During the Fall semester of 2016, a group of my students embarked on a journey to study the Apostle Paul from a historical perspective but also from the standpoint of his significance for their lives and the world we live in.
After a long process that involved research, discussions, and efforts to contextualize the life and work of this giant of the Christian traditition in several posts they wrote for my blog, this is what they all learned and were willing to share, as part of their educational experience:
“As we have continually encountered in our journey through the works of Paul, he is often overtly passive aggressive. Before making request of his readers, he tends to remind them that he as the authority to command them (c.f. Philemon1:8; 2 Corinthians 8:8). Basically, he is making a command without actually making one. Such manipulation seems contradictory to the loving, serving, apostolic character Paul typically identifies with. On top of this, Paul’s relationship with the other Apostles can be called into question. It seems that he was constantly fearful of their challenge against his authority. Seeking the same level of respect, he commands his followers to reference him as an Apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1) and established a counter-culture in the Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-12) through the message of uncircumcision. He was overly paranoid spent too much time looking over his shoulder.”
-Brent Blackwell, Senior Religious Studies
“After the short but detailed encounter with Paul, we can understand his way of viewing different social issues of his time. It was important to see and analyze the limitations he had to become what we perhaps consider the second most important Biblical figure after Jesus Christ. With some of his letters being authentic and others possibly not, we still got a strong view of his persona. Paul was a strong leader with loyal followers and that itself is a big accomplishment of someone who once was looked down upon. His persistence on helping the marginalized and mostly the poor, were values he taught and are still being followed today. Although great, Paul was not perfect and sometimes because impatient and in a way arrogant. Making commands while acting humble, being for the marginalized yet not accepting the ‘homosexuals’ were some of his flaws. He did not trust many, but wanted everyone to trust his teachings. Paul’s life was quite the journey that some may find important to study.”
-Ivonne Ramirez, Senior, Interdisciplinary Studies
“Throughout this journey of studying Paul and his Epistles, we have gained a greater understanding of Paul’s character, missionary purpose and message in spreading the gospel. Paul was originally a persecutor of Christians and the Christian faith until one day he had a transcending encounter with “Jesus”. After this encounter along the road to Damascus, Paul’s journey and purpose in life completely changed. He transformed from a man of hatred, persecution and deceit to a man of compassion, servanthood and righteousness. He continued to live his life as a missionary spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles throughout several regions. Although Paul preached the Gospel religiously, Paul was often more opinionated on topics of specific reference such as homosexuality and the role of women. Paul was bold, direct and gave explicit information in regard to these topics of controversy even in today’s society. Throughout Paul’s Epistles we can better understand the meaning of his writings by considering the influences that sparked Paul’s notion to write such texts. Paul often wrote letters to the people of churches who were not teaching the Gospel or leading in the way the Paul would lead and teach. He was often sending letters in an effort to correct false teaching and to correct misconduct of individuals within the church. This evidence is referenced in the audiences of his Epistles and more specifically, his letters to individual groups of people within the church in regards to specific issues that arose. As a leader of the Christian faith, Paul led boldly, confidently in what he believed and relentlessly in his efforts to spread the Gospel.”
-Brittany Gaddy, Senior, Music Performance