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Significance of Paul of Tarsus

HSC Essay

Mark Robinson

on 26 June 2012

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Transcript of Significance of Paul of Tarsus

Paul of Tarsus Writings Biography Actions introduction Conclusion Paul of Tarsus is significant in Christianity because... Paul's personal, cultural & religious background how Paul's actions contributed to the development of Christianity how Paul's written records contributed to Christianity in his time & since Christianity began as a sect within Judaism. As a result of the life and teachings of Jesus, many Jews considered Him to be the long-awaited Messiah, prophesied about throughout Jewish Scripture.

This view, however, was not shared by all Jews. In Christianity's infant stages, it was seen as a troublesome group of revolutionaries that needed be stamped out. Thus, Jewish and Roman leaders of the time sought to imprison and kill Christian leaders, leaving the fledgling group with little chance of survival.

The leading Jewish people of the time sought to eradicate Christianity for several reasons. In part, they saw the new interpretations of their scriptures & tradition as a challenge to their leadership, thus making them want to stop Jesus in his tracks to save them from losing their control over the people of their culture. Furthermore, if they were to lose this control, they risked the anger of the occupying Roman government. Paul of Tarsus (originally known as Saul) was associated with The Great Sanhedrin, and at this time, was strongly opposed to Christianity. He was commissioned with the job of rounding up and imprisoning Christians. The Great Sanhedrin chose to do this in order to maintain their reputation with the occupying Roman forces, helping them to quell this new uprising. This all took place shortly after the death & alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By the time Paul was introduced in scripture (Acts 8:1), the Christian church was being persecuted in force. Paul was present during the killing of Stephen, the first matyr to give their life after Jesus' death. The persectution of Christians in Jerusalem gained momentum very quickly.
As a result of the violent oppression they suffered under, Christians began to flee Jerusalem, and spread out across Judea, and further.

Scripture states that within a short period of time, Christians had spread out hundreds of kilometres in every direction (Acts 8:9-40 state that Christians had reached Gaza in the south, Joppa in the west, and Antioch in the north. A radius of about 200km)

Hence, it can be seen that even before Paul became a Christian, his impact was significant. The Great Sanhedrin's attempt to stifle Christianity from existence had the exact opposite impact, causing a wide dispersion of Christians across the eastern stretches of the Roman Empire within a few short years of Jesus Christ's death & alleged resurrection.

Most of these revolutionary causes died with their leader, but Jesus' followers believed that while he had died, he was now alive, and their cause was not in vain. The Roman Empire ruled a large portion of the Mediterranean world at the time of Christ. This was largely due to the strength of their military machine. Any uprising or revolt against Roman occupation would quickly be quelled by force if required. As a result, many provinces within the Empire lived in relative peace, accepting Roman occupation in return for safety & protection. Judea, however, was one of the few locations in which the Roman Empire faced regular challenges.

After a Roman general by the name of Pompey took control of Judea in 63 B.C.E., there were numerous revolts led by Jews. These revolts were intended to oust the Romans, returning the Jews to a state of political and religious autonomy. These rebellions were quickly squashed by Roman military might.

Eventually, The Great Sanhedrin (the key leading body of Jewish law-makers, comparable to the Supreme Court in Australia) decided to step in, and began to tread a fine line between pleasing their Jewish subjects, and keeping the Romans from coming to wipe their nation from existence. Thus, the members of The Great Sanhedrin took upon themselves a crucial peace-keeping role. Hebrew Council of Jerusalem Missionary Journeys Paul's Letters Greek How was his background significant? Doctrines & Theology Social Theology After his conversion to Christianity during a trip
to Damascus, Paul became one of the first great
organisers of the Christian Church, and the first
significant writer of Christian Scripture. After Jesus, Paul is
arguably the most significant figures in Christianity, during
his time and since.

Not only did Paul have a significant impact on Christianity because
of the content of his writings. He played a large part in expanding
Christianity beyond the confines of its origin as a Jewish sect.

Paul's key actions effectively split Christianity from Judaism, and as a
result, set it up as a new religious tradition. Thus, Paul is often seen
as the originator of the Christian faith, and is the most significant
figure within Christian history, aside from Jesus Christ himself. Paul was a Jew born in Tarsus in Asia Minor (modern day south-west Turkey)
approximately the same time as Jesus. According to some sources, he was born in
10B.C.E., making him a slightly older contemporary of Jesus. His upbringing in a strict Jewish house meant that he gained a strong understanding of the traditions of the Hebrew religion and culture.

