Paul Damascus

1 That Perturbing Light on the Way to Damascus by Dr Carmel Mallia, DLitt,ND, M.& D.(Bibl. Stud.),BAHons(Lond),LicEsperanto,Dip.FH&HC(Paris), Dip.Glob.Eth.(Joensuu, Finnl) © 2007 Index Introduction……………………………………………… 2 1.Who was Paul before the crisis in question……………...2 2.His encounter with Christ/its aftermath………………….5 3.Christ, the centre of his doctrine…………………………7 4.At loggerheads with the Jerusalem Church………………18 5.The Light that perturbed him, perturbed others……….....21 6.Conclusion……………………………………………......25 Bibliography………………………………………………..26

Transcript of Paul Damascus


That Perturbing Light on the Way to Damascus


Dr Carmel Mallia,

DLitt,ND, M.& D.(Bibl. Stud.),BAHons(Lond),LicEsperanto,Dip.FH&HC(Paris),

Dip.Glob.Eth.(Joensuu, Finnl)

© 2007


Introduction……………………………………………… 2

1.Who was Paul before the crisis in question……………...2

2.His encounter with Christ/its aftermath………………….5

3.Christ, the centre of his doctrine…………………………7

4.At loggerheads with the Jerusalem Church………………18

5.The Light that perturbed him, perturbed others……….....21





I was always attracted by this queer episode in Paul‟s life. Queer not in itself

but in the manner Paul succinctly speaks about it. Queer also because Paul, a staunch

Pharisee, suddenly had to undergo such an experience, such an explosion that had to

change his life so decidedly and so strikingly, from night to day.

Above all, who is this Paul who, like that pistol-carrying man in the

Western Films, seems to come from nowhere? What are his credentials? What was he

aiming at? How did he behave after this experience or encounter that nobody can

understand or delve deep into? How did that Light disturb Paul‟s life and how did it

subtly incite him to disturb others. Who were these others?

I‟ll try to stress that after all his hassle, after his various imprisonments and

running to and fro to preach Jesus, what do later scholars had to say about him. Here a

conundrum of voices is heard, that sometimes agree and sometimes disagree about his

greatness or otherwise. Nonetheless, his influence, undoubtedly accepted by all, never

waned and continued to inject new blood into the Christian faith on its way towards


The road-map I intend to use for my thesis is the following: Who was Paul

before the crisis in question? Then I pass to elucidate His encounter with Christ and

its aftermath, delineating His Christian teachings that, he points out fervently, were

given him by Christ. Is this believable? Anyhow, the centre of his doctrine is Christ,

particularly not His life and actions but only and especially His death and resurrection.

Then I try to delineate how Paul taught his Gentiles that Christ is God; how Paul‟s

new way of presenting things brought him at loggerheads with the Jerusalem Church,

first of all and especially concerning the Law(circumcision) and how from here he

runs head-on towards faith; then how he maintained that his apostleship depended like

theirs on the sacrosanct -- for him -- fact that even he encountered Christ as they did

although not in the same way.

I‟ll show how that Light that disturbed him, unfailingly had to disturb others,

first of all owing to his new Christianity and secondly through the never-ending see-

saw evaluation of him by subsequent scholars.

I have tried to search in various books about Paul and his missions and above

all about his theology. I also made use of the internet where I found articles, abstracts

and excerpts from related books.

1. Who was Paul before the crisis in question?

In this section I am going to asks who is Paul; then how from his old situation

he abruptly passed to a new one and why he came to Damascus to understand well

that bridge that connected his two far-flung shores; then I‟ll explain this bridge which

was Jewish, Hellenistic and awkwardly even Christian.

How may one understand Paul and his theology without first of all asking the

question: Who was he before the crisis treated in this thesis?

But it is pertinent first of all to understand something about Judaism. Judaism

began about 300 BC. In the time I‟m talking about, 80% of the Jews did not live in

Judea. They were scattered in the Middle East, in today‟s Turkey, in Babylon and


Alexandria, the Greek cultural city par excellence. Paul was one of these Hellenic

Jews.1 From outside Jerusalem the Gentiles brought to the Holy Land new ideas and

new cults, which, even they, were influenced by the Persians through Zoroastrianism

and by the Greeks through philosophy. In fact to mention only one example, Philo of

Alexandria, Paul‟s contemporary, made a synthesis of Platonism and Judaism that

influenced not only the Church Fathers but also John‟s Gospel.2 Greek religion and

culture(Hellenism) in their turn were infiltrated by oriental ideas. On the other hand,

Israel was an exception, since it resisted all foreign influence to remain under its God.

But this could not be total because of the penetration of alien influences.3

That‟s why if one wants to understand Paul, one has to study his background.

Let me look first at Paul from the side of his Jewish heritage.Let me explain.

Paul was a Hellenic Jew, or better still he came from a family of converts, member of

the vast Jewish Diaspora. Paul studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, the leader of the

Pharisees and grandson of Hillel. According to Paul‟s opponents, the Ebonites, Paul

came from a family of recent converts to Judaism. He was present at Stephen‟s death.

Acts represents this due to Saul(Paul‟s former name) Pharizeal zeal, but this is

doubtful as the Pharisees under Gamaliel were friendly to the Jerusalem Church(Cfr.

Acts 5).4

Born in Tarsus, Paul grew up in Jerusalem.5 He was and remained a Jew.

Before his conversion he was a Pharisee(Phil.3:5; cfr. Acts 22:3;23:6;26:5) and

remained theologically Jewish even after. While he rejected some aspects of his

past(Phil.3:4-11), he remained part of Israel in a Jewish framework. As all Jews, he is

against politheism(Rom.1:22-32) and believes in the oneness of God. Israel‟s

eschatological hope was influenced by an apocalyptic hope, revealing God‟s purposes.

Resurrection and God‟s judgement were two of the elements the Israelites believed

in.6 Paul assumes God intervenes in the world through Israel, since Christ came into

his chosen people as its fulfilment(Rom.9:4f).

The fact that this people rejected Him raised problems for Paul as a Jewish

Christian(Rom.9-11). This became more pregnant for him since he was a Pharisee

who kept the Law with the utmost seriousness. In his letters he imitated early Jewish

writings using the words:”for it is written”(Gal.3:13) or “the scripture says”(Rom.4:3).

Paul‟s theology must primarily be understood in the context of Palestinian Jewish

religious history. It‟s probable that Paul theologized his kerygma as a converted

Pharisee not as a Hellenized Jew.So it‟s clear that Pauline theology must be

interpreted in the context of Palestine Judaism.7 Moreover, J. Christiaan Beker argues

that Jewish apocalypticism forms the unifying framework of Pauline theology.8 One

must never suppose that Paul rejected his past when he became apostle. He often

speaks positively of this part(Rom.9:4-5); he not only quotes from prophets who

anticipated Jesus, but also believes that salvation began from the Jews.

1 Hyam Maccoby,St Paul, The Sierra Reference Encyclopaedia, available from:

<> accessed on 20.5.‟07. 2 Ibid.

3 John Ziesler, Pauline Christianity, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 8-22.

4 Hyam Maccoby,ibid.

5 Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of paul,SCM Press Ltd.,1975,p. 5.

6 Ibid.

7 Prof. Barry D. Smith, Pauline Studies, Introduction, available from:

<> accessed on 23.5.‟07. 8 J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle, from “The Triumph of God in Life and Thought”, Philadelphia

Fortress, 1980. Cfr. also A. Schweitzer for this apocalyptic element in Pauline Theology.


Now, after his Jewish culture, let me tackle the other side: his Hellenistic

inheritance. Roughly speaking, the Jews thought of God in terms of what He did, and

the Greeks in terms of His nature. But how much was Paul affected by Hellenism?

His letters show him aware of that culture. He wrote fluent Greek, he used the

Septuagint, he quoted Menander(ICor.15:33), he reflected on the Platonic view of

unseen things(II Cor. 4:18), he used the diatribe and rhetoric. In short, he has various

devices at hand that show a sure Hellenistic influence. On the other hand, the

influence of Hellenism on his theology is minor.9

Now one has to remember that Judaism and Hellenism influenced each other

both in Palestine and in the Diaspora. Even the words ‟synagogue‟ and „sanhedrim‟

are Greek.10

Even the common Hebrew proper name „Sabaoth’ was also used in

Greek as „pantokrator’ with the meaning in both cases of „all powerful‟. Besides,

Jews read the Torah in Greek. Certainly even Paul did, since he quoted from the


But Paul also belonged to a Christian tradition. He refers to or quotes early

Christian tradition in discussions, the eucharist(I Cor.11:23-6), other quotes dealing

with the triade:faith, hope, love(I Cor. 13:130; I Thes. 1:3). The fact is that he drew on

pre-Pauline or even pre-Christian traditions for his exhortations. His concerns, f.ex.,

admonitions to do good and avoid evil,warnings against immorality, exhortations for

non-violence, subjection to leaders, kindness, all these appear in Paul‟s letters.

