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Transforming Boasting of Self into Boasting in the Lord.
The Development of the Pauline Periautologia in 2 Cor 10–13 in Light of the Programmatic Introduction of 2 Cor 10

(Mod.: Prof. Jean-Noël ALETTI, S.J.)

  In this dissertation we argue that 2 Cor 10, although presenting strong characteristics of polemical discourse, actually sets in motion a self-praise speech with a pedagogical, not defensive purpose. The chapter in question serves as a programmatic introduction to the Pauline boasting developed in chapters 11–13. Applying rhetorical analysis, we show that 2 Cor 10 contains an exordium (10,1-6) and a propositio for the entire speech (10,7-8); we further identify by this analysis the criteria crucial for legitimate apostolic boasting (10,12-18). The main problem of 2 Cor 10–13 expressed in the propositio (10,7-8) regards Paul’s claim to be a true servant of Christ and to have the right to boast about it. This problem is strictly connected with the accusations of the opponents which point at his weakness and ineffectiveness in dealing with the community’s problems.

Thus, 2 Cor 10 sets the stage for all of 2 Cor 10–13. This chapter is the key to a proper understanding of the rhetorical stasis of the entire speech elucidated from the Pauline inventio and dispositio. Paul’s use of the periautologia, metaphor, and irony reveals the strong position of the Apostle in Corinth but also points out the fatal infatuation the Corinthians have with newcomers. The causa of Paul ultimately revolves around the status qualitatis: he proves he is strong enough to be the leader in Corinth and paradoxically demonstrates that weakness should belong to the identity of apostle.  Such a reading of the rhetorical stasis introduces two problematic issues begun in 2 Cor 10 and continued in Cor 11–13: the relationship between power and weakness and the legitimacy of Pauline boasting. Paul’s approach to weakness in 2 Cor 10–13 challenges the standards on which the evaluation of true apostleship is made. Contemporaneously, he also recognizes infirmity as an integral part of his apostolic identity. Christ himself is the only model that enables Paul to subvert worldly standards of judgment and claim weakness as an integral part of his apostolic mission (13,3-4). Subsequently, 2 Cor 10 is crucial to understanding the legitimacy of Paul’s boast developed throughout all of 2 Cor 10 – 13. The thesis (10,7-8) and its argumentation (10,12-18) elaborate the exterior criteria of such boast including a divine call (status qualitatis) and apostolic praxis (performance), as well as the supreme rule saying that all credit for apostolic achievements should be given to the Lord (i.e. boasting en kyriô 10,17). Paul successfully responds to the first two imperatives of boasting. Problems, however, arise when he comes to the last criterion, namely, boasting in the Lord (en kyriô). The ego-centric boast based additionally on the comparison mentioned for the first time in 10,12 is the one that Paul fears and abhors and calls foolish, but he is forced, nevertheless, to undertake it for the sake of his spiritual children. The tool that ultimately enables him to transform self-aggrandizing speech into speech that is focused on Christ is his paradoxical boasting of weakness. It is being prepared in the pivotal section 11,30-33 (the entirety of 11,1-29 should be read as boasting of the apostolic achievements) and reaches its climax in 12,9-10. The careful crafting of the discourse based on Christological principles and meant for the edification of the community (10,8; 12,19; 13,10) ultimately speaks against qualifying it as a parody of the opponents’ boasting.