Present Consensus

The modern consensus, that Paul's second visit to Corinth occurred between the canonical letters, that he was attacked, insulted or otherwise offended during that visit by a member of the Corinthian church, and that he subsequently wrote the Letter of Tears, was apparently first developed by H. Ewald in 1849; [11] he abandoned the traditional identification of “the offender” with the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians; H. D. Betz summarises Ewald's reconstruction of the sequence of events as follows:

After having written 1 Corinthians, Paul received distressing news which prompted his decision to undertake an immediate journey to Corinth from Ephesus. During this visit he was attacked by the “offender” (ἀδικήσας) (2 Cor 7:12). Paul attempted to confront his opponent, but lost in the showdown. Following this distressing visit he wrote the intermediate letter which is identical with the “tearful letter” mentioned in 2 Cor 2:4. [12]

Until the First World War, scholarly opinion was divided regarding the timing of the second visit. The majority (among them Alford, Denney, Lightfoot, Meyer, Sanday and Zahn) followed Bleek in placing this visit before 1 Corinthians;[13] but a significant body of opinion (among them Bachmann, Godet, Jülicher, Kennedy, Krenkel, Lake, Menzies, Moffatt and Rendall) followed Ewald in placing the second visit after 1 Corinthians. Still others (among them Robertson) doubted or denied that Paul ever visited Corinth between founding the church and composing 2 Corinthians. [14] The difference of opinion between Robertson and Plummer is evident in their commentary on 1 Corinthians of 1911 (21914). They tentatively adopt a reconstruction of events which places the second visit before the Previous Letter (referred to in 1 Cor 5:9), arguing that the second visit, if paid at any time, must have been of a painful and unsatisfactory character (citing 2 Cor 2:1); but it is difficult to identify the cause of this pain with any of the issues discussed in 1 Corinthians, some of which Paul responds to with indignant surprise, and others of which he has learned only by hearsay. [15] They conclude, 'If a distressing visit had preceded our Epistle, the painful occasion of it was dead and buried when St. Paul wrote, and St. Paul's references to it (clearly as a recent sore) in 2 Corinthians become inexplicable'. [16] 'The language of our Epistle is difficult, or impossible, to reconcile with the supposition that the Apostle's Ephesian sojourn had been broken into by a visit to Corinth'. [17]

The issue hinges, of course, upon the exegesis of 2 Cor 2:1, which can be rendered either as 'I made up my mind not to pay you another painful visit' (e.g. NIV), or alternatively, 'I made up my mind that my next visit to you would not be a painful one' (e.g. NJB). [18] However, though undoubtedly unpleasant for both parties, it is doubtful that the interim visit was characterized by λύπη, at least, not in the intense sense Paul intends in 2:1. [19]. For on that occasion Paul spared the church, warning that when he returned he would not again spare them (εἰς τὸ πάλιν οὐ φείσομαι, 13:2). He now says that the reason he did not return to Corinth was to spare them (φειδόμενος ὑμῶν, 1:23); had he returned, he implies, he would not have spared them, but would have returned to them 'bringing sorrow'. This study is built on the presupposition that Bleek's outline is essentially correct, and that the second visit occurred before 1 Corinthians. It is assumed, therefore, that in 2 Cor 2:1 πάλιν, : 'I made up my mind not to return to you bringing sorrow'.

A second, and seemingly related presupposition underlying Robertson and Plummer’s argument is that, if the interim visit preceded 1 Corinthians, then it must have been relatively recent. The same presupposition underlies Krenkel’s point that it is unlikely, in view of the apostle’s confidence in 1 Cor 5, that the supposed visit had been a failure, and it is therefore strange that so many issues still needed to be dealt with in that letter [20]. But it is difficult to see how this assumption can be justified. Bleek suggested that in Acts 18:11, Luke has conflated Paul’s founding visit with a second sojourn in Corinth. During this eighteen month period he left Corinth for a time, perhaps even travelling to the border of Illyricum (Rom 15:19), though he may have visited other cities in Achaia (cf. 2 Cor 1:1). [21] Perhaps he had not planned a second sojourn in Corinth, but visited the church in passing through, en route to Syria (Acts 18:18). Several years will have separated this visit from the composition of 1 Corinthians.

Robertson and Plummer argue further that in 1 Cor 4:21, Paul is clearly anticipating a painful visit, but he gives no indication that a previous visit has proved painful; there is no πάλιν. [22] This point would be weighty, if it could be shown that Paul had disciplined deviant members during the second visit; but in fact he spared them, only giving a stern warning (2 Cor 13,2, ἐὰν ἔλθω εἰς τὸ πάλιν οὐ φείσομαι). 

Robertson and Plummer’s final point is that there is 'a clear inference from 1 Cor. ii. 1 sqq.' that Paul had not visited Corinth since he founded the church. [23] This point is taken up by J. C. Hurd: 'The simplicity of Paul's statements in 1 Cor 2:1 (‘When I came to you, brethren…’); 3:2 (‘I fed you with milk…’); and 11:2 (‘I commend you because... you maintain the traditions even as I have delivered [παρέδωκα] them to you’) all imply a single previous campaign in Corinth'. [24] However, if his second visit occurred within months of the founding visit it is hard to see why, after several years had passed, this should have affected Paul's language in 1 Corinthians, though he may well have referred to the visit already in the Previous Letter. [25].

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians of 1915, Plummer's position has shifted: he states, 'Professor K. Lake (Earlier Epistles) has given strong reasons for believing that it [the interim visit] took place between 1 and 2 Corinthians, an arrangement which has manifest advantages'. [26] Lake (1911) reasons as follows: From 1 Cor 4:21 it is clear that Paul was planning a visit to Corinth which, due to the party divisions, he feared would be unpleasant. When 2 Cor 2:1-11 is read in this light,

Is it not plain that this passage implies a recent visit which had ended so unpleasantly that St. Paul had determined not to come back if he was likely to undergo similar experiences, and that he was, at the moment of writing, delighted to find that such action had been taken by the community that he was able to return without fear, since the leader of the opposition had been punished by a vote of the majority? [27]

Lake deduces that the fears expressed in 1 Cor 4:21 had been realised when Paul visited Corinth between 1 and 2 Corinthians. [28] His argument cannot bear the weight that Plummer attaches to it.

After the First World War a broad scholarly consensus rapidly emerged which has held to the present day: that Ewald, rather than Bleek, had the correct outline. Specifically, the Letter of Tears was not 1 Corinthians; Paul's second visit to Corinth occurred between 1 and 2 Corinthians; the offender of 2 Cor 2,5-11 was not the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5; and the offence was a serious challenge to Paul’s authority. [29] The reason for the shift in scholarly opinion after the war is unclear; the contributions of Lake and Plummer certainly cannot account for it.

