†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Criswell Theological Review 4.1 (1989) 3-20.

†††††††††† Copyright © 1989 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.




†††††††††††††††††††† THE STRUCTURE OF

†††††††††††††††††††††† 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7




††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††CRAIG BLOMBERG

†††††††††††††††††††††††† Denver Seminary, Denver, CO 80210



Paulís epistles are generally among the clearest of the NT writings

to outline. After struggling to identify the principles which guided the

gospel writers to arrange parallel pericopae in seemingly conflicting

sequences, or after puzzling over the complex interplay of theology

and ethics in Hebrews and most of the general epistles, the expositor

breathes a sigh of relief when he comes to the letters of Paul. Romans

divides neatly in two after chap. 11, with the previous chapters in turn

subdividing relatively unambiguously according to the stages of God's

plan of redemption for the world. First Corinthians reads like a

checklist of controversial issues in Corinth, with chaps. 1-6 respond-

ing in order to items raised by the messengers from Chloe's household

and chaps. 7-16 replying to questions in a written letter from the

Corinthian church to Paul. Even the shorter epistles usually acknowl-

edged as Pauline, with Philippians as a possible exception, generally

fall into two or three main sections with discernible progressions of

thought within each of these.l

††††††††††† Second Corinthians, therefore, stands out all the more strikingly

with its unparalleled lack of apparent structure and unity. The two

sections which most commentators agree hang together as unified

wholes, chaps. 10-13 and 2:14-7:4, follow so abruptly from the pre-

ceding material that they have regularly been regarded as entirely


††††††††††† 1 See esp. U. Wilckens, Der Brief an die Romer (EKKNT 6/1-3; Zurich: Benziger;

Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1978-82); C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First

Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Black, 1968); H.-D. Betz, Galatians (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1979); B. Rigaux, Les epftres aux Thessaloniciens (Paris: Gabalda; Gembloux:

Duculot, 1956).

4 †††††††††††††††††††† CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW


separate letters interpolated into their present contexts.2 A third much

shorter section, 6:14-7:1, seems intrusive even for many supporters of

the unity of the rest of chaps. 1-9.3 On any scheme Paul seems

preoccupied more with discussing his travel plans, his apostolic au-

thority, and the Corinthians' attitude toward him than with conveying

any lofty theological truths.

††††††††††† The purpose of this paper is not to review all the various theories

which have arisen to account for these phenomena, nor even to

address the problems of the letter's structure beyond those of the first

seven chapters. Rather it is to suggest what I believe is a new ap-

proach to the question of the outline of 1:12-7:16 and to point out the

implications of such an outline for certain issues of interpretation and

integrity. I will take for granted as largely uncontroversial the iden-

tification of the first eleven verses of the epistle as introductory saluta-

tion and thanksgiving, and I will follow the traditional consensus

which sees chaps. 8 and 9 as a relatively discrete section on the

collection for the saints in Jerusalem, despite some recent attempts to

link earlier material more closely with it.4 The structure which I will

propose for the intervening six-and-one-half chapters depends on an

understanding of this section as an extended chiasmus.


††††††††††††††††††††††† I. Criteria for Detecting Extended Chiasmus


††††††††††† Not too many years ago chiastic or inverted parallelism was

scarcely discussed in examinations of the outline of major sections of

Scripture, being viewed simply as a poetic device for short Hebrew

couplets. Today, parts of almost every book in Scripture have been

outlined chiastically, with many of the proposals straining all bounds


††††††††††† 2 For detailed, recent surveys of the various proposals, see V. P. Furnish, II

Corinthians (AB 32A; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984) 29-54; R. P. Martin, 2 Corin-

thian (Waco, TX; Word, 1986) xxxviii-Iii.

††††††††††† 3 E.g., W. G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon,

1975) 291-92; L. T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) 292; C. Kruse, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corin-

thians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) 37-40.

††††††††††† 4 Furnish (II Corinthians, 392) takes 7:4-16 as an introduction to chaps. 8-9 and as

part of a larger section of appeals from 5:20-9:15. C. K. Barrett (A Commentary on the

Second Epistle to the Corinthians [London: Black, 1973J 51) makes 7:5-9:15 a major

division entitled "Paul's plans for Corinth, and their working out in the future." On the

other hand, H.-D. Betz (2 Corinthians 8 and 9. [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985J) epitomizes

an important opposing tradition which finds the disjuncture between chaps. 7-8 so

great as to assume that chap. 8 begins a new letter. Betz's case remains unproved, but it

at least demonstrates the major caesura in Paul's outline at this point."

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS †††††††††5


of credulity. In his II Chiasmo nella Bibbia, A. di Marco has compiled

a voluminous catalog of likely and unlikely hypotheses from modern

scholarship through the mid-seventies.5 J. Welch's anthology, Chias-

mus in Antiquity, also offers a number of improbable proposals but

nevertheless succeeds in demonstrating the widespread use of chias-

mus in both prose and poetry, both Hoch- and Kleinliteratur, through-

out the ancient Near East.6 Two observations emerge from di Marco's

and Welch's works. First, chiasmus was used far more widely in the

ancient world than it is today, so that it likely underlies numerous

portions of Scripture where it has not usually been perceived. Second,

because chiastic outlines have become so fashionable among biblical

scholars, any new hypotheses should be subjected to a fairly rigid set

of criteria before being accepted. Yet I know of no study which has

mandated detailed criteria which hypotheses of extended chiasmus

must meet in order to be credible.7 I propose the following nine

criteria, therefore, as sufficiently restrictive to prevent one from imag-

ining chiasmus where it was never intended:

††††††††††† (1) There must be a problem in perceiving the structure of the

text in question, which more conventional outlines fail to resolve. This

criterion singlehandedly casts serious doubts over many recent pro-

posals.8 If a more straightforward structure can adequately account

for the textual data, recourse to less obvious arrangements of the

material would seem, at the very least, to risk obscuring what was

already clear.

††††††††††† (2) There must be clear examples of parallelism between the two

"halves" of the hypothesized chiasmus, to which commentators call

attention even when they propose quite different outlines for the text

overall. In other words, the chiasmus must be based on hard data in


††††††††††† 5 Torino: Marietti, 1980. Cf. idem, "Der Chiasmus in der Bibel," Linguistica

Biblica 36 (1975) 21-97; 37 (1976) 37-85; 44 (1979) 3-70.

