It cannot be assumed, therefore, that the apostle’s correspondence as contained in the NT reveals the whole of his thinking and preaching regarding Christian faith and practice. Nor is one entitled to treat the collection of his letters as a volume on systematic theology, for though he thought theologically, everything the apostle wrote is set in the context of history and polemic. Nonetheless, sufficient material has been preserved under the direction of theto allow a fairly clear picture of the main outlines of the apostle’s thought. The Christian who looks at Paul’s message in its historical setting discovers that the doctrines Paul enunciated and the principles governing his specific exhortations are authoritative for faith and practice today; the same Spirit preserved who first inspired—and it is His also to illuminate and apply.
Originality and dependence.
It is a mistake, however, to press such statements beyond their proper limits or to set them in rather wooden opposition one to the other. Paul’s gospel given him by revelation was not a gospel differing in kerygmatic content from that of the Early Church. Rather, it was a message which included a new understanding of the pattern of redemptive history in these final days, involving the legitimacy of a direct approach to Gentiles and the recognition of the equality of Jew and Gentile before God (
The key to Pauline theology is to be found in Paul’s thought regarding Jesus Christ, and is prob. most aptly expressed in the apostle’s frequently repeated phrase “in Christ.” Paul’s theology is Christocentric and his religion a life lived in communion with and response to his exalted Lord. This fact must be maintained in the face of all ethical interpretations of religion—whether Jewish, Stoic or so-called Christian—which lay emphasis upon laws and principles as final criteria. It must also be asserted in opposition to contemporary religious existentialism which seeks to explain Paul’s theology along the lines of anthropology. Paul’s doctrine of man is only a part of his total thought and subservient to his doctrine of Christ, for in Paul’s view, man can be truly understood and life truly authentic only in relation to Jesus Christ. Paul’s theology is not even a theology in the narrow sense of that term. While accepting all that the OT teaches about
Likewise, Paul’s thought is predominantly historical, functional and dynamic in nature. It was “when the time had fully come” that “God sent forth his Son” (
Functional and ontological categories can never be detached or held in isolation from one another, for what Christ did has its basis in who he was and is. Indeed, both are constantly interwoven in the apostle’s correspondence. Yet Paul seems to have laid primary emphasis upon the functional aspect and assumed for the most part (at least in his pastoral letters) the ontological. Only where his message was challenged by some alien metaphysical system that would depreciate the person of Jesus Christ, as happened at Colossae, did he enter into something of an extended description of Christ’s being or essence (
Man’s state and need.
In his synthetic rather than analytic approach to man, and in his explicit anthropological formulations, Paul indicates that his basic thought is rooted in the soil of the OT and orthodox Judaism. He differed from his Jewish heritage more in emphasis than in doctrine, stressing as he does the spiritual (pneumatic) nature of man more than the created (psychic); but that must be credited to his Christian experience and resultant convictions. None of this, however, highlights his teaching on man’s most important need; for while man as creature is responsible, Paul laid stress on the fact that man as sinner is in rebellion and thus desperately needy.
The OT doctrine of the sinfulness of man was explicated in the Judaism of Paul’s day in two ways. The first way stressed the inherited depravity of all men and their resultant personal guilt, and was expressed at least as early as the 2nd cent. b.c. in
The other strand of Jewish thought laid emphasis upon a doctrine of good and evil “impulses” (yetzer) implanted by God in equal measure within every man, thus de-emphasizing inheritance and attributing guilt to men individually. This teaching can also be found in the centuries immediately prior to Christianity (
Paul’s teaching regarding the law is complex, and has been variously evaluated. In the main, two approaches have been followed in interpreting Paul’s view of the law. The first, stemming from Origen and Tertullian, views the apostle as making a distinction between the moral and ceremonial aspects of Mosaic legislation: the moral expressing the eternal will of God for man, which is fixed throughout the course of history and which the apostle considers “holy, just and good”; the ceremonial aspect being a secondary addition to prefigure the person and work of Christ, which symbolism, once finding reality in Jesus of Nazareth, is to be either spiritualized or set aside by the Christian. Often it is claimed, as Origen and Tertullian also asserted, that the absence or presence of the definite article with the word “law” in Paul’s writings can aid in determining which usage the apostle had in mind, though not invariably. The second line of interpretation is founded in the exegesis of Chrysostom, Theodore, and Theodoret of the “Antioch School” (though not always consistently), and views Paul’s understanding of the law in more wholistic and historical terms. On this view, (a) the Mosaic law was given not only to express in fuller form the primal will of God for man but also as a developed system of righteousness which would be adequate if man could achieve it; (b) but since man is unable to fulfill the requirements of the law, its underlying purpose of revealing and condemning sin came to the fore; (c) Christ, however, both bore the condemnation and fulfilled the obligations of the law (moral and religious), thus providing both redemption and righteousness for all who are His; (d) therefore, the Christian lives not in relation to the law but in response to his Lord who has reiterated and heightened the expression of God’s eternal principles, borne the curse of the law, fulfilled the law’s obligations in their contractual form, and enables His own to live lives pleasing to the Father.
