Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
2Co 11:1-33. Through Jealousy over the Corinthians, Who Made More Account of the False Apostles Than of Him, He Is Obliged to Commend Himself as in Many Respects Superior.
1. Would to God—Translate as Greek, "I would that."
bear with me—I may ask not unreasonably to be borne with; not so the false apostles (2Co 11:4, 20).
my—not in the oldest manuscripts.
folly—The Greek is a milder term than that for "foolishness" in 1Co 3:19; Mt 5:22; 25:2. The Greek for "folly" here implies imprudence; the Greek for "foolishness" includes the idea of perversity and wickedness.
and indeed bear—A request (so 2Co 11:16). But the Greek and the sense favor the translation, "But indeed (I need not wish it, for) ye do bear with me"; still I wish you to bear with me further, while I enter at large into self-commendations.
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. For I am jealous—The justification of his self-commendations lies in his zealous care lest they should fall from Christ, to whom he, as "the friend of the Bridegroom" (Joh 3:29), has espoused them; in order to lead them back from the false apostles to Christ, he is obliged to boast as an apostle of Christ, in a way which, but for the motive, would be "folly."
godly jealousy—literally, "jealousy of God" (compare 2Co 1:12, "godly sincerity," literally, "sincerity of God"). "If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God" [Bengel]. A jealousy which has God's honor at heart (1Ki 19:10).
I … espoused you—Paul uses a Greek term applied properly to the bridegroom, just as he ascribes to himself "jealousy," a feeling properly belonging to the husband; so entirely does he identify himself with Christ.
present you as a chaste virgin to Christ—at His coming, when the heavenly marriage shall take place (Mt 25:6; Re 19:7, 9). What Paul here says he desires to do, namely, "present" the Church as "a chaste virgin" to Christ, Christ Himself is said to do in the fuller sense. Whatever ministers do effectively, is really done by Christ (Eph 5:27-32). The espousals are going on now. He does not say "chaste virgins"; for not individual members, but the whole body of believers conjointly constitute the Bride.
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. I fear—(2Co 12:20); not inconsistent with love. His source of fear was their yielding character.
subtilty—the utter foe of the "simplicity" which is intent on ONE object, Jesus, and seeks none "other," and no "other" and different Spirit (2Co 11:4); but loves him with tender SINGLENESS OF AFFECTION. Where Eve first gave way, was in mentally harboring for a moment the possibility insinuated by the serpent, of God not having her truest interests at heart, and of this "other" professing friend being more concerned for her than God.
corrupted—so as to lose their virgin purity through seducers (2Co 11:4). The same Greek stands for "minds" as for "thoughts" (2Co 10:5, also see on 2Co 10:5); intents of the will, or mind. The oldest manuscripts after "simplicity," add, "and the purity" or "chastity."
in Christ—rather, "that is towards 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. if, &c.—which in fact is impossible. However, if it were possible, ye might then bear with them (see on 2Co 11:1). But there can be no new Gospel; there is but the one which I first preached; therefore it ought not to be "borne" by you, that the false teachers should attempt to supersede me.
he that cometh—the high-sounding title assumed by the false teachers, who arrogated Christ's own peculiar title (Greek, Mt 11:3, and Heb 10:37), "He that is coming." Perhaps he was leader of the party which assumed peculiarly to be "Christ's" (2Co 10:7; 1Co 1:12); hence his assumption of the title.
preacheth … receive—is preaching … ye are receiving.
Jesus—the "Jesus" of Gospel history. He therefore does not say "Christ," which refers to the office.
another … another—Greek, "another Jesus … a different Spirit … a different Gospel." Another implies a distinct individual of the same kind; different implies one quite distinct in kind.
which ye have not received—from us.
spirit … received … gospel … accepted—The will of man is passive in RECEIVING the "Spirit"; but it is actively concurrent with the will of God (which goes before to give the good will) in ACCEPTING the "Gospel."
ye might well bear with him—There would be an excuse for your conduct, though a bad one (for ye ought to give heed to no Gospel other than what ye have already heard from me, Ga 1:6, 7); but the false teachers do not even pretend they have "another Jesus" and a "different Gospel" to bring before you; they merely try to supplant me, your accredited Teacher. Yet ye not only "bear with" them, but prefer them.
For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
5. For—My claim is superior to that of the false teachers, "For," &c.
I suppose—I reckon [Alford].
I was not—Greek, "That I have not been, and am not."
the very chiefest apostles—James, Peter, and John, the witnesses of Christ's transfiguration and agony in Gethsemane. Rather, "those overmuch apostles," those surpassers of the apostles in their own esteem. This sense is proved by the fact that the context contains no comparison between him and the apostles, but only between him and the false teachers; 2Co 11:6 also alludes to these, and not to the apostles; compare also the parallel phrase, "false apostles" (see on 2Co 11:13 and 2Co 12:11) [Alford].
