The Real Paul Series #1

Published April 21, 2015 by

Why Study Paul?

Paul is second only to Jesus as the most important person in the origins of Christianity. Yet he is not universally well regarded, even among Christians.  Some find him appealing, and others find him appalling.*

Paul is central to Protestant theology but secondary to Peter in Catholic theology.  Yet Paul really doesn’t begin to make sense until we eliminate those letters which he did not write and study him in context as a Jew living, working and teaching in a world dominated by the Roman imperialistic theology.It is important to understand that, like Jesus, Paul was not trying to create a new religion, but to transform Judaism from within.  Their mission was to shift the emphasis from the letter of the law to spirit of the law, from the image of the angry and judgmental God of the Old Testament to the loving Creator which Jesus knew intimately.

It is also vital to our study to understand that Paul wrote just seven letters during his lifetime:  Romans, I & II Corinthians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians and Philemon.  The six additional letters attributed to Paul were written years after his death, which is not to minimize their value, but to eliminate their contradictory views with Paul’s theology.

The six later letters written in Paul’s name, but after Paul’s lifetime offered a more domesticated Paul, which pleased the church and ensured the muting of his more radical message.**

How do Biblical scholars determine which are authentic writings and which are attributions?  In part, they use some of the following:

1. Linguistic variations in writing style

2. Cross-cultural anthropology: the parables of Jesus were understood in their                    cultural context; caste systems; status of women

3. Historical setting: the Greco-Roman and Jewish world; events which occurred          after the death of Paul and led to changed attitudes and expectations, even a               shift in theology.

Paul’s letters were written during the 50’s C.E and were the first eye-witness accounts.  We want to believe that the words of Jesus were written down by His disciples as He spoke.  Yet the earliest written Gospels were written at least forty years after His death. Matthew and Mark were written after 70 C.E. and Luke/Acts and John at the end of the first century or beginning of the 2nd century.

It is important to note several important distinctions which formed Paul’s theology and the language which he used:

1. Paul began as a Pharisaical Jew, became a Christian Jew, a follower of the Way

2. Paul believed that the 2nd Coming was imminent

3. Paul’s only experience of Jesus was in the Spirit as his Risen Lord

4. Paul viewed the Crucifixion not as a blood sacrifice but saw:

Jesus, now transformed into the heavenly glorified Christ, is the firstborn brother of an expanded group of divine offspring.   …like tiny spiritual embryos are rowing and developing into the image of Christ until the time comes for their transformative birth from flesh and blood to life-giving Spirits.**

5. Paul saw the Resurrection as a transformational moment for the human race                  through a mystical union with Christ so that we would cease to live from ego               and live for Christ

The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  …  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of  dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.***

6. Paul stood with Jesus in opposition to the oppression of the purity laws, the            heavy taxation by the Temple and the Romans and the misguided leadership               of the Sanhedrin.    

Rev. Claudia Naylor


The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon, by M. Borg & J. Crossan*
Paul & Jesus, by J. Taylor**

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