2 Corinthians 12:7
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.
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(7) There was given to me a thorn in the flesh.—The vague mystery with which St. Paul thus surrounds the special form of “infirmity” of which he speaks, has given rise to very different conjectures, which will require to be treated with more or less fulness. It will be well to begin with getting as closely as we can at the idea of the central word. The Greek word for “thorn,” then, might better be translated stake. It is used, e.g., of stakes thrust into the ground to form a palisade round a grave—

“And round about they dug a trench full deep,

And wide and large, and round it fixed their stakes.

—Homer, Iliad, vii. 441.

A sharp-pointed stake of this kind was often used as a means of torture in the punishment known as impaling, and the two Greek words for “impaling” and “crucifying” were indeed almost interchangeable (Herod. i. 128; ix. 18). So in Euripides (Iphig. in Tauris. 1430)—

“Say, shall we hurl them down from lofty rock,

Or fix their bodies on the stake?”

It is significant that men like Celsus and Lucian, writing against the faith of Christians, used the term “stake” instead of “cross,” as more ignominious, and spoke of Jesus as having been “impaled” instead of “crucified” (Origen, c. Cels. ii.; Lucian, De morte Peregr., p. 762). So Chrysostom used the word “impaled” of St. Peter’s crucifixion. On the other hand, medical writers, such as Dioscorides and Artemidorus, by whose use of the word, as possibly coming to him through St. Luke, St. Paul was likely to be influenced, apply the term to what we call a “splinter” getting into the flesh and causing acute inflammation (Diosc. ii. 29; iv. 176). Dioscorides, it may be noted, was a native of Anazarba in Cilicia, and probably a contemporary of St. Paul’s. The word used figuratively, therefore, comes to bring with it the sense of some acute form of suffering, something, to use a word of like history and significance, excruciating in its character. So used, it might, as far as the word itself is concerned, be applied to any sharp agony, either of mind or body.

The history of the interpretations which have been given to this mysterious term is not without interest as a psychological study. Men have clearly been influenced, to a large extent, by their subjective tendencies. They have measured the sufferings of St. Paul by their own experience, and thinking that he must have felt as they felt, have seen in his “thorn in the flesh” that which they felt to be their own sharpest trial. Some of these conjectures may be dismissed very briefly. It cannot be, as some have thought, the remembrance of his own guilt in persecuting the disciples of Christ, for that would not have been described as a “thorn in the flesh” nor could he well have prayed that it should depart from him. For a like reason, it could not have been, as some Protestant commentators have imagined, any doubt as to the certainty of his own salvation, or of his being included in God’s pardoning love. We may safely set aside, again, the view that he refers to his struggle with heathen enemies, like Demetrius, or Judaising rivals, for these had been included in his list of sufferings in 2Corinthians 11:22-23, and here he is clearly speaking of something generically new. There remain two hypotheses. (1) That he speaks of the conflict with sensual passion; and (2), that he refers to some chronic infirmity of body that brought with it constantly recurring attacks of acute pain. For each of these a strong case may be made out. In favour of (1) it may be urged that the language of St. Paul in not a few places implies the existence of such a struggle with temptation. He sees a law in his members warring against the law of his mind (Romans 7:23). Sin wrought in him all manner of concupiscence (Romans 7:8). He found it necessary to keep under his body, and bring it into subjection (1Corinthians 9:27). What has been said as to the question, “Who is offended, and I burn not?” suggests a special sympathy with that form of struggle against evil; and in the “fire-tipt darts of the wicked one” of Ephesians 6:16 (where we have the participle of the same verb), we may, perhaps, trace an allusive reference to impulses of this nature. It is clear that with some temperaments temptations such as this, besides the moral pain which they bring with them, may inflict a bodily suffering little less than excruciating, and the words that speak of the “flesh” as the seat of suffering, and of its being a “messenger of Satan,” at least fall in with the view thus presented. Nor is it enough to say, on the other hand, that St. Paul’s character made such temptations impossible. The long line of patristic, and mediaeval, and modern Romish interpreters who have taken this view, though of little weight as an authority, is, at least, evidence that they knew the bitterness of such temptations, and though their thoughts may have been coloured by the experiences of the monastic life and enforced celibacy, as in the story of the temptations of St. Antony, we may fairly read in their testimony the fact that sensual temptation may assail men who are aiming at a high ascetic standard of holiness. Experience seems, indeed, to show that the ecstatic temperament, with its high-wrought emotional excitement, is more than most others liable to the attacks of this form of evil. So the daily evening hymn of St. Ambrose includes the prayer, “ne polluantur corpora.” So Augustine bewails the recurrence in dreams of the old sensuous temptations to which he had yielded in his youth (Confess. x. 30); and Jerome is not ashamed to tell the history of such temptations, alternating here also with ecstatic visions of divine glories, to the female friend whom he exhorts to persevere in her vow of chastity (Epist. ad Eustochium, c. 7). It may be added that this view falls in with the tone in which St. Paul approaches “the thorn in the flesh” as the crown of all his infirmities. No self-humiliation could go beyond this disclosure of what most men hide. As in the confessions of Augustine and Jerome, just referred to, the last veil is withdrawn, and men are told that the man who has had visions of God is one of like passions with themselves, subject, as they are, to the strongest temptations of his sensuous nature. As in the triumphs of the Emperors of Rome, a slave rode in the same chariot with the conqueror, and bade him ever and anon remember that he also was a man, so here there was a continual reminder that he too might become as others were. If there was any danger of being exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, nothing could more easily bring a man down from that ideal height than the consciousness that this was his besetting temptation.

On the other hand, there are some serious considerations that militate against this theory. There is no trace of any sins of this nature in any of St. Paul’s retrospects (as in Acts 22:3; Acts 23:1; Acts 26:4; Philippians 3:4; Philippians 3:6) of his state before his conversion. His tone in Romans 7:25 is that of one who has fought and overcome in the struggle with “the flesh”; and it is clear from the whole context, that with St. Paul the “fleshly mind” does not necessarily involve sensual sin. The language of 1Corinthians 7:7 (“I would that all men were even as I myself”), which is the nearest approach to a direct statement on the subject, is scarcely compatible with the thought that, instead of the calmness of habitual self-control, the man who so spoke was all along fighting against impulses which were so strong us to bring with them actual torment. It may be added, as almost decisive, that St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, would use language that they could understand, and that there is not a jot or tittle of evidence that the word for “thorn” was ever used by any Greek writer of the sting of sensuous impulse. It was not likely, indeed, that they, accustomed to a licentious indulgence in this matter, would see in such an impulse any cause of pain and anguish. If the Apostle had meant this it would have been necessary for him to express his meaning far more plainly. On the other hand, there is, as we have seen (Notes on 2Corinthians 1:9; 2Corinthians 4:10-12; 2Corinthians 5:2-4), abundant evidence that St. Paul did suffer from some acute form of bodily disease. The very word “stake,” or “thorn,” or “splinter,” would suggest to the Corinthian readers of the Epistle the idea of corporeal rather than mental suffering. The “large letter” of his signature (Galatians 6:11), the characteristic “steadfast gaze” (see Note on Acts 13:9), the wish of the Galatians, if it had been possible, to have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him (Galatians 4:15), all point to brows and eyes as being the seat of suffering. The very word to “buffet” (see Note on Matthew 26:67) suggests the same conclusion. Nor need we be surprised that this infirmity—neuralgia of the head and face, or inflammation of the eyes, perhaps, in some measure, the after consequences of the blindness at Damascus—should be described as “a messenger of Satan.” That was, in fact, the dominant Jewish thought as to the causation of disease. The sores and boils of Job (Job 2:7), the spirit of infirmity of the woman whom Satan had bound (Luke xiii 16), St. Paul’s own reference to Satan as hindering his journeys (1Thessalonians 2:18), his delivering men to Satan for the destruction of their flesh and the salvation of their souls (1Corinthians 5:5; 1Timothy 1:20), St. Peter’s description of our Lord as healing all that are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38)—these are enough to prove, that while men referred special forms of suffering of mind and body, chiefly the former, to the agency of demons, they were prepared to recognise the agency of Satan in almost every form of bodily calamity.

