Paul the dictator – NTiR (2 Corinthians 11-13)

Bible and magnifying glassAll of a sudden, this book has become a lot more interesting. Paul has completely lost control of his ego. He tried really hard to hold it together, but by the end of 2 Corinthians 10, Paul had lost control. He started ranting about the authority given only to him, and threatening the Corinthians with punishment for something or other. Knowing Paul, it was probably about sex. As we’ve covered previously, Paul apparently hasn’t been getting any, and he is mad as hell about it! And the poor Corinthians have been bearing the brunt of it.

Chapter 11

This letter has completely devolved into Paul’s mad grasp for power. And I’d love to know exactly who the challenger to Paul’s position is. I am pretty sure it is safe to say it is one of the Twelve (“the very chiefest apostles.”) I assumed that Peter was on Paul’s side, as apparently is Timothy. So which of the other Ten is teaching different sermons and pulling people away from Paul?

Paul really truly has lost his sanity in this chapter. He boasts that he will do anything “to deny an opportunity to those people who want an opportunity to be recognized as our equals.”  Paul says straight out that he thinks he is a better follower of Christ: “I am insane to talk like this, but I am a far better [servant of Christ]! I have been involved in far greater efforts, far more imprisonments, countless beatings, and have faced death more than once.” Paul goes on to list all of the abuse and torture and persecution that he endured in Christ’s name.

Here’s my issue with this, and I’ll be that you know what I am about to say, Dear Reader: Paul’s logic is flawed. His basic premise is that he is the strongest servant of Christ because he suffered the most for Christ. Which doesn’t make any sense at all. I am guessing most of the members of the Corinthian church didn’t believe that, either, hence Paul’s need to try and convince everyone that he is the person they should listen to.

Chapter 12
I am actually starting to feel sorry for Paul. The combination of his persecutions from outside the church and power challenges inside the church have left him totally unbalanced. In a way, he kinda reminds me of John Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski. All he can do is rant and rave and hope that someone will believe him because he is saying everything in a really loud voice.

Paul is reduced to fabrications to try and get some type of attention. He tells of a man that he saw, either in person or in a vision, who was snatched up to “the third heaven.” The man apparently heard many godly things that he should not have. Paul says he has not shared this information before because a spirit of Satan started tormenting him? Umm… really, it isn’t much clearer when I re-read the whole chapter.

Oh, yeah, Paul says he is going to be pissed if he gets there and people are still having sex and stuff. So THERE!

Chapter 13
Paul warns that he is coming back soon, so the Corinthians had better be prepared! And they should test their faith daily, by making sure they live as Paul has told them. ‘cuz it’s all about the Paulianity – er, I mean Christianity!

Conclusion
You know, I found 2 Corinthians oddly entertaining. It is because of the subtext, and the glimpses of the politics in the early church. Paul was definitely feeling challenged by someone, and it seems very probable that the someone was one of the Twelve. I could feel Paul’s anger and desperation growing each chapter. I can picture him dictating the letter, getting angrier and angrier with each paragraph, until he’s to the point that he is yelling at the person transcribing the letter for him.

I am curious: what was being taught by whoever was threatening Paul’s power? Paul hinted that the other church was more permissive, less of a “you’re a sinner if you do this!” message. Less of a “you’re practicing sexual immorality and should be EXCISED!” message. The lesson being taught was something that pleased people when they heard it (hence Paul’s exhortation to avoid those with silver tongues). I am wondering if maybe, just maybe, the Apostle’s message was one that was closer to Christ’s message  and further from Paul’s? I don’t know, because Paul doesn’t say.

There’ve probably been many bible scholars and theologians who have examined this and have come up with an answer, or at least a pretty good idea of who presented the alternate message, and what that message was. Perhaps I’ll look it up some day. Until then, all I have to say is:

Amen!

Up next: Galatians. Not to be confused with Galaxians.

New installments of The New Testament In Review will be posted each Monday and Thursday. The new posts will always be on my blog, http://biffster.org. The entire series is accessible via http://biffster.org/ntir. If you are one of my Facebook friends, you can get an advance preview on my Facebook page. You can also follow me (@biffster) on Twitter to be alerted to new posts.

2 thoughts on “Paul the dictator – NTiR (2 Corinthians 11-13)

  1. David, there can be arguments made on which of the various translations are closer to the source, and which are most peer-reviewed. Catholic versions of the Bible contain new books and changes to existing books that most other Bible translations do not include. For Catholics, this means that the Catholic bibles are closer translations. For all other denominations, it means that the Catholic bible is considered suspect.

    I chose the ISV because it is based on the most peer-reviewed source documents, and strikes a balance between literal and legible. I tried to include samples from other translations.

    So, for example, 2 Corinthians 12:11

    [ISV]: I have become a fool. You forced me to be one. Really, I should have been commended by you, for I am not in any way inferior to your “super-apostles,” even if I am nothing.

    [DRC (older Catholic bible)]: I am become foolish: you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you: for I have no way come short of them that are above measure apostles, although I be nothing.

    [Jerusalem (newer Catholic bible)]: I have turned into a fool, but you forced me to it. It is you that should have been commending me; those super-apostles had no advantage over me, even if I am nothing at all.

    2 Corinthians 11-13 all match up right along this way. The ISV and Jerusalem bible have a more precise translation, put into modern language. The older Catholic bible is much closer to the King James Version.

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