2 Corinthians 11
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
Ch. 2 Corinthians 11:1-17. St Paul’s Defence of himself against his accusers

1. Would to God] The words ‘to God’ are not in the original.

bear with me a little in my folly] i.e. the folly of boasting, which (ch. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 11:16-18, 2 Corinthians 12:11) the Apostle regards as a necessity laid upon him by the present condition of the Corinthian Church. Cf. also 1 Corinthians 3:1.

and indeed bear with me] Most recent editors translate as Chrysostom, but you really do bear with me. Ye (i.e. yea), ye do also forbeare me, Cranmer. The imperative rendering, however, harmonizes best with what follows, ‘Nay, indeed I beseech you to bear with me, for I am zealous,’ &c.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
2. with godly jealousy] Literally, with a jealousy of God, i.e. either (1) which comes from Him, or (2) which is pleasing in His sight, or (3) as Chrysostom, with the jealousy with which God is jealous, or (4) with a jealousy for God “like that of the paranymph,” Estius (see next note). The literal rendering in this verse is zealous, zeal. See notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 7:7; 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Corinthians 9:2.

for I have espoused you] Rather, I espoused you, i.e. at your conversion, it being the act, rather than its completion, to which St Paul asks attention. Cf. Matthew 22:2; John 3:29; Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:9; Revelation 12:17. Also Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; Ezekiel 16:8; Hosea 2:19-20. St Paul, like St John the Baptist, here represents himself as the friend of the bridegroom, who often (see Art. Marriage in the Dictionary of the Bible) took a prominent part in the negotiation of the marriage.

to one husband] The reference is to such passages as Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15. St Paul betrothed them to Christ, but they gave heed to ‘divers and strange doctrines,’ Hebrews 13:8-9.

present you as a chaste virgin to Christ] i.e. at His coming. Cf. Ephesians 5:27, where Christ is said Himself to present the Church to Himself. The betrothal, in St Paul’s day, as in some Christian countries at the present time, preceded the marriage sometimes by a considerable interval. There is a reference here also to the passages from the O.T. cited above, and to Ezekiel 23 &c.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
3. as the serpent beguiled Eve] The Church, as a second Eve, is espoused to Christ, the new Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). She must beware lest, like Eve, she listen to the voice of the same tempter, who ever lieth in wait to deceive, and so lose the privileges she was destined to enjoy. See ch. 2 Corinthians 2:11.

through his subtilty] See ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2, and note. A similar sentiment will be found in Colossians 2:4-8. For the serpent, see Genesis 3:1; and cf. Wis 2:23-24; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 12:14-15.

your minds] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 2:11, where the same word is used as here.

from the simplicity] Rather, singlemindness. See ch, 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Corinthians 8:2, 2 Corinthians 9:11; 2 Corinthians 9:13. Most editors here add and the chastity. No doubt the words and the chastity have been left out from the close similarity of the two Greek words in this passage. A word only differing in the Greek from this by one letter has been substituted for the word simplicity by many editors in ch. 2 Corinthians 1:12.

that is in Christ] Literally, ‘that is unto Christ’ (that ye had toward Christ, Cranmer). “This is an expression commonly mistaken. People suppose simplicity means what a child or ploughman can understand. Now if this be simplicity, the simplicity of the Gospel was corrupted by St Paul himself. ‘Simple,’ according to St Paul, means unmixed or unadulterated.” Robertson. See notes on passages cited in last note. The meaning therefore is ‘your single-minded devotion to Christ.’

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
4. he that cometh] This shews that the false teachers came from elsewhere, whence they brought their corruptions. Chrysostom. Cf. Acts 15:1; Acts 15:24; Galatians 2:4; Galatians 2:12. Otherwise, says Olshausen, they would have been excommunicated.

another Jesus] The word is not the same as that translated another below. In this case it means the same Jesus (“the historical Jesus,” Stanley), but preached in such a way as to produce a different impression. Cf. the Greek in Galatians 1:6-7.

or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received] Literally, whom (or which) ye did not receive. The preaching of Jesus after quite another fashion, that of bondage to law (Acts 15:1; Galatians 4:21), would involve the communication of a different spirit (see last note) to the spirit of liberty made known by St Paul (Romans 8:2; Romans 8:15). For the nature of the false teaching at Corinth, see Introduction to the First Epistle, p. 11, and 2 Corinthians 11:22.

another gospel] i.e. a different Gospel. See last note.

