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Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 2

Introduction to Paul (Part 2)

Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 2
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Introduction to Paul (Part 2)

Introduction to Paul

 

I. The Canon of the New Testament

A. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts

B. Letters of Paul

1. Letters to churches (decreasing length)

2. Letters to individuals (decreasing length)

C. Hebrews, General Epistles (James, Peter, John, Jude), Revelation

 

II. Paul's Life Before His Letters

A. A.D. 5-10: birth in Tarsus

B. Age 5-12: elementary education

C. Age 12-14?: tentmaking apprenticeship

D. Age 15-18?: study with Gamaliel in Jerusalem

E. A.D. 32-35 (age twenty-something): conversion/call/commission

F. Until A.D. 47-48: "hidden years" but eventually in ministry in Syrian Antioch

 

III. Theological Changes from Saul's Conversion

A. Christology

B. Soteriology

C. Eschatology

D. Ecclesiology

 

IV. Paul's 4 Missionary Journeys

 

V. Fixed Points in the Chronology of Acts

A. Ascension and Pentecost [A.D. 30] Acts 1-2

B. Stoning of Stephen and conversion of Saul [A.D.32 or 33]

C. Paul's first Jerusalem visit [C.A. A.D. 35]

D. Death of Herod Agrippa I [A.D. 44] Acts 12

E. Height of famine in Judea [A.D. 46] Acts 11:27-30

F. First missionary journey, Apostolic Council, and second missionary journey (1+ years in Corinth) [A.D. 49]

G. Gallio in Corinth [A.D. 51-52] Acts 18:12

H. Third missionary journey [A.D. 52-55]

I. 3 years in Ephesus [A.D. 53-56]

J. Return to Jerusalem/arrest and imprisonment under Felix (2 years) [A.D. 57-59]

K. Accession of Festus [A.D. 59] Acts 24:27

L. Two years in Rome [A.D. 60-62]

 

VI. Chronology of Paul's Letters

A. Galatians A.D. 49

B. 1-2 Thessalonians A.D. 50-51

C. 1 Corinthians A.D. 55

D. 2 Corinthians A.D. 56

E. Romans A.D. 57

F. Philemon/Colossians/Ephesians A.D. 60-61

G. Philippians A.D. 61-62

H. Titus, 1 Timothy A.D. 62-?

I. 2 Timothy < A.D. 68

 

VII. The Typical Greco-Roman Letter

A. Salutation: "X" to "Y" greetings

B. Prayer and/or thanksgiving

C. Body

1. Main information

2. Exhortation or request

D. Concluding Farewell

 

VIII. Disputed and Undisputed Epistles of Paul

A. Undisputed

1. Galatians

2. Romans

3. 1 Corinthians

4. 2 Corinthians

5. 1 Thessalonians

6. Philemon

7. Philippians

B. Semi-disputed

1. 2 Thessalonians

2. Colossians

C. Heavily-disputed

1. Ephesians

2. 1 Timothy

3. 2 Timothy

4. Titus

 

IX. Ancient Attitudes to Psedonymity

A. Post A.D. 150 (largely Gentile) Christianity

B. Earliest (Jewish and Gentile) Christianity

C. Pre Christian Judaism

 

X. Epistles and Canonization

A. Disputed books eventually accepted

1. Hebrews

2. James

3. 2 Peter

4. 2 John

5. 3 John

6. Jude

7. Revelation

B. Disputed books eventually rejected

1. Epistle of Barnabas

2. Shepherd of Hermas

3. Didache

4. 1 and 2 Clement

 

XI. Earliest Post-New Testament Christian Literature

A. Apostolic Fathers

B. New Testament Apocrypha

C. Nag Hammadi Library

D. Ante-Nicene Fathers

 

XII. Twelve Pillars of Pauline Thought: Blending the Best of the Old and New Perspectives

A. Monotheism and election of Israel

B. Human sin and failure of Israel and her law

C. God's covenant faithfulness in mercy to Jew and Gentile

D. Reflected in salvation through crucified Messiah

E. Vindicated in Jesus' resurrection displaying him as Lord

F. Already but not yet fulfillment of God's promises in Him

G. Life in Christ solely by grace through faith

H. Jesus and Holy Spirit spoken of in language of deity

I. Following Jesus implies "cruciform" living

J. Life in Spirit is foretaste, guarantee of coming glory

K. Countercultural community is crucial

L. Parousia and resurrection as the climax


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  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

     

  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.