But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.
6. rude—Greek, "a common man"; a "laic"; not rhetorically trained; unskilled in finish of diction. 1Co 2:1-4, 13; 2Co 10:10, 11, shows his words were not without weight, though his "speech" was deficient in oratorical artifice. "Yet I am not so in my knowledge" (2Co 12:1-5; Eph 3:1-5).
have been … made manifest—Read with the oldest manuscripts, "We have made things (Gospel truths) manifest," thus showing our "knowledge." English Version would mean, I leave it to yourselves to decide whether I be rude in speech … : for we have been thoroughly (literally, "in everything") made manifest among you (literally, "in respect to you"; "in relation to you"). He had not by reserve kept back his "knowledge" in divine mysteries from them (2Co 2:17; 4:2; Ac 20:20, 27).
in all things—The Greek rather favors the translation, "among all men"; the sense then is, we have manifested the whole truth among all men with a view to your benefit [Alford]. But the Greek in Php 4:12, "In each thing and in all things," sanctions English Version, which gives a clearer sense.
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—literally, "Or have I?" Connected with 2Co 11:6, "Or will any of you make it an objection that I have preached to you gratuitously?" He leaves their good feeling to give the answer, that this, so far from being an objection, was a decided superiority in him above the false apostles (1Co 9:6-15).
abasing myself—in my mode of living, waiving my right of maintenance, and earning it by manual labor; perhaps with slaves as his fellow laborers (Ac 18:3; Php 4:12).
ye … exalted—spiritually, by your admission to Gospel privileges.
gospel of God—"of God" implies its divine glory to which they were admitted.
I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.
8. I robbed—that is, took from them in order to spare you more than what was their fair share of contribution to my maintenance, for example, the Philippian Church (Php 4:15, 16).
to do you service—Greek, "with a view to ministration to you"; compare "supplied" (Greek, "in addition"), 2Co 11:9, implying, he brought with him from the Macedonians, supplies towards his maintenance at Corinth; and (2Co 11:9) when those resources failed ("when I wanted") he received a new supply, while there, from the same source.
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. wanted—"was in want."
chargeable—Greek, "burdensome," literally, "to torpify," and so to oppress. Jerome says it is a Cilician word (2Co 12:14, 16).
the brethren which came—rather, as Greek, "the brethren when they came." Perhaps Timotheus and Silas (Ac 8:1, 5). Compare Php 4:15, 16, which refers to donations received from the Philippians (who were in Macedonia) at two distinct periods ("once and again"), one at Thessalonica, the other after his departure from Macedonia, that is, when he came into Achaia to Corinth (from the church in which city he would receive no help); and this "in the beginning of the Gospel," that is, at its first preaching in these parts. Thus all three, the two Epistles and history, mutually, and no doubt undesignedly, coincide; a sure test of genuineness.
supplied—Greek, "supplied in addition," namely, in addition to their former contributions; or as Bengel, in addition to the supply obtained by my own manual labor.
As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.
10. Greek, "There is (the) truth of Christ in me that," &c. (Ro 9:1).
no man shall stop me of—The oldest manuscripts read, "This boasting shall not be shut (that is, stopped) as regards me." "Boasting is as it were personified … shall not have its mouth stopped as regards me" [Alford].
Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.
11. Love is often offended at its favors being not accepted, as though the party to whom they are offered wished to be under no obligation to the offerer.
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. I will do—I will continue to decline help.
occasion—Greek, "the occasion," namely, of misrepresenting my motives, which would be afforded to my detractors, if I accepted help.
that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we—Bengel joins this clause with "the occasion," namely, of glorying or boasting; the occasion "that they may be found (a point wherein they glory) even as we," that is, quite as disinterested, or virtually, quite as gain-seeking and self-seeking. It cannot mean that the false teachers taught gratuitously even as Paul (compare 2Co 11:20; 1Co 9:12). Alford less clearly explains by reference to 2Co 11:18, &c., where the "glorying" here is taken up and described as "glorying after the flesh"; thus it means, that in the matters of which they beast they may be found even as we, that is, we may been a fair and equal footing; that there may be no adventitious comparisons made between us, arising out of misrepresentations of my course of procedure, but that in every matter of boasting we may be fairly compared and judged by facts; FOR (2Co 11:13) realities they have none, no weapons but misrepresentation, being false apostles.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
13. For—reason why he is unwilling they should be thought like him [Bengel].
such—they and those like them.
false apostles—those "overmuch apostles" (see on 2Co 11:5) are no apostles at all.
deceitful workers—pretending to be "workmen" for the Lord, and really seeking their own gain.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
14. is transformed—rather, "transforms himself" (compare Job 1:6); habitually; the first occasion of his doing so was in tempting Eve. "Himself" is emphatical: If their master himself, who is the "prince of darkness," the most alien to light, does so, it is less marvellous in the case of them who are his servants (Lu 22:54; Eph 6:12).
