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RELGST 1120 NOTES - Paul Pauls letters were written in the...

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11-23-09 Paul Paul’s letters were written in the 50s and 60s CE. Paul’s life’s work is spreading the message of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire. However, most church fathers and scholars consider him to be basically the father or Christianity (because he set up churches all over the place). In his own lifetime, he had more enemies than friends, but he becomes the model for building churches in the 2 nd c CE. Also, Paul is responsible for giving Christianity what is known as the concept of atonement (i.e.: that Jesus died for our sins). There are 22 letters in the New Testament. 14 of these are attributed to Paul, but we know that Paul only wrote 7 of them ( 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Phillipians, Philemon, and Romans ). All but 2 of these are places. Paul didn’t date his letters, so we guess dates for them based on Acts of the Apostles (which is dubious, since Luke’s Acts isn’t necessarily historically accurate). The letter to the Romans is unique because it was written to a church (Christian community) that he didn’t found (he founded the churches in the places the others letters went to). Paul’s letters are circumstantial (i.e.: Paul is not writing systematic theology; he is answering specific questions about specific issues going on in the communities, the letters depend upon circumstances in each community). However, when the church fathers are setting up the institutional church in the 2 nd c CE, they interpret Paul’s letters as though he is writing systematic theology. An issue with this is that Paul thought that Jesus was returning very soon, and he wrote his letters with that understanding; some of the answers he gave people may have been different if he had believed that people would be waiting for the return of Jesus for millennia. Paul was a Pharisee. He claims that he was from near Damascus (not near Jerusalem). The only other clues to his identity are from the material itself. He is obviously very well educated (in philosophy and scripture. We also know from Paul’s own writing that he used to “persecute” the Church of Christ (however, in Greek, this word has many different meanings: anything from heckling to the modern definition); our modern perception is based on the Gospel of Luke, so people think that Paul murdered Christians (although this wouldn’t have been allowed under Jewish law). In 2 Galatians, Paul tells us that he had a vision, and that God made him an “Apostle to the Gentiles” which becomes Paul’s official title and his life’s work (this is the element you can never lose sight of when reading his letters). Paul is basically interested in “Gentile rights.” Paul wants Gentiles to be fully included in the Christian communities. We don’t really know why this is (he makes his argument in terms of scripture). Dr. Denova thinks that Paul’s point of view was probably based on his own experience (i.e.: he saw things he would have interpreted as signs of the holy spirit when pagans were converted). However, Western
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