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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
2 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. How came Damascus, which was in the Roman province of Syria, to be guarded by the ‘ethnarch’ of Aretas IV., who was king of Arabia Petraea B.C. 9 to A.D. 40, with Petra as his capital? Damascus cannot have been left independent by the Romans, when they occupied the Nabataean territory in B.C. 65, 64; for Damascene coins from B.C. 30 to A.D. 33 bear the name of Augustus or of Tiberius. Damascene coins from A.D. 34 to 62 are wanting: there are none extant for the reigns of Caligula and Claudius: but after 62 we have them with the name of Nero. That Aretas took Damascus from the Romans is hardly credible: and it is improbable that Tiberius handed it over to Aretas, for when he died in March, A.D. 37, he was compelling Vitellius to take measures against Aretas on behalf of Herod Antipas. Antipas had offended Aretas by divorcing his daughter (A.D. 29) in order to marry Herodias; and about this and some frontier disputes Aretas had gone to war with Antipas and completely defeated him (c. A.D. 32), a defeat which the Jews regarded as a judgment on Antipas for the murder of the Baptist (Joseph. Ant. XVIII. 2 Corinthians 11:1-2). Antipas complained to Tiberius, who promised redress; and by his orders Vitellius was unwillingly marching against Aretas, when at Pentecost in Jerusalem he heard of the death of Tiberius. He at once stopped the march on Petra. His new master, Caligula, disliked Antipas, and reversed the policy of Tiberius respecting him; and he may have expressed his disapproval of Antipas by handing Damascus over to Aretas, his chief enemy. In this way an ethnarch of Aretas may have been governor of Damascus, when S. Paul had to fly from it. This statement is important for dating the conversion of S. Paul.


Verses 1-6

1–6. These verses are introductory, apologizing for the folly of glorying, to which a godly zeal on their behalf impels him. At the beginning, middle, and end of this section he calls attention to the folly of this parade of his claims (2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Corinthians 12:11). Under cover of the humiliation of having to make a fool of himself, he completes the condemnation of his adversaries, by reminding the Corinthians of the variety and strength of his own claims, and exposing the emptiness of the claims of those who oppose him.


Verse 2

2. What is the precise meaning of ἐθνάρχης here? In the Nabataean kingdom of Aretas, the government was by tribes, and in inscriptions in the Haurân ἐθνάρχης occurs of the head of a tribal district (Schürer, Studien und Kritiken, 1899, 95–99). The title was also used of Jewish governors in Palestine and Alexandria, and perhaps came to mean a viceroy who was somewhat higher than a tetrarch (1 Maccabees 14:47; 1 Maccabees 15:1-2; Joseph. B. J. II. vi. 3). Origen says that in his day the ethnarch in Palestine differed in nothing from a king.


Verse 3

3. How is the statement of S. Paul here, that ‘the ethnarch guarded the city of the Damascenes to take me’, to be reconciled with that of S. Luke (Acts 9:24), that ‘the Jews watched the gates day and night to kill him’? There is no real discrepancy. There were thousands of Jews in Damascus (Joseph. B. J. II. xx. 2, VII. viii. 7), and it was they who moved the ethnarch to persecute Saul. How powerful their synagogues were is seen from Acts 9:2. Of course they would themselves watch the gates along with those who were placed there by Aretas, especially as they wished that Saul should not merely be taken, but be killed: comp. Acts 23:12. The ethnarch would be glad enough to win popularity with so important a section of the population by the sacrifice of a troublesome visitor.

On all these questions see Hastings’ DB. i. pp. 145, 424, 793; Schürer, Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, I. ii. pp. 89, 356, II. i. p. 98; Lewin, Fasti Sacri, pp. 226, 249; Knowling on Acts 9:23-24.


Verse 4

4. This obscure verse has received an immense amount of discussion, and it would be confusing to reproduce the numerous suggestions which have been made respecting it. No explanation can claim to be certainly correct; but, without violence to the Greek, the following interpretation, which fits the context, can be extracted from the words.

The verse is a sarcastic explanation, put in the form of a supposition, of his fear lest the serpentlike teachers should seduce the Corinthians from the simplicity of the Gospel.

εἰ μὲν γὰρ ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν κηρύσσει, κ.τ.λ. for if indeed the comer is preaching another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or ye are receiving a different spirit which ye did not receive, or a different gospel, which ye did not accept, ye are doing well in bearing with him. The μέν, ‘indeed,’ ‘really,’ prepares the way for irony. Although ὁ ἐρχόμενος was a familar expression for the Messiah (Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19-20; John 6:14; John 11:27; John 12:13), and might indicate that these Judaizing leaders were setting themselves up as a kind of Messiah, yet even in sarcasm S. Paul would hardly suggest that. More probably ὁ ἐρχόμενος means one who comes from the outside, who is ‘not of us’ (1 John 3:19), but an intruder: he is an alien, with alien principles and alien tendencies. But the expression is generic: the singular does not point to an individual, any more than τις, or τοιοῦτος, or φησίν (2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:10-11) does so, but to a class; as we say, ‘the Boer,’ when we mean the nation generally.

The three aorists should not be rendered as perfects (‘have preached, accepted, received’); they refer to the time when the Corinthians were converted to the faith. The A.V. rightly distinguishes between receiving (λαμβάνειν) the spirit, and accepting (δέχεσθαι) the Gospel, the latter being necessarily a voluntary act, the former not. The meanings of λαμβάνειν and δέχεσθαι often overlap and mingle; but δέχ. commonly implies welcoming and appropriating. The Vulgate distinguishes also, with accipere for λαμβ. and recipere for δέχ., for recipere rather than accipere implies appropriation: Peneus accipit amnem Orcon, nec recipit (Plin. IV. 2 Corinthians 8:15 § 31), i.e. does not mingle with it. But neither the Vulgate nor the A.V. distinguishes between ἄλλον and ἕτερον in the change from ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν to and εὐαγγέλιον ἕτερον, the one meaning ‘not individually the same,’ the other, ‘not of the same kind.’ A similar change is obliterated in the Vulgate and the A.V. of Galatians 1:6-7, where see Lightfoot’s note. Whether the change of word means little (1 Corinthians 12:9) or much, it ought to be marked in translation. Here the change from a person to what is impersonal may have produced the change of adjective: comp. Acts 4:12.

It is worth noting that S. Paul says ἄλλον Ἰησοῦν and not ἄλλον Χριστόν. It was about the character of the historic Jesus of Nazareth that the teaching of the intruders differed so widely from that of the Apostle. They would narrow Him down to a national leader, enforcing the letter of the Law. He proclaimed Him as the Saviour of the world, delivering from all bondage to the letter (see Gore, Bampton Lectures, p. 61). Hence the difference of the spirit and of the Gospel as imparted by S. Paul and by his opponents. On the one side, the spirit of ἐλευθερία (2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 5:1; Galatians 5:15), of χαρά (Romans 14:17; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6), of πραΰτης (Galatians 6:1), of υἱοθεσία (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5): on the other, the spirit of δουλεία (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:24), of κατάνυξις (Romans 11:8), of the κόσμος (1 Corinthians 2:12), of φόβος (Romans 8:15); so that the Gospel which they preached was no ‘glad tidings of great joy to all people,’ but a dead reiteration of legalism.

Respecting ἀνέχεσθε or ἀνείχεσθε see critical note. If ἀνείχεσθε were original, it might be corrected to ἀνέχεσθε to agree with κηρύσσει. But if ἀνείχεσθε be adopted, we have a change of construction; for it would suggest a previous ἐκήρυσσεν: moreover it represents the contingency as less real than ἀνέχεσθε does. In any case, ‘ye might well bear with him’ (A.V.), is wrong. See Winer, p. 383. The καλῶς is wholly satirical. ‘It was truly a fine thing to put up with such people as that, and refuse to tolerate the Apostle who had brought you to Christ.’

It is, however, possible to take καλῶς literally, if καλῶς ἀνέχεσθε is made interrogative. ‘If he who comes proclaims another Jesus … is it seemly that you should bear with him? Can to act thus be to act καλῶς?’ The thought goes back to the betrothal. If one who has been betrothed begins to think of some one else at the suggestion of some new προμνήστωρ, this is not acting καλῶς. Comp. the use of καλῶς, in a very similar context, in 1 Corinthians 7:37-38. The dominant idea is that of disloyally receiving some one or something new, when faith has been pledged to some one or something old. If this view is adopted, the γάρ of 2 Corinthians 11:4 takes up the idea of shameful disloyalty: ‘Shameful it is, for is such conduct καλόν?’ For the thought comp. Galatians 1:8.


Verse 5

5. λογίζομαι γὰρ μηδὲν ὑστερηκέναι τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων. For I count (2 Corinthians 10:7; 2 Corinthians 10:11) that I am not a whit behind those preeminent apostles. The rare compound ὑπερλίαν (here and 2 Corinthians 12:11 only) has been variously translated and explained; ‘overmuch,’ ‘superlative,’ ‘superfine,’ ‘extraordinary, ‘very chiefest.’ Almost certainly οἱ ὑπερλίαν ἀπόστολοι refers to the ψευδαπόστολοι (2 Corinthians 11:13), the seducing leaders who had been acting as if they had apostolic authority, if not something superior to that. The verse has been used as an argument against the supremacy of S. Peter, as if by ‘the preeminent Apostles’ S. Paul meant Peter, James, and John: and to this Roman commentators have replied that S. Paul claims to be equal to S. Peter in gifts, but says nothing about equality of jurisdiction. Both argument and reply are beside the mark. For S. Paul would hardly have used a word which implies excess or extravagance of any of the Twelve; Galatians 2:6 is no proof that he would have done so. In both passages he is depreciating, not the Twelve, but those Judaizers who professed to have the authority of the Twelve for their bigotry. Here the Twelve are not in question. It is the contrast between S. Paul and the rival teachers that is pointed out. These rivals denied Paul’s authority, and themselves claimed to have the authority of the Twelve. It is more probable that he calls the rival teachers themselves ‘superextra-apostles’ than that he styles the Twelve such. S. Paul has coined the compound on the model of ὑπεράγαν (2 Maccabees 8:35; 2 Maccabees 10:34; 2 Maccabees 13:25), ὑπέρευ (Plat., Xen., Dem.), ὑπέρφευ (Aesch., Eurip.), being fond of compounds of ὑπέρ. In this letter we have ὑπεραίρομαι, ὑπερβαλλόντως, ὑπερβάλλειν, ὑπερβολή, ὑπερέκεινα, ὑπερεκτείνω, ὑπερπερισσεύω, and there are ten or twelve more in his other letters: but this one is unique. But perhaps the possibility that S. Paul is here borrowing a phrase from his detractors at Corinth ought not to be excluded: οἱ ὑπερλίαν ἀπόστολοι may have been a cant expression there for the Jewish Apostles who had seen the Lord. Although he would never himself have invented such a designation of the Twelve, he might take it up when current. For ὑστερηκέναι see Hebrews 4. with Westcott’s note. The perfect marks not only a past (2 Corinthians 12:11, ὑστέρησα) or present inferiority (Romans 3:23, ὑστεροῦνται), but an abiding one. The gen., τῶν ἀποστόλων, comes from the idea of comparison involved in the verb: comp. ἵνα μηδʼ ἐμπειρίᾳ ὑστερῶσι τῶν ἄλλων (Plat. Rep. VII. 539 E).


