Chapter 9, The Ascent to Jerusalem, Kathy Ross

        Chapter 9- The Ascent to Jerusalem

       During Paul’s missionary travels, he wrote two important letters, one to his beloved people of Galatia and the other to the Romans, a people unfamiliar to him. In Galatia, the Judaizers were doubting the teachings of Christ. Major disputes were erupting regarding dietary laws and circumcision. The Galatians questioned the teaching of Paul as the true Gospel. Paul’s response was highly emotional, “For in Christ Jesus…faith working through love” ( Gal 5:6). Paul lists fifteen faults of the Galatians and insists on his own authority by divine revelation. Paul exhorts God’s people to “love their neighbor as themselves” and ends this letter, to the Galatians, with a blessing.  The Letter to the Romans is Paul’s longest letter, as a sort of final will and testament. Two themes were relayed. The first addressed the stormy relationship between the Judaizing Christians and the Gentile Christians, and the second sought to obtain financial help for a missionary trip to Spain. Paul stressed the great importance of salvation for all through the “freedom of Christianity,” through Jesus Christ. “The gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Gal 1:16). In the second part of this letter, the moral piece, Paul focused on “a life based on love.” (pg. 137) With his words, Paul found a way to unite the disagreeing parties. All are one in the Body of Christ. Paul’s letters were building the universal beliefs of Christ’s Church, trusting that each church area would financially support other distant churches in Christ’s Name. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Romans 14:7). The inclusive nature of the church, as determined by Jesus, welcomed all of the faithful. 

               In both letters, Paul’s words were strong and persuasive. His intent could not be mistaken. When problems arose, Paul’s responses presented a clear direction for the people in Galatia and Rome. Although all discussion or dissension needed to be heard, Paul assured all of the faithful that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Paul’s words encouraged the faithful to “Bear one another’s burdens, so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). His words could not be mistaken as a gentle reprimand for poor choices or flagrant sin. There was no doubting the strength of Paul’s words. The fulfillment of the Old Testament came through Jesus Christ in the New Testament. People needed to hear and then choose to live as Christ instructed. These communications helped the faithful by illuminating their misperceptions and strengthening their faith. The Letters of Saint Paul gave clarity and purpose to the people. 

            Historically, the travels of Saint Paul are interesting. He journeyed by boat and on foot, avoiding places of danger and plots to have him assassinated. Paul hoped  to arrive in Jerusalem by the Pentecost celebration. He travelled from Asia to Assos, the Isle Lesbos, Isle of Chios, Samos, Miletus, Island of Cos, Rhodes, Port of Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea Maritima, and then Jerusalem. Certainly, Saint Paul was a man with a mission. His zeal for spreading the Word of the Lord was enthusiastic and heartfelt. Paul’s words should be read by all. His later life portrayed his great love of Jesus.  Nothing “else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

The World of St. Paul- Joseph M. Callewaert- Chapter 8- The Third Missionary Journey

Summary of Chapter 8, The Third Missionary Journey – Ephesus

The World of Saint Paul by Joseph M. Callewaert

 

In this chapter Callewaert writes about Paul’s third missionary journey which was to the city of Ephesus.  He begins by describing the type of city Ephesus was and gives the reader an overview of the people who lived there, before and during Paul’s visit.  From Callewaert’s description, we see that Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the region and became “the most opulent and lavish city in Asia.”  

 

The people in Ephesus were accustomed to lives of vice, so much so, that the virtuous philosopher, Hermodorus, was banished from the city. Of note is the Ephesians’ worship of the pagan god, Diana, to which a beautiful temple was built. The temple’s high priest was known to incite men to do immoral and degrading debauchery through dances performed by priestesses. This is the type of opulent and decadent city to which Paul traveled in AD 54 to preach the good news.

 

We read that in Ephesus Paul found only a few believers whom he baptized in the name of Jesus. He cured the sick and drove out evil spirits and during this time the people, both Jews and Greeks began to believe in Jesus and convert.

 

Callewaert describes significant events of Paul’s journey in this chapter. He relates that Paul’s stay in Ephesus brought major trouble when a silversmith incited a riot against him because he lost business making pagan items. During his stay in Ephesus Paul received a letter from Timothy regarding the bad state of affairs of the church in Corinth. To handle the problems Paul assessed the situation and decided to send Titus with two letters: one that addressed the immoralities and the quarreling that crept into the Corinthian community and answered the questions they had about marriage and pagan cults and the second letter which clarifies the relations between Judaism and Christianity and lays the blame for Corinth’s problems on agitators, most likely Jews from outside the community. He also tells of his own suffering, almost to death, for the cause of Christ.  We see how the church in the first century was connected and unified when Callewaert writes that despite all that is going on, Paul finds time to organize a collection for the church in Jerusalem.  

