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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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I 1 must boast; not that it
is profitable, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
I know someone in Christ who, fourteen years
ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was
caught up to the third heaven.
And I know that this person (whether in the
body or out of the body I do not know, God knows)
was caught up into Paradise and heard ineffable
things, which no one may utter.
About this person 2 I will
boast, but about myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.
Although if I should wish to boast, I would not
be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may
think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me
because of the abundance of the revelations.
Therefore, that I might not become too elated, 3 a thorn in
the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being
Three times 4 I begged the
Lord about this, that it might leave me,
5 but he said to me, 6
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in
weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that
the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses,
insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for
when I am weak, then I am strong. 7
8 I have been foolish. You compelled me, for I
ought to have been commended by you. For I am in no way inferior to these
"superapostles," even though I am nothing.
9 The signs of an apostle were performed among
you with all endurance, signs and wonders, and mighty deeds.
10 In what way were you less privileged than the
rest of the churches, except that on my part I did not burden you? Forgive me
Now I am ready to come to you this third time.
And I will not be a burden, for I want not what is yours, but you. Children
ought not to save for their parents, but parents for their children.
I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent
for your sakes. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?
But granted that I myself did not burden you,
yet I was crafty and got the better of you by deceit.
Did I take advantage of you through any of
those I sent to you?
I urged Titus to go and sent the brother with
him. Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? And
in the same steps?
11 12 Have you been thinking
all along that we are defending ourselves before you? In the sight of God we
are speaking in Christ, and all for building you up, beloved.
For I fear that 13 when I
come I may find you not such as I wish, and that you may find me not as you
wish; that there may be rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip,
conceit, and disorder.
I fear that when I come again 14
my God may humiliate me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those
who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and
licentiousness they practiced.
1 [1-4] In the body or out of the
body: he seemed no longer confined to bodily conditions, but he does not claim
to understand the mechanics of the experience. Caught up: i.e., in ecstasy. The
third heaven . . . Paradise: ancient cosmologies depicted a multitiered
universe. Jewish intertestamental literature contains much speculation about
the number of heavens. Seven is the number usually mentioned, but the Testament
of Levi (⇒ 2:7-10;
⇒ 3:1-4) speaks of three; God himself dwelt in the
third of these. Without giving us any clear picture of the cosmos, Paul
indicates a mental journey to a nonearthly space, set apart by God, in which
secrets were revealed to him. Ineffable things: i.e., privileged knowledge,
which it was not possible or permitted to divulge.
2 [5-7] This person: the indirect way
of referring to himself has the effect of emphasizing the distance between that
experience and his everyday life, just as the indirect someone in Christ
(⇒ 2 Cor 12:2) and all the passive verbs emphasize
his passivity and receptivity in the experience. The revelations were not a
personal achievement, nor were they meant to draw attention to any quality of
3  That I might not become too
elated: God assures that there is a negative component to his experience, so
that he cannot lose proper perspective; cf ⇒ 2 Cor
1:9; ⇒ 4:7-11. A thorn in the flesh:
variously interpreted as a sickness or physical disability, a temptation, or a
handicap connected with his apostolic activity. But since Hebrew "thorn in
the flesh," like English "thorn in my side," refers to persons
(cf ⇒ Numbers 33:55; ⇒ Ezekiel
28:24), Paul may be referring to some especially persistent and obnoxious
opponent. The language of ⇒ 2 Cor 12:7-8 permits
this interpretation. If this is correct, the frequent appearance of singular
pronouns in depicting the opposition may not be merely a stylistic variation;
the singular may be provoked and accompanied by the image of one individual in
whom criticism of Paul's preaching, way of life, and apostolic consciousness is
concentrated, and who embodies all the qualities Paul attributes to the group.
An angel of Satan: a personal messenger from Satan; cf the satanic language
already applied to the opponents in ⇒ 2 Cor 11:3,
⇒ 13-15, ⇒ 20.
4  Three times: his prayer was
insistent, like that of Jesus in Gethsemane, a sign of how intolerable he felt
the thorn to be.
5 [9b-10a] Paul draws the conclusion
from the autobiographical anecdote and integrates it into the subject of this
part of the boast. Weaknesses: the apostolic hardships he must endure, including
active personal hostility, as specified in a final catalogue
(⇒ 2 Cor 12:10a). That the power of Christ may
dwell with me: Paul pinpoints the ground for the paradoxical strategy he has
adopted in his self-defense.
