The Missionary Preaching Of Paul: A Problem In New Testament Theology -- By: Donald H. Madvig

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 20:2 (Jun 1977)
Article: The Missionary Preaching Of Paul: A Problem In New Testament Theology
Author: Donald H. Madvig


The Missionary Preaching Of Paul:
A Problem In New Testament Theology

Donald H. Madvig*

A significant portion of our NT is dominated by Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. His epistles fill more than one-fourth of its pages. Moreover, Paul is the dominant figure in the Book of Acts. Although an immense amount of missionary activity was carried on by the apostles and the early Church in proclaiming the gospel in Syria, Arabia, India, Egypt and many other areas, only a small part of this vast missionary enterprise found a place in the NT. The title “Acts of the Apostles” is a misnomer because only two apostles—Peter and Paul—are principal characters. One can easily argue that the author included Peter primarily to demonstrate the legitimacy of Paul’s apostolate to the Gentiles. The election of Matthias to replace Judas is an acknowledgement of the fact that Paul is not one of “the twelve.” Yet the dramatic acts and experiences of the chief apostle, Peter, are matched one for one from the life of Paul and demonstrate that Paul is in no sense inferior. Nor is the mission to the Gentiles an innovation by Paul, since the first breakthrough was accomplished by Peter in response to divine revelation. It seems that an inordinate amount of space is devoted to Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, his imprisonment in Caesarea, and his journey to Rome. This suggests that the writer is more interested in Paul than in the expansion of Christianity. Acts is part two of the Gospel of Luke. If we add Luke-Acts to the Pauline epistles, we have accounted for more than one-half of the NT.

The extent of the influence of Paul on theological and Biblical studies is not fully disclosed by a statistical analysis of the NT documents. The Reformation has been termed a rediscovery of Paul, so that Paul can be called the apostle of Protestantism. Pauline theology has become normative. This I want to call into question.

I am sure that many would view the ascendancy of Pauline theology as an act of providence, but is it right that a small part of the early Christian movement has become definitive of the whole, and that a part of the canonical NT, admittedly a significantly large part, has been made authoritative in a way that has resulted in the neglect or suppression of a sizeable remainder? Is it right that the Gospel of Matthew and the catholic epistles—products of the Jewish-Christian segment of the Church—have been relegated to a position of secondary importance?

I do not mean to imply that I see a great variance in the theologies of the NT writers. The NT authors were a part of the same community of faith. In spite of differences in emphasis and vocabulary, they reflect the same basic doctrinal position. My thesis is this: Overconfidence

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