Saturday, February 02, 2008

Book Review: 2 Corinthians by Calvin J. Roetzel

Calvin J. Roetzel
2 Corinthians (ANTC; Nashville: Abingdon, 2007).
Available from Alban Books in the UK
Available from in the USA

Calvin Roetzel is fairly well-known for his work on Paul's letters. This commentary by him on 2 Corinthians is a welcome addition to the series. In his introduction he has the usual background information about Corinth and the Pauline mission in Corinth. But he spends a great deal of time talking about different partition theories of 2 Corinthians. He dismisses arguments for unity based on rhetoric since they may show the integrity of separate rhetorical units but do not solve the abrupt divisions elsewhere in the letter; instead, following M. Mitchell, he maintains a five-letter compilation theory. He identifies five letters in 2 Corinthians. According to Roetzel (pp. 32-33) an overall chronology of Paul in Corinth would then look like this:

1. Paul's preaching in Corinth (= Acts 17)
2. Paul's hearing before Gallio and Paul's expulsion or departure (= Acts 17)
3. The Corinthians write to Paul (1 Cor. 7.1)
4. Paul writes 1 Corinthians responding to both oral and written communication, and dispatches it with Timothy [Note: M.C. de Boer argues that Paul responded to information about the Corinthians from Chloe's people and then responded in a separate letter to questions put to Paul from the Corinthians by Stephanus' household]
5. Paul writes 2 Corinthians 8 - Letter of Appeal for the Offering - and despatches it with Titus.
6. Paul writes 2 Corinthians 2.14-7.4 [he treats 6.14-7.1 as an interpolation] - First Letter in Defense of Paul's Ministry - in light of reports about his fitness for apostolic ministry and lack of authority. After his disastrous trailing vist he left Corinth publicly humilited by an antagonist and hurt by the defecting or passive church (2 Cor. 2.1; 7.9, 11).
7. Paul writes 2 Corinthians 10.1-13.10 - Second Letter of Defence - as a slashing defence of his apostolic ministry and an attack on the super Apostles while in Ephesus. He sends Titus with this "letter of tears" in hope he oculd right teh floundering mission and restore confidence to his ministry.
8. Paul leaves Ephesus to meet up with Titus in Troas (NE Asia Minor). He mets up with Titus in Macedonia who tells him the good news that Paul's rebuke and vigorous defence had the desired result.
9. Paul writes 2 Corinthians 1.1-2.13, 7.5-16, 13.11-13 - Letter of Reconciliation - to the Corinthians since the storm clouds have disappeared.
10. Paul then writes 2 Corinthians 9 - Offering Letter to the Churches of Achaia - in order to garner material support from them during his next visit to the region.
11. Paul travels south to Corinth where he spent some weeks if not the witner and where he wrote the letter to the Roman church, sending them a delegation led by Phoebe, and includes a good rapport with the church at Corinth (Rom. 15.26-32).

When it comes to compilation theories, I say maybe to 2 Corinthians 10-13 as being from a separate letter, but on the whole I'm very cautious (for a good alternative see Colin Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians [TNTC; 1987], 29-32). The big problem I have is that someone would have gone to alot of effort to split up and insert letter # 4 into three different places into 2 Corinthians. What is genuinely odd about Roetzel's book is that he writes his commentary in the order of his partition theory! I could understand that for a commentary in an ICC, Hermeneia, or ECC series, but it seems out of place in commentary designed for college students. I do not see what is wrong with a canonical or final-form approach to 2 Corinthians regardless of what one makes of the unity of the letter. No extant mss of the compilation theory is available and the current canonical form of 2 Corinthians is what has been received, preached, and taught from in the last 1900 years.

That issue aside, the commentary on the whole is sound and helpful.


Matthew D. Montonini said...


Good review. I used to be an advocate of partition theories on 2 Corinthians, but now I am in favor of its compositional unity--as is much of current N.T. scholarship. The cut and paste idea has too many variables and no tangible evidence.

Richard Fellows said...

Mike, thanks for bringing Roetzel's work to my attention. It amazes me how readily some commentators resort to highly complex reconstructions of the Corinthian correspondence involving numerous partitions, changes of travel plans, duplicate journeys, and ups and downs in the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians. Tatum's recent "New chapters in the life of Paul" has eleven more Aegean journey's of Paul, Titus and Timothy than are necessary!

All this complexity results from the commentators' failure to realize that "Timothy" was Titus's conversion name. Here's my reconstruction:

Paul received distressing news from Chloe's people. He sent Titus-Timothy to Corinth via Macedonia with the tearful letter to sort things out. Stephanas et al arrived in Ephesus with a letter from the Corinthians and reassuring news. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Titus-Timothy arrived in Corinth with the tearful letter. 1 Corinthians and the tearful letter did their job and Titus-Timothy started the collection but the "super-apostles" then caused trouble and Titus-Timothy was delayed in Corinth. He was therefore unable to meet up with Paul in Ephesus as planned, or even in the Troad. They met in Macedonia, where Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Simple.

On Titus-Timothy, note that about half of converts to Judaism received a new name. Also note that "Timothy" (meaning "honouring God") would be a very appropriate name to give to Titus when he went with Paul to Jerusalem as the first representative Gentile convert.

If you are wondering why Paul calls him "Titus" where he does in 2 Corinthians, I think it is to protect his identity because the collection was controversial and the letter could have fallen into enemy hands. All three of Titus's travel companions on his collection visits are afforded conspicuous anonymity (2 Cor 8:16-19; 12:18).

Richard. said...

So folk then wouldn't think that Timothy was the Greek form of Titus! Not a very good way to conceal an identity. said...

The irony of a rich uncircumcised Gentile with the name of Titus (the same as that of the destroyer of Jerusalem) visiting Jerusalem having collected gifts for the poor and made large donations himself, should not have escaped your attention. With such mockery, The Pauline editors revealed their Flavian lying hands.

Titus was a literary device - a test case for the entire gentile mission created by the Pauline editors.