2 Corinthians 12:11
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
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(11) I am become a fool in glorying.—The two last words are wanting in the better MSS., and the verse opens with a somewhat thrilling abruptness,—I am become insaneit was you (emphatic) who compelled me. The words are partly ironical—partly speak of an impatient consciousness that what he had been saying would seem to give colour to the opprobrious epithets that had been flung at him. The passage on which we now enter, and of which we may think as begun after a pause, is remarkable for the reproduction, in a compressed form, of most of the topics, each with its characteristic phrase, on which he had before dwelt. The violence of the storm is over, but the sky is not yet clear, and we still hear the mutterings of the receding thunder He remembers once more that he has been called “insane”; that he has been taunted with “commending himself”; that he has-been treated as “nothing” in comparison with those “apostles-extraordinary” who were setting themselves up as his rivals. “I,” he says, with an emphatic stress on the pronoun, “ought to have had no need for this painful self-assertion. You ought to have acknowledged my labour and my love for you.”

12:11-21 We owe it to good men, to stand up in the defence of their reputation; and we are under special obligations to those from whom we have received benefit, especially spiritual benefit, to own them as instruments in God's hand of good to us. Here is an account of the apostle's behaviour and kind intentions; in which see the character of a faithful minister of the gospel. This was his great aim and design, to do good. Here are noticed several sins commonly found among professors of religion. Falls and misdeeds are humbling to a minister; and God sometimes takes this way to humble those who might be tempted to be lifted up. These vast verses show to what excesses the false teachers had drawn aside their deluded followers. How grievous it is that such evils should be found among professors of the gospel! Yet thus it is, and has been too often, and it was so even in the days of the apostles.I am become a fool in glorying - The meaning of this expression I take to be this. "I have been led along in speaking of myself until I admit I appear foolish in this kind of boasting. It is folly to do it, and I would not have entered on it unless I had been driven to it by my circumstances and the necessity which was imposed on me of speaking of myself." Paul doubtless desired that what he had said of himself should not be regarded as an example for others to follow. Religion repressed all vain boasting and self-exultation; and to prevent others from falling into a habit of boasting, and then pleading his example as an apology, he is careful to say that he regarded it as folly; and that he would by no means have done it if the circumstances of the case had not constrained him. If, anyone, therefore, is disposed to imitate Paul in speaking of himself and what he has done, let him do it only when he is in circumstances like Paul, and when the honor of religion and his usefulness imperiously demand it; and let him not forget that it was the deliberate conviction of Paul that boasting was the characteristic of a fool!

Ye have compelled me - You have made it necessary for me to vindicate my character and to state the evidence of my divine commission as an apostle.

For I ought to have been commended of you - By you. Then this boasting, so foolish, would have been unnecessary. What a delicate reproof! All the fault of this foolish boasting was theirs. They knew him intimately. They had derived great benefits from his ministry, and they were bound in gratitude and from a regard to right and truth to vindicate him. But they had not done it; and hence, through their fault, he had been compelled to go into this unpleasant vindication of his own character.

For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles - Neither in the evidences of my call to the apostolic office (see 1 Corinthians 9:1 ff); nor in the endowments of the Spirit; nor in my success; nor in the proofs of a divine commission in the power of working miracles; see the note on 2 Corinthians 11:5.

Though I be nothing - This expression was either used in sarcasm or seriously. According to the former supposition it means, that he was regarded as nothing; that the false apostles spoke of him as a mere nothing, or as having no claims to the office of an apostle. This is the opinion of Clarke, and many of the recent commentators. Bloomfield inclines to this. According to the latter view, it is an expression of humility on the part of Paul, and is designed to express his deep sense of his unworthiness in view of his past life - a conviction deepened by the exalted privileges conferred on him, and the exalted rank to which he had been raised as an apostle. This was the view of most of the early commentators. Doddridge unites the two. It is not possible to determine with certainty which is the true interpretation; but it seems to me that the latter view best accords with the scope of the passage, and with what we have reason to suppose the apostle would say at this time. It is true that in this discussion (2 Corinthians 10ff) there is much that is sarcastic. But in the whole strain of the passage before us he is serious. He is speaking of his sufferings, and of the evidences that he was raised to elevated rank as an apostle, and it is not quite natural to suppose that he would throw in a sarcastic remark just in the midst of this discussion. Besides, this interpretation accords exactly with what he says, 1 Corinthians 15:9; "For I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle." If this be the correct interpretation, then it teaches:

(1) That the highest attainments in piety are not inconsistent with the deepest sense of our nothingness and unworthiness.

