2 Corinthians


1. Greeting and benediction

Salutation and doxology, 1:1-7


In typical letter-writing style, Paul establishes the from whom and to whom of the letter. From the outset he nails down his authority, "an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." The to whom is of course the Christian congregation in Corinth, a fellowship of believers established by Paul himself. Paul would normally move into a thanksgiving at this point in his letters, but what we have in v3-7 is more a benediction than a thanksgiving. In this statement of praise to God, Paul expresses his confidence that just as he has weathered the bad times to experience times of comfort and encouragement, so the Corinthians will weather their present difficulties and soon find the consolation that comes from the Lord.


i] Context: In the first century, a letter / epistle typically commences with a prescript, 1:1-2, and ends with a postscript, 13:11-13. Although 2 Corinthians presents as a letter, it is actually written to be read aloud to an audience and so it stands as a sermon / address / speech, and as such, is an example of first century rhetoric. The structural elements of the speech are as follows:

Exordium: This opening element of the sermon / speech serves to elicit sympathy from the audience while touching on the subject at hand, 1:3-7.

Narratio: The narrative section. Here Paul provides background information related to the subject at hand with a defense of his integrity, 1:8-2:13.

Propositio: The proposition, thesis, upon which the sermon / speech rests, 2:14-17:


Paul is Christ's ambassador, his apostle for the new covenant.


Probatio: The body of the sermon / speech where Paul develops his thesis in a series of rhetorical proofs covering 3:1-12:21.

•  The character of Paul's ministry, 3:1-6:13;

•  Exhortation, 6:14-7:4;

•  Paul's meeting with Titus, 7:5-16;

•  The collection for the believers in Palestine, 8:1-9:15;

•  Paul defends his ministry, 10:1-12:21.

The diverse nature of these "proofs" may indicate a more detailed rhetorical classification, cf., "Introduction."

•  Probatio, rhetorical proofs, 3:1-6:13;

•  Exhortatio, exhortation, 6:14-7:4;

•  Digressio, digression, 7:5-9:15;

•  Refutatio, refutation, 10:1-12:21.

Peroratio: In rhetoric, this element of the speech serves as a recapitulation of the main theme (12:11-13:10, so Long), although Paul moves more into a letter format with his conclusion, 13:1-13.


ii] Background: 2 Corinthians reflects Paul's relief that his harsh letter (1 Corinthians??) was received positively by the congregation, but it also reflects his concern for an ongoing attack on both his person and the gospel he proclaims. As indicated in the introductory notes, there is no consensus among commentators as to the nature of this problem, but it does seem more than likely that the problem stems from Judaizers who are making their presence felt within the Corinthian fellowship. These law-bound believers followed the dictates of the circumcision party centered in the Jerusalem church, a party of Jewish believers who promoted sanctification by obedience to the Torah. They were highly critical of Paul, questioning his apostolic authority and implying that he was antinomian, an heretical Jew who shows scant regard for the covenant law. To counter Paul's teachings, the Jurdaizers followed up on his missionary activities in order to correct his heretical teaching, cf., Gal.2:4-5. So, it is likely that some of these delegates / missionaries / interlopers from the Jerusalem church have ensconced themselves in the Corinthian church and are developing a strong opposition party to Paul's apostleship. Paul is now forced to confront the Judaizers, along with those members of the Corinthian fellowship who have allowed themselves to be swayed by the slander directed at him.

The gospel that Paul proclaims focuses on the grace of God realized through the faithful life-giving service of Christ. The extent of God's grace entails the full bestowal of the promised blessings of the covenant, appropriated through faith apart from works of the Law. The Judaizers, on the other hand, argued that, although a person is justified (set right before God, judged covenant compliant) on the basis of Christ's faithfulness ("faith of Christ") appropriated through faith, law-obedience ("works of the law" - obedience to the law of Moses) is essential to restrain sin and shape holiness for a believer to move forward in the Christian life and so appropriate the fullness of new life in Christ (the promised Abrahamic blessings - the gift of the Spirit, etc.). It is more than likely that it is this heresy, nomism / pietism / sanctification by obedience, which is being promoted by the opposition party in the Corinthian fellowship.

