The New International Encyclopædia/Paul (apostle)

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PAUL. The Apostle of Jesus Christ who was specially commissioned to work among the Gentiles. The sources from which we secure our knowledge of his life and work are his own Epistles and the Book of Acts. From these it is clear that the condition of the Church when he came to the full prosecution of his work was one which rendered that work not only most significant for the future development of the Church, but most revolutionary to the ideas which the Church's leaders entertained as to what that development should be. These leaders were the Apostles who had formed the nucleus of Jesus's discipleship during His ministry on earth. They were men of limited education, and with no great breadth of religious ideas. As a consequence their views of the necessary development of Jesus's religion practically restricted it to a reforming of Judaism in accordance with Jesus's teaching, and as this reformed Judaism went out in a new evangelism to the world, it involved the bringing of the world into this religion through the gateway of Judaism. Tn view of their Palestinian training and experience, these views were perfectly natural for the Apostles to entertain; but they were also clearly impossible for the Church to carry out, if the religion of Jesus was to realize for itself that world-wide development which the Gospels show us Jesus himself intended it should have. It was at this latter point that Paul through his work and teaching introduced into the Church new conceptions which virtually revolutionized its ideas and made possible for Christianity its development as a universal religion.

Paul's early name was Saul; he was a native of Tarsus, in the Province of Cilicia (Acts xxi. 39), where he was born about the beginning of the Christian Era. His parents were Jews (Acts xxiii. 6; II. Cor. xi. 22). His early training was doubtless that of the ordinary Jewish boy, though it was apparently at an early age that he was sent to Jerusalem to be educated in the Rabbinic schools of that city, having as his teacher in the sacred law the liberal-minded Gamaliel (Acts xxii. 3; see Gamaliel). According to his own testimony he threw his whole heart into all that was taught him there, becoming one of the straitest of the sect of the Pharisees, and having no conception beyond that of a salvation to be obtained through a perfect performance of the works of the Law (Gal. i. 14; Acts xxii. 3; xxvi. 4-5; Phil. iii. 4-6).

After his Rabbinic training he returned for a while to his native city, in order to learn his trade (Acts xviii. 3). While there he may possibly have supplemented his Jewish education by attendance upon the Gentile schools, for which Tarsus was famed. From Cilicia he came back to Jerusalem, where he became prominent in ecclesiastical affairs, being apparently chosen to membership in the Sanhedrin (Acts xxvi. 10). Though in Jerusalem for some time, it is not probable that he was there during the time of Jesus's ministry, for he does not seem to have ever seen the Great Teacher. He was, however, well acquainted with Jesus's Messianic claims and was clearly conscious of the opposition to Judaism which they involved. Consequently, when, after the Day of Pentecost, this new discipleship began to assume large proportions, and take to itself a definitely organized form, he shared in the bitter hostility to the movement which animated the religious leaders of the people. Into the persecution which this produced he threw himself with energy, participating practically in the death of Stephen (Acts vii. 58; viii. 1), and following up this assault with a rigor of inquisition that made him conspicuous among his fellows (Acts xxii. 4; .xxvi. 9-11; Gal. i. 13-14). In the year 34 or 35, however, while on a journey to Damascus undertaken for the purpose of searching out the disciples in that place and bringing them bound to Jerusalem, he went through the experience of a supernatural vision that brought him to his journey's end under the deep conviction of the sinfulness of the course he was pursuing (Acts ix. 1-9). Out of this state of soul he came a Christian disciple, profoundly convinced of the Messiahship of Jesus, and distinctly conscious of having received from his Master a commission to preach His religion among the nations of the earth (Acts ix. 10-18; Gal. i. 15-16).

This mission, however, he did not immediately carry out, but for the greater part of three years withdrew into the region of Arabia (Gal. i. 17). The purpose of this withdrawal it may not be possible definitely to determine, though, from the contrast in which he places it to the alternative course of conference with the Apostles at Jerusalem, it would seem that primarily it was for the sake of meditative thought upon the spiritual revolution which had taken place in his life. At the same time, it cannot be doubted that he availed himself of such opportunity of practical work as the region afforded (Gal. i. 15-23).

Upon his return to Damascus and Jerusalem he began to preach his new-found faith, evidently with some fuller conception of the Gentile direction of his mission than he had had immediately after his conversion (Acts ix. 19-22), especially in Jerusalem, where he singled out the Greek-speaking Jews, disputing with them, doubtless largely along the lines of the Messiahship of Jesus (Acts. ix. 28-29; xxii. 18). His motive in making Jerusalem the place of his preaching was apparently the courageous one of returning to the scene of his former work of persecution, and bearing open testimony to Jesus before those with whom he had formerly been associated. That this, however, was not what the Master intended him to do is clear from the fact that while in Jerusalem he was made conscious through a vision that he was to leave the city and give himself to work among the more distant Gentiles (Acts xxii. 17-20).

