Paul's caricature of his chief rival as a pompous parasite in 2 corinthians 11.20

L. L. Welborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


2 Corinthians 11.20 has received too little discussion in the literature on Paul's opponents at Corinth, and, surprisingly, even less notice in recent research on patron-client relations in the Pauline communities. This article argues that 2 Cor. 11.20 depicts the leading figure among Paul's apostolic rivals as an instance of a social type so familiar and loathsome that he was a favorite subject of ridicule in comedy, mime, and satire: the parasite, specifically, the 'august parasite', who puts on airs and abuses his host and other guests. A composite portrait of this stock character is drawn from the comedies of Alexis, Antiphanes, Plautus and Terence, and from Lucian's satirical defense of the parasitic art. Parallels to Paul's vocabulary are traced in Greco-Roman comedies and satires. Paul's satirical account of the behavior of a rival missionary in 2 Cor. 11.20 serves not only as a foil to Paul's own modest conduct, but also functions as a reproach to the Corinthians for their complaisant response to the interloper. This hortatory function must be borne in mind as one seeks to comprehend the roles that Paul, his rival and the Corinthians play in the little scenario Paul has constructed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalJournal for the Study of the New Testament
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Comedy
  • Friendship
  • Parasites
  • Patronage
  • Paul's opponents
  • Social pathology


Dive into the research topics of 'Paul's caricature of his chief rival as a pompous parasite in 2 corinthians 11.20'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this