Paul's Contribution to Christian Theology
29 SEP 2017
As a Pharisee, Paul sought to suppress the early Christian movement. He accused early Christians of breaking Mosaic Law and speaking blasphemy against God. However, Paul had a life-changing experience when he had a vision of Jesus, and he spent the remainder of his life as a missionary for the early church. Centuries after his ministry, his teachings still influence Christian theology.
After his conversion, Paul began preaching the Christian message, and he founded communities in many cities. He fostered these early churches by writing letters throughout his ministry. Thirteen of these letters are included in the New Testament of the Bible: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
Next to Jesus, Paul is perhaps the most recognizable figure in Christianity. His letters account for nearly half of the New Testament and inspired a great deal of Christian doctrine, though practice of these doctrines vary among the denominations. Some excerpts have become iconic among believers, such as the passage about The Armor of God in Ephesians 6. His writings are the source of a great deal of Christian terminology and provided a framework for the hierarchy of church leadership.
Paul’s writing addresses a diverse collection of topics pertaining to Christian life. He wrote about domestic issues like marriage and parenting, social issues like government and law and about faith and salvation. Still, Paul’s letters are sometimes the source of debate among believers, and some consider the interpretation and application of Paul’s teaching to be particularly difficult. This is due, in part, to the contradictions that can be found in his writings. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14, Paul states that women should not teach or speak in the church. However, in Galations 3:28, Paul writes that “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” and in many of his letters, Paul refers to female leaders in the church.
The application of Paul’s teachings varies among Christian denominations and even among individual churches and believers. Some prefer to follow the directives in his letters exactly as he wrote them, while others believe that the cultural and historical context of his writings should be considered when studying his teachings. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul writes: “I do not permit a woman to teach.” Because of this, some denominations do not allow women to teach or hold positions of leadership in the church. Other Christian churches believe that when Paul wrote this, he was responding to ancient cultural circumstances. One such circumstance may have been the fact that, in biblical times, women were not formally educated, and therefore their lack of education meant they would not be competent teachers. Some factions of Christianity believe that because women are now permitted to pursue the same education as men, they should also be allowed to teach in the church.
- 1 ESV Bible: Colossians 4:15
- 2 ESV Bible: Acts 22
- 3 ESV Bible: 1 Timothy 2
- 4 Network Norwich & Norfolk: To the Bible: Women in Church Leadership?
- 5 BBC Religions: Paul
- 6 The Georgia Bulletin: Paul Valued the Ministry of Women
- 7 ESV Bible: Galatians 3:28
- 8 ESV Bible: Romans 16:1
- 9 PBS: Paul's Mission and Letters