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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2


In this chapter, the Apostle from a motive of holy zeal, and the purest necessity, is almost wholly employed in commending himself and his own actions, and depressing the false teachers, the enemies of God and his Holy Church, who, by depreciating the labours of the Apostle, wished to increase their own claims to respect in the minds of the Corinthians. And first, he claims their indulgence and forbearance for his apparent folly in praising himself—a course adopted by him from a holy jealousy which he conceived regarding their souls (verse 1).

He explains the nature and cause of this jealousy. He acted the part of paranymph in betrothing them to Christ; and he dreads lest the Devil might corrupt them, as he formerly corrupted the virginal mind of Eve (2, 3).

He next, reproaches them with their unmerited preference for the false teachers before himself (4), and shows, that he had far higher claims to respect than they, although in point of elegance and fluency in the use of the Greek tongue, he may be somewhat inferior to them (5, 6). He gave the Corinthians no grounds for depreciating his services; on the contrary, his very humiliations were intended to exalt them, and his preaching among them quite disinterested (8, 9); and he still determined to follow the same disinterested course, in order to deprive the false teachers of every ground for boasting in this respect (10, 13).

In the next place, he depicts these deceitful men in their true colours (13, 16). He then claims indulgence for the apparent folly of praising himself: he says, however, that he is better entitled to indulgence even in this respect, than the false teachers are, who treat them so contumeliously, and are always engaged in self-commendation (20). In a tone of bitter sarcasm, he says, he will adjudge the superiority in favour of the false teachers, both as regards their maltreatment of their followers, and their anxiety to commend themselves (21)

He shows how much he is superior to those deceitful men, both as regards their common origin, and the gifts of divine grace, or the Evangelical ministry (22, 23).

He employs the remainder of the chapter in showing, how much he is superior to them in everything that should distinguish a zealous minister of religion, in bodily labours, sufferings and privations, in mental anxiety, and concern for the spiritual interests and advancement of his people.


1. Would to God you would bear with some little of my folly, while engaged in self-commendation. But as I am forced, in my own defence, into this apparently foolish course; then, bear with me, I beseech you.

2. For, my folly in thus praising myself proceeds solely from the jealousy which I entertain towards you, on the part of God. For, as a bridesman, or paranymph, I have betrothed your Church to one husband, viz., Christ, and I wish to present her a chaste virgin spouse to him, as the spouse of such a husband should be.

3. But I dread, lest, as Satan under a serpent’s form seduced Eve, through his crafty wiles, the judgments of your minds would also be corrupted by his ministers, and seduced from that virginal simplicity which you have in Christ.

4. For, in truth, if any new teacher coming amongst you, were to announce better tidings than those which have been announced by us—another Saviour, and a better one than we have announced—or if you were to receive, through his preaching, other and more excellent spiritual gifts than those imparted by us, or another gospel differing from ours and announcing better promises; you would, with some reason, bear with such a person, and admit his claims to a preference.

5. (But such is by no means the case), for, neither in works nor in doctrine do I regard myself as inferior I will not say, to the false teachers; but, to the chiefs, among the apostles of Christ.

6. For, granting, that in my use of the Greek tongue, I may be rude and inelegant, compared with these false teachers; still, I am by no means their inferior in the knowledge of divine things becoming an Apostle. But in all matters, both in word and work, we act openly and undisguisedly, without reserve or dissimulation with regard to you.

7. Or, have I committed a fault which would lower me in your estimation, by humbling myself among you, in order, by this humiliation, to exalt you in the faith? Or, have I been guilty of any such fault by preaching the gospel amongst you, without any temporal recompense whatever?

8. Other churches I have distressed, owing to their great poverty, by receiving from them the necessary means of subsistence in order to minister to you.

9. And when amongst you, although destitute of the necessaries of life, I was not a burthen to any of you; for, the necessary means of subsistence, which could not be fully supplied from my own manual labour, were furnished to me by the brethren who came from Macedonia. And in all things I have kept myself from being a charge to you, and I shall observe the same course in future.

10. I call the truth of Christ to witness, that this subject of boasting in having preached the gospel gratuitously, shall receive no interruption, either at Corinth, or even throughout all Achaia.

11. Is this my resolve to receive nothing from you owing to any want of affection for you? I call God, the searcher of hearts, to witness the sincerity of my love for you.

