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What was Paul's thorn in the flesh?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Bro. Ruben, Dec 17, 2005.

  1. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    The "thorn in the flesh" was not some type of eye problem. Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was constant persecution. 2 Corinthians is full of persecution language.

    2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

    Paul was beaten up, opposed, threatened, every where he went: 2 Corinthians 12:7b "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment (literally to "beat" or "buffet") me--to keep me from exalting myself."

    The Galatians 4 passage is simply an "saying" from the culture that expressed someone's love for another. It doesn't mean Paul had eye problems. It would be like my friend offering help to me and saying "I'd give you my right arm if I could". It doesn't mean I am missing an arm. It is an expression of love and devotion. It is nothing more or less than that.

    The Galatians 6 passage was a typical way for someone using a "secretary" to end a letter. They would write the ending in their own handwriting, larger than normal, to authenticate the letter and to show a personal touch.

    peace to you [​IMG]
     
  2. Marcia

    Marcia Active Member

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    canadyjd, thanks for the helpful and interesting info.

    While I previously thought Paul might have had an eye problem (based on what I've heard others say such as what's been posted), I never thought this was his thorn in the flesh, as it seems he was describing something more tormenting and evil -- something that had an evil opposition to what he was doing or to who he was.

    I also agree with others that we don't know and can't know (at least for now and maybe never), and that it doesn't matter that we know.
     
  3. wwr 82

    wwr 82 New Member

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    All the posts are very interesting. I have often wondered what Paul's ailment may have been, but it's really not important. What I take from it all is that we have a great man who supplied just about half of the NT, and was the greatest missionary of all time. He also saw Christ, and I believe (could be wrong) that he talks about dying and seeing the glory of heaven, but comes back to the mortal world.

    This guy had quite a bit to brag about, and maybe this was a personality trait of his. So possibly was this ailment sent upon him to keep him humble, and not let pride take root in his soul?
     
  4. DHK

    DHK <b>Moderator</b>

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    2 Corinthians 12:8-10 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

    The context is not one of persecution, but rather of infirmities. With the two texts in Galatians I believe it was an eye disease of some sort. But Paul's ocnclusion after he receives God's answer of "My grace is sufficient for you," is:

    Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    "My infirmities" seems to refer right back to his thorn in the flesh. It was an infirmity, a disease or affliction of the flesh such as an eye-condition that bothered him. He says in other places that his appearance was not comely to look upon. That gives more credence to the eye-problem theory. Having an untreated eye-disease would cause one's appearance to slightly disfigured. Paul worked from a point of physical weakness. "For when I am weak then I am strong."
    DHK
     
  5. Bro Tony

    Bro Tony New Member

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    Whatever it was sure puts the death nail in the name it claim it, health and wealth theology. That is unless these modern day "prophets and faith healers" are willing to say they have more faith than did Paul.


    Just a thought.
    Bro Tony
     
  6. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    With respect DHK, the context of 2 Corinthians is persecution.

    From Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. p. 80

    The greek used in 2 Cor. 12:8-10 is "tais astheneiais", which is "astheneia" in the dative.

    The word has a variety of meanings, including "want of strength, weakness, infirmity". It can mean feebleness of health; sickness.

    In the dative (as it is here) it can mean "to bear trials and troubles".

    That is exactly what Paul is speaking of, in context.

    11::23+ "Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thrist, often without food, in cold and exposure, Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? (v. 30) If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.

    Here, Paul is clear what his "weakness" is. It pertains to the persecution, opposition, constant troubles he endured for the cause of Christ. There is no mention, that I can see, of some physical ailment in this context.

    Just a few verses later (after speaking of his vision and his "thorn in the flesh" which tormented or "beat" him, he uses the same language as 11:30.

    12:10 "Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

    The "thorn in the flesh" is persecution.

    The reason this is so important is that all of us must be prepared to follow Paul's example of suffering for the cause of Christ. When the great apostasy or "falling away" occurs, those in the church who are not true Christians will quickly turn from Christ to avoid persecution.