On these grounds, then, it is believed the balance turns in favour of the latter of the two hypotheses. A more complete solution of the problem may, perhaps, be found in accepting it as, in some measure, supplemented by the former. I venture to think, however, that all or most of the facts urged on behalf of that view, may legitimately come under the words “lest I should be exalted above measure.” The man who is so exalted is in danger of sensual passions. The ecstatic is on the border-land of the orgiastic. He needs a check of some kind. If this were so with St. Paul, as with Luther and Augustine (and the language of Romans 7:8 must be admitted to point to some past struggles), what more effective check could there be than the sharp pain of body, crucifying the flesh with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24), with which we have seen reason to identify the “thorn” of which St. Paul speaks? One who thus lived as in “the body of this death” could thank God who, even in this way, gave him the victory over the law of sin (Romans 7:24). His sufferings were to him, as has been well pointed out by Dean Stanley (in a Note on this verse), what the mysterious agony that used at times to seize on Alfred in the midst of feast and revel, had been to the saintly and heroic king, a discipline working for his perfection.

2 Corinthians 12:7. Lest I should be exalted above measure — Made to think highly of myself, and to put confidence in myself, and thereby should be exposed to the displeasure of him who resisteth the proud, 1 Peter 5:5; through the abundance Υπερβολη, the transcendency, of the revelations — That is, the number and the extraordinary nature of them; there was given to me — By the wise and gracious providence of God; a thorn in the flesh — A visitation more painful than any thorn sticking in the flesh. Let it be observed, says Whitby, 1st, That this thorn in the flesh was surely some infirmity in the flesh or body of St. Paul. So he himself informs us Galatians 4:14, saying, My temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; (the original expressions, ουκ εξουθενησατε, ουδε εξεπτυσατε, properly signify, you did not account me as nothing, nor spit upon or ridicule me;) but received me, notwithstanding, as an angel, or messenger, of God. Whence we may observe, both that this thorn, or temptation, was in his flesh, or in his body, and that it was such as rendered him, in his preaching, obnoxious to great contempt, and made him despicable in the eyes of others. 2d, It is highly probable that this infirmity in the flesh happened to him after these visions and revelations of which he here speaks, for he says it befell him that he might not be exalted through the multitude of his revelations; and therefore must have been given him after he had that temptation to self exaltation. 3d, It is certain it was some infirmity of the flesh, which naturally tended to obstruct the efficacy of his preaching, by rendering it less acceptable to his hearers, and made him subject to reproach and contempt in the discharge of his ministry. This is extremely evident from Galatians 4:14, above cited, which Theodoret thus paraphrases; “Though I brought with me great ignominy in my body, you did not reject me;” and also from Christ’s answer to him, that his power was perfected in Paul’s weakness: that is, the greater is thy infirmity in preaching the gospel, the greater is my power in rendering it efficacious. In the same sense Macknight understands the apostle, observing, “I have followed Whitby and others in thinking that the thorn in the apostle’s flesh was some bodily weakness occasioned by his rapture, and which, affecting his looks, and gesture, and speech, rendered his manner of preaching less acceptable, and perhaps exposed the apostle himself to ridicule. Thus we find the revelations made to Daniel occasioned in him a change of countenance, (Daniel 7:28,) and sickness, Daniel 8:27.”

The messenger of Satan to buffet me — These words, being here put by way of apposition, must signify the same thing with the thorn in the flesh, and he must mean that he was buffeted by Satan, when, by the false apostles and ministers of Satan, (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15,) he was contemned and made the subject of their scorn, for this infirmity in his flesh. But it must be observed, that the original words here may be properly rendered, There was given me a thorn in the flesh, that the angel, or messenger, of Satan might buffet me. “Since, then, he calls the false apostles ministers of Satan, it is not to be wondered that he here styles them, or the chief of them, who thus reviled and contemned him for this infirmity, and laboured to take off the affections of the Corinthians from him, an angel of Satan buffeting him.” — Whitby. Lest I should be exalted, &c. — This clause is wanting in some MSS., and in the Vulgate version, being omitted, doubtless, because it occurs in the beginning of the verse. But the repetition of it here is not improper, as it is intended to draw the reader’s attention. The following observations of Baxter are worthy of every reader’s particular attention: “1st, Even the holiest Christians, after their most heavenly acquaintance, [their most intimate communion with God, and largest communications of light and grace from him,] are not out of danger of pride, or of being too much exalted. 2d, This spiritual pride is so dangerous a sin, that it is a mercy to be saved from it, even by bodily pain. 3d, God will hurt the bodies to save the souls, even of his dearest children. 4th, Satan, that intendeth hurt, is oft God’s instrument to do us good. 5th, Bodily pains are oft the messengers of Satan, and yet of God.”12:7-10 The apostle gives an account of the method God took to keep him humble, and to prevent his being lifted up above measure, on account of the visions and revelations he had. We are not told what this thorn in the flesh was, whether some great trouble, or some great temptation. But God often brings this good out of evil, that the reproaches of our enemies help to hide pride from us. If God loves us, he will keep us from being exalted above measure; and spiritual burdens are ordered to cure spiritual pride. This thorn in the flesh is said to be a messenger of Satan which he sent for evil; but God designed it, and overruled it for good. Prayer is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady; and when we are afflicted with thorns in the flesh, we should give ourselves to prayer. If an answer be not given to the first prayer, nor to the second, we are to continue praying. Troubles are sent to teach us to pray; and are continued, to teach us to continue instant in prayer. Though God accepts the prayer of faith, yet he does not always give what is asked for: as he sometimes grants in wrath, so he sometimes denies in love. When God does not take away our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives grace enough for us, we have no reason to complain. Grace signifies the good-will of God towards us, and that is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort in all afflictions and distresses. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thus his grace is manifested and magnified. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.And lest I should be exalted - Lest I should be spiritually proud; lest I should become self-confident and vain, and suppose that I was a special favorite of Heaven. If Paul was in danger of spiritual pride, who is not? If it was necessary for God to adopt some special measures to keep him humble, we are not to be surprised that the same thing should occur in other cases. There is abundant reason to believe that Paul was naturally a proud man. He was by nature self-confident; trusting in his own talents and attainments, and eminently ambitious. When he became a Christian, therefore, one of his besetting sins would be pride; and as he had been especially favored in his call to the apostleship; in his success as a preacher; in the standing which he had among the other apostles, and in the revelations imparted to him, there was also special danger that he would become self-confident and proud of his attainments.

