On the previous page, Paul and Corinth (1),
we have tried to bring together in a comprehensive chart all we know about
Paul’s relationships with the congregation at Corinth. We now proceed to a discussion of
several elements in the
chart: the collection, the rôle of Titus, and the incident of the
offender. The position taken here is that the results of this investigation
will tend to confirm the composition of Letter H (2 Corinthians
10–13) before Letter R (2 Corinthians 1–9).
It is well known that references to the collection provide a
major element of continuity not only for the Corinthian correspondence but
also for the closing years of Paul’s apostolic career, in the time from
the Jerusalem conference to the delivery of the collection in Jerusalem
several years later.
Overview. At the conference, Paul evidently
agreed to help raise funds to relieve the needs of the poor in Jerusalem
(Galatians 2:10). So
far as our evidence carries us, he invited participation in the project from the gentile churches
which he had founded prior to the second Jerusalem visit, namely, those in
Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia. By the time of Letter L
(1 Corinthians), the collection was already under way in Corinth and
Galatia. By the time of Romans, written on the eve of his last Jerusalem
visit, the collection had been completed in Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:26). What had been happening in between? Let us review collection
activity in the three major areas of Paul’s work which had been founded
prior to the conference: Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia.1
Paul’s earliest work on the collection had probably started among the
churches of Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1). It is plausible that Paul had begun the
collection in Galatia on his “latter”
visit. Galatia, beset by
controversy, probably faltered and ultimately defected from its commitment.2
We know nothing of the beginnings of the collection in Thessalonica or
Philippi. We do not know how they heard of the project.3 Neither
1 Thessalonians nor Philippians mentions the collection. The silence in
1 Thessalonians is not surprising, since it was written before the
Jerusalem conference. The silence in Philippians likely had something to do
with the special financial relationship which Paul had with the
congregation; they alone of his churches had been contributing to his
support, and he may have thought it inappropriate to ask them at the same
time to support the poor in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Macedonia participated
in the collection spontaneously, generously, and sacrificially, as Paul
makes clear: “For during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy
and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their
part” (2 Corinthians 8:2; compare the whole section, 8:1-5).
is never mentioned by Paul in connection with the collection. A possible
explanation is that the collection was binding only upon those churches
which had been founded when Paul agreed to the collection at the Jerusalem
conference; but if Paul had not yet begun his work in Asia/Ephesus, we would
not expect him retroactively to request his converts there to participate in
the collection. Alternatively, if the work in Asia/Ephesus was already
established before the conference, as Knox suggests, the nonparticipation of
Asia/Ephesus might be explained on the basis of problems within the Ephesian
community, of which there are possible hints in Philippians 1:15-18; Romans
16:17-20; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 16:8-9. One may consult John Knox,
“Chapters in a Life of Paul—A Response to Robert Jewett and Gerd
Luedemann,” in B. C. Corley, ed., Colloquy on New Testament Studies
(Macon, GA: Mercer, 1983) 351, 353; and A. J. Malherbe, “The Beasts
at Ephesus” JBL 87 (1968) 71-80.
2H. Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief, KEK 6.
Abt. (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1924) 242, “. . . No more
mention is made of Galatia.” Click on Galatian
3Macedonia’s participation was perhaps not unrelated
to a visit of Timothy (Philippians 2:19-23; possibly 1 Corinthians
4:17; 16:10-11), who may well have informed them of the results of the
Jerusalem conference. However, Paul himself may have made the disclosure
about the collection during his final visit to Macedonia (2 Corinthians
2:13; 7:5; cp. Philippians 2:24), perhaps in the course of his boasting
about the Corinthians, to the effect that they had been ready since the
previous year (2 Corinthians 9:2)!
Some time before the composition of Letter L (1 Corinthians),
Paul had announced the collection to the Corinthians, perhaps in Letter P
(the Previous Letter), or orally through Titus, or both. In their
letter to Paul, they had requested directions on the organization of the
collection, and Paul, in Letter L, responded with instructions
similar to what he had earlier given to the Galatians: to set funds aside
weekly in proportion to their ability to give (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).
