Repository logo

True and False Boasting in 2 Cor. 10-13



Change log


Davis, George Brown 


In A.D. 55, Paul of Tarsus, arguably one of the most innovative thinkers of the early Christian movement, encountered serious opposition to his ministry in the church that he had established at Corinth. Although Paul maintained that his ministry had been initiated and directed by God, his Corinthian letters reveal various issues of disagreement between this congregation and its founder. These areas of dispute included not only matters of ethics and theology but also Paul’s legitimacy as a Christian minister.

The last part of 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 10-13), perhaps the most impassioned part of Paul’s Corinthian correspondence, indicates that his claims of leadership had been questioned within the Corinthian context. In fact, rival teachers, who challenged Paul’s authority and ministerial competence, had apparently gained support within the congregation. As Paul addresses this situation, one of the prominent motifs of 2 Cor 10-13 is the theme of boasting. On a lexical level, terms for boasting and self-commendation occur throughout this passage. More generally, in a section where Paul is responding to various criticisms levelled against his ministry, self-praise and self-presentation are related to the charges that have been made against him. In replying to his critics, Paul asserts his understanding of the nature of proper boasting--the one who boasts should “boast in the Lord” (εν κυρι'ω, καυχασθω; 10:17; cf. 1 Cor 1:31). This statement apparently reflects Jeremiah’s admonition on boasting: This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jer 9:22-23 [ET 23-24])

In addition to Paul’s reference to boasting in the Lord, he also speaks of boasting in his authority (10:8; cf. 11:10). Moreover, his denials of boasting “beyond measure” (ουκ εις τα`αμετρα; 10:13, 15) imply that boasting may be appropriate under certain conditions. In contrast to these positive references to his own boasting, Paul describes the competitive boasting of his opponents in terms of foolishness (cf. 11:16-21), and he asserts that their actions reveal a lack of knowledge (10:12). This ambivalent evidence generates certain questions. For Paul, what is the distinction between proper and improper boasting? Is Paul engaged in special pleading or is there a conceptual framework that explains his contrasting statements on boasting? What does it mean to “boast in the Lord”?




Bockmuehl, Markus


Second Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Boasting



Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge