PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Paul and the False Apostles||Concern for Their Faithfulness||Paul's Reply to Opponents||Paul and the False Apostles||Paul is Driven to Sound His Own Praises|
|Paul and False Apostles|
|Paul's Suffering As an Apostle||Reluctant Boasting||Paul's Suffering As an Apostle|
|Suffering for Christ|
READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. Chapters 10-13 form a literary unit. In this section that is so different from the previous chapters in 2 Corinthians , Paul defends himself against the attacks of false teachers. They had made Paul himself the object of ridicule in their attempt to discredit his gospel.
B. Paul answers the charges of his critics in chapter 11:4,8,12-15,18-20.
C. Paul uses irony and sarcasm to jog the memory of the Corinthian Christians concerning his ministry (cf. vv. 5, 7, 19, 20, 21).
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:1-6
1I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. 2For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. 3But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. 5For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. 6But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.
11:1 "I wish that you would bear with me" This is an imperfect middle indicative. The middle voice matches the emphatic personal introduction to chapter 10. The Imperfect tense can mean (1) repeated action in past time or (2) the beginning of an action. Number two fits this context best. See fuller note on "bear" at v. 4.
▣ "in a little foolishness" Paul has previously stated that physical comparison is foolishness, but the false teachers had used him as the object of ridicule. Therefore, he uses the Sophist's rhetorical style (i.e., boasting) against them (i.e., a sarcastic parody). He had to defend himself before this church for their own good. He felt silly in having to do this as verses 17 and 21 affirm.
▣ "indeed you are bearing with me" This is either a present middle indicative (NASB, NKJV, NJB) or a Present middle imperative (NRSV, TEV). There are three reasons stated in vv. 2, 4, 5 why they should listen. Each of these reasons is introduced in English by the word "for" (gar).
11:2 "I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ" Paul, as the founder of this church, is acting like a parent to betroth them to Christ (cf. Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:9; 21:2,9; 22:17). The OT idea of God as husband is found is Isa. 54:5; 62:5; and Hosea 1-3; 11:1-4.
▣ "I might present you as a pure virgin" This is the OT terminology for a marriage ceremony. Paul repeats this same theme in Eph. 5:25-27. Paul is subtly rebuking the Corinthian Christians for even listening to the itinerant false teachers. In a sense those who supported them had become spiritually unfaithful (i.e., OT spiritual adultery).
11:3 "as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness" This refers to the temptation account found in Genesis 3 (cf. I Tim. 2:14). Remember the serpent led Eve away from YHWH in small steps leading to self-assertive independence!
The term deceived (exapataō) is used only by Paul in the NT (cf. Rom. 7:11; 16:18; I Cor. 3:18; II Cor. 11:3; II Thess. 2:3; I Tim. 2:14). The unintensified form, apataō, is used in the Septuagint of Gen. 3:13 of Eve. Paul uses it in Eph. 5:6 and I Tim. 2:14 (twice). Deception comes both from without and within. Believers must be constantly on guard.
The term craftiness (panourgia) is a compound from "all" (pan) and "work" (ergon). Paul has used it twice before in his Corinthian letters (cf. I Cor. 3:19; II Cor. 4:2). Paul understood the spiritual warfare which believers had to face (cf. Eph. 4:14). He states the results of evil on mankind clearly in Romans 1-3 and on believers in Romans 7; Eph. 6:10-19. Paul's theology begins with angelic and human rebellion.
See SPECIAL TOPIC: SCHEMES at 2:11.
▣ "your minds will be led astray" The verb phtheirō is an aorist passive subjunctive. In a further allusion to Genesis 3 Paul used this term for "ruin" or "spoil" in a moral sense several times (cf. 7:2; 11:3; I Cor. 3:17; 15:33; Eph. 4:22). See Special Topic at I Cor. 15:42. Believers can be tricked, manipulated, and defeated by evil!
▣ "from the simplicity" See note at 1:12.
▣ "and purity" There is a Greek manuscript variant which adds "and purity." It is found in MSS P46, א*, B, and G (cf. NASB, NRSV, TEV, NIV). It is absent in MSS אc, Dc, H, K, and P (cf. NKJV, NJB, REB). The MS D* has the longer reading also, but the terms are in reverse order. Textual scholars are split on which is original. The inclusion of "purity" picks up on v. 2 and is included in some very good and geographically diverse ancient manuscripts.
NASB"of devotion to Christ"
NKJV"that is in Christ"
NJB, NIV"devotion to Christ"
The ablative preposition, apo, introduces three objects.