Then controversy with Corinth erupted, and probably
from that time, i.e. the period of the painful visit and of the Harsh
Letter (Letter H), work on the collection lapsed. This conclusion is
supported by 2 Corinthians 8, which is evidently a plea to reactivate
the collection and bring it to a successful conclusion. On almost any
hypothesis, this period of the second visit and the harsh letter was a time
of considerable tension between Paul and Corinth, and it seems more
reasonable to suppose that the collection was allowed to lapse, than that
precisely at this time, as Barrett and Furnish argue, Paul commissioned
Titus to initiate and organize the work on the collection!4
When word reached Paul of reconciliation with Corinth, he
seized on the opportunity in Letter R (the Letter of Reconciliation)
to reactivate the collection, which had started the year before (apo
perusi, 2 Corinthians 8:6, 10; cp. 9:2; this phrase implies an
interval of six to eighteen months). Titus was sent to Corinth, in company
with two brothers (2 Corinthians 8:16-23). Because charges of pleonexia
(avarice or fraud) had earlier been made (2 Corinthians 12:17-18), the
delegation functioned as a defense against charges of fraud
(2 Corinthians 8:20-21).
2 Corinthians 9 is a separate letter from Letter R, it would be
dated from a time after the delegation was dispatched, as a follow-up letter
to ensure that the project would be successful.
It is difficult to believe, as Barrett and Furnish argue,
that at this advanced stage of the collection word reached Paul of new
troubles in Corinth, with the consequent lapse again of the collection, and
that the project had to be resuscitated once more, at the time of Paul’s
final visit to Corinth. Nothing in 2 Corinthians 10–13 suggests that
things had suddenly taken a turn for the worse after a period of
4Furnish 1984, 397; C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
(New York: Harper & Row, 1973) 215.
5One may consult Francis Watson, “2 Cor. X-XIII and
Paul’s Painful Letter to the Corinthians,” JTS 35 (1984) 332; J.
H. Kennedy, The Second and Third Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians
(London: Methuen, 1900) xxiv, 111, 138; compare H. D. Betz, 2 Corinthians
8 and 9 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 18, “Of course, this new
outbreak in the crisis [required by the Semler hypothesis] is entirely
hypothetical and has no direct support in the sources.”
Titus as Partner
Titus emerges in the Corinthian letters as an indispensable
apostolic alter ego, whom Paul refers to as his koinônos
(2 Corinthians 8:23), his partner, or apostolic representative.6 Titus
had been with Paul at Jerusalem and was acquainted firsthand with the issues
discussed and decided there, issues which directly or indirectly would
affect developments at Corinth; thus Titus would have been especially useful
to Paul in his relations with Corinth.7
Titus functioned in various rôles, which to some extent
Titus was Paul’s principal agent in the work on the
collection at Corinth. He had begun work on the collection beforehand (proenarcheisthai,
2 Corinthians 8:6; cp. 8:10; 12:18).8 It was also Titus who, at the
writing of Letter R, was to bring the collection to completion (epitelein,
2 Corinthians 8:6, 11).
Titus also delivered several of Paul’s letters to
Corinth: possibly, Letter P, probably Letter H, and
certainly Letter R. But
Titus was also a kind of surrogate apostolic presence,
not only carrying letters but as Paul’s advocate possibly interpreting
the letter, assessing the reaction, and reporting to Paul. The
allegation that he might have misinterpreted the situation to Paul,
giving an overly optimistic report in the wake of the tearful letter,9 is
based upon a kind of worst-possible-scenario reading of the text; see
further on this point, Titus’
7The approval by the Jerusalem conference of the mission
to the gentiles without the requirement of the law, for which Titus was
“Exhibit A,” was a victory for Pauline Christianity at Corinth, as
for his other foundations. This is true even if the opponents in
2 Corinthians were not Judaizers. The acknowledgement of apostolic
parity surely strengthened the hand of Paul in his disputes with the
opponents, whether or not they were apostolic delegates from Jerusalem.
The working out of the principle of apostolic division of labor,
according to which the gentile world, including Corinth, was recognized
as Paul’s (and Barnabas’) area of responsibility, would also
reinforce Paul’s authority. Of more direct influence on the tasks to
which Titus was assigned was the request made at the council for Paul
and Barnabas to gather a collection for the poor in Jerusalem; Titus
could perhaps have described from firsthand acquaintance the poverty of
the Jerusalem saints.
