Sie sind auf Seite 1von 70

The Paul Project

When studying Paul’s life, one must consider who Paul was and what influenced him. In his
letter to the Philippians, he described himself as:

circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of
Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic
righteousness, faultless.

In addition, Paul was a Roman citizen from the city of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia. Due
to its major influence on the Roman Empire Greek culture was also greatly affected Paul. This
diverse background resulted in Paul’s complex personality and enabled him to relate to many
different people from various cultures and backgrounds.

The main Greek and Roman influences in Paul’s life included:

• Roman Culture
• Roman Politics
• Religion
• Greek Culture

The first-century Jews who influenced Paul included:

• Pharisees
• Sadducees
• Essenes

It is also important to consider the cities and territories where Paul lived, and where the
churches to whom he wrote resided:

• Tarsus
• Rome
• Corinth
• Galatia
• Ephesus
• Philippi
• Colossae
• Thessalonica
Roman Culture

Latin was the official language, and was most common in the Western Empire, whereas
Greek was spoken in the East. Palestinian Jews also spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. The
Roman Empire developed a road system that was unsurpassed for centuries and was the main
mode of transportation in that day. The ordinary method of travel was by donkey, horse,
mule, or by carriage. Communication between cities occurred by letters or by oral


Roman society was basically two-tiered. The upper class consisted of aristocratic landowners
and government officials, while most of the people in the lower class were slaves. Criminals,
debtors, and prisoners of war were often condemned to slavery. Eventually, as many as one
third or more of the Empire’s population was slaves. These slaves included doctors, teachers,
philosophers, and businessmen. Most of the businesses were small, due in part to the
difficulty of transporting goods. Agriculture was common and relatively advanced utilizing
fertilizers, pesticides, and the rotation of crops. Banking included loaning of money and
exchanging foreign currency.

Home Life

The family was the most important social group in the Roman Empire. Families were often
small and because of this the government offered incentives for couples to have larger
families. Romans ate four times a day. Common foods included bread, soup, goat’s milk, fish,
wine, fruits, vegetables, sausage, and bacon. Meals were often eaten while lying down.

Homes in the city were mainly brick or concrete, while those in the country were modest huts.
Houses usually did not have windows low to the ground because of the high crime rate and
lack of proper law enforcement. Palestinian towers were slightly different because they had a
wall around the city. One entered an open square once inside the city and this is most likely
where Jesus made many of His speeches to the people.


Immorality prevailed in the Roman Empire. Sexual sin in the form of prostitution, pederasty,
and homosexuality was common. There were also high rates of divorce and murder.


Paul’s epistles often address the idea or institution of slavery. Paul frequently uses slavery to
explain our status; an example of this is when he states that we are either slaves to sin or
slaves of righteousness. Paul also addresses the institution of slavery in his letter to Philemon.

Slavery was a prevailing feature of Mediterranean societies in Paul’s day, but the Romans had
more slaves than any other people. Many, if not most of the people in Rome who read the
epistle of Paul to the Romans would have been slaves. Reliable, yet cautious, sources estimate
the slave population to be 300,000 – 350,000 out of a total population of 900,000 – 950,000 in
the 1st century AD.


Along with chariot races and the Olympic games, gladiatorial shows were a popular form of
entertainment. Gladiators were some of the most moving figures in Roman society. The
fighters were slaves, prisoners, and/or even volunteers. During these staged fights as many as
10,000 people were killed. In addition to people, animals such as lions, elephants, tigers,
panthers, crocodiles, and snakes were killed for sport.

Gladiators fought in the Colosseum

The gladiatorial combats found their origin in rites of sacrifice owed the spirits of the dead
and of the need to turn them away with offerings of blood. They were introduced to Rome
around 264 BC when the sons of Junius Brutus honored their father by matching three pairs of
gladiators in combat. Originally these rites were owed to important men at or in honor of their
death, but they did not have to be presented at that time. Julius Caesar commemorated the
death of his daughter Julia, 8 years after her death, with elaborate games at her tomb. Julius
Caesar honored his father 20 years after his death with 320 pairs of gladiators who fought in
armor of silver.

Most gladiators were prisoners of war, slaves bought for that purpose, or criminals sentenced
to serve. During the 1st Century AD 3 of every 5 persons did not reach their 20th birthday.
The odds of a professional gladiator being killed in any bout were approximately 1 in 10. The
criminal who was to be executed or the Christian martyr who refused to renounce his faith
and worship the gods had no hope of survival in the arena.

Free men also volunteered to be gladiators and by the end of the Republic they made up half
of the gladiator population. Often they were social outcasts, freed slaves, discharged soldiers,
or former gladiators who had been liberated on retirement but chose to return for a period of
service. Even a victorious and celebrated gladiator still remained an outcast of society and
was regarded no differently than a criminal or member of some other shameful profession.
The gladiatorial games lasted almost 600 years to AD 404 when finally prohibited by
Honorius; after Constantine abolished them in AD 326. The gladiatorial shows aptly represent
the Roman culture of war, discipline, and death.

Roman Politics

Rome was founded in the 8th Century BC and it became a Republic in the 5th Century BC. In
order to keep their conquered provinces under Roman authority; the emperor instituted rulers
within the territories. The highest officials in the provinces were proconsuls who were
accountable to the Roman senate. Twelve praetors, or judges, were appointed to uphold
Roman law. The last group of officials was twenty quaestors who were responsible for the
financial affairs of the Empire.
Roman citizenship was a highly prized possession in the 1st Century. Originally citizenship
could only be obtained through birth, but as the empire expanded citizenship was issued to
those who had accomplished some task for the empire or to those who could purchase their
citizenship. A Roman citizen had 3 names, a forename, a family name and an additional
name. While traveling throughout the empire, a Roman citizen enjoyed the protection and
special privilege of special rights established by Roman law. The first of these laws was set up
under the Valerian Law at the institute of the Republic in 509 BC. A citizen’s rights included
a fair public trial, exemption for execution, and protection from specific disgraceful public

Government in Judea had a separate and distinct existence from the other political institutions
in the Empire. In AD 6 Judea was adopted as an official Roman province. The Roman Empire
appointed a governor who regulated peace in the region and guaranteed the collection of all
taxes. The high priest and a council of seventy elders (Sanhedrin) governed the internal
concerns of the Jews. Roman rule always maintained the supreme authority in all matters.
Jews were required to pay double taxes as one share went to the Roman Empire and their tithe
to the temple. As a result of their separate religion and government, Jews remained among the
least assimilated group in the Roman Empire.

Governmental Structure

The Romans never had a written constitution, but their form of government from the 3rd
Century BC forward roughly parallels the divisions set up in the American model: Executive,
Legislative, and Judicial branches.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH: The Elected Magistrates. With the exception of the dictatorship,
two men held all offices (collegial). All members of a college were of equal rank and could
veto acts of other members; higher magistrates could also veto the acts of lower magistrates.
With the exception of the dictatorship (6 months) and the censorship (18 months), the term of
office was limited to one year. The rules for holding office for multiple or successive terms
were a matter of considerable contention over time.

CONSULS (2): the chief civil and military magistrates. They convened senate, curiate, and
centuriate assemblies.PRAETORS (2-8): their main functions were military commands and
the administration of civil law in Rome.

AEDILES (2): could be plebian (plebian only) and curule (plebian or patrician). They were in
charge of religious festivals, public games, temples, upkeep of city, regulation of marketplace,
and grain supply.

QUAESTORS (2-40): financial officers and administrative assistants in both civil and
military functions. They were also in charge of the state treasury at Rome and in the field they
served as quartermasters and seconds-in-command.

TRIBUNES (2-10): they were charged with the protection of lives and property of plebeians.
Their persons were considered inviolable, they had the power of veto over elections, laws,
decrees of the senate, and the acts of other magistrates (except dictator), convened tribal
assembly and elicited plebiscites.
CENSORS (2): elected every 5 years to conduct census, enroll new citizens, review roll of
senate, controlled public morals, and supervised leasing of public contracts. They ranked
below Praetors and above Aediles, but in practice this position was the pinnacle of the senate
career and carried enormous prestige and influence.

DICTATOR (1): in times of military emergency he was appointed by consuls. He appointed a

Master of the Horse to lead the cavalry. His tenure was limited to 6 months or the duration of
the crisis whichever was shorter. He was not subject to veto.

SENATE: this was originally an advisory board composed of the heads of the leading
families. It came to be an assembly of former magistrates. It became the most powerful organ
of the Republican government and the only body of state that could develop consistent long-
term policy. Decrees of the Senate had no formal authority, but often decided matters in
practice. The senate was aware and had its hand in virtually all aspects of Roman society, but
its most important areas of competence were in foreign policy and financial administration.

LEGISTRATIVE BRANCH: 3 citizen assemblies constituted this. All 3 assemblies

included the entire electorate, but each had a different internal organization. These assemblies
were made up of voting units correlating to our own electoral colleges where the single vote
of each unit was determined by a majority of the voters in that unit. Measures passed by a
simple majority of the units.

CURIATE ASSEMBLY: this was the oldest of the three and was made up of 30 members.
This assembly became obsolete as a legislative body but preserved functions of endowing
senior magistrates and witnessing religious affairs. The head of each unit was at least 50 and
was elected for life; patricians controlled this assembly.

CENTURIATE ASSEMBLY: this was the most important assembly. There were 193
centuries and this was based on wealth and age. Originally this was a military unit whereby
membership was based on one’s capacity to furnish armed men in groups of 100. This
assembly elected censors and magistrates. It was the proper body for declaring war. They
passed some laws and served as the highest court of appeal in cases involving capital

TRIBAL ASSEMBLY: its original purpose was for the election of tribunes and deliberation
of plebeians. The make up of this assembly was based upon place of residence. These
assembly members had to go to Rome to cast any ballot. This assembly was controlled by the
landed aristocracy and eventually became the chief law making body. Roman Religion
Culture Home Home.

Roman Religion

Throughout the vast Imperial Roman Empire of Paul’s day there existed a diversity of
religious cults. These religions were not well coordinated and the prevailing attitude of the
day was one of general religious tolerance. While there was an underlying fear on the part of
the Romans of offending foreign gods, they were also convinced that those who did not
worship the religion of Rome should recognize its ceremonies.

In the center of the religious world were Polytheism and the worship of the great mythological
gods. These gods were originally of Greek origin but were given Roman identity through a
process known as Interpretatio Romana. The prominent position given to these gods is
attested to by the erection of a great temple for Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva (Zeus, Hera, and
Athena) on the Capitoline hill in Rome and the recorded restoration of 82 temples throughout
the Empire during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Although there are no recorded incidences of
Paul’s interaction with worshippers of these specific gods, he must have been reminded of his
address at the Areopagus in Athens.

With the expansion of the Empire came further assimilation of foreign gods, especially when
they were considered more potent deities, and therefore, militarily advantageous. The first
officially recorded importation of a god was the transference of the black stone of the goddess
Cybele from Pessinus to Rome in around 204 BC. This move was believed necessary to rid
Italy of Hannibal in the Second Punic War.

Many city-states within the Empire retained their own gods. Most, however, passed through
an Interpretatio Graeca or Latina and emerged as equivalents of the great classical gods. In the
end, these new, syncretized deities resembled little of the original Graeco-Roman deity.

Imperial Cult

Alongside the Olympian Polytheistic religious system emerged the Imperial cult, with the
divinization of the state rulers. In early Roman history, Romulus, the founder of their city was
deified in the 4th century BC. Later, after the death of Julius Caesar, the Imperial cult

The divinization of Caesar after his death made Augustus, as his adoptive son, the son of a
divus. In turn, Augustus was officially divinized after his death by the Roman Senate. This
created a presumption that there was a divine component in an ordinary emperor who had not
misbehaved in his life. This also reinforced the trend toward the cult of the living emperor.
With the Flavian dynasty and later with Antonines, it was normal for the head of the Roman
State to be both heads of the state religion and a potential or actual god.

In Paul’s day, the Imperial cult existed as two distinct groups in the provinces. Rome and the
divine Julius were for Roman citizens and Rome and Augustus was for the non-Roman
provincials. The provincial Imperial cult for Rome and Augustus was founded in the Roman
province of Galatia as early as 25 BC and is attested to by the uncovering of the major Julio-
Claudian imperial temple at the Roman colony of Pisidian Antioch. There is also evidence of
its existence at Iconium with a priest of Tiberius. In Corinth, the Imperial cult temple of
Octavia was known to exist and possibly a statue of the deified Julius Caesar has been located
there. The Imperial cult was not universally accepted and admired. Seneca is recorded as
ridiculing the cult of Claudius while Tacitus spoke of the cult as Greek adulation.

Astrology, Mystery Religions, and Philosophy

Not everyone in the Roman Empire of Paul’s day worshipped the gods or the Caesar. Some
turned to Astrology, some to mystery religions, while others found the answers to life in
philosophy. Although the schools of Plato and Aristotle had declined from their heights by the
time of the Empire, the Cynics, Stoics, and Epicureans were popular.

A religious anomaly in the Empire, which played a significant role in the spreading of
Christianity, was Judaism. Although Paul experienced opposition along his missionary
journeys, it was Christianity’s close association with Judaism that kept it from being labeled
an illegal religion by the Roman governing authorities. Acts 18 records Gallio, a proconsul of
Achaia, perceiving Christianity to be a sect of Judaism which was permitted in the Empire.
The major confrontation between Christianity and Rome over the Imperial cult did not occur
until around AD 81 during the reign of Flavian Domitian.

Greek Culture

Greek influence pervaded the Roman Empire. This resulted from 3 major factors: 1) Roman
interaction with Greek colonies in Sicily and southern Italy, 2) Greek intellectual thought
impacted the education of upper class children in the Empire, 3) immigrants from the
Hellenized areas came to Rome as slaves, soldiers, and for commerce.

Greek became the common language of the Empire. While the upper class spoke Latin, the
commoners spoke Greek. Greek theatres and clothing became popular and many Jews
changed their names from Hebrew to Greek.

The Hellenistic world was an incredibly prosperous one. Alexander and his successors had
liberated an immense amount of wealth from the Persian Empire and with this influx the
standard of living rose dramatically. The Greek empires embarked on building projects, on
scholarship, on patronage of the arts, and on literature and philosophy. The Greeks exported
their culture, political theory, philosophy, art, and literature all over the known civilized

The mighty empires of the Greeks hung onto a vast amount of territory (Italy to India &
Macedonia to Egypt) for almost three centuries. Slowly, however, a new power was rising in
the west, Rome. By the time of Christ, the great Greek empires of the Hellenistic world had
been replaced and unified once more into the Roman Empire.

Deeper Analysis

Greek philosophical though first appears in a poem, Theogony, written by Hesiod about 725
BC. Theogony retells the myths of the gods and speculates about the origins of things and the
order of the universe. Greek philosophy was almost certainly derived by the Greeks from
Egyptian culture; particularly natural science preoccupied Greek thought up to the time of
Plato. Even the Greeks themselves claimed without dissension that their philosophy came
from Egypt.

Nonetheless, in the later half of the 5th century, a group called the Sophists shifted the inquiry
away from natural science towards the nature of morality and society. Socrates followed in
the footsteps of the Sophists in making ethics his primary topic. Plato’s overwhelming
concern with ethics focused Greek philosophy primarily on ethical and civic virtue.
While there are many more thoughts and divisions of Greek philosophy, we will limit our
discussion here in two divisions: Pre-Socratic and those from Socrates forward.

The Pre-Socratic schools were primarily focused on explaining the origin of things and
change. They often were in search of the primary substance in which all things were made.
The Milesians, for example, put forward the idea that the primary substance was water,
indefinite, and also air. The Pythagoreans who were very obscure and impenetrable in their
thought said that the essential unity of things lie not in the physical, but in number and
numerical relations. There were other Greek philosophers, such as Xenophanes, ridiculed the
anthropomorphic gods of Greece and believed in one great God, who was not physical but
was all mind (nous) and moved all things by the force of his spirit.

Parmenides of Elea taught that existence must be unchanging and unmoving, and so the
changing world registered by our senses has no reality whatsoever and cannot be known.
Empedocles of Acragas tried to reconcile the views of Parmenides with those of most Greeks
of his day by identifying four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire. He said that these
elements remain unchanging but combine to form the changing and moving world of our

Socrates, despite his foundational place in the history of ideas, actually wrote nothing. Most
of the knowledge of him comes from his pupil Plato. Plato had other concerns in mind other
than historical accuracy so it is impossible to know how much of his thinking actually derives
from Socrates. His most accurate writing on Socrates was probably The Apology (means
“defense-speech”). It is Plato’s account of Socrates’ defense at his trial in 399 BC. In this
work, Plato outlines some of Socrates most famous philosophical ideas: the necessity of doing
what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue
knowledge even when opposed.

Socrates wrote nothing because he thought that knowledge was a living, interactive thing.
Socrates’ method of philosophical inquiry consisted in questioning people on the positions
they asserted and working them through questions into a contradiction, thus proving to them
that their original assertion was wrong and all the while Socrates never takes a position.

First Century Jews

Jewish Society

Scholars estimate that approximately 4,000,000 Jews lived in the Roman Empire during the
first century. As a result of war, exile, trade, and business the Jews were dispersed throughout
the Empire. The Jews of the Dispersion, designated Diaspora, practiced the same religion but
at the same time were distinct from the Jews in Judea. They spoke Greek while the Jews of
Judea usually spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. As a result, the Diaspora read the Scriptures in
Greek, the Septuagint, and not the Hebrew. In general, the Jews separated themselves
religiously and morally from the influences of other cultures, but other areas of their lives
were affected by living in areas where they were in the minority.

Jewish society was generally less stratified than the rest of the Roman world. Chief priests
and rabbis formed the upper class. The majority of the population was farmers, artisans, or
small businessmen. Tax collectors were despised because of their immorality. The Roman
government assigned these jobs to the individual who would do the job for the lowest pay.
They would then collect taxes illegally and keep them thus making a living for themselves.

The synagogue represented the center of Jewish worship. The synagogue was rectangular in
shape with a speaker’s platform. Behind the platform stood a chest in which the Old
Testament scrolls were stored. People sat on mats, stone benches, or wooden chairs. The
rulers and priests sat opposite the congregation facing them. The people sang without music.
The speaker stood to read from the Old Testament scrolls and sat down after he taught from
them. Everyone stood during prayer. Mosaic sacrifices were only offered in the Jerusalem
Temple. The synagogue became the center of all Jewish life including a place for political
meetings, school for Jewish children, and a courtroom.

Jewish families were usually large. Boys were more valued than girls were. Families had no
last names and therefore were identified by their father, their occupation, their political
position, or where they were from. Jews ate only two meals a day, one at midday and the
other at night. They ate mostly fruit and vegetables; consuming meat only on special

Many people converted to Judaism. Godfearers were those individuals who practiced
elements of the religion, but were not circumcised and did not fully follow the law. The Jews
expected a messiah and most believed that he would come in the form of a prophet, a priest,
or a royal official. They expected a human, not a divine being to come and save them from
Rome. There were also those who proposed that God would deliver His people and then set
up a ruler who would reign over them.

Jewish Religion

Besides the obvious division between the Judaism of Palestine and that of the Diaspora, other
divisions may be detected, especially within Palestinian Judaism. Josephus refers to three
principal Jewish sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Of these three, the first
two also appear in the New Testament.


They are the quintessential bad guys. Known throughout the centuries as hypocrites and a
brood of vipers, the Pharisees have the ultimate case of bad P.R. In looking at the Apostle
Paul, it is only fair to ask if this classic understanding is accurate. Paul, on many occasions
(Acts 22; 23; 26; Philippians 3; etc.) refers to himself as having been a Pharisee. Who was this
group to whom Paul belonged before his conversion? Why do they have such a bad
reputation? What should we think of them and more importantly, what difference does their
previous existence make to us if any at all?

The general consensus of most scholars is that the Pharisees began sometime after the
Babylonian exile and before the uprising of 165 BC. Most scholars attribute a link between
them and the Hasidism or “pious men” if the 2nd century.

By the time of Israel’s political independence under Maccabee (140 BC.) the Pharisees appear
to be a recognizable group already entrenched in their infamous conflict with the Sadducees.
During the next 100 years they would go in and out of favor with the rulers of Judea, and at
the same time grew more popular in the Jewish community.
Two of the most famous and influential of the Pharisees before the time of Christ were Hillel
and Shammai. They each represented whole schools of thought, but the Hillel house was to do
more to shape Judaism in the future; largely because it was his followers who led in the
formation of the academy of Jamnia after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Saul was a
student of Gamaliel who in turn was of Hillel’s teaching.

The most likely meaning of “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew parush or “separated.” They
kept themselves separate from the Roman and Hellenistic culture around them. They clung
tenaciously to the Torah and to the Jewish religion and to ideas like bodily resurrection. They
believed that abrogation of the law by the Jews had resulted in national catastrophe. The
Pharisee desired to obey that which their forefathers had neglected.

The Pharisees did not neglect the letter of the law, but the giver of it, Jesus Christ. In trying to
earn God’s favor, they missed the fundamental message of the law: no one is holy except


The Sadducees were legalistic Jews whose main concern was maintaining the integrity of the
Mosaic laws. The Sadducees believed in strict, literal interpretation of the law, without any
influence from oral tradition or contemporary society. The Sadducees also did not believe in
life after death. According to F.F. Bruce, they most likely rejected the idea of good and evil
spirits. As a result of their rejection of life after death, the Sadducees believed that God’s
blessing and judgement would occur during one’s life on earth. Unlike the Essenes, who were
fatalistic, the Sadducees believed in free will.

The Sadducees were imprisoned by their tradition and they resisted any attempt to change the
temple, the priesthood, or the law. Even though they were able to prevent new ideas from
forming in the traditions of Judaism and the temple, their individual lives were greatly
influenced by the culture of the day. Helmut Koester believes that the name “Sadducee” is
identical with “Zadokite.” Ezekiel and Ezra had commanded that the high priest should
always be a descendent of Zadok, David’s high priest. As a result the Sadducees argued that
they were the rightful heirs to the priesthood and therefore they sustained their position in
Jewish religion.


The Essenic community lived as if the messianic prophecies had been fulfilled and the
eschaton was imminent. They believed that they were the true people of God. The Essene’s
ultimate concern was maintaining the law and purity of the community. The priests, guided by
the Righteous Teacher or high priest, interpreted the law. They lived in a communal society
where everything was shared and no one owned personal property. They had meals together
every day, symbolic of the messianic banquet that would occur at the end of time. Because
they thought they were living during the last days, they lived anticipating a battle between
themselves, the people of God, and the followers of Satan.

The Essenes believed that they possessed esoteric knowledge about the end times and the fate
of the universe. They anticipated three messianic figures: a prophet, a priest, and a king
descended from David. They also knew about demons, spirits, and angels. Angels, according
to Essenic writings, worshipped in heaven and fought against the demonic forces. According
to Hippolytus, they also believed in life after death. Upon dying, the soul waits in a heavenly
place until the final judgement when it is reunited with the body. The Essenes’ history ended
in AD 68 when the Romans annihilated their community.

