International Conference on Peace Studies: “The Many Faces of Trauma, Resilience and Transformation" location:Leuven, Belgium date:31 August 2012
St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians (chapters 1-7) contains many echoes of a traumatic conflict between the apostle and the Christ-believers in Corinth. By the time he writes 2 Corinthians, this conflict has at least partially been overcome by means of his tearful letter, the visit of Titus as Paul's emissary and a reported change of mind of the Corinthians. This paper will explore the traces of the conflict in 2 Corinthians 1-7, the attempts at forgiveness, the initial peace and reconciliation and the ways Paul emplots them in the letter. In this process, we will pay special attention to the historical and the literary contexts. We will especially take into account the evidence of resilience on the side of Paul and the Corinthians as reflected in the letter. One central element of resilience is the tearful letter which Paul wrote after the traumatic experience of the eruption of the conflict in Corinth demonstrating that he did not give up on the community of Christ-believers in Corinth, but that he rather tried to find ways to conflict resolution. Another potential element of resilience that needs to be studied is the way the Corinthians responded to Paul's painful letter and Paul's reaction to their response, i.e., the punishment of the wrongdoer and Paul's plea not do overdo the punishment. We also need to investigate the social matrix of the relationships between Paul, Titus and the Corinthians and its special characteristics which allowed for forgiveness and reconciliation to become possible. Special attention needs to be paid here to the role Paul's change of emissary from Timothy to Titus played in this process. In a sense large parts of the Second Letter to the Corinthians can be understood as evidence of resilience, several of them going beyond the specific situation of conflict. This approach to 2 Corinthians is rather innovative, since, while peace and reconciliation have received a certain amount of attention (see Ivar Vegge, 2 Corinthians - A Letter of Reconciliation, 2008) in the study of this letter, to our knowledge the letter has never been interpreted as a letter of resilience.