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.
they servants of Christ?’ (11,23a). Paul reacts to the implicit positive answer by saying — talking as if out of his mind — ‘I am more’ (11,23c). The whole speech which continues unto 12,10 functions as a proof not of his equality but of his superiority in comparison with these opponents. The extremely negative picture of them in 11,3-4 (‘just as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning’), in 11,12-15 (boasting people, ‘false apostles, deceitful workers’, ‘servants’ of Satan) and in 11,18-20 (tyrannical intruders) constitutes Paul’s proximate psychological preparation for his foolish discourse of boasting, itself an indirect but fierce attack.
It should be noted that major characteristics of Paul’s apostolic behavior remain outside the Fool’s Speech: his belonging to Christ (10,7), the foundation of the Corinthian community (10,12-18), his wisdom (11,6), the refusal of support (11,7-12 and 12,13-18), the signs of an apostle (12,12), his power of God (13,4). All this could have been part of his ‘foolish’ boasting just as that of origin, circumstances and revelations. It appears that the shift toward weakness has prevented that.
Five conclusions can be drawn from this study, the first three already well-known. First, chapters 10–13, rightly considered as a united major and self-contained part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, are far from monolithic, certainly streamlined in sections but not as a whole. Second, the Fool’s Speech itself (11,22–12,10) is not of one piece; it is characterized by many shifts in the content and it is often interrupted by reflexive remarks and new starts. Third, notwithstanding pleas, hesitations and interruptions, 11,1-21 can be called the introduction to the Fool’s Speech.
Fourth, the wider context contains a very small hortatory frame (10,1 and 13,11), a double defense of Paul’s apostolic authority (10,2-18 and 13,1-10), and also a double clarification of his conviction that, notwithstanding outer appearance and refusal of support, he is not inferior to the other missionaries (11,5-12 and 12,11b-18). One can speak, therefore, of three unequal rings which loosely surround the discourse, each with its own thematic emphasis: parenesis, authority, denial of inferiority.
Fifth, in 10,8.12-18 and 11,3-4.12-15.18-20, Paul compares himself with opponents, blames and denigrates them; it would seem that in these small sections Paul prepares himself, through comparison and