12. But what I have been doing, I will continue to do, viz., to preach the gospel amongst you gratuitously, that I may deprive the false teachers of all grounds for asserting that, in this respect, they are equal to us, a thing which they make a subject of glorying.

13. They wish to imitate us; for such men, falsely called, and in name only, Apostles, are deceitful workmen, or ministers, wishing to put on the garb and appearance of Apostles of God, although really ministers of Satan.

14. And it need be no cause of wonder if they assume the appearance of true Apostles, when Satan himself, whose ministers they are, although an angel of darkness, oftentimes assumes the garb of an angel of light.

15. It is, then, no subject for surprise that his ministers should put on the appearance of true Apostles, of ministers of justice and truth; but the end of these wicked men shall be such as their deeds of hypocrisy, which cannot escape God, merit, that is to say, exposure of their misdeeds, and eternal punishment.

16. I again repeat my entreaty, that you bear with my folly while engaged in praising myself. Let no one, however, regard me in this as really foolish, for I have cause for thus praising myself. Still, if you really regard it as foolish in me to do so, receive me even as such.

17. What I speak in this matter of boasting, if the mere words be considered, is not according to God, but foolish, looking to appearances, but if the motive of charity, from which I praise myself, be considered, viz., lest by despising me, you adhere to false teachers it is really wise according to God.

18. Since many others make carnal and external things the subject of glorying, and you bear with them, I, too, shall glory in things deserving of commendation, and expect the same indulgence.

19. For, although wise yourselves, you bear patiently with these foolish boasters, who are more troublesome than I am.

20. For you patiently submit, should one of these false teachers, in the despotic exercise of authority, treat you like mere slaves, or devour your temporal substance, or receive gifts, or act towards you in a haughty, supercilious manner; or treat you with the utmost contumely, so as to strike you on the face.

21. These things I state as a reproach to you; for, notwithstanding this, you esteem these men more than you do us; as if it were from weakness, and not from humility, meekness, and charity, we refrain from treating you similarly. In this point, I yield up to them all superiority. But in every point in which they may attempt to glory, (if it be allowed me to speak in folly), I shall compete with them.

22. If they glory in being Hebrews, so am I too a Hebrew; children of Israel, so am I; the descendants of Abraham, so am I.

23. If they glory, and falsely so, in being ministers of Christ (although it may be apparently foolish, still it is true for me to say so), I am their superior in this respect. I have sustained more labours for the gospel of Christ than they; I have been longer and oftener in chains, oftener subjected to the lash, more frequently in danger of death.

24. On five different occasions have I received from the Jews forty, less by one, or thirty-nine stripes.

25. Thrice was I scourged with rods by the Gentiles, once stoned, thrice was I shipwrecked. I was tossed about for an entire day and night on the billows of the fathomless deep, in constant danger of death.

26. I underwent many toilsome and perilous journeys for the gospel; I had to encounter perils of several kinds—perils from rivers, perils from robbers, perils from those of my own race, the Jews; perils from the persecutions of the Gentiles, perils in the city, perils in the desert, perils on the sea, dangers from the treachery of false brethren, that is, of bad and insincere Christians.

27. We have proved ourselves more excellent ministers of the gospel than they, in the labours and painful fatigues and weariness which we underwent, in many privations from want of sleep, in hunger and thirst from want of the necessary aliments, in the fastings we voluntarily underwent, in cold and the want of necessary clothing.

28. Besides, these privations, which are merely exterior and afflict the body, we had to endure interior anguish, the weight of business daily pressing on me, and the solicitude which I felt for all the churches.

29. Which of the faithful shows an infirmity of disposition to fall into sin on the slightest provocation, with whom I do not deeply sympathize? Which of them actually commits sin, on provocation given, on whose account I do not experience the most poignant anguish?

30. If I must glory, I will glory in the sufferings and humiliations which I have undergone for Christ, rather than in these exalted gifts, of which the false teachers so often boast.

31. The omniscient God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is deserving of praise for endless, ages, knows that, in all I have already enumerated, I have spoken the truth.

32. When I was at Damascus, the governor of the nation under king Aretas placed watches both by day and night at the gates of the city for the purpose of apprehending me and putting me to death, to gratify the Jews.