ye might well bear with him (or it)] These words have generally been regarded as ironical, nobly would ye bear with him (Alford, Plumptre), and explained of the ready reception which the false teachers had met with. But a comparison with Galatians 1:7, difficult as that passage is, makes it probable that no irony whatever is intended. “Had they preached another Gospel altogether, there would have been some reason in listening to them.” But they do not do this. They profess to preach the same Lord and the same Gospel, only they depreciate the authority of him from whom you first received it. Such men have no raison d’être, no standing-ground among you. They have none in my position in the Church, for it is equal to that of any of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5). They have none in my disregard of the technical rules of oratory, for I am not lacking in knowledge. They have none, in fact, in any way, for I challenge the closest investigation into my conduct (2 Corinthians 11:6). In one point, I admit (2 Corinthians 11:7), they have an apparent advantage. But even that vanishes on investigation. See notes below.

For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
5. For I suppose] The connection of thought seems to be as above. If they had been preaching another Gospel, you might have borne with them, but when preaching the same Gospel they can arrogate no superiority over me, for I am on an equality with the very highest.

I was not a whit behind] Rather, I have not fallen short in any way, i.e. I neither have been, nor am now, in the least inferior.

the very chiefest apostles] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 12:11. Most modern editors render by “these surpassers of the Apostles” (Alford), “those Apostles extraordinary” (Plumptre) (literally, the overmuch Apostles), regarding the Greek as ironical and interpreting the passage as referring to the false teachers. Chrysostom and the ancient interpreters refer it to St Peter and the rest of the twelve. But possibly there is no personal reference at all. St Paul may mean that no Apostles existed anywhere, however great they might be, who could claim superiority over him. Cf. Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9. Robertson has some interesting remarks on the common interpretation: “Some cannot understand the feeling which prompts an expression like this. Shallow men would call it egotism, vanity, folly, as if egotism consisted only in speaking of oneself. True Christian modesty is not the being ignorant of what we are, neither does it consist in affecting ignorance. It consists in this—in having a high and sublime standard set before us, so that we feel how far we are from attaining to that.”

But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
6. But though I be rude in speech] The word (see note on 1 Corinthians 14:16, and cf. Acts 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:13, and ch. 2 Corinthians 10:10) signifies one not specially instructed in an art. “It does not mean one who is not eloquent, but one who has not learned eloquence by the rules of rhetorical schools.” Bp Wordsworth. See ch. 2 Corinthians 10:10. Some have regarded it as meaning ‘untrained in Rabbinical learning.’ But this could hardly be said of the pupil of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). St Paul seems here to be combating all his antagonists, whether of Jewish or Gentile tendencies.

yet not in knowledge] Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6 and note. Also Ephesians 3:4.

made manifest] See notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 7:12, and on 2 Corinthians 11:4. St Paul continually appeals to his conduct as the best witness of the genuineness of his mission. Most modern editors read the active instead of the passive participle here. We must then translate made things manifest.

Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
7. Have I committed an offence] Literally, committed sin (don sinne, Wiclif. Did I therein synne? Tyndale, Cranmer and the Geneva version). This passage is ironical. The Corinthians had allowed St Paul’s anxious desire not to be burdensome to them to be used against him (see 1 Corinthians 9:1-14). He asks if such an anxiety for their welfare was to be imputed to him as a sin. Cf. the very similar passage in ch. 2 Corinthians 12:13.

abasing myself] i.e. by working for his living, when he might have enjoyed what men are apt to regard as a dignified ease at their expense. For the word see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 10:1.

that you might be exalted] He speaks, not of temporal exaltation, for his coming made no difference, unless perhaps for the worse, in their temporal condition, but of the “height of Christian salvation” (Meyer) to which they had been lifted.

freely] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:12-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 10:8. There is a contrast intended between the greatness of the gift, the Gospel of God, and the cost for which it was imparted, for nothing (literally, as a gift). Cf. Isaiah 55:1.

