Monday 25 February 2008

Who is Paul? Can we really know? This is my approach to Paul and Pauline Studies.

Who is Paul? Can we really know?
This is my approach to Paul and Pauline Studies.



Appendix I Pauline Chronology
Appendix II Chronology and Notes on Pauline Canon


Who is Paul? Why is there so much debate about Him? Why is there such controversy around him and his writings? Does it matter to me as a scholar? Should it matter to me as a believer? These are some of the questions that I approach this paper with. My purpose is to examine my approach to Paul and Pauline studies, to clarify my research and work to date, and where it can lead in the future. I will approach this topic through three avenues, the importance of Paul: 1) to history, 2) to Christian history and church thought and 3) the Paul of my understanding. Yet the more I read and study the less I feel equipped to do this vast topic justice. So my first task will be to map my journey to this point of writing a paper on Paul. Then I will endeavour to engage the sources for Pauline information, and the appropriateness of them to this work. Then I will look at some titles, or better some categories, that I have discovered, that are overlaid upon Paul, and his life, his ministry and his writings. I will also include two appendices that are really my starting points for this work. The first dealing with a chronology or Paul's life, and the second a chronology of his writings.

In researching this topic, I have come to realize that I have two great weaknesses in doing this subject any real justice. The first is my lack of training in Greek. I have come to realize to enter into full debate with the theologians, authors and Pauline scholars it is essential to have a very fluent handle on the Greek. Of the books I engaged there were sections in some with more Greek per page then English. This limits me to accepting their discussions on the nuisances in the Greek, and in debating the various translations into English. However as an attempt to counter this weakness, I have utilised up to five English translations of Paul's letters. (NIV, NRSV, NASB, NLT, NJKV)

The second area where I have discovered self-weakness is in presuppositions. I have come to realize more and more, as I progress academically that I look at everything through a plethora of lenses. Each of these lenses colours what I read, hear, study and affect how I interpret each of the previous three. I have the lens of having been raised Roman Catholic, on my fathers side, and Being an Irish Roman Catholic that was always taught to fight and struggle and question all. The second perspective if that of a Gaelic warrior poet, often seeing and embracing the extremes, and believing moderation was for monks. The third most predominant lens is that as bible believing born again Christian. This third lens, allows me to study this material academically, but it always brings up more and more questions as opposed to answers.

These lenses affect my sight in many and varied ways. I was reared to believe that Paul was one of the greatest of Catholic 'Saints', which though he had sinned much, repented and atoned much. That he lived the rest of his life from conversion, that his suffering and persecutions were a form of atonement. Yet through my own readings of his letters that is not how he presents his trials and sufferings. So even though I will endeavour to overcome these lenses and do Paul and his thought world justice, or as much justice as I can.

I feel as if I am standing under a great arch, a mass of Pauline scholarship and theology, though
I admit to some shortcoming in my abilities. I will be do justice to Paul to the extent I can. Just as no scholar has yet come up with a complete composite of Paul, neither will I. Nevertheless this enterprise will still be worthwhile. However I will engage Paul and the theologians, and come out enriched, stretched and with more questions to lead me further on this quest. I will endeavour to be careful to avoid the trap of isogesis, while approaching Paul and Pauline texts and the secondary sources of other theologians and academics. I will also attempt to avoid being anachronisms in applying modern tools, psychology, thoughts or approaches to Paul the man.

I have come to the conclusion that there are two sources for the study of Paul, and in each source there are three sub-categories. The two categories are Cannon and then the secondary source of Theological sources. In the category of Canon there is: the seven Authentic or for the most part undisputed letters; which are 1 Corinthians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, Galatians, 2nd Corinthians, Philemon, and Romans. As well as six pseudo-epigraphic Pauline letters, then secondary cannons, both the book of Acts and those writings that did not make canon such as "The Acts of Paul". Then for the area of theological works, I subdivide into three classes as well, Christian Theologians, Jewish Scholars, and other religious academic works(Not that the first two are not academic, but the third category has no specific religious affiliation).

The Paul of scriptures, and other early non-canonical writings is one of conflict and one of varied uncertainty and debate. The easiest to identify is the differing accounts of the Apostolic Council written about by both Paul, and by Luke, by Paul in Galatians 2:1-10 compared with Acts 15. The key question in these passages is, weather Torah had soterological relevance to the Gentles. Paul clearly paints a different picture of this event or at least the decisions made then the account appearing in Acts. So from this very early period there was some debate and problems between Jewish believers and between Gentile converts.