33. And I was let down through a window, in a basket from the wall, and thus escaped being apprehended by him.


1. “You could bear with some little of my folly.” The Greek of which is, ἀνειχεσθε μου μικρον τι ἀφροσυνης, you would bear with me a little in folly. He terms it “folly;” because, it is generally reputed folly to praise one’s self. “But do bear with me,” as I have good reason for commending myself. I am forced to it in self-defence, and to protect you against the snares and designs of your spiritual enemies.

2. He assigns a reason why they ought to bear with him in his apparent folly, as this folly is occasioned by his zeal for them, and by the jealousy he conceives regarding them, on the part of God. He acted as a paranymph in betrothing their Church to Christ. It was, therefore incumbent on him to deliver over this virgin spouse to Christ, pure and undefiled by any false corrupting doctrines. Hence, the jealous care with which he endeavoured to guard against the approaches of any spiritual adulterers, such as the false teachers prove themselves to be by the dissemination of corrupt doctrines. Every Christian, but especially every religious soul, is in a special manner, the spouse of Jesus Christ. Do we ever seriously reflect on the relations that exist between us and our heavenly Bridegroom? Do we ever make this thought a wall of defence against the assaults of our spiritual enemies, against the force of temptation? Do we look forward to the happy day, when these nuptials shall be consummated in our heavenly country?

3. “The serpent,” i.e., the devil under the form of a serpent, “seduced Eve,” yet a virgin, “by his subtilty,” or crafty wiles. “So your minds should be corrupted and fall from,” &c. The word “fall,” is not in the Greek. It has probably been inserted by the Latin interpreter, to make the meaning more evident. “Simplicity,” refers to their unadulterated faith and morals. It may also convey an allusion to the corruption by the serpent, of Eve, while yet a virgin. Every Christian soul is betrothed to Christ in baptism, and becomes his spouse; a number of souls, or a particular church, as also the Universal Church, form one Spouse of Christ. The virginity of this spouse is pure, unalloyed faith. Her marriage portion, the kingdom of heaven. The nuptials are prepared by faith, hope, and charity in this life, and consummated by vision and fruition in the life to come.

4. He shows how undeserving of preference the false teachers were before himself, since they taught nothing after entering on his labours that he himself had not taught already, nor could they impart any spiritual gift superior to those received through his preaching and ministry. “Preached another Christ.” In Greek, another JESUS.

5. “Some interpreters say, he refers ironically to the false teachers, whom he calls of the great Apostles,” All the ancient expositors, however, assert, that he refers to the chief among the Apostles of Christ, whom (Gal. 2) he calls “pillars.” With these, St. Paul places himself on a level here, because the glory of God and the good of his people required of him to do so, although (Epistle 15:9) he speaks of himself in different terms, from a feeling of holy humility.

6. He admits that he was not so perfect a master of the Greek tongue, as the learned orators of Greece or the false teachers. The Greek word for “rude in speech,” ιδιωτης, means, not better versed in it than ordinary persons are. From this passage, it is disputed whether or not St. Paul was really deficient in language. St. Jerome and Origen state, that he was not eloquent, while St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom, on the contrary, assert that he was most eloquent; and it appears, he was regarded as such, at Lystra in Lycaonia (Acts, 14). He might not be gifted with eloquence and fluent facility in the use of the Greek tongue, which was borrowed from Pagan rhetoric; nor did he write Greek, probably, with the elegance of Demosthenes and others, or even of the false teachers; but, he was gifted with eloquence of a higher order—bold and masculine—which made Festus tremble on his throne, and made St. Augustine wish, among the four things he longed to see, to behold Paid preaching. “But in all things,” &c. In this he rebukes the false teachers for their dissimulation and hypocrisy. Everything in his conduct was candid and known to them all.

7. This is intended as a reproach to the Corinthians for the unmerited preference shown the false teachers. He made great sacrifices, working at an humble, laborious trade, to exalt them in the faith, and he preached gratuitously. The contrary was the case with the false teachers, and in the language of bitter irony, he asks, was it this that lowered him in their esteem?

8. He urges the second point regarding his gratuitous preaching, and reproaches them for their cupidity. He took the necessary means of support from poor churches, while engaged in the service of the Corinthians, who were so wealthy.

9. “The brethren supplied.” He says, “supplied,” because from manual labour, at the trade of a tent maker, he partly derived the means necessary for support; the Macedonian brethren supplied what was further needed. He makes no express mention of manual labour; he merely refers to the generosity of the Macedonians, in order to stimulate the avaricious Corinthians to emulate them, and to show that independently of his own manual labour, he had a right to support as a minister of the gospel. He says, he shall receive nothing in future, lest it might be supposed that he referred to the matter in hopes of future remuneration.