     

  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.

 

Dr. Craig Blomberg 
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation 
nt512-02 
Introduction to Paul (Part 2) 
Lesson Transcript

 

This is the 2nd lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 

 

Before we turn to trace the better known part of Paul’s life and ministry based on the explicit New Testament testimony, it’s possible to reflect on the theological changes that would have resulted from Saul’s conversion from a very conservative and orthodox form of pharisaical Judaism to the new radical and soon to be declared heretical form of Judaism initially known as the Nazarene Movement or the Followers of the Way and finally the Christian Movement. Paul in a number of places will describe in his letters information about Jesus, deeds and his teachings that he learned from Christian tradition. But he will also describe in Galatians 1 how the core of his Gospel, the fundamental changes in understanding that formed his conversion, his call and his commission which were not revealed by flesh and blood but directly from God. Unfortunately neither Paul nor Acts goes on to specify what changes explicitly fell into this category but we may infer that Paul’s thinks along the lines of four central Jewish and Christian topics would have undergone very quick and radical transformation. Obviously, his Christology would have changed his understanding of who the Christ or the Messiah was. Jews who had not yet come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah by definition rejected the Messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth and of his first followers. They would still be waiting for a Messiah at some point in the future. Saul would have originally believed that Jesus was an imposture, a fraught, even a blasphemer for all that he had said and claimed, believing as he would explain later in Galatians 3 that a crucified Messiah was the ultimate oxymoron or non-sequitur crucifixion rather demonstrated on the basis of the deuteronomic laws that a person was a criminal or least a severe sinner in God’s eyes. Jesus by virtue of his crucifixion could not have been the Messiah, unless of course something as spectacular as a resurrection vindicated the fact that he was crucified unjustly as an innocent man. Saul would not have had any reason to believe the stories about Jesus’ resurrection up to this point in his life but when he personally encountered and viewed the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, there was no option for him but to change his views. 

 

Because of this radical change in Saul’s Christology, his soteriology would therefore have undergone a similar transformation. For Jews who had not come to believe Jesus as Messiah, salvation was the gift of God to be appropriated first of all by grace out of gratitude for all that God had done for Israel as illustrated by Exodus and the rescue of Israel from Egypt centuries earlier. But salvation for Israel did not stop there, just as the giving of the commandments at Mt Sinai came after the rescue from Egypt and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, so also he who took upon himself the yolk of the Torah as a bar mitzvah as the Son of the Commandment had to work out his religious life and demonstrate that he was remaining faithful to the covenant God made with Abraham and thus with Israel through a life of Torah obedience. Christians were already coming to teach that it was not ones election as part of the covenant community of Israel, confirmed by one’s life of Torah obedience but rather following Jesus of Nazareth, believing him to be the Messiah, trusting him for the salvation that his Cross made possible, apart from any works of law that made a person right with God. Oh, it was true that to be a disciple of Jesus meant a lifelong faithfulness to his teaching, much of which was in deeply seated continuity with the Old Testament. But in no way could those works be said to form a basis for one’s salvation in the various ways that they often at least to come to very close to saying that they did in various branches of Judaism. 

 

If Saul’s Christology and soteriology underwent such a transformation, so must his eschatology undergo such a similar transformation. So long as the Messiah had not come then the Messianic age of Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied new covenant could never have been said to be present in all its fullness or even to have been initiated in part. But if Jesus was the Messiah, the Messianic age had at the very least had begun. The end times were now present even if there were some details of Old Testament prophecy yet to unfold. What was dramatically different was the Christian conviction that Saul now found himself somehow compelled to adopt that Jesus was resurrected ahead of the general resurrection of all people at the end of human history at the time of God’s judgment as prophesied at the end of Daniel 12:2. But Saul and early Christianity in general clearly believed that the time was short until such general resurrection would occur. 

