St Paul's vision in 2 Corinthians 12

I’ve been thinking about St Paul’s vision of the third heaven in 1 Corinthians 12:2-4.

It is interesting as it blows the view that mysticism is incompatible with Christianity out of the water. It is almost downright esoteric, with Paul being held captive to information usually forbidden to man.

But I digress, I’m here because it seems clear to me that in this passage, Paul is assuming a Hellenised Jewish cosmology of multiple (three or seven) concentric heavens. This is interesting not only because it shows that Paul held his own pre-scientific cosmology, but also because it shows that Paul was not fazed by the contradictions between this cosmology and that of the OT’s flat earth with a single heaven. Perhaps we shouldn’t see contradiction with our cosmology either.


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Paul’s vision is very mystical and esoteric in nature, I feel he tries to keep humble by trying to speak the third person I assume “I know a man in Christ…” Paul and many other Jews probably developed a Hellenized Jewish understanding of the heavens as you have stated. If you read further in 2nd Cor. 12:7 Paul seems to have been kept humbled with this vision and given his “thorn in the flesh” to “keep me from exalting myself!” Jewish theology was heavily developed around the time of Jesus and Paul and was far more complex in its understanding of heaven, angels, demons and other issues then that of Moses, David and Elijah.

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