The first interpretation became almost universal in the Western church and experienced a revival in late 19th-century theology. It appears, however, to rest more on polemic purpose than exegetical principle and to reflect more a static understanding of Pauline thought than an historical. The second underlies to a great extent the Protestant Reformation (cf. Luther’s On the Freedom of the Christian), and must be judged to correspond more closely to the thinking of the apostle.
The person and work of Christ.
The central motif in the Pauline message is that the divine plan of redemption has its focal point in human history in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “When the time had fully come,” the apostle proclaims, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (
The work of Christ in Paul’s teaching is presented primarily in relation to the law. In coming “under the law” Christ has taken both the curse and the obligations of the law upon Himself, bearing both on behalf of those unable to bear either and thereby reconciling us to the Father. Christ in His death “redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (
The thought of the obedience of Christ, although included in that of the sacrifice of Christ (cf.
This thought seems to be likewise involved in Paul’s repeated emphasis on righteousness as based not upon “the works of the law” but upon “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ,” and given to all who respond to Him by faith (
In speaking of the personal appropriation of the work of Christ, the apostle repeatedly employs the expression “in Christ.” The phrase, together with its cognates, occurs a total of 172 times in Paul’s writings: 164 in the ten letters from Romans through the Prison Epistles (minus the Pastorals), and another eight times in those addressed to Timothy and Titus. It is the major soteriological expression of Paul, being the basis for and incorporating within itself the patristic themes of “victory” and “redemption,” the Reformation stress on “justification,” the Catholic insistence on “the body,” the more modern emphases on “reconciliation” and “salvation,” and all the Pauline ethical imperatives and appeals.
The body of Christ.
A great deal of debate has surrounded Paul’s use of the body imagery. Catholic theology insists that it signifies an ontological reality, thus developing the doctrine of “The Mystical Body” which exists prior to its members and mediates grace. Protestants claim it to be only a metaphor, many heedlessly equating it with some type of “Social Compact Theory” of the Church. The close relation between symbol and reality which is a feature of Heb. thought in general (wherein symbol and reality are closely joined yet never confused) forbids us to make the identity required in any “realistic” or ontological understanding of the phrase. Yet something, on the other hand, is basically wrong in speaking of Paul’s expression as “only a metaphor.” Since hearing the words on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” the apostle could never look into the face of a Christian without realizing anew the unity that exists between Christ and His Church.
The Church, then, in Paul’s teaching, is composed of individuals vitally related to Jesus Christ and thereby inextricably joined to all others acknowledging a like allegiance. As members of the same body, Christians are (a) to take care not to sin against a brother (
The Christian ethic.
The Christian life in Paul’s teaching is (a) based upon the fact of a new creation “in Christ”; directed through the correlation of the “law of Christ” and the “mind of Christ”; (c) motivated and conditioned by the “love of Christ”; (d) enabled by the “Spirit of Christ”; and (e) expressed in a situation of temporal tension between what is already a fact and what has yet to be realized. Although they can be spoken of separately, all these elements must be combined and merged in our consciousness if the apostle’s thought is to be rightly understood and the Christian ethic truly exhibited.
As Paul never proclaimed salvation simply by renewal of character, so he never taught the possibility of living the Christian life apart from being “in Christ.” It is because the believer is “in Christ,” and therefore a “new creation,” that life has become transformed (
The “love of Christ” and the “law of Christ” are not so much equated by Paul (as commonly supposed by some, who appeal to
All of this is lived out between the polarities of what has been accomplished by the historical achievement of Jesus and what is yet to be fully realized in the consummation of God’s redemptive program. In such a temporal tension the believer lives, conscious both of (a) what he is “in Adam,” sobering him to the potentialities of his depraved nature; and (b) what he is “in Christ,” awakening him to the prospects of present victories and ultimate conquest.
The consummation of God’s plan.
