Paul Speaking as a Fool

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 11:16-21
I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that.

2 Corinthians 12:11
I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

I have never really grasped exactly what Paul is meaning in these verses.

“Fool” here is for the most part referring to the super-apostles. He is being sarcastic to make a point.

In 11:21 he is again referring to his strength in weakness. Again, using sarcasm he is saying that he was too weak to lord his authority over them.

Garland in his commentary on 2 Corinthians clears this up very well.

Paul admits to being a fool by adopting the boastful tactics of his competitors, but by doing so he tars his opponents with the same brush. They are fools as well (see 11:19-20), but, unlike Paul, they are not playing the part of a fool. They take their boasting seriously. The Corinthians are also made out to be fools for allowing themselves to be captivated and led astray by foolish boasting. They have dishonored themselves by betraying their apostle and failing to defend him.

Paul uses this failure as his final justification for his fool’s speech (see 2 Corinthians 11:1-6). Since they have not defended him against his competitors, he must defend himself. The truth had to be told, more to save the Corinthians from such fools than to save Paul’s reputation.

Referring to the last part of 12:11 Paul realizes he is nothing compared to God (Daniel 4:35 a) and whatever he is comes from God (1 Corinthians 15:9-10;  2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 3:12-16). The super-apostles really are nothing but make themselves out to be “super”.

1 Response to “Paul Speaking as a Fool”


  1. 1 Lu

    “I repeat, let no one think me foolish”

    Hmmm …. when I’m having my moments of doubt and weak faith (I believe, Lord, Help me with my unbelief”) I keep coming back to the same conundrum … maybe I am crazy to have any faith; but if that is so, and if I am wholly wrong; I would still rather be crazy and believe in the Lord than be sane without Him. And I repeat the above verse (I believe, Lord. Help me with my unbelief”)

    Guess they can think me foolish, Because, for me to survive (to truly live) requires believing in the Lord … all else is pointless.

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