Chapter 7

This Chapter discusses how St. Paul reworks or rethinks the Jewish views of eschatology. The author shows that Paul makes Jewish eschatology come to pass in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He writes, taken from Romans 8.17, 28-30, “the spirit conforms the Messiah’s people to his suffering and glory, so that the Jewish expectation of the coming of the Messiah is not just fulfilled in the Messiah himself, but, extraordinarily, in His people as well.” Jewish eschatology thinks God will put all things right. They are the chosen ones, they have covenants with God and if God doesn’t make all things right, and paganism not defeated, then even God is in question. Paul reshapes Jewish views by showing that though Jesus Christ and His death, resurrection and ascension, all is fulfilled. Paul paints a vision that the end of all things is derived from the Old Testament and is in two stages. He redefines the Jewish doctrine using both the Messiah and the Holy Spirit.

I most enjoyed the comparison to the exodus and the two comings of Jesus Christ. First we are baptized into the Messiah as when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Now we live in between times like the wandering in the desert. We sin and suffer, but still are walking with God. We are no longer slaves of the Torah when we walk with the Holy Spirit and keep Him as our guide. Till the second coming when there will be a new heaven and new earth, we then will reach the Promised Land.

Chapter 6

This Chapter 6, “Reworking of God’s People” focuses on Paul’s emphasis and convincing argument that ALL people belong to God’s family.  N.T. Wright points out that throughout the Old Testament, it is shown that God chose Israel as His chosen people and it was the belief of the Jews that because of this, only Jews were the selected people, the special people, of God, who were to be His royal nation, His holy priests and the light of the world.  Paul takes this thought and shows how election is redefined through the Messiah.  As seen in Galatians 3, God desires a family of all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, and this is very difficult for the faithful Jews to accept.  Wright shows that Paul preached unity of God’s people through this redefinition of election and that God has one family, not two.  His family consists of all those who believe in the gospel.  This family is defined as the people of the Messiah, no longer Jew or Gentile.

Wright shows that the “Messiah represents His people so that what is true of Him is true of them.  He has been crucified; therefore they have been crucified with Him.  They share His new life, not in terms of fleshly identity, that is, of Jewish ethnicity, but in terms of the Messiah’s own new life, a life in which all nations can share equally (p. 113)”. This is not an abandoning of the Jewish ways, but a reworking of God’s people in the Messiah to unite His family as one people.

This is a beautiful way to express the intense love that God has for all His people.  In Christ, we are united as faithful believers.  The Messiah came not to divide but to unite and those who participate in both faith and works are called to become one family in Christ.

Chapter 5 – Rethinking God

In Chapter 5 of “Paul, N.T. Wright reviews the way that St. Paul puts forth a fresh new way of looking at God, steeped in Jewish tradition but redefined in terms of the reality of Jesus of Nazareth as the long awaited Messiah.  He covers the Jewish theology of Monotheism (one God), Election (one People of God) and Eschatology (one future for God’s world), but in the light of Christ. 

Wright reviews the Jewish foundational theology of the one God of Israel as the God of both creation and covenant.  He then explains the Christological dimension, equating Jesus with God the father, often in the redefining of the Shema prayer with God the father/creator and Jesus as Lord.  The second phase of the redefinition of God is expressed in terms of Jesus and his Spirit together.  Paul famously explains that there are many gifts, but one Spirit, many types of service, but one Lord in Jesus, and one God and Father who accomplishes all in all. 

Finally, Wright shows how Paul uses Old Testament passages to show their fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah.  Paul continues the Jewish theme of the people of God against the pagans found throughout the Old Testament, but now meaning both Jews and Gentiles who accept Jesus as Messiah and savior.  Paul goes on to show how this new people of God must necessarily be set apart from the pagan communities around them and live in a certain way of Christian love and service.

This reader found Wright’s analysis to be thorough and convincing.

Paul – Gospel and Empire Chapter 4

Gospel and Empire

This chapter deals with the power and influence of the Rome within the world of St Paul at the time of his letters.  Wright points out that St Paul’s mission was a dangerous one since it took shots at Roman ideology.  Wright also reminds us of Paul’s faithful assertion of Jesus’ divinity and His role as redeemer.  It is interesting to realize the very “Christian” words like “savior”, “good news”, “lord” and “son of god” were used by the Roman emperors and therefore Paul’s use of those words would have spoken to those reading his letters at the time that Jesus was more than the emperors of Rome.  I did not realize that the religion of Rome’s (emperor divinity) was the fastest growing religion at that time due to Rome’s military might.

Paul’s world would have been comfortable mixing religion, politics, and culture into the belief system – not separating these categories.  The Jewish people of the time would also have been comfortable seeing God as the one who used pagan rulers or nations to do His divine will, being the actor to do God’s bidding as well as receiving punishment for their actions.  This view would have relevance in their present (Rome) as well as from History (cf. Babylon or Assyria). They would have been accustomed to working within the confines of Roman rule by making the best of it versus anarchy and rebellion. 

Wright lists some very interesting exegeses from various letters with respect to Rome and its imperial force.  He helps give context to some of the letter such as Corinthians where he states that Corinth was more Roman than Rome.  Another example is from Thessalonians where “peace and security” are mixed in travail and destruction – a reference to Rome’s promise of peace and security. Jesus conquers death – much more powerful than simple military conquering.  Wright suggests that woven within Paul’s writing are words that would have evoked recognition of Roman signals –of Rome’s expected support and/or Rome’s reliance on military power and the emperor’s role. 