    Christians should be aware that all who desire to live Godly lives in Christ will be persecuted.

    peace to you [​IMG]
     
  7. DHK

    DHK <b>Moderator</b>

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    Your argument is both misleading, and does not take into consideration other Scripture.
    First the context of persecution. You quoted from 2Cor.11, and then concluded that Paul was glorying in his persecutions which was his weakness. I don't know what version you were using but here is what 2Cor.11:30 says:

    2 Corinthians 11:30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

    You said that "astheneia" can mean "to bear trials and troubles".
    But that meaning of the word is not even found in Strong's lexicon. It obviously is an obscure meaning of the word. The primary meaning of the word (the same word used both in 2Cor.11:30; 12:9,10) is:
    The context of infirmity, which he "gloried" in, chapter 11, is carried over to in chapter 12. The overall context of chapter 11 was Paul giving a defence of his apostleship, showing the Corinthians that his sufferings were part of his qualifications, in comparison to the other Apostles. He had suffered just as much if not more than they in the service of the Lord. The theme there was not simple persecution, but suffering. For example being ship-wrecked is not being persecuted. But it is suffering. He had many infirmities that resulted from such sufferings, which led him to the conclusion he expressed in verse 30.

    But there was one infirmity, one affliction in particular that he singles out--just one. He calls it a messenger of Satan; a thorn in the flesh. Here the context gets very specific so as to rule out persecution completely. Persecution is wide and varied. It is plural and not singular. To make it singular he would have to be pointing to one single persecuter, such as Saul was before he was saved. He was a thorn in the flesh to the early believers. But persecution in general is not and cannot be a thorn in the flesh.
    It would go contrary to Scripture, for it is the will of God for every believer to suffer persecution, and Paul would not pray to be delivered from that which is against God's will.

    "Yea, all who live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."

    Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

    Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
    --This is the will of God. We must suffer. We must enter the Kingdom of God with much tribulation. Paul expected that. Persecution and trials in general were not a thorn in the flesh, but an every day part of the Christian life, and ought to be for anyone that is living a Godly life.

    He prayed for an infirmity. It was just one. It was in the singular. He prayed for IT. That the Lord would remove this thing, It, this infirmity. He prayed three times for this thing. He always refers to it in the singular. Persecutions and trials are plural. This was one particular thing. It was an affliction; an affirmity, a weakness of the body.

    You cannot fit a plural concept into a singular noun.
    The infirmity, that one definite thing that he was praying for, was no doubt, an eye disease.
    DHK
     
  8. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    DHK

    I have misled no one, and my opinion is based on a proper exegesis of scripture.

    Jesus prayed to God the Father that, if possible, the cup of persecution would be removed. He did so three times. Paul prayed that persecution would be removed three times.

    Please do not tell me my arguement is not scriptural. You are simply wrong. No Christian should just quietly accept persecution, but should plead to our Father that we and Christians everywhere be protected.

    I used the New American Standard version, and Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon. I don't believe "Strong's" is the only study help, nor is it the most thorough and accurate, that a Christian can use. You study what you will, but don't think everyone other than "Strong's" is obscure. You are limiting yourself.

    I did not just quote 11:30, but from 11:23 and onward. The "thorn in the flesh" statement is in the midst of a long discourse on persecution and opposition. If it were a physical ailment, you must believe that Paul would give a long list of specific persecution and opposition in chapter 11 without mentioning a physical ailment, then use a pair of metaphors (thorn in the flesh, messenger of Satan) to discribe some single unnamed physical ailment, and then return immediately to the same language he used when discribing specific examples of persecution and opposition.

    It is not impossible that Paul did so. However, you cannot deny the context of persecution and opposition in this passage.

    Seeing how nowhere in the context of this passage does Paul mention anything about an eye-problem, you are quite bold to assert it is "no doubt" an eye disease.

