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Monday, October 21, 2019

A Thought About Paul

Maybe I should say, a new to me thought about Paul, that I read in a new way this morning😇.

As you may recall, Paul wrote his letters/epistles starting somewhere between 49 and 51 CE, continuing to write for another ten or so years. A general idea about his writing was that it gives us a glimpse into Paul's theology and his counseling to groups he started, as well as a bit of understanding of where and in what direction The Way had developed by 20-30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection. This is still true, yet there is another nuance also.

Before he had his dramatic vision on the road to Damascus, he was a persecutor of the followers of The Way (followers of Jesus). So to be a persecutor, he had to know what upset him. He had to know something of what was being said and taught in the fledgling movement.

So, some things included in his letters are from prior to his conversion. Some things he wrote give us a window into the first 20 years of the movement. There are hymns, for example, that predate Paul's entrance into the sect.

I suppose this is a little thing, but to me it is a significant point because I have sought understanding of the first century for such a long time. This is another piece of the puzzle for me✨.

Most people seem satisfied to overlay post first century understanding over the actual first century. This doesn't work for me. Putting what we now know on top of what they couldn't possibly know distorts the whole thing. Ideas like the trinity, atonement, mandatory creeds, original sin, etc did not live there in the beginning. I know It is so very challenging to try to look without 21st filters, but we can try.

So we have Paul telling us his theology, and giving hints of developing theology beginning with the years before his conversion. Maybe we can read Paul with clearer lenses. Maybe he can still surprise us.

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