The apostle apologizes for expressing his jealousy relative to the true state of the Corinthians; still fearing lest their minds should have been drawn aside from the simplicity of the Gospel, 1-3; From this he takes occasion to extol his own ministry, which had been without charge to them, having been supported by the Churches of Macedonia while he preached the Gospel at Corinth, 4-11. Gives the character of the false apostles, 12-16. Shows what reasons he has to boast of secular advantages of birth, education, Divine call to the ministry, labours in that ministry, grievous persecutions, great sufferings, and extraordinary hazards, 16-33.
Notes on Chapter 11
Would to God ye could bear with me
οφελονηνειχεσθε μουμικρον. As the word God is not mentioned here, it would have been much better to have translated the passage literally thus: I wish ye could bear a little with me. The too frequent use of this sacred name produces a familiarity with it that is not at all conducive to reverence and godly fear.
In my folly
In my seeming folly; for, being obliged to vindicate his ministry, it was necessary that he should speak much of himself, his sufferings, and his success. And as this would appear like boasting; and boasting is always the effect of an empty, foolish mind; those who were not acquainted with the necessity that lay upon him to make this defence, might be led to impute it to vanity. As if he had said: Suppose you allow this to be folly, have the goodness to bear with me; for though I glory, I should not be a fool, 2 Corinthians 12:6. And let no man think me a fool for my boasting, 2 Corinthians 11:16.
I am jealous over you, alludes either to the shoshabinim or paranymphs among the Hebrews, whose office is largely explained in the notes on John 3:29, and the observations at the end of that chapter "Joh 3:36"; or to the harmosyni, a sort of magistrates among the Lacedemonians who had the care of virgins, and whose business it was to see them well educated, kept pure, and properly prepared for married life.
That I may present you as a chaste virgin
The allusion is still kept up; and there seems to be a reference to Leviticus 21:14, that the high priest must not marry any one that was not a pure virgin. Here, then, Christ is the high priest, the spouse or husband; the Corinthian Church the pure virgin to be espoused; the apostle and his helpers the shoshabinim, or harmosyni, who had educated and prepared this virgin for her husband, and espoused her to him. See the observations already referred to at the end of the third chapter of John. "Joh 3:36"
As the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty
This is a strong reflection on the false apostle and his teaching: he was subtle, πανουργος and by his subtlety (πανουργια, from παν, all, and εργον, work; his versatility of character and conduct, his capability of doing all work, and accommodating himself to the caprices, prejudices, and evil propensities of those to whom he ministered) he was enabled to corrupt the minds of the people from the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ; or, to follow the metaphor, he had seduced the pure, chaste, well educated virgin, from her duty, affection, and allegiance to her one only true husband, the high priest, Jesus Christ. And here he seems to intimate that the serpent had seduced the mind of Eve from her affections and allegiance to Adam, her true husband; and certainly from God, her creator and governor. See at the end of the chapter. "2Co 11:33"
For if he that cometh
The false apostle, who came after St. Paul had left Corinth.
Preacheth another Jesus
Who can save more fully and more powerfully than that Jesus whom I have preached.
Or if ye receive another spirit
And if in consequence of believing in this new saviour ye receive another spirit, the gifts, graces, and consolations of which are greater than those which ye have received from the Holy Ghost, which has been given to you on your believing on the Christ whom we preached.
Or another Gospel
Containing more privileges, spiritual advantages, and stronger excitements to holiness, than that which we have preached and which ye have accepted, ye might well bear with him. This would be a sufficient reason why you should not only bear with him, but prefer him to me.
Others think that the last clause should be rendered, Ye might well bear with ME-notwithstanding he brought you another Jesus, spirit, and gospel, ye might bear with me, who have already ministered so long to and done so much for you. But the former sense seems best.
I was not-behind the very chiefest apostles.
That is: The most eminent of the apostles have not preached Christ, ministered the spirit, explained and enforced the doctrines of the Gospel in a more powerful and effectual manner than I have done.
But though I be rude in speech
ιδιωτηςτωλογω Though I speak like a common unlettered man, in plain unadorned phrase, studying none of the graces of eloquence; yet I am not unskilled in the most profound knowledge of God, of spiritual and eternal things, of the nature of the human soul, and the sound truths of the Gospel system: ye yourselves are witnesses of this, as in all these things I have been thoroughly manifested among you.
