Original Research

2 Corinthians 11:22: Historical context, rhetoric, and ethnicity

Dennis Duling
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 64, No 2 | a57 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v64i2.57 | © 2008 Dennis Duling | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 January 2008 | Published: 14 January 2008

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Dennis Duling, Canisius College, Buffalo (USA), United States

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In this article historical criticism, rhetorical criticism and ethnicity theory are combined to interpret Paul’s boasting about his ethnicity in 2 Corinthians 11:22. Partition theory helps to establish the historical/social context that 2 Corinthians 10-13 is a fragment of the “tearful letter,” which represented the low point (high conflict) of Paul’s relations with the Corinthians. Rhetoric – the theatrical “Fool’s Speech,” which contains irony, self-praise, and comparison – helps to understand Paul’s boastful argumentation in his selfdefence; and ethnicity theory helps to interpret Paul’s construction of his ethnic identity. Paul boasted of his ethnicity by taking up rhetorical comparison and self-praise. But he did so in the so-called “Fool’s Speech”, which is full of irony: his ethnic heritage was part of his argument that he was equal to that of his opponents, but – here is the chief irony – his ethnicity “in the flesh” ultimately meant nothing to him.


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