What does 2 Corinthians 11:16 mean?
ESV: I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little.
NIV: I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting.
NASB: Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little.
CSB: I repeat: Let no one consider me a fool. But if you do, at least accept me as a fool so that I can also boast a little.
NLT: Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little.
KJV: I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.
Verse Commentary:
Corinthian culture was competitive. This was true in sports, but also in philosophy and performance. People expected speakers to be entertaining, dramatic showmen. They assumed such men would boast about their accomplishments, their education, and their skillful arguments. They also expected these intellectual competitors to tear down their philosophical opponents. That was a sign of strength and confidence in one's position.

Paul's contrasting approach seems to have confused the Corinthians. In person, especially, he may not have been impressive. He also tended not to brag about himself or his own achievements. He nearly always pointed to the power of Christ and the grace of God, while openly acknowledging his own suffering. In the culture of Corinth, this looked like weakness. Perhaps this was why the Corinthians were so captivated by Paul's impressive-sounding, confident opponents.

Beginning in this verse, Paul, for the sake of argument, agrees to compete on the terms of his opponents and the culture. He asks his readers not to think he is really so foolish as to talk as a boastful fool would talk—his intent is merely to make a valid point. When he does start "boasting," in the following verses, his boasts continue to be about things beyond his control: his birth, his life before Christ, his suffering, the things God has shown him, and God's strength through him. Paul makes a mockery of his opponent's self-glorifying boasting by imitating it to reveal his own weakness and God's great power.
Verse Context:
Second Corinthians 11:16–33 includes Paul's long list of ways he has suffered in his service to Christ. He describes this as crazy talk, mocking the arrogant style of the false apostles. In truth, the Corinthians probably would have thought of these as signs of failure, weakness, and loss. Paul is shocked that they are so willing to be mistreated by the false apostles. This abuse was something Paul was ''too weak'' to do in his Christlike service for them. Paul's discussion of his weakness will lead to his conclusion in the following chapter that Christ is strongest in him when he is weak.
Chapter Summary:
Second Corinthians 11 compares the believers in Corinth to a betrothed bride. It also pictures them as Eve facing temptation from the snake in the garden in Genesis 3. Paul's job as their spiritual father is to protect them from the lies of false apostles. These deceivers disguise themselves as servants of righteousness in the same way that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Paul is shocked the Corinthians put up with such harsh treatment from these men. He sarcastically pretends to brag about himself as the false teachers do about themselves. Instead, he boasts mostly about the ways he has endured suffering in his service to Christ.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 11 follows Paul's warning in the previous chapter. There, he vowed to be as bold as needed when he comes to see them in person. He describes himself as a protective spiritual father trying to save the Corinthians from the deceptions of the false apostles to teach a false gospel about a false Jesus. He is shocked the Corinthians put up with their harsh treatment and says he has decided to foolishly boast in order to compete with the false apostles. His boasting about his service to Christ, though, is mostly a long list of all the ways he has suffered for Christ. That theme continues into chapter 12, where Paul explains just how much his suffering has improved his walk with Christ.
Book Summary:
Second Corinthians returns to similar themes as those Paul mentioned in his first letter to this church. Paul is glad to hear that the church in Corinth has heeded his advice. At the same time, it is necessary for Paul to counter criticisms about his personality and legitimacy. Most of this text involves that subject. The fifth chapter, in contrast, contains comforting words which Christians have quoted often in times of hardship. Paul also details his expectations that the church in Corinth will make good on their promise to contribute to the needs of suffering believers in Jerusalem.
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