††††††††††† 6 Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1981. Cf. also K. E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant: A

Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976)

44-75; A. Stock, "Chiastic Awareness and Education in Antiquity," BTB 14 (1984)


††††††††††† 7 D. Clark ("Criteria for Identifying Chiasm," Linguistica Biblica 35 [1975] 63-72)

promises more than he delivers, suggesting merely that one look for a combination of

parallels in form, content and language, and spends most of his time discussing only

one example, that of J. Dewey on Mark 2:1-3:6.

††††††††††† 8 E.g., P. M. Scott, "Chiastic. Structure: A Key to the Interpretation of Mark's Gos-

pel,"BTB 15 (1985) 17-26; K. E. Bailey, "The Structure of 1 Corinthians and Paul's Theo-

logical Method with Special Reference to 4:17," NovT 25 (1983) 152-81; M. Girard, "La

composition structurelle des sept signes dans Ie quatrieme evangile," SR 9 (1980) 315-24.

More straightforward outlines of Mark, 1 Corinthians, and John adequately account for

the textual data.

6 †††††††††††††††††††† CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW


the text which most readers note irrespective of their overall syn-

thesis. Otherwise it is too simple to see what one wants to see and to

impose on the text an alien structural grid.9

††††††††††† (3) Verbal (or grammatical) parallelism as well as conceptual (or

structural) parallelism should characterize most if not all of the cor-

responding pairs of subdivisions. The repetitive nature of much bibli-

cal writing makes it very easy for general themes to recur in a variety

of patterns.10

††††††††††† (4) The verbal parallelism should involve central or dominant

imagery or terminology, not peripheral or trivial language. Ancient

writers often employed key terms as catchwords to link passages

together, although the material they considered central does not al-

ways match modern preconceptions of what is important.11

††††††††††† (5) Both verbal and conceptual parallelism should involve words

and ideas not regularly found elsewhere within the proposed chias-

mus. Most unpersuasive proposals fail to meet this criterion; while the

pairings suggested may be plausible, a little ingenuity can demon-

strate equally close parallelism between numerous other pairs of pas-

sages which do not support a chiastic whole.12

††††††††††† (6) Multiple sets of correspondences between passages opposite

each other in the chiasmus as well as multiple members of the chias-

mus itself are desirable. A simple ABA' or ABB' A' pattern is so

common to so many different forms of rhetoric that it usually yields

few startlingly profound insights.13 Three or four members repeated

in inverse sequence may be more significant. Five or more elements


††††††††††† 9 This would seem to be a major problem for K. A. Strand, "The Eight Basic

Visions in the Book of Revelation," AUSS 25 (1987) 107-21. A more natural parallelism

would pair the seven seals and seven bowls with the seven trumpets in the middle. Cf.

also the very vague parallels suggested by K. Grobel, "Chiastic Retribution-Formula in

Romans 2," Zeit und Geschichte (FS. R. Bultmann; Tubingen: E. Dinkler, 1964) 255-61.

††††††††††† 10 Thus weakening the hypotheses, e.g., of E. S. Fiorenza, "Composition and

Structure of the Book of Revelation," CBQ 39 (1977) 344-66; and S. J. Kidder, "'This

Generation in Matthew 24:34," AUSS 21 (1983) 203-9.

††††††††††† 11 The most comprehensive study on catchwords remains M. Jousse, Le style oral

rhythmique et mnemotechnique (Paris: Beauchesne, 1925, 1981). Much NT writing with

these kinds of links resembles various kinds of Jewish midrash; on which see R. T.

France and D. Wenham, eds., Gospel Perspectives III: Studies in Midrash and Histori-

ography (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983).

††††††††††† 12 I have emphasized this point in my "Midrash, Chiasmus, and the Outline of

Luke's Central Section," in ibid., 217-61. See, e.g., the proposals of M. D. Goulder, "The

Chiastic Structure of the Lucan Journey," TU 87 (1964) 195-202; C. H. Talbert,

Literary Patterns, Theological Themes and the Genre of Luke-Acts (Missoula, MT:

Scholars Press, 1974) 58-65; Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 79-85.

††††††††††† 13 But see below n. 51.

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS †††††††7


paired in sequence usually resist explanations which invoke subcon-

scious or accidental processes.14

††††††††††† (7) The outline should divide the text at natural breaks which

would be agreed upon even by those proposing very different struc-

tures to account for the whole. If a proposed chiasmus frequently

violates the natural "paragraphing" of the text which would otherwise

emerge, then the proposal becomes less probable.15

††††††††††† (8) The center of the chiasmus, which forms its climax, should be

a passage worthy of that position in light of its theological or ethical

significance. If its theme were in some way repeated in the first and

last passages of the text, as is typical in chiasmus,16 the proposal

would become that much more plausible.

††††††††††† (9) Finally, ruptures in the outline should be avoided if at all

possible. Having to argue that one or more of the members of the

reverse part of the structure have been shifted from their correspond-

ing locations in the forward sequence substantially weakens the hy-

pothesis; in postulating chiasmus, exceptions disprove the rule!17

††††††††††† These nine criteria are seldom fulfilled in toto even by well-

established chiastic structures, so it would seem these controls might

actually be too rigid. But granted that some exceptions should be

permitted, the more of these criteria which a given hypothesis fails to

meet, the more sceptical a reception it deserves. Conversely, a hy-

pothesis which fulfills most or all of the nine stands a strong chance of

reflecting the actual structure of the text in question. Considering a

small spectrum of recent proposals not already mentioned in the notes

above, and without defending each application in detail, I would thus


††††††††††† 14 For one attempt to give precise statistical quantifIcation to judgments of this

type, see Y. T. Radday, "Chiasmus in Hebrew Biblical Narrative," in Welch, Chiasmus,

50-117, esp. the appendix, 116-17.

††††††††††† 15 Here is a major problem with P. F. Ellis, The Genius of John (Collegeville, MN:

Liturgical, 1984). John 4:39-45 is not really detachable from 4:4-38 (or else vv 39-42

should go with 4-38 and 43-45 with 46-52). Cf. also the unusual outline of R. Morgen-

thaler, Die lukanische Geschichtsschreibung als Zeugnis (Zurich: Zwingli, 1948) 1:156-57.

††††††††††† 16 On interpreting chiasmus in general, see the pioneering work of N. W. Lund,

Chiasmus in the New Testament (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press,

1942). More recently, but much more briefly, cf. J. Breck, "Biblical Chiasmus: Ex-

ploring Structure for Meaning," BTB 17 (1978) 70-74.