 

This chapter is interesting and informs the inspired reader of the city of Ephesus, it’s citizens, and a number of obstacles Paul had to overcome. Those who are called to evangelize can benefit from reading Callewaert’s depiction of the adversity and difficulties Paul encountered to in order to preach the good news and spread the Word of God.

Paul’s Journey Continues…. Callewaert Chapter 6 –

This chapter was easy to read. There were times where it was easy to imagine yourself there in the scene with Paul as details are being described.  The author did an excellent job of synergizing the information and putting it together into what seem to be a seamless story about a part of Paul’s life.  In Paul’s travels which we see in the Acts becomes alive with information added and explanations why those locations were significant to people of that time and included cultural, mythology, history, science and sprinkled us with information about situations that happened in that location in a previous time or a future time. Map of the travels of Paul helped me picture the scenes along with details given by Callewaert

At the same time, this book was written to make Paul accessible to Catholics and Christians who do not really know who Paul is. A lot of assumptions were made about readers and that they would know who people named in this book. “Famous Theodore was bishop for 36 years” was one of few distracting tidbits that had me as reader, go how is this relevant to this chapter?  It is obvious that Callewaert wanted to give as much information he could in a single book which made it hard to follow the timelines  about a location Paul and Silas was and jumped from one point to time to another point such as this location will be the spot of a battle in 273 and also was a location of a battle in 333 B.C. can make one ‘s head spin trying to remember what is going on with Paul.  

The ability to weave various stories from few different books of bible into Paul’s life was impressive whenever it was from Acts, 2 Tim, or Revelations. Chapter 6 begins with Acts 15:36 where Paul and Barnabas decide to part ways and go separately. This scene seems to play out more vividly in the book like a soap opera due to the fact that it was made explicit that Barnabas was never mentioned again in the New Testament and that Tradition tells us he is buried in Salamis.

This chapter also gave us insights into how Paul used prayer. It began with wanting to visit brethren to see how they were doing. When Paul learned about Timothy, he did not want to offend other believers so Timothy was circumcised then Paul laid his hands on him and ordained Timothy. Both men preached together and telling others to pray for their enemies. They kept Sabbath and used prayer buildings. They would sometimes pray near flowing waters because of Jewish ritual purifications when synagogues were not available. They sang hymns to God when they were in prison. When traveling by boat, Callewaert is certain that Paul used that time for prayer and contemplation.

As we read this chapter, we cannot forget that we are Paul in today’s world as indicated in the story with girl who could predict the future and kept following Paul and telling others that he works for Most High God. Paul then cast out the evil spirit out of her which led to the people in town to arrest Paul. While in jail, Paul kept his faith and when presented with an opportunity to escape he still saved the life of someone who was keeping him in jail and baptized this person as well.  

This was a well written chapter that made the scenes visible and made a lot of assumptions about the reader’s knowledge such as understanding church history tidbits and idioms.

The Journey that Changed the World (Callewart – Chapter 5)

What a momentous event in the history of the Church. We are all called to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and here we see Paul, Barnabas, and John-Mark sailing from Antioch to put that call into action. They start by visiting Cyprus with its colorful mix of shrines and temples…mostly not “G”rated. In Cyprus, a roman seeking more than his religion offered him, invites them to his home. When a theosophist magician opposes the meeting, Paul calls on the hand of the Lord and blinds him. The Roman gets the picture and quickly embraces the faith. Christianity soon replaces the cult of Venus in Cyprus. John-Mark leaves them at this point and Paul and Barnabas press on to Antioch of Pisidia. Here they are welcomed into synagogues in their capacities as Rabbi and Levite as guests of honor. After the religious service, they are asked if they have anything to say. Paul seizes the moment and offers the first sermon that we have by him on record. The people hear what Paul has to say with some interest… asking him to come back and speak again the following week. The Jews soon come to their senses and “revile” Paul. At this, Paul chastises them for rejecting the word of God, which had to be spoken to them first. Since the Jews don’t want to hear it, they will turn to the gentiles. And so we have a historic moment… the beginning of the systematic proclamation of Christianity to the Gentiles. Paul and Barnabas shake the dust from their sandals and go to Iconium where they are well received by Jews and Greeks. Eventually they wear out their welcome and leave before the Jews and pagans stone them. Their work would bear fruit as Iconium would serve for many centuries as an important center for Christianity. In Lystra, their next stop, Paul heals a paralytic and the people assume Barnabas is Zeus and Paul is Hermes. The priest of Zeus hears that Zeus is in town and brings bulls to sacrifice to him. Paul and Barnabas tear their garments and insist they are men and not Gods. As if on cue….Jews from cities they had previously visited arrive and persuade the people to stone them. Paul is actually stoned this time and left for dead. When people come to pay last respects, he miraculously stands up, goes back to the city, and the journey continues. Following a final and productive stop in Derbe, they retrace their route back to Antioch where they rest after their perilous 680 mile journey.