Reconstructing the Offence

Contra Ewald and Lake and their many followers, the nature of the offence is not at all obvious - not, at least, if one rules out Bleek's reconstruction. [30] The most careful and detailed analysis to date, so far as I can tell, is by Thrall. She proposes the following criteria:

    1. The offence was a single definite act. This is indicated by the aorist participles in 7:12.
    2. It was something to which the verb could properly be applied (7:12).
    3. It was a single individual who was responsible. Note the singulars in 2:5-8, 10 and 7:12.
    4. This person was subject to the discipline of the Corinthian church (2:6), and thus, in all probability, a Corinthian himself.
    5. Paul considered it an act which affected him personally (2:5, 10).
    6. In some sense, however, it had affected the whole community as well (2:5).
    7. The offence was something in which the church had appeared originally to be implicated, but also something that they were later able to prove themselves innocent of (7:11).
    8. Nevertheless, their own conduct had been such as to move them to penitence when they received Paul's letter (7:9-10).The incident must have been of such a kind, therefore, as to involve them in some sort of guilt.
    9. The offence was of a very serious nature. It had caused Paul to write the Letter of Tears ('Painful Letter'), and to abandon a promising opportunity of missionary work in Troas, in his anxiety to know from Titus what the response to his letter had been.
    10. Any theory must explain 'how and why Paul could have seen himself as so directly affected by the offender that he needs both to repudiate the suggestion that his personal interest is of importance (2 Cor. 2:5) and also, paradoxically, to refer to his own forgiveness of the offender (2:10).' [31]

However, though points 1-6, 8 and 9 of Thrall's data seem entirely straightforward, points 7 and 10 may be challenged. [32] Point 7, it seems to me, is so formulated as to propose a distinction that is not clearly present in Paul's text: that the Corinthians 'appeared originally to be implicated' in the offence (implying that they were not, in fact, implicated); yet they were (nevertheless) 'involved in some sort of guilt' (point 8). Closer to the text is the following analysis, due to Barrett: the Corinthians, those addressed in 2 Cor 7:9-11, were totally innocent of 'the offence' per se (and that σπουδή which they should have shown - thus they became guilty by association. [33] With regard to point 10, we may deduce from 2:5, 10 only that Paul was concerned that he could be seen as so directly affected by the offender that he needed both to repudiate the suggestion that his personal interest was of importance (2 Cor. 2:5) and also to refer to his own forgiveness of the offender (2:10); see the exegesis.

Having rejected both the traditional identification of the offender and the 'insult' theories, Thrall proposes a modification of Krenkel's reconstruction. Krenkel proposed that one member of the congregation was offended by another, and had turned first to the church, and then to Paul, for redress.  But Paul had also failed to get the one offended a fair hearing, and began to suspect that the whole congregation was involved in a conspiracy. [34]  But then one would expect that Paul would speak of the specific need for the one offended to forgive,[35] and the hypothesis fails to explain Paul’s apparent lack of concern for the welfare of the one offended, which contrasts sharply with his concern for the offender (7:12; cf. 2:5-11); moreover, Thrall observes,

This suggestion does justice to the impression we get from 7:12 that the ἀδικηθείς was someone other than Paul. Conversely, however, it fails to explain why in 2:5 and 2:10 Paul should write as though it is he himself whom the offender has injured, with no mention of the need for individual forgiveness on the part of the other injured person, i.e., the person who had appealed to the congregation, and then to Paul, for redress. [36]

Thrall proposes the following modification of Krenkel's hypothesis:

After Paul had arrived in Corinth on the occasion of his interim visit, one of the members of the Corinthian church handed over to him his own contribution to the collection the apostle was organising amongst his Gentile churches for the benefit of the poor of the Jerusalem church. Up to this point he will have kept his savings at home, in accordance with the instructions of 1 Cor. 16:2. Perhaps he was now leaving Corinth for a while on business, and so had to entrust the money to someone else for safekeeping... We may then suppose that Paul was robbed of this money, in circumstances which strongly suggested that some particular member of the congregation was responsible. The man denied the charge, however. It was the apostle's word against his, and the church as a whole was uncertain whom to believe. Because they did not immediately accept Paul's view of the matter, he began to suspect that some of them (perhaps in substantial numbers), might themselves have had something to do with the theft, at any rate as accomplices after the fact. Since he was unable to persuade them to take the necessary action he left Corinth, and returned to Ephesus. It is possible that he had originally intended to use his stay in Corinth to further, or even complete, his plans for the collection. Since the kind of incident we have postulated would have made it impossible for him to do this, there may have been little point in prolonging the visit, altogether apart from any personal humiliation he may have experienced. On his return to Ephesus he wrote the letter which caused such a revulsion of feeling among the Corinthians. They were moved to investigate more closely, and their investigation brought about the offender's confession and punishment.[37]

Thrall's reconstruction certainly gives a good fit to the data she considers; however, in order to arrive at a viable solution, she has been driven to introduce a number of unsupported hypotheses. Many scholars are content to admit ignorance regarding the precise nature of the offence and, without offering detailed argument, simply to assume that Paul was in some way offended by a member of the church; but the considerable difficulty of reconstructing a credible account of the offence calls into question the presupposition that Ewald, rather than Bleek, had the right basic outline of the sequence of events.

Towards an Alternative Proposal

The Letter of Tears was closely related to the change in Paul's travel plans. In 2 Cor 1:23 he says that the reason he did not come to Corinth was to spare them (φειδόμενος ὑμῶν), and in 13:2 he warns that when he does come he will not spare (οὐ φείσομαι) those who continue in sin; but at the time of the crisis he had decided not to come, because he does not 'rule over' their faith (2 Cor 1:24). He wanted to avoid a painful visit (2:1), which would bring grief not only upon the Corinthians but also upon himself (2:2); he wrote to this effect in his letter (2:3). Though he threatens to discipline certain delinquents when he comes (13:1-2), Paul hopes that a confrontation with the church as a body can now be averted (13:10). Since Lake and Robertson-and-Plummer, little appears to have been added to the case against placing the intermediate visit well before 1 Corinthians. The arguments are far from decisive; yet since the First World War, the vast majority of interpreters have agreed that the travel plan of 2 Cor 1:15-16 superseded that of 1 Cor 16:5-9, and that the apostle's second visit to Corinth occurred after 1 Corinthians.  

Second, 1 Corinthians cannot be the letter Paul refers to in 2 Cor 2:3-4; 7:8-12, though this ancient hypothesis is still not entirely without its supporters. But when the apostle speaks of the Letter of Tears and of his relief at the news, brought by Titus, that the letter had been well received, his relief is explained in terms of the church's exclusion of an offender from fellowship (2 Cor 7:5-12). If Paul were referring to his anxiety regarding the reception of 1 Corinthians, then the offender would have to be identified with the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5.But in 2 Cor 7:12 Paul says that he wrote this letter, 'not on account of the offender, nor on account of the one offended, but that in the sight of God your zeal for us might be revealed to you'. This statement is very difficult to reconcile with the identification of 1 Corinthians with the Letter of Tears, however one interprets 1 Cor 5:3-5. It is simply not credible that Paul should mean that he demanded the punishment of the incestuous man 'so that in the sight of God your zeal for us might be revealed to you'. Hughes argues that 2 Cor 7:12 gives an apt description of the purpose of 1 Corinthians as a whole, for the letter addresses a church who were behaving like 'arrogant and rebellious children who flout parental authority', and this is manifest particularly in their tolerance of the incestuous offender. [38] But this assessment exaggerates the importance in 1 Corinthians of the theme of the relationship between Paul and the church. It is true that Paul lays some stress on his position as their spiritual father (1 Cor 4:14-21), and that he had sent them Timothy to remind them of his way of life (4:16-17).

But it is clear that the relationship of the apostle with the church is not the primary concern of 1 Corinthians, nor was the letter's main purpose to awaken in them zeal for the apostle. Rather, the central concern of the letter as a whole is the unity and holiness of the church, which was being threatened by powerful social pressures and the arrogance of the social elite. I concur therefore with the vast majority of interpreters, that the Letter of Tears followed 1 Corinthians.