Now these concerns are shared by many earlier writers, such as Peter,

Ignatius,Hebrews and Barnabas. So the main treatment of his paraenatic(=ethical)


did not originate within himself but were common propriety of early


All this Paul used in appropriate circumstances and so had immediate


This does not mean that Paul used these traditional elements haphazardly but

to support his theological arguments. Notwithstanding this, he betrays little

knowledge of the traditions about Jesus. “This is one of the most puzzling areas of

early Christian history.”14

Paul first met Christianity as its opponent.15

He attacked the Christians not for

being Christians as for being bad Jews. He didn‟t regard himself as having left one

religion for another, but followed a continuation (Rom.11) with Israel‟s past. He felt

that Christianity was not a new religion but the fulfilment of the old. According to this

line of thought, his was not a conversion but a call. Thus from here began his central

aspect: Christology, precisely his starting point.16

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.


Martin Dibelius, A Frech Approach to the New testament and Early Christian Literature, NY,Charles

Scribner‟s Sons, 1936, p.143 as mentioned in Roetzel, ibid, p. 47. 14

Ibid. 15

John Ziesler, ibid., pp. 23-46. 16



2. His encounter with Christ17

/its aftermath

In this chapter I‟ll pinpoint the cause of such a radical change. Was it a vision or a

precise call? What was its immediate effects?

First of all what led Paul to such a radical change of mind? Nothing else, he

said, but an encounter with Christ himself(ICor.9:1; I Cor. 15:8;Gal.1:5f). But is it

true he „encountered‟ Christ? A lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of paper has been

filled up to explain this without arriving at a precise and irrefutable solution.. Still,

Paul is sure he had no vision but a veritable meeting with the risen Christ.(ICor.9:1).

That perturbing light on the way to Damascus almost directed him to declare

in a way verging on euphoria: “To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to

preach among the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ.”(Eph.3:8).Paul‟s meeting

with the risen Lord(I Cor.:1; 15:8) was rather a call like that of Jeremiah‟s .

According to certain scholars, Acts‟account of Paul‟s Damascus road

encounter (Acts9:1-30; 22:3-21;26:4-20) denotes a sudden conversion, i.e. a radical

change with the past. But Paul always linked the Church with God‟s promise to

Israel(Rom.9:5-4); and so he was not divorced from the Jewish tradition.18

. But in fact

he himself did not call his encounter a vision. “One cannot arrive by analysis either

psychological or didactic, to measure the mystery of the act by which God revealed

his Son to Paul.”19

This may only be explained because we know a lot of Paul from

the Acts, but on the other hand Acts has a lot of gaps about the early church history.

In Acts, Luke‟s only intention was to show how the Christian message was spread

triumphantly from Jerusalem to Rome. Besides, Acts does not call Paul „apostle‟

except in 14:4,14. For the Acts, the apostles were twelve, although Paul does claim


Lewis Loftin, ibid.: The title of those who believed in Christ had a bumpy beginning. There was a

confusion about the correct spelling for „Christian‟. F.ex. at ca AD 138 Marcion preferred to call Jesus

„Chrestos‟(=the Kind or Helpful one). In the middle of the 2nd

century, the word „Christian‟ was very

popular. In the Sinaiticus manuscript(4th

cent.AD) it spells „Chrestian‟; Vaticanus, same age, utilizes

another spelling:‟Chreistian‟. But there is an abundance of ancient testimony that shows that „Chrestus‟

for Jesus was very popular among common Christians.The title „Chrestus‟ and „Chrestian‟ are referred

to in the following sources: Tertullian(AD 210),The Eighth Sybil(AD 200),Theophilos of Antioch(AD

170), Marcus(AD 145), Apocalypse of Elijah(AD 100), Seutonius(AD124) and Tacitus(AD 116).The

Orthodox theologians denounced the spelling „Chrestos‟ as based on ignorance. Lactantius(AD 300)

said:”The ignorant are accustomed to call Him „Chrestos‟17

Now, the Orthodox introduced „Christ‟.

This is explained from its etymology, for „Christ‟ in Greek means „anointed‟, „royal‟. And this matches

beautifully with the Hebrew word „Messiah‟.


Roetzel,ibid.,p.19. 19

F.C.Baur, Das Christentum,etc., 3rd ed., p. 45, as mentioned in Frédéric Godet.


the name of apostle for himself(I Cor. 9:1f;15:1-11; Gal.1:1, 17). He didn‟t want to be

considered inferior to the others. For him, the qualification for apostleship is the

divine call.

This brings us to the earliest Christian preaching in which one sees two

aspects or divisions of Christian evangelization. There was first the kerygma (from the

Greek:keryssein =to proclaim) revealing that Jesus is the Christ and then the teaching

or didache (from the Greek didaskein=to teach). Now how do we know that Paul

knew how to use these two promotional instruments? Evidently, from his behaviour in

the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, in the Areopagus in Athens and at the imperial tribunal in

Rome. Not only, but he supplemented them with fuller details, as ex.g., when he

wanted to appeal to the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper(1Cor.11) or

hinting at the resurrection appearances (1Cor.15).

The Jewish converts could understand the implications ex.g., of the title of

Christ, but the Gentiles were far from understanding it at all; so they needed

explanations and interpretations. All this was carried out by word of mouth, since

according to Professor Burkitt the earliest biography of Jesus20

sprung up from the

Gospel of Mark. To add insult to injury, with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70

the communications between the Christians in Palestine and the Gentile world were

severed. So, much of the historical traditional accounts about Jesus was lost.

Even very limited are the Christian documents of the second century and later

that contained information about the apostolic era that was handed down traditionally.

Something could be traced to the 4th

century historian Eusebius. But still the

knowledge is meagre. For the life of Jesus proper we have to rely on the New

Testament Books.21

In Gal.1:11-12, Paul declares his gospel is not taught to him but came to him

through a revelation of Jesus Christ. But what he wrote and how he wrote it were

composed by men. Therefore how did the apostle maintain that he did not receive it

from man?22

Pauline Christianity is the earliest evidence we have as a document because

the Books of the New Testament were written later. It was Paul who introduced us to

the early Church.The earliest letter is probably I Thessalonians (ca AD 50-51). Paul

wrote letters not sermons as substitute for his personal presence(ICor.4:14-

21;IICor.12:14-13:13;IThess.2:17-3:5) to specific people and situations. The major

part of the recipients of his letters were Gentiles(i.e. non-Jews) which in practice

meant they were Greek in culture and language(Rom>11:13;ICor.8:7;Gal.4:8;Phil.3:3;

I Thess.1:9), even although as he himself said, the gospel came “first to the Jew and

then to the Greek(Rom1:16).

While the Synoptic Gospels are a narrative and contain Christ‟s sayings,

Paul‟s theology has a different look: they are letters tackling pastoral, theological and

ethical problems that are bound to be more complex. The genre is totally different. So

there is a substantial contrast between Jesus and Paul. Paul begins post-Easter and for

him Christ is the centre. His Christianity did not venerate Christ as a great teacher,

unlike Matthew‟s or John the healer, or unlike Mark‟s, and Luke‟s while Luke‟s

attitude to the New Age is more cautious than John‟s.

Paul managed to behave in this way after his „call‟, and in that situation

teaching was carried out at that time.


Richard Heard, An Introduction to the New Testament, ch. 5:The Oral Tradition, available

from:<> accessed on 1.6.‟07. 21

Richard Heard, ibid., ch.14:The Growth of the Church. 22

Roetzel,ibid., p. 41.


3. Christ, the centre of his doctrine

In this chapter I am going to talk about how Paul in his epistle treats the

relationship between Christ and God, then how Christ is both human and divine, then

about the titles Paul decorates Christ with and about the characteristics he attributes

Him. In short this is a chapter about what Paul meant when he made Christ‟s death

and resurrection the centre of his teachings. That should also be the Magna Carta of

our life.

If the desire of(for) God is the same desire of the human nature, it is an

onthological desire and is situated in the heart of every person. It results from the

creation of man as an image of God. This desire which is God‟s trace of God in man

permits him to search God. This search is not abstract because one can‟t possess God

by a purely rational search, but by a life-long, existentialist, search which is to be

found in the spiritual life.23

This brings us to the earliest Christian preaching in which one sees two

aspects or divisions of Christian evangelization. There was first the kerygma (from the

Greek:keryssein =to proclaim) revealing that Jesus is the Christ, and then the

didache (from the Greek didaskein=to teach). Now, how do we know that Paul knew

how to use these two promotional instruments? Evidently, from his behaviour in the

Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, in the Areopagus in Athens and at the imperial tribunal in

Rome. Not only, but he supplemented them with fuller details, as ex.g, when he

wanted to appeal to the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper(1Cor.11) or

hinting at the resurrection appearances (1Cor.15).

