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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 2 3 Now
I myself, Paul, urge you through the gentleness and clemency of Christ, I who
am humble when face to face with you, but brave toward you when absent,
4 I beg you that, when present, I may not have
to be brave with that confidence with which I intend to act boldly against some
who consider us as acting according to the flesh.
For, although we are in the flesh, we do not
battle according to the flesh, 5
for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh
but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy
and every pretension raising itself against the
knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ,
and we are ready to punish every disobedience,
once your obedience is complete.
Look at what confronts you. Whoever is
confident of belonging to Christ should consider that as he belongs to Christ,
so do we. 6
And even if I should boast a little too much of
our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing you
down, I shall not be put to shame.
7 May I not seem as one frightening you through
For someone will say, "His letters are
severe and forceful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech
Such a person must understand that what we are
in word through letters when absent, that we also are in action when present.
8 Not that we dare to class or compare ourselves
with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves
by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without
But we will not boast beyond measure but will
keep to the limits 9 God has apportioned us, namely, to
reach even to you.
For we are not overreaching ourselves, as
though we did not reach you; we indeed first came to you with the gospel of
We are not boasting beyond measure, in other
people's labors; yet our hope is that, as your faith increases, our influence
among you may be greatly enlarged, within our proper limits,
so that we may preach the gospel even beyond
you, not boasting of work already done in another's sphere.
"Whoever boasts, should boast in the
For it is not the one who recommends himself
who is approved, 11 but the one whom the Lord recommends.
[⇒ 10:1-⇒ 13:10] These
final chapters have their own unity of structure and theme and could well have
formed the body of a separate letter. They constitute an apologia on Paul's
part, i.e., a legal defense of his behavior and his ministry; the writing is
emotionally charged and highly rhetorical. In the central section
(⇒ 2 Cor 11:16-⇒ 12:10),
the apologia takes the form of a boast. This section is prepared for by a
prologue (⇒ 2 Cor 11:1-15) and followed by an
epilogue (⇒ 2 Cor 12:11-18), which are similar in
content and structure. These sections, in turn, are framed by an introduction
(⇒ 2 Cor 10:1-18) and a conclusion
(⇒ 2 Cor
12:19-⇒ 13:10), both of which assert
Paul's apostolic authority and confidence and define the purpose of the letter.
The structure that results from this disposition of the material is chiastic,
i.e., the first element corresponds to the last, the second to the second last,
etc., following the pattern a b c b', a'.
2 [1-18] Paul asserts his apostolic
authority and expresses the confidence this generates in him. He writes in
response to certain opinions that have arisen in the community and certain
charges raised against him and in preparation for a forthcoming visit in which
he intends to set things in order. This section gives us an initial glimpse of
the situation in Corinth that Paul must address; much of its thematic material
will be taken up again in the finale (⇒ 2 Cor
3 [1-2] A strong opening plunges us
straight into the conflict. Contrasts dominate here: presence versus absence,
gentleness-clemency-humility versus boldness-confidence-bravery. Through the
gentleness and clemency of Christ: the figure of the gentle Christ, presented
in a significant position before any specifics of the situation are suggested,
forms a striking contrast to the picture of the bold and militant Paul
(⇒ 2 Cor 10:2-6); this tension is finally resolved
in ⇒ 2 Cor 13:3-4. Absent . . . present: this same
contrast, with a restatement of the purpose of the letter, recurs in
⇒ 2 Cor 13:10, which forms an inclusion with
⇒ 2 Cor 10:1-2.
4 [2b-4a] Flesh: the Greek word sarx
can express both the physical life of the body without any pejorative overtones
(as in "we are in the flesh," 3) and our natural life insofar as it
is marked by limitation and weakness (as in the other expressions) in contrast
to the higher life and power conferred by the Spirit; cf the note on
⇒ 1 Cor 3:1. The wordplay is intended to express the
paradoxical situation of a life already taken over by the Spirit but not yet
seen as such except by faith. Lack of empirical evidence of the Spirit permits
misunderstanding and misjudgment, but Paul resolutely denies that his behavior
and effectiveness are as limited as some suppose.
5 [3b-6] Paul is involved in combat.
The strong military language and imagery are both an assertion of his
confidence in the divine power at his disposal and a declaration of war against
those who underestimate his resources. The threat is echoed in
⇒ 2 Cor 13:2-3.
6 [7-8] Belonging to Christ . . . so
do we: these phrases already announce the pattern of Paul's boast in
⇒ 2 Cor 11:21b-29, especially ⇒ 2
Cor 11:22-23. For building you up and not for tearing you down: Paul
draws on the language by which Jeremiah described the purpose of the prophetic
power the Lord gave to him (⇒ Jeremiah 1:9-10;
⇒ 12:16-17; ⇒ 24:6).
Though Paul's power may have destructive effects on others
(⇒ 2 Cor 10:2-6), its intended effect on the
community is entirely constructive (cf ⇒ 2 Cor
13:10). I shall not be put to shame: his assertions will not be
refuted; they will be revealed as true at the judgment.
7 [9-10] Paul cites the complaints of
some who find him lacking in personal forcefulness and holds out the threat of
a personal parousia (both "return" and "presence") that
will be forceful, indeed will be a demonstration of Christ's own power (cf
⇒ 2 Cor 13:2-4).
8 [12-18] Paul now qualifies his
claim to boldness, indicating its limits. He distinguishes his own behavior
from that of others, revealing those "others" as they appear to him:
as self-recommending, immoderately boastful, encroaching on territory not
assigned to them, and claiming credit not due to them.
9  Will keep to the limits: the
notion of proper limits is expressed here by two terms with overlapping
meanings, metron and kanon, which are played off against several expressions
denoting overreaching or expansion beyond a legitimate sphere.
10  Boast in the Lord: there is a
legitimate boasting, in contrast to the immoderate boasting to which
⇒ 2 Cor 10:13, ⇒ 15
allude. God's work through Paul in the community is the object of his boast
(⇒ 2 Cor 10:13-16; ⇒ 2 Cor
1:12-14) and constitutes his recommendation (⇒ 2 Cor
3:1-3). Cf the notes on ⇒ 2 Cor 1:12-14
and ⇒ 1 Cor 1:29-31.
11  Approved: to be approved is to
come successfully through the process of testing for authenticity (cf
⇒ 2 Cor 13:3-7 and the note on ⇒ 2
Cor 8:2). Whom the Lord recommends: self-commendation is a premature
and unwarranted anticipation of the final judgment, which the Lord alone will
pass (cf ⇒ 1 Cor 4:3-5). Paul alludes to this
judgment throughout 2 Cor 10-13, frequently in final or transitional positions;
cf ⇒ 2 Cor 11:15;
⇒ 12:19a; ⇒ 13:3-7.
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