The city was founded around 1,400 B.C. when the Hittites settled the area. It is thought that
Cilicia was the capital of the area they designated Kuzziwatna. Cilicia became a Roman
province in 64 BC after it was conquered by Pompey. Tarsus became the capital city. Tarsus
was located on the southern coast of Asia Minor. Cilicia had two main regions: the western
half with its mountainous terrain, and the eastern plain, which contained fertile land. Tarsus
was located in the eastern region. The city is 79 feet above sea level and 10 miles from the
Mediterranean Sea. The city is built around the Cydnus River.

Tarsus was a prosperous city and intellectualism and education were its major distinctions.
Strabo wrote thusly of Tarsus in the 1st century AD. : ” The people at Tarsus have devoted
themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in
general that they have surpassed even Athens, Alexandria, or any other place that can be
named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers.” The city also contained a
number of schools of rhetoric; a method of speaking that Paul used in many of his epistles.
Tarsus was also known as a center of Stoic philosophy.

Paul demonstrates a great grasp of the Hellenistic culture in his apologetic arguments of Acts
and also in his epistles. He undoubtedly had first hand knowledge of this culture in Tarsus.
Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, was a Jew, a Tarsian citizen, and at the same time Roman. Only
a “Hebrew sprung from Hebrews” could be the Apostle of the perfected Judaic faith; but he
must be born and brought up in childhood among the Gentiles, a citizen of a Gentile city, and
a member of the Roman aristocracy which ruled the Mediterranean world. While Paul spoke
in Hebrew or Aramaic to the people of Jerusalem, he wrote in Greek and quoted from the
Septuagint. Tent making was a common trade in Cilicia and the tents were made of material
created from the hair of the mountain goats of the area.

Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire and the cultural and political capital for much of
the world for centuries. It is located on a series of foothills on the Tiber River, the largest river
in central Italy, 18 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. These foothills acted as natural barriers
against enemies. The city was founded in 783 B.C. by Romulus and Remus.

During the reign of Tarquinius Priscus (616-578 B.C.) the town developed into an organized
city, including an army and political system. Furthermore, construction of the most famous
Roman temple, the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, began during this time. In 509
BC discontent among the people in Rome led to a revolt against the king, Tarquinius
Superbus, and the Roman Republic began. Initially an aristocratic government was
established, led by two consuls, but eventually more individuals were instituted into the
process. The common language was Latin.
Claudius ruled Rome during A.D. 41-54, and Nero ruled during A.D. 54-68. Paul arrived and
most likely died in Rome during Nero’s reign. This period was called the Principate period in
Roman history.

Corinth was located on the isthmus connecting mainland Greece and the Peloponnese.
Because of its strategic location, it prospered as a trade route between the mainland and its
two main ports located on the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf.

The city was founded around the 7th century B.C. Soon after its inception, Corinth became a
prosperous and influential center in the region. Several colonies soon developed in the area.
By the 5th century B.C., its population had risen to approximately 70,000. Corinth joined an
association of Greek states known as the Archaean League around 280 B.C. A conflict arose
with the Romans over the city of Sparta and Corinth declared war on Sparta. Corinth was
quickly overtaken and destroyed. It lay in ruin until the time of Julius Caesar.

In 44 B.C. Julius Caesar designated Corinth as a Roman colony and began to rebuild it.
Corinth became populated with freedmen and the poor. Syrians, Egyptians, and Jews made up
the rest of the population. During the reign of the Roman emperors Tiberius and Claudius, the
city underwent extensive reconstruction and prosperity. This was again due in part to its ideal
location along important trade routes. This may be why Paul decided to make Corinth his base
location in Greece; this thought is reinforced when one considers the reception Paul received
in Athens.

The culture can easily be identified with the Roman culture. Latin was the official language
and the city was subject to Roman laws and the government of a Roman colony. The streets
and roadways were also patterned according to Roman plans. The ceremonial platform in the
civic center and the theatre were also modeled after Roman architecture.

There was a temple to Aphrodite built on the summit of Acrocorinth, a mountain south of the
city which stands 1500 feet above the city. Aphrodite was considered the goddess of love and
the temple housed many prostitutes dedicated to worshipping Aphrodite through sex. About
half a mile north of the forum was the complex dedicated to Asclepius, the god of healing.
This facility contained bathing, sleeping, and exercise areas as well as various terra cotta
molds to aid in the healing of various body parts. Another temple, which was dedicated to the
goddess Hera Argaea the goddess of marriage between divine beings, was located near the
market. All in all, religious life was a very important part of Corinthian society.

Another important aspect of the social life centered on the home. The heads of Roman
families frequently held club or association meetings in their homes; often professional or
trade associations. There were also burial societies and social organizations, which met in the
home. Gatherings of more than a few intimate friends would meet in the public area of the
house dining room (triclinium) or the atrium. Both the Greeks and the Romans were very
social in nature and enjoyed gathering together for conversation.
The Romans made Galatia part of the Roman Empire in 121 B.C. The province of Galatia
contained a number of regions. The northern region was known as Galatia proper and the
southern region included Pisidia, Phyrgia, and Lycaonia.

The majority of the people in Galatia spoke the language of their particular city, even though
Latin and Greek were the official languages during Roman rule. Most individuals also
continued to practice the religion particular to their culture. Often the people renamed their
deities, calling them by the name of the Greek or Roman gods while maintaining the
distinction of the original deities.

During Paul’s first missionary journey he evangelized in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra,
and Derbe, which are all cities in the region of Galatia. When Paul wrote his Epistle to the
Galatians, it is most likely that he was addressing it to all of the churches he had established in
the province.

The province of Galatia consisted of various ethnic groups, including Jews, though it was
predominantly Gentile. Some of the cities of this region had powerful Jewish bodies.

Ephesus was one of the greatest cities of the Roman Empire, surpassed only by Rome,
Alexandria, and Antioch. The population in Paul’s day is estimated at 250,000. It became the
capital of Asia Minor in 27 B.C. And served as the center of proconsular government. On
inscriptions, Ephesus is referred to as the greatest metropolis of Asia.

Ephesus was strategically located at the center of commerce between East and West. As the
Roman Empire stretched across the Mediterranean, Ephesus’ large and sheltered harbor
became more important. Interesting, it was her harbor that later led to the later decline of
Ephesus. The harbor was narrow and shallow and was prone to silting and required regular
dredging to keep the passage open. Today Ephesus lies 4 miles from the sea.

Long before the coming of the Romans, Ephesus was celebrated as the center of worship of
the goddess Artemis. A thriving tourism and pilgrim trade existed as devotees from
throughout the Mediterranean world came to worship at the Artemisium, or great temple of
Artemis. This temple was originally built in the 6th century BC and rebuilt in massive
proportions two hundred years later to make it reputedly four times the size of the Parthenon
in Athens and considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world.

Artemis was an ancient goddess of fertility. Pilgrims came to her temple seeking aid in
becoming pregnant and protection in childbirth. A college of virgin priestesses served her.
The devotion of the city to their goddess earned the Ephesians the title “temple-keeper.”
Religious fervor, along with the very real economic dependence of the city on the pilgrim
trade, led to a near riot on behalf of Artemis as described in Acts 19:23-41 where the 25,000
seat theatre was filled with fevered citizens shouting repeatedly “Great is Artemis of the
Philippi was originally established by Greek colonists from Thasos in 360 B.C. Its original
name was Krenides. In 356 B.C. Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, took over the
city and renamed it Philippi. The city was located in Macedonia on the main road between
Rome and the eastern territories; the Egnatian Way.

Philippi was a Roman colony populated in part by retired Roman soldiers. The people enjoyed
the privileges of Roman citizenship. The church here was largely Gentile.

Philippi was the first European City in which Paul preached. The congregation at Philippi
supported Paul’s ministry and remained close to Paul.

Colossae had been an important city in the region of Asia Minor prior to the time of Paul.
Colossae was built along the Lycus River, which was important for trade in the ancient world.
As a result, Colossae became a major trading center. It was located on a main overland trade
route between Ephesus approximately 100 miles to the west and the Euphrates about 400
miles to the east. The town had declined in importance by the time the gospel was preached
there by Epaphras, who was a convert from Colossae. The growth of two sister cities in the
Lycus valley spurred the decline at Colossae. This was probably the least influential city to
which any of Paul’s surviving letters was addressed.

Epaphras, who later joined Paul in prison at Rome, founded this church in the wake of Paul’s
ministry at Ephesus. It was in this Roman prison where Paul was given news of strange
teachings affecting this church. Paul never visited Colossae

Thessalonica was founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander, a general under Alexander the Great.
Cassander named the city after his wife, Alexander’s half-sister. Under Roman rule,
Thessalonica was the capital and largest city in Macedonia. During the 1st century A.D., the
population totaled about 200,000. During the reigns of Constantine and Theodosius (A.D.
379-395) a harbor was built and Thessalonica eventually developed into a central trading
center because of the importance of its seaport to the region.

Paul founded the church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). He arrived in Thessalonica after being
released from prison at Philippi. The church most likely included both Jews and Gentiles, but
was predominately Gentile. Paul first shared about Christ in the synagogue where he preached
for three Sabbaths before he and the Jews of this city chased his companions from
Thessalonica. This occurred during Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey.
Pages and articles on Paul’s theology:

• Law Survey
• Pauline Theocentricity
• Theonomy
• Titus as Apologia: Grace for Liars, Beasts, and Bellies
• N.T. Wright on Justification

Law Survey

One of the thorny issues that is tough to sort out is trying to make sense of the Apostle Paul’s
view of the Law. This issue has been rather hotly debated in academic circles over the last 20-
25 years, with many books and papers emerging on the subject. Given the level of activity, we
thought it prudent to provide a survey of some of the more established ideas on Paul’s view of
the Law, albeit higher critical views, and to point the interested reader in the direction of
resources where he/she might pursue matters further. Because Christians are often quick to
dismiss issues raised by the critical academic community without interacting with them, we
are going to present a thumb-nail sketch of some of those views. We will then refer you to
sources that can help you respond to them from a more evangelical perspective. At the outset I
am obliged to acknowledge my debt to Stephen Westerholm for much of the content of this
survey . In the first part of his very readable book, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith, he
provides a wonderful survey of scholarship on this issue. Moreover, in the second part of the
book he provides an evangelical response to these views.

Luther to Schweitzer

A good place to start our survey is with Martin Luther, the great 16th Century reformer. By
and large, it is his interpretation of Paul’ statements on the Law that provides the grist for
New Testament scholars to interact with in subsequent writings. In Luther’s lectures on
Galatians (Luther 1963-64), he insists that the Law, according to Paul, requires perfect
obedience. None of our efforts to keep the Law can be successful, however, and the necessity
of the crucifixion of Christ bears witness to this reality. The Law serves two functions,
according to Luther. First of all, civil law serves to restrain transgression in society. Second,
the Law serves to condemn us as sinners, to destroy any basis for self-righteousness, and to
thereby drive us to God for mercy. For Christians whose sin was atoned for on the Cross, the
Law may give us some ideas of good things to do, but it is not binding for the Christian.

In the 20th century, Albert Schweitzer introduced a different understanding of Paul’s use of
the Law. He argues that Paul was obsessed with eschatology. That is to say, Paul regarded the
world as having entered a new aeon, the Messianic age. The end of the world as we know it
was imminent, or so Paul thought. Thus, in light of these realities, the Law was no longer a
relevant part of life. Instead, the mystical union with Christ that Paul is said to have spoken of
indicates that the Christian has moved beyond the age of Law and into a new sphere of
existence. Thus, Schweitzer agreed with Luther that the Law, according to Paul, was no
longer binding on the Christian, but he did so for different reasons.

Paul & First-Century Judaism

There are a number of scholars who believe that Paul unfairly represented 1st century Judaism
and the Old Testament view of the Law in order to promote his preoccupation with
justification by faith. G. C. Montefiore is representative of this view ( Montefiore 1914). A
Jewish scholar, Montefiore set out to show that the Judaism which Paul spoke of was not the
Rabbinical Judaism of the 1st Century. Because there is little extant material from Judaism in
this time frame, he takes writings from A.D. 300-500 and tries to infer back to the time of
Paul. From these writings, he argues that the Jews saw the Law as a gracious gift of God.
Perfect obedience was never regarded as possible. However, the Jews did expect to grow in
holiness as a result of heeding the Law. Montefiore hypothesized that Paul was interacting
with a lesser Hellenistic Judaism rather than the rabbinical Judaism of Palestine.

H. J. Schoeps, another Jewish scholar, critiqued and tried to build on Montefiore’s thesis
(Schoeps 1961). While he conceded that some of Paul’s statements could be found in 1st
century Judaism in Palestine, Paul’s overall attitude that the Law resulted in death was
entirely antithetical to the Jewish view that the Law led to life for those in the covenant. He
speculated that maybe Paul was despised by the Jews of his day because he did not really
understand their theology.

Paul’s View of Righteousness

While it is generally agreed that Paul contrasted justification by faith with the effort to be
justified by good works according to the Law, scholars are not in agreement as to how Paul
actually viewed righteousness according to the Law. For example, Rudolph Bultmann argued
that, for Paul, “righteous” according to works of the Law was little short of an oxymoron
(Bultmann 1951). Bultmann suggested that the essence of sin is a person exerting himself and
his claim of independence from God, thus forgetting his dependence as a creature on the
Creator. In trying to acquire righteousness according to the Law, a person is exerting his
capabilities and trying to commend himself to God on the basis of his accomplishments. Thus,
the very pursuit of righteousness is itself a boastful exercise in sinful human muscle-flexing.
According to Bultmann, Paul’s negativism towards works-based righteousness was primarily
aimed at nipping human arrogance and boasting in the bud.

Against Bultmann, Ulrich Wilckens affirmed that Paul regarded righteousness according to
the Law as a virtue that was able to save (Rom. 2:13), if in fact anybody was able to keep the
Law. The problem, however, was that nobody could keep the Law. Wilckens believes that
Paul was trying to remind the Jews that if they were going to seek God’s saving favor on the
basis of fidelity to the Law, apart from the work of Christ, they needed to be far more
scrupulous-absolutely scrupulous-in keeping the Law.

E. P. Sanders

The last scholar that we’ll consider in this survey has been by far the most influential in the
last twenty years. His two books, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) and Paul, the Law, and
the Jewish People (1983) have set the terms of the debate and inspired a tremendous amount
of scholarly discussion. First of all he argues that Paul’s characterization of the Jews is false.
He spends a great deal of time trying to document that 1st Century Judaism affirmed
“covenantal nomism.” That is to say, they believed that God had sovereignly chosen them as
His people and to be in covenant with Him (an act of mercy), and that keeping the Law was
part of what it was to be faithful to the covenant. Thus, election was based not on works of the
Law but on God’s merciful choice of Israel. The Law provided guidance in life for those who
had received such mercy as God’s chosen people. Moreover, the fact that there is evidence of
Rabbinical debate over how a person’s sins are atoned for is evidence, according to Sanders,
that the necessity of atonement for sin was a Jewish belief. Thus, the evidence seems to
indicate that justification by works was not the dominant Jewish belief in the 1st century.

Beyond this Sanders also argued that for Paul, the problem with the Law wasn’t that the Law
condemned man. Rather, the problem was that the Law wasn’t as good a savior of mankind as
was Jesus. Paul was first and foremost concerned with hailing Jesus as the savior of the world.
From the fact that Jesus was savior, Paul then argues that man must therefore be in need of a
savior. Thus, Paul does not argue from the plight of man to the saving provision of God, but
quite the opposite. He argues that because Jesus is savior of the world, the world must need
saving. With this shift in the logical progression, the effort to find out what made the Law
itself so negative in Paul’s eyes is moot. After all, if Sanders is correct, the primary problem
with the Law is merely that it is a faulty “savior.” What’s more, Gentiles, to whom Paul is an
apostle, are not able to be saved by the Jewish Law. Thus, the main point of Romans 1-3 is
not so much that humanity has fallen short of the glory of God , but that the Law has fallen
short as a savior, and thus Jesus alone is able to offer salvation.

For Further Inquiry

If you would like to interact with these views from an evangelical point of view, I would start
by looking at Westerholm’s book. After giving a charitable representation of these and other
views, he then gives a more orthodox response to these readings of Paul and, for the most
part, to defend the original view of the Law as presented by Luther. Westerholm is prepared
to agree with Sanders that Luther (not Paul) misrepresents the Jewish view of the Law, but he
deftly argues for a traditional reading of Paul that is akin to Luther’s views. If you would like
to interact with Sanders’s view more specifically, I would encourage you to start with a book
by Frank Thielman called, From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding
Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans (1989).

I would call your attention to one important distinction, however. The Reformed tradition
affirms that Paul articulated a third use of the Law which is not emphasized by Luther or his
modern disciple, Westerholm. That is, for the Christian who has found saving grace based on
nothing more or less than the sacrifice of Christ for our sin, the Law does provide a guide for
living. If we would be holy as God is holy, and if we would love as we have been loved, the
Law provides indispensable guidance. After all, it is a reflection of God’s character and must
therefore be taken seriously. Even in Paul’s most strident attack on those who would try to
commend themselves to God on the basis of fidelity to the Law – the book of Galatians – Paul
urges those who have found freedom in Christ to “serve one another for the whole Law is
fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:13b-
14) In 1 Corinthians 7:19, Paul writes, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is
nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” Such exhortations
from Paul clearly indicate a positive role for the Law in the believer’s life. For a basic look at
the third use of the Law, I would commend you to John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian
Religion, Book 2, chapter 7.12 – 7.13.

• Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977;
reprinted, 1993.
• Bultmann, Rudolph. Theology of the New Testament. Vol. I. New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1951.
• Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill; Trans. Ford
Lewis Battles. Library of Christian Classics, vol. 20-21. Ed. John Baillie, John T.
McNeill, and Henry P. Van Dusen. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.
• Furnish, Victor Paul. Theology and Ethics in Paul. Nashville & New York: Abingdon
Press, 1968.
• Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. Vols. 26 & 27, ed. J. Pelikan. Saint Louis: Concordia,
• Martin, Brice L. Christ and the Law in Paul. New York: E.J. Brill, 1989.
• Montefiore, C. G. Judaism and St. Paul. London: Max Goschen, 1914.
• Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Translated by John Richard
De Witt. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1775; reprint, 1992.
• Raisanen, Heikki. Jesus, Paul and Torah. Translated by David E. Orton. England:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1992.
• Sanders, E. P. Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983.
• Sanders, E. P. Paul and Palestinian Judiasm. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.
• Schoeps, H. J. Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religous
History. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961.
• Schweitzer, Albert. The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle. New York: Seabury, 1931.
• Thielman, Frank. From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding
Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans. Leiden: Brill, 1989.
• Westerholm, Stephen. Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent
Interpreters. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988.
• Wright, N.T. The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992; reprint, 1993.


There is one thing that occupies the center of St. Paul’s theology: his great interest in God
(Morris, 25). The epistles of St. Paul are saturated with the concept of God, in fact Paul’s
epistles contain over 40 percent of all the New Testament references to God (Morris, 25). This
is formative in understanding the Apostle’s perspective, because it defines how he thought of
everything else. He was, above all else, Theo-centric, in that his understanding of God formed
the starting point and context of his theology.

The first of St. Paul’s epistles in the canon is his epistle to the Romans. According to Matthew
Henry, the reason that Romans appears first among his epistles is “because of the superlative
excellency of the epistle, it being one of the fullest of all” (Henry, 363). Romans is one of the
best places to find an organized expression of Paul’s theology and in it he teaches a radical
doctrine of Theo-centricity having three aspects: God’s providence, God’s redemption and
God’s purpose.

Providence is the most general aspect of Paul’s Theo-centric theology for it defines the
relationship that exists between the Creator and the entire created order. God is the one who
controls and governs all things. The entire cosmos is only as it is because God has both
created to be as such and has sustained it as well. In Romans 4:17, Paul calls God the one who
creates out of nothing, because He called the universe into existence without the aid of any
other being or without the benefit of using pre-existing materials. Everything that exists does
so “from Him and through Him.”(11:36) God is the governor of the universe and is Lord over
all things.(10:12) Therefore, He owns the universe and as such is the center of it. According to
Romans 9, God is a potter and man is a lump of clay, and God has the right to make of that
clay whatever He desires. It is God’s intrinsic and unalienable right to do with the universe
whatever He wills. The authority that man seems to possess is not his, it is given to him by
God.(13:1,6) Even the sinful state of man is as it is because God has so ordained it to be. In
Romans 1, Paul uses the phrase, “God gave them over..”, three times in four verses. Man did
not arrive at his evil condition, except that God has given him over to it. God is the one who
governs and controls all that He has created.


The second aspect of the Theo-centricity of Paul’s theology has to do with redemptive work
of God whereby He reclaims that which belongs to Him. Redemption is a work that “is all
founded on the impregnable rock of the eternal will of God” (Dodd, 142). Paul, in Romans 8,
writes that it is God who foreknows, predestines, calls and glorifies. “God’s action in
redemption is free and absolute, springing wholly from within Himself” (Stevens, 98). He is
the perfect initiator in the work of salvation; man plays only the role of a passive lump of clay
(Stevens, 114). Priority in salvation is on divine grace and the absolutely gratuitous character
of God (Ridderbos, 349). God is the one who saves His own from His own wrath.(5:9), for He
is both the judge and the advocate, having mercy on whom He wills and hardening whom He
wills.(9:18) All the world is accountable to God (3:19) and deserving of death (3:23), but He
is also “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”(3:26) According to Paul, “it does not
depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”(9:16)


God not only governs all things but He is also the one who redeems. The final aspect of the
Theo-centricity of Paul’s theology describes God’s purpose in both His governing and His
redeeming. For Paul, all things are done for God. In Romans 11:36, Paul says, “For from Him
and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”(emphasis
added) God has worked all things according to His purposes so that all things will work for
His benefit. This is the primary motive of God. “Christ himself seeks above all things the
glory of his father in the redemptive work, in his life, in his death, in his triumph” (Kennedy,
289). God brings about all things for His benefit and in so doing also brings benefit to His
people. The Christian’s hope, according to Paul, is the glory of God (5:2), as such they are
defined by their expectation of the vindication of the glory of God. Paul also defines the
Gospel in these terms by calling it “the righteousness of God” (1:17); which is, according to
C.H. Dodd, the act of God whereby He vindicates the right (Dodd, 13). God is the right and
the process of the history of redemption is the unfolding of God’s plan whereby He is
vindicating His character by redeeming back to Himself what is His. “Paul’s conception of
God’s righteousness is that it consists basically in his inclination to act always for his own
name sake, that is, to maintain and demonstrate his glory” (Piper, 160). God’s purpose is, in
all things and at all times, to bring glory to Himself, which is what He rightly deserves.


