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.
Yet in 12,11b-18 Paul goes on defending himself. Therefore, in v. 19a he cannot but ask: ‘Are you thinking again that we defend ourselves before you?’ Through this question he indirectly qualifies not only vv. 11-18 but his whole foolish discourse as an apology, and an apology it really is. But at the same time he can say: ‘in God’s sight we speak in Christ; beloved, all [is done] for your upbuilding’ (v. 19b; cf. the qualification in v. 6: ‘I will not be foolish, since I will be speaking the truth’).
There can be no doubt: 12,11a and 12,19a are retrospective.
II. Three Rings in the Context
Within the larger context the introductory vv. 1-4 and 16-21 of chapter 11 as well as the retrospective clauses of 12,11a and 19a are obviously connected with the Fool’s Speech. But what about the rest of that context? Is the whole of what surrounds the discourse related to it and, if so, how? Our impression is that a kind of ring composition exists, a concentric way of arranging verses and passages. An anticipative diagram of the rings may help the reader:
Denial of inferiority (11,5-12)
The Fool’s Speech (11,22–12,10)
Denial of inferiority (12,11b-18)
The analysis will proceed in three steps, from the outer verses in chapters 10 and 13 towards the text-units which are closer to the center, i.e., to the Fool’s Speech.
1. A First Ring: Exhortation in 10,1 and 13,118
An anacolouthon. There appears to be a change in the train of thought between 10,1 and 10,2. In v. 1a Paul writes: ‘I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ’. The reference to Christ’s meekness and gentleness suggests that Christ is in one way or another an example for Paul’s attitude and, even more, that the apostle is going to request from the Corinthians a moral conduct similar to that same example. Above all, the meekness