1. from simplicity
2. from purity
3. from "to Christ"
What is the referent in v. 3? Several English translations supply "devotion," but it could refer to "in Christ," which is Paul's famous phrase of personal faith in Christ.
11:4 "For if one comes" This a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purpose. "One" seems to refer to the chief false teacher alluded to in 10:7,10.
▣ "another Jesus whom we have not preached" These false teachers were not disagreeing over some peripheral, minor matter, but over the person and work of Jesus Christ (cf. I Cor. 3:11). It is obvious in putting all the evidence together that these false teachers were a mixture of both the Judaizers as in the book of Galatians and the Hellenists (i.e., Sophists). These surrogates from Jerusalem had dropped the circumcision emphasis, probably because of the Jerusalem Council's findings in Acts 15, but they continued their Jewish legalism somehow combined with or refined by Hellenistic (i.e., Sophists) thinking.
It is possible that Paul is using the false teachers' charges against him. They may have accused him of "preaching another gospel."
Those of us who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God have several questions to answer.
1. Do we read the NT through the eyes of the OT or does the NT have interpretive preeminence?
2. Are the words of Paul (or any NT author) as inspired as the words of Jesus?
3. Does the presence of "some" diversity among NT authors allow modern interpreters some "wiggle room" on some issues? Do we allow this same thing among the early church interpreters (i.e., Greek and Latin Church Fathers; later church leaders [Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, etc.])? Or to put it another way, how does one understand (define, limit) orthodoxy?
▣ "or you receive a different spirit which you have not received" Some see this as a reference to the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal. 4:6; TEV), but it seems preferable to relate this to either (1) the "spirit of fear and slavery" (cf. Rom. 8:15; II Tim. 1:7) or (2) "the spirit of peace and joy" (cf. Rom. 14:17). For a fuller note on "spirit" see I Cor. 2:11.
The term "different" is heteros, which means another of a different kind. Paul is contrasting the messages of the false teachers and himself (cf. Gal. 1:6). There is much similarity between the problems mentioned in Gal.1:6-9 and here.
▣ "received. . .accepted" The Greek verbs lambanō and dechomai are synonymous. Both basic meanings are to take hold of something. The two notes in Louw and Nida's Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, are helpful.
1. "to receive or accept an object or benefit for which the initiative rests with the giver, but the focus of attention in the transfer is upon the receiver" (p. 572).
2. footnote 31, "There may be some subtle distinction in meaning between dechomai and lambanō with the latter implying more active participation on the part of the one who receives the gift, but this cannot be determined from existing contexts" (p. 572).
For me as an evangelical Christian, these terms are crucial in an appropriate response to the gospel (cf. John 1:12). The promises of God, the works of Christ, and the wooing of the Spirit must be responded to both initially and continually. This forms the basis of the covenant concept (i.e., God initiates, but humans must respond).
Lambanō is recurrent in this context (cf. 11:4,8,20,24; 12:16).
NASB"you bear this beautifully"
NKJV"you may well put up with it"
NRSV"you submit to it readily enough"
TEV"you gladly tolerate"
NJB"and you put up with that only too willingly"
This is either a present middle imperative or a present middle indicative. This is biting sarcasm directed at the Corinthian Christians' willingness to listen to these false teachers.
Paul uses this term, anechomai, several times in this chapter (cf. vv. 1,4,10,20). In v. 1 it is used in the sense of "endure" (cf. I Cor. 4:12), but in vv. 4,19,20 it is used sarcastically in the sense of "tolerate."
11:5 "For I consider" In this literary unit Paul uses this verb, logizomai, often (cf. 10:2,7,11; 11:5; 12:6). It may have been a catch-word or often-used term of the Sophist's false teachers.
▣ "not in the least inferior" The verb in this phrase is a perfect active infinitive. At no time, past or present, did Paul think of himself as less than these supposed authoritative representatives from Jerusalem (cf. 12:11). This perspective is also discussed in Gal. 1:11-2:14, where Paul also defends his apostleship.
NASB, NKJV"to the most eminent apostles"
NRSV"to these super-apostles"
TEV"to these very special so-called apostles of yours"
NJB"to the super-apostles"
This sarcastic description is a combination of two Greek terms, huper (i.e., over and above) and lian (i.e., great or exceedingly). This descriptive phrase is rare and Paul uses it only here and in 12:11. Verse 5 is contextually and grammatically linked to v. 4, which obviously refers to the false teachers (cf. vv. 13-15). Paul is using the term "apostles" sarcastically in its two senses: (1) the Twelve and (2) messengers sent from churches (cf. v. 13). Apparently these false teachers had some connection with the church in Jerusalem (cf. v. 22 shows by inference that they claimed a Jewish background; 12:1 shows that they claimed charismatic experiences).
