Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, January 28, 2005

St. Paul's "Third Heaven"

St. Paul's statement about the third heaven was widely known in the Middle Ages, partly because it headed one of the most influential visionary texts, the Visio Pauli. This Greek apocraphal work was probably written in Egypt in the third century.

The Visio Pauli was to have a profound effectd on Western European representations of the next world. It was initially disseminated in a Latin translation, made between the fourth and sixth centuries, later also in vernacular translations.

The Visio Pauli begins with the quotation from 2 Corinthians 12. Next Paul relates that, while still in body, he is caught up into the third heaven. There he sees the righteous. Guided by an angel, he is taken within the gates of paradise and the punitive places in hell. In spite of the reference to the third heave, St. Paul sees only one heaven.

The equation of the third heaven with heaven as such was not unusual in the Middle Ages.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The Seafaring Saint


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