In his writings, Paul identified himself as a pious, dedicated Jew (Romans 11:1, Philippians 3:4-5). He was proud of his origins, and didn't shy away from them for even a moment.

It is evident that before becoming a Christian, he studied to become a rabbi. Perhaps the most natural career for him to follow was that of a merchant. “But it was decided that… he should go to college and become a rabbi, that is, a minister, a teacher, and a lawyer all in one.”

According to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from goats' hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in Tarsus.

His preliminary education having been completed, Saul was sent, when about thirteen years of age probably, to the great Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel, and here he spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures and of the many questions concerning them with which the rabbis exercised themselves. During these years of diligent study he lived “in all good conscience,” unstained by the vices of that great city. After the period of his student-life expired, he probably left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with some synagogue for some years. But we find him back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord. Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion, and the rise of the new sect of the “Nazarenes.”

For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was quietly spreading its influence in Jerusalem. At length Stephen, one of the seven deacons, gave forth more public and aggressive testimony that Jesus was the Messiah, and this led to much excitement among the Jews and much disputation in their synagogues. Persecution arose against Stephen and the followers of Christ generally, in which Saul of Tarsus took a prominent part. He was at this time probably a member of the great Sanhedrin, and became the active leader in the furious persecution by which the rulers then sought to exterminate Christianity.

But the object of this persecution also failed. “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” The anger of the persecutor was thereby kindled into a fiercer flame. Hearing that fugitives had taken refuge in Damascus, he obtained from the chief priest letters authorizing him to proceed thither on his persecuting career. This was a long journey of about 130 miles, which would occupy perhaps six days, during which, with his few attendants, he steadily went onward, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter.” But the crisis of his life was at hand. He had reached the last stage of his journey, and was within sight of Damascus. As he and his companions rode on, suddenly at mid-day a brilliant light shone round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground, a voice sounding in his ears, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” The risen Savior was there, clothed in the vesture of his glorified humanity. In answer to the anxious inquiry of the stricken persecutor, “Who art thou, Lord?” he said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). This was the moment of his conversion, the most solemn in all his life, blinded by the dazzling light (Acts 9:8), his companions led him into the city, where, absorbed in deep thought for three days, he neither ate nor drank (9:11). Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, was informed by a vision of the change that had happened to Saul, and was sent to him to open his eyes and admit him by baptism into the Christian church (9:11-16). The whole purpose of his life was now permanently changed.

Immediately after his conversion he retired into the solitudes of Arabia (Gal. 1:17), perhaps of “Sinai in Arabia,” for the purpose, probably, of devout study and meditation on the marvellous revelation that had been made to him.

“A veil of thick darkness hangs over this visit to Arabia. Of the scenes among which he moved, of the thoughts and occupations which engaged him while there, of all the circumstances of a crisis which must have shaped the whole tenor of his after-life, absolutely nothing is known. ‘Immediately,’ says St. Paul, ‘I went away into Arabia.’ The historian passes over the incident [compare Acts 9:23 and 1 Kings 11:38,39]. It is a mysterious pause, a moment of suspense, in the apostle's history, a breathless calm, which ushers in the tumultuous storm of his active missionary life.” Paul's birth in a Greek town called Tarsus afforded him with many benefits. Tarsus was a university town, thus Paul was surrounded by great philosophers and thinkers. In addition to this, it was a wealthy merchant town sitting right on a major trade route between Rome and the eastern reaches of its empire. Paul's understanding of the network of Roman travel and communication later became one of his greatest tools in spreading the Christian message across the Mediterranean world.

In Christian Scripture, there are many notable examples of Pauls use of his understanding of Greek culture and religion to communicate Christianity to the people of the Roman Empire. One such example is found in Acts 17

Areopagus... Shrine dedicated to an unknown God... Stoics... Epicureans Acts 15:1-21
Galatians 3:28
Colossians 3:11 advice to groups and individuals Theology...

ie. what is God like?

what is God's relationship to humanity like? how should people treat each other? ethical views in the church Sexuality

1 Tim. 1:8-10

Romans 1:24-28, 32 Slavery

the entire book of Philemon is about slavery

what does it mean??? Women's rights

Women in leadership in the church


1 Corinthians 14: 34-35

...women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own hsbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church How do you think this has
impacted Christian expression
and development over the last
2000 years???
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