When we think of St Paul on his many great journeys fearlessly preaching the gospel, do we imagine a street preacher proclaiming his message aloud, grasping and sometimes waving around a well-thumbed leather-bound copy of the Bible? When we think of Paul writing his letters, do we imagine him writing away surrounded by a stack of bibles, commentaries and works of theology? We would be mistaken.
Category: Anthony Egan SJ on St Paul
Pauls moral teaching often causes controversy. Scripture scholar Victor Paul Furnish, who tries to show how a more critical reading of Pauls ethics can retrieve the spirit of what he said, observes that when one treats Pauls teaching as if it were a sacred cow, one runs the risk of turning it into a white elephant.
As we study St Paul, we are faced with the almost inevitable question: what does a Jewish preacher of the Risen Christ who was executed in Rome in around 61 AD have to say to Christians today? After all, so much has changed since Paul’s death.
What did St Paul actually know about Jesus? Before his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6) Paul would have known very little about Jesus. Having never met the historical Jesus of Nazareth, he had to rely initially on what was being said about him in Jerusalem by Jesus’ disciples and detractors.
Even among those who have perhaps no knowledge of St Paul, some will have heard of his dramatic conversion and we often hear the phrase “the road to Damascus” or his “Damascus” moment.
It used to be a common joke to say that while Jesus was Catholic, Paul was Protestant. Of course we know that both Jesus and Paul were Torah-observing Jews but as with many jokes it has a core of truth.