Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 11

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-33

(b) 11:1-15. Defence of his Gospel and of his Independence

St. Paul says that he also will now boast a little, for he is as much an Apostle as those whom they prefer. If he refuses monetary support from them, it is in order to prevent these false teachers charging him with making gain of the ministry.

Paraphrase. ’(1) Bear with me a little if I begin to boast foolishly? Yes; do bear with me. (2) My affection for you makes me apprehensive, even as I may say that God also is apprehensive regarding you; for I have as it were betrothed you to Christ, and cannot endure that you should be unfaithful to your troth. (3) I fear lest these false teachers corrupt your minds, even as Satan with his smooth tongue corrupted Eve.’

1. In my folly] Spoken in irony. They bear with others; why not with him? Possibly they had spoken of his words when with them as folly.

2. Godly jealousy] lit. ’the jealousy of God.’ I have espoused you] cp. Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 John 1:1, 2 John 1:13; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 22:17.

3. The simplicity that is in Christ] i.e. the pure gospel that salvation is by faith in Christ alone.

4-6. Paraphrase. ’And my fear is not without reason, for you are certainly very favourably inclined towards those who bring quite a different gospel from that which I preached. (5) But if you tolerate them, you can surely tolerate me, for I venture to think that I am quite as good in every way as these very eminent apostles of yours. (6) I may know little of the art of speaking (as they say), but at least I know something of divine truth, as is abundantly clear from my work among you.’

4. He that cometh] i.e. any new arrival claiming to be an Apostle. Preacheth another Jesus] These preachers, who were hostile to St. Paul, proclaimed Jesus as a Jewish teacher who demanded strict adherence to the Law, and declared that those who became His followers must observe the rites of Judaism. This was their other gospel, which showed another spirit than that of St. Paul—the spirit of prejudice and exclusiveness. Ye might well bear] rather, ’ye bear with him nobly.’ The Apostle writes ironically.

5. The very chiefest apostles] RM ’those preëminent apostles’; i.e. of course not the members of the apostolic band like St. Peter and St. John, but the false teachers to whom he is constantly referring.

6. Rude in speech] Evidently a stock charge of his enemies: cp. 2 Corinthians 10:10.

7-9. Paraphrase. ’Is it a fault in your eyes that I took nothing from you while labouring for your spiritual benefit, but gave you the gospel gratuitously? (8) I took more than their due from others to promote my mission to you, (9) and anything I wanted when among you I received not from any of you, but from the brethren who came from Macedonia. Hitherto I have been independent of your gifts, and so I intend to remain.’

7. An offence] His very independence had been used against him. For his practice cp. 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8.

8. Other churches] especially the Philippian Church (Philippians 4:15-16).

9. Wanted] RV ’was in want.’ His supplies gave out. The brethren] perhaps Silas and Timothy (Acts 18:1, Acts 18:5).

10-15. Paraphrase. ’I assure you, by the truth of Christ within me, that I shall permit no one to interfere with the grounds of this boast in the district of Achaia. (11) And that, too, not because I despise you and contemn your gifts, (12) but because I am determined that my opponents shall have no occasion to charge me with selfishness, but that they may show themselves as disinterested as I am. (13) For they are really hypocrites and deceivers, pretending to be apostles of Christ. (14) Their master, Satan, is accustomed to masquerade as an angel to further his base designs. (15) We cannot wonder, therefore, if his servants pretend to be servants of God; but their punishment shall be suited to their actions.’

10. As the truth of Christ is in me] an adjuration calculated to impress them: cp. Romans 9:1

This boasting] of preaching the gospel without cost to them.

11. Because I love you not?] This was the reason his enemies gave for his independence of the Corinthians. God knoweth] that I love you.

12. That wherein they glory, they may be found even as we] The ’false apostles,’ or Judaisers, received support (2 Corinthians 11:20) as due to their apostleship. Had St. Paul done so they would have charged him with greed; but he is determined not to give them the opportunity. And by refusing support he hopes to force them to refuse it also, and thus to cause their other charge—that he feared to take it because he doubted his apostleship—to recoil upon themselves.

13. False apostles] He now exposes them in plain terms. Transforming themselves] RV ’fashioning themselves,’ and so in next v.

14. Satan himself.. into an angel of light] tempting men by making evil seem good, ’making the worse appear the better reason.’