In obedience to this command, he went to his home in Cilicia, visiting on the way the regions of Syria, where in all probability he accomplished some work of a Gentile character in the city of Antioch. Such a hypothesis at least explains the reason for the statement that refugees from the Stephen persecution in Jerusalem coming to Antioch changed the character of their ministry and preached the word to those who were not pure Jews (Acts xi. 19-20), and that, upon the successful outcome of their preaching, Paul was summoned from Tarsus to give his aid and assistance in the development of this new movement {Acts xi. 21-26).

Antioch became thus the place of Paul's labors, and here his ministry gradually reached the full Gentile character which the Master had intended it should have, resulting finally, under divine direction, in the sending out of Paul and Barnabas to the neighboring Gentile regions of Asia Minor (Acts xiii. 1-3). The remarkable success of this mission brought Paul at last to a consciousness of the full meaning of his Gentile commission (Acts xiii. 44-48), and also brought the Church to a full realization of the significance of this new departure. In fact, upon their return to Antioch. Paul and Barnabas were confronted with a grave and serious dispute. Parties representing the extreme Jewish element in the Mother Church came to Antioch insisting upon the need of circumcision in order to salvation. This was so contrary to Paul's fundamental conception of salvation by faith that surrender was impossible, and under the advice of the local Church the controversy was carried up to Jerusalem for submission to the Apostles and Elders there (Acts xv. 1-2). A clear understanding of the resultant council and the position in it of Paul and Barnabas on the one side, and the leaders of the Church on the other, can only be secured by recognizing the development through which Paul's work had gone from his own original conception of it, and especially from the original conception of it held by the Jerusalem Church. That Paul had the fundamentals of his theology from the time of his conversion may he accepted, as far as our records give any light; that these fundamentals included a clear conviction of the principles of justification by faith is almost necessary, if Paul's theology is to be understood as in any sense self-consistent—for this principle is practically essential to his thinking. But while Paul may have possessed the principle of his theology from the beginning, it is manifestly clear that the practical experiences of his work had an effect upon the application which he gave to these principles. Few greater experiences, however, did he go through in his work than that of the wholesale conversion of the Gentiles during his first mission tour. That these experiences must have given strength to his conviction of justification by faith is of course very clear; but it is also clear that it must have widely broadened the application of that principle in the direction of the universalizing of the Gospel beyond the bounds of Judaism. If, however, such was the influence of this experience upon Paul's own views, its effect upon the slower and more conservative views of the Jerusalem Church must have been even more significant. That Paul told them fully of his commission to a Gentile work at his first visit to the city after his conversion may not be doubted; that they fairly understood his position, and frankly accepted it, would seem to be clear from the companionship with them into which the records show him to have entered; but if Paul himself at that time had but an undeveloped view of all his theology meant in the direction of a justification by faith, much less developed must have been the views on this point of those in the Jerusalem Church. It may be safely said that their conception of and agreement to Paul's position was largely theoretical until the results of this first mission tour startled them into a realization of the full significance of his commission. Treasuring as they did the Jewish origin of Jesus's religion and the Jewish character of his discipleship, this wholesale ingathering of the uncircumcised Gentiles naturally seemed to them to herald the doom of the Church.

From such a situation it was inevitable that there should come dispute and controversy. The extremists on the side of the Jerusalem Church insisted on circumcision—the distinctive feature of ceremonial Judaism—as necessary to salvation and acceptance within the Church. Paul and his followers insisted on the freedom from this rite given by the essential principle of justification by faith. It was the determination of this contention, in the light of the practical results of the first mission tour, that constituted the real question before the Jerusalem Council; and the decision which was reached to grant the Gentiles, with a few unessential provisos, full freedom from the ceremonial law was a result which was not only a triumph for the views of Paul, but a salvation for the Church itself. For, in spite of the conviction of the Jerusalem leaders, the Church's future lay beyond Judaism, and could be reached only as the way to Christ was no longer obstructed by the forms which Judaism imposed.