I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
8. I robbed other churches] “An hyperbolical expression” (Meyer). And yet in one sense it was true, for the Corinthians were just as much bound to support the Apostle when at Corinth as any other Churches were when the Apostle was with them. And, therefore, if when at Corinth he availed himself of assistance from those other Churches, he was taking from them what they ought not to have been called upon to supply. Why he did so we are told in 2 Corinthians 11:12.

taking wages of them] The Philippian Church, we learn from Php 4:15-16 (cf. next verse), is the Church referred to. Their liberality, St Paul felt, was not likely to be cast in his teeth, therefore he readily accepted it. In later days he again received their bounty with a willingness which would not, he knew, be misconstrued. This is an instance of that minute but undesigned agreement in points of detail which constitutes so strong an argument for the genuineness of most of the Scriptures of the N. T. For the word translated wages see St Luke 3:14; Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 9:7. It was most commonly used of a soldier’s pay, when given in kind.

to do you service] Rather, towards my support in my ministry to you.

And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
9. and wanted] Rather, was in want. The same word is used in 2 Corinthians 11:5. See note on 1 Corinthians 1:6.

I was chargeable to no man] Greuous, Tyndale. Our translation is Cranmer’s (though Wiclif’s is almost identical, ‘chargeous’). The Geneva version is nearer to the original, I was not slothful to the hinderance of any man. The original word is remarkable. It signifies originally to benumb thoroughly, and our word narcotic comes from this root, as also narcissus from the narcotic qualities of the plant. The torpedo, from its benumbing properties, had in Greek the name of νἀρκη, from whence some have translated it, ‘I attached myself to no man like the torpedo attaches itself.’ But as it is doubtful whether the fish gave the name to the sensation or the sensation to the fish, it will be sufficient to render by I disabled, or paralysed, no man, by throwing my maintenance on him.

from Macedonia] See note on last verse. “The principal fact set forth in this passage, the arrival at Corinth of brethren from Macedonia during St Paul’s residence in that city, is explicitly recorded, Acts 18:1; Acts 18:5.” Paley. See also Php 4:15.

and so will I keep myself] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:18.

As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
10. As the truth of Christ is in me] Rather, the truthe of Crist is in me (Wiclif, whom the Geneva and Rheims versions follow here) or if the truth (Tyndale and Cranmer). “There is no oath” (Dean Alford, who refers to Romans 9:1). “The mind of Christ is in him (1 Corinthians 2:16), the heart of Christ beats in him (Php 1:8), Christ speaks in him (ch. 2 Corinthians 13:3), and all this through the Spirit of Christ which dwells in him.” Meyer.

stop me] This boasting shall not be stopped in me, margin. The Greek word signifies to wall or fence round. Bp Wordsworth thinks that an allusion is here made to the Isthmian Wall, and refers to several passages in ancient history which speak of the value of such a fortification in the defence of the Peloponnesus. But it is possible that no such allusion was intended. The word is used in the N. T. (as in Romans 3:19; Hebrews 11:33) of stopping the mouth.

Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
11. Wherefore? because I love you not?] See 2 Corinthians 11:7 and note. The same ironical tone is adopted. ‘Can you suppose that this is a proof of my indifference towards you?’ And then the Apostle suddenly becomes serious, and appeals to God who knows the heart.

But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
12. occasion] See ch. 2 Corinthians 5:12.

that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we] These words seem to imply that the Corinthian false teachers did not accept money or maintenance for their services. But then it is difficult to see how they could have made that very practice an argument against St Paul. It is, therefore, better to suppose, that they boasted of their disinterestedness, in spite of their willingness to enrich themselves at the Corinthians’ expense (see next verse), and that St Paul was determined that they should have no solid ground for insinuations of this kind against him (though such were made nevertheless, ch. 2 Corinthians 12:16-17, by those who judged of the Apostle by themselves). So he steadfastly refused to take a farthing of money from the Corinthians, preferring to undergo privations (2 Corinthians 11:9) rather than give an opportunity to his opponents to assert of him, what was true of themselves, that his professed disinterestedness was only a pretence. There are a number of interpretations of this passage, for which the student may consult the commentaries of Deans Stanley and Alford.

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
13. For such] The link of connection is as follows. You cannot believe them in their boasting. They are false and deceitful in all their doings. They have not your interest at heart, but their own. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17.

false apostles] See Revelation 2:2; also note on 2 Corinthians 11:26.

deceitful workers] St Paul is indirectly aiming at such persons in ch. 2 Corinthians 4:2, as well as more directly in ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17. Cf. Romans 16:17-18; Php 3:2. The word workers is in the original equivalent to our word workmen or artisans. The reference is to workmen who shirk, or as it is called ‘scamp’ their work, instead of dealing fairly by their employer.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
14. And no marvel] No wondre, Wiclif, where we may remark that the older English expression has held its ground against the French equivalent.

