St. Paul and thorn in his flesh?


When St Paul says that God gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble, what is meant by this and what is the thorn?


You may find some answers in this older CAF forum thread.


Didnt see much in that old thread. People speculating from epilepsy to pus oozing to opponents.

When i read that, I read that as the thorn being a vice, particularly sins of the flesh or lust. I am not certain however. Afterall, Paul did have a lot to say about burning with desire and marriage.


We are never told for sure, so any speculation on what it was is just that, speculation. My 2 cents thinks that it could be his eye sight. But that’s just me speculating!


I don’t think we need to know the exact nature of Paul’s affliction, just that it caused him a lot of suffering, but also kept him close to Jesus.


We know that he had a temper. He argued and disputed so seriously with John Mark, that the two of them split up.


I’ve been taught that temptations test our virtues, and sins, our falls, are a slice of humble pie for us. The thorn St. Paul speaks of is a weakness towards some sin, in my opinion.


My MX$2 worth is that it was not a body issue but a spiritual one.

Body issues are not particularly humbling for someone who lives by his mind; we all face them; but to one who loves God, a spiritual weakness that we cannot will our way out of is humbling indeed. Something for which we need to learn, “God’s grace [via the sacraments] is sufficient.”



I also think that the exact nature of the “thorn” was deliberately kept vague. In this way, any one of us can readily identify with St. Paul and his struggle, no matter what our own particular “thorn” might be.


:thumbsup:When we suffer it is a test of our faith, fidelity and love for God. Paul is up to the test with the grace of God.


The thorn in his flesh were the Gentiles to which he was sent and with whom he had to interact.

*But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as pricks in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. (Numbers 33:56)

now assuredly that the LORD your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, till you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. (Joshua 23:13)*

Remember that Paul used to be a Pharisee, raised from birth in the strictest sect of Judaism. They were scrupulous about separation from non-Jews. They wouldn’t mess around with Greek or Aramaic but spoke Hebrew only. Even the name Pharisee comes from the Hebrew word parus which means separated.

Paul struggled with this and begged God three times not to be exposed to the Gentiles. But God prevailed and Paul cooperated with grace.



“God’s grace [via the sacraments] is sufficient.”

“via the sacraments”? Be careful in adding to Gods word.

Proverbs 30:6
Do not add to his words,
lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.


Easy now! Go back and actually read the Bible. Jesus Himself instituted the Sacraments.

Did pastor not teach you this?


I believe the fact that the poster put brackets around the words shows that they are (in the context of the entire post and the post he referenced) A means of grace, not ‘the only’ means of grace, and that furthermore, he was not ‘adding to God’s word’. If the poster had NOT put in the brackets, you might possibly have had a point. As it is. . .you really don’t, because what you’re accusing the poster of doing. . .he didn’t do.


Thank you.



I was just wondering where “bible alone” is in the bible. Paul said to hold fast to both oral and written traditions… :confused:


In your reply, did you miss the following:

Luke 10:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

Jesus mentioned nothing about reading here. Nothing about limiting one’s faith by sticking to the fraction of His words that were written. He was speaking of the Spirit-lead Apostolic teaching. As I see it, to proclaim that all must be written is to disagree with Christ.


D-R Bible:

2 Cor:12:7 And lest the greatness of the revelations should puff me up, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.

Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 7-10. A sting of my flesh,[1] an angel, or a messenger of Satan, to buffet me. The Latin word signifies any thing that pricks or stings, the Greek word a sharp stick or pale: he speaks by a metaphor, as also when he says to buffet me; that is, by causing great trouble or pain. Some understand by it a violent headache or pain, or distemper in the body. St. Augustine mentions this opinion, and does not reject it, in Psalm xcviii. tom. 4. p. 1069.; in Psalm cxxx. p. 1465. St. Jerome also speaks of it in chap. iv. ad Galatas, tom. 4. p. 274, Ed. Ben. But St. Chrysostom, by the sting, and the angel of Satan, understands that opposition which St. Paul met with from his enemies, and those of the gospel; as Satan signifies an adversary. Others understand troublesome temptations of the flesh, immodest thoughts, and representations, suggested by the devil, and permitted by Almighty God for his greater good. — Thrice I besought the Lord. That is, many times, to be freed from it, but received only this answer from God, that his grace was sufficient to preserve me from consenting to sin. And that power and strength in virtue should increase, and be perfected in weakness, and by temptations, when they are resisted. St. Augustine seems to favour this exposition, in Psalm lviii. Conc. 2. p. 573. St. Jerome, in his letters to Eustochium, to Demetrias, and to Rusticus, the monk. And it is the opinion of St. Gregory, lib. 23. moral. tom. 1. p. 747. and of many others. (Witham) — If there were any danger of pride from his revelations, the base and filthy suggestions of the enemy of souls must cause humiliations, and make him blush. But these are to be borne with submission to the will of God, for his power is more evident in supporting man under the greatest trials, than in freeing him from the attacks. — Power is made perfect. The strength and power of God more perfectly shines forth in our weakness and infirmity; as the more weak we are of ourselves, the more illustrious is his grace in supporting us, and giving us the victory under all trials and conflicts. (Challoner) — When I am weak. The more I suffer for Christ, the more I perceive the effects of his all-powerful grace, which sustains, enlightens, and strengthens me: the more also the glory and power of God appeareth in me. The pagans themselves were not ignorant that calamity was the soil in which virtue usually grows to perfection. Calamitas virtutis occasio est. (Seneca) — Optimos nos esse dum infirmi sumus. (Pliny vii. ep. 26.)


This is a very interesting and plausible interpretation. I like it, but I always felt that it was a physical ailment that Paul had to struggle and suffer with.


Paul also had poor eyesight. He didn’t actually write Romans but had Tertius write it for him.

I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22)

1 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians were were probably dictated by Paul. He probably only wrote the greeting with his own hand.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. (1 Corinthians 16:21)
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. (2 Thessalonians 3:17)*

He even wrote in large print.

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. (Galatians 6:11)

Paul may have had his eyesight damaged when the bright light shone around him, but he says that the thorn was sent by a “Messenger of Satan” so I’m not sure.


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