In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Second Corinthians

  • Introduction
  • Essay Collections
  • Bibliography
  • Corinth and the Christian Community
  • Christology
  • Spirit
  • Ministry and Suffering
  • Power in Weakness
  • Reconciliation
  • Paul’s Use of Scripture
  • “Rapture”

Biblical Studies Second Corinthians
Thomas D. Stegman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0024


Paul’s second (canonical) letter to the Corinthians is one of the undisputed Pauline epistles (i.e., scholars are in agreement that it derives from Paul and not from a later author writing in his name). This letter has intrigued scholars for several reasons. Here Paul reveals much about his self-understanding as an apostle and about what constitutes the authentic exercise of ministry. He reflects on the significance of suffering and on the paradox that God’s power is revealed in what many see as weakness. This letter contains some of Paul’s most profound theological reflections, such as God’s work of reconciliation, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the gift and empowerment of the Spirit. Scholars mine 2 Corinthians for information about Paul’s dealings with the Church in Corinth, the Christian community about which we have the most knowledge. This letter contains several clues concerning the interactions between Paul and the community after his founding visit and the writing of 1 Corinthians. Some scholars have detected the presence of literary “seams,” places in the text where juxtaposed materials create various tensions. These tensions include strange mood swings, unusual ordering of materials, and confusing internal references to people and events. Thus, the letter’s literary integrity has been questioned. Scholars debate whether to partition the letter into two or more letters (or parts of letters) and how to reconstruct the various events that led Paul to write the text now known as “2 Corinthians.” No matter what their position on these questions, there is general agreement among scholars that, of the twenty-seven New Testament writings, 2 Corinthians is the most difficult of them all to interpret coherently.

Text and Translations

Second Corinthians was originally written in Greek, which is available in several editions, Greek-English translations, and annotated study Bibles.

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