Inspired men received all their doctrines immediately from God, and often the very words in which those doctrines should be delivered to the world; but in general the Holy Spirit appears to have left them to their own language, preventing them from using any expression that might be equivocal, or convey a contrary sense to that which God intended.
That St. Paul wrote a strong, nervous, and sufficiently pure language, his own writings sufficiently testify; but the graces of the Greek tongue he appears not to have studied, or at least he did not think it proper to use them; for perhaps there is no tongue in the world that is so apt to seduce the understanding by its sounds and harmony, as the Greek. It is not an unusual thing for Greek scholars to the present day to be in raptures with the harmony of a Greek verse, the sense of which is but little regarded, and perhaps is little worth! I should suppose that God would prevent the inspired writers from either speaking or writing thus, that sound might not carry the hearer away from sense; and that the persuasive force of truth might alone prevail, and the excellence of the power appear to be of God and not of man. Taking up the subject in this point of view, I see no reason to have recourse to the supposition, or fable rather, that the apostle had an impediment in his speech, and that he alludes to this infirmity in the above passage.
Have I committed an offence in abasing myself
Have I transgressed in labouring with my hands that I might not be chargeable to you? and getting my deficiencies supplied by contributions from other Churches, while I was employed in labouring for your salvation? Does your false apostle insinuate that I have disgraced the apostolic office by thus descending to servile labour for my support? Well; I have done this that you might be exalted-that you might receive the pure doctrines of the Gospel, and be exalted to the highest pitch of intellectual light and blessedness. And will you complain that I preached the Gospel gratis to you? Surely not. The whole passage is truly ironical.
I robbed other Churches
This part of the sentence is explained by the latter, taking wages to do you service. The word οψωνιον signifies the pay of money and provisions given daily to a Roman soldier. As if he had said: I received food and raiment, the bare necessaries of life, from other Churches while labouring for your salvation. Will you esteem this a crime?
And when I was present with you
The particle και which we translate and, should be rendered for in this place: For when I was with you, and was in want, I was chargeable to no man. I preferred to be, for a time, even without the necessaries of life, rather than be a burden to you. To whom was this a reproach, to me or to you?
The brethren which came from Macedonia
He probably refers to the supplies which he received from the Church at Philippi, which was in Macedonia; of which he says, that in the beginning of the Gospel no Church communicated with me, as concerning giving and receiving, but you only; for even at Thessalonica ye sent once and again to my necessity, Philippians 4:15,16. See the Introduction, sec. vi.
As the truth of Christ is in me
εστιναληθεια χριστουενεμοι. The truth of Christ is in me. That is: I speak as becomes a Christian man, and as influenced by the Gospel of Christ. It is a solemn form of asseveration, if not to be considered in the sense of an oath.
In the regions of Achaia.
The whole of the Peloponnesus, or Morea, in which the city of Corinth stood. From this it appears that he had received no help from any of the other Churches in the whole of that district.
Why have I acted thus? and why do I propose to continue to act thus? is it because I love you not, and will not permit you to contribute to my support? God knoweth the contrary; I do most affectionately love you.
But what I do, that I may cut off occasion of glorying, boasting, or calumniating from them-the false prophets and his partisans, who seek occasion-who would be glad that I should become chargeable to you, that it might in some sort vindicate them who exact much from you; for they bring you into bondage, and devour you, 2 Corinthians 11:20.
Nothing could mortify these persons more than to find that the apostle did take nothing, and was resolved to take nothing; while they were fleecing the people. It is certain that the passage is not to be understood as though the false apostles took nothing from the people, to whatever disinterestedness they might pretend, for the apostle is positive on the contrary; and he was determined to act so that his example should not authorize these deceivers, who had nothing but their self-interest in view, to exact contribution from the people; so that if they continued to boast, they must be bound even as the apostle, taking nothing for their labours; which could never comport with their views of gain and secular profit.
For such are false apostles
Persons who pretend to be apostles, but have no mission from Christ.
They do preach and labour, but they have nothing but their own emolument in view.
Assuming as far as they possibly can, consistently with their sinister views, the habit, manner, and doctrine of the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel
καιουθαυμαστον. And no wonder; it need not surprise you what the disciples do, when you consider the character of the master.
Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
As in 2 Corinthians 11:3 the apostle had the history of the temptation and fall of man particularly in view, it is very likely that here he refers to the same thing. In what ever form Satan appeared to our first mother, his pretensions and professions gave him the appearance of a good angel; and by pretending that Eve should get a great increase of light, that is, wisdom and understanding, he deceived her, and led her to transgress. It is generally said that Satan has three forms under which he tempts men: 1. The subtle serpent. 2. The roaring lion. 3. The angel of light. He often, as the angel of light, persuades men to do things under the name of religion, which are subversive of it. Hence all the persecutions, faggots, and fires of a certain Church, under pretence of keeping heresy out of the Church; and hence all the horrors and infernalities of the inquisition. In the form of heathen persecution, like a lion he has ravaged the heritage of the Lord. And by means of our senses and passions, as the subtle serpent, he is frequently deceiving us, so that often the workings of corrupt nature are mistaken for the operations of the Spirit of God.
Whose end shall be according to their works.
A bad way leads to a bad end. The way of sin is the way to hell.
Let no man think me a fool
See Clarke on 2 Corinthians 11:1. As the apostle was now going to enter into a particular detail of his qualifications, natural, acquired, and spiritual; and particularly of his labours and sufferings; he thinks it necessary to introduce the discourse once more as he did 2 Corinthians 11:1.
I speak it not after the Lord
Were it not for the necessity under which I am laid to vindicate my apostleship, my present glorying would be inconsistent with my Christian profession of humility, and knowing no one after the flesh.
Seeing that many glory after the flesh
Boast of external and secular things.
Ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
A very fine irony. Ye are so profoundly wise as to be able to discern that I am a fool. Well, it would be dishonourable to you as wise men to fall out with a fool; you will therefore gladly bear with his impertinence and foolishness because of your own profound wisdom.
For ye suffer
As you are so meek and gentle as to submit to be brought into bondage, to have your property devoured, your goods taken away, yourselves laid in the dust, so that others may exalt themselves over you, yea, and will bear from those the most degrading indignity; then of course, you will bear with one who has never insulted, defrauded, devoured, taken of you, exalted himself against you, or offered you any kind of indignity; and who only wishes you to bear his confident boasting, concerning matters which he can substantiate.
The expressions in this verse are some evidence that the false apostle was a Judaizing teacher. You suffer, says the apostle, if a man, καταδουλοι, bring you into bondage, probably meaning to the Jewish rites and ceremonies, Galatians 4:9;; 5:1. If he devour you; as the Pharisees did the patrimony of the widows, and for a pretence made long prayers; if a man take of you, exact different contributions, pretendedly for the temple at Jerusalem, If he exalt himself, pretending to be of the seed of Abraham, infinitely higher in honour and dignity than all the families of the Gentiles; if he smite you on the face-treat you with indignity, as the Jews did the Gentiles, considering them only as dogs, and not fit to be ranked with any of the descendants of Jacob.
I speak as concerning reproach
Dr. Whitby thus paraphrases this verse: "That which I said of smiting you upon the face, I speak as concerning the reproach they cast upon you as profane and uncircumcised, whereas they all profess to be a holy nation; as though we had been weak-inferior to them in these things, not able to ascribe to ourselves those advantages as well as they. Howbeit, whereinsoever any is bold, and can justly value himself on these advantages, I am bold also, and can claim the same distinctions, though I speak foolishly in setting any value on those things; but it is necessary that I should show that such men have not even one natural good that they can boast of beyond me."
Are they Hebrews
Speaking the sacred language, and reading in the congregation from the Hebrew Scriptures? the same is my own language.
Are they Israelites
Regularly descended from Jacob, and not from Esau? I am also one.
Are they the seed of Abraham
Circumcised, and in the bond of the covenant? So am I. I am no proselyte, but I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews both by father and mother; and can trace my genealogy, through the tribe of Benjamin, up to the father of the faithful.
Are they ministers of Christ
So we find that these were professors of Christianity; and that they were genuine Jews, and such as endeavoured to incorporate both systems, and, no doubt, to oblige those who had believed to be circumcised; and this appears to have been the bondage into which they had brought many of the believing Corinthians.
