Jan Lambrecht, «The Fool’s Speech and Its Context: Paul’s Particular Way of Arguing in 2 Cor 10–13», Vol. 82 (2001) 305-324
Paul’s particular way of arguing in 2 Cor 10–13 is visible in the Fool’s Speech (11,22–12,10) as well as in its context. The speech is interrupted more than once and there are shifts regarding the object of boasting. The introduction to the speech (11,1-21) is not straightforward and two brief retrospections (12,11a and 19a) should not go unnoticed. The major topic in this study, however, consists in the indication of three rings within the context of the Fool’s Speech: (1) 10,1 and 13,11 (moral exhortation); (2) 10,2-18 and 13,1-10 (Paul’s defense of his authority); (3) 11,5-12 and 12,11b-18 (Paul denies inferiority). Yet from the presence of these enveloping rings a strict concentric structure of 2 Cor 11–13 cannot be deduced. Special attention must also be given to 10,8.12-18 and 11,3-4.12-15.18-20. In these passages Paul, by comparing and attacking, seems to prepare his boasting as a fool in a more direct way.
It would seem that in 2 Cor 10–13 the Fool’s Speech begins in 11,22 and ends in 12,10. What is the connection between the foolish discourse and its broad context? Chapters 10–13 constitute a substantial, very emotional part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians of which 13,12-13 brings the final epistolary greetings and blessing. Therefore, one should probably not expect too much of a rigid, balanced structure, i.e., not a rhetorical dispositio nor another type of strict organisation of the various items. Yet, both recurring vocabulary and ideas surprisingly, strikingly suggest that a somewhat cyclic, ‘enveloping’ train of thought is present. Can it be depicted objectively, without forcing the spontaneous character of Paul’s way of writing here? Can the theological relevance of such an arrangement be indicated?
We will begin by reflecting upon some characteristics of the Fool’s Speech and the introduction to this text. The second section will be devoted to the context, especially to the different ‘rings’ which can be detected in the surrounding passages. The final section then will attempt to formulate theological insights and conclusions which appear to be validated by the analysis1.
I. The Fool’s Speech
Paul’s foolish discourse is often interrupted and, moreover, its focus in boasting changes more than once. A lengthy introduction