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Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

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  Liberty University Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

A paper submitted to:  Dr. Devin Hudson

In partial fulfillment of the Requirements for

the course NBST 522

Liberty Theological seminary

By

Steven Hervey

                                                                                  

Lynchburg, Virginia

Sunday, October 5th, 2008


 

Table of Contents

Introduction-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------1

Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”  as Described in 2 Cor. 12.1-9----------------------------------------1

Theories Surrounding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”------------------------------------------------5

Conclusions regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”---------------------------------------------14

Conclusion--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------16

Bibliography-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------18


Introduction

               “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh. . .[1]”   Ironically, these words written by the Apostle Paul in his second epistle to the church located at Corinth have become a thorn in the flesh of their own in the minds of theologians.  While most are able to come to grips with the reality of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as well as its function in Paul’s life, no universal theory has been presented to determine its identity.  It seems likely Paul’s original audience understood the exact nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” however; scholars today are left largely in the dark.  Although many scholars make inferences from what Paul has written in 2 Corinthians and elsewhere, Paul gives no concrete evidence to pinpoint the precise identity of his affliction.  Further, no significant sources outside scripture bring resolve to the issue.  With these facts in mind, many theories have surfaced on the topic.  While an irrefutable scenario regarding the nature of Paul’s thorn in the flesh may never be realized, scripture provides valuable insight into his affliction and permits modern readers to draw conclusions as to its identity.

Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh” as Described in 2 Cor. 12.1-10

Before delving into the various theories surrounding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” what has been written by Paul’s own hand must be analyzed.  The primary evidence surrounding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is found in 2 Cor. 12.7-9.  The initial information Paul provides is the reason the “thorn in the flesh” was given to him.  He writes “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. . . to keep me from exalting myself.”[2]  Paul’s mention of “revelations” causes his readers to refer back to the visionary experience he recounts in 2 Cor. 12.1-6.  Here Paul notes he “know[s] a man in Christ” who was taken up into what he calls the “third heaven” and was allowed to hear “inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak.”[3]  While no consensus has been reached regarding the exact nature of Paul’s vision, for the purposes of this work, it will be held Paul is referring to an experience in which he was taken into the very presence of God.  This experience may or may not have actually occurred; a point which will be discussed further as individual theories are considered.[4]  Following this vision Paul was apparently susceptible to the sin of pride as he notes the “thorn in the flesh” was given to him so he would not exalt himself.  Specific considerations of the “thorn in the flesh” will be discussed subsequently, however, for now it will suffice to say regardless of its identity Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” resulted in humility.  It was given to keep him from “exalting himself” as a result of the vision he had received.[5]

After providing a reason for the “thorn in the flesh,” Paul discusses its nature.  He writes “there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me.”[6]  Thorn is translated from skolops which is a “pointed piece of wood or stake.”[7]  The location of this thorn is the “flesh.”  Flesh is a translation of sarx and may be understood as referring to either Paul’s physical body, or the “unregenerate desires which remain upon salvation.”[8]  Within the canon of scripture sarx has been used to refer to either, however, here the understanding of sarx drastically affects the interpretation of the identity of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”  If sarx is his body this constrains the exact nature of the “thorn” to a physical malady.  If sarx refers to humanity’s sinful desires, Paul’s “thorn” could refer to any lust Paul may have been susceptible to. 

Whatever the exact nature of sarx, Paul declares the “thorn” was present to “torment” him.[9]  “Torment” in the original language is kolaphizo meaning “to beat with a fist.”[10]  From this description Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is to be understood as a source of great pain regardless whether the pain is spiritual or physical.   The images of a “stake in the flesh” as well as being “beaten with a fist” provide substance to this observation.  It must be noted Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was not a preexisting condition, but began following the revelations from 2 Cor. 12.1-6.  It was “given” to him presumably by the Lord for it was the Lord who was asked to remove it and the Lord who explained why he must keep it.  At this point in his life Paul had been suffering from this thorn for fourteen years without permanent relief.[11]  In addition to the pain it caused, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” resulted in weakness.  Paul records the Lord as saying his “power is perfected in weakness,” and Paul would “boast about [his] weaknesses.”[12]  This reference to “weakness” clearly refers to the “thorn in the flesh” establishing it as the source of Paul’s weakness. 