Satan himself is transformed] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 2:11. Not that he is really so transformed, but that he appears to be so, to those who judge ‘according to the appearance,’ ch. 2 Corinthians 10:7; Galatians 6:12; Php 1:15; Php 3:18; Titus 1:10-11. “Transformed into, not becoming.” Chrysostom. He reads ‘if Satan himself.’

Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
15. whose end shall be according to their works] Cf. Proverbs 24:12; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6-11; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Php 3:19; 2 Timothy 4:14; Revelation 20:12, &c.

I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
16. I say again] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:6. “Three times he has attempted to begin his boast. First he is interrupted by the recollection of the hollowness of the boast of his opponents: again, he is checked by the difficulty of pressing it on men so perverted by the influence of their false teachers; and again, when he is led aside to answer the charge arising from his refusal of support. Now once more he returns to the point, and now for the first time carries it through.” Stanley.

Let no man think me a fool] This reiterated appeal to the Corinthians is due to the fact that St Paul keenly feels the unsuitableness of such boasting to the Christian character. See ch. 2 Corinthians 12:6, and notes on ch. 2 Corinthians 10:8, 2 Corinthians 11:1. “Observe how, when about to enter upon his own praises, he checks himself.” Chrysostom.

if otherwise] Or else (Tyndale. Cranmer, Geneva), i.e. but even if you do regard me as a fool.

yet as a fool receive me] i.e. ‘Receive me, even though you must receive me as a fool.’

that I may boast myself] Rather (with Vulgate, Cranmer, Geneva, Rhemish) that I also, i.e. as the false teachers have done (see the first four chapters of the first Epistle). Our version copies Tyndale here.

a little] The original is stronger; ‘a little bit,’ as we say.

That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.
17. not after the Lord] i.e. (1) according to the example of the Lord; see for similar forms of expression 1 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Corinthians 1:17; 2 Corinthians 10:3 (in the Greek); or (2) not inspired by the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 1 Corinthians 7:40). “There are many things”—he mentions war, self-defence, generous resentment—“which are not exactly after Christ, and yet are not contrary to the Spirit of Christ.” Robertson. “By itself it is not after the Lord, but it becomes so by the intention.” Chrysostom. “Like an oath, self-praise may under certain circumstances become necessary, especially for those who, like St Paul, have the public duties of a sacred ministry to discharge.” Wordsworth. St Paul was resolved ‘by all means to save some’ (1 Corinthians 9:22). If there were those at Corinth who raised objections to his ministrations, he took them on their own ground, and shewed that, low and unworthy as that ground was, even there they had no sufficient justification for their conduct. It is often necessary to adopt such a course, on the principle laid down by our Lord in Matthew 7:6. Appeals to the higher spiritual instincts of men who have never cultivated those instincts are useless. We must deal with mankind as they are, and hope thus to lead them to become what at present they are not. And if it be asked how we are to know when to walk ‘after the Lord,’ and when to condescend to the folly of mankind, the answer is, whenever we conscientiously believe it to be for their benefit.

in this confidence of boasting] i.e. on which I am now about to enter. Cranmer translates in this matter of boasting (substantia, Vulgate; substaunce, Wiclif and the Rhemish). So Chrysostom. But it seems better to translate as the A. V. St Paul regards what he is about to say as an outburst of foolish self-confidence, ridiculous in itself, but rendered necessary by the thoroughly low and carnal ideas of many of his Corinthian converts. Foolish as they are, he hopes to redeem them from their folly by shewing that he possesses even the qualifications on which they set so exaggerated a value, in greater measure than those for whom they had deserted him.

Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
18–33. St Paul permits himself to enumerate his labours for the Gospel’s sake

18. after the flesh] See note on after the Lord, and Php 3:4. Also note on ch. 2 Corinthians 10:3. St Paul means after the manner of those who judge only by what is outward and visible, or perhaps he may mean boasting of things, such as “high birth, wealth, wisdom, of being circumcised, of Hebrew ancestry, of popular renown” (Chrysostom), on which fleshly men set high value.

I will glory also] “It is remarkable that St Paul does not glory in what he has done, but what he has borne.” Robertson.

For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
19. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise] Literally, For gladly do ye tolerate men without understanding, being prudent (or perhaps better sensible men). The word here translated suffer is translated bear with in 2 Corinthians 11:4. The translation here is Wiclif’s. It is a question (see next note) whether either of the two members of this sentence is to be taken literally. But that its general purpose is ironical there can be no doubt. Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:10.

