Apostle of Persuasion by Thompson James W.;

Apostle of Persuasion by Thompson James W.;

Author:Thompson, James W.;
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Paul/New Testament;Bible (Epistles of Paul—Theology);REL006720;REL006100
ISBN: 9781493423613
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Published: 2020-03-19T00:00:00+00:00

Rhetoric and the Theology of the Cross in 2 Corinthians

The Rhetorical Situation

Although a year passes between 1 and 2 Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:10), many of the same issues remain. Paul offers frequent statements of his credentials in the form of catalogs of sufferings (2 Cor. 4:7–10; 6:4–10; 11:23–33; 12:10) because the opponents have forced him into competitive boasting (2 Cor. 10:12; 11:18, 22–23; 12:11).32 Rival apostles probably joined with those who questioned Paul’s authority in 1 Corinthians, bringing letters of recommendation (2 Cor. 3:1), boasting of their credentials (cf. 2 Cor. 5:12; 11:18), and comparing themselves with Paul (2 Cor. 10:12–18). The criticisms that “his bodily presence is weak and his speech is of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10 AT) and that he is unskilled in speaking (2 Cor. 11:6) indicate that the issues of 1 Corinthians 1–4 are still present. Paul’s refusal of patronage and his manual labor (cf. 4:9–11; 9:1–3) also continue to be an issue (2 Cor. 11:7–11, 20; 12:14–18; cf. 2:17). He defends himself against the opponents’ charges, that he conducted himself “with worldly wisdom” (en sophia sarkikē, 2 Cor. 1:12) and that he made his decisions “in a worldly way” (kata sarka, 2 Cor. 1:17; cf. 10:2), turning those charges against them. He insists that, since his conversion, he no longer regards anyone “in a worldly way” (kata sarka), although he once regarded Christ in this way (2 Cor. 5:16). Now, however, living in the new creation, he has a new way of knowing (2 Cor. 5:17). It is the opposition that boasts “in a worldly way” (2 Cor. 11:18)—that is, according to the standards of the old aeon.

The standards of the old aeon are those that conformed to the values of Greco-Roman culture. The charge that Paul is humble (tapeinos, 2 Cor. 10:1) and that he has humiliated (cf. tapeinōn) himself by working with his hands (2 Cor. 11:7) reflects the negative Greco-Roman attitudes toward humility and manual labor.33 The accusation that “his bodily presence is weak” also reflects Greco-Roman values regarding physical beauty and strength.34 Thus Paul’s challenge in both Corinthian letters is to inculcate values that correspond to the new aeon.

Invention and Arrangement

Second Corinthians, unlike the other Pauline letters, contains little ethical advice regarding future conduct, for it is a defense speech in which Paul’s argument consistently appeals to ethos and pathos. As a defense speech about Paul’s past conduct, it approximates judicial rhetoric.35 Although the letter is frequently regarded as a compilation of separate letters, a singular thread indicates that the same rhetorical situation and theme lie behind all parts of the letter. Consequently, one may observe the invention and arrangement of a unified letter.

In the exordium (1:3–7), Paul introduces the topic that is under dispute without indicating that it is the subject of controversy. Having been criticized for his weakness (10:10; cf. 11:21, 29–30; 12:10; 13:3–4), he echoes the psalmist (cf. Pss. 116:1–11; 118:5; 119:50) in praising the God who “comforts us in all our afflictions” (thlipseis, 2 Cor. 1:4), the pervasive theme in 2 Corinthians (2:4; 4:17; 6:4; 7:4).


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