Monday, October 12, 2009

A Thorn in the Flesh

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

I have read numerous interpretations about the scripture listed above. One scholar thought that Paul struggled against lasciviousness and another thought that he was burdened with arthritis or another painful health issue. Another writer assured his readers that Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' involved weight issues and that he had to live with continual frustration because no diets worked for him. I guess we all tend to project different maladies upon Paul, based on our experiences.

Recently I was reading in the Old Testament and came across several verses that gave me a new way to think about Paul's affliction. Here's one in particular:

But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Numbers 33:55

Maybe Paul had to put up with an individual who really tried his patience. Anyway, the rhetorical links support that as a possible conclusion. It's interesting to think about.


  1. Pauls' thorn in the flesh has long been a question in my mind. I am so grateful for this tie-in.

    Not to take away from this idea, but I hope someone can confirm something. It seems like an LDS (General Authority) author prayed to know what Paul's thorn in the flesh was and was told he anguished over holding the cloaks while believers were stoned. The burden was not taken from him. Does anyone else recall reading this?

  2. I'm not sure what Paul's particular thorn was, but I know the Lord can use one phrase to teach a million different things to different people and apply it to their situations perfectly.

  3. I suspect that if it was really anyone's business other than Paul's and God's, Paul would have been more specific. ;)

    I agree that the "thorn in the flesh" is a universally applicable concept, whatever that thorn may be for each of us (and they're as individual as we are, I think).

  4. One thing I learned from Gileadi's research is that great truths can be learned by taking note of the rhetorical connections. I like your conclusion as a possible meaning behind "thorn[s] in the flesh."