    Please show me from your exegesis of this passage how you concluded it was "no doubt" an eye-disease.

    peace to you [​IMG]
     
  9. DHK

    DHK <b>Moderator</b>

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    No he didn't. It was a cup of suffering. There is a difference. The cup referred directily to the sufferings that he would endure on the cross. It had nothing to do with persecution, per se.

    The argument is not Scriptural in the sense that Paul, in Phil.1:29 says that it is the will of God for you to suffer. Why would he pray for God to remove God's will. That doesn't make sense. It is not a Scriptural point of view.
    He says it is impossible to enter into the Kingdom of God without tribulation. Why would he pray for the Lord to remove the tribulation, if it is impossible for you to enter the kingdom of God without it? In fact he encourages tribulation in other scrptures "knowing that tribulation worketh patience." He is not opposed to it.

    I have Thayer's also. I have a number of lexicons. That is not the point. I also have a number of other translations, none of which translate it the way that you do. You have evidently chosen an obscure translation of the word over the primary meaning of the word. When one wants to prove their case that is often one way to do it, but it is not a good way. That is not the primary meaning of the word "infirmity." It is not the meaning found in almost any translation of the Bible, and for good reason. You will find either "infirmity" or "weakness," in almost every translation.

    I realize you quoted the entire passage. But as I previously pointed out to you the entire passage is not speaking of persecution. It speaks of Paul's suffering as an Apostle. He is giving his qualifications as an Apostle, his defence to the Corinthians as an Apostle. Read again:

    suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
    2 Corinthians 11:27-30 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
    --None of the above is speaking of persecution. The greater portion of what you quoted has nothing to do with persecution. Hunger is hunger; it is not persecution. The same with nakedness. And above all that the care of the churches. How on earth does that get to be persecution. It isn't! But it all falls under the category of his sufferings for Christ, and those things that characterized him as an Apostle.
    I can. I just did. I exhort you to read the passage more carefully.

    We know that he has an eye-problem from the book of Galatians. This is the one affliction that he asks prayer for. It caused him problems, in that he always had to have an amanuensis. But in this epistle (Galatians), he took great pains to write it with his own hand, even with failing eyesight. Compare Scripture with Scripture.
    DHK
     
  10. canadyjd

    canadyjd Well-Known Member

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    DHK

    I have addressed the passages in Galatians. And I take great pains to compare scripture with scripture.

    I also take great pains not to bring preconceived opinions into my study, though I understand that a lifetime of looking at a text from a certain point of view is difficult to put aside.

    I will read it all again.

    peace to you [​IMG]
     
  11. Linda64

    Linda64 New Member

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    Paul's thorn in the flesh could have been Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14).

    Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: (2 Timothy 4:14)

    And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

    IMO, the "messenger" of Satan could have been a person--just a thought.

    God bless
     
  12. Duckybed

    Duckybed New Member

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    [​IMG] Hi! I know a missionary who served many years in Africa. He is working on a book about his ministry and what God had done through him and his ministry by His grace. Whatever it was in Paul's life we can never be sure of it exactly. It is all speculation on our part, but the day is coming when we'll know becuase now we see through a glass darkly, but one day when we see face to face we'll see clearly. 1 Cor 13:12
    "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." Duckybed
     
  13. rbell

    rbell Active Member

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    You guys are all wrong.

    His thorn in the flesh? All those churches...can you IMAGINE how many monthly business meetings he had to hear about?

    [​IMG]

    On a (slightly) more serious note...I've always thought about how Jacob had a limp after wrestling with the "man" that night...carrying out that "an encounter with God leaves you changed" motif, I can see how the blinding light and the eye problems could be it...

    Then again...maybe it was business meetings.

    Blessings

    RB
     
  14. EdSutton

    EdSutton New Member

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    Let me be the first to welcome you to the Baptist Board. [​IMG]
    But watch out for these debate forums! :eek: Sopmebody's likely to take a swing. :mad:
    In fact, you might even find that two or three witnesses numb... [​IMG] :cool: :( :D
    Ed
     
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