Let’s continue with our discussion of Saint Paul that centers around a series of questions. Here are the ones for today:
- Was Paul the most literate of the apostles?
- Did Paul believe that everything he ever wrote in his letters came to him directly from God?
- Did he have any idea that the letters he wrote would some day be considered by some as foundational doctrine of Christianity?
These questions go directly to the content of his letters. I suspect that my questions and certainly my current opinions will go counter to what many Christians profess. I don’t claim to have any special insight into these topics but I do have some current personal opinions which of course I will share. But, as I have said before maybe I am just an ignorant laymen who doesn’t understand these sort of things.
Was Paul the most literate of the Apostles? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is an unqualified “yes”. I think I have read that it is generally believed that all the original twelve Apostles with the exception of Matthew the tax collector were most likely illiterate. But most certainly the others had scribes who wrote down much of what they needed to convey. Was Paul’s dominance in the epistles because of this? I believe that very well may be the case. From the first several chapters of the book of Acts it is fairly clear that Peter was the spokesman for the original eleven but only two letters bear his name and there are fairly short and only deal with somewhat limited topics.
Did Paul believe that everything he wrote was dictated to him directly from God? Of course we can’t get into Paul’s head to find that direct answer but I don’t remember seeing anything in the surviving letters that makes me think he believed that. If anyone reading this can set me straight about this I welcome your comments. Yes, he did believe that much of what he wrote came from revelations from God but to me those places seem somewhat obvious by the words he used surrounding them. Several places in his letters Paul uses the word “I”. I believe this is where he is discerning the difference between his opinion and heavenly revelation. For instance in 1 Timothy he used the phrase “I want” several times when he is talking about women being quiet and in full submission. In other places he says “I do not allow women to be teachers or have authority over men”. This again says to me that this is Paul’s interpretation of things and not necessarily those of God. I know I am opening myself up to you Christian flamers who will say “how dare you…!” But these are my heartfelt beliefs and you can take them as a grain of salt if it makes you feel better.
Did Paul imagine that everything in his various letters would some day be treated as foundational to Christianity; at least the Protestant version of it. I just have trouble believing that he would think so. I imagine he was just writing some things in his letters to friends and acquaintances. I think that Paul would be shocked to learn that so much of the content of his letters have the weight that they do today. In his Letter of 1 Corinthians he chastises some who are treating him as a substitute for Jesus.
Cor 1:12-14 NIV — One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
I think that tends to happen much too often in some of today’s versions of Christianity as well.