There is no danger that more constantly besets Christians, and even eminent Christians, than pride. There is no sin that is more subtile, insinuating, deceptive; none that lurks more constantly around the heart and that finds a more ready entrance, than pride. He who has been characterized by pride before his conversion will be in special danger of it afterward; he who has eminent gifts in prayer, or in conversation, or in preaching, will be in special danger of it; he who is eminently successful will be in danger of it; and he who has any extraordinary spiritual comforts will be in danger of it. Of this sin he who lives nearest to God may be in most special danger; and he who is most eminent in piety should feel that he also occupies a position where the enemy will approach him in a sly and subtile manner, and where he is in special danger of a fall. Possibly the fear that he might be in danger of being made proud by the flattery of his friends may have been one reason why Paul kept this thing concealed for 14 years; and if people wish to keep themselves from the danger of this sin, they should not be forward to speak even of the most favored moments of their communion with God.

Through the abundance of the revelations - By my being raised thus to heaven, and by being permitted to behold the wonders of the heavenly world, as well as by the numerous communications which God had made to me at other times.

There was given to me - That is, God was pleased to appoint me. The word which Paul uses is worthy of special notice. It is that this "thorn in the flesh" was given to him, implying that it was a favor. He does not complain of it; he does not say it was sent in cruelty; he does not even speak of it as an affliction; he speaks of it as a gift, as any man would of a favor that had been bestowed. Paul had so clear a view of the benefits which resulted from it that he regarded it as a favor, as Christians should every trial.

A thorn in the flesh - The word used here (σκόλοψ skolops) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means properly anything pointed or sharp, e. g., a stake or palisade (Xenophon, Anabasis v. 2, 5); or the point of a hook. The word is used in the Septuagint to denote a thorn or prickle, as a translation of סיר cı̂yr, in Hosea 2:6, "I will hedge up thy way with thorns;" to denote a pricking briar in Ezekiel 28:24, as a translation of סלון cillôwn, meaning a thorn or prickle, such as is found in the shoots and twigs of the palm-tree; and to denote "pricks in the eyes" Numbers 33:55, as a translation of שׂכיםsikkim, thorns or prickles. So far as the word used here is concerned, it means a sharp thorn or prickle; and the idea is, that the trial to which he refers was as troublesome and painful as such a thorn would be in the flesh But whether he refers to some infirmity or pain in the flesh or the body is another question, and a question in which interpreters have been greatly divided in opinion.

Every one who has become familiar with commentaries knows that almost every expositor has had his own opinion about this. and also that no one has been able to give any good reason for his own. Most of them have been fanciful; and many of them eminently ridiculous. Even Baxter, who was subject himself to some such disorder, supposes that it might be the stone or gravel; and the usually very judicious Doddridge supposes that the view which he had of the glories of heavenly objects so affected his nerves as to produce a paralytic disorder, and particularly a stammering in his speech, and perhaps also a ridiculous distortion of the countenance. This opinion was suggested by Whitby, and has been adopted also by Benson, Macknight, Slade, and Bloomfield. But though sustained by most respectable names, it would be easy to show that it is mere conjecture, and perhaps quite as improbable as any of the numerous opinions which have been maintained on the subject.

If Paul's speech had been affected, and his face distorted, and his nerves shattered by such a sight, how could he doubt whether he was in the body or out of it when this occurred? Many of the Latin fathers supposed that some unruly and ungovernable lust was intended. Chrysostom and Jerome suppose that he meant the headache; Tertullian an earache; and Rosenmuller supposes that it was the gout in the head, kopfgicht, and that it was a periodical disorder such as affected him when he was with the Galatians; Galatians 4:13. But all conjecture here is vain; and the numerous strange and ridiculous opinions of commentators is a melancholy attestation of their inclination to fanciful conjecture where it is impossible in the nature of the case to ascertain the truth. All that can be known of this is, that it was some infirmity of the flesh, some bodily affliction or calamity, that was like the continual piercing of the flesh with a thorn Galatians 4:13; and that it was something that was designed to prevent spiritual pride. It is not indeed an improbable supposition that it was something that could be seen by others, and that thus tended to humble him when with them.

The messenger of Satan - Among the Hebrews it was customary to attribute severe and painful diseases to Satan; compare Job 2:6-7; compare note on Luke 13:16. In the time of the Saviour malignant spirits are known to have taken possession of the body in numerous cases, and to have produced painful bodily diseases, and Paul here says that Satan was permitted to bring this calamity on him.

To buffet me - To buffet, means to smite with the hand; then to maltreat in any way. The meaning is, that the effect and design of this was deeply to afflict him. Doddridge and Clarke suppose that the reference is here to the false teacher whom Satan had sent to Corinth, and who was to him the source of perpetual trouble. But it seems more probable to me that he refers to some bodily infirmity. The general truth taught in this verse is, that God will take care that his people shall not be unduly exalted by the manifestations of his favor, and by the spiritual privileges which he bestows on them. He will take measures to humble them; and a large part of his dealings with his people is designed to accomplish this. Sometimes it will be done, as in the case of Paul, by bodily infirmity or trial, by sickness, or by long and lingering disease; sometimes by great poverty and by an humble condition of life; sometimes by reducing us from a state of affluence where we were in danger of being exalted above measure; sometimes by suffering us to be slandered and calumniated, by suffering foes to rise up against us who shall blacken our character and in such a manner that we cannot meet it; sometimes by persecution; sometimes by lack of success in our enterprises, and if in the ministry, by withholding his Spirit; sometimes by suffering us to fall into sin, and thus greatly humbling us before the world.

Such was the case with David and with Peter; and God often permits us to see in this manner our own weakness, and to bring us to a sense of our dependence and to proper humility by suffering us to perform some act that should be ever afterward a standing source of our humiliation; some act so base, so humiliating, so evincing the deep depravity of our hearts as forever to make and keep us humble. How could David be lifted up with pride after the murder of Uriah? How could Peter after having denied his Lord with a horrid oath? Thus, many a Christian is suffered to fall by the temptation of Satan to show him his weakness and to keep him from pride; many a fall is made the occasion of the permanent benefit of the offender. And perhaps every Christian who has been much favored with elevated spiritual views and comforts can recall something which shall be to him a standing topic of regret and humiliation in his past life. We should be thankful for any calamity that will humble us; and we should remember that clear and elevated views of God and heaven are, after all, more than a compensation for all the sufferings which it may be necessary to endure in order to make us humble.

