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.
mention this generous attitude in his foolish discourse; he could have boasted about this ‘weakness’. Yet he seemingly is of the opinion that this serious matter which interrupts the very introduction to the foolish discourse and will appear again, surprisingly, soon after the discourse, does not lend itself for boasting in a foolish way.
So three main items — moral exhortation, personal authority, and denial of inferiority — are the concerns which enclose the Fool’s Speech. By themselves they do not lead to foolish boasting. Yet in an essential way they complete the portrait of a Paul who in his speech boasts foolishly and boasts paradoxically of weaknesses.
3. Boasting, Comparing, and Attacking
Within the broad context two passages appear to stand in closer connection with the foolish discourse. In 10,8.12-18, verses rather far off from the Fool’s Speech, and in 11,3-4.12-15.18-20, verses close by, Paul appears to be preparing his boasting and speaking as a fool.
In 10,8 he tells the reader that he is going to boast ‘rather much’25 about his authority and, then, in 10,12-18, while protesting that he ‘does not dare compare himself with others nor recommend himself’ and while accusing those people of being ‘not wise’ and boasting ‘beyond measure’ (10,12-13), Paul in fact compares his apostolic competence with that of his opponents and is already boasting, be it not, he claims, ‘beyond measure in the labor of others’ (10,14-16). The reader understands that in the final analysis Paul himself is the one who boasts of the Lord and who is approved and recommended by the Lord (10,17-18). Vocabulary as well as content are not so different from what he later promises to do in boasting foolishly.
According to Paul his opponents disguise themselves as ‘apostles of Christ’ (11,13). The characterization is very much like that in the discourse itself. At the beginning of the Fool’s Speech, after three brief initial questions about origin, he asks by way of climax: ‘are