2 Corinthians


8. Paul defends his ministry, 10:1-12:21

ii] Appropriate and inappropriate boasting


Paul has made the point that he happily boasts, in the sense of recommends himself, when it comes to his apostolic ministry. He can do this because he has something to boast about, namely, his apostolic authority under the Lord for the building up of God's people. Paul now looks at the boast / self recommendation of the leaders of the opposition party (these interlopers, missionaries, Judaizers, delegates from the circumcision party in Jerusalem). These interlopers also boast of their ministry, but it is inappropriate because they use no external gauge of measurement, but rather compare themselves with themselves. They boast of matters beyond their expertise, whereas Paul confines his boasting to his divinely appointed apostolic ministry. They boast in the fruit of another's ministry, whereas Paul has always made it his aim never to claim the credit of another's ministry. It is for this reason he has always sought new territory to evangelize. So, when it comes to boasting, it is the Lord we should boast in, because it is only the Lord's validation that counts.


i] Context: See 10:1-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-7.


iii] Structure: Appropriate and inappropriate boasting:

The basis of inappropriate boasting / self-commendation, recommendation, v12-16:

Comparing ourselves with others, v12;

Claiming qualities we don't possess, v13-14;

Resting on the work of others, v15-16.

The basis of appropriate boasting, v17-18:

Boasting in the Lord.


A chiastic structure is proposed by a number of commentators.


iv] Interpretation:

A textual variant affects the interpretation of v12-13. Between the two verses we have ou suniasin. hJmeiV de, "they are not wise. We however." A variant exists missing these words, so giving the sense that Paul compares himself with himself and that doing so is a good thing. The weight of manuscripts rests with the longer variant indicating that it is the interlopers who compare themselves with themselves and it is a bad thing. It seems likely that the shorter text tries to address the awkward adversative alla in v12b which doesn't make sense. Thrall suggests that we have another example of Pauline short-talk / semantic density; "I do not dare to compare myself with these people. This is meant ironically. It sounds as though they are superior to me. But in fact, behaving as they do (measuring themselves by their own standards), they lack understanding."

Text - 10:12

Appropriate and inappropriate boasting, v12-18: i] The basis of inappropriate boasting / self-commendation, recommendation, v12-16: a) Making comparisons with others, v12. Paul draws out the difference between his boasting / self-commendation / self-recommendation of his divinely bestowed apostleship and the boasting / self-commendation / self-recommendation of the opposition party / interlopers who measure themselves by their own standards.

gar "-" - for. Here transitional, indicating the next step in the argument, and so not translated, although Guthrie thinks it is explanatory, "a marker of clarification" referring back to the "boasting" in v8.

egkrinai (egkrinw) aor. inf. "to classify" - [we are not daring] to classify, judge [or compare ourselves]. The infinitive, as with "to compare", would normally be classified as complementary, but it can be viewed as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "we do not dare"

tisin dat. pro. "with some" - with certain ones. The verb "to compare with", being a sun prefix verb, can take a dative of direct object. Sometimes followed by the idiomatic tina tini, "[to compare] someone with someone", or as here the pl. "ourselves with others."

twn ... sunistanontwn (sunisthmi) gen. pres. part. "who commend [themselves]" - of the ones recommending [themselves]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being partitive.

alla "-" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction. Paul opens with an ironic assessment of the opposition party, "I wouldn't dare measure myself with these people", the ironic implication being that they are not his equal. He then gives a true assessment of them, "but in fact they measure (evaluate) their ministry performance by their own standards, they are stupid."

metrounteV (metrew) pres. part. "when they measure" - [they in themselves] measuring = evaluating [themselves]. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.

en + dat. "by" - in = by [themselves]. Instrumental, expressing means; "by their own standards", Zerwick.

eJautoiV dat. pro. "with themselves" - [and comparing themselves] with themselves. The dative is used here for allhloiV, "with one another", Zerwick.

ou suniasin (sunihmi) pres. "they are not wise" - they do not understand; "they are clueless", Guthrie.