Third, those who reject the traditional hypothesis have been unable to identify the offender or to propose a credible reconstruction of his offence. Though there is today a consensus that Ewald, rather than Bleek, had the correct basic outline (the offender was not the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5, the Letter of Tears was not 1 Corinthians, Paul's second visit to Corinth occurred after 1 Corinthians), there is no consensus on the details. There have been a number of attempts to reconstruct a plausible account of the offence (2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:12); the available data does, however, permit a number of proposals to be ruled out.

First, if the offence consisted in a gross insult to Paul himself, it is unlikely that the apostle was in Corinth at the time; for as Harris points out, if he had 'ignominiously retreated to Ephesus, an insulted and broken man, only later to accomplish by a letter and the intervention of his delegate Titus what he had earlier failed to achieve in person', then the veiled threat of 13:10, written later, would 'sound completely hollow'. [39] Harris himself reconstructs the offence as follows: 'At some time after his visit, Paul (or his representative) is openly insulted at Corinth by a spokesman of an anti-Pauline faction'; [40] but the hypothesis is purely speculative.

Second, it is unlikely, whatever the nature of the offence, that Timothy or Titus, or a member of the Corinthian church who in some way represented Paul's authority, is to be identified with 'the one offended'; [41] for in 2:5-11, when he is urging the church to forgive the offender, Paul does not say that the one offended has already forgiven the offender, nor does he urge the one offended to forgive him personally. [42] Furthermore, Timothy was a co-signatory of 2 Corinthians, yet Paul employs first person singulars in 2 Cor 2:10, 'And the one whom you have forgiven anything, I also (κάγω) have forgiven; for indeed, what I (ἐγὼ) have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything …' (cf. 2:5, ). [43] And if Titus had had a role in Corinth before he delivered the Letter of Tears, he would presumably have had some role in relation to the Collection (2 Cor 8:6; cf. 1 Cor 16:1-4). It would then be difficult to imagine that he could have been the victim of a serious personal attack, in which the church became implicated, without doubts being raised concerning his motives in relation to the Collection. Hence the appeal to his integrity in 2 Cor 12:16-18 would be rather odd. If the victim had been some other Pauline delegate, one would have expected some mention of him by name in 2 Corinthians; this silence would be particularly odd in view of Paul’s denial that he had written on behalf of 'the one offended' (7:12).

Paul's Travels and Travel Plans

Paul mentions two distinct plans to visit Corinth en route from Ephesus to Judea: a single visit plan, announced in 1 Cor 16:5-9 (Ephesus - Macedonia - Corinth - Judea); and a double visit plan, mentioned in 2 Cor 1:15-16 (Ephesus - Corinth - Macedonia - Corinth - Judea). It is clear from 2 Cor 1:23 that the double visit plan was never carried through; at least the second of the two planned visits was abandoned. The vast majority of scholars maintain that the single visit plan was superseded by the double visit plan, when for some reason Paul decided to visit Corinth earlier than planned; the dissenting minority identify the Letter of Tears with 1 Corinthians. However, the single visit plan was in fact carried through (2 Cor 2:12-13; 7:5; cf. 9:4; 12:14; 13:1; Acts 20:1-3); the only question is the sequence of events leading up to the execution of this plan. The current consensus is that, having announced his single visit plan in 1 Corinthians, Paul changed his mind and opted for the double visit plan. For reasons connected with 'the offence', however, he returned to Ephesus, and reverted to the single visit plan. Within this scheme there are a number of variants; and most fail to explain adequately Paul's supposed erratic behaviour. It is simpler, and in this respect more likely, that having announced the single visit plan in 1 Corinthians Paul stuck with it; and it is then most improbable that he visited Corinth between 1 and 2 Corinthians. He had already reached Macedonia when he composed 2 Corinthians, and if he had visited Corinth since composing 1 Corinthians, it would be inexplicable that he felt the need to explain in 2 Corinthians why he had not come to Corinth (2 Cor 1:23). The sequence of Paul’s travels and travel plans would have been as follows:

Founding visit – second visit  - Paul in Ephesus - double visit plan, superseded by single visit plan – Letter of Tears - Paul travels to Macedonia - 2 Corinthians

In 1 Cor 16:5-12 the apostle explains carefully his decision to change plan, emphasising several points:

. He must go to Macedonia before coming to Corinth (16:5; ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι).
. In contrast to his merely passing through Macedonia, he hopes to spend some time in Corinth (16:5b-7).
. He has other good reasons for delaying his visit to Corinth (16:8-9).
. Though at present he cannot himself come, he has sent Timothy, and he would have sent Apollos, if the latter had been willing (16:10-12).

It seems likely that he was anxious to give the church time to resolve the serious issues addressed in his letter before his arrival. As Duncan rightly observes,

Clearly he is anxious that the Corinthians should not interpret his delay in coming to them as implying any lack of interest. Throughout all this passage there sounds an apologetic note. It is the language of a man who is announcing a decision that he knows will not be popular ... [44]

Placing the double visit plan before the single visit plan also fits well with 2 Cor 1:15-16. In 2 Cor 1:15 many take πρότερον with πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐλθεῖν, arguing that the context requires the sense 'first': 'I decided to come to you first'.[45] However, this supposed sense of πρότερον seems to be lexically unsupported; the word means 'formerly', 'before'. [46] Rather, πρότερον is to be taken with ἐβουλόμην: 'I intended formerly to visit you in order that you might have a second χάριν'. That intention ceased when Paul moved to the single visit plan, which involved a delay of some months, and would take him first to Macedonia. None of the four journeys of the double visit plan had been executed when 2 Cor 1:15-16 was composed.

Thrall observes that we should expect the implicit first χάρις to be a visit also (especially if χάρις is taken, as she suggests, to mean 'sign of favour', or 'mark of goodwill'); [47] and indeed, in 2 Cor 13:2 Paul refers to his being in Corinth 'the second time' (ὡς παρὼν τὸ δεύτερον). The visit was not a pleasant one, as he had to give a stern warning regarding sexual immorality. This second visit must have occurred before 1 Corinthians; the best explanation seems to be that he left Corinth at the end of his founding visit, and continued West to (at least the border of) Illyricum (Rom 15:19), and as a χάρις visited Corinth again, in passing through, en route to Syria (Acts 18:18). The first χάρις may then be identified with this second visit. [48] On that occasion what Paul found grieved him, but he had planned a second χάρις on his way to Macedonia. He cancelled this visit, when he received disturbing news from Corinth, in order to avoid a painful confrontation. [49]

Consideration of the travels of Timothy also supports the hypothesis that the double visit plan was superseded by the single visit plan. Before 1 Corinthians was composed, Timothy was dispatched on a mission which would eventually take him to Corinth. [50] If, when Timothy departed, Paul was expecting to follow the double visit plan, the first station of his journey would have been Corinth. Economy in Timothy's travels could then be achieved by an arrangement that they should meet in Corinth. Timothy's mission in Corinth, 'to remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus' (1 Cor 4,17), would have prepared the church for the apostle’s arrival. [51] When Paul made this arrangement, he was confident of a successful visit, both for himself and, presumably, for Timothy (καὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πεποιθήσει ἐβουλόμην ... ; 2 Cor 1:15). But shortly before setting out he changed plan, and in 1 Cor 16:10-11 he requested that Timothy be sent on to him in Ephesus. Thus it is reasonable to suppose that Timothy learned of the change in Paul's travel plans from the courier of 1 Corinthians. The proposed sequence of Paul's travel plans then reveals careful, rational planning on the part of the apostle in respect, not only of his own travels, but also those of his envoy. [52]

It has been objected that, whereas under the double visit plan Paul would definitely accompany the collection to Jerusalem, under the single visit plan this is uncertain (1 Cor 16:4). Therefore, it is claimed, the double visit plan likely superseded the single visit plan. [53] However, In view of the disturbing news from Corinth, and the risk of the trouble spreading, in forming the single visit plan Paul may well have decided to leave open the question of his final destination.

