Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 2
The visions and revelations passage is part of a larger section of ch. 10-13 where Paul is defending his ministry against "Super Apostles" who, Paul wants us to understand, are boasting of their status as Jews and as receivers of mystical revelations and are using their elevated status to undermine Paul’s authority and the stability of the church. Despite the discussion of Hebrew status and visions the overarching and inescapable theme of the section is suffering and service as an Apostle of Christ.
In approaching 12:1-10 we should note Paul makes a number of commitments that delineate his own intention in this section.
10:12-18, not boast beyond proper limits . . . let him who boasts boast in the Lord.
11:12-15, cut the ground from under those . . . false apostles . . . their end will be what their actions deserve
11:16-17, Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting
11:21-23, what anyone else dares to boast about – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast about.
11:30, If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
So Paul expressly states that he wont be boasting of anything except of the Lord and his weakness. He also signals his intention to sort out the false apostles, to cut the ground out from under them. He also signals that when he boasts as others do, he is only doing so as a fool - in other words he is fooling around, not being serious. If we read the vision in 2 Cor 12 as Paul's own vision he has both broken his commitment to not boast and has also failed to deal the decisive blow to the false apostles that he has undertaken to deliver. However, if we take Paul at his word that he is going to refuse to boast in anything other than God and his weakness; and that he is going to deal with the false apostles; and be foolish when he boasts like they do; then we are prepared for a moment of stinging sarcasm. Which, I will go on to argue, the vision narrative of 2 Cor 12 is his delivery of such.