The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2017


After having forcefully vindicated his Apostolic authority against his adversaries the Apostle now draws a comparison between himself and them for the sake of refuting them more completely. He shows how far superior to them he really is, and how unworthy they are of the esteem and authority they have enjoyed among the Corinthians. Beginning, therefore, to praise himself he asks the indulgence of the faithful and explains his reasons. In speaking of himself he seeks only the good of his converts who are exposed to the danger of being led into error. He has a right, however, to glory because he is in nowise inferior, at least in knowledge, to his opponents who extol themselves so excessively.

2 Cor 11:1. Would to God you could bear with some little of my folly: but do bear with me.

St. Paul asks the toleration of his readers while he indulges in some little . . . folly, literally, “in a little bit of foolishness,” i.e., self-praise. His adversaries have praised themselves to an extreme degree, but he will say only a little in his own behalf.

Do bear (ἀνείχεσθέ = aneichesthe) may be indicative or imperative. If indicative, as the Greek Fathers think, the Apostle corrects what he has just spoken of as an impossible wish: “Would to God you could . . . but indeed you do bear,” etc. More probably the imperative is correct, as appears from the following verse, where a reason is assigned for the petition.

2 Cor 11:2. For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. For I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

I am jealous. So ardent and elevated is the Apostle’s feeling for the Corinthians that he is sure they will bear with him in his folly; for in praising himself he is not seeking his own glory, but only their salvation and security against seduction.

With the jealousy of God, i.e., the jealousy or zeal which St. Paul entertained for the Corinthians was similar to that which God had for the people of Israel, and which He now has for Christians. Like a father or friend of the bridegroom (John 3:29), the Apostle had espoused the Corinthian Church to one husband, i.e., to Christ, through faith and Baptism, and he hoped to present her on the day of judgment as a chaste virgin, i.e., as free from corruption in faith, to her heavenly Spouse.

This verse, as in 2 Cor 10:13-17, is a clear proof that the Apostle is addressing the whole Corinthian Church, and not
the disloyal faction only. This, however, does not mean that the third part of the Epistle (2 Cor 10:1-13:10) was not intended chiefly for the Apostle’s adversaries. Those who were guilty knew to whom his words applied.

2 Cor 11:3. But I fear lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted, and fall from the simplicity that is in Christ.

As the serpent seduced Eve. See Gen. 3:1-6. The Church of Corinth, as a second Eve, is espoused to Christ, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). She must beware lest, like Eve, she listen to the voice of the same tempter, who ever lieth in wait to deceive, and so lose the privileges she was destined to enjoy (Lias).

The simplicity, etc., should read, as in the best MSS., “The simplicity and the purity (καὶ τῆς ἁγνότητος = kai tes hagnotetos) that is towards Christ,” i.e., the simple and pure teachings of the faith of Christ. A local Church, like that of Corinth, might fall away from the pure faith of Christ, but the universal Church can never fail (Matt. 16:18).

So (Vulg., ita) is not in the best MSS.

2 Cor 11:4. For if he that cometh preacheth another Christ, whom we have not preached; or if you receive another Spirit, whom you have not received; or another gospel which you have not received; you might well bear with him.

This verse has received many explanations, of which we give the two most natural and probable, (a) If he that cometh to you as a teacher, could preach another Christ, literally, “another Jesus,” different from that whom we have preached to you, or if at his preaching you could receive another Spirit and other gifts superior to those received at our preaching, or if he could announce to you another gospel more sublime than that which we have announced, you might well bear with him, i.e., listen to and follow him. Such, however, is not the case, since
there is only one Jesus, only one Spirit and only one Gospel (2 Cor 11:5; Gal. 1:6-9). Therefore you have abandoned without reason our teaching, to go after false teachers.

He that cometh (ὁ ἐρχόμενος = ho erchomenos) does not mean a particular individual, but refers to a class of intruders, namely, the Judaizers.

This is the older interpretation of the present verse. But modern scholars give another explanation, (b) I, says the Apostle (verse 3), have good reason to fear for you; for if a false apostle comes to you and preaches a different doctrine about Christ from that preached by me, or tells you that the converts of the other Apostles have received gifts superior to yours, or teaches that the Gospel announced by the other Apostles contains conditions of salvation other than those I have announced, you have borne (ἀνήχεσθε = anechesthe, as in א D G K L M P) with him finely (καλῶς = kalos). The past tense is used, you have borne, to indicate that such a condition did exist, but not now any longer. We prefer the first interpretation.

2 Cor 11:5. For I suppose that I have done nothing less than the great apostles.

If the false teachers had really been superior to St. Paul and had preached a more sublime Gospel, the Corinthians would have had reason to bear with them. But such was not the case. St. Paul affirms that he is not in the least inferior to them in any way.

In this interpretation, which harmonizes with the first explanation of the preceding verse, great apostles is used ironically, as of those who would be great, or were considered great. If the expression “great apostles” be referred to the twelve, this verse agrees rather with the second interpretation of the preceding verse. It is doubtful if there is here any reference to the older Apostles, Peter, James and John; but if there is, the Apostle is referring to his spiritual gifts and right to preach, and not to any authority to govern the Church as a whole.

2 Cor 11:6. For although I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but in all things we have been made manifest to you.

Here the reference is plainly to the false teachers, who perhaps were more polished and elegant in their use of language than was St. Paul, but who were by no means his superior in knowledge (1 Cor. 1:5). The Apostle speaks modestly; but it may be that he is referring to what his opponents say about his speech, without admitting that they are right. Perhaps he wishes to allow that he is not a polished orator (1 Cor. 2:1, 4).

That St. Paul is not inferior to any in knowledge of heavenly truths the Corinthians themselves are witnesses, because in all things, i.e., in all his actions and dealings with them, he has been made manifest, i.e., has been frank and open.


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