7. exalted above measure—Greek, "overmuch uplifted." How dangerous must self-exaltation be, when even the apostle required so much restraint! [Bengel].

abundance—Greek, "the excess"; exceeding greatness.

given … me—namely, by God (Job 5:6; Php 1:29).

thorn in the flesh—(Nu 33:55; Eze 28:24). Alford thinks it to be the same bodily affliction as in Ga 4:13, 14. It certainly was something personal, affecting him individually, and not as an apostle: causing at once acute pain (as "thorn" implies) and shame ("buffet": as slaves are buffeted, 1Pe 2:20).

messenger of Satan—who is permitted by God to afflict His saints, as Job (Job 2:7; Lu 13:16).

to buffet me—In Greek, present: to buffet me even now continuously. After experiencing the state of the blissful angels, he is now exposed to the influence of an evil angel. The chastisement from hell follows soon upon the revelation from heaven. As his sight and hearing had been ravished with heavenly "revelations," so his touch is pained with the "thorn in the flesh."

The best of God’s people have in them a root of pride, or a disposition to be

exalted above measure, upon their receipt of favours from God not common to others; of which nature extraordinary revelations are none of the meanest, especially when they are multiplied, as it seems they were here to Paul. To prevent the breaking out of which, the apostle here tells us, that he had

a thorn in the flesh given him. It is variously guessed what this was; he calleth it a thorn in the flesh; but whether (supposing flesh to be here strictly taken) he meaneth some disease affecting his body with pain and smart, and if so, what that specifical disease was, is no where revealed, and very uncertainly conjectured: or whether (taking flesh in a large sense, for his state in the flesh) he meaneth some motions to sin made to him from the devil; the importunity of which made them very grievous and afflictive to him, being in the flesh: or (as others think) motions to sin from his own lusts; which God suffured to stir in him, withholding such influence of his grace, by which he ordinarily kept them under, and in subjection; is very uncertain. The last mentioned seem to be least probable. For although the devil hath an influence upon our lusts, to excite and educe them into acts, yet it seems not according to the language of holy writ, to call these

messengers of Satan; neither is it probable that St. Paul would have reckoned these amongst the gifts of God unto him: nor was this an infirmity which he would have gloried in, or which would have commended him; nor doth the term

buffet so well agree to this sense. It seems therefore more properly to be interpreted, either of some great bodily affliction, or some diabolical importunate temptation, with which God, after these abundant revelations, suffered this great apostle to be infested; that he might be kept humble, and not lifted up upon this great favour which God had showed him; which, considering the danger of pride, might well be reckoned amongst the gifts of God to this great apostle. And so he here gives another reason why he would not glory in the abundance of his revelations, because God by this providence had let him know, that his will was, that he should walk humbly notwithstanding them; and it had been very improper for him, being immediately upon this favour humbled by such a providence, to have lifted up himself by reason of it. And lest I should be exalted above measure,.... Over much elated in his mind, and swelled with a vain conceit of himself:

through the abundance of the revelations; for he had not only one or two, or a few, but an abundance of them; and which, as everything does but grace, tended to lift up his mind, to stir up the pride of his heart, and to entertain too high and exalted thoughts of himself. Pride is naturally in every man's heart; converted persons are not without it; knowledge, gifts, and revelations are apt to puff up with spiritual pride, unless counterbalanced and over poised by the grace of God. This great apostle was not out of danger by them, for he was not already perfect; wherefore to prevent an excess of pride and vanity in him on account of them, he says,

there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me; many have been the thoughts and conjectures of men about what is here meant by the apostle. This ought to be allowed and taken for granted, that the thorn in the flesh, and the messenger of Satan, design one and the same thing; the former is a figurative expression, the latter a literal one, and explanative of the former. Some have thought that corporeal afflictions are here designed, which may be compared to thorns: see Hosea 2:6, and which are not joyous, but grievous to the flesh, and come not by chance, but are by divine appointment, and are designed and made use of, to hide pride from men; and sometimes, by divine permission, Satan has an hand in inflicting them, as in the case of Job: whilst such a general sense is kept to, it is not to be despised, without entering into the particular bodily disorder with which the apostle was afflicted, as some do; some saying it was the choleic, others the gout, others a pain in the ear, and others the headache; which latter it is said he was much troubled with; but these are mere conjectures: others think that the corruptions of nature are intended which in regenerate persons are left, as the Canaanites were in the land, to be "thorns" in the eyes and sides of the Israelites, Joshua 23:13. These, to be sure, were felt by the apostle, and were very grievous and humbling to him, and were no doubt sometimes stirred up by Satan, which made him complain bitterly, and groan earnestly; and it may be observed, to strengthen this sense, that it was usual with the Jews to call concupiscence, or the vitiosity of nature, Satan; for so they (a) often say, , "Satan, he is the evil imagination", or corruption of nature; and particularly they call the lust of uncleanness by this name; and it is said (b) of a young man of Israel, being tempted by a young woman of Midian, through the counsel of Balaam, that , "Satan burned in him", and he turned aside after her; and that the evil imagination is the old serpent; yea, they call this "the messenger of hell", a phrase very much like what is here used.

"R. Hona (c), as he was preaching to the children of men to take warning, said unto them, children, beware "of the messenger of hell"; but who is this? the evil imagination, or concupiscence, is that which is "the messenger of hell";''

and this sense is agreeable, provided the particular corruption the apostle was harassed with is not pretended to, as is by some, who pitch upon the lust of uncleanness, and spare not to mention the person by name, one Tecla, who, they say, travelled with him, and was a snare to him; but this is to do injury to the character of so holy an apostle, and to represent him as exposing himself to the false apostles, against whom he was guarding: others think that a variety of afflictions, reproaches, and persecutions, for Christ's sake and the Gospel, are here meant, which were as pricking briers and grieving thorns to him; see Ezekiel 28:24, and which were given and ordered by divine appointment for his good; this sense, 2 Corinthians 12:9, lead unto, and seem to confirm: others are of opinion that the temptations of Satan are designed, which, as they are called "fiery darts", which the archers of Satan, and his principalities and powers, shoot thick and fast at the saints, to their great annoyance; so may be here called, especially some very particular, eminent, and sore temptation, a "thorn in the flesh", very pungent, and giving a great deal of pain and uneasiness; others suppose that some particular emissary of Satan, either some one of the false apostles and teachers, who greatly opposed him, as Alexander the coppersmith, who did him much harm; or such an one as Hymenaeus or Philetus, that blasphemed and spoke evil of him; or some violent persecutor of him is intended. But, after all, I see not but that the devil himself may be meant; for, as before observed, the phrase "a thorn in the flesh" is metaphorical, and the other, a "messenger of Satan", is literal, and explains it; and the whole may be read thus, "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh", namely, "the angel Satan to buffet me"; so that Satan, who was once an angel of light, now of darkness, is the "thorn in the flesh"; and might be suffered to appear visibly to him from time to time, in a very terrible manner, and which was very grievous to be borne; he might by permission have great power over his body, as he had over Job's, to use it ill, to beat and buffet it; for this also may be taken literally: and he might likewise in other ways greatly distress him by stirring up the corruptions of his heart; by following him with his satanical injections, suggestions, and temptations; by raising violent persecutions, and instigating many of his emissaries against him; and this sense is the rather to be chosen, because it includes all others that have any show of truth. The Jews (d) sometimes make mention of the angel or messenger of Satan mocking at the righteous, and buffeting them; so God is by them said (e) to deliver Nebuchadnezzar , "to a messenger of Satan". This sore exercise befell the apostle for his good, to keep down the pride of his nature;

lest, adds he again,

I should be exalted above measure; for such ends and purposes does the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, deal with his people. The (f) Jews have a notion that this was one reason of God's tempting or trying Abraham with the sacrifice of his Son, to depress that pride that was likely to arise in him because of his greatness.

