The Second to the Corinthians 11:1-33

11  I wish you would put up with me in a little unreasonableness. But, in fact, you are putting up with me!  For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised you in marriage to one husband that I might present you as a chaste virgin to the Christ.+  But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning,+ your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity* that are due the Christ.+  For as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you receive a spirit other than what you received, or good news other than what you accepted,+ you easily put up with him.  For I consider that I have not proved inferior to your superfine apostles in a single thing.+  But even if I am unskilled in speech,+ I certainly am not in knowledge;+ indeed we made it clear to you in every way and in everything.  Or did I commit a sin by humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I gladly declared the good news of God to you without cost?+  Other congregations I deprived by accepting provisions in order to minister to you.+  Yet, when I was present with you and I fell into need, I did not become a burden on anyone, for the brothers who came from Mac·e·doʹni·a abundantly supplied my needs.+ Yes, in every way I kept myself from becoming a burden to you and will continue to do so.+ 10  As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, I will not stop this boasting+ in the regions of A·chaʹia. 11  For what reason? Because I do not love you? God knows I do.+ 12  But what I am doing I will continue to do,+ in order to eliminate the pretext of those who are wanting a basis for being found equal to us in the things about which they boast. 13  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.+ 14  And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps disguising himself as an angel of light.+ 15  It is therefore nothing extraordinary if his ministers also keep disguising themselves as ministers of righteousness. But their end will be according to their works.+ 16  I say again: Let no one think I am unreasonable. But even if you do, then accept me as an unreasonable person, so that I too may boast a little.+ 17  What I now say is, not as following the Lord’s example, but as an unreasonable person would, with boastful self-confidence. 18  Since many are boasting according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19  Since you are so “reasonable,” you gladly put up with the unreasonable ones. 20  In fact, you put up with whoever enslaves you, whoever devours your possessions, whoever grabs what you have, whoever exalts himself over you, and whoever strikes you in the face. 21  I say this to our dishonor, since it may seem that we have acted in weakness. But if others act boldly—I am talking unreasonably—I too act boldly.+ 22  Are they Hebrews? I am one also.+ Are they Israelites? I am one also. Are they Abraham’s offspring? I am also.+ 23  Are they ministers of Christ? I reply like a madman, I am more outstandingly one: I have done more work,+ been imprisoned more often,+ suffered countless beatings, and experienced many near-deaths.+ 24  Five times I received 40 strokes less one from the Jews,+ 25  three times I was beaten with rods,+ once I was stoned,+ three times I experienced shipwreck,+ a night and a day I have spent in the open sea; 26  in journeys often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own people,+ in dangers from the nations,+ in dangers in the city,+ in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers, 27  in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often,+ in hunger and thirst,+ frequently without food,+ in cold and lacking clothing. 28  Besides those things of an external kind, there is what rushes in on me from day to day:* the anxiety for all the congregations.+ 29  Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed? 30  If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31  The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, the One who is to be praised forever, knows I am not lying. 32  In Damascus the governor under A·reʹtas the king was guarding the city of the Dam·a·scenesʹ to seize me, 33  but I was lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall,+ and I escaped his hands.

Footnotes

Or “purity.”
Or “the daily pressure on me.”

Study Notes

superfine apostles: Paul here uses an expression that may also be rendered “super-apostles” or “superlative apostles.” He uses this somewhat sarcastic designation to describe those arrogant men who apparently saw themselves as superior to the apostles whom Jesus himself had appointed. Paul calls them “false apostles” because they were actually ministers of Satan. (2Co 11:13-15) They taught their own version of the good news about Christ. (2Co 11:3, 4) They also belittled and slandered Paul, challenging his God-given authority as an apostle.

in a little unreasonableness: Paul understood that his boasting might make him seem to be unreasonable. (2Co 11:16) But he felt compelled to make a defense of his apostleship throughout the latter part of 2 Corinthians. (In fact, in 2Co 11 and 12, Paul used the Greek words aʹphron and a·phro·syʹne, rendered “unreasonable [person],” “unreasonably,” and “unreasonableness” eight times: 2Co 11:1, 16, 17, 19, 21; 12:6, 11.) The “superfine apostles” were causing much harm to the congregation by undermining respect for Paul and his teaching. Such false teachers had compelled him to boast in order to emphasize his God-given authority. (2Co 10:10; 11:5, 16; see study note on 2Co 11:5.) Under these circumstances, his boasting was by no means unreasonable.

