Robertson's Book Notes (NT)
The Pauline authorship is admitted by all real scholars, though there is doubt by some as to the unity of the Epistle. J.H. Kennedy (The Second and Third Letters of St. Paul to the Corinthians, 1900) has presented the arguments in a plausible, but not wholly convincing, manner for the plea that chapters 2Co. 10-13 really represent a separate and earlier letter, the one referred to in II Corinthians 2:3, which was later tacked on to chapters 1-9 as part of the same Epistle. This theory does explain the difference in tone between chapters 1 to 7 and 10 to 13, but that fact is sufficiently clear from the stubborn minority against Paul in Corinth reported by Titus after the majority had been won to Paul by First Corinthians and by Titus (II Corinthians 2:1-11). There are in fact three obvious divisions in the Epistle. Chapters 1 to 7 deal with the report of Titus about the victory in Corinth and Paul's wonderful digression on the glory of the ministry in 2Co. 2:12-6:10; chapters 8 and 9 discuss the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem already mentioned in I Corinthians 16:1 f. and which Titus is to press to completion on his return to Corinth; chapters 10 to 13 deal sharply with the Judaizing minority who still oppose Paul's leadership. These three subjects are in no sense inconsistent with each other. The letter is a unity. Nowhere do we gain so clear an insight into Paul's own struggles and hopes as a preacher. It is a handbook for the modern minister of inestimable value. One can hear Paul's heart throb through these chapters. The syntax is often broken by anacolutha. The sentences are sometimes disconnected. Grammatical agreements are overlooked. But there is power here, the grip of a great soul holding on to the highest ideals in the midst of manifold opposition and discouragements. Christ is Master of Paul at every turn.
The date of the Epistle is clearly after I Corinthians, for Paul has left Ephesus and is now in Macedonia (II Corinthians 2:13), probably at Philippi, where he met Titus, though he had hoped to meet him at Troas on his return from Corinth. At a guess one may say that Paul wrote in the autumn of AD 54 or 55 of the same year in the spring of which he had written I Corinthians, and before he went on to Corinth himself where he wrote Romans (Acts 20:1-3; Romans 16:1).
The occasion for writing is the return of Titus from Corinth with mixed news of the Pauline majority and the minority in opposition. So Titus is sent back with this Epistle to finish the task while Paul waits awhile for matters to clear up (II Corinthians 13:1-10).
It is not certain whether the letter mentioned in II Corinthians 2:3 is our I Corinthians or a lost letter like the one alluded to in I Corinthians 5:9. If it is a lost one, we know of four Corinthian Epistles (the one in I Corinthians 5:9, our I Corinthians, the one in II Corinthians 2:3, our II Corinthians), assuming the unity of II Corinthians. Few things in Paul's ministry gave him more concern than the troubles in Corinth. The modern city pastor finds little in his work that Paul has not faced and mastered. There is consolation and courage for the preacher in the conduct and counsels of this greatest of all preachers.