The Offender and the Offence

Given the slight revisions to Thrall's data proposed above, the following simple development of Bleek's reconstruction gives an excellent fit without resort to speculative hypotheses:

  1. Though he had planned to visit Corinth en route to Macedonia (2 Cor 1:15-16), having heard of serious disorders in the church Paul changed his mind. He would go first to Macedonia (1 Cor 16:5-9).
  2. When Timothy returned from Corinth (1 Cor 16:10-11) and reported that the church had refused to discipline the incestuous man, Paul wrote the Letter of Tears, which brought the church to repentance.
  3. The whole church became guilty by association when they refused to discipline the offender, but subsequently they vindicated themselves (7:11). 'The one offended' (7:12) was the incestuous man's father.

Incest is certainly something to which the verb ἀδικεῖν may properly be applied, and the church's initial support for the offender would certainly be serious enough to explain Paul's anxiety in 2:12-13 and 7:5-6.

Many objections have been raised against the traditional identification of the offender with the incestuous man. Furnish points to the following five supposed differences between the case of the incestuous man and that of the offender of 2 Cor 2, 7:

1. The effect of the anonymity in 1 Cor 5 is 'to emphasise the need to dissociate oneself from the individual', but in 2 Cor 2 the anonymity 'serves to help shield the person from further ostracism'. [54] But in the first case the offender is unrepentant and is to be disciplined; in the second, he has repented, has been forgiven, and is to be received into the fellowship of the church. [55]
2. '[T]he entirely democratic handling of the case presupposed in 2 Cor 2 does not accord well with the more authoritarian position taken by the apostle in 1 Cor 5'. [56] But the the church failed, or refused, to obey the commands of 1 Cor 5:3-5. The offender was disciplined only later, in a democratic response to Paul's appeal in the Letter of Tears.
3. The roles of Satan in the two cases are said to conflict: In 1 Cor 5 Satan 'serves as the agent of punishment for the offender', but in 2 Cor 2 he is 'portrayed as a threat to Paul and the congregation unless the offending party is forgiven and reconciled'. [57] But again, the changed situation accounts for the change in the role of Satan. In 1 Cor 5 the offender was unrepentant, and was to be handed over to Satan to be punished. In 2 Cor 2, however, he has repented, and to refuse him restoration into fellowship would give Satan the opportunity exercise his role as the enemy of the church. [58]
4. The role of Christ is different in the two passages: in 1 Cor 5 he is invoked as 'the authority by whom Paul pronounces judgement', whereas in 2 Cor 2 he is invoked as 'the eschatological Lord before whom both Paul and his readers are called to account'. [59] But in 1 Cor 5 the unrepentant offender is to be punished in the authority of Christ, the eschatological Lord; in 2 Cor 2, the repentant offender has been forgiven in the presence of the eschatological Lord (v. 10).
5. The punishment demanded in 1 Cor 5:5 was irrevocable and would have led to physical death. Hence, 'Paul’s counsel in 2 Cor 2,6-8 to forgive and restore the offender is simply inexplicable if the same case is in view'. [60] But, given that in 1 Cor 5 the apostle did indeed demand a death sentence (and that is far from certain), the objection does not stand. The church refused to carry it out. Rather, in response to the Letter of Tears, the offender was shunned by the community (cf. 1 Cor 5:2, 6-13). The apostle now declares this punishment 'sufficient for such a one' (ἱκανὸν τῷ τοιούτῷ, 2,6), and orders his restoration. Harsher measures are not required; the man has repented, the affair has ended. [61]


Other significant objections include the following:

6. Paul would not have taken the offence so personally if it was the incestuous affair of 1 Cor 5. [62] Thus, commenting on 2 Cor 2:5-11, R. P. Martin writes,
    At the centre of the picture was an individual (τις, v 5; τοιοῦτος, vv 6, 7) who caused the pain that Paul has so frequently alluded to… The personal pronoun in v 10 clinches the point that Paul himself was the object of this man’s outburst. [63]

But the church had rejected Paul’s demand for the offender to be disciplined, and the immediate cause of the pain of 2:4 was surely their corporate disobedience; the offender was responsible for Paul’s sufferings only insofar as he had become the focal point of the church’s rebellion. [64] The point that Paul makes in 2:5 is that the offender has caused the church severe humiliation and outrage (λυπέω, cf. 7,7-11), but he must not be made a scapegoat for the sufferings brought upon the apostle by the disobedience of the church. [65] Similarly, commenting on 2 Cor 2:10, Bruce says, 'This language suggests some injury done to Paul himself, which called for his personal forgiveness, in a way for which the situation of 1 Cor 5 makes no provision'. [66] But Paul foresees a danger that the offender would be held personally responsible for the crisis. He therefore announces his personal forgiveness, qualifying his point by adding, 'if I have forgiven anything', and leaving the church with no alternative but to follow his example. [67]