Of first importance, Paul must defend his apostolic authority, and much of the letter serves this end. The next step involves theologically confronting the opposition party / the Judaizers / the members of the circumcision party. Paul obviously will do this when he arrives in Corinth and thankfully we have the product of this theological confrontation in his general letter to the Romans. Romans was written during Paul's stay in Corinth and presents as a treatise against nomism, the heresy promoted by the Judaizers.


iii] Structure: Salutation and doxology:

prescript, v1-2;

benediction, v3-7.


iv] Interpretation:

In this opening passage, Paul establishes his own authority and the integrity of the recipients. Having received news from Titus that the Corinthians have accepted the instructions in his harsh letter (presumably 1 Corinthians), Paul is able to address them in a positive way, but, as it will soon become apparent, not everything is hunky-dory. Paul's authority is being undermined by some members of the church, undermined in such a way as to undermine the very nature of the gospel. We can only speculate on the problem, but it is most likely stemming from members who are judaizers, often Jewish believers. In these opening words of the letter we get a hint of the apologetic that Paul will run against the Judaizers. Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, an apostle who fully shares in the sufferings of Christ and in his comfort.

Text - 1:1

i] Prescript, v1-2.

Cristou (oV) gen. "of Christ" - [paul an apostle] of christ. The genitive may be classified as ablative, source / origin, "from Christ", adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, "who was appointed by Christ", verbal, subjective, "sent by Christ."

Ihsou (ouV) gen. "Jesus" - Genitive in apposition to "Christ".

dia + gen. "by" - Instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.

qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the will] of god. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

oJ adelfoV (oV) "[Timothy] our brother" - [and timothy] the brother. Nominative standing in apposition to Timothy. Possibly "one of the brothers", but usually the article is treated as a possessive pronoun, "our brother." Timothy is obviously present with Paul at this time, but it is unclear whether he has a part in the letter itself.

th/ ekklhsia/ (a) dat. "to the church" - to the assembly. Dative of recipient; "to the congregation meeting in Corinth."

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

en + dat. "in [Corinth]" - Local, expressing space.

sun + dat. "with" - Expressing association / accompaniment.

toiV ousin (eimi) dat. pres. part. "-" - [all the holy ones] being. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "holy ones" = "saints" = "God's people", TEV; "all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia", ESV. The Roman province of Achaia consists of what we might call southern Greece. Obviously the other congregations meeting in this geographical area were somehow linked to Corinth, possibly as branch churches of the church in Corinth.

en + dat. "throughout" - in [all achaia]. Local, expressing space.


uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - [grace and peace] to you. An assumed optative verb would apply for this wish-prayer making the dative a dative of indirect object / interest, advantage, as TEV below, or local, metaphorical; "may grace and peace be upon you." Both "grace" and "peace" are used here as greeting words. "Grace" = "greeting", is used with "peace", the common Jewish greeting. In a Christian context, they are both powerful words, depicting the bestowal of God's favor and peace.

apo + gen. "from" - from [god, father of us and lord jesus christ]. Expressing source / origin. The source of these blessings is both the Father and "our Lord." "Jesus Christ" stands in apposition to "Lord". "May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace", TEV.


ii] Benediction, v3-7. Instead of the usual thanksgiving to God for his readers, Paul ascribes praise to God for the comfort and encouragement he has received from him during / since a recent painful episode in his life ("the sufferings of Christ"). Paul is referring to both the near death experience he faced in Asia, v8-11 ("we felt that we had received the sentence of death"), and the burden of all his churches (particularly his concerns over the harsh / severe letter, ie., 1 Corinthians). His concerns for the severe letter were alleviated somewhat by the news from Titus that in general, the letter was received positively by the Corinthian congregation. So, the immediacy of these experiences may have prompted Paul to divert from his usual thanksgiving. On the other hand, it is possible that there is little to give thanks for. If the Judaizers, these false apostles, are well intrenched in the congregation and slandering their founding apostle, it may well be that Paul wants to, first and foremost, display to those inclined to demean him his badge of suffering and divine comfort.

The drift of the argument covering these five verses is not overly clear. We are best to follow the line proposed by Harris:

Praise be to God the God of all comfort, v3.