††††††††††† 17 Thus calling into question, e.g., D. R. Miesner, "The Missionary Journeys

Narrative: Patterns and Implications," Perspectives on Luke-Acts (ed. C. H. Talbert;

Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978) 199-214; C. H. Talbert, "Artistry and Theology: An

Analysis of the Architecture of Jn 1, 19-5,47" CBQ 32 (1970) 341-66. Talbert correctly

recognizes that not all structures are perfect in form, but he does not distinguish between

ruptures which do not call into question an overall outline and those which do. More

nuanced is H. V. D. Parunek, "Oral Typesetting: Some Uses of Biblical Structure," Bib 62

(1981) 168.

8 †††††††††††††††††††† CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW


assess A. Culpepper's view of John 1:1-18 as highly likely;18 P. Davids'

approach to the Epistle of James as quite plausible even though more

complex than a simple inversion;19 K. Wolfe's analysis of Luke-Acts as

attractive, though fairly general;20 H. J. B. Combrink's outline of

Matthew as at least slightly more convincing than current alternatives;21

my own work on Luke's central section as at least no worse than the

alternatives;22 A. Vanhoye's treatment of Hebrews as not terribly

helpful;23 D. Deeks on the Fourth Gospel as much too vague and

subtle;24 and J. Bligh on Galatians as painfully forced and hopelessly

elaborate.25 These examples could be multiplied, with the less con-

vincing ones outweighing the more convincing, but they provide a

sufficient sample for comparison with the proposal for 2 Corinthians

1- 7 put forward here.


††††††††††††††††††††††† II. The Outline of 2 Cor 1:12-7:16

††††††††††† The outline to be submitted to these nine criteria for evaluation is

as follows:


A ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† A'

†† 1:12-22--the Corinthians can ††††††††††††††††† ††††7:13b-16--Paul can rightfully boast

††††††††††† rightfully boast in Paul ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in the Corinthians

B ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† B'

†† 1 :23- 2: 11--grief and comfort over ††††† ††††7 :8-13a--grief and comfort over

††††††††††† the painful letter; hope for ††††††††††††††††††††††††† the painful letter; joy after

††††††††††† forgiving the offender ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† forgiving the offender


††††††††††† 18 R. A. Culpepper, "The Pivot of John's Prologue," NTS 27 (1980-81) 1-31.

††††††††††† 19 P.H. Davids, The Epistle of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 22-29. The

principal criterion not met is (8).

††††††††††† 20 K. R. Wolfe, "The Chiastic Structure of Luke-Acts and Some Implications for

Worship," Southwestern Journal of Theology 22 (1980) 60-71. Criteria (3) and (6)

would seem least satisfactorily met.

††††††††††† 21 H.. J. B. Combrink, "The Structure of the Gospel of Matthew as Narrative,"

Tyndale Bulletin 34 (1983) 61-00. Criteria (3), (4), and (5) are all in doubt, but all the

rest are met very nicely.

††††††††††† 22 Blomberg, "Midrash." All nine criteria are met but the biggest problems revolve

around the source-critical hypotheses required.

††††††††††† 23 A. Vanhoye, La structure litteraire de fepitre aux Hebreux (Paris: Desclee,

1963). Vanhoye's structure is not entirely chiastic, based on subtle connections between

proposed "catchwords," and overly complex.

††††††††††† 24 D. Deeks, "The Structure of the Fourth Gospel," NTS 15 (1968) 107-29. Few of

the proposed correspondences are close, and the resulting outline is an unlikely hybrid

of synonymous and antithetical parallels.

††††††††††† 25 J. Bligh, Galatians in Greek (Detroit: University of Detroit Press, 1966). Bligh

postulates as many as five overlapping levels of concentricity, with the vast majority of

his correspondences being extremely vague.

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS †††††††9



†† 2:12-13--looking for Titus in ††††††††††††††††† ††††7:5-7--finding Titus in Macedonia

††††††††††† Macedonia

D ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† D'

†† 2:14-4:6--a series of contrasts-- †††††††††††† ††††6:11-7:4--a series of

††††††††††† belief vs. unbelief, centered on †††††††††††††††††† contrasts-belief vs. unbelief,

††††††††††† Christians as the letters of the ††††††††††††††††††† centered on Christians as the

††††††††††† living God, in glory being ††††††††††††††††††††††††††† temple of the living God, in light

††††††††††† transformed into his image †††††††††††††††††††††††† being transformed into his

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† holiness

†††† a 2:14-16a--death vs.life ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††a 6:11-13--widen your hearts

†††† b 2:16b-3:3--false vs true ††††††††††††††††††††† ††††b 6:14-7:1--separate yourselves

††††††††††† approaches to ministry ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† from uncleanness

†††† c 3:4-18--old covenant vs. new †††††a' 7:2-4--open your hearts

†††† b' 4:1-2--false vs. true'approaches

††††††††††† to ministry

†††† a' 4:3-6--darkness vs. light

E †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† E'

†††† 4:7-5:10--surviving and triumphing ††††† ††††6:1-10-surviving and triumphing

††††††††††† despite every hardship (see esp. †††††††††††††††† despite every hardship (see esp.

††††††††††† vv.8-10) †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† vv.8b-10)

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† F

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †† 5:11-21-the theological climax:

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †† the ministry of reconciliation


It would seem that this outline satisfies all nine criteria remarkably


††††††††††† (1) The difficulty in following Paul's train of thought and the in-

adequacy of previous outlines is readily admitted by most commen-

tators. Toward the beginning of the century, for example, A. Plummer


††††††††††† With regard to the letter itself it is better to talk of 'contents' rather than

††††††††††† 'plan.' Beyond the three clearly marked divisions (i.-vii.; viii., ix.; x.-xiii.)

