â€œI was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations Iâ€™ve received so that I wouldnâ€™t be conceited.â€ (2 Corinthians 12:7)
For the most part, Iâ€™m glad good ole boy Paul, the apostle once named Saul, was ambiguous about his â€œthorn in the side.â€
Paul believed that thorn was a prickly gift from Satan, and prevented him from being conceited. It punctured the balloon of his vanity; it was the discarded banana skin threatening his next step; it was the â€œangelâ€ on a shoulder reminding him of his foolishness even as the â€œdevilâ€ on the other side encouraged him to brag about his Christ-inspired revelations and Godly experiences.
Professional and amateur scholars* have wondered about Paulâ€™s thorn for centuries. What was his â€œproblem?â€ Continue reading →
â€œThe gods of this age has blinded the minds of those who donâ€™t have faith so they couldnâ€™t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christâ€™s glory.â€ (II Corinthians 4:4)
Paul likely never read a capital â€œGâ€ Gospel.
The mercurial apostle lived and died before the second and third generation of believers began to circulate the manuscripts of what were eventually named Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.
Paul, who wrote the earliest words of the Christian Testament, knew the Torah. He knew the prophets and their longings, all meticulously inscribed on parchment. Those writings, including the Psalms memorized for worship, were Paulâ€™s reference points for the stories of faith that were written, taught, and proclaimed.
And yet he also had a story. Paulâ€™s small â€œgâ€ gospel tale was the good news, the light in the darkness.
In the reading of Paulâ€™s letters, both the ones scholars are confident he wrote (like the Corinthiansâ€™ correspondence), and the ones likely written by others (like Ephesians), he offered meager glimpses about himself: a devout Jew, a trained Pharisee, his place of birth, and a location when the voice and vision of Christ knocked him senseless and knocked a sense of Christ into him. We also read of his travels across interconnected Roman roads, of his preaching and imprisonments, and always his correspondence. Always! And yet, how much do we know? Continue reading →