He comforts me when I suffer so that I can comfort others who suffer, v4

(for in fact my experience of God's comfort is as abundant as my experience of Christ's sufferings), v5

So then, my suffering ultimately leads to your comfort as you patiently endure comparable suffering, v6

That is, as you experience suffering, you will also experience God's comfort brought to you by me, v7.

euloghtoV adj. "praise be to" - blessed is / be [the god]. Predicate adjective of an assumed verb to-be. Given that God is blessed in the praise of his people, modern translations move toward an optative, "let us give praise to God."

kai "and" - and [father]. The translation "thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ", Phillips, so Barrett, is possible, taking the conjunction as ascensive, "even the Father ....", but most translations take it as a connective, "God and Father ...."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "of [our] Lord" - of the lord. The genitive is adjectival, relational, if we follow "God, the Father ...", less clear for "God and Father." Long suggests a genitive of subordination for "God ... of our Lord" = "over our Lord" - trinitarian implications????

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us [jesus christ]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / relational, or idiomatic / of subordination, "Lord over us."

twn oiktirmwn (oV) gen. " of compassion" - [the father] of compassions. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "the merciful Father", TEV, "the all-merciful Father", REB, or idiomatic / product, producer, so Long, or possibly ablative, source / origin, "the source of all mercy and comfort", Phillips.

paraklhsewV (iV ewV) gen. "comfort" - [and god] of [all] encouragement, consolation]. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "who always gives us comfort", CEV. God is a God who is merciful toward his people and comforts them in times of distress; "He is the Father who has mercy on us; he is the God who always puts an end to the sadness of (his) people", TH.


The fact that God is the God of all comfort is now personalized. In the face of suffering, Paul has experienced God's consolation, compassion and support and as a result is well able to offer the same to others. Note the use of the plural pronoun; it may be inclusive, with Paul including his readers in the ideas being expressed. On the other hand, the plural could serve to identify Paul along with his associates - Paul and Timothy, even also Titus. Sometimes Paul uses the royal plural, "we" for "I". The plural would not include the readers if "all the afflictions" are specific to Paul.

oJ parakalwn (parakalew) pres. part. "who comforts [us]" - the one comforting, encouraging [us]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing God / Father. The NJB opts of the sense "support"; "he supports us in every hardship."

epi + dat. "in" - in [all the affliction of us]. Possibly temporal, "during", or reference / respect, "with respect to", or causal, "because of." The word "affliction" can refer to external, or internal suffering, ie., physical hardship, or mental anguish.

hJmaV gen. pro. "our [troubles]" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but possibly verbal, objective.

eiV to + inf. "so that" - This construction usually expresses purpose, "in order that", so Barnett, ...., but sometimes result, "with the result that." Result seems likely here, unless we want to argue that God comforted Paul in order to comfort the Corinthians.

parakalein (parakalew) pres. inf. "comfort" - [to enable us] to comfort. The infinitive is complementary, completing the verbal aspect of the infinitive "to be able."

touV "those [in any trouble]" - the ones [in all affliction]. The article serves as a nominalizer, turning the prepositional phrase "in all trouble" into as substantive, as NIV.

en "in" - The preposition here is temporal; "during any time of trouble."

dia + gen. "with" - by. Instrumental, expressing means, "by means of the encouragement."

h|V gen. pro. "-" - [the encouragement] which [we ourselves are encouraged]. Genitive by attraction.

uJpo + gen. "from [God]" - by [god]. Expressing agency.


Paul adds that when it comes to his experience of suffering and comfort / encouragement as an apostle of Christ, he has had more than a full dose (unlike the Judaizers who experience little of both??) - taking "we" as a royal plural.

oJti "for" - More reason than cause, explaining how divine encouragement has applied in Paul's case.

kaqwV .... ouJtwV "just as .... so" - A correlative comparative construction.

tou Cristou (oV) "of Christ" - [the sufferings] of christ [abound]. Thrall suggests that this genitive is equivalent to dia tou Cristou, "[comfort abounds] through Christ." The preposition dia may express agency such that "encouragement" is bestowed by Christ, so Long, but instrument / means, is more likely, so Thrall, expressing a more indirect bestowal of "encouragement". So, when it comes to "the sufferings of Christ which abound to us" it is likely that they are the troubles that come to us by means of our association with Christ. Similarly for "comfort / encouragement". Not that Jesus can't personally comfort / encourage us through his indwelling Spirit, but here Paul seems to have in mind his experience of gospel ministry, its negative and positive aspects. As would be expected, numerous interpretations are offered for "the sufferings of Christ." Thrall lists seven with her favorite being the mystical association a believer possesses in Christ's suffering through baptism - this sense seems very unlikely.

eiV "-" - toward [us]. Spacial, direction, seems best; the sufferings that come our way.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our [comfort]" - [so also through christ the encouragement and = also abounds] of = to us. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, in that the genitive pronoun receives the action of the verbal noun "encouragement".

perisseuei (perisseuw) "abounds" - The verb is often translated as "share abundantly", ESV, but "abounds" = "overflows" seems more likely. In Paul's experience ("we", his missionary team as well???) the positives and negatives of Christian ministry have been more than enough - the full dose has come his way. Those who find themselves in full-time ministry are well able to identify with this sentiment.


