From: Ben Crick (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri Jun 20 1997 - 23:26:31 EDT
On Fri 20 Jun 97 (11:14:40), email@example.com wrote:
> I think I understand Paul's understanding that the "thorn" kept him
> humble as he boasted in his weaknesses rather than in the great
> "inexpressible" revelations he had received in the "third heaven" or
> "paradise." I guess I'm asking for help in determining the source of
> the "thorn"?
KAI THi hUPERBOLHi TWN APOKALUYEWN. [DIO] [hINA MH hUPERAIRWMAI], EDOQH MOI
SKOLOY THi SARKI, AGGELOS SATANA, hINA ME KOLAFIZH, hINA MH hUPERAIRWMAI.
DIO is found in Aleph, B, etc., and RV margin; it is omitted by p46, D
(Claramontanus), etc., and Sigma (Byzantine text).
hINA MH hUPERAIRWMAI is found in p46, B, Sigma, etc.; it is omitted in
Aleph*, D, etc.
Most modern commentators seem to decide in favour of p46.
SKOLOY, the "thorn", could also mean a pointed stick or a stake or a
palisade. It bears this sense in Numbers 33:55 LXX; Ezekiel 28:24 LXX;
and Hosea 2:6 LXX. Was Paul thinking of his experience on the Damascus Road,
when Jesus told him SKLHRON SOI PROS KENTRA LAKTIZEIN? A KENTRON is a sting
as of a wasp, or a scorpion; but Jesus uses it in the sense of a cattle prod
or goad. Is Satan's SKOLOY a similar thing in reverse?
The locus of the thorn was THi SARKI. If this is a Locative Dative, then it
is a thorn in the flesh. If it is a /Dativus incommodi/, it is a thorn or
impediment for the inconvenience of the flesh. "Flesh" here could mean
"lower nature" rather than the physical body. Galatians 4:13-15 indicates
myopia or presbyopia or maybe glaucoma or chronic conjunctivitis or even
a cataract; but Galatians 5:16-21 indicates that it may be a lust of the
flesh which constituted the "thorn". Romans 7:22-25 reinforces this, as does
the Latin Vulgate /stimulus carnis/.
The source of the "thorn" was ultimately God Himself who permitted Satan
to buffet him with it. It was some sort of bodily ailment such as you
describe. It kept reminding Paul of his mortality, after he had seen such
a preview of things he could not speak about. Paul (speaking about himself
in the third person) had been up to the "third heaven" of "2 Enoch". John
in the Apocalypse was to go up to the highest heaven, where God's throne was.
"Therefore DIO (with Aleph and B) a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a
messenger of Satan to torment me." p46 and B give the explanatory gloss "to
keep me from being too elated" NRSV.
But what is a "messenger from Satan"? Satan is never called an AGGELOS in
the New Testament; could it be a human agent inspired by Satan? Elymas the
sorceror (Acts 13:10; 1 Thess 2:18); his "kinsmen according to the flesh"
(Romans 9:3); Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14); Hymenaeus and
Philetus (2 Timothy 2:17). Satan acts as an /agent provocateur/ as we see
in the Prologue in heaven (Job 1 & 2). King Saul suffered from "an evil
spirit from the LORD", presumably via Satan (1 Samuel 16:14).
To buffet KOLIFIZW is to smite with the fists, as Jesus suffered at the
hands of the Chief Priests (Matthew 26:67). Paul's list of beatings received
might indicate this (2 Cor 11:23-25). As his Master did, so Paul learnt
obedience through his sufferings.
I hope your sermon or Bible lesson goes well.
-- Ben Crick, BA Bristol, 1963 (hons in Theology) <firstname.lastname@example.org> 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)
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