Paul describes the source of his pain and weakness as a “messenger of Satan.”[13]  This description provides valuable insight into the source of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”  Whatever was causing Paul pain had it roots in the activity of Satan.  It was not the consequences of a preexisting condition, something Paul brought upon himself, or the result of natural circumstances but had is source in the activity of Satan.[14]  Paul’s description of his “thorn in the flesh” as a messenger of Satan indicates this.  Messenger translated from aggelos literally means “one who is sent” indicating the source of Paul’s pain was under the direction of Satan.[15]

The pain resulting from Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” becomes more obvious due to Paul’s response to it.  He “implored the Lord three times that it might leave.”[16]  Initially, Paul was not content to possess his “thorn in the flesh.”  He wanted it to be taken from him.  He “implored,” literally “begged” the Lord to remove it[17]  He begged for relief not once but thrice and he finally has his prayer answered, although, it was not the answer he expected.  Rather than removing the “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord granted him grace to endure.[18]  Paul records the Lord’s words as “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”[19]  In this statement, the Lord’s purposes for Paul’s suffering are revealed.  The “thorn in the flesh” was given to Paul as a result of his “revelations” but was given to Paul in order to display the Lord’s power.  Rather than hindering Paul, it helped him recognize and depend upon the Lord’s power.[20]

Paul’s attitude regarding his affliction changes after receiving the Lord’s answer to his three prayers.  Rather than hoping for the thorn to be removed and ridding his life of what he deems as weakness he embraces his “thorn in the flesh.”  In 2 Cor. 12.9 Paul writes he will “boast about [his] weaknesses,” and follows this by declaring he is “content with weaknesses.”[21]  Paul welcomes his affliction once he understands God’s purposes.  Within Paul’s thorn two purposes of God are clearly established:  to keep Paul humble following his vision of heaven, and to display Christ’s power through Paul’s ministry.  Additionally as Garland notes Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is filled with paradoxes:  it made Paul weak yet brought him power, a messenger of Satan was used to empower yet the heavenly vision was not, and Paul could boast about the “thorn in the flesh” but could not tell a soul the “inexpressible words” he heard in his vision.[22]  Although the “thorn in the flesh” began as a detriment, Paul realizes the benefit of his affliction. 

Theories Surrounding Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”

            While there are likely countless theories regarding the specific details of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” within the scope of this work five major theories will be addressed:  physical malady, opponents, demonic attack, sinful desire, and parody.  The first of these theories to be to be considered will be physical malady.  Proponents of this theory understand sarx to mean the physical body and the “torment” Paul undergoes to be some manner of physical pain or deficiency.  Support for this theory is gleaned from Paul’s other letters.  In Gal. 4.13 Paul writes of a “bodily (sarx) illness,” and notes in Gal. 4.14 he was a “trial to [the Galatians] in [his] bodily (sarx) condition.”[23] Linking these passages to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is asthenia.  The “illness” from Gal. 4.13 and the “weakness” of 2 Cor. 12. 5, 9,10 are both translations of the word asthenia[24].  This lingual detail is absent from many modern translations but easily identified in the Greek.  Paul describes his “thorn in the flesh” as asthenia in 2 Cor. 12 and then writes to the Galatians about his asthenia.  Lightfoot notes the resemblance between these passages is so close the natural deduction is they both discuss the same subject.[25]  Additional belief in a physical malady is gained from Paul’s description of his physical body as a fragile “earthen vessel,” and a tent with no permanence.[26]  Smith further notes Paul describes himself as coming in “weakness,” and being “burdened excessively” by a weakness in Asia[27]  In addition to Paul’s explicit description of weakness in 2 Cor. 12 the information gleaned from other epistles he penned indicates a physical malady. 

            Additional support for a physical malady is provided by Paul’s prayer for removal.  The reasoning behind this line of thought is Paul asked for its removal upon each occurrence.  It is held Paul was afflicted with an intermittent disease which allowed for travel and ministry between outbreaks but debilitated Paul upon striking his body.[28]  Lightfoot, believes Paul was stricken at least five known times:  at the initial vision of Heaven, while Paul was ministering in Galatia, the reference to Satan’s hindrance in 1 Thess. 2.18, Paul’s mention of fear and trembling in 1 Cor. 2.3, and by way of inference made from the references in second Corinthian epistle and Galatian epistle (his reasoning is a fresh attack brought the subject to the front of Paul’s mind causing him to write about it).[29]  Clearly in Lightfoot’s scheme Paul was afflicted following his final request for removal but this in no way contradicts the scriptures regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”  Should Lightfoot’s scenario be viable, it provides substantial influence for a physical malady. 