10. “This glorying,” viz., in preaching gratuitously.

11. It is not from want of affection for them, as persons who entertain mutual dislike decline presents, that he will not accept anything from them.

12. His reason for declining all remuneration from them is, to deprive the false teachers of every ground for appearing equal to him in this respect—a thing for which they were most anxious. In other matters, they claimed to be his superiors. It is likely, that the false teachers received remuneration from the people (20), and were anxious that St. Paul should receive it also, so that they might claim equality with him. Some interpreters say, they did not receive it publicly; they preached in public with apparent gratuitous disinterestedness; but in private, they received it, and, according to this opinion, the Apostle’s object here is, to cut off all pretext for their receiving it in future, after his own example, otherwise, they would not continue equal to him in this respect. The former opinion, which implies that they received remuneration publicly, appears, however, the more probable. (The words, “wherein they glory”) are to be read within a parenthesis.

13. He explains the last words of the preceding verse, “even as we.” These falsely-called Apostles wish to appear like us, for they are deceitful workmen, who wish to counterfeit the character of true Apostles.

14. In this, they are only following the example of deception, left them by him whose ministers they are, Satan himself, who often appears in the garb of an angel of light. Hence it is that we are commanded to pray constantly—“Lead us not into temptation.” Against all his wiles, the surest safeguard is a constant adherence to the doctrines and practices of the Church—“the pillar and the ground of truth”—as also a firm and unbounded confidence in Her “who has crushed his head,” and recourse in moments of doubt, difficulty and danger, to this omnipotent and all-merciful advocate to intercede for us with Him who is Omnipotent, and infinitely merciful by Nature, because He is God.

15. It is no wonder that Satan’s ministers should imitate the example of their chief

16. “Again I say.” Some interpreters connect these words immediately with the words, “that which I speak” (verse 17), including the intermediate sentence, “let no one think me,” &c., within a parenthesis, as if he meant, “I say again, that what I am about to speak in my own praise, I speak not according to God, but in folly.” This arrangement they regard as necessary, in order to avoid contradiction between this and verse I, where he says, he is foolish, and here, unless the arrangement referred to were adopted, he says he is not to be regarded as foolish. “Let no man think me to be foolish.” The exposition and connection in the Paraphrase are, however, the most natural; nor is there any contradiction: for, in verse I, he begs of them to bear with his apparent folly, since it is apparently foolish for a man to indulge in self-praise, whereas here, he requests of them not to regard him as really foolish, since he had reason for lauding and commending himself, and he wishes them, should they persist in regarding him as really foolish, to receive him as such. From this we can clearly see the excessive humility of the Apostle in excusing himself so often, and his charity in sacrificing everything, and submitting to all manner of contempt for the salvation of souls.

17. If we look to the act merely of praising himself, it is seemingly not according to God, since it appears opposed to the true Christian humility of the gospel—and such a course is, apparently, foolish also; but if we look to the motive and the necessity by which it was dictated, it is really according to God, and therefore commendable.

18. If the false teachers, although making mere external things quite foreign to the apostleship—such as extraction, the law, circumcision, &c.—subjects of boasting, are patiently borne with, the Apostle expects to be treated with the like indulgence, when reciting in his own praise matters really deserving of commendation.

19. “Yourselves are wise,” is said in irony, because if they were really wise, they would not lend an ear to the wily suggestions of the false teachers against the true Apostle, since the faithful were tempted by the former, as was Eve by the old serpent.

20. The Apostle’s folly would be less troublesome, as it was confined to mere words, but the false teachers had in their folly treated them contumeliously, and taxed them in their property. It is disputed whether the words, “strike you on the face.” are to be understood literally, or whether they merely mean, treat you as contumeliously as if they struck you on the face. It is not easy to see why these words should not be understood just as well as the preceding in their strict literal meaning; nor is it very improbable, that the false teachers, under the influence of sudden passion, might have treated their converts in this way.

