2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

by Ralph P. Martin, Thomas Nelson Publishers

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Pastors and students will appreciate this new edition with its up-to-date bibliography and discussion of pertinent issues. In this full revision and update of the book of Second Corinthians, Dr. Ralph P. Martin addresses the scholarly questions about the text of the epistle and the significance of Paul’s thought for Christian living and ministry.

In a


Pastors and students will appreciate this new edition with its up-to-date bibliography and discussion of pertinent issues. In this full revision and update of the book of Second Corinthians, Dr. Ralph P. Martin addresses the scholarly questions about the text of the epistle and the significance of Paul’s thought for Christian living and ministry.

In a penetrating analysis of Paul’s responses to the various crises within the Corinthian congregation, Dr. Martin gives insight into the particular problems of Christianity as expressed in the hedonistic, cosmopolitan setting of Corinth. He shows how Paul’s attempt to clearly distinguish the gospel from Hellenistic Judaism and Hellenistic Jewish Christian ideology results in a moving statement of the Christian message. Rather than the “theology of glory” prevalent in Corinth, Paul articulates his theology of the Cross as a “theology of weakness,” of servanthood and ministry. What was at stake at Corinth, says Dr. Martin, was “nothing less than the essence of the kerygma as in expressed in the way of the cross. . . for proclamation and daily living.” New sections on the Collection and Rhetoric have been added, and the issues of Composition and Social Setting of the letter have been included, along with topics such as the Spirit, the Opponents, Paul's Theology, and the Resurrection in this epistle.

The Word Biblical Commentary series offers the best in critical scholarship firmly committed to the authority of Scripture as divine revelation. It is perfect for scholars, students of the Bible, ministers, and anyone who wants a theological understanding of Scripture.

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Word Biblical Commentary Series, #40
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2 Corinthians, Volume 40

By Ralph P. Martin


Copyright © 2014 Ralph P. Martin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4185-0773-2


Address (1:1–2)


Asting, R. K.Die Heiligkeit im Urchristentum. FRLANT 46. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1930. Ayodeji Adewuya, J.Holiness and Community.Barrett, C. K.The Signs of an Apostle. London: Epworth, 1970. Bassler, J.Navigating Paul.Betz, H. D. "Apostle." In ABD 1:309–11. Bosenius, B.Abwesenheit des Apostels.Byrskog, S. "Co-senders, Co-authors, and Paul's Use of the First Person Plural." ZNW 97 (1996) 230–50. Carrez, M. "Le 'nous' en 2 Corinthiens: Contribution à l'étude de l'apostolicité dans 2 Corinthiens." NTS 26 (1979–1980) 474–86. Delling, G. "Merkmale der Kirche nach dem Neuen Testament." NTS 13 (1966–1967) 297–316. Dobschütz, E. von. "Wir und Ich bei Paulus." ZST 10 (1933) 251–77. Doty, W. G.Letters in Primitive Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973. Doughty, D. J. "The Priority of CARIS." NTS 19 (1972–1973) 163–80. Eastman, B.Significance of Grace.Evans, O. E.Saints in Christ Jesus: A Study of the Christian Life in the New Testament. Swansea: Penry, 1975. Fee, G. D. "XAPI[summation] in II Corinthians I. 15." NTS 24 (1977–1978) 533–38. Fellows, R. G. "Was Titus Timothy?" JSNT 81 (2001) 33–58. Fitzmyer, J. A. "Some Notes on Aramaic Epistolography." JBL 93 (1974) 201–25. Reprinted in A Wandering Aramean: Collected Aramaic Essays, SBLMS 25 (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1979) 183–204. Fridrichsen, A.Apostle.Gnilka, J.Theologie.Haenchen, E.The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary. Trans. B. Noble, G. Shinn, and H. Anderson. Rev. R. McL. Wilson. Oxford: Blackwell, 1971. Hainz, J.Ekklesia.Hawthorne, G. F.Philippians. Revised and enlarged by R. P. Martin. WBC 43. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. Kirk, J. A. "Apostleship since Rengstorf: Towards a Synthesis." NTS 21 (1975) 249–64. Klauck, H.-J.Ancient Letters.Kramer, W.Christ, Lord, Son of God.Lieu, J. "'Grace to You and Peace': The Apostolic Greeting." BJRL 68 (1985) 161–78. Lofthouse, W. F. "'I' and 'We' in the Pauline Epistles." BT 6 (1955) 72–80. Machen,J. G.The Origin of Paul's Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1921. Meier, J. P. "The Circle of the Twelve: Did It Exist during Jesus' Ministry?" JBL 116 (1997) 636–42. Moffatt, J.Grace in the New Testament. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1931. Müller, M. "Der sogenannte 'schriftstellerische Plural'–- neu betrachtet: Zur Frage der Mitarbeiter als Mitverfasser der Paulusbriefe." BZ 42.2 (1998) 181–201. Murphy-O'Connor, J. "Co-authorship in the Corinthian Correspondence." RB 100 (1993) 562–79. Ollrog, W.-H.Paulus und seine Mitarbeiter.Richards, E. R.Paul.———. Secretary.Rissi, M.Studien.Roloff, J.Apostolat-Verkundigung-Kirche: Ursprung, Inhalt und Funktion des kirchlichen Apostelamtes nach Paulus, Lukas und den Pastoralbriefen. Gütersloh: Mohn, 1965. Snaith, N. H.The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament. London: Epworth, 1944. Verhoef, E. "The Senders of the Letters to the Corinthians and the Use of 'I' and 'We.'" In The Corinthian Correspondence. Ed. R. Bieringer. BETL 125. Leuven: Leuven UP, 1996. 417–25.


Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and brother Timothy, to the church of God that is at Corinth and to all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


The revised edition of this commentary will note Long's rhetorical outline alongside the outline provided by the commentary. The epistolary prescript (1:1–2) frames the rhetorical body of the epistle.

Epistolary salutation in the Pauline letters follows the pattern of contemporary letter-writing practices, with obvious Christian features added. The names of sender and addressees are given at this point in the letter; and there is an expression of greeting. In the case of this epistle, Paul adds a self-description as "apostle of Christ Jesus," and the colorless Greek greeting [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "greetings," becomes the rich Pauline [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "grace."

Paul's use of the letter-writing form to convey his presence is discussed by Bosenius. She begins with the question, "Why does the Apostle Paul state his theological ideas in the form of letters, of all things?" Granting that he writes as an absentee away from his church, she gives a deeper meaning: "Paul chooses the epistle as a means to solve the theological conflicts so that when he visits, he may act as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], as a fellow-worker with [your]joy.'"

Paul often includes Timothy (Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Phlm 1), Timothy and Silvanus (1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1), and others (Gal 2:2) in his greetings. Timothy is mentioned to endorse the letter, but other options for his role include a scribe, the letter bearer, a coauthor, or a co-sender. The issue of Paul's use of his own name and that of his colleagues is considered in Byrskog, and more broadly it is the theme of Richards. In the latter book, Richards argues that "the named co-senders of Paul's letters were contributors to the letter's content, that is, they were coauthors. Material from the coauthors was non-Pauline but not un-Pauline."9 This is improbable, in our view.

The placing of Timothy's name alongside that of Paul is not intended to connote a shared responsibility for authorship. To be sure, the following letter oscillates between the use of the singular ("I") and the plural ("we"); and this feature has been discussed at some length. But there is no suggestion that Paul consciously looked to Timothy to lend support to his apostolic convictions or that Timothy was a coauthor.

On the contrary, it is more probable that Timothy is mentioned in the letter's prescript because he needed Paul's endorsement of all he had sought to do as he undertook an intermediate mission between the visits of Acts 18:3 and 20:4. In that interim we may postulate (on the basis of Acts 19:22) a visit made by Timothy subsequent to the sending of 1 Corinthians. Paul may well have dispatched him to report on the Corinthian crisis, inferred from 1 Cor 4:17–21, where v 17 is an example of an epistolary aorist, "I am sending to you Timothy."

