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Why Paul Persecuted the Christians

I have been side-tracked by other things, but now can get back to the thread I started to spin, or rather the tapestry I started to weave.  The ultimate question I’m puzzling over is how Christianity became the dominant religion in the empire, and my point at this stage is that before Christianity began to thrive, it was persecuted.  The persecutions go all the way back.  Our first Christian author is Paul, who must have converted to be a follower of Jesus just three years or so after Jesus’ death.  Paul tells us explicitly that before becoming a follower of Jesus he was a persecutor of the church.  And why was he persecuting it?  He doesn’t say directly, buy my sense is that it was for a very basic reason.  He despised their message.  Specifically he could not abide what Christians were saying about Jesus.  Why was that a problem?  Because they insisted he was God’s messiah. In my previous post I indicated something of one of the common views of what the messiah was [...]

How Paul Persecuted the Christians

How Paul persecuted the Christians. I pointed out in the previous post that prior to his conversion Paul was a persecutor of the church, almost certainly because he objected to what their basic and fundamental message was, that Jesus was the messiah (despite the fact – or rather because of the fact – that he had been crucified).   But how exactly did Paul engage in his persecution?   He himself says that it was violent persecution.  What could that mean? We don’t know exactly how he proceeded.  Paul never describes his persecuting activities.  The book of Acts indicates that he ravaged the gatherings of Christians and dragged people off to prison (8:3).  That’s inherently implausible: we don’t know of anything like Jewish prisons and we can assume that Roman authorities were not inclined to provide cell space for Jewish sectarians who happened to be proclaiming a rather strange message. How Paul Persecuted the Christians So what was he doing to Christians during his persecution of them?  There is one intriguing and possibly helpful comment that Paul [...]

2022-06-19T20:40:19-04:00June 14th, 2016|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Paul as a Persecutor of the Church

The questions of what early Christianity originally *was* and of how it got *started* are closely related to one another.   Both questions are also closely tied to the life, beliefs, and writings of Paul, for one very good reason: Paul is the first Christian author whose writings survive.   Any discussion of Christianity before his time needs to consider at some length what he has to say.  I should point out as well that a lot of modern people (including some scholars) claim that it was Paul himself who started Christianity.  I think that is going too far, in fact maybe way too far, for reasons that will become apparent in this post and the next. Occasionally Paul will give us some clues about pre-Pauline Christianity.   One of the most important passages is in Galatians 1, where he discusses his own “about face,” when he turned from being a persecutor of the faith to being its great apostle.  In Gal. 1:13 Paul reminds his readers that they know what he was like before he had come [...]

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