The Epistles of Paul - 2 Corinthians Part 1: The Affliction of the Anointed
According to the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians is attested to in 2 ancient Great Uncial manuscripts dating to the 4th century (א and B), 4 dating to the 5th century (A, C, I 016, and 048), and 7 dating to the 6th century (D, H 015, 0186, 0223, 0225, 0285 and 0296). It is also attested to in the Chester Beatty papyrus labeled P46, which is esteemed to date to circa 200 AD. The 28th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece adds to that list the more recently discovered papyrus P99, which is dated to around 400 AD and in which are preserved considerable fragments of chapters from throughout the epistle, as well as the 5th century papyrus P117 which contains portions of chapters 7 and 8, and the 6th century papyrus P124 in which is preserved fragments of chapter 11. Therefore the contents of the epistle are well attested from ancient sources.
After spending approximately three years in Ephesus, Paul of Tarsus had departed from the city in 56 AD. We can date his departure by reckoning backwards from the time of his detention in Caesareia which is given by Luke in the final chapters of the Book of Acts, in relation to the tenures of office of the Roman procurators Festus and Felix which are known from secular history. For this the primary witness in Luke's writing is at Acts 24:26-27 which states of Antonius Felix that “He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix' room: and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.” While historians are divided over whether it was 58 AD or 59AD, the one year difference in the chronology is close enough for us. We cannot be absolutely certain, but for various historical reasons we are confident that the year was 59, and we can count back through the Book of Acts to this point in 56 AD.
Departing Ephesus, Paul went through the Troad and on to Makedonia, as he had outlined in his first letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 16: “5 Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. 6 And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. 7 For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. 8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” Paul sent Timothy and Erastus out from Ephesus to Makedonia ahead of him (Acts 19:22). However reading the account in the Book of Acts, and seeing that after the trouble with the silversmiths that Paul had left Ephesus unexpectedly, it is unclear as to whether he had actually managed to stay there until after Pentecost. We then read in the opening of Acts chapter 20: “1 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. 2 And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece”. We only learn from Paul's later address to the elders of the Ephesians that Paul had been in Ephesus three years, as it is recorded in Acts 20:31.