The Jewish converts could understand the implications ex.g., of the title of

Christ, but the Gentiles were far from understanding at all; so they needed

explanations and interpretations. All this was carried out by word of mouth, since

according to Professor Burkitt the earliest biography of Jesus24

sprung up from the

Gospel of Mark. To add insult to injury, with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70

the communications between the Christians in Palestine and the Gentile world were

severed. So, much of the historical traditional accounts about Jesus was lost.

Even very limited are the Christian documents of the second century and later

that contained information about the apostolic era that was handed down traditionally.

Something could be traced to the 4th

century historian Eusebius. But still the

knowledge is meagre. For the life of Jesus proper we have to rely on the New

Testament Books.25

And because neither Jesus nor his disciples had any intention of

founding a new religion, exegetes called Paul the founder of Christianity.26

Paul‟s doctrine of Jesus is a daring departure from Judaism. That Jesus was a

divine-human person that descended from heaven to save mankind was new to Jewish

ears and plays no role in Jewish Scripture. On the other hand, Paul contended that

every line of the Jewish scripture was a foreshadowing of the Jesus-event. Though

regarding the Old Testament as obsolete, Paul still accepted it as the Word of God,


J. –M. Maldamé in his review of: Victor Franco Gomes, Le Paradoxe du désir de Dieu, Etude sur le

rapport de l‟homme à Dieu selon Henri de Libac, from Récensions Octobre-Cécembre 2006, available

from:<> accessed 25.5.‟07 24

Richard Heard, ibid.,ch. 5:The Oral Tradition. 25

Richard heard, ibid., ch.14:The Growth of the Church. 26



prophesying the new Christian Church and giving it authority. Consequently, he

transformed Judaism into Christianity.27

But Paul‟s kerygma and didache par excellence are carried out throughout his

epistles. The thirteen epistles of Paul that have been preserved may be divided into

four groups that are distinguished by the date and subject matter28


1. Ca. 53AD: 1 & 2 Thessalonians about the subject that most interested

the Church at its beginning: the return of Christ;

2. Ca. 54-59:Galatians(54 or 55), 1 & 2 Corinthians(57 and 58) and

Romans (58-59),essentially treat the Christian salvation and how to

acquire it;

3. 62-64: encloses Colossians, Philemon , Ephesians(62-63) and

Philippians (63-64). They have as main aim the person of Christ and

his union with the Church, which He made as organ in this world;

4. 64-66: the three Pastorals, which have as aim to assure the future of

the Church under the direction of those that have to instruct and

administer after the departure of the apostles.

There is a great difference between the programme taken up by the four

evangelists, who wrote their works after the death of Paul, and Paul‟s epistles. In fact

Matthew, represented by a Lion, portrays Christ‟s authority in his unearthly kingdom.

Matthew is known for his love of order, his interest in the sayings of Jesus and his

exposition of the nature and mission of the Church. According to Papias (ca 125AD),

Matthew in his gospel set the sayings of the Lord in order, besides demonstrating

that the Old Testament prophesies have been fulfilled in Jesus.29

Mark, represented

by a Bull, depicts Christ‟s service to humanity. In this second Gospel, Marc identifies

the mystery of the kingdom of God in the mystery of Jesus, at once God and man. 30

For Luke, represented by a Man, and called: ”scribe of the meekness of


Christ is the abundance of wisdom and manly character. His was

the first literature presenting to the Greek reading public of the first century the Good

News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Eagle32

, the king of the birds, was the fourth

representative of Christ for John staring at his master as a divine being: here Christ is


This may be nailed down to the following central words in John‟s

Gospel: ”The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and “we have seen his

glory”(Jn.1:14). Here Jesus‟ career is portrayed as a dramatic conflict between Jesus

and Jerusalem.34

Many scholars went so far as to question the authenticity of some of Paul‟s

letters. F.C. Baur of Tübingen held that only four were authentic:Romans,Galatians,1

& 2 Corinth. Others would exclude the Pastoral from the Pauline corpus; others would

even consider 2 Thessalonians and Ephesians as deutero-Pauline. However there is


Hyam Maccoby, The Problem of Paul, from The Mythmaker:Paul and the Invention of Christianity,

available from:<> accessed 23.5.‟07. 28

Frédérick Godet, ibid.,Genral Conclusion of paul‟s Epistles. 29

Rev. John P. O‟Connell, The Holy Bible, Virtue & Co. Ltd., London, 1959, Catholic Dictionary,

under „Matthew‟, p. 157. 30

Ibid, under „The Gospel of mark‟,p. 149. 31

Ibid.,under „Gospel of Luke‟, p. 146. 32

This is one of the faces of the throne-bearers of Yahweh, thus symbilizing Yahweh‟s supreme

sublimity(Ezech.1:10;10:14). 33

Andrew Corbett, Introduction Outline of the NT, Legana, Tasmania, availavle

from:<> accessed on 1.6.‟07. 34

Ibid., under „Gosper of St. John‟, p. 129.


insufficient evidence to conclude that some of the letters are pseudonymous.35


Peter gives a helping-hand to these argument-laden experts and does not hesitate to

state that many of the verses in the epistles are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16),

although others try to interpret them according to their personal whims.

Now to go to God one has to pass through the phenomenon „Christ‟. How did

Paul cross this strange, although for him natural, bridge?

Of the cross and resurrection Paul speaks a lot, but of the life of Jesus he only

tells us that36


Jesus was a Jew born of woman under the Jewish law(Gal.3:16;4:4);

He was of the line of David(Rom.1:3);

His ministry was essential to Israel(Rom.15:8), and

Christ had his last meal with his disciples(ICor.11:23-5).

Even of the teaching of Jesus there is little. Notwithstanding all this, in Paul‟s epistles

there are some parallels to Gospel material. For example:

1. In Rom.12:13,14: cfr. Matth.5:44 and Lk.6:28-“Blessed are those who

persecute you…”

2. In Rom.12:17: cfr. Mt. 5:39-“Repay no one evil for evil” and

3. In Rom.13:8-10: cfr. Mt.22:34-40-“Love is the fulfilment of the Law”.

The wording is not identical and Paul gives no acknowledgment of source.

On the other hand Paul‟s real preaching focussed on:

The Cross(ICor.1:17,18;Gal.6:14;Phil.2:8;Rom.5:6-11;6:1-14);

The Resurrection (I Cor.15:1-58); and, as a corollary:

The parousia (Jesus will come again)(I Thess.4:13-5:11;II Thess.2:1-15).37

Some point out that Paul does show an acquaintance with the character of

Jesus, ex.g., His humility and obedience to God (Phol.2:6-11;2Cor.8:9;10:1; Rom.

15:3,8). But Paul‟s reference is usually to His enduring the cross rather than to his

life as such.38

From this, two notions follow:

a) Paul was not consonant with the Jesus-tradition in any detail. Perhaps it hardly had

a central place at all in the life of the Jerusalem Church; and

b)Paul had little interest in this Jesus-tradition. He concentrated rather on Jesus

crucified and risen, and His action through the spirit. In short, what mattered for Paul

was what God was saying at that moment in time. Besides, to add insult to injury,

Matthew‟s Rabbi-picture of Jesus is totally absent from Paul.39

And this is


Since Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he refers to Christ

differently: as Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus or simply Jesus. In short, Jesus as a human

being. Paul uses various anthropological terms when referring to this, as ex.g.:

He refers to James, the “brother of the Lord”(Gal.1:19);

Jesus Christ as a man (anthrôpos) (Rom.5.5:15;ICor.15:21), mediator

between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5);

“Man from heaven” appeared to the earthly man(ICor.15:47,48).


Prof. Barry D. Smith, ibid. 36

John Ziesler, ibid.pp.8-22. 37

Felix Just, sj, Major Pauline Themes, available from:

<> accessed on 22.5.‟07. 38

Ibid, p. 21. 39



Paul also uses the term “flesh”(sarx) to describe the humanity of Jesus sent by God

“in the likeness of sinful flesh(en homoiomati sarkos hamartias) (Rom.8:3).40

Enigmatically, says Longenecker,41

Paul identifies Jesus with a spiritual rock that

followed the Israelites around in the wilderness(ICor.10:4). This is a strong metaphor

that gives us a glimpse of Paul‟s poetic vision, even when talking of Jesus.It‟s

pertinent here to point to 1Enoch62:7-9:”For the Son of Man was conceived from the

beginning.” The same as Phil.2:6,7 who sees Christ as pre-existing, before he became

human, as a being in the morphê of God, and thence adopted the morphê of a servant

as a human being. In Col.1:18 there is a word:archê, meaning “beginning”, but it is

not stated specifically in what sense Christ is the beginning. Possibly here it means

“the first-born from the dead.”42

So, after Paul, perhaps influenced by him, the four Gospels, written later, treat

both the man and the divine of Christ. It‟s true that the four Gospels represent Christ

from different perspectives, since the three Synoptists set forth the humanity of Christ

while the fourth, Christ‟s life, not from the human aspect but as an expression of the

glory of the Divine person manifested to man as in visible form.

