Based on 1 personal experience, I am happy to announce that I have solved a theological matter that has aggravated amateur scholars like me for centuries. I am talking, of course, about St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” (See 2 Corinthians 2:7ff for background.) Simply stated, what Paul experienced was a medial 2meniscus tear in his knee.
This makes sense. Although 3some theologians have danced around the subject, I’m thinking that Paul’s affliction was physical. Real. Untreated. Chronic. With footwear likely lacking insole protection, Paul walked over rough terrain everywhere he went, was beaten and stoned several times and climbed over walls to escape detractors. So it seems likely that he tore his meniscus during one of those circumstances. The pain was ongoing and persistent—reminding him about the limits of his physique and tempting him to give way to despair or depression.
This theological insight might help any of us, at whatever age, as we deal with our own continuing naggers—aches and pains that are serious enough to remind us about our own limitations. The ones beyond ibuprofen. The ones requiring medical attention. The ones that can nudge us toward gloom.
Why this scientific revelation is important seems obvious—Paul’s own reactions may now have a familiar personal context. (See the aforementioned Scripture.) Whatever vexes or torments us physically may also be a devilish invitation to give up. To throw in the towel. To set aside any notions that we could still fulfill some part of God’s will. (We’re not going to do that, right?)
Again, I am happy to share this theological gem with you. I hope that this newly minted bit of spiritual acumen will be helpful in your circumstances. And, as is true of many doctrinal matters, I am probably also preaching to myself….
1 I am not at liberty to detail this event, so let’s just say that “I know this guy….”
2 The meniscus is a piece of knee cartilage that cushions your two leg bones from rubbing against each other.
3 Some interpreters, perhaps not familiar with continuing pain, have interpreted Paul’s words metaphorically, as in “I don’t like all the arguing and persecution I’m getting.” I prefer the tentative assessments of both the Desert Father Heranuculars of Similitudinus and the Sarcophagian, Larry the Marvelous. They presciently posited that the “thorn” was either poor eyesight or a chronic wound.
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