Select Page

Introduction to 2 Corinthians

Dr. Grant C. Richison 


Author: Paul (2 Co 1:1; 10:1) 

Born in Tarsus, Ac 21:39; 22:3 

Noted trading center 

Known for its manufacture of goat’s hair cloth 

Paul learned tent making trade in Tarsus 

Famous university there 

Roman citizenship 

Used as a shield against magistrates 

Used to advance Christianity 

Jewish heritage, Php 3:5; Ro 9:1-5 

Son of a Pharisee, Ac 23:6 

Cradled in Orthodox Judaism 


Paul began his studies at age 13 under the famous Gamaliel (Ac 22:3; 26:4-5).  

First appearance, Ac 7:58 

Paul at least 30 years old 

Acknowledged leader in Judaism (Ac 7:58-8:3; 9:1-2; cf. 26:10-11; 1 Ti 1:12f) 

Conversion by direct appearance of Jesus, Ac 9:1ff 

Paul was greatest missionary of the first century 

Paul’s character 

Labors, burning zeal, untiring industry, singleness of aim, patient, suffering, sublime courage, fearless independence (2 Co 6:3ff) 

Importance of Paul’s life 

Conversion a testimony for truth 

Academic activity is of utmost importance to the doctrinal foundation of Christianity 

Missionary activity—to almost all the civilized world at that time (Ro 15:24; Ep 2:14) 

Recipients of 2 Corinthians 

The cosmopolitan church in the city of Corinth and central to southern Greece (2 Co 1:1; 6:11) Second Corinthians was written to circulate throughout the entire region.  

Political setting 

-Third year of Nero 

-Roman empire expanding 

-25 years after the crucifixion 

Occasion of Writing 2 Corinthians 

Sometime after Paul left Corinth, reports came to him about problems in the church. Before writing 2 Corinthians, he visited Corinth a second time. This visit went poorly (2 Co 2:1). He went back to Ephesus and wrote a sorrowful letter (2 Co 2:1-4). At the time of his writing 2 Corinthians, false teachers had come to undermine Paul’s person and message (2 Co 10:1-210). These people claimed to be super-apostles (2 Co 11:52312:11). Paul went to Corinth to correct this problem, which he described as a “painful” visit (2 Co 2:1). These people defied Paul (2 Co 2:5-8,107:12). However, some reaffirmed their loyalty to Paul (2 Co 7:7), but the false teachers were still in Corinth. Therefore, Paul defended his apostleship in 2 Corinthians.  

At the time of the writing of 2 Corinthians, the Jerusalem church underwent poverty. Paul challenged the Corinthians to financially support the church in Jerusalem.  


Most Corinthians were positive to Paul and his ministry 

The minority were negative toward Paul (2 Co 10:10).  

-A vigorous faction refused to recognize Paul’s authority as an apostle. 

-This group trumped up new charges against PaulThey made new charges toward Paul: 

—They accused Paul of treating them lightly (2 Co 1:16-18). 

—They accused Paul of pride (2 Co 1:24). 

—They said he walked according to the flesh (2 Co 10:2). 

—They said he was a coward (2 Co 10:10). 

—They said he demeaned himself by manual labor (2 Co 11:7). 

—They claimed that he was not one of the original apostles and was not qualified as an apostle (2 Co 11:5; 12:11,12). 

—They said that he was cunning (2 Co 12:16). 


A.D. 56 during Paul’s third missionary enterpriseSecond Corinthians was written after he left Ephesus and while he was in Macedonia.  

Paul sent Titus to Corinth while he was still in Ephesus. Titus’s non-arrival at Troas made Paul anxious about the state of the church at Corinth. Paul crossed over to Macedonia and met Titus there. Titus told Paul of the cordial reception the Corinth church had toward his correspondence. However, Titus told Paul of further problems in the Corinthian church, so Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia.  

Place of writing 

The province of Macedonia in Greece (2 Co 7:58:19:2).  

Purpose (2 Co 13:10) 

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians  

-to commend those who positively responded 

-to defend his person, role, and message  

-to glorify God (19 times)  

-to explain the purpose of his suffering (2 Co 1:3-11) 

to justify his change of plans to come to them (2 Co 1:12-2:4) 

-to give instructions on how to treat the offender (2 Co 2:5-11) 

-to express his joy at the Corinthians’ positive response to him (2 Co 2:12-13) 

-to represent the gospel as superior to the law (2 Co 2:14-6:10) 

-to appeal to separation and reconciliation to him (2 Co 6:11-7:16) 

-to urge the Corinthians to speedily make a collection for the poor in Jerusalem (2 Co 8-9) 

-to establish his authority as an apostle (2 Co 10:1-13:10) 

Theme—Ministry for Christ 

Second Corinthians is primarily theological rather than practical.  


