These guys are bad news… at least according to Paul. To him, they're just walking around the church undoing all the good and holy work he's done. Hey, Paul was here first, guys!
This is pretty much the one-size-fits-all category for all Paul's detractors in Corinth. Since we're visiting with them over the course of at least three different letters, it's not like every single naysayer in the city would fit into once nice little group.
There seem to be different levels of disagreement. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is slightly annoyed by some "arrogant people" who are quietly spreading around rumors that Paul's not actually all he's cracked up to be (1 Corinthians 4:19). But in the first half of 2 Corinthians, stuff starts to get real:
Right. So these groups are pretty annoying to Paul, but nothing he can't handle. He's not going to get his toga in a twist about them too much.
But the poop really hits the fan in the last section of 2 Corinthians. These naysayers get called out as "false apostles" and Paul is pretty ticked that the Corinthians are listening to them. So who are they?
Okay, so they are terrible, awful people who are definitely not in God's good books, right? Well, maybe not…
It's important to point out that all we know about the false apostles is what Paul tells us about them. We don't have any of their letters, so we have to rely on Paul to accurately recreate the arguments his opponents would have made. Hmmm. Anyone knows from watching a political debate that the guy you're running against isn't going to be the most truthful about your record.
To be fair, these guys may have had some legitimate questions about Paul. It's possible that they were questioning his motives out of pure love for Christ and the gospel. Paul portrays them as opportunists who want to move in on his turf and warp the word of God. He even says they're servants of the Devil. Harsh. But maybe they just wanted to engage in an honest debate with Paul about their differences.
But Paul has clearly come out on top. Just look at the numbers. Paul = seven books of the Bible. False apostles = none. Sorry guys, into the footnotes of history you go.