Title of Abstract

A Thorn in the Mind: An Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12.7b-10

Session Title

History and Literature

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Faculty Mentor

Peter Judge, Ph.D.

Abstract

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul describes a “messenger of Satan” being sent to him in the shape of a “thorn in the flesh” to serve as a reminder that Christ’s grace is sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12.7b-10); however, the exact interpretation of what this thorn represents is unclear. I present a historical overview of this passage, along with the three common opinions as to what the thorn actually is—a physical ailment, an enemy of Paul, or, verbatim, a messenger of Satan—along with biblical evidence for each of these opinions. I argue, however, that an additional, equally valid interpretation—that the thorn represents, in modern terms, a mental affliction—can also be supported with biblical evidence. In addition, I discuss the evangelical Protestant Church, its view of mental health, and the role it can play in using 2 Corinthians 12.7b-10 to minister to those suffering with mental illness.

Course Assignment

RELG 495 – Judge

Start Date

12-4-2019 3:45 PM

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Apr 12th, 3:45 PM

A Thorn in the Mind: An Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12.7b-10

West 214

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul describes a “messenger of Satan” being sent to him in the shape of a “thorn in the flesh” to serve as a reminder that Christ’s grace is sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12.7b-10); however, the exact interpretation of what this thorn represents is unclear. I present a historical overview of this passage, along with the three common opinions as to what the thorn actually is—a physical ailment, an enemy of Paul, or, verbatim, a messenger of Satan—along with biblical evidence for each of these opinions. I argue, however, that an additional, equally valid interpretation—that the thorn represents, in modern terms, a mental affliction—can also be supported with biblical evidence. In addition, I discuss the evangelical Protestant Church, its view of mental health, and the role it can play in using 2 Corinthians 12.7b-10 to minister to those suffering with mental illness.