2 Corinthians 11:5
For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very most chief apostles.
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(5) For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.—The verb with which the sentence opens is the same as the “I think,” “I reckon,” which characterises these chapters, and which, being characteristic, ought to be retained. I reckon I have not fallen short of those apostles-extraordinary. The whole tone of the passage ought to have made it impossible for any commentator to imagine that the words referred to Peter and James and John as the pillars of the Church of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Of them he speaks, even in his boldest moments, with respect, even where respect is mingled with reproof. He is glad to remember how they gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. He presents himself at Jerusalem a few months after writing these words, and almost submissively follows the counsel which James gives him (Acts 21:26). It is, accordingly, simply the insanity of controversy to imagine that these words have any bearing on the question of the primacy of St. Peter. Those whom he holds up to scorn with an almost withering irony, as “apostles-extraordinary” (he coins a word which literally means, “these extra-special or over-extra apostles”), are the false teachers, claiming to stand in a special relation to Christ, to be His Apostles—perhaps, also, to have a double title to the name, as delegates of the Church of Jerusalem. Of these he speaks more fully in 2Corinthians 11:13.

11:5-15 It is far better to be plain in speech, yet walking openly and consistently with the gospel, than to be admired by thousands, and be lifted up in pride, so as to disgrace the gospel by evil tempers and unholy lives. The apostle would not give room for any to accuse him of worldly designs in preaching the gospel, that others who opposed him at Corinth, might not in this respect gain advantage against him. Hypocrisy may be looked for, especially when we consider the great power which Satan, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience, has upon the minds of many. And as there are temptations to evil conduct, so there is equal danger on the other side. It serves Satan's purposes as well, to set up good works against the atonement of Christ, and salvation by faith and grace. But the end will discover those who are deceitful workers; their work will end in ruin. Satan will allow his ministers to preach either the law or the gospel separately; but the law as established by faith in Christ's righteousness and atonement, and the partaking of his Spirit, is the test of every false system.For I suppose ... - I think that I gave as good evidence that I was commissioned by God as the most eminent of the apostles. In the miracles which I performed; in the abundance of my labors, and in my success, I suppose that I did not fall behind any of them. If so, I ought to be regarded and treated as an apostle; and if so, then the false teachers should not be allowed to supplant me in your affections, or to seduce you from the doctrines which I have taught. On the evidence that Paul was equal to others in the proper proof of a commission from God; see notes on 2 Corinthians 11:21-30. 5. For—My claim is superior to that of the false teachers, "For," &c.

I suppose—I reckon [Alford].

I was not—Greek, "That I have not been, and am not."

the very chiefest apostles—James, Peter, and John, the witnesses of Christ's transfiguration and agony in Gethsemane. Rather, "those overmuch apostles," those surpassers of the apostles in their own esteem. This sense is proved by the fact that the context contains no comparison between him and the apostles, but only between him and the false teachers; 2Co 11:6 also alludes to these, and not to the apostles; compare also the parallel phrase, "false apostles" (see on [2322]2Co 11:13 and [2323]2Co 12:11) [Alford].

The apostle, doubtless, meaneth those that were the true apostles of our Lord. those who were immediately sent out by him to preach the gospel, behind whom the apostle was not, either in respect of ministerial gifts and graces, or in respect of labours, or in respect of success which God had given him in his work. One method that false teachers used to vilify Paul, was by magnifying some others of the apostles above him, and preferring them before him; which makes him, both here, and in Galatians 2:1-21, and Romans 11:13, to magnify his office, by showing them, there was no reason why they should make a difference between him and other apostles; for he had the same immediate call, was intrusted with the same power, furnished and adorned with the same gifts, in labours (as he elsewhere saith) he had been more than they all; nor had God been wanting in giving him success in his labours, proportionable to the chiefest of them: so as he was not a whit behind them. For I suppose I was not a whit behind,.... This is very modestly expressed by the apostle; for he does not assert, and in a haughty and confident way affirm, but only supposes, or thinks that this might be admitted, that he was not inferior to, or did not come short of, in gifts, grace, and usefulness,

the very chiefest of the apostles: such as Peter, James, and John; who seemed to be pillars, were eminent apostles, of great note among them, and such as Christ, in the days of his flesh, took particular notice of. This he says, not to exalt himself, but to show, how weakly and injudiciously the Corinthians acted in setting up the false apostle above him; or else these words are spoken ironically, and design the false teachers, who vaunted so much of their gifts, learning, eloquence, and usefulness; and extolled themselves at such a rate, as if they were , "greatly above the apostles"; and therefore he jeeringly calls them

the very chiefest of them; and yet thinks fit to put himself at least, upon an equality with them: one manuscript reads, "the chiefest of the apostles among you"; and the Ethiopic version seems to have read you.