8Proenarcheisthai finds its explanation in
the beginning “a year ago” (Betz, 2 Cor 8 and 9, 54), and is
thus a recollection of previous work on the collection which had been
suspended by controversy.
9Furnish 1984, 397.
Two other issues involving Titus remain to be discussed,
in response to the supporters of the Semler hypothesis, which places
Letter H (2 Corinthians 10–13) after Letter R
(2 Corinthians 1–9): the number of visits which Titus made to
Corinth; and Paul’s boasting to Titus (2 Corinthians 7:14).
The Semler Hypothesis.
While there is currently wide agreement that chapters 10–13 do not
belong to the same letter as chapters 1–9, opinion is sharply divided
on whether chapters 10–13 (Letter H) were written after
chapters 1–9 (Semler, Windisch, Barrett, Furnish) or before chapters
1–9 (Hausrath, J. H. Kennedy, Strachan, Filson). This article favors
the latter hypothesis, as noted in Paul and Corinth (1).
References: J. S. Semler, Paraphrasis II, epistolae ad Corinthios
(Halae Magdeburgicae: Hemmerde, 1776); H. Windisch, Der zweite
Korintherbrief, KEK 6, Abt. (Goettingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1924); C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the
Corinthians (New York: Harper & Row, 1973);V. P. Furnish, II Corinthians
(Garden City: Doubleday, 1984); A. Hausrath, Der Vier-Capitelbrief
des Paulus an die Korinther (Heidelberg: Bassermann, 1870); J. H.
Kennedy, The Second and Third Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians
(London: Methuen, 1900); R. H. Strachan, The Second Epistle of Paul
to the Corinthians (New York: Harper, 1935); F. V. Filson, The
Second Epistle to the Corinthians: Introduction and Exegesis, IB 10
(Nashville: Abingdon, 1953).
Titus’ Visits to Corinth.
On the former point, supporters of Semler claim that Titus made only two
visits, i.e. the one in which Titus is sent to report on the outcome of
the affair of the offender (ho adikęsas), to observe the effects
of the allegedly lost tearful letter; and to initiate the collection
(!); and the visit in which Titus bears the letter of reconciliation (R)
and aims to finish the collection.10 This position, which limits Titus to
two visits, runs into difficulty at two points:
As we have already seen, Titus had already begun the
collection beforehand (2 Corinthians 8:6); but the collection was
surely under way before Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (L); hence
Titus’ involvement in the collection must be from an earlier stage
than his recent trip to report on the affair of the offender. Thus it is
not unreasonable to connect Titus’ first visit with the beginnings of
the collection in Corinth, the previous year (apo perusi,
2 Corinthians 8:10).
But there is a further difficulty with the two visit
view: 2 Corinthians 12:18 speaks of Titus’ appointment, with the
brother (singular), to go to Corinth, whereas 2 Corinthians 8:16-23
speaks of Titus’ being sent with two brother; hence we may suppose
that 12:18 is referring to some visit prior to that mentioned in
Paul’s Boasting to Titus.
The two visit hypothesis also rests upon 2 Corinthians 7:14, where Paul
reports having boasted to Titus about the Corinthians, when he sent him off
to Corinth; this text is taken to mean that Titus did not yet know the
Corinthians and needed to be told what kind of people they were (as if
flattery would be helpful!).11 On the contrary, the problem of Paul’s
boasting of the Corinthians is not whether Titus had previous acquaintance
with them, but rather how, in such circumstances as Paul had been left by
his second (painful) visit he should have had the grace to say anything
complimentary about them at all. This boasting reflects Paul’s incurable
habit of praising his churches (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8;
2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:2), and praising his companions (Philippians
2:20-22; 2 Corinthians 8:16-23). Rather than arguing that Paul’s
boastfulness rules out a previous visit of Titus to Corinth, we might better
argue that Paul was trying to give Titus encouragement on the eve of a
critical mission by assuring him that the Corinthians were basically sound
and would be brought to their senses by his severe letter. Further, it is
intrinsically more likely, as Watson observes, that Paul would have
entrusted this mission to one whom the Corinthians already knew and
We may conclude then that Titus made three trips to Corinth,
10Barrett, II Cor 20-21, 25; Furnish 1984, 38, 45-46,
11Even Windisch (Der zw. Kor. 240) concedes that
such overly acute interpretation is unnecessary.
