2 Cor 6.14-7.1 - an Essene Interpolation?

Essay, 2011

10 Pages, Grade: B


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Preliminary considerations: Genesis of 2 Cor and justification of the use of parallels

3. Brief analysis of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1
3.1 Pericope in context.
3.2 Verse to verse analysis and noteworthy terms..
3.3 First conclusion...

4. Comparison of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 with Qumran scrolls

5. Conclusions.

6. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Is there a connection between the Qumran scrolls and the Pauline letters? Were the Qumran scrolls not belonging to a Jewish sect and written sometime before Paul? So, can there even be any interrelationship between these two?

Since the discovery of the scrolls in some caves in the Judean desert in 1947, we can observe a continuous interest in the content of the scrolls.1 However, the scrolls are mostly known to be related to the Hebrew Bible or dealing with special issues regarding this particular sect. That the scrolls also throw a light on New Testament writings, and especially the Pauline Epistles, is less noted. Thus I want to show from 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 exemplarily how the research on the Dead Sea scrolls can help to understand critical texts within the New Testament writings. 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 is recognized by most of the scholars as conspicuous.2 In the wide range of possible explanations, currently we find that probably the most used is that 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 is an Essene interpolation.3

In this essay I want to go along this line. After a brief analysis of this pericope with the aim to work out struggling topics, I will compare 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 with ideas and texts from Qumran. Here I will deal also with secondary literature.4 After listing the most important connections which scholars have seen, I will discuss them for the sake of an evaluation.

2. Preliminary considerations: Genesis of 2 Cor and justification of the use of parallels

It is worth starting with some considerations about the justification and value of this kind of religio-historical comparison as well as with some introductory statements about 2 Corinthians and especially its literary formation.

Before practicing a religio-historical comparison as it is intended in the next chapters, one has to clarify some theoretical standpoints about this method.5 Even if we detect parallels between two or more texts we also have to look for the differences within those parallels and we have to consider the context. “Parallels between the Scrolls and Paul have to be examined for what they can and cannot show by first examining them within their respective contexts.”6 By drawing conclusions out of parallels we have to be very careful not to state a direct written influence in one direction.7 Other explanations may be an oral tradition, a common shared religious pattern, information via a third party or even independent similar developments8.

The literary unity of 2 Corinthians has long been discussed and is more and more doubted.9 This should not be confused with the question of the Pauline authorship, which is mostly not questioned regarding the main part of the text. According to the fragment hypothesis the letter embodies a collection and compilation of different Pauline fragments.10 In terms of a definite determination of the single components there are slightly different opinions.11 However, there are some textual units which are often considered as not-Pauline and 2 Cor 6:14-21 is most often mentioned in this category.

3. Brief analysis of 2 Cor 6:14-7:1

3.1 Pericope in context

2 Cor 6:14-7:1 deals with the relationship of believers to unbelievers in a rather harsh language. The pericope can be defined as a paraenesis12. The author speaks directly to the addressee and warns them not to mix with unbelievers. This caution is expressed in a lot of antitheses or dualisms and rhetorical questions. A conclusion is even the demand for separation. The surrounding verses are quite different in style as well as in content. They are written in a very positive and encouraging mode. In 2 Cor 6:13 Paul says that he speaks to the Corinthians as to children who shall widen their hearts, and 2 Cor 7:1, the verse which follows immediately after our pericope, encourages the Corinthians again to open their hearts. 2 Cor 6-7 is much more readable without 2 Cor 6:14-7:1, which is rather an interruption in the whole text for it “disturbs the continuity of the Epistle”13.

3.2 Verse to verse analysis and noteworthy terms

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 opens with a prohibition (Μὴ γίνεσθε). The addressee, obviously the believers, shall not be mismated14 with the unbelievers.15 This strong separation is unusual for Paul.16 The prohibition is followed by a multi faceted reason in the form of five rhetorical questions from v. 14b till 16a. In 6:14b the explanation begins, the causal connection is very clear because of the γὰρ (“for”). The rhetorical question is indicated with τίς γὰρ. That shows also that we have to consider all five questions as related and referring back to the prohibition in 6:14a, because each one of them starts with τίς (5 times τίς in 14b till 16a). The rhetorical questions, which should be answered with “no”, and which give the reasons for the prohibition not to mix with unbelievers, include several dualisms: righteousness - iniquity (14b), light - darkness (14c), Christ - Belial (15a), believer -unbeliever (15b) and temple - idols (16a). Verse 16b presents the reason (γὰρ) for the previous verses but especially for 16a because it depicts the temple of God again. In more detail, it is an identification of the believers, the in-group from the perspective of the writer (as “we”), with the temple “of the living God” (16b). This is followed by a scriptural composition (16c-18) which is introduced with καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι (“as God said”). Key topics of that composition are that God will live among his people (16), separation (17a,b), purification (17c,d) and the description of the relationship God to believers as father to daughter and son (18). God is named as κύριος παντοκράτωρ (“Lord Almighty”) (18c). The pericope ends with 2 Corinthians 7:1 which is a conclusion of all that is said before. Because of having these promises (Ταύτας οὖν ἔχοντες τὰς ἐπαγγελίας), there follows a demand for cleaning and making holiness perfect (7:1).

