Their impact on the Christian Faith
March 12, 2009
The Apostle Paul, Saint Augustine, and Martin Luther have been three very important figures in the Christian church. Each went through a unique personal experience that changed the course of their lives. Those experiences were important to them and they should be important to anyone of the Christian faith. In this research paper I will explore these experiences and how they do and do not relate to each other. The Apostle Paul
Paul was born with the name of Saul, in Tarsus of Cilicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. He was born both a Jew and a Roman citizen. He grew up in Tarsus and became a tentmaker like his father and grandfather before him. He was taught to be an orthodox Jew. He later journeyed to Jerusalem and attended the Pharisaic school. He did not become a rabbi, but became a member of the temple police. He then set about persecuting the followers of Jesus with unequaled religious zeal. "His orthodoxy, and it alone, was the reason for his hostility to Christ and his zeal as a persecutor" (Bornkamm 15). He attempted to do what he could to destroy the church of God. It was on a journey to Damascus to arrest followers of Christ that Paul's life was changed forever. He experienced an intense light that blinded him, and he heard a voice that said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 9:4,5) When Paul opened his eyes he was blind. His companions, who had also heard the voice but had not seen the light, led him into Damascus. There a man named Ananias, a follower of Jesus, placed his hands upon Paul and took away the blindness. He was baptized into the faith immediately. The beginning of Paul's new life was at hand. He would become, arguably, the most important disciple of Jesus in the early church. Although this revelation happened immediately, it took three years for it to fully manifest itself. During this period, Paul was hiding in Arabia, reflecting on everything that had happened. When he returned, he went straight to the Apostles in order to become one of them. He never met Jesus and was not part of the group that crucified him, but he believed that because of his experience on the road to Damascus, he had been reborn under Christ. In some ways Paul was considered a mystic because he had shared a religious union with Christ and that experience changed his life forever. "Paul saw his conversion as the working out of a plan devised much earlier by God. The goal of that plan was the extension of God's grace to the Gentiles" (Murphy-O'Connor 80). The conversion was not really a conversion it was merely a revelation, a transformation. "If Paul was 'converted' 'from' something 'to' something else, it certainly was not 'from' Judaism 'to' 'Christianity'. Paul continued to be a Jew to his dying day, a fact which most Christians nowadays choose to neglect and which many Jewish scholars find exasperating" (Wilson 61). Paul didn't really completely give up Judaism, he just realized that many of the practices were wrong. "Perhaps the acrimonious sectarianism of Judaism struck Paul as foolish and nauseating" (Wilson 71). He became what some scholars call a Christian Jew. "His beliefs about Jesus were simply added to his Judaism" (Freed 9). He believed that Jesus was the Messiah not by birth, but because of "his suffering, death, and resurrection" (Freed 8). This bears similarity to the myth that he grew up with Herakles (Hercules). In that legend of his predecessors, Herakles, a half-god, descended in to Hades to fight for them. In sacrificing himself, he became their savior. Paul would spend his remaining years attempting to teach the new Way in the synagogues of the region. He would be rebuffed,...