12Watson, “II Cor X-XIII,” 333-4; cp. Kennedy (II-III
Cor xxv); F. V. Filson, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians:
Introduction and Exegesis, IB 10 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1953) 362; A.
Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of St
Paul to the Corinthians (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1915) 227.
The Affair of the Offender
As we consider the offense against Paul, we approach the
crux of the difference between those who follow Semler in locating
2 Corinthians 10–13 after 1–9, and those who follow Hausrath in
locating these chapters before 1–9. Windisch claims that the weightiest
argument against Hausrath is that there is no connection between the
contents of 2 Corinthians 10–13 and the episode mentioned in
2 Corinthians 2 and 7.13 As Watson notes, this objection is conceded by
Hausrath and his defenders, down to Bornkamm, by the explanation that the
reference to the adikęsas (the offender) has been lost or deleted
from the Harsh Letter (H);14 but, as Watson also says, this
point is conceded unnecessarily.
What then can we learn about the offense against Paul? From
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 and 7:5-16 it may be said that an unnamed person
at Corinth, probably a member of the community,15 the offender, ho
adikęsas, had committed a grievous wrong against another person, ho
adikętheis, probably on the occasion of the intermediate visit. The
person offended is probably to be identified as Paul, though Timothy has
been considered, and even Titus could be named. As a result of a letter of
Paul, the church, or at least a majority, has disciplined the offender, and
Paul feels inclined not to aggravate the punishment but to seek
reconciliation and forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Although an
individual offender is assumed, we learn from 2 Corinthians 7:5-16 that the church as a whole has been implicated too, and now
duly exhibits repentance (metanoia) and obedience (hypakoę).
Unless we are to trivialize the whole episode by supposing
that it was only a question of a personal insult, then we need to consider
at least two substantial issues on which Paul had been unfairly accused: his
apostolic office, and his integrity.
The Question of Paul’s
Apostolic Office. His apostolic authority had probably been challenged.
As Watson reconstructs the situation,16 Paul in Letter L
(1 Corinthians 4:18-21) had threatened to punish offenders with a rod.
But on his second visit, in the face of the sins he finds there (implied in
2 Corinthians 12:19-21), he only warns them instead of imposing
punishment. Thus Paul appeared to lack credibility. A member of the
congregation, the offender (ho adikęsas), perhaps the leader of a
group of dissidents, then “claims that Paul’s failure to carry out
his threat is due to the fact that he does not have the power to do so, and
that he is therefore no true apostle.”17
At this point, the Corinthians take no action against the
offender. In the Harsh Letter (H), which Watson identifies with
2 Corinthians 10–13, Paul tries to evoke the loyalty which had not
been forthcoming during the second visit (2 Corinthians 7:12), and
pointedly defends his power to impose punishment (2 Corinthians 10:1-11). Rebellion against his authority finally gives way to obedience, as
the Letter of Reconciliation (R, 2 Corinthians 7:15) shows. If
Watson’s argument can be sustained, then one of the most damaging
objections to Hausrath’s hypothesis will have been answered.
The Question of Paul’s
Integrity. The offender had also unfairly accused Paul of trying to
enrich himself through the collection. This is the view championed by H. D.
Betz:18 someone in Corinth, probably ho adikęsas (the offender), had
formally made a charge that Paul initiated the collection for Jerusalem to
line his own pockets. Paul’s mention of the charge in 2 Corinthians
12:18-19 was thus not mere rhetoric, as is shown by the recurrence of the
the issue of greed (pleonexia) in successive letter fragments and by
the apostle’s repeated denials (e.g., 2 Corinthians 7:2). One may
also observe that suspicions of avarice may have been complicated not only
by Paul’s work on the collection, but also indirectly and ironically by
his policy of self-support.