The fact that 2 Corinthians does not allude to this mission may suggest that Paul is kindly drawing a veil of secrecy over an event that turned out disastrously for his own authority at Corinth. If so, Timothy's name in the address is Paul's attempt to rehabilitate his colleague, who had been insulted and rejected as his emissary. This is an uncertain inference, though Windisch's statement of there being no conflict between Timothy and the Corinthians at the time of Paul's writing is difficult to prove. Allo cautions that we know so little about Timothy's movements that we cannot say if he did actually get to Corinth; it is hazardous to postulate a hypothesis of Timothy's having been the victim of an attack. Yet there is no denying the reasonableness of the suggestion—for which there are some indications in the text—that part of Paul's purpose in including Timothy's name was to reestablish his standing in the eyes of the church at Corinth.


1 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." Paul introduces himself as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "apostle of Christ Jesus"—a title authorized to him by the phrase [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "by the will of God." The note of apostolic authority is sounded again in 1:21; 2:17; 4:5; 5:20; 10:8; 13:10. These verses pay eloquent tribute to Paul's self-consciousness as God's servant uniquely set apart and commissioned for the task of ministry in the framework of the "new covenant" (cf. 3:6). In these self-designations it was Paul's awareness of the divine "will" both for his own life and for the mission of Christ to the Gentiles that impelled his service at every point.

"Apostle" is a pivotal term in this letter, to be understood both negatively and affirmatively. In the former sense, what Paul writes about his vocation and ministry has to be seen in direct opposition to the claims made by other teachers on the Corinthian scene. Paul does not hesitate to label such men "false apostles" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: 11:13). He tacitly concedes that they laid claim to the title "apostle," and it was important for him to define his understanding of the term over against their perception of it. Paul's criteria are the proclamation of the gospel (11:4) and the marks of its true preacher. On the positive side, "this epistle contains ... the fullest and most passionate account of what Paul meant by apostleship." The debate in this letter is defined by various understandings of the term "apostle." In his commentary Barrett remarks:

"Apostle" as powerful and imposing person, standing for all the rights he could possibly claim, performing miracles, and accepting adulation and support of those whom he was able to impress ... that [such] represent a permanent threat to Christianity is written on every page of church history and is in itself a sufficient reason for the continued study of 2 Cor.

On Paul's Roman cognomen, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Paul," replacing his signum (birth name) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Saul," see Acts 13:9. As a Benjamite, Paul bears the name of Israel's first king, who was also from the tribe of Benjamin. As a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 16:37–38; 25:10–12), Paul has a Roman name with three parts—a praenomen (personal name), a nomen (clan name), and a cognomen (family name). [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "Paul," is most likely his cognomen.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "and brother Timothy." Timothy is designated "the brother," a term that recurs in 1 Thess 3:2; Col 1:1. More endearing descriptions such as "my beloved and faithful child/son" (1 Cor 4:17) and Paul's "son" (Phil 2:22) are found, as well as tributes in the Pastoral Epistles. The word "brother" suggests a quasi-official function (as in 8:22) and would support the idea of Timothy as Paul's envoy to Corinth, whether or not his mission had suffered defeat there.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "to the church of God that is at Corinth." "Church" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is found nine times in the letter, usually in the sense of the local congregation of God's people of the new covenant. The exception is 11:28, where "all the churches" has an ecumenical ring, at least as far as the Pauline communities were concerned. (See below.)

On Corinth as a Greek city in Paul's day and earlier see in the Introduction; the verbal form in the phrase [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "to the church of God that is," should be observed in the light of K. L. Schmidt's contention that what is in view is the "one great church" with its local manifestation or outcropping at Corinth. He argues that it is a mistake to render "the Corinthian church"; rather, it is the one church of God that appears on the scene at Corinth.

[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "and to all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia." Two matters invite comment in this phrase: (1) the description of Christians as "the holy ones" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and (2) the addressees of the letter in a region wider than just the church(es) in the city of Corinth. Paul's phrase takes into his purview the congregations located in the entire region of Achaia.