For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.
20. For ye suffer] (susteynen, Wiclif). “This may be understood in three ways. (1) He may be understood as reproving the Corinthians ironically, because of their inability to bear with anything, or (2) as charging them with sluggishness of spirit, because they had shamefully enslaved themselves to the false Apostles, or (3) he repeats in the person of another what was maliciously affirmed regarding himself, namely, that he claimed a tyrannical authority over them.” Calvin. If, with him and many ancient commentators, we adopt (2), the sense is, as Calvin goes on to say, ‘You bear with all kinds of indignities from others, why not with far less from me, who am in every respect their equal, if not their superior, in the very qualifications by which you set so much store?’ This interpretation agrees best with the context (see next verse). The connection of this verse with the former will then be as follows: ‘You pride yourselves on being sensible people, and certainly you have immense toleration for folly. You even endure the foolish—or worse than foolish—insults of men who have no claim whatever to lord it over you. Why then not bear with me, when I condescend for a moment to the level of their folly? You will crouch to worthless pretenders, why resist the voice of real authority?’

if a man bring you into bondage] Literally, enslave you. Our translation is Tyndale’s. Cf. Galatians 2:4; Galatians 4:9; Galatians 5:1.

devour you] Cf. Matthew 23:14; and the LXX. of Isaiah 9:12. These false teachers were animated by none of St Paul’s delicacy as regards money matters. It could not be said of them that they were no Apostles, because they had no claim to be maintained by the Churches.

take of you] Rather, seize you, i.e. as a hunter his victim, or a man his property (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 12:16). The earlier versions rendered simply by take, as though doubtful of the meaning. It was the Geneva that first added ‘your goods.

smite you on the face] An utterly extraordinary and inconceivable piece of presumption, according to our modern notions. But we do not habitually realize the immense extent to which Christianity has leavened our habits. Dean Stanley refers us to 1 Kings 22:24; Matthew 5:39; Luke 22:64; Acts 23:2; 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7; and to the canon of the Council of Braga (a.d. 675), which orders that no bishop at his will and pleasure shall strike (the original, however, seems to imply scourging) his clergy, lest he lose the respect which they owe him. He might have referred also to the famous Latrocinium, or Robber-Synod of Ephesus, in which one patriarch of the Church and his adherents literally stamped another to death, and even to a period so late as the Council of Trent, in which it is admitted, even by the Jesuit historian Pallavicino, that scenes of personal violence occurred among those who were or should have been teachers of religion. See his History of the Council of Trent, Book viii. ch. 6.

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

Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
22. Are they Hebrews?] We may take the words Hebrew, Israelite, seed of Abraham, as referring respectively to the nationality, theocratic condition, and Messianic rights of the Jewish people. Thus the Hebrew would not only be one who was of pure descent, but whose attachment to Jewish nationality caused him to cling to the Jewish language (see Acts 6:1; Acts 21:40; Acts 22:2; and Php 3:5). The Israelite would be a man attached to the covenant privileges of his nation (cf. John 1:47; Acts 2:22; Acts 3:12; Acts 5:35; Acts 13:16; Acts 21:28; and especially Romans 9:4). Seed of Abraham must refer to the pure Abrahamic descent of St Paul, and his consequent title to all the promises made to Abraham. See Romans 9:7; Romans 11:1.

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
23. Are they ministers of Christ?] St Paul here cannot be content with the simple ‘so am I.’ These men (see ch. 2 Corinthians 10:7; 1 Corinthians 1:10) claimed to be in some special sense Christ’s ministers. But when the Apostle thinks of the singleness of his devotion to Christ’s cause, of which he had so frequently boasted (ch. 2 Corinthians 2:17, 2 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, 2 Corinthians 7:2, &c.), and of the nature of his services as compared with theirs, his spirit rises within him. ‘I may speak like a madman,’ he cries (see next note), ‘but I cannot contain myself at such a charge. What have they done for the cause of Him whose name they falsely arrogate to themselves, compared to the services I have rendered? I use no mere words of vaunting, but appeal to the devotion of a life to His Gospel.’