 

Some of the letters we cover in detail will have to come to grips with the apparent delay of that end. And we see how Christians deal with that theological issue. But we may anticipate their most central answer by saying even here that they like those before them with many of the Scriptural prophesies recognize that from God’s perspective was very soon yet from our human perspective to be a much longer period of time. Finally, we may note that Saul’s ecclesiology, his doctrine of the church or of the community of God’s people would have dramatically changed. No longer was it necessary to be a Jew either by birth or conversion to be a part of God’s elect covenant community. Rather it was that one must be one of Jesus’ followers and disciples, Jew and Gentile alike, able to come to Christ through God on equal terms by faith apart from the works of the law. We will see at the end of this introductory survey of Paul’s life and letters, that there are additional central themes to his teachings. But this four, his understanding of the Messiah, of Salvation, the End Times and of the Community of God’s People can help us see already how he could claim that the broad and fundamental contours of his Gospel came to him if not directly, told to him by the Jesus that appeared to him on the Damascus road, at least logically deducible in a compelling fashion from what Jesus explicitly revealed. 

 

What then about the three missionary journeys that occupy so much of Acts 13 to 28 and which form an essential back ground for understanding the letters of the Christian Scriptures. Why did Saul set out to go where he did? And why did he go to the places that Luke describes in the order that he did? Paul’s first missionary journey occupying part of all of the years AD 48 to 49 begins with him helping Barnabas in ministry at Barnabas’s request in and around Syrian Antioch. It is natural therefore for him to set out from there. Paul and Barnabas together proceed to the island of Cyprus which in fact is where Barnabas, the Levite originally came from. It is natural for them to progress to the home island that may not yet have had any significant evangelism. They visited Salamis and Paphos, both port cities. We will see that Paul and his various travelling companions regularly tried to visit the largest urban communities of that day, for if they reached these centers for Christ; they also would reach the outlining areas as well, although the reverse is not the case. The most dramatic conversion narrated in Acts that Paul and Barnabas experienced was in Paphos with the Roman governor, Sergius Paulus. It’s interesting at this point in the Book of Acts that Paul leaves off using his Jewish name and Luke begins to describe him uniformly as using his Roman name, Paulus or in English, Paul. It is not that Saul changed his name when he became a Christian but rather when he begins to minister in Greco-Roman territory and it is at least a coincidental observation that his Latin name, Paulus matches that of Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor there at Cyprus. Did he see that as a strategic way of identifying with the governor there and then continued to use that name. This is an intriguing idea. 

 

From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas and John Mark with them, at least for a little more time, travelled over to Perga of the province of Pamphylia or what today would be the central southern coast of Turkey. This was somewhat of a significant city but instead of ministering there or nearby city of Attaia, they progressed from the larger coastal cities up into the central plateau of southern Galatia and the city of Pisidain Antioch, the largest city of that regent but considerably smaller that the coastal cities and considerably smaller towns of Iconium, east of Pisidain Antioch and then to Lystra and Derbe somewhat south of Iconium near the province of Cilica. This is the one place where Paul departs from ministering in larger cities and is worth asking why Paul did this. It may be that Paul did not stay in the coastal regents because of an illness. He speaks in Galatians 4 having come to the Galatians because of an illness though he never tells us what that illness was. Throughout Christian history a number of suggestions have been made but one popular idea is Malaria. Because we know that coastal regents in those days were a hot bed for the infestation of mosquitoes in those swampy lowlands that bread the disease. Whatever his illness was, it wasn’t something that prevented him from engaging in physical exercise in his many travels and the endurance of flogging and other punishment he received from Jewish leaders from time to time. The very intermittent nature of Malaria could fit this description but again we have to say it is only an educated guess at best. There is another possible reason they proceeded onto Pisidian Antioch and that is archaeology, fairly recently, has uncovered inscriptions that suggest that relatives of Sergius Paulus at various times in the first century occupied Roman leadership posts in Pisdian Antioch as well. Sergius could have requested that his relatives allow Paul and his ban to be allowed to preach the Gospel in their city. At best, this is only a logical inference. 