††††††††††† there is not much evidence of plan. In these main divisions the Apostle

††††††††††† seems to have dictated what he had to say just as his thoughts and

††††††††††† feelings moved him, without much consideration of arrangement or

††††††††††† logical sequence.26


Due to the occasional nature of the epistles, there is nothing inherently

implausible in this, except that Paul regularly seems rather more

organized. A digression like Phil 3:2-4:7 might provide a partial


††††††††††† 26 A. Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of I

St. Paul to the Corinthians (ICC; Edinburgh: T, & T, Clark, 1915) xx.



parallel for a section such as 2 Cor 6:14-7:127 but hardly for one as

substantial as 2:14-7:4. An outline which avoids such digressions, if a

reasonable one can be found, would seem to be preferable. Yet a

survey of current analyses which attempt to do more than simply label

the paragraphs in sequence without any assessment of coordination

and subordination28 regularly reveals the recourse to postulating major

and minor digressions of various sorts. In addition to 2: 14- 7:4 and

6:14- 7:1,29 C. K. Barrett is forced to call 5:1-10 on the resurrection of

the believer "a digression illustrating further the relative unimportance

of the earthenware container,"30 V. Furnish admits that he views 1:18-

22 on Paul's integrity in his promises "a somewhat ponderous excur-

sus,"31 and W. Schmithals finds a sufficient break after 6:2 to split

2:14- 7:4 into two separate letters at that point.32 Surely one ought to

welcome proposals that would improve on these. R. Martin is on the

right track when he labels 2:14-7:4 "the main theme" of the letter rather

than a digression, but the shifts from one section to the next remain as

abrupt as ever.33

††††††††††† (2) As the outline indicates, there is no problem demonstrating

conceptual parallelism between the forward and reverse sequences of

the chiasmus. The objects of boasting vary from A to A', but the

purpose of Paul's expressions of confidence remains the same in each

case: to "state the view of the writer that he hopes his readers now

have or will gain from the commendation."34 B and B' obviously


††††††††††† 27 Philippians has also given rise to theories of multiple letter fragments, but see B.

Mengel, Studien zum Philipperbrief (WUNT 2/8; Tubingen: Mohr, 1982). Cf. W. J.

Dalton, "The Integrity of Philippians,Ē Bib 60 (1979) 97-102; D. E. Garland, "The

Composition and Unity of Philippians," NovT 27 (1985) 141-73; D. F. Watson, "A

Rhetorical Analysis of Philippians and Its Implications for the Unity Question," NovT

30 (1988) 57-88.

††††††††††† 28 As e.g., in P. E. Hughes, Paulís Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1961); J. Hering, La seconde epitre de Saint Paul aux Corinthiens (CNT 8;

Neuchatel: Delachaux et Niestle, 1958); H. Lietzmann, An die Korinther 1/11 (HNT 9;

Tiibingen: 1969); R. H. Strachan, The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (London:

Hodder & Stoughton, 1935); J.-F. Collange, Enigmes de la deuxieme epitre de Paul aux

Corinthiens (SNTS 18; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

††††††††††† 29 Even those who argue for the unity of the epistle regularly refer to these

sections as digressions. See e.g., M. J. Harris, "2 Corinthians," (EBC 10; ed. F. E.

Gaebelein; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976) 317; R. V. G. Tasker, The Second Epistle

of Paul to the Corinthians (London: Tyndale, 1958) 29-30; F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2

Corinthians (London: Oliphants, 1971) 214.

††††††††††† 30 Barrett, Second Corinthians, 51.

††††††††††† 31 Furnish, II Corinthians, 141. N. Hyldahf ("Die literarische Einheit des 2 Korin-

therbriefes," ZNW 64 [1973] 296) includes v. 17 as part of the digression.

††††††††††† 32 W. Schmithals, "Die Korintherbriefe als Briefsammlung," ZNW 64 (1973) 288.

††††††††††† 33 Martin, 2 Corinthians, xxxvii.

††††††††††† 34 S. N. Olson, "Epistolary Uses of Expressions of Self-Confidence," JBL 103

(1984) 596. Cf. idem, "Pauline Expressions of Confidence in His Addressees," CBQ 47

(1985) 282-95.

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS ††††††11


belong together in all attempts to understand the offending party at

Corinth, as a glance at most any introduction to 2 Corinthians reveals.

The similarity between 2:12-13 and 7:5-7 is the very reason why the

intervening text has been labeled an interpolation or a digression.35

The catalogs of Christian hardships which are ultimately overcome in

4:7-12 and 6:3-10 are regularly compared as among the most poignant

in all of Scripture.36

††††††††††† The least obvious pair matches 2:14-4:6 with 6:11-7:4. Still, both

of these sections linger long on the clear-cut contrasts between true

Christianity and its opposition: false teachers in Corinth, improper

responses by the Corinthians, and inappropriate application of the old

covenant in the age of the new. More strikingly, both sections focus

heavily on key OT Scriptures which bear on the situation in Corinth.

J. McDonald has perceptively suggested that these two sections form

the beginning and end of a midrashic homily, following Jewish con-

vention of citing a catena of texts at the start and climax of various

units of preaching material.37 Nevertheless, because Paul dwells re-

peatedly on so many themes close to his heart in this epistle--joy in

the midst of suffering, the blessing and comfort of God, his apostolic

authority and integrity, the appeal to the Corinthians to be reconciled

to him, to each other, and to God-what will be needed to defend the

detail of the proposed chiasmus is unique, verbal parallelism between

the various paired sections.

††††††††††† (3) In fact close verbal parallels do exist, pairing each of the main

sectjons of the outline with its counterpart. Paul's "boasting" in the

Corinthians and his urging them "to boast" in him are linked by the

repetition of kau<xhsij, kau<xhma, kauxa<omai, (1:12, 14; 7:14[2x]). The

sections on Paul's painful letter and the repentant excommunicant are

dominated by words for "grief"ólu<ph/lupe<w (2:1, 2[2x], 3[2x], 4,

5[2x], 7; 7:8[2x], 9[3x], 10[2x], 11).7:5-6 repeats the language of 2:13

very closely: e]ch?lqon ei]j Makedoni<an ("I went away into Macedonia")

becomes e]lqo<ntwn h[mw?n ei]j Makedoni<an ("after we came to Mace-

donia"), ou]k e@sxhka a@nesin tou? pneu?mati mou ("I had no rest in my


††††††††††† 35 G. Bomkamm, "The History of the Origin of the So-Called Second Letter to the

Corinthians," NTS 8 (1962) 259-60; R. Bultmann, De, zweite Brief an die Korinther

(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1976) 23; E. Best, Second Corinthians (In-

terpretation; Atlanta: John Knox, 1987) 2.

††††††††††† 36 R. Holstad ("Eine Hellenistische Parallele zu 2. Kor. 6,3ff.," ConNT 9 [1944]

22-27) and A. Fridrichsen, ("Zum Thema 'Paulus und die Stoa': Eine stoische Stil-

parallele zu 2. Kor. 4,8f.," ConNT 9 [1944] 27-32) not only pointed out their similarity

to each other but also to Hellenistic catalogues of suffering, esp. in Diogenes and

Plutarch. The parallelism is made that much more obvious by the two articles' appear-

ing back-to-back in the same source!