(2) that the most distinguished favors bestowed on us by God are consistent with the lowest humility.

(3) that those who are most favored in the Christian life, and most honored by God, should not he unwilling to take a low place, and to regard and speak of themselves as nothing. Compared with God, what are they? - Nothing. Compared with the angels, what are they? - Nothing. As creatures compared with the vast universe, what are we? - Nothing. An atom, a speck. Compared with other Christians, the eminent saints who have lived before us, what are we? Compared with what we ought to be, and might be, what are we? - Nothing. Let a man look over his past life, and see how vile and unworthy it has been; let him look at God, and see how great and glorious he is; let him look at the vast universe, and see how immense it is; let him think of the angels, and reflect how pure they are; let him think of what he might have been, of how much more he might have done for his Saviour; let him look at his body, and think how frail it is, and how soon it must return to the dust; and no matter how elevated his rank among his fellow-worms, and no matter how much God has favored him as a Christian or a minister, he will feel, if he feels right, that he is nothing. The most elevated saints are distinguished for the deepest humility; those who are nearest to God feel most their distance; they who are to occupy the highest place in heaven feel most deeply that they are unworthy of the lowest.

11. in glorying—omitted in the oldest manuscripts. "I am become a fool." He sounds a retreat [Bengel].

ye—emphatic. "It is YE who have compelled me; for I ought to have been commended by you," instead of having to commend myself.

am I behind—rather as Greek, "was I behind" when I was with you?

the very chiefest—rather, as in 2Co 11:5, "those overmuch apostles."

though I be nothing—in myself (1Co 15:9, 10).

I am become a fool in glorying; I may amongst some of you (who interpret all things I say into the worst sense) gain nothing but the reputation of a weak man, wanting understanding, for speaking so much in my own commendation (contrary to the rules of modesty in ordinary cases).

Ye have compelled me; but it is not matter of choice, but of necessity to me; the ill-will which some amongst you have to my honour and reputation, and continual defaming me as a vile and contemptible person, hath constrained me, for the honour of Christ, (whose apostle I am), and the vindication of my own reputation, to boast in this manner; at least to relate what God hath done for, and in, and by me.

For I ought to have been commended of you; it was your duty to have vindicated me from the aspersions cast upon me; so others’ mouths should have praised me, and not my own: I must speak, because you hold your peace, or do worse in calumniating me.

For in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing; for you cannot but say that I, neither in my apostolical call and commission, nor yet in my gifts and graces, nor in my labours, nor in my sufferings, come behind those that are commonly thought to be the chiefest of the apostles; though (in some of your opinions) I be nothing; or indeed, of or from myself, am nothing; doing all that I do through Christ that strengtheneth me, and by the grace of God being what I am.

I am become a fool in glorying,.... This is either to be understood conditionally, if he had acted as a fool in commending himself, or was to be reckoned and called so by others, for glorying of himself, his visions and revelations; or as an ironical concession, allowing himself to be a fool for so doing, as he knew he should be traduced by his enemies; which concession he makes with a view to remove the blame from himself, and cast it upon the Corinthians: ye have compelled me: they were not only the occasion of his glorying, but they had forced him to it by their conduct; for he was obliged either to take this method for the vindication of his character, and preserve his future usefulness, or else to suffer the false apostles to triumph over him, to the great detriment of the Gospel, and of this church at Corinth particularly; whereas both might have been prevented, had they acted the part that became them:

for I ought to have been commended of you; when the false apostles reproached him, and insinuated things among them to his disadvantage, they ought not only to have turned a deaf ear to them, and to have checked and reproved them, and so have put a stop to their calumnies; but they should have spoke in commendation of him, and have declared how faithfully he had preached the Gospel to them; how useful he had been to their souls, for conviction, conversion, edification, and comfort; how laborious and indefatigable he had been in his ministry; what success attended him, and what wonderful things were done by him in proof of his divine mission; all which they were conscious of, and could with the utmost safety have affirmed of him:

for in nothing, says he,

am I behind the very chiefest apostles; meaning either the false apostles, who set themselves upon an equality with the true ones, and above him; or rather the real apostles of Christ, and those that were of the greatest note among them, as Peter, James, and John; for though he was behind them in time, yet not in gifts, labour, and usefulness: but lest this should be thought to savour of vain boasting, he adds,

though I be nothing; which may be considered either as a declaration of his own thoughts of himself, and an humble acknowledgment of his own nothingness; that he was nothing as a man, as an Hebrew, a Pharisee, with respect to his external privileges and righteousness, not more and better than others; and nothing as an apostle and a Christian of himself, but was wholly and entirely what he was by the grace of God; or as the judgment and opinion of the false apostles concerning him, who spoke of him, and treated him as a worthless man, of no account, and not to be regarded.

