The Real Paul Series #2

Published April 28, 2015 by

Which Paul is the Real Paul?one2

Is it the Paul of mixed messages with…

passages from letters attributed to Paul endorse slavery, subordinate women, and condemn homosexual behavior. They have been used for much of Christian history to justify systems of oppression.*

or is it the Paul who taught

 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.**

We are confused not just by the contradictory letters attributed to Paul and later insertions into the letters which he actually wrote, but also by the historical and theological setting in which Paul lived and taught.  One of his most inflammatory statements is:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.***

and wanted to minimize the stirrings of revolt?  Was he so convinced of the imminent Second Coming that Roman oppression became irrelevant for him? Or was he just plain wrong?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. ***

Paul was raised and educated as a Jew in Tarsus, a virtual crossroads of Roman and Greek commerce, culture and dominion.  He traveled to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel and became a dedicated upholder of Jewish Law as a Pharisee, pursuing and persecuting the followers of Jesus.

Just like Jesus, Paul was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died a Jew. Paul and Jesus strove to transform Judaism from within–neither set out to create a new religion.  The twelve apostles remained in Jerusalem, committed to calling the Jews to Jesus as Messiah.

Paul believed his mission was to complete the work of Jesus in bringing the Gentiles to the God of Israel.

Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.****

Yet his work in converting the Gentiles to the Way brought him into direct conflict with the Jewish followers of Jesus who insisted that these Gentiles must first convert to Judaism.  Paul’s call for peace and unity among all followers of Christ Jesus were ignored.

Paul finally broke with the early church leaders in Jerusalem in the 50’s and continued to follow his divine calling among the Gentiles.

We see him (Paul) as an appealing apostle of Jesus whose vision of life “in Christ” is remarkably faithful to the message and vision of Jesus himself. Paul emerges as a faithful apostle of the radical Jesus who became his Lord*

Rev. Claudia Naylor

First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary…, by Borg & Crossan*
Galations 3:28**
Romans 13:1-2; 12:14,17-19***
Romans 15:15-16 ****

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