Date of Award

Fall 1999

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social and Cultural Sciences

First Advisor

Stockhausen, Carol

Second Advisor

Barnes, Michel

Third Advisor

Hills, Julian


For two-hundred years now the integrity of Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians has been a matter of dispute. Interpreters have typically assumed that 2 Corinthians is a composite letter, that is, a conglomerate of two or more letters and/or letter fragments. They believe that a later editor is responsible for assembling 2 Corinthians into its present canonical form. You can imagine the confusion that this causes when interpreting 2 Corinthians and reconstructing Paul's theology, because scholars are working with various assumptions and trying to rearrange the letter fragments in proper chronological order in an attempt to understand the developing situation and Paul's theological response. It may be helpful to summarize what "literary problems" scholars perceive in 2 Corinthians that would lead them to various partition theories. First, there appears to be . . disjunctions in thought between 2:13 and 2:14 and then between 7:4 and 7:5. Furthermore, when one reads continuously from 2: 13 skipping directly to 7:5, no disjunction is arguably present. Thus this evidence suggests that two or more letters were spliced together and that 2:13/14 and 7:4/5 are observable seams. Second, the section 6:14-7:1 contains dissimilar language and theology to Paul's own, thus raising suspicions not only about its position in the letter, but also about its being from the hand of Paul at all. Third, the material in chapter 8 is oddly repeated more or less in chapter 9. Such repetitiousness can perhaps be better accounted for if each chapter is taken as a separate letter. Finally, there are unaccountable changes in tone within 2 Corinthians as a whole, most notably at 10:1. Interpreters rightly ask, How can chapters 10-13, rather harsh in tone, be found within the same letter as the reconciliatory tone perceived in, e.g., 7:4-16? These literary problems need to be accounted for before one can understand 2 Corinthians as a unified piece. The thesis of my dissertation is that 2 Corinthians is a unified letter. It is not a compilation of letter fragments by a later editor. Rather, the literary problems observed in 2 Corinthians are no problems at all, since the genre of 2 Corinthians can readily account for them. This is the key: to understand the letter's genre and therefore its form and intentions. 2 Corinthians is to be understood as a defensive speech sent as a literary letter in the tradition of Greco-Roman rhetoric. Paul was defending himself against specific charges and various criticisms raised against him by some of the Corinthians. For example, he failed to visit them when he said he would (cf. 1 Cor 16:5-7 and 2 Cor 1:15-17). Furthermore, he had used persuasive rhetoric in his letters when, in fact, he disavowed using it, e.g., in 1 Cor 1:17; 2:1 (2 Cor 10:10). Finally, he was adjudged unapproved in the matter of the Collection-Paul's own special project for assisting the poor in Judea-so much so that his role in delivering the Corinthians' portion was in jeopardy (see 2 Cor 12:14-18 and 13:6-8)...



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