6  But he said to me: Paul's
petition is denied; release and healing are withheld for a higher purpose. The
Greek perfect tense indicates that Jesus' earlier response still holds at the
time of writing. My grace is sufficient for you: this is not a statement about
the sufficiency of grace in general. Jesus speaks directly to Paul's situation.
Is made perfect: i.e., is given most fully and manifests itself fully.
7  When I am weak, then I am strong:
Paul recognizes a twofold pattern in the resolution of the weakness-power (and
death-life) dialectic, each of which looks to Jesus as the model and is
experienced in him. The first is personal, involving a reversal in oneself
(Jesus, ⇒ 2 Cor 13:4a; Paul, ⇒ 2
Cor 1:9-10; ⇒ 4:10-11;
⇒ 6:9). The second is apostolic, involving an effect
on others (Jesus, ⇒ 2 Cor 5:14-15; Paul,
⇒ 2 Cor 1:6; ⇒ 4:12;
⇒ 13:9). The specific kind of "effectiveness
in ministry" that Paul promises to demonstrate on his arrival
(⇒ 2 Cor 13:4b; cf ⇒ 2 Cor
10:1-11) involves elements of both; this, too, will be modeled on
Jesus' experience and a participation in that experience (2 Cor 9;
8 [11-18] This brief section forms an
epilogue or concluding observation to Paul's boast, corresponding to the
prologue in ⇒ 2 Cor 11:1-15. A four-step sequence
of ideas is common to these two sections: Paul qualifies his boast as folly
(⇒ 2 Cor 11:1;
⇒ 12:11a), asserts his noninferiority to the
"superapostles" (⇒ 2 Cor 11:5;
⇒ 12:11b), exemplifies this by allusion to
charismatic endowments (⇒ 2 Cor 11:6;
⇒ 12:12), and finally denies that he has been a
financial burden to the community (⇒ 2 Cor 11:7-12;
9  Despite weakness and
affliction (suggested by the mention of endurance), his ministry has been
accompanied by demonstrations of power (cf ⇒ 1 Cor
2:3-4). Signs of an apostle: visible proof of belonging to Christ and
of mediating Christ's power, which the opponents require as touchstones of
apostleship (⇒ 2 Cor 12:11; cf
⇒ 2 Cor 13:3).
10 [13-18] Paul insists on his
intention to continue refusing support from the community (cf
⇒ 2 Cor 11:8-12). In defending his practice and his
motivation, he once more protests his love (cf ⇒ 2 Cor
11:11) and rejects the suggestion of secret self-enrichment. He has
recourse here again to language applied to his opponents earlier:
"cunning" (⇒ 2 Cor 11:3),
"deceit" (⇒ 2 Cor 11:13), "got the
better of you" (see the note on ⇒ 2 Cor
11:20), "take advantage" (⇒ 2 Cor
[⇒ 12:19-⇒ 13:10]
This concludes the development begun in 2 Cor 10. In the chiastic arrangement
of the material (see the note on ⇒ 2 Cor
10:1-⇒ 13:10), this final part
corresponds to the opening; there are important similarities of content between
the two sections as well.
12  This verse looks back at the
previous chapters and calls them by their proper name, a defense, an apologia
(cf ⇒ 1 Cor 9:3). Yet Paul insists on an important
distinction: he has indeed been speaking for their benefit, but the ultimate
judgment to which he submits is God's (cf ⇒ 1 Cor
4:3-5). This verse also leads into the final section, announcing two
of its themes: judgment and building up.
13  I fear that . . . : earlier
Paul expressed fear that the Corinthians were being victimized, exploited,
seduced from right thinking by his opponents (⇒ 2 Cor
11:3-4, ⇒ 19-21). Here he alludes
unexpectedly to moral disorders among the Corinthians themselves. The catalogue
suggests the effects of factions that have grown up around rival apostles.
14  Again: one can also translate,
"I fear that when I come my God may again humiliate me." Paul's
allusion to the humiliation and mourning that may await him recall the mood he
described in ⇒ 2 Cor 2:1-4, but there is no
reference here to any individual such as there is in ⇒ 2 Cor
2:5-11. The crisis of 2 Cor 2 has happily been resolved by
integration of the offender and repentance (⇒ 2 Cor
7:4-16), whereas ⇒ 2 Cor 12:21 is
preoccupied with still unrepentant sinners. The sexual sins recall 1 Cor 5-7.
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