In the very beginning of “The First Paul” Borg and Crossan claim that Paul is second only to Jesus in importance in the origins of Christianity. Never reading any of Paul’s letters myself I am unable to agree or disagree. The next thing I notice about this introduction is Paul’s writings that many would consider appalling. Paul is quoted supporting slavery, anti-Semitism and the subjugation of women. Despite some of these appalling beliefs Paul takes up about half of the New Testament, either through his 13 letters or the 16 chapters he is present in the Book of Acts. Paul’s greatest effort was in the recruitment of Gentiles, not just Jews, into the movement of Jesus.This considerable effort eventually led to the new Christian religion. Paul succeeded in converting many Gentiles and Jews and is therefore extremely influential for the growth of the new religion. In addition, to helping create a religion during his lifetime, Paul also managed to influence many christian churches that blossomed during the reformation. Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Wesley were the leaders of the Lutheran, Calvinist and Methodist churches, respectively. Each one of these leaders incorporated Paul’s writings into their religions. Paul seems very two-sided, he has an intense influence over the religious lives of many Gentiles and Jews, but also writes out some of his harsh beliefs.
Crossan mentions an ancient artifact which shows Peter and Paul on a boat. The Interesting part of the artifact, which is in fact a bronze lamp, is that Paul guides while Peter steers. This shows the importance and camaraderie that must have been present amongst the two men. In addition, this enlightened me to the fact that Paul is as important to Christians as Peter was.
The concept of radical grace meant for Luther that God accepts us just as we are, and christian life is about living more fully into that realization. I disagree with this belief of grace because I believe God sent Jesus to be an example of how one is supposed to live. In addition, I think changing yourself for the better and trying to be the best person you can be is important for this life and for the possible judgment that occurs in the next. Another possible teaching of Paul’s was that faith is the new requirement for salvation. I tend to disagree with this belief as well because I think actions speak louder then words and even words speak louder than thoughts, and for me having faith for some people can be a ‘get out of jail free card’ in some ways. What I mean by this is people use faith as an excuse to do whatever they want, if faith is the number one requirement for salvation than why commit christian actions if your faith has already saved you. I believe that making good chooses throughout life in addition to faith is a more realistic way to attain salvation.
Paul states in his passage to the Romans that every person must obey the governing authorities because God put all of them in place. It seems odd to me that God chose each ruler and government authority. I disagree with this passage of Paul’s because this would mean all political leaders in history have been pre-ordained by God to rule their specific nation. If one were to believe this passage whole-heartedly then they would be instant subjects and would not even think of speaking out against a leader. This inability to revolt goes directly against our God given free will and therefore the passage must be wrong.
Though Paul receives a lot of criticism for his prejudgments, it is to be remembered that he was a faithful apostle to Jesus who managed to spread the word in many Roman cities. Paul wrote his letters to small communities of early christians rather, than the cities we know as the titles of most letters. In addition, these were communities that Paul had either visited or had once been apart of. For this reason the letters are not messages about Jesus, but rather as the letters were responses to problems that early christian communities were facing. In many ways Paul, up there with Peter, was an early leader of the early christians.