Paul’s eschatology, while rooted in the OT and employing the imagery of his day, is basically an extension of his Christology in its distinctive features and focus. God’s Son entered the arena of human history “when the time had fully come” (
Though the historical achievement of Jesus is a finished work, its application is progressive and its climax will be reached only in the Second
O. Pfleiderer, Paulinism, 2 vols. (1877); A. Deissmann, Die neutestamentliche Formel ‘in Christo Jesu’ (1892); G. B. Stevens, The(1892); H. St. J. Thackeray, The Relation of St. Paul to Contemporary Jewish Thought (1900); W. Sanday, “Paul,” HDCG, II, 886-892; M. Dibelius, Die Geisterwelt im Glauben des Paulus (1909); A. Schweitzer, Paul and his Interpreters (1912); C. G. Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul (1914); W. Morgan, The Religion and Theology of Paul (1917); W. H. P. Hatch, The Pauline Idea of Faith in its Relation to Jewish and Hellenistic Religion (1917); H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul and the Mystery-Religions (1919); J. G. Machen, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1921).
W. L. Knox, St. Paul and the Church of Jerusalem (1925); F. Pratt, The Theology of Saint Paul (1926); C. A. A. Scott, Christianity According to St. Paul (1927); E. Lohmeyer, Grundlagen der paulinischen Theologie (1928); W. G. Kümmel, Römer 7 und die Bekehrung des Paulus (1928); O. Michel, Paulus and seine Bibel (1929); A. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1931); F. V. Filson, St. Paul’s Conception of Recompense (1931); J. S. Stewart, A Man in Christ (1935); W. L. Knox, St. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles (1939); J. Bonsirven, Exégèse rabbinique et exégèse paulinienne (1939); P. P. Bläser, Das Gesetz bei Paulus (1941); A. M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors (1946, 1961).
J. Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (1943); J. Bonsirven, L’Evangile de Paul (1948); C. H. Dodd, Gospel and Law (1951); G. Bornkamm, Das Ende des Gesetzes (1952); C. H. Dodd, “ENNOMOS CHRISTOU,” Studia Paulina: In Honorem J. de Zwaan (1953); H. Ljungman, Das Gesetz Erfullen (1954); E. Best, One Body in Christ (1955); W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (1955); R. Shedd, Man in Community (1956); K. Barth, Christ and Adam (1956); W. D. Stacey, The Pauline View of Man (1956); G. B. Caird, Principalities and Powers (1956); D. Daube, Theand Rabbinic Judaism (1956); W. D. Davies, “Paul and the : Flesh and Spirit,” The Scrolls and the New Testament (1956); J. A. T. Robinson, The Body (1957); E. E. Ellis, Paul’s Use of the (1957).
N. Q. Hamilton, The Holy Spirit and Eschatology in Paul (1957); W. Barclay, The Mind of St. Paul (1958); H. N. Ridderbos, Paul and Jesus (1958); J. Munck, Paul and the Salvation of Mankind (1959); J. Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (1959); L. Cerfaux, The Church in the Theology of St. Paul (1959); A. Wikenhauser, Pauline Mysticism (1960); H. Schlier, Principalities and Powers in the New Testament (1961); E. E. Ellis, Paul and His Recent Interpreters (1961); J. N. Sevenster, Paul and Seneca (1961); J. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (1961); H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (1961); L. Cerfaux, Le Chrétien dans la théologie de Saint Paul (1962); C. K. Barrett, From First Adam to Last (1962); G. A. F. Knight, Law and Grace (1962); G. B. Caird, “Pauline Theology,” HDBrev. (1963), 736-742; J. J. von Allmen, Pauline Teaching on Marriage (1963); T. W. Manson, On Paul and John (1963); F. F. Bruce, “Promise and Fulfilment in Paul’s Presentation of Jesus,” Promise and Fulfilment: Essays Presented to S. H. Hooke (1963); 36-50; A. J. Bandstra, The Law and the Elements of the World (1964); L. Goppelt, Jesus, Paul and Judaism (1964); J. Ljungman, PISTIS: A Study of its Presuppositions and its Meaning in Pauline Use (1964); R. N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (1964); J. A. Schep, The Nature of the Resurrection Body (1964); R. Schnackenburg, Baptism in the Thought of St. Paul (1964); D. E. H. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul (1964); W. Schmithals, Paul and James (1965); J. A. Fitzmyer, Pauline Theology (1967); M. F. Wiles, The Divine Apostle (1967); G. W. H. Lampe, “Church Discipline and the Interpreta tion of the Epistles to the Corinthians,” Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John Knox (1967), 337-361; C. F. D. Moule, “Obligation in the Ethic of Paul,” ibid., 389-406; V. P. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul (1968); G. E. Ladd, “Paul and the Law,” Soli Deo Gloria: In Honor of William Childs Robinson (1968), 50-67.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE PREPARATION