The primary task of the Christian, then, is to be righteous and bring glory to God. Paul urges,
“present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual
service of worship”(12:1). It is the Christian’s primary duty, his “spiritual service of worship”
to give himself to God as an instrument of righteousness to God (6:13). The Theo-centricity
of Paul’s theology drives the people of God to perceive their tasks and value from the
perspective of God. According to Paul, a man derives his benefit in his enslavement to God.
(6:22) Only in as much as an individual gives himself over to be possessed and used of God
as He desires, is that individual valuable. “The glory and the praise of God should constitute
the chief preoccupation of any Christian worthy of the name in his pursuit of salvation,
penetrated as he is with the love of God and of the savior” (Kennedy, 292). “For if we live,
we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are
the Lord’s”(14:8) “Paul was a God intoxicated man” (Morris, 25). His epistle to the Romans
reflects this passion and his theology is rested upon it. God is the center and is, by His own
design, the primary beneficiary of all that occurs. Christ has accepted His people for the
purpose of bringing glory to God (15:7), therefore God’s people are to always act and think as
Christ thinks, Theo-centrally.

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same
mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one
voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:5,6).


• Dodd, C.H. The Epist1e of Paul to the Romans. New York: Harper and Brothers
Publishers, 193Z.
• Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. New York: Fleming H. Revell
Company, 1935.
• Kennedy, H.A.A. The Theology of the Epistles. trans. John Dingle. London: Gerald
Duckworth and Co. LTD., 1959.
• Morris, Leon. New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing,
• Piper, John. The Justification of God. Grand Rapids, mich.: Baker Book House, 1983.
• Prat, Fernand. Theology of St. Paul. trans. John L. Stoddard. Maryland: Newman
Bookshop, 1958.
• Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. trans. John R. DeWitt. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.
• Scott, Charles Anderson. Christianity According to St. Paul. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1961.
• Stevens, George B. The Pauline Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900.

The term “theonomy,” meaning “God’s law,” for the purposes of this article refers to a
particular view of the normativity of God’s law for today. Simply stated, theonomy holds to a
principle that states that “unless Old Testament standards have been specifically altered by
New Testament revelation, they abide without significant change” (Pratt 1990, 344).
Therefore, theonomists believe that circumcision and the ceremonial law has been abrogated
by the coming of Christ. However, the penal sanctions of the Mosaic law, according to
theonomists, are still binding today. Other Reformed scholars generally believe that the New
Testament provides the principles necessary to interpret the Old Testament law for today,
even where there are no explicit statements. The penal sanctions of the Mosaic law, they say,
must be applied within the church and adjusted for to account for situational changes which
occurred at the coming of Christ.

Since both these groups of scholars claim that the Scriptures, including the Pauline corpus,
support their position, the purpose of this article is to examine Paul’s understanding of the law
in New Testament. This will be done by examining in what ways Paul considered the Old
Testament law to have ended with Christ, to determine if they are consistent with the
theononomic positions on the law how the law should be applied for today.

Paul’s Use of the Law

Greg Bahnsen, one of the most prominent theonomists, has claimed that Paul’s negative
pronouncements on the law are aimed at those who abuse the law by attempting “to utilize the
works of the law as a basis for saving merit” (Bahnsen 1985, 183). Yet however true these
statements are, there is another situational sense in which the law has ended which Bahnsen
fails to account for. The law has also ended as a barrier between Jew and Gentile. In order to
understand Paul’s view of the law, it must be understood that: (1) Paul considered the law to
be inherently deficient in that it could not impart life, and (2) the law was accommodated to
the Old Testament Jew living in the land of Israel and must be adjusted in order to be properly
applied to the church which consists of both Jews and Gentiles.

The Inherent Deficiency of the Law

Galatians 3:23-25

In these verses, the law is described as a paidagogos — that is, a “disciplinarian.” In New
Testament times, a paidagogos was not a teacher, as in the modern pedagogue. His job was
not to instruct the child or teach him, as a tutor or school master. Rather, he was a
disciplinarian who would correct and discipline the child when he strayed from his duties.
F.F. Bruce comments that “the paidagogos was the personal slave-attendant who accompanied
the free-born boy wherever he went, from the time he left the nurses care. . . During the boy’s
minority the paidagogos imposed a necessary restraint on his liberty until, with his coming of
age, he could be trusted to use his liberty responsibly” (Bruce 1982, 182).
Thus, the law is pictured as that which held people in bondage, restricting their freedom,
driving its subjects to yearn for Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promise made to
Abraham. The only way out of this prison that the law created was by faith in Christ.

The law functioned in this way “until Christ”. Verse 25 goes on to say that, now that faith has
come, we are “no longer under a disciplinarian.” Thus, the law has ceased to function as a
paidagogos. Ridderbos states

From the function which verse 23 and 24 assign to the law, it follows that after Christ’s
coming the law as tutor, that is as seen from the vantage point of the history of salvation, has
lost its significance. In that sense it can be said elsewhere that Christ is the end of the law
(Rom. 10:4). (Ridderbos 1953, 146)

With the coming of Christ, we are no longer immature children, no different from slaves. We
have become mature sons. And as sons, “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our
hearts” (4:6). Therefore, this negative function of the law in the Old Testament has become
obsolete, for we have the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:1-11

In 2 Corinthians 3:6 Paul states that God has “made us adequate as servants of a new
covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The
“letter” in these verses are identified with the specific demands of the law which required
obedience. Gordon Fee states that the letter, thus defined, kills because

(1) even though [the Law is] “Spiritual,” it was not accompanied by the Spirit in the lives of
those who received it, and (2) this good thing therefore led to death due to sin resident in
human “flesh.” In this sense, “the letter kills,” because it can arouse sin but is powerless to
overcome it (Fee 1994, 306).

Thus, the law, even with all its glory, was deficient in that it lacked the Spirit. So much so that
in verse 11, as opposed to the Spirit and the new covenant which remain in glory, the law
fades away (katargeo). No longer is the law written on “tablets of stone.” Rather, we now
have the letter written “on tablets of human hearts” by “the Spirit of the living God” (v. 3).

It appears that Paul saw the fulfillment of the prophesies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah in this
passage. In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God states, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new
spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of
flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will
be careful to observe My ordinances. In Jeremiah 31:33, God also states, “But this is the
covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I
will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and
they shall be My people. In these two passages, it is prophesied that in the Messianic age, God
would put His Spirit within His people and write His law on their hearts. God’s Spirit would
then empower and motivate the keeping of the law. This is the language Paul uses in 2
Corinthians. 3:3 (quoted above).

Paul is considered the coming of Christ to be the fulfillment of these Messianic prophecies
(Ridderbos 1975, 336; see also Bruce 1977, 199-200). Since the law has been written on our
hearts by the Holy Spirit, the law can be “fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the
flesh, but according to the Spirit ” (Rom. 8:4). We have been set free from the law of sin and
death by the law of the Spirit who indwells us and gives us life. The law could not impart life,
but the Spirit does impart life. As Christians walk according to the Spirit, the law is fulfilled
in them (Ridderbos 1975, 280; Murray 1960, 283-284). The Situational Aspect of the Law
(Ephesians 2:14-16) In Ephesians 2:15, Paul claims that Christ has unified Jew and Gentile by
“abolishing [katargeo] in His flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained
in ordinances.” Yet in Romans 3:31, Paul says, “Do we then abolish [katargeo] the Law
through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.” Thus, in order to
prevent Paul from contradicting himself, it must be maintained that in some sense the law has
ended with the coming of Christ, and in another sense has been established by Christ. The
purpose of abolishing the law as stated in Ephesians 2: 14-16 was to unify Jew and Gentile
into one people of God (vv. 15b-16). Therefore, in this passage, the sense in which the law
has been abrogated appears to be as a result of the situational changes marked by the coming
of Christ. There was cultural baggage in the law that had to be abolished if Jew and Gentile
were to be reconciled into one body through the cross (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23; Gal. 2:14; 6:12;
Col. 2:16; 3:11).

Herman Ridderbos comments, “The law of Moses in its particularistic significance as making
a division between Jews and Gentiles is no longer in force. . . Herein is the important
viewpoint that with Christ’s advent the law, also as far as its content is concerned, has been
brought under a new norm of judgment and that failure to appreciate this situation is a denial
of Christ” (Ridderbos 1975, 284). John Murray also says, “he abolished the Mosaic law by
fulfilling all its types and shadows. He was the end of the law. . . therefore, it ceased to bind
the people of God” (Hodge 1980, 130). It has been popular to divide the Mosaic law in to
three divisions: the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the judicial law (See the Westminster
Confession of Faith, Chapter 19). These divisions are not delineated for us in Scripture, and
thus they are somewhat artificial. However, these divisions are useful in understanding the

Both theonomists and other reformed scholars believe that the moral law continues into the
present age and the ceremonial law has been abrogated by the coming of Christ, since He has
fulfilled those aspects of the law in His priestly ministry. The point of discussion is over how
the judicial law should be applied to the present age. It is important to realize that the Mosaic
law “was accommodated to the people of God in their particular redemptive-historical
setting” (Pratt 1990, 345). The Jews lived in the land of Israel and many of the penal sanctions
(as well as the moral and ceremonial laws) were contextualized to that situation. For instance,
“Prohibitions against stealing in the Old Testament included respect for a fellow Israelite’s
permanent land inheritance (1 Kings 21:1-19)” (Pratt 1990, 345). However, the Christian has
no inheritance in the land of Israel. Our inheritance is the New Heavens and New Earth
(Hebrews 4:8-11). The coming of Christ and the consequent disenfranchisement of the
Kingdom of God so affected history that the proper application of the Mosaic law within the
church must account for these situational changes.

John Frame has noted that the New Testament church “fulfills the Old Testament theocracy”
(Barker 1990, 95). In applying the Old Testament laws to the church, Paul did not apply them
exactly as they were applied in the Old Testament. For instance, In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Paul
addresses a situation where a man is living with his father’s wife. According to Old Testament
law, the man and the woman should receive capital punishment (Leviticus 20:10). However,
this was not recommended by Paul. Rather, the proper punishment of this crime for Paul is
excommunication (vv. 2, 13). Furthermore, Paul’s statement in verse 13 is a quotation of a
formula found in Mosaic penal sanctions (Deut. 17:7, 12; 12:19; 19:21, 21:21; 22:21, 24:

Dennis Johnson has noted that “in the Deuteronomy contexts this formula, whenever it
appears, refers to the execution of those deeds ‘worthy of death’: idolatry, contempt for
judges, false witness, persistent rebellion towards parents, adultery, and kidnapping” (Barker
1990, 181). These crimes were to be punished by purging the offender from the covenant
community through his execution. Johnson continues, “Paul applies the same terminology to
the new covenant community’s judging/purging act of excommunication– a judgment that is
both more severe (since it is ‘handing this man over to Satan,’ an anticipation of the final
judgment), and more gracious (since it envisions a saving outcome to the temporal exercise of
church discipline, which may bring about repentance that will lead to rescue from eternal
judgment)” (Barker 1990, 181-182). Therefore, it may be safely said that the proper
application of those capital offenses of the Mosaic law are properly applied in the church
today as excommunication. 3. Conclusion In 1 Timothy 1:8 Paul claims that “we know that
the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.” Theonomists take this to mean that the law should be
applied largely as it was in the Old Testament, without using it as a means of salvation and
taking into account the explicit statements in the New Testament where certain laws have
been abrogated. However, it appears that Paul’s statements concerning the end of the law are
somewhat more inclusive than this. The law, in its ministry of condemnation (2 Cor. 3:9), has
been abolished and has replaced with the “ministry of righteousness” by the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:9-
11). The law has been written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. As we walk in the Spirit, we
fulfill the law. This does not mean that the Mosaic law no longer applies to the Christian as a
rule of life. Rather, it means that the law can no longer condemn us (Rom. 8:1) because Christ
has satisfied the demands of the law in His life and paid for our sins on the cross, and He has
sent us the Holy Spirit, by whom we are empowered to fulfill the law (Rom 8:2-4).

Furthermore, Theonomy fails to take into account the situational changes brought about by
the coming of Christ in the application of the Mosaic law to the church. The Mosaic law was
accommodated to the Israelites living in the theocracy of Israel. The church is the fulfillment
of the Old Testament theocracy. Yet as a result of the coming of Christ, the Kingdom of God
has been disenfranchised to include both Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16). This situational
change in the Kingdom of God necessitates a change in the way the law is applied to lives of


• Bahnsen, Greg, L. 1985. By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today.
Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics.
• Barker, William S. and W. Robert Godfrey. 1990. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
• Bruce, F. F. 1977. Paul: An Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
• ________. 1982. Commentary on Galatians. New International Greek Testament
Commentary. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
• Fee, Gordon D. 1994. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of
Paul. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
• Hodge, Charles. 1980. Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians. Grand Rapids:
Baker Book House.
• Murray, John. 1960. The Epistle to the Romans. Part 1, The First Eight Chapters.
London: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
• Pratt, Richard. 1990. He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting
Old Testament Narratives. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt.
• Ridderbos, Herman. 1953. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Churches in Galatia. The New
International Commentary on the New Testament. Translated by Henry Zilstra. Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
• ________. 1975. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
• The Westminster Confession of Faith, a.d. 1647. 1991. Norcross, GA: Great
Commission Publications.

For Further Reading

Reformed Critiques of Theonomy

• Barker, William S. and W. Robert Godfrey. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique. Grand

Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.
• Gordon, T. David. “Critique of Theonomy: A Taxonomy.” Westminster Theological
Journal 56 (1994): 23-43.
• Kline, Meredith G. “Comments on an Old-New Error: A Review of Greg Bahnsen,
Theonomy in Christian Ethics.” Westminster Theological Journal 41 (1978-79): 172-
• Oss, Douglas A. “The Influence of Hermeneutical Frameworks in the Theonomy
Debate.” Westminster Theological Journal 51 (1989): 227-58.
• Poythress, Vern. The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses. Nashville, NT:
Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1991. See especially the Appendices, “Evaluating Theonomy”
(pp. 311-61) and “Does the Greek Word Pleroo Sometimes mean ‘Confirm’?” (pp.

Reformed Works on the Law and Pauline Theology

• Fee, Gordon D. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul.
Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.
• Kline, Meredith. The Structure of Biblical Authority. Grand Rapds: Eerdmans, 1972.
• ________. “Gospel Until the Law: Romans 5:13-14 and the Old Covenant.” Journal of
the Evangelical Theological Society 34 (1991): 433-446.
• Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans, 1975.

Works by Theonomists

• Bahnsen, Greg, L. By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today. Tyler, TX:
Institute for Christian Economics 1985.
• ________. Theonomy in Christian Ethics: Expanded Edition with Replies to Critics.
Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Rerformed, 1984.
• North, Gary. Westminster’s Confession. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics,
• Rushdoony, R. J. The Institutes of Biblical Law. Nutley, NJ: Craig, 1973.
Titus as Apologia
TITUS AS APOLOGIA: Grace for Liars, Beasts, and Bellies

by Dr. Reggie M. Kidd

Originally published in Horizons in Biblical Theology
21.2 (December 1999) 185-209
Download this document in PDF


From antiquity, asserts the 1st century BCE Roman historian Diodorus Siculus, Greeks have
thought about the gods in two ways. Certain gods are eternal in genesis and imperishable in
duration. Others are “earthly gods (epigeioi theoi) who have attained undying honor and fame
because of benefactions bestowed upon humankind” (Diodorus 6.2). Frances Young’s
shibboleth, “theology is always earthed in a context,” takes on particular piquancy when a
community’s approach to the divine is “earth-based” to begin with.[1] In common perception,
the epicenter for the latter way of imagining divinity was the island of Crete – for in Cretan
accounts of the origins of the gods, even the father of the gods, Zeus himself, had been born
as a human, raised, and indeed, killed and buried as well. I propose that it is in the interest of
countering assumptions about the earthly origins of the “deity” long associated with Crete that
the theology of the letter to Titus, written to a Pauline delegate ministering on Crete in the
latter half of the first century, is formulated. Moreover, I suggest that the lifestyle this letter
commends as being congruent with this God’s nature is itself intended to be a bold apologetic
for Christianity as a better, indeed the only, way to attain an ideal of humanity long resident in
Greek ethical thinking.

Two striking features of the letter suggest my thesis. The first is the frequently noted appeal at
2:12 to the traditional triad of Hellenistic virtues – to wit, it is to provide instruction on how
“to live soberly and justly and piously” (hina … s¿phron¿s kai dikai¿s kai euseb¿s zÙs¿men)
that God’s grace has been manifest in Christ. All by itself this bow in the direction of
Hellenism in a letter bearing Paul’s name is fascinating. But what makes it especially
arresting is its juxtaposition with a second feature of the letter: the citing at 1:12 of a Cretan
“prophet’s” threefold critique of his countryfolk – that Cretans are perpetual liars, vicious
beasts, and idle bellies (KrÙtes aei pseustai, kaka thÙria, gasteres argai). The first member of
this saying, I contend, has in view a specific lie regarding an “earth-bound” deity; the result is
that in combination the three members of the Cretan prophet’s dictum express the opposite of
the Hellenistic triad of virtues. The correspondences may perhaps best be seen when laid out
in chiastic fashion:

A. Always liars (1:12)

B. vicious beasts (1:12)

C. idle bellies (1:12)

C’. To live sensibly (2:12)

B’. and justly (2:12)

A’. and piously (2:12)

In the context of the letter to Titus these two clusters are mutually defining: the whole saying
at 1:12 about Cretans being “liars, beasts, and bellies” sets up the sweeping theological
statement at 2:12 about grace coming to teach us to live “soberly” (i.e., not as bellies),
“justly” (i.e., not as beasts), and “piously” (i.e., not as liars). Moreover, the convergence of
these two threefold statements gives the letter to Titus an apologetic thrust, and accounts in
large part for Titus’ distinctive voice in the New Testament canon.


It is a commonplace among students of the Pastorals to recognize a broad reference to “the

ideal of Greek ethics” in Titus 2:12′s phrase, “to live soberly and justly and piously.”[2]
Stephen C. Mott explores Titus’ use of this language in the light of a longstanding
conversation within Greek ethics.[3] Over the history of Greek moral discourse, a fourfold
canon of virtue emerges to indicate both the discrete elements and the overall unity of virtue;
its elements are: understanding (or piety), justice, self-control, and courage.[4] From Plato on,
the base for ethics may be expressed alternatively in religious terms (eusebeia, “piety”) or in
intellectual terms (phronÙsis, “understanding”).[5] At Titus 2:12, says Mott, “eusebeia has
replaced phronÙsis since it functions somewhat as a religious form of the latter in providing
the intellectual basis for ethics.”[6] Moreover, as the soldier-citizen becomes less a social
reality in the Greek world following Plato’s era, courage (andreios) appears less frequently,
and the situation in ethical texts becomes quite fluid. Occasionally the full fourfold canon
comes to expression.[7] Sometimes the canon remains fourfold in form but becomes threefold
in content, with a synonym of one of the other three cardinal virtues taking the place of the
fourth. As in our passage, the canon may be threefold in both form and content. Examples of a
threefold expression similar to and at least roughly contemporary to Titus 2:12 may be found
in Philo, Dio Chrysostom, and Lucian.[8] As Jerome Quinn observes: “The triad as a whole
… would designate qualities that were appreciated and distinguished from one another by
Greeks. Schematically, each would refer to giving what was due: s¿phron¿s, to one’s self;
dikai¿s, to fellow human beings; euseb¿s, to the gods.”[9] And as Mott contends,
“Functioning in Titus 2:12 as the canon of cardinal virtues, these three virtues are a code for
virtue in the full sense.”[10]

Hymn or not, the statement of grace’s educative purpose in Titus 2:12 is the nub of the
theology of this epistle, and its Hellenism is therefore remarkable – especially,
parenthetically, in view of the straightforwardly biblical worldview of 2:14, with its echoes of
Exodus and Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. In large measure, the letter to Titus claims that grace
has appeared in history to make attainable a life already aspired to by Greek ethicists.


Among all New Testament figures only the canonical Paul quotes classical Greek writers
directly – once in the undisputed letters (1 Corinthians 15:33), once in the book of Acts
(17:28), and once here in a representative of the disputed letters (Titus 1:12).[11] One thing
these citations have in common is their proverbial nature, their use thus suggesting a level of
literary culture widely in circulation via handbooks, anthologies, and summaries; there is
nothing in the citations themselves, however, to indicate firsthand knowledge of the works
from which they are taken.[12] Since at least Clement of Alexandria (ca. 200 C.E., Stromateis
1.59.2), the saying at Titus 1:12 has been attributed to Epimenides, the ca. sixth century
B.C.E. Cretan seer and poet who is often likened to the Greek mainland’s Hesiod.
Mathematicians refer to the liar’s paradox (“How can a Cretan’s statement, ‘Cretans always
lie,’ be either true or false?”) as the Epimenides paradox or the Epimenidean conundrum.[13]
Unfortunately, none of Epimendes’ works is extant, his sayings appearing in scattered
fragments or literary allusions. His version of Cretan accounts of the gods comes to us chiefly
through Diodorus Siculus. For now it may simply be observed that the original context and
intent of the Cretan prophet’s saying is unavailable to us.[14] What is notable is the context
Titus’ Paul gives it and the use to which he puts it.

At first blush, the appeal at Titus 1:12 to a Cretan’s charge that Cretans are prevaricators,
predators, and profligates seems off-putting and at odds with the apparent winsomeness we
have observed in the use of the Hellenistic ethical triad. Indeed, the history of exegesis is
preoccupied with excuse-making for or charge-leveling against Paul (or his spokesperson,
depending on the commentator’s perspective). Understandably, A. C. Thiselton is frustrated
enough with the search for a way to spin the use of the Cretan self-critique that he abandons it
altogether.[15] Taking as his sole focus the famously self-contradictory nature of a Cretan
calling Cretans liars, Thiselton contends that the passage actually says nothing about Cretans;
it simply asserts that truth-statements unsupported by lifestyle are self-defeating: when a
people’s verbiage does not affect their lifestyle (i.e., if their pretended truth-statements do not
prevent beastliness and self-indulgence), their truth-claims should be disregarded. I find
Thiselton’s thesis about the mutually reinforcing nature of belief system and lifestyle to be
cogent; however, I cannot force myself to see an either/or here: the saying both recalls a well
known critique of the falsity of Cretan ideas about the gods and, precisely in so doing, sets up
a call to a lifestyle designed to render plausible Christians’ assertions about God. The quoting
of the Cretan seer is the attributing to at least one Cretan of an ancient aspiration for piety,
justice, and sobriety; but as expressed here, it is an aspiration – and this is why it is
serviceable to our author – with a conscience. It is, after all, one thing to assent to, even to
aspire to, a religious, ethical, and personal ideal; it is another to achieve it. I submit that the
letter’s dominant concerns come into focus when it is appreciated that at Titus 1:12 our writer
enlists a self-critical voice within the host culture to overture in a negative fashion precisely
the features of the faith he himself wants believers to put on display among nonbelieving

Consider the second and third members of the critique: “beasts” and “bellies.” “Vicious
beasts” (kaka thÙria) brings into view what Cretans do to one another – it is an admission that
their social life is predicated upon injustice. Crete was an island reputed to lack predatory
animals. Pliny, for instance, asserts the absence of “wolves, bears, any noxious animals at all
except a poisonous spider, wild boars, and hedgehogs” (Natural History 8.83). Accordingly,
Plutarch introduces his address on profiting from one’s enemies by contrasting Crete’s
reputation for being a region without wild animals (ch¿ran athÙron) with the sad fact that
there is no polity anywhere free of the passions that produce enmity: envy, rivalry, and
contention (Moralia 86C). “Alas,” to paraphrase Paul’s Cretan prophet, “it is true of Crete as
well: our being known for having no wild animals stands in condemnation of us. We have no
need of predatory animals, we have predatory humans!”

