"More than any of Paul’s other letters, 2 Corinthians conveys the words of a pastor. Paul has had a rocky relationship with the Corinthian believers, but he continues to patiently love them like a father (2 Cor 12:14–15). Now, as some question his authority, Paul preaches a gospel of reconciliation, characterized by making important but hard decisions.
"Paul had founded the church of Corinth around AD 51, during his second missionary journey. After staying about 18 months and some unspecified additional period (Acts 18:11–17), he continued with other missionary work. Occasionally, he would receive troubling reports about the Corinthians, prompting him to write them letters. Paul sent at least four letters to Corinth: an initial letter that is now lost (1 Cor 5:9); the letter we know as 1 Corinthians; another lost letter, described as Paul’s severe letter to Corinth (2 Cor 2:3–4, 9; compare 7:8, 12); and the letter we know as 2 Corinthians."
—Faithlife Study Bible, Lexham Press
Best Commentaries on 2 Corinthians
David E. Garland, New American Commentary (NAC), B&H, 1999, 562 pp.
This commentary features the complete NIV text, including transliterated Hebrew and Greek for the benefit of the non-specialist. Emphasizing theological unity of Scripture as a whole, Dr. Garland also provides concise historical background to help you better understand the context of each biblical book. Brief biographies and helpful indexes round out this outstanding resource.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Murray J. Harris, New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC), Eerdmans, 2005, 1,072 pp.
The reputation of the NIGTC series is so outstanding that the appearance of each new volume is noteworthy. This book on 2 Corinthians is no exception. Master New Testament exegete Murray J. Harris has produced a superb commentary that analyzes the Greek text verse by verse against the backdrop of Paul’s tumultuous relations with his converts at Corinth.
- Level: Advanced
- Type: Technical
Paul W. Barnett, New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT), Eerdmans, 1997, 692 pp.
Assuming the unity of the letter, for which extensive argument is offered, Barnett takes the view that Paul is, in particular, addressing the issue of triumphalism in Corinth. This triumphalism is expressed by the newly arrived missionaries who portray Paul as “inferior” to themselves; it is also endemic among the Corinthians. According to Barnett, the recurring theme of the letter is “power-in-weakness,” based on the motif of the "Resurrection of the Crucified," which lies at the heart of the gospel of Christ. Also fundamental to the letter is the theme of fulfillment of the “promises of God” by Christ and the Spirit under the New Covenant.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Ralph P. Martin, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), Zondervan, 2014, 752 pp.
Ralph P. Martin gives insight into the unique problems expressed in the ancient, hedonistic, cosmopolitan setting of Corinth. He shows how Paul’s attempt to clearly distinguish the gospel from Hellenistic Judaism and Hellenistic Jewish Christian ideology results in a moving statement of the Christian message. Rather than the “theology of glory” prevalent in Corinth, Paul articulates his theology of the cross as a “theology of weakness,” of servanthood and ministry. What was at stake at Corinth, says Dr. Martin, was “nothing less than the essence of the kerygma as expressed in the way of the cross . . . for proclamation and daily living.” This edition includes new sections on the “collection” and Paul’s rhetoric, issues of composition and social setting, and topics such as the Spirit, the opponents, Paul’s theology, and the resurrection.
- Level: Advanced
- Type: Technical
Linda L. Belleville, IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNTC), InterVarsity Press, 1996, 357 pp.
Church conflict is never pleasant—whether the issue is theological or practical, whether it is over the character of the gospel or over how to spend church funds. Though few church squabbles today come close to matching the intensity and seriousness of what Paul faced in the commercial and hedonistic hotbed of Corinth, his strategies and pastoral wisdom in confronting the problems there can still serve as a helpful model for us in responding to a culture marked by individualism and materialism. In this careful study of 2 Corinthians, readers will find an introduction that discusses the letter's occasion and purpose, authorship, and other background information, as well as its important theological themes. Passage-by-passage commentary follows that seeks to explain what the letter means for us today, as well as what it meant for it original hearers.
- Level: Basic
- Type: Expository
Best Books on 2 Corinthians
In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul confronts lingering doubts about his integrity and ministry and implores the Church to reconcile with him. In his most personal letter, Paul delivers a message about a suffering Christ and the power of the resurrection.Learn more
Kreitzer explores the controversial place of 2 Corinthians has within Pauline studies. He gives special attention to the contribution that the epistle makes to our understanding of Paul’s views on such matters as his apostolic ministry, his interpretation of Scripture, and his ecclesiology. After tackling some of the puzzling passages found in 2 Corinthians, Kreitzer addresses several ways 2 Corinthians challenges the modern reader.Learn more
How can the task of biblical exegesis be fruitful and meaningful when commentaries and lexicons provide contradictory interpretations and seem to support opposing translations? The Exegetical Summaries Series asks important exegetical and interpretive questions—phrase-by-phrase—and summarizes and organizes the content from every major Bible commentary and dozens of lexicons. You can instantly identify exegetical challenges, discover a text’s interpretive history, and survey the scope of everything written about each verse and phrase. Take your exegesis to the next level with the Logos edition of An Exegetical Summary of 2 Corinthians.Learn more
Paul’s opening remarks in his second letter to the Corinthian church make reference to certain troubles or problems he faced (problems which could possibly lead to imminent death from either an illness or persecution). Harvey uses these references as a springboard to understanding the profound but difficult language found in this epistle. He begins by exploring the social, economic, and religious consequences of illness or disability in antiquity. Paul uses his malady as an opportunity to present a new understanding of suffering for the first-century Christian. The remainder of Harvey’s book acts as a running commentary on this biographical approach to understanding 2 Corinthians.Learn more
Carson unpacks Paul’s call for us to embrace discipline and obedience and his thoughts on the nature of spiritual boasting. Through Paul we explore the struggles, opportunities, and intentions of a Christian under fire, journeying with him as he seeks to guide the Corinthian church and speak to us as well.Learn more
Best Courses on 2 Corinthians
In Book Study: Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, Dr. George Guthrie walks you through the text of 2 Corinthians, where Paul expresses what he thinks about authentic Christian ministry—what does it mean to follow Christ as a real Christian minister in the world? Dr. Guthrie deals with the purpose of each section of the letter, walking through exegesis of the passage and discussing how Paul accomplishes his purpose in that passage. He also covers the implications of Paul’s letter for our lives today.Learn more
Mobile Ed: BI206 New Testament Exegesis: Understanding and Applying the New Testament (14 hour course)
When people interpret the Bible, even though they may have the best motives in the world, they can still read their ideas into the Bible rather than draw out what the author originally intended to mean. Don’t miss the whole point of exegesis. It’s to know and worship God. Dr. Naselli will help you exegete the New Testament texts in a way that spreads a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ by exploring the concepts of genre, theology, translation, and much more. Exegesis and theology are thrilling because they help you know and worship God, and only God satisfies.Learn more
In NT276 Pauline Theology, Dr. Douglas J. Moo organizes Paul’s theology within the new realm of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the lives of Jesus’ followers. After comparing the new realm to the old realm of the law, Dr. Moo takes you on a journey from the inauguration of the new realm to its culmination, stopping to discuss the people of the new realm and how Jesus’ followers enter into, live within, and enjoy this new realm. This course provides you with a foundation to read, study, teach, and preach the message of the apostle Paul.Learn more
Gain a better understanding of the New Testament's structure and themes with New Testament scholar Dr. Lynn Cohick. You'll examine elements such as historical context, writing techniques of the Gospels' authors, developments in the early Church, the settings of the Epistles, the genre of the book of Revelation, and the life of Jesus.Learn more