b) Claiming what we don't possess, v13-14. The leaders of the opposition group have no real standard by which their boast can be assessed. Paul, on the other hand, has a standard / measure by which he can be assessed. The standard is not explicitly stated. Barrett thinks it is Paul's apostolic authority, but Thrall thinks it is more likely the missionary field he administers under divine authority. Furnish argues that it is both.

hJmeiV pro. "we" - Emphatic by use and position.

de "however" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here to a contrasting point; "but we will not boast beyond limits", ESV.

eiV + acc. "[beyond proper limits]" - [will not boast] toward [the boundless]. Here adverbial, possibly reference / respect, or better local, as a marker of degree, "we will not boast beyond / outside the excessive / proper limits", so "excessively"; "My boasting is not excessive."

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction.

kata + acc. "will confine our boasting to" - we / I boast according to, in accordance with. Expressing a standard.

tou kanonoV (wn onoV) gen. "the sphere of service" - [the measure] of the measuring rule, cannon, principle. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic, specifying the "measure / standard / boundary" in mind. The sense of the word here is disputed. We are probably on safe ground if we follow Furnish who argues that in this context it means "jurisdiction". As to whether it refers to apostolic jurisdiction, or geographical jurisdiction (area of operation) exercised by Paul over his mission churches, Furnish argues that it is both; "we will not boast excessively, but in accordance with the measure / boundary of jurisdiction (both apostolic and territorial)."

ou| gen. pro. "-" - which [measure god gave / disbursed]. Possibly genitive by attraction to kanonoV, but better reference / respect, "of which measurement God disbursed to us" = "concerning which measure / boundary of jurisdiction God assigned to us."

hJmin "to us" - Dative of indirect object.

efikesqai (efikneomai) aor. mid. inf. "[a sphere] that [also] includes [you]" - [a measure of jurisdiction] to reach [even until = up to you]. The infinitive is epexegetic, further specifying "the measure of jurisdiction"; "a measure of jurisdiction which even reaches all the way to you." The conjunction kai, "and", is ascensive, "even", and the preposition acri + gen. is spacial here rather than temporal, "as far as." Paul's apostolic authority is specifically related to a Gentile mission field which reaches as far as Corinth, although not as far as Rome, cf., Rom.1:5, 14, Gal.2:9. Paul is well able to boast, although he keeps his boasting within the confines of his apostolic authority, particularly as it relates to his divinely appointed mission field, a mission field which includes Corinth.


Paul, unlike the leaders of the opposition group, does not boast beyond the bounds of his apostolic authority, and now he states that he does not minister beyond the bounds of his divinely appointed mission field, a field which includes Corinth and for which Paul is its founding apostle. It is possible that the opposition party is suggesting that Paul is intruding himself into their field of ministry, as if he has no right to order the life of the Corinthian congregation.

gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, explanatory.

ou .... uJperekteinomen (uJperekteinw) pres. "we are not going too far in our boasting" - we are not overextending [ourselves]. The sense is that Paul is not exceeding the acceptable limits of the Gentile mission field given him by God, so Thrall, Guthrie, ... , rather than NIV. "We / I are / am not overextending our / my field of ministry."

wJV + part. "as would be the case if" - as regard [not overreaching to you]. The presence of wJV here is somewhat obscure. With a substantive participle, as here, the present participle efiknoumenoi, it can take the sense, "with the assertion that / on the pretext that / with the thought that", BDF 425.3, so possibly "as regard the assertion that we / I have no right extending our / my ministry to you." Thrall notes that we would expect an aorist participle here rather than a present participle with durative aspect, "a continuing overreaching to you", and so suggests attraction to the present tense verb "overextending".

gar "for" - Either introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul is not overextending his field of ministry, "because" Corinth was part of the virgin mission territory which he and his team reached with the gospel, or possibly emphatic, "indeed", given that sometimes gar is repeated when introducing a statement which confirms a previous statement, so Guthrie.

acri + gen. "as far as" - [we arrived first even] up to [you]. Here spacial rather than temporal; "up to" = "as far as." The verb afqasamen, "to reach, arrive", often followed by a preposition, as here, takes the general sense "to arrive, reach", but here probably with the more specific sense of "arrive first", so Thrall. The conjunction kai is ascensive. "Indeed, we arrived first, even up to / as far as you with the gospel of Christ."