††††††††††† 37 J. I. H. McDonald, "Paul and the Preaching Ministry: A Reconsideration o£

2 Cor. 2:14-17 in Its Context," JSNT 17 (1983) 43-47.



spirit") is balanced nicely by ou]demi<an e@sxhken a@nesin h[ sa<rc h[mw?n

("our flesh had no rest"), and mh> eu[rei?n me Ti<ton ("my not finding

Titus") corresponds to e]n t^? parousi<% Ti<tou ("by the coming of

Titus"). The fourth pair of passages is connected somewhat more

loosely but the repetition of kardi<a ("heart"--3:1, 3, 15; 4:6; 6:11; 7:3),

parrhsi<a ("boldness"-3:12; 7:4), and qeou? zw?ntoj ("living God"-3:13;

6:16) are all worth noting. More significantly, both 4:6 and 6:14 contrast

"light" and "darkness" (fw?j, sko<toj). Sections E and E' are linked most

obviously by the catalogs of sufferings enumerated, but there is also

verbal parallelism in the introductory combinations of qlibo<menoi ou]

stenoxwrou<menoi ("being afflicted but not distressed"--4:8) and e]n

qli<yesin . . . e]n stenoxwri<aj ("in afflictions. . . in distresses--6:4).

††††††††††† (4) Only superficial familiarity with this epistle is required to

recognize that the terminology identified as parallel in each case

epitomizes central concerns of Paul rather than peripheral issues.38

††††††††††† (5) Not all of these terms and phrases are entirely unparalleled in

2 Cor 1:12-7:16, but overall their frequency in the sections paired as

opposites is significant. Paul's only other boasting comes in 5:12 and

7:4, and the former verse, in which both verbal and nominal forms

appear, falls in the center of the chiasmus, where one expects thoughts

from the "extremes" to be reiterated. In light of his seventeen uses of

this word group in chaps. 10-13, the relative infrequency of his

"boasts" in these opening chapters makes those references which do

occur that much more worthy of notice. The grief which dominates

1:23-2:11 and 7:8-13 never recurs elsewhere in chaps. 1-7, and only

once in the rest of the entire epistle (9:7). The phrases linking 2:13

with 7:5-6 are wholly unparalleled. As for D and D', "heart" re-

appears three times outside of the passages which are matched, but

the specific expressions for "boldness" and "the living God" are

unique. "Darkness" occurs nowhere else in 2 Corinthians; "light," only

in 11:14. "Tribulations" and "distresses," which link E and E', occur

elsewhere separately but never together, a fact all the more suggestive

since Paul pairs stenoxwri<a and qli<yij in two of its other three NT

occurrences (Rom 2:9; 8:35; diff. 2 Cor 12:101).

††††††††††† (6) The identification of five sections to each "half" of the chias-

mus clearly satisfies the criterion of multiple correspondences. Addi-

tionally, each pair has several features or several occurrences of the

same feature in common. In addition to the general headings and

specific linguistic details already listed, the following observations


††††††††††† 38 The most comprehensive work on the theology of 2 Corinthians remains K.

Prumm, Diakonia Pneumatos I-III (Freiburg: Herder, 1960-67). More briefly, cf.

M. Rissi, Studien zum zweiten Korintherbrief (Zurich: Zwingli, 1969).

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS ††††††13


lend further credence to the outline at the point where most proposals

fail--finding a plausible way to incorporate 6:14-7:1 into the larger

context. To begin with, 6:11-13 and 7:2-4 form an oft-noted unity, so

that if the intervening verses are not an interpolation, then 6:11-7:4

forms an aba' pattern itself.39 In both a and a' Paul pleads for the

Corinthians to open or widen their hearts to accept his friendship and

authority once again, reassuring them of his affection for them. He

thus "cushions the blow" which 6:14-7:1 would inevitably land, with

their stem injunctions to keep separate from all manner of evil.40 It is

even likely that the partnership with unrighteousness which is ap-

parently plaguing some in Corinth (6:14) is the very reason why they

are restrained in their response to Paul (6:12).41 But if they recognize

their status as God's children (6:18), and act morally as that status

demands, then they will be able to accept Paul's relationship to them

as a father to his spiritual children (6:13).

††††††††††† Not only does 6:14-7:1 thus have logical links with the verses

which frame it, but it also contains an internal chiasmus. Paul has

arranged his four OT citations in vv. 16-18 so that they begin and end

with verbally parallel promises of God (e@somai au]tw?n qeo>j kai> au]toi>

e@sontai mou lao<j ["I will be their God and they will be my peo-

ple"]/ e@somai u[mi?n ei]j pate<ra kai> u[mei?j e@sesqe moi ei]j ui[ou>j kai>

qugate<raj ["I will be father to you and you will be to me as sons and

daughters"]). In between, he sandwiches two conceptually parallel

imperatives: "come out from them and be separate" and "touch no

unclean thing."

††††††††††† Interestingly, the passage opposite 6:11-7:4 also divides into a

careful chiastic pattem-abcb'a'. In 2:14-16a and 4:3-6 Paul contrasts

the two opposite fates of those who accept or reject the gospel--life

vs. death and light vs. darkness. The passages 2:16b-3:3 and 4:1-2

both compare the integrity 6f Paul's ministry with the deceit of the

false teachers. Paul needs no letters of "commendation" (3:1) because

he "commends" himself to everyone's conscience (4:2).42 In between,

3:4-18 explores the relationship between old and new covenants,

comparing the transient glory of the letter of the Law which kills with

the permanent glory of the Spirit of Christ which gives life. Thus in


††††††††††† 39 J. Lambrecht, "The Fragment 2 Cor vi 14-vii I: A Plea for Its Authenticity,"

Miscellanea Neotestamentica II (eds. T. Baarda, A. F. J. Klijn, W. C. van Unnik;

Leiden: Brill, 1978) 147.

††††††††††† 40 Plummer, Second Corinthians, xxv; Hughes, Second Corinthians, 244.

††††††††††† 41 E.-B. Allo, Seconde epitre aux Corinthiens (Paris: Gabalda, 1956) 183; Harris,

"2 Corinthians," 303.

††††††††††† 42 On 4:1-6 as summarizing 2:15-3:18, see T. E. Provence, "'Who Is Sufficient for

These Things?' An Exegesis of 2 Corinthians ii 15-iii 18," NovT 24 (1982) 57.