7. 'It is unlikely that Paul would regard the sin of incest as an injury inflicted by one person upon another.' [68] But it is generally agreed that in 1 Cor 5:1, with the expression γυναικὰ τοῦ πατρός, Paul alludes to the Mosaic Law; in Leviticus 18:8 the Law says, 'You shall not uncover the shame of your father's wife (γυναικὸς πατρός); it is the shame of your father' (NETS). Paul would have viewed the incestuous act as an offence against the father.
8. Paul says that he did not write on account of 'the one offended' (ὁ ἀδικηθείς, 7:12). 'The one offended' must be identified with the offender’s father, or adoptive father (Lev 18:8), who was therefore still living. But the incestuous affair was evidently ongoing (ἔχειν, 1 Cor 5,1). It is argued, therefore, that the father must in fact have been dead; for it is difficult to imagine that as pater familias he would have permitted his son to so dishonour him. [69] Moreover, one might have expected a stronger response from the church, if the father were still living. [70] However, Winter argues cogently that the father was indeed still living. [71] Paul describes the incestuous relationship as τοιαύτη πορνεία ἥτις οὐδὲ ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν (1 Cor 5:1); the elided verb seems to imply that the πορνεία in question is not found  among the Gentiles, or the like. For if the father had died and the relationship was an illicit marriage, Paul would probably not have said this, for then in law the offence would probably have been excused. Incest combined with adultery, however, was a serious crime, and it is unlikely that leniency would have been shown. Winter argues, therefore, that Paul alludes to this important distinction in Roman law. [72] As for the church's tolerance of the affair, it seems likely that they in fact celebrated the affair as an extraordinary realization of the extreme libertarianism that Paul opposes in 1 Corinthians (cf. πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν, 6:12; 10:23).
9. In 2 Cor 2,5-11; 7,5-12, there is no hint of sexual sin. [73] But in 2 Corinthians Paul is concerned, not so much with the incestuous affair itself - he had already addressed that at length in 1 Cor 5,1-13, and perhaps also in the Letter of Tears - but with the ensuing crisis and its aftermath. 2 Corinthians is concerned with the consequences of the church’s rejection of Paul’s authority, his response to that challenge, and the restoration of the church to good standing with the apostle and the wider Christian community.
10. While not necessarily seeing the instruction of 1 Cor 5:5 as requiring a death sentence, many scholars feel that the seriousness of the offence of 1 Cor 5:1 is incompatible with 2 Cor 2:7-11. Kümmel, for example: 'It is inconceivable that Paul, who wrote I Cor 6:12ff; I Thess 4:3ff; Rom 13:12, should have subsequently taken so lightly a grave case of sexual misbehaviour'. [74] Thrall finds this a particularly forceful objection to Bleek’s hypothesis: 'Paul could not possibly have expressed himself so mildly in 2 Cor 2:5-11 if the man had taken no notice of his original censure'. [75] But on what basis is the offender’s punishment judged lenient, and what could be gained by imposing a more severe penalty? Perhaps the punishment demanded in 1 Cor 5:5 was more severe than the punishment he actually received (though also is uncertain); and clearly, Paul expressed himself forcefully in the Letter of Tears (2 Cor 7:8). But the offender was then expelled from the church, and he repented. His punishment was therefore effective. In 2 Cor 2:5-11, Paul emphasises that to punish him further would be to play into the hands of Satan. [76]
11. Persistence in immoral conduct over a period of time, it is alleged, does not fit the aorist participle (ἀδικήσαντος) in 2 Cor 7:12.[77] But the aorist participle is in fact perfectly appropriate, since it represents a completed action: the man has offended, but he has now repented; his offence has ceased, and he has been forgiven. The progressive aspect of the affair is not in view.
12. '[I]t is incredible that Paul would say that he had insisted on the punishment of the incestuous person merely to test whether the Corinthians were obedient to him in everything (2 Cor 2,9); or that he would say he had written the "severe" letter only so that their zeal for the apostle might be revealed (2 Cor 7,12)'. [78] However, contrary to the current consensus, and as Stegman has now demonstrated, [79] even given Lake's basic outline of events ἔγραψα in 2:9 is best read as an epistolary aorist: 'I am writing for precisely this reason, that I might determine your attitude, whether you are obedient in everything'. The objection from 7:12 depends upon the presupposition that the Letter of Tears was essentially a strengthened demand for disciplinary action against the incestuous man, then. That presupposition is not accepted.

In conclusion, the traditional identification of the offender is viable. Furthermore, Occam’s Razor suggests that the most probable candidate for the offender of 2 Corinthians is the incestuous man of 1 Cor 5. Though in 1 Corinthians Paul demanded his punishment, no action was taken, and Paul wrote again, in the Letter of Tears. In response to that letter the offender was expelled from the church.

The sending of Titus

In 2 Corinthians there are four references to the visits or sending of Titus to Corinth:

In addition, Paul speaks of a second brother who would also have a role in the administration of the Collection (8:22), and there is a further reference to the sending of ‘the brothers’ in 9:3. All the verbs of sending in 2 Cor 8-9 are aorists (ἐξῆλθεν, 8:17; συνεπέμψαμεν, 8:18, 22; ἔπεμψα, 9:3). Of course, the question of whether these verbs refer to past or present actions must in each case be determined from the situational context. [81]

It is widely assumed that the second brother accompanied, or was to accompany, Titus and the first brother on the visit mentioned in 8:17-18. But as McKay points out, this is not necessarily the case; there seem to be three possibilities:

Titus and the two brothers had preceded the present letter to Corinth; then, clearly, all four aorists would be preterite.[82]

Titus, accompanied by the two brothers, was to carry the present letter to Corinth; then all four aorists would be epistolary.[83] 

Titus and the first brother had preceded the present letter to Corinth, but the letter was to be delivered by the second brother; then the aorists of 8:17-18 and 9:3 would be preterite, while that of 8:22 would be epistolary.[84]

McKay argues cogently, if tentatively, for Option 3:

the singular μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ in 18 and the plural αὐτοῖς in 22 show a clear progression.  Perhaps the explanation is that Titus did not stay long after reporting to Paul in Macedonia, but was eager to return to Corinth to follow up his recent contact and to do something about the collection (which is the subject of the whole chapter), so Paul sent one brother with him (specifically μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ), and sent another worthy brother to join them (more ambiguously αὐτοῖς), taking the letter with him.[85]

In 8:22 συνεπέμψαμεν would then have the sense ‘send to be with’. Though this sense is rare, the meaning would be made perfectly clear by the situational context.[86]

Against Option 1, McKay argues that, since no other courier is referenced, it seems likely that the letter was to be carried by one or more of those commended in 8:17-22. [87] Against both Options 1 and 2, it may be noted that a comparison of the language of 2 Cor 8:6, 18 with that of 12:18 suggests strongly that the visit referred to as a past event in 2 Cor 12:18 is identical with the visit referred to in 8:18. In 12:18 Paul says, παρεκάλεσα Τίτον καὶ συναπέστειλα τὸν ἀδελφόν; cf. 8:6, εἰς τὸ παρακαλέσαι ἡμᾶς Τίτον; 8:18, συνεπέμψαμεν δὲ μετʼ αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀδελφὸν.  In each case, Titus was accompanied by ‘the brother’, and the visit concerned the collection.[88] Barrett rightly comments, ‘The coincidence of language is such that the identity of this visit to Corinth with that described in Ch 8 is scarcely open to question’.[89] It is also noted that options 1 and 2 would require that Titus was, or was to be,[90] accompanied to Corinth by two brothers; but in 12:18 only one brother is mentioned.[91]

Against the last point, it has been claimed that the two brothers of 8:16-23 have different roles: the first is a representative of the churches, sent to ensure financial regularity; the second was Paul's personal representative. However, as Watson points out, both delegates were sent by Paul (συνεπέμψαμεν, 8:18; 22), and both were representatives of the churches (εἴτε ἀδελφοὶ ἡμῶν, ἀπόστολοι ἐκκλησιῶν, δόξα Χριστοῦ, 8:23).[92] Furthermore, even if the proposed distinction in the roles of the two brothers is accepted, this does not appear to explain Paul's silence in 12:16-18 concerning the second brother. For if this man had been present, one would have expected Paul to draw attention to his presence and his role; if the question of the integrity of the other two delegates had arisen, it would have been his role to bear witness either for or against them.[93] In addressing the charge of 12;16 Paul focuses on the period when Titus and the first brother were in Corinth, but the second brother had not yet arrived. The sending of Titus and the first brother, 8:17-18, is to be identified with the sending of Titus and the brother in 12:18. The second brother did not accompany them, but was sent subsequently to join them, 8:22.

Thrall objects that the aorist ἐξῆλθεν, 8:17 (and, by implication, also the aorists συνεπέμψαμεν, 8:18, 22) cannot be preterite, for

it would surely be an extraordinary procedure on Paul’s part to send a letter commending his envoys not with the delegation but at some later stage when they had already arrived. If the letter was necessary, they would need to have it with them on arrival. [94]

This does constitute a further forceful objection to the view that the aorist συνεπέμψαμεν is preterite in both 8:18 and 8:22; but given that the second brother was to carry 2 Corinthians, the aorists of 8:17-18 could still be preterite. In 12:18 Paul asks, ‘Titus has not taken advantage of you, has he?’ He is confident of a negative response, and his confidence seems to imply that prior to the arrival of the second brother, Titus and the first brother have not received money from the church.