Love is not jealous: The Greek verb ze·loʹo conveys the idea of an intense emotion that can be either positive or negative. In this verse, it is rendered with the expression “to be jealous” because it conveys the idea of a negative emotion toward a suspected rival or one believed to be enjoying an advantage. The corresponding noun zeʹlos, often rendered “jealousy,” is listed among “the works of the flesh” at Ga 5:19-21. Such jealousy is selfish and spawns hatred, not love. Godly love is not jealous in an improper way but, rather, is trusting and hopeful, always acting in the interests of others.​—1Co 13:4-7; for a positive connotation of the Greek verb, see the study note on 2Co 11:2.

I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: The Greek words rendered “I am jealous” and “jealousy” both convey the idea of an intense emotion that can be either positive or negative. In this verse, they have a positive connotation. Both words involve a keen interest and strong personal concern, an expression of sincere affection. Paul expressed such proper concern over his spirit-anointed fellow believers. He likened them to a chaste virgin promised in marriage to one husband, Jesus Christ. Paul jealously wanted to protect all in the congregation from spiritual harm so that they could be preserved unblemished for Christ. Used in this sense, “godly jealousy [lit., “God’s zeal”]” suggests that Jehovah’s love and affection include not only a keen interest in those whom he loves but also a strong desire to protect them from harm.​—For a negative connotation of the Greek verb, see the study note on 1Co 13:4.

chaste: Or “pure.” The bride of Christ is composed of 144,000 spirit-anointed ones who individually maintain their figurative virginity by remaining separate from the world and by keeping themselves morally and doctrinally pure.​—Re 14:1, 4; compare 1Co 5:9-13; 6:15-20; Jas 4:4; 2Jo 8-11; Re 19:7, 8.

superfine apostles: Paul here uses an expression that may also be rendered “super-apostles” or “superlative apostles.” He uses this somewhat sarcastic designation to describe those arrogant men who apparently saw themselves as superior to the apostles whom Jesus himself had appointed. Paul calls them “false apostles” because they were actually ministers of Satan. (2Co 11:13-15) They taught their own version of the good news about Christ. (2Co 11:3, 4) They also belittled and slandered Paul, challenging his God-given authority as an apostle.

provisions: Or “wages; pay.” The expression is used here as a military technical term, referring to a soldier’s pay, ration money, or allowance. Originally, food and other provisions may have been included as part of a soldier’s allowance. The Jewish soldiers who came to John were possibly engaged in a type of police inspection, especially in connection with customs, or the collection of taxes. John may have given this counsel because the pay given to most soldiers was low, and there evidently was a tendency for soldiers to abuse their power in order to supplement their income. The term is also used in the expression “at his own expense” at 1Co 9:7, where Paul refers to the pay to which a Christian “soldier” is entitled.

the wages sin pays: Or “the wages of sin.” The Greek word o·psoʹni·on literally means “pay; wages.” At Lu 3:14 (see study note), it is used as a military term, referring to a soldier’s pay or allowance. In this context, sin is personified as a master who pays figurative wages. The person who sins “earns” death as his “wages,” or payment. Once a person has died and has received his “wages,” his sinful record no longer stands against him. He would never live again were it not for Jesus’ ransom sacrifice and God’s purpose to resurrect the dead.

at his own expense: Lit., “at his own wages.” Paul here uses a Greek term that refers to the material “provisions” given to those in military service. (See study note on Lu 3:14.) In this context, the term is used in a figurative sense to show that hardworking Christian “soldiers” deserve modest material support.

deprived: Lit., “robbed.” The Greek verb sy·laʹo is often used of taking spoils of war. Here Paul uses this strong expression figuratively as an exaggeration in order to make a point. Paul had done nothing fraudulent by accepting provisions from others. Rather, he is answering the charges of the so-called superfine apostles in Corinth, who accused him of taking advantage of the Corinthian congregation. (2Co 11:5) When he “fell into need” in Corinth, it seems that the Corinthian Christians did not assist him, even though some apparently were wealthy. Instead, poorer brothers from Macedonia supplied his needs. (2Co 11:9) He says that he did not “commit a sin” by humbling himself, possibly a reference to his doing tentmaking to support himself in the ministry. (2Co 11:7) So perhaps with a hint of irony, he speaks as though he had “robbed” other congregations by accepting their financial support while he was laboring in behalf of the Corinthians.

provisions: Or “support.” The Greek word o·psoʹni·on literally means “pay; wages.” At Lu 3:14 (see study note), it is used as a military term, referring to a soldier’s pay or allowance. In this context, the term is used to refer to the modest material support that Paul had received from some congregations for his needs while he was in Corinth.​—For other occurrences of the same Greek word, see study notes on Ro 6:23; 1Co 9:7.

