As I recently sorted through some random papers (again!), I discovered yet another handout from a bible study I facilitated a while back that I hadn't blogged and posted.
For Christians, Paul of Tarsus is a character of biblical proportions! He indisputably wrote 7 epistles, probably sometime between 50 and 60 CE: 1 Thessalonians; Galatians; Philippians; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Philemon; and Romans. His theology influenced 3 more: 2 Thessalonians; Ephesians; and Colossians (around 90 or 100 CE). In addition, the chronologically later epistle to the Hebrews (ca. 90 CE) bears unmistakable marks of Pauline theology and Christology. However, today most scholars do not consider the "pastoral" epistles genuine Paul. Written possibly as late as 125 CE, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are socially very conservative; the language and content sometimes directly contradict what is found in the authentic letters. Particularly since the Reformation of the 16th century, most Christians are "Pauline Christians" at least to as great an extent as they are Jesus Christians!
In their work on multicultural evangelism, Latino theologians Justo González and Miguel De La Torre both point out Paul's name didn't "change" from Saul to Paul upon his conversion to Christianity but rather Saul was Paul and Paul was Saul - and Saul/Paul concurrently with "Saul" and "Paul" had at least two or three other names.
Since we're studying biblical personalities, here's a little about the apostle Paul: we know from reading Paul's undisputed letters and from the book of Acts that Paul was multicultural - Roman, Greek, and Hebrew/Jewish, which made him sensitive and responsive to the differences between cultures, and also aware that the Church would take differing expressions in different places. From the epistles we know how strongly Paul ran with his convictions, never backing down and always telling his readers - and his listeners - about the life-changing power of the Gospel and especially about the weakness of the Cross that is human foolishness and divine wisdom. Paul was more theologian rather than biblical scholar though only Romans, which essentially is his systematic theology, has much of what anyone would consider "system!" Lots of detours and many ramblings are hallmarks of his correspondence. There's some thought the author of LUke/Acts was Paul's amanuensis.
Today's texts all are from Acts: 4:32-37; 9:26-27; 11:19-30; 15:36-40
The following passage comes right after Peter's vision of unclean creatures telling him he's not to call anything - or anyone! - unclean: even the gentiles belong!