Verse 5-6

5, 6. These verses lead up to the περιαυτολογία and καύχησις which is coming. The γάρ connects them with what precedes: ‘Of course this is not acting καλῶς, for &c.’


Verse 6

6. εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 4:7. But though I am rude in speech; εἰ καί implying rem ita esse, ut dicitur. For ἰδιώτης comp. 1 Corinthians 14:16; 1 Corinthians 14:24; Acts 4:13 : it means either a private person as opposed to an official, or unlearned as opposed to educated. The pupil of Gamaliel would hardly call himself ignorant or untrained τῷ λόγῳ. He means that he is no ‘orator,’ not a professional speaker; and perhaps he implies that his opponents are such. Here again he may be adopting a phrase which was used by his opponents. At any rate it had been said of him ὁ λόγος ἐξουθενημένος (2 Corinthians 10:10). The statement might be true, but it is no matter of reproach, so long as he has real knowledge of what he has to speak about. He came to them preaching οὐ καθʼ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου (1 Corinthians 2:1), but speaking θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, as it had been revealed to him (ibid. 6–13): comp. Ephesians 3:4. With ἀλλʼ οὐ τῇ γνώσει comp. ἀλλʼ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας (1 Corinthians 4:15). For illustrations of ἰδιώτης see Trench, Syn. § lxxix., Suicer, Thesaurus s. v. and Wetstein on 1 Corinthians 14:16.

ἀλλʼ ἐν παντὶ φανερώσαντες ἐν πᾶσιν εἰς ὑμᾶς. See critical note. The participle has no construction, like ἐνδεικνύμενοι in 2 Corinthians 8:24; comp. 2 Corinthians 9:11. Nor is it quite certain what is the accusative after φανερώσαντες, an uncertainty which produced the variant φανερωθέντες: but probably τήν γνῶσιν is understood; but in everything we made it manifest among all men to you-ward. With ἐν παντί comp. 2 Corinthians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 7:16, 2 Corinthians 8:7, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 11:9. No doubt ἐν πᾶσιν is masc. To make it neut. is to make it tautological with ἐν παντί. For the sake of the repetition we may say ‘in everything … before everybody,’ or ‘in all things … among all men.’ It has all been quite public; anyone can judge as to what our relations towards you have been.

It has been suggested that we have here a primitive error in the text, or indeed two such; and that S. Paul wrote or meant to write ἐν παντὶ πάντα φανερώσαντες ἐν πᾶσιν καὶ εἰς ὑμᾶς. The repetition of πᾶς is quite in his manner; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:33; 1 Corinthians 12:6. The πάντα and the καί might easily drop out. Conjectural emendation of the text is to be adopted with great caution. But this emendation would make very good sense. The phrase is an antithesis to ἰδιώτης. He is a herald commissioned to speak openly to all; 2 Corinthians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 4:2.


Verse 7

7. Ἤ ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησα κ.τ.λ. Or did I commit a sin in abasing myself that you might be exalted, because I preached to you God’s gospel for nothing? For introducing an emphatic question comp. 1 Corinthians 6:2; Romans 2:4; Romans 3:29; Romans 6:3. The strong expression ἁμαρτίαν ποιῆσαι (1 John 3:9; 1 Peter 1:22; comp. τὴν ἀμ. π. 1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:8; John 8:34) is ironical. S. Paul uses it nowhere else: see Westcott on 1 John 3:4. In ἐμαυτὸν ταπεινῶν he was following the example (Philippians 2:8) and the direction of Christ (Matthew 18:4; Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14). He refers specially to working for his living in a rough handicraft. By ὑψωθῆτε he does not mean, ‘that you might be better off, through not having to support me,’ which is very inadequate; but ‘that you might be raised from heathenism to Christianity.’ He had just spoken of his manifesting his knowledge everywhere: they could hardly blame him for that. Or was it a crime that he manifested it gratis? Note the emphatic juxtaposition of δωρεάν and τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγέλιον: the most precious thing in the world is to be had for nothing (Romans 3:24; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:17). Note also the emphatic position of τοῦ θεοῦ: it is God’s Gospel, which that of the Judaizers is not. Elsewhere he writes τὸ εὑαγγ. τοῦ θεοῦ (Romans 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9; comp. Mark 1:14): 1 Peter 4:17 as here.


Verses 7-15

7–15. THE APOSTLE’S GLORYING ABOUT WORKING GRATUITOUSLY

With this passage 1 Corinthians 9, especially 2 Corinthians 11:12; 2 Corinthians 11:15; 2 Corinthians 11:18, should be compared. It was one of the marked characteristics of S. Paul’s ministry, that he did not avail himself of Christ’s principle, that ‘the labourer is worthy of his food,’ and that ‘they which proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel’ (Matthew 10:10; Luke 10:7; 1 Corinthians 9:14). He did not claim support from the congregations in which he laboured, but maintained himself by the handicraft, which he had learned in his Cilician home, of making cilicium, a fabric of goats’ hair, used for tent-making (Acts 18:3) and coverings of all kinds. Of this manufacture Tarsus was a centre; and, wherever he went, Paul could find purchasers for this useful material. This well-known practice of his, of supporting himself by his own handiwork, is mentioned in connexion with his work at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8) and at Ephesus, where he perhaps showed αἱ χεῖρες αὗται, roughened with toil, as he spoke (Acts 20:34). But it is of his work in Corinth that the fact is first mentioned; and it was perhaps there that it provoked most comment and criticism (Acts 18:3; 1 Corinthians 9; 2 Corinthians 11:7-15; 2 Corinthians 12:14-18).

It was one of the charges of the Sophists against Socrates and Plato, that these philosophers taught gratuitously, thus confessing that their teaching was worth nothing; to which Socrates replied that it was shameful, and like prostitution, to turn the imparting of wisdom into a trade; while Plato pointed out that a man who could really teach men to be just might be sure that those whom he had made just would deal fairly with him; to insist on payment was to confess that the teaching would not be successful (Xen. Mem. I. vi. 1; Plat. Gorg. 520, Apol. 20; Arist. Eth Nic. IX. i. 5–7; Grote, Hist. of Greece, VIII. pp. 482 ff.; Windelband, Hist. of Anc. Philosophy, p. 110).

The same kind of charge may have been made by the Judaizers at Corinth. ‘Other Apostles did not hesitate to accept maintenance. Why did Paul refuse it? Because he knew that he was no true Apostle; or, because he set up as being better than the Twelve; or, because he was too proud to accept hospitality. And what an undignified thing for an Apostle to be a weaver of goats’ hair! Evidently reproaches of this kind increased since he wrote 1 Corinthians, in which he does not make much allusion to them.


Verse 8

8. ἅλλας ἐκκλησίας ἐσύλησα. Other churches I robbed; a hyperbolical expression, indicative of strong feeling, but at once preserved from being misleading by the explanation which follows. Here also he may be adopting a phrase used by his enemies. The verb is very rare in Biblical Greek: elsewhere only Ep. Jeremiah 18; comp. Romans 2:22; Colossians 2:8. He means the Macedonian Churches, from whom he accepted subsidies, which helped to support him while he preached at Corinth. Possibly the plural is rhetorical, and Philippi alone is meant (Philippians 4:15). In any case the expression ἅλλας ἑκκλ. is more pointed if the whole Church of Corinth is addressed in these chapters, and not the hostile minority: comp. 2 Corinthians 12:13 and see on 2 Corinthians 11:2.

λαβὼν ὀψώνιον πρὸς τὴν ὑμῶν διακονίαν. In taking wages (Luke 3:14; Romans 6:23) of them for my ministry unto you. He had compared his work to a campaign (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), and τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; (1 Corinthians 9:7). The supplies must come from somewhere: in this case, in order to spare the country in which he was campaigning, he got them, partly by his own labour (ἱδίοις ὀψωνίοις), partly from the Macedonian Churches. The word ὀψώνιον is late (1 Esdras 4:56; 1 Maccabees 3:28; 1 Maccabees 14:32; Polyb.): it means [1] a soldier’s rations; [2] his pay; [3] the means by which a campaign is carried on. See Lightfoot on Romans 6:23. In the agreement between King Eumenes I. and his mercenaries (c. B.C. 265) ὀψώνιον occurs several times in the sense of ‘pay,’ and ὀψώνιον λαμβάνειν occurs once (Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 226). In this sense the singular is usual in inscriptions. The ὑμῶν, like τοῦ θεοῦ in 2 Corinthians 11:7, is emphatic by position: see last note on 2 Corinthians 12:19.


Verse 9

9. καὶ παρὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς καὶ ὑστερηθείς. And when I was with you and was reduced to want (Luke 15:14). He brought Macedonian supplies with him and they were exhausted before fresh contributions from Macedonia came.