From this council Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and soon afterwards Paul, having disagreed with Barnabas on some matters of their practical work, took with him Silas, who had come down with them from Jerusalem, and started upon his second missionary tour (Acts xv. 30-40). On this tour he first revisited the churches established at an earlier period in Syria and Cilicia, as well as those gathered together on his first journey. From one of these latter churches he secured Timothy to be a helper in his work. Upon arriving finally at Antioch in Pisidia he essayed to go farther westward into the Province of Asia, but, being divinely forbidden, he returned northward with a view ultimately of entering the Province of Bithynia, but, again, being forbidden by the Holy Spirit, he turned westward to the seacoast town of Troas, the old classical region of Troy (Acts xv. 41-xvi. 8).

It is clear from his general policy of selecting the large city centres for his work that Paul's purpose in this further extension of his journey beyond Antioch had been to go to Ephesus and, when forbidden to preach there, to go northward to Byzantium, which at that time was within the Province of Bithynia. The divine prevention of this policy, confusing though it was, left him naturally convinced that the Master had for him some distinctive mission to perform. He was consequently in a receptive mood for the vision which came to him at Troas and called him across the water to Thrace.

In obedience to this divine direction he entered upon his first European mission, passing down along the commercial highway that gave him entrance at the important towns of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea and finally brought him to Athens and Corinth (Acts xvi. 9-xviii. 1). At all of these places, as far as Corinth, his mission efforts had been disappointing, either being broken off by persecution or being received with indifference and contempt. As a consequence he came at last to Corinth in a despondent frame of mind (I. Cor. ii. 3). At this last place, however, his work was greatly blessed, and for a year and a half he and his companions remained in that region establishing churches, not only in Corinth itself, but throughout the Province of Achaia (Acts xviii. 2-11; II. Cor. i. 1). It was during the early part of his stay in Corinth that, anxious for their welfare in the face of persecution, corrupting influences, and false teachings, he wrote his two letters to the Thessalonians, generally considered the earliest of his preserved writings. (See Thessalonians, Epistles to the.) From Corinth Paul returned by sea to Syria, stopping on the voyage at Ephesus long enough to reason in the synagogue and make promise of a return for more extended work. Landing finally at Cæsarea, he went up to Jerusalem with greetings to the Church, and then returned to Antioch (Acts xviii. 18-22).

After some time spent there he set out upon his third mission tour, visiting again the churches of Southern Asia Minor, and in fulfillment of his promise proceeded on to Ephesus. At this large centre of activity and influence he remained at work for the greater part of three years, carrying the Gospel, either personally or through his helpers, throughout the entire seacoast Province of Asia (Acts xviii. 23-xix. 20: xx. 17-35; I. Cor. xvi. 19). During this period he was in more or less contact with the Church at Corinth, whose problems of organization, Christian brotherhood, and moral life necessitated frequent comnumication with the Apostle. This produced considerable correspondence, portions of which are preserved in his Corinthian Epistles. It is quite clear that late in this period, in answer to an urgent summons, he made a hurried trip from Ephesus to Corinth by the direct route across the sea. The occasion of the visit was evidently a new manifestation of factional tendencies in the Church. The visit was apparently quite brief, and resulted in a practical failure to straighten out the situation. (See Corinthians, Epistles to the.) Soon after his return to Ephesus from this fruitless trip Paul was obliged to leave the city, because of disturbances occasioned by pagan resentment of his increasingly successful work. To give himself and the people at Corinth time to recover from the disappointing experiences of his recent visit, as well as to visit the Macedonian churches established on his previous journey, he selected the less direct route by the way of Troas (Acts xix. 23-xx. 1; II. Cor. i. 23-ii. 13). On the way he again wrote to the Corinthians and engaged in more or less mission work in the provinces south of Macedonia, covering the territory up to if not across the borders of Illyricum. It is quite likely that during the progress of this work he received the startling news from the Galatian churches which occasioned his letter to them. (See Galatians, Epistle to the.) Reaching Corinth in the late autumn or early winter of the year 55, he remained there three months (Acts xx. 1-3). During this time he wrote his letter to the Church at Rome—a church he had not founded or seen, but to the visiting of which he looked forward with earnest longing, and largely to prepare them for this visit he sent them his letter. See Romans, Epistle to the.

In the spring of 56 he left Corinth for Jerusalem with quite a company, who doubtless represented the churches that had been engaged in gathering a contribution for the Mother Church (Acts xx. 4. See also I. Cor. xvi. 1-4; II. Cor. viii.-ix.). After a journey which was accompanied by some incidents of a foreboding nature, to all of which Paul's mind seemed resignedly receptive, he reached Jerusalem (Acts xx. 3-xxi. 15). His reception by the brethren of the Church was full of Christian fellowship; at the same time it was clear that the leaders were deeply impressed by the growing alienation from Paul among the believing Jews. As a consequence they suggested that he carry out in the temple a certain course of ceremonial observance designed to show his respect for the Law of Moses, and to disprove the charge that he everywhere urged its abandonment by the Christian Jews. This he willingly did; but his action was so misunderstood and the motive for it so misconstrued as to rouse against him a riotous demonstration on the part of the Jews in general, that would have ended his life but for the rescue of his person effected by the soldiers of the adjoining Roman garrison (Acts xxi. 17-32).

