Thorn in the flesh

Last updated

Thorn in the flesh is a phrase of New Testament origin used to describe an annoyance, or trouble in one's life, drawn from Paul the Apostle's use of the phrase in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians 12:7–9: [1]

Contents

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (KJV)

Other biblical passages where "thorn" is used as a metaphor are: [2]

Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out [any of] these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Joshua 23:13

And there shall be no more a pricking briar unto the house of Israel, nor [any] grieving thorn of all [that are] round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I [am] the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 28:24

The standard English translation was popularised by the 1611 King James Version of the Bible. [3] Among earlier translations, the 1526 Tyndale Bible uses "vnquyetnes" ("unquietness") rather than "thorn", and the 1557 Geneva Bible refers to a "pricke in the fleshe". [4]

Biblical meaning

Paul mentions what the "thorn in his flesh" was in 2 Corinthians 12:6–7 when he said (Verse 6) "...lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. (Verse 7) And lest I should be exalted above measure through 'the abundance of revelations', there was given to me 'a thorn in the flesh'..." from "the abundance of revelations" and how people perceived him or "...man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me."

Paul does not specify the nature of his "thorn", and his other epistles do not directly address the topic. Throughout church history, there has been a significant amount of speculation about what Paul was referring to, although scholars such as Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, F. F. Bruce and Ralph P. Martin conclude that definite identification of the thorn is impossible with the evidence available. [5] [6] [7] Other scholars such as B. J. Oropeza, M. David Litwa, and Paula R. Gooder suggest that the thorn refers to the messenger of Satan who harmed Paul during his third heaven experience. [8] [9] [10]

The "thorn" is most commonly interpreted in relation to persecutions or hardships Paul faced.

Other interpretations include:

  1. One pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic writer thought that it denotes suggestions of impiety. [11]
  2. Paul's agony over Jewish rejection of the gospel
  3. A reference to Paul's opponents
  4. A physical ailment

Modern usage

The phrase "thorn in the flesh" continues to be used as a metaphor for "a source of continual annoyance or trouble". [12] It is synonymous with the phrase "thorn in the side", which is also of biblical origin, based on the description in Numbers 33:55. [12] As an example usage, the Oxford English Dictionary cites E. M. Forster's 1924 novel A Passage to India , in which Nawab Bahadur says, "I can be a thorn in Mr. Turton's flesh, and if he asks me I accept the invitation." [13]

See also

Thorns, spines, and prickles

Related Research Articles

Epistle to the Philippians Eleventh book in the New Testament

The Epistle to the Philippians, commonly referred to as Philippians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the Christian church in Philippi. Paul and Silas first visited Philippi in Greece during Paul's second missionary journey, which occurred between approximately 49 and 51 AD. In the account of his visit in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Silas are accused of "disturbing the city".

First Epistle to the Corinthians Book of the Bible (Letter)

The First Epistle to the Corinthians, usually referred to as First Corinthians or 1 Corinthians is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Sosthenes, and is addressed to the Christian church in Corinth. Scholars believe that Sosthenes was the amanuensis who wrote down the text of the letter at Paul's direction. It addresses various issues that had arisen in the Christian community at Corinth and it is composed in a form of Koine Greek.

Second Epistle to the Corinthians Book of the New Testament

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, commonly referred to as Second Corinthians or in writing 2 Corinthians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the church in Corinth and Christians in the surrounding province of Achaea, in modern-day Greece.

Second Epistle of John

The Second Epistle of John, often referred to as Second John and often written 2 John or II John, is a book of the New Testament attributed to John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the other two epistles of John, and the Gospel of John. Most modern scholars believe this is not John the Apostle, but in general there is no consensus as to the identity of this person or group.

Monolatry is belief in the existence of many gods but with the consistent worship of only one deity. The term "monolatry" was perhaps first used by Julius Wellhausen.

The Day of the Lord

"The Day of the Lord" is a biblical term and theme used in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as in "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come".

The conditional preservation of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian belief that believers are kept safe by God in their saving relationship with Him upon the condition of a persevering faith in Christ. Arminians find the Scriptures describing both the initial act of faith in Christ, "whereby the relationship is effected, and the persevering faith in Him whereby the relationship is sustained." The relationship of "the believer to Christ is never a static relationship existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience." Rather, it is a living union "proceeding upon a living faith in a living Savior." This living union is captured in this simple command by Christ, "Remain in me, and I in you".

Apostasy in Christianity

Apostasy in Christianity is the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian. The term apostasy comes from the Greek word apostasia ("ἀποστασία") meaning "defection", "departure", "revolt" or "rebellion". It has been described as "a willful falling away from, or rebellion against, Christianity. Apostasy is the rejection of Christ by one who has been a Christian...." "Apostasy is a theological category describing those who have voluntarily and consciously abandoned their faith in the God of the covenant, who manifests himself most completely in Jesus Christ." "Apostasy is the antonym of conversion; it is deconversion."