οὐ κατενάρκησα οὐθενός. I was a burden on no man. The verb is found here, 2 Corinthians 12:13-14, once in Hippocrates, and nowhere else in Greek literature. Jerome, in a letter to the Gallic lady Algasia (Ep. 121), says, Multa sunt verba, quibus juxta morem urbis et provinciae suae familiarius Apostolus utitur; e quibus exempli gratia οὐ κατενάρκησα ὑμῶν, h. e. non gravavi vos [nulli onerosus fui, Vulg.]. Quibus et aliis multis verbis usque hodie utuntur Cilices. Nee hoc miremur in Apostolo, si utatur ejus linguae consuetudine, in quâ natus est et nutritus. This lacks confirmation. The word looks more like a medical one, possibly picked up in the schools at Tarsus. Hippocrates (Art. 816 c), uses the passive in the sense of ‘being benumbed’ a sense which ναρκάω has in the active; τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ τὸ στόμα ναρκῶ (Plat. Meno 80 B). Comp. Genesis 32:25-32; Job 33:19; Daniel 11:6. The substantive νάρκη means ‘numbness,’ μικροῦ δεῖν ἁναισθησία (Galen); also the ‘electric fish’ which ναρκᾷν ποιεῖ ὦν ἅν κρατήσειν μέλλῃ ἰχθύων (Arist. Hist. Animal xi. xxv. 2). Here the ‘numbness’ is caused by pressure; ‘paralysing a man by squeezing money out of him.’

τὸ γὰρ ὑστέρημά μου. For my want the brethren, when they came from Macedonia, supplied. The relation between ὑστερηθείς and ὑστέρημα must be marked in translation. The compound προσανεπλήρωσαν means ‘supplied in addition,’ and this may refer to what Macedonia had contributed before, or to what the Apostle earned with his own hands. See on 2 Corinthians 9:12. The coincidence with Acts 18:1; Acts 18:5 must not be overlooked. There the arrival of S. Paul at Corinth, and the subsequent arrival of brethren from Macedonia, are recorded. Those brethren were Silas and Timothy; and that gives us a coincidence with 2 Corinthians 1:19, and also with the salutations of 1 and 2 Thes., both of which were written from Corinth. See Paley, Horae Paulinae, iv. 6, 7, viii. 4. But it is not certain that these ἀδελφοὶ ἀπὸ ΄ακεδονίας were Silas and Timothy.

ἑν παντὶ ἀβαρῆ ἐμαυτὸν ὑμῖν ἐτήρησα. In everything (2 Corinthians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 7:16, 2 Corinthians 8:7, 2 Corinthians 9:8, 2 Corinthians 11:6) I kept myself from being burdensome, viz. during my stay; not ‘have kept myself’ (A.V.). The addition of καὶ τηρήσω shows that he has in no way repented of his ἁμαρτία (2 Corinthians 11:7): tantum abest ut poeniteat (Bengel). The rather rare word ἁβαρής occurs nowhere else in Biblical Greek. Arist. De Coelo I. viii. 16 is its earliest occurrence: and we have ἀβαρῆ ἑαυτὸν παρέχειν (C. I. 5361. 15). Comp. πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἐπιβαρῆσαί τινα ὑμῶν (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).

Why did S. Paul, who was so vehement (2 Corinthians 11:10, 1 Corinthians 9:15) in refusing maintenance from the congregations to which he was ministering, yet allow the Macedonian Churches to contribute to his support when he was labouring at Corinth and elsewhere? The answer to this shows us the main reason for the Apostle’s rejection of entertainment. He wished to be absolutely free and independent in his preaching, and to be under no temptation to ‘prophesy smooth things’ to those whose hospitality and alms he was accepting, nor to be open to the charge, ‘you are paid to say that.’ He must be free to rebuke, where rebuke was required, and his praise must be beyond the suspicion of being bought. There were other reasons also, such as a desire to avoid the accusation of greed (2 Corinthians 11:12). But the preservation of perfect liberty was the chief reason: and to accept help from Macedonia, when he was preaching at Corinth, did not interfere with his independence at Corinth.


Verse 10

10. ἔστιν ἀλήθεια Χριστοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ ὅτι. The truth of Christ is in me that. This is not exactly an oath; ‘I swear by the truth of Christ’; but it is an appeal to a spirit of truthfulness in him, which is not his own but Christ’s, and which guarantees his sincerity. Comp. κατέναντι θεοῦ ἐν χριστῷ λαλοῦμεν (2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 12:19), ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν χριστῷ (Romans 9:1); and conversely, τοῦ ἐν ἑμοὶ λαλοῦντος Χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 13:3). As the νοῦς χριστοῦ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and the πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ (Romans 8:9) dwells in him, so also the ἀλήθεια Χρ. Thus all possibility of hypocrisy or vanity is excluded. For the ὅτι comp. Romans 14:11; Judith 12:4. See note on 2 Corinthians 1:18.

ἡ καύχησις αὕτη οὐ φραγήσεται εἰς ἐμέ. See critical note. This glorying shall not be stopped with regard to me. He will never do anything that will hinder him from glorying that he has not been a burden to the community. The metaphor is from blocking a road with a fence or a wall (Hosea 2:6; Job 19:8; Lamentations 3:7-9), and hence of having the mouth stopped (Romans 3:19; Hebrews 11:33). An allusion to the wall across the Isthmus of Corinth is not likely. Chrysostom refers the metaphor to rivers rather than roads.

ἐν τοῖς κλίμασι τῆς Ἀχαίας. This unusual expression possibly indicates that his rights as Apostle to the Gentiles extend further than Corinth; or it may be used as less personal than ἐν ὑμῖν, which (immediately after εἰς ἐμέ) would have been πληκτικώτερον (Chrys.). The word κλίμα is found only in Paul in the N.T. (Romans 15:23; Galatians 1:21); in the LXX. in a variant of Judges 20:2, ἔστη τὸ κλίμα παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ, and in Symmachus of ‘the corners of Moab’ (Numbers 24:17). It occurs several times in Polybius.


Verse 11

11. διὰ τί;Why am I so firmly resolved never to accept maintenance from you?’ Is it because I care too little about you to wish to be under any obligation to you, or dislike you too much to accept anything of yours?’ This had very possibly been insinuated.

ὁ θεὸς οἶδεν. God knoweth whether he loves them or not, and what the true reason for his refusal is. He wishes to prove to them and to all, that he ministers to them for love and not for gain. Comp. Θεὸς δέ που οἶδεν, εἰ ἀληθὴς οὖσα τυγχάνει ἡ ἐλπὶς ἐμή (Plat. Rep. vii. p. 517 B), and Harum sententiarum quae vera sit, deus aliqui viderit (Cic. Tusc. Disp. I. xi. 25).


Verse 12

12. Ὃ δὲ ποιῶ καὶ ποιήσω, ἵνα ἑκκόψω τὴν ἀφορμὴν τῶν θελόντων ἀφορμήν. But what I do, that I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the occasion of those who wish for an occasion. There is no obscurity thus far. He will continue to work δωρεάν, in order that he may give no handle to those who wish to have a handle against him. They might say, if he took anything from his Corinthian converts, that he preached simply for the sake of the loaves and fishes. For ἐκκόπτειν in the literal sense comp. Romans 11:22; Romans 11:24; Matthew 3:10; &c.; in a figurative sense, ἐξέκοψε τὴν ἐλπίδα μου (Job 19:10) and ἐπιθυμίαν οὐ δύναται ἑκκόψαι (4 Maccabees 3:2): also ἡ πρόσθε θρασύτης ἐξεκέκοπτο (Plat. Charm. 155 c). For ἀφορμή comp. 2 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:14; Romans 7:8; Romans 7:11.

ἵνα ἐν ᾧ καυχῶνται εὑρεθῶσιν καθὼς καὶ ἡμεῖς. This second ἵνα (comp. John 1:7) is not so clear, and opposite interpretations of its meaning are proposed. That wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. In what did his opponents glory? In being superior to Paul both in authority and in message; he was no true Apostle, and what he preached was not the true Gospel. They came from the Twelve, and they preached the truth. Does S. Paul here mean that he wants to show that they are not better than he? If that were his aim, he would hardly have said ‘even as we.’ Moreover, this does not fit on well to his cutting off opportunity for slander. It is clear from 2 Corinthians 11:20 (εἴ τις κατεσθίει, εἴ τις λαμβάνει) that his opponents took remuneration for their teaching (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:12). Could they have scoffed at him for not taking pay, if they refused it themselves, or even professed to refuse it? They probably said that it was ‘apostolic’ to be worthy of maintenance, and gloried in accepting it, λόγῳ κομπάζοντες, λάθρα δὲ χρηματιζόμενοι (Theodoret). But by so doing they exposed themselves to the charge of greed, which S. Paul believed that they would have brought against him, if he had taken pay. Perhaps he means that his refusal will drive them to refuse maintenance. Imo in hoc instituto pergam, ut et ipsos ad exemplum meum imitandum provocem (Beza). If so, then ‘in that wherein they gloried (viz. in the matter of accepting remuneration) they would be found even as he’ (i.e. they would refuse to accept), and the Corinthians would be freed from an incubus. This would be more probable if he had written γένωνται for εὑρεθῶσιν. But we do not know enough about the details of the situation to be sure of his meaning. For other views as to the interpretation of the words see Alford, Meyer, or Stanley.


Verse 13

13. οἱ γὰρ τοιοῦτοι ψευδαπόστολοι, ἐργάται δόλιοι. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers. The γάρ implies some such thought as, ‘I am justified in saying these severe things, for people of that kind (Romans 16:18) are most dangerous deceivers.’ No doubt οἱ τοιοῦτοι is subject, and the rest are predicates; yet the Vulgate adds ψευδαπόστολοι to the subject; nam ejusmodi pseudoapostoli sunt operarii subdoli; and Luther adds ἐργ. δόλιοι also to the subject; denn solche falsche Apostel und trügliche Arbeiter verstellen sich zu Christi Aposteln. Comp. ψευδόχριστοι καὶ ψευδοπροφῆται (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22), and ψευδάδελφοι (2 Corinthians 11:26); also τοὺς φάσκοντας εἶναι ἀποστόλους καὶ οὐκ εἰσι (Revelation 2:2). They were δόλιοι in pretending to work for Christ, when they worked for their own ends (2 Corinthians 2:17). The adjective is frequent in Psalms and Proverbs and elsewhere in the LXX., but occurs nowhere else in the N.T. In classical Greek it is mostly poetical. With the asyndeton comp. 2 Corinthians 8:23.