(c) 11:16-12:18. The Evidences of his Apostleship in suffering and Service

The Apostle goes on to show that if he begins to boast, he has far more to boast of than the Judaising teachers. In nationality he is their equal, in labours carried on and sufferings endured for the gospel he is far their superior; he has had visions and revelations of the Lord which they cannot claim. The only thing in which they might find fault with him was his refusal of support from them. But in that lay his safety in dealing with his enemies: no one could say that either he, or any one sent by him, had made any profit out of the Church.

Paraphrase. ’(16) Again I say, Do not think me a fool; or, if you do think me a fool, let me indulge, like your other apostles, in a fool’s boasting. (17) I am not speaking now under the inspiration of Christ; I am only answering fools according to their folly. (18) Since many other teachers are boasting of their qualifications, I shall boast of mine. (19) For you who are so wise yourselves, have a great appreciation for fools. (20) You are very patient with people who delude and cheat you, and who insult and injure you.’

16. A fool] The repetition of this word so frequently suggests that he had been jeered at as a fool among the members of the Church. This whole passage (2 Corinthians 11:16-20) is full of irony.

17. Not after the Lord] entirely on his own responsibility. He is very jealous of Christ’s honour.

18. After the flesh] i.e. of their worldly advantages: cp. 2 Corinthians 11:22, 2 Corinthians 11:23.

19. Suffer] RV ’bear with.’

20. If a man] i.e. any of his Jewish opponents. Bring you into bondage] to the Ceremonial Law: cp. Galatians 2:4. Devour] make money out of you: cp. Mark 12:40; Luke 22:47.

Take of you] RV ’taketh you captive.’ Smite you] may be literal, but is more probably figurative, denoting the extreme of insult and impudence.

21-29. Paraphrase. ’I confess to my shame I was far too weak, as they call it, to act in that way. But if there is to be boasting, I am a fool and can boast too. (22) Are they of the chosen race claiming Abraham as their ancestor? I am on an equal footing with them. (23) Do they boast of their missionary service? I am ready to compare my service with theirs, and the comparison will not be in their favour (though, of course, all such boasting is madness). I have been in far more trials and punishments and dangers than they. (24) How often have I been beaten, (25) scourged, stoned, in danger of my life by shipwreck! (26) How many risks have I run in the course of my wanderings! (27) How much suffering and privation have I endured! (28) And do not forget my daily burden of anxiety in the oversight of all the Churches; (29) for I enter into the feelings of my tempted and sinning brethren.’

21. As concerning reproach] RV ’by way of disparagement.’ ’I admit to my own shame that I was incapable of acting as such an one.’ The words are, of course, ironical.

22. Hebrews] by descent. Israelites] in privilege.

The seed of Abraham] in respect of promised blessings. There is probably a climax in the order.

23. I am more] i.e. in a higher degree, as I can easily prove. In deaths] in danger of death: cp. Acts 14:19.

24. Forty stripes save one] A Jewish punishment: cp. Deuteronomy 25:3. Only thirty-nine were given lest by a miscount the number were exceeded. None of the five cases is mentioned in Acts.

25. With rods] A Roman scourging, as at Philippi (Acts 16:22).

Stoned] at Lystra (Acts 14:19). Shipwreck] The only instance recorded in Acts was later than this. In the deep] floating on wreckage or on a raft.

28. Beside those things that are without] i.e. besides these exceptional troubles, there is the daily anxiety for the Churches. Or, as others suggest, ’besides all the rest which I do not mention.’

29. And I am not weak] The Apostle shares the sufferings of others by sympathy. Offended] RV ’made to stumble,’ i.e. led into sin. Burn] i.e. with anger.

30-33. Paraphrase. ’If, however, I must boast in self-defence, I shall boast about my weakness and helplessness; for I shall thus make it plain what Christ has done by means of such a feeble servant. (31) And God is my witness that I speak the truth. (32) From the very outset I have endured ignominy; for in Damascus the governor sought my life, (33) and I had to make my escape through the window of a house built on the city wall, being lowered in a basket by night.’

32. Damascus] This event in his career happened either immediately after his conversion, or after his return from his subsequent sojourn in Arabia: cp. Acts 19:9 and Galatians 1:17. Aretas] This king (Aretas IV) ruled Arabia Petræa from 9 b.c. to 40 a.d. Damascus was taken by the Romans in 65 b.c., and was retained by them until about the time here mentioned, when it seems to have been restored to Aretas from motives of policy.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.