Thus we see a Paul, both in his writings and in Acts as one who does not back down from debate within or without of the body of believers. Thus often Paul ends up having to defend his credentials, and his purpose and actions. Galatians 1 is a great example of this, Alan Segal states in relation to this passage and I agree; "Paul is displaying his credentials because the other apostles do not recognize a person as an apostle who did not know Jesus." There for as Paul himself states, he had conflict with other believers, with Jews, and with Greeks. As can be seen in 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 especially verse 26.

The Christian Scriptures, thus the Letters of Paul, I regard as Canon, as such the debate of the authenticity of Pauline Authorship to my faith is of little importance. Therefore since I consider the disputed writings to be of Pauline authorship, then it is legitimate to consider them to analyze Pauline theology and thought. For if God allowed them into the Canon they are there for my growth and development. As second Timothy 3:16 States, all scripture is profitable, and useful, and God breathed. However as a scholar, I must evaluate the evidence, the opinions and debates, and pursue my studies with academic integrity. (At this juncture I would ask you to pursue Appendix I and II my chronology of Paul and Pauline Books, and arguments for authorship.)

Then when we move on to the secondary source theological texts, it could almost be said there are as many different views of Paul as there are Pauline Scholars. Daniel Boyarin wants to reclaim Paul as an important Jewish thinker and cultural critic. David Wenham questions weather Paul was a Christ follower or the real founder of Christianity? Both J. Christiaan Beker and N. T Write present Paul's Christianity of the completion of the Covenant, or fulfillment of the Old Testament. Thus I see Paul's ministry and teaching as that of a Spiritual Father deliberately building a Family of God that is universal in its invitation. A man passionate for God and committed to following His vision of Christ no matter the personal cost. At this point I will look at some of these categories in specific detail, starting with a Jewish scholar.

Jewish scholar Daniel Boyarin in the introduction to his book A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity states: "This book is the record of an encounter with some of the most remarkable texts in the canon of western literature, the letters of Paul. If one measure of the greatness of a work of literature is its ability to support many interpretations, then certainly these texts must rank among the very greatest of literature, for they have spawned and continue to spawn - anew every morning - not only ne
w interpretations of particular passages but entirely new constructions of their complete thought world." (p.1) While I agree with some of Boyarin's statements, I disagree with others. I agree with the importance of these works, it's continuous effect throughout western history, and western thought. Whereas Boyarin looks at these writings primarily as cultural criticism of Judaism in the Roman period, I approach them as Divine scriptures. As such there material is not just important from a philosophical perspective, but also from a religious or practical use. Boyarin goes on to state: "This means that Judaism formed itself for good and for ill in the context of Pauline (and other Christian) thought, sometimes undoubtedly reacting simply for the purpose of self-definition but also more, more positively, answering in its own distinctive fashion theological and other challenges placed before it by Pauline Christianity. (p.2)" I would go so far as to state that the converse is also true, that Christianity, especially Pauline Christianity formed itself, in many regards initially in reaction to its mother religion of Judaism, and specifically in regards to what Paul calls "Judiazers", Specifically in Galatians 5 and 6. I also strongly disagree and agree with Alan F. Segal, who states in his book Paul the Convert, "Although we have considerable writings from Paul, his biography is incompletely known. … Paul's letters, though widely read, thus turn out to be among the most difficult and complicated writings in western literature. (p.xiii)" I agree with his analysis that Paul's biography is very incomplete with many holes in it. But I do not believe that his letters are difficult. From my perspective they are often straightforward and written to be understood at face value. The problem comes in trying to make them say something they do not say the error of Isogesis, or trying to not have them say what they say or imply.

Through my readings and studies, I have come to see that many people apply categories or titles, roles and positions onto Paul, and his work. I have observed book after book, written upon a specific aspect of one or another of these classes. These groups include such things as Prophet, Priest, Pharisee, founder of a religion, Apostate to his faith and people, teacher, preacher or radical counter cultural revolutionary. There is also debate on almost ever view of Paul, from feminist liberator to Patriarchal repressor of women. Then within these roles, there are different interpretations of events or actions on his part. The most debated is the Damascus Road experience thus the issue of convert and or call. In that we also have the questions about what happened at this critical juncture in Paul's life, was it a revelation of God, if so what of and what is the significance of it? If not what prompted the radical changed in Paul.

From Paul's own writings we have many of his views on some of these categories. In Galatians 1:1 we have the synopsis of Paul's self-thought, he sees himself as an apostle, sent of God, the God who raised Christ from the dead. Furthermore he states in Galatians 1:11,12,16 That he has received a direct revelation from God, that his teachings do not come down from men, and that he has been called to preach to the gentiles. In this chapter in v15, 16 he specifically speaks about a Call from God, and a mission to the Gentiles. Then again in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 he speaks about a new life in Christ, having a ministry of reconciliation, and of Paul himself being an Ambassador for God and Christ Jesus.