I speak as a fool] Rather as a madman (scarse wise, Rhemish. Our translation is Tyndale’s). The word in the original is stronger than that in 2 Corinthians 11:16; 2 Corinthians 11:19. St Paul is not thinking here so much of the impression his words may produce on the Corinthians, as of the fact that all ‘boasting’ in God’s sight is ‘excluded’ by the ‘law of faith’ (Romans 3:27; cf. Luke 17:10). Mad indeed is it to boast of anything as constituting a claim on God for reward. But facts are facts, and they may be appealed to, not for self-glorification, but (ch. 2 Corinthians 12:11) to confute pretensions which ought never to have been advanced.

in labours more abundant] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10. He now commences the proof of this assertion, and it consists not in words but in deeds. He appeals to “a life hitherto without precedent in the history of the world. Self-devotion at particular moments, or for some special national cause, had been often seen before; but a self-devotion involving sacrifices like those here described, extending through a period of at least fourteen years, and in behalf of no local or family interest, but for the interest of mankind at large, was up to this time a thing unknown.” Stanley. De Wette would translate more abundantly (the word is an adverb in the original) and connect it with what has gone before, ‘in labours I am more abundantly a minister of Christ than they.’

in prisons more frequent] “What is left out is more than is enumerated.” Chrysostom. There is but one imprisonment mentioned up to this time in the Acts (ch. Acts 16:23). So there is but one beating with rods (see below). The Acts of the Apostles, being written with a special purpose (see note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 6:5), does not attempt to give a full account of St Paul’s labours and sufferings. See Stanley’s note on 2 Corinthians 11:21 and Paley, Horae Paulinae, Ep. to Corinth. 9. Estius accounts it a proof of St Paul’s modesty that he had never mentioned these things even to a friend so intimace as St Luke.

in deaths oft] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, 2 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 15:31. “Perils containing death,” i.e. as a possible event. Chrysostom.

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
24. Of the Jews] Literally, Under Jews, as though it were a disgrace to them to have treated one of their brethren thus. Cf. St Matthew 10:17.

forty stripes save one] Cf. Deuteronomy 25:3. The Mishna (Makkoth, iii. 10 [9]) prescribes that one below the number there mentioned were to be given, clearly, as Maimonides (Commentary in loco and Mishneh Torah, Hilekhoth Synhedrin, xvii. 1) explains, lest by a mistake the prescribed number should be exceeded. Others refer it to the three cords of the scourges, which could only inflict stripes to the extent of some multiple of three. Josephus, Antiq. iv. 8. 21, mentions the custom.

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
25. Thrice was I beaten with rods] See Acts 16:22-23, and note on 2 Corinthians 11:23. This punishment is also said frequently to have caused the death of the victim. It was inflicted by the Romans on those who did not possess the privilege of Roman citizenship, Acts 22:25. A precisely similar scene to that in the Acts is recorded in Cicero in Verrem v. 62, where the victim is said to have uttered the well-known words, Civis Romanus sum. Cicero here invokes the ‘lex Porcia,’ by which the beating a Roman citizen with rods, which had been formerly lawful, was forbidden. See Livy, 2 Corinthians 10:9, “gravi poena si quis verberasset necassetve civem Romanum,” and cf. Sallust, Catilina, c. 51.

once was I stoned] See Acts 14:19. Clement of Rome, St Paul’s companion and friend (Php 4:3), says in a somewhat obscure passage (Ephesians 1:5) that St Paul was “seven times imprisoned, put to flight and stoned.”

thrice I suffered shipwrack] The shipwreck related in Acts 27 is not one of these, but occurred some time afterwards. We have no other account of those referred to here.

a night and a day] The Apostle here speaks of some terrible peril, compared to which even the shipwreck related in Acts 27 was a trifling one. Probably for twenty-four hours he was exposed to the dangers of the ocean, with but a plank between him and death. The Acts of the Apostles, we are once more constrained to remark, gives us but a scanty account of the labours and perils undergone by this undaunted soul. The word translated ‘a night and a day’ is but a single word in the original, and signifies a period of twenty-four hours, commencing with sunset. Some have thought that the expression here, ‘in the deep,’ is the same as the LXX. of Exodus 15:5, and that St Paul went down with the ship, and was delivered by a Divine interposition. So Wiclif, Tyndale and the Geneva and Rheims versions, following the Vulgate, seem to have interpreted this passage (in the depnesse of the see, Wiclif; in the depe of the see, Tyndale). But the expressions here and in Exodus 15:5 (LXX.) are not identical. Cranmer renders, in the deepe see. So Chrysostom, who explains it, ‘swimming on the sea,’ and the Syriac version, which translates, ‘without a ship in the sea.’