Paul's full dose of suffering and comfort / encouragement, associated with apostolic gospel ministry, serves a positive end for the Corinthians in that they are encouraged and so strengthened for those times when they also face suffering.

de "-" - but/and. Here as a transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument.

eite .... eite "if .... if" - either = whether [we are being afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation] or whether [we are being encouraged it is for your encouragement]. A correlative disjunctive construction.

uJper + gen. "it is for" - Here expressing benefit; "for the sake of, for the benefit of." This "distress, trouble" is part of Paul's hJ merimna paswn twn ekklhsiwn, "care for all the churches", the apostolic burden he bears in his ministry for God's people. He takes this burden upon himself, its troubles and anxiety, for the sake of all the churches, for the "comfort / encouragement" of the membership, for their upbuilding and ultimate salvation. Similarly, in good times when opposition, persecution and the like is at a minimum, Paul has an even greater opportunity to serve God's people for their encouragement.

thV energoumenhV (energew) pres. mid. part. "which produces" - the one working. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting by describing the "encouragement", an "encouragement" which works in a particular way, en, "in ........"

en "in you" - [producing] in you [an endurance]. Here the preposition is adverbial, possibly temporal, "when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering", NRSV, or better modal, expressing the manner of "the working" of "your encouragement" - a positive environment for apostolic ministry provides the opportunity to strengthen the congregations under Paul's charge so giving the members the strength / endurance to handle any persecution / suffering that might come their way.

twn ... paqhmatwn (a) gen. "of the [same] sufferings" - The genitive is usually classified as verbal, objective.

w|n gen. pro. "[we suffer]" - which [we also suffer]. Genitive by attraction.


In literal terms, Paul states that his hope for the Corinthians is firm / certain / positive because they are partners of the sufferings and of the comfort / encouragement. The sense of this idiomatic short-talk is not overly clear. If we follow a similar line to that proposed above, it would seem that Paul is expressing his confidence in the Corinthians, namely that the prospects for the church are positive (ie., they will make it through their present difficulties, possibly with regard to the presence of dissenters / the Judaizers in their midst), and this because they are partners, and thus beneficiaries of Paul's apostolic ministry, both in hard times and good. Paul is going to see to it that they are moving forward in the gospel (An example of 21st. century idiomatic short-talk, very popular in Australia at the moment among the saints!!!! As to what it means, that's anyone's guess).

hJmwn gen. pro. "our [hope]" - [and the hope, expectation] of us. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but it can also be taken as verbal, subjective. "Hope / expectation" implies some doubt in English where no doubt is implied by the word in Gk., So, "confidence / assurance" is more appropriate.

uJper + gen. "for [you]" - for [you is firm]. Here advantage, "for the sake of, for the benefit of", as in v6, seems unlikely. Reference / respect seems a better fit, "concerning you / with respect to you." "Our confidence in / for you is unshaken."

eidonteV (oJraw) perf. part. "because we know" - having known. The participle is adverbial, best treated as causal, as NIV.

oJti "that" - Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we" / Paul knows.

wJV .... ou{twV kai "just as ..... so also" - as [you are sharers, partakers, companions of suffering] so also [you are sharers of encouragement]. A correlative comparative construction.

twn paqhmatwn (a atoV) gen. "sufferings" - As with paraklhsewV, "comfort", genitive compliment of the noun koinwnoi, "sharers in tinoV / something." Note that most translations give weight to the context and add "our sufferings" and "our comfort." This is somewhat misleading and so we are best to follow REB "if you share in the sufferings you share also in the consolation." The sufferings / encouragement are not Paul's, they are the inevitable consequences of a relationship with Christ. As with Paul, the Corinthian believers can expect both bad times and good, and although they have experienced some bad times recently (immorality in the congregation, worship and theological problem, Paul's censure [1 Corinthians / the harsh letter]) along with ongoing problems (the Judaizers???), Paul is confident, with his help, that the good times will follow - they will also share in the consolation / encouragement / comfort.


2 Corinthians Introduction

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