Paul of Tarsus
1. Life of Paul
a. Born in Tarsus (Eastern Turkey) as a Roman citizen
b. Brought up as a Pharisee and skilled in Jewish Law and tradition
c. Became convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead through a blinding vision
d. Never knew Jesus yet became instrumental in spreading the belief in a crucified
messiah to urban populations throughout Asia Minor and into Macedonia and
2. Paul’s theological background.
a. Grew up as a Jew who believed strongly in monotheism (there is one God who
is creator of the world) and election (God has chosen Israel to be his people).
b. Jew’s task was to be faithful to God by keeping the Torah and God would
deliver them from the present age with a messiah who would usher in a new
3. Paul’s Mission
a. Establishment of a universal church centered on Jesus Christ.
b. Spread Christianity through the establishment and support of small churches.
Writes letters in support of these churches which become part of the New
c. Argues that Jewish law is irrelevant for membership in the new church and that
circumcision and dietary laws need not be followed. The influence of Roman
jurisprudence which makes a distinction between the spirit and the letter of the
law can be seen in his writings.
3. Paul’s Teachings
a. View that God had raised Jesus from the dead (resurrection) and therefore was
Jesus was the “Christ” (Greek) from Hebrew Messioch, “the anointed one.”
Believed that Jesus was God incarnate.
b. Redefined monotheism to explain this phenomenon of God becoming flesh.
c. Describes God as having one divine essence that is expressed in 3 forms: The
Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. These beings are “consubstantial,” or of one
Divine essence, as the Council of Nicea in 325 later articulates.
d. Jesus is the Son of God and it is faith in his crucifixion and resurrection that is
important for salvation, not obedience to Mosaic Law
e. Original Sin: sin and death came into being with Adam and Eve. As a result of
their sin humans are condemned to die. Humankind does not have the power to
make themselves good apart from God.
f. God is merciful and sends his Son to bear the sins of the world on his shoulders.
It is through this sacrificial death that we are saved from eternal death.
i. This is God’s gift to the world: “There is therefore now no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit
of Life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”
(Romans. 8: 1-2).
ii. Enabled the explosive growth of Christianity by appealing to Gentiles
who were attracted to Jewish monotheism but repelled by the
requirements of following the Law.