Nonetheless Paul insists both on Christ‟s humanity and on His divinity. Paul‟s

world whirls around three centres in the same circle, if geometrically this can ever be:

God, the human world and the Mediator who is both God and man.43

(1) Let me talk first about Christ‟s humanity. Expressions as “form of a

servant”, ”in habit found as a man” and “in the likeness of sinful

flesh”(Phil.2:7;Rom.8:3); our Lord manifested in the flesh(I Tim.3:16;Col.1:22),

made of woman (Gal.4:4; Rom. 1:3); but not the Law(Gal.4:4); physical human

weakness(2Cor.13:4), life of suffering(Heb.5:8), Passion(Ibid.1:5; Phil.

3:10;Col.1:24); but sinless(IICor.5:21;Gal.2:17;Rom.7:3);representing the whole

human race(Rom.5:12-21; ICor.15:45-49). Paul looks at Christ as self-effacing. The

words here used are: ”emptied himself”(séautón ékénose)(Phil.2:6,7). Rightly defined,

this has a special value:

it assures us of God‟s love;

it reveals the true nature of God‟s sacrifice, i.e. complete self-surrender; and

self-effacement is a work of perfect human character.44

(2) But Paul also wanted to teach the divinity of Christ. According to Paul the

superiority of the Christian revelation is derived from Christ being the Son of God.

Paul called Jesus the „Messiah‟(in Greek it means „Christ‟=the anointed one).

But of this Messianship Paul uses little, although he uses the word.The sort of

Christ(Messiah) in whom Paul believes is essentially a rejected one in whose death

and new life those who believe in him may share. For him Jesus was the end of the

Old Age and the dawn of a New One.

If we search in the New Testament, and for reason‟s sake we say that nothing

proves Christ‟s divinity, the first 14 verses of the 4th

Gospel would suffice to convince

us of it. The doctrine of the Prologue is the fundamental idea of the whole Johannine

theology. The whole Gospel is a history of the Eternal Word dwelling in human


Richard N. Longenecker, Pauline Christology,avaliable

from<:> accessed on 20.5.‟07. 41

Barry D. Smith, Pauline Christology, ibid. 42

Ibid. 43

A.J. Maas,Christology, Catholic Encyclopaedia, available

from:<> accessed 26.5.‟07. 44

Francis J. Hall, The Humiliaion of Christ, Ch.18.Q.108, from:Theology Outlines, available

from:<> accessed 26.5.‟07.


nature, the same teaching found in the Johannine epistles. Now, according to the

Apocalypse Christ is the Alpha and Omega(1:8;21:6;22:13). He is associated with the


Paul believed wholly in the parousia (coming)(I Thess. 4:13-18;ICor.15:20-28)

who will finally hand our power to the father(ICor.15:23-5). The idea of the nearness

of the Lord haunted Paul.This is largely felt in I Thess. more than elsewhere in his

letters. Jesus as Messiah is the key to salvation, he is the key figure of the end of

human history.46

But the notion dominating Paul‟s thoughts is the expectation of Christ who

will soon return(Thess. 1:10). This is contemplated mostly in Thessalonians, the

earliest of Paul‟s letters. Here we find him hoping for his coming but he did not

formally teach Christ will come very soon. But yes Paul presupposes he‟ll come soon.

His primary purpose was to persuade them the end is not quite yet. They should

continue to hope. There is no point of brooking further for any further deliverance,

since the cross and resurrection were the last significant event in history. Hence the

Christian must go on quietly working(Thess. 3:12).So the union of the Christian with

Christ is greatly desired even now(Cfr.Colossians, Ephesians). 47

This central thought of Paul i.e. the death and resurrection of Christ, was so

felt in him that it dragged him into the Athenian Areopagus (Acts 17:22-31) when he

was in that city of artists, writers and philosophers (AD 51).48

Luke records this visit in Acts 17 and makes Paul‟s missionary visit and

speech one of the highest points of his Book. Indeed it has been more of a theological

message than a Christological one, since it is without a direct reference to Christ in its

final part(v.31).49

Here we assist at a fierce clash between Christianity and paganism.

For those listening, Paul brought “strange things” which were the great news of

salvation. What is interesting in this speech(Acts 17:28) is that Paul cites the

Phaenomina of Aratus(late 4th

, early 5th

century BC), a Greek poet, by which he

wanted to show his audience that their religion amounted to idolatry. Here Paul shows

he is also familiar with the writings and beliefs of the Greeks, refuting their beliefs

using the ad hominem arguments. He uses a line from Aratus and in the midst of

Stoics and Epicureans philosophers, Paul showed them that the inscription on the

Areopagus “To the unknown God” was not about their god, an anthropomorphic god,

but about the true God he was preaching, and he cites Aratus to convince his audience

that God can‟t be represented “by the art and imagination of man”.

The three principal divisions of the address are:

God, creator and Lord of the world requires no temple, because He is without


God made man with the destiny that he should seek him(vv.26,27), and

The affinity of man with God should preclude all worship of images(vv.28,29).

Now these divisions betray Hellenistic writings.


Ibid. 46

John Ziesler, ibid.,pp.23-46. 47

Henry Wandbrough,OSB, The Lord comes like a Thief, in The Theology of St. Paul, The Mercier

Press, Cork,1968,ch.1,p.12. 48

Dr Riemer Faber, The Apostle and the Poet:Paul and Aratus, available

from:<>accessed 21.5.‟07. 49

Stelian Tofana, from summary to the article:The Apostle pauil‟s Discourse in Areopagus or the First

Confrontation between the Heathen Philosophy and the Word of God in the European World,from

Sacra Scripta, Issue no.1-2/2005, publ. By Centrul de Studii Biblice-Universitatea Babes-Bolyai,

Romanis, available from:<> accessed 29.5.‟07.


Notwithstanding this, the speech as a whole represents a significant development of

theology in the soil of Greek culture.50

Paul‟s final advice here was for repentance and that,

before the dreadful day of judgement would come, there are days of grace and salvation. By

the way, does not this fall in line with Peter‟s words in 1Pet.3:19? In this address, the

declaration concerning the significance of the resurrection of Christ overshadowed the Cross.

Note the wording: Christ “that died, yea rather (my underlining) that was raised from the


Here Paul wanted to teach that God is the centre of the universe, who commands all men to repent

since he had fixed a day when he will judge the world by Christ whom he had appointed.

Here I wish to make two interferences. First, it‟s curious how Dibelius shows

this speech is inconsistent with the teaching of Paul in his epistles. Second, according

to Albert Schweitzer,51

the quote: ”In Him we live and move and have our

being”(17:28) expresses a God-mysticism which is Stoic rather than Christian and,

instead of a transcendent God, Paul depicts an immaneistic view of the world.

Schweitzer goes as far as to conclude that this speech is unhistorical, i.e. Luke had

his liberties in it.

The early Christian movement created a kind of Christological monotheism,

including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God of Israel. God was the creator of

all things, and creation cannot be delegated to a creature. So the early Christians had

to include Jesus in the escathological identity of God. This was the early Christians‟

Jewish way of presenting monotheism against ditheism that was bound to crop up.

Instead of adding to, they included Jesus to the unique identity of God52

. Here Neil

Richardson uses the rather precise term: ”theological inclusio” which means that God

is the source and goal and Christ is the mediator.53

Against the pagan pantheon, Paul presents the true God revealed in Jesus

Christ. Paul makes use of a Jewish formula (the Shema=Hear(O God)54

which is the

most basic expression of Jewish monotheism and places Jesus at its centre. So, instead

of : “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one”(the Septuagint of Deut.6:4

reads: akoue Israel kyrios ho theos hemon eis estiv), we have:

One God

The father, from whom are all things and we with


and: One Lord

Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things/through whom are

we(I Cor.8:6).

Now, what has Paul done here? According to Wright, Paul expanded the formula in a

way quite unprecedented in any other text known to us, so as to include a gloss on

theos and another on kurios in this way:

All hemin

Eis theos ho pater, ex out a pavta kai eis autov

kaj eis kurios

Iesous Christos di out a pavta kaj hemeis di autou.


Dibelius, Paulus auf dem Areopag, 1939. 51

The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle(Die Mystik des Apostels Paulus), 1930,L.T.1931. 52

Richard Bauckham, Paul‟s Christology of Divine Identity, available

from:<> accessed on 22.5.‟07. 53

Richardson, Paul‟s Language, 301. 54

In Maltese, an Arabic dialect, we have the word:isma’(hear) coming from the same root of Shema.


So Paul has glossed „God‟ with „father‟(ho pater), and „Lord‟(eis kurios) with „Jesus

Christ‟, adding a phrase in each case. Thus Paul has placed Jesus Christ within an

explicit statement from the Old Testament.55

In this manner, Paul has redefined the

Shema, already widespread in Judaism as the Jewish daily prayer, thus producing a

sort of Christological monotheism. So much so that when Paul writes in 1

Cor.11:11:”Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” he redefined the monotheism of 1

Cor. 8:6 and put it in practice. Besides, Paul discovered that the Gospel of the

crucified and risen Christ continued “the power and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor.


