St. Paul

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Hans Moleman8/2/2012

Many people believe that Paul is in fact the founder of Christianity, and not Jesus. Of the twenty seven documents that constitute the New Testament, thirteen are letters attributed to Paul. Also, more than half of the Acts of the Apostles describes Paul’s conversion and subsequent activities on behalf of the spread of the good news about Jesus (the Gospel). This gives us an indication as to how important Paul was to the religion. Paul is one of the most prominent people in history and his importance to Christianity, although crucial, is often misunderstood. Paul’s influence on the New Testament has to be considered in the same light as Jesus’, there are the letters that were undoubtedly written by him, the letters that were written years after his death and put in his name, and the Acts of the Apostles. All of these sources give us a better description of Paul and the work he did and what he believed in. Paul came a long way and endured a total transformation since his birth in and around the same time as Jesus in the city of Tarsus. That is, of course according to the Acts. In the Acts it is claimed that Paul was born around this time in the province of Cilia where he was influenced by the city of Tarsus. His parents were both Jews and part of the tribe of Benjamin. Although there is some suggestions as to what Paul’s father did for a living, it has always been unclear whether he was a Pharisee or if Paul became a Pharisee after moving to Palestine. In tarsus, there was always a strong Jewish presence throughout the region which is where Paul would have been influenced. One thing which is quite clear is that Paul was a well – educated man. Before Paul’s conversion, he felt extremely strongly about persecuting early followers of Jesus as Messiah. As well as this, he would often preach the gospel among the Gentiles, in Asia Minor and Greece. It is important to mention the fact that Paul and his family were Diaspora Jews. This would have influenced Paul from an early age. As was the tradition, Paul’s parents gave their son two names. The first of the two names, Saul, came from the famous ancestor of theirs, King Saul. Paul was nothing more than a common Roman name at the time, it has been suggested that Paul was chosen as his second name because of its likeness to Saul. The Damascus road experience has been credited as the main reason for Paul’s conversion, but there is still no evidence which shows that Saul changed his name after this experience. Paul includes all aspects of his early environment in his letters which would suggest that his background played a big part in his life and his work. Without being sure of the exact date, it is well – known that at some stage of Paul’s life, he moved to Palestine. Paul probably moved with his family which would suggest he was still quite young. Even though Paul never wrote about it himself, Acts claims that Paul studied under the rabbi Gamaliel, which would explain where Paul got his knowledge of rabbinic argumentation from. Either way, it was in Palestine where Paul really became a Pharisee or at least where he delved deeper into the world of a Pharisee. "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead." (Acts 23:6), “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:5). The Pharisees

The Pharisees around the early first century could be distinguished by three main aspects; zeal for the Law, both written and oral; their commitment to the purity of Israel; and their belief in the bodily resurrection of the dead. Paul recalls his affiliation with the Pharisees as a onetime badge of pride in his letters, most notably in Phil. 3:3-6 and in Gal. 1:13-14. By protecting and promoting the Law, the Pharisees strongly believed they were protecting Israel from divine judgement. In order...
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