What was the apostle Paul's affliction?
A number of theories have been advanced about this, seeing it is not made clear in the New Testament. A number of things point to a possible answer. We do know that Paul used others to write out his letters for him, although he undoubtedly could write well for himself. When he did write with his own hand he said in Galatians 6: 11 'see what large a letter I have written unto you with my own hand.' Together with his Damascus road experience which produced blindness, this would point to the possibility that God allowed only a partial healing when Ananias prayed for Paul in Acts 9.
Thus a form of vision impairment is suggested by this hypothesis, although others have been advanced such as epilepsy, and we cannot know for sure. It is also possible that Paul's affliction was a recurring, habitual sin, such as lust, envy, or pride. Just because he describes his ailment as "a thorn in the flesh", doesn't necessarily mean that it was physical. Fleshly desires like lust or the need for recognition (pride) can be just as painful and tormenting as a physical disability. In addition, if he were struggling with lust or envy, those are sins that tempt us first through the eyes, making Paul's references to his eyes and vision applicable. But perhaps the best explanation of Paul's ailment is that God did not want to reveal it because he wanted his suffering to be identifiable to everyone. If we were told specifically what Paul's issue was, it would dilute the power behind 2 Cor 12:9. But since we know God's power is made perfect in weaknesses of all kinds, then we are assured that we can bring everything to Him, knowing that He will strengthen us. == Epilepsy; Paul fell down. Visual and Audial Delusion: He saw and heard Jesus while those with him heard and saw nothing (depending on which narration of contradicting verses).
Paul's affliction was referred to by himself directly in the following verses as a 'thorn in the flesh', which is obviously a figurative statement for something which was either physically or mentally painful or both.
7And 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. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And 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. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. The verses from Acts, which record his conversion, show how he was surprised by the suddenness and brightness of and then of course the contents of what was said to him. There is no suggestion of Epilepsy here, and it is interesting to note that those who were with him also heard a voice (verse 7).
== 1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
In relation to Paul suffering from delusions, then he would never have risen to any place of prominence in the church, nor have been called by and used of God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The delusion from which he suffered was forever changed on the Damascus road. It was the delusion which made him persecute the Christian believers.
Paul's writings also indicate the ability to use both his wide Biblical knowledge and to argue logically and clearly for the truth in which he believed. Mental or auditory delusions have never been suggested by scholars as a possible cause of his affliction ( except of course by some bitter opponents of the faith who would apply this label to all Christian believers).