For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.
2 Corinthians 11:5. You might well tolerate it, Paul had just said; but every reader who knew the apostle could not but at once of himself feel that he did not mean it so, that the meaning at his heart was rather: then you would be very far wrong in tolerating such novelties; that he thus in the way of ironical censure makes it palpable to his readers that their complaisance towards the false apostles was the ground of his anxiety expressed in 2 Corinthians 11:3. Hence he now by γάρ[321] at once gives a reason for the censure of that complaisance so disparaging to his own position as an apostle, which is conveyed in the ironical καλῶς ἀνείχεσθε. This γάρ does not refer therefore to 2 Corinthians 11:1, but to what immediately precedes, in so far, namely, as it was not meant approvingly (Hofmann), but in exactly the opposite sense. Hofmann groundlessly and dogmatically replies that the reason assigned for an ironical praise must necessarily be itself ironical.[322]

λογίζομαι] censeo, I am of opinion. Romans 2:3; Romans 3:28; Romans 8:18, al.

μηδὲν ὑστερηκέναι] in no respect have I remained behind. Comp. on Matthew 19:20. Rückert without reason adds: “i.e. in my action.” The μηδέν, in no respect a stronger negation than the simple μή (Kühner, ad Xen. Mem. iv. 4. 10), excludes any restriction to some mere partial aspect of his official character. The perfect exhibits the state of the case as at present continuing to subsist (Bernhardy, p. 378): to stand behind. In 2 Corinthians 12:11 the conception is differen.

τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων] The genitive with a verb of comparison. Comp. Plat. Pol. 7, p. 539 E. See Matthiae, p. 836. Comp. Kypke, II. p. 265. ὑπερλίαν, overmuch, supra quam valde, is not preserved elsewhere in old Greek, but is found again, nevertheless, in Eustath. Od. i. p. 27,35: ἐστι γάρ ποτε καὶ τῷ λίαν κατὰ τὴν τραγῳδίαν χρᾶσθαι καλῶς, καθʼ ὃ σημαινόμενον λέγομέν τινα ὑπερλίαν σόφον. Similarly we have ὑπεράγαν (2Ma 8:35; 2Ma 10:34; Strabo, iii. p. 147), ὑπέρευ (Kypke, Obss. II. p. 267), ὑπεράνω, etc., as well as generally Paul’s frequent application of compounds with ὑπέρ (Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 351). But whom does he mean by τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων? According to Chrysostom, Theodoret, Grotius, Bengel, and most of the older commentators, also Emmerling, Flatt, Schrader, Baur, Hilgenfeld, Holsten, Holtzmann (Judenth. und Christenth. p. 764), the actual summos apostolos, namely, Peter, James, and John (comp. Galatians 2:9). But Paul is not contending against these, but against the false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13); hence the expression: “the over-great apostles,” which is manifestly selected not μετʼ ἐγκωμίων (Chrysostom), but with a certain bitterness, would be very unsuitable here (comp. on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 15:9; 1 Corinthians 9:5) if the old apostles should be simply incidentally mentioned, because they were possibly placed high above Paul by his opponents.[323] Rightly, therefore, Richard Simon, Alethius, Heumann, Semler, Michaelis, Schulz, Stolz, Rosenmüller, Fritzsche, Billroth, Rückert, Olshausen, de Wette, Ewald, Osiander, Neander, Hofmann, Weiss, Beyschlag, and others have followed Beza’s suggestion (comp. Erasmus in the Annot.), and understood the Judaistic anti-Pauline teachers to be the pseudo-apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:22), whose inflated arrogance in exalting themselves over Paul is caricatured. Nevertheless they are not to be considered as the heads of the Christ-party (comp. on 2 Corinthians 10:7).

[321] δέ, adopted by Lachm. on the testimony of B only, and approved by Rückert, appears after εἰ μέν in ver. 4 as an alteration, because no reference was seen for the γάρ. With δέ there would result the quite simple course of thought: “If indeed … I mean, however,” etc., not as Rückert would have it, that Paul passes from the justification of the intended self-praise given in vv. 2–4 to the self-praise itself.

