Thursday, April 30, 2009

Paul As . . . Mystic

Let's try our hand at doing some historical sleuthing on the Apostle Paul. Unlike the gospels, Paul's authentic letters come from his own hand so we don't have to deal with a layer of tradition about him from other interpreters of his life and ministry. In order to minimize disagreements, let's follow our own Ground Rules. Consequently, we will:
1. Use only the seven undisputed letters (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon)
2. Use Acts of the Apostles as a secondary source. Where Acts differs from Paul, priority will always be given to Paul's own words.

Our first historical statement: Paul was a mystic who believed he experienced God through visions and special revelations.

Primary evidence from Paul:
  • His gospel came by way of a revelation of Jesus Christ - Gal 1:11-12, 15-16
  • Subsequent to his conversion he had ecstatic experiences in which he was taken up into Paradise and heard things so profound that he was not permitted to speak them - 2 Cor 12:1-4
Secondary evidence from Acts:
  • Paul's conversion, told three times by Luke - Acts 9:3f, 22:6f, 26:12f
  • Night vision by an apparition that directed his missionary activity - Acts 16:9
  • Night vision in which the resurrected Jesus encouraged Paul's stay in Corinth - Acts 18:9f
  • Enters into a trance and is given a warning by Jesus to flee Jerusalem - Acts 22:17f
What other supporting evidence would you submit? Contra evidence?

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