I am more
More of a minister of Christ than they are, and have given fuller proofs of it. I have suffered persecution for the cross of Christ, and of the Jews too; and had I preached up the necessity of circumcision, I should have been as free from opposition as these are.
In labours more abundant
Far from sitting down to take my ease in a Church already gathered into Christ; I travel incessantly, preach every where, and at all risks, in order to get the heathen brought from the empire of darkness into the kingdom of God's beloved Son.
In stripes above measure
Being beaten by the heathen, who had no particular rule according to which they scourged criminals; and we find, from Acts 16:22,23, that they beat Paul unmercifully with many stripes. See the note on the above passage.
In prisons more frequent
See Acts 21:11, and the whole of the apostle's history; and his long imprisonment of at least two years at Rome, Acts 28:16,30. It does not appear that there is any one instance of a false apostle having been imprisoned for the testimony of Christ; this was a badge of the true apostles.
In deaths oft.
That is, in the most imminent dangers. See 1 Corinthians 15:31; ; 2 Corinthians 4:11. And see the apostle's history in the Acts.
Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
That is, he was five times scourged by the Jews, whose law 25:3) allowed forty stripes; but they, pretending to be lenient, and to act within the letter of the law, inflicted but thirty-nine.
To except one stripe from the forty was a very ancient canon among the Jews, as we learn from Josephus, Antiq. lib. iv. ch. viii. sec. 21, who mentions the same thing: πληγαςμιαςλειπουσης τεσσαπακοντα. forty stripes, excepting one.
The Mishna gives this as a rule, MISH., Maccoth, fol. 22,10: "How often shall he, the culprit, be smitten? Ans. forty stripes, wanting one; i.e. with the number which is highest to forty." Frequently a man was scourged according to his ability to bear the punishment; and it is a canon in the Mishna, "That he who cannot bear forty stripes should receive only eighteen, and yet be considered as having suffered the whole punishment."
They also thought it right to stop under forty, lest the person who counted should make a mistake, and the criminal get more than forty stripes, which would be injustice, as the law required only forty.
The manner in which this punishment was inflicted is described in the Mishna, fol. 22,2: "The two hands of the criminal are bound to a post, and then the servant of the synagogue either pulls or tears off his clothes till he leaves his breast and shoulders bare. A stone or block is placed behind him on which the servant stands; he holds in his hands a scourge made of leather, divided into four tails. He who scourges lays one third on the criminal's breast, another third on his right shoulder, and another on his left. The man who receives the punishment is neither sitting nor standing, but all the while stooping; and the man smites with all his strength, with one hand." The severity of this punishment depends on the nature of the scourge, and the strength of the executioner.
It is also observed that the Jews did not repeat scourgings except for enormous offences. But they had scourged the apostle five times; for with those murderers no quarter would be given to the disciples, as none was given to the Master. See Schoettgen.
Thrice was I beaten with rods
This was under the Roman government, as their lictors beat criminals in this way. We hear of the apostle's being treated thus once, namely at Philippi, Acts 16:22. See sec. 9 of the introduction.
Once was I stoned
Namely, at Lystra, Acts 14:19,
A night and a day I have been in the deep
To what this refers we cannot tell; it is generally supposed that in some shipwreck not on record the apostle had saved himself on a plank, and was a whole day and night on the sea, tossed about at the mercy of the waves. Others think that βυθος, the deep, signifies a dungeon of a terrible nature at Cyzicum, in the Propontis, into which Paul was cast as he passed from Troas. But this is not likely.
In journeyings often
He means the particular journeys which he took to different places, for the purpose of propagating the Gospel.
In perils of waters
Exposed to great dangers in crossing rivers; for of rivers the original, ποταμων, must be understood.
Judea itself, and perhaps every other country, was grievously infested by banditti of this kind; and no doubt the apostle in his frequent peregrinations was often attacked, but, being poor and having nothing to lose, he passed unhurt, though not without great danger.
In perils by mine own countrymen
The Jews had the most rooted antipathy to him, because they considered him an apostate from the true faith, and also the means of perverting many others. There are several instances of this in the Acts; and a remarkable conspiracy against his life is related, Acts 23:12,
In perils by the heathen
In the heathen provinces whither he went to preach the Gospel. Several instances of these perils occur also in the Acts.