[322] Without conceding this arbitrary assertion, observe, moreover, that ver. 5 also has a sufficiently ironic tinge. Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. See also Klöpper.

[323] The immediately following εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ would also be quite unsuitable, since every other apostle, at least as much as Paul, was ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ.


The reference of our passage to Peter, James, and John was supported among the earlier Protestants from polemical considerations, for the comparison in itself and the plural expression were urged against the primacy of Peter. See Calovius, Bibl. ill. p. 505. In defence of this primacy, it was maintained by the older Catholic writers that the equality referred to preaching and gifts, not to power and jurisdiction. See Cornelius a Lapide.2 Corinthians 11:5-15. HE IS NOT INFERIOR TO HIS ADVERSARIES ALTHOUGH (a) HE IS NOT A TRAINED ORATOR (2 Corinthians 11:6), AND ALTHOUGH (b) HE DID NOT CLAIM MAINTENANCE FROM THE CHURCH (2 Corinthians 11:7). THIS WAS NOT THROUGH WANT OF AFFECTION FOR THEM, BUT THAT THERE MIGHT BE NO ROOM FOR CAVIL.5. For I suppose] The connection of thought seems to be as above. If they had been preaching another Gospel, you might have borne with them, but when preaching the same Gospel they can arrogate no superiority over me, for I am on an equality with the very highest.

I was not a whit behind] Rather, I have not fallen short in any way, i.e. I neither have been, nor am now, in the least inferior.

the very chiefest apostles] Cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 12:11. Most modern editors render by “these surpassers of the Apostles” (Alford), “those Apostles extraordinary” (Plumptre) (literally, the overmuch Apostles), regarding the Greek as ironical and interpreting the passage as referring to the false teachers. Chrysostom and the ancient interpreters refer it to St Peter and the rest of the twelve. But possibly there is no personal reference at all. St Paul may mean that no Apostles existed anywhere, however great they might be, who could claim superiority over him. Cf. Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9. Robertson has some interesting remarks on the common interpretation: “Some cannot understand the feeling which prompts an expression like this. Shallow men would call it egotism, vanity, folly, as if egotism consisted only in speaking of oneself. True Christian modesty is not the being ignorant of what we are, neither does it consist in affecting ignorance. It consists in this—in having a high and sublime standard set before us, so that we feel how far we are from attaining to that.”2 Corinthians 11:5. Γὰρ, for) The particle connecting the discussion with the proposition [the subject he proposed to discuss]. The sum of Paul’s boasting is here stated and repeated, ch. 2 Corinthians 12:11.—τῶν ὑπερλίαν, the very chiefest) such as James, Kephas, John [distinguished for their high privilege in being witnesses of the transfiguration of Jesus.—V. g.], or even the other survivors of the twelve, Galatians 2:2, not merely such as those, who are called apostles in a wider sense, i.e. I am as much an apostle as he who is most so. Peter has no title to any preference. [Acts 26:13; Acts 26:16; Galatians 1:16.]Verse 5. - For. It cannot be that you received this rival teacher as being so much superior to me; for, etc. I suppose. Again, like the Latin censeo or opinor, with a touch of irony. I was not a whit behind; in no respect have I come short of. The very chiefest apostles. The word used by St. Paul for "very chiefest" is one which, in its strangeness, marks the vehemence of his emotion. It involves an indignant sense that he had been most disparagingly compared with other apostles, as though he were hardly a genuine apostle at all. Yet he reckons himself to have done as much as the "above exceedingly" - or, as it might be expressed, the "out and out," "extra-super," or "super-apostolic," apostles. There is here no reflection whatever on the twelve; he merely means that, even if any with whom he was uufavourably contrasted were "apostles ten times over," he can claim to be in the front rank with them. This is no more than he has said with the utmost earnestness in 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:6. There is no self-assertion here; but, in consequence of the evil done by his detractors, St. Paul, with an utter sense of distaste, is forced to say the simple truth. The very chiefest apostles (τῶν ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων) Lit., those who are preeminently apostles. Not referring to the genuine apostles, but ironically to the false teachers, the false apostles of 2 Corinthians 11:13. Compare 2 Corinthians 12:11. Farrar renders the extra-super apostles.
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