en + dat. "with" - Probably adverbial, attendant circumstance, "in connection with."

tou Cristou (oV) gen. " of Christ" - [the gospel] of christ. The genitive is usually viewed as verbal, objective, such that Paul presented the gospel to them "about / concerning Christ", "the gospel that is about Christ", Barnett, but possibly subjective, "brought by Christ", so Harris, or ablative, source / origin, "from Christ", even adjectival, possessive.


c) Resting on the work of others, v15-16. Unlike the leaders of the opposition party, Paul does not boast / recommend himself "excessively / beyond proper limits", v13a, either in his apostolic authority, v13b, his area of operation, v14, and now, on the basis of the ministry of others. "We do not boast beyond limits", ie., Paul does not recommend himself / take pride in ministry work carried on beyond his own missionary responsibilities and area of operation (unlike his opponents). It is Paul's hope that as the faith of the Corinthians grows through his ministry among them, he will be able to look beyond them to further expand the Gentile mission within his area of operation. Paul is not into building on another's foundation and taking credit for it (like his opponents).

This is a rather difficult verse to translate. What does Paul desire / hope megalunqhnai, "to be increased, enlarged, magnified, grown" (usually taken with the adverbial prepositional phrase eiV perisseian, "greatly increased")? Presumably the intended increase is encapsulated in the prepositional construction kata ton kanona hJmwn, "according to the limit of us" = "our sphere of activity", usually linked with en uJmin, "among you"; "our area of influence among you"; ESV. We are best to follow Thrall who proposes a different placement of en uJmin; "we have a hope that, as your faith increases, we may, with your help (en uJmin), grow abundantly in achievement, in accordance with our schedule (kata ton kanona hJmwn)." The achievement being Paul's apostolic task within the sphere of his activity / his missionary field. So, what is Paul's hope? "Once he is convinced that their faith is secure and that they have progressed to a satisfactory degree of maturity, he will be at liberty to extend his sphere of work, since they will make fewer demands on his pastoral attention", Thrall.

kaucwmenoi (kaucaomai) pres. mid. part. "we do [not] go" - [neither] boasting. We have here another independent nominative participle best viewed as a periphrastic present construction with the verb to-be esmen assumed, so Long; "we do not boast by boasting beyond measure in the work of others." "We make no claims at all with regard the work that others have done", Barclay.

eiV + acc. "beyond [our limits]" - into [the things beyond measure]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal; "excessively"; "we do not boast by boasting excessively."

en + dat. "of [work done by others]" - in [others' work, labors]. Probably adverbial here, reference / respect; "with respect to the ministry of others."

de "-" - but/and [having hope while growing the faith of you, to be enlarged among you according to the sphere of us into = resulting in abundance]. Counterpoint construction, ouk ..... de; "we do not ....... but our hope is ...."

econteV (ecw) pres. part. "our [hope] is" - [but] having [hope]. Again we seem to have another independent nominative participle, best viewed as a periphrastic present with the verb to-be assumed; "but we have the hope ...." = "but rather, we hope ...."

megalunqhnai (megalunw) aor. pas. inf. "that ....... will [greatly] expand" - to be grown, enlarged, magnified. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul / "we" hope; "At the same time, our hope is that, as your faith increases, we shall .......... be greatly strengthened", Cassirer.

auxanomenhV (auxanw) gen. pres. mid./pas. part. "as [your faith] continues to grow" - while growing [the faith of you]. The participle serves to introduce a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV. The NIV draws out the durative aspect of the present tense, so "continues to grow." "Faith", in the sense of one's spiritual faith, seems likely, although "faithfulness" is possible, so Martin.

kata + acc. "[our sphere of activity]" - according to [the sphere of us]. Possibly temporal here, as Cassirer above, "while still keeping within our sphere", but probably better expressing a standard, "according to." As the faith of the Corinthians grows, with their help (en uJmin), it is Paul's hope that he will be eiV perisseian, "greatly", magnified / enlarged kata, "in accordance with" ton konona, "[our] limit" (ie., Paul's geographical ministry sphere given him by the Lord).

en + dat. "among [you]" - in / by [you]. Taken as local, expressing space, so NIV, but if we follow Thrall it is instrumental, means, "by you" = "with your help."

eiV + acc. "[will] greatly [expand]" - into = resulting in [abundance, advantage]. Here adverbial, modal, expressing manner; "abundantly / greatly."