"This temptation (they say) was necessary at that time, because above, the grandeur of Abraham is declared how great it was before his enemies made peace with him; and Abimelech, king of the Philistines, and Phichol, the chief captain of his host, were obliged to enter into a covenant with him, and asked him to show favour to them, and to the land in which he sojourned; and perhaps hereby , "his heart was lifted up", in the ways of God; "and his eyes were lofty"; when he saw himself blessed with riches, and with children, and with grandeur and glory, as the glory of kings; wherefore God was "willing to try him": with a wall of iron, (this great difficulty) to see if there was any dross left in him.''

(a) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 16. 1. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 6. 2. 3. s. 3. 10. 4. 13. 3. 20. 2. 50. 3. 58. 3. 72. 4. 73. 2. 86. 1. 87. 2. 93. 1. 96. 1. 99. 4. 100. 4. 101. 42. 113. 1. & 133. 2. & 141. 3. &; 149. 2. & 152. 3. Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Lev. fol. 7. 2.((b) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 20. fol. 229. 1.((c) Midrash Hannelam in Zohar in Gen. fol. 67. 4. (d) R. Eliezer Katon de Scientia Animae, l. 10. apud Gaffarell. Cod. Cabal. Misc. pic. Mirandal. Index p. 23. ad calcem Wolf. Heb. Bibliothec. (e) Shemot Rabba, sect. 20. fol. 105. 4. (f) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 22. 1.

{3} And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me {f} a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of {g} Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

(3) An excellent doctrine: why God will have even his best servants to be vexed by Satan, and by every type of temptations: that is, lest they should be too much puffed up, and also that they may be made perfect by being continually exercised in them.

(f) He means sinful lust, that sticks fast in us as it were a thorn, to such a degree that it forced Paul himself who was regenerated to cry out, I do not that good that I would, etc. And he calls it a thorn by a metaphor taken from thorns, or stumps, which are very dangerous and harmful for the feet, if a man walks through woods that are cut down.

(g) Which sets those lusts on fire.

2 Corinthians 12:7. καί] is the simple copula, not even (Fritzsche). The course of thought, namely, is: For this reason I abstain from καυχᾶσθαι (2 Corinthians 12:6), and—to return now to what I said in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5—as concerns those revelations which I, though without self-glorifying, leave not unmentioned (2 Corinthians 12:5), care is taken of this, that I do not vaunt myself on this distinctio.

τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλ.] Dativus instrumenti: because the revelations imparted to me have a character so exceeding,—a nature transcending so utterly all the bounds of what is ordinary. The order of the words is inverted, in order to make the whole attention of the reader dwell on τῇ ὑπερβ. τ. ἀποκαλ., to which the discourse here returns.[367] Comp. 2 Corinthians 2:4; Galatians 2:10, al. See on Romans 11:31.

ἐδόθη μοι σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκὶ κ.τ.λ.] “Ex alto habuit revelationem, ex profundo castigationem,” Bengel. It is not to be connected so as also to take in ἵνα ἄγγελος Σατ. με κολαφ. (Knapp), nor is σκόλοψ to be considered as a prefixed apposition, and ἄγγελος Σατ. as subject (Tertullian, and probably also Chrysostom, see Fritzsche, Diss. II. p. 127). For it may be urged against the former, that an inappropriate relation of meaning would result from it; and against the latter, which Hofmann has again preferred, that there is no reason whatever for departing from the usual order of the words, since even with it the ἵνα με κολαφ. applies to the angel of Satan. The ordinary construction is to be retained as the simplest and most natural; according to this, ἄγγελος εατ. appears as an appositional more precise definition of σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί: there was given to me a thorn for my flesh, an angel of Satan.

ἐδόθη] by whom? The usual answer, given also by Rückert, Olshausen (“the educating grace of God”), Ewald, is: by God. See especially, Augustine, de nat. et grat 27: “Neque enim diabolus agebat, ne magnitudine revelationum Paulus extolleretur, et ut virtus ejus proficeretur, sed Deus. Ab illo igitur traditus erat justus colaphizandus angelo Satanae, qui per eum tradebat et injustos ipsi Satanae.” Certainly ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι is the purpose not of the devil, but of the divine will, without which the suffering in question inflicted by the devil on the apostle could not affect him; but just because the latter has thought of the devil as the one from whom that suffering proceeded, he must have conceived him also as the giver, because otherwise his mode of representation would be self-contradictory. Doubtless Satan is only the mediate giver,[368] who thereby is to serve the divine final aim ἵνα μὴ ὑπαιρ.; but the explanation, that Paul had wished to say (?) that God had permitted (so also Chrysostom and Theophylact) Satan to torment him (Billroth) is a quite arbitrary alteration of what Paul actually says. His meaning is rather, and that expressed in an active form: Satan has given to me a thorn for the flesh, in order to torment me with it—which has the moral aim ordained in the divine counsel, that I should not vaunt mysel.

σκόλοψ] only here in the N. T. It may mean stake, ξύλον ὀξύ, Hesychius (Homer, Il. viii. 343, xv. 1, xviii. 177; Herod. ix. 97; Xen. Anab. v. 2. 5), but also thorn (Lucian, Merc. cond. 3; LXX. Hosea 2:6; Ezekiel 28:24; Numbers 33:55; Sir 43:19, and Fritzsche in loc., Dioscor. in Wetstein), as, indeed, it may also denote anything pointed, splinters, ridges, etc. The Vulgate has stimulus. It is here commonly taken as stake, many, like Luther, thinking of a penal stake.[369] Comp. σκολοπίζω, impale, ἀνασκολοπίζω, Herod. i. 128. But as the conception of a stake fixed in his flesh has something exaggerated and out of keeping about it, and as the figurative conception of a thorn pressed into the flesh with acute pain might very naturally occur to him from the LXX. (Numbers 33:55; Ezekiel 28:24), the latter signification is to be preferred. Comp. Artem. iii 33: ἄκανθαι καὶ σκόλοπες ὀδύνας σημαίνουσι διὰ τὸ ὀξύ.

