2 Corinthians 11:16-33 – The Fool’s Speech


2 Corinthians 11:16-33


As a way of defending himself against negative comparisons with opponents in Corinth, Paul rehearses a list of his hardships in ministry.


Second Corinthians 11:16-12:10 is sometimes called “The Fool’s Speech.” Paul wants to defend himself, but he does not want to open himself up to the charge that in his letters he abuses the power or authority entrusted to him. Paul wants to defend himself also without becoming like his enemies, who have sought the trust of the Corinthians on the basis of credentials rather than trustworthy relationships. Even so, in this speech, he argues that his credentials are equal to those of the teachers to arrive in Corinth after his departure, and he numbers his many sufferings for the sake of the gospel. Some of the sufferings he mentions, such as imprisonments, beatings, stonings, and shipwrecks, are also reported in the Acts of the Apostles.

Paul’s speech begins with the credentials of the other teachers. “Are they Hebrews? So am I” (2 Corinthians 11:22). Yet it moves to things that the others might not boast about, namely, deprivation, anxiety, and weakness (2 Corinthians 11:27-29). Paul says he will “boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). He explains this strategy in chapter 12.