One can now understand Paul‟s thought, that living and dying in Christ is

gain(Phil.1:21), because through Jesus one goes to the Father, nay one is in the Father.

I have just shown how Paul stressed that Christ is the image of God(eikôn tou

theou) (2 Cor.4:4). There are three passages, where Paul explicitly identifies Jesus as

God. These are: Rom.9:5, Tit.2:13, and 2 Thes. 1:12, where Paul says that Christ is

over all and God is blessed for ever and ever. Here Paul meant that Christ is God,

notwithstanding the difficulties brought by exegetes. Smith seems to indicate that

these passages are unjustifiably disputed.57

Although Paul identifies Jesus Christ with God, he also distinguishes both.

Paul always distinguishes between Jesus Christ, son of God(huios tou theou). Jesus

Christ is subordinated to God. The subordination quality is found in Rom.1:3,4,9;5:10;

8:3,29,32; 1Cor.1:9;2Cor.1:19;Gal.1:16;2:20;4:4,6; Eph.4:13;Col.1:13;IThes. 1:10).

Besides, the son‟s relationship of subordination to God is expressly stated in

1Cor.15:28. In other references to Christ as son in Paul‟s letters, the relationship of

subordination is clearly implied by the use of “son”.58

By Son of God, the apostle understands an eternal and immanent relation with

Christ to the Father. If Paul uses the term “form of God”, “image of God” when

speaking of Christ‟s divinity to show distinction between the Eternal father and the

Divine Son(Phil.2:6; Col.1:15), Christ is not merely the image and glory of

God(1Cor.11:7) but also the first born before any created beings(Co.1:15) and “who is

over all things, God blessed forever.”(Rom.9:5).59

The Christological title:”Son of God” as used by Paul originates from the

Hellenistic Church.60

In the Palestinian Church, “Son of God” means the Messiah; in

the Hellenistic world it means „having a divine origin‟. Hence the development of the

“divine man”(theois anêr). This latter assertion is meant when Paul says “Son of


Paul assured us that Jesus was declared Son of God through the

Spirit by the resurrection from the dead. This so much was in Paul‟s heart that in

Rom.1:3,4 he aesthetically displays it in the following chiastic structure:

Peri tou hiou autou A

Tou genomenon B

Ek spermatos Dauid C

Kata sarka D


N.T. Wright, One God, One Lord, one people, from „Ex Auditu‟, Journal of North park Symposium

on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture, availed of from

<> accessed 20.5.‟07. 56

Ibid. 57

Prof. Barry D. Smith, Pauline Christology,, available from:

<> accessed 23.5.‟07. 58

Ibid. 59

A.J. Maas, Ibid. 60

Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, NY, Charles Schribner‟s Sons, 1951,1955.(mentioned

by Barry, ibid). 61

Barry D. Smith, Ibid.


Tou horisthentos hiou Theou

eu dunamei B‟

kata pneuma hagiôsunês D‟

ex anasteseôos nekrôn C‟

Iêsou Christou tou kuriou hêmôn A‟

Now what are the usual casual appellations of Paul with regards to Christ?

First:the most common title Paul uses in relation to Jesus Christ is “Lord”(kurios). In

the salutations of his 13 letters(with the possible exception of Colossians and 1

Thessalonians) Paul sends greetings from God the Father and Lord(kurios) Jesus

Christ. In relation to this, in 1 Cor. 16:22 Paul uses the words: Marana Tha(=Oh

Lord, come!). Why has he used these very old words in the Aramaic language?

(Remember also the other very much used word Amen). Perhaps to show that

Christians speaking Aramaic have done this from ages ago.

“Lord” meant also authority first on individuals, then on the Church, on the

cosmos. For Paul that sovereignty was established at the


In the same instances when he refers to Jesus as

Lord, Paul ascribes the tetragrammaton to Jesus. He often uses ho kurios to mean

YHWH in accordance with the Old Testament usage(e.g. Rom.4:8=Ps.32:2;

Rom.9:28-29=Isa. 10:22,23; Isa.1:9; Rom.14:11=Isa.49:18;

45:23;Rom.5:11=Ps.117:1; 1Cor.1:31=Isa. 40:13.63

Secondly:the title “Son of God” is little used by Paul compared with “Lord”.

Because to call Jesus Son of God is not an exalting attribution. Perhaps this is why

Paul refers to Jesus sometimes as the „Son of God‟(1Cor.15:28;2Cor.1:19) or as „his

own Son‟(Rom.8:3) or simply as „his Son‟ (Gal.4:4).

To sum up: according to Paul “There is one God and one mediator between God and

man, the man Jesus Christ”(1 Tim.2:5). On few occasions Paul refers to “the God and

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”(Rom.15:6; 2 Cor.1:3; 11:31) or “the God of our Lord

Jesus Christ”(Eph.1:17). But Paul goes deeper still explaining that Jesus is the

Messiah(=Christ), pre-existing in human history in the morphê and the eikôn of God,

i.e. sharing the essential nature of God. Nonetheless, Paul distinguishes between Jesus

and God, Jesus who subdued himself to God.64

Jesus is also Spirit(1Cor.15:45), he is equated with the spirit(IICor.3:16f).

Spirit is the mode of God‟s presence in the world.Hence, he is the agent of

life(Gen.1:2). So he is the content that fills the whole world. Notwithstanding this, the

spirit and Christ should not be confused, although Paul passes from one to another


(Rom.8:9f; Rom.8:9;Rom.14:17; Phil.4:4). For Paul spirit-experience is

Christ-experience and all this is anchored in the concrete person of historical


Paul looks also to God in relation to Wisdom(Sophia). True wisdom is to be

found in Christ alone(1 Cor.1-4), or better Christ is the Wisdom of God and the

revelation of God‟s mystery. The Jewish use of this word is the key to open for us

Paul‟s meaning. It is identified with the Torah for it is in it that knowledge of God is

found(Eccles. 24:23). So Paul identifies Christ with wisdom.Philo uses the word


Ibid. 63

Ibid. 64

Ibid. 65

Ziesler, ibid,pp.23-46. 66



Logos(Word). Here we have the concrete figure of Jesus Christ not the activity of

God.(1 Cor.8:5; Rom.11:36).67

We are frequently using the words Jesus Christ together, as it should be. But

there is a cause for this. The title was coined over a hundred years ago, precisely in

1892 by Martin Kähler to distinguish between the historical Jesus and the Christ of

the Gospels. This to understand better the „humanity‟ of Jesus and his „divinity‟ in

speaking about Jesus as the God-man.68

As we said before, Christ is the Redeemer, the redeemer from bondage. Paul

literary uses three words for this:

exagorazō in Gal.3:13 and 4:5;

lutroō in Tim. 2:14, and

apolutrōsis in Rom.3:24;8:23;ICor.1:30;Col.1:14;Eph.1:7,14;4:30.

They all mean transfer from slavery to freedom. Paul does not mention that the

death of Christ was the price paid to set man free, although he concentrates it on

the cross(Gal.3:13;Rom.3:24).69

If one were to ask what Christ redeems us from, there are three answers:

1. He frees us from the Law and its curse(Gal.3:13;4:5);

2. He frees us from sin and its power(Rom.3:24);

3. He gives us the final freedom of life with God at the End(Rom.8:23).

Now for Paul Christ is not individualistic.70

Rather he is the centre of a new

people, although fulfilling the historical Israel. All are one in Christ(Gal.3:28), as one

body. For body Paul uses sōma for the community of believers. This idea is

significantly developed in Colossians and Ephesians. As the body is composed of

different parts that have different functions, so we are in

Christ(Rom.12:4f;1Cor.12:12-30). The total picture is one of unity in diversity.71

Christianity has brought a complete reversal of standards. For a

Christian the very wisdom now became Christ. But the wisdom of God is not

knowledge, so dear to the Greeks, but love. All this is found in 1 Corinthians.Love is

in fact the only guide-line, the yard-stick, which Paul provides for Christian conduct72

Love is the way faith expresses itself(Gal.5:6), a slavery to each other(Gal.5:13). Love

is the characterization which shows that the spirit of God is present(Rom.15:30;

Gal.5:22;Cor.13:13;Col.1:8). No passage sums up its character better than 1 Cor.13:4-

8): Love is…Love is… .

The primitive gospel contained six elements, according to Dodd73


a)The arrival of the messianic age as foretold by the prophets;

b)The inauguration of this age in the ministry, death and resurrection of Christ;

c)The exaltation of Jesus;

d)The presence of the Holy Spirit in the church as a sign of Christ‟s power and glory;

e)The imminent return of Jesus as the consummation of the messianic age;

f)The call to repentance coupled with an effort of forgiveness.


