The Pauline Epistles: What They Really Are- 2 Corinthians

So here it is, maybe a year or so later, and Shaul is writing to the congregation in Corinth, again. He starts off as he does with all his letters, giving thanks and praise to God, and talking about how wonderful it is to be saved by the Messiah’s sacrifice.

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By the end of the first chapter, Shaul is telling them that he wanted to visit but changed his mind. He states why in a very round-about way, and when you take away the flourishes and buttering-up, the main reason he didn’t visit was because he was disappointed in them and they haven’t come up to meet his requirements of them, so he decided not to go there in order to save himself from more anguish (which he says is because he loves them so much), or to cause them anguish (probably from his having to chew them out).

You will note, when reading his letters, that he is so very Jewish (being Jewish, myself, I can get away saying this) in that he constantly lays a guilt trip on people.

He explains how he has been undergoing many trials, but that through the Messiah he has been renewed. He is clearly trying to show the Corinthians that the problems they are having can be overcome as long as they maintain their faith and proper obedience to God.

It isn’t until he is nearly half-way through this letter that he begins to talk directly to the Corinthians, having spent the full first half of the letter talking about himself.

And when he does talk about them, he starts right in with reminding them not to yoke themselves with unbelievers. This was because they were doing things that were not part of a godly lifestyle and working those sinful activities into their tenets and ceremonies.

(What is sad about this warning from Shaul is that Christianity ended up doing just that- incorporating non-biblical ceremonies and holidays into what is supposed to be a God-worshiping religion.)

Now Shaul changes course and he congratulates the congregation for (apparently) having been so hurt by his first letter that they got their heads back on straight, and from Titus Shaul hears good reports about that congregation having repented.

The remaining chapters are pretty much Shaul defending himself, stating he is bolder when away then in person, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a true apostle. He warns them about false apostles, implying that since he doesn’t ask for money, anyone preaching the Gospel and requiring payment is a false apostle, and since Satan masquerades as an angel of light, the ones who work for him also masquerade as servants of righteousness.

(Could it be that Shaul had a vision of the modern televangelist?)

As he continues to talk about the difficulties he has had, which is his way of justifying that they listen to him, he talks about the thorn in his side that God has placed there to keep him humble. One of the best-known verses from his letters is found here, in 2nd Corinthians 12:9, when Shaul is talking about how he pleaded with God three times to remove the “thorn in my side” (no one knows what that was, exactly, and scholars have thought it anything from emotional issues to physical ailments or handicaps), and God answers him by saying:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In other words, God can show best his power when he works through someone who is weak. For instance, if I was to fight a professional MMA title holder, it is almost a foregone conclusion that I will get my tuchas in a sling within 1 minute. But, if I conquer the professional, then there has to be some power greater than both of us to make that happen.

After his diatribe about his sufferings and his justification that he is a legitimate messenger of the Messiah, he finishes with a stern warning, saying he is concerned that when he visit, he will find some have still not repented, still indulging in “quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder.” (2 Corinthians 12:20)

He tells them, in no uncertain way, that he will deal very harshly with that if he finds it when he comes. He says he is being harsh now so that he won’t have to be that way when he arrives.

This letter ends, as all do, with greetings and a prayer for the people there.

As I have been saying, this letter is clearly not anything like the writings of the Prophets or containing any God-dictated commandments on how to worship, as we see in the Torah. No, these are just Shaul’s managerial directives for how the congregation he is writing to should get back on track.

These two letters to the Corinthians, as with all of Shaul’s letters, will reference scripture but they are not scripture. When we read this as if we haven’t already been told what it is supposed to mean, we can see that it is nothing more than a letter written by a man to a congregation of people who are not doing as they should. Truthfully? It’s more like an employee evaluation than God-breathed divine instruction.

The next letter is to the Galatians, and if you think he was being rough on the Corinthians, wait until you hear what he calls the Galatians!

So, nu? I hope I will see you then; in the meantime, l’hitraot and Baruch Hashem!