Sanders on Paul’s Life image

Sanders on Paul’s Life

It's encouraging to read this from Ed Sanders, one of the most influential Pauline scholars of the last fifty years. Even academics must admit that Paul, despite his brilliance, was fundamentally an apostle more than a systematic theologian:

Paul spent years of his life on the road, carrying (presumably on pack animals) his tent, clothing and tools – not many scrolls, if any. He carried the Bible safely tucked away in his head, where it belongs. As an apostle, he often supported himself by plying his trade. He was busy, traveling, working with his hands, winning people for Christ, shepherding or coping with his converts, responding to questions and problems. And he was very human; he knew not only fighting without but also fears within (2 Cor. 7:5). Paul the completely confident academic and systematic theologian – sitting at his desk, studying the Bible, working out a system, perfect and consistent in all its parts, unchanging over a period of thirty years, no matter how many new experiences he and his churches had – is an almost inhuman character, either a thinking machine or the fourth person of the Trinity. The real Paul knew anger, joy, depression, triumph, and anguish; he reacted, he overreacted, he repented, he apologized, he flattered and cajoled, he rebuked and threatened, he argued this way and that way: he did everything he could think of in order to win some.

(Quoted in Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God).

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