2 Corinthians: An Emerging Thesis

This week I sent off an essay on 2 Corinthians 3 which will hopefully appear in due course. Next week I have to put the finishing touches to another essay on 2 Corinthians 5, again for an edited volume. My work on 2 Corinthians thus far is pushing me towards the development of an initial thesis about the letter that future work will, I hope, explore at greater depth.

The consensus view of 2 Corinthians (whether 1-9 or the whole letter ) is that, in the words of Frances Young: 'its genre is apology … the work is a 'defence' speech in letter form … The Epistle is to be treated as Paul's account of what apostleship means to him.' (Frances M. Young, 'Understanding Romans in the Lightof 2 Corinthians', SJT 43, p.433). This view tends now to overshadow the view that 2 Corinthians 1-9 (10-13 is a different story) are fundamentally polemical in intent (cf. Georgi).

What I find myself wanting to argue time and time again is that I don't think that Paul ever uses a letter to churches purely as a means of self-defence. At the heart of the Pauline epistolary strategy is the formation of those congregations to greater degrees of Christlikeness, and Paul's account of his own ministry (and that of his co-workers) always serves these wider theological and parenetic aims. To put it another way, I think there are strong arguments to suggest that 2 Corinthians is to be treated as Paul's account of what his apostleship means for them (i.e. the Corinthians). This thesis affects, for example, one's interpretation of the key exhortations in the letter, as well as requiring a re-examination of the use of the 1st person plural (a thorny thicket of an exegetical problem if ever there were).

More details later.