In Praise of the Apostle Paul

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June 29th is devoted to celebrating the memories of the Glorious Leaders of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Paul is not among the original chosen disciples of Christ, but is brought by Christ into Christian leadership from outside the original circle of disciples.   As Jesus said:  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:16). Christ expands His flock and His chosen leaders in order to increase the unity of the Church!

Origen, the great 3rd Century biblical scholar offers this accolade for St Paul:

From the love of God he cannot be separated; what he speaks he speaks in Christ; what he has in his conscience is controlled by the Holy Spirit. What heavens exist, I ask, what thrones are there, what minds of heavenly powers, though most expansive, are able to encompass the whole Trinity in such spacious rooms! (Origen, COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS Books 6-10, p 106A)

33651870416_b6aa94eee9_wOrigen believes St Paul is guided by the Holy Spirit in his interpretation of the Old Testament which is why Paul’s epistles are the proper interpretation of the Old Testament and essential for all Christians to understand:

Paul says somewhere in writing to the Corinthians: “For we know that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink.  For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ (1Cor 10:1-4).

You can see how different Paul’s tradition is from the historical reading: what the Jews think is a crossing of the sea, Paul calls baptism; where they see a cloud, Paul puts the Holy Spirit; and it is in this way that he wants us to understand what the Lord commanded in the gospels when he said: “Whoever is not born again of water and the Holy Spirit cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Jn 3:5). And the manna too, which the Jews think of as a food for the stomach and satisfaction for hunger, Paul calls “spiritual food” (I Cor 10:3). And not just Paul, but the Lord too, says in the same gospel: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  Whoever eats of the bread which I give him will not die for ever” (cf. Jn 6:49, 50). And right after that: “I am the bread which comes down from heaven” (Jn 6:51). Hence Paul speaks quite openly about “the rock which followed them”: “And the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). How then are we to act, who have received such principles of interpretation from Paul, the teacher of the church?  Does it not seem right that such a method coming to us from the tradition should serve as a model in all other instances? Or shall we, as some would like, abandon what so great and holy an apostle has given us and turn back to “Jewish myths” (Tit 1:14)?   (SPIRIT AND FIRE, pp 204-205 A)

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St Paul not only is a leading Christian interpreter of the Old Testament, he also helps us to understand Christ’s own teachings. Modern biblical scholar James Dunn offers us some of the times in which St Paul is obviously referring to Christ’s own words in his epistles.  He gives us these examples of Paul’s words followed by the teaching of Christ found in the Gospels:

Rom. 12.14 – “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse”;

Luke 6.27-28 – “Love your enemies . . .bless those who curse you”; Matt 5.44 – “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Rom 14.14 – “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is profane (ouden koinon) in itself”;

Mark 7.15 – “there is nothing outside a person . . . which is able to defile him (ouden estin . . . ho dynatai koinosai).”

1 Cor 13.2 – “If I have all faith so as to move mountains;

Matt. 17:20 – “If you have faith . . . you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,’ and it will move.

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1 Thes. 5.2,4 – “You yourselves know well that the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night . . . you are not in darkness that the day will surprise you like a thief”;

Matt 24.43 – “Know this that if the householder had known at what watch the thief was to come, he would have watched.

1Thes. 5.13 – “Live at peace among yourselves (eireneuete en heautois);

Mark 9.50 – “Live at peace with on another” (eireneuete en allelois).

(THE THEOLOGY OF THE APOSTLE PAUL, pp 650, 651)