In conclusion, it appears that McKay’s suggestion is to be preferred. It is not likely that all the aorists of 8:17-18, 22 are historical, nor is it likely that they are all epistolary. Rather, at the time of writing, Titus and the first brother have already left for Corinth, and Paul refers again to their visit in 12:18; the second brother is to join them, and is probably to be the courier of 2 Corinthians.[95] It may also be inferred, perhaps, that Titus set out again for Corinth after the composition of 2 Cor 1-7, but before the composition of 2 Cor 8-9; for he seems to have been at Paul’s side when he composed 2 Cor 7:15.[96] 2 Cor 1-7 deals with the recent crisis, the Letter of Tears, and Titus's account of the church's response to the letter. Evidently Titus returned to Corinth soon after Paul had completed his (written) response to his report. [97]

The Promised Gift

At first glance, Paul's handling of the collection in Macedonia seems highly problematic. As Betz notes, 'The image of the Corinthians which emerges from the letters is one of shallowness and immaturity (cf. 1 Cor 3:1). They make hasty commitments, and then fail to carry them out. They are disorganized and confused, so that they are in constant need of outside help to maintain congregational order'. [98] Yet, Paul tells them, 'For it is unnecessary for me to write to you about this service to the saints. 2 For I know your readiness to serve. I have been boasting about it to Macedonia, "Achaia has been ready since last year!"; and your enthusiasm has stirred up most of them' (9:1-2). As Thrall points out,

Paul says that he is boasting to the Macedonians that Achaia has been ready with its contribution "since last year". But how can he make this claim when in 8.10-11 he has indicated that the Corinthians, "last year", had done little more than show willingness and make some sort of a beginning? ... in 9.3-4 he goes on to express the fear that his correspondents might not, after all, be ready with their contribution when he himself finally arrives in Corinth. Is he more or less admitting that he is not telling the Macedonians the truth? And, if so, how were his readers to know whether what he had said previously in 8.1-6 about the generosity of the Macedonians was true? [99]

Despite his apparent vulnerability to the charge that he has misrepresented the Corinthians' state of readiness in order to provoke a competitive response from the Macedonians, Paul intends to hold the Corinthians to account for a promise made 'last year': 'So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on to you ahead (of me) and finish the arrangements for the gift you had (previously) promised' (τὴν προεπηγγελμένην εὐλογίαν ὑμῶν)' (9:5); [100] for, should they fail to be ready when he arrives, both he and they will be ashamed before the representatives of the churches (9:3-4). Indeed, he considers their response a test of loyalty (8:8); he wants them to give a public demonstration of their love (8:24). If Paul reasonably expects his strategy to succeed while retaining his moral authority, additional factors must be in play; and indeed, there are.

First, in 2 Cor 11:7-12 and 12:13-15, Paul defends vigorously his refusal of financial support from the Corinthians. It is several years since he has been in Corinth, yet the issue is clearly a source of current controversy. The fact that the false apostles have received support from the church is a factor (11:12); but there are indications that Paul himself has recently declined financial support. A number of scholars have commented on Paul's use of the verb θησαυρίζειν ('lay up', 'store up', 'save') in 12:14; Plummer, for example:

For children to be under an obligation to help their parents is not uncommon; but that they should be bound to lay up money for them, though possible, is an abnormal condition of things. St Paul allowed his Macedonian children to contribute to his support (xi. 9), and he told the Corinthians to lay by money for the poor Christians in Palestine (1 Cor. xvi. 2), but he neither required nor tolerated that any converts should raise a fund for his support. [101]

Could it be that the Corinthians, or one of their wealthy patrons, had offered Paul a financial gift, perhaps the support that he himself has said he was entitled to when he was with them (1 Cor 9:3-14), though he had declined it? This would certainly account for the current controversy, since declining a gift might be expected to engender hostility, as it could be construed as an insult to the status of the giver. [102] On the other hand, acceptance of financial support could have led to Paul having to take sides in power struggles among the Corinthian elite. He would, in any case, have become socially subordinate to his patron, and lost his apostolic authority as the church's spiritual pater familias. [103]

Second, despite the concerns expressed in 12:20-21 and the accompanying threats, in 7:16 Paul expresses his complete confidence (ἐν παντί) in the Corinthians, having expressed satisfaction with their obedience to Titus in the matter of the offender. After praising the Macedonians for their godly and generous contribution to the collection, he announces that he is sending Titus back to Corinth, this time to bring the collection project to completion. He says, εἰς τὸ παρακαλέσαι ἡμᾶς Τίτον, ἵνα καθὼς προενήρξατο οὕτως καὶ ἐπιτελέσῃ εἰς ὑμᾶς καὶ τὴν χάριν ταύτην, 'so we urged Titus, since he had previously made a start, also to bring to completion for you this gracious deed'. Unless the second καί is redundant, Paul is signalling that he has asked Titus to bring to completion the collection for the Corinthians, in addition to something else. [104] The obvious reference, since he has just referred to it, would be to Titus's recent role in bringing the matter of the incestuous offender to a satisfactory conclusion (7:6-15). Furthermore, the appeal to the Corinthians' σπουδή, 'earnestness' (8:7), is a clear reference to their recent response to the Letter of Tears. [105] 'The love from us that is in you' (τῇ ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐν ὑμῖν ἀγάπῃ, 8:7) also suggests an allusion to the Letter of Tears; cf. 2:4; 7:3. Despite the expulsion of the incestuous man, Paul still has reason to question the genuineness of the Corinthians' repentance. He therefore proposes to test the genuineness of their love by comparing their earnestness in giving to the church in Jerusalem with that of the Macedonians (8:8).

Finally, In 2:5 Paul implies that his unwillingness to be a burden to the Corinthians was a factor in this decision, announced in the Letter of Tears, to reject their request that he visit Corinth directly. Timothy returned from Corinth, not only with the news that the church was unwilling to discipline the incestuous offender, but also with the request that Paul go them first. A good many difficulties are resolved, therefore, by the hypothesis that he also brought the news that a generous gift of financial support awaited Paul in Corinth. [106] Clearly, his acceptance of their decision concerning the offender would have been (at least part of) the expected quid pro quo. This gift Paul declined.

That the question of financial support was still controversial when Paul wrote 2 Corinthians suggests that, despite the expulsion of the offender, the offer was still on the table. Following the success of the Letter of Tears, it is suggested, Titus then returned with the news that the would-be donor was offended by Paul's refusal, and that the gift had been waiting for him since 'last year'. Paul suspects that the donor made the offer in order to disempower him. He makes clear in 12:20-21 that he is still concerned that he may need to use his authority to deal with serious sin when he arrives; hence he is still not in a position to accept a benefaction. He makes clear that he now expects the promised gift to be willingly donated to the collection, in addition to the offering he calls for in 1 Cor 16:2; he expects to see real generosity.