It is clear from this incident, as presented in the passage cited, that the head and front of Paul's offending in the eyes of the Jews was not so much his heralding of the Messiahship of Jesus as his denial of the continued obligation of the Mosaic Law. This is instructive as to the large significance of the controversy which ensued upon his first mission journey and which, in spite of the wise action of the Jerusalem Council, wrought itself into the Galatian and to a certain degree into the Corinthian churches. Paul's position as to the absolute essentiality of the principle of justification by faith alone apparently went to the heart of the whole problem of salvation as it was present before the early Church.

Having found it impossible to secure from the excited mob any idea of the offense of which his prisoner was guilty, and Paul himself asserting his rights of Roman citizenship, the chief captain of the guard, Claudius Lysias, summoned a council of the Sanhedrin and brought Paul before it for examination (Acts xxi. 33-xxii. 30). This gathering, however, resulting in nothing but disorder among the members of the court, and, information having been brought of a desperate plot against Paul's life by a secret band of Jews, Claudius Lysias sent him away by night under heavy guard to Cæsarea with letters to Felix, Governor of the Province of Syria, whose official residence was at that place (Acts xxiii.).

Paul's stay at Cæsarea, which lasted some two years, was practically a continued commitment for trial. He appeared before Felix soon after his arrival at Cæsarea and pleaded his cause against the High Priest Ananias and certain of the elders from Jerusalem, who were accompanied by counsel. But, though the prosecution failed to make out their case, no decision was reached by the Governor (Acts xxiv. 1-23). Later Paul was summoned before Felix and his wife to speak “concerning the faith in Jesus Christ,” but, though the Apostle “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come” in such a way as to make a terrifying impression upon Felix, the fear was wholly transient; for Paul was returned again to prison, where Felix kept him through the remainder of his term of office, arranging frequent hearings from him and interviews with him, in hope of securing from the Apostle a bribe for his release. Finally, in order to please the Jews, he handed him over bound to his successor, Festus (Acts xxiv. 24-27).

Before Festus Paul appeared but once, being again confronted with his accusers from Jerusalem, who as before failed to make out a case against him. When, however, the Governor seemed about to follow in his predecessor's steps and ignore the evidence presented, suggesting that Paul go up to Jerusalem for another trial, the Apostle, on the basis of his rights of citizenship, transferred the case to Rome by appealing to Cæsar. Such action left the Governor no further choice, though he took the opportunity of Agrippa's presence in Cæsarea to bring Paul once more into court, and to have his case heard by his royal visitor (Acts xxv.). In his defense, the Apostle presented before Agrippa the course of his life and the grounds of his Christian hope, persuading the King, as he had in fact both Governors, that there was no reason for his being retained in bonds (Acts xxvi. 1-31). Beyond such personal impressions, however, his plea was of no use, since his appeal to the Emperor made transportation to Rome obligatory upon the authorities (Acts xxvi. 32).

The voyage to Italy was begun in the fall of 58, being marked by disastrous experiences which resulted in shipwreck on the island of Malta (q.v.). There the company remained through the winter, continuing their voyage in the spring and reaching at last their journey's end at the Imperial capital some time in the early half of the year 59 (Acts xxvii. 1-xxviii. 14). Here Paul was cordially welcomed by the Christian brethren of the city and kindly received by the authorities, being allowed to reside under guard in his own hired house, with freedom of intercourse among his friends and liberty of preaching his gospel (Acts xxviii. 15-31). It was during this period of imprisonment that he wrote his letters to the Philippians, the Colossians, Philemon, and the Ephesians. Of these, Philippians and Philemon, especially Philemon, dwell upon the Apostle's personal relation to the readers, though the practical problems of Christian brotherhood and moral living emerge quite clearly in Philippians. On the other hand, Colossians and Ephesians were intended to counteract doctrinal errors of a subtle nature involving a large element of nascent Gnosticism. This is especially true of Colossians, Ephesians, as an encyclical letter, emphasizing rather the principles of Christian solidarity in the membership of the churches. See the articles on the above letters.

