Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Life and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

Some of the good people of Dallington wanted to talk about the life and teaching of the Apostle Paul. I made some notes (which owe a heavy debt to the New Bible Dictionary article on Paul):

The Life and Teaching of the Apostle Paul

Sources for Paul’s life

The Acts of the Apostles – chapters 9, 13 onwards – Acts written by Luke, a companion of Paul (Colossians 4:14, “Our dear friend Luke, the doctor…”), the “we” passages (16:10-16:18; 20:4-21:19; 27:1-28:30)

New Testament letters / Epistles – probably normally dictated to an amanuensis – Rom 16:22, “I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord” – 1 Cor 1:1, Sosthenes named alongside Paul; Colossians & Philippians 1:1, Paul and Timothy; 1 & 2Thess, Paul, Silas and Timothy; sometimes the person carrying the letter named at the end e.g. Col 4:7; personal handwritten greeting at the end – e.g. Col 4:18 – may have helped to authenticate the letter – 2 Thess 3:17; Gal 6:11

Letters to churches:                Romans – Paul’s longest letter

                                                1 & 2 Corinthians


                                                Ephesians – possibly a circular letter to churches of the region


                                                Colossians – similar to Ephesians

                                                1 & 2 Thessalonians

Letters to individuals:             1 & 2 Timothy ) The pastoral epistles – written to pastors

                                                Titus                )

                                                Philemon – regarding the run-away slave, Onesimus

Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon – the “Prison Epistles”

Addressing particular situations –  e.g., 1 Cor 1:11; 5:1; 6:12-13; 7:1; 8:1; 11:17f; 16:1ff – one side of a correspondence

Intended to be read by other churches – Colossians 4:16

13 out of 27 books in the NT written by Paul – 31.56% of NT text

(The letter to the Hebrews, which is anonymous, was traditionally attributed to Paul, but most scholars would doubt this)

Paul’s Life

Saul of Tarsus in Cilicia on the Mediterranean coast in Asia Minor (Acts 22:3) - ? between 5BC and AD 5

A Roman citizen (Acts 16:37)

Acts 22:3 – “I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”

Paul’s ethnic and religious credentials – Philippians 3:4b-5

Of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1)

A Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6)

A tent-maker – Acts 18:3 – sometimes supported himself in ministry by his trade

Acts 7:58; 8:1 – At the stoning of Stephen – “… the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul…. And Saul was there, giving approval to his [Stephen’s death]”

Persecutor of Christians (Acts 22:4-5; Galatians 1:13-14)

Conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9; 22; 26; Galatians 1:15ff)

Flees to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26)

Introduced by Barnabas to the Apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26ff)

After 2 weeks, flees again to Tarsus (Acts 9:30) – 10 year “silent period”

Barnabas asks him to come to Antioch to help on the Gentile mission (Acts 11:25-26) and they teach the church together there for a year

“famine visit” to Jerusalem with relief for the Jewish Christians (Acts 12:25) – with John Mark who probably wrote Mark’s gospel (later Paul and Barnabas have a sharp disagreement about whether or not to take Mark with them in Acts 15:36-41 ad they part company).

Acts 13:3 – Paul and Barnabas sent off by the church at Antioch (“apostles”) – c. AD 46

Paul’s missionary activity is often divided up into 3 missionary journeys, followed by his transportation to Rome

1st missionary journey - Cyprus and Southern Galatia (Acts 13-14) – Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe

“first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16) - synagogue

“God-fearers” – Gentiles who have attached themselves to Judaism without fully converting

Turning to the Gentiles – Acts 13:46ff

Paul opposes Peter at Antioch over Judaizing (Gal 2:14) c. AD 49

The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) c. AD 50

2nd missionary journey with Silas (Acts 15:40-18:22) from Antioch over land to the churches of Southern Galatia and at Lystra joined by Timothy, north into Northern Galatia. At Troas (where Luke joins them) Paul has his vision of the Macedonian and begins his evangelisation of Greece. Philippi, Thessalonica, Borea. In Achaia = Southern Greece, Athens, Corinth (where Paul remains for almost 2 years). Ephesus in Asia. Quick trip back to Antioch via Jerusalem.

The Aegean Period (Acts 18:23-20:38) c. AD 53-58 – overland from Antioch through the Galatian region to Ephesus (for 3 years), through Troas to Macedonia, then south to Corinth. After winter, back to Miletus near Ephesus to Jerusalem.

The Caesarean and Roman Imprisonments – Journey to Jerusalem with a collection for the poor (Acts 21:23f; cf. 1 Cor 16:3f; 2 Cor 9; Rom 15:25ff). Riot and arrest. Removed to Caesarea. Imprisoned by Felix, the Roman governor for 2 years c. AD 58-60 (Acts 23-26). Appeal to Cease. Acts 23:11. Shipwrecked on Malta c. AD 61. Acts end with 2 years under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:31).  

Scholars think Paul was probably released in AD 63 and visited Spain and the Aegean before being re-arrested and executed under Nero c. AD 67.

Some issues / themes

Apostolic Authority – a witness of the resurrection - 1 Corinthians 15:8-11

The Apostle to the Gentiles / (non-Jewish) nations (Romans 11:13; 1:5; Galatians 2:8)

Paul’s missionary strategy of seeking to be all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)

Persecution from Jews and Jewish Christians – “Judaizers”

Jewish – Gentile relations in the Early Church

Do Gentiles have to be circumcised and obey the Old Testament Law of Moses (Torah) in order to be Christians?

What is the role of the Law of Moses in the Christian Life?

Romans 1:1-4 – a very brief summary

Righteousness / justification by faith – Romans 1:17

“in Christ” – (Faith) Union with Christ – cf. in Adam

The church as the body of Christ – Romans 12:4ff; 1 Cor 12:12ff; Eph 4:4; Col 1:18, 24; 3:15

“already but not yet” – in Jesus’ death and resurrection, redemption is partly realised now and will be completed fully and finally when Christ comes again, death is no more and the presence of sin is removed

New Creation – Romans 8:19-21

The Common Worship Collect for the Conversion of St Paul

Almighty God,
who caused the light of the gospel
to shine throughout the world
through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul:
grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion
may follow him in bearing witness to your truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Common Worship Collect for Peter and Paul, Apostles

Almighty God,
whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul
glorified you in their death as in their life:
grant that your Church,
inspired by their teaching and example,
and made one by your Spirit,
may ever stand firm upon the one foundation,
Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

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