"Achaia" became, after 27 B.C., the name of the whole of Greece, whereas in pre-Roman times it denoted a smaller territory on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Paul's usage here (and in 1 Cor 16:15; cf. Rom 15:26; 1 Thess 1:7–8) probably reflects the earlier designation. In Acts 17:34 converts made in Athens are evidently not counted in Paul's remark (in 1 Cor 16:15) that some Corinthians were the first believers in Achaia. See Goudge for uncertainty as to Paul's exact delimitation of Achaia, though it is clear that he regarded Corinth as the chief city of the province in general. Lietzmann's theory that the designation of Corinth in the province of Achaia is the "root of the later constitution of a metropolitan" church is, however, justly criticized by Hainz.

The substantive adjective [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "saint," as a title for Christians has its roots in the OT. It derives from a Hebrew word meaning "to separate" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], qdš), and the LXX renders the root by [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "holy," in its adjectival form. The saints are the separated ones in a double sense; negatively, there is separation from evil, and, on the positive side, dedication to God and his service.

In the Old Testament, Israel is God's holy people in precisely these two ways. It is a nation set apart by God's election from the rest of the ancient world (Num 23:9; Ps 147:20); and its national life is distinctive as a witness to God because it is called to be "a holy nation" (Exod 19:5–6; Lev 11:44–45; 19:1–2; Deut 7:6; 14:2). The church is successor to the sacred community of Israel (see 1 Pet 2:9–10), as the term "saints" denotes. We may observe the added reminder that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "saints," is found only in the plural in the NT, except in Phil 4:21 where, however, the singular form of the word refers to a group. It is applied to all NT believers, not to a select body of spiritual elite. The Corinthians, no less than the Philippian believers, are summoned to be God's "saints" as his own people marked by a distinctive way of life and demonstrating the reality of their election by allegiance to God in ethical behavior of the highest order.

2 [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Paul's salutation merges into a benediction like prayer: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "grace and peace to you"; it represents a christianized adaptation of the customary wish expressed in letters of the Greco-Roman culture, namely [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "greetings," or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "abundant greetings." In Paul's hands the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] becomes charged with the force of a powerful, performative wish-prayer, which conveys the idea of God's favor ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) to those who do not deserve it and his strength to match human weakness (see Comment on 12:9 for this meaning of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], "grace"). "Paul's prescript appears to be a harmonious combination of Greek and Jewish epistolary forms."

Paul adds to "grace" the prayer for God's "peace" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in what became for him a standard collocation (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; Gal 1:3; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; Phlm 3: cf. Eph 1:2). "Peace" is a stylized greeting drawn from the Semitic world, but its Christian overtones are clearly to be heard in the following phrases: "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." The nomenclature is here significant, with God's essential title given as "Father" (see on 1:3) and Jesus Christ receiving his usual Pauline appellation, "Lord" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). The coordination of God the Father and Jesus the exalted Lord is no less remarkable and endorses Machen's observation that "everywhere in the Epistles ... the attitude of Paul toward Christ is not merely the attitude of man to man, or scholar to master; it is the attitude of man toward God."


Excerpted from 2 Corinthians, Volume 40 by Ralph P. Martin. Copyright © 2014 Ralph P. Martin. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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Meet the Author

Ralph P. Martin (1925-2013) was Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Fuller Theological Seminary and a New Testament Editor for the Word Biblical Commentary series. He earned the BA and MA from the University of Manchester, England, and the PhD from King's College, University of London. He was the author of numerous studies and commentaries on the New Testament, including Worship in the Early Church, the volume on Philippians in The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series. He also wrote 2 Corinthians and James in the WBC series.

Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford (PhD, Baylor University) is the Carolyn Ward Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of Reading from the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter, Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Textbook, Introduction to the Psalms: A Song from Ancient Israel, and The Book of Psalms (NICOT).

Lynn Allan Losie is Associate Professor of New Testament at Azusa Pacific University. A generalist in New Testament studies, Dr. Losie teaches courses in the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Pauline Epistles, as well as in the background areas of Greek, early Judaism, and the greater Hellenistic World. He has published articles on the New Testament and had served as the associate New Testament editor of the Word Biblical Commentary (1997 - 2013). Ordained as a Baptist minister, he has also served in pastoral ministry in Southern California and Oregon.

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