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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Dangers and Deprivations (11:26-27)
Dangers and Deprivations (11:26-27)

Paul proceeds next to list dangers that he has encountered and deprivations he has endured in the line of duty as a gospel preacher. The dangers include natural enemies like rivers and the sea and human enemies like bandits, my own countrymen and Gentiles.

River hazards involved dangerous crossings and rivers that overflowed their banks. Floods and bandits were notorious problems for those attempting travel over the seven-thousand-foot Taurus Mountains (Acts 13—14). The floods of the Pisidian highlands are mentioned by Strabo, who wrote of how the Cestrus and Eurymedon rivers tumbled down the heights and precipices to the Pamphylian Sea and of the wild clans of Pisidian robbers who made these mountains their home (Williams 1985:220). Even the relatively populated stretch of road between Athens and Corinth, called the Sceironian Rocks, was infamous for its highway robbers (Murphy-O'Connor 1985:44).

Incidents involving Paul's own countrymen are too numerous to recount. Not only did he face active hostility from Jewish authorities in virtually every city he visited, but Luke also states that Jews followed him from city to city, stirring up trouble whenever they could. Three times they succeeded in inciting the Gentiles of the city (Acts 13:50; 14:2; 17:5). Failing that, the Jews were not averse to going straight to the local authorities (Acts 18:12). Luke records that Paul faced Gentile opposition toice—in both cases from those whose livelihoods were threatened by the gospel (16:19-21; 19:23-41).

Dangers were also faced in the city and in the country. The distinction is between densely and sparsely populated regions (eremia "desolate," "lonely," "solitary"). The hazards faced in each respective region would have been quite different. Mob action and crowd control were real problems in urban areas (for example, Acts 17:1-9; 19:23-41), while native superstitions and legends tended to thrive in rural areas such as Lystra (Acts 14:8-20).

Dangers at sea are listed as well. The general attitude toward sea travel is aptly summed up by Horace's statement that the boat was first conceived by a sadistic degenerate whose mission was to destroy humanity (Odes 1.3.9, 16; Murphy-O'Connor 1985:47). Given that ancient sailing vessels carried no lifeboats or life jackets, travel on the Mediterranean could be truly dangerous (Furnish 1984:517-18).

Dangers from false brothers concludes this grouping. The term pseudadelphoi is found elsewhere only in Galatians 2:4, where it is applied to those claiming the name of Christ who infiltrated the church at Antioch to spy on the believers' freedom in Christ and make them slaves. Judaizing issues are absent from 2 Corinthians, so Paul may be thinking here of so-called brothers and sisters who betrayed him to the local authorities (Héring 1967:86). Ralph P. Martin may be correct in speculating that false brothers is placed last to drive home to the Corinthians the enormity of their offer of hospitality to such people (1986:379).

These dangers are followed by a list of five types of deprivations: labored and toiled, . . . often gone without sleep, . . . known hunger and thirst, . . . often gone without food and been cold and naked. Labored and toiled is a phrase employed elsewhere for the hard life of the itinerant laborer (for example, in 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess 3:8). Kopos refers to manual labor that is physically exhausting (comparable to our expression "dead tired"), while mochthos stresses the hardship or pain involved in the work.

Gone without sleep (agrypnia; literally "sleeplessness," "wakefulness") could have been the involuntary result of illness or insomnia. But in Paul's case it was more likely self-inflicted. If 11:28-29 is any indication, it was the consequence of burning the midnight oil out of prayerful concern for his converts and his coworkers. It can also be an indication that he did his tentmaking during the day and engaged in missionary labors during the evening hours (as in Acts 20:7).

I have known hunger and thirst (en limo kai dipsei) is essentially a repetition of what Paul said in 6:5. Both terms bespeak involuntary actions. The pairing is most likely descriptive of the hard life of the itinerant, rather than a condition of poverty per se.

The next one in the list is voluntary in character: I have often gone without food. Nesteia, unlike limos, refers to self-imposed abstinence. Fasting was a common practice among pious Jews and was often done as a means of focusing one's energies on the task of intercession. There may also have been times when Paul went hungry to avoid being a burden on anyone (2 Cor 11:7-10).

Last but not least, Paul had been cold and naked—that is, he had gone without adequate shelter and clothing. Since he mentions this as well in 1 Corinthians, it must have been a relatively common experience ("to this very hour . . . we are in rags"—1 Cor 4:11).

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