2 Corinthians 5 – is this poetry?

Having preached a series of messages on imbedded hymn texts in the New Testament (such as Philippians 2:6ff) and having spent a lot of time in the Wisdom Literature and Psalms, which are laden with literary pattern, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were not two such passages in last Sunday’s text.  2 Corinthians 14b-15 contain a passage that is set off as a summary, and it’s structure and brevity suggests poetry to me.  I have laid it out schematically below.  v. 14a is an introduction, and 14b and 15 are in an ABABCCB Structure.  A – Christ’s Death (and life); B – consequence; C – detail.  We note that the section is set of with “that” (“hoti” in Greek), often a way to introduce a quotation (not quotations marks in Ancient or Koine Greek).

For the love of Christ controls us,

            because we have concluded this:

                        that one has died for all,

                                    therefore all have died;

[15]                  and he died for all,    

                                    that those who live

                                                might no longer live for themselves

                                                but for him who for their sake

                                    died and was raised.

Further, there seems to be two more:  v. 16 is ABAB

[17]      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

he is a new creation.

            The old has passed away;

behold, the new has come.

And v. 21 – ABCABC

            For our sake

                              he made him to be sin

                                         who knew no sin,

             so that in him

                            we might become

                                                the righteousness of God.

the Commentators seem to be disturbed over the lack of detail (who are the “all” who died (v. 14b), for example).  If this shares the OT Poetic  characteristic of terseness, that would be explained.  We can use the example of using the structure of parallelism to explain the meaning.  That is use the A sections together and the B sections to give context to the words used.


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