 

Once Paul and his group arrived in the high country, it would have been natural that they would visit nearby towns. It’s interested to read about the hardships they faced, including nearly dying after being stoned, yet he continued to retrace his steps to follow up on the fledgling Christian communities he helped to found in these southern Galatian communities despite the trouble he experienced there. They then returned to the coast on to their base at Antioch in Syria. 

 

After some time there, he embarks with new companions on his second missionary journey, depending on which dating scheme one follows, somewhere between years AD50-54. From Antioch he travels overland to revisit his hometown of Tarsus, following up on the young church there and then once again to the cities of southern Galatia. Having already written the epistle to the Galatians to counter the theological threats which they faced, he wanted to see what the results were. From there, Paul and his companions wanted to move further west trying to expand their horizons to preach the Gospel to other places. Acts 16 discloses that Paul was unsure of where to go next and following what we describe today as a pattern of open and close doors or theologically forbidden by the Spirit to enter various provinces until he finds himself in the coastal city of Troas in the area of Mysia or today, western Turkey. Here, he has his famous vision of the man of Macedonia. Today, the country of Macedonia still exists but much smaller than the Roman province which now also includes that of Northern Greece, of which is divided up into Eastern Macedonia, Central Macedonia and Western Macedonia.  In the vision, Paul is called to come over and preach the Gospel. Paul recognizes this as a vision from the Lord and so sails across the northern portion of the Aegean Sea to the European side and enters into the Greco-Roman province of Macedonia. Today, of course, unlike Turkey, the religion of Islam doesn’t have any influence in Greece, a country where the Greek Orthodox Church Thrives. However, the country of Macedonia is split between 67% Greek Orthodox and 23% Albanian Muslims. Paul proceeds along the coast visiting different cities with Berea being the last one in Macedonia. From there, he crosses over into the province of Achia and arrives in Corinth. After this, Paul sails back across the Aegean Sea to the city of Ephesus where he has been requested to visit by the elders there. However, he is in a hurry to get back to Israel and more specifically, Jerusalem to attend the festival of Pentecost. 

 

After this, he returns to his home base at Antioch and reports to the believers. Once again, Paul heads out overland visiting the cities and towns of Galatia and Asia Minor. This fulfills his promise to spend a longer time in Ephesus which in fact he does as Luke describes in Acts 20 staying nearly three years. It is during this period that he wrote 1st Corinthians and then becomes aware of new problems which make him want to see them. He eventually writes his second letter to the Corinthians. And while he was in Corinth, he wrote the Epistle to the Romans which was next chronologically. He retraces his steps overland to Macedonia and Achaia again. Dangers continued to follow him; he encounters threats in Ephesus and other places. On returning, he meets up with the Ephesus elders at the port city of Miletus. From there he sets sail for Jerusalem again. He arrives in Phoenicia and is presented with collections from the brothers and sisters from letters earlier sent and money as a result of a famine in the later AD 40’s. Little did he know that when he embarked on this journey, a prophecy from Agabus said that if he continued to Jerusalem, he would be arrested and imprisoned. He accepts this as God’s will and the closing chapters of Acts narrates the various imprisonments of Paul in Caesarea by the sea on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean and ultimately the appeal of Paul to Caesar and what some call his fourth missionary journey or as others call, his captive journey in which he takes in the fall, winter and spring of AD 59-60, the boat which was ultimately ship wrecked on the Island of Malta where in the spring a boat takes him onto Rome. It is difficult to come up with exact dates of all his imprisonments because many scholars will often change these dates by a year or so, plus or minus. 

