In this passage Paul referrers to man who appears to have ascended to the third Heaven, and in reading it seemed to me that Paul was expressing doubt about the man's claims. I was particularly struck by his saying; For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth:

2nd Corinthians 12:1 through 9 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

  • 2
    Paul is the man. He's speaking about himself in the third person.
    – user2910
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 15:13
  • @MarkEdward Is that your opinion or are you basing that on something you can reference?
    – BYE
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 15:51
  • @Bye Mark is correct, Paul is speaking in 3rd person singular when refering to the revelations, yet 1st peerson singular when speaking of his infirmities. He betrays himself in vs 7,"...lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations.." His method of speaking can be described as "Illeism", where the narrator seeks to convey impartiality, although he is also the protagonist. A young Marine in bootcamp is taught this to convey his thoughts in this method, as his DI doesn't regard his opinion, only what his sensory organs tell him.
    – Tau
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 16:23
  • @Bye My internet went out in a storm last night, so I can't grab any references at the moment. It is an opinion, but it's the general opinion held by many commentators. The context of chapters 11-12 is about 'superapostles' bragging about their personal achievements, so Paul responds by listing all his personal achievements, including a vision he had, and then says he'd rather brag in his weaknesses.
    – user2910
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 19:06
  • @MarkEdward After reviewing All of 2nd Corinthians and reading some commentaries I have come to agree with your answer. Thank you for putting me on the right path.
    – BYE
    Commented Jul 12, 2014 at 21:17

4 Answers 4


Was Paul talking about himself in 2 Corinthians 12:5?

According to Ellicott's opinion, yes:

There is, if we rightly understand it, an almost exquisite sadness in the distinction which is thus drawn by the Apostle between the old self of fourteen years ago, with this abundance of revelations, and the new self of the present, feebler and sadder than the old, worn with cares and sorrows, the daily rush of life and its ever-growing anxieties. Then he saw with open vision; now he walks by faith and not by the thing seen.

why did he go round about it?

Ellicott continues:

He can hardly recognise his own identity, and can speak of the man who had then this capacity for the beatific vision as though he were another—almost as if he were dead and gone.

Matthew Henry's expresses similar sentiments:

12:1-6 There can be no doubt the apostle speaks of himself. Whether heavenly things were brought down to him, while his body was in a trance, as in the case of ancient prophets; or whether his soul was dislodged from the body for a time, and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he knew not.

Barnes explains that Paul refers to himself as a third person to avoid boasting of himself:

Paul speaks in the third person. He chooses to keep himself directly out of view. And though he refers really to himself, yet he wound not say this directly, but says that of such a man they would admit it would be proper to boast. Yet of myself - Directly. It is not expedient for me to boast of myself. "You would allow me to boast of such a man as I have referred to; I admit that it is not proper for me to boast directly of myself."

Gill agrees:

The apostle in great modesty seems to speak of some other person, and not himself, as caught up into the third heaven, when he yet means himself; and does as it were distinguish himself from himself; himself in paradise from himself on earth; his sense is, that though he might lawfully glory of such a person so highly exalted and favoured, yet since this was his own case, he chose to forbear, and say no more of it

There is little doubt among commentators that Paul was talking about himself. Out of modesty, he spoke of his younger self in the third person pronoun.


I do not think that Paul was being facetious, but is actually commenting about meeting the Apostle John after experiencing what he documents in Revelation 10. The similarity of these two such strange experiences, such as Rev 10:4 and 2Cor 12:4 document, seems incredible that they are not related.

  • 3
    Are you implying Apostle Paul is speaking of Apostle John? Commented Jun 30, 2019 at 3:15

We're not told exactly who that is. Taking into account Acts 9:1-9 (NASB)

1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them in shackles to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” 7 The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

some say it can be Paul (and I'm inclined to think of him as Paul too) but that's an opinion.


I think, the other half of the sentence make it clear.

but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.

According to,
Matthew Henry's Commentary,
Pulpit Commentary
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Gill's Exposition
he was speaking about himself, Though there is disagreement on the date of the incident(14 years) but some believe e.g. Perry Stone that he was mentioning the stoning at Lystra.

Stoning always ends in the death of that person so he must have died and regarding his experience he was being humble.

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit." Proverbs 29:23 (KJV)

His own words are

"With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;"Ephesians 4:2(KJV)

So he was certian about it but was not bragging as lots of people look at him for inspiration.

Most of the time different translations help me to understand some verse.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.