It is a matter of considerable debate as to what was the outcome of this imprisonment at Rome, though the better critical opinion of the present day tends in the direction of holding that after some two years Paul was brought to trial before Nero, and on the absence of any real evidence against him was released. After this release he returned to the region of his former missionary labors in the East, engaging again in active work, in the course of which he was rearrested and transported again as a captive to Rome. At his second trial he was sentenced to death, which was accomplished not later than the year 65. During this return he wrote the letter to Titus, and the first letter to Timothy, both of which have to do almost wholly with the practical matters of Church organization and discipline. His second letter to Timothy was written after his reimprisonment at Rome, shortly before his death, and is practically his last word of personal counsel and encouragement to his trusted helper and friend. See the articles on these letters.

The picture of Paul stands clearly before us in the records which the New Testament gives—a man of education, if not of culture, for his time—a Roman citizen and yet a Jew, a student of the Scriptures, a zealot in the law, and withal a conscientious seeker for the way of life within the circle of its precepts—consequently an earnest persecutor of the disciples of Jesus until divinely convinced of his error, when all his energy and enthusiasm and loyal devotion were transferred to his new life and infused into his new work. In this new life and work, however, Paul manifestly remained a Jew. He did not conceive of his Christianity as having severed him from the Israel of God, but rather as having enabled him to realize the ideal of Israel's Godward relations. His doctrinal thinking consequently found its historical and logical background in the Old Testament, rising through its anthropology and its soteriology to its climax in its Christology. His doctrine of Christ controlled all the rest of his theology. It was the beginning point of his preaching and formed the main theme of his last letters to his churches. In all his thinking he was intense and characteristically logical, though he often clothed his thought in the old Rabbinic forms which he had brought with him from the Jerusalem schools, and frequently yielded to the rhetorical impulses more or less belonging to his intensity of nature. He was not metaphysical, even in treating the profoundest themes, but practical in the extreme and sympathetic on broad and comprehensive lines. Though his position in the matter of relationship to ceremonial Judaism was not that of the Jerusalem leaders, his views came to dominate the Church, and he himself became the Church's leader in its world work. On the theology of the Church since his day his influence has not been even. During the centuries immediately succeeding the Apostolic age it largely if not completely disappeared, being revived in its doctrine of man and of salvation in the theology of Augustine and receiving again at these points its conspicuous restoration in the essential position of the Protestant Reformation. Since then these Pauline doctrines have come and gone with the rise and fall of that trend of thinking which may be termed Calvinistic. To-day they are not prominent, being dominated by a mode of thought which is characterized by a spiritualism of the feelings that has come to us from the Schleiermacher school, though Paul's supreme doctrine of Christ, which really controls his thought, contributes more to the present-day exaltation of Jesus than is popularly supposed.

Bibliography. For consideration of the sources (a) from the point of criticism: consult the New Testament introductions and the critical discussions referred to in articles on the Epistles and the Book of Acts; (b) from the point of exegesis: consult the commentaries referred to in these articles. For study of the times: Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Christi (Eng. trans., New York, 1896); Weber, Jüdische Theologie (Leipzig, 1897); Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire (New York, 1894). For study of the chronology: Burton, Records and Letters of the Apostolic Age (New York, 1895); Clemen, Die Chronologie der paulinischen Briefe (Halle, 1893); Harnack, Chronologie der altchristlichen Litteratur, Band i. (Leipzig, 1897). For study of the man: Baur, Paulus (Eng. trans., Edinburgh, 1873-75); Renan, Les apôtres ( Eng. trans.. London, 1869); id., Saint Paul (Eng. trans., ib., 1887); Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of Saint Paul (ib., 1850-52); Lewin, Life and Epistles of Saint Paul (ib., 1851 ); Farrar, Life and Work of Saint Paul (London, 1879); Stalker, Life of Saint Paul (New York, 1884); Matheson, The Spiritual Development of Saint Paul (Edinburgh, 1892); Ramsay, Saint Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen (New York, 1896); Cone, Paul the Man, the Missionary, and the Teacher (New York, 1898); Gilbert, The Student's Life of Saint Paul (New York, 1899). Consult also McGiffert, History of Christianity in the Apostolic Age (New York, 1897). For study of Paul's teaching: Ritschl, Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche (Bonn, 1857); Sabatier, L'apôtre Paul (Eng. trans., New York, 1891); Pfleiderer, The Influence of the Apostle Paul on the Development of Christianity (Hibbert Lectures for 1885; New York, 1885); Knowling, The Witness of the Epistles (London, 1892); Holsten, Das Evangelium des Paulus (Berlin, 1880-98); Bruce, Saint Paul's Conception of Christianity (New York, 1894); Stevens, The Pauline Theology, (New York, 1892). Consult also the accepted works on New Testament theology.