The Thorn in the Flesh

Frank Viola has revived and refined a theory of some of the Church Fathers that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7 refers to his opponents.  Only Viola goes one step further in thinking Paul may have meant just one person, “a messenger from Satan.”

His reference to Numbers 33:55, where Numbers calls people who vex you “thorns in the side”, is persuasive.

He goes back to the so-called Judaizers who opposed Paul in Galatia. He adopts F.F. Bruce’s understanding that the Galatians were from south Galatia and that the letter to them was one of Paul’s earliest.  I don’t find that persuasive.  But I don’t think it matters.  Even on the old theory of F.C. Bauer, that Peter (! ) was Paul’s main opponent, this theory would still work. 

I wonder if Paul thought of a person, but an angelic one (in other words, a demon), as his thorn in the flesh.  His thought world was different from ours.  The “one who restrains” in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 might also refer to an angel.  But these are obscure texts, so we have to admit that we don’t know exactly what Paul meant.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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