STUDY 13 - THE CORINTHIAN
For this study see: M.C.Tenney, pp.296-304; R.H.Gundry, pp.359-375.
Further reading: D.A.Carson, et al., An
Introduction to the New
Testament, pp.89-109; 259-287.
1. AUTHORSHIP AND DESTINATION
The Corinthian church
Paul arrived in Corinth on his second missionary journey via
Athens. He appears to have been rather depressed at the time,
probably through lack of fellowship and support (1 Cor.2:3;
Phil.4:15-16). He worked with Aquila and Priscilla and witnessed
in the local synagogue. When he was rejoined by Silas and Timothy
he intensified his evangelism with some success. Crispus, the
synagogue ruler, and his household believed. As opposition grew
Paul was turned out of the synagogue, and he held meetings in the
nearby home of a proselyte called Titius Justus. It was only as
the Lord encouraged the apostle by vision that he stayed in the
city. He was brought before Gallio (c.A.D. 50/51) but was
dismissed when the proconsul heard that the charge was religious (Acts
18:1-17). After a time Paul left the work in charge of some of
his co-workers and travelled to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla (Acts
18:18). Leaving the couple there he went on to his base church in
Antioch, thus completing his second missionary journey (Acts
18:22). We need to complete the story by adding further details.
Background to the epistles
Paul's story here can be indicated by his three visits and four letters
On his first visit to Corinth Paul founded the
church. This was on his
second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-18). Apollos followed Paul
The 'previous letter' was written on Paul's third
missionary journey as
he came to Ephesus (Acts 18:23:19:1). News from Apollos prompted
Cor.5.9). This letter is lost.
First Corinthians was written after Paul had heard about
the state of
the church from Cloe's household and then from Fortunatus, Achaicus and
Stephanus, who brought a letter containing questions on doctrinal and
practical matters of importance (1 Cor.1:11; 16:17).
News that the internal situation of the church had
worsened caused Paul
to pay a second visit ('the painful visit' is inferred from 2 Cor.2:1;
13:1,2). This visit is not found in the Acts.
A 'severe letter' or 'sorrowful letter' was written on the
return to Ephesus, "out of great distress and anguish of heart and with
many tears". This was sent by the hand of Titus (2
letter is probably lost.
Second Corinthians was written when Paul heard the good
news from Titus
in Macedonia that his 'severe letter' had been effective (2 Cor.2:13;
7:13). This epistle, 'the thankful letter', was delivered by
Then, shortly after writing his fourth letter, Paul paid
visit to Corinth as intimated by his promise, "This will be my third
visit to you" (2 Cor.13:1).
Paul pioneered the church in Corinth - "In Christ Jesus I
became your father through the gospel" (1 Cor.4:15). Yet his
relationship with the community was a stormy one.
2. DATE AND PLACE OF WRITING
Place of writing
Paul wrote from Ephesus during his third missionary journey (1
Cor.16:5-9). Apollos and Peter had obviously left Corinth by this time.
News from members of the church, together with a letter seeking advice,
prompted him to write.
Date of writing
"It was composed near the end of his sojourn at Ephesus, for he had
already formulated his plans for leaving Asia and for making an
extended visit to Macedonia and Achaia (1 Cor.16:5-7). It must
have been composed during the winter or in the [autumn], for he spoke
of staying at Ephesus until Pentecost because of the success that was
attending his work (16:8). He was engaged in raising the
contribution for the poor in Jerusalem, which he took with him on his
last journey to that city (Acts 24:17)... Probably it was written in
the winter of A.D. 55, during the peak of his work at Ephesus." 
3. CONTENTS AND OUTLINE
The contents of the epistle The contents of the first epistle
are determined by the report that Paul hears by way of Cloe's household
(1:11) and the letter he receives. Notice the phrase 'now about'
(Gk. peri de) in 7:1,25; 8:1; (11:2); 12:1; (15:1); 16:1.  Here is
Tenney's main outline with added notes:
1 Corinthians: The
Problems at Corinth
Reply to the report from 'house of Cloe' (1:10-6:20)
Involving: divisions, immorality and litigation
Reply to questions in the letter (7:1-16:9) Involving:
offered to idols, veiling of women, the Lord's supper, spiritual gifts,
the collection, the resurrection Concluding salutations (16:10-24).
The epistle is the most business-like of all Paul's epistles
and is intensely practical. It provides an insight into the apostle's
personality and ministry, and reveals the life, ministry and problems
of a Pauline (pioneer) church. The apparent absence of a church
oversight gives the letter special significance (consider the 14:26).
1. CONTENTS AND OUTLINE
Contents of the epistle
M.C.Tenney compares the second epistle to the first and says:
"The epistle differs from 1 Corinthians in dealing with personal
matters rather than with doctrinal teaching or ecclesiastical
order. The human Paul is much in evidence: his feelings, desires,
dislikes, ambitions, and obligations are all spread before his
readers. This epistle contains less systematic teaching and more
expression of personal feeling that even 1 Corinthians, and its
structure is not as clear-cut as is that of the former epistle". 
We adopt M.C.Tenney's outline:
2 Corinthians: The
Epistle of Paul's Ministry
Explanation of personal conduct (1:3-2:13)
The defence of the ministry (2:14-7:4)
Comment on effects of letter (7:5-16)
The grace of giving (8:1-9:15)
Personal defence (10:1-12:13)
Preparation for visit (12:14-13:10)
Concluding salutation (13:11-14).
2. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE
The Corinthian church had been infiltrated by false teachers
who challenged Paul's character and his authority as an apostle. The
'super-apostles' (11:5) questioned the apostle's integrity and claimed
he was a money-grabbing preacher. But "Paul asks the Corinthians
to consider that his personal life in their midst was always honourable
and that his life-transforming message of salvation was true"
(P.E.Hughes).  The epistle supplies details of the apostle's life
not found in the Acts (e.g., his privations and revelations in chapters
3. EVALUATION OF THE EPISTLE
In 2 Corinthians Paul has to vindicate his call and
apostleship. M.C.Tenney says:
"Second Corinthians affords an insight into the career of Paul that
none of the other epistles gives. It was written not only to defend him
against the occasional criticisms of the Corinthian church, but also
against the slanders and accusations that his enemies raised against
him wherever he was preaching. The controversy that began in
Galatia had created a powerful group of Judaising opponents, who did
not scruple to use any methods, fair or foul, in order to discredit
him. Not only did he have to contend with the spiritual inertia
and the evils of traditional paganism, but he also had to face the
active malice of jealous and prejudiced leaders who professed to be
1. This date would be c.A.D. 55-57. See M.C.Tenney,
2. For example "Now about spiritual gifts..." (PerI de
pneumatikon) in 1 Cor.12:1.
3. Paul addresses his letter to the whole church. He
does not appeal to leaders deal with the problems he addresses.
4. M.C.Tenney, p.301.
5. P.E.Hughes, "2 Corinthians" in E.H.Palmer (Gen.Ed.), The
NIV Study Bible, p.1727.
6. M.C.Tenney, p.302.