Genesis Of Paul’s Theology -- By: William H. H. Marsh

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 060:237 (Jan 1903)
Article: Genesis Of Paul’s Theology
Author: William H. H. Marsh

Genesis Of Paul’s Theology

Rev. William H. H. Marsh

Paul, antecedent to his conversion, was providentially prepared for his great life-work. For this he was “a chosen vessel” before he was converted.1 Born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia and a center of Greek culture, there is no sufficient reason for minimizing the influence of that intellectual environment upon his early mental development, as, for example, Sabatier has done.2 For if Greek thought and culture was not a factor in the genesis of his theology, as it was not, it doubtless was in the cultivation of his mental habits. His mind was naturally active and observant, and therefore must have been open, to a certain extent, to the intellectual influences in the midst of which his youth was spent, and the chaotic civilization by which he was surrounded. To say that his references to Greek authors were nothing more than proverbial sentences “Paul may frequently have heard quoted in pagan society”3 seems to us a very far-fetched explanation of their appearance in one of his discourses and two of his Epistles.4 The fact that his father had become a Roman citizen, and consequently that Paul himself was free born,—a thing he evidently greatly appreciated,5 —makes it highly probable that, if for social and commercial reasons only, he received considerable instruction and training in Greek literature and current philosophy; for, in his references to the latter,

he does not speak like one who scorns what he knew nothing of, but rather like one who condemns what he evidently understood.6 This, briefly, it seems to us, is the view of the question as to the relation of Paul to Greek thought and culture that the few hints in the New Testament warrant. We need say nothing more of it. What we have said is sufficient for our purpose.

But his antecedent training as a Jew in the strictest orthodoxy of post-exilian Judaism as believed and expounded by the Pharisees, is of incomparably greater importance for our purpose. We shall have occasion to refer to it more than once in this article, and therefore need not