            To further entrench the theory of a physical malady proponents appeal to Paul’s reference to a “messenger of Satan” as the cause of his affliction.  It would not be beyond the realm of satanic activity to bring a physical illness upon humanity.  Throughout the gospels demons are seen as causing muteness, blindness, and seizures.[30]    Any of these would have debilitated Paul.  Ramsay appeals to the practice among the heathen of Asia Minor.  He notes when one hoped to punish an enemy he would seek a heathen god for a curse described as “fever, chills, torment, pallor, sweating, and heats by day and night.”[31]  It follows in this case the “messenger of Satan” would be the demonic power behind the false god afflicting Paul.  The Galatians and Corinthians would likely know of such a practice and readily understand Paul on this topic.  Additionally one undergoing such an affliction would be held in contempt and viewed as one under a divine curse.[32]  This jibes well with Paul’s comment on the Galatians positive reception in spite of his bodily condition.[33] Certainly losing the ability to minister due to illness and being seen as one accursed would bring the humility Paul described in 2 Cor. 12. 

            With the above arguments in favor of physical malady in mind, many conjectures have been made regarding its exact identity.  The early church father Tertullian believed Paul suffered from pain to the head or ears.[34]  Many scholars including Lightfoot and Bruce have proposed epilepsy.  The seizures associated with epilepsy seem to concur with the demonic activity associated with a “messenger of Satan.”[35]  Certainly the “trembling” Paul wrote to the Corinthians about could in fact describe a seizure.[36]   However, other than this epilepsy seems to be unfounded.  As noted above Ramsay believes the disease was the severe fever accompanied by headache; an affliction which was common in Asia Minor.[37]  While this appears probable, it may reach beyond the realm of many expositors beliefs.  A final inference is Paul’s suffering was the result of an eye disease.  This theory appears to have a sound scriptural argument in that Paul notes the Galatians would have willingly plucked out their eyes and given them to him.[38]  Immediately preceding this reference is Paul had been discussing his “bodily illness.”  This proximity argues heavily for eye disease.  Price notes additional suggestions have been made including malaria, neuralgia, colic, rheumatism, leprosy, and certainly scores of additional possibilities remain unnamed among scholars.[39]  After reviewing the evidence, it seems the physical malady theory favors either epilepsy or eye disease.  All other suggestions appear to be mere speculation lacking the scriptural or historical backing required for sound logic.

            A second theory to be considered regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is human opponents who hindered his ministry.  This conclusion is drawn from the context in which Paul is writing in his second epistle to the Corinthians.  As a whole 2 Corinthians is wrought with conflict between Paul and those commonly know as “super-apostles.”[40]   In 2 Cor. 11 Paul addresses the deception he believes the Corinthians may have undergone through the ministry of false apostles.[41]  Paul further writes Satan is able to disguise himself as an angel of light and his servants follow suit by disguising themselves as “servants of righteousness.”[42] The natural connection is Paul is equating the false apostles with servants of Satan.  It would not be an illogical conclusion to equate the servants of Satan with the “messenger of Satan” Paul writes of in his account of the “thorn in the flesh.”[43]

            The argument for opponents is bolstered due to the results the “thorn in the flesh” produced in Paul’s life.  Paul writes the “messenger of Satan” was sent to “torment” him.[44]  “Torment” here is a translation of kolaphizo which describes the act of “beating with a fist,” a human activity.[45]  This “beating with a fist” could be literal as Paul records being beaten on multiple occasions or it could be a figurative description of the malicious activity of Paul’s opponents as they usurped his authority with false teachings.[46] 

            Further support for a human opponent is found in Paul’s description of his affliction as a “thorn in the flesh.”  A “thorn in the flesh” would have been readily recognized by Paul’s Jewish audience to mean an adversary.  Multiple Old Testament passages describe the enemies of Israel in similar terms: Num. 33.55 “thorns in your sides,” Josh. 23.13 “thorns in your eyes,”

and Ezek. 28.24 “painful thorn.” Mullins comments Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is strikingly similar to the aforementioned references.  Paul’s words hold enough resemblance to the Old Testament passages that in the Septuagint they could be readily substituted in any of the above verses without altering the meaning of the passage.[47]  A Jewish audience would readily identify what Paul had written with human opposition.

