Whenever I even mention the apostle Paul in a post concerning Christianity, the act itself begs me to consider the person and personality of the most prolific author of the New Testament. It’s true that Paul is “credited” with 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, but scholars today say that only 7 of those were written by the same person.How do they know? Style of writing and vocabulary used mostly but there are other markers utilized as well.
Timelines for these books are often in dispute as well. For some, the latest epistle was written around 68 CE. the problem with that is traditionally, Paul was executed in Rome in 64 CE. A good example is 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Paul was the truest of true believers. Although Paul never knew Jesus he did know that Jesus was crucified and rose on the 3rd day. He also believed as he states in 1st Thessalonians that Jesus would return before all of those that believed had “fallen asleep”(died). He was certain that he would not die before that time came.
Galatians is thought to be Pauls earliest letter to a church with 1st Thessalonians a close second (or third). Galatians was written approximately 48 CE, although there are a few scholars that believe it was written as early as 44 CE. 1st Thessalonians was written between 49 and 51 CE. Again this is wherePaul was unequivocal in his belief that those alive now(including himself) would not taste death before Jesus’ return. Of course some later believers recognized this as a mistake by Paul and so a pseudonymous 2nd Thessalonians was written sometime between 80-115CE, a few decades after the traditional death of Paul in Rome. there is dispute in this date as there are scholars that believe 2nd Thessalonians was written around 51 CE. My question, if this is true, is why would “Paul” discuss the 2nd coming again and that, yes there had been many that had “fallen asleep” since his first letter to them and that those people would see Jesus first when he was certain in his first letter of the opposite?
A classic bait-and-switch that tells people on one hand that something is going to happen soon and when it doesn’t, assures them that it will and not to be distressed. I tend to agree with those scholars who say that 6 of the books attributed to Paul are indeed pseudonymous at best.
Paul was an interesting character described in the New Testament., In The Acts of the Apostles, the first half of that book is all about the first days and months after Jesus and concentrated mostly on the disciple Peter whom Jesus himself said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”(Matthew 16:18)
After the first half of Acts though, Peter and the other disciples disappear and the book becomes a lot about Paul. I’ve often wondered why and since nearly half the New Testament are Pauline writings, I personally conclude that there must have been a cult of Paul that formed around his writings after his death. I have no evidence of this other than that which we can see with our own eyes. It’s curious.
Paul, to me, seems a little put out in his writings that he alone has done a lot for the cause of Christ but is given little credit for his efforts, especially by those in Jerusalem (Peter and James). He doesn’t appear to give any deference at all to any of the original apostles believing his gospel is the correct one and writing to churches that if someone has been teaching them otherwise, then they are not from God.
Paul has an infallible belief in his teaching, or a huge ego. The problem with Paul’s teaching, is that his authority comes “from the Lord”. Everything he is teaching comes directly from the Lord and so that separates him from the others like Peter, whom he considers a hypocrite because of his actions, separate, in front of gentiles and Jews. So it looks like, even though they came to a later agreement that Paul would minister to the Gentiles and Peter and the others to the Jews, that Paul mostly ignored the original church and did as he pleased.
In everything Paul writes, the reader can almost feel the seething anger because he is delegated as a second class apostle among the original disciples.. Paul defends his authorty as an apostle, here because, unlike the others, his Gospel comes directly from the Lord. Where then do the others Gospel come from? It’s clear that Pauls ego affected his writings as he “encouraged” churches and “disciplined” others as necessary in his mind. The 6 letters that are disputed as being authentic tell us a lot because these were written to yes, an early church, but because long after Paul’s death, a more mature church.
there are gigantic incongruities even in what Paul believed and “taught” (We actually have no idea what Paul taught, originally) as what we have are “corrections” for certain congregations. Like we witness today, the teaching is fungible.
More to come…