In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
26. in perils of waters] Literally, rivers (flodis, Wiclif). Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:30. When bridges were rare, such perils were frequent. What they are, even now, in less civilized regions, the recent loss sustained by our troops in Afghanistan (in April, 1879) by a sudden spate, after several regiments had crossed the same river in perfect safety, may serve to shew us. Stanley refers also to the fate of Frederick Barbarossa at a place not far from Tarsus. See also Conybeare and Howson’s St Paul, 1. 457.

in perils of robbers] What these were in Judaea in those times we may learn from the well-known parable recorded in St Luke 10. The danger to the traveller in Palestine and the neighbourhood from bands of wandering Bedouins is still almost as great if the traveller in those parts ventures about without the protection afforded by a caravan. Mr Cyril Graham and other recent travellers have recorded their detention by the Arabs until rescued or ransomed.

in perils by my own countrymen] (of kyn. So Wiclif, literally. Cf. Acts 7:19; Galatians 1:14, in the Greek). These were not the least among the dangers St Paul had to encounter, as Acts 9:23; Acts 9:29; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:5; Acts 14:19; Acts 17:5; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:12 testify. And doubtless there are many such dangers which have been allowed to remain entirely unrecorded, but which may be imagined from what we read, and above all from the yet more serious dangers which befel the Apostle in consequence of his visit to Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 21, the record of which takes up the remainder of the book. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, St Paul’s first extant Epistle, written, be it remembered, from Corinth.

by the heathen] See Acts 16:19-39; Acts 19:23-34.

in the city] See last note, and Acts 9:23; Acts 9:29, as well as 2 Corinthians 11:32 of this chapter.

in the wilderness] Translated desert in Acts 8:26. Cf. St Matthew 14:13; Matthew 14:15. It means any place void of inhabitants. Hunger and thirst, as well as robbers, were among the perils thus to be endured. If any one should object that the Apostle thus repeats himself, it may be observed that the expressions here used are arranged in pairs, and are intended to shew that wherever he was, and whatever he did, the Apostle was in danger.

in the sea] Not a mere repetition. “There are many perils in the sea,”—pirates, for instance, especially in days long past—“short of shipwreck.” Alford.

among false brethren] Cf. Galatians 2:4 and 2 Corinthians 11:13 of this chapter. It refers, no doubt, chiefly to the Judaizing teachers (see 2 Corinthians 11:22), but need not be confined to them. Any one who falsely pretends to be a disciple of Christ may be thus described. Cf. Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2 (throughout); 1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7; 2 John 1:9; 3 John 1:9; Judges 4, 7-16; Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:15; Revelation 2:20.

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
27. in weariness and painfulness] In laboure and travayle (Tyndale), more literally. So Cranmer also. Our translators followed the Geneva version. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:8, where the words in the Greek are the same as here.

in watchings] Literally, in sleeplessnesses, i.e. in repeated nights of sleeplessness, whether from anxiety or other causes.

in hunger and thirst] Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:11; Php 4:12.

in fastings often] “Voluntary ones, as he has before spoken of hunger and want.” Calvin. Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 6:5.

in cold and nakedness] Dr Plumptre reminds us of the sharp contrast between this view of the greatness of a teacher and that current among the Jews, who had a proverb that “a goodly house, a fair wife, and a soft couch” were the prerogatives of the “disciples of the wise.” He refers to Matthew 23:6. See also Matthew 8:20.

Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
28. Besides those things that are without] The six principal English versions interpret this expression (1) of external trials, of which the Apostle has hitherto been speaking—“the thynges which out wardly happen unto me” (Tyndale). As the Apostle now begins to speak of inward troubles this rendering would seem quite natural. But Chrysostom (2) interprets it of things left out of the enumeration. And this interpretation is supported by the only two other passages in which the word occurs in the N. T., namely, Matthew 5:32; Acts 26:29. Cf. Hebrews 11:32. If this interpretation be followed, we must connect the words, not only with what follows, but with what precedes. ‘And besides a host of other things, which I cannot now mention, there is the daily pressure of anxiety arising from the Churches under my care.’

that which cometh upon me daily] There is a various reading here. If we follow the received text, which is that of the Peshito Syriac in the second century and is followed by Chrysostom, we must understand it of the daily concourse of troubles arising from this source. If we follow that which is proposed to be substituted for it, which is that of the Vulgate and of the most ancient MSS. (though it may not improbably have arisen from the copyist’s eye having passed from ΣΥ to ΣΤ), it must be rendered “that which presseth on me” (instantia, Vulgate; my daily instance, Rhemish). Tyndale, Cranmer and the Geneva render, I am combred dayly.

