Monday, November 29, 2010

The Apostle Paul: Intriguing, Influential, Honored: Joseph Younkin

     “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing or your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV). There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul was a very influential man in Christian history. He has done a lot in shaping the Christian religion into what it is today. He has lived a fascinating life, and is held in very high esteem by the church, in particular, the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has constructed many monuments in honor of St. Paul, one in particular being San Paolo Fuori le Mura, or St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. This basilica is magnificent and has a very rich history. One of the reasons that St. Paul is held in such high esteem by the Christian religion is because of his theology. This great apostle has shaped many of the beliefs of the Christian church, including beliefs and views of the Trinity.
     St. Paul was a man who led a very interesting and exciting life. He has lived through many experiences and has also experienced God in an unbelievable way. Paul was originally born with the name “Saul” in the year 10 AD (Rayment). Paul was born in Tarsus and when he was about fourteen years old he was sent to Jerusalem to train to become a Rabbi. At the same time he was training to become a Rabbi, he was also trained to become a tent maker (Rayment). By the time Paul became an adult, he was a man who was very firm in his convictions. He was very intolerable of any kind of heresy against the Jewish religion. The main type of heresy at the time of Paul was Christianity. Paul took an active role in persecuting Christians. He was the overseer of the murder of the first martyr Stephen. After the martyrdom of Stephen, Paul went on a mission to Damascus to further the persecution of the Christians. It was on this road to Damascus that Paul’s life would be changed. On the road to Damascus Paul was confronted by Jesus in a vision who then asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. This vision of Christ had made Paul a Christian. A lot of what is known about the life of St. Paul can be found in the book of Acts in the Bible. Throughout his life, Paul went on three different missionary journeys, spreading the gospel throughout most of the world. After his third missionary journey Paul was arrested. He was then kept under house arrest for two years before he finally invoked his right as a Roman citizen for a trial before the emperor (Rayment). It is unclear what the results of the trial before the emperor were, but sometime around 64 AD Paul was put to death, many believe by decapitation. After the death of Paul, his body was buried and a small shrine was built over the grave site; this was the start of San Paolo Fuori le Mura (Sacred).
     Many years after the death of Paul a small church was constructed where the shrine was, over the grave site. The first church was built in the year 324 AD by Emperor Constantine (Sacred). In the year 386 AD Emperor Theodosius destroyed the first church and started the construction of a much larger basilica (Sacred). The basilica was then completed in the year 395 AD under Emperor Honorius. The basilica that stands in the spot today is heavily restored, but looks much like the basilica that was completed in the 4th century (Sacred). Throughout the years the care of the basilica was entrusted to the care of many orders of monks (Sacred). In the year 1823 there was a fire at the basilica (Sacred). The fire was started by a workman who was repairing the lead on the roof. This fire completely burned the entire basilica. The basilica was rebuilt, however, with the help of the whole world. The entire world contributed to the rebuilding of the basilica. One work of art that happened to survive the great fire is the great mosaic in the apse. The mosaic that is seen in the basilica today is the same one that survived the fire. This mosaic is a work of Trinitarian art. It depicts Christ, making the sign for the Trinity, surrounded by four apostles. When looking at the mosaic, to the right, Christ’s left is St. Peter; and to the left, Christ’s right is St. Paul. There is no doubt that this basilica was build to commemorate Paul because of the great effect that he had on the Christian religion. He was an excellent missionary and revealed some great Biblical truths, especially when looking at the theology of the Trinity.
     One of the many reasons that Paul was so revered as a key figure in Christian history is because of the theology that he presented. Paul was an expert at presenting theology and Biblical truths in a way that was easy to understand and live by. One particular theological idea that Paul touches on is the theology of the Trinity. Paul’s theology of the Trinity becomes clear when looking at the book of Romans in the Bible. Throughout the book of Romans, particularly in chapter eight, Paul addresses what the Trinity is, and furthermore he specifically addresses who or what the Holy Spirit is. Also, Paul addresses throughout his epistles, specifically in Romans again, the nature of the relationship between the other two parts of the Trinity, Father and Son. It becomes clear by reading the epistles of Paul that the Trinity is indeed the union of three persons in one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
     One of the major Trinitarian theological ideas that can be taken from Paul when looking at his letter to the Romans is the nature of the relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son. One major misconception that people have when they think of this relationship between the Father and the Son is that the Father “did something” to the Son. Based on what is known about Trinitarian theology however, this would not be true. In Romans 8:32 it says “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all…” (NIV Bible). When reading this passage through the lens Trinitarian theology one can see that instead of the Father giving up the Son, He is in fact giving of himself, showing the kind of selfless sacrifice that all Christians should strive to show (Daly).
     The other Trinitarian theological matter that is discussed by Paul in the book of Romans is the question of who the Holy Spirit is. There are a lot of varying positions regarding this topic, whether the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God the Father, or the Spirit of God the Son, or a completely different person altogether. One answer to this question can be found in the book of Romans, more specifically, chapter one and chapter eight. The answer to this question appears to be a combination of all the varying positions. The Spirit is interchangeably the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of the one who raised Christ from the dead (Watson). A few good verses to look at regarding the question of who the Spirit is are Romans 1:4 “and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God…” (NIV Bible); and Romans 8:9 “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (NIV Bible). By looking at these verses, it appears to be that the Spirit is a combination of the Spirit of God and of Jesus and also of its own. This is one of the mysteries that makes God such a Holy Triune Being.
     The Apostle Paul was a very influential man when it comes to the shaping of the Christian religion as it is know today. St. Paul has lived a very fascinating life, one of adventure and danger, along with spreading the Gospel to wherever his adventures took him. St. Paul has also weighed in heavily when it comes to theological matters. He has done a lot to make Biblical truths something that can be understood today. He has helped to define and identify the nature of the Trinity. It becomes clear how important this man was in Christian history when looking at the many monuments constructed for him around Rome, this great Apostle has a basilica that was build in his honor. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing or your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

Daly, Robert J. "Images of God and the imitation of God: problems with atonement." Theological Studies (2007): 36-51.

"NIV Bible." Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Sacred Destinations. 2005. 21 November 2010

Watson, Francis. "The triune divine identity: reflections on Pauline God-language, in disagreement with J. D. G. Dunn." Journal for the Study of the New Testament (2000): 99-124.
Rayment, W.J. 2003. 21 November 2010

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