            Should the opponents be considered the source of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” an inquiry must be made regarding their identification.  Certainly the “super-apostles” of 2 Cor. 11.5 should be regarded as prime candidates.  In this regard Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” may be used to communicate his experience as well as mock these opponents. Calvin believes Hymenaus, Philetus or Alexander may be in view.[48]  Certainly, any of the wide range of opponents Paul faced during his ministry could be alluded to.  It may be Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the fact that his ministry would be riddled with opposition until the day he was martyred. 

            A third supposition, demonic attack, comes from a direct reading of 2 Cor. 12.7-10.  In this theory, “messenger of Satan” is taken literally to mean one of Satan’s demonic minions.  Ryrie notes the general function of demons is to advance Satan’s agenda on earth.  Surely afflicting an apostle would fall within this agenda.[49] Support for a demonic attack is found in the translation of “messenger.”  Translated from aggelos which is most commonly occurs as “angel” in English bibles.[50] A literal translation would be the “thorn in the flesh” is an “angel of Satan.”   Although demons are generally viewed as Satan’s messengers, it would not be beyond God to use demons to carry out his own purposes.  If God had “given” Paul his “thorn in the flesh” he could certainly use a demonic messenger to bring humility to Paul through direct demonic attack.[51]  Luke’s record in Acts provides ample evidence of Paul’s encounter with demonic powers.[52]  Scripture reveals God’s use of demons on other occasions to carry out his purposes leaving no basis for excluding Paul from affliction by a demonic spirit.[53]  It would seem that direct demonic attack is certainly a plausible theory regardless of the exact form the assault.

            A fourth understanding of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” is susceptibility to a specific sinful desire.  In opposition to a physical malady, proponents here view sarx as the sinful desires remaining after salvation.[54]  While this theory has found few proponents and Calvin holds this view to be ridiculous, efforts have been made to garner support.[55]  Appeals to scripture are made through Paul’s insinuation in 1 Cor. 9.27 that he must work to overcome sensual temptation.[56]  Further in Rom. 7.15 Paul writes of his struggles with sin saying he is “doing the very thing that [he] hate[s].”  Paul follows this up in Rom. 7.24 by describing himself as “wretched.”  Scriptures such as these lend strong support to Paul’s struggle with sin as a possibility for his “thorn in the flesh.” 

While not a proponent, Calvin provides further insight which legitimizes Paul’s sinful desire as the source of his “thorn in the flesh.”  Within this scenario “torment me” is seen as Paul’s awareness of his proclivity towards the sin which vexes him; a proclivity which leaves him humbled.[57]  The hatred of sin Paul expresses Romans 7.15 could be the source of his torment.   Certainly to be continually tempted or even take part in something you hate would be considered “torment” by the one undergoing the temptation.  To further entrench this theory, Calvin notes Satan is the source of all temptation and upon his temptation Paul became aware that one of Satan’s “messengers” were near.[58]  While not a theory widely adhered to Paul, as a human, certainly underwent struggles with sin providing significance to the belief proclivity to sin was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”

The final supposition to be considered regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” breaks from the traditional mindset associated with 2 Cor. 12.1-10.  Instead of viewing Paul’s words as describing a personal affliction, proponents of this theory view them as a parody generated to mock those who were opposing him at Corinth.  Several indicators of parody have been identified within both Paul’s description of his affliction and the verses immediately preceding it.  The first clues of parody are the fact that Paul never mentions his name as the one who was actually taken to heaven but states he knew “a man in Christ.”[59]  This could be viewed as an act of irony.  It is held Paul’s opponents had been presenting their supposed visions to the Corinthian church and Paul presents a sarcastic comparison.  In this theory, Paul follows his mockery by using his “thorn in the flesh” to describe the true nature of apostolic authority; dependence on Christ.[60]  A second indicator of parody is Paul’s use of terms such as “third heaven,” “paradise,” “thorn in the flesh,” and “messenger of Satan.”  Rather than describing the experience in a straightforward manner Paul veils his account in mystery.  By doing so Paul conformed his account to a style of mysticism found in the first century.  Proponents of this theory believe the opponents of Paul would have shared their “visions and revelations” in a similar fashion and Paul follows suit in order to mock what they had been doing.[61] 

