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.
refers to other people, his opponents: ‘Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast’ (v. 18; cf. v. 21b). The logical connection between those five elements can be paraphrased in the following way: ‘Although I am not really a fool, if you think I am, accept me then as a fool, for I want to boast; I admit that boasting is not appropriate, but since others glory I am going to do it as well’7. As far as terminology is concerned two items which characterize Paul’s discourse should be mentioned: the vocabulary of foolishness (a)frosu/nh, a!frwn; cf. parafronw=n in v. 23) and that of boasting (kauxa/omai, kau/xhsij).
In 11,1-4 Paul has already been pleading: ‘If only you would tolerate me in a little foolishness; yes, do tolerate me’ (v. 1). The Corinthians should tolerate him since he is jealous for them with God’s jealousy; he is afraid that the opponents may lead them astray from the sincerity and the purity which Christians, as a chaste virgin, must have toward Christ (vv. 2-3). His fear is well grounded since the Corinthians readily tolerate newcomers who preach another Jesus, a different spirit and gospel (v. 4).
A similar reproach of ‘toleration’ comes up anew in vv. 19-21a: ‘After all, you gladly tolerate fools since you are so wise. For you tolerate it when some enslave you ... To my shame I admit that we have been too weak for that’. The verb a)ne/xomai (‘to tolerate’) is repeated in vv. 19 and 20 (cf. v. 1, twice, and v. 4). The Corinthians tolerate the opponents who are fools and dare to boast; therefore, Paul will speak as in folly and dare to boast as well. The Corinthians must ‘tolerate’ Paul’s foolish boasting.
4. Retrospection in 12,11a and 19a
Paul writes in 12,11a: ‘I have become foolish; you forced me [to it]. In fact, I ought to be commended by you...’. Apparently the discourse proper is finished. Paul looks back at what he has been doing. ‘I have been a fool!’ (NRSV-translation): his speaking was foolish. The reason why he has done it was the behavior of the Corinthians. They tolerated the opponents and, so, they as it were forced Paul to boast of himself, just as the opponents are boasting. Paul adds that, as a matter of fact, the Corinthians should have been the ones to commend him.