Separation Anxiety I

Last semester in my Biblical Hermeneutics class I had to choose a 10-15 verses from any part of the Bible and write a 10-15 page paper. I had to figure out the thesis, explain the meaning and form of the text, and why it’s important to us today. Having taught 2 Corinthians twice in Bible college, I knew immediately which I would choose: 2 Corinthians 6.14–7.1, a highly contested passage of Paul’s with a number of scholars believing that Paul didn’t write this section. Instead, they think it was written by another author later on (see below). I’m no scholar, but it’s incredible some of the things people come up with.

This passage is only six verses, and I ended up writing 18 pages. It was probably my favorite paper that I’ve ever had to write simply because it dealt with 2 Corinthians. Here is my broad outline. I’ll give another slightly-more-expanded one next time.

General Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

A. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

B. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

One reason I enjoy 2 Corinthians so much is that it’s so different. Many of Paul’s letters are fairly straightforward, though nonetheless difficult (per 2 Pet 3.15–16). My first memory reading 2 Corinthians was in Bible College (I was a late bloomer). After I finished I was more confused and knew less about the book than I did before reading it. This began my gradual appreciation for Paul’s “weighty” letter. I hope some of what I have learned comes out in these posts. Enjoy.

The title for my paper Separation Anxiety actually came from an old Spiderman game I played as a kid. In this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul commands the Corinthian church to separate themselves from their beloved false teachers. This separation may include rejecting in their own homes churches who do not repent and who remain with the false teachers (6.14a). After giving reasons the church reasons to separate (6.14b–16a), Paul gives the ground for their need to separate, commands from God to separate, and ends with more promises that will accrue if they obey (6.16b–18). Because God is a Father who can be trusted, and because his promises are good, The Corinthians should cleanse themselves of all defilement and strive to live the life that is pleasing to their Father (7.1; cf. 5.9).

I haven’t figured out how long this series will go, but you can take it in bites while you munch on your cereal. It may not even have time to get soggy before you finish reading.


Introduction

In 2 Corinthians 5:13 the apostle Paul says, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”1 Many scholars have taken Paul, or, rather, his second canonical letter to the Corinthians, to have been “beside itself,” having been written by different hands and compiled in a disoriented way.2 One can add to that some who do not believe 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 was even authored by Paul, but instead was inserted at a later point.3 In my paper I will examine the text of 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 and explain the original meaning of the text, draw literary and thematic connections from 6:14–7:1 and where it is situated in the letter, and build the reader’s confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul, “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1).

After looking briefly at the context surrounding 6:14–7:1, I will examine Paul’s argument in three parts. In 6:14–16, because the Corinthians are God’s temple, they are not to be in fellowship with unbelievers, namely, the false teachers who oppose Paul and any who side with them. In 6:17–18, the Corinthian believers are to separate from the unclean knowing that God will welcome them as his sons and daughters. In 7:1, as a result of these promises, the Corinthians should cleanse themselves, be holy as God is holy, and fear and obey the Lord.


1According to Mark Seifrid, it would be as “if he spoke as one insane” (The Second Letter to the Corinthians [PNTC], 242).

2 See, for instance, Furnish, who provides a short overview of scholars and their arguments; Victor Paul Furnish, (II Corinthians. The Anchor Bible, 32–33).

3 Mitzi L. Minor (2 Corinthians [S&HBC], 132).

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3 Comments

Filed under Biblical Studies

3 responses to “Separation Anxiety I

  1. mccrackenrandy

    Thanks for the article (with a promise of more to come!). I haven’t studied this particular passage or why certain scholars do not believe it is Pauline. However I wanted to note that Timothy may have been a co-author with Paul rather than his amanuensis. E. Randolf Richards argues, convincingly in my opinion, in his book “Paul and First-Century Letter Writing” that co-authorship should be taken seriously when others are mentioned at the beginning of an epistle. If so, it might explain why certain passages don’t sound “Pauline.” Neither Timothy or Titus are specifically said to be Paul’s amanuenses (although I realize this is a supposition of some). However, they are listed as co-authors. Richards’ book is very insightful in terms of how ancient letters were written. I learned that I had many modern presuppositions that skewed my understanding of ancient letter writing. When you don’t have 1200 other books to read, I would highly recommend it. You can also see a review of his book on my site. Here’s the link. http://www.biblestudywithrandy.com/2016/10/ancient-letters-false-assumptions/
    God bless! Maybe we can talk soon!

    Like

    • Thanks, Randy! I’d always just assumed that he just wrote down what Paul said, but that book sounds really interesting. I’ll look it up. Strangely enough, I can only look at the first section of your post. The page just freezes up! I’ll have to try it later.

      Like

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