In conclusion, there are decided advantages in constructing the sequence of events as follows:

    1. Having founded the church in Corinth, and then embarked on a mission in western Macedonia, reaching the border of Illyricum (Acts 18:1-17; 2 Cor 1:19; Rom 15:19). On returning to Corinth he was distressed to learn of sexual immorality in the church (2 Cor 2:1; 12:21; 13:2). When he left them for the second time, he gave the community a stern warning: he would return, and would not again spare those who sinned before, or the rest. Some years later, at the opening of sailing, Paul planned to send Timothy to the churches of Macedonia (Phil 2:19-23), and on to Achaia (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10f); he himself would remain in Ephesus a little longer (probably until Pentecost), and would then sail direct to Corinth, where he would rejoin Timothy. He would then visit Macedonia before returning to Corinth en route to Judea (2 Cor 1:15-16).
    2. Paul received visitors from Corinth, bringing disturbing news (1 Cor 1:11; 5:1).
    3. Paul revised his plans: he would remain in Ephesus until Pentecost, and would go first to Macedonia; but he hoped to spend the winter in Corinth (1 Cor 16:5-7; cf. 2 Cor 1:23). Timothy would proceed with his mission to Macedonia and Achaia, but would then return to Ephesus (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11).
    4. Paul composed 1 Corinthians, demanding in particular that the incestuous man be severely disciplined (1 Cor 5:1-13).
    5. Timothy returned from Corinth with the news that he church refused to discipline the incestuous man, but were offering Paul a substantial gift.
    6. Paul sent to Corinth the now lost ‘Letter of Tears’ (2 Cor 2:3-4; 7:8, 12).
    7. The Letter of Tears distressed the church exceedingly, and the majority were brought to repentance. They expelled the incestuous man from the worshipping community, thus disassociating themselves from his guilt (7:7-11).
    8. Paul travelled to Macedonia as planned, where he composed 2 Corinthians.

[1]  Hall, A Disguise for the Wise; Unity of the Corinthian Correspondence 3-25, following Chrysostom, has argued persuasively that the slogans of 1 Cor 1:12 are not to be taken literally, and that throughout 1 Cor 1:12-4:5 Paul is using the rhetorical device of covert allusion. Though he speaks of himself and Apollos, he is really alluding to certain sophists, rival teachers currently present in Corinth. He spells this out in 4:6, τῦτα δέ, ἀδελφοί, μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλῶν. Paul says he has changed the form (μετεσχημάτισα) of 'these tings' (τῦτα) into (εἰς) himself and Apollos: 'The whole argument [1 Cor 1:10-4:5] presupposes that the party leaders were teachers and preachers on a par with Apollos' (Unity of the Corinthian Correspondence 8). The common interpretation, that Paul 'applied' the figures of speech (gardeners, builders, stewards) to himself and Apollos (e.g. Hooker, Beyond the Things that are Written 131; Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians 165) seems to be lexically unsupported.

[2] Winter, B. W., Gluttony and Immorality at Élitist Banquets: The Background to 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Jian Dao 7 (1997) 55-67; After Paul Left Corinth 82-85.

[3] Kümmel,  Introduction to the New Testament 207.

[4] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, pp. 65-78 in Thompson (ed.), Scripture: Meaning and Method 65.

[5] Notably Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians; Hyldahl, Die Frage nach der literarischen Einheit des Zweiten Korintherbriefes, Die Paulinische Chronologie; Borse, U., 1984, Tränenbrief und 1. Korintherbrief, StudNTUmwelt 9, 175-202.

[6] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, 65-78 in Thompson (ed.),  Scripture: meaning and method 66.

[7] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, 65-78 in Thompson (ed.),  Scripture: meaning and method 66.

[8] Cited by Hyldahl, Die Frage nach der literarischen Einheit des Zweiten Korintherbriefes, Die Paulinische Chronologie 290.

[9] Bleek, Introduction to the New Testament 424-5.

[10] Fl Bleek, Erörterung in Beziehung auf die Briefe Pauli an die Korinther, Theologische Studien und Kritiken 3 (1830) 614-32, 630-31.

[11] I have not seen Ewald’s work; my knowledge of him is derived from secondary sources, including Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Hyldahl, Die Paulinische Chronologie, and Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I.

[12] Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 12.

[13] Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxiv.

[14] Plummer, Second Epistle xvii.

[15] Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxi.

[16] Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxxii.

[17] Robertson and Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxxi.

[18] Cf. Plummer, Second Epistle 47.

[19] The apostle continues (2:2), 'For if I cause you sorrow (λυπῶ), who will make me glad?' Danker glosses λυπέω, in this instance, 'to cause severe emotional or mental distress' (BDAG s.v. 1).

[20] M. Krenkel, Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte und der Briefe des Apostels Paulus 165-8; cited by Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 53.

[21] Bleek, Introduction to the New Testament 425.

[22] Robertson – Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxxii.

[23] Robertson – Plummer, First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians xxxii.

[24] Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians 56-57.

[25] Cf. Hall, Unity of the Corinthian Correspondence 243-45.

[26] Plummer, Second Epistle xvi-xvii. In a footnote (page xviii) Plummer  remarks that this visit might possibly be placed between Apollos's time in Corinth and the Previous Letter, or possibly between the Previous Letter and the arrival of Chloe's people (1 Cor 1:11).

[27] Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul 150.

[28] Lake, The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul 151.

[29] A recent exception is Hall, Unity of the Corinthian Correspondence 243-46.

[30] For a brief discussion of various proposals, see Toseland, The Corinthian Crisis: A reconstruction of the events leading up to the composition of the Letter of Tears and of 2 Corinthians, PhD dissertation, Bristol 1999, 66-71.

[31] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, pp. 65-78 in Thompson (ed.), Scripture: meaning and method 72-74; the quotation in point 10 is from page 74.

[32] With regard to point 4, Barrett, Essays on Paul 108-17 has argued that the offender was one of Paul's rivals, the false apostles. This would imply, however, that one of the intruders whom Paul denounces in 2 Cor 10-13 had been subjected to, and had accepted, some form of discipline by the church in Corinth; had repented, acknowledging Paul’s apostolic authority; and had expressed a wish to be restored to the fellowship of the Corinthian church.  It seems highly unlikely that one claiming to be an apostle would submit to such discipline; Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection 2 Corinthians, pp. 65-78 in Thompson (ed.), Scripture: meaning and method 70-71.

[33] Barrett, Essays on Paul 112-14.

[34] Krenkel, Beiträge zur Aufhellung der Geschichte und der Briefe des Apostels Paulus 306; cited by Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 68.

[35] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 68.

[36] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 68.

[37] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, pp. 65-78 in Thompson (ed.), Scripture: meaning and method 74-75.

[38] Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians 277.

[39] Harris, The second epistle to the Corinthians 226-27.

[40] Harris, The second epistle to the Corinthians 103.

[41] Thrall, The Offender and the Offence: A Problem of Detection in 2 Corinthians, pp. 65-78 in Thompson (ed.), Scripture: meaning and method 69.

[42] Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 238.

[43] Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 238.

[44] Duncan, St Paul's Ephesian Ministry, 172. Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 71, argues that Paul is here correcting his remark that he will come to Corinth ταχέως, “soon”, “without delay” (1 Cor 4,19), whereas in fact he will not be coming for some months. But ταχέως may have the sense “in a short time” (Danker, BDAG s.v. 2), rather than “quickly” (cf. s.v. 1). As Fee points out, the emphasis in 4,19 is on the certainty of a visit, not on its timing.

[45] E.g. Plummer, Second Epistle 31-32; Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 62; Barrett, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 74; Bultmann, Der zweite Brief an die Korinther 41; Furnish, II Corinthians 133.

[46] LSJ s.v. πρότερος IV; Danker, BDAG s.v. πρότερος 1bα. Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 136-137, points out that, if Paul had meant “first”, he could have said πρῶτον.

[47] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 138; cf. Danker, BDAG s.v. χάρις 3a, 'proof of my goodwill'.

[48] A. E. Harvey, Renewal Through Suffering 38, suggests tentatively that the first χάρις might be identified with the interim visit, though he also questions whether such a visit ever took place.