Both Barrier and Price find parallels between mystic tales of the first century and Paul’s account of his “thorn in the flesh,” however, they do not completely agree on which mystic genre Paul’s account conforms to.  Price finds Paul’s account meshes well with the Jewish throne mysticism found within the Merkabah visions.  The Merkabah visions are characterized by an earthly being ascending to the heavenly throne room while being attacked by either angels or demons as he travels.[62]  These beings would be considered the “messenger of Satan” Paul describes.  Barrier on the other hand sees Paul’s account in light of the Greco-Roman apocalyptic genre. A genre the citizens of Corinth would readily identify with.  Lucians’s Icaromennippus and the tale of Bellephoron lend support to Barrier’s beliefs.  In Icaromennippus, Mennippus tries to fly to heaven yet finds himself hindered along his journey.[63]  Bellephoron, a Corinthian hero, is also attempting to fly to heaven but is hindered by his pride.[64]  Parallels are readily seen between these stories and Paul’s account in 2 Cor. 12. Both Mennippus and Bellephoron are both ascending to heaven much like Paul describes.   Mennippus’s hindrances could mesh well with the “messenger of Satan” Paul describes while Bellephoron’s pride coincides with Paul’s need for humility.  While not identical Paul’s mystic format does appear to coincide with the format of ancient mystical genre lending merit to parody.    While this theory breaks from the more traditional approaches regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” it cannot be completely dismissed. 

Conclusions Regarding Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”

            After reviewing the above theories, one reality which became apparent is each theory provides a probable explanation of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”  Completely ruling any one out would require considerable effort and necessitate information twentieth century Christians do not have access to.  The question to be answered is not which theory is probable, but which theory is most probable.  The following discussion will consider the obstacles toward acceptance of each theory and conclude with a final conclusion regarding Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”

              The first theory to be discussed will be parody.  This theory is reasonably interesting and certainly takes the historical background of Paul’s epistle seriously.  However, viewing Paul’s account as parody strays from the exegetical principles necessary for proper interpretation of scripture.  A key to exegesis is to read scripture for what it says rather than rather than forcing it to conform to extrabiblical information.  The proponents of parody do exactly this.  Certainly the Merkabah visions and the tales of Mennippus and Bellerophon resemble what Paul has written but to insist Paul is writing in this fashion requires connections which are simply not present.  Additionally, from the experiences others had in scripture there is little reason to assume Paul’s vision was not authentic.[65]

            The second theory lacking sufficient basis to be viewed as most probable is Paul’s proclivity to sin.  While proclivity to sin is certainly possible two major obstacles arise which hinder its acceptance.  A primary problem is this belief seems to originate more from the Vulgate translation of “thorn in the flesh” as stimulus carnis rather than from the original Greek.[66]  Secondly, it must be remembered Paul’s affliction was meant to rid him of sin not draw him to it.[67]  It seems illogical for God to combat one sin by allowing opportunity for another to take its place.  Throughout scripture, the mantra of God is to call his people to absolute holiness.[68]  To exchange proclivity to the sin of pride for proclivity to another category of sin does not mesh well with the activity of God as revealed in Scripture.  Viewing Paul’s thorn as a proclivity to sin can not be completely disregarded, however, it rests on a shaky foundation at best.  It seems to defy not only logic but also the character of God.

            Additionally, viewing Paul’s thorn in the flesh as opponents does not prove to be its most probable identity.  This theory is thoroughly convincing on the majority of its foundations.  It proves to be quite contextually sound considering Paul was writing against opponents.  Its appeal to the lingual similarities in the description of Israel’s opponents from the Septuagint provides valuable insight.  Additionally a “messenger of Satan” certainly carries with it connotations of opposition.  However, fault is found in Paul’s references to his thorn as a source of “weakness.”[69]  The common translation of “weakness” in scripture is “disease” or “sickness” and the Greek defines “weakness” as a sickness.[70]  While opponents could certainly be responsible for humility, and torment, it seems unlikely they would be responsible for disease.

            After discarding the above theories, only two remain for final consideration: demonic attack and physical malady.  In the final analysis, neither of these theories is easily discarded.  With this in mind, it may be most beneficial to see Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as combination of both.  It seems best to view Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” as an intermittent physical malady induced through demonic attack.  Grafting these theories together helps satisfy many of the conditions Paul outlines in 2 Cor. 12.6-10.    The most obvious condition is Paul’s reference to a “messenger of Satan.”  The most direct reading of this phrase clearly points to a demonic attack.  Secondly, a physical malady fulfills the requirement of “weakness.” As noted above, physical deficiency is well within the realm of a demonic attack.   Further, the intermittent nature of the malady satisfies Paul’s three requests for removal and aligns with his description of his ailments in Gal. 4.13, 14.  An onslaught of physical weakness could prove to keep Paul humble as well as cause him to enter a state of torment.  A deliberate disregard for either of these theories does not provide a sufficient explanation for all facets of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” however, through their combination all aspects can be accounted for. 

