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After Paul scolds the Corinthians for bearing people who preach things not according to Christ, he says:

For I reckon that I am not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.(ASV)

Paul proceeds to defend himself as not misusing them for financial gain and then in v13 refers to false apostles:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ.(ASV)

In v5 is Paul speaking of these people who make themselves out to be apostles or having apostolic authority OR the 12 apostles who had actually followed Christ? (OR...?)

  • @Mac'sMusings Yes. Thanks – tao May 23 '19 at 22:28
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2 Cor 11:5 uses the phrase "chiefest apostles" (Ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων) or even more literally, "hyper-apostles". Such an expression is unique in the NT and displays some of Paul's characteristic passion about the subject. I suggest it is a combination of the following meanings:

  • A reference to 2 Cor 10:18 and its earlier discussion about some apostles that "pump up their own tires", that is, were tireless self-promoters - people who wanted great recognition. (In another context, Simon Magnus was such a person in the book of Acts)
  • While there were clearly more apostles than just the original "twelve" (eg, Apollos, Barnabas, and Paul himself), some among the original twelve appear to have been called "leaders" as per Gal 2:1.
  • However, the most likely principle meaning is just an idiom suggesting that he, Paul, was no less than any other apostle because he had been called by God the same as the others, and displayed all the same gifts (see 2 Cor 11, etc).

The Pulpit Commentary observes:

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.

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Some other translations of 2 Corinthians 11:5 -

But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super apostles." (NIV)

Yet I consider myself as in no way inferior to these [precious] extra-super [false] apostles. (AMP)

Verse 5 is referring to people who make themselves out to be apostles or having apostolic authority.

Paul also refers to the work he had being doing for God after verse 5 and in verse 12 refers back to these false apostles (the 12 apostles appointed by Jesus Christ are not the 'false apostles').

It appears that there were some people wanting the recognition that Paul and his companions were receiving from the churches, but these "super apostles" whilst possibly well sounding, were not actually doing the hard work, or going through the sufferings and trials similar to Paul and his companions. Paul and his companions were Christian soldiers, deserving of recognition, but not claiming it. These others were like those that might falsely wear military medals, and seek recognition for service they have never actually done.

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