At the end of his first letter to the Corinthians Paul expressed the desire to come back and see them soon. He was unable to return, and they took this badly.
“Judaizing” preachers, that is to say, those Jews insufficiently converted to Christ, whom Paul had to face all the time, were trying to undermine his authority. Paul sent a messenger whom the Corinthians deeply offended: some members of the community were openly rebelling against the apostle. Paul responded in a letter “written in the midst of tears” (2:4) whereby he demanded the submission of the community. One of Paul’s best assistants, Titus, brought the letter and concluded his mission successfully. Upon Titus’ return, Paul, reassured, sent this “second” letter (in fact it was the third or fourth) to the Corinthians.
What is the content of this letter? What Paul feels with regard to the Corinthians and what he suffers from their lack of understanding. It is not much and yet it is a great deal. Paul is incapable of speaking about himself without speaking of Christ. This restless man, eager for understanding and affection, is so permeated with the love of Christ, that he cannot express a suspicion or a reproach without giving most profound sermons on faith. In trying to justify himself he writes the most beautiful pages on evangelization and on what it means to be an apostle of Christ.
We shall see that this letter includes pages which were not a part of it – fragments of other letters or notes sent by Paul to the Church of Corinth: in particular, 6:14-18 was probably written before our First Letter to the Corinthians; chapter 9 (see com. of 9:1); the chapters 10–13 which should contain a good part of the “letter written in tears” (see preceding paragraph).