Matthew 7 Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 7

Matthew 7 is the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The chapter is the last of the three chapters which comprise the Sermon on the Mount.

1 Corinthians 14

1 Corinthians 14 is the fourteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Sosthenes in Ephesus. In this chapter, Paul writes about the gift of prophesy and about speaking in tongues. Biblical scholar F. Dale Bruner states that "edification becomes the theme of this chapter: in Paul's thought, the ultimate criterion for a gift of the Spirit is this: Does it upbuild the church?"

Bride of Christ Metaphor for the church in Christian theology

The Bride of Christ or the bride, the Lamb's wife is a term used in reference to a group of related verses in the Bible, in the Gospels, Revelation, the Epistles and related verses in the Old Testament. Sometimes, the bride is implied by calling Jesus a bridegroom. For over 1500 years, the Church was identified as the bride betrothed to Christ. However, there are instances of the interpretation of the usage varying from church to church. Most believe that it always refers to the church.

Psalm 116 psalm

Psalm 116 is the 116th psalm of the biblical Book of Psalms. And the fourth psalm in the “Egyptian Hallel”. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 114 and 115 in a slightly different numbering system.

2 Corinthians 1 Book of the New Testament

2 Corinthians 1 is the first chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Timothy in Macedonia in 55–56 CE.

2 Corinthians 3 Book of the New Testament

2 Corinthians 3 is the third chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Timothy in Macedonia in 55–56 CE. Biblical commentator Heinrich Meyer emphasises that the use of the plural 'we' in 2 Corinthians 3:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:6 includes Timothy in the writing of the letter.

2 Corinthians 12 Book of the New Testament

2 Corinthians 12 is the twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle and Timothy in Macedonia in 55–56 CE.

Colossians 1 Epistle to the Colossians, chapter 1

Colossians 1 is the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Traditionally, it is believed to be written for the church in Colossae by Apostle Paul, with Timothy as his co-author, while he was in prison in Ephesus, although there were debatable charges that it is the work of a secondary imitator or that it was written in Rome. This chapter contains the greeting, thanksgiving and prayer, followed by a "Christological Hymn" and the thesis of the letter.

1 Peter 3

1 Peter 3 is the third chapter of the First Epistle of Peter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The author identifies himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" and the epistle is traditionally attributed to Peter the Apostle, but there are charges that it is a work of Peter's followers in Rome between 70-100 CE.

1 Peter 4 Chapter of the New Testament

1 Peter 4 is the fourth chapter of the First Epistle of Peter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The author identifies himself as "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ" and the epistle is traditionally attributed to Peter the Apostle, but there are charges that it is a work of Peter's followers in Rome between 70-100 CE.

Isaiah 66 is the sixty-sixth and final chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is one of the Book of the Prophets. Chapters 56-66 are often referred to as Trito-Isaiah. This chapter contains an oracle delivered after the temple in Jerusalem had been re-built following the Jewish peoples' return from exile, and warns against "an unduly materialistic" approach to the worship of God.

Exousia is an Ancient Greek word used in the Bible, the exact meaning of which is debated by scholars but is generally translated as "authority". Paul the Apostle wrote that a woman should have exousia "on [or perhaps 'over'] her head", but the meaning of the passage is not clear.

References

  1. 2 Corinthians 12:7–9 multi-version compare
  2. Ezekiel 28:24 Joshua 23:13
  3. Crystal, David (2011). The Story of English in 100 Words. Profile Books. p. 118. ISBN   9781847654595.
  4. "Thorn, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press. January 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
  5. Hughes, Philip E. (1962). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. p. 442. ISBN   0-8028-2186-3.
  6. Martin, Ralph P. (2014). 2 Corinthians. WBC. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan. p. 611. ISBN   9780310520245.
  7. Bruce, Frederick F. (2000). Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. p. 135.
  8. Oropeza, B. J. (2016). Exploring Second Corinthians: Death and Life, Hardship and Rivalry. Atlanta: SBL Press, pp. 668-675 ISBN   9780884141259
  9. M. David Litwa (2011). “Paul’s Mosaic Ascent: An Interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12.7–9.” New Testament Studies 57 pp. 238–57
  10. Gooder, Paula R. (2006). Only the Third Heaven? 2 Corinthians 12:1–10 and Heavenly Ascent. London: T&T Clark, 2006. ISBN   0567042448.
  11. Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Thorn in the flesh", Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
  12. 1 2 Cresswell, Julia, ed. (2010). "Thorn". Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 444. ISBN   9780199547937.
  13. "Thorn, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press. January 2018. Retrieved February 20, 2018.