Yet for all the c
larity in Paul's descriptions of himself and his role, the theologians have had a continuous debate from the time of Paul to present, and it does not appear it will cease to be an issue any time soon. I agree with Gunther Bornkamm's approach to viewing Paul: "Paul himself has little to say about his conversion and call, and when he does mention them it is with reserve. But we can now see that this is not something to deplore. The power of the concern for the Gospel which lighted upon Paul and became his own is also revealed in the way he speaks of his conversion. This again confirms that for him the one thing of importance was the gospel he was given and not his own person. (P.25)" But I must disagree with the first part. Bornkamm does not make a distinction between conversion and call, The Conversion is the road to Damascus, and the road from Damascus is the call to ministry, the gentiles. I do not observe this hesitance to speak of his call, as can be seen from the numerous references to it in the previous paragraph, from Paul's own writings. I also believe that Richard N Longnecker makes a very valid point in stating "that what he (Paul) says in his letters about his conversion is set within the respective purpose of each of those letters" (P.19)6 Thus we must read Paul within the context of his writings and not just pull out the meanings we want to see.

As Alan Bloom states in The Closing of the American Mind, "Lack of education simply results in students' seeking for enlightenment wherever it i
s readily available, without being able to distinguish between the sublime and trash, insight and propaganda" (P.64) I feel like this is a description of Pauline theological works. From my samplings of Pauline literature, thought and opinion. I have yet to be convinced of many issues that are hotly debated. However I do feel that I have grown, and been stretched by the process. I have been challenged to pursue the bibliographies from each book I have read for this course, each was like a step deeper into the pool of Pauline Theology, each asked the question of 'where to go next?' thus leading me to pursue a thought or theme further, until I have wrestled with these issues and like Jacob's night with an angel, come up blessed after the long hard night of work.

I do have some beliefs and convictions about Paul, his writings, and his thought. But those beliefs have not become dogma's, they are not so locked as to override all other beliefs and convictions. I am open to being convinced of my error, and of my mistake
s. So I will continue to pursue Paul, to seek for the truest essence of His thought and writings.

In conclusion this paper has demonstrated in part that Paul is not just a Jewish
critique, as Boyarin would have us believe. Thus my Paul is the Jew, who was a follower of Christ, who experienced a call, this call led him to become a witness beyond Judaism to the gentiles. As such I would disagree strongly with Bornkamm's statement that Paul is reluctant to talk about his call. A man fully committed to following God. He was a Pharisee, who till the end claimed allegiance to that sect of Judaism, but lived and taught it very differently then most Pharisee's would have accepted. As such he was a founder of churches, and a deliberate builder of a new paradigm of community.

In conclusion I fell as if I have entered a vast library filled only with Pauline thought and opinions, and have wandered around randomly selec
ting texts to engage with. Now I must refocus and become more selective, and discerning. I have but sampled this great area of research and am left with a hunger for more. As I began I wondered where this exercise is leading, and I have as of yet no definite answers. I do know that Pauline literature will always be an interest and passion of mine. I could see myself pursuing a thesis on a particular topic in this vast field.

Paul was a man who lived in troubled times, but who lived out his faith. I will
endeavour to do the same.


1. Paul The Convert: P.13
2. A Radical Jew: P.1
3. A Radical Jew: P.2

4. Paul The Convert: P.xiii
5. Paul: P.25
6. The Road From Damascus: P. 19

7. The Closing of the American Mind: P.64
8. The Paul Quest: P.112
9. The Paul Quest: P.113

Appendix I
Pauline Chronology

The working out of a Pauline Chronology presents some difficulty, but I do not believe that it is impossible. In working on this chronology we must realize that there are both dates of Absolute and also dates of relative Chronology from which we are working. So we must work with Absolute dates, such as times or rules or Emperors, or Governorship with those we know link. Still to some extent there is guess work or conjecture, but there are a few solid pins around which we can build this timeline. The best such pin is Gallio, in Acts 18:12 we have an uprising while Gallio was proconsul, tying this to "the Gallio inscription at Delphi" we can thus place Paul in Corinth in the Spring of 51AD.

