2 Corinthians 12

The Vision and the Thorn

A Younger Paul at Antioch

I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (2 Corinthians 12:2).

Paul likely wrote 2 Corinthians late in AD 56. Fourteen years earlier would be in AD 42. It was around this time that Barnabas travelled to find Paul in his hometown of Tarsus and bring him to Antioch (Acts 11:25-26; Gal 1:21). This photo shows the coastal area along the Mediterranean Sea in the vicinity of Antioch. Antioch, also known as Antioch on the Orontes, is located about 15 miles (24 km) inland from its port city, Seleucia Peria.


He was caught up into Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:4).

The word “Paradise” is used three times in the New Testament (cf. also Luke 23:43; Rev 2:7). The word comes from the Hebrew word for “garden”; Josephus uses the Greek word to refer to the Garden of Eden (Ant. 1.37). Pictured here are the lush Rothschild Gardens at Ramat HaNadiv in northern Israel.

Credibile Boasting

If I did want to boast I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth (2 Corinthians 12:6).

Paul makes the case that his boasting is not excessive, because it is true. This mosaic depicts a boxer on a pedestal; his head is crowned with a wreath of victory. It would be considered foolish for a person who did not box to depict themselves in a mosaic this way, but for a good boxer who had a successful career in the sport such a representation would not be considered excessive or foolish. This mosaic was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

The Process of Perfecting

He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

One example of something that is perfected in weakness is metal, which needs to be heated and softened before it can be formed into something useful. This fresco depicts men working at a forge and anvil. It is thought to represent the mythical workshop of the Greek god Hephaestus, in which Cyclops and Vulcan forged armor for various Greek gods. This fresco was photographed at the Naples Archaeological Museum.

Paul's Weakness

Therefore I will gladly boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The word “weakness” can refer to an incapacity for something, or to a state of debilitating illness. It is difficult to know which Paul has in mind here, and many scholars suppose that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was some kind of illness. The two ways the word is used, weakness and illness, are closely related at any rate. This photo shows a man who is sick, with two Bedouin attempting to help him with a local remedy. This American Colony photo was taken between 1920 and 1933.

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