τῇ σαρκί] is most naturally attached to σκόλοψ as an appropriating dative (comp. Castalio): a thorn for the flesh, which is destined to torment that sensuous part of my nature which lusts to sin (in specie, to self-exaltation). Fritzsche, who, with Winer, Osiander, and Buttmann, takes τῇ σαρκί as defining more precisely the part of μοι (see as to the σχῆμα καθʼ ὅλον καὶ μέρος, more used by the poets, Nägelsbach on the Il. ii. 171, iii. 438; Reisig, ad Oed. Col. 266; Jacobs, Delect. Epigr. p. 162, 509; Kühner, II. p. 145), objects that τῇ σαρκί seems inappropriate, because it is inconceivable that a σκόλοψ should torment the soul, and not the body. But this objection would apply, in fact, to Fritzsche’s own explanation, and cannot at all hold good, partly because it is certainly possible to think figuratively of a σκόλοψ tormenting the soul (see Artemid. l.c., where, among the figurative references of ἄκανθαι κ. σκόλοπες, he also adduces: καὶ φρόντιδας καὶ λύπας διὰ τὸ τραχύ), partly because σάρξ does not denote the body absolutely, or only according to its susceptibility (Hofmann), but according to its sinful quality which is bound up with the σάρξ. The objection, on the other hand, that salutary torment is not the business of an angel of Satan (Hofmann), leaves out of consideration the divine teleology in the case; comp. on 1 Corinthians 5:5.

ἄγγελος Σατᾶν] Paul considers his evil, denoted by σκόλοψ τ. σ., as inflicted on him by Satan, the enemy of the Messiah, as in the N. T. generally the devil appears as the originator of all wickedness and all evil, especially also of bodily evil (Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 372 f.; Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 462). By the addition of ἄγγελος Σατ. in apposition to σκόλοψ τ. σ. the σκόλοψ is personified, and what is an ἔργον of Satan appears now, under the apostle’s vivid, concrete mode of view, an angel of Satan. The interpretation which takes the indeclinable Σατᾶν,[370] occurring only here in the N. T. (see, however, LXX. 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:22; 1 Kings 11:25; Aq. Job 1:6), as the genitive, is the usual and right one. For if ΣΑΤᾶΝ be taken as a nominative, it must either be a nomen proprium: the angel Satan (Billroth), or it would have to be taken adjectivally: a hostile angel (Cajetanus and others, including Flatt). But the latter is against the standing usage of the N. T., into which שָׂטָו has passed only as a nomen proprium. Against the former no doubt Fritzsche’s reason is not decisive: “sic neminem relinqui, qui ablegare Satanam potuerit” (comp. Rückert), since Satan in his original nature was an angel, and might retain that appellation without the point of view of the sending coming further into consideration; nor can we, with Olshausen, urge the absence of the article, since ἌΓΓ. ΣΑΤ. might have assumed the nature of a proper name; but the actual usage is against it, for Satan, so often as he occurs in the N. T., is never named ἄγγελος (Revelation 9:11 is not to the point here, see Düsterdieck in loc.), which was a very natural result of the altered position of the devil, who, from being an ἌΓΓΕΛΟς before, had become the prince (Ephesians 2:2) of his kingdom, and now had angels of his own (Matthew 25:41, comp. Barnab. 18).

ἵνα με κολαφίζῃ] design of the giver in ἐδόθη μοι κ.τ.λ.: in order that he may buffet me (Matthew 26:67; 1 Corinthians 4:11; 1 Peter 2:20). The present denotes the still subsisting continuance of the suffering. See Theophyl.: οὐχ ἵνα ἅπαξ με κολαφίσῃ, ἀλλʼ ἀεί. Comp. Chrysostom. The subject is ἌΓΓΕΛΟς ΣΑΤᾶΝ, as indeed often the continuation of the discourse attaches itself to the apposition, not to the subject proper. See Fritzsche, Diss. II. p. 143 f. Fritzsche himself, indeed, regards σκόλοψ as the subject,[371] and assumes that the vivid conception of the apostle has transferred to the subject what properly belongs only to the apposition, to which view he had been moved by the similar sound of σκόλοψ and κολαφίζῃ, as well as by the personification of σκόλοψ. But how easily might he have found a word which would have suited the conception of the personified σκόλοψ, and would not have been inappropriate to the apposition ἄγγ. Σατ.! But in fact he has chosen a word which does not suit σκόλοψ at all, and suits ἄγγ. Σατ. exclusively, and hence we are not warranted in denying that the word belongs to ἄγγ. Σατ. Besides, this connection is most naturally suggested by the relations of the sense; for only by ἵνα με κολαφ. does ἄγγ. Σατ. come to be a complete apposition to σκόλοψ τ. σ., inasmuch as the element of pain in the case expressed in σκόλοψ τ. σ. is not yet implied in the mere ἄγγ. Σατᾶν, but is only added by ἵνα με κολαφ.

ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι] paedagogic aim of God’s guidance in this κολαφίζειν. See above. The devil and his angels serve, against their intention, the intention of God. See Hahn, Theol. d. N. T. I. p. 382 f. In the repetition of the same words there is expressed the deeply felt importance of this telic destination. See Heindorf, ad Phaed. p. 51 ff.; Matthiae, p. 1541. Comp. also Bornemann, Schol. in Luc. p. xxxix.

Lastly, as concerning the thing itself, which Paul denotes by σκόλοψ τ. σ. κ.τ.λ., it was certainly known by the Corinthians from their personal acquaintance with Paul without any more precise indication; to us at least any special indication has been denied. For a great host of attempts at explanation, some of them very odd, see Poole’s Synopsis; Calovius, Bibl. ill. p. 518 ff.; Wolf, Cur. The opinions are in the main of three kinds: (1) that Paul means spiritual assaults of the devil (what are called injectiones Satanae), who suggested to him blasphemous thoughts (Gerson, Luther, Calovius), stings of conscience over his earlier life (Luc. Osiander, Mosheim; also Osiander, who includes also a bodily suffering), and the like. The Catholics, however, to whom such an exposition, favouring forms of monastic temptation, could not but be welcome, thought usually of enticements of Satan (awakened, according to Cardinal Hugo, by association with the beautiful Thecla!)[372] to unchastity (Thomas, Lyra, Bellarmine, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, and many others, and still Bisping), for which Augustine and Theophylact are often wrongly quoted as vouchers. (2) That Paul means the temptations on the part of his opponents[373] engaged in the service of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15), or the temptations and troubles of his apostolic office in general (Theodoret, Pelagius, Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, and many others, including Fritzsche, Schrader, Reiche, Comm. crit. p. 401). (3) That Paul means a very severe bodily suffering (Augustine and many others, including Delitzsch and Hofmann), in connection with which conjecture has lighted on a variety of ailments, such as hypochondriac melancholy (Bartholinus, Wedel, and others), pain in the head (τίνες already in Chrysostom, Theophylact, Pelagius, Oecumenius, and Jerome, ad Galatians 4:14, mention it; so also Teller), haemorrhoids (Bertholdt), “falling sickness or something similar” (Ewald, Hofmann), epileptic attacks of cramp (Ziegler, Holsten), and several others.