Voyage to Rome Crossing and Shipwreck

A reading of chapter 11, Voyage to Rome, Crossing and Shipwreck, provides a wealth of historical detail surrounding St. Paul’s voyage to Rome. St. Paul appealed to Caesar, a right he enjoyed as a Roman citizen, not against Rome, but rather to defend himself against the Jews’ stubborn insistence that he (Paul) was guilty and needed to be punished.

This chapter begins with prisoner Saint Paul being brought to Rome by ship to defend himself. Since it was late September and the autumn storms were fast approaching, they had pulled into a port called “Fair Heavens.” The weather was always a concern, they held a council meeting on whether to stay in the port or try to sail onward.

Saint Paul who had traveled extensively and had been shipwrecked numerous times, recommended that they stay in port; otherwise, there would be injury to lives and damage to the ship. However, the Captain decided to move forward with their journey.

Since their destination was only a few hours away, they proceeded with their journey. A storm pursued which resulted in the crew throwing both cargo and rigging overboard. Everyone on the ship, 266 people, felt they were all going to die. Everyone was exhausted since many days had passed since they had left the port.

At that point, Saint Paul rose and addressed everyone on the ship stating, “I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Exactly as Saint Paul stated is what occurred.

They landed on the island of Malta, where Saint Paul healed many of their infirmities. This chapter ends with Saint Paul being brought to Rome and presenting his cause before many. Following his explanation to the people of Rome, some became believers and some did not. Saint Paul was permitted to stay in Rome for two years, in lodging that he rented, and he was permitted to proclaim Christ’s teachings to all of the many who came to him.

These passages relate important events in the history of Christianity and the spread of the Word of God. The historical details are rich in excitement and seem to provide wonderful material for a film depicting the importance of the early Christian period. I would recommend this chapter as beneficial reading and very  important information for the young adult and, certainly, anyone interested in, or perusing higher studies on the life and times of St. Paul. 

Chapter 7, The World of St Paul: The Second Missionary Journey II

Paul entered Athens in 50 AD and spent a few weeks bring the message of Christ to the people.  As a child Paul studied the classics and was extremely familiar with the Greek language and culture.  Therefore, it must have been difficult to enter the pagan land with all its statues and art which were dedicated to various ‘gods’.  In spite of this, Paul traveled through the city and taught about the resurrection of Jesus. 

 

The irony in the chapter is that Paul was approached by the stoics because they had heard he was preaching about “strange gods’.  Preaching about ‘other gods’ than the gods of the Greeks is what led to the condemnation of Protagoras, Socrates and others.  Paul was led up the 16 steps of the Aeropagus to face a tribunal because of his preaching.

 

He addressed them as had many other philosophers – “Men of Athens”.  However, Paul was quite ingenious in his defense.  He appealed to their sense of “religion” by noting that on his journey through the city he noticed that they had an altar dedicated to an “unknown god”.  It was this opportunity that he seized to continue his preaching about God.  The Athenians, for all their intellect, could not grasp what Paul was teaching and ultimately rejected him. All was not lost, however, as the Church took root upon the conversion of Dionysius, Demaris and others with them.

 

Paul only spent a short time in Athens before moving on to Corinth, Ephesus, Caesarea Maritima, Jerusalem and Antioch.  Each place he preached in the Synagogues.

 

I recommend this chapter, especially the first half, because it offers a contrast of the pagan world of Athens to the various Church’s that Paul was establishing throughout his missionary journey.  The key point that Callewaert makes is that the Athenians, for all their wisdom, become fools for rejecting God and embracing Nero

Saul’s Journey to Jerusalem and Young Adulthood.

In The World of St Paul Chapter Three “A Rabbinical Education” Calleawaert provides a vivid description of Saul’s Bar Mitzvah and his journey to Jerusalem where he received his rabbinical formation. 

At thirteen Saul became a “Son of the Law” and was declared worthy to wear the phylacteries two small leather boxes containing scripture passages. One fastened to his head and the other his left arm which symbolized his total adherence to the law. Saul continued to work as a tent maker and study the law. At age fourteen due to his maturity and intelligence he was sent to study in Jerusalem. He joined a caravan south into the land of his ancestors.

Here Callewaert describes a wonderful description of Old Testament history describing various landmarks and the events that occurred there. He discussed how perilous the journey could be due to thieves and robbers. One stretch of the journey was dubbed “The Bloody Path”.

Upon entering Jerusalem there is description of the temple and the religious practices it. Noteworthy was the Wall of Gentiles that threatened death to any Gentile who pass through it to the sacred area of the temple. No doubt this would influence Paul for the future.

After he made his paschal sacrifice Saul entered a Rabbinical school. There were two schools belonging to the sect of Phariessees: Shammai and Hillel. Shammai offered a broader interpretation of the law. Hillel offered a strict adherence to the law. Saul chose Hillel and study under Gamaliel who was a teacher held in high regard even by the Roman emperor Tiberius. Saul also had close association with Greek scholars and the Sophia Greek Wisdom. When his studies were complete, he return to Tauris and worked as a Tent Maker with his father.

I recommend this chapter. Callewaert is a wonderful writer who provides detailed historical context for Saul’s journey to Jerusalem and his young adulthood.  This chapter is a good resource for Bachelor or Master level biblical scholars.