2:14-4:6, Paul proceeds from an appeal for the Corinthians to accept

him because the Spirit of the living God written on their hearts is his

letter of recommendation, to a sharp contrast between the life-giving

Spirit and life-killing letter via exposition from the OT teaching on

new and old covenants, to the theological indicative that they are

being more and more conformed to Christ's likeness.43 Similarly, in

6:11- 7:4, Paul begins with an appeal for the Corinthians to accept him

into their hearts, moves on to a sharp contrast between Christ's be-

stowing righteousness and Belial's producing sin in the temple of the

living God, and concludes with the ethical imperative of perfection in

holiness. The similarity is sufficient to render unnecessary any recourse

to misplaced letters or major digressions.

††††††††††† (7) Every division in the proposed chiasmus appears as a major

or minor break in the Nestle-Aland Greek NT and is supported by

various commentaries.44 Not all command the consensus that 2:13 and

7:4 do, but if they did then the problem of the outline would already

have been solved! Much of the disagreement stems from the fact that

Paul's logic contains regular transitional paragraphs which can easily

be taken as either concluding a previous thought or beginning a new

thought, unless an overarching structure makes it clear what must fit


††††††††††† (8) The center of the chiasmus certainly creates a fitting climax.

Paul has already proclaimed to the Corinthians "Jesus Christ and him

crucified" as the heart of his gospel (1 Cor 2:2). No more appropriate

center for 2 Cor 1-7 could be found. Paul perseveres in his ministry

because he is convinced that "Christ died for all" (5:14), offering a

restored relationship between God and men (5:19), and enabling

those who are "in Christ" to become new creations (5:17). Like am-

bassadors, they in turn proclaim the forgiveness of sins to others

(5:20). Paul thus describes Jesus' ministry as one of reconciliation, a

ministry which then becomes the mandate of the believer once he is

reconciled to God (5:18-20). Verse 21 concludes this section with one

of the strongest statements of the substitutionary atonement in all of


††††††††††† 43 For more on the self-contained unity and structure of 2:14-4:6, see esp. J.

Lambrecht, "Structure and Line of Thought in 2 Cor 2, 14-4,6," Bib 64 (1983) 344-80.

Cf. also C. J. A. Hickling, "The Sequence of Thought in II Corinthians, Chapter

Three," NTS 21 (1974-75) 380-95.

††††††††††† 44 See e.g., Barrett (Second Corinthians, 51) for major breaks at 1:22; 2:13; 4:6;

5:10; and 5:21; Tasker (Second Corinthians, 30) for 2:11 and 6:10; and Harris ("2 Corin-

thians," 317) for 7:4., 13a, and 7:16.

††††††††††† 45 In three instances, the correspondences I have pointed out often fall in the

central parts of a given section as I have subdivided the text so that minor alterations in

the "seams" would 1eave the chiastic structure unaffected. Thus 1:23-24 could be taken

as the end of A, 1:15-22 as the start of B, or 6:1-2 as the end of F.

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS ††††††15


the NT: "for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that

in him we might become the righteousness of God."46

††††††††††† (9) There is no question of dislocation in the outline to ruin the

symmetry and weaken the hypothesis. Each member of the first part

of the chiasmus reappears in its proper place in the second.


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† III. Implications of This Structure


††††††††††† The significance of identifying a chiastic outline as the structural

key to a given text in many ways differs little from that of any other

type of outline; it better enables the expositor to follow the author's

progression of thought and to emphasize the points which he empha-

sized and to subordinate those he subordinated.47 Additionally, how-

ever, certain unique features arise, three of which may be elaborated


††††††††††† (1) The climax of a chiasmus is its center, as already stressed.

Second Corinthians has often been viewed as one of Paul's less theo-

logical and more pastoral letters, primarily because the reply to his

opponents in Corinth occupies so much of his attention. Certainly he

spends a majority of his time dealing with his relationship with the

Corinthians and those who are opposing him. But in any piece of

writing, the main points are not necessarily those which appear most

often but which recur in the most strategic or emphatic positions in

the outline. This should cause one to think again about the significance

of 5:11-21 for 2 Cor 1-7. It would seem that a strong case can be

made for seeing these verses as containing the central point which

Paul was trying to make. Yes, Paul earnestly desires the Corinthians to

accept his authority and advice, but such acceptance can occur only

as they recognize their sin and acknowledge the one who became sin

to make them righteous. They must be transformed into new crea-

tures in Christ on the basis of his cross-work and reconciled to one


††††††††††† 46 Attempts to describe the NT's views on the death of Christ without employing

this concept remain truncated. See esp. J. I. Packer, "What Did the Cross Achieve? The

Logic of Penal Substitution," Tyndale Bulletin 25 (1974) 3-45. On 5:21 in particular,

Harris ("2 Corinthians," 354) offers these balanced comments: "it seems Paul's intent to

say more than that Christ was made a sin-offering and yet less than that Christ became

a sinner." Cf. M. Tolbert, "Theology and Ministry: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21," Faith and

Mission 1 (1983) 63-70: "Jesus in his suffering and death plumbed the depths of the

human situation of despair and alienation that results from the reign of sin."

††††††††††† 47 See esp. W. C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids:

Baker, 1981); J. H. Hayes and C. R. Holladay, Biblical Exegesis (Atlanta: John Knox,

1982), and note the comments on chiasmus, 73-74.

††††††††††† 48 In addition to the works cited in nn. 6 and 16 above, see R.E. Man, "The Value

of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation," BSac 141 (1984) 146-57.



another as the hallmark of their ongoing ministry. And Christ' cruci-

fixion may not be separated from his resurrection. Paul's changed

attitude toward others is based on no longer knowing Christ as merely

human (5:16). Tellingly, each of these points seems to be precisely

what Paul's opposition in Corinth denied.49 The passage 5:11-21 pro-

vides the theological basis which alone can make possible the practi-

cal and pastoral solution to these conflicts. Whether or not Martin is

right in identifying "reconciliation" as the center of Pauline theology

as a whole,50 the strategic location of this topic in 2 Corinthians makes

it a strong candidate for the central theme of the major section of this


††††††††††† (2) The second most significant parts of a chiasmus are its outer

boundaries (A and A'), especially if their theme recurs in the center.

In 1:12-7:16, this theme emerged as proper and improper boasting.

