THE BACKGROUND AND SENSE OF 2 COR 2:14–17
Harold W. Attridge
In 2 Corinthians, Paul’s most colorful letter, the aposde deploys an array of evocative sensual images to describe his relationship with God, Christ, and his Corinthian Christians. The series begins with the “thanksgiving” of 2:14–15:1
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphaland through us spreads in every place the
fragrance that comes from knowing him
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are
being saved and among those who are perishing: to the one a fragrance
from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life
* Participants in the International Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Cracow in the summer of 1998, particularly Heinrich von Staden, Dieter Georgi, and David Balch made helpful suggestions about this paper. The editors of the volume, John Fitzgerald and Michael White, and Yale colleagues Margot Fassler and Adela Yarbro Collins, made several more. If the final paper has a better fragance than its original version, it is largely due to their helpful suggestions and critique.
1 The unity and integrity of the letter has long been a problem. For a survey of the major positions, see Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians (AB 32A; Garden City: Doubleday, 1984) 30–48, who favors a two-letter solution: 2Cor i-g; 10–13, and Margaret Thrall, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1994) 3–49, who favors a three-letter solution: 2Cor 1–8, 9, 10–13. For a five-part division, Günther Bornkamm, Der Vorgeschichte des sogennanten zweilen Korintherbriefes (SHAW 2; Heidelberg: Winter, 1961; repr. in Geschichte und Glaube, Gesammelte Aufsätze [Munich: Kaiser, 1971] 4.162–94; English summary in “The History of the Origin of the So-Called Second Letter to the Corinthians,” .NTS 8  258–64), Dieter Georgi, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) 9–14; and Hans-Dieter Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9: A Commentary on Two Administrative Letters of the Apostle Paul (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 3–36, Margaret M. Mitchell, “Rhetorical Shorthand in Pauline Argumentation,” in L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson, eds., Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker (JSNT Sup 108: Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994) 76 n. 36. For an alternative view, skeptical of partition hypotheses, see Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 1997). It matters little for the purposes of this paper whether 2:14–7:4 (with or without 6:14–7:1) is a fragment of a letter or an integral part of a unified composition, 1:1–7:16, which I suspect is the case.