Lesson 3 of 5
In Progress

Background of 2 Corinthians

Probably in the late 40s or very early 50s, Paul founded a church or, more likely, several smaller house churches, in the port city of Corinth. The city itself was a diversely populated urban center. That diversity may have been mirrored in the community of mostly Gentile believers Paul drew together.

After living in Corinth for some time, Paul went on to other work but kept contact with the Corinthians through visits and letters. The letter known in the New Testament as 2 Corinthians is probably a combination of two or more letters from Paul to the Corinthian church. Second Corinthians reveals a strained relationship between Paul and those to whom he writes. He defends not only his call to be an apostle, but his personal integrity against charges (as he reports them) that people suspect him of being crafty and practicing deceit (2 Corinthians 12:16). Paul also writes to disparage those he refers to as both “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13) and “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11). These opponents are nowhere identified more specifically.

The tone of the letter changes dramatically between the first six chapters, in which Paul pleads with the Corinthians to be reconciled to God and to him, and the later chapters, in which Paul defends himself and attacks his opponents. In between, he appeals to the Corinthians to continue collecting funds for the Jerusalem church.

The letter probably represents multiple moments in the apostle’s relationship with the Corinthian congregation. However, no consensus exists on whether multiple letters have been combined to form 2 Corinthians, and if so, how many letters we are reading.