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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A free commentary offer, and Barnett's 2 Cor sequence

All the major commentaries on 2 Corinthians suggest a sequence of events in Paul's interactions with that church. If you can see an aspect in which a published sequence is more convincing than mine, please  explain it in the comments. I will then send you a free 2 Corinthians commentary of your choice if yours is the best (or only) comment!

The sequence in Paul Barnett's NICNT 2 Corinthians commentary is fairly typical (p11-15). I lay out his sequence below, starting just before 1 Corinthians, and giving my own comments in red font.

"Paul sent Titus to Corinth to establish the collection for the Judaean churches" (8:6, 10; 9:2; cf. 1 Cor 16:12)" This is duplication, since we already know from 1 Cor 4:17; 16:10 that Titus-Timothy was sent to Corinth at that time.

... Paul sends 1 Corinthians

"he planned to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, travel through macedonia ..., and spend the winter in Corinth...  Before he could leave Ephesus for Macedonia, however, more bad news arrived, almost certainly brought by Timothy on his return from Corinth after the delivery of 1 Corinthians. So serious was the news that Paul himself now had to go immediately to Corinth, almost a year earlier than he had planned" There is no evidence for this change of plan. It is an unsupported assumption contrived to make the sequence fit. We have no evidence that Timothy returned to Paul in Ephesus.

"Evidently there had been a significant falling away into "impurity, sexual sin and debauchery" (12:21; cf. 13:2). When Paul sought to rectify the situation, this led to "quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" (12:20)" This creates a duplication because this situation had occurred before 1 Corinthians. As e.g. Harris points out, most or all of the 8 vices of 2 Cor 12:20 are addressed in 1 Corinthians. There had been sexual sin (1 Cor 5:9), and after Paul had sought to correct it the vices had arisen.

"While present in Corinth at that time, Paul disclosed a change of plans (cf. 1  Cor 16:5-7). Doubtless due to his perception of the deterioration in the church as he found it, he felt he had to return to the Corinthians directly, then travel to Macedonia, and come to them again before making his final withdrawal from the Aegean region. ... Upon his return to Ephesus, however, Paul decided to abandon that plan and revert to the original itinerary, which would take him from Ephesus through Macedonia to Corinth."  This is a duplication in that 1 Corinthians also shows Paul failing to travel to Corinth (1 Cor 4:18) and instead deciding to go to Macedonia first. Moreover, it is not clear what could have caused Paul to change his mind like this, on Barnett's scheme. He suggests lamely that Paul changed his mind "upon reflection". This is problematic because it would make Paul fickle indeed, and his defense in 2 Cor 1:14-2:3 would be hopelessly inadequate.

"Rather, he chose to write ... the "Severe Letter." This is problematic because of the indications that Paul held the plan of 2 Cor 15-16 when he wrote the Severe Letter (see 2 Cor 1:13-15).

"When Titus did not arrive at Troas..." This is a duplication, since we know from 1 Cor 16:10 that the timing of Timothy's return to Paul was uncertain.

"Titus brought the goood news ...." This creates another problem. How could Titus resolve a problem in Corinth that Paul himself had failed to resolve during Paul's visit?

Thus, after 1 Corinthians, Barnett has:
1. Timothy returns to Paul in Ephesus
2. Paul changes his mind and visits Corinth
3. Paul conceives the plan of 2 Cor 1:15-16
4. Paul returns to Ephesus
5. Paul changes his mind again back to the original plan
6. Paul writes the severe letter
7. Paul sends Titus

I place none of these events after 1 Corinthians.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The sequence of Paul's interactions with the Corinthians

The Corinthian correspondence contains data about the Paul's travels, his travel plans, the movements of Titus and "Timothy", changes in Paul's relationship to the Corinthian church, and the progress of the collection. Commentators, who suffer from the double-vision of seeing Titus and Timothy as different people, have not been able to explain these data, except by constructing implausibly complicated sequences of events involving a lot of repetition. However, when we recognize that Titus was Timothy, an elegantly simple sequence comes into focus:

1. Paul returned to Corinth from Ephesus and, having found sexual immorality among the Corinthian believers, he warned them that he would not be lenient with them when he came back (2 Cor 12:21-13:2).
2. Paul returned to Ephesus.
3. Paul wrote a letter to Corinth, telling them not to mix with sexually immoral people in the church (1 Cor 5:9). This letter may have been delivered by Chloe's people. Paul may have indicated in this letter that he would visit Corinth soon.
4. Paul received news (probably from Chloe's people when they returned) that many of the Corinthian believers were rejecting Paul and his ethos (1 Cor 4), and that they had misinterpreted his letter (1 Cor 5:9-10).
5. Instead of visiting Corinth at the planned time, Paul decided to send Titus-Timothy, with  Erastus and a severe letter, to Corinth (via Macedonia) to give them zeal for Paul and his teaching so that he would not have to be harsh with them when he next visited (1 Cor 4:17-21; 2 Cor 7:12; 2 Cor 1:14; 2 Cor 1:23-2:3). Paul was confident that Titus-Timothy's mission and the severe letter would bring about the desired reconciliation (2 Cor 1:14-15; 2:3; 7:14), so he planned to visit Corinth soon after. Paul planned to make this visit to Corinth and then to proceed to Macedonia before returning to Corinth (2 Cor 1:15-16).
6. Meanwhile those in Corinth who rejected Paul became arrogant and defiant at Paul's failure to arrive at the originally appointed time (1 Cor 4:18-21).
7. Stephanas et al arrived from Corinth in the spring and refreshed Paul's spirit (1 Cor 16:17-18). Titus-Timothy had been delayed and had not yet arrived in Corinth. There was no longer sufficient time for Paul to make a proper visit to Corinth on his way to Macedonia (1 Cor 16:7).
8. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, apologetically explaining that he would not be visiting them before Macedonia (1 Cor 16:5-8). As in the severe letter, he corrected the misunderstanding of his former letter (1 Cor 5:9-10), and urged them to recognize him (1 Cor 4). Paul commended Titus-Timothy's mission (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11) and instructed the Corinthians to start the collection soon (1 Cor 16:1-2). He told them that he would leave Ephesus soon (at Pentecost) (1 Cor 16:8).
9. Titus-Timothy finally arrived in Corinth, where he was received well (2 Cor 7:15), in obedience to Paul's earlier instructions (1 Cor 16:10-11). The severe letter brought the Corinthians to repentance. They turned on one prominent offender and punished him (2 Cor 2:4-8; 7:7-11). Titus-Timothy started the collection in Corinth (2 Cor 8:6). However, the Corinthians did not understand why Paul had cancelled his visit (2 Cor 1:17). The 'super-apostles' probably arrived in Corinth at about that time.
10. Titus-Timothy's delay made it impossible for him to meet up with Paul in Ephesus, or even to intercept him in the Troad (2 Cor 2:12-13). So Titus-Timothy travelled directly to Macedonia and met Paul there (2 Cor 7:5-6).
11. Paul wrote 2 Corinthians.

In short:
The news from Chloe's people caused Paul to delay his announced visit to Corinth until after Titus-Timothy's mission. Titus-Timothy was delayed and, at the time of 1 Corinthians, Paul abandoned the visit completely because time no longer allowed it. Titus-Timothy eventually arrived in Corinth with the severe letter and met Paul in Macedonia.

For detailed arguments in support of many of the elements of this sequence, see R. Fellows "Was Titus Timothy?", JSNT 81 (2001) 33-58.

Notice how most of the events recorded in 2 Corinthians are, with this reconstruction, either reported or anticipated in 1 Corinthians. However, those who see Titus and Timothy as different people, place all the events recorded in 2 Corinthians after the writing of 1 Corinthians, creating intolerable deja vu.

This is the eleventh post in the series on Titus-Timothy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Erastus was the anonymous brother of 2 Cor 12:18

2 Cor 12:18
In 2 Cor 12:17-18 Paul argued that he had not exploited the Corinthians through Titus:
Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent (συναπέστειλα) the (τὸν) brother (ἀδελφόν) with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he?
The Corinthians probably suspected that Paul was trying to profit personally from the collection for Judea, that Titus organized (2 Cor 8:6).

The anonymous 'brother' here has puzzled commentators:
Who this brother was and why he is mentioned at this point is something of a mystery. (Belleville p320)
But it makes perfect sense if Titus was Timothy. The anonymous brother of 2 Cor 12:18 would then be Erastus, Timothy's traveling companion (see Acts 19:22). He was treasurer of Corinth and his mission was to help Timothy organize the collection (see Rom 16:23 and my last post here). Erastus was well known to the Corinthians and, presumably, trusted in the administration of money. He would have had oversight of the collection and his presence with Titus-Timothy would have guaranteed that there was no embezzlement. This explains why Paul mentions the anonymous brother (Erastus) in 2 Cor 12:18: Paul's decision to send Erastus with Titus-Timothy demonstrates to the Corinthians that Paul had no intention of using Titus-Timothy to cheat anyone out of money. This fits the wording well:

1. While Paul says that Titus had not defrauded the Corinthians, he does not say the same thing about the anonymous brother. This shows that the brother's integrity was not in doubt.
2. Paul does not write "I sent the brother", or "I sent Titus and the brother". Instead he writes, "I sent the brother with [him]", using the verb συναπέστειλα. It is the brother's presence alongside Titus that is in view.
3. The article, τὸν, probably suggests that the brother was well-known to the Corinthians. Harris (p891) writes,
The article ... is more probably anaphoric ("the well-known brother" or "the brother whom you know")
4. The root verb sent (apesteila), was "a technical term for the dispatch of an emissary" (Belleville p320), so it is unlikely that the brother was just returning home to Corinth. Paul had given him a role (to help with the collection). The brother's role in the collection is confirmed by his anonymity, which serves to protect the collection from theft or confiscation (see my earlier post here).

Strachan (p35), while unaware that Titus was Timothy, comes close to identifying the anonymous brother as Erastus:
Our brother refers to some unknown individual whose character was so well known to the Corinthians that no question could be raised regarding his complete honesty. His presence would guarantee Titus' integrity.
The absence of Timothy and Titus from 2 Cor 12:18 and Acts 19:22 respectively
If Titus and Timothy were different men it is slightly surprising that Timothy is absent from 2 Cor 12:18 and Titus from Acts 19:22. Indeed, Plummer (p365) wrote,
The fact that Timothy is not mentioned here makes it probable that he never reached Corinth.
Concerning Acts 19:22 Dunn (p262) asks, "why no mention of Titus?". Haenchen (p569) came close to realizing that Titus was Timothy when he observed that:
a journey of Timothy has taken the place of the journey of Titus
The mission of Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22) matches the mission of Titus and the 'brother' of 2 Cor 12:18. This supports the case that Timothy was none other than Titus renamed.

For more on 2 Cor 12:18-19, see this earlier post.

Any comments?