Ibid. 68

Richard N. Longenecker, The Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith:Some Contemporary

Reflexions, available from:<> accessed on 20.5.‟07. 69

Ziesler, ibid. pp.23-46. 70

John Ziesler, ibid. p. 47. 71

Ibid. 72

Henry Wansbrough, 73

C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic preaching and its development, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1936,pp.



This gospel is the same as that of Paul from his very first epistle to the last. To

corroborate them, there are three elements that crop up in Pul‟s letters, although not

necessarily together. Here is how they are found:

1. Prophecy fulfilled: Rom.1:2

2. Messianic Age inaugurated in Jesus who was born of the seed of David:


Died according to the scriptures: Ga. 1:4; 1 Cor.15:3

Was buried: 1Cor.15:3

And raised: 1Thess. 1:10;1Cor.15:4

3. Who was exalted Rom.8:34;Phil.2:9

4. Presence of the Holy Spirit: Rom.8:26ff; 1Cor. 12:1ff

5. Who will come again: 1Thess.1:10;Rom.2:16

6. Call to repent: Rom.10:974

With Christ, one is in a new world(2 Cor.5:17).From the old Adam to the “last

or second Adam”. The Adamic myth is rarely mentioned in the Old Testament and the

Gospels, but it occupies a prominent place in Paul‟s letters.75

The following passages

are important in this relation:

1. Romans 5:12-21:

Here Paul contrasts the last Adam with the first.Through the disobedience of

the first Adam,”many were made sinners”(Rom.5:19); through the last Adam

came life(5:18), when with the former came death(5:21). But Paul did not

endorse the doctrine of original sin. This is not seminal transmission. Each

person became his or her own Adam.76

2. 1 Cor.15:

Corinthians didn‟t understand how Christ‟s resurrection applied also to them.

Paul argues that the resurrection is the first instance of the general ones(1

Cor.15:20). His rising signals the arrival of God‟s kingdom. Paul argues that

as we are born in the image of the man of dust(Adam), so we shall inherit the

new man(Jesus)(1Cor.15:19).

3. Phil.2:6-11:

Here Paul quotes a Christian hymn in which scholars see the context of Jesus

and Adam, although no direct mention of Adam is made.Where Adam sought to

exalt himself, Christ humbled himself; when Adam rebelled agaist God, Jesus was

obedient till death. The last Adam serves as both the medium and the model of a

restored humanity.77

There is continuity between the message of Jesus and that of Paul. Jesus‟two

focal points were:

a) ”the way” as a path of radical personal transformation, and

b) “the kingdom of God” as a vision.In the Gospel Jesus speaks about the “narrow

way leading to life and “taking up one‟s cross”. Paul speaks about “dying and

rising with Christ”(Rom.6). Jesus speaks about “the kingdom of God”; Paul

proclaims “Jesus is the Lord”. Both are parallel in meaning. Paul‟s way is not

about believing doctrines but a path of psychological and spiritual transformation.

But is not Jesus‟ ”kingdom of God” the same as “Jesus is the Lord?” Paul is one

with Christ:”Be imitators of me as I am with Christ.”78

Besides, in the


Roetzel, pp. 42-43. 75

Roetzel, p. 89. 76

Roetzel,p. 90. 77

Roetzel p. 91. 78



introduction to his letters, Paul presents himself as “servant-slave of Jesus Christ”

and in his preaching he shows he wants to know of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ

crucified.(I Cor.2:2) and “Christ is my life”(Ph.3:10).He always wants to bring

everything together under Christ as head(Col.1:10).Paul puts emphasis on

oneness:”One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”(Col.4:5; Cfr. Alldo:2:14:-18). The

same thing he expresses in Philemon, the shortest of his surviving letters. All this

is founded on the principles of Colossians and Ephesus: the master and slave are

united in brotherhood, for:”there is only one Christ; he is everything and is in


I would like to open a bracket here mentioning the letter to the Hebrews. This

may not have been written by Paul, although it contains teachings resembling

those in his other epistles. Now,this epistle revolves around the spirituality of

Christ‟s priesthood and sacrifice to those of the Old law. This letter is the supreme

document of the New Testament on Christ‟s priesthood, who learned to obey

through suffering(5:8) and underwent the experience of temptation(2:17,18). As a

priest, he is eternal and his intercession also eternal (7:25), he is the perfect

expression of total dedication through his redeeming work(10:1-18). Christ is the

leader who‟ll guide us to salvation(2:10), after a pilgrimage to the heavenly

Jerusalem. This is a new Exodus.79


Henry Wansbrough, ibid, p. 84.


4. At loggerheads with the Jerusalem church

In this chapter I‟ll treat about the curious stand (or stands, since it happened twice)

that Paul took when he met the leaders of the Jerusalem Church in order to iron out

differences, forwarding his idea that now it‟s faith in Christ that should have

precedence over the Law. I‟ll show how his arguments persuaded the leaders to

accept his new doctrine. Then comes my statement that Paul was somewhat arrogant

and egoist in his disposition, and how Christ never behaved in such a way, so much so

that whenever He commanded something he commanded it to one and all not to one


To begin with, the Law, “reviving the soul and rejoicing the heart”(Ps.19),

translates the Hebrew „Torah‟ which in its root-form means „to direct, to instruct‟.

Paul never says the Law is sin and death. When in Rom.8:2, he says he is

being set free from “the law of sin and death”, we should read: set free “from the

principle of sin and death.”80

Paul‟s missionary campaign began ca 44 in Antioch, then he went to Cyprus.

After journeys in Asia Minor, he returned to Antioch. His second missionary

journey(51-53)took him as far as Corinth, and in his third(54-55)he had a three year

stay in Ephesus. It was during these missionary journeys that he wrote the Epistles. In

them there is a basic outline of doctrine that Paul shared with the primitive

Christianity, and although his interpretation of the kerygma differed from that

emanating from Jerusalem, the latter nonetheless finally approved of his


At the heart of Paul‟s theology and also of Christianity, we find the notion of

justification as a means of liberation. This means that people are sinful and can‟t win

God‟s acceptance for their “good works”, simply because the divinely appointed way

of acceptance is grace through faith(Rom.2:1-3:20;9:30-10:40). So acceptance with

God(justification) is not by human achievement. Justification(this noun is rare,

occurring only in Rom.4:25 and 5:18) rather than the verb „to justify‟ means in plural

to restore people to their proper relationship with God. It comes close to

foregiveness(Rom.4:6-8). So here we have the restoration to fellowship. Justification

occurs only through Christ and in Christ. According to Gal.3:16, a man is not

justified by works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why Gentiles

needed not, nay must not need circumcision, since this is under the Law. Paul uses the

words:”in Christ” and “with Christ” side by side(1Cor.15:22;2Cor.5:14;17:21).

This explains the other facet of Paul‟s argument: that Christ had not died

instead of us but to enable us to die, just as he rose to enable us to


And when Paul says that “For us Christ is the end of the

Law”, he does not mean that Christ brings the Law to a termination, but to a

fulfilment. He uses the word telos (=‟end‟, which has both meanings:Christ is the

fulfilment of the Law; the Law is God-given(Rom.7:12;9:4) and finds its true

meaning in Christ(cfr. also Gal.3 and Rom.4).82

Now the new Christians of Galatia came to know that, according to the Jewish

Scriptures, to become children of Abraham one has to be circumcised, and

consequently God‟s sons, and this according to Gen.17:10‟s covenant notice to


Calvin J. Roetzel, The letters of Paul, SCM Press Ltd., 1975. Cfr also: Rom.7:23 and 3:27. 81

Ibid,p. 90-98. 82



Abraham. And he who would not receive circumcision will be cut off from his

people(Gen.17:14). Paul warns the Galatians against “freedom in the Spirit”(Ga.

5:13ff). They knew that the Jewish Christian church of Jerusalem, led by Peter and

James, kept the Law and sought to impose it on Paul‟s congregations which now,

after Paul‟s teachings, believed in justification by grace. But Paul got angry and was

astonished that his people, the Gentiles, were deserting him so quickly, him who

introduced them “to the grace of God”(Gal.1:6). He even goes to the extent of saying

that those who receive circumcision are severed from Christ(Gal.5:4).Notwithstanding

this, when Paul visited Jerusalem, he always maintained his independence and gained

acceptance for his gospel, and on one occasion he even rebuked Peter for his duplicity

on the issue of eating with the gentiles. Paul defends his theory of faith against

circumcision, to be righteous in front of the Lord, because Abraham ”believed in the

Lord”(Gen.15:6) before his circumcision. So it is faith not circumcision which tied

them to Abraham.

