Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

TX 28/02/2010

Tom Holland's account of Saul of Tarsus' life portrays him as a man defined by contradictions.

He started out a Jew, but was then surreally awarded Roman citizenship. He tried to wipe-out Christianity before it even has a name, but then devoted his life to preaching it, apparently until his death. He preached freedom from the Jewish law, but was also a hard-line conservative.

Today he's nothing less than inspiring.

"We're so used to the idea of Christian missionaries that we tend to assume I think, that preaching the word to the heathen is just the kind of thing that Christians do. But not in the time of Paul. He was aiming at something bizarre. Heroic. Unprecedented in the scope of its ambition.

Nothing less than the conversion of the world.

And it's the measure of his achievement that the ultimate consequence of this would be the emergence of Christianity, nowadays the largest religion on the face of the planet, with over two billion adherents."

Now if that's not inspiring, I don't know what is!

As usual, experts show up to tell us that some of his letters are not true, just like the first five books of the Bible in programme three, the first thirteen books in programme one, and the gospels in programme five, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised to find the last ones being put into the same category as well.

If Paul really was a man of such contradictions, as presented here, then some disunity in his beliefs would surely be consistent with that.

Overall I think it's important to remember that Paul was a human being, and part of the human condition is to hold opposing attitudes in tension against each other, and also to test and change one's convictions over the course of one's life, as one learns more.

Ultimately Paul comes across in this doco as someone who could not quite comprehend Christ's message of grace himself, and who was still struggling to understand it years later, perhaps even until his death.

I was impressed at the mention of the earliest known Bible canon - compiled by Marcian - which contained merely the gospel of Luke, ten of Paul's letters and nothing else, not even the Old Testament.

Again, within this context of the freedom that Paul's message offered from rules, of course one fixed Bible hasn’t happened. Embracing the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it, yet also setting in stone one set text to do all of our thinking for us, seems incompatible all of the time.

But not all of the time.

Click here for review of programme 1 - Creation.
Click here for review of programme 2 - Abraham.
Click here for review of programme 3 - Moses and the Law.
Click here for review of programme 4 - The Daughters of Eve.
Click here for review of programme 5 - Jesus.
Click here for review of programme 7 - Revelation - The Last Judgement.

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