μετασχηματιζόμενοι εἰς ἀποστόλους Χριστοῦ. Fashioning themselves into Apostles of Christ. A less real change is meant than that which is implied by μεταμορφοῦσθαι (2 Corinthians 3:18), the word used of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2), and of moral change (Romans 12:2). ‘Transform’ is too strong, and there is no article before ἀποστόλους: see on 2 Corinthians 2:16. For μετασχηματίζειν comp. 1 Corinthians 4:6 and Philippians 3:21; see Lightfoot’s detached note on Philippians 2:7; also Trench, Syn. § LXX.


Verse 14

14. καὶ οὐ θαῦμα. See critical note. Comp. ΠΛ. πολλοῦ γὰρ αὐτοὺς οὐχ ἑώρακά πω χρόνου. ΧΡ. καὶ θαῦμά γʼ οὐδέν· οὐδʼ ἐγὼ γὰρ ὁ βλέπων (Aristoph. Plut. 98, 99).

αὐτὸς γὰρ ὁ Σατανᾶς. The αὐτός prepares us for what is coming,—that these false apostles are his ministers. What the master does, his servants will do. It may be doubted whether S. Paul is here alluding to anything in Jewish tradition or in the O.T., as to Satan appearing among ‘the sons of God’ (Job 1:6). A reference to the Temptation of Christ is less unlikely. More probably he is appealing to the common experience (present tense), that in temptations what is sinful is sometimes made to look quite innocent, or even meritorious: solet se transformare (Bengel). Comp. τέκνα φωτός (Ephesians 5:8), νἱοὶ φωτός (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and contrast ἡ ἐξουσία τοῦ σκότους (Luke 22:53; Colossians 1:13). That “the Judaising teachers had claimed the authority of an angelic message for the gospel which they preached, and set this against the authority of the angelic visions which St Luke had recorded in the case of Cornelius,” is not probable. And had these Corinthians read Acts? It was not yet written.

Of the various names for the evil one which are used in the N.T., four are found in 2 Corinthians 1. Σατανᾶς (2 Corinthians 2:11, here, 2 Corinthians 12:7); 2. ὁ Θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου (2 Corinthians 4:4); 3. Βελίαρ (2 Corinthians 6:15); 4. ὁ ὅφις (2 Corinthians 11:3). The other names which are used by S. Paul are: ὁ διάβολος (Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11, &c.); ὁ πονηρός (Ephesians 6:16); ὁ ἄρχων τῆς ἐξουσίας τοῦ ἀέρος (Ephesians 2:2); ὁ πειράζων (1 Thessalonians 3:5).


Verse 15

15. οὐ μέγα οὖν εἰ. Comp. μέγα εἰ ἠμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; (1 Corinthians 9:11): μέγα μοί ἐστιν εἴ ἔτι ὁ υἱός μου Ἰωσὴφ ζῇ (Genesis 45:28).

εἰ καὶ οἱ διάκονοι αὐτοῦ μετασχηματίζονται ὡς διάκονοι δικαιοσύνης. If his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness. The A.V. again inserts the article. They claimed to be ministers of righteousness as being champions of the Law, and insinuated that Paul was a minister of unrighteousness, whose repudiation of the Law encouraged immorality.

ὦν τὸ τέλος ἔσται κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν. The R.V. is probably right in placing a colon at δικαιοσύνης and making this an independent statement: ὦν τὸ κρὶμα ἔνδικόν ἐστιν (Romans 3:8): ὦν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια (Philippians 3:9): ἀποδώσει αὐτῷ ὁ κύριος κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ (2 Timothy 4:14). For the doctrine comp. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6 ff. Quacunque specie se nunc efferant, detrahitur tandem schema (Bengel).


Verse 16

16. Πάλιν λέγω, μή τις με δόξῃ ἄφρονα εἶναι. As in 2 Corinthians 11:1, he admits that all this glorying may be stigmatized as folly. But it is not folly of his own choosing; he would gladly have left it alone. Therefore, he here makes two alternative requests; not to think him foolish, because he utters what is folly; or, if that is impossible, not to refuse to attend to him, because they think him foolish. It is for their attention that he cares: ‘Think me a fool, if you must; but listen to me.’ Four Greek words are sometimes rendered ‘fool’ in the A.V.; ἄφρων (2 Corinthians 11:19, 2 Corinthians 12:6; 2 Corinthians 12:11; 1 Corinthians 15:36; Romans 2:20; Ephesians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:15; Luke 11:40; Luke 12:20); μωρός (1 Corinthians 1:25; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9; Matthew 5:22; &c.); ἀνόητος (Romans 1:14; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 3:3; 1 Timothy 6:9; Titus 3:3; Luke 24:25); ἄσοφος (Ephesians 5:15).

εἰ δὲ μήγε. This is stronger than εἰ δὲ μή (Mark 2:21-22) and follows both negative (Matthew 9:17; Luke 14:32) and affirmative sentences (Matthew 6:1; Luke 10:6; Luke 13:9). It is found in Plato (Rep. IV. 425 E). Blass § 77. 4.

κἂν ὡς ἄφρονα δέξασθέ με. Elliptical for καὶ ἐὰν ὡς ἄφρονα δέξησθέ με, δέξασθέ με. Comp. Mark 6:56; Acts 5:15. ‘People don’t give much attention to one whom they regard as a fool; but at least give me that much.’ Winer, p. 730.

ἵνα κἀγὼ μικρόν τι καυχήσωμαι. That I also may glory a little. See critical note. Almost everywhere κἀγώ, not καὶ ἐγώ, is the right reading. Luke 2:48; Luke 16:9; Acts 10:26 are exceptions (Gregory, Prolegomena p. 96). The καί reminds them that he did not begin; he is answering fools according to their folly. And the μικρόν τι (2 Corinthians 11:1) implies that his critics have gloried a good deal. Possibly μικρόν τι καυχᾶσθαι was one of their phrases.


Verses 16-21

16–21. Like 2 Corinthians 11:1-6, these six verses are ‘again’ introductory to the glorying which follows, apologizing for the folly of it.


Verses 16-33

16–33. GLORYING ABOUT HIS SERVICES AND SUFFERINGS


Verse 17

17. οὐ κατὰ κύριον λαλῶ. He does this on his own responsibility and claims no inspiration for it. The expression seems to mean ‘in accordance with the character of the Lord.’ Comp. οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν (Colossians 2:8); κατὰ Χρ. Ἰησοῦν (Romans 15:5); κατὰ Θεόν (2 Corinthians 7:9; Ephesians 4:24); and especially μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ; (1 Corinthians 9:8). Here, as there, the use of λαλῶ is to be noted. It implies, more than λέγω does, that he has his readers before him and is talking to them (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:19; Romans 7:1). See Winer, p. 501.

ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ ὑποστάσει τῆς καυχήσεως. This applies to both himself and his opponents. Neque enim illi propositum erat se laudare, sed tantum illis se opponere, ut eos dejiceret. Transfert igitur in suam personam quod illorum erat proprium, ut Corinthiis aperiat oculos (Calvin). For ὑπόστασις see on 2 Corinthians 9:4 : in this confidence of glorying.


Verse 18

18. κατὰ[τὴν]σάρκα. See critical note. Everywhere else, and very frequently (2 Corinthians 1:17, 2 Corinthians 5:16, 2 Corinthians 10:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 10:18; &c.), S. Paul writes κατὰ σάρκα, which might account for τήν being accidentally or deliberately omitted in some early copies. If the article is original, it is inserted to mark a difference, which may be this, that κατὰ σάρκα is ‘from a low point of view,’ and κατὰ τὴν σάρκα, ‘from their low point of view.’ There may be many points of view, all κατὰ σάρκα, which are taken by different people. The R.V. reads κ. τὴν σ., but makes no change in translation. The πολλοί includes others besides the false teachers: many people, from their own worldly points of view, glory of their birth, possessions, performances, &c. The Apostle can do the same. Comp. Philippians 3:3-5. With the construction ἐπεὶ πολλοὶκἀγώ comp. ἐπειδήπερ πολλοὶἔδοξε κἀμοί (Luke 1:1-3).

κἀγὼ καυχήσομαι. Understand κατὰ τὴν σάρκα μου. He is going to show the Corinthians what this kind of rivalry in glorying involves. See the analysis of what follows (2 Corinthians 11:19-31) in Appendix D.


Verse 19

19. ἡδέως γὰρ ἀνέχεσθε τῶν ἀφρόνων φρόνιμοι ὄντες. The ἡδέως is emphatic by position, and τῶν ἀφρόνων and φρόνιμοι are in emphatic juxtaposition. For gladly ye bear with (as in 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:4) the foolish, because ye are wise. They were so sure of their own wisdom, that they could be serenely tolerant of what they considered folly. This of course is sarcasm. To translate ‘although ye are wise’ removes the irony and makes the φρόνιμοι ὅντες a rather pointless addition. The verbal opposition between ἄφρονες and φρόνιμοι can be preserved with ‘senseless’ and ‘sensible’; but ‘sensible’ is too weak for φρόνιμος: comp. 1 Corinthians 10:15; Romans 11:25; Romans 12:16. For the irony comp. 1 Corinthians 4:10.


Verse 20

20. ἀνέχεσθε γάρ. ‘Am I not right in saying that in your sublime wisdom you can be serenely tolerant of folly? For you put up with what is a great deal more intolerable than folly. You put up with tyranny, with extortion, with craftiness, with arrogance, with violence and insult. All this you bear with from my opponents. Surely you can bear with a little folly from me.’

