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.
do the same. On the other hand, in 12,16-18 Paul defends himself against the Corinthians’ suspicion that he may have defrauded them through Titus and the brother he sent, visibly with regard to the collection; such a reference is not present in the first passage.
Content. The data gathered in the preceding paragraphs are so abundant as well as so significant that one is led to postulate, for this third step too, a somewhat concentric composition, whether or not this is intended as such by Paul.
The most strange yet remarkable feature is the double and presumably not accidental link between the idea of denial of inferiority and his preaching free of charge. In the opinion of the Corinthians the apostle Paul must have been considered as inferior to his opponents. Lack of boldness and rhetorical capacities when he is present certainly constitutes one of their reasons (11,6a; cf. 10,1b.10). Paul twice immediately reacts. In 11,6b he replies: I am not inferior in knowledge; we have made that clear to you; in 12,12 he protests: the signs of the apostle were done among you. One can follow such an argument.
But how does refusal of support enter the scene? Paul must have offended the Corinthians, probably because in accepting help from other churches he humiliated that of Corinth, probably also because by his refusal of gifts he denied the sympathy and friendship of the richer people of the community, and further maybe also because through his manual work he socially abased himself. In its own way our analysis has established — and confirmed — that Paul’s refusal of support happened to be in Corinth an extremely sensitive issue (cf. also 1 Cor 9). Obviously, notwithstanding Paul’s protest, it was not taken as a token of love24.
It must strike the readers of chapters 10–13 that in the ‘denial-of-inferiority’ sections Paul is not boasting foolishly nor boasting of his weaknesses, i.e., not yet in 11,5-12 and no longer in 12,11b-18. He openly defends himself; he wants to prove that in no way is he inferior. Therefore, he points to his wisdom which, he says, is manifest, to his wonders and miracles, and to his preaching free of charge in order not to burden the Corinthians and to show his real love of them.