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. no great thing—no difficult matter.
if his ministers also—as well as himself.
righteousness—answering to "light" (2Co 11:14); the manifestation wherewith God reveals Himself in Christ (Mt 6:33; Ro 1:17).
end—The test of things is the end which strips off every specious form into which Satan's agents may now "transform" themselves (compare Php 3:19, 21).
according to their works—not according to their pretensions.
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—again taking up from 2Co 11:1 the anticipatory apology for his boasting.
if otherwise—but if ye will not grant this; if ye will think me a fool.
yet as a fool—"yet even as a fool receive me"; grant me the indulgent hearing conceded even to one suspected of folly. The Greek denotes one who does not rightly use his mental powers; not having the idea of blame necessarily attached to it; one deceived by foolish vanities, yet boasting himself [Tittmann], (2Co 11:17, 19).
that I—The oldest manuscripts read, "that I, too," namely, as well as they, may boast myself.
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—By inspired guidance he excepts this "glorying" or "boasting" from the inspired authoritativeness which belongs to all else that he wrote; even this boasting, though undesirable in itself, was permitted by the Spirit, taking into account its aim, namely, to draw off the Corinthians from their false teachers to the apostle. Therefore this passage gives no proof that any portion of Scripture is uninspired. It merely guards against his boasting being made a justification of boasting in general, which is not ordinarily "after the Lord," that is, consistent with Christian humility.
foolishly—Greek, "in foolishness."
confidence of boasting—(2Co 9:4).
Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.
18. many—including the "false teachers."
after the flesh—as fleshly men are wont to boast, namely, of external advantages, as their birth, doings, &c. (compare 2Co 11:22).
I will glory also—that is, I also will boast of such fleshly advantages, to show you that even in these I am not their inferiors, and therefore ought not to be supplanted by them in your esteem; though these are not what I desire to glory in (2Co 10:17).
For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
19. gladly—willingly. Irony. A plea why they should "bear with" (2Co 11:1) him in his folly, that is, boasting; ye are, in sooth, so "wise" (1Co 4:8, 10; Paul's real view of their wisdom was very different, 1Co 3:1-4) yourselves that ye can "bear with" the folly of others more complacently. Not only can ye do so, but ye are actually doing this and more.
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 may well "bear with" fools; for ye even "bear with" oppressors. Translate, "Ye bear with them."
a man—as the false apostles do.
bring you into bondage—to himself. Translate "brings," not "bring"; for the case is not merely a supposed case, but a case actually then occurring. Also "devours" (namely, by exactions, Mt 23:24; Ps 53:4), "takes," "exalts," "smites."
take of you—So the Greek for "take" is used for "take away from" (Re 6:4). Alford translates, as in 2Co 12:16, "catches you."
exalt himself—under the pretext of apostolic dignity.
smite you on the face—under the pretext of divine zeal. The height of insolence on their part, and of servile endurance on yours (1Ki 22:24; Ne 13:25; Lu 22:64; Ac 23:2; 1Ti 3:3).
I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also.
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.
Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.
22. Hebrews … Israelites … the seed of Abraham—A climax. "Hebrews," referring to the language and nationality; "Israelites," to the theocracy and descent from Israel, the "prince who prevailed with God" (Ro 9:4); "the seed of Abraham," to the claim to a share in the Messiah (Ro 11:1; 9:7). Compare Php 3:5, "An Hebrew of the Hebrews," not an Hellenist or Greek-speaking Jew, but a Hebrew in tongue, and sprung from Hebrews.
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. I speak as a fool—rather, as Greek, "I speak as if beside myself"; stronger than "as a fool."
I am more—namely, in respect to the credentials and manifestations of my ministry, more faithful and self-denying; and richer in tokens of God's recognition of my ministry. Old authorities read the order thus, "In prisons above measures, in stripes more abundantly" (English Version, less accurately, "more frequent"). Ac 16:23-40 records one case of his imprisonment with stripes. Clement of Rome [First Epistle to the Corinthians] describes him as having suffered bonds seven times.
in death oft—(2Co 4:10; Ac 9:23; 13:50; 14:5, 6, 19; 17:5, 13).
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
24. De 25:3 ordained that not more than forty stripes should be inflicted To avoid exceeding this number, they gave one short of it: thirteen strokes with a treble lash [Bengel]. This is one of those minute agreements with Jewish usage, which a forger would have not been likely to observe.