 

How do we put all these dates together? What are the six points in the chronology of Acts that impinge on the life and letters of Paul? One of those fixed points is the year in which Jesus was crucified, resurrected and accented into heaven, then after fifty days came the Jewish festival of Pentecost. But that year the Holy Spirit came on all those who believed that Jesus was Lord. Two major dates earlier discussed which according to calculations of the new and full moons, Passover must have begun on the day we now call Good Friday, AD 30 and 33. The majority of scholars opt for AD30 though we must allow for the possibility for the year AD33 as well which would require a change in thinking of the earlier dates. If the ascension in Pentecost, the two events narrated in the Book of Acts did occur in AD 30, then we move to a second fixed point in the chronology of Acts, namely the death of Herod Agrippa 1st, narrated in Acts 12 and from the story of Josephus must have taken place in AD44. From Josephus as well, we can deduce that the famine which afflicted Judea was at its peak in AD 46 or perhaps 47 and from an inscription found in the archaeological digs of Corinth, we can place the Roman Gallio, who was in Corinth when Paul preached and ministered there from the summer of AD 51 to the summer of AD 52 or again slightly less. 

 

Finally, the Roman Governor of Judea takes up his post in place of Felix, most likely in the year AD 59. This comes from Josephus and other non-Christian sources.  How then do we fix the remaining information relative to Saul’s life around these fixed points? Galatians chapter 1 refers to a three year period of time and then a 14 year period of time between Paul’s visits to Jerusalem. The visit that occurred just before his conversion as he was heading from Jerusalem to Damascus and then the two visits that found him meeting with the Apostles and early Christian leaders in Jerusalem. All of this obviously had to happen before Paul could write about it in the letter to the Galatians and as we will see when we discuss the introduction to Galatians. While there is a debate whether Galatians was written before or after the Apostle Council of Acts 15 particularly among evangelical scholars, there is a reasonable consensus and good reason for understanding that it was written before this Council. 

 

This Council forms the hiatus or the most notable event that Luke narrates between Paul’s first and second missionary journeys and it is comparative early in his second missionary journey in which he finds himself in Corinth. How then do we work out dates in between Paul’s time in Corinth overlapping with Gallio, governorship there in AD 51 to 52 and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, probably in AD 30? We need to work backwards, leaving time for the cities that Paul visited before he arrived in Corinth. We learned in Acts that he spent about one and a half years there. We need to leave time for the Apostle Council and other events that took place in between two missionary journeys. We leave time for his comparative brief, 1st missionary journey and in doing so most writers come up with the dates of AD 48-49, 50-52 in Corinth and then leaving after the social unrest there that his ministry caused, sometimes before Gallio’s term of office ended in AD 52. On the assumption that it was written around AD 48-49 just before the Apostle Council, we can come up with dates of about AD 45 for Paul’s first Jerusalem visit. Septhens’ stoning has to be before Saul’s conversion and yet seems to be shortly before it, we may end up putting these two events in the same year. 

 

Factors are complicated as we have noticed and many scholars will vary these times by a year or two from the dates that have been given here. Many ancient writers calculated the dates of significant events in two different ways, often interspersing them. For example, one could speak of the second year of a certain political rulers reign or term of office as being AD 51, an event taking place in January of 51 could be referred to as taking place in the second year of his reign. But it also could be described as taking place in the first year of his reign because twelve months had not yet elapsed. When one allows for this variation to occur in one direction of another every time a date is calculated, one can see how a 17 year period of time could be on 15 or so years by more precise arithmetical calculation and a three year period of time might be only one and a half years. If we then proceed forward from the year that Gallio was in Corinth taking into account that the heart of Paul’s 3rd missionary journey was a three year stay in Ephesus, allowing for that period to be from 52 to 55 or 53 to 56, we then get complete dates for Paul’s third missionary being from 52 to 57. We have him returning to Jerusalem and being imprisoned for two years under Felix who gives way to Festus in AD 59 which enables us to state that those two years of imprisonment is 58 to 59 which fits perfectly with the years suggested for his third missionary journey. And then we have the ill-fated ship wreck voyage from Jerusalem to Rome in the winter of AD 59-60 with the two years of house arrest where the Book of Acts concludes with Paul ministering in his own rented home, loosely chained to rotated guards who watch over prisoners under house arrest during the years of AD 60-62. This is the best that can be done with all the available information assuming this information is accurate. 