21. These things he mentioned by way of reproach to the Corinthians on account of their undue preference for the false teachers, notwithstanding their many crimes, and their depreciation of himself, as if it were weakness, and a mark of inferiority in him, to avoid the abuses of which they were guilty, and not rather the fruits of Christian charity and humility. The Apostle yields a preference to the false teachers in these abusive practices, but in every other matter of commendation, wherein they might attempt to glory, he will compete with them. If St. Paul had been thus treated, he only met with the treatment to which all the servants of God, the most distinguished for zeal, had to submit from creation, and will have to endure to the end of the world. “Our Redeemer, the author and finisher of our faith, met the same opposition from sinners, and do we not find his annointed Vicar subjected to the same barbarous treatment at the present day, and the Holy City made the common receptacle of thieves and robbers?”*

“I speak according to dishonour,” are understood by some as qualifying the words immediately preceding, as if he meant, that they were not struck on the face, but that they were treated with as much contumely as if they were. It is better, however, to refer the words to the two entire preceding verses. The words “in this part,” are not in the Greek. They are found in the MSS. of Clermont and St. Germain.

22. There appears to be no great use in assigning the distinction between the several words “Hebrews,” “Israelites,” “Sons of Abraham.” The meaning appears to be: if they glory in being of Hebrew origin, and in speaking the Hebrew tongue, so can I also; in being the descendants of Israel, and not of Esau, so can I; and in being the natural descendants of Abraham, and not proselytes to the Jewish religion, so can I also.

23. If they glory, and falsely glory, in being ministers of Christ … “I am more,” that is, their superior in this respect, and my superiority over them as a minister of the Gospel I have proved. For the labours which I underwent for the gospel, are far greater and more numerous than those which they have undergone. “In stripes above measure,” i.e., I underwent more stripes than could be numbered.

24. The law of Deuteronomy (25:3) forbade the Jews, in scourging a Hebrew brother, to inflict more than forty stripes at a time; and the Jews, in order to confine themselves for certain within the law, inflicted only thirty-nine on St. Paul on the occasions referred to. There is no mention of these five flagellations, in the Acts of the Apostles.

25. “In the depth of the sea.” The Greek has only, εν τω βυθῶ, in the depth, which most probably refers to the sea on which the Apostle must have been sometimes tossed after shipwreck, every moment in danger of perishing.

26. He proved himself their superior, as minister of the gospel, verse 23, by the many and perilous journeys he had undertaken on its account. That the journeys were perilous appears from the following, “perils,” &c. “Perils in the sea,” refer not to the damages of shipwreck—for of these he had spoken already—but to some conspiracy among the crews, similar to that referred to, Acts, 20:3. “False brethren,” refers to some insincere Christians, who, while affecting to befriend the spread of the gospel, were in reality its deadliest enemies. Of such men, plenty are to be found in every age—the most noxious of the tares, sown by the enemy in the field of the Church.

27. “In labour and painfulness,” &c. What a picture of an Apostolic life! St. Paul converted the nations; but, it was only by undergoing superhuman labours, submitting to the most galling trials, and patiently enduring bad treatment, the most unmerited. These were the means employed by God to display through him his infinite power and wisdom. How dearly must not the Apostle have prized human souls! Woe, therefore, to the pastor who is not in some degree animated with his spirit—whose whole care is not engrossed with the most efficacious means of securing the salvation of his people, for every one of whom, if there be a just judge in heaven, he shall render a rigid account, giving blood for blood and soul for soul! Woe to the pastor, through whose fault, be it neglect or indifference, or positive scandal—the blood of God shall have flowed for his people in vain!

28. He refers to the interior anguish and solicitude which he had to endure, in addition to the instances of bodily sufferings already enumerated.

29. “Weak,” i.e., prone to fall into sin on slight provocation. “Scandalized,” actually erring.

30. Since it becomes necessary for him to glory, he prefers glorying in these things, in which he would be apt to appear low, abject, and contemptible to men, viz., afflictions, stripes, imprisonment, &c., rather than in the exalted gifts conferred on him, viz., tongues, miracles, the conversion of nations, &c.

31. “Who is blessed,” refers, as appears from the Greek, to God the Father. “That I lie not,” is referred by some to what he is about to recount. It more probably, however, refers to what preceded.

32. Aretas was king of Arabia Petrea, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, who divorced the daughter of this Aretas to make room for the infamous Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Aretas placed “a governor,” in Greek, εθναρχης, Ethnarch, over Damascus, of which he was then ruler.

“To apprehend me.” The common Greek has, “wishing to apprehend me.” The word, wishing, is not found in some of the chief manuscripts, nor in the Syriac and Armenian versions.

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