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.
Pauline letter. In 2 Corinthians, however, this is not developed. The appeal to a worthy Christian conduct is interrupted before it could really begin. One could claim that moral exhortation is replaced by self-defense, pleas to obedience and also threats. Only at the very end of the letter Paul, explicitly by the verb in 13,11 but no doubt already in 12,19b–13,10, returns to the ethical problems of the Corinthian community. The outer ring is meant for the Corinthians. This hortatory inclusion is, one should say, almost unconnected with the Fool’s Speech itself.
In 10,2-18 and 13,1-10 we meet a Paul who is in an argumentative mood. Twice he rewrites a text from Jeremiah with regard to his e)cousi/a (10,8 and 13,10). He points to his apostolic authority that the Lord has given him for building up and not for tearing down. He intends to boast of that authority (10,8). He thinks of the Corinthians, those who accuse him of lack of boldness and of contemptible speech. These Christians are influenced by false apostles. Paul defends himself: he will fight back and announces severe action (10,2-6); he, too, belongs to Christ (10,7); through comparing himself with his opponents, he points out the legitimacy of his authority in Corinth (see 10,12-18). Notwithstanding visible human weakness Paul is sure that he possesses the power of God. He will not fail to meet the test (see 13,1-6). He announces his future visit; he will act in full authority and, if needed, severely (13,10). Angry mood, comparison with the opponents, mention of future boasting: all this is not ‘foolish’ boasting and certainly not boasting of his weakness. These utterances, however, reveal Paul’s conviction of being a legitimate, duly authorized apostle.
The inner ring consists of 11,5-12 and 12,11b-18. We noted that the introduction to the discourse is to be found in 11,1-4.16-21, the brief retrospections in 12,11a and 12,19a. In the inner ring itself Paul deals with the Corinthians’ false opinion that he is inferior to the super-apostles (11,5 and 12,11b). In both sections, before and after the discourse, he emphasizes that he is not of lower rank and less importance. He tries to prove this: he is at least as good as his opponents; he points to his wisdom which was made manifest (11,6) and to the ‘signs’ done in Corinth (12,12). Twice also, immediately after that explicit claim, he suddenly defends his apostolic preaching without cost (11,7-12 and 12,13-18). The Corinthians have visibly misinterpreted it, he argues; in fact, refusing support is a manifestation of his authentic love. One may ask why Paul does not