With “idle bellies” – rendered in several translations “lazy gluttons” – the critic indicts his
fellow Cretans for the uncontrollable appetites that underlie the social viciousness. The
expression is ironic, for there is nothing “idle” or “lazy” in the Cretan reputation. The island’s
principal role in the Hellenistic wars was to keep various sides stocked with reputedly fierce
soldiers of fortune, and Mediterranean peace could not be established without the subduing of
Cretan piracy.[16] Polybius, the mid-second century B.C.E. Greek historian of the rise of
Rome, berates the islanders particularly for a sordid love of gain and lust for wealth; so
greedy are they, he maintains, that Cretans are the only people in the world in whose eyes no
gain is disgraceful (h¿ste para monois KrÙtaieusi t¿n hapant¿n anthr¿p¿n mÙden aischron
nomizetai kerdos, Hist. 6.46.3).[17] As backdrop to his censure, Polybius appeals to the
Hellenistic canon of virtue: in their private lives people ought to be “pious” (hosios) and “self-
controlled” (s¿phr¿n), and in their public lives they ought to be “tame” (hÙmeros) and “just”
(dikaios – 6.47.2). Though the form is fourfold, the content is threefold, since “tame” and
“just” are synonyms. Conceivably, this is but stock declamation.[18] However, Arthur
Eckstein sees Polybius’ critique as part of a broader vision of the origins of correct and
incorrect conduct, that is to say, of “justice” and “injustice.” Polybius, he maintains, portrays
Cretan turbulence, injustice, and ignoble behavior as having “at the center of the web of evil”
uncontrolled avarice and the lust for gain (aischrokerdeia kai pleonexia) – “the besetting
Cretan vice (Polybius 6.46.3; 6.46.9; 6.47.4).”[19] In the Cretan prophet’s juxtaposition of
viciousness and gluttony, Paul finds a similar assessment: unbridled appetites make for bestial

Other literary sources less jaded than Polybius’ History, specifically Aristotle’s Politics and
Strabo’s Geography, preserve Crete’s solicitude for sociability and temperance, and its
antipathy toward injustice and appetite. Though bothered by what they consider to be its many
inadequacies, Aristotle and Strabo nevertheless treat the ancient Cretan constitution as one
that had sought an equilibrium of relationships between gender, age, family, and power
groupings (Arist. Pol. 2.2.12; 2.7; Strabo 10.4.20-22). Especially interesting is the provision
for a common table (ta sussitia). According to Aristotle, the ideal described in the Cretan
constitution is one in which meals are taken in common “so that all the citizens are
maintained from the common funds, women and children as well as men; and the lawgiver
had devised many wise measures to secure the benefit of moderation at table (hÙ oligositia)”
(Pol. 2.7.4). Strabo’s description of the Cretan common table differs in that it is a male-only
institution, but the logic is similar: “Now harmony ensues when dissension, which is the result
of greed and luxury (dia pleonexia kai truphÙn), is removed. For when all live sensibly and
simply (s¿phron¿s gar kai lit¿s z¿sin) there arises neither envy nor arrogance nor hatred”
(10.4.16).[20] As Strabo summarizes: “In regard to Crete, writers agree that in ancient times it
had good laws, and rendered the best of the Greeks its emulators” (10.4.9).

The point is not that this describes the Crete first century Christians there experienced –
Strabo says most of what he describes is long gone (10.4.22). It is simply that the literary
climate is one in which it is perfectly reasonable to expect there to have emerged at some
point a self-critical voice – like the one quoted at Titus 1:12 – acknowledging the gap between
Cretans’ ethical standards of justice and sobriety and the stubborn fact of antisociality and
uncontrolled appetite. Nor do I wish to imply that the author of the epistle to Titus has read
Aristotle, Plutarch, Polybius, or Strabo. We cannot even assume he has read at length that
Epimenides whom he appears to quote. However, urbane and well-traveled members of the
Pauline itinerary or continuers of his legacy – just as Paul himself – could be expected to be
as familiar with the general contours of the social and ethical landscape the Cretan quip
presupposes as with the quip itself. The evidence indicates a Cretan social and ethical
consciousness that is already widely known and considered ancient by the time of Aristotle,
one that our author believes he has captured in a self-critical voice from within that culture.
That the author of the epistle to Titus would take up a Cretan’s protest of his people’s failings
is no more surprising than if a modern missionary to the United States were to appear in
Baltimore quoting H. L. Mencken on the foibles of North Americans.
These latter members of the hexameter at Titus 1:12 (“beasts” and “bellies”) happen to be the
converse (in reverse order) of the first two adverbs of 2:12 – “sensibly” and “justly” – by
which the apostle provides positive content to the “living” which grace intends to teach the
human race. This suggests that in Titus there is at work a similar understanding about the
interplay between beastliness (or injustice) and gluttony (or intemperance), on the one hand,
and justice and sobriety, on the other. In addition, however, the writer to Titus joins to this an
older critique, and one that argues for a deeper root to the problems of injustice and
intemperance themselves. That root is impiety, manifested in a dissembling approach to deity.


The theological critique of Cretan thinking is anticipated in the letter’s introduction, for here
we see that it is the claims of “the God who does not lie” (1:2) – an attribution unique in all of
Scripture – that the writer intends to advance on a people he will soon say can do nothing but
lie (1:12). There is widespread agreement in ancient sources about the mendacity of Cretans.
In the Greek speaking world, the verb “to Cretize” (krÙtizein) means “to lie” (pseudesthai).
[21] But what underlies the characterization is Crete’s infamous religious prevarication, a
misstep of first principles. Despite Clement of Alexandria’s attribution of Paul’s quote to
Epimenides, the fact is that Titus 1:12 marks the first appearance of the saying in its entirety
in any extant source. Prior to this, the first member of the saying appears for the first time, and
that in this precise wording – “Cretans are always liars” – in Callimachus, the third century
B.C.E. librarian of Alexandria. Callimachus explains exactly what he finds so offensive about
Cretans: “Cretans are always liars. For a tomb, O Lord, Cretans build for you; but you did not
die, for you are forever” (KrÙtes aei pseustai; kai gar taphon, ¿ ana, seio KrÙtes etektÙnanto;
su d’ ou thanes, essi gar aiei – Hymn Jov 8-9). In a word, Cretans are dissembling deicides.

While, apart from Titus 1:2 itself, the epithet “unlying” (apseudÙs) is never applied to deity in
either Jewish or Christian scriptures, the term is used in classical texts, according to LSJ,
“especially of oracles and the like.”[22] And the nuance intended in the letter to Titus is
dramatically foreshadowed by the term’s use in another saying from the same Callimachus. In
a prayer to Demeter, Callimachus asserts that it is a matter of “speaking without lying”
(apseudea leg¿n) to say that one “knows the Cretan tomb is empty” (tapho[n to]n K[r]Ùta
gin¿skein kenon – Iambus 12 [Fragment 202] 15-16).

Himself the champion of a transcendent Olympian view of the gods, Callimachus takes as his
point of departure an immanentistic Cretan heritage that maintains the gods of the Greek
pantheon to have originally been but men and women.[23] Emblematic of the original
humanity of the gods is ancient Crete’s claim to have a tomb for Father Zeus, perhaps on Mt.
Juktas (though there are other claimants), a mountainous ridge south of Cnossus, resembling a
human face oriented upwards in profile and long thought of as Zeus in repose.[24] Cretans
had their own angle of vision: their race had emerged from the earth, and so, of course, they
were the original Greeks (Diodorus 5.64.1). In the face of Olympus’ claim to be the seat of
the gods, Crete countered that those very gods were but men and women of Crete elevated to
deity by virtue of benefactions bestowed upon the human race (Diodorus 5.64.2). Cretans held
their island to be the birthplace of the majority of the gods, and in the case of the preeminent
man-become-god, Zeus, the burial place as well. Of course, this also made Crete the
launching pad of the worship of the gods (Diodorus 5.77.3).

The Cretologist Stylianos Spyridakis suggests that Callimachus’ bile against Cretans is a
result of their complicity in the anthropocentric religious ideas of Callimachus’ contemporary,
Euhemerus of Messene. Euhemerus co-opts the ancient Cretan notion of deity emerging from
humanity in support of a teaching that the gods themselves are nothing but a projection of the
human spirit – this, maintains Spyridakis, is as close to blasphemy as pre-Christian Greek
religion is capable.[25] By claiming a tomb for Zeus, Cretans have always walked right up to
a line between divinity and humanity that, despite being ever blurry in Greek thinking, had
nonetheless always at least in principle been there. But in the Hellenistic age Crete’s heritage
of maintaining a tomb for Zeus emboldens rationalists, who, in light of his having been thus
cut down to human proportions, are prepared to go the rest of the way and claim: “Zeus is
dead.”[26] Callimachus’ protest against Euhemerus is renewed by Plutarch (fl. ca. 80-120
C.E.) not long after the New Testament era. Plutarch insists that the Euhemeran mythology is
predicated upon a lack of faith and is a deliberate fabrication. It amounts to “atheism,” to a
“degrading of things to the human level,” and to an assault on piety and reverence and faith
(Is. Os. 359-360). And Lucian the satirist will play off the popular association of Crete with
such deicidic ideas late in the 2nd century CE (Philops. 3; Tim. 6).

It would be the incorporation of Epimendes’ and Euhemerus’ views into the writings of
Diodorus at the birth of the Roman Republic and about 100 years before the letter to Titus,
that would govern the general understanding of Cretan religion at the beginning of the
Christian era.[27] Though it goes beyond the evidence to argue for direct literary influence of
Diodorus on the epistle to Titus, it should be noted that Titus’ specific concern to counter
Jewish “myths” and “genealogies” finds a counterpoint in the fact that Diodorus’ section on
Cretan religion is woven together by words from the mutholog- root and that it is framed as
genealogies of gods and heroes. Diodorus thinks of himself as merely the popularizer of
longstanding traditions (the verb paradidonai courses through the sections on the early
Greeks). The strong likelihood is that Diodorus’ History contains precisely the sort of
“myths” and “genealogies” Paul’s rival Jewish teachers seek to accommodate with their own
torah-based apologetic “myths” and “genealogies.”[28] Titus’ Paul wants none of it.

Two features of the Cretan portrait of Zeus stand out: the attributes associated with him, and
the transaction of honor for benefactions. In the first place, Diodorus depicts the Cretan Zeus
in terms of an ethical triad: this Zeus surpasses all in “courage (andreia) and wisdom (sunesis)
and justice (dikaiosunÙ) and all the other virtues” (5.71.1) The tag, “and all the other virtues,”
looks more like a statement of the unity and interdependence of the virtues enumerated rather
than a claim to others, because the elucidation that follows incorporates only the three listed.
[29] The threefold canon is familiar in the Hellenistic period; however, in one throwback to
an earlier age, Diodorus displaces “self-mastery” (s¿phronsunÙ) with “courage,” and in
another, he employs the more intellectual term “wisdom” over the more religious “piety”
(eusebeia). Preeminent among Zeus’ attributes is his “justice”; it is pressed into the service of
the human race through Zeus’ laying down laws that distinguish between just and unjust
behavior, through his establishing judges and law courts, and through his persuading the good
(also a function of his “wisdom”) and punishing the evil (5.71.1). His “courage,” a martial
virtue, manifests itself in his war with the Giants (or Titans), enemies of justice and piety
(5.71.2). And though Diodorus stresses the more intellectual “understanding” over the more
religious “piety,” Zeus’ understanding nonetheless turns out to be piety-hued, for his
sagacious offering of a sacrifice to the gods before the battle with the Titans leads to insight
into the propitious outcome of the war (5.71.3).

Given the preference for s¿phronsunÙ over andreia in the Hellenistic period’s ethical canon
and given the particular interest the epistle to Titus has in self-mastery, or the lack thereof, at
Crete, the want of this virtue in Diodorus’ portrait of Zeus is at least worth mentioning.
According to a fragment of Book 6 preserved by John Chrysostom (court preacher in
Constantine’s Constantinople), Diodorus allows as how the Cretan Zeus’ human name had
been Picus; he had been king of Italy for one hundred and twenty years, and had had many
sons and daughters because he was a debaucher of comely women (6.5.1).[30] It is because of
Picus’ “assuming mysterious aspects” so as to “be looked upon as a god” by the women he
was seducing, that this mortal was thought godlike. He was interred on Crete at his own
instructions in a temple built by his sons: “This monument exists even to the present day, and
it bears the inscription, ‘Here lies Picus whom men also call Zeus’” (6.5.3).[31] Whether John
passes along this tradition as a faithful preserver of Diodorus or crafts it as a Christian
debunker of the pagan gods is beyond my competency to judge. According to Book 3, where
the manuscript tradition is intact, Diodorus distinguishes between the younger Olympian Zeus
and his older, though less well known Cretan counterpart; in this passage Diodorus confirms
that he does know of the Cretan Zeus’ death and burial on Crete (3.61.1-6): the Cretan Zeus
“named the island after his wife Idaea, and on it he died and was buried, and the place which
received his grave is pointed out to this day” (3.61.2).[32] It would appear that Book 6′s Picus
fragment is either counterpart to or derivative of Diodorus’ Book 4 account of Olympian
Zeus’ bedding of Alcmene at the conception of Heracles. Unwilling to force himself on her
and thus compromise the legality (nomimos) of his embraces, and knowing he cannot
persuade her because of her chastity (dia tÙn s¿phrosunÙn), he decides to use deception (hÙ
apatÙ): “he deceived her by assuming in every respect the shape of Amphytryon,” her
husband (4.9.3). That Zeus – Cretan or Olympian – would be the last god to be accused of
s¿phrosunÙ is pointedly clear. And that Titus’ biblically unique reference to the Christian
God as being “unlying” stands in self-conscious contradistinction to a chief deity whom Titus’
Paul would consider to be an immoral liar I consider to be altogether likely.

The second thing to be observed in Diodorus’ Cretan Zeus is the way humans confer upon
him divine status in consideration of his bestowal of benefactions upon the human race. The
result of Zeus’ placing his virtues in service of the human race is that he “receives peculiar
honors” (tugchanein h¿rismen¿n tim¿n – 5.71.3). Diodorus summarizes: “because of the
magnitude of his benefactions and his superior power all people accorded him (aorist passive
infinitive of sugch¿re¿) as with one voice both the everlasting kingship which he possesses
and his dwelling upon Mount Olympus” (5.71.6). In a penetrating analysis, Kenneth Sacks
argues that one of Diodorus’ most fundamental premises is the Hellenistic belief that virtue
placed in service to humanity will be rewarded.[33] Deification is the ultimate return of honor
for benefactions bestowed. What Diodorus does with Zeus is no different than what he does
with any number of cultural heroes – civilizers, inventors, and city builders.[34] For a
Diodorus the notion of there being a “tomb for Zeus” connotes the nearness of the human soul
to divinity; its legacy is a willingness to participate in that competition for honors which
drives the ancient economy.[35] In whatever way such notions would have been found their
way to Titus’ Paul, there is little way for him to express how alien they are to him than to
protest that people who think this way are inveterate liars.

And that “Cretans are always liars” would indeed have been understood to refer to such a
religious offense exactly contemporary to the career of the apostle Paul is clear from a literary
swipe at Cretans from the poet Lucan – himself nephew both to Seneca, Nero’s teacher, and
to Gallio, Paul’s judge in Corinth. In Pharsalia, his epic poem about the Roman Civil War,
Lucan lingers over the burial of one of his protagonists, Pompey. Unable to complete the task
of burning Pompey’s remains, a friend must bury the charred bones in a shallow, sandy
Egyptian seaside grave, and cover it with a modest headstone. Lucan protests that Pompey’s
free spirit should not have been so imprisoned within a tomb, for “the world was Pompey’s
tomb.”[36] Indeed, being “Fortune incarnate,” Pompey, “deserves to be worshipped as a
god.”[37] Accordingly, Lucan expects Pompey’s ghost to break free of that tomb and soar in

frontier regions of air between the earth and the moon’s orbit, where our dark atmosphere
impinges on the starry brightness of the empyrean, … where the souls of heroes from all over
the world collect after death – such, at least, as are fitted by the flame-like quality of their
virtue to survive in the lower tracts of heaven among the eternal spheres. This is, however, a
refuge denied to men who lie buried in frankincense and gold.[38]

So little worthy of the spirit of Pompey are the seaside grave and headstone that Lucan
expects that

the present grave will soon disappear and all proof of Pompey’s death vanish with it. And in a
more fortunate age, Egyptians who point to the stone and say: “This once marked Pompey’s
grave,” will meet as little belief from our posterity as do the Cretans when they point out the
alleged tomb of Juppiter on Mount Juktas.[39]

Erwin Rohde attempts to capture the prevailing sentiment surrounding Crete’s tomb-for-Zeus
legend as follows: “The Zeus that died and is buried is only a god reduced to a Hero.” It
would be more accurate to put it this way: “The Zeus that died and is buried is only a human
elevated to a Hero.”[40] This is the Cretan offense: by claiming to imprison the father of the
gods within a tomb, they make him into the same sort of heroic figure as Lucan’s Pompey.
But what marks a promotion for Pompey is a demotion for Zeus. It is to place Zeus himself in
the second category of gods, the “earthly gods” (epigeioi theoi) we met in the opening
paragraph of this essay in the passage from Diodorus.

Thiselton’s protestations about the nonsensically self-referential nature of the liar’s paradox
notwithstanding, to first century readers or auditors the saying had a specific and concrete – or
better, earthy – referent: Cretans’ claim that Zeus had been in a previous career a mere human
being. The Cretan barb’s appearance in the epistle to Titus is not the racial slur it is often
called in the commentaries. Rather it is an exercise in what Harold Bloom might call
“religious criticism.”[41] Nor has it any sharper an edge to it nor any greater a logical
incongruity about it than the Preacher’s and the Psalmist’s universal (and self-inclusive!)
indictment in the hands of the Paul of the undisputed letters: “None is righteous, no, not one.
No one understands, no one seeks after God” (Rom 3:10-11; see Eccl 7:14; Ps 14:1-3). In
similar fashion, the Epimenidean hexameter allows the Paul who writes to Titus to have the
Cretan say on the apostle’s own behalf: “Look, in the end, we know that what everybody says
about us is right: God, if he is truly God, cannot just be one of us! No wonder our lives are so
messed up!” And the appending of the wink – “This testimony is true!” – is as much as to say:
“If only the Cretan prophet knew how right he was – both about the failing and about the
aspiration it presupposes!”

In this setting, the task of communicating what it means for God to have taken up earthly
existence is a delicate one. I suggest that Titus’ distinctive christological language is crafted in
such a way as to ensure that these believers do not give the wrong impression to their
contemporaries about what it is for God to have “earthed” his own life in the specific context
of human existence. The Christian God does not emerge from among humans. To be sure, he
has appeared now among humans, but his appearing is altogether a move from the top down,
rather than from the bottom up. Though it is not the only possible reading of the phrase at
Titus 2:13, “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” does indeed seem to be the most plausible
rendering of ho megas theos kai s¿tÙros hÙm¿n IÙsous Christos, and amounts to an
attribution of deity to Jesus.[42] At the same time, it is to be noted that Jesus is not referred to
in Titus in the same way he is in 1 Timothy, that is, as he who is “one mediator between God
and human beings, the human being Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Rather, here in Titus the
incarnation is referred to more obliquely: in terms of the “appearance” of “the grace of God”
(Titus 2:11) and “the kindness and love for humans of our God and Savior” (3:4). Various
explanations have been offered for the circumlocutions in 2:11 and 3:4, and for the attribution
of divinity to Christ at 2:13. Many observe – as if observation amounted to explanation – a
similar use of honorific language in the Hellenistic ruler or Roman emperor cult.[43] Lewis
Donelson says the reference to Christ as God is “functional” rather than “speculative”; it is
not a matter of investigating “Jesus’ metaphysical status.”[44] Mott suggests that the use of
abstract nouns may bespeak a potential “difficulty … in speaking of the direct action of God,”
a difficulty diminished by the expressing of God’s appearance in history in terms of his
virtues rather than of his actual self.[45] Troy Martin even contends that the christology of
abstractions in Titus is docetic, expressive of a breach with the incarnational christology in 1

In Titus 2:11-14 as a whole, the saving acts of Israel’s covenant Lord are attributed to Jesus
Christ. What Israel’s God promised to do, Jesus has done: he has redeemed, he has purified,
he has taken a people to himself for possession. To the extent that, as Forrest Gump might
say, divine is as divine does, perhaps it is indeed appropriate to think of this as a functional
christology. But the perspective of the epistle to Titus is not that deity is something Jesus
becomes, much less merely resembles, by virtue of his beneficent, saving acts. That would be
to participate in the Cretan fabrication, the divinizing or heroizing of a human. The appeal to
the Cretan prophet makes sense only if the christology is ontological as well – or, to put it in
other terms, if the functional christology presupposes a metaphysical christology. The word
entrusted to this Paul, and which he in turn entrusts to Titus, et al., is a word about divinity in
a human context, that is, about Israel’s covenant Lord actually manifesting his own person in
the person of Jesus Christ. To be sure, Chalcedon’s nuancing of the relations among divine
persons lies some distance down the road, but the epistle to Titus makes Chalcedon a more
likely stop on that road than, say, Alexandria (home of Arius). The divinizing language that is
used elsewhere for rulers and emperors and here for Jesus receives its content there as well as
here from the person or persons being described: there of humans who are godlike, here of
God who has become human. God’s self-manifestation among humankind is described by
means of the attributes that are at the fore in that enterprise. The mode of expression – that is,
the use of abstract nouns – does not indicate that God’s involvement with humanity is
problematic, much less docetic, but that these are the attributes most necessary to the
salvation of humans from the prison of their impiety, antisociality, and appetites.

Rather than think about the one whose “glorious (re-)appearing” they await as being one more
human who has attained deity by his benefactions (no matter how salvific), believers should
be assured that his appearance was, first and last, the appearance of God himself. What fuels
the engine of the epistle to Titus is not an entrapment in metaphysical dualism, but rather,
given the Cretan religious heritage, a concern to communicate that the dynamic of incarnation
is a matter of divine condescension rather than of human projection. Christ’s appearance is a
matter of God’s gracious, kind, and beneficent self-revelation, rather than yet one more
promotion of a larger-than-life human to the pantheon.

