Saul of Tarsus: The Gossip Chronicles, Interviewer’s Note

   

Note:  I had long feared the effects of gossip on the life and work of Paul, the militant missionary apostle. His writings carried many a clue for the observant researcher.

   Saul, not yet Paul, was uneasily accepted into the nascent Jesus Movement of the first Christian century. Saul, after all, faithfully persecuted Jewish converts to the Jesus Movement. His conversion would have had to be as dramatic as recorded in Acts 9. A man so committed to a faith-life he could later call himself a "Jew of Jews and a Pharisee of Pharisees," would require a startling personal insight in order to leave off his old life. The drama of the Pauline conversion, about which he (Paul) spoke so often would contrast markedly to the more routine conversions of other adherents, in particular among those who joined the new faith for its material generosity.

   Naturally, men who felt they were less toxic than Saul of Tarsus would wag their tongues about him. He would be the long-term victim of vicious rumors, impaled thereon by the people he left but no less than the faith camp to which he came.

   Even when writing to people he had not yet met, the Roman Christians, Paul found it necessary to argue for contentment of the tongue as regards Christian leaders (Romans 14:10f). Since I first read the Bible as an unbeliever I read it sequentially as arranged in the accepted presentation. I am not sure when I read Romans 14 and saw the deep wounds in Paul but I came to see them very clearly. He had been bitten by a serpent and lived, unharmed. He had been ravaged by Christians and carried the psychic scars around with him.

   Paul had a dramatic conversion and he had a successful work. He could not possibly have escaped the usual, human jealousies acted on the especially gifted, particularly when they lack a strong, human patron. Paul imminently taught pagans, Jews and barbarians to find some kind of order in an anarchic global geo-politic (Romans 15:18-22). He did so without an overabundance of miracle working, like that in the lives of the first apostles. He was a master teacher who challenged men with his life. Other men, less gifted to convert, could not let this pass.

   Paul spent most of his life and ministry in the field far from the intrigues of the ecclesiastical court. Men who languished in relative comfort rather than pioneer tended then as now to harbor deep concerns about their caste. Men do not willingly surrender caste, not even to someone who does the heavy lifting. Paul would have felt their sting.

   And in that is our final point for now; Paul did the heavy lifting for the Early Church, establishing the outposts of the Church at ever greater distances from Headquarters. It is  a telling point of "leadership" in every generation, even among the religious, that distant things take on an ominous appearance. Those people yonder do not know our culture, which we believe must be preserved.

   The Church always fails when it sets itself to preserve its culture rather than push back the borders of darkness. It is the Gates of Hell that must be battered down, not the Church doors that must be defended.

   Men unaccustomed to saving grace, set to hold a spot but bring less value to it, would view the coming apostle with some real alarm. They would not be disposed in our day to hold their tongues. Why would we think the Early Folk were much different?

    

2 thoughts on “Saul of Tarsus: The Gossip Chronicles, Interviewer’s Note”

  1. Mike Marshall

    “The Church always fails when it sets itself to preserve its culture rather than push back the borders of darkness. It is the Gates of Hell that must be battered down, not the Church doors that must be defended.”
    Great insight.

  2. “The Church always fails when it sets itself to preserve its culture rather than push back the borders of darkness. It is the Gates of Hell that must be battered down, not the Church doors that must be defended.”
    Alas, one more half-naked, honey-eating crazy man standing out in the wilderness yelling at clouds.
    Doesn’t he know that is not the way we do things around here? Doesn’t he know that you shoot your wounded and devour alive those without the good sense to die and stay dead?
    Crazy man…
    Gary

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