We already struggled with some specific terms such as ἑτεροζυγοῦντες (6:14) and Beliar (6:15). A deeper investigation shows us that we deal here with hapax legomena. All in all we find in this short pericope eight hapax legomena.17 A single occurrence for the bible is to found in 6:14a (ἑτεροζυγεῖν)18 and 6:16a (συγκατάθεσις)19. Words which only exist one time in the New Testament are in vv. 14b (µετοχὴ)20, 15a (Βελιάρ)21, 16d (ἐµπεριπατεῖν)22 and 7:1a (µολυσµος)23. Finally, there are two hapax legomena for the Corpus Paulinum. These are 2 Cor 6:15b (µερὶς)24 and 6:18c (παντοκράτωρ)25.

3.3 First conclusion

We already have seen that 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 is very packed with outstanding elements (in comparison to other Pauline letters). The very frequent use of theological quite strong dualisms is not typical Pauline. On the other hand through the appearance of “Christ” as opponent to Beliar (6:15) it is clear that the text is at least Christian influenced. Light and darkness are not typical Pauline terms. The stress on separation is unusual. The very frequent use of hapax legomena lets us wonder why these words occur here and nowhere else in the reference literature. In addition with the “clumsy”26 incorporation these things are strong indicators for a non-Pauline authorship, source or at least redaction. The composition of various Old Testament verses is, as such, not singular for Paul but attention keeping.


1 The public audience, as well as scholars, have shown their curiosity, as expressed in a huge number of books, television documentaries and articles.For public interest in the scrolls see: Timothy H. Lim, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A very short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1-19.

2 E.g. Rissi: “seltsame Einschiebung”. Mathias Rissi, Studien zum zweiten Korintherbrief: Der alte Bund - der Prediger - Der Tod (Zürich: Zwingli Verlag, 1969), 79.

3 However, the more recent trend seems to shift away from the interpolation theory, see e.g.: Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Michigan: Grand Rapids, 1997), 337ff. (he views it as an “apostolic discursus”); Craig S. Keener, 1—2 Corinthians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 192 (he regards it as a “digression”).

4 Basically I will use Fitzmeyer in that section, for nearly everybody who engages with that topic refers to him and the article: Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, “Qumran and the interpolated paragraph in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1,” in Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1971), 205-217.

5 See further: Timothy H. Lim, “Studying the Qumran Scrolls and Paul in their Historical Context” in The Dead Sea Scrolls as Background to Postbiblical Judaism and Early Christianity. Papers from an international conference at St. Andrews in 2001: Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah XLVI. (ed. J. R. Davila; Brill/Leiden/Boston: Koninklijkem, 2003), 135-146, especially 138f; Davila lists 4 kinds of parallels with subcategories: James R. Davila, “The Perils of Parallels” (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk /divinity/rt/dss/abstracts/ parallels), 05.03.2011.

6 Lim, “Qumran Scrolls”, 142.

7 In my opinion we cannot come to the conclusion of direct literal dependence just because of the use of one or two similar terms, even though their occurrence is generally very seldom.

8 E.g. the discovery of the Periodic System of Elements by Dimitri Mendelejew and Lothar Meyer 1864-1870 or the development of the infinitesimal calculus by Newton and Leibniz in the 70s of the 17th century.

9 Udo Schnelle, The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 79-88; transl. of Einleitung ins Neue Testament. (Göttingen: Vandenhock & Ruprecht, 1994); Werner Georg Kümmel, Einleitung in das Neue Testament (rev. And enl. ed.: Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1983), 244.

10 Gnilka, Paul, 67.

11 An overview over the most important variations of the partition hypothesis can be found in: Schnelle, History, 79-81.

12 Hans Dieter Betz, “2 Cor 6:14-7:1: Anti Pauline Fragment?” JBL (1973): 89.

13 Joachim Gnilka, “2 Cor 6: 14-7:1 in the Light of the Qumran Texts and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs” in Paul and Qumran. SNTE (ed. J. Murphey-O’Connor. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1968), 48.

14 γίνεσθε ἑτεροζυγοῦντες, literally: “do not be under another, different yoke.”

15 We find here a first hint to a dualism: believers vs. unbelievers.

16 Gnilka, Paul, 62-63.

17 Even though Schnelle counts nine. He also lists katharizw but we find that 31 times in the New Testament (Morgenthaler 108) and even in other Pauline letters (Eph). So it would be a hapax legomenon only for this particular letter, which is a pretty narrow definition. He defines his list himself as hapax logomena for “both Paul and the New Testament” (83).

18 Robert Morgenthaler, Statistik des neutestamentlichen Wortschatzes (Zürich: Gotthelf-Verlag, 1958), 101.

19 Morgenthaler, Statistik, 142.

20 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 120.

21 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 82.

22 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 95.

23 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 121.

24 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 119.

25 Morgenthaler, Statistik , 128.

26 Gnilka, Paul, 67.

Excerpt out of 10 pages


2 Cor 6.14-7.1 - an Essene Interpolation?
University of Edinburgh  (School of Divinity)
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins
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essene, interpolation
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M.Phil Lydia Einenkel (Author), 2011, 2 Cor 6.14-7.1 - an Essene Interpolation?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/262945


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