in order to eliminate the pretext: Paul refused to accept any financial assistance from the Corinthian congregation. (2Co 11:9) In contrast, the “superfine apostles” in Corinth apparently accepted such support, and their “pretext” or claim was that Paul proved that he was not an apostle like them because he did secular work. (2Co 11:4, 5, 20) They wanted “a basis [or, “pretext”] for being found equal” to Paul. The things about which they boast may refer to their assertions that they qualified to serve as apostles. (2Co 11:7) Later in this chapter and in chapter 12, Paul highlighted his own qualifications to show that the basis for their claim was severely lacking. He also frankly stated that the “superfine apostles” were actually “false apostles, . . . disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”​—2Co 11:13.

according to the flesh: That is, on human grounds, boasting about one’s circumstances.

Hebrews . . . Israelites . . . Abraham’s offspring: Paul explains his own family background, possibly because some of his critics in Corinth boasted about their Jewish heritage and identity. First, he mentions that he is a Hebrew, perhaps to emphasize his family connection with the Jewish forefathers, including Abraham and Moses. (Ge 14:13; Ex 2:11; Php 3:4, 5) Paul’s mention of being a Hebrew might also refer to his ability to speak the Hebrew language. (Ac 21:40–22:2; 26:14, 15) Second, Paul says that he is an Israelite, a term sometimes used to refer to Jews. (Ac 13:16; Ro 9:3, 4) Third, Paul specifically states that he descended from Abraham. He emphasized that he was among those who were to be heirs of God’s promises to Abraham. (Ge 22:17, 18) However, Paul did not place undue emphasis on physical factors.​—Php 3:7, 8.

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

local courts: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word sy·neʹdri·on, here used in plural and rendered “local courts,” is most often used with reference to the Jewish high court in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin. (See Glossary, “Sanhedrin,” and study notes on Mt 5:22; 26:59.) However, it was also a general term for an assembly or a meeting, and here it refers to local courts that were attached to the synagogues and had the power to inflict the penalties of scourging and excommunication.​—Mt 23:34; Mr 13:9; Lu 21:12; Joh 9:22; 12:42; 16:2.

three times I was beaten with rods: This was a form of punishment often meted out by Roman authorities. The book of Acts mentions only one of the three times Paul received such a beating. It was before he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. That beating took place at Philippi. (Ac 16:22, 23) He was also beaten by Jews in Jerusalem, but there is no mention of rods being used. (Ac 21:30-32) At any rate, Paul’s audience in Corinth, a Roman colony, surely knew that such beatings were brutal. The humiliating process started with stripping off the victim’s garments. (Compare 1Th 2:2.) A Roman citizen, such as Paul, was supposed to be shielded by law from beatings. That is why Paul informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights.​—See study notes on Ac 16:35, 37.

40 strokes less one from the Jews: The Mosaic Law called for the discipline of wrongdoers by means of beatings, but it stipulated that no more than 40 strokes be given so that the recipient would not be “disgraced.” (De 25:1-3) A Jewish tradition restricted the number of blows to 39 so that the one carrying out the beating would not accidentally exceed the limit. Paul received the maximum penalty, which shows that his offenses were serious in the eyes of the Jews. Paul likely received the beatings mentioned here in synagogues or in the local courts adjacent to them. (See study note on Mt 10:17.) When non-Jewish authorities beat Paul, they were not restricted by the limits imposed by the Mosaic Law.​—See study note on 2Co 11:25.

the constables: The Greek word rha·bdouʹkhos, literally meaning “rod bearer,” referred to an official attendant assigned to escort a Roman magistrate in public and to carry out his instructions. The Roman term was lictor. Some of the duties of the Roman constables were policelike in nature, but the constables were strictly attached to the magistrate, with the responsibility of being constantly at his service. They were not directly subject to the wishes of the people but only to the orders of their magistrate.

we are Romans: That is, Roman citizens. Paul and apparently also Silas were Roman citizens. Roman law stated that a citizen was always entitled to a proper trial and was never to be punished in public uncondemned. Roman citizenship entitled a person to certain rights and privileges wherever he went in the empire. A Roman citizen was subject to Roman law, not to the laws of provincial cities. When accused, he could agree to be tried according to local law; yet, he still retained the right to be heard by a Roman tribunal. In the case of a capital offense, he had the right to appeal to the emperor. The apostle Paul preached extensively throughout the Roman Empire. He made use of his rights as a Roman citizen on three recorded occasions. The first is here in Philippi when he informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights by beating him.​—For the other two occasions, see study notes on Ac 22:25; 25:11.

