"Have we been defending ourselves to you?" (2 Cor 12:19): Forensic rhetoric and the rhetorical unity of 2 Corinthians

Fredrick James Long, Marquette University


In this dissertation I argue for the compositional unity of Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians. For two hundred years the integrity of this letter has been a matter of dispute. A survey of the issues reveals several literary problems: (1) unaccountable changes in the tone of the letter (e.g., chaps. 10-13 compared with 7:4-15); (2) irreconcilable reports of events within the letter (e.g., where is Titus?); (3) dissimilar theology and language to Paul's own (e.g., 6:14-7: 1); (4) repetitious material that can perhaps be better accounted for as separate letters (e.g., chaps. 8 and 9); and (5) disjunctions in thought (e.g., between 2:13 and 2:14 or chap. 7 and chap. 8). Needless to say, the number of partition theories and the resultant complexity in treating questions of Pauline chronology and theology has greatly increased. The thesis of this dissertation is that the Apostle Paul composed 2 Corinthians as a defensive speech in the spirit of, e.g., Isocrates's Antidosis , Andocides's On the Mysteries , Aeschines's On the Embassy and Demosthenes's On the Crown . These famous defensive speeches from the fifth-century BC were a part of the ancient Greek rhetorical tradition of forensic rhetoric, which was propagated early in rhetorical handbooks and later became disseminated in the Greco-Roman world long before Paul was born. Furthermore, we have several of examples of defensive literary letters (i.e., letters as speeches) from Plato and Demosthenes. These letters were apologetic and propagandistic; i.e., they promoted a favorable opinion of the composer in view of criticisms and/or formal charges. It appears that Paul's purpose in writing 2 Corinthians was not unlike Plato or Demosthenes in this regard. Paul was charged with failing to visit when planned (2 Cor 1:17) and for being worldly (cf. 2 Cor 1:12). Paul was considered worldly because of perceived financial duplicity both regarding the collection (2 Cor 12:13-18; cf. 8:5, 20-21) and his financial support (2 Cor 11:7). It was also obvious to the Corinthians that Paul had used worldly rhetoric in the structuring and argumentation of 1 Corinthians after he had spoken so vehemently against rhetoric (i.e., "worldly wisdom") in that same letter (1 Cor 1:17, 22; 2:1-5, 13; cf 2 Cor 1:12, 17; 5:11; 10:3-5). It was for this reason that an apologetic letter was required. The significance of my rhetorical analysis is that the problematic literary characteristics of 2 Corinthians are shown not to be problematic. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Recommended Citation

Long, Fredrick James, ""Have we been defending ourselves to you?" (2 Cor 12:19): Forensic rhetoric and the rhetorical unity of 2 Corinthians" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9953491.