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Author Topic: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?  (Read 10231 times)

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Offline spurly

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How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« on: April 25, 2007, 12:46:43 PM »
Before you answer this question, it is not as easy as it sounds.  We have two letters to the Corinthians in our Bible, but in both of these letters Paul refers to another letter.  In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 he refers to a "previous letter" and in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4,9 & 7:8, 12 he refers to a letter written out of great anguish and with many tears which many people call the "sorrowful letter".  Most people believe the previous letter has been lost, however some people believe the "sorrowful letter" is what we have as 1 Corinthians or is attached to the end of 2 Corinthians.  Personally I don't see how Paul could ever regret sending 1 Corinthians, as 2 Corinthians 7:8 seems to indicate that he did at one time.  Nor do I see how 1 Corinthians could be the letter written with many tears and great anguish.  What is your take on the Corinthian correspondence?

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How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« on: April 25, 2007, 12:46:43 PM »

Offline Harold

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2007, 12:52:21 PM »
I have heard four, the two missing were short letters. They could be lost to history, or they could have been incorporated into the letters we already have.

FTL

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2007, 12:52:21 PM »

Offline DCR

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2007, 01:07:03 PM »
I have also heard that there may have been four.

It is an interesting issue.  Would they have been any less inspired than the two we have in our Bibles?  In think there are references to other missing letters as well (i.e. to the church at Laodicea... Colossians 4:16).

What's interesting about Colossians 4:16 is that it shows how letters were to be shared/copied and passed around between churches, which is how we ended up with the canon we have today.  But, in that case, the Colossian letter survived, but the Laodicean letter apparently didn't.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2007, 01:13:54 PM by DCR »

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2007, 01:07:03 PM »

Offline DCR

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2007, 01:11:48 PM »
Nor do I see how 1 Corinthians could be the letter written with many tears and great anguish. 

Just for the sake of argument, I could see it.  Paul had to address some serious problems in 1 Corinthians that were unpleasant yet necessary to address (i.e. their divisions, the way they were behaving, and the matter of the unrepentant man who was with his father's wife).

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2007, 01:11:48 PM »

Offline Nevertheless

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2007, 01:39:24 PM »
I wish we had copies of the letters written from Corinth to Paul.

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2007, 01:39:24 PM »



Offline spurly

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2007, 02:26:16 PM »
I wish we had copies of the letters written from Corinth to Paul.

If we had their letter and knew the question they asked Paul about women it might just clear up once and for all the issue of women speaking or being silent.

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2007, 02:26:16 PM »

Offline BondServant

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2007, 02:27:00 PM »
I'll echo all of the above statements....I have both heard and read there were 4 letters from Paul to the Corinthian church.  Also, I would love to be able to read the letters they wrote to Paul.

KP

Offline gman

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2007, 03:09:01 PM »
You could actually come up with 5 letters based upon what we have in I and II Corinthians.  But to do so you need to break up II Corinthians into three fragments.  It makes an interesting story.  The sequence of events 5 letters creates is intriguing but it's only a guess.

Raymond Brown, author of An Introduction to the New Testament, and one of the more respected scholars on the NT believes II Corinthians holds up as one letter.

When I taught a class on Paul's letters I presented the 5 letter version and the possible story they present, admitting of course that it's only a conjecture.

Offline Dufrdan

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2007, 11:17:42 PM »
Edgar Goodspeed has as good an answer at any I've seen:

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/goodspeed/ch05.html

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2007, 11:17:42 PM »

Offline gman

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2007, 09:38:44 AM »
Here's the breakdown of the letters I've used when presenting this possibility:

After establishing the Corinthian church Paul writes the church a letter on the avoidance of immorality (I Cor. 5:9).  This is either a lost letter or it could be II Cor. 6:14 - 7:1.

After receiving a letter from the Corinthian church with questions and he also learns some things from Chloe.  He responds with what we call I Corinthians.

At some point after I Corinthians is sent, someone arrives in Corinth and stirs up opposition to Paul (II Cor. 11:13-15, 23).  They have letters of recommendation (3:1).  They were Jewish (11:22) but there's not indication they're from Jerusalem.  These visitors made demands (11:19-21), scoffed at Paul (11:30), and challenged Paul's authority and inspiration (13:3).  It seems one attack on Paul's legitimacy was that he (Paul) didn't ask for money from the church for himself (11:7-11; 12:13-18).  It appears these visitors were good speakers (11:6), claimed to have visions and revelations of the Lord (12:1), but preached a different gospel from the one Paul preached (11:4)

Paul learns of this visit and writes a letter ( which could be =II Cor 2:14 - 6:13; 7:2 - 4)

Real danger to Paul's leadership emerges (10:10) so he visits Corinth finding them rebellious and he is insulted (2:5 - 11; 7:12)

Paul sends a furious letter--one he later says he hated having to send (7:8, 12; 2:1 - 4).  (That letter = II Cor. 10 - 13).

Paul sends Titus to check on things (12:17) and learns that his correspondence has been successful.  The church has repented and the one who insulted Paul has been censured (2:6; 7:5 - 11).

Paul writes a conciliatory letter (which is = II Cor 1:1 - 2:13; 7:5 - 9:15).

If you count the letter mentioned in I Cor. 5:9 as a lost one rather than one included within II Corinthians you come up with five possible letters.  Again, an interesting conjecture.

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2007, 09:38:44 AM »

Offline DCR

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2007, 10:00:28 AM »
Very, very interesting gman.  I can tell you've put a lot of thought into that.

Offline s1n4m1n

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2007, 10:35:08 AM »
What would all that mean for inspiration? If someone was willing to chop up letters from an apostle, what's to say they wouldn't insert text as well?

I suspect that one of Paul's secrateries (Timothy, Tertius, Silas?) may have kept copies of Paul's epistles and published them as a single corpus after he died. Perhaps the missing epistles occur when the wasn't present to make a copy.

Ken

Offline CDHealy

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2007, 11:35:25 AM »
I think it's interesting that modern tests for authority/canonicity focus on inspiration, which brings out the speculation as to whether or not St. Paul's letter to the Church at Laodicea, if ever discovered, would be inspired or not?  (Does inspiration have an on/off button?)

The Church, however, in forming the canon did not look at inspiration as a criterion but apostolicity: did it originate from or was it authorized by an apostle?

Offline gman

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2007, 12:18:35 PM »
"Chop up"?  I don't know that someone had to chop up Paul's letters to create II Corinthians.  Who knows how Paul's letters were preserved by the Corinthians.  What may have begun as a set of extant letters could have become fragments in a short period of time.  And those fragments were put together as a single thing.  And the single thing took on life as a single letter.  Far fetched?  Maybe.  But historically speaking not out of the question.

Yes, CD, apostolicity was at the forefront of the decision process.  Luke's writings were accepted because he traveled with Paul.  Hebrews was accepted because it was believed to have been written by Paul.  Interesting that only after selecting writings believed to be apostolic did the Church then label them inspired.  That is, the church said once for all that these letters--to the exclusion of all others--are inspired and thus form the canon.

Offline CDHealy

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Re: How many letters did Paul write to the church in Corinth?
« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2007, 12:26:18 PM »
gman:

Also, both Irenaeus (late 2nd century) and Eusebius (mid-fourth century) noted another criterion: read by the Churches.  In other words, they were works written or authorized by an apostle AND were used liturgically.

Eusebius and Irenaeus both also point out that coherence with the rest of the Scriptures is important, but that of course begs the question: which Scriptures?

But the key is apostolicity, and that apostolicity was demonstrated through the liturgical uses that the Churches the Apostles founded demonstrated, as well as by authoritative teaching of the bishops.