Pentecost: Paul the Pastor in 2 Corinthians

David E. Fredrickson

Article Type: Texts in Context

Publication Date: 4/1/1991

Issue: The Environment (Vol. 11, No 2, Spring, 1991)

To read 2 Corinthians is to watch a pastor at work. Paul practices, describes, defends, and commends to his audience his pastoral ministry. Something quite rare presents itself in this letter: an extended argument for the ministry of the gospel offered by a practitioner in the heat of the moment. My task is to disclose that heat. What does it mean to place pastoral practice at the center of the interpretation of Pauline epistles? Is this not anachronistic? There is indeed the danger of reading into the text what by habit has become pastoral practice in North America. Nevertheless, by calling Paul “pastor” I simply mean to underscore the happy mixture of rhetoric and theological conviction in his letters. Not despising the art of persuasion, Paul adapts his speech to the needs and circumstances of his hearers in order to shape them into a community embodying God’s transformation of creation, which will be completed at Christ’s return. To be a pastor is to use human speech to lead the Christian community into the future promised to it by God.

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