Preface
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Preface A commentary on only two chapters of one of the letters of the apostle Paul requires special justification. The chapters 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, however, have not been arbitrarily selected from a given body of text. These chapters constitute the hinge on which everything else concerning 2 Corinthians turns, one way or the other. Anyone who wishes to tackle the fundamental problems of this letter must first come to terms with the hypothesis ofJohann Salomo Semler, published in 1776. This hypothesis-truly one of the brilliant ideas for which Semler is known-has been under discussion by New Testament scholars since its publication, some two hundred years ago now, but it has never been successfully proved or disproved. To do either would thus appear quite a risky undertaking. Indeed, arguments for or against the literary unity of 2 Corinthians have become firmly established traditions in themselves, and opinions have usually been formed before the discussion begins. Listing the traditional arguments for or against, and aligning oneself with one side or the other, however, will not suffice. Rather, in a fresh examination what is needed first is a detailed and careful analysis of the chapters in order to find out whether they in fact can be related to letter categories known from other ancient epistolary literature, that is, whether their literary form, internal composition, argumentative rhetoric, and function can be shown to be that of independent epistolary fragments. The present study provides such an analysis of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. This analysis is in most respects the first such attempt, but it is certainly not intended to be the last word on the subject. Sufficient evidence is provided to support the conclusions, so that quick reactions of mere agreement or disagreement, a mere embrace or indignation, will be avoided. The challenge to the serious students of the New Testament is to sustain a developed scientific argument. The methodology applied throughout the investigation is the so-called historicalcritical method, a number ofphilological, literary, historical, history-of-religions, and theological approaches complementing and checking each other. This method does not differ from that used in other scholarly investigations ofancient texts, but its use does not exclude special emphases which may be necessary in view of the material under investigation. In this study, therefore, a great deal of attention is devoted to matters of epistolography and administrative language, matters often neglected in New Testament studies. These matters, however, must be discussed in connection with comparable literary evidence from antiquity. Otherwise, the danger of ending up in fancy and idle speculation can hardly be avoided. Readers who may feel that they are exposed to too much such evidence should be patient and be mindful of other readers who will be delightedjust to have access to the material. What is the benefit of undertaking the whole exercise? For the author, the difference before and after the research has simply been that of understanding what he did not understand before. The experience has been as fascinating as would be discovering two new letters of Paul, and it is hoped that readers will be able to share this excitement. xi xu Chapter 1 reviews the history of research from Semler-and even before-to the present. The main reason for presenting this evidence in greater detail is that the problems can only be recognized and clarified by a serious encounter with past scholarship. There are many aspects of this scholarship which have been forgotten or misunderstood, or which have implications for other letters of the apostle. It is thus important to see precisely where scholarship stands at present, how it got there, and where one must begin a fresh examination. Chapters 2 and 3 present the literary, historical, and theological analysis together with a full commentary of 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9. Chapter 4 sums up what can be inferred regarding the literary genre and function of the two letters that these chapters comprise. Chapter 5 describes briefly how the two letters can be related to the other parts of Paul's correspondence with the Corinthians, especially 1 Corinthians and the other letter fragments of 2 Corinthians, and to Romans. Much of this chapter is tentative, to the extent that the literary analyses of these letters have not yet been undertaken and that the final judgment will have to await their appearance. A great deal of the research and writing was done during a very productive research leave at the University of Oxford, England...