Paul, the Apostle

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Paul of Tarsus, also called Paul the Apostle, the Apostle Paul, or Saint Paul, (Ancient Greek: Σαούλ (Saul), Σαῦλος (Saulos), and Παῦλος (Paulos); Latin: Paulus or Paullus; Hebrew: שאול התרסי‎ Šaʾul HaTarsi (Saul of Tarsus)[2] (died c 64-65),[1] was a Hellenistic Jew[3] who called himself the "Apostle to the Gentiles" and was, together with Saint Peter and James the Just, the most notable of early Christian missionaries.[4] According to the Acts of the Apostles, his conversion took place on the road to Damascus. Thirteen epistles in the New Testament are attributed to Paul, though authorship of six of the thirteen has been questioned.[5] Paul's influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than that of any other New Testament author.[5] ==Sources of information The Book of Acts contains an account of Paul's travels and deeds, his conflicts with pagans and Jews, and his interactions with the other apostles. It was written from a perspective of reconciliation between Pauline Christians and their opponents, so portrays Paul as a law-abiding Jewish Christian and omits his dispute with Peter. Acts schematizes Paul's travels and takes liberties with his speeches. The primary source for historical information about Paul's life is the material found in his seven letters generally thought to be authentic. However, these letters contain very little information about Paul's past. Acts leaves important parts of Paul's life undocumented.[6]

For lessons attributed to the Apostle Paul, follow this link.

Scholars such as Hans Conzelmann and 20th century theologian John Knox (not the 16th century John Knox), dispute the historical accuracy of Acts.[7][8] Paul's own account of his background is found particularly in Galatians. Acts sometimes contradicts Paul's own epistles.[9] (Please see the full discussion in Acts of the Apostles). An example is the account in Acts of Paul visiting Jerusalem[Acts 11:27-30] which some say doesn't fit the account in Paul's letters.[6] Most scholars consider Paul's accounts more reliable than those found in Acts.[10] Writings

Main article: Authorship of the Pauline Epistles Thirteen epistles in the New Testament are traditionally attributed to Paul, of which seven are almost universally accepted, three are considered in some academic circles as other than Pauline for textual and grammatical reasons, and the other three are in dispute in those same circles.[32] Paul apparently dictated all his epistles through a secretary (or amanuensis), who would usually paraphrase the gist of his message, as was the practice among first-century scribes.[33][34] These epistles were circulated within the Christian community, where they were read aloud by members of the church along with other works. Paul's epistles were accepted early as scripture and later established as Canon of Scripture. Critical scholars regard Paul's epistles (written 50-62)[18] to be the earliest-written books of the New Testament. They are referenced as early as c. 96 by Clement of Rome.[35]


Paul's letters are largely written to churches which he had visited; he was a great traveler, visiting Cyprus, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), mainland Greece, Crete, and Rome bringing the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth with him. His letters are full of expositions of what Christians should believe and how they should live. He does not tell his correspondents (or the modern reader) much about the life of Jesus; his most explicit references are to the Last Supper[1 Cor. 11:17-34] and the crucifixion and resurrection.[1 Cor. 15] His specific references to Jesus' teaching are likewise sparse,[1 Cor. 7:10-11] [9:14] raising the question, still disputed, as to how consistent his account of the faith is with that of the four canonical Gospels, Acts, and the Epistle of James. The view that Paul's Christ is very different from the historical Jesus has been expounded by Adolf Harnack among many others. Nevertheless, he provides the first written account of what it is to be a Christian and thus of Christian spirituality.

Of the thirteen letters traditionally attributed to Paul and included in the Western New Testament canon, there is little or no dispute that Paul actually wrote at least seven, those being Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon. Hebrews, which was ascribed to him in antiquity, was questioned even then, never having an ancient attribution, and in modern times is considered by most experts as not by Paul (see also Antilegomena). The authorship of the remaining six Pauline epistles is disputed to varying degrees.