Paul‟s new religion had the advantage of being attached to the Hebrew

Scriptures which he now interpreted as forecasting the salvation-death of Jesus. This

Pauline Christianity attracted Gentiles, but met with disapproval from the Jewish

Christians of Jerusalem Church, who regarded the substitution of Jesus‟death for the

absence of the Torah as a lapse into paganism. He was summoned (ca 50) to

Jerusalem by the leaders:James, Peter and John to explain his doctrine. They finally

agreed that Paul‟s Gentile converts did not need to observe the Torah. After this, the

laissez-passer was released. The situation passed from being at loggerheads to

legitimate acceptance.He was thus confirmed in the role of “Apostle of the Gentiles”

(Rom.11:13;15:16;Gal. 1:16) and this by divine appointment.83

with full permission to

enrol gentiles without requiring full conversion to Judaism..

Paul‟s Damascus experience conforms rather closely to the pattern of the Old

Testament prophetic calls. Like Jeremiah and Isaiah, Paul says:God “set me apart

before I was born.”(Gal. 1:15. Cfr. also:Rom.1:1;Jer.1:5; Is.49:1).Paul is concerned

with the salvation of the individual (1 Cor.5:5) but in a wider and cosmological

aspect.(Rom.8:19ff). “By the grace of God I am who I am, and His grace which was

bestowed upon me was not in vain.”(I Cor. 15.

This somewhat puffed up Paul and he wanted to be counted alone. The wanted

to be the sole „Ipse Paulus‟ of the „new gospel‟ seceded from the Jerusalem one. But

this was contrary to what Jesus wanted. First of all, there was equality between the

apostles. Jesus sent all the apostles to teach all nations(Mt.28:18; Mk 16:14); he came

in their midst and showered on them peace telling them that as his Father sent him, so

also he is going to send them, he gave them the Holy Spirit. The apostles in Jerusalem

sent Peter and John to those of Samaria, not Peter alone. Even when Cornelius knelt

down to kiss Peter‟s feet, the latter cried that he was only a man like

him(Cornelius)(Acts 10:26). This means that even though Peter was the

„Petra‟(=Rock), he was not privileged by his fellow-apostles and also by Christ, who

excluded all idea of superiority among the apostles. Once Jesus told them:”If your

brother does not hear you, go tell that to the church.”(Mt.18:17).He didn‟t say „go tell

that to Peter‟. In another instance, Christ told them not to accept the title of „chief‟ or

„master‟, for He was the master, par excellence (Mt.23:8).84


John Ziesler, ibid., pp. 1-17. 84

La Primauté de Pierre Refutée par l‟Evangile, from L‟Eglise Gallicane, available

from:<> accessed 31.5.‟07.


According to St Jerome, 85

the church was not built on Peter but on the

apostles equally. St Ambrose86

declares that the keys given to Peter were also given

to the other apostles. Even St. Augustine87

says that when the keys were given to

Peter they were not given to a particular person but to the unity, the Church.88

Paul was a restless person. He contributed to engage the new movement in

personal struggles and dogmatic discussions by “polémique personelles” and

“discussions dogmatiques.” 89

In his writings he frequently says:”my gospel”. It is true that the revelation he

received was only his, away from the other apostles‟influence. But he is jealous by

nature. He affirms, not without some infatuation, that the “theophany” or

“christophany” was equal to that of the other apostles. That‟s why he met with

conflicts because of his intransigence. That‟s why he passed from crisis to crisis. If

it‟s true that he served the cause of the new-born christianism, he contributed

nonetheless to engage the „sect‟ in polemics and discussions.

It was he who divided Christianity into two worlds:the Judeo-Christian and the

pagan-Christian. When the circumcision affair cropped up, and the central question of

the “Council of Jerusalem” asked the key question: does to be a Christian, one has to

pass through Judaism? This gave two answers: one on Paul‟s side in his epistles to the

Galatians, the other in the Acts. But in fact, this meeting at Jerusalem was not a

reconciliation but a deep fissure in the relationship between the Jerusalem Church and

Paul. In fact in AD54, i.e. two years after the Jerusalem meeting, another conflict

cropped up, that of Antioch when Paul rebuked Peter. From then on, things changed

drastically, so much so that Paul saw some of his adherents drifting away from him

precisely owing to his dogmatism, when his influence and authority were at their

highest. It‟s in this atmosphere that he dictated 2 Corinthians where the first chapters

are a deliverance song and its last90

an ironic outburst.91

It‟s here that Paul‟s

personality is most felt.In a word, it tells you: love me or hate me.


Advers Jorim lib.1. 86

In psalm.38. 87

De Ag.cap.30. 88

St Augustine, Serm.149 and 295. 89

M. Vernes, Saint Paul,vn.25,N.113-115 from L‟Encyclopédie de l‟Agora, available

from:<> accessed 29.5.‟07.




5. That Light that disturbed him, disturbed others

In this chapter I‟ll show how the light that disturbed Paul disturbed also others that

took shelter under his name to save their face. Then I‟ll show how Paul influenced the

outlook of exegetes with regard to their evaluation of his gospel.

“It is always a marvel to me that the street preacher goes straight to the point

in Paul, and finds all his answers, where the ninety-and-nine just men find all their


This shows that many wonder how others find difficulty to understand Paul, or

even to misunderstand him.

Paul‟s Gentile mission had so succeeded that it went its own way with its

theology, and left behind the Jerusalem Church on its own. This is a reality and no

one may disregard it.

Anyhow, different minds and different tastes speak differently. So one finds

that Paul is charged by seriously disturbing the message of Jesus. In fact it is true that

he seldom refers to Jesus‟teaching; not only, some tells you, but he replaced the

message of Jesus by a message about Jesus.Perhaps this is due to the fact that not

everything under his name was written by him, since according to modern scholars,

of the thirteen letters attributed to him, at least three were not, and there are 1 and 2

Thimothy and Titus, while Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Thessalonians are. 93

According to Loftin, Paul, as an itinerant apostle is second in importance only to Jesus.

He is the first Jewish mystic from whom we have first hand account of his mystical

experience(2 Cor.12:1-4). Because Jesus left no writings, most of what he taught

is lost forever. Jesus preached an enlightened form of Judaism, Paul created Pauline

Christianity. So Jesus was not the founder of Christianity as we know it today.94

On the other hand, some assert that while Jesus may be the founder of


, Paul is regarded as the great interpreter of Jesus‟mission and who

explained how Jesus‟life and death fitted into a cosmic scheme of salvation, stretching

from Adam to eschathology. Even the Gnostic Marcion placed Paul over his Jewish-

Christian rivals.

We were talking about Paul‟s influence on Christianity. Before the 2nd


Christianity was often reviewed as distinguishable from Judaism. Afterwards, Judeo-

Christianity became isolated and went its own way.96

Before Marcion‟s revival of Paul‟s theology, Christianity was nothing more

than the Old Testament.When the former openly published the first New Testament in

Rome(AD116), there arose four divisions in Christianity. These groups were

denominated:Gnostics,Catholics,Judeo-Christians and Marcionites.But even before

Marcion‟s publication of his first Christian Bible, Paul divided Christianity in to


Quoted by F.F. Bruce in „Some Thoughts on Paul and Paulinism‟, from „Vox Evangelica 7, 1971, p.

5, available from:<> accessed 29.5.‟07. 93

Marcus Borg, Paul‟s Unconventional Wisdom, available from

<> accessed on 20.5.‟07. 94

Lewis Loftin, ibid.


Ray Embry, Marcion, available from:

<> accessed on 27.5.‟07.


groups: the Judizers and the Pneumatics(=the spirituals). The former were attached to

Peter and James, while the latter to Paul‟s gospel of freedom.97

In any case, the accusation against Elijah by King Ahab:”You troubler of

Israel”(1 Kgs.18:17) could be easily levelled also against Paul who appeared from the

first as a controversial figure in the history of Christianity. This Christianity began as

“the domain of the Nazarens‟(Acts 24:5,14;28:22) and to generations later as


All in all, Paul joined those whom he had persecuted(Acts 9; Gal.1:13-16) to

win Gentiles to the Gospel of Christ(Rom.11:13;15:18-20). But he continued to be an

inspiration to Marcion, and Valentinian Gnosticism. Tertullian called Paul “the

apostle of the heretics”.98

Some of the early Christians regarded Paul as a great

apostate, an arch enemy(Epistula Petri 2:3; Clem. Hom.17:18-19).

At the end he became more domesticated, but his influence was incalculable.

Infact he was called, as we already mentioned:”the second founder of Christianity”. It

was through him that Iraeneus and Tertullian steered Christianity through heresies in

the second half of the 2nd

century. The reputation through its justification by sola fides

became a kind of Paulinism. After the 1st world war, Karl Barth inaugurated a new

place for Paul in the 20th

century theology.99

Great studies have been carried out regarding Paul‟s influence in transforming

a Jewish messianic renewal movement into a religion which became the dominant

intellectual and religious influence on European thought and culture.