For Paul, his apostolic assignment under the Lord is to expand his ministry by outreach to areas untouched by the gospel. He is not into the approach, presumably adopted by his opponents, of expanding ministry "by exploiting the ministry work already accomplished in another person's sphere of ministry", Guthrie.

eiV ta + inf. "so that [we can preach the gospel]" - into the to proclaim the gospel. This construction, eiV + the articular infinitive, serves to introduce a final clause expressing purpose, although here probably consecutive expressing result; Paul hopes to extend his sphere of operation "in order that / with the result that he may / is able to communicate the gospel beyond Corinth. The verb euaggelizw takes the sense "communicate important news" and is commonly used in the NT of communicating the gospel.

uJperekeina + gen. "in the regions beyond [you]" - beyond [you]. The NIV, as with many other translations, has taken the prepositional phrase eiV ta as spacial and not linked it with the infinitive, so "toward the things." Either way, the infinitive "to proclaim" still expresses either purpose or result; "that we may preach in lands beyond you", ESV.

ouk .... kauchsasqai (kaucaomai) aor. inf. "for we do not want to boast" - not to boast. Introducing an dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul does not want to do.

eiV + acc. "about" - into [the things already done]. Here adverbial, expressing reference / respect. The neuter article , ta, "the things", expresses something like "ministry work"; "lest we boast in another's sphere / area of influence with respect to / about / concerning ministry work already completed."

en + dat. "in [someone else's territory]" - in [another's sphere]. Here local, expressing space, "in someone else's assigned area", Harris.


ii] The basis of appropriate boasting, v17-18. A believer's boast / recommendation / commendation should be "in the Lord." The sense of this statement is tied up in the meaning of the preposition en, "in". Long suggests either cause or reference / respect, "boast about the Lord", Zerwick, "about what the Lord has done", Thrall. Local is possible, but better taken to express the object / goal toward which an action is directed, so Harris, ie., en specifies "the object of the boasting." Instead of taking pride in our own person and achievements, let us take pride in the person and actions of the Lord (presumably Christ is in Paul's mind, but the citation has God in mind); "No, let him who boasts make the Lord the object of their boast", Cassirer.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument, here as a citation, poss. Jer.9:24, LXX.

oJ ... kaucwmenoV (kaucaomoi) pres. mid. part. "the one who boasts" - the one boasting. The participle serves as a substantive.

en + dat. "in" - [let him boast] in [the lord]. See note above.


Paul supports the citation from scripture: self-commendation is worthless, "it is commendation by the Lord which alone provides validation", Thrall. Paul's opponents are into self-commendation, but Paul looks to the Lord's commendation, and this he receives because he applies himself to the Lord's work in his designated mission field - Corinth and beyond. "Only a Christian enterprise, which originates from God's plan, is according to the divine kanwn (v13), and aims to promote his honor (of which the antithesis is self-praise), can stand ultimate scrutiny", Martin (and even then "ultimate scrutiny" would expose its imperfections - grace is all!").

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why our boast should be "in the Lord."

oJ sunistanwn (sunisthmi) pres. part. "the one who commends [himself]" - [it is not] the one commending [himself]. The participle serves as a substantive.

eJkeinoV pro. "who is [approved]" - this one [is approved, excellent]. The pronoun serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "the one [commending]." "It is not the one who commends himself who finds acceptance", Cassirer.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ...., but ...."

o}n pro. "[the one] whom" - [the one] whom [the lord commends]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to recommend, commend." The sentence structure is rhetorical with oJ, "the one" offset by oJ kurioV, "the Lord"; it is not the one commending himself who is approved, but the one the Lord commends who is approved.


2 Corinthians Introduction


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