Paul The Apostle is both Christianity’s single greatest advocate and perhaps one of it’s most subtle enigmas. It is his letters that we have as the earlist writings of the New Testament, written perhaps a generation or two before the Gospels, but there has always been some controversy over his ideas and teachings.
A non-Christian I know always regarded Paul as being the one to have “put together” Christianity. This is hard to fault and most Christians I know would take the same view, though they might use a different phrase. He certainly did the most to take it to the Gentiles – and without that effort, Christianity would have probably become Judaism v2.
But I saw a documentary about the Bible the other night that made me realize again that Paul was out on his own in a lot of ways.
Christianity has developed and expanded throughout the ages. There is no doubt about it. The world around them early Christians bears little resemblance to just 200 years later, let alone our modern world, 2000 years later. Paul was at the very forefront of the meeting of the Christian world with the non-Christian world.
But the other thing we often overlook is that Paul’s ideas developed over time. The first letter of his we still have (Galatians) has teachings against the old Jewish Law. Paul rails against pointless Judaistic traditions and reminds the Galatian church(es) that they are genuinely free from the Mosaic Law – if they will only embrace their Christian Faith properly and completely. It is this letter where he writes the famous line about “there is no Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor freeman, no male nor female”.
However, later letters from Paul have more specific commands. Commands about sexuality, about hair, and other ritualistic things. Did Paul change? Or merely develop? Or is this a red-herring? Hard to know.
But that’s what I would like to explore. I want to find a good study about Paul that explores this development of his teachings. And then see if my Home Group will use it.