The fight was between the two factions that shaped the history of the first two

centuries: the Petrine position, and Pauline Christianity and freed Christianity from

Jewish particularism. In this conflict, Ferdinand Christian Baur100

saw a

foreshadowing of the Reformation conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism. In

short Paul‟s work was the „hellenization‟ of Christianity.101

Jewish Christians still attack Paul‟s interpretation of the Gospel even over a

century after his death.The writers of the pseudo-Pauline letters, i.e. Hebrews, 1 & 2

Timothy, Titus, etc.) used his name to legitimate their writings. Augustine and Luther

cite him. Paul‟s power is so vast that he is deemed to provoke and to excite.102


was used by diverse factions in the primitive church to interpret their own side


These are the Gnostics(Gnosticism=knowledge) with their problem of evil

in the world and the Pelagians with their problem of sin. Second century Gnosticism

almost conquered under the banner of Paul. Gnostic sects displayed hatred for the

world and for things of the flesh. Through their return to the divine source, through

dreams, visions, one is liberated from the body-prison. But according to Paul, the

body is an enemy(1 Cor. 9:26-27; Rom.7:18,24) and especially 1 Cor.15:50 where

Paul says:”flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” By these verses of

Paul, the Gnostics showed that even Paul shared their exaggerations, but they isolated

them from their broader context. In him they found support for their radical dualism

between the world above and the world below. When in 2 Cor.4:4 Paul says that the

god of this world blinded the minds of the unbelievers, he referred to the devil, but


Ibid. 98

Adv. Marc.3.5. 99

James D.G.Dunn, ed.,Introduction, Cambridge Companion to St. Paul, available from

<> accessed on 20.5.‟07. 100

Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ,2003, p. 212. 101

James D.G. Dunn, ibid. 102

Roetzel,p. 117. 103



the Gnostics interpreted these words to refer to God; so the evil god entangled the

minds so much that they remember him no more. They insisted that it was Yahweh

that was the evil god of this world. 104

Now regarding the Pelagians: in the problem of sin, Paul was the wedge that

entered between Augustine and Pelagius. Rom.5:12 was the crux. Both contended

their side: one picks up man‟s failure and God‟s grace, while the other is confident of

man‟s ability to live a faithful life far from sin. And those two words:”in quo” of

Rom.5:12 meant a world to both contenders.105

Augustine misred Rom.5:17 but

Pelagius fails to appreciate fully either the power or mystery of human sin.

Justification by faith(Rom.1:17), centre of gravity of Paul‟s letters, was also noticed

by Luther who placed it at the centre of his teachings.106

It‟s interesting to note How Cardinal Newman , studying Paul, has digested

some of his sayings and from them extracted “The Christian Philosophy of life.”107

Hence, says Newman, the following are the duties of the Christian according to Paul:

a) Slave of Christ: “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of


b) With a spiritual mind: “The kingdom of God is not in word but in

power”(1 Cor. 4:20);

c) The Christrian religion is not the “religion of the day”: “Let‟s have grace,

whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For

our God is a consuming fire”(Heb. 12:28,29);

d) Is no self-wise enquirer:”Let no one deceive himself. If any man among

you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may

be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is

written “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness”(1 Cor. 3:18,19);

e) A man of eternity: “While we look not at the things which are seen but at

the things which are not seen for the things which are seen are temporal

but the things which are unseen are eternal”(2 Cor. 4:18);

f) A man founded in Christ:”If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of

the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye abject to

ordinances(Touch not, taste not, handle not which all are to perish with the

using) after the commandments and doctrines of men”(Col. 2:20-22);

g) A man looking towards Christ‟s intercession: “It is Christ that died, yea,

rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also

maketh intercession for us”(Rom.8;34);

h) A man waiting for Christ:”To serve the living and true God and to wait for

his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who had

delivered us from the wrath to come”(Ep.1, Paul and Thessal. C.i.v.9,10).

And these so many interpretations that differ from each other are

consequences of the difficulty of having a perfect picture of the first century of the

Christian Church and this in its turn, owing to scanty of information of that period.

2Timothy were the last works of Paul, where he relished his moving

remembrances waiting death with tranquillity in Rome‟s prison under Nero‟s


Ibid.p.120. 105

Ibid.p.121-125. 106

Ibid.,p.125. 107

The Mind and Heart of St. Paul, A Newman Anthology of Saint Paul, by Henry Newman, selected

by Malachy Gerard Carroll, St Paul Publs, England, 1959,pp. 113-184.


rule.(2Tim.4:7ff.). Trocmé ably winds up Paul‟s life by the very touching words: La

vie tourmentée de Paul s’achève misérablement.”108

Frédéric Godet has given us a litany-compendium of appellations

characterizing Paul combined with the principal activities that encompass, as on a vast

canvas, the various colours of his evangelization and where one may find them

written . Here it is:

Prophet, tracing the double picture, black and white, of the end of things with

the epistle to Thessalonians;

Polemist, fighting Judaism, in Galatians and Colossians;

Luminous doctor, exposing with calm the Christian salvation and its road, in


Psalmist, celebrating the magnificent work of incorporating pagans in God‟s

net, in Ephesians;

Pastor, safeguarding the herd that‟s ready to leave the way, in Corinth;

Father of a family, encouraging, in Philippians;

Friend interceding for another friend in front of another friend, in Philemon;

Practical administrator, taking care of his work which he is going to leave

behind, in the Patoral letters.


Trocmé on Saint Paul, Paris,P.U.F., ch. 7, col. „Que sais-je?‟ no.3662,2003, from l‟Esprit et Vie,

available from:<> accessed 30.5.‟07.


6. Conclusion

The Christian conception of Paul is not composed of pieces glued together but

of a whole of which parts are tightly placed; it‟s the salvation accomplished and

interpreted by Christ; it‟s a whole programme, and Paul executed it faithfully; he

executed faithfully what Christ had prepared and foreshadowed.109

Paul‟s appearance on the scene of Christianity was of tremendous importance

for the transmission of Christianity. It was only when he emerged as leader of the

Church of Antioch that he began to exert an important influence upon the Church

as a whole.The dispute that arose for the Gentiles that filled Antioch, whether

Jewish or Gentile Christians could eat together without the Jews incurring

defilement(Gal.2:11-16), Paul assured that the Law had been superseded by the

new and universal Gospel that one can be saved by faith in Christ.

Now, at the Council of Jerusalem(ca AD 49), Peter took Paul‟s side after

hearing the latter‟s explanation(Gal.2:14; Acts 15:7-11). In time this led to

severance of the Christian Church from the Jews.110

Paul has continued to exercise

a strong and creative influence on those who take Jesus seriously, and even to

fascinate many who do not share his faith.111

The same Light that he experienced on the way to Damascus was the same

dazzling Light that appeared on Mt. Sinai(Ex.34:29-35), which reminds us of the

Trans- figuration.112

This goes also for the Christian who is transformed by Christ‟s

brightness and through this he transfers it to others(Phil.4:6).This occurs because

Christ is “the image of God” who reflects God‟s Light(2 Cor.3:18-4:6).

Paul exercised the greatest influence on world history.113

Paul was a poet and a

mystic and that‟s why he attracted besides many others Henry Newman. For Paul, as

for Newman, the very essence of Christianity is its spiritual optimism based on the

Mystical Body of Christ. The Christian vocation is one of light and joy,

notwithstanding all that is “glissant et tènébreux” in the human nature(Bossuet).114

Through the call of Abraham, God broke the primitive unity of the human race

and introduced in history that dualism resulting from theocratic particularism. But

through Paul God put a full-stop to particularism to elevate humanity to universalism

of salvation, infinitely superior to that of natural primordial unity.115

I think that in this thesis I have shown to my capability how Paul obeyed

Christ‟s call with great scrupulosity and according to that Light that struck him on the

way to Damascus, notwithstanding opposition from brethren that were preaching the

same Christ.

If I were to write a post-mortem to this thesis, I would try to scrutinize what

remained of Paul‟s Gospel today, how is Paul‟s Christ being attended to and what do

modern Christians think of Christ‟s simple teachings. Above all do these Christians


Frédéric Godet, ibid, General conclusion about Paul‟s Epistles. 110

Richard heard, ibid,ch.14:The Growth of the Church. 111

JohnZiesler, ibid.,pp.140-144. 112

Henry Wansbrough, ibid. 113

Frédéric Godet, ibid, General conclusion about Paul‟s Epistles, accessed 1.6.‟07. 114

Malachy Gerard Carroll, The Mind and Heart of St. Paul, Introductory Essay,

St. Paul Publ., England, 1959, 115

Frédéric Godet, Introduction au Nouveau Testament, ch. 6:Les Epîtres de Paul, 1893, from „Soleil

d‟Orient‟, 2007, available from:<> accessed



still look at Paul as the Apostle of the Gentiles, or are they distancing themselves from

his views and would like to hear more of Jesus‟ simple words and imitate His actions?

But I stop here, the last stage in an unsafely frequented square where I feel I

have met Paul and shook hands with him.



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NB- This article was presented as the thesis for the Master‟s diploma -- summa cum

laude -- in a course of Biblical studied (distance learning) in 2007 with Mount

Carmel Institute of Biblical Studies, Ca., USA.