Preaching without Charge.* 1If only you would put up with a little foolishness from me!* Please put up with me.a 2* For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.b 3But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve* by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere [and pure] commitment to Christ.c 4For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus* than the one we preached,d or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough. 5* e For I think that I am not in any way inferior to these “superapostles.” 6Even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not so in knowledge;f in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.*
7* Did I make a mistake when I humbled myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?g 8I plundered other churches by accepting from them in order to minister to you. 9And when I was with you and in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my needs. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.h 10By the truth of Christ in me, this boast of mine shall not be silenced in the regions of Achaia.i 11* And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!j
12And what I do I will continue to do, in order to end this pretext of those who seek a pretext for being regarded as we are in the mission of which they boast. 13* For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, who masquerade as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. 15So it is not strange that his ministers also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Paul’s Boast: His Labors. 16* I repeat, no one should consider me foolish;* but if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.* 17What I am saying I am not saying according to the Lord but as in foolishness, in this boastful state. 18Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19For you gladly put up with fools, since you are wise yourselves. 20* For you put up with it if someone enslaves you, or devours you, or gets the better of you, or puts on airs, or slaps you in the face. 21To my shame I say that we were too weak!*
But what anyone dares to boast of (I am speaking in foolishness) I also dare. 22* Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.k 23* Are they ministers of Christ? (I am talking like an insane person.)l I am still more,* with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death. 24Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one.m 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep;n 26on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; 27in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.o 28And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?p
Paul’s Boast: His Weakness.* 30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31* The God and Father of the Lord Jesus knows, he who is blessed forever, that I do not lie. 32At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus, in order to seize me, 33but I was lowered in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.q
* [11:1–15] Although these verses continue to reveal information about Paul’s opponents and the differences he perceives between them and himself, 2 Cor 11:1 signals a turn in Paul’s thought. This section constitutes a prologue to the boasting that he will undertake in 2 Cor 11:16–12:10, and it bears remarkable similarities to the section that follows the central boast, 2 Cor 12:11–18.
* [11:1] Put up with a little foolishness from me: this verse indicates more clearly than the general statement of intent in 2 Cor 10:13 the nature of the project Paul is about to undertake. He alludes ironically to the Corinthians’ toleration for others. Foolishness: Paul qualifies his project as folly from beginning to end; see note on 2 Cor 11:16–12:10.
* [11:2] Paul gives us a sudden glimpse of the theological values that are at stake. The jealousy of God: the perspective is that of the covenant, described in imagery of love and marriage, as in the prophets; cf. 1 Cor 10:22. I betrothed you: Paul, like a father (cf. 2 Cor 12:14), betroths the community to Christ as his bride (cf. Eph 5:21–33) and will present her to him at his second coming. Cf. Mt 25:1–13 and the nuptial imagery in Rev 21.
* [11:3] As the serpent deceived Eve: before Christ can return for the community Paul fears a repetition of the primal drama of seduction. Corruption of minds is satanic activity (see 2 Cor 2:11; 4:4). Satanic imagery recurs in 2 Cor 11:13–15, 20; 12:7b, 16–17; see notes on these passages.
* [11:4] Preaches another Jesus: the danger is specified, and Paul’s opponents are identified with the cunning serpent. The battle for minds has to do with the understanding of Jesus, the Spirit, the gospel; the Corinthians have flirted with another understanding than the one that Paul handed on to them as traditional and normative.
* [11:5] These “superapostles”: this term, employed again in 2 Cor 12:11b, designates the opponents of whom Paul has spoken in 2 Cor 10 and again in 2 Cor 11:4. They appear to be intruders at Corinth. Their preaching is marked at least by a different emphasis and style, and they do not hesitate to accept support from the community. Perhaps these itinerants appeal to the authority of church leaders in Jerusalem and even carry letters of recommendation from them. But it is not those distant leaders whom Paul is attacking here. The intruders are “superapostles” not in the sense of the “pillars” at Jerusalem (Gal 2), but in their own estimation. They consider themselves superior to Paul as apostles and ministers of Christ, and they are obviously enjoying some success among the Corinthians. Paul rejects their claim to be apostles in any superlative sense (hyperlian), judging them bluntly as “false apostles,” ministers of Satan masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Cor 11:13–15). On the contrary, he himself will claim to be a superminister of Christ (hyper egō, 2 Cor 11:23).
* [11:6] Apparently found deficient in both rhetorical ability (cf. 2 Cor 10:10) and knowledge (cf. 2 Cor 10:5), Paul concedes the former charge but not the latter. In every way: in all their contacts with him revelation has been taking place. Paul, through whom God reveals the knowledge of himself (2 Cor 2:14), and in whom the death and life of Jesus are revealed (2 Cor 4:10–11; cf. 2 Cor 6:4), also demonstrates his own role as the bearer of true knowledge. Cf. 1 Cor 1:18–2:16.
