Tag Archives: Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety III (2 Cor 6.14)

This section can be separated into three smaller sections: 6.14a begins with a command to separate from the unbelievers. 6.14b–16a contains five rhetorical questions to reveal to the Corinthians why they should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Finally, in 6.16b Paul conflates two Old Testament texts as the ground for their separation: the Corinthians are the dwelling place of God.

14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

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For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

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For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, 

and I will be their God, 

and they shall be my people. 

Paul closes 6.11–13 with a command for the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and opens this section with the command not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” To be “unequally yoked” comes from Leviticus 19.19 and, primarily, Deuteronomy 22.10, where the “clean” ox and the “unclean” donkey were not to plow together. Paul’s intention may be for the Corinthians to not be in any kind of spiritual relationship with pagans (1 Cor 8.1–10; 10.14, 19–22).

Yet Craig Keener says the “warning against being ‘mismatched’ would at least include marital unions. . . . [because] Paul is thinking of the rivals; as Paul wishes to deliver them [the Corinthians] still virgin to Christ, Satan’s agents threaten to corrupt them with their deceptive gospel (2 Cor 11:2–4)” (194). While not all commentators agree on this point, the “idols” (v. 16) are the false teachers whom Paul refers to as “unbelievers.” These false teachers (or “apostles”) are not merely in competition with Paul but preach an entirely different gospel than he does.

Paul makes clear what is at stake if the Corinthians support his opponents. Much of the terminology used in this section is used to describe the necessity of breaking free from demon-dominated idolatry.1 Keener remarks, “It is not difficult to envision Paul’s conflict with his rivals here; if the Corinthians must be reconciled to Paul to be reconciled to God (5:20–6:13), they also must reject his rivals for their affection” (193). Although up to this point, Paul has not explicitly condemned the false apostles, “If Paul’s precautions, specifically the fortification of the Corinthians against the lies of this ‘present, evil age,’ are real, then so are the spokespersons for this age, whose influence Paul has been seeking to undermine (2 Cor 5:12) throughout the letter, even while they are scarcely mentioned.”2

Conclusion

The believers in Corinth must recognize the opponents as unbelievers and separate from them. If the Corinthians refuse to obey this command, they too will be considered “unbelievers.” The seriousness of the separation from Paul’s opponents is grounded in the five preceding rhetorical questions which each anticipate a negative answer. Paul reinforces the notion of being yoked together with the word “partnership” (seen also in 1.7; 8.4; 9.13) and continues to touch on this theme in his remaining four rhetorical questions (“fellowship” [6.14c], “accord” [6.15a], “portion/share” [6.15b], and “agreement” [6.16a]).

Next time I will cover Paul’s five rhetorical questions.


[1] Compare 2 Cor 6.14 // 1 Cor 10.16–21; 2 Cor 7.1 // 1 Cor 8.7.

[2] DeSilva, David A. “Recasting the Moment of Decision: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 in its Literary Context,” 4–5.

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Separation Anxiety II

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

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

a. The Command to Separate (v. 14–16a)

b. The Promise of Fellowship (v. 16b)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)


Context

2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 comes at the end of a lengthy defense of Paul’s apostleship, stretching from 2:14–7:4.

  • 6:14–7:1 is framed by two sections (6:11–13 and 7:2–4) which consist of Paul’s requests for the Corinthians to make room in their hearts for Paul and his associates (6:13; 7:2):

A  6.11–13, “widen your hearts”

B  6.14–7.1

A’  7.2–4, Make room in your hearts” 

  • In 7:5 Paul picks up where he left off in 2:13 about his uncomfortable travel plans and describes the joy and comfort he experienced when he met with Titus and heard the good news of the Corinthians’ repentance that came as a result of Paul’s previous tearful letter (2:1–4; 7:8).
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  • 2 Cor 8–9: Paul encourages the Corinthians to give to the Jerusalem church knowing that God will fill them with many blessings.
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  • 2 Cor 10-13: Paul pulls no punches combating the influence of the false teachers among the Corinthians. He shows Christ’s glory by explaining to the Corinthians that he has not been a burden to them out of love for them, nor has he harassed them or cheated them in anyway.
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  • Finally, in 13.10, if he must, when he arrives in Corinth for the third time, he will spare no one who rejects his God-given gospel and authority.1

How Does 6.14-7.1 Fit?

G. K. Beale keenly points out, “This is not a general exhortation to separate from the world; rather, Paul likely has in mind that the readers are to separate from the world by not evaluating Paul’s apostleship according to the unbelieving standards of the world, as the preceding context has also focused upon.” While the unbelieving world did remain outside of the church, Paul here “viewed it as a force within the church (cf. 13:5) against whose influence believers needed to be on guard.” Rather than being an interruption, 6:14-7:1 “anticipates the main opposition to be elaborated on in chapters 10–13.” “Paul shows that the situation is so serious that their very salvation is at stake.”2

Some scholars don’t think Paul wrote this section. One in particular (i.e., Mitzi Minor) leaves this section out of her commentary completely. If not Pauline, why comment on it at all? But, if it is Pauline, then we’re missing out on a lot of theology in this section. This is more than a simple, “Don’t be married to an unbelievers.” Paul has Christ’s bride in view!
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1
 In my paper, I didn’t have space to touch on arguments against Pauline authorship of 6:14–7:1. These arguments include the number of hapax legomena (terms which occur only once in the New Testament) Paul uses (ranging from six to nine) in this short passage, the amount of terms found in Qumran texts, and stylistic inconsistencies with Paul’s other letters. Pauline authorship will be argued for in the way I present how this section “hooks” with the rest of the letter.

2 Quotes from G. K Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 716-717.

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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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