The authenticity of Colossians has been questioned on the grounds that it contains an otherwise unparalleled description (among his writings) of Jesus as 'the image of the invisible God,' a Christology found elsewhere only in St. John's gospel. On the other hand, the personal notes in the letter connect it to Philemon, unquestionably the work of Paul. More problematic is Ephesians, a very similar letter to Colossians, but which reads more like a manifesto than a letter. It is almost entirely lacking in personal reminiscences. Its style is unique. It lacks the emphasis on the cross to be found in other Pauline writings, reference to the Second Coming is missing, and Christian marriage is exalted in a way which contrasts with the reference in 1 Cor. 7:8-9. Finally, it exalts the Church in a way suggestive of a second generation of Christians, 'built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets' now past.[36] The defenders of its Pauline authorship argue that it was intended to be read by a number of different churches and that it marks the final stage of the development of Paul of Tarsus's thinking.

The Pastoral Epistles, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus have likewise been put in question as Pauline works. Three main reasons are advanced: first, their difference in vocabulary, style and theology from Paul's acknowledged writings; secondly, the difficulty in fitting them into Paul's biography as we have it.[37] They, like Colossians and Ephesians, were written from prison but suppose Paul's release and travel thereafter. Finally, the concerns expressed are very much the practical ones as to how a church should function. They are more about maintenance than about mission.

2 Thessalonians, like Colossians, is questioned on stylistic grounds, with scholars noting, among other peculiarities, a dependence on 1 Thessalonians yet a distinctiveness in language from the Pauline corpus

Role of women

Paul supported the role of women in the church, including as prophets and also apparently as apostles.[11]

Elaine Pagels maintains that the majority of the Christian churches in the second century went with the majority of the middle class in opposing the trend toward equality for women. By the year 200, the majority of Christian communities endorsed as canonical the "pseudo-Pauline" letter to Timothy. That letter, according to Pagels, stresses and exaggerates the antifeminist element in Paul's views: "Let a woman learn in silence in all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent."[1 Tim. 2:11] She believes the letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians, which order women to "be subject in everything to their husbands," do not express what she says were Paul's very favorable attitudes toward women, but also were "pseudo-Pauline" forgeries.

Theologian Robert Cramer agrees that the "pseudo-Pauline" epistles were written to marginalize women, especially in the church and in marriage:

Since it is now widely concluded that the Pastoral Epistles were written around AD 115, these words were written most likely about 50 years after Paul's martyrdom. Considering the similarity between 1 Corinthians 14:35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, conclusions that I and others continue to draw are:

That Paul wrote the bulk of what was in 1 Corinthians but that he did not write 1 Timothy, and That around AD 115, the writer of 1 Timothy or a group associated with him added the 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 pericope to the body of letters that later became 1 Corinthians. In this scenario this would have been done in part to lend further authority to a later (or more culturally acceptable) teaching that marginalized women.

– Robert Cramer[43]

Father Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, O.P., in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, agrees that the verses not favorable to women were "post-Pauline interpolations":

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 are not a Corinthian slogan, as some have argued…, but a post-Pauline interpolation…. Not only is the appeal to the law (possibly Genesis 3:16) un-Pauline, but the verses contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5. The injunctions reflect the misogyny of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and probably stem from the same circle. Some mss. place these verses after 40. – Jerome Murphy-O'Connor[44]


