Saturday, 27 February 2010

St. Paul the radical

Interesting article here by Tom Holland on St. Paul the radical ( I agree that Paul was radical) with some reference to the first letter to Timothy. The Bible: A History - St. Paul , hosted by Tim Holland is being aired on C4 tomorrow at 7pm and might be worth watching.


  1. Unusually for a feminist, I've long been an admirer of St Paul. I think the clue is where he says that when he is preaching to Jews he lives as one under the law, and when he is preaching to gentiles he lives as one not under the law.
    Paul lived in a world where each city had its own culture and laws. He was acutely sensitive to this, and confident enough of the gospel to adapt his presentation to the people he was among. He would stick to his primary aim of 'preaching Christ, and him crucified' to save us from our sins.' But in order that people could hear this message, he was prepared to give way on secondary matters which might prove a distraction or red herring to his listeners. I think this is why he sometimes seems to be saying different things in different places. His works are, after all, letters and his advice was tailored to the circumstances and culture of those receiving them. What a marvellous example for anyone engaged in mission.
    Iffy Vicar

  2. I'm no expert, but weren't pretty much all the places to which Paul went/wrote Roman cities. I'd have thought that their law at least would be consistent.
    Discerning what are secondary matters and what's critical is one of the hardest things isn't it. And when you add the need for christians to behave in a way that is counter-cultural, it becomes even harder to know what issues should be challenged.
    I often find myself thinking that the culture of Corinth was essentially the same as Niniveh, or wherever Noah lived, forgetting that there's a time-span of thousands of years.

  3. Some had become part of the Roman empire, but kept their local culture and traditions. Ancient Greece was a collection of city-states, each with their own laws and customs. These kept their local flavour after becoming part of the Roman empire, which generally tried not to interfere too much with local religions. Hence Israel still had a Sanhedrin and high priests, and they could conduct their own trials.
    Roman matrons had a much greater public role than Greek ones - hence the list of women in ministry in Rom 16. Respectable Greek women generally weren't educated or seen in public - it was their husband's mistress who went to the theatre etc. with him. He might also have a young boy, which was considered the highest form of love by Socrates (see Plato's Symposium). Philippi was in Europe and there women like Lydia could actually be independent business women.
    If you read Greek playwrights like Aristophanes (tho he was writing long before NT times), he has people in one city joking about he customs of other cities. William Barclay also has quite a lot of useful insights into cultural differences between the recipients of different epistles.
    But you can see why Paul's advice to women in Corinth (where to be educated and to speak in public would lead to assumptions that you were a courtesan) would be different from his advice to women in Rome or Philippi.
    Iffy Vicar