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.
invective, to proceed to something he does not like to do, that is, to boast in a foolish way26. However, the boasting of titles gives way, almost at once, to boasting of hardships and weakness.
Lack of perfect organisation does not prove lack of unity and absence of inner connections. Therefore, one must not deny the prevailing coherence of 2 Cor 10–13. In 12,19 Paul claims: ‘In God’s sight we speak in Christ; beloved, all [is done] for your upbuilding’. This basic intention applies, of course, to the emphasis present in the three rings: moral exhortation, personal authority and denial of inferiority (vilification of the opponents included), but equally to what he expounds in his Fool’s Speech, boasting foolishly, and then paradoxically boasting of his weaknesses. In a lengthy discourse, surrounded by an equally extensive context, Paul shows how the power of Christ is made perfect in his human weakness. Paul depicts his so-called weaknesses but also, in them, his God-given human strength: whenever Paul is weak, then he is strong (cf. 12,9-10).