Conclusion

            In the final analysis of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” it must be noted regardless of pristine exegetical principles, faultless contextual analysis, or ideal historical reconstruction scholars and laymen alike will still remain largely in the dark regarding its identification.  Debate and discussion will never be fully squelched. Despite the confusion surrounding its identity, those who study Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” must bear in mind the true reality of the thorn.  Despite the confusion as to its identity, God had a purpose for Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”  Through it a God who is intimately involved with those who are called to serve him is revealed.  Through it the understanding that even in the painful circumstances in life God has a purpose is displayed.  Through it God discloses his authority over those who choose to oppose him.  Through Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” we see the importance of relying on the power of God rather than our own devices.  The details of the thorn may always be under scrutiny but the reality the thorn reveals remains.  God had a purpose for the thorn in the life of Paul, and he is using still using the lessons gleaned from Paul’s affliction to carry out his purposes today.  

Bibliography

Barrier, Jeremy.  “Visions of Weakness:  Apocalyptic Genre and the Identification of Paul’s Opponents in 2 Corinthians 12.1-6. Restoration Quarterly 47 no. 1.  33-42. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001562255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Bruce, F. F.  Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free.  Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1977.

Calvin, John.  Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999.  http://www.ccel.org/calvin/calcom40.html.

Deissman, Adolf, Trans Lionel R. Strachan.  1912, Google Book Search, 2007.  http://www.google.com/pdf/St_Paul.pdf.

“Epilepsy.”  Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008.  Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Garland, David.  “Paul’s Apostolic Authority:  The Power of Christ Sustaining Weakness (2 Corinthians 10-13).  Review & Expositor 86, no. 3.  371-389. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct =true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000818544&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Lightfoot, J.B.  St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians:  A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes and Dissertations.  1874, Google Book Search, 2007.  http://www.google.com/books/pdf/ St__Paul_s_Epistle_to_the_Galatians.pdf.

Mullins, Terrence F.  “Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh.” Journal of Biblical Literature 75, no. 4.  299-303. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direcct=true&db =rfh&AN=ATLA0000657466&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Price, Robert M.  “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Cor. 12.1-1-).” Journal for the Study of the New Testament, No. 7.  33-40.  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Ramsay, William.  A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.  1899; Google Book Search, 2008.  http://www.google.com/books/pdf/A_Historical_ Commentary _on_St_Paul_Ep.pdf.

Ryrie, Charles C.  Basic Theology:  A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth.  Chicago:  Moody Press, 1999.

Smith, Neil G.  “The Thorn that Stayed:  An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 12.7-9.  Interpretation 13, no. 4.  409-416.  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login. aspx?direct= true&db=rfh&AN= ATLA0000658182&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Bibliography

Strong, James.  The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible:  Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. Ontario:  Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996.  Electronic ed.


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[1] 2 Cor. 12.7, NASB

[2] 2 Cor. 12.7

[3] 2 Cor. 12.2,3

[4] Jeremy Barrier, “Visions of Weakness:  Apocalyptic Genre and the Identification of Paul’s Opponents on 2 Corinthians 12.1-6, Restoration Quarterly 47 no. 1, 42                                             http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001562255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[5] John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999), 279, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.html.

[6] 1 Cor. 12.7

[7] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[8] John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999), 279, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.html.

[9] 2 Cor. 12.7

[10] Robert M Price, “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Corinthians 12.1-10), Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 7, 36  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[11] J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations, (1874; Google Book Search, 2007), 187 http://www.google.com/books/pdf/ St__Paul_s_Epistle_to_the_Galatians.pdf.

[12] 2 Cor 12.9

[13] 1 Cor. 12.6

[14] Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, (Chicago, Il:  Moody Press, 1999), 190.

[15] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[16] 2 Cor. 12.8

[17] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[18] F. F. Bruce, Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, Mi:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 136.

[19] 2 Cor. 12.9

[20] F. F. Bruce, Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, Mi:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 135.

