Board index Paul the Apostle

Paul is such an important figure in Christianity. There are many questions about his life and writings and his place in Christian theology.

Why are Paul's statements so highly valued?

Postby Creme brulee » Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:23 pm

When debating some theological point it looks like Christians have no problem pointing to Pauls words as a source of final authority—why is this? Am I missing something? He never knew Jesus, just says he had a vision, so why is he an expert to be relied upon? Is there room in Christian theology for debating Paul's views? I understand that as an early church leader who knew several disciples, he surely is a source of knowledge, but should it be treated as final, unerring knowledge? What's the best way for Christians to handle Paul?
Creme brulee

Re: Why are Paul's statements so highly valued?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:22 am

Paul's writings are considered God-breathed. But you do seem to be missing something.

Paul seems to have been about the same age as Jesus, and we guess he may have been about 50 yrs old in AD 50, 60 in 60, etc. We also know that Paul was educated by Gamaliel (Acts 22.3), who was the grandson of Hillel, a one-time president of the Sanhedrin and the first of the seven rabbis addressed as "Rabban." He was a prominent teacher in Jerusalem—which means that Paul just may have been in Jerusalem during the ministry of Jesus, may possibly have been one of the religious leaders sent out at various times to check out and evaluate Jesus, and may have even been on the council that condemned Jesus to death. These are all speculations, but since Paul was a shining star rising through the ranks (Phil. 3.5-6) who lived in Jerusalem at times, it's more than possible and maybe even probable that he DID know Jesus, had listened to him teach, and possibly even had some altercations with him in debate. And if (and it's a big if) Paul was on the council that condemned Jesus to death, it could be one of the reasons he considered himself to be the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1.16).

In addition, in 1 Cor. 15.8, Paul mentions that he has seen the resurrected Jesus. A careful study of the text reveals that he didn't see Jesus in the flesh before his ascension as the other disciples had, but he did see Jesus in the flesh after that. It was clearly more than a vision.

Third, Paul himself mentions (Gal. 1.12) that what he taught and wrote he had received by direct revelation. He says (2 Cor. 12.4) that he was privileged to see and hear profound divine and spiritual things. We have every reason to believe Paul is a reliable source of divine knowledge.

> Is there room in Christian theology for debating Paul's views?

Healthy debate is always a good idea. All communication has to be interpreted.

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