Background to II Corinthians

Looking at the Content

  1. Read through the entire book of II Corinthians, preferably in one sitting. Read it like you would a letter was written to you from a friend. This will give you an overall feel for what the book is about.
  2. Read through the entire book of II Corinthians a second time and this time jot down answers to the following questions:
    1. Make a list of frequently repeated words, phrases, or ideas.
    2. Who are the people mentioned in II Corinthians?
    3. What events are mentioned which might help us date the book?
    4. What locations are mentioned?
  3. What kind of book is II Corinthians? (Historical, Biographical, Poetic, Proverbial, Prophetic, Instructional, or a combination?)
  4. Mark the locations and events, using different colors for each place or event.

Background to II Corinthians

Class Discussion

  1. Who did you find mentioned in the book?
    1. Are any the same person but mentioned with a different name?
    2. What are the various names for God and the members of the Godhead?
  2. What locations did you find mentioned in the book?
    1. Locate the places on the map.
  3. What events are mentioned which can help date the book? The key is to look for words such as “then,” “after this,” “until,” “before,” “when,” etc.

Dating the II Corinthian Letter

Paul has left Ephesus, went to Troas (II Corinthians 2:12-13), and is now in Macedonia (II Corinthians 7:5-6; 9:2-4). It is possible that Paul had been in Macedonia for at least a year (II Corinthians 9:2).

Background to the Letter

Paul mentions difficulty that he had in Asia, which is where Ephesus is located (I Corinthians 1:8-9). Paul is probably referring to the riot in Ephesus which happened just before his departure (Acts 19:21-20:1). Paul spent a short period of time in Troas but pressed on when he didn’t find Titus as he had hoped. It is from this that we can assume that Titus probably carried the I Corinthian letter to Corinth and Paul wanted to find out how the letter was received.

Several times in II Corinthians Paul mentions that he has been in Corinth twice and this next visit will be his third one (II Corinthians 2:1; 12:14; 13:1-2). In II Corinthians 2:1 Paul hints that the last visit was not a pleasant one. From this, some speculate that Paul might have made a brief visit between the times of I Corinthians and II Corinthians that wasn’t recorded in Acts. However, II Corinthians 1:15-17 is an explanation of why Paul wasn’t able to stop twice in Corinth as he said he had planned before writing I Corinthians. From that, it would seem that the better explanation is that Paul had been in Corinth twice before the writing of I Corinthians.

Timothy was expected to visit Corinth when Paul wrote I Corinthians (I Corinthians 16:10-11). We don’t know if that visit actually took place.

During the time since the first letter, the man who had been allowed to be a member at Corinth (I Corinthians 5:1-5) had been withdrawn from (II Corinthians 2:6).

Titus has visited the church and has since reported to Paul (II Corinthians 7:13-16). From this, we also learn that improvements have been made in the church. Paul has sent Titus, along with two other brothers, back to Corinth after Titus volunteered to go (II Corinthians 8:16-24). It is likely that Titus carried the II Corinthian letter to Corinth.

When Paul does come to Corinth (Acts 20:3-6), he evidently stayed with Gaius and wrote the letter to the Romans (Romans 16:23). There is mention in Romans 16:23 of an Erastus who is treasurer of the city. A first-century inscription has been found in Corinth, which states: “Erastus, the commissioner of public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” In the Roman letter, Paul mentions he is about to head to Jerusalem with the collection mentioned in II Corinthians 8 and 9 (Romans 15:25-27). It is Phoebe, a member of the church in Cenchrea, near Corinth, who delivers the letter to the Romans (Romans 16:1-2).

Class Discussion:

  1. During the class, mark the travels of the people mentioned on the map. Use different colors for each person.
  2. Begin developing unique markings for each set of keywords.


Marking Keywords in II Corinthians

  1. Read through the entire book of II Corinthians a third time and this time mark the keywords as you run across them.
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