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Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

12 It is necessary to go on boasting.[a] Though it is not profitable, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up to the third heaven. And I know that this man (whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows) was caught up into paradise[b] and heard things too sacred to be put into words,[c] things that a person[d] is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such an individual I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except about my weaknesses. For even if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I would be telling[e] the truth, but I refrain from this so that no one may regard[f] me beyond what he sees in me or what he hears from me, even because of the extraordinary character of the revelations. Therefore,[g] so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble[h] me—so that I would not become arrogant.[i] I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But[j] he said to me, “My grace is enough[k] for you, for my[l] power is made perfect[m] in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly[n] about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in[o] me. 10 Therefore I am content with[p] weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties[q] for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

The Signs of an Apostle

11 I have become a fool. You yourselves forced me to do it, for I should have been commended by you. For I lack nothing in comparison[r] to those “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. 12 Indeed, the signs of an apostle were performed among you with great perseverance[s] by signs and wonders and powerful deeds.[t] 13 For how[u] were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this injustice! 14 Look, for the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you, because I do not want your possessions, but you. For children should not have[v] to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 Now I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives![w] If I love you more, am I to be loved less? 16 But be that as it may, I have not burdened you. Yet because I was a crafty person, I took you in by deceit! 17 I have not taken advantage of you through anyone I have sent to you, have I?[x] 18 I urged Titus to visit you[y] and I sent our[z] brother along with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he?[aa] Did we not conduct ourselves in the same spirit? Did we not behave in the same way?[ab] 19 Have you been thinking all this time[ac] that we have been defending ourselves to you? We are speaking in Christ before God, and everything we do, dear friends, is to build you up.[ad] 20 For I am afraid that somehow when I come I will not find you what I wish, and you will find me[ae] not what you wish. I am afraid that[af] somehow there may be quarreling, jealousy, intense anger, selfish ambition,[ag] slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorder. 21 I am afraid that[ah] when I come again, my God may humiliate me before you, and I will grieve for[ai] many of those who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.


  1. 2 Corinthians 12:1 tn Grk “Boasting is necessary.”
  2. 2 Corinthians 12:4 sn In the NT, paradise is mentioned three times. In Luke 23:43 it refers to the abode of the righteous dead. In Rev 2:7 it refers to the restoration of Edenic paradise predicted in Isa 51:3 and Ezek 36:35. The reference here in 2 Cor 12:4 is probably to be translated as parallel to the mention of the “third heaven” in v. 2. Assuming that the “first heaven” would be atmospheric heaven (the sky) and “second heaven” the more distant stars and planets, “third heaven” would refer to the place where God dwells. This is much more likely than some variation on the seven heavens mentioned in the pseudepigraphic book 2 Enoch and in other nonbiblical and rabbinic works.
  3. 2 Corinthians 12:4 tn Or “things that cannot be put into words.”
  4. 2 Corinthians 12:4 tn Grk “a man.”
  5. 2 Corinthians 12:6 tn Or “speaking.”
  6. 2 Corinthians 12:6 tn Or “may think of.”
  7. 2 Corinthians 12:7 tc Most mss (P46 D Ψ 1881 M) lack διό (dio, “Therefore”), but the widespread distribution and quality of mss which include it (א A B F G 0243 33 81 1175 1739) argues for its authenticity. Internally, its case is equally strong in that its inclusion is grammatically rough (διό is hardly necessary to convey purpose, especially since Paul uses ἵνα [hina, “so that”] next).
  8. 2 Corinthians 12:7 tn Or “to harass.”
  9. 2 Corinthians 12:7 tn The phrase “so that I might not become arrogant” is repeated here because it occurs in the Greek text two times in the verse. Although redundant, it is repeated because of the emphatic nature of its affirmation.
  10. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” because of the contrast implicit in the context.
  11. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tn Or “is sufficient.”
  12. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tc The majority of later mss (א2 Ac D1 Ψ 0243 0278 33 1739 1881 M) as well as some versional witnesses include the pronoun “my” here, but the omission of the pronoun has excellent external support (P46vid א* A* B D* F G latt). Scribes probably added the pronoun for clarity, making the obvious referent explicit. This would also make “power” more parallel with “my grace.” Though the original text probably did not include “my,” scribes who added the word were following the sense of Paul’s The pronoun “my” was supplied in the translation to clarify the sense of Paul’s expression.
  13. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tn Or “my power comes to full strength.”
  14. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tn “Most gladly,” a comparative form used with superlative meaning and translated as such.
  15. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tn Or “may rest on.”
  16. 2 Corinthians 12:10 tn Or “I take delight in.”
  17. 2 Corinthians 12:10 tn Or “calamities.”
  18. 2 Corinthians 12:11 tn Or “I am in no way inferior.”
  19. 2 Corinthians 12:12 tn Or “patience,” “endurance.”
  20. 2 Corinthians 12:12 tn Or “and miracles.”
  21. 2 Corinthians 12:13 tn Grk “For in what respect.”
  22. 2 Corinthians 12:14 tn Grk “children ought not,” but this might give the impression that children are not supposed to support sick or aging parents in need of help. That is not what Paul is saying. His point is that children should not have to pay their parent’s way.
  23. 2 Corinthians 12:15 tn Grk “souls.”
  24. 2 Corinthians 12:17 tn The Greek construction anticipates a negative answer, indicated by the ‘tag’ question “have I?” at the end of the clause. The question is rhetorical.
  25. 2 Corinthians 12:18 tn The words “to visit you” are not in the Greek text but are implied. Direct objects were often omitted in Greek when clear from the context, and must be supplied for the modern reader.
  26. 2 Corinthians 12:18 tn Grk “the.”
  27. 2 Corinthians 12:18 tn The Greek construction anticipates a negative answer, indicated by the ‘tag’ question “did he?” at the end of the clause.
  28. 2 Corinthians 12:18 tn Grk “[Did we not walk] in the same tracks?” This is an idiom that means to imitate someone else or to behave as they do. Paul’s point is that he and Titus have conducted themselves in the same way toward the Corinthians. If Titus did not take advantage of the Corinthians, then neither did Paul.
  29. 2 Corinthians 12:19 tc The reading “all this time” (πάλαι, palai) is found in several early and significant Alexandrian and Western witnesses including א* A B F G 0243 6 33 81 365 1175 1739 1881 lat; the reading πάλιν (palin, “again”) is read by א2 D Ψ 0278 M sy bo; the reading οὐ πάλαι (ou palai) is read by P46, making the question even more emphatic. The reading of P46 could only have arisen from πάλαι. The reading πάλιν is significantly easier (“are you once again thinking that we are defending ourselves?”), for it softens Paul’s tone considerably. It thus seems to be a motivated reading and cannot easily explain the rise of πάλαι. Further, πάλαι has considerable support in the Alexandrian and Western witnesses, rendering it virtually certain as the autographic wording here.
  30. 2 Corinthians 12:19 tn Or “for your strengthening”; Grk “for your edification.”
  31. 2 Corinthians 12:20 tn Grk “and I will be found by you.” The passive construction has been converted to an active one in the translation.
  32. 2 Corinthians 12:20 tn The words “I am afraid that” are not repeated in the Greek text, but are needed for clarity.
  33. 2 Corinthians 12:20 tn Or “intense anger, hostility.”
  34. 2 Corinthians 12:21 tn The words “I am afraid that” are not repeated in the Greek text from v. 20, but are needed for clarity.
  35. 2 Corinthians 12:21 tn Or “I will mourn over.”