Analysis of 2 Corinthians 13:14
A study of the
of the
New Testament
ęCopyright 2003 Randall Duane Hughes

The Bible is certainly lacking in its support of the doctrine of the Trinity.  And it is therefore, no surprise to find that those few verses that are it supposed best supporters are also those upon which the textual ground is often most questionable.  While 2 Corinthians 13:14 is one (out of all the verses that seem to include a tripartite form)  with the greatest claim to originality, it is not above question.

"Of this last type, (tripartite salutation/benediction) we have only one example, that which occurs at the end of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.  It is quite possible that, as contended by many scholars, this Trinitarian salutation at the end of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians did not come in its present form from the hand of Paul.  Still it is to be assumed that it acquired its present form by the time the tripartite baptismal formula came into existence... How then can we explain the origin of this Trinitarian salutation?"  

The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, Vol. 1, Harry Austryn Wolfson, 1964, pg. 148

While it is not as widely disputed as say 1 John 5:7, there are those who have addressed the questions relating to this Trinitarian benediction at the end of 2 Corinthians.

Comments on this verse as found in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, 1993, pg 782-3.  The following passages from this book are attributed to Daniel N. Showalter.

"Trinity.  Because the Trinity is such an important part of later Christian doctrine, it is striking that the term does not appear in the New Testament. Likewise, the developed concept of three coequal partners in the Godhead found in later creedal formulations cannot be clearly detected within the confines of the canon.  Later believers systematized the diverse references to God, Jesus, and the Spirit found in the New Testament in order to fight against heretical tendencies of how the three are related.  Elaboration on the concept of the Trinity also serves to defend the church against charges of di- or tritheism.  Since the Christians have come to worship Jesus as God (Pliny, Epistles 96-7), how can they claim to be continuing the monotheistic tradition of the God of Israel?  Various answers are suggested, debated, and rejected as heretical, but the idea of a Trinity - One God subsisting in three persons and one substance - ultimately prevails."

"While New Testament writers ay a great deal about God, Jesus, and the Spirit of each, no New Testament writer expounds on the relationship among the three in the detail of that later writers do.  The earliest New Testament evidence for a tripartite formula comes in 2 Corinthians 13:13, where Paul wishes that "the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit" be with the people of Corinth.  It is possible that this three-part formula derives from later liturgical usage and was added to the text of 2 Corinthians as it was copied.  In support of the authenticity of the passage, however, it must be said that the phrasing is much closer to Paul's understanding of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit than to a more fully developed concept of the Trinity.  Jesus, referred to not as Son but as Lord and Christ, is mentioned first and is connected with the central Pauline theme of grace.  God is referred to as a source of love, not as father, and the Spirit promotes sharing within the community.  The word "holy" does not appear before "Spirit" in the earliest manuscript evidence for this passage."

"A more familiar formulation is found in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands the disciples to go out and baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  The phrasing probably reflects baptismal practice in churches at Matthew's time or later if the line is interpolated.  Elsewhere Matthew records a special connection between God the Father and Jesus the Son (e.g. 11:27), but he falls short of claiming that Jesus is equal with God. (cf. 24:36)."

"It is John's Gospel that suggest the idea of equality between Jesus and God ("I and my Father are one"; 10:30).  The Gospel starts with the affirmation that in the beginning Jesus as Word (see Logos) "was with God and . was God" (1:1), and ends (chap. 21 is most likely a later addition) with Thomas's confession of faith to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" (20:28).  The Fourth Gospel also elaborates on the role of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete sent to be an advocate for the believers (John 14:15-26).  For the community of John's Gospel, these passages provide assurance of the presence and power of God both in the ministry of Jesus and in the ongoing life of the community.  Beyond this immediate context, however, such references raise the question of how Father, Son, and Spirit can be distinct and yet the same.  This issue is debated over the following centuries and is only resolved by agreement and exclusion during the Christological disputes and creedal councils of the fourth century and beyond."

"While there are other New Testament text where God, Jesus, and the Spirit are referred to in the same passage (e.g. Jude 20-21), it is important to avoid reading the Trinity into places where it does not appear.  An example is 1 Peter 1:1-2, in which the salutation is addressed to those who have been chosen "according to the spirit."  This reference may be to the holiness of the believers, but translators consistently take it as the Holy Spirit in order to complete the assumed Trinitarian character of the verse: "who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit" (NRSV).  This translation not only imposes later Trinitarian perspectives on the text but also diminishes the important use of the spirit of human beings elsewhere in 1 Peter (e.g. 3:4, 19)."

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ęCopyright 2001 Randall D. Hughes