 

More specifically, we must raise the question of how Paul’s letters fit into this chronology. We will focus on how each is arrived at as we introduce them. We may note here because we haven’t commented on it yet but Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians and Philippians are all frequently referred to as Paul’s prison epistles because of the explicit references of Paul being in prison in each of them. The traditional place of Paul’s imprisonment that Christians have attributed these letters to is the two year period of house arrest in Rome where the Book of Acts ends. When these four epistles are introduced, we will look at them much more closely. We will also see why Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians were likely to have been sent out with the same travelling companions and letters carriers and thus dated to an earlier period of time with Philippians reflecting attitudes and events that suggest a less hopeful period of time of Paul’s arrest. Because the Book of Acts ends with Paul in prison in Rome, we are on much less secure ground when it comes to dating of three letters known today as the Pastoral Epistles, Titus, 1st and 2nd Timothy. If the early church tradition in which we eluded to earlier found both in the writings of Clement and Moratorium Canon and later echoed by Gerome and Ecivious in the four hundreds. Paul was indeed released after his appeal to Caesar, after his two years in Rome, did indeed continue to travel and ministry reaching even to Spain, but in returning eastward was arrested and imprisoned the second time in Rome and finally executed under the Emperor Nero. Then we can place Titus and 1st Timothy after that 60 - 62 time under house arrest and while Paul was a free man. 2nd Timothy which finds Paul in prison again sure that his end is now near would have been written before his execution which had to have taken place while Nero was still Emperor.  Nero committed suicide in AD 68 so 2nd Timothy was written prior to AD 68 and so this is the greatest certainly we can have at this point. 

 

Before continuing on, the question comes up as whether all these dates merit such a treatment or not? Of course the feeling of being overwhelmed with this information is somewhat artificial, because we have grouped it all together in one uninterrupted portion in this introductory lecture. We will come back to the most relevant of these dates as we look at the background to each of the letters specifically, along with the material in the textbook, including the charts and diagrams there; all this allows the student to digest the information easier. But the question still remains as to why fit all this information together in a larger timeline of Paul’s life? We also need to ask questions such as, did event ‘B’ happen just after event ‘A’ even if the text does not state this clearly. Are we meant to infer that it did? Was there a cause and effect sequence? Or was there a significant gap and interval between the two? Or might there be a chronological displacement in which the text treats it for a certain time in topical sequence? Are we not to infer any cause and effect at all? We see examples like this in the book of Acts when we read in Cornelius’ conversion and Peter’s minister with him in Acts 10 to 11 immediately after Saul’s conversion in Acts 9, but realize there is a period of time between AD 32 and 44 into which to fit these events. And as the textbook points out in early church tradition where Peter leaves Jerusalem as late as AD 42 so that we may not imply any connection whether chronological or causal or theologically between the conversion of Saul and the events surrounding the ministry of Peter to Cornelius. 

 

A similar example is when we compare the latter portion of Acts 11 with Acts 12 which seems to be topically grouped around events taking place in and around Antioch of Syria and not forming part of Paul’s missionary journeys which will begin in Acts 13. Once we realize that the death of Herod Agrippa comes in AD 44 but that is narrated in Acts 12 while the height of the Famine predicted, occurs in Acts 11 which does not take place until 46 to 47. We have to recognize that this one point in Acts narrative Luke is doing what he does far more commonly in his Gospel, arranging material by topical or thematic sequence rather than in purely chronological order so we shouldn’t in any way infer that the famine of Acts 11 or the Christian response to it had anything to do with the persecution of Christians with which Acts 12 begins. A second kind of an example as to why Chorological information is important is to allow us to test various theories of various scholars and lay-Christians have come up with over the years. One popular one involves the intriguing events that Paul describes at the beginning of 2nd Corinthians 12, when he talks about being caught up in the 3rd heaven and having unutterable visions and ecstatic experience in which he seems to think, what today we would call having an out of body experience and vision of the very throne room of God himself.  There are those throughout Christian history who have not spent much time with the seemingly tedious task of chronology who have wondered whether this was something that accompanied that vision described in Galatians 1 that happened to Paul on the Damascus road. Sometimes the assumption that a correlation would be natural, have led to theories that such visions are available for other Christians or that they even normative for other Christians for form desirable parts of the Christian conversion experience and should be sought by one process or another. 