καταδουλοῖ. ‘Reduce to abject slavery,’ as in Galatians 2:4, the only other passage in which the compound is found in the N.T. Comp. Jeremiah 15:4. Elsewhere in the LXX. we have the middle (Exodus 1:14; Ezekiel 29:18; &c.), which is more common in classical Greek, and might have been expected here. But perhaps S. Paul means that these false apostles were bringing the Corinthians into bondage, not to themselves, but to the yoke of the Law. So in Galatians 2:4, where see Lightfoot. Comp. ἀρίστων ἁνδρῶν πατρίδα ἐλευθερούντων, Δολοβέλλα δὲ αὐτὴν καταδουλοῦτος ἑτέροις (Appian, B.C. IV. ix. 69).

κατεσθίει. As in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47, this probably refers to the avarice of the Judaizers in getting all that they could out of the Corinthians. For illustrations see Wetstein ad loc. and Matthew 23:14. Comp. Galatians 5:15 and οἱ κατέσθοντες τὸν λαόν μου (Psalms 13:4). In Isaiah 9:15 καταπίνειν is used in a similar way; πλανῶσιν ὅπως καταπίνωσιν αὐτούς: comp. Ps. 34:25, 123:3.

λαμβάνει. Taketh you, i.e. in a snare, ‘catcheth you’: comp. δόλῳ ὑμᾶς ἔλαβον (2 Corinthians 12:16); οὐδὲν ἐλάβομεν (Luke 5:5). This interpretation harmonizes with ἐργάται δόλιοι (2 Corinthians 11:13). ‘Take of you’ (A.V.), si quis stipendium accipit (Beza), is a bathos after ‘devour you.’

ἐπαίρεται. Uplifteth himself: see on 2 Corinthians 10:5. ‘Exalt’ should be kept for ὑψόω (2 Corinthians 11:10). The Judaizing leaders would be likely fastu efferri: comp. 2 Corinthians 3:1, 2 Corinthians 10:12.

εἰς πρόσωπον ὑμᾶς δέρει. This may be metaphorical for violent and insulting treatment (Matthew 5:39). But such an outrage may actually have occurred (Mark 14:65; Acts 23:2). S. Paul thought it necessary to direct both Timothy and Titus that a bishop must not be a ‘striker’ (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7). For the rhetorical repetition of εἰ comp. 1 Timothy 5:10 : for the asyndeton comp. 2 Corinthians 11:13, 2 Corinthians 12:10.


Verse 21

21. κατὰ ἀτιμίαν λέγω, ὡς ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠσθενήκαμεν. See critical note. By way of dishonour (2 Corinthians 6:8) I speak, as though we have been weak. This apparently means, ‘To my own discredit I admit that I was so weak as to be unequal to treating you in this way.’ But the passage is obscure, and the Versions vary very much. He is still very satirical. ‘It is a disgraceful confession to make; but in apostolic behaviour of this kind (such as is described in 2 Corinthians 11:20) I have been as wanting as you like to make me.’ The ἀτιμία is, no doubt, his own: had he meant ‘to your dishonour,’ he would have written κατὰ τὴν ἀτιμίαν ὑμῶν. In ὡς ὅτι (comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 with Lightfoot’s note) the ὡς indicates that what is introduced by ὅτι is given as the thought of another, which may or may not be correct. Winer, p. 771. Comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19, which, however, is not quite parallel. Blass says that the combination is not classical (§ 70. 2); but it is found in Xen. Hellen. III. 2 Corinthians 2:14 and Isocr. Busir. Argum. The ἡμεῖς is in emphatic opposition to the sham διάκονοι δικαισύνης with their fraud and violence. The perf., ἠσθενήκαμεν sums up the general impression of the Corinthians about him.

ἐν ᾦ δʼ ἄν τις τολμᾷ. The δέ and the τολμᾷ mark a contrast to ἠσθενήκαμεν: But whereinsoever any is bold; ‘when it comes to real boldness, no matter when, or by whom, exhibited.’ The τις, like the πολλοί in 2 Corinthians 11:18, takes the statement beyond the limits of the false apostles. For τολμᾷ see on 2 Corinthians 10:2.

ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ λέγω. It is in folly that I speak. This parenthesis is in harmony with ὡς ἄφρονα δέξασθέ με (2 Corinthians 11:16). He inserts it, partly as a protest against the line of argument which (κατὰ τὴν σάρκα and οὐ κατὰ κύριον) he is taking; partly because he assumes that they will not believe in his being really bold. ‘Of course I am a fool to say this.’


Verse 22

22. He begins by comparing himself point by point with the Judaizers, who had, no doubt, urged these very points in their own favour. He has been answering their attacks on him, implying throughout that their accusation recoiled on themselves. He now answers the claims which they made on their own behalf, and urges that he can make such claims with still more truth. Comp. the similar passage Philippians 3:5 and see Lightfoot’s note.

Ἐβραῖοί εἰσιν; These four sentences are much more vigorous if we take them (with A.V. and R.V., following Beza, Calvin, and Luther) as questions. Earlier English Versions, following the Vulgate, take them as assertions; They are Hebrews, &c. The claims are perhaps roughly arranged to form a climax, the least important point coming first, and the most important, last. But in some respects Ἰσραηλεῖται would be more important than σπέρμα Ἀβραάμ: see Sanday and Headlam on Romans 9:4-7. Yet in Romans 9:7, and again in Romans 11:1, ‘seed of Abraham’ comes after ‘Israelite,’—apparently as more important. The first point is that of nationality; he belongs to the same race as his opponents. For, although ‘Hebrews’ originally meant ‘men from the other side’ of Euphrates (?), yet it is gentilic, and not local; it describes a race, and not where they dwell (see Hastings’ DB. 2. p. 326). S. Paul goes on to say that he enjoys the same special privileges as his opponents. These are covered by ‘Israelites’ and ‘seed of Abraham.’ The difference between the two is perhaps this; that ‘Israelite’ looks to the special relations between the peculiar people and Jehovah, while ‘seed of Abraham’ looks rather to their share in the promises that the Messiah should be of that seed (Genesis 22:18). Therefore Ἰσραηλεῖταί εἰσιν; would mean, Are they members of the theocracy? σπέρμα Ἀβραάμ εἰσιν; Have they a share in the Messianic rights of the nation? (See Lightfoot on Galatians 6:16 and Philippians 3:5, and comp. the climax in Romans 9:5.) The thought of the Messianic glories naturally leads on to the fourth point, of being Messiah’s ministers.

For obvious reasons S. Paul omits here, what he states in Romans 11:1 and Philippians 3:5, that he is φυλῆς Βενιαμείν, to which fact we may trace his name of Saul, the Benjamite who was the first king of Israel. It is remarkable that, in a Church almost entirely Gentile, so much stress should have been laid upon being of Hebrew descent. It is possible that his enemies had professed to doubt whether this man of Tarsus (Acts 22:3) was really of the seed of Abraham. A little later the Ebionites said that Paul was a Gentile, who had been circumcised, that he might marry the high-priest’s daughter (Epiphan. Haer. xxx. 16). On the smooth breathing for Ἐβραῖος see WH. II. p. 313. The aspirate in Latin and English is comparatively modern. Not only Wiclif, but Tyndale and Cranmer, have ‘Ebrues’ here. Coverdale starts the aspirate in 1535. Only here, Philippians 3:5, and Acts 6:1 does Ἐβραῖος occur in the N.T. Ἰσραηλείτης is common in Acts in addresses, ἄνδρες Ἰσραηλεῖται (Acts 2:22,Acts 3:12, &c.); elsewhere only Romans 9:4; Romans 11:1 and John 1:48. The common word is Ἰουδαῖος. Comp. Romani and Quirites.


Verses 22-33

22–33. Now follows the actual glorying. Several times he had begun this assertion of himself (2 Corinthians 10:7-8, 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 11:16), but each time something has diverted him for awhile. Now he is fairly launched; and the result is a sketch of his life, which, for historical purposes, is one of the most valuable passages in his or in any other of the canonical Epistles. In some respects it stands quite alone. Elsewhere he once or twice gives an outline of what he has gone through (1 Corinthians 4:11-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10); but here he gives exact details, which are all the more impressive because they are evidently wrung from him by hostile criticism. They show how free from exaggeration his friend’s biographical notices of him are in Acts. Where S. Luke records what is parallel to what we have here, so far from embroidering, he omits a great deal. Where he recounts what took place after this letter was written (Acts 20-28), he tells us nothing but what is equalled or exceeded by what we are told here. Further, the account of his Rapture to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2 ff.) throws light on similar experiences, as of S. Peter in Acts 10, and of S. John in the Revelation.


Verse 23

23. διάκονοι Χριστοῦ εἰσίν; The Judaizers had claimed to be in a special sense Χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 10:7, 2 Corinthians 11:13; comp. 1 Corinthians 1:12). In replying to their claim to be διάκονοι Χριστοῦ (comp. δ. τοῦ Χριστοῦ, Colossians 1:7), the Apostle feels that a repetition of κἀγώ would be inadequate: he can say a great deal more than that.

παραφρονῶν λαλῶ. I am talking like a madman; stronger than ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ λέγω (2 Corinthians 11:21). Comp. τὴν προφήτου παραφρονίαν (2 Peter 2:16) and ἔδωκαν νῶτον παραφρονοῦντα (Zechariah 7:11): also πατάξω πάντα ἴππον ἐν ἐκστάσει καὶ τὸν ἀναβάτην αὐτοῦ ἐν παραφρονήσει (Zechariah 12:4). This group of words is rare in Biblical Greek. The strong expression anticipates ὕπερ ἐγώ. If it was folly to say τολμῶ κἀγώ, it was madness to say ὕπερ ἐγώ of being a minister of Christ. He probably means that he really is talking like a fool in the one case and like a madman in the other; not that the Corinthians will think him foolish and frantic. All glorying is foolish; and this talking of ὕπερ as a minister of Christ is worse than foolish. What was not true of his words to Festus (Acts 26:25) is true of such language as he is provoked into using here. In doing one’s duty ποῦ ἡ καύχησις; ἐξεκλείσθη; (Romans 3:27).

