2 Corinthians 11:21
I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(21) I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak.—Better, I speak it as a matter of reproach to myself, as though we were weak. The irony becomes more intense than ever. He has named these acts of outrage, he says, as though by way of self-disparagement. “We” (the pronoun is strongly emphasised) “were too infirm to venture on such things.” The taunt flung at his bodily infirmities is still present to his thoughts, and he assumes, in the bitterness of his irony, that it was through them he had been kept from like acts of self-asserting authority. Then he resumes his contrast, still dwelling on the offensive words, “folly” or “insanity,” which had been used of him: “Yes, but on every ground of daring—I know you will see my insanity again in this—I have as much right to dare as they.”

11:16-21 It is the duty and practice of Christians to humble themselves, in obedience to the command and example of the Lord; yet prudence must direct in what it is needful to do things which we may do lawfully, even the speaking of what God has wrought for us, and in us, and by us. Doubtless here is reference to facts in which the character of the false apostles had been shown. It is astonishing to see how such men bring their followers into bondage, and how they take from them and insult them.I speak as concerning reproach - I speak of disgrace. That is, says Rosenmuller, "I speak of your disgrace, or, as others prefer it, of the disgrace of the false apostles." Doddridge regards it as a question. "Do I speak this by way of dishonor, from an envious desire to derogate from my superiors so as to bring them down to my own level?" But to me it seems that Paul refers to what he had been admitting respecting himself - to what he had evinced in rudeness of speech 2 Corinthians 11:6, and to his not having urged his claims to the support which an apostle had a right to receive - to things, in short, which they esteemed to be disgraceful or reproachful. And his idea, it seems to me, is this: "I have been speaking of reproach or disgrace as if I was weak, that is, as if I was disposed to admit as true all that has been said of me as reproachful or disgraceful; all that has been said of my lack of qualifications for the office, of my lack of talent, or elevated rank, or honorable birth, etc. I have not pressed my claims, but have been reasoning as if all this were true - as if all that was honorable in birth and elevated in rank belonged to them - all that is mean and unworthy pertained to me. But it is not so. Whatever they have I have. Whatever they can boast of, I can boast of in a more eminent degree. Whatever advantage there is in birth is mine; and I can tell of toils, and trials, and sufferings in the apostolic office which far surpass theirs." Paul proceeds, therefore, to a full statement of his advantages of birth and of his labors in the cause of the Redeemer.

As though we had been weak - As if I had no claims to urge; as if I had no just cause of boldness, but must submit to this reproach.

Howbeit - (δέ de). But. The sense is, if anyone is disposed to boast, I am ready for him. I can tell also of things that have as high claims to confidence as they can. If they are disposed to go into a comparison on the points which qualify a man for the office of an apostle, I am ready to compare myself with them.

Whereinsoever - (ἐν ᾧ en hō. In what. Whatever they have to boast of I am prepared also to show that I am equal to them. Be it pertaining to birth, rank, education, labors, they will find that I do not shrink from the comparison.

Any is bold - (τις τολμᾷ tis tolma). Anyone who dares to boast; anyone who is bold.

I speak foolishly - Remember now that I speak as a fool. I have been charged with this folly. Just now keep that in mind; and do not forget that it is only a fool who is speaking. Just recollect that I have no claims to public confidence; that I am destitute of all pretensions to the apostolic office; that I am given to a vain parade and ostentation, and to boasting of what does not belong to me, and when you recollect this let me tell my story. The whole passage is ironical in the highest degree. The sense is, "It is doubtless all nonsense and folly for a man to boast who has only the qualifications which I have. But there is a great deal of wisdom in their boasting who have so much more elevated endowments for the apostolic office."

I am bold also - I can meet them on their own ground, and speak of qualifications not inferior to theirs.