* [11:7–10] Abruptly Paul passes to another reason for complaints: his practice of preaching without remuneration (cf. 1 Cor 9:3–18). He deftly defends his practice by situating it from the start within the pattern of Christ’s own self-humiliation (cf. 2 Cor 10:1) and reduces objections to absurdity by rhetorical questions (cf. 2 Cor 12:13).
* [11:11–12] Paul rejects lack of affection as his motive (possibly imputed to him by his opponents) and states his real motive, a desire to emphasize the disparity between himself and the others (cf. 2 Cor 11:19–21). The topic of his gratuitous service will be taken up once more in 2 Cor 12:13–18. 1 Cor 9:15–18 gives a different but complementary explanation of his motivation.
* [11:13–15] Paul picks up again the imagery of 2 Cor 11:3 and applies it to the opponents: they are false apostles of Christ, really serving another master. Deceitful…masquerade: deception and simulation, like cunning (2 Cor 11:3), are marks of the satanic. Angel of light: recalls the contrast between light and darkness, Christ and Beliar at 2 Cor 6:14–15. Ministers of righteousness: recalls the earlier contrast between the ministry of condemnation and that of righteousness (2 Cor 3:9). Their end: the section closes with another allusion to the judgment, when all participants in the final conflict will be revealed or unmasked and dealt with as they deserve.
* [11:16–12:10] Paul now accepts the challenge of his opponents and indulges in boasting similar to theirs, but with differences that he has already signaled in 2 Cor 10:12–18 and that become clearer as he proceeds. He defines the nature of his project and unmistakably labels it as folly at the beginning and the end (2 Cor 11:16–23; 12:11). Yet his boast does not spring from ignorance (2 Cor 11:21; 12:6) nor is it concerned merely with human distinctions (2 Cor 11:18). Paul boasts “in moderation” (2 Cor 10:13, 15) and “in the Lord” (2 Cor 10:17).
* [11:16–29] The first part of Paul’s boast focuses on labors and afflictions, in which authentic service of Christ consists.
* [11:16–21] These verses recapitulate remarks already made about the foolishness of boasting and the excessive toleration of the Corinthians. They form a prelude to the boast proper.
* [11:20] Paul describes the activities of the “others” in terms that fill out the picture drawn in vv. 3–4, 13–15. Much of the vocabulary suggests fleshly or even satanic activity. Enslaves: cf. Gal 2:4. Devours: cf. 1 Pt 5:8. Gets the better: the verb lambanō means “to take,” but is used in a variety of senses; here it may imply financial advantage, as in the English colloquialism “to take someone.” It is similarly used at 2 Cor 12:16 and is there connected with cunning and deceit. Puts on airs: the same verb is rendered “raise oneself” (2 Cor 10:5) and “be too elated” (2 Cor 12:7).
* [11:21] Paul ironically concedes the charge of personal weakness from 2 Cor 10:1–18 but will refute the other charge there mentioned, that of lack of boldness, accepting the challenge to demonstrate it by his boast.
* [11:22] The opponents apparently pride themselves on their “Jewishness.” Paul, too, can claim to be a Jew by race, religion, and promise. Descendants of Abraham: elsewhere Paul distinguishes authentic from inauthentic heirs of Abraham and the promise (Rom 4:13–18; 9:7–13; 11:1; Gal 3:9, 27–29; cf. Jn 8:33–47). Here he grants his opponents this title in order to concentrate on the principal claim that follows.
* [11:23b–29] Service of the humiliated and crucified Christ is demonstrated by trials endured for him. This rhetorically impressive catalogue enumerates many of the labors and perils Paul encountered on his missionary journeys.
* [11:23a] Ministers of Christ…I am still more: the central point of the boast (cf. note on 2 Cor 11:5). Like an insane person: the climax of his folly.
* [11:30–12:10] The second part of Paul’s boast, marked by a change of style and a shift in focus. After recalling the project in which he is engaged, he states a new topic: his weaknesses as matter for boasting. Everything in this section, even the discussion of privileges and distinctions, will be integrated into this perspective.
* [11:31–32] The episode at Damascus is symbolic. It aptly illustrates Paul’s weakness but ends in deliverance (cf. 2 Cor 4:7–11).
b. [11:2] Hos 2:21–22; Eph 5:26–27.
f. [11:6] 1 Cor 1:5, 17; 2:1–5.
g. [11:7] 12:13–18; Acts 18:3; 1 Cor 9:6–18.
i. [11:10] 1 Cor 9:15.
k. [11:22] Acts 22:3 / Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5–6.
l. [11:23] 6:5; Acts 16:22–24; 1 Cor 15:31–32.
n. [11:25] Acts 14:19; 27:43–44.
o. [11:27] 1 Cor 4:11.
p. [11:29] 1 Cor 9:22.