The topic appears in the center of the chiasmus as well (5:11-12). The

dominant role of boasting in chaps. 10-13 confirms its central function

for Paul's relationship with the Corinthians and ties those chapters a

little more closely together with the preceding nine.51 Furthermore, it

places into perspective the specific problems with which Paul has to

deal en route--the penitent sinner, the right attitude to the apostolic

ministry, and victory in the midst of suffering. If the Corinthians are

hurting themselves and distorting the gospel via an overly-realized

eschatology leading to triumphalist ecclesiology,52 the opposite dan-

ger lurks not too far distant-an overemphasis on humility and suffer-

ing. Against both extremes 1:12 provides the proper antidote: "not by

earthly wisdom but by the grace of God," which alone enables the


††††††††††† 49 The standard work on Paul's opponents in Corinth remains D. Georgi, Die

Gegner des Paulus im 2. Korintherbrief (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1964). Geg-

ner sees proto-Gnostics behind the opposition addressed in 1 Corinthians and Hel-

lenistic Jewish Christian itinerants behind 2 Corinthians. For an approach which sees

more strictly Judaizing opposition, see esp. J. J. Gunther, St. Pauf s Opponents and

Their Background (SupplNT 35, Leiden: Brill, 1973). Quite possibly both sides infer

more than can be determined with certainty; see Furnish, II Corinthians, 48-54.

††††††††††† 50 R. P. Martin, Reconciliation: A Study of Paul's Theology (Atlanta: John Knox,

1981). On the problem of identifying such a center, see H. W. Boers, "The Foundations

of Paul's Thought: A Methodological Investigation--The Problem of the Coherent

Center of Paul's Thought," ST 42 (1988) 55-68.

††††††††††† 51 In fact, P. F. Ellis (Seven Pauline Letters [Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1982]

140-41) plausibly suggests that all of 2 Corinthians was an original unity, in light of its

overall ABA' pattern (chaps. 1-7, 8-9, 10-13). Cf. also F. Young and D. F. Ford,

Meaning and Truth in 2 Corinthians (London: SPCK, 1987) 27.

††††††††††† 52 A. C. Thiselton, "Realized Eschatology at Corinth," NTS 24 (1978) 510-26;

C. L. Mearns, "Early Eschatological Development in Paul: The Evidence of 1 Corin-

thians," JSNT 22 (1984) 19-35; D. A. Carson, From Triumphalism to Maturity (Grand

Rapids: Baker, 1984).

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS ††††††17


Corinthians to receive Titus in the godly "fear and trembling" with

which 7:15 concludes. "Boasting" as self-confidence is better than

despair, but it must be directed to the Lord rather than oneself. Yet,

as 5:11-13 elucidates, if one wants others to be proud of him in the

way God would be, one may need to act in a manner which makes

some think he is "out of his mind."

††††††††††† (3) The passages 6:14-7:1 and 2:14-7:4 need not be seen as

separate letters, quotations of other writings, or even significantly

digressive. The transitions between different parts of a chiasmus are

often fairly abrupt, some more so than others. The roughest transition

in the first half of 2 Cor 1-7, from 2:13-14, has been well explained by

S. Hafemann. Paul's failure to find Titus during his travels reminds him

of the triumphal procession of a Roman conqueror, leading his captives

behind him to their deaths.53 Far from looking ahead to later victory,54

Paul imagines himself as a prisoner soon to die (cf. the sacrificial

language in vv 15-16), but he is able to praise God anyway. Paul's

discussion then proceeds by catchwords. The letters of recommenda-

tion call to mind the letter of the Law; the glory of the Law was

represented by the glory on Moses' face, the veil which covered that

glory contrasts with unveiled reading of Scripture by Christians, and

so on.55 After the chiasmus of 2:14-4:6, Paul qualifies the victory

believers have in Christ with the enumeration of sufferings which

must precede their resurrection (4:7-5:10). But the reconciliation ac-

complished makes it all worthwhile (5:11-21).

††††††††††† The links between sections of the reverse sequence of the chias-

mus prove more tenuous, and the paralleled sectjons prove noticeably

shorter. But this is precisely what one should expect. Resumptive

discussions need not dwell on detail already treated at length. And as

the "second half" of a chiasmus unfolds, allusions to the corresponding

passages in the "first half" will naturally make successive sections seem


††††††††††† 53 S. J. Hafemann, Suffering and the Spirit (WUNT 2/19; Tubingen: Mohr, 1986)

84-85. Cf. P. Marshall, "A Metaphor of Social Shame: qriambeu<ein in 2 Cor 2:14," NovT

25 (1983) 302-17.

††††††††††† 54 As has usually been argued; see the survey of views in M. E. Thrall, "A Second

Thanksgiving Period in II Corinthians," JSNT 16 (1982) 102-11. As a variant of this

tradition, J. Murphy-O'Connor ("Paul and Macedonia: The Connection Between

2 Corinthians 2.13 and 2.14," JSNT 25 [1985] 99-103) argues that the positive associa-

tions Paul had with churches in Macedonia triggered this thanksgiving. Thrall herself

argues that Paul introduces a second thanksgiving (112-24), but it is not clear why Paul

would put it precisely at this point.

††††††††††† 55 See esp. J. A. Fitzmyer, "Glory Reflected on the Face of Christ (2 Cor 3:7-4:6)

and a Palestinian Jewish Motif," TS 42 (1981) 630-44. Cf. also G. Wagner, "Alliance de

la lettre, alliance de l'Espirit: Essai d'analyse de 2 Corinthiens 2/14 a 3/18," ETR 60

(1985) 55-65.



less apt in their immediate context and more reminiscent of earlier

material. Thus Paul resumes the discussion of his travels in 7:5 not so

much because he has finished an extended excursus but because he has

reached the appropriate point in his outline at which to do so. A similar

explanation undoubtedly accounts for at least part of the seeming

irrelevance of 6:11-7:4 to its context as well;56 Paul is again reflecting on

the OT concepts of glory and holiness to which he had devoted so

much of chap. 3. Although his first quotation in 6:16 draws on Lev

26:11-12, while 3:7-18 has been termed a midrash on Exodus 34,57 the

concepts involved are scarcely dissimilar. In terms of the historical

narrative of the Pentateuch the situation is unaltered from the earlier

passage to the later one: the Israelites remain encamped at Sinai,

receive the Law, and await their marching orders. Certainly the

concepts of living with Israel, being her God, and commanding them

to separate from everything unclean encapsulate the most urgent parts

of the message which God had to deliver through Moses when he

returned from Mt. Sinai the second time, even if the actual quotations

.come from further on in the OT (2 Sam 7:14; Isa 52:11; and Ezek

20:34; 37:27).