21. as concerning reproach—rather, "by way of dishonor (that is, self-disparagement) I say it."

as though we … weak—in not similarly (2Co 11:20) showing our power over you. "An ironical reminiscence of his own abstinence when among them from all these acts of self-exaltation at their expense" (as if such abstinence was weakness) [Alford]. The "we" is emphatically contrasted with the false teachers who so oppressively displayed their power. I speak so as though WE had been weak when with you, because we did not show our power this way. Howbeit (we are not really weak; for), whereinsoever any is bold … I am bold also.

I speak as to those reproaches they cast on me, who am by them represented to you as though I were weak and contemptible; as indeed I am, as to my person, but not as to my doctrine, and the miracles I have wrought amongst you. And being some of them are so confident in boasting what they are, and what they have done and suffered; let me be a little bold as well as they, in telling you what I am, and what I have done and suffered.

I speak as concerning reproach,.... These words may be considered either as explanative of the latter part of the former verse, "if a man smite you on the face"; that is not to be understood strictly and literally, of one man's striking another on the face, but of reproach and contumelious language, used by the false apostles to the Corinthians; or they may have reference to the apostle's design in the whole, which was partly to reproach, the Corinthians for acting such a stupid part, in patiently bearing so many and such indignities from these men; and partly to expose the scandalous and reproachful usage of them by the false apostles, that if possible their eyes might be opened to see through them, and discard them: or else these words may be regarded in connection with what follows,

as though we had been weak; and then the apostle's meaning is, that as to the business of scandal and reproach he was speaking of, this was not confined to the Corinthians only, but they the true apostles had their share of it; for the false apostles reproached them, as poor, weak, fearful, and pusillanimous men; because they did not use that authority, and exercise that domination over them, they did not bring them into bondage, devour their substance, take away their goods from them by force, insult over them, and treat them in an ignominious and contemptuous manner; and intimated that they were upon all accounts inferior to them, and not worthy to be mentioned with them; which moved the apostle to exert himself, and boldly rise up in his own defence, saying,

howbeit, wherein soever any is bold; to boast of his pedigree, character, office, and usefulness,

I speak foolishly; as it might seem, and be so interpreted by some,

I am bold also; to enter the lists with him, to compare notes, and see on which side the superiority lies; and which is done in the following verses, to the full confutation of all the pride, vanity, blind boasting of the false apostles.

I speak as concerning {l} reproach, as though we had been {m} weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.

(l) As if he said, In respect of that reproach which they do to you, which surely is as evil as if they beat you.

(m) Paul is called weak, in that he seems to be to the Corinthians a vile and abject man, a beggarly craftsman, a most wretched and miserable idiot, whereas in reality God's mighty power was made manifest in that.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2 Corinthians 11:21. In a disgraceful way (for me) I say, that we have been weak! Ironical comparison of himself with the false apostles, who, according to 2 Corinthians 11:20, had shown such energetic bravery in Corinth. For such things we, I confess it to my shame, were too weak!

κατὰ ἀτιμίαν] is the generally current paraphrase of the adverb (ἀτίμως), to be explained from the notion of measure (Bernhardy, p. 241). See Matthiae, p. 1359 f.

ὡς ὅτι] as that (see in general, Bast, ad Gregor. Cor. p. 52), introduces the contents of the shameful confession, not, however, in an absolutely objective way, but as a fact conceived of (ὡς). Comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Xen. Hist. iii. 2. 14; and the passages from Joseph, c. Revelation 1:11, and Dionys. Hal. 9 (ἐπιγνοὺς, ὡς ὅτι ἐσχάτοις εἰσὶν οἱ κατακλεισθέντες) in Kypke, II. p. 268; also Isocr. Busir. arg. p. 362, Lang.: κατηγόρουν αὐτοῦ, ὡς ὅτι καινὰ δαιμόνια εἰσφέρει, and the causal ὡς ὅτι, 2 Corinthians 5:19. The confession acquires by ὡς ὅτι something of hesitancy, which strengthens the touch of iron.

ἡμεῖς] is with great emphasis opposed to the men of power mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:20.

ἠσθενήσαμεν] namely, when we were there; hence the aorist. On the subject-matter, comp. 1 Corinthians 2:2.