ὕπερ ἐγώ. This adverbial use of ἱπέρ stands alone in the N.T.; for it is very improbable that it should be so taken in Ephesians 3:20. Comp. ὁ δʼ ἀντιστὰς ὕπερ (Soph. Ant. 518), and the use of μετὰ δέ for ἔπειτα δέ (Hdt. I. xix. 3). The difference between ‘I am more’ (A.V.), where ‘am’ should be in italics, and ‘I more’ (R.V.), is the difference between ‘I am more than a minister of Christ’ and ‘I am more a minister of Christ than they are.’ The latter admits that in some sense his opponents are ministers of Christ; and this is probably the meaning. What dignity more than that of a minister of Christ could he claim which they did not claim? They claimed to be apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13). There is nothing improbable in his admitting for the sake of argument that they are διάκονοι Χριστοῦ. ‘Let us assume that we are all of us ministers of Christ, as we are all of us Hebrews and Israelites. Which of us can show an abundant share in τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 1:5)? Which is rich in that divine token of faithful service (Matthew 5:11-12; John 15:20),—the enduring of persecution? Nevertheless, the A.V. rendering, ‘I am more,’ makes παραφρονῶν λαλῶ more pointed: for a man to say that he is more than a minister of Christ seems like raving.

ἐν κόποις περισσοτέρως. It is improbable that this means, ‘in labours I am more abundantly a minister of Christ than they are.’ All that need be understood is the ‘I am’ or ‘I have been’ implied by the adverb. It is not certain that περισσοτέρως, which is frequent in this letter (2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 7:13; 2 Corinthians 7:15, 2 Corinthians 12:15), implies any comparison with his opponents, for there is no comparison in ὑπερβαλλόντως or πολλάκις. Stanley perhaps goes too far in saying that it is merely a stronger form of περισσῶς: but it need mean no more than ‘more abundantly than is common.’ “The adverb expresses so to speak an absolute excess and not simply a relative excess” (Westcott on Hebrews 2:1). S. Paul can hardly mean that by their abundant κόποι the false teachers had to some extent a claim to be called διάκονοι Χριστοῦ, but that his κόποι were more abundant than theirs, and therefore his claim still stronger. On the contrary, he complains that they gloried in what was really his work and was accomplished before they came; καυχώμενοι ἐν ἀλλοτρίοις κόποις,—ἐν ἀλλοτριῳ κανόνι εἰς τὰ ἔτοιμα καυχήσασθαι (2 Corinthians 10:15-16). Still less can he mean that they had often been put in prison during their service, but that he had been imprisoned still more often than they had. Their preaching was for gain; καπηλεύοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ (2 Corinthians 2:17), or τοῦ ἀποσπᾷν τοὺς μαθητὰς ὀπίσω ἑαυτῶν (Acts 20:30). For κόποι comp. 2 Corinthians 6:5, 2 Corinthians 10:15; Galatians 6:17. His opponents are now left out of sight, and do not appear again till 2 Corinthians 12:11.

ἐν φυλακαῖς περισσοτέρως. See critical note. Beyond question περισσοτέρως is used twice: but the Vulgate, followed by the A.V., implies four different words; in laboribus plurimis, in carceribus abundantius, in plagis supra modum, in mortibus frequenter. Clement of Rome (Cor. v.) says Παῦλος ὑπομονῆς βραβεῖον (1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14) ὑπέδειξεν, ἑπτάκις δεσμὰ φορέσας. Of these seven imprisonments the one at Philippi is the only one known to us previous to 2 Corinthians. At a later date there were the imprisonments at Jerusalem and Caesarea and the two at Rome. Clement would hardly have been so definite without knowledge.

ἐν πληγαῖς ὑπερβαλλόντως. In stripes (2 Corinthians 6:5) very exceedingly. S. Paul varies the adverbs to avoid monotony, as he varies the verbs in 1 Corinthians 8:8. Comp. μεγάλως ὑπερβαλλόντως λελάληκας (Job 15:11). The adverb is not rare in late Greek.

ἐν θᾳνάτοις πολλάκις. It is clear from this that a verb to carry the adverb is to be understood in each case. The adverb is not virtually an adjective agreeing with the substantive. The plural may refer either to the different occasions on which he was nearly killed, or to the different kinds of death to which he was exposed. The latter seems to be the meaning; for he at once goes on to mention a variety of things which might have been fatal: comp. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, 2 Corinthians 4:11; Romans 8:36; and καθʼ ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω (1 Corinthians 15:13), i.e. διηνεκῶς ἐμαυτὸν εἰς προύπτους θανάτους ἐκδίδωμι (Theodoret): also προαποθνήσκω πολλοὺς θανάτους ὑπομένων (Philo, in Flaccum 990 A).


Verse 24

24. ὑπὸ Ἰουδαίων. These words belong to the first clause only: perhaps he meant to go on to ὑπὸ τῶν ἐθνῶν, but forgot to make the formal antithesis. For this use of ὑπό comp. 1 Corinthians 10:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Matthew 17:12. None of these Jewish floggings are recorded elsewhere. Such punishments, like Roman scourging or beating with rods, could be so severe as sometimes to cause death; but such a result under Jewish law would be rare. Deuteronomy 25:1-3, the earliest passage in which this form of punishment is expressly mentioned, forbids the infliction of more than 40 stripes; and it was usual to inflict only 39, for fear of a miscount. Others explain that 13 stripes were given with a whip that had three lashes; or that 13 were given on three different parts of the body, viz. right and left shoulders and the breast. But ‘cause to lie down’ (Deuteronomy 25:2) points to the bastinado, which was common in Egypt. Josephus (Ant. IV. viii. 21) calls it τιμωρίαν ταύτην αἰσχίστην. Fatal blows inflicted by a master on his slaves (Exodus 21:20) are not here in point. With παρὰ μιαν comp. τῶν τεσσαράκοντα ἐτῶν παρὰ τριάκονθʼ ἡμέρας συμπεπληρωμένων (Joseph. Ant. IV. viii. 1) and παρὰ ἔν πάλαισμα ἔδραμε νικᾶν Ὀλυμπιάδα, ‘he was within one bout of winning, won an Olympic victory all but one wrestling-bout’ (Hdt. IX. xxxiii. 4). For the omission of πληγάς comp. Luke 12:47 and παιειν ὀλίγας (Xen. Anab. v. viii. 12).


Verses 24-28

24–28. We have, in rough order, three groups; 1. the details of being ἐν θανάτοις πολλάκις (2 Corinthians 11:24-25); 2. the details of being ὁδοιπορίαις πολλάκις (2 Corinthians 11:26); 3. a variety of sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:27-28). In the first group he begins with what was inflicted on him in the name of law, Jewish or Roman, and passes on to man’s lawlessness and operations of nature.


Verse 25

25. τρὶς ἐραβδίσθην. This beating with rods is a Roman punishment. We know of only one of these three cases, the one at Philippi (Acts 16:23; comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:2). Possibly the protest that he and Silas were Roman citizens, which frightened the praetors afterwards (Acts 16:37-38), was not heard in the tumult (Ramsay, St Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, p. 219). It was recognized by the tribune, when S. Paul urged it in a quiet interview at Jerusalem (Acts 22:25). Comp. the case of Attains at Lyons (Eus. H. E. v. i. 44, 50). But the δ-text suggests that it was the earthquake which caused the change in the Philippian praetors; ἀναμνησθέντες τὸν σεισμὸν τὸν γεγονότα ἐφοβήθησαν καὶ ἀπέστειλαν τοὺς ῥαβδούχους κ.τ.λ. Cicero (in Verrem, v. 62) tells us that brutal magistrates sometimes ignored this plea. Gessius Florus, who succeeded Albinus as procurator of Judaea A.D. 64 or 65 (Lewin, Sacri Fasti, p. 334), behaved in this way (Joseph. B. J. II. xiv. 9). On the single ρ in ἐραβδίσθην see WH. II. App. p. 163.

ἄπαξ ἐλιθάσθην. This was at Lystra, where Barnabas and Paul had been taken to be gods, until malignant Jews came all the way from Antioch and Iconium and changed the fickle people (Acts 14:11-19). The Apostles had been nearly stoned at Iconium, but escaped (Acts 14:5-6). See Paley, Horae Paulinae, iv. 9. For λιθάζειν comp. Acts 5:26; Acts 14:19; John 11:8; Hebrews 11:37; καταλιθάζειν, Luke 20:6 : λιθοβολεῖν is more common, especially in the LXX.

τρὶς ἐναυάγησα. We know of several voyages made by S. Paul before the shipwreck on the way to Rome; and in some of these, or in others of which we know nothing, the three shipwrecks took place. It was very likely after one of these shipwrecks that he ‘passed a night and a day in the deep,’ probably floating upon wreckage (comp. Acts 27:44). In 1 Timothy 1:19 ναυαγεῖν is used metaphorically of shipwreck περὶ τὴν πίστιν. It is found in Hdt., Xen., Dem., but nowhere else in Biblical Greek.

νυχθήμερον. A very rare word, meaning a full day of twenty-four hours.

πεπροίηκα. The change from the preceding aorists is noteworthy. The perfect gives the terrible experience as vividly before the writer’s mind. For ποιεῖν of spending time comp. Acts 15:33; Acts 18:23; Acts 20:3; James 4:13; Tobit 10:7.

ἐν τῷ βυθῷ. This of course does not mean that he was super-naturally preserved for twenty-four hours under water, although the Vulgate’s in profundo maris has encouraged this interpretation. To say nothing of other objections, S. Paul would hardly have classed so miraculous a deliverance among his sufferings. By βυθός is here meant, not ‘the depth of the sea,’ but ‘the deep,’ i.e. the sea. Comp. αὐτοὶ εἴδοσαν τὰ ἔργα Κυρίου καὶ τὰ θαυμάσια αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ βυθῷ (Psalms 106:24): Pompeius tellure nova compressa profundi Ova videns (Lucan, Phar. II. 680).