Against No. 1 we cannot urge τῇ σαρκί, since the devil’s influence would have, in operating on the moral consciousness, to start certainly from the σάρξ, where the principle of sin has its seat (Romans 7), but we may urge σκόλοψ and ἵνα με κολαφ., figurative expressions which evidently portray an acute and severe pain. Besides, under such a constant spiritual influence of the devil, Paul would not appear in a manner in keeping with his nature wholly filled by Christ (see especially, Galatians 2:20), and with his pneumatic heroism. Enticements to unchastity are not even to be remotely thought of on account of 1 Corinthians 7:7; it would be an outrage on the great apostle. Against No. 2 it is to be remarked that here a suffering quite peculiar must be meant, as a counterpoise to the quite peculiar distinction which had accrued to him by the ὑπερβολὴ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. Besides, adversaries and official troubles belonged necessarily to his calling (see especially, 2 Corinthians 4:7 ff., 2 Corinthians 6:4 ff.), as, indeed, he had these in common with all true preachers of Christ, and knew how to find an honour in them (comp. Galatians 6:17); hence he would certainly not have besought the taking away of these sufferings, 2 Corinthians 12:8. It is believed, no doubt, that this explanation may be shown to suit the context by 2 Corinthians 12:9 compared with 2 Corinthians 12:10 (see especially, Fritzsche, p. 152 f.), but ἀσθένεια in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 expresses only the category, to which also that special suffering belonged. Accordingly No. 3 remains at all events as the most probable, namely, the hypothesis that Paul bore in his person some kind of painful, chronic bodily evil, which seemed to him as inflicted by Satan.[374] Only this evil cannot at all be specified more precisely than that it made itself felt in its paroxysms by shocks of pain, which might be compared to blows; but in what part of the body it had its seat (possibly proceeding from the head) cannot with certainty be inferred from κολαφίζειν, since this word, like the more correct Greek κονδυλίζειν, denotes buffeting with the fist. More specific conjectures are mere fancies, are liable to be enlisted in the service of tendency-criticism (Holsten, who attaches to this suffering the disposition to visionary conditions), and come to some extent into sharp collision with the fact of the apostle’s extraordinary activity and perseverance amid bodily hardships. The hypothesis of a bodily suffering, with the renunciation of any attempt to specify it more precisely, is rightly adhered to, after older expositors, by Emmerling, Olshausen, Rückert, de Wette, Beyschlag, et al. (though Rückert here also appeals to the alleged traces of sickness in our Epistles, such as 1 Corinthians 2:2, 2 Corinthians 4:12, as well as to Galatians 4:13-15); while others, as Neander and Billroth, content themselves with an utter non liquet, although the former is inclined to think of inward temptations.[375]

[367] Lachmann, who has adopted διό before ἵνα (see the critical remarks), puts the whole of ver. 6, ἐὰνἐξ ἐμοῦ, in a parenthesis, and places a full stop after ἀποκαλύψεων in ver. 7, so that κ. τῇ ὑπερβ. τ. ἀποκαλ. goes with εἰ μὴ ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις (Lachmann has struck out μου, but on too slender authority) in ver. 5, and διὸ ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι begins a new sentence. But in that case not only would καὶ τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλ. come in haltingly after a very isolated and, as it were, forlorn fashion, but Paul would have given to the parenthesis an illogical position. Logically he must have written: ὑπὲρ δὲ ἐμαυτοῦ οὐ καυχήσομαι (ἐὰν γὰρ θελήσω καυχήσασθαιἐξ ἐμοῦ) εἰ μὴ ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις καὶ τῇ ὑπερβολῇ τῶν ἀποκαλύψεων. Ewald follows Lachmann’s reading, but, not assuming any parenthesis, attaches καὶ τῇ ὑπερβ. τῶν ἀποκαλ. to μή τις εἰς ἐμὲ λογίσηται κ.τ.λ., and that in the sense: even by these abundant disclosures led astray, if I should express myself, namely, as to their contents. But apart from the consideration that Paul would have expressed such a sense too unintelligibly by the mere dative and without more precise definition, utterances regarding the contents of the ἀποκαλύψεις, had he made them, would have fallen within the category of what is denoted by ἢ ἀκούει τὶ ἐξ ἐμοῦ, and consequently in so far the logical accuracy of μή τις εἰς ἐμὲ λογ. κ.τ.λ. would fail.

[368] Comp. Hofmann: “an evil which befalls him in accordance with God’s will, but through the working of a spiritual power opposed to God.”

[369] In the gloss: “It is a stake, where people are impaled, or crucified, or hanged.”

[370] Σατανᾶ, read by Lachmann and Rückert on the authority of Δ* B D* F G א* 67**, is a correct interpretation.

[371] Comp. Augustine, Conc. 2 in Psalms 58 : “Accepit apost. stimulum carnis, a quo colaphizaretur.”2 Corinthians 12:7-10. HIS “THORN IN THE FLESH”.7–10. The Thorn in the Flesh

7. And lest I should be exalted above measure] Rather, ‘lest I should be too much exalted.’

a thorn in the flesh] See Introduction.

