What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh, Really?

What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh, Really? October 2, 2013

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  • “Maria”

    Interesting….i always thought the “thorn” was a physical issue…..something to do with his eye/s.

  • in weakness-Do not ask for sensible strength, FOR My power is perfected in man’s “strengthlessness” (so the Greek). The “for” implies, thy “strengthlessness” (the same Greek as is translated “weakness”; and in 2Co 12:10, “infirmities”) is the very element in which My “power” (which moves coincident with “My grace”) exhibits itself more perfectly. So that Paul instead of desiring the infirmity to “depart,” “rather” henceforth “glories in infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest (Greek, ‘tabernacle upon,’ cover my infirmity all over as with a tabernacle; compare Greek, Joh 1:12) upon” him. This effect of Christ’s assurance on him appears, 2Co 4:7; 1Co 2:3, 4; compare 1Pe 4:14. The “My” is omitted in some of the oldest manuscripts; the sense is the same, “power” (referring to God’s power) standing absolutely, in contrast to “weakness” (put absolutely, for man’s weakness). Paul often repeats the word “weakness” or “infirmity” (the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth chapters) as being Christ’s own word. The Lord has more need of our weakness than of our strength: our strength is often His rival; our weakness, His servant, drawing on His resources, and showing forth His glory. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity; man’s security is Satan’s opportunity. God’s way is not to take His children out of trial, but to give them strength to bear up against it (Ps 88:7; Joh 17:15).

  • Ah…a refreshing perspective on a difficult text for many to reconcile with the “countless theories” you indicate. I have always had trouble with that text and reconciling them with the classic theories you mention; the text always had me scratching my head about what that “thorn” actually was. As a matter of fact I think that it may give many the “green light” of license regarding a particular sin in their lives, thinking “if Paul was a great man of God with a sexual [or other] sin in his life, and since I have a sexual [or other] sin in my life, I can count it as the ‘thorn’ given to me by God.” I know in my mind it was one way for me to rationalize sin in my life…”oh, that’s my ‘thorn in the flesh’ like Paul had.”

    I always felt there was no textual substantiation for connecting the text to such theories, not in the immediate nor broader textual context. Additionally, the sickness or persecution of the church don’t seem legitimate either as there is no textual context providing a point of reference for such a connection.

    Your understanding of the terms (thorn, angel, messenger, etc) and how they are used–in all contexts from the immediate textual context to the broader context of the entire book and the entire context of both the New and Old testaments–seems far more able to establish lexical continuity and thereby believability as a valid interpretation of the text.

    Thank you for this…I fell I can quit scratching my head on this one, so it seems for now. Given the fact that this text has caused me anguish for most of my Christian life, even being in ministry, I feel as though I can move forward with confidence in the light of this fresh perspective of this difficult passage, without giving it a second thought. Thank you.

  • Frank Viola

    We should always think the best of people. And I’ve watched Christians ascribe individuals to the devil’s workings when there was just simple misunderstandings.

    However, the person who was tormenting Paul had an agenda to destroy his ministry. He persistently lied about him, slandered him, and sought to sabotage his work. I don’t think every believer has this kind of experience. Thank God for that. If you have, you know it. It tends to follow apostles.

  • Summer Smith

    Am I just ignorant to think the best of people? How do you know when its “satan” at work in someone?
    I find this interpretation very very interesting. Still chewing on it a bit.