George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London,
St. Paul, the Apostle: The mortar for St. Peter's
Whether for Christians, Jews, or other non-Catholics, no understanding
of a World Religion with over one billion members can be approached without
some knowledge of St. Paul. An excellent book to assist in this study
is "In Search Of Paul", by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L.
Reed (Harper San Francisco, 2004). The following are a few insights
from that book.
St. Paul's view of his mission on behalf of Jesus can be no better summarized
by this excerpt from his First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians
2:1-5) (uniformly acknowledged as authentically Paul's):
Saul was a fervent Jew who was greatly troubled when he came to be persecuted
as much by the Jews, who opposed his evangelizing among the gentiles and
among pagan sympathizers of the Jews, as by the Romans.
The Caesars opposed him because the foundation of their power was their
claim to be God, Son of God, God of God, Lord, Redeemer and Savior of the
World (px). Paul presented another claimant to those titles,
the one and only, Jesus Christ.
The ancient Jewish religion was very strong and resourceful, and was generally
tolerated by Rome. The new religion that Paul spread throughout the
Mediterranean basin was directly opposed to Rome's Imperial theory, while
it targeted the pagan God-worshipers in the Jewish synagogues for their
allegiance. Any wonder then, that Paul lived a dangerous and
And if that wasn't enough, Paul had to deal, both during life and after
death, with objections to his vision of Jesus' teachings. His was
a Christianity of inclusion, of willing Jews, of gentiles (without need
for circumcision), and of women. All were to be welcome, and all
were equal. After his martyrdom in Rome, probably with St. Peter,
some of the Letters attributed to Paul were actually written by others
(the so-called Lukan Paul), with different teachings or at least different
emphases. Some of the original Apostles, those who actually had lived
with Jesus, even tried to withhold from Paul the honor of "Apostle", always
treasured - rightly - by this other foundation-stone of the Catholic Church.
Ultimately, the message that St. Paul the Apostle brought from Jesus' teachings
to His Church was a vision, not of "Violence, and then Peace" which had
been the unsuccessful modus operandi for eons...but of "Justice, and then
Peace", something that we all still aspire to.
"When I came to you, brothers and sisters, proclaiming the mystery
of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. For
I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and
him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might
rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God."