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2 Corinthians 11

Pretended Foolishness and Real Foolishness

Paul's "Foolishness"

I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness (2 Corinthians 11:1).

The “foolishness” here is Paul’s decision to boast of himself, something he generally avoided. In a sense, Paul is temporarily putting on a face that he does not normally wear, that of boasting. The idea is illustrated here by a statue of a woman holding a theater mask of an old man, which is clearly not her natural look. This statue is considered to be a copy of an original from the 5th century BC. It was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

Deceptive Philosophies

So your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Paul does not describe the specific ways in which he fears the Corinthians might be led astray, or what the foreign beliefs might have been. It is certain that he rejected the pagan philosophies that were prevalent in his day, and perhaps such philosophies were having some influence on the church in Corinth. Pagan philosophy is illustrated here by a mosaic portraying philosophers in discussion over some debatable issue.

Achaia

As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia (2 Corinthians 11:10).

In the narrow sense, the region of Achaia (Achaea) was located in the northern part of the Peloponnese, west of Corinth. However, the league of tribes based there had conquered the entire Peloponnese in the early Roman period (prior to being defeated at Corinth in 146 BC) and the term was subsequently used more broadly to include all of southern Greece. Shown here is an eastward view from the acropolis of Corinth.

Patrons of Fools

Since you are so wise, you tolerate the foolish gladly (2 Corinthians 11:19).

Paul again uses biting irony to poke at his audience for their willingness to accept false teachers. This mosaic depicts actors preparing for a play; the seated man is the choregos, a wealthy patron who financed the chorus. This may reflect in some ways Paul’s accusation that the Corinthian church was accepting and perhaps even supporting those who taught what was foolish. This mosaic was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

Escape from Damascus

The governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me. But I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall (2 Corinthians 11:32-33).

The image that Paul concludes with contrasts sharply with the Roman award that honored the soldier who was first to scale the wall of an enemy city. Paul here “boasts” of doing the very opposite—fleeing down the city wall to save his own life. This photochrom image, taken in the 1890s, shows the traditional spot of Paul’s escape from Damascus.

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