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.
chapter 13 mainly look to the future21. Paul announces his third visit to Corinth. He states how he is going to act there and what his attitude will be. In an entreating yet warning style, he also writes to the Corinthians about what he expects from them: obedience, self-examination and improvement. All this primarily concerns the future.
Content. The similarities between 10,2-18 and 13,1-10 are too numerous and too specific to be explained by purely accidental repetition. In composing these clearly corresponding chapters Paul brings about a second ring which further includes the Fool’s Speech. However, a conscious and deliberate composition by Paul does not mean that he intended a strict concentric structure.
What is the main theme of this second ring? In view of the attacks and reproaches against his person, Paul is ready to manifest his authority (cf. 10,8.11 and 13,10; see also 12,19); he will not refrain from using it (13,2). This authority is given him by the Lord, not for destroying or tearing down the Corinthians but for building them up (10,8 and 13,10). But, if needed, Paul will punish every disobedience (10,6), he will deal with the Corinthians by the power of God (13,4). In fact, that is why he writes this letter while absent so that, when present, he may not have to act severely (13,10).
In chapters 10 and 13 Paul defends himself against the charge of weakness. In 10,12-18 he compares himself with the intruders polemically: in contrast to them he is not boasting beyond measure. Because of the work done in Corinth the Lord recommends him. In chapters 10 and 13 Paul is not boasting about his weakness nor is he speaking paradoxically of strength in weakness, that is: not yet in chapter 10, no longer in chapter 13. The tone in these chapters is that of severe admonition. Paul refers to his authority and announces his future decisively bold intentions. He mentions his anticipative resurrection power; it will be a proof that Christ is speaking through him (cf. 13,3-4).
3. A Third Ring: Denial of Inferiority in 11,5-12 and 12,11b-18
Just as for the second ring we will first deal with the common motifs in the two passages and then point to their identical or similar