In perils in the city
The different seditions raised against him; particularly in Jerusalem, to which Ephesus and Damascus may be added.
Perils in the wilderness
Uninhabited countries through which he was obliged to pass in order to reach from city to city. In such places it is easy to imagine many dangers from banditti, wild beasts, cold, starvation,
Perils in the sea
The different voyages he took in narrow seas, such as the Mediterranean, about dangerous coasts, and without compass.
Persons who joined themselves to the Church, pretending faith in Christ, but intending to act as spies, hoping to get some matter of accusation against him. He no doubt suffered much also from apostates.
In weariness and painfulness
Tribulations of this kind were his constant companions. Lord Lyttleton and others have made useful reflections on this verse: "How hard was it for a man of a genteel and liberal education, as St. Paul was, to bear such rigours, and to wander about like a vagabond, hungry and almost naked, yet coming into the presence of persons of high life, and speaking in large and various assemblies on matters of the utmost importance!" Had not St. Paul been deeply convinced of the truth and absolute certainty of the Christian religion, he could not have continued to expose himself to such hardships.
Beside those things that are without
Independently of all these outward things, I have innumerable troubles and mental oppressions.
Which cometh upon me
ηεπισυατασις. This continual press of business; this insurrection of cases to be heard, solved, and determined, relative to the doctrine, discipline, state, persecution, and supply of all the Churches.
All his perils were little in comparison of what he felt relative to the peace, government, and establishment of all the Churches among the Gentiles; for as he was the apostle of the Gentiles, the government of all the Churches among these fell in some sort on him, whether they were of his own planting or of the planting of others. See Colossians 2:1. None but a conscientious minister, who has at heart the salvation of souls, can enter into the apostle's feelings in this place.
Who is weak
What Church is there under persecution, with which I do not immediately sympathize? or who, from his weakness in the faith, and scrupulousness of conscience, is likely to be stumbled, or turned out of the way, to whom I do not condescend, and whose burden I do not bear?
Who is offended
Or likely to be turned out of the way, and I burn not with zeal to restore and confirm him? This seems to be the sense of these different questions.
I will glory-which concern mine infirmities.
I will not boast of my natural or acquired powers; neither in what God has done by me; but rather in what I have suffered for him.
Many persons have understood by infirmities what they call the indwelling sin of the apostle, and say that "he gloried in this, because the grace of Christ was the more magnified in his being preserved from ruin, notwithstanding this indwelling adversary." And to support this most unholy interpretation, they quote those other words of the apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:9: Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, my indwelling corruptions, that the power of Christ, in chaining the fierce lion, may rest upon me. But it would be difficult to produce a single passage in the whole New Testament where the word ασθενεια, which we translate infirmity, has the sense of sin or moral corruption. The verb ασθενεω signifies to be weak, infirm, sick, poor, despicable through poverty, it is applied to weakness in the faith, to young converts, who are poor in religious knowledge, not yet fully instructed in the nature of the Gospel; Romans 4:19;; 14:1,2. And it is applied to the works of the law, to point out their inability to justify a sinner, Romans 8:3. But to inward sin, and inward corruption it is never applied. I am afraid that what these persons call their infirmities may rather be called their strengths; the prevailing and frequently ruling power of pride, anger, ill-will, for how few think evil tempers to be sins! The gentle term infirmity softens down the iniquity; and as St. Paul, so great and so holy a man, say they, had his infirmities, how can they expect to be without theirs? These should know that they are in a dangerous error; that St. Paul means nothing of the kind; for he speaks of his sufferings, and of these alone. One word more: would not the grace and power of Christ appear more conspicuous in slaying the lion than in keeping him chained? in destroying sin, root and branch; and filling the soul with his own holiness, with love to God and man, with the mind-all the holy heavenly tempers, that were in himself; than in leaving these impure and unholy tempers, ever to live and often to reign in the heart? The doctrine is discreditable to the Gospel, and wholly antichristian.