Another reason for the use of abstract nouns to refer to God’s self-manifestation in Christ lies
at hand in Abraham Malherbe’s contention that the coming of Christ is designed to effect the
replication of precisely these divine attributes in humankind.[47] For what is notable about
the divine attributes enumerated is not so much that they are transcendent, but that they are
communicable. Christ came to make us gracious, philanthropic, and kind. Herein lies the truth
in Donelson’s contention that the christology does not investigate Jesus’ metaphysical status:
this is a christology for emulation (2:11-14; 3:4), wedded to a pneumatology of empowerment
(3:5-6). In this the epistle to Titus anticipates the apologists. Origen makes precisely this
appeal in his Contra Celsum. Just before taking up Celsus’ protest at Origen’s and other
Christians’ mocking of the tomb-for-Zeus legend, Origen speaks to Celsus’ likening of Jesus
to others who became gods at death: Asclepius, Dionysus, and Heracles. Origen’s simple
response is to ask: “Can they support their claim to be gods by proving that there are people
who have been reformed in morals and have become better as a result of their life and
teaching?” (3.42). At the same time the epistle to Titus articulates its christology of the self-
revelation of the biblical God, it also urges the believing community to demonstrate Jesus’
deity by putting forward evidence that he effects change in the people he has redeemed.

To parse Titus 2:14: the teacher of piety, justice, and self-mastery has modeled and brought
them to us. Christ’s coming is itself a case study in self-mastery (s¿phrosunÙ) because it is an
exercise in self-giving (2:14, “he gave himself for us”). That he redeems us from lawlessness
(anomia, that is from religious rootlessness) and cleanses us into relationship with himself is
to bestow piety (eusebeia) upon us. That he redeems and cleanses us to be a “people for
possession” – that is, as those who live before him in solidarity with one another – means he
places us into rightly aligned human relationships (dikaiosunÙ). And that he makes us zealous
for noble deeds means he has displaced worldly passions with a new inward disposition

Because he is a communitarian, the writer to Titus looks for these marks of Christ first in the
leadership, for, according to 1:8b, these individuals are to be s¿phr¿n dikaios hosios egkratÙs
(“sober, just, holy, and self-controlled”). Intriguingly, the structure of this verse fragment
evidences even the phenomenon of a list that is threefold in content, though fourfold in form,
since the first and last members are synonyms. The fact that the doubled pair has to do with
self-mastery probably indicates the centrality of this virtue to the kind of community-
construction the epistle envisions. And because it will be their task to encourage these marks
in the life of their churches, the leaders’ impact is looked for first on a more immediate circle
of influence: their children. Paul wants to ensure that the Cretan leaders’ children are faithful
(pistos, that is, pious), and neither leave themselves liable to a charge of prodigality (as¿tia,
that is, being “idle bellies,” the converse of being self-controlled) nor are living
insubordinately (anupotaktos, that is, being “vicious beasts,” the converse of living justly).

The citation of the Cretan prophet is aimed pointedly at the opposition, declaiming first their
lives and then their teaching. First, Paul sees their personal character fitting the Cretan
prophet’s profile precisely: they are “insubordinate” and “destructive of households”
(anupotaktoi and holous oikous anatrepein) i.e., they are relationally destructive (1:10,11).
They are “vain talkers and deceivers” (mataiologoi kai phrenapatai), i.e., they are religious
liars (1:10). They teach for base gain (aischrou kerdous charin), i.e., their motives are
profligate (1:11).
Second, at the very same time that he describes a deficit in “piety, justice, and sobriety” which
he thinks even thoughtful pagans should be able to recognize, Titus’ Paul confronts a rival,
Jewish “pre-Christian system of interpretation” that offers an alternate path to these very same
ends.[48] His view is that the mythic recasting of old covenant heroes and the adaptation of
torah and kosher are the moral equivalent of the Cretan legends that cut divinity down to
human size: thus he writes off their “Jewish myths,” their “commandments of human origin,”
and their distinctions between “pure & impure.” Rather than follow an eschatologically
anachronistic and irrelevant route to eusebeia (“Jewish myths” … “foolish disputes and
genealogies, and disputes and battles over the law” – 1:14; 3:9), to dikaiosunÙ
(“commandments of humans bereft of the truth” – 1:14), and to s¿phrosunÙ (via a regimen of
kosher that leaves the pollution of mind and conscience unaddressed – 1:15), believers should
pay attention to that “healthy” teaching which is sketched at 2:11-14 and 3:4-7, and which
brings true piety, justice, and self-mastery.

In the ethical sections of Titus, the combination of “piety, justice, and sobriety” is worked out
in various ways, suggesting that the whole life of grace can be approached by means of each
or any of the three virtues. Given space and time, I believe I could demonstrate that each
provides a perspective on the whole – that each implies and is necessitated by the others. But
the apologetic thrust of the letter as a whole is evident in that the most characteristic way of
relating them is in the order in which they are presented in 2:12: a God-taught right
relationship to self enables right relationships with others; these in turn promote a right
relationship with God among onlookers. The general portrait is one in which “healthy”
teaching (as defined in 2:11-14; 3:4-7) will promote an expression of self-mastery or
sensibility as the linchpin of a communitarian ethic (note the fivefold appearance of the
s¿phron- root in chapter 2 [vv. 2,4,5,6,12]). Communal dikaiosunÙ (“justice”) is, in its turn,
realized through the right ordering of the church under able leaders, and as members pursue
“good and noble deeds,” in service both of one another (presumably 3:14, though not
necessarily exclusively so) and the larger community (3:1,8). And in a feedback loop, the
communal lifestyle of self-mastery and justice serve piety by commending the “teaching of
God our Savior” to the outsider (see the hina ["in order that"] clauses of 2:5,8,10).

The Cretan seer’s barb is counterpoint to the ethical triad of 2:12. It is simultaneously
antonym and prelude to the general summary of the paideia of grace in 2:12 – “that we may
live … soberly, justly, and piously.” Paul’s use of the poet’s indictment about the
misrepresentation of the divine (“Cretans are always liars”), upside down social relationships
(“vicious beasts”), and lack of internal controls (“idle bellies”) is supposed to strike a familiar
dissonant chord, to which grace’s paideia in sensibility, justice, and piety is intended to bring
resolution. Grace has come for profligates, teaching sobriety to “idle bellies.” Grace has come
for predators, teaching justice to “vicious beasts.” And grace has come for prevaricators,
teaching piety toward the “unlying God” to those whose indigenous ideas about deity prove
themselves to be “inveterate liars.”


The Pastoral epistles (which would include 1 and 2 Timothy as well) are alternately chided as
harbingers of an unheroic Verbürgerlichung of Western Christianity (Dibelius) or championed
as heralds of a “Christian humanism” (Spicq). I should like to assert that in this respect, at
least, Spicq is on the right track: in the light of Titus 1:12′s citing of the Cretan prophet, the
positive ethics of Titus should be interpreted as an antidote to cultural deficiencies its writer
would expect contemporary non-Christians themselves to recognize. Paul quotes a Cretan
prophet as having critiqued his own culture for its impiety, injustice, and intemperance.
Accordingly, by insisting upon the opposite of these qualities among their leaders (1:8b) and
by highlighting grace’s education in sobriety, justice, and piety for Christians in general
(2:12), the letter to Titus challenges Cretan Christians to live out a kind of community that
coheres with the social self-criticism of an important strand of Greek thought.

Elsewhere I have written that I believe Spicq overstates things when he sees the Pastoral
epistles “prescribing a strategy by which the world was ‘so swiftly (to be) won to
Christianity.’”[49] Nonetheless, he strikes the right note in describing the kind of mediating
position a document like Titus takes in relationship to the rest of the New Testament and what
is to follow.

Titus is apologetic literature. It does as much to anticipate the Epistle to Diognetus and the
Contra Celsum as it does second- and third-century documents about church government. It is
a document that bespeaks, first, a theology the content of which is stable and traditional but
which must be pressed into the flesh of a host culture, and, second, a communitarian ethos
which must be constructed to give plausibility to the theology. If the particular shaping of
community in Titus strikes moderns (and now postmoderns) as quaint or as uncritically
derivative from the Greco-Roman “household,” that says more about our interests than about
the text’s. As Luke Timothy Johnson sagely observes, the author of this epistle believes that at
Crete he has reached civilization’s back country.[50] Repulsed by a heritage of what he
considers to be their religious fabrication and its moral aftermath, the apostle understandably
believes nascent Christian congregations here need instruction in the most basic elements of
the human enterprise. Given this, perhaps we should be more surprised at his confidence that
new Christians may enchant their contemporaries with something immensely noble and
beneficial (kala kai ¿phelima tois anthr¿pois, Titus 3:8): the prospect of the attainment of an
ancient if elusive ideal of what it is to be genuinely human – being rightly related to God, to
others, and to oneself. The Pauline proposal is that they do so simply by pursuing lives
reflective of Christ’s noble deed and redemptive beneficence – and this both across the
spectrum of contemporarily meaningful social venues (2:1-10; 3:1-3), and under the impetus
of the regenerating and renewing Holy Spirit (3:5-7).

Titus is communitarian apologetics. The Paul who writes to Titus refuses to engage in
theological quarrels and casuistry about what pollutes and what does not. Rather, he insists a
leadership be set in place that can instruct on site rather than pontificate from afar, and that
can give shape to the inchoate community. In doing so, he challenges the reduction of
theology to the plane of ideas, and insists that a people’s beliefs are what they live. By
contrast with Crete’s humans-become-gods who had received their divinity as a return for
providing benefits to humankind, Paul’s God-become-human has employed his divinity to
make available the ultimate human existence possible: a right relationship with deity, with
other humans, and with oneself. And what articulates the life of the God who has taken on
humanity is a humanity enlivened with his attributes: his graciousness, his own love for
humans, the kindness of his bearing toward them. In the epistle to Titus the construction of a
community that bespeaks this theology is not ancillary to but a constitutive element of this
theology.[51] This is suggestive of subtle lines of connection between Titus and other places
in the New Testament where community’s interdependence with theology comes to the fore;
for example: “(You are) a city set on a hill … let your light so shine…” (Matthew 5:14-16);
“Love one another … that the world may know you are my disciples (John 13:34,35); and
“Father, may they be one … that the world may know that you sent me … and that you have
loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:21,23).
By New Testament standards, Titus issues an unusually clarion call to do theology for the
outsider. In doing so the letter anticipates the apologetic claim of the anonymous writer of the
Epistle to Diognetus that Christians are a “new race” (kainon genos), negotiating a communal
identity that is neither a one-for-one reduplication of the heritage culture of Judaism, nor a
straightforward accommodation to the host culture of Hellenism (Diognetus 1). Respective
assumptions about what it is for God to move among humans are challenged at their root:
though Israel’s covenant Lord has previously brokered his presence through one historical
people, this God is not a reflection of any people’s corporate ego, and he will not be confined
by “Jewish myths or commands of humans” (Titus 1:14). At the same time, the biblical God
does not lie (1:2), pretending to be a human so, as in some Zeus legends (Cretan or
Olympian), he can get a woman. In times so ancient their days cannot be numbered, the God
whom the canonical Paul represents made a covenantal promise of life eternal to humankind
(1:2). In recent days this promise has been kept: God’s grace, philanthr¿pia, and kindness
toward all humankind (2:11; 3:4) have been revealed in person, in the self-giving of “our
great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” And this revealing of the divine brings in its wake not
relics – e.g., tombs to visit – but rather lives undergoing transformation and a community
under construction.


[1]Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1994) 1.

[2]Martin Dibelius and Han Conzelmann, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles

(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972) 142; actually, they take the language from Eduard Meyer,
Ursprung und Anfänge des Christentums (3 vols.; Stuttgart: 1924-25) 3. 396.

[3]Stephen C. Mott, “Greek Ethics and Christian Conversion: The Philonic Background of
Titus 2:10-14 and 3:3-7,” NovT 20 (1978) 22-48; idem, “The Greek Benefactor and
Deliverance from Moral Distress” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University, 1971).

[4]Mott, “Greek Ethics,” 26,27.

[5]Mott, “Greek Ethics,” 24.

[6]Mott, “Greek Ethics,” 28.

[7]Dio Chrysostom, for example, describes the virtuous person as “understanding and just and
holy and courageous” (phronimos kai dikaios kai hosios kai andreios – Or. 23.8). Mott
(“Greek Ethics” 27-28) illustrates the fluidity of the canon by noting that in the same sentence
Dio expresses the converse in threefold form: the evil person is “unjust and unholy and
cowardly” (adikos kai anosios kai deilos).

[8]Philo, Prot. 329c; “Virtue (hÙ aretÙ) is something that is one (hen); and its parts are justice
(dikaiosunÙ) and sensibility (s¿phrosunÙ) and holiness (hosiotÙs).” Dio Chrysostom, Or.
23.7: “… to live justly and wisely and sensibly” (dikai¿s zÙn kai phronim¿s kai s¿phron¿s).
In Somnium 10, Lucian uses s¿phrosunÙ (“sensibility”), dikaiosunÙ (“righteousness”), and
eusebeia (“piety”).
[9]Jerome D. Quinn, The Letter to Titus (NY: Doubleday, 1990) 167, noting Xenophon’s
final sketch of the virtues of Socrates in Memorabilia 4.8.11: “so religious [eusebÙs] that he
did nothing without counsel from the gods; so just [dikaios] that he did no injury, however
small, to any man …; self-controlled [egkratÙs] … wise [phronimos]“).

[10]Mott, “Greek Ethics,” 29.

[11]In this article I do not offer a thesis that depends on a particular view of the authorship of
Titus. Because my argument is that the theological project in Titus is comparable in some
respects to that in later Apologists, it should be apparent that I consider this epistle to be
transitional in nature (see Philip Towner’s helpful discussion, “Pauline Theology or Pauline
Tradition in the Pastoral Epistles: The Question of Method,” TynBul 46.2 [1995] 287-314).
Hopefully, the present article will contribute to our understanding of that transition. However,
I prefer to leave for another occasion the discussion as to whether it is more likely that Paul
himself has invoked the Cretan “prophet’s” counter-overture to his own gospel, or that a
Pauline pretender has ironically employed the saying to assert his own theological veracity at
the expense of Cretans’ religious credibility (Lewis Donelson’s discussion of the use of the
“noble lie” in philosophical propaganda wars is suggestive of how the latter line of analysis
might proceed (Pseudepigraphy and Ethical Argument in the Pastoral Epistles [Tübingen: J.
C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1986]). For simplicity’s sake I refer to Titus’ author in a number
of ways, ranging from “Paul” to “Titus’ Paul” to “our writer,” without presuming agreement
as to specific identity.

[12]Abraham J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity (2nd ed., Philadelphia:

Fortress Press, 1977, 1983) 42-45.

[13]According to Richard D. Hofstadter, “Epimenides was a Cretan who made one immortal
statement: ‘All Cretans are liars,’” (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Band [New York:
Random House Vintage Books, 1979, 1989] 17).

[14]Certainty about the original saying is impossible until and unless further evidence
surfaces. Unable to see how a Cretan could say such a thing about his own people, G. L.
Huxley proposes that it was actually a riposte delivered to Epimenides by the Delphic oracle
(Greek Epic Poetry [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969] 81-82); he is
supported by G. M. Lee, “Epimenides in the Epistle to Titus (1:12),” NovT 22 (1980) 96.

[15]Anthony C. Thiselton, “The Logical Role of the Liar Paradox in Titus 1:12,13: A Dissent
from the Commentaries in the Light of Philosophical and Logical Analysis,” BibInt 2.2
(1994) 207-23.

[16]On Cretan mercenaries, see Stylianos V. Spyridakis, Cretica: Studies on Ancient Crete
(New Rochelle, NY: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1992) 43-82, 130-131; on piracy, ibid., 131.

[17]For an evaluation of Polybius’ anti-Cretan views see Spyridakis, Cretica, 112, 120.

[18]Cf. Robert J. Karris’ treatment of declamation in the Pastorals (“The Background and
Significance of the Polemic of the Pastoral Epistles,” JBL 92 [1973] 549-564).

[19]Arthur M. Eckstein, Moral Vision in the Histories of Polybius (Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1995) 71-72.
[20]Compare the same combination of the adverb s¿phron¿s and the verb zÙn at Titus 2:12;
and see Mott, “Greek Ethics” 27-28.

[21]Suetonius, On the Right Insult, 13.253, as cited in Ceslas Spicq, Les Épistres Pastorales
(2 vols.; 4th rev. ed.; Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969) 608 (with other references).

[22]LSJ, citing Hesiod Theog. 233, Herodotus 1.49, Aeschylus Cho. 559. See LSJ, 298.

[23]At play here is a longstanding contrast between the transcendent Olympian portrait of the
gods and the immanentist Cretan portrait. Cf. the discussion in W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greeks
and their Gods (Boston: Beacon Free Press, 1950) 40-42; in the spirit of Sorokin, Harold O. J.
Brown contrasts “sensate” early Cretan-Mycenaean culture with the “ideational” culture of
Homer’s Greece (The Sensate Culture [Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996] 43). Thanks to my
colleague Al Mawhinney for calling my attention to this dynamic.

[24]See A. B. Cook, Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion, Vol. 1, Zeus God of the Bright Sky
(New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1964 repr.) 157-163; and Vol. 2, Zeus God of the Dark Sky
(Thunder & Lightning) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925) 939-940, and
photograph of Mt. Juktas at Plate 43; and Lewis Cottrill, The Bull of Minos: The Discoveries
of Schliemann and Evans (New York: Facts on File, 1953) 112. More reserved about the
identification of any of the places designated as the “tomb of Zeus,” and especially about Mt.
Juktas, is Martin P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and its Survival in Greek
Religion (2d ed. (New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1950, 1971) 461-462.

[25]Spyridakis, Cretica, 2.

[26]Thus the title of Spyridakis’ essay: “Zeus is Dead.”

[27]Diodorus himself says his section on Crete is dependent in part “upon Epimenides who
has written about the gods” (5.80.4). And Diodorus provides the most extensive account we
have of Euhemerus’ utopian island, Panchaea, to which the human Zeus was supposed to have
migrated from Crete to establish his thoroughly humanistic and enlightened worship (5.42-

[28]Quinn is probably correct in identifying Titus 1:14′s “Jewish myths” as a rival haggadah
(“…the homiletic, narrative embellishment of the Pentateuchal history …”) and
“commandments of truth-bereft humans” as a rival halakah (“…the ‘oral law’ or further
explanation of how to carry out the commandments of the Torah …” [109]). He further lays
out suggestive lines of analysis for the rival Jewish teachers’ appeal to genealogies (245-247)
alongside the mythical interpretation of Scripture, all in order to “to bridge the gap between
the Scriptures of Israel and the apostolic faith (109).” I suggest, albeit in passing, that
Diodorus’ Cretan myths and genealogies may merit study for insight into the religious
preunderstanding of those whose beliefs both Titus’ Paul and his rival apologetic storytellers
seek to mold.

[29]Cf. Philo, Prot. 329c (cited in n. 8).

[30]It should be noted that for the entirety of Books 6-10 and 21-40 we are dependent upon
fragments preserved by later writers.
[31]On the mythological background to Picus, the woodpecker who guards the infants
Romulus and Remus and is subsequently transformed into an Italian king, see OCD, 833;
Martin P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion, 483; and W. R. Halliday, Classical
Review (1922) 110.

[32]Diodorus’ Cretan Zeus is older if less famous than the Olympian, father to rather than son
of the Curetes, and king merely of the island of Crete – not of Italy, as in the case of John’s
Cretan Zeus, nor of the entire world, as in the case of the Olympian Zeus.

[33]Kenneth Sacks, Diodorus Siculus and the First Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1990) 79.

[34]Ibid., 71 (see the extensive list there).

[35]Ramsay MacMullen, Roman Social Relations: 50 B.C. to A.D. 284 (London: Yale
University Press, 1974), esp. p. 56.

[36]Robert Graves (trans.), Lucan: Pharsalia (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1957) 194. Cf. J. D.
Duff’s more literal (albeit less comprehensible) translation in LCL (8.795-799).

[37]Graves, 196; LCL 8.860-861, 840-841.

[38]Graves, 197; LCL 9.1-10.

[39]Graves, 196; LCL 8:870-872, Tam medax Magni tumulo quam Creta Tonantis.

[40]Erwin Rohde, Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Greeks (2
vols.; 1925; repr., New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966) 1.97.

[41]Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992).

[42]Murray Harris, “Titus 2:13 and the Deity of Christ,” in Pauline Studies: Essays Presented
to F. F. Bruce on his 70th Birthday (eds. D. A. Hagner and M. J. Harris; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1980) 262-277.

[43]See, for instance, the inscription by the league of Asia Minor in 48 B.C.E. honoring Julius
Caesar as “God Manifest and Common Savior of all human life” (theos epiphanÙs kai koinos
tou anthr¿pinou biou s¿tÙr; SIG 760; Frederick W. Danker, Benefactor: Epigraphic Study of
a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field [St. Louis: Clayton, 1982], No. 32). See
also the excursus, “The Soteriological Terminology of Titus 2:11-14 and 3:4-7″ in Dibelius
and Conzelmann Pastoral Epistles, 143-146.

[44]Donelson, Pseudepigraphy, 146.

[45]Mott, “Greek Ethics,” 43.

[46]Troy Martin, “The Rhetorical Situations of the Pastorals: Proceeding beyond a Partial
Paradigm Shift” (paper presented at the 1994 national meeting of the SBL) 9-10.
[47]Abraham J. Malherbe, “Response to Raymond Collins, Donald Hagner, Bonnie Thurston”
(paper delivered to the Disputed Paulines Group’s session on the Theology of Titus, Society
of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, November 1998) 1-15.

[48]The phrase is Quinn’s (Titus, 113).

[49]Reggie M. Kidd, Wealth and Beneficence in the Pastoral Epistles: A “Bourgeois” Form of
Early Christianity? (SBLDS 122;Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990) 203.

[50]Luke Timothy Johnson, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1987)

[51]Incidentally, this is quite the case with 1 Timothy as well – see, for instance, 1 Timothy
3:14-16 and context.

N.T. Wright on Justification


by Charles E. HILL
Download PDF

There is so much in this book that is good and should elicit a loud “Amen!”
A balanced review of this book would focus on both its strengths and
weaknesses. Here, unfortunately, I shall have to be unbalanced. The essential
problem I have is that Wright, for whatever reason, wants to redefine justification
by faith. We’ll start with a few quotations:

“‘Justification’ in the first century was not about how someone might
establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological
definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of
his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in,’
or indeed about ‘staying in,’ as about ‘how you could tell who was
in.’ In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much
about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about
salvation as about the church.”