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. The beating by Roman magistrates at Philippi (Ac 16:23) is the only one recorded in Acts, which does not profess to give a complete journal of his life, but only a sketch of it in connection with the design of the book, namely, to give an outline of the history of the Gospel Church from its foundation at Jerusalem, to the period of its reaching Rome, the capital of the Gentile world.
once was I stoned—(Ac 14:19).
thrice … shipwreck—before the shipwreck at Melita (Ac 27:44). Probably in some of his voyages from Tarsus, where he stayed for some time after his conversion, and from which, as being a seafaring place, he was likely to make missionary voyages to adjoining places (Ac 9:30; 11:25; Ga 1:21).
a night and a day … in the deep—probably in part swimming or in an open boat.
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—rather, "By": connected with 2Co 11:23, but now not with "in," as there, and as in 2Co 11:27, where again he passes to the idea of surrounding circumstances or environments [Alford, Ellicott and others].
waters—rather, as Greek, "rivers," namely, perils by the flooding of rivers, as on the road often traversed by Paul between Jerusalem and Antioch, crossed as it is by the torrents rushing down from Lebanon. So the traveller Sport lost his life.
robbers—perhaps in his journey from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia. Pisidia was notorious for robbers; as indeed were all the mountains that divided the high land of Asia from the sea.
in the city—Damascus, Ac 9:24, 25; Jerusalem, Ac 9:29; Ephesus, Ac 19:23.
false brethren—(Ga 2:4).
In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
27. fastings—voluntary, in order to kindle devotions (Ac 13:2, 3; 14:23; 1Co 9:27); for they are distinguished from "hunger and thirst," which were involuntary [Grotius]. However, see on 2Co 6:5. The context refers solely to hardships, not to self-imposed devotional mortification. "Hunger and thirst" are not synonymous with "foodlessness" (as the Greek of "fasting" means), but are its consequences.
cold … nakedness—"cold" resulting from "nakedness," or insufficient clothing, as the Greek often means: as "hunger and thirst" result from "foodlessness." (Compare Ac 28:2; Ro 8:35). "When we remember that he who endured all this was a man constantly suffering from infirm health (2Co 4:7-12; 12:7-10; Ga 4:13, 14), such heroic self-devotion seems almost superhuman" [Conybeare and Howson].
Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
28. without—"Beside" trials falling on me externally, just recounted, there is "that which cometh upon me (literally, the impetuous concourse to me of business; properly, a crowd rising up against one again and again, and ready to bear him down), the care of all the churches" (including those not yet seen in the flesh, Col 2:1): an internal and more weighty anxiety. But the oldest manuscripts for "that which cometh," read, "the pressure": "the pressing care-taking" or "inspection that is upon me daily." Alford translates, "Omitting what is BESIDES"; namely, those other trials besides those recounted. But the Vulgate, Estius, and Bengel, support English Version.
the care—The Greek implies, "my anxious solicitude for all the churches."
Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
29. I … weak—in condescending sympathy with the weak (1Co 9:22). "Care generates sympathy, which causes the minister of Christ personally to enter into the feelings of all his people, as if he stood in their position, so as to accommodate himself to all" [Calvin].
offended—by some stumbling-block put in his way by others: the "weak" is most liable to be "offended."
I burn not—The "I" in the Greek is emphatic, which it is not in the former clause, "I am not weak." I not only enter into the feeling of the party offended, but I burn with indignation at the offender, I myself taking up his cause as my own. "Who meets with a stumbling-block and I am not disturbed even more than himself" [Neander].
If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
30. glory of … infirmities—A striking contrast! Glorying or boasting of what others make matter of shame, namely, infirmities; for instance, his humbling mode of escape in a basket (2Co 11:33). A character utterly incompatible with that of an enthusiast (compare 2Co 12:5, 9, 10).
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
31. This solemn asseveration refers to what follows. The persecution at Damascus was one of the first and greatest, and having no human witness of it to adduce to the Corinthians, as being a fact that happened long before and was known to few, he appeals to God for its truth. Luke (Ac 9:25) afterwards recorded it (compare Ga 1:20), [Bengel]. It may ALSO refer to the revelation in 2Co 12:1, standing in beautiful contrast to his humiliating escape from Damascus.
In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
32. governor—Greek, "Ethnarch": a Jewish officer to whom heathen rulers gave authority over Jews in large cities where they were numerous. He was in this case under Aretas, king of Arabia. Damascus was in a Roman province. But at this time, A.D. 38 or 39, three years after Paul's conversion, A.D. 36, Aretas, against whom the Emperor Tiberius as the ally of Herod Agrippa had sent an army under Vitellius, had got possession of Damascus on the death of the emperor, and the consequent interruption of Vitellius' operations. His possession of it was put an end to immediately after by the Romans [Neander]. Rather, it was granted by Caligula (A.D. 38) to Aretas, whose predecessors had possessed it. This is proved by our having no Damascus coins of Caligula or Claudius, though we do have of their immediate imperial predecessors and successors [Alford].
And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.