three times I was beaten with rods: This was a form of punishment often meted out by Roman authorities. The book of Acts mentions only one of the three times Paul received such a beating. It was before he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. That beating took place at Philippi. (Ac 16:22, 23) He was also beaten by Jews in Jerusalem, but there is no mention of rods being used. (Ac 21:30-32) At any rate, Paul’s audience in Corinth, a Roman colony, surely knew that such beatings were brutal. The humiliating process started with stripping off the victim’s garments. (Compare 1Th 2:2.) A Roman citizen, such as Paul, was supposed to be shielded by law from beatings. That is why Paul informed the Philippian magistrates that they had infringed on his rights.​—See study notes on Ac 16:35, 37.

stoned: Most likely, Paul here refers to the incident at Lystra that is described at Ac 14:19, 20. Stoning was a method of execution mentioned in the Mosaic Law. (Le 20:2) The stoning was likely a mob action involving fanatic Jews and possibly Gentiles. The intent was clearly to kill Paul; in fact, after stoning him, the attackers assumed that he was dead. Such brutal acts as those described in these verses must have left Paul with lasting physical scars.

three times I experienced shipwreck: The Bible vividly describes one shipwreck that Paul experienced, but it occurred after he wrote this letter. (Ac 27:27-44) Paul frequently traveled by sea. (Ac 13:4, 13; 14:25, 26; 16:11; 17:14, 15; 18:18-22, 27) So there were many occasions when such a disaster might have befallen him. Paul is likely referring to the aftermath of one of his shipwrecks when he writes, a night and a day I have spent in the open sea (lit., “in the deep”). Paul may have clung to a piece of wreckage the whole night and day while being tossed on a stormy sea before he was rescued or washed ashore. Yet, such dire events never stopped him from continuing his travels by sea.

in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers: The word Paul uses for “rivers” in this verse is the same one rendered “floods” at Mt 7:25, 27. In such regions as Pisidia​—through which Paul traveled on his first missionary journey​—the rivers often flooded after rains, turning ravines into raging, lethal torrents. The same mountainous region was also notorious for harboring bands of robbers. Paul willingly faced dangers, not because he was reckless, but because he accepted God’s direction in his ministry. (Ac 13:2-4; 16:6-10; 21:19) His eagerness to share the good news outweighed any concerns for his own comfort and safety.​—Compare Ro 1:14-16; 1Th 2:8.

to be poorly clothed: While the Greek verb literally means “to be naked,” in this context it refers to being poorly clothed. (See study note on Mt 25:36.) Paul is apparently contrasting his life of self-sacrifice with that of some Christians in Corinth who boasted about themselves but lived a life of comparative ease.​—1Co 4:8-10; compare 2Co 11:5.

lacking clothing: Lit., “in nakedness.” The Greek word gy·mnoʹtes can have the meaning “lack of sufficient clothing.” (Compare Jas 2:15; ftn.) When Paul said that he was “cold and lacking clothing,” he was describing hardships that he likely endured when traveling through cold regions in inclement weather, while held in cold prisons, when stripped by robbers, when wading through icy rivers, while engaging in the ministry, or when enduring persecution.​—See study note on 1Co 4:11.

its members should have mutual concern for one another: Lit., “the members should be anxious over one another.” The Greek verb used here (me·ri·mnaʹo) is also used at 1Co 7:32, where Paul speaks about a Christian who is single as being “anxious for the things of the Lord.” (See study note on 1Co 7:32.) The same verb is used at 1Co 7:33, describing the concern a husband has for his wife. Paul also spoke of his own “anxiety [Greek, meʹri·mna, related to the verb me·ri·mnaʹo] for all the congregations.” (2Co 11:28) He was deeply concerned that all remain faithful disciples of the Son of God to the end. In addition, Paul uses this term regarding Timothy’s willingness to care for the brothers in Philippi. (Php 2:20) The use of this verb at 1Co 12:25 highlights the intensity with which the members of the Christian congregation should care about the spiritual, physical, and material welfare of fellow believers.​—1Co 12:26, 27; Php 2:4.

the anxiety: The Greek word meʹri·mna, rendered “anxiety,” may also be rendered “anxious concern; worry.” The degree of Paul’s concern for his fellow Christians is evident in that he mentions it in the midst of all the dangers and adversities he listed in the preceding verses. (2Co 11:23-27) He kept in touch with a number of brothers, who made him aware of the spiritual welfare of Christians in various congregations. (2Co 7:6, 7; Col 4:7, 8; 2Ti 4:9-13) He was deeply concerned that all remain faithful to God to the end.​—See study note on 1Co 12:25, where the related verb me·ri·mnaʹo has a similar meaning.