 

All of this seems intriguing and tantalizing until one does some simple arithmetic. This will be explained in more detail when we introduce 2nd Corinthians dated within a year or two of AD 56. But in 2nd Corinthians chapter12, Paul will refer to this vision as something that happened to him fourteen years ago. That brings us back to AD 42, give or take a bit, but even on the latest date of Paul’s conversion of AD 35, there is a six or seven year gap which makes it impossible to say that his experience in 2nd Corinthians 12 had anything to do with his conversion, his call or commission and therefore to make any inference about what should form part of any other Christian’s conversion, or call or commission is entirely unwarranted and even disproved. Perhaps these brief examples are enough for the time being to convince the student to persevere with the Chorological date when we encounter them later on.  

 

Now to Paul’s life and content, the textbook goes into some detail, at least in an introductory fashion about the typical Greco-Roman letter. How it would have been written and delivered; the various rhetorical and literary genre or sub-genre’s in which epistles can be divided. The even smaller literary forms or constituent elements that comprise recognizable forms of Greco-Roman writing embedded within Paul’s various letters and much of this information to the extent that it relates to specific letters will the repeated both in the textbook and in the lectures as we proceed letter by letter through Paul’s writings. But one model that is recurring, dominant and important enough to merit reinforcement and illustration by means of additional information is the outline of a typical Greco-Roman letter. Somewhat different from modern letters, certainly different from the growing trend to abandon written letters for the very casual and virtual electronic emails, the young Greco-Roman boy was taught in school and exercises were given to him for practice. Writing letters were done in a form that had four basic parts or five if you count the two subsections of the body of the letter separately. Whereas we sign a letter at its end, the Greco-Roman world impressed on writers what was called a salutation immediately at the beginning, taking the form of the sender, followed by the recipients and then a word of greetings. From some points of view, that makes better sense then one doesn’t have to go to the end of the letter to find out who wrote it. It was also equally conventional to offer a brief prayer or wish of well-being for the recipients or in those cases where the author of the letter had information of the recipient to offer a word of thanks, often couched in explicit religious language of given thanks to God or gods. Paul will in fact in the vast majority of his letters just as he will uniformly adopt a salutation. 

 

The significance of the observation is more for those occasions which he deviates from this. Omitting these points will show that there is a very serious situation in a given community that requires a need to shock the audience into attention. Or a greeting or prayer may be unusually long or short or theological or devoid of any theological preview and again we see as we proceed through the letters which may be reasonable deduced about the circumstances leading to the composition of these letters from the variety and variation of standard form. Every letter, of course, had a body, the reason for writing the letter in the first place. The body typically communicated the main information or reasons for writing in declarative or indicative prose.  And then if the author had one or more requests and in a position of authority and had exhortation or commands to give to give someone in a position of subordination, those would tend to be grouped together at the end of the body, though by no means is this a rigid pattern beginning with the salutation and a prayer, ending with a concluding farewell and bringing greetings to and from relevant parties. Again we will see ways in which Paul’s letters follow or deviate from these patterns and make appropriate conclusions on the basis of those observations. Readers or students new to contemporary Biblical scholarship are sometimes surprised to learn that the Bible begins thirteen of its letters with the name of Paul at the beginning where the writer’s name was to appear. Only seven of these thirteen letters are reasonably undisputed in terms of the description of authorship.