This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Titus as co-sender of 2 Cor 12:18-19

Here I will present a new argument that Titus was Timothy. I will argue that 2 Cor 12:14-20 makes best sense if Titus was the co-sender of the letter.

Paul had not been a burden to the Corinthians when he had visited them. Instead of respecting him for this behavior, the Corinthians were thinking that it was a trick to allow him to exploit them through others. In this passage Paul defends himself against the charge:

14 Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps? 19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. 20 For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; ....

The first person singular is used throughout most of this passage so the three plural verbs in 12:18b and 12:19 require explanation. Who is the 'we' in 2 Cor 18:18-19?

18 παρεκάλεσα Τίτον καὶ συναπέστειλα τὸν ἀδελφόν: μήτι ἐπλεονέκτησεν ὑμᾶς Τίτος; οὐ τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι περιεπατήσαμεν; οὐ τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἴχνεσιν;
19 Πάλαι δοκεῖτε ὅτι ὑμῖν ἀπολογούμεθα; κατέναντι θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν: τὰ δὲ πάντα, ἀγαπητοί,ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑμῶν οἰκοδομῆς.

The plural in 2 Cor 12:18
In 2 Cor 12:18 the 'we' of περιεπατήσαμεν must be Paul and Titus (see Harris p891). Paul's point here is that Titus had been no more of a burden to the Corinthians than he (Paul) had been. 2 Cor 12:18b is NOT a comment on Paul's behavior in Corinth, because the Corinthians already accept that Paul had not been a burden to them. The Corinthians believed that Paul had been self-supporting in Corinth to win their trust in order to exploit them through envoy(s). Paul's point in 2 Cor 12:18b must therefore be that his envoy, Titus, had shown the same integrity as he had: "Did we (Titus and I) not conduct ourselves in the same spirit".

However, there is a problem. How were the original hearers expected to know that the 'we' here is Paul and Titus? Would not the recipients of the letter assume that subject of the verb is the co-senders of the letter, Paul and Timothy? Paul's text here seems hopelessly ambiguous.

The problem is solves, of course, when we realize that Titus was Paul's co-sender, Timothy. Except in the cases where the Corinthians would have known that Titus-Timothy could not be included, "we" in 2 Corinthians refers to Paul and Titus-Timothy by default. With the Titus-Timothy hypothesis we can translate:

18 I urged Timothy to go, and sent the brother with him. Timothy did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we (Timothy and I) not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

The plural in 2 Cor 12:19
Here Paul refers the composition of the letter, so the 'we' naturally comprises the co-senders, Paul and Timothy. The problem is that the inclusion of Timothy here seems abrupt and unanticipated by anything in the preceding verses. Why would Paul use the plural here after using the singular exclusively since 11:21? Any why does he then return the singular in 2 Cor 12:20? Many suppose that Paul uses epistolary plurals in 2 Cor 12:19, but this is an arbitrary solution and should be used only as a last resort.

The problems are solved by equating Titus with Timothy. The letter brings Paul's co-sender, Titus-Timothy, back into view in 2 Cor 12:18 and includes him in the 'we' there. The text has countered the view that Paul has used Titus-Timothy to exploit the Corinthians. The Corinthians might see this as an attempt by Paul and his co-sender, Titus-Timothy, to defend themselves to them, so it is natural that Paul (and Titus-Timothy) should clarify their motives in 2 Cor 12:19.

The singular in 2 Cor 12:20
Paul uses the singular in 2 Cor 12:20, as indeed wherever his future visit to Corinth is mentioned (2 Cor 9:4; 12:14-15; 12:20-13:2; 13:10). Why does he not include his co-sender, Timothy, in his travel plans? We know that Timothy was with Paul when 2 Corinthians was written (2 Cor 1:1) and was also with him later in Corinth (Rom 16:21). So why does Paul in 2 Corinthians completely ignore Timothy's future visit to Corinth? Since he prepares the Corinthians for his own visit, why does he not prepare them for Timothy's or at least acknowledge poor Timothy's existence by using a plural or two?

Again Titus-Timothy solves the problems. He carried 2 Corinthians so was not a part of Paul's future journey to Corinth. Much of 2 Corinthians is devoted to preparing the Corinthians for his visit.

In a future posts I will argue that the change in tone from 2 Cor 10:1 is explained by the Titus-Timothy hypothesis and that partition theories are unnecessary.

1 comment:

  1. I am also interested in the study of very early christianity. I am currently reading, Walter Bauer's _Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity_. I have studied the topic for almost 20 years now. I have read a number of other of the great works on this topic like Strauss, Harnack, Schweitzer, two additional Bauers (FC & Bruno), and many many others, but this is my current read.

    I am always interested in meeting others that are interested in the study of earliest christianity to have ongoing conversations and share reading lists, etc... you can contact me by email at

    Do you have specific aspect of the study that interest you, that you might be interested in discussing, and perhaps having on going discussions on the topic in general? Feel free to email me to talk about it.

    My main interest is the very earliest period. Perhaps from the modified Messiah idea that may have begun around the time of the Maccabean revolt through the beginnings of christianity itself, till the Council of Nicea in 325CE, and perhaps a few years after that as some of the results of that council took effect. I have a list of some specific topics that interest me here;