Verse 26

26. ὁδοιπορίαις πολλάκις. The omission of ἐν may be marked in English by a change of preposition; By journeyings often, perils of rivers, perils of robbers, perils from kindred, perils from Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the wilderness, perils in the sea, perils among false brethren. These eight κίνδυνοι (elsewhere in the N.T. Romans 8:35 only) are an amplification of ὁδοιπορίαις πολλάκις: all these dangers beset the traveller. Rivers and robbers are still serious difficulties in the East. Bridges and ferries are rare, and sudden floods not uncommon. It was in the Calycadnus in Cilicia, not far from Tarsus, that Frederick Barbarossa was drowned in June, 1190, in the Third Crusade. Elsewhere in the N.T. λῃσταί are mentioned only in the Gospels. In going from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14) S. Paul would be likely to encounter robbers. Strabo says that that part of Asia Minor swarmed with marauders. For the genitive of the source whence the peril comes comp. κίνδυνοι ᾅδου εὔροσάν με (Psalms 114[116]:3): πρὸς τ. τῆς θαλάττης κινδ. (Plat. Rep. I. 332 E, Euthyd. 279 E). For the rhythmic repetition of the same word comp. 2 Corinthians 7:2; 2 Corinthians 7:4; Philippians 3:2; Philippians 4:8 : Hom. Il. x. 227–231, I. 436–439, II. 382–384.

κινδύνοις ἐκ γένους. This, when followed by κ. ἐξ ἐθνῶν, must mean those of his own race, Jews (Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5). He might have said ἐκ συγγενῶν (Romans 9:3; Romans 16:7; Romans 16:21). The Jews were a constant source of danger to him, by either attacking him themselves, or stirring up the heathen to do so (Acts 9:23; Acts 9:29; Acts 13:45; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2; Acts 14:5; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:6; Acts 18:12; Acts 19:9; Acts 21:27). Tertullian (Scorp. 10) calls the synagogues fontes persecutionum: comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:14. ‘Perils from Gentiles,’ except when Jews were instigators, seem to have been less frequent (Acts 16:20; Acts 19:23). See Harnack, Die Mission und Aubreitung des Christentums, pp. 40, 342.

ἐν πόλει. Damascus, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Philippi, Ephesus. The triplet, ἐν πόλει, ἐν ἐρημιᾳ, ἐν θαλάσσῃ, covers the surface of the earth; nowhere was he safe. And ἐν θαλάσσῃ is not mere repetition, although the A.V., with ‘waters’ for ‘rivers,’ makes it to be so. There are other κίνδυνοι ἐν θαλάσσῃ besides shipwreck and exposure in the sea, such as bodily injury, fire, loss of property.

ἐν ψευδαδέλφοις. This probably means chiefly the Judaizers (Galatians 2:4); but all spurious Christians, such as Simon Magus, Diotrephes, and the Nicolaitans, were a source of danger. We are apt to forget how seriously the Church of the apostolic age suffered from such people. The Epistles of S. John, S. Jude, and 2 Peter are full of allusions to this evil. Note that he does not say ἐ κ ψευδαδέλφων. While Jew and heathen are external foes from whom he is sometimes free, false brethren are always around him: he must live among them, just as he must always be in either inhabited or uninhabited country, and on either land or sea.


Verse 27

27. Having mentioned thirteen cases in which he might have lost his life, and eight kinds of dangers which one who travelled as he did must incur, he goes on to mention miscellaneous trials and afflictions. In sense this verse comes immediately after ὁδοιπορίαις πολλάκις, all that lies between being a mere expansion of ὁδοιπορίαις: as by these he is ὕπερ as a minister of Christ, so also by what follows.

κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ. By labour and travail, as in 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, where the same two words occur of his working with his own hands to maintain himself. Here the Vulgate has labor and aerumna, there labor and fatigatio. ‘In labore,’ id est, sive manuum sive praedicationum. Et quia potest esse labor absque aerumna, id est, sine indigentia et penuria, ut ostenderet exitiosum laborem, adjunxit ‘aerumna’ (Atto Vercell.). The A.V. both here and throughout 2 Corinthians 11:26 should put ‘in’ in italics, as the R.V. does; but it is perhaps better to change the preposition: see critical note. In what follows to is resumed from 2 Corinthians 11:23.

ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις πολλάκις. These cover both voluntary and involuntary sleeplessness. But seeing that involuntary sleeplessness may be included in κόπῳ καὶ μόχθῳ, here we may understand voluntary ‘watchings’ (A.V., R.V.) for thought and prayer. Comp. 2 Corinthians 6:5. In the LXX. the word is frequent in Ecclus (prol. 24, 34[31]:1, 2, 20, 38:26, 27, 28, 30, 42:9); elsewhere only 2 Maccabees 2:26.

ἐν λιμῷ καὶ δίψει, ἐν νηστείαις πολλάκις. Here again we seem to have still more clearly, first what is involuntary, and then what is voluntary. ‘Jejunia’ voluntaria interpretor, cum de fame et penuria ante locutus est (Calvin). While ἐν λιμῷ καὶ δίψει would signify inability to get food (Deuteronomy 28:48), to ἐν νηστείαις would refer to voluntary abstention, either for self-discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27), or because he often would not allow meals to interfere with work. In the rhythm of the clauses, ἐν νηστείαις balances ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις, and therefore if ἐν νηστείαις refers to what is voluntary, this affords some presumption that the other does so also.

ἐν ψύχει καὶ γυμνότητι. These would occur when he was thrown into prison, or stripped by robbers, or drenched by floods or storms.

All this enumeration of sufferings as evidence that he was a true minister of Christ would seem indeed ‘madness’ to the Judaizers. It was Jewish doctrine that temporal blessings, especially wealth and comfort, were signs that God was pleased with His servants. Comp. Romans 8:35, which is a parallel to the whole passage.


Verse 28

28. χωρὶς τῶν παρεκτός. Beside those things that are without: Praeter illa, quae extrinsecus sunt. But can τὰ παρεκτός mean this? [1] Assuming with both A.V. and R.V. that this meaning is possible and correct, then the Apostle classes his sufferings in two groups, those which are external, which he has mentioned, and those which are internal, which he is about to mention. [2] Again, τῶν παρεκτός may be masculine; besides those persons that are without, who attack from the outside. But, had this been his meaning, he would have written οἱ ἔξω (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; Colossians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:12) or οἱ ἔξωθεν (1 Timothy 3:7; Joseph. B. J. IV. iii. 10; comp. Mark 4:11). And would he not similarly have written τὰ ἔξω or τὰ ἔξωθεν for ‘those things that are without’? [3] Perhaps τὰ παρεκτός might mean ‘those things that come out of course (R.V. marg. 2), which are unusual’: but it is not a natural expression for such a meaning. [4] But παρεκτὸς λόγου πορνείας (Matthew 5:32) and παρεκτὸς τῶς δεσμῶν (Acts 26:29) seem to show that it is the idea of exception (παρά, 2 Corinthians 11:24) rather than of externality (ἐκτός, 2 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Corinthians 6:18) which is predominant, an idea which ἐκτός also sometimes has (1 Corinthians 15:27; Acts 26:22). So that τὰ παρεκτός probably means those things which are besides these, viz. the things which I omit (R.V. marg. 1). The purport therefore of the clause is, besides the things which I do not mention, there is &c. This is Chrysostom’s interpretation (τὰ παραλειφθέντα): but he goes beyond the text in saying that the omitted things are more than those which have been enumerated. If this be adopted, the Apostle makes three classes of sufferings, those which he has mentioned, those which he omits, and those which he is about to mention. In the LXX. παρεκτός does not occur, except as a discredited variant in Leviticus 23:38. Aquila has it Deuteronomy 1:36. In both cases the meaning is ‘except,’ where the LXX. has πλήν. Comp. Test. XII. Patr. Zabulon i. For χωρίς = ‘besides’ comp. Matthew 14:21; Matthew 15:38 : also χωρὶς δὲ χρυσίου ἀσήμου καὶ ἀργυρίου (Thuc. II. xiii. 3).

ἡ ἐπίστασίς μοι ἡ καθʼ ἡμέραν. See critical note. That which presseth upon me daily; or the daily onset upon me. Comp. Acts 24:12, where, as here, LP and other inferior authorities read ἐπισύστασις (Numbers 16:40 [Numbers 17:5], Numbers 26:9), without great difference of meaning. For ἐπίστασις comp. δυσχερὴς ἡ ἐπίστασις τῆς κακίας (2 Maccabees 6:3). The rendering ‘onset’ is probably not too strong; concursus in me (d); incursus in me (Augustine); urget agmen illud in me quotidie consurgens (Beza). S. Paul uses strong language, as ἐσύλησα (2 Corinthians 11:8), καθαιροῦντες πᾶν ὕψωμα, and αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα (2 Corinthians 10:5) show. Comp. hos profligatorum hominum quotidianos impetus (Cic. pro Arch. vi.). The reading μοι is decisive for the rendering ‘onset, rush, pressure,’ rather than ‘observation, attention.’ In classical Greek ἐπίστασις means ‘a stopping for rest, a halt’ (Xen. Anab. II. iv. 26); or ‘a stopping for thought, attention,’ τοῦτό γε αὐτὸ ἄξιον ἐπιστάσεως (Arist. Phys. II. iv. 8). A belief that ‘attention’ was the meaning here may have produced the reading μον: the dat. μοι comes from the idea of ‘onset.’ But ‘my daily attentiveness’ is a poor substitute for ‘the daily onset upon me.’ The latter means the ceaseless appeals to him for help, advice, decisions of difficulties or disputes, as well as objurgatio illorum, qui doctrinae vitaeque perversitate Paulo molestiam exhibebant (Bengel).

