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

By | August 2, 2010

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 12I 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 13Paul 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!

ConclusionYou 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:


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

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