The Absolute dates I will be working with in this endeavour are:
  • Governor Festus in Judea 59-62AD
  • Governor Felix in Palestine 52-60AD
  • Pilate in Jerusalem 26-36AD
  • Emperor Claudius 41-54AD

Combining those Dates with Paul's most extensive chronology in Galatians 1 A
s well as events in Acts. From this info and Acts 24:27 we can place Paul in Caesarea at the time of the Changeover between Felix and Festus which had to take place sometime in 59 or 60AD. Also with a little liberty if we assume the Saul in Acts 7:58 to be Paul, then we can presume he was a young man at this time, would have been young at the time of Christ's death. Therefore I come up with the following Chronology for Paul or Saul or Tarsus.
Pauline Timeline:
From Galatians 1:13-2:1
1:13,14 Paul Pharisee
1:15-17 Conversion
Arabia/Damascus 3 years
1:18-20 Jerusalem 1st visit 15 days

1:21 Duration 14 days Syria Cilicia 14 years
2:14 Jerusalem 2nd visit
Apostolic Counsel

(Note: 3 years before 1st Jerusalem visit Galatians 1:18, some scholars include this
in the Galatians 2:1, but not most Scholars)

Thus giving us 17 Years or 16 years +/- 1 year.

If we set Jesus death at AD 30.

Paul's Birth AD 5 +/- 3 0r 4 Years

Paul's Training in Jerusalem AD 15-20
Paul Persecutes in Jerusalem AD 30-32
Conversion/Call AD 32
1st Jerusalem Visit AD 34/35
1st Missionary Journey AD 46-48

2nd Jerusalem Visit AD 48
Paul in Corinth AD 51 Spring (Gallio)
2nd Missionary Journey AD 48-51 (Acts 19:10)
3rd Missionary Journey AD 52-55

3rd Jerusalem Visit AD 56
Paul in Caesarea AD 57-59 (59 Felix/Festus)

Paul In Rome AD 60/61
(Possible release and Further Missions?)
Paul's Death in Rome AD 64-69 (Dependent upon if release and second imprisonment in Rome or not.)

(Note: Above Chart build from readings and Course notes RS 209 May 6th 1998 P. Frick)

Appendix II
Chronology and Notes on Pauline Canon

First I would like to argue for the possibility and I would say probability of the authenticity of all Pauline Canon in the New Testament. There are two quotes from Ben Witherington III, supporting an authentic possibility of the disputed Pauline
letters I would like to share, from his book The Paul Quest: "I for one am not yet convinced by the arguments for inauthenticity, and it is notable that many New Testament scholars who had spent years on these letters were not convinced either (cf. the commentaries by J.N.D. Kelly, C. Spicq, Joachim Jeremais, George Knight, and on 2nd Timothy especially, Luke Thomas Johnson. (P.112)" …"It is quite unbelievable that Paul the letter writer, if indeed released from house arrest in Rome in 62, would never again write to his converts and never again be concerned about the churches he had already founded, even if he still planned to head west to Spain. It is even more unbelievable that he would have left Timothy and Titus in the lurch if he had had an opportunity to encourage them shortly before he died. (P.113)" However because of the considerable debate on this fact the Pastorals will be left as an aside to this study for the most part.

I think the most interesting of the correspondences from a historical perspective is the rebuilding of the Corinthian Correspondences. My belief is that there were at least 5 letters from Paul to this church. Letter A has been lost to us. Letter B is what we now call 1st Corinthians, for in chapter 5 versus 9,11 Paul mentions a previous letter. Then 2nd Corinthians appears to be made up from at least 3 different fragments of letters. Letters C is the Apology, Letter D the letter of tears, and finally letter E ref, to letter of tears and plans to visit them again.

The most unique of the Letters is Romans, first it is a letter written to a congregati
on he has yet had any direct contact with. Second it is not in response to specific problems in the congregation, and is the closet thing we have to a systematic theology by Paul. All of his other letters appear to have been written 'on the fly' and in response to specific issues. Peter Frick said in a lecture for RS 209 June 8th 1998 "With just the book of Romans, and no other books of the bible Christianity would have probably developed the same."

Chronology of Pauline Letters: (If Pauline Authorship is accepted for all.)

1st Thessalonians AD 50 (Spring Gallio)
2nd Thessalonians AD 51 or 52
Galatians AD 53/54
Corinthian Correspondence AD 54/55
Philippians AD 57-59
Romans AD 57
Ephesians AD 60

Philemon AD 60
Colossians AD 60
1st Timothy AD 61,62
2nd Timothy AD 62,63

Titus AD 63-65

Bloom, Allan
The Closing of the American Mind.
New York: Touchstone, 1987

Bornkamm, Gunther
New York Harper and Row, 1971

Boyarin, Daniel
A Radical Jew: Paul and The Politics of Identity.
Berkley: University of California press, 1994

Longnecker, Richard N.
The Road from Damascus.
Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1997

Segal, Alan F.
Paul The Convert.
New Haven Yale University Press, 1990

Witherington III, Ben
The Paul Quest.
Downers Grove InterVarsity Press,1998

(First Written for RS398 Selected Reading in Paul Winter 2001. Note The links go to specific reviews of those books.)

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