▣ "most eminent" (huperlian) See Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at I Cor. 2:1.
11:6 "But even if" This is a first class conditional sentence. Paul admitted to them that Greek rhetoric was not his strength. His strength was the inspired content of his messages.
▣ "I am unskilled in speech" This term is used in the sense of "untrained" or "amateurish" (cf. Acts 4:13, where it is used of Peter and John or I Corinthians 14, where it is used of those who are unlearned in spiritual gifts). It seems to be related to Paul's confession that he was not skilled in rhetoric (cf. 10:10; I Cor. 1:17).
This comment, apparently from the false teachers, shows that they honored rhetorical speaking. This implies a Hellenistic (i.e., Sophists) background. See Bruce W. Winter, Philo and Paul Among the Sophists.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:7-11
7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? 8I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; 9and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. 10As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia. 11Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!
11:7 "did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted" Verse 7 is a question which expects a "no" answer. This is another example of Paul's sarcasm related to the continuing controversy of his not accepting monetary remuneration from the Corinthian church (cf. I Cor. 9:3-18).
The word "sin" (hamartia) is used in a non-moral sense of "did I make a mistake" or "misjudgment." Remember, context, context, context - determines word meaning. Be careful of pre-set theological definitions of words read into every occurrence!
▣ "the gospel of God" Notice the gospel of Christ (cf. 2:12; 9:13; 10:14) is also the gospel of God!
11:8 "I robbed other churches" The Greeks and Romans were used to paying their itinerant teachers, but Paul knew that this would be the source of criticism by the false teachers and he refused to accept monetary help from this church (or any other church while he worked among them, cf. I Thess. 2:5-9; II Thess. 3:7-9). Paul did accept help from both Philippi and Thessalonica after he had left (cf. Phil. 4:15-18 and possibly I Thess. 3:6). Apparently it hurt this church's feelings (cf. v. 11; 12:13,14; I Cor. 9:12,15,18).
▣ "churches" See Special Topic at I Cor. 1:2.
▣ "to serve you" See Special Topic: Servant Leadership at I Cor. 4:1.
11:10 "As the truth of Christ is in me" This is an idiomatic way of asserting truthfulness or Paul's sense of inspiration (cf. Rom. 9:1). See SPECIAL TOPIC: "TRUTH" IN PAUL'S WRITINGS at 13:8.
▣ "this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia" This is a strong Greek term which is used in the Septuagint for the damming of a river. Paul refused to take money from the Corinthian church and apparently he made this known publicly and often. For "boasting" see full note at 1:12.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:12-15
12But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
11:12 Paul knew his opponents. He tried to remove every opportunity for their attacks. He limited his freedom and rights to protect and expand the gospel (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13).
11:13 "For such men are false apostles" These out-of-town religious leaders, possibly from Jerusalem, claimed authority. Paul calls them pseudo-apostles and pseudo-brothers (cf. v. 26).
▣ "deceitful workers" This word is from the noun which meant "fishing bait." They tried to catch the Corinthian believers for their own purposes and to further their reputations.
▣ "disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" These were not sincere Christians who were misled. These were spiritually lost men (cf. v. 14) attempting to divide the church of God (cf. I Cor. 3:10-15). They were wolves in sheep's clothing (cf. Matthew 7; Acts 20:29; II Pet. 2:1-22; Jude vv. 3-16).
The term "disguising" (i.e., metaschēmatizō) is used in vv. 13,14,15. It speaks of the outward changing form of something or someone (cf. Phil. 3:21). These (i.e., false teachers and Satan) appear to be what they are not!
11:14 "for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" This is an obvious truth, but is nowhere else in the Bible stated in these terms. This may be from rabbinical traditions about Genesis 3 (cf. DSS cave 1, Manual of Discipline 3:20,24). Satan's major trick is masquerading as truth (cf. Gen. 3). Evil always tries to mimic or counterfeit the good. False teachers always come from inside the church (cf. II Pet. 2; I John 2:18-19). See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL at I Cor. 7:5.
11:15 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence. There were Satanically inspired false teachers within the church at Corinth. They are with us today!
▣ "servants of righteousness" Paul does not use "righteousness" often in the sense he uses it here. Here it has the connotation of "goodness" or "rightness" (cf. Matt. 6:1), but not in the theological sense of justification by faith (cf. Romans 4). See Special Topic: Righteousness at I Cor. 1:30. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SERVANT LEADERSHIP at I Cor. 4:1.