Betz believes that the long-standing problem as to the
nature of the offense has been solved.19 There does seem to be a kind of
trajectory discernible as we move from Letter L (1 Corinthians)
to Letter H (2 Corinthians 10–13) to Letter R
(2 Corinthians 1–9), with increasingly aggravated dispute, and then
resolution. This movement is discernible relative to the two issues which we
have identified: challenges to Paul’s apostolic authority, and to his
13Windisch, Der zw. Kor. 14.
14Watson, “II Cor X-XIII,” 324-5; Bornkamm, “Vorgeschichte,”
15Barrett’s view, II Cor 6-7, that this was
one of the pseudo-apostles has not generally commended itself.
16Watson, “II Cor X-XIII,” 340-3.
17Watson, “II Cor X-XIII,” 343.
18Betz, 2 Cor 8 and 9, 97.
19Betz makes clear that this was not the only
accusation against Paul (2 Cor 8 and 9, 143). Watson connects
the two issues by suggesting, “The further charge that he was intending to
misappropriate the money which they were contributing to the collection for
the Jerusalem Christians (xii.16-18) perhaps derives from the initial
accusation: Paul has been exposed as a false apostle, and his motive must
have been to make money by deceiving his converts” (“II Cor X-XIII,”
Conclusion: Letter H Was Composed Before Letter R
We are now in a position to offer some concluding
observations about the order of Letter H (2 Corinthians 10–13)
among the surviving letters and letter fragments. A stronger case can now be
made that these chapters, the Harsh Letter, precede Letter R, the
Letter of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 1–9). In support of this
position, I have tried to show that the contrary view, following Semler,
which places Letter H after Letter R, has difficulty
making sense of the collection, and difficulty making sense of the movements
of Titus. Further, I have argued that there is a good match between Letter H
and the letter referred to in 2 Corinthians 2 and 7, often called the
Letter of Tears. Thus the Letter of Tears is not lost, as the advocates of
Semler claim, but is really to be found in 2 Corinthians 10–13, the
Harsh Letter. The well-known advantages of the Hausrath position still
stand,20 and proponents of this position do not have to concede
the major point of their opponents, i.e. that the offense of
2 Corinthians 2:11 and 7:12 is not mentioned in 2 Corinthians
20The classic argument is to be found in Kennedy, II-III Cor,
followed by Plummer, II Cor; K. Lake, The Earlier Epistles of
St. Paul (London: Rivingtrons, 1911); J. Moffatt, An Introduction to
the Literature of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,
1918); R. H. Strachan, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians
(New York: Harper & Row, 1935); Marxsen, Introduction
Watson, “II Cor X-XIII,” 324-32.
21In The X-Letter in 2 Corinthians
(a), (b), (c), we make a fuller survey of the objections which have been
brought against the hypothesis which identifies Letter H with the
tearful letter. By way of anticipation we allude briefly to an objection
raised by Furnish, i.e. that “the ‘tearful letter’ had been written in
place of a visit, to spare the Corinthians Paul’s coming (1:23–2:4); but
chaps. 10–13 are written in anticipation of an impending visit by the
apostle (10:2; 12:14, 20-21; 13:1-2, 10)” (II Cor
38; cp. 44). It
would be more accurate to say that the tearful letter was written to avoid
another painful visit (see Kennedy, II-III Cor xxi)—in
Greek, to mę palin en lupę pros humas elthein (2 Corinthians 2:1; cp.
2:3); as a matter of fact, Letter H was written in place of
an immediate visit, to remedy the situation in Corinth, to restore order, in
anticipation of his coming. In 2 Corinthians 1:23–2:4, Paul does not
say that he will never make another visit, but that the letter was to spare
himself as well as the Corinthians a second painful visit.
Other issues remaining to be discussed include the following:
The curious tangle of Paul’s travel plans;
Further challenges to Hausrath’s hypothesis,
identifying the “tearful letter” with 2 Corinthians 10–13,
and especially whether in the tearful letter Paul had cancelled a
planned return visit to Corinth; and
Whether in the tearful letter Paul had demanded the
punishment of the offender.
Click on Next, for consideration of these questions.