As I am working my way (chronologically) through Paul’s letters, I just completed 2 Corinthians and have begun on Romans. Thus, it is time to share my thoughts on this very rich, but also very controversial epistle. Where to begin?
There are several satisfactory introductory essays or articles to allow one to ‘dip their toes’ into 2 Corinthians. I would recommend two things: Either Scott Hafemann’s ‘Letters to the Corinthians’ in Dictionary of Paul and his Letters, or a short article by Gerald Borchert entitled ‘Introduction to 2 Corinthians’ in Review & Expositor (86.3; 1998 – available in PDF on ATLA if you use EBSCO).
Although 2 Corinthians is not as well served in terms of commentaries as the first canonical letter, there are still several very good ones.
In terms of short commentaries, I would suggest Linda Belleville’s volume in the IVPNT series. For a medium size one, Jan Lambrecht (Sacra Pagina), Scott Hafemann (NIV Application), or Ben Witherington (Socio-rhetorical). Each of these has its strengths. Lambrecht is good on dealing with a number of thorny exegetical passages and isn’t afraid to question ‘consensus’ views; also good on the letter’s theology. Hafemann’s is great especially for pastors and anyone who really wants to follow Paul’s train of thought in the letter. Witherington is great with…well, the sociology and rhetorical aspects of Paul’s writing.
Now, when it comes to the massive commentaries, I think nothing can outdo Murray Harris’ NIGTC volume. It is excellent across the board. If you had to buy one commentary, I would suggest this one. If you had money to buy two, I would say pick up Hafemann as well.
Theology of 2 Corinthians
As for the theological dynamics of this letter, several items come to mind. First, Tim Savage’s Power through Weakness – a published thesis that explores this central theme. Not too distant is Hafemann’s Suffering and Ministry in the Spirit – a piece that I have turned to time and time again for insight. And, one cannot ignore the 2nd volume of Fortress Press’s Pauline Theology that contains an important engagement between David Hay, Steven Kraftchick and Beverly Gaventa – a must read (especially Kraftchick).
Finally, special attention should be given to the edited volume (Bieringer) on the Corinthian Correspondence which contains a number of interesting essays:
Paul’s argument from the Old Testament and christology in 2 Cor 1-9: the salvation-history/restoration structure of Paul’s apologetic, by S Hafemann.
Dangerous boasting: Paul’s self-commendation in 2 Corinthians 10-13, by J Lambrecht.
Paul’s journey to paradise: some exegetical issues in 2 Cor 12,2-4, by M Thrall.
Paul’s use of Exodus in the Corinthian correspondence, by C Hickling.
Knowledge of Christ and knowledge of God in the Corinthian correspondence, by V Koperski.
Reconciliation and 2 Cor 5,18-21, by S Porter.
2 Cor 5,21: the interpretive key to Paul’s use of dikaiosynē theou?, by R Moore.
I found that there is still a lot of work to be done in 2 Corinthians and I hope to see more students engage in this letter. So much more attention is given to 1 Corinthians, I think because the background of the second letter is so elusive. But, let’s not give up learning! Also, though I think many have focused on 2 Corinthians 2-6 and 8-9, we could use more research on the other portions of the letter, especially chapters 1 and 10-13.