Second Corinthians is the most autobiographical book of the Bible. 

Vindication of Paul’s authority and ministry 

Not tightly organized  

Most personal, least doctrinal except for Philemon 

Marked difference from First Corinthians 

Striking metaphors 

Key words 

Different forms of “ministry”—18 times 

Glory”—20 times 

City of Corinth 

Historical background 

The Romans destroyed Corinth in 146 BC, but the city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later in 46 BC. This Caesar established a Roman colony (established to adopt Roman law and culture) in Corinth, giving it a strong Roman influence. It was geographically in Greece but culturally Rome. 

In the time of Paul, one-third of the city was composed of slaves. The city itself was splendid and modern for the time. Great crowds attended the Isthmian games. Much trade took place in the city because of its two ports. The city was a magnet for people from all over the world. It was a cosmopolitan city of Greek, Roman, and Oriental. Travelers from around the world came to Corinth.  

Corinth was a prosperous city because of its ports. The city hosted the Isthmian Games, held every two years. It was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia.  

Corinth in Paul’s day was the commercial metropolis of Greece. It was one of the largest, richest, and most important cities of the Roman Empire. It was the hub of commerce in the first century.  

It was a Roman colony and capital of province of Achaia.  

Population—600,000, surpassed only by Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. 

Corinth was a city-state. 

Jews flocked to Corinth: Ac 18:1-18; 1 Co 9:20. 

City described in derogatory term “Corinthanize”—equivalent to “Paris of Antiquity” 

Location of Corinth 

Corinth was located in southern Greece, where the Peloponnesus separated from northern Greece by a four-mile-wide isthmus.  

Situated on the principal trade route for land (north and south)Near land bridge between Peloponnesus and mainland Greece. There were two nearby ports:  

On the east—near the port city Cenchrea six miles east of the Saronic Gulf  

On the west — the port city of Lechaeum, which was two miles north of the Corinthian Gulf 

Sailors dreaded sailing over 200 miles around the southern capes of the Peloponnesus because of natural dangers, so they rolled ships and cargo across the peninsula: 

Dangerous to sail around Peloponnesus 

Smaller ships and cargos hauled across the Isthmus on rollers (4 miles) 

Corinth was a natural resting place for sailors during trans-shipment 

Strategic location—the importance of the city was strategic in Paul’s world mission strategy 

The Acrocorinth 

The Acrocorinth was an acropolis (high city). The massive Acrocorinth overshadowed the city. The Acrocorinth was big enough to hold the entire population of Corinth. It stood on a 1900-foot mountain.  

The Acrocorinth held the temple of Aphrodite (goddess of sex),, holding 1000 ritual prostitutes both female and male.  

The Acrocorinth was a place of both defense and pagan worship. Many other temples were located on this site.  

Paul’s Connection to the Church at Corinth(Ac 18:1-18,27; 19:1,21,22; 20:1,2) 

Paul had a seven-year rocky relationship with the Corinthian church. He went through several phases with this assembly of believers, beginning with his second missionary journey.  

Paul made three visits to the city between AD 50 and 56. Coming down from Thessalonica and Berea in the north, Paul made his first visit to the city of Corinth in the autumn of AD 50 (Ac 17:1-1518:1-181 Th 2:17-18). He worked as a tentmaker (Ac 18:12-17). This was toward the end of his second missionary journey.  

Luke records the founding of the church of Corinth in Acts 18:1-18. The church started in a Jewish synagogue composed of both Jews and Gentiles (Ac 18:4-5). Paul stayed 18 months (Ac 18:18-28) and established the church with fellow tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla in AD 51. The leader of the synagogue (Crispus) became a believer (Ac 18:8). Opposition came from the Jews, but the Roman Gallio refused to hear the case because of its religious nature. 

Paul left Corinth for a visit to Jerusalem and Antioch about AD 52 with Aquila and Priscilla. From there he went to Ephesus to set up his base of operations for three years. Apollos became the next leader of the Corinthian church (Ac 18:24-19:1).  

Paul returned to Ephesus for two and one half years on his third missionary journey in the fall of AD 53, from which he wrote 1 Corinthians. He had already written a non-canonical letter (as mentioned in 1 Co 5:9). Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian church during his early stay in Ephesus before he wrote 1 Corinthians.  

While in Ephesus a delegation came from Corinth and told him about troubles in the Corinthian church (1 Co 1:11-1216:15-18). While yet still in Ephesus, Paul received a letter from the Corinthian church raising a number of questions they had about Christian living (1 Co 7:1258:112:116:112).  

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 54. He wrote 2 Corinthians to clarify the lost letter (written before 1 Corinthians), to answer Chloe’s group, and to answer specific issues raised in 1 Corinthians.  

