Posted by: mattcolvin | January 24, 2012

Asking Three Times in 2 Corinthians 12

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul: 2 Corinthians 12.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

Scholarship is rife with speculation about what St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was. An eye disease? Stuttering? An attendant demon? I have nothing new to offer about those theories, though I incline to the last of them, since a “messenger” is usually a personal agent.

It is interesting to me that Paul asks “three times that it might depart from me (ἵνα ἀποστῇ ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).” The phrasing is quite similar to Jesus’ request in Gethsemane, “let this cup pass away from me” (Matthew 26:39). In both cases, the Father refuses the request, so that Paul, like Jesus, must rely on God and not on his own strength.


  1. Matt,

    Good point – I didn’t know that he asked three times. This is a good answer to those who these days are applying Isaiah’s prophesy that “by His stripes we are healed” to mean that every single physical malady will be healed by God in this life if we just ask in faith.

    If *anyone* would have asked in faith and inevitably received physical healing, it would have been Paul.

    In Him,


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