The God and Father of our Lord
Here is a very solemn asseveration; an appeal to the ever blessed God for the truth of what he asserts. It is something similar to his asseveration or oath in ver. 10 of this chapter; 2 Corinthians 11:10see also Romans 9:5, and ; Galatians 1:20. And from these and several other places we learn that the apostle thought it right thus to confirm his assertions on these particular occasions. But here is nothing to countenance profane swearing, or taking the name of God in vain, as many do in exclamations, when surprised, or on hearing something unexpected, and as others do who, conscious of their own falsity, endeavour to gain credit by appeals to God for the truth of what they say. St. Paul's appeal to God is in the same spirit as his most earnest prayer. This solemn appeal the apostle makes in reference to what he mentions in the following verses. This was a fact not yet generally known.
In Damascus the governor under Aretas
For a description of Damascus see the note on "Ac 9:2". And for the transaction to which the apostle refers see Acts 9:23. As to King Aretas, there were three of this name. The first is mentioned 2 Maccab. v. 8. The second by Josephus, Antiq. l. xiii. c. 15, sec. 2; and l. xvi. c. 1, sec. 4. The third, who is the person supposed to be referred to here, was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, of whom see the notes, "Ac 9:23",
But it is a question of some importance, How could Damascus, a city of Syria, be under the government of an Arabian king? It may be accounted for thus: Herod Antipas, who married the daughter of Aretas, divorced her, in order to marry Herodias, his brother Philip's wife. Aretas, on this indignity offered to his family, made war upon Herod. Herod applied to Tiberius for help, and the emperor sent Vitellius to reduce Aretas, and to bring him alive or dead to Rome. By some means or other Vitellius delayed his operations, and in the meantime Tiberius died; and thus Aretas was snatched from ruin, Joseph., Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 5. What Aretas did in the interim is not known; but it is conjectured that he availed himself of the then favourable state of things, made an irruption into Syria, and seized on Damascus. See Rosenmuller; and see the introduction to this epistle, sec. ii.
εθναρχης. Who this ethnarch was, we cannot tell. The word ethnarch signifies the governor of a province, under a king or emperor.
Desirous to apprehend me
The enemies of the apostle might have represented him to the governor as a dangerous spy, employed by the Romans.
Through a window in a basket
Probably the house was situated on the wall of the city. See the notes on this history, Acts 9:23-25.
IN ver. 2 of this chapter 2 Corinthians 11:2the apostle most evidently alludes to the history of the temptation, and fall of Adam and Eve, as related in Genesis 3:1, and which fall is there attributed to the agency of a being called nachash, here, and in other places, translated οφις, serpent. In my notes on Genesis I have given many, and, as I judge, solid reasons, why the word cannot be understood literally of a serpent of any kind; and that most probably a creature of the simia or ape genus was employed by the devil on this occasion. The arguments on this subject appeared to me to be corroborated by innumerable probabilities; but I left the conjecture afloat, (for I did not give it a more decisive name,) and placed it in the hands of my readers to adopt, reject, or amend, as their judgments might direct them. To several this sentiment appeared a monstrous heresy! and speedily the old serpent had a host of defenders. The very modest opinion, or conjecture, was controverted by some who were both gentlemen and scholars, and by several who were neither; by some who could not affect candour because they had not even the appearance of it, but would affect learning because they wished to be reputed wise. What reason and argument failed to produce they would supply with ridicule; and as monkey was a convenient term for this purpose, they attributed it to him who had never used it. What is the result? They no doubt believe that they have established their system; and their arguments are to them conclusive. They have my full consent; but I think it right to state that I have neither seen nor heard of any thing that has the least tendency to weaken my conjecture, or produce the slightest wavering in my opinion. Indeed their arguments, and mode of managing them, have produced a very different effect on my mind to what they designed. I am now more firmly persuaded of the probability of my hypothesis than ever. I shall, however, leave the subject as it is: I never proposed it as an article of faith; I press it on no man. I could fortify it with many additional arguments if I judged it proper; for its probability appears to me as strong as the utter improbability of the common opinion, to defend which its abettors have descended to insupportable conjectures, of which infidels have availed themselves, to the discredit of the sacred writings. To those who choose to be wise and witty, and wish to provoke a controversy, this is my answer: I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, while I leave it and come DOWN to YOU? Nehemiah 6:3.