[49] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 139, citing Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 62, objects, 'it would be odd that the brief preliminary visit prior to the Macedonian journey should thus be singled out for mention, without mention of the proposed longer, return visit as a "third grace".' But in view of the shame and humiliation of his first 'mark of goodwill', his second would have been filled with symbolic significance.

[50] The aorist in 1 Cor 4,17, ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, is unlikely to be epistolary, as Timothy's name does not appear in 1 Cor 1,1; 16,19f; he was evidently not in Ephesus when 1 Corinthians was composed. Timothy is unlikely to have been the courier of 1 Corinthians (contra Bleek), since he was expected to arrive in Corinth after the letter. As Lane says with reference to 1 Cor 16,10f, “It is unlikely that the Apostle would have waited until the closing paragraphs of his letter to provide for the respectful reception necessary for the completion of his lieutenant’s mission”; Lane, Covenant: The Key to Paul's Conflict with Corinth 12 n 14. Furthermore, in view of Acts 19,22, Timothy will have travelled to Corinth via Macedonia, a journey of at least a month, perhaps two. In view of the urgency of the matters addressed in the letter, it seems likely it was sent to Corinth directly by sea. 

[51] As Hyldahl, Die Paulinische Chronologie 41-42 points out, Corinth, rather than Ephesus, would have been the best place for this meeting, from the point of view of the economy of travel. Hyldahl considers this point decisive in his consideration of the question of whether Timothy did in fact reach Corinth.

[52] It is unlikely that, after composing 1 Corinthians, Paul changed his mind and sent to Timothy a message instructing him not to go to Corinth. It is not easy to see how Paul could have done this; certainly Occam’s Razor would weigh against such a reconstruction.

[53] Harris, The second epistle to the Corinthians 62. 

[54] Furnish, II Corinthians 164.

[55] Cf. Meyer, Epistles to the Corinthians II, 169.

[56] Furnish, II Corinthians 165.

[57] Furnish, II Corinthians 165.

[58] Kruse, The Offender and the Offence 138-9; cf. Lampe, Church Discipline and the Interpretation of the Epistles to the Corinthians, in Farmer et al, Christian History and Interpretation 337-61, 354.

[59] Furnish, II Corinthians 165.

[60] Furnish, II Corinthians 165-66.

[61] The 'curse-death' reading of 1 Cor 5,5 has now been greatly strengthened by D. R. Smith's recent monograph, Hand This Man Over to Satan. Smith demonstrates that παραδοῦναι τὸν τοιοῦτον τῷ σατανᾷ (1 Cor 5,5) draws upon ubiquitous, cross-cultural conventions of cursing attested over many centuries and throughout the Greco-Roman world.

[62] E.g. R. P. Martin, 2 Corinthians 237; Bruce, Corinthians 185.

[63] Martin, 2 Corinthians 36-7.

[64] Cf. Lampe, Church Discipline and the Interpretation of the Epistles to the Corinthians, in Farmer et al, Christian History and Interpretation 344.

[65] BDAG s.v. λυπέω 1: 'used abs. is certainly more than cause pain or vexation. In Polyaenus 8, 47 it is used of the severe humiliation or outrage experienced by a king who has been deposed by his subjects'.

[66] Bruce, Corinthians 185.

[67] 'He has shown the way, as the emphatic pronouns "I also ... I" indicate'; P. Barnett, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 130.

[68] Cited by Kruse, The Offender and the Offence 136.

[69] Chow, Patronage and Power 138 n 2.

[70] Martin, 2 Corinthians 237.

[71] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth 44-57.

[72] Winter, After Paul Left Corinth 46-49. We seem to have here, therefore, an instance of “wife sharing”, as advocated by the Cynic Diogenes.

[73] E.g. Furnish, II Corinthians 165; Carson, From Triumphalism to Maturity 8.

[74] Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament 283.

[75] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 65.

[76] Cf. Kruse, The Offender and the Offence 135.

[77] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians I 65.

[78] Cited by Kruse, The Offender and the Offence 137.

[79] Stegman, T. D., Reading egrapsa in 2 Corinthians 2:9 as an Epistolary Aorist, NovT  (forthcoming).

[80] The complementary verbs προενήρξατο and ἐπιτελέσῃ in 8:6 are naturally taken as referring respectively to the beginning and the completion of the same object, the collection project in Corinth.

[81] This point is stressed by McKay, Observations on the Epistolary Aorist in 2 Corinthians 154.

[82] So e.g. Allo, Seconde Épitre aux Corinthiens 223.

[83] So most commentators.

[84] McKay, Observations on the Epistolary Aorist in 2 Corinthians 157; see below.

[85] McKay, Observations on the Epistolary Aorist in 2 Corinthians 157.

[86] McKay, Observations on the Epistolary Aorist in 2 Corinthians 157, citing Chrest. 1.11.47 (BC 123), where the verb has the sense ‘send to the help of’ (see MM s.v. συνπέμπω).

[87] McKay, Observations on the Epistolary Aorist in 2 Corinthians 156.

[88] In 12:18 the perfect tense marks the verb; in 8:18 the special credentials of the brother are mentioned.

[89] Barrett, Essays on Paul 127, though he takes the aorists of 8:17, 18 to be epistolary and deduces that Titus visited Corinth between 2 Cor 1-9 and 2 Cor 10-13..

[90] Many have argued that the visit of 8:17-18, 22 is referred to as a future event, whereas the same visit is referred to in 12:17-18 as a past event, and that 2 Cor 10-13 must therefore be a separate piece, written later than 2 Cor 8; for Titus must have visited Corinth between these two letters (Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 405; Pherigo, Paul and the Corinthian Church 341; Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians 168; Barrett, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 21; Essays on Paul 126f; Furnish, II Corinthians 559.

[91] Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians 468.

[92] Bruce admits this difficulty with the theory (1 and 2 Corinthians 251).

[93] Hyldahl, Die Paulinsiche Chronologie 89.

[94] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians II 546-47.

[95] This conclusion is, of course, subject to the usual proviso: firm conclusions can be drawn only when all relevant data has been analysed.

[96] Cf. the perfect ἀναπέπαυται, 7:13; Paul is saying that Titus is still in a state of refreshment (Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians 279 n 22); so at the time of writing, Titus must presumably be with him. 

[97] Since Timothy is a co-signatory of 2 Corinthians (1:1), I am not finally persuaded by the arguments of Borse and Fellows, that Titus and Timothy were one and the same.

[98] Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 49.

[99] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians II 564-5.

[100] The time reference of the participle προεπηγγελμένην ('promise beforehand') will be the same as that of the verb προενάρχομαι ('promise beforehand') in 8:6, 10. The verb προενήρξατο links 8:6 and 8:10-11, and implies a close connection between the beginning made by Titus and the beginning made 'last year' by the Corinthians.

[101] Plummer, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 362.

[102] Marshall, Enmity in Corinth 8-17.

[103] Peterman, Paul's Gift from the Philippians 171-174.

[104] E.g. Barrett, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 221; Martin, 2 Corinthians 259; Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians II 528; Harris, Second Epistle to the Corinthians 572; Weymouth ('this act of beneficence also'). Many English versions ignore the particle.

[105] Thrall, Second Epistle to the Corinthians II 529, citing Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief 249.

[106] Since he would be passing through (he had to go to on Macedonia), the financial support he alludes to would have to be a one-off gift.