There agree, on the whole, with our view of the passage Bengel, Zachariae, Storr, Flatt, Schrader, de Wette, Neander, Osiander, and others. The main point in it is, that κατʼ ἀτιμίαν denotes something shameful for the apostle, and λέγω has a prospective reference. Rückert also gives λέγω a prospective reference, but he diverges in regard to κατʼ ἀτιμίαν, and supplies μέν: “in the point, indeed, to bring disgrace upon you, I must acknowledge that I have been weak.” But in that case how unintelligibly would Paul have expressed himself! For, apart from the arbitrary supplying of μέν, the definite ἀτιμίαν would be quite unsuitable. Paul, to be understood, must have written κατὰ τὴν ἀτιμίαν ὑμῶν (as regards your disgrace), or at least, with reference to 2 Corinthians 11:20, κατὰ τὴν ἀτιμίαν (as regards the disgrace under consideration). Ewald and Hofmann take κατὰ ἀτιμ. rightly, but give λέγω a retrospective reference. In their view of ὡς ὅτι they diverge from one another, Ewald explaining it: as if I from paternal weakness could not have chastised you myself; Hofmann, on the other hand, taking ὡς ὅτι on as specifying the reason for saying such a thing (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:19). Against Ewald it may be urged that ὡς ὅτι does not mean as if, and that the five points previously mentioned are not brought under the general notion of chastisement; and against both expositors, it may be urged that if κατὰ ἀτιμίαν were in reference to what precedes to mean a dishonour of the apostle himself, ἡμῶν must of necessity (in Php 4:11, κατά is different) have been appended in order to be understood, because the previous points were a shame of the readers; consequently the fine point would have lain just in an emphatically added ἡμῶν (such as κατὰ τὴν ἡμῶν ἀτιμίαν). In our interpretation, on the other hand, κατὰ ἀτιμίαν receives its definite reference through ὡς ὅτι ἡμεῖς (that we), and a ἡμῶν with ἀτιμίαν would have been quite superfluous. Most of the older commentators, too, though with many variations in detail, refer κατὰ ἀτιμ. λέγω to what precedes, but explain κατὰ ἀτιμ. of the shame of the readers. So Chrysostom,[334] Theophylact, Theodoret, Pelagius, Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Hunnius, and others: to your shame I say this (2 Corinthians 11:20), as if [rather: as because] we had been weak, and could not have done the same thing, although we could do it but would not. Similarly also Billroth (followed by Olshausen): “In a disgraceful way, I maintain, you put up with that injustice from the alleged reason that we are weak” (rather: had been). But since κατὰ ἀτιμ. is not more precisely defined by a ὑμῶν, we have no right to give to it another definition than it has already received from Paul by the emphatic ἡμεῖς ἠσθενήσ. Against the retrospective reference of λέγω, see above. Finally, in that view the passage would lose its ironical character, which however still continues, as is shown at once by the following ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ λέγω.

ἐν ᾧ δʼ ἄν τις τολμᾶ κ.τ.λ.] Contrast with the ironical ἠσθενήσαμεν: wherein, however, any one is bold

I say it irrationally

I too am bold
; in whatever respect (quocunque nomine) any one possesses boldness, I too have boldness. In ἐν ᾧ lies the real ground, in which the τολμᾶν has its causal basis. As to τολμᾷ, comp. on 2 Corinthians 10:2. ἄν contains the conception: should the case occur. See Fritzsche, Conject. p. 35.

ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ λέγω] Irony; for μή τίς με δόξῃ ἄφρονα εἶναι, 2 Corinthians 11:16. But Paul knew that the τολμῶ κἀγώ would appear to the enemies to be a foolish assertion.

[334] Chrysostom observes that ὡς ὅτι κ.τ.λ. is given obscurely, in order to conceal the unpleasantness of the meaning by the obscurity.