Paul and Barnabas are soon called to Jerusalem to share in the debate about whether of not gentiles need to follow the Law of Moses. They share stories of their journey with those gathered in what would be the first council of the Christian Church. Their testimony helps the early Church discern a solution to their first great crisis. The chapter ends with an affirming story of how Peter and Paul deal with a follow-on incident when Peter visited Antioch. The issue of circumcision comes up and Peter wavers in his actions until Paul gives him some aggressive counseling on the matter. The author affirms that the apostles, although they have their arguments (some heated) demonstrate great “spiritual solidarity” in what they say and do.

I have never read an account of the first missionary journey like this and that is a shame. I actually think too few Catholics spend enough time understanding what the apostles did for us in the early church. This was an incredible journey, filled with miracles and near death experiences. These were not Gods, but men like us. As for the text, I think the author offers too much historical detail to make this suitable for a bible study or a casual read. His detailed accounts of history, while interesting, distract from the story of the mission. Historical heavy handedness aside, the elements related to Paul and Barnabas and the relevant regional facts do give a comprehensive and moving account of this mission that changed the world forever.   

Paul’s Extreme Makeover

Metanoia, or the Conversion of Saul, Chapter 4, of Joseph Callewaert’s The World of Saint Paul is a before and after account of St. Paul. We start the chapter with Saul (Paul), a rabbi, persecuting Christians, and after an amazing transformation following an encounter with the Lord, we end with Paul becoming one of the first Christian missionaries to the Gentiles. According to Callewaert, this encounter with Jesus qualifies Paul as a legitimate disciple. However, the other disciples were a little leery of Paul’s conversion at first. Not that I really thought too much about it before, but I probably would have also questioned Paul’s motives if he suddenly wanted to join the ranks of Jesus’s disciples, especially considering his checkered past.

  For those of you in the diaconate program, it may be a little troubling to know that Paul was a part of the group that consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr. After Stephen’s martyrdom, Paul was looking to overtake other Christian territories and was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus when his conversion took place. It happened just outside of Damascus in a village named Kawbab. Following the appearance of the Lord, Paul continued into Damascus where he met Ananias who cured him from his temporary blindness and baptized him. Then, Paul began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God and testify to His resurrection. With his powers of persuasion, Paul angered the Jews enough for them to want to kill him. Paul then set out for Jerusalem, where Barnabas brought him to the disciples. As he continued to preach in the name of the Lord and speak out against the Hellenists, he was again being sought to be killed, so was sent off to Tarsus, his home town. With the number of conversions to Christianity, Barnabas sought Paul to bring him to Antioch of Syria, which was referred to as the second Rome. It was a Roman bastion of Hellenistic culture and pleasure, sin city, which was then converted by Barnabas and Paul to a Christian stronghold. Christianity remained strong from the mid 40’s to the mid 300’s, becoming the center of a school of theology and claiming Ignatius, John Chrysostom, and Saint Augustine as its residents.

  This is a very interesting historical account of Paul’s conversion, with an interesting biblical emphasis on the road where the conversion took place as well as a focus on the conversion of Antioch of Syria. It lacks the spirituality around a conversion and rather focuses more on the facts. As Callewaert consistently reminds us of Paul’s strong ties to Judaism, it makes his conversion that more amazing. It is a wonderful, historical insight surrounding the time of Paul’s conversion and the ability he was given to convert others to Christianity. I would recommend this chapter to anyone who is looking for a historical account of Paul’s conversion rooted in scripture.