Did Paul talk about leaving his body and going to the third heaven?
Although I’m familiar with the view that the Apostle Paul is relating an “out-of-body experience” at the outset of 2 Corinthians 12, I’m pretty sure that he is not. That’s partly because I don’t think that Scripture teaches that we are immaterial souls that can escape our bodies. But my doubt is also based on the fact that the evidence for this claim about out of body experiences in this passage is just not persuasive. Here I’ll explain why I say this.
In context, Paul is explaining that he will not boast or take glory in himself and his own achievements. He is not worthy of such boasting, according to him. In passing, he gives an example of someone’s whose encounter with God is worthy of boasting about. He says:
Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows — was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself…
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