††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† IV. Objections Considered


††††††††††† I close by replying to three potential objections. First, is not an

intricate, artistic device like chiasmus incompatible with Paul's having

written 2 Corinthians as a deeply personal, emotional, and almost ad

hoc reply to those in Corinth who would oppose him? This question

reflects the earlier view of chiasmus which largely limited its use to

meticulously structured works of poetry. But as already observed,

recent studies have shown that chiasmus had thoroughly permeated the

ancient Near East, and in fact some of the most difficult and elaborate

examples reflect moving Sitze im Leben.58 Literary style, including


††††††††††† 56 Great strides have been made in demonstrating the authenticity of 6:14- 7:1 and

its place within 6:11-7:4, but why Paul placed this section where he did has been less

adequately treated. Cf. G. D. Fee, "II Corinthians VI.14- VII. 1 and Food Offered to

Idols," NTS 23 (1977) 140-61; J. D. M, Derrett, "2 Cor 6, 14ff.: A Midrash on Dt 22, 10,"

Bib 59 (1978) 231-50; M. E. Thrall, "The Problem of II Cor. VI.14- VII.l in Some

Recent Discussion," NTS 24 (1978) 132-48; J. Murphy-O'Connor, "Relating 2 Corin-

thians 6.14-7.1 to Its Context," NTS 33 (1987) 272-75; idem, "Philo and 2 Cor 6:14-7:1,"

RB 95 (1988) 55-69. .

††††††††††† 57 See esp. A. T. Hanson, "The Midrash in II Corinthians 3: A Reconsideration,"

JSNT 9 (1980) 2-28. But cf. E. Richard, "Polemics, Old Testament, and Theology: A

Study of II Cor., III,1-IV,6," RB 88 (1981) 340-67, who points out how the new

covenant of Jeremiah is in fact the dominant topic throughout.

††††††††††† 58 One thinks e.g. of many of the psalms (cf. R. L. Alden, "Chiastic Psalms," JETS

11 [1974] 11:28; 19 [1976] 191-200; 21 [1978] 199-210), the Book of Esther (cf. S. B.

††††††††††† Blomberg: THE STRUCTURE OF 2 CORINTHIANS †††††19


chiasmus, colored even such non-literary materials as Aramaic con-

tracts and Athenian inscriptions59 and thus is certainly compatible with

Paul's level of "occasional" writing. And Paul need not have had his

whole outline planned from the outset. He could well have reached the

end of chap. 5, knowing that he had left several topics unfinished along

the way, and then have chosen to elaborate them beginning with that

which he had treated most recently.

††††††††††† Second, if Paul has outlined these chapters chiastically, why has

he not used this device elsewhere for major sections of his epistles?

This objection overlooks the fact that 2 Cor 1-7 is unconventionally

structured vis-a-vis Paul's other writings regardless of what device

one utilizes to explain its structure; it applies with equal force to

outlines which resort to epistolary fragments and major digressions.

On the other hand, numerous smaller sections of Paul's letters un-

deniably do employ chiasmus.60 T. Shoemaker's recent analysis of

1 Cor 11:2-16 provides an excellent illustration.61 Moreover, at least

one complete letter, Philemon, seems to fall naturally into a sequence

of inverted parallelism.62 Remarkably, Philemon is the most occa-

sional and personal of all, of Paul's writings, so this would afford a

striking parallel to the chiastic outline of 2 Cor 1-7 if it were valid.

And in at least some instances it seems that Paul employs the simpler

ABA and ABB' A' forms to structure entire epistles.63

††††††††††† Finally, if this is the true structure of 2 Cor 1-7, why has not

anyone ever noticed it before? Such a question, often resorted to

when all other debate reaches an impasse, misses the mark for at least

three reasons. First, it could equally be applied to many commen-

tators' outlines of these chapters since there is little agreement as to

why Paul is doing what he is doing. Second, as with most chiastic


Berg, The Book of Esther [Missoula,MT: Scholars Press, 1979] 106-13, or the Song of

Solomon (cf. W. H. Shea, "The Chiastic Structure of the Song of Songs," ZAW 92

[1980] 378-96).

††††††††††† 59 B. Porten, "Structure and Chiasm in Aramaic Contracts and Letters," in Welch,

Chiasmus, 169-82; K. J. Dover, "The Colloquial Stratum in Classical Attic Prose,"

Classical Contributions (eds. G. S. Shrimp ton and D. J. McCargar; Locust Valley, NY:

J. J. Augustin, 198i) 15-25. I am indebted to Dr. S. Porter of Biola University, Los

Angeles, for this last reference.

††††††††††† 60 See esp. J. Jeremias, "Chiasmus in den Paulusbriefen," ZNW 49 (1958) 145-56.

Less uniformly persuasive are the various examples in Lund, Chiasmus, 139-225; Di

Marco, Chiasmo, 153-78; and J. W. Welch, "Chiasmus in the New Testament," in

Welch, Chiasmus, 213-90.

††††††††††† 61 T. P. Shoemaker, "Unveiling of Equality: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16," BTB 17 (1987)


††††††††††† 62 T. Boys, Tactica Sacra (London: T. Hamilton, 1824) 65-67.

††††††††††† 63 In addition to the examples scattered among the sources listed in n. 60 above,

see esp. Ellis, Letters, passim.



outlines, most of the building blocks have been observed by different

people at different times;64 what has been lacking was for someone to

recognize the whole and construct a synthesis. Third, and most sig-

nificantly, chiastic structures seldom appear unless one is looking for

them. By that I do not mean that they are all the inventions of overly

creative minds, imposing on the text a structure which was never

intended, though many proposed chiasms have been just that. Rather

I mean that what was almost universally accepted as an artistic

rhetorical and literary device and useful mnemonic aid in the Medi-

terranean cultures of antiquity has largely fallen into disuse in the

modern period so that commentators simply are not accustomed to

considering it. Yet even today, it has not disappeared; in some cases

one fails to see it because it is so natural. K. Bailey gives a delightful

example of a conversation he overheard between two young men,

who entirely without design asked each other four questions and then

answered them in inverse order: (l)=(A) "Are you coming to the

party?" (2)=(B) "Can I bring a friend?" (l)=(C) "Boy or girl?"

(2)=(D) "What difference does it make?" (l)=(D') "It is a matter of

balance." (2)=(C') "Girl" (l)=(B') "O.K." (2)=(A') "I'll be there."65

In Paul's case I suspect it was not nearly as subconscious but probably

almost as natural.


††††††††††† 64 See esp. ibid., 140-41; note also the links between 1:1-2:13 and 7:15-16 pointed

out by Georgi (Gegner, 22-23); and the incipiently chiastic outline of Barrett (Second

Corinthians, 51).

††††††††††† 65 Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 50.




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