What does 2 Corinthians 11:26 mean?
ESV: on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;
NIV: I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.
NASB: I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers;
CSB: On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, and dangers among false brothers;
NLT: I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.
KJV: In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
To put it mildly, life as a missionary and evangelist in the ancient world was dangerous. Paul is "boasting" about his service to Christ. This is a deliberate and sarcastic tactic meant to shame his critics (2 Corinthians 11:21, 23). Rather than a string of victories, the service so far described includes only a series of terrible attacks, beatings, imprisonments, and disasters at sea. Now he adds to the list.
Paul's life of near-constant traveling was marked by danger from every imaginable source. Natural threats included crossing rivers and seas. Frequent dangers included being robbed or attacked by criminals in cities and in the wild lands between cities. Paul's specific mission brought him under threat from his own people, the Jews, as well as from Gentiles, including the Roman Empire. He even faced dangers from other supposed Christians, "false brothers," who pretended to belong to Christ but in reality served only themselves and saw Paul as a threat to their scams.
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.
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 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.
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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