1. The Pharisee
2. Saul and Sin
3. Primitive Christianity
II. THE CONVERSION
2. The Spirit
3. The Unio Mystica
III. FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS
1. Abolition of the Law
5. Moral Example
6. Function of the Law
IV. SPECIAL TOPICS
1. The Church
2. The Sacraments
I. The Preparation.
In order to understand the development of Paul’s theological system, it is necessary to begin with his beliefs as a Pharisee. The full extent of these beliefs, to be sure, is not now ascertainable, for Pharisaism was a rule of conduct rather than a system of dogmas, and great diversity of opinions existed among Pharisees. Yet there was general concurrence in certain broad principles, while some of Paul’s own statements enable us to specify his beliefs still more closely.
1. The Pharisee:
Saul the Pharisee believed that God was One, the Creator of all things. In His relation to His world He was transcendent, and governed it normally through His angels. Certain of these angelic governors had been unfaithful to their trust and had wrought evil, although God still permitted them to bear rule for a time (
2. Saul and Sin:
There is every reason to suppose that Saul’s experience was not unique at this period. Much has been written in recent years about the Jews’ confidence in God’s mercy, and abundant quotations are brought from the Talmud in support of this. But the surviving portions of the literature of the Daniel-Aqiba period (165 BC-135 AD) give a different impression, for it is predominantly a literature of penitential prayers and confessions of sin, of pessimism regarding the world, the nation and one’s self. In 2 Esdras, in particular, Saul’s experience is closely paralleled, and 2 Esdras 7 (of course not in the) is one of the best commentaries ever written on Ro 7.
3. Primitive Christianity:
Saul must have come in contact with Christianity very soon after Pentecost, at the latest. Some personal acquaintance with Christ is in no way impossible, irrespective of the meaning of
This inwardness must have appealed to Saul and he must have envied the joyous enthusiasm of the disciples. But to him Pharisaism was divine, and he was in a spiritual condition that admitted of no compromxses. Moreover, the Law (
Saul must have gained a reasonable knowledge of Christ’s teachings in this period of antagonism. He certainly could not have begun to persecute the faith without learning what it was, and in the inevitable discussions with his victims he must have learned still more, even against his will. This fact is often overlooked.
II. The Conversion.
Fitting these data of religious fact into the metaphysical doctrine of God was a problem that occupied the church for the four following centuries. After endless experimenting the only conclusion was shown to be that already reached by Paul in
2. The Spirit:
Further reflection and observation taught Paul something of the greatest importance for Christian theology. In prayer the Spirit appeared distinguished from the Father as well as from the Son (
3. The Unio Mystica:
As the first man to belong to’the higher order, and as the point from which the race could take a fresh start, Christ could justly be termed a new Adam (
A most extraordinary fact, to the former Pharisee, was that this experience had been gained without conscious effort and even against conscious effort (
III. Further Developments.
1. Abolition of the Law:
The adoption by Paul of the facts given by his conversion (and the immediate conclusions that followed from them) involved, naturally, a readjustment and a reformation of the other parts of his belief. The process must have occupied some time, if it was ever complete during his life, and must have been affected materially by his controversies with his former co-religionists and with very many Christians.
The second result of the abolition of the Law was overwhelming. Gentiles had as much right to Christ as had the Jews, barring perhaps the priority of honor (
This consciousness of deliverance from the Law came to Paul in another way. The Law was meant for men in this world, but the union with Christ had raised him out of this world and so taken him away from the Law’s control. In the Epistles this fact finds expression in an elaborately reasoned form. As Christ’s nature is now a vital part of our nature, His death and resurrection are facts of our past as well. "Ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (
Further developments of this doctrine about Christ’s death find in it the complete destruction of whatever remained of the Law (
5. Moral Example:
There are, accordingly, in Paul’s view of the death of Christ at least three distinct lines, the "mystical," the "juristic," and the "ethical." But this distinction is largely only genetic and logical, and the lines tend to blend in all sorts of combinations. Consequently, it is frequently an impossible exegetical problem to determine which is most prominent in any given passage (e.g.
6. Function of the Law:
IV. Special Topics.
1. The Church:
The church is, of course, the object of Christ’s sanctifying power (
2. The Sacraments:
As the union with Christ’s death is something more than a subjective impression made on the mind by the fact of that death, the references to the union with the death accomplished in baptism in
See, further, GOD; PAROUSIA; PRAYER; PREDESTINATION; PROPITIATION, etc.
See under PAUL.