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Saint Paul

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Saint Paul (died c. 60-67 CE) was an early Christian evangelist and self-proclaimed apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13-14, Gal. 2:7-9). Throughout Acts of the Apostles he is identified as Saul of Tarsus. His canonical letters, written about 50 to 62 CE, are significant, as they are the first New Testament books by date of authorship and offer a unique insight into the early history of Christianity.

ConversionEdit

Acts describes how Paul, while on the road to Damascus, saw a blinding vision of the resurrected Jesus and converted to Christianity on the spot. (Acts 9, 22, 26)

Paul's own rendition of his conversion is not so dramatic, merely describing that God revealed "his Son" in him (Gal. 1:15-16). Note that Paul did not regard his calling to spread the gospel to be inferior to that of other apostles who were allegedly eyewitnesses of Jesus' resurrection. See, for example, Galatians 2:6. Paul's attitude casts doubt on the claim that anyone actually witnessed Jesus' resurrection.

TravelsEdit

Acts records that shortly after his conversion (c. 33 CE) Paul traveled to Jerusalem to join the disciples. (Acts 9:26) This contradicts Paul's rendition of events, which specifically states that he neither went to Jerusalem nor visited the apostles. (Gal. 1:17) Also note that Paul makes a point of mentioning that he in fact did not receive the gospel from men but rather "by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11-12) Paul does, however, record that after three years (c. 36 CE) he went to Jerusalem but that he saw only Peter and James.

Paul indicates that he again traveled to Jerusalem (c. 47 or 50 CE) where his responsibility for apostleship to the Gentiles was confirmed. (Gal. 2:1-10) Paul relates that shortly thereafter he and Peter met in Antioch where the two had a disagreement regarding whether Gentile Christians need follow Jewish law. (Gal. 2:11-14) A different version of this event is documented in Acts 15, which downplays Paul's disagreement with Peter and ends in a decision by James concerning Gentiles and the law.

Acts 11:25-26 and 18:21-22 document trips to Antioch that were not mentioned by Paul in his works. Acts 21:17 indicates Paul traveled to Jerusalem where he was ultimately arrested. This may be the anticipated journey alluded to in Romans 15:25 and 1 Corinthians 16:3.

Paul's journeys were undertaken for the purposes of disseminating the gospel as well as to collect moneys for the church at Jerusalem, which he referred to as to "remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10). Paul mentions the collection for Jerusalem many times in his letters. (1 Cor. 16:1-4, 2 Cor. 8:1-4, 9:1-5, Rom. 15:25-26, Philippians 4:15-18) The deliverance of this collection was apparently the reason for Paul's being in Jerusalem at the time of his arrest. (Acts 24:17)

MessageEdit

In addition to detailing his travels, Paul's letters give us an indication of his evangelical message. It is clear Paul preached that faith in Jesus' crucifixion, rather than adherence to "the law," was the means by which one received God's absolution from sin. See, for example, Romans 3:19-26 and 5:1-11.

Conspicuously absent in Paul's letters, however, is any sense that he understood Jesus to have been a recent, historical person. Despite writing only 15 to 40 years afterward, Paul never mentions events during Jesus' ministry or aspects of his teaching, even when it would benefit his arguments to do so.

For example in Galatians 2:11-21 Paul scolds Peter for his decision not to eat with "sinners of the Gentiles." If he had had access to it, would not Paul have referenced the advice in Mark 2:15-17 wherein Jesus justifies his eating with sinners? Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 7:11 Paul lectures that a man must not divorce his wife but fails to cite Mark 10:11 in which Jesus states the same. Paul does not offer the testimony of eyewitnesses at the last supper as proof of Jesus' directive to observe the Eucharist. (Mk. 14:22-25, 1 Cor. 11:23-26) Paul does not offer the testimony of eyewitnesses to the crucifixion as proof of the event. (Mk. 15:22-24, 1 Cor. 1:23) Paul does not offer the empty tomb (Mk. 16:5-8) as proof of his assertion that Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). It is unlikely that Paul would recommend submitting to authority (Rom. 13:1-5) if he were aware of the Roman government's involvement in the execution of Jesus (Mk. 15:15).

Paul's consistent lack of acknowledgment of supposed recent events has been presented as evidence that Jesus never existed.

In ActsEdit

In promoting its theological agenda of the continuity of Christianity, Acts contains significant differences from Paul's own works regarding its portrayal of him. In Acts, Paul indicates that the apostles were given authority to preach the gospel by having been instructed by Jesus personally. (Acts 10:41, 13:30-31) In his letters, however, Paul repeatedly cites his mere visions of Jesus as sufficient credentials, as indicated above. In Acts, Paul stresses that he upholds Jewish law (Acts 16:1-3, 25:8), however in his letters he denies the importance of following the law, as indicated above.

WritingsEdit

Paul is traditionally the author of 13 New Testament books, which are in fact epistles, or letters, to various Christian churches. Scholars are nearly unanimous in identifying seven of these, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon, as genuinely being of Pauline authorship and three, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, as being pseudepigraphical, that is falsely ascribed to Paul. Scholars are undecided on the authorship of Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. The canonical Epistle to the Hebrews, although anonymous, is attributed to Paul by some. Scholarly consensus holds that the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans and 3 Corinthians, although written in Paul's name, are in fact pseudepigraphs.

DeathEdit

Per tradition Paul was beheaded following his arrest in Jerusalem. This event is attested to by church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, writing in the fourth century, and is one interpretation of 1 Clement 5:5-7.

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