“Despite a long tradition to the contrary, the problem Paul

addresses in Galatians is not the question of how precisely
someone becomes a Christian, or attains to a relationship with God
… On anyone’s reading, but especially within its first-century
context, it [i.e., the problem] has to do quite obviously with the
question of how you define the people of God: are they to be
defined by the badges of Jewish race, or in some other way?”
“What Paul means by justification, in this context, should therefore
be clear. It is not ‘how you become a Christian,’ so much as ‘how
you can tell who is a member of the covenant family.”
Notable also is his paraphrase of Philippians 3:9 in which “righteousness”
is replaced by “covenant membership:”
“He is saying, in effect: I, though possessing covenant membership
according to the flesh, did not regard that covenant membership as
something to exploit; I emptied myself, sharing the death of the
Messiah; wherefore God has given me the membership that really
counts, in which I too will share the glory of Christ.

Exegetical Helps

• Classics and Mediterranean Archaeology Home Page

• Electronic New Testament Manuscript Project
• GRAMCORD Institute
• Hanson, K.C. – Greek Documents
• Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon
• Liddell-Scott Intermediate Lexicon
• Noncanonical Homepage
• Origin of Christianity and Judaism
• Resource Page for Biblical Studies
• Seven Wonders of the World

The Life of Paul:

Apostle of the Heart Set Free

• The Conversion of Saul – How a Jew who killed Christians became an outspoken
follower of Jesus
• Paul and Barnabas in Acts - Paul’s relationships in the early church
• Paul’s Missionary Methods - The missionary journeys
• Paul’s Speech on the Areopagus – Paul’s rhetorical panache

The Conversion of Saul


Saul was the most distinguished and promising disciple of Gamaliel, perhaps the leading
scholar in all Israel during the first century A.D. And Gamaliel had been the most
distinguished disciple of Hillel, the high water mark of Jewish thought for centuries after his
death (F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, 236). But in a flash of blinding light, Saul became
a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:1 22). For Saul to suddenly shift his loyalties from Gamaliel
and the Torah is no less baffling than if a star student of Karl Marx had suddenly rejected Karl
Marx’s Hegelian ideas for social change and immediately engaged in powerful debate for
democratic government and a capitalistic economy.
From the moment Saul was blinded on the Damascus road, he lived in total obedience to the
very One whom he had opposed. “As a token of his meek submission, [Paul] allowed them to
lead him by the hand into the city (of Damascus), which he had expected to enter as an
inquisitor, and bent low to receive instruction from one of those simple hearted believers,
whom he had expected to drag captive to Jerusalem” (F.B. Meyer, Paul, 45). Paul then
“meekly asked what… the new and rightful Master of his life would have him do” (Ibid) and
he lived in subjection to Christ for the rest of his life.

Paul set out for Damascus a most aggressive persecutor of the disciples of Jesus, but suddenly
became a champion of their cause. “The young man Saul was exceedingly mad against the
pilgrims of the Way. He made havoc of them, and the word [used in Scripture to describe
him] is that which would be used of wild boars uprooting tender vines. He devastated them
with the fury of an invading army. Not content with attacks on their public meetings, he paid
visits to their homes, dragging forth the patient, holy women as well as the uncomplaining
men, scourging them, thrusting them in prison, putting them to death, and compelling them to
blaspheme the holy name by which they were called…He was so mad against them, that when
the church at Jerusalem lay desolate, and its garden was torn and trampled into a desert, he
pursued the same methods in distant cities, and on the present memorable occasion had
received letters to bring those of the Way that were there in bonds unto Jerusalem to be
punished” (F.B. Meyer, Paul, 41). But a glimpse of the bright glory of Christ transformed the
persecutor of Jesus into His boldest proclaimer.

From the day Saul was born, the Law as taught in the Jewish Torah was central to his thought
and life. But his experience on the Damascus road brought Jesus into focus as the center of his
very existence (F.F. Bruce, New Testament History, 240). The most far reaching result was a
complete rebuilding of Saul’s theology. When Saul listened to the sermon of Stephen (Acts
7), he violently objected to every major point of Stephen’s message (F.B. Meyer, Paul, 34-35)
and then applauded his execution (Acts 8:1 3). But by the end of a short conversation with
Christ Himself at a very unexpected fork in the Damascus road, Saul immediately changed his
mind about the Person of Christ, the character of the Messiah and His kingdom, and the way
to justification before God (Ronald Y.K. Fung, “Revelation and Tradition: The Origins of
Paul’s Gospel,” Evangelical Quarterly, Volume 57, 23 41). What really happened to Saul on
the road to Damascus? Why the radical change in his thought and life?

There are those (i.e. Bultmann) who have tried to explain the conversion of Saul in terms of
psychological experience a gradual change of heart which dramatically culminated on the
road to Damascus; an hallucination; emotional ecstasy; or simply a profound religious
experience. By his own testimony (Acts 22:1 21), and evidenced by the radical change in his
life, Paul saw Christ “risen, living, speaking, and his face shining with light above the
brightness of the sun” (F.B. Meyer, Paul, 12). He was literally blinded by the experience and
could not see for three days until his sight was restored. Hallucinations, visions, religious
experiences, and dramatic changes of heart do not usually result in the loss of one’s eyesight.

Paul not only saw the risen Christ, but there was verbal exchange between him and Jesus (F.F.
Bruce, Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free, 74-75), and those who accompanied Paul definitely
heard the voice even though they could not understand what was being said (Acts 22:9) (J.
Greshem Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion, 57-62). Saul’s encounter with Christ was an
objective experience, verified by physical phenomena experienced by Saul and an entire
group of people (Acts 22:6 10; 26:12 18).
There have also been those who have suggested that Saul’s conversion was precipitated by
early Greek influence in his life as he grew up in the city of Tarsus. Actually, the jury is still
out as to how old Saul was when he was sent to Jerusalem to study. If he did spend most of
his youth in Tarsus, his strict Jewish upbringing would have insulated him from many of the
things which influenced most of the young boys his age (F.F. Bruce, New Testament History,
237). But Saul’s own testimony seems to indicate that he was brought to Jerusalem early in
his life (Ibid.), and there he enthusiastically drank in the visions and values of the strictest sect
of Judaism (the Pharisees), becoming himself a Pharisee par excellence.

Both the historical evidence and the resulting radical change in the life of Saul (which, in turn,
has made an impact on the entire Western world) make a clear statement that the conversion
of Saul was not a psychological experience (Roy A. Harrison, “Acts 22:6 21″, 181 185), not
earlier influence of Greek thought whose profundity suddenly dawned upon him, and not a
gradual change of heart which reached a sudden climax. Rather, as the Apostle Paul himself
said, he was “apprehended”, or “laid hold of”, by Christ (Phil. 3:12) (Bruce, Paul Apostle of
The Heart Set Free, 74). He was a man who was running hard in a direction he was convinced
was right but Christ “laid hold of” him, turned him completely around, and set him off in the
opposite direction. Saul’s conversion “was due to the personal agency of the risen Lord, who
appeared as literally as during any of the appearances of the Forty Days. This was no mere
vision, like that which John had when he was in the Spirit, no mere transient impression on
the sensitive plate of the imagination, no evanescent, dream like fancy; but a manifestation of
the risen Lord, like that which won the faith of Thomas” (F.B. Meyer, Paul, 37).



• Bruce, F.F. New Testament History. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1972.
• Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free . Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977.
• Bultmann, Rudolf Karl. Theology of the New Testament . Trans. by Kendrick Grobel.
New York: Scribner and Sons, 1951.
• Debelius, M. Paul . London, 1953.
• Fletcher, Reginald J. A Study of the Conversion of St. Paul . London, 1910.
• Goodwin, Frank Judson. A Harmony and Commentary on the Life of St. Paul . Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1951.
• Haenchen, E. The Acts of the Apostles . Oxford, 1971.
• Kim, Seyoon. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel . Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans,
• Knox, John. Chapters in a Life of Paul . New York, 1950.
• Knox, W.L. St. Paul and the Church of Jerusalem . Cambridge, 1925.
• St. Paul and the Gentiles . Cambridge, 1939.
• Lyttelton, G. Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of St. Paul . London,
• Machen, John Gresham. The Origin of Paul’s Religion . Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Eerdmans, 1925.
• Meyer, F.B. Paul: Servant of Jesus Christ . Pennsylvania: Christian Literature
Crusade, 1953.
• Paul: More Than Conqueror . Westchester, Illinois: Good News Pub. Co., 1959.
• Nock, A.D. St. Paul . London, 1938.
• Ogg, G. The Chronology of the Life of St. Paul . London, 1968.
• Pollock, John Charles. The Apostle: A Life of Paul . New York: Doubleday, 1969.
• Ridderbos, Herman N. Paul and Jesus; Origin and General Character of Paul’s
Preaching . Trans. by David A. Freeman. Philadelphia: P & R Pub. Co., 1958.
• Robertson, A.T. Epochs in the Life of Paul . New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1956.
• Ramsay, W.M. St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen . London, 1920.
• Shoeps, H.J. Paul . London, 1961.
• Wrede, W. Paul . London, 1907.

Journal Articles

• Bruce, F.F. “Paul and the Law.” Bulletin John Rylands Library, Vol. 57 (1975), 259
• Fung, Ronald Y.K. “Revelation and Tradition: The Origins of Paul’s Gospel.”
Evangelical Quarterly, Vol. 57 (1985), 23 41.
• Harrisville, Roy A. “Acts 22:6 21.” Interpretation, Vol. 42 (1988), 181 185.
• Hultgren, A.J. “Paul’s Pre Christian Persecutions of the Church: Their Purpose,
Locale and Nature.” Journal of Biblical Studies, Vol. 95 (1976), 97 111.
• Jeremias, Joachim. “The Key to the Theology of the Apostle Paul.” Covenant
Quarterly, Vol. 31 (1973), 30 44.
• Marshall, I. Howard. “Luke’s View of Paul.” Southwestern Journal of Theology, Vol.
33 (1990), 41 51.
• Meyer, Marvin W. “The Light and Voice on the Damascus Road.” Forum, Vol. 2
(1986), 27 35.
• Obijole, Olubayo. “The Influence of the Conversion of St. Paul on his Theology of the
Cross.” East Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology, Vol. 6 (1987), 27 36.

Paul and Barnabas

Paul and Barnabas in Acts

by Paul Kalfa

Bible Reference Events in Acts

• 4:36-37 First mention of Barnabas.

• 9:27 Barnabas brings Saul to the apostles.
• 11:22-29 Sent to Antioch and Tarsus to look for Saul.
• 12:25 Returns to Jerusalem with Saul and John Mark
• 13:1-3 Teacher and missionary companion of Paul.
• 13:7 Proconsul sends for Barnabas and Saul.
• 13:42-50 Paul and Barnabas preach at Pisidian Antioch.
• 14:1-3 Paul and Barnabas preach at Iconium.
• 14:14-20 Paul and Barnabas perform miracles in Lystra.
• 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appoint church elders.
• 15:2-3 Paul and Barnabas debate salvific nature of circumcision.
• 15:12 Paul and Barnabas report miracles to council at Jerusalem.
• 15:22-35 Paul and Barnabas choose men to join them in Antioch.
• 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas dispute over John Mark.
Paul and Barnabas

The dispute over John Mark, in Acts 15:36-41, has caused debate concerning the relationship
Paul and Barnabas might have had after this event. There is not any Scriptural proof that Paul
and Barnabas reconciled to the point of continuing in active ministry together, however,
Scripture strongly suggests that there was favor between Paul and Barnabas after the dispute.
The dispute involved the fact that John Mark returned home during the first missionary
journey and therefore Paul believed Mark was unreliable. Barnabas did not think the issue
was so extreme as Paul thought, and Barnabas was willing to give Mark another opportunity.
It is also important to note that John Mark is Barnabas’ cousin (Colossians 4:10), and that
relation may have allowed Barnabas the understanding that Paul did not seem to have. Was
Paul being too hard on Mark? Was this dispute really worth breaking fellowship in ministry?
In order to answer this question we must be cognizant of the fact that Paul was attempting to
spread the gospel message with two major obstacles. The first obstacle was that Paul was
causing upheaval in the moral and social orders of the lands, and secondly, Paul was having to
deal with disputes among the Christian converts. With these issues looming over the mission
of the gospel, it was no wonder Paul did not look kindly upon Mark’s sudden departure. What
Paul was looking for was reliability in his mission team. Paul felt that if the Holy Spirit set
apart these men to accomplish a heavenly goal, then there should not have been a problem
amongst its members. To Paul, the bond of Christian faith transcends the barriers of class.
Christian faith involved spreading the gospel message of Jesus Christ as savior to sinners. All
of this, however, is scholarly speculation because neither Paul, nor any other New Testament
author write about the underlying issues surrounding Mark’s departure, or Paul’s reaction to
that departure.

The text does show that whatever the tension might have been between Paul, Barnabas, and
Mark, the disagreement was not long lasting. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul writes,
“Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and
the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living” (1
Corinthians 9:6). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul refers to Barnabas in 2:1-13. In this text
Paul recounts his acceptance by the apostles, and speaks of Barnabas as an equal. However,
he also writes that along with Peter “even Barnabas was led astray” (v. 13) concerning
circumcision. In his final greetings to the Colossians and Philemon, Paul sends greetings on
behalf of Mark which leads one to believe that Mark continued active ministry with Paul at
some point in time. If Paul ministered actively with Mark then the assumption would be that
Paul reconciliated with Barnabas. It does not seem likely that Paul would maintain such a
relationship with Mark if there had not been some understanding with Barnabas.

Early in Paul’s ministry, Barnabas was a vital link to the Jerusalem church. According to
Luke, Barnabas brought Paul together with the church and probably acted as mediator. In
much the same way Paul had Ananias’ friendship in Damascus, Barnabas filled this important
role in Jerusalem. Barnabas was an important cohort to Paul at a time when Paul’s former
Jewish friends treated him as a radical, and the apostles still treated Paul like the persecutor he
was. It was Barnabas who brought Paul to the apostles (Acts 9:27), and it was Barnabas who
served as diplomat to the leaders at Jerusalem. Barnabas also went to Tarsus to find Paul and
sought his assistance regarding the church at Antioch because the population was flourishing.
Barnabas was also a trusting partner of Paul’s when it came to monetary funds for the famine
in Judaea. Was Barnabas an apostle? Paul never explicitly calls Barnabas an apostle, however,
he tends to use the title “apostle” in a wider sense than Luke. It is also evident from Scripture
that Barnabas was a gifted orator. It was common for Paul and Barnabas to visit the
synagogues of the cities in which they were evangelizing. Both Paul and Barnabas debated
and argued with various religious groups concerning the gospel. Luke also attributes
leadership in his writings. Luke refers to “Barnabas and Saul” throughout Acts until Paul’s
name change, then referring to them as “Paul and Barnabas.” This name order was probably
Luke’s way of illustrating leadership (see above table for name order). If this is true, then Paul
lead the missionary journeys.


• Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans ,1977
• Carson, D.A., Moo, Douglas J., Morris, Leon An Introduction to the New Testament.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992
• Filson, Floyd V. Pioneers of the Primitive Church. New York: Abingdon, 1940
• Haenchen, Ernst The Acts of the Apostles. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971
• Harrison, Everett F. Interpreting Acts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986
• Hiebert, D. Edmond Personalities Around Paul. Chicago: Moody Press, 1973
• Maddox, Robert Commentary on Acts. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989
• Morris, Leon New Testament Theology. Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 1986
• Ridderbos, Herman Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975
• Shepard, J.W. The Life and Letters of Saint Paul. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950
• Williams, David John Acts San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985


Since Tertullian inquired into the relationship between Jerusalem and Athens, scholars have
debated the role and value (if any) of pagan culture for the proclamation of the Christian
worldview. This discussion often turns of the apostle Paul’s Areopagus address to the cultured
pagan milieu in Acts 17 (Adams, 1992, 135-149). Described aptly as “the museum of classical
culture for the Hellenistic world”(Conzelman, 1966, 218), Paul’s activities here are ostensibly
paradigmatic for hi entire ministry.

Numerous questions and interpretations have emerged from the Mars Hill speech. Among
these is the suggestion that Paul’s speech represents a capitulation to Greek religious notions
of the day, offering little more to his audience than ‘Christianized’ paganism. Other shave
submitted that the Apostle is able to remain on distinctively Christian ground while
appropriating Greek culture for his purposes. Could Paul have been proffering a
fundamentally Christian worlsdview while clothing it in the contemporary idiom? Further, did
Paul, later in I Corinthians, repudiate his attempt on Mars Hill to capitalize on ‘common
ground’ between biblical revelation and Stoic philosophy? These theological and cultural
queries form the basis for Paul’s speech.

Christianized Paganism

The structure of the speech includes Paul’s citation of two lines by Greek poets. (See Bruce,
1977, 242) Albert Schweizer held that the quotation, “In him we live and move and have our
being” (Acts 17:28) espouses a God – mysticism wrapped in a distinctly stoic world view
rather than the Christo – mysticism of the genuine Paul, and is , therefore, unhistorical.
(Schweizer, 1931) Hanz Conzelman concurs, arguing that “the speech is the free creation of
the author.”(Conzelman, 1966, 218) The author “evidently took over an entire philosophical
complex of ideas which in itself is incompatible with the biblical idea of creation.”
(Conzelman, 224) Martin Dibelius also questions the authenticity of the speech, arguing that
the speech is more representative of Greek rationalism than the biblical Paul. (Dibelius, 1956)

Biblical Revelation and Touch Points with the Greek Mind

Pagan Religiosity

At the outset of his address, Paul focuses his attention on his audience’s profound “cultic
piety.” (Stonehouse, 1949, 22), having viewed an altar bearing the inscription “TO AN
UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23), and utilizes this as his first point of contact.

Pagan Poets and Biblical Parallels

Contra Schweizer and Conzelmann, when Paul builds his apologetic bridge, he does not allow
any concession to Hellenistic paganism. Rather, as Bruce observes, his doctrine of God is
wrapped in the “very language of biblical revelation.” (Bruce, 240) Paul’s doctrine of man,
which includes citation of the two pagan poets, teaches that mankind is the offspring of the
Christian God. As Bruce explains, the context of the statement (Paul’s audience) is absolutely
essential for grasping Paul’s use of the quotation:

It is not suggested that even the Paul of Acts … envisaged God in terms of the Zeus of Stoic
pantheism, but if men whom his hearers recognized as authorities had used language which
could corroborate his argument, he would quote their words, giving the a biblical sense as he
did so. (emphasis added, Bruce, 240)

Because men are made in the image of God, Paul could appeal to their sensus divinitatus
(sense of the divine) in the dialogue with them. As Alister McGrath observes this sense of
divinity is a “powerful apologetic devise that enables Paul to base himself on acceptable
Greek theistic assumptions while at the some time going beyond them.” (McGrath, 1993, 28)
Even after the Fall, though obscured and darkened, there is a vestige of the image of God left
in man, and indelible mark of the Creator that still remains. Precisely because of this, he is
able to perceive some truth, albeit at a very rudimentary level. In this vein Cornelius Van Til
has written that the pagan poets taught what is correct, despite the fact that their system of
thought and belief was not in accord with revealed truth. (Van Til)

Natural Revelation: Tensions with Romans 1

A cursory reading reveals some ostensible disparity between Paul’s view of natural revelation
in Acts 17 and his view of the subject in Romans. Paul seemingly gives more credence to the
concept in Acts 17 than in Romans 1, where the emphasis is placed on the inability of the
pagan to respond to revelation. Again, context is crucial.

First, Carson, Moo, and Morris explain that there in nothing in the theology of Roman 1 that
would preclude Paul from trying to establish common ground with his pagan hearers.
(Stonehouse, 24) Stonehouse argues that in Paul’s instruction in Romans 1 and 2, revelation
comes in two forms: creation and the constitution of man. With this in mind, Romans is
complementary to Mars Hill. (Stonehouse, 24)
Second, Bruce notes that the “letter was written to Christians while the speech was delivered
to pagans.” (Bruce, 244) The reader must bear in mind that Paul’s speech in Acts 17 should
probably be viewed more as pre-evangelism than evangelism per se. (Carson, et al., Bruce,
245) Karl O. Sandnes suggests that the speech is insinuatio, employing this rhetorical
technique to make an indirect appeal for the purpose of introducing the Gospel, rather that
propositio . Sandnes observes that “the intention of the this strategy was to promote curiosity
and elicit questions.” (Sandnes, 1993, 25)

1 Corinthians: A Repudiation of Athens?

When Paul arrived in Corinth to continue his missionary endeavors, he makes the striking
remark to “know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians
2:2) This statement combined with the facts that Acts 17 contains no explicit “word of the
cross,” and the lack of fruit from the address, has had some commentators conclude that Paul
changed his tactics in the Corinthian letters.

In response to this, two points must be made. First, we have seen that Acts 17 contains no
explicit “word of the cross” probably because the message was pre – evangelism rather than
evangelism per se. Second, that Paul changed tactics because of the lack of fruit is highly
unlikely. Stonehouse writes that:

it is most precarious to engage in rationalizing from the number of converts to the correctness
of the message … Luke did not share the pragmatism of our day which judges the truth of the
message by the criterion of outward success. (Stonehouse, 42)

Further, Bruce notes that we are witnessing an Apostle who has become a veteran of Gentile
evangelistic activities. He explains that “it is probable that Paul’s decision at Corinth was
based on his assessment of the situation there.” (Bruce, 246)

Conclusion: Engaging the Zeitgeist

We have seen, then that Paul was able to establish common ground and points of contact with
Greek culture and intelligentsia while still remaining on uniquely Christian ground. With a
rich cultural background himself, Paul could exploit the pagan culture, reclaiming it for the
true sovereign of the universe. the dichotomy between Hellenistic and Biblical parallels is
false. There is a third option: contextualization without accommodation. (See Charles, Trinity
Journal, 1995, 16; Pratt, 199)


• Adam, Marilyn McCord, “Philosophy and the Bible: The Areopagus Speech”, Faith
and Philosophy 9 (1992), 135-149.
• Bruce, F. F., Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977).
• Carson, D. A., Moo, Douglas J., Morris Leon, An Introduction to the New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992).
• Charles, Daryl J., “Engaging the (Neo)pagan Mind; Paul’s Encounter With Athenian
Culture as a Model for Cultural Apologetics (Acts 17:16)”. Trinity Journal 16 (1995),
• Conzelman, Hanz, “The Address of Paul on the Areopagus” in Leander E. Keck and J.
Louis Martin, eds., Studies in Luke – Acts (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966).
• Dilbeus, Martin, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (London, 1956).
• Jenkins, Daniel T., “Paul Before the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34)” Princeton Seminary
Bulletin 64 (1971). 86-89).
• McGrath, Alister, Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Modern Myths (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1993).
• Pratt, Richard, Every Thought Captive (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed
• Sandnes, Karl O., “Paul and Socrates: The Aim of Paul’s Areopagus Speech,” Journal
for the Study of the New Testamnet 50 (1993), 13-26.
• Schweitzer, Albert, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (London, 1931).
• Stonehouse, Ned B., The Areopagus Address (London: The Tyndale Press, 1949).
• Van Til, Cornelius, Paul at Athens (Phillipsburg).