Paul announced his intention for a future lengthy visit in Corinth (1 Co 16:7), but he changed his mind and made an emergency visit from Ephesus (1 Co 16:8). This visit ended in a tense relationship between the Corinthians and Paul (2 Co 2:1-4). A leader in the Corinthian church affronted Paul, but the church did not deal with the offending individual (2 Co 2:5). This event undermined the authority of Paul’s apostleship.  

In AD 55 Paul made a second visit to Corinth (2 Co 13:2). We do not know the purpose of this visit. However, we know that this was “painful” (2 Co 2:1). The apostle had to confront a ringleader in the church. No one in the church came to his defense for this personal attack on his integrity (2 Co 2:5-11).  

Following the visit that grieved Paul and once back in Ephesus, he wrote another letter—a third and “severe” letter—which we do not possess (2 Co 2:4). This correspondence was a rebuke to the church about the person who had caused him trouble during his visit. Titus carried this letter to Corinth (2 Co 2:137:5-16). Paul worried about how the church would receive Titus. Upon not hearing about Titus, Paul went to the city of Troy (Troas) to go to crossover to Macedonia. He found Titus with good news that the Corinthian church welcomed Paul’s letter (2 Co 7:71112).  

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians after this second visit to Corinth (his fourth letter to the church). He wrote this letter because of the positive report from Titus. This epistle was to prepare the congregation for his third visit. Paul structured 2 Corinthians around his broken relationship with the church (2 Co 1:12-2:172:1).  

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, where he met Titus (2 Co 7:5-6). Paul then sent this last correspondence to the Corinthians. He wrote his most direct response to this situation in 2 Corinthians 10-13, where he refuted the phony apostles from Macedonia. He spent three months there. Titus carried 2 Corinthians to the church in AD 56 (2 Co 7:16).  

Paul visited Corinth for the third time (Ac 20:2-3) around AD 56 or 57. He stayed for three months during this visit. He came again to Corinth following his Roman imprisonment (1 Ti 1:32 Ti 4:20).  


First visit to Corinth on second missionary journey, AD 51. 

Left Corinth with Priscilla and Acquila for Ephesus, AD 52. 

Paul left Ephesus for Jerusalem, AD 52.  

Returned on third missionary journey to Asia: 

—to Galatia and Phrygia 

—to Ephesus again (stayed 3 years, Acts 19) in AD 53.  

Re-established his connection with the Corinthian church from Ephesus. 

Paul wrote a letter (now lost), which the Corinthians misunderstood (1 Co 5:9). 

The house of Chloe reported problems in the Corinthian church (1 Co 5:9-11). An official delegation came from the Corinthian church about problems in the church (1 Co 16:17). Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to address these problems. Timothy may have carried this letter to Corinth.  

Paul visited Corinth for the second time, but this visit was “painful” (2 Co 2:1, 5; 7:12).  After he returned to Ephesus, Paul sent a third and severe letter carried by Titus to the Corinthians (now lost) in response to this painful visit.  

Leaving Ephesus due to a riot, Paul went to Troas (Troy) hoping to meet Titus there. Having not found Titus, he went to Macedonia (Ac 20:1-3), where he met Titus.  

Paul wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. He asked Titus to carry this epistle to Corinth (2 Co 2:12, 13; 7:5,6; 9:2,4).  

Paul visited Corinth for the third time in AD 56-57 (Ac 20:2-3).  



Introduction (1:1–11)  

Paul’s defense of his person, 1:12–2:11 

Paul’s defense of his ministry, 2:12–7:16 

Collection for the Jerusalem church, 8:1–9:15 

Preparation for Paul’s visit, 10:1–13:13 


Introduction and personal testimony, 1:1-2:13 

Glory of ministry, 2:14-7:16 

Glory of giving, 8:1-9:15 

Defending ministry, 10:1-13:14 


True Ministry, 1:1-7:16 

Giving Ministry, 8:1-9:15 

Apostleship Ministry, 10:1-13:14 



Salutation, 1:1-2 

Thanksgiving, 1:3-11 

-for comfort, 1:3-11 

-for deliverance, 1:8-11 

The Ministry, 1:12-7:16 

Defense of Paul’s ministry, 1:12-2:17 

The glory of ministry, 3:1-6:10 

The Collection, 8-9 

Example of the Macedonians 8:1-6 

Example of Christ, 8:7-9 

Principles of giving, 8:10-9:5 

Results of liberality, 9:6-15 

The Vindication, 10:1-13:10

Paul’s authority, 10 

Reasons for his authority, 11:1-15 

Paul’s suffering proves apostleship, 12:1-10 

Paul’s unselfish love proves his apostleship, 12:11-18 

Paul will demonstrate his apostleship when he comes, 12:19-13:10 

Conclusion, 13:11-14