Let Jehovah be praised: Or “Blessed be Jehovah.” This expression of praise is common in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it is often used with the divine name.​—1Sa 25:32; 1Ki 1:48; 8:15; Ps 41:13; 72:18; 106:48; see App. C3 introduction; Lu 1:68.

the One who is to be praised forever: The Greek grammatical forms used in this phrase indicate that “the One” refers to Jehovah, “the God and Father,” not to “the Lord Jesus.” Similar expressions of praise to God are found at Lu 1:68 (see study note); Ro 1:25; 9:5; 2Co 1:3; Eph 1:3; and 1Pe 1:3.

district ruler: Lit., “tetrarch” (meaning “ruler over one fourth” of a province), a term applied to a minor district ruler or territorial prince ruling only with the approval of the Roman authorities. The tetrarchy of Herod Antipas consisted of Galilee and Perea.​—Compare study note on Mr 6:14.

the governor: Or “the ethnarch”; lit., “the ruler of a nation.” The Greek word e·thnarʹkhes, rendered “governor” here, occurs only once in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It refers to a position lower than that of a king but higher than that of a tetrarch (district ruler). (See study note on Mt 14:1.) However, over the centuries, the word had various meanings. The governor mentioned in this verse served as King Aretas’ representative in Damascus, but his nationality and exact responsibilities are not certain.

Aretas the king: Aretas IV was an Arabian king who ruled from 9 B.C.E. to 40 C.E. His capital was in the Nabataean city of Petra, south of the Dead Sea, but he controlled Damascus as well. Paul here relates events that occurred shortly after his conversion to Christianity. The account in Acts says that “the Jews plotted together to do away with” Paul. (Ac 9:17-25) Paul attributes this attack to the local governor, or ethnarch, of Damascus, who served under the ruler Aretas. There is no contradiction between Luke’s account and Paul’s. One historical reference states: “The Jews furnished the motive, the Ethnarch the military force.”

a basket: Luke here used the Greek word sphy·risʹ, which is also used in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark for the seven baskets in which leftovers were collected after Jesus fed 4,000 men. (See study note on Mt 15:37.) This word refers to a large basket or hamper. In telling the Corinthian Christians about his escape, the apostle Paul used the Greek word sar·gaʹne, which denotes a plaited basket or “wicker basket” made of rope or woven twigs. Both Greek terms can be used for the same type of large basket.​—2Co 11:32, 33; ftn.

basket: Or “wicker basket.” In telling the Corinthian Christians about his escape, Paul used the Greek word sar·gaʹne, which denotes a plaited basket made of rope or woven twigs. This type of basket may have been used for carrying large amounts of hay, straw, or wool.​—See study note on Ac 9:25.

a window: In describing this event, the Greek text at Ac 9:25 literally says, “through the wall.” However, since the account here at 2Co 11:33 specifically mentions “a window,” there is solid basis for the rendering “through an opening in the wall” at Ac 9:25. Some suggest that Paul was lowered through a window in a disciple’s home that was part of the city wall.

Media

Saul and Damascus
Saul and Damascus

In the first century C.E., the city of Damascus likely had a layout similar to what is shown here. It was an important center for trade, and water drawn from the nearby Barada River (the Abanah of 2Ki 5:12) made the area around the city like an oasis. Damascus had a number of synagogues. Saul came to that city intending to arrest “any whom he found who belonged to The Way,” an expression used to describe the followers of Jesus. (Ac 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22) On the road to Damascus, however, the glorified Jesus appeared to Saul. After that, Saul stayed for a time in Damascus at the house of a man named Judas, who lived on the street called Straight. (Ac 9:11) In a vision, Jesus directed the disciple Ananias to Judas’ house to restore Saul’s sight, and Saul later got baptized. So instead of arresting the Jewish Christians, Saul became one of them. He began his career as a preacher of the good news in the synagogues of Damascus. After traveling to Arabia and then back to Damascus, Saul returned to Jerusalem, likely about the year 36 C.E.—Ac 9:1-6, 19-22; Ga 1:16, 17.

A. Damascus

1. Road to Jerusalem

2. Street called Straight

3. Agora

4. Temple of Jupiter

5. Theater

6. Musical Performance Theater (?)

B. Jerusalem