• Michael Card
• Mendelssohn


• Rembrandt


• Multiple Aspects of Psychology

• Grief and Suffering, and Emotional Wounds

Michael Card
Paul’s Impact on Music

by Jeff Whisenant

Paul’s Impact on Michael Card

Keep an eye out for Michael Card — a servant of God in contemporary Christian music who
has penned some incredible lyrics and insights about the Bible and its main message: Jesus. A
perpetual source of inspiration for Michael Card is Paul. As a sample of the scope of Paul’s
influence on contemporary Christian music, you can follow Paul’s life passion in some of
what Card has penned. This is not a review of any Michael Card “record” but an overview of
Paul’s impact on him; an impact that points the hearer to Jesus Christ, the amazing portrait
painted by both Paul and Michael Card.
You will find a repeated reference to Paul’s words in the earlier writings and compositions of
Michael Card. This Must Be the Lamb rejoices that Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us
(I Corinthians 5:7). Card points out that “in the New Testament Jesus is our Passover Lamb”
(Immanuel, 184). Knowing Colossians 1:18, Card sings of the importance of Christ’s
resurrection in Love Crucified Arose because this “is the reason for our hope that we will rise
again as well” (Immanuel, 190).

Although based on the gospels, Card’s first trilogy (about the life of Christ) has some of its
roots in what Paul said about Jesus. The Final Word contains the message of the incarnation.
“We speak of the Incarnation literally as the “en-fleshment” of God, or God taking on human
flesh in order to be able to share fully in all the dimensions of human experience. Paul writes,
“Beyond all, question the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body” (1 Tim. 3:16).

With that abbreviated statement Paul declares that Jesus sat where we sit, he walked where we
walk, he worked where we work, he lived and died where we live and die. God regards us that
seriously! (Card, The Life, 4). Card continues in The Final Word:

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son. His final word was Jesus, He needed
no other one. Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine. And so was
born the baby who would die to make it mine.

Philippians 2:6-11 plays a major role in the lyrics of Carmen Christi or “hymn to Christ.” The
musical score of Carmen Christi breathes an interesting mixture of hymnody and Michael’s
own style. The content pays close attention to the English translation of the hymn:

At Jesus’ name every knee shall bow in heaven and in all the earth. To the Father’s glory each
tongue cry, “Jesus is Lord!”

The second part of the trilogy speaks of Jesus Christ, the Scandalon. Paul makes it clear that
Christ is good news/bad news (Romans 9:32-33; 10:11). “A frank recognition of the
scandalon, who is Christ, is needed corrective to our distorted understanding of the gospel he
proclaimed and established by his death and through his resurrection” (Card, The Life, 41). In
Pauline fashion, Card communicates the confrontive nature of Christ’s earthly ministry.

In the last of the three, Known By the Scars, Card concludes with the passion of Christ.
Speaking to today’s hearers he says, “As Jesus’ resurrected body was recognizable by its
scars, so His body, the church, should be known by its scars and tears and the unspeakable joy
it knows in spite of, and indeed because of, it all” (Immanuel, 175). Paul himself stated: For I
bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 6:17)

Michael Card’s next recording provides the best sample of the impact Paul has made on
contemporary music. Present Reality finds its entire basis on the letters of Paul. The depth to
which Michael explores the tensions of the present comes close to the deep paradox of the
present life that Paul knew well. Paul summarizes the “goal” of his own present life to be:

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death (Phil. 3:10)

With this Scripture in mind, Card prays in the first song Know You in the Now:
Lord, I long to see Your presence in reality but I don’t know how. Let me know You in the

As Paul cries, “O Lord, come!” in 1 Corinthians 16:22, Maranatha expands the cry by saying:

Maranatha is a cry of the heart that’s hopeful yet weary of waiting. While it may be joyful
with the burdens it bears, it’s sick with anticipating.

Paul understands the role of faith in our present reality and, gleaned from Galatians 3 and
Romans 3, Card seeks to discover the nature of this faith in That’s What Faith Must Be:

To hear with my heart, to see with my soul, to be guided by a hand I cannot hold, To trust in a
way that I cannot see, that’s what faith must be

The climax of faith in the “now” is the reality Jesus Christ lives inside of the believer.
Colossians 1:24ff. expresses the mystery of Christ’s real presence being rich and glorious.
The pastoral goal to which Paul strives is unmistakably clear in verse 28:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may
present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

So Michael Card concludes his song, Live This Mystery, by singing,

In the language of the soul it’s burning like a coal. There’s a voice that’s saying, “You can be
whole.” A life where all is new of timeless moments waits for you. With the heart alone you
see, you must live this mystery.

At the core of all of the songs in Present Reality is the heart of Paul. This, of course, is best
expressed by the writer of the songs Michael Card himself:

The previous trilogy of recordings … were taken from the Gospels and spoke of the historical
Jesus. This recording is based on the writings of Paul and focuses on the present reality of
Jesus. Faith begins with the historical Jesus, and it lives and grows with Christ, the Risen

“For me to live is Christ,” Paul says (Philippians 1:21). “The life I now live I live by faith in
the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). He was caught up in the transforming power of the
realization that Christ is both living and present. The mystery of Christ, he called it, the hope
of glory. For it was as the Risen Lord that Paul first met Jesus. And so it must be with us.

For too many in the church today, Jesus is merely an historical echo, a voice that speaks only
for the pages of the past. We must come to see the present reality of Jesus all around and
within us. Inward to that infinite microcosm of the Kingdom of God within us; outward to the
macrocosm of the world and even the universe. For He fills everything in every way
(Ephesians 1:23). Life in Christ, this inner silent mystery, this outer clamoring reality; life in
Christ is life itself, for He is our life (Colossians 3:4) present and real. With Paul as our
source, this album seeks to explore these two worlds he knew so well.”

Michael Card has something to say about the influence of the Apostle Paul even in his most
recent recording poie’ma. Bearers of the Light encourages the practice of discipleship found
in the New Testament. The song of the lives of Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas, “lived in
community, teaches us that the light of the gospel is best borne together, by men and women
who walk together and pour themselves into each other’s lives.” Card sees this in Paul,
particularly when he sings:

The great need of us all

A true mentor, a Paul
Who has traveled the road that’s before us
He has made good the pledge to take the light on ahead
We can follow his footsteps before us

The light we must bear

Is the light we must share
Is the light that illumines the darkness
The promises kept give us strength to accept
This burden of bearing the light

All of this proves the heart of Paul is focused on Christ, and this focus extends beyond the
first century into ours. Michael’s portrait of Paul’s heart points to today; this mentor wants
Christ to shine energetically on others so that, they too can “bear the light” of Jesus to others.

Michael Card Discography

Recordings referenced above are marked with an asterisk (*).

• 1994 *poie’ma SP1421 Sparrow Records

• 1994 Joy in the Journey SP1435 Sparrow Records
• 1993 Come to the Cradle SP1373 Sparrow Records
• 1992 The Word (The Ancient Faith, Vol. III) SP1321 Sparrow Records
• 1991 The Promise SP1296 Sparrow Records
• 1990 The Way of Wisdom (The Ancient Faith, Vol. II) SP1223 Sparrow Records
• 1989 The Beginning (The Ancient Faith, Vol. I) SP1219 Sparrow Records
• 1989 Sleep Sound in Jesus SP1179 Sparrow Records
• 1988 The Life Anthology SP1171 Sparrow Records
• 1988 *Present Reality SP1155 Sparrow Records
• 1987 *The Final Word (The Life, Vol. III) SP1126 Sparrow Records
• 1985 *Scandalon (The Life, Vol. II) SP1117 Sparrow Records
• 1983 *Known By the Scars (The Life, Vol. I) SP1097 Sparrow Records
• 1983 *Legacy CD02457 Benson
• 1981 *First Light CD02457 Benson


• Card, Michael. Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas
Nelson Publishers, 1990.
• ______ and William L. Lane. The Life. Mole End Publishing Company, 1988.

Felix Mendelssohn
Paul’s Impact on Music:

by Brett Carl

Mendelssohn 1809-1847

Mendelssohn’s Life (1809-1847)

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the son of a Berlin Banker was born at
Hamburg, February 3, 1809. He was the grandson of the famous German philosopher Moses
Mendelssohn. Felix was a German composer, pianist, musical conductor, teacher, and one of
the most celebrated figures of the Romantic period. In contrast to most composers,
Mendelssohn was raised in a luxurious lifestyle. He was born to Jewish parents, but in order
to live in accordance with 19th century liberal ideas they adopted the Christian faith. Felix
was baptized in his youth along with his brother and two sisters into the Lutheran Faith.
Mendelssohn studied piano with Ludwig Berger and composition with K.F. Zelter, who had
an incredible influence on his development. Mendolssohn was highly educated in the arts
through music, literature, painting and travel. He was very mature as a boy and wrote many
compositions in his childhood years, including 5 operas, 11 symphonies for string orchestra,
concerti, sonatas, and fugues. He made his first public appearance at the age of 9 and
performed his first original composition at the age of 9 years old.

Mendelssohn’s popularity and prestige during his lifetime were enormous in the German
states, England and Austria. He held many positions throughout his musical career. In 1833 he
conducted the Lower Rhine Festival in Dussledorff and later settled there as the temporary
general music director(1833-35). In 1835, Mendelssohn left for Leipzig where he was the
conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig. He was commissioned as music director
to King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841. In 1843 he helped to organize and found the
Leipzig conservatory where with his friend Schumann, he taught composition. In May of
1847, his sister and one of his closest friends died. This was a crushing blow to his life as
well. He collapsed physically after hearing this news. After her death his motivation and
energies left him and he died a few months later in Leipzig on November 4, 1947.

Despite Mendelssohn’s many positions and busy schedule, he was a prolific composer.
The following are some of his works:

• Five symphonies, including:

o the Italian Symphony (1833)
o the Scotch Symphony (1843)
• His overtures:
o The Hebrides (or Fingal’s cave; 1832)
o Meeresstille und gluckliche Fahrt (1828-32)
o Die schone Melusine (1833)
• Violin Concerto of 1844
• His music for plays:
o the overture for Victor Hugo’s Ruy Blas (1839)
o Midsummer Night’s Dream
• Choral music
o Psalms
o Hymn of Praise
o Oratorio’s
o St. Paul (1836)
o Elijah (1846)
• Chamber Music
o Six string quartets — The best are the two in E-flat opp. 12 and 94, and the late
quartet in F minor, op. 80 (1847).
o two quintets
o an octet in E-flat major
o a sextet for piano and violin
o two sonatas for piano and violoncello:
 D minor, op. 49
 C minor, op. 66
• Piano Music: Songs without Words

Mendelssohn’s Spiritual Life*

Felix was born into a Jewish family but because of social issues the family converted to the
Lutheran faith. He was baptized in his youth along with his brother and two sisters into the
Lutheran Faith. Mendelssohn embraced Christianity fervently his entire life. His biographer
wrote the following about his life, “He was faithful to the Christian religion and took it
seriously(Werner, 43-4)…Reverence, fear God, the sense of praise, of gratitude, of bitter
complaints and of pride in one’s faith, all these lie in his personality. He had great respect for
the Biblical Word(208).” Mendelssohn joined the Lutheran Church, and was attracted to the
music of the Protestant Bach (Kaufman, 87).

According to Patrick Kavanaugh in his book The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers,
Mendelssohn never hesitated to display his faith openly to those around him. One composer
wrote of his admiration for Mendelssohnm: “So richly favored and endowed, so beloved and
admired, and at the same time so strong in mind and character, that he never once let slip the
bridle of religious discipline, nor the just sense of modesty and humility, nor ever fell short of
his standard duty(Devrient, 302). Mendelssohn’s wife, Cecile (formerly Jeanrenaud) was the
daughter of a French Protestant clergyman. She was known to be a pious believer and a
womenaof prayer (Marek, 257).

The Bible was an important part of Mendelssohn’s life. It provided much of the inspiration for
his work. Whenever he had to set a piece of scripture to music, he was always “painstakingly
precise about the wording(Ja cob, 220). One of Mendelssohn’s close friends said the
following about him. “He felt that all faith must be based on Holy Writ (Polko, 115-6).”
Kavanaugh shows that Mendelssohn congratulated his librettist saying, “I am glad to learn
that you are searching out the always heart-affecting sense of the scriptural words(Edwards,
13). Mendelssohn did not like the text to be altered and when it was he said “I Have time after
time had to restore the precise text of the Bible. It is the best in the end (Alexander, 96).”

Mendelssohn was a man of God who sought to do his best to write music that was pleasing to
him He wrote the following in one of his letters ” Pray to God that he may create in us a clean
heart and renew a right spirit within us(Hensel, 337).

* Most of the foregoing information on Mendelssohn’s spiritual life comes from Kavenaugh’s
book The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers.
St. Paul Oratio

The St. Paul Oratorio, the first of Mendelssohn’s two oratorio’s, was begun in Dusseldorf and
finished in Leipzig in the winter of 1835. The libretto was a joint compilation between Furst
and Schubring with consultation with Mendelssohn. The Oratorio itself consists of three
major themes. These are the martyrdom of Stephen, the conversion of Paul, and the apostle’s
subsequent career. The work was written by a commission from the Cecilien Verein of
Frankfort in 1831, but was not performed until 1836 at the Lower Rhine Festival at

The first half of this work begins after a long and expressive overture for orchestra and organ.
The first part opens with a strong and exultant chorus (“Lord! Thou art God”). It is written
effectively on a massive scale, and it’s middle part runs into a restless, agitated theme (“The
Heathen furiously rage”). It closes, however, in the same energetic and jubilant manner which
characterizes its opening, and leads directly to the Choral (“To God on High”). This section is
serenely beautiful in its flowing harmony. The next section is the martyrdom of Stephen. Here
the bass voices accuse him of blasphemy in a vigorous recitative. Stephen sings a brief solo
then shouts from the chorus are heard (“Take him away”). He is soon stoned and a few bars of
recitative in the tenor part tell the sad story of this tragic event. A beautiful chorale of
submission then occurs (“To Thee, O Lord, I yield my spirit”). Saul soon appears criticizing
the apostles. His first aria is a bass which is fiery and full of energy(“consume them all”).
Next comes a beautiful arioso for alto. Then the conversion scene occurs. The voice from
heaven(“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me”) is represented by the soprano choir which
stands in contrast to the rest of the work. After an orchestra interlude the music builds up with
a crescendo to the vigorous chorus “Rise up! Arise!” This is followed by a chorale(“Sleepers,
wake! A Voice is calling”). The music grows deeper and Saul prays a prayer asking for God
to have mercy on Him. A more joyful part occurs in the bass solo with chorus (“I will praise
thee, O Lord, my God). After Saul receives his sight, a grand reflective chorus sings out (“O
great is the Depth of the Riches of Wisdom”). This ends the first part of the oratorio with a
powerful climax.

* For further information consult the books in the Bibliography. Much of the foregoing
information on the St. Paul Oratio comes from George Upton’s book: The Standard Oratorios:
Their stories, their music, and their composers; Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1896.

Paul’s Influence*

Mendelssohn first began considering writing the St. Paul Oratorio while in Rome. He had
spent a lot of time looking at a great deal of Titian and Raphael in the galleries of Rome.
Many speculate that this was his inspiration for the Oratorio. Mendelssohn could have
explained his reason for choosing Paul as the subject for his first Oratorio. But when this
work was revealed to the public the explanations were not necessary. He believed that a work
either justifies itself or it could not be justified. Paul, as a figure, was tremendously important
to Felix both personally and in his own time period. Mendelssohn was born to Jewish parents
just as Paul and converted to Christianity (although in a different manner) like Paul. “For
Paul, the founder of the supranational religion, was the first man of classical intiquity who
denounced the mysticism of blood and race which characterized the peoples of antiquity.”
Paul did not look at Jews or Greeks or Romans or Pagans as God’s chosen people. People
ceased to be prosecuted for their birth. According to Heinrich Jacob, what Paul proclaimed
was pan-humanism. “What a powerful appeal would such a doctrine as ‘the nullity of the
fleshly heritage’ have to someone like Mendelssohn!” Felix was dedicated to make sure that
the text of the St. Paul Oratorio did not compromise the scriptures and that he did not make
any mistakes. In Dusseldorf Felix came across a book about early Christianity. It was called
Gfrorer’s Geschichte des Urchristentums. He was so intrigued by this book that he took it
every where he went. It went everywhere from riding in the woods to reading in the rain.
Mendelssohn read everything he could about Greek history and daily life in Paul’s day. He
probably knew more than was necessary for his task as a composer. Nevertheless, the
fascination with Paul and with presenting an accurate picture of Paul in his oratorio remained
the most important things about this work. Paul must have had a tremendous influence on
Mendelssohn considering the time and the labor spent researching, the similarity to his own
life and Sitz Im Leben. Let us not forget to follow Felix’s own advice and to the work justify
itself. There we can see one last place where Paul influenced Mendelssohn.

* For further information consult the Bibliography. But special attention and thanks must be
given to Heinrich Edward Jacob: Felix Mendelssohn and His times; Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,1963.


• Alexander, W.F., editor, Selected Letters of Mendelssohn. London: Swan

Sonnenschein and Co., 1894.
• Devrient, Edward, My Recollections of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. New York:
Vienna House, 1972.
• Edwards, Frederick George, The History of Mendelssohn’s Oratorio “Elijah.” London:
Novello, Ewer and Co., 1896.
• Elvers, Rudolf, Felix Mendelssohn: A life in Letters. New York: International
Publishing Co., 1986.
• Encarta ’95. Microsoft Corporation. 1992-1994.
• Encyclopedia Americana Volume XVIII of XXX. Grolier Inc., 1981.
• Encyclopedia Britannica. Volume VIIII. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britanica Inc., 1993.
• Grout, Donald and Palisca, Claude, A History of Western Music (fourth edition).
W.W. Norton and Company, 1988.
• Hensel, Sebastian, The Mendelssohn Family: From Letters and Journals. (VI)
Westport: Greenwood Press, 1968.
• Jacob, Heinrick Edward, Felix Mendelssohn and His Times. Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice- Hall, Inc.,1963.
• Hendrie, Gerald, Mendelssohn’s Rediscovery of Bach. Buckinghamshire: The Open
University Press, 1971.
• Hiller, Ferdinand, Mendelssohn, Letters and Recollections. New York: Vienna House,
• Kaufman, Shima, Mendelssohn, “A Second Elijah.” Westport: Greenwood Press,
• Kavanaugh, Patrick. The Spiritual Lives of Great Composers. Nashville, Tennessee:
Sparrow Press, 1992.
• Kupferberg, Herbert, The Mendelssohns; Three Generations of Genius. New York:
Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1972.
• Marek, George R., Gentle Genius, the story of Felix Mendelssohn. New York: Funk
and Wagnalls, 1972.
• Mendelssohn, Paul, Letters of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy from 1833 to 1847.
Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1970.
• Polko, Elise, Reminisces of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. New York: Leypoldt and
Holt, 1869.
• Radcliffe, Phillip, Mendelssohn. London: J.M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., 1967.
• Stratton, Stephen S., Mendelssohn. J.M. Dent and Sons ltd., 1934.
• Upton, George, The Standard Oratorios: Their stories, their music, and their
composers. Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1896.
• Werner, Eric, Mendelssohn: A New Image of the Composer and His Age. London:
Collier-MacMillan, Ltd., 1963.

by Patrick Connelly


The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt

Synopsis: A Painter and a Preacher back to top

What does a 17th century Dutch painter have in common with the apostle Paul? The two have
more in common than one might think. Rembrandt often painted pictures of Paul so Paul
obviously had a major impact on his life. In his paintings, he tried to capture the force and
emotion of Paul’s letters. He also painted other biblical stories as well. While one might have
a hard time seeing the relevance, if you open your mind and your spirit you will be pleasantly

Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn was a seventeenth century Dutch painter. Born in Holland,
his completed works were greatly influenced by the Bible and his Protestant faith. In fact, he
attempted to capture the force and emotion of the life and letters of Paul in his paintings. We
should consider just how Christianity influenced Rembrandt’s work. During this period,
Dutch painting focused mostly on material themes not spiritual themes. What Rembrandt
painted went against the grain of the times so personally this had to be important to him. It
probably was not natural to dare to be different at this time but he did it.

Introduction back to top

It is astonishing how often writings on Rembrandt compare him to Shakespeare. This reveals
the amount of respect that is given to the 17th-century Dutch painter, and deservedly so.
Rembrandt’s paintings “typically have a complexity, a richness, that lesser artists seldom even
aspire to” (Veith). Particularly groundbreaking from a technical standpoint was his expressive
use of light. But also remembered is his uncanny reading of human feelings and reactions.
“Like Shakespeare, he seems to have been able to get into the skin of all types of men, and to
know how they would behave in any given situation” (Gombrich). This ability is what also
makes his paintings of biblical stories so unique. Examples are seen in Rembrandt’s paintings
of Paul. The influence of the Bible and the Protestant faith on Rembrandt was tremendous. It
is clear the life and letters of Paul impacted Rembrandt enough to try and capture the force
and emotion of them in his paintings.

Life of Rembrandt

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leyden, Holland on July 15, 1606. At age
seven, Rembrandt went to Latin School in Leyden. In 1620, he enrolled as a student at Leyden
University where he ended up staying only a few months. His passion for painting led him to
quit school and devote full time to his art. For three years he served as an apprentice to Jacob
van Swanenburgh in Leyden, followed by six more months in Pieter Lastmann’s studio in the
Breestraat, Amsterdam. It was here that Rembrandt was introduced to the great Italian
painters of his day, a group he was both influenced by and who he differed from. In 1625,
Rembrandt set up as an independent artist in Leyden where he shared a studio with a friend.
This period produced many paintings with biblical themes, including work on St. Paul.
Rembrandt left his hometown in 1632 to permanently settle in Amsterdam. It was here that
his reputation began to grow rapidly, primarily due to his skill of producing commissioned
portraits. The following year Rembrandt fell in love with Saskia van Uylenburch, a miller’s
daughter, and he married her in 1634. His marriage and family were marred with heartbreak
and tragedy. Rembrandt and Saskia lost three young children, and Saskia herself became ill
and died in 1642.

During this time, Rembrandt continued to develop his style, as he never settled for imitation
of the Italian masters. The same year that Saskia died, he painted the Night Watch, which
some see as a revolutionary painting for him. The work contained an unusual depth, expressed
in his chiaroscuro style. Chiaroscuro was the emphasis on light and darkness as a means of
organization and expression within the picture. His pictures more and more are characterized
by emotional honesty and inner restlessness. Rembrandt’s nonconformity eventually led to a
decline in reputation and opportunity.