ἡ μέριμνα πασῶν τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν. My anxiety for all the Churches. For μέριμνα, the care which divides and distracts the mind, comp. Matthew 13:22 = Mark 4:19 = Luke 8:14, and Luke 21:34. It is the care which an anxious person feels, not that which a protector affords. Hence it is not used of God, who cannot feel anxious: note the change of wording 1 Peter 5:7. ‘All the Churches’ is a colloquial expression to mark the immensity of the sphere which the anxiety embraces. The πασῶν need not be limited to the Churches which S. Paul founded, or pressed to imply that, as an Apostle, he had jurisdiction over the whole of Christendom: comp. 2 Corinthians 8:18; 1 Corinthians 7:17. The saying has been quoted in defence of a bishop holding more than one see.


Verse 29

29. Two illustrations of his all-embracing μέριμνα, each exhibiting the Apostle’s intense sympathy. Among new converts there would be many who would be weak in faith, or in judgment, or in conduct; and in every case he felt the weakness as if it were his own: ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής (1 Corinthians 9:22). Comp. Romans 15:1. In οὐκ ἀσθενῶ the emphasis is on οὐκ: in οὐκ ἐγὼ πυροῦμαι on ἐγώ. Hence Cyprian (Ep. xvii. 1) changes the order, ego non … non ego: the Vulgate has ego non in both places. For ἀσθενῶ comp. Romans 4:19; Romans 14:1-2; 1 Corinthians 8:11-12. The verb is specially frequent in these last chapters (2 Corinthians 11:21, 2 Corinthians 12:10, 2 Corinthians 13:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:9): so also ἀσθένεια (2 Corinthians 11:30, 2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, 2 Corinthians 13:4). Neither word, nor ἀσθενής (2 Corinthians 10:10), is found in chapters 1–9. How little such facts prove is pointed out in the Introduction § 7 (e).

τίς σκανδαλίζεται; Who is made to offend (1 Corinthians 8:13), or Who is made to stumble (R.V.), and I burn not (1 Corinthians 7:9) with distress? It is the fire of intense pain that is meant, rather than of indignation. The Apostle feels the agony of shame and sorrow which consumes the sinner (1 Corinthians 12:26): καθʼ ἕκαστον ὠδυνᾶτο μέλος (Chrysostom): quanto major caritas, tanto majores plagae de peccatis alienis (Augustine). There is nothing of Stoic indifference in S. Paul. The Christian does not dissemble his feelings, but tries to school and consecrate them. Comp. στεναγμοῖς πεπυρωμένης πάντοθεν αὐτῶν τῆς καρδίας (3 Maccabees 4:2), and faces doloris (Cic. Tusc. Disp. II. xxv. 1). In all cases the exact meaning of πυροῦσθαι (in the N.T. πυροῦν is not found) is determined by the context (1 Corinthians 7:9; Ephesians 6:16; 2 Peter 3:12; Revelation 1:15; Revelation 3:18). Note the balanced climax between ἀσθενεῖ and σκανδαλίζεται, and between ἀσθενῶ and πυροῦμαι.


Verse 30

30. εἰ καυχάσθαι δεῖ. B. Weiss makes this the beginning of the paragraph which ends with 2 Corinthians 12:10. But these four verses (30–33) are closely connected with what precedes, and 2 Corinthians 11:30 takes us back to 2 Corinthians 11:16; 2 Corinthians 11:18. We must, however, beware of assuming that S. Paul consciously dictated in paragraphs: see Introduction § 3. The fut. καυχήσομαι does not refer specially to what follows. It expresses his general intention in such things, the principle which guides him; and it refers to what has just been said (2 Corinthians 11:23-29) as well as to what is coming.

τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας. These were not at all what his adversaries gloried in. They gloried in their birth, their circumcision, their connexion with the Twelve, their prosperity as a mark of God’s favour. S. Paul says I will glory of the things which concern my weakness. The repetition of καυχ. and of ἀσθεν. in this part of the letter must not be marred, as in the A.V., by varying between ‘boast’ and ‘glory’ and between ‘infirmity’ and ‘weakness.’ For καυχᾶσθαι with an acc. of what is gloried in comp. 2 Corinthians 9:2. Note the oxymoron in glorying of weakness, and comp. 2 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. He knows that his weak points are stronger than his opponents’ strong ones: they prove his likeness to his Master (2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 1:27).


Verse 31

31. ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ οἶδεν. See critical note and notes on 2 Corinthians 1:3. This solemn asseveration also, like καυχήσομαι, looks both backwards and forwards. What he has said, and what he has still to say, in glorying of his weaknesses, is known by God to be true. He feels that his readers may be becoming incredulous, and that what he is about to state will try them still more. With the thoroughly Pauline οὐ ψεύδομαι comp. 2 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:7. After this highly argumentative and rhetorical passage, note the sudden drop to a plain statement of fact.


Verse 32

32. ἐν Δαμασκῷ. This looks like the beginning of a series of incidents, as if he had meant to go on to humiliations in other places. As it is, the form of the sentence changes.

Ἁρέτα. The original form of this ancient name was Haritha, the true Greek form of which is Ἁρέθας. But inscriptions and MSS. all give the form Ἀρέτας, the barbaric name being assimilated to ἀρετή. See Schürer, Jewish People, I. ii. p. 359; Deissmann, Bible Studies, p. 184. The aspirate in Ἱεροσόλυμα and Ἱερουσαλήμ comes in a similar way from the influence of ἱερός, the true form of the name being Ἰερ. (WH. II. p. 313).

ἐφρούρει. Was guarding; elsewhere in the N.T. in a metaphorical sense (Galatians 3:23; Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:5); in the LXX. mostly literal, as here (1 Esdras 4:56; Wisdom of Solomon 17:16; 1 Maccabees 11:3).

τήν πόλιν Δημασκηνῶν. The expression is remarkable, especially after ἐν Δαμασκῷ. It points to the idea that Damascus was an independent city.

πιάσαι με. See critical note. The verb is frequent in S. John of the attempts to arrest Jesus (John 7:30; John 7:32; John 7:44, John 8:20, John 10:39, &c.): here only in S. Paul.


Verse 32-33

32, 33. It has been proposed by Holsten, Hilgenfeld, Schmiedel, Baljon, and others to strike out these two verses, with or without all or the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:1, as a rather clumsy gloss upon τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας. It is said that these verses do not fit on well to the context, but interrupt the sequence of thought, which would flow more smoothly if we went direct from οὐ ψεύδομαι to καυχᾶσθαι δεῖ, or to ἐλεύσομαι or to οἶδα ἄνθρωπον. The most reasonable of these hypotheses is that the suspected passage is an interpolation, made, after the completion of the letter, by the Apostle himself. But no such hypothesis is needed. We have here one more example of those abrupt transitions, of which this letter is so full. He perhaps meant to have given several instances of τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας, as the opening of 2 Corinthians 11:32 indicates: he gives only one. He may have meant to give several instances of ὀπτασίαι and ἀποκαλύψεις, as his use of the plural indicates: he gives only one. Perhaps he knew that just these two things had been urged against him by his enemies. The flight from Damascus showed what a coward he was; and his supposed Rapture to heaven showed how mad he was. Having disposed of these two charges, he says a few more words in general terms (2 Corinthians 11:10) about τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας, and then leaves the unwelcome task of defeating his adversaries in a contest of καυχᾶσθαι. All would be intelligible enough, if we only knew the details of the situation at Corinth. As it is, what we have here is not so unintelligible that we need resort to the violent measure of cutting out two or three verses.

Assuming, without misgiving, that 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 are part of the original text, we are confronted by three historical questions.


Verse 33

33. διὰ θυρίδος. Literally, ‘a little door, small opening,’ dim. of θύρα; elsewhere in the N.T. only Acts 20:9. An aperture in the wall is still shown as the place. “In the traditions of Damascus the incidents of this escape have almost entirely eclipsed the story of his conversion” (Stanley). Comp. the cases of the spies (Joshua 2:15), and of David (1 Samuel 19:12), in both of which διὰ τῆς θυρίδος occurs.

ἐν σαργάνῃ. In Acts 9:25 we have ἐν σφυρίδι, the word invariably used of the ‘baskets’ at the Feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:37; Matthew 16:10; Mark 8:8; Mark 8:20), while κόφινος is equally invariably used of the 5000 (Matthew 14:20; Matthew 16:9; Mark 6:43; Mark 8:19; Luke 9:17; John 6:13). The σφυρίς or σπυρίς, and also the rare word used here, seem to have meant a basket made of twisted or braided material, a rope-basket or wicker basket. In Aesch. Suppl. 788 σαργάνη means a plait or braid; elsewhere a basket. Theodoret remarks, τὸ τοῦ κινδύνου μέγεθος τῷ τρόπῳ τῆς φυγῆς παρεδήλωσεν. But the incident could be made to look laughable, and it had probably been used as a means of ridiculing the Apostle. This letter shows that years afterwards he regarded it as a humiliation, a typical instance of τὰ τῆς ἀσθενείας, marking the very outset of his career, and turning the persecutor into the persecuted in the very place of his intended persecution. Possibly it was because he found the recollection of such things so painful that he gave no more instances. Nevertheless, if it was in his mind to add the σκόλοψ ἐν τῇ σαρκί (2 Corinthians 12:7) as another example, the account of the Rapture is required as an introduction to it. Thus we get a sequence; the flight from Damascus, the σκόλοψ, and the summary in 2 Corinthians 12:10. But the Rapture seems to be introduced for its own sake, and not as a mere explanation of the σκόλοψ. For χαλάω comp. Acts 9:25; Acts 27:17; Acts 27:30; Mark 2:4; Luke 5:4 ff.; Jeremiah 45[38]:6. For διὰ τοῦ τείχους comp. Acts 9:25; 2 Samuel 20:21.

The flight from Damascus probably took place, not immediately after his conversion, as the narrative in Acts might lead one to suppose, but after the return from Arabia (Galatians 1:17). S. Luke omits the retirement into Arabia altogether. But there is room for it in the middle of Acts 9:19, where Ἐγένετο δέ (so frequent in Luke, and peculiar to him in the N.T.) marks a fresh start in the story. See the division of paragraphs in the R.V. and in WH.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/2-corinthians-11.html. 1896.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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