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.
III. Structural and Thematic Considerations
Three insights which result from this lengthy analysis may be formulated. We shall consider first Paul’s composition of chapters 10–13 (discourse and context), then the main themes which ‘frame’ the Fool’s Speech, and finally two specific passages which, it would seem, more explicitly relate to this discourse.
1. Results Regarding Structure
It has been put forward that the Fool’s Speech properly begins in 11,22 and ends at 12,10. In 11,1-21 the Speech possesses its extended introduction. It may be claimed now that, roughly speaking, three circles of texts frame the discourse by way of a ring composition: an inner ring (11,5-12 and 12,11b-18), a middle ring (10,2-18 and 13,1-10) and a very small exhortative outer ring (10,1 and 13,11; 13,12-13 forming the epistolary closing).
However, a warning is needed at once. One should not exaggerate the structural qualities of these chapters. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul is writing very emotionally in the last four chapters. The Fool’s Speech itself is not a tight unit. This discourse is often interrupted, and ‘foolish boasting’ as such does not possess a sustained unique object (cf. the shifts). Again, as we saw, the introduction to the Fool’s Speech in 11,1-21 is all but smooth: hesitation and breaks — hence a new start in 11,16 — and repetitions.
Although the context certainly presents concentric features, one must in no way present chapters 10–13 as an enveloping composition of which, so to say, the central d-core (the speech) is surrounded by neatly delineated a b c and c' b' a'-sections (the three rings). There is no evidence that Paul wanted a rigid, formal ring composition. To be sure, after the discourse Paul most probably consciously repeated themes and language taken from the context before the discourse, and he does this in an inverse order. However, his manner of composing is too loose and probably too spontaneous to postulate on the part of Paul an explicitly intended cyclic arrangement.
2. The Main Themes in the So-Called Rings
The thin outer ring (10,1 and 13,11) is one of exhortation, that is, an appeal to moral Christian life. Paul mentions Christ’s mercy and gentleness. Exhortation constitutes a normal ingredient of the