I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: {5} for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

(5) Again he makes the Corinthians witnesses of those things by which God had sealed his apostleship among them, and again he declares by certain arguments how far he is from all covetousness, and also how he is affectionate towards them.

2 Corinthians 12:11. Paul now comes to a stand, and surveys how much he has said in commendation of himself from chap. 11 onward. This retrospect extorts from him the admission: γέγονα ἄφρων, but as respects its contents he at once proceeds to justify himself, and to impute the blame to the readers. It is not to be taken either as a question or in the sense of a hypothetical protasis (Hofmann gives a choice between the two). The ὑμεῖς κ.τ.λ., asyndetic, but all the more striking, gives no ground for such a weakening of the meanin.

γέγονα ἄφρων] ironical exclamation; for it is clear from 2 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Corinthians 12:6, that Paul did not really regard his apologetic καυχᾶσθαι hitherto as a work of folly. But the opponents took it so! In the emphatically prefixed γέγονα (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:17) there is implied: it has come to pass that I am a fool! This now subsists as accomplished fact! “Receptui canit,” Benge.

ὑμεῖς με ἠναγκάσατε· ἐγὼ γὰρ κ.τ.λ.] This justifies him and blames the Corinthians for that γέγονα ἄφρ. The emphatic ὑμεῖς, and afterwards the ἐγώ, the emphasis of which Rückert failed to perceive, correspond to each other significantly: you have compelled me; for I had a claim to be commended by you, instead of commending myself. The stress is on ὑφʼ ὑμῶν, next to the ἐγώ, in which there is a side-glance at the pseudo-apostles, boastful themselves, and boasted of by their partisan.

οὐδὲν γὰρ ὑστέρησα κ.τ.λ.] Reason assigned for ἐγὼ ὤφελον. See, moreover, on 2 Corinthians 11:5. The aorist refers to the time of his working at Corinth. The negative form of expression is a pointed litote.

εἰ καὶ οὐδέν εἰμι] although I am quite without value and without importance. The same humility as in 1 Corinthians 15:8-10. But how fraught with shame for the opposing party, with which those false apostles were of so great account! And in this way the significant weight of this closing concessive clause is stronger and more telling than if it were attached as protasis to what follows (Hofmann). It is more striking.

In regard to οὐδὲν εἶναι, see on 1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 6:3.


11–18. Continuation of the Defence

11. I am become a fool in glorying] Or perhaps, with some, Have I become a fool? The words in glorying are not in the best MSS. and versions. Thus Wiclif, following the Vulgate, translates, I am made unwitti, ye constreineden me.

ye have compelled me] Literally, ye compelled me, as Wiclif above. The word ye is emphatic. It was not my desire, but your conduct that led me to boast. See notes on ch. 11.

for I ought to have been commended of you] See ch. 2 Corinthians 3:1, 2 Corinthians 5:12, 2 Corinthians 10:12; 2 Corinthians 10:18. The word I is emphatic. The reason is given in the next verse. They had had abundant evidences of his true Apostleship, and yet they needed that he should himself recal them to their minds.

the very chiefest apostles] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 11:5.

though I be nothing] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8-10. Chrysostom connects these words with what follows, and the meaning certainly then comes nearer to the passage just cited from the First Epistle. The Apostle arrogates no greatness to himself, but nevertheless that mighty deeds had been wrought by his means was undeniable.

2 Corinthians 12:11. Γἑγονα, I am become) He sounds a retreat.—ὤφειλον, I ought) An interchange of persons, i.e., you ought to have commended me [instead of my having to commend myself].—ὑφʼ ὑμῶν) by you, among you.—οὐδέν εἰμι, though I am nothing) of myself.

Verse 11. - A fool (see 2 Corinthians 11:16). For I ought. The "I" is emphatic. You compelled me to become senseless in boasting of myself to you, whereas I ought to have been commended by you. To have been commended. The verb gives one more side allusion, not without bitterness, to the commendatory epistles of which his adversaries boasted (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 10:12-18). The very chiefest apostles. The same strange compound, "out and out apostles," is used as in 2 Corinthians 11:5; comp. Galatians 2:6. 2 Corinthians 12:11I am become a fool in glorying

Ironical. By the record I have presented I stand convicted of being foolish.

I ought to have been commended of you

You ought to have saved me the necessity of recounting my sufferings, and thus commending myself as not inferior to those preeminent apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5).

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