▣ "whose end will be according to their deeds" This seems to be an allusion to Pro. 24:12. It is also the basic truth of the Bible. See full note at 5:10.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:16-21a
16Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. 17What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. 18Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. 19For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. 20For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. 21To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.
11:16 "let no one think me foolish. . .so that I also may boast a little" Paul was not comfortable with personal boasting (cf. vv. 1,17). The false teachers had forced him to use their methods (i.e., the style of chapters 10-13 reflects the characteristics of Hellenistic rhetorical forms).
For "foolish" see Special Topic at I Cor. 15:36. For "boast" see Special Topic: Boasting at I Cor. 5:6.
▣ "if" This is an incomplete first class conditional sentence (i.e., no verb). These Corinthian believers were surprised at Paul's letter.
11:17 Paul alluded to Jesus' life and attitude in 10:1 (i.e., by the meekness and gentleness of Christ), but when it came to boasting or human comparisons, Paul must admit there is no precedent in Jesus.
11:18 "Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also" This is the major focus of chapters 10-13. The false teachers had attacked Paul and his gospel by comparing his heritage and spiritual giftedness with theirs (cf. v. 8). Paul was distressed that the church had listened to them and had been swayed by their arguments. Therefore, he decided to get down on their level for the purpose of winning this church back to confidence in his leadership and his gospel.
11:19-20 This is biting sarcasm directed to the Corinthian church. Everything the false teachers accused Paul of, they practiced and the church positively responded to them!
▣ "tolerate" See note at v. 4.
11:20 "if anyone enslaves you" This starts a series of five first class conditional sentences. This verb (i.e., katadouloō) is only used here and in Gal. 2:4 where it refers to the Judaizers. The Judaizers asserted that one had to become a full Jew before one could become a Christian. How these false teachers relate to the Judaizers is uncertain. The exact rules or rituals which the false teachers at Corinth put forth as necessary for salvation are also uncertain.
▣ "if anyone devours you" Paul used this verb only twice, here and in Gal. 5:15, which also describes a church in conflict with false teachers.
TEV"takes advantage of you"
NKJV"takes from you"
NJB"keep you under his orders"
This is the common verb lambanō, but with a metaphorical extension of the literal sense of "to take hold of." Here it is to manipulate for personal advantage.
NASB, NKJV"exalts himself"
NRSV"puts on airs"
TEV"look down on you"
NJB"sets himself above you"
Paul used this same term in 10:5 to describe the arrogance of the false teachers' arguments and speculations. This term is simply the word "to lift up" (cf. I Tim. 2:8). But, in I Corinthians it has negative connotations of human pride and arrogance.
▣ "hits you in the face" Paul's words drip with sarcasm (cf. v. 21). He was so gentle and meek (cf. 10:1) with them, but they rejected him; the false teachers were so selfish and manipulative, but they love them.
11:21 "to my shame" This is literally "according to dishonor." Paul felt that his meekness and gentleness had been misunderstood and taken advantage of by the false teachers. This may be another example of sarcasm.
▣ "weak" See Special Topic: Weakness at II Cor. 12:9.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:21b-29
21bBut in whatever respect anyone else is bold-I speak in foolishness-I am just as bold myself. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ?-I speak as if insane-I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?
11:21b Paul is ready to fight fire with fire. They want to compare credentials, so be it!
11:22 "Are they Hebrews? So am I" This is the first of four rhetorical questions. "Hebrews" idiomatically referred to the ability to speak Aramaic (cf. Acts 6:1), but with the implication of true racial Jews. This is another evidence that this group of false teachers had a Palestinian/Judaistic origin.
This "so am I" (i.e., kagō) is repeated three times in v. 22.
▣ "Are they Israelites? So am I" Apparently they were bragging that they were part of the OT covenant people of God (cf. Phil. 3:5; John 8:31-59).
11:23 "Are they servants of Christ?" Paul is not asserting here that they are Christians. He is simply asserting, for the sake of argument, that he has the same spiritual credentials that they are bragging about. They even claimed a spiritual superiority to Paul.
▣ "I more so" Paul had a series of comparisons with en.
1. in far more labors, v. 23
2. in far more imprisonments, v. 23
3. in stripes above measure, v. 23
4. in danger of death often, v. 23
a. beaten with thirty nine lashes (5 times), v. 24
b. beaten with rods (3 times), v. 25
c. stoned (once), v. 25
d. shipwrecked (3 times), v. 25
Some of these are recorded in Acts, but not all of them. In reality we know so little of the first century church. Paul had paid the price to speak the gospel!