2 Corinthians 11:21. κατὰ ἀτιμίαν λέγω κ.τ.λ.: by way of disparagement, sc., humbly of myself, I say that we, i.e., I myself, ἡμεῖς being ironically emphasised, have been weak, i.e., I have not attempted to enforce my authority in any of these directions (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:10 and 1 Corinthians 2:3). He now changes his tone from irony to direct and masterful assertion, and in the splendid passage which follows he makes the “boast” which he has been leading up to with such prolonged explanations.—ἐν ᾧ δʼ ἄν κ.τ.λ.: and yet whereinsoever any man is bold (I speak in foolishness—this he is careful to add once more; see 2 Corinthians 11:17), I am bold also. His whole life will justify him.

21. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak] Literally, after reproach (or dishonour, see ch. 2 Corinthians 6:8, and see note on 2 Corinthians 11:17), “to my reproach” (Stanley), or perhaps ‘about the dishonour that has been cast upon me,’ that I ventured to do none of these things, because I dared not. The ‘we’ is emphatic. We, the true ministers of Christ, incurred the reproach of weakness while among you (see ch. 2 Corinthians 10:10, and 1 Corinthians 4:10), for we ventured upon no such evidences of our power. And this ‘weakness’ has been alleged against us as proof positive that we are no true Apostles of Christ. ‘As though’ implies that St Paul does not admit the justice of the accusation. But he passes it by, and proceeds to shew that he, too, can shew boldness upon occasion.

whereinsoever any is bold] There is no ground upon which the ‘false Apostles’ have based their authority which St Paul could not also advance: there are few on which his title to the respect of his flock is not greater than theirs.

I am bold also] St Paul is not here so much thinking of his boldness in asserting his Apostolic authority (ch. 2 Corinthians 10:2; 2 Corinthians 10:11) as of his boldness in asserting his personal claims on the allegiance of the Corinthian Christians; for now, though not ‘after the Lord,’ but ‘after the flesh,’ he commences that eloquent and impassioned description of his ministerial labours and experiences, which has done more than any other passage in Scripture to bring the person of the great Apostle before us, and to endear him to the Christian conscience.

2 Corinthians 11:21. Κατὰ ἀτίμιαν, in the way of ignominy [as concerning reproach]) as if I were already considered as one dishonoured [‘despised’]. See 1 Corinthians 4:10, and from the same passage we may also compare the term weak with this before us, and wise, φρόνιμοι, at 2 Corinthians 11:19. Comp. with the use of κατὰ here, the καθʼ ὑστέρησιν, in respect of, in the way of, want, Php 4:11.—ὡς ὅτι ἡμεῖς ἠσθενήσαμεν) as though we had been weak in mind, having nothing, of which we might boast and in which we might show boldness. The antithesis follows: but wherein soever any one is bold: the weak and dishonoured [ἄτιμοι] cannot boast, but still I will be bold; comp. 2 Corinthians 11:30.—ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ, foolishly) So he terms it κατʼ ἄνθρωπον, after the manner of men: comp. v. 16; and for the sake of modesty.

Verse 21. - I steak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. The sense is uncertain, but if with the Revised Version we render it, "I speak by way of disparagement," the verse may be understood as an ironical admission that, if absence from these violent and self-assertive proceedings be a sign of weakness, he has been weak. He proceeds to correct the ironical admission in the next clause. The meaning can hardly be, "I admit the disgraces I have suffered" (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:8), because he is speaking of the Corinthians, not of himself. I am bold also. If they derive their right to this audacious and overweening line of conduct from any privileges of theirs, there is not one of these privileges which I too may not claim. 2 Corinthians 11:21As concerning reproach (κατὰ ἀτιμίαν)

Better, Rev., by way of disparagement. Intensely ironical. Yes, you have borne with these enslavers and devourers and smiters. I could never ask you to extend such toleration to me. I speak as one without position or authority, having shown myself weak as you know.

I speak foolishly (ἐν ἀφροσύνῃ)

Rev., in foolishness. My pretensions are equal to theirs, but, of course, it is folly to advance them, and they amount to nothing. Yet, even speaking in this foolish way, I possess every qualification on which they plume themselves.

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