Sunday, February 5, 2023

Paul's Thorn in the Flesh Identified!

I love mysteries. Don't you? Example: the identity of Paul's famous "thorn in the flesh" -- a topic I treated in my dissertation Paul, Apostle of Weakness. But whereas I spent only a handful of pages on the subject, Kenneth Berding spends 278 and, really, he leaves no stone unturned. The author was kind enough to send me a copy. 

On the back cover, my endorsement appears as follows:

With Churchillian bulldoggedness, Berding has faced a perennial crux of interpretation head on and has succeeded magnificently. Don't miss this book!

I won't give away the answer, but the author discusses several possible identifications before he spills the beans, including -- are you ready? -- 

  • verbal opposition from opponents within the churches
  • persecutions from the outside
  • inner psychological pressure
  • demonic oppression
  • migraines 
  • recurrent malaria
  • epilepsy
  • speech impediment
  • poor eyesight
  • trigeminal neuralgia
  • shingles
  • unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks
  • cluster headaches

His conclusion surprised me. Maybe it will you, too. Everyone, I mean everyone, has an opinion about Paul's thorn. However, before we can bask in the light, we might have to wade a bit in the darkness. Berding brings some much-needed light to bear on this "perennial crux," and I'm so glad he does. I only wish his book were around in 1982 when I was writing my dissertation.