11:24 "I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes" This refers to punishment administered by Synagogue courts (cf. Deut. 25:1-3). The strokes were probably given with a rod (cf. Exod. 21:20; Pro. 10:13; 19:29; 26:3) and given in public. This type of punishment was known and practiced in Assyria and Egypt. It was practiced in Israel (cf. Isa. 50:6; Jer. 20:2; 37:15).
The rabbis later codified that it had to be one less than forty strokes (i.e., the maximum number, cf Josephus, Antiq. 4:8:21,23). They specified that so many hits be done on the back and on the front, left and right shoulders (cf. Maccoth 3:10ff).
11:25 "beaten with rods" This refers to a type of Roman judicial punishment (i.e., verberatio), probably administered by a city court (cf. Acts 16:22-40; I Cor. 4:21) publicly.
▣ "once I was stoned" In Acts 14:19 his attackers thought he was dead! This may be the incident.
▣ "three times I was shipwrecked" This shows how limited the history of Acts truly is. Paul's shipwreck recorded in Acts happened after this point in history. Acts is not a complete history, but a theological account of the gospel moving from Palestine to Rome, from Jews to Gentiles.
NASB"I have been on frequent journeys"
NKJV"in journeys often"
NRSV"on frequent journeys"
TEV"in many travels"
This starts another list of dative plurals or in an eight case system like A. T. Robertson's, this is labeled locative. There is no verb, participle, or infinitive in vv. 26,27,28. This describes Paul's service for Christ.
1. dangers from rivers
2. dangers from robbers
3. dangers from my countrymen (as he was in Corinth)
4. dangers from Gentiles
5. dangers in the city
6. dangers in the wilderness
7. dangers at sea
8. dangers among false brethren (as he was in Corinth)
11:27 "I have been" Paul starts another list using the dative/locative.
1. in labor
2. in hardship
3. in sleepless nights
4. in hunger
5. in thirst
6. in fastings many times (lit. "often without food")
7. in cold
8. in nakedness (lit. "in exposure")
All of us who claim to be servants of the gospel should quit whining!
11:28 Another thing which caused daily pain for Paul was the psychological/spiritual worry for the health and effectiveness of the churches-possibly this was the worst pain of all!
11:29 "Who is weak without my being weak" Verse 29 has two rhetorical questions. When Paul sees churches and believers hurting, it hurts him and makes him furious at those who would cause little ones to stumble (cf. Matt. 18).
NKJV"burn with indignation"
TEV"filled with distress"
NJB"burn in agony"
Paul uses this term, burn, in a specialized sense in his Corinthian letters. It is not negative or destructive (cf. Eph. 6:16), but a metaphor for intense desire (cf. I Cor. 7:9).
NASB, TEV"is led into sin"
NKJV, NRSV"made to stumble"
NJB"made to fall"
This is the Greek term skandalon, which literally referred to a baited trap-stick (cf. Rom. 11:9). It is used in the sense of moral failure (here and I Cor. 8:13) or possibly to be seduced by the false theology of the "super apostles" (cf. I Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 11:30-33
30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
11:30 "If" This is a first class conditional sentence.
▣ "what pertains to my weakness" Paul's trials and criticisms had caused him to realize that his strengths were from God and his weaknesses were an opportunity for God to receive the glory (cf. 12:1-10).
11:31 "God and Father of the Lord Jesus" This verse is an oath. Paul uses God's name to assert the truthfulness of his statements quite often (cf. Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 1:18; 11:10,11; Gal. 1:20; I Tim. 2:7).
▣ "forever" This is literally "unto the ages" (cf. Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 11:36; 16:27). The same phrase, but singular, is found in I Cor. 8:13 and II Cor. 9:9. See Special Topic: This Age and the Age to Come at I Cor. 1:20.
11:32-33 "In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas" Some say this is anticlimactic, but this was apparently the most embarrassing (i.e., weakest) moment of Paul's life. It could refer to another charge of the false teachers. King Aretas (i.e., Harethath) was king of the Nabatean empire from 9 b.c. to a.d. 40. He was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas. The term "Aretas" is like the term "Pharaoh," a title for all of the Nabatean kings who ruled in Petra. The "ethnarch" would have been Aretus' official representative in Damascus. The account in Acts 9:23-25 is somewhat different; possibly the false teachers used this incident to attack Paul's character.
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Why does Paul defend himself against these false teachers?
2. Does v. 3 refer to falling from grace or seduction away from apostolic authority?
3. Why would Paul not accept money from the Corinthian Church?
4. Who were these false apostles?
5. Describe the theology of these false teachers?
6. Why was Paul's life of such brutal treatment a sign of his apostolic authority? (cf. I Cor. 4:9-13: II Cor. 4:8-12; 6:4)
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