Last semester in my Biblical Hermeneutics class I had to choose a 10-15 verses from any part of the Bible and write a 10-15 page paper. I had to figure out the thesis, explain the meaning and form of the text, and why it’s important to us today. Having taught 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, I knew immediately which I would choose: 2 Corinthians 6.14–7.1, a highly contested passage of Paul’s with a number of scholars believing that Paul didn’t write this section. Instead, they think it was written by another author later on (see below). I’m no scholar, but it’s incredible some of the things people come up with.
This passage is only six verses, and I ended up writing 18 pages. It was probably my favorite paper that I’ve ever had to write simply because it dealt with 2 Corinthians. Here is my broad outline. I’ll give another slightly-more-expanded one next time.
A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)
A. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)
B. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)
B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)
One reason I enjoy 2 Corinthians so much is that it’s so different. Many of Paul’s letters are fairly straightforward, though nonetheless difficult (per 2 Pet 3.15–16). My first memory reading 2 Corinthians was in Bible College (I was a late bloomer). After I finished I was more confused and knew less about the book than I did before reading it. This began my gradual appreciation for Paul’s “weighty” letter. I hope some of what I have learned comes out in these posts. Enjoy.
The title for my paper Separation Anxiety actually came from an old Spiderman game I played as a kid. In this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul commands the Corinthian church to separate themselves from their beloved false teachers. This separation may include rejecting in their own homes churches who do not repent and who remain with the false teachers (6.14a). After giving reasons the church reasons to separate (6.14b–16a), Paul gives the ground for their need to separate, commands from God to separate, and ends with more promises that will accrue if they obey (6.16b–18). Because God is a Father who can be trusted, and because his promises are good, The Corinthians should cleanse themselves of all defilement and strive to live the life that is pleasing to their Father (7.1; cf. 5.9).
I haven’t figured out how long this series will go, but you can take it in bites while you munch on your cereal. It may not even have time to get soggy before you finish reading.
In 2 Corinthians 5:13 the apostle Paul says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”1 Many scholars have taken Paul, or, rather, his second canonical letter to the Corinthians, to have been “beside itself,” having been written by different hands and compiled in a disoriented way.2 One can add to that some who do not believe 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 was even authored by Paul, but instead was inserted at a later point.3 In my paper I will examine the text of 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 and explain the original meaning of the text, draw literary and thematic connections from 6:14–7:1 and where it is situated in the letter, and build the reader’s confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1).
After looking briefly at the context surrounding 6:14–7:1, I will examine Paul’s argument in three parts. In 6:14–16, because the Corinthians are God’s temple, they are not to be in fellowship with unbelievers, namely, the false teachers who oppose Paul and any who side with them. In 6:17–18, the Corinthian believers are to separate from the unclean knowing that God will welcome them as his sons and daughters. In 7:1, as a result of these promises, the Corinthians should cleanse themselves, be holy as God is holy, and fear and obey the Lord.
1According to Mark Seifrid, it would be as “if he spoke as one insane” (The Second Letter to the Corinthians [PNTC], 242).
2 See, for instance, Furnish, who provides a short overview of scholars and their arguments; Victor Paul Furnish, (II Corinthians. The Anchor Bible, 32–33).
3 Mitzi L. Minor (2 Corinthians [S&HBC], 132).