Identifying Paul's Opponents: The Question of Method in 2 Corinthians
in The Library of New Testament Studies
Publisher T&T Clark
To develop a method for identifying Paul's opponents it is first necessary to analyse procedures used by previous scholars. Too little attention has been paid in the past to issues of method, and many procedures have been used which violate the canons of historical research. In the first place, limits should be set upon the use of historical reconstructions and of external sources, and the determinative source for identifying the opponents of any letter must be that letter itself. Secondly, a satisfactory method will analyse passages within the primary text according to the nature of the section (e.g. polemical or didactic) and the types of statements they contain (e.g. explicit statements about opponents or allusions to them). Then each combination of context and statement type is evaluated to determine (1) how certain we can be about whether the passage refers to opponents and (2) how much distortion is likely to be present. The application of the proposed method to the two letters within 2 Corinthians indicates that Paul faced the same group of opponents in both letters. These opponents were pneumatics who demanded a particular manner of life as evidence that a person possesses the measure of the spirit which makes one an apostle.