His difficulties increased in the 1650s. Commissions were not coming in and debt was
growing. During this time another significant woman came into his life, Hendrickje Stoffels.
Despite the affection between them, he could not marry her due to a provision in Saskia’s will
which said a second marriage would require him to repay son Titus the amount of his
mother’s inheritance. In 1656, he transferred his house to Titus, and an inventory was taken of
the house in the Breestraat. 1657-58 saw the auctioning of many of his possessions due to
rising debt. Hendrickje and Titus set up an art dealership in 1660, making Rembrandt their
employee. But tragedy struck him again as both Hendrickje [1663] and Titus [1668] died in
his lifetime. Rembrandt continued to struggle financially the rest of his life and essentially
died a pauper in 1669.

Christian Influences on Rembrandt

Given the amount of biblical content in his work, the influence of Christianity on Rembrandt,
who was raised a devout Protestant by his mother, deserves to be considered. Merely the
painting of Christian subjects does not necessitate an interest in the faith by the painter, but
the emotional power of Rembrandt’s work reveals a personal concern. E.H. Gombrich writes:
“As a devout Protestant, Rembrandt must have read the Bible again and again. He entered the
spirit of its episodes, and attempted to visualize exactly what the situation must have been
like, and how people would have moved and borne themselves at such a moment” (Gombrich,
315). It is unique that Rembrandt brought his special ability in the art of genre, the depiction
of scenes from everyday life purged of the mystically spectacular, to bear in his religious
paintings. This fusion of genre with religious mystery made his religious paintings stand out.
It showed Rembrandt’s concern for the reality of truth, as “the fact was too pregnant with its
own meaning to require the addition of rhetoric or splendour” (Newton and Neill, 192).

It is also true that much Dutch painting at the time focused on material rather than spiritual
themes. Rembrandt seemed to have the integrity to go against the grain and paint what was
personally important to him. Christianity undoubtedly was important to Rembrandt as the
spiritual realism of his work reveals. W.A. Visser’t Hooft makes an interesting analogy
between Rembrandt’s Protestantism and Luther’s theology of the cross. Luther said that
anyone who recognizes God in his glory and majesty must also recognize him in the
abasement and igonimy of the cross. There is a sense in which this theology is paralleled in
Rembrandt’s painting, and it is in this sense that we may speak of Rembrandt’s Protestantism.
Visser’t Hooft writes: “He was Protestant, because he became more and more deeply
absorbed in the biblical testimony, because he interpreted the gospel in the light of this very
gospel, without calling in the assistance of any classical or humanist ideal, and he did not
attempt to force the paradox of the cross into human dimensions” (Hooft,116).

Paul and Rembrandt

Some of the best examples of Rembrandt’s spiritual realism are seen in his works on Paul.
“St. Paul in Prison” was done by Rembrandt in approximately 1627. This early work reflects
Rembrandt’s expertise in using chiaroscuro as “the extension of the light and dark accents
from tangible to intangible things.” Jakob Rosenberg also writes:

Voids as well as solids are emphasized; space gains an expressive life, and becomes an
inseparable part of the figures’ existence…He seems to have felt that light and dark are magic
elements which the painter can employ to veil or to reveal, to create drama and mood, to open
the spectator’s mind to the unknown depths of vision and feeling (Rosenberg).

This depth of vision and feeling is seen with the deep, thoughtful gaze of the apostle. Paul’s
passionate concern for the gospel is vividly captured by Rembrandt. The painting reveals
Paul’s emphasis on the Word of God [as the sword of the Spirit] and his role as an apostle
bringing the Word. The use of light and shadow is especially seen in the reflection of the
prison bars and the light shining through to illuminate Paul’s concern.
The painting of Peter and Paul has been subject to much debate as to whether it is the two
apostles or merely philosophers. The face of Paul is strikingly similar to the painting of Paul
in prison. Paul also has traditionally been painted with a long face and beard. The round head,
whiskers, and garland of curls indicate that the other gentleman is Peter, “since all are
symbols which have characterized Peter since the early depictions” (Partsch, 32). The globe is
symbolic of the universal scope of Paul’s missionary work, and “the extinguished candle, a
symbol for the Old Testament, lie in the shadows” (Partsch). The picture reveals Paul as a
man of letters and of passionate articulation of the gospel.

In 1659, Rembrandt finished another painting of the Apostle Paul. It is a peaceful scene of
Paul writing letters at his desk. It is interesting to note the contrast between this picture and
the exhilarating action of the Baroque paintings of Paul. Rembrandt, instead of emphasizing
the action, “portrays Paul as the embodiment of profound meditation” (Goldscheider, 180). A
sword, trademark of Paul, leans against the wall. While his face basks in radiant light, the rest
of the painting is dark with heavy colors.

In 1661, Rembrandt painted a self-portrait as the apostle Paul. This picture was linked to his
series of apostles and evangelists. His head is turned in a diagonal fashion in which he looks
right at the beholder. He is perhaps holding the Old Testament, and the sword symbolic of
Paul lays at his side. Paul’s stare is questioning, doubting. Susanna Partsch writes, “There is
nothing apostolic or indeed lordly about this face; it is the face of a man of experience who is
sceptical about the future” (Partsch, 187). This was painted in a time where Rembrandt’s own
life was filled with hardships, and it seems that this reflects his mood at the time. It is
interesting that he identifies himself with Paul, no stranger to dark times himself.

Rembrandt’s legacy continues to impact the lives of people today. His own life was impacted
by the legacy of Paul and the gospel he preached.


• Bredius, Abraham. The Complete Edition of the Paintings. Revised by H. Gerson.

London: Phaidon Press, 3rd edition 1969.
• Cheney, Sheldon. A World History of Art. New York: Viking Press, 1964.
• Clark, Kenneth. An Introduction to Rembrandt. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.
• ______________. Rembrandt and the Italian Renaissance. London: John Murray
Press, 1966.
• Goldscheider, Ludwig. Rembrandt: Paintings, Drawings and Etchings. New York:
Phaidon, 1964.
• Gombrich, E.H. The Story of Art. New York: Phaidon, 1956.
• Knackfuss, Herman. Rembrandt. Translated by Campbell Dodson. New York: Lemcke
& Buechner, 1899.
• Newton, Eric and William Neill. 2000 Years of Christian Art. New York: Harper &
Row, 1986.
• Partsch, Susanna. Rembrandt. London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1991.
• Rosenberg, Jakob. Rembrandt. London: Phaidon Press, 1964.
• Veith, Gene Edward, Jr. State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe. Wheaton:
Crossway Books, 1991.
• Visser ‘t Hooft, W.A. Rembrandt and the Gospel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press,
• White, Christopher. Rembrandt and His World. London: Thames & Hudson, 1966.
• Zumthor, Paul. Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland. London: Weidenfield & Nicolson,


• The Artchive Rembrandt page

• OCAIW Rembrandt page
• One Man Show: Rembrandt
• Webmuseum Rembrandt page
• CGFA Virtual Art Museum Rembrandt page

Multiple Aspects of Psychology

Paul’s Impact

by Sara Simms


Among the names often credited as having been influential in the professional field of
psychology, one usually hears of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, B.F Skinner,
Abraham Maslow, and many others who have come up with their own theory about studying
the self. But long before the days when psychology began moving towards becoming its own
profession, there existed biblical ideas that remain extremely influential in the field today. The
apostle Paul’s teachings on the self may be seen in both the theories about and in the
treatments of many disorders and psychological problems seen in both secular and Christian
counseling centers every day. His influential writings on some of the many aspects of
psychology are the focus of this discussion.

Paul’s teachings have been enormously influential on the psychological treatment of those
dealing with guilt and suffering. A major part of therapy includes aiding the client in the
restructuring of their self-image. Christian therapists use Paul’s teachings to reach this goal,
helping the client to see that “no one is any longer committed definitively to the flesh; the
spirit dwells in every Christian. A positive self-image is thus maintained against the empirical
reality of guilt and suffering” (Theissen, 397).

Gestalt Theory, Psychoanalytic Theory, Behavior Modeling

One can see evidence of Pauline influence in Gestalt theory. In the terms put forth by Gestalt
theory, restructuring one’s life may be looked at as a change in ground and background. By
examining the text of 1 Corinthian 2:6-16, author Gerd Theissen concludes that “What
otherwise is the hardly perceived or denied background of the everyday life-world emerges in
religious experience as decisive reality. Foolishness appears as wisdom, weakness as power, a
defeat as victory” (Theissen, 392). As Paul teaches, for the Christian reality may now be
regarded in a different light, meaning freedom for the individual.

Paul’s influence on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, one of the first psychological
theories ever formulated, and Carl Jung’s analytic theory become evident by studying 2
Corinthians 3:1-4:6. The goal of psychoanalysis is to allow the client to tap into their
unconscious, thereby accessing the memories stored there and bringing them into the
conscious. The aforementioned section by Paul “itself suggests a view ‘from within’.”
Theissen suggests that the veil discussed in 3:15 is representative of the boundary which
separates the conscious from the unconscious, and Paul discusses how this veil may be
eliminated in Christ. The author demonstrates this when he contrasts 2 Corinthians 3:13-15
(“the veil of Moses appears not only over the reading of the law but also over the hearts of the
listeners”) with 2 Corinthians 3:18 (“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror
the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as
by the Spirit of the Lord” (Theissen, 143).

Psychologists often teach their clients that their negative behavior can be reformed by
choosing a behavior model. That is, the client will focus on the positive behavior exhibited by
a certain individual, attempting to re-shape their own behavior by modeling this individual.
Paul discusses this idea by teaching his followers to imitate him just as he in turn imitates
Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Various psychological themes such as Carl Jung’s theory have
emphasized the restructuring of “inner man.” After studying 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 one can
conclude, “Christ is the cause of a radical restructuring of the internal and external world”
(Theissen, 386).

Backus: Telling the Truth

Author William Backus, in his book entitled Telling the Truth to Troubled People, uses
Philippians 4:11-13 to describe the Pauline influence on truth therapy (“the practice of
counseling based on the Christian belief that the truth can make you free”) (Backus, 23). As
Paul taught throughout all of his writings, an important goal for Christians needs to be that
they recognize what sins they struggle with, and thus an important goal for counselors is to
aid others in experiencing freedom from their sins (Backus, 65). “The man or woman who
would set others free must first experience freedom” (Backus, 68). One can see evidence of
this in Paul’s life through his conversion on the road to Damascus. In order to convey the
truth of the gospel to others, he had to first experience the truth of the Messiah for himself.
This idea is prominent in the field of psychology today. A counselor who knows nothing
about the true reasons why many people suffer from eating disorders and insists that those
who struggle with bingeing simply need to be placed on a diet will be of no use to the
individual who comes to them for help (indeed, he will inflict more damage upon his client).
In order to provide adequate help, the counselor must know the truth about what lies behind
the many disorders plaguing society today.

Oftentimes when a client takes the step of coming to a psychologist for help, that individual is
seeking repentance. “Repentance means, literally, ‘getting a new mind.’” This can only take
place by the work of the Holy Spirit, who works by “renewing and changing your old sinful,
angry, unforgiving mind, and replacing it with a new mind like the mind of Christ.” Paul’s
writings in Philippians 2 provides an explanation of a new mind in Christ. One of the steps
involved in repentance, according to Backus, comes directly from Paul’s letter to the Romans
in chapter six. In therapy, the Christian psychologist often teaches the client to “Believe and
tell yourself that the sin habit or root within you has no further power over you. Visualize it
being nailed to the cross with Jesus. Reckon yourself dead to it” (Backus, 83, 84).

Pauline influences on the treatment of anger may also be studied. Not only does Paul teach us
that self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and is something that then should be strived for,
he provides advice on what to do when a person does experience anger at another by stating
that it should be dealt with immediately as to avoid bitterness; “Be angry but do not sin; do
not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians
4:26,27; Backus, 157). Paul also influenced the treatment of persistent anger by discussing the
principle of thought practice: “repeatedly thinking the new thoughts you desire to install in
place of others” (Backus, 165). Paul discusses thought practice in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever
is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever
is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these

A specific problem which Paul speaks to involves a common personality characteristic of

those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Often these individuals will have an
extremely difficult time in making decisions, and will pressure their psychologist or others to
literally make up their mind for them. Because these individuals often feel that they must
come up with the perfect solution to everything, they will go back and forth in their decision-
making process. “The apostle Paul specifically rejected this wavering stance toward decisions
as one that is not appropriate for Christians to hang onto” (Backus, 191,192). This rejection
may be found in Paul’s writings in 2 Corinthians 1:17-20, “When I planned this, did I do it
lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes,
yes” and “No, no”? But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and
“No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and SilasB and
Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how
many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is
spoken by us to the glory of God.”

Even those individuals whose hearts are closed to the word of God usually have a conscience,
as Paul teaches in Romans 2:15. Sociopaths, however, seem to be absent of any conscience.
As Backus states in his discussion on sociopathic personalities, sociopaths, if they manage to
live until middle-age, often “settle down with a more conventional but burned-out pattern of
behavior….these people seem to live by the maxim that Paul rejects in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘Let
us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (Backus, 231).

Paul and Self-Evaluation

An important concept that a therapist must remember while counseling others, is that he must
realize what his own sinful desires are, instead of deceiving himself into thinking that he is
somehow above having lustful thoughts because he is a Christian (Backus, 237). This idea
originates from Paul’s teachings in Romans 8:18: “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh,
dwells no good thing.” “The idea of trusting one’s own organismic responsiveness, later to be
taken as a primary indicator of psychological full-functioning, was clearly anticipated by
ancient Christian writers who spoke of the journey of the soul and self-acquaintance with
one’s own soul” (Oden, 139,139). Pauline influence on the treatment of sexual deviations may
be seen in his writings on the “lusts of the flesh” in Galatians 5:17-20, and in 1 Corinthians
6:9-11). Empathy, as defined by Thomas C. Oden, is “a willingness to participate attentively
and accurately with what another is experiencing here and now” (Oden, 138). Empathy is a
necessary quality for a good psychologist to possess. Paul discusses empathy in Romans
12:15 when he states “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Although resources on Pauline aspects in the field of psychology are few, there is no denying
the apostle’s tremendous influence upon the study of the self. This discussion has focused on
only a few of the many ways in which Paul has influenced psychology in one form or another.
Self-knowledge is related to the knowledge of God, for we were created in His image, thus
Paul speaks on this matter abundantly.


Works Cited

• Backus, William. Telling the Truth to Troubled People. Minneapolis: Bethany House
Publishers, 1985.
• Oden, Thomas C. “The Historic Pastoral Care Tradition: A Resource for Christian
Psychologists,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, 20: 137-146, 1992.
• Theissen, Gerd. Psychological aspects of Pauline Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress
Press, 1987.

Other Sources Discussing Pauline Influence on Psychology

• Adams, Jay E. Competent to Counsel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,

1970. — In his book, Competent to Counsel , Jay Adams draws from the writings of
the Apostle Paul and other Biblical references to help pastors, students, lay persons
and Christian counselors develop an approach to Christian counseling.
• Adams, Jay E. How to Help People Change. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1986. — How to Help People Change deals with the main goal for many
people who are seeking counseling: changing undesirable behavior or thoughts.
Readers are taught how scripture, including many of Paul’s writings, can help people
to attain this goal.
• Adams, Jay E. Solving Marriage Problems: Biblical Solutions for Christian
Counselors. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. — Solving Marriage
Problems teaches pastors and counselors about how Paul and other biblical writers
addressed and offered solutions to marital problems, one of the most common issues
dealt with by psychologists today.
• Allender, Dan B. The Wounded Heart. Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1995. — The
Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender offers encouragement to victims of sexual abuse.
Allender alludes to the teachings of the Apostle Paul to offer hope to the abused.
• Crabb, Larry. Inside Out. Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 1988. — Larry Crabb asserts
in his book Inside Out that Christians need to face their past pain and disappointments
and allow God’s word to meet them where they are. Crabb cites Paul’s teachings
throughout his book to support his position.
• Moorehead, Bob. Counsel Yourself and Others From the Bible. Sisters: Multnomah
Books, 1994. — Counsel Yourself and Others From the Bible teaches readers to
consult the Bible first when going through trials and tribulations. He points out that
God’s wisdom is often neglected, and includes many of Paul’s teachings to illustrate
how psychology and counseling can be applied to everyday life.
• Sande, Ken. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991. — The Peacemaker uses many of Paul’s teachings
and other biblical references to teach others about how to deal with conflict resolution,
a common problem for which many people seek counsel today.

Grief and Suffering

Paul’s Impact on Grief and Suffering, and Emotional Wounds in

by Joan Synder

Aspects of Psychology

The Apostle Paul has obviously influenced the realm of psychology. Many writers and
theorists have written psychological works that reflect the influence of Pauline Theology. Paul
wrote about the suffering and persecution under which he lived during his ministry, and he
advised other Christians to follow his teachings when they encounter similar conflicts and
trials. Paul cared about the inner man, and he gave valuable and inspired insight to
psychologists and writers who want to explore the nature of man. Paul’s influence on
psychology has been quite broad; therefore, to illustrate his influence, only two aspects of
psychology will be examined. The following essay introduces Paul’s influence on grief and
suffering and Paul’s influence on the healing of emotional wounds. The material presented on
these aspects of psychology should not be viewed as exhaustive; further exploration of the
topics should most certainly be encouraged.

Grief and Suffering

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis is clearly a psychological work. Lewis struggles with the
death of his wife and the agony that the loss has created. His thoughts are directly rooted in
Pauline Theology. For instance, Lewis reflects on the nature of God. He is beginning to see
God as being dreadful, meaning that God does not just ordain things that appear good to man
(Lewis, 10). The apostle Paul would agree with that when he writes in Romans 9:20-21 that
some things that God ordains may not seem rational to us, but for us to talk back to God
would be like the clay talking back to the potter. God may, at times, appear dreadful to us
because of our limited understanding. Paul writes in Romans 11: 34-35, “Who has known the
mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has given to God that God should
repay him?” C.S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul would agree that some things are just
incomprehensible to man. Grief and suffering are not easily resolved.

Lewis also states that although his love for his wife was enormous, there was a clear need in
his life that no spouse could ever meet. The need for God could not be met by his spouse.
Although Lewis emphasizes his overwhelming grief for his wife, he finds some comfort in the
fact that his need for God was still present and that God Himself was still there (Lewis, 10).
As Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:13-14, it is not as if we do not have hope when a Christian
dies. Jesus died and was resurrected, and God will one day raise from the dead those that
believed in Christ. God is still present and cares for those who mourn. He offers hope to those
who are grieving. However, Lewis also struggles with this passage from I Thessalonians. He

What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead
better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead
child has lost, it is comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was
created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural
happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope, ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him
forever.’ A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood
(Lewis, 24).
Lewis strongly believes that the Bible should not be used for trite consolation (Lewis, 23). To
him, a person who distributes “Biblical bandaids” implies that he truly does not understand
the overwhelming reality of insurmountable grief. Trite consolations simply are not sufficient.

Perhaps C.S. Lewis’ best solution for dealing with grief ironically lies not in continual tears,
but in praise. He did not want to stop loving his dead wife, and he did not want to forget her.
The thought of not remembering her scared him the most. His solution was to offer praise to
God for the time he had with his wife and for the gift of joy she had been to him. Lewis
writes, “Praise is the mode of love that always has some element of joy in it” (Lewis, 49).
Again, the Apostle Paul would agree. Paul’s approach — even in the midst of great suffering
— was to somehow rejoice (Philippians 4:4). Paul made it his practice to sing praises to God
even when he had just been beaten or had just been put in chains. J. Knox Chamblin, author of
Paul and the Self, writes, “To Paul’s mind, joy does not await the resolution of conflict or the
end of struggle; instead, it arises precisely amidst the conflict and struggle” (Chamblin, 22).
Ironically, it is praise that leads those who mourn back to an understanding of joy.

Not only could C.S. Lewis find joy, but also hope. He adds, “There is, whatever it means, the
resurrection of the body” (Lewis, 59). Although the words should not be thrown around
lightly, there is still deep significance found in the words. There is the hope of eternal life to
all who believe, for just as Paul asks in I Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

Emotional Wounds

David Benner, a Christian author and psychologist, addresses the topic of deep emotional
wounds that people develop at all stages of life as the result of living in our fallen world. In
his book Healing Emotional Wounds, Benner definitely embraces Pauline theology. Benner
believes that people actually need to allow themselves to experience the pain that results from
an emotional wound. Any defense mechanism that could possibly be employed to avoid
dealing with the pain actually prevents the healing process. Benner cites Paul’s words found
in Philippians 3:10 that we need the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings (Benner, 33).
J. Knox Chamblin author of Paul and the Self stresses that suffering is central to Paul.
Chamblin cites I Corinthians 15:31, where Paul writes, “I die everyday,” because he is
identifying with Christ’s suffering (Chamblin, 21). According to Benner, an emotional
catharsis is a necessary part of the healing process (Benner, 70).

Benner and the Apostle Paul would also be in agreement that everyone must acknowledge his
or her own sinfulness in order to receive God’s healing grace. According to Benner, we all
take turns being both the villain and the victim (Benner, 102). Paul writes similar words in
Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Benner believes that
after the emotional release occurs, a person must intellectually or cognitively acknowledge
before God that he is just as capable of hurting another person the same way he himself was
hurt (Benner, 102).

Finally, Benner believes that forgiveness must occur — even if the person that needs to be
forgiven is already dead (Benner,109). Benner acknowledges that forgiveness is not easy and
that God must empower a believer to forgive his offender (Benner, 109). He defines
forgiveness as the injured person being able to still remember the incident, yet the person who
has forgiven will no longer experience malice toward his offender (Benner, 117). Certainly
Paul agrees. In Colossians 3:8, Paul urges his readers to rid themselves of all malice. Paul
continues, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one
another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). There are obvious parallels
between Benner’s process of obtaining emotional healing and Pauline theology.

There are many other writers and psychologists who have been influenced by Pauline
Theology. Lewis and Benner simply serve as illustrations of Paul’s influence on aspects of
psychology. Many psychologists only gather their data from general revelation, or the
observable world. The advantage certainly lies with the writer or psychologist who draws
from both general and special revelation, which is found in Scripture. The Apostle Paul’s
inspired words of insight have clearly influenced the realm of psychology.


• Benner, David G. Healing Emotional Wounds. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
• Chamblin, J. Knox. Paul and the Self. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.
• Lewis, C.S. A Grief Observed. New York: The Seabury Press, 1961.

WHERE – Recipient Locality

• Rome
• Corinth
• Galatia
• Ephesus
• Philippi
• Collosae
• Thessalonica

WHO Paul’s Audience

• Ephesus
• Phillippi
• Colossae
• Romans
• Corinthians
• Galations
• Thessalonians

WHY Paul’s Purpose

• Roman Purpose
• 1 Corinthians Purpose
• 2 Corinthians Purpose
• Galations Purpose
• 1 Thesalonians Purpose
• 2-Thesalonians Purpose
WHAT Paul’s Content

• Romans Content
• 1 Corinthians Content
• 2 Corinthians Content
• Galations Content
• 1 Thessalonians Content
• 2nd Thessalonians Content


• Titus as Apologia
• Analysis of Colossians
• Dating of Paul in Corinth