the messenger of Satan] Or, an angel of Satan. Cf. Matthew 12:45; Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:9.2 Corinthians 12:7. Ἵνα μὴ ὑπεραίρωμαι, lest I should be exalted) In all the things, which Paul did, and which rendered him great, beloved, and admired among men, he might be less worthy of praise [elated] than in those, of which he was alone conscious to himself. The mind is vain and weak, which applauds itself on account of the applause of men. The better things [the preferable objects of desire] are within. [How dangerous must the exaltation of one’s self be, when the apostle required so much restraint.—V. g.]—σκόλοψ) Hesychius: σκόλοπες, ὀξέα ξύλα ὀρθὰ, σταυροί, a sharp pointed stake is denoted; comp. the LXX., Numbers 33:55; Ezekiel 28:24. This general word is presently explained in a particular manner by those buffetings: and this double explanation does not require a third, variously attempted by those, who give a wrong meaning to the buffetings.—τῇ σαρκὶ, in the flesh) The ablative case, in the flesh, for the purpose of macerating the flesh. The same case occurs, 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1; 1 Peter 4:6. This weakness was greater than all those, which had been enumerated in the preceding chapter, and that he might give an account of this weakness, he considered it necessary to mention revelations.—Ἄγγελος Σατᾶν, the messenger of Satan) Paul, after having had some experience of the state of the blessed angels, begins now to discover an angel of a different description. The word Σατᾶν only occurs in the LXX. twice or thrice, and that too as indeclinable; but Σατανᾶς is declined in thirty-four places in the New Testament, and among these, nine times by Paul; and in this single passage it is used as an indeclinable noun, by a well-weighed apocope [the loss of a syllable at the end], certainly not without good reason. Ἄγγελος Σατᾶν then does not seem in this passage to be in apposition, as if it were said the angel Satan for the devil, for the devil is nowhere called an angel, but he himself has his angels. Therefore Satan is either a proper name in the genitive or an adjective in the nominative, so that there is denoted either an angel sent by Satan or a very destructive angel, an angel like Satan himself or the devil, as distinguished from the fact of his being sent by Satan. The ambiguity seems to intimate, that the apostle himself, with a view to his greater humiliation, must have been ignorant of what was the character of this angel. He had a revelation from heaven, a chastisement from hell. Job and Paul were harassed by an enemy: the angel of the Lord struck Herod.—ἵνα με, that me) Therefore Paul is not the angel himself (comp. however Num. as above quoted [wherein the Israelites are represented as making the inhabitants of the land whom they drive not out thorns in their sides]), but what is stated is, that the angel harassed Paul with blows: ἵνα, that is again elegantly placed in the middle of the clause, that the antithesis may twice precede the particle, twice follow it. For the excellence of the revelations and the angel of Satan are in antithesis, and likewise to be exalted and to be buffeted.—κολαφίζῃ, buffet) With blows (μεγάλαις ἁφαῖς; for this is considered the original root, by Eustathius). Slaves were beaten, 1 Peter 2:20, nor is there any obstacle to its being taken here in its proper acceptation, Job 2:6-7. For if the apostles and the Lord Himself received blows and other troubles from men, ch. 2 Corinthians 11:24-25; 1 Corinthians 4:11; Matthew 26:67, comp. 2 Corinthians 4:5; why should not Paul receive such from Satan or his angel, either visibly or invisibly. Such evils also befel Antony, as Athanasius mentions in his life. Opposition of every kind came in the way of the apostle, 2 Corinthians 12:10, which he did not deprecate, but here he mentions something in particular, which harassed him with infirmities and met [counteracted] his exaltation with pain and disgrace, even more so or at least not less than the rage of lust, which has been excited in the members of the body (with which how wonderfully very holy souls may be tormented, may be learned by reading the writings of Ephraim Syrus, of Estius on this passage, of Joh. a Cruce and P. M. Petruccius), or the most violent headaches. Paul had become as it were of late afraid of the recurring attacks of these blows, inasmuch as he restrains himself in the time of boasting with such frequency as a reader in his natural state would despise and of which he would be weary. Chrysostom remarks, that Paul says κολαφίζῃ, that it may buffet, not κολαφίσῃ, that it might buffet, as concerning the present. The sight and hearing of Paul had been directed to the most magnificent objects: The touch [for the thorn was in the flesh] had been most severely tormented.Verses 7-10. - The thorn in the flesh. Verse 7. - Lest I should be exalted above measure; literally, that I may not be over exalted. It was necessary to show St. Paul that he only held the treasure in an earthen vessel. There was given me. Even God's afflictions are meant for gifts. A thorn (skolops). The more usual meaning is, as Hesychius says, "a sharp stake" ('Sudes,' Tert.). Hence the word skolopizo, I impale or crucify. St. Paul's agony was an impalement or crucifixion of all sensual impulses and earthly ambitions. In the flesh. There have been endless conjectures as to the exact nature of this painful and most humbling physical affliction. It is only by placing side by side a great many separate passages that we are almost irresistibly led to the conclusion which is now most generally adopted, namely, that it was acute and disfiguring ophthalmia, originating in the blinding glare of the light which flashed round him at Damascus, and accompanied, as that most humiliating disease usually is, by occasional cerebral excitement. It would be impossible here to enter into the whole inquiry, for which! refer to my 'Life of St. Paul,' 1:214-226. The messenger of Satan; rather, an angel of Satan. By way of comment, see Matthew 25:41; Luke 13:16; Job 2:7; Revelation 12:7, 9. To buffet me. The verb is derived from kolaphos, a slap on the face, and would be suitable to such a disfigurement as ophthalmia (2 Corinthians 10:10). Abundance (ὑπερβολῇ)

Rev., more correctly, the exceeding greatness.

Thorn (σκόλοψ)

Only here in the New Testament. Frequent in classical Greek in the sense of a pale or stake. It occurs once in Euripides, meaning a stump ("Bacchae," 983). It is a stake for a palisade, or for impaling; a surgical instrument; the point of a fish-hook. In the Septuagint it occurs three times, translated thorn in Hosea 2:6, where, however, it is distinguished from ἀκάνθαις thorns; brier in Ezekiel 28:24, and prick in Numbers 33:55. Nine different Hebrew words are rendered by thorn, for which, in the great majority of cases, Septuagint gives ἄκανθα. The rendering thorn for σκόλοψ has no support. The figure is that of the impaling stake. Herodotus, alluding to this punishment, uses ἀνασκολοπίζειν (i., 128; 3, 132). In the ninth book of his history, Lampon says to Pausanias: "When Leonidas was slain at Thermopylae, Xerxes and Mardonius beheaded and crucified (ἀνεσταύρωσαν) him. Do thou the like by Mardonius.... for by crucifying (ἀνασκολοπίσας) thou wilt avenge Leonidas" (ix., 78). The verb seems, therefore, to have been used interchangeably with crucify; and clear instances of this occur in Philo and Lucian. At least one text of the Septuagint gives ἀνασκολοπίζω in Esther 7:10, of Haman's being hanged. See further, on Galatians 2:20. The explanations of the peculiar nature of this affliction are numerous. Opinions are divided, generally, between mental or spiritual and bodily trials. Under the former head are sensual desires, faint-heartedness, doubts, temptations to despair, and blasphemous suggestions from the devil. Under the latter, persecution, mean personal appearance, headache, epilepsy, earache, stone, ophthalmia. It was probably a bodily malady, in the flesh; but its nature must remain a matter of conjecture. Very plausible reasons are given in favor of both epilepsy and ophthalmia. Bishop Lightfoot inclines to the former, and Archdeacon Farrar thinks that it was almost certainly the latter.

Messenger of Satan (ἄγγελος Σατᾶν)

The torment is thus personified. Messenger is the word commonly rendered angel in the New Testament, though sometimes used of human messengers, as Luke 7:24, Luke 7:27; Luke 9:52; James 2:25; see also on the angels of the churches, Revelation 1:20. Messenger and Satan are not to be taken in apposition - a messenger who was Satan - because Satan is never called ἄγγελος in the New Testament. Messenger is figurative, in the sense of agent. Satan is conceived in the New Testament as the originator of bodily evil. Thus, in the gospel narrative, demoniac possession is often accompanied with some form of disease. Compare Luke 13:16; Acts 10:38, and see on 1 Corinthians 5:5.

Buffet (κολαφίζῃ)

Connect with messenger, which better suits depart; not with thorn, which would be a confusion of metaphor, a stake buffeting. For the verb, meaning to strike with the fist, see Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65; 1 Peter 2:20. Compare Job 2:5, Job 2:7, where the Septuagint has ἅψαι touch, and ἔπαισε smote.

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