Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Preface to the Second Epistle to the Corinthians
It is a general opinion among learned men that this epistle was written about a year after the former: and this seems to be supported by the words, Co2 9:2 : Achaia was ready a year ago; for the apostle having given instructions for that collection, to which he refers in these words at the close of the preceding epistle, they would not have had the forwardness there mentioned till a year had elapsed. As the apostle had purposed to stay at Ephesus till pentecost, Co1 16:8; and he stayed some time in Asia after his purpose to leave Ephesus and go to Macedonia, Act 9:21, Act 9:22; and yet making here his apology for not wintering in Corinth, as he thought to do, Co1 16:6; this epistle must have been written after the winter, and consequently when a new year was begun. It therefore, says Dr. Whitby, seems to have been written after his second coming to Macedonia, mentioned Act 20:3. For,
(1.) It was written after he had been at Troas, and had left that place to return to Macedonia: now that was at his second going thither; see Co2 2:12.
(2.) It was written when Timothy was with him: now, when he left Ephesus to go into Macedonia, Timothy went not with him, but was sent before him, Act 19:22; but at his second going through Macedonia, Timothy was with him, Act 20:4.
(3.) He speaks of some Macedonians who were likely to accompany him, Co2 9:4. Now, at his second going from Macedonia, there accompanied him Aristarchus, Secundus, and Gaius of Thessalonica, the metropolis of Macedonia, Act 20:4.
(4.) The postscript says that this epistle was written from Philippi, where Paul was till the days of unleavened bread, Act 20:6; it therefore seems to have been sent from thence to them by Titus, and some other person, not long before St. Paul's coming to them; which he speaks of as instant, Co2 13:1; and that which he was now ready to do, Co2 12:14; and did, according to Dr. Lightfoot, in his journey from Philippi to Troas; he sailing about from Philippi to Corinth, to make good his promise; whilst the rest that were with him, Act 20:4, went directly the next cut to Troas, and there waited for him. See Whitby.
That the first epistle had produced powerful effects among the Corinthians is evident from what the apostle mentions in this. Titus had met him in Macedonia, and told him of the reformation produced by this epistle, see Co2 7:5, Co2 7:6; that the Church had excommunicated the incestuous man; that the epistle had overwhelmed them with great distress; had led them to a close examination of their conduct and state; and had filled them with respect and affection for their apostle, etc. Hearing this, St. Paul wrote this second epistle, to comfort, to commend them, and to complete the work which he had begun, by causing them to finish the contribution for the poor saints at Jerusalem; and also to vindicate his own apostolic character, and to unmask the pretended apostle, who had led them so long astray. See the preceding Introduction.
Its principal divisions are: -
I. The preface, Co2 1:1-7.
II. The Narration, comprehending an account of what had happened to himself; his answer to their questions concerning the incestuous person, with different other matters; among which, the following are the chief: -
(1.) The persecution which he had suffered in Asia, and from which he had been miraculously rescued, Co2 1:8-14.
(2.) His purpose to pay them a visit, Co2 1:15-24.
(3.) Concerning the sorrow which they had suffered on account of the excommunication of the incestuous person, 2 Corinthians 2, 7.
(4.) His own vindication against the false apostle; in which he gives an account of his doctrine, Co2 3:6-18. His conduct, Co2 4:1-6. His bodily infirmities, Co2 4:7; and 2 Corinthians 5.
(5.) Strongly exhorts them to a holy life, 2 Corinthians 6, 7.
III. Of the Alms that had been collected, and were yet to be collected, 2 Corinthians 8, Co2 9:1-15.
IV. His Defence against the false apostle and his calumniators in general, 2 Corinthians 10-12.
V. Miscellaneous matters, Co2 13:1-14.
It may be remarked, once for all, that none of these or such artificial divisions are made by the apostle himself, no more than the divisions into chapters and verses. All these are the work of man, and certainly contribute nothing to a proper understanding of the epistle itself. The apostle appears to have sat down, and, under the influence of the Divine Spirit, he wrote on the different subjects treated of in the epistle just in the order that these things occurred to his mind, without intending particular heads, divisions or subdivisions. And, as he probably wrote the whole with very little intermission of time, his sense will be best apprehended by those who carefully read over the whole at one sitting.