Jan Lambrecht, «The Fool’s Speech and Its Context: Paul’s Particular Way of Arguing in 2 Cor 10–13», Vol. 82 (2001) 305-324
Paul’s particular way of arguing in 2 Cor 10–13 is visible in the Fool’s Speech (11,22–12,10) as well as in its context. The speech is interrupted more than once and there are shifts regarding the object of boasting. The introduction to the speech (11,1-21) is not straightforward and two brief retrospections (12,11a and 19a) should not go unnoticed. The major topic in this study, however, consists in the indication of three rings within the context of the Fool’s Speech: (1) 10,1 and 13,11 (moral exhortation); (2) 10,2-18 and 13,1-10 (Paul’s defense of his authority); (3) 11,5-12 and 12,11b-18 (Paul denies inferiority). Yet from the presence of these enveloping rings a strict concentric structure of 2 Cor 11–13 cannot be deduced. Special attention must also be given to 10,8.12-18 and 11,3-4.12-15.18-20. In these passages Paul, by comparing and attacking, seems to prepare his boasting as a fool in a more direct way.
In 12,7-9abc Paul then continues his discourse and speaks of the thorn given in his flesh, the beating of Satan’s messenger, and of his prayer for deliverance and Jesus’ answer. He adds in vv. 9de-10 a fifth and conclusive reflection:
Most gladly, therefore, I rather will boast of my weaknesses in order that the power of Christ may come to rest upon me. That is why I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints [endured] for Christ. For whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
It would seem that boasting of weaknesses is still foolish boasting (cf. 12,11: ‘I have become foolish; you forced me [to it]’).
2. Shifts in 11,22–12,10
With regard to Paul’s boasting one should pay due attention to the shifts within 11,22-33, at vv. 23b, 27, 28, and 30. These shifts provide us, it would seem, with five types of boasting defined by the object Paul boasts about. (1) In vv. 22-23a, while comparing himself with his opponents and enumerating his Jewish and Christian titles, he visibly boasts as a fool, according to the flesh, not according to the Lord (cf. vv. 17-18). (2) Within the catalogue of hardships itself, Paul proves his superiority over the opponents by listing in vv. 23b-26 a great number of adverse circumstances, external difficulties. Yet after the twofold ‘more often’ in v. 23b the opponents are no longer referred to explicitly. (3) Within that same catalogue, in v. 27, he points to his own toils and labors, to hardships which are more directly connected to his daily life as God’s servant, and then, (4) in vv. 28-29, to his personal active — one would say: most ‘active’ — endeavor. (5) Finally, in vv. 32-33 a situation is depicted where Paul’s utter weakness, i.e., the absence of his own power, is emphasized: his escape from Damascus with the help of others. In v. 30 he had announced: ‘If boasting there must be, I will boast of the things [which manifest] my weakness (ta_ th=j a)sqenei/aj mou)’. Yet in this particular event, just as in all other hardships, he has also experienced God’s effective help3. Thus Paul successively boasts of titles, of adverse circumstances and persecutions, of toils and hardship in his way of life, of his apostolic care and of his, as