- A. Celebration of Reconciliation (1:8–9:15)
- 1. Autobiographical notices (1:8–2:13)
- 2. Paul's ministry (2:14–7:4)
- a. The nature of Paul's ministry (2:14–4:1)
- b. The basis for Paul's hope (4:2–16a)
- c. The Resurrection hope (4:16b-5:10)
- d. Responsibility and reconciliation (5:11–6:2)
- e. Reconciliation: Paul and the Corinthians (6:3–7:4)
- 3. Autobiographical notices continued (7:5–16)
- 4. The collection (8:1–9:15)
- a. Complete the collection (8:1–15)
- b. The delegation (8:16–9:5)
- c. Benefits of generosity (9:6–15)
- B. Refutation of Alien Ministry (10:1–13:10)
The letter's body consists of two major sections. Whether and how the two sections relate to one another continue to be subjects of heated scholarly debate. The first, 1:8-9:15, seems to have been occasioned by the end of strained relations between Paul and his readers. The second, 10:1-13:10, saturated with biting irony and sarcasm, seems difficult to reconcile with an exuberant celebration of reconciliation in chs. 1-9.
Certainly Paul did not write this or any of his longer letters in one sitting; this could account for some internal inconsistencies. But in this case, all historical or psychological explanations seem inadequate to preserve the presumption of a unified letter. Perhaps it is simplest to presume that it was the collector-editor of the Pauline letter corpus who brought the two sections together. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this commentary, 2 Corinthians is treated as a rhetorical unity.