the care] Rather perhaps, the anxiety, as we speak of care in the abstract, the Greek word being derived from a verb signifying to part asunder, and implying that the mind is torn asunder as it were by conflicting emotions.

of all the churches] This must not perhaps be pressed (as Döllinger in his Last Age of the Church) so far as to assert that each Apostle considered himself individually responsible for the care of the whole Church of Christ. That there was some division of responsibility appears from Galatians 2:7. St Paul probably means the care of all the Churches which he had planted, surely no inconsiderable burden.

Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
29. Who is weak, and I am not weak?] St Paul goes on to explain in what that care consisted. It consisted in taking upon himself the anxieties of every individual member of the flock. We may see how true his words are by a reference to Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:7; 1 Corinthians 1:11; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Corinthians 10:25-33; the whole Epistle to the Galatians; Php 4:2-3, as well as ch. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, 2 Corinthians 7:12 of this Epistle.

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
30. If I must needs glory] See note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 5:12.

I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 12:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Corinthians 13:9. If St Paul turns aside for a few moments to boast ‘according to the flesh,’ his thoughts soon flow back into a channel more customary to one who has been ‘created anew’ in Christ. He is obliged to boast somewhat. But it has become more natural to him to boast of those things which to the natural man (see 2 Corinthians 11:21) are weakness.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
31. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ] St Paul is now about to give a remarkable proof of the truth of what he has just said, and one which he confirms by a solemn asseveration (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 1:23). That these words belong to what follows, and not to what precedes, is the opinion of commentators so widely differing as Chrysostom, Calvin, Meyer, Bp Wordsworth, Deans Stanley and Alford. A strong argument appears to be brought against this view by the fact that the incident related does not warrant so strong an affirmation. But as Meyer reminds us, the visions and revelations related in ch. 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 are an interruption of his enumeration of his infirmities, which he resumes in ch. 2 Corinthians 12:5. And perhaps eighteen centuries of Christianity have somewhat dimmed our perception of the immense difference between this vaunt, and those customary among the inflated teachers of St Paul’s day. They enlarged upon their triumphs, their influence with the rich and great, the success of their Oratory, the number of their disciples, and this with an arrogance which in our days would be justly contemptible. St Paul, while he shews his sincerity by the fact that his life was exposed to danger, narrates nothing but his escape, a circumstance not likely in itself to raise his reputation among men who judged according to outward appearance (we may compare the reproaches cast upon Cyprian for a similar flight), and not rendered more dignified by the manner in which it was accomplished. See Dean Alford’s note.

which is blessed for evermore] Literally, existing, blessed unto the ages.

In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
32. In Damascus] Cf. Acts 9:23-25.

the governor] Literally, the Ethnarch (ruler of the nation—the title of an Oriental provincial governor. See 1Ma 14:47; 1Ma 15:1, &c.).

under Aretas the king] Aretas (see Josephus’ Antiquities, xviii.) was the king of Arabia Petraea. His daughter had been divorced by Herod Antipas in order that he might marry Herodias, ‘his brother Philip’s wife’ (see Matthew 14:3-5). This and some disputes about the frontier led to war being proclaimed, and a battle was fought (a. d. 36) in which Herod’s army was entirely destroyed. It is thought by some that Aretas profited by this circumstance to seize on Damascus, and that it was just at this juncture (a. d. 37) that St Paul returned to Damascus from his stay in Arabia. Others, however, place this event about the year 39, after Herod Antipas had been banished to Gaul, and think that Aretas, taken into favour by Caligula, had obtained Damascus, among the various changes which the new Emperor made in the arrangements of his eastern provinces. Aretas seems to have been a common name among the Arabs, like Ptolemy in Egypt, or Seleucus and Antiochus in Syria. Josephus mentions more than one. Cf. also 2Ma 5:8.

kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison] Literally, was guarding the city of the Damascenes.

And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
33. in a basket] The word literally means a plaited cord. Hence a basket made of cords. The word in Acts 9:25 is not the same.

was I let down by the wall] Theodoret well remarks, “He shews the greatness of the danger by the mode of his flight.” The peroration of Chrysostom’s homily here is an eloquent picture of the magnanimity of the great Apostle.

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