Revista Studii Teologice


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"„Saul – care se numeşte şi Pavel”– Apostolul evreu al ne-evreilor"

“Saul – also known as Paul” – the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles

Autor(i): Pr. Constantin PREDA

Summary: “Saul – also known as Paul” – the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles
The present study aims to provide a biographic profile of St. Paul as described in the New Testament, especially the two canonical sources, the Apostle’s Epistles and the Acts of Apostles, written by St. Luke, his first biographer. Exegetic scholarship of the last decade has reconsidered a number of sources and focused more on the information provided by the Acts of Apostles, for a long time unjustly deemed to be a secondary source.
The importance of this trend is due to the rediscovery of the relationship between biography and autobiography in classical literature. Literary canons peculiar to these genres used to be less different than they are in contemporary literature. The persuasive function, especially the exemplary one, was proper to both autobiography and biography, therefore the former should not be considered more objective and historically accurate than the latter.
Thus neo-testamentary sources concerning St. Paul must be granted equal authority, as dependent on the particular circumstances of the communities addressed, avoiding the misconception that autobiography is more historically accurate than biography, and we must acknowledge that from the methodological point of view, autobiography should be given precedence over biography.
After having established the documentary sources available and the main points of Pauline chronology, I outlined a biographical portrait of the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11, 13) starting from the rather scarce biographical information contained by St. Paul’s epistles, corroborated with the information provided by the Acts of Apostles, in order to obtain a coherent synthesis of St. Paul’s life, in keeping with the contemporary trends in the research dedicated to the apostle.
Chronological data provided by the Acts of Apostles and St. Paul’s Epistles do not enable us to establish a complete and certain chronology. Therefore we must resort to hypotheses, often at variance with each other. In the present stage of research, the traditional perspective on Pauline chronology has gained ample consensus of experts. In order to draft St. Paul’s curriculum vitae, we must start from certain events mentioned in his Epistles and the Acts of Apostles, which can be located in time with a high degree of certitude. These are four events: “the inscription of proconsul Gallion”, “the edict of emperor Claudius”, “St. Paul’s fleeing Damascus under king Aretas”, “St. Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea”. Starting from these events, one can obtain a biographical profile of St. Paul. However, certain aspects of his life cannot be clarified. The date of his birth and death remain hypothetical. What happened to him, after his arrival in Rome? According to some researchers, after two years’ imprisonment, the apostle was beheaded; others consider that, at the end of these two years, he was released and went to visit the communities of Asia Minor; yet others do not rule out his journey to Spain, before his return to Asia.
The few chronological landmarks, although credible, only allow us to draw a hypothetical outline of St. Paul’s life, which fails to gain the consensus of all experts, and permits endless debates. Due to these chronological landmarks, we can cover approximately thirty years in St. Paul’s life. For the period before his revelation on the road to Damascus, and that following his two years’ Roman imprisonment, I could not establish a certain chronology, but only presented the hypotheses put forth by the most authoritative experts. What we can say, concerning St. Paul’s life, is that around 56- 60 A.D. he considered himself to be “old”, which suggests he was born in early 1st century. As regards the time of his martyrdom in Rome, we can certainly place it between the year 62 A.D., when the account in the Acts of Apostles stops, and 68 A.D., when ended the reign of Nero, the persecuting emperor.
When St. Paul died in Rome, he was about sixty years old. Half of his life, after his conversion on the road to Damascus, was spent preaching the Gospel, travelling from one province of the empire to another, from Syria to Galatia, from Macedonia to Asia. He travelled tens of thousands of kilometers, both on sea and on land. He wanted to reach Rome, in order to lay the grounds for missionary activity in the Occident. He was imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and sealed his confession of faith through his beheading. St. Paul did not establish the Roman church, but marked its history through his martyrdom. His first biographer, Luke, intuited the historic and symbolic dimension of his testimony. St. Paul’s death in Rome is the fulfillment of the mission assigned by the Resurrected Christ to His disciples, as from this center of the world their testimony reached the ends of earth.

Pagini: pp. 31-66