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Open Forum: What Was Paul’s ‘Thorn in his Flesh?’

October 17, 2007

In II Corinthians, Paul speaks of a mysterious ‘thorn’ in his flesh:

“Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, taht it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'” (II Cor. 12:7-8).

What is this mysterious thorn? Blindness? Women? Homosexual desire? Any other suggestions, especially creative ones?

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11 Comments
  1. Josh Reid permalink

    The liberal media?

  2. Hahah…. my background in hermeneutics tells me that a text can never mean what it never meant. Still, many of Paul’s biggest fans today would say that the liberal media is the thorn in our flesh.

    I think the thorn in Paul’s flesh is his homosexual desire, held in check by his observance of the Jewish Law.

  3. Phil permalink

    He had a vision of the modern church.

  4. Lisa permalink

    Thigh wound. Serious spiritual implications.

  5. Ian permalink

    Satan was reminding Paul of his past.

  6. Could it be that Paul’s past is less satanic than his present state (of writing Romans?)

  7. Ian permalink

    Paul didn’t seem to think so, but who knows?

  8. mike permalink

    the constant replaying in his head of “Abracadabra” by the mulleted pop singers Hall and Oats

  9. Jonathan permalink

    I am not sure what planet you pull Homosexual desire from but I think I have lost respect for your background in hermeneutics. There is no where in this passage or any other passage to suggest such a statement. This statement seems to have been made more to enrage then from hard facts.

    No one knows what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was preachers and scholars can speculate but no one really knows. It seems the most popular theory is he had some sort of eye problem.

  10. Hermeneutics is a theory of interpretation that exists because we do not have “hard facts.” That’s what necessitates it and makes it interesting at the same time.

    I am compelled by the idea that the thorn is homosexual desire because Paul seems to protest too much. While sexuality is significant, yet ultimately just a part of the human experience, Paul seems to use it as the benchmark of describing humanity’s depraved existence in light of God’s impending wrath. In Romans 1, he unfolds his Gospel vis-a-vis homosexuality as the quintessential sign of human depravity.

    Here, and later in the letter (Rom. 7), there seems to be some sort of psycho-sexual guilt that provides the impetus of Paul’s interpretation of Christ’s execution. Famous thinkers like Sigmund Freud have argued that the entire emergence of Christianity is borne of this guilt. Paul, a Jew, realized that his homosexual desire made it so that he could never attain the Law’s standard. So to is Christianity borne out of a frustrated fixation on failure; it’s father religion, Judiasm, sets an impossible standard of monotheism, which its people never followed and thus overthew.

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