[21] 2 Cor. 12.10

[22] David Garland, “Paul’s Apostolic Authority:  The Power of Christ Sustaining Weakness (2 Corinthians 10-13), Review & Expositor 86, no. 3, 381, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct =true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000818544&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[23] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[24] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[25] J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations, (1874; Google Book Search, 2007), 183 http://www.google.com/books/pdf/ St__Paul_s_Epistle_to_the_Galatians.pdf.

[26] Adolf Deissman, trans. Lionel R. Strachan, (1912; Google Book Search, 2007),  62 http://www.google.com/books/pdf/St__Paul.pdf.

[27] Neil G. Smith, “The Thorn that Stayed: An Exposition of 2   Corinthians 12.7-9, Interpretation 13, no. 4,410, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000658182&site=ehost-live&scope=site.  1 Cor. 2.3, 2 Cor. 1.8, 2 Cor. 7.5 respectively. 

[28]F. F. Bruce, Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free, (Grand Rapids, Mi:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 135.

[29] J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations, (1874; Google Book Search, 2007), 187 http://www.google.com/books/pdf. St__Paul_s_Epistle_to_the_Galatians.pdf.

[30] Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, (Chicago, Il:  Moody Press, 1999), 188.

[31] William Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, (1899; Google Book Search, 2008), 423, http://www.google.com/books/pdf/A_Historical_Commentary_on_St__Paul_s_ Ep.pdf.

[32] Ibid., 223

[33] Gal. 4.14

[34] Neil G. Smith, “The Thorn that Stayed: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 12.7-9, Interpretation 13, no. 4,410,  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN= ATLA0000658182&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[35]“Epilepsy"* Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/189986/epilepsy., Matt. 17.15-18

[36] 1 Cor. 2.3

[37] William Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, (1899; Google Book Search, 2008), 425, http://www.google.com/books/pdf/A_Historical_Commentary_on_St__Paul_s_ Ep.pdf.

[38] Gal. 4.15

[39] Robert M Price, “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Corinthians 12.1-10), Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 7, 35  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site

[40] Terrence Mullins, ”Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh,” Journal of Biblical Literature 75, no. 4, 301 http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&  AN=ATLA0000657466&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[41] 2 Cor. 11.1-14

[42] 2 Cor. 11.14-15

[43] 2 Cor. 12.7

[44] 2 Cor. 12.7

[45] Terrence Mullins,”Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh,” Journal of Biblical Literature 75, no. 4, 301 http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&  AN=ATLA0000657466&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[46] 2 Cor. 11.24, 2 Cor. 6.5

[47] Ibid., 301

[48] John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999), 279, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.html.

[49] Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, (Chicago, Il:  Moody Press, 1999), 187.

[50] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

[51] Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, (Chicago, Il:  Moody Press, 1999), 197.

[52] Acts 16.18, 19.14

[53] See Judg. 9.23, 1 Sam. 16.14, 1 Kings 22.22

[54] John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999), 279, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.html.

[55] Ibid., 279

[56] Robert M Price, “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Corinthians 12.1-10), Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 7, 36  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site

[57] John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians—Volume 2 (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1999), 280, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom40.html.

[58] Ibid., 280

[59] 2 Cor. 12.2

[60] Jeremy Barrier, “Visions of Weakness:  Apocalyptic Genre and the Identification of Paul’s Opponents on 2 Corinthians 12.1-6, Restoration Quarterly 47 no. 1, 34                                            http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001562255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[61] Ibid., 33

[62] Robert M Price, “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Corinthians 12.1-10), Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 7, 36  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site

[63] Jeremy Barrier, “Visions of Weakness:  Apocalyptic Genre and the Identification of Paul’s Opponents on 2 Corinthians 12.1-6, Restoration Quarterly 47 no. 1, 37                                            http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001562255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[64] Jeremy Barrier, “Visions of Weakness:  Apocalyptic Genre and the Identification of Paul’s Opponents on 2 Corinthians 12.1-6, Restoration Quarterly 47 no. 1, 40                                             http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001562255&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[65] Acts 9.10, 10.3, 16.9

[66] Neil G. Smith, “The Thorn that Stayed: An Exposition of 2 Corinthians 12.7-9, Interpretation 13, no. 4,410,  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN= ATLA0000658182&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[67] Robert M Price, “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on 2 Corinthians 12.1-10), Journal for the Study of the New Testament, no. 7, 36  http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy. liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000782581&site=ehost-live&scope=site

[68] Lev. 11.44, 1 Pet. 1.16

[69] 2 Cor. 12.9

[70]   James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996), Electronic ed.

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