  1. Harris, p. 411
  2. Bauer lexicon; Acts 13:9, from "The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: According to the Received Greek Text" (University Press, Cambridge 1876)
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica, Saint Paul the Apostle, 2008, O.Ed.
  4. "The Canon Debate," McDonald & Sanders editors, 2002, chapter 32, page 577, by James D. G. Dunn: "For Peter was probably in fact and effect the bridge-man (pontifex maximus!) who did more than any other to hold together the diversity of first-century Christianity. James the brother of Jesus and Paul, the two other most prominent leading figures in first-century Christianity" [Italics original]
  5. Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church ed. F.L. Lucas (Oxford) entry on St. Paul
  6. "Paul, St" Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  7. Walton, Steve (2000). Leadership and Lifestyle: The Portrait of Paul in the Miletus Speech and 1 Thessalonians. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0521780063.
  8. Hare, Douglas R. A. (1987), "Introduction", in Knocks, John, Chapters in a Life of Paul (Revised ed.), Mercer University Press!, pp. x, ISBN 0865542813
  9. Maccoby, Hyam (1998). The mythmaker (Barnes and Noble ed.). Barnes and Noble. pp. 4. ISBN 0760707871.
  10. Harris, p. 316-320
  11. Ehrman, Bart. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. 2006. ISBN 0-19-530013-0
  12. Galatians 1:13-14, Philippians 3:6, and Acts 8:1-3
  13. Hengel, Martin and Anna Maria Schwemer, trans. John Bowden. Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years, Westminster John Knox Press, 1997. isbn=0664257364. Online:
  14. Barnett, Paul The Birth Of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2005) ISBN 0802827810 p. 200
  15. Ogg, George, Chronology of the New Testament in Peake's Commentary on the Bible (Nelson) 1963)
  16. Barnett p. 83
  17. Map of first missionary journey
  18. Harris
  19. White, L. Michael (2004). From Jesus to Christianity. HarperCollins. pp. 148–149. ISBN 0060526556.
  20. Raymond E. Brown in Introduction to the New Testament argues that they are the same event but each from a different viewpoint with its own bias.
  21. Acts 15:2ff; Galatians 2:1ff
  22. Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit, F. F. Bruce, Paternoster 1980, p.151
  23. Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers see section titled: "The Incident At Antioch"
  24. Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers: "On their arrival Peter, who up to this had eaten with the Gentiles, "withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision," and by his example drew with him not only the other Jews, but even Barnabas, Paul's fellow-labourer."
  25. White, L. Michael (2004). From Jesus to Christianity. HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 170. ISBN 0–06–052655–6.
  26. Romans 15:25ff, 8-9; 2Corinthians 8–9, 1 Corinthians 16:1–3
  27. "Paul, St." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  28. Ireneaus Against Heresies 3.3.2: the "...Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. ...The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate."
  29. White, From Jesus to Christianity
  30. St-Paul-Outside-the-Walls homepage
  31. St Paul's tomb unearthed in Rome from BBC News (2006–12–08);,,4442169,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf
  32. p. 316-320
  33. Harris, p. 316-320. Harris cites Galatians 6:11, Romans 16:22, Colossians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Philemon 19
  34. Joseph Barber Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians writes: "At this point[Gal. 6:11] the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and the concluding paragraph is written with his own hand. From the time when letters began to be forged in his name([2 Thes. 2:2]; 2 Thes. 3:17 it seems to have been his practice to close with a few words in his own handwriting, as a precaution against such forgeries… In the present case he writes a whole paragraph, summing up the main lessons of the epistle in terse, eager, disjointed sentences. He writes it, too, in large, bold characters (Gr. pelikois grammasin), that his handwriting may reflect the energy and determination of his soul."
  35. Clement 47:1
  36. Brown, R.E., The Churches the Apostles left behind p.48.
  37. Barrett, C.K. the Pastoral Epistles p.4ff.
  38. "Atonement." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  39. Paul and Palestinian Judaism in 1977; Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People in 1983
  40. J.D.G. Dunn's Manson Memorial Lecture (4.11.1982): 'The New Perspective on Paul' BJRL 65(1983), 95–122.
  41. New Perspectives on Paul
  42. Rowlands, Christopher. Christian Origins (SPCK 1985) p.113
  43. Cramer, Robert N. "Women's roles in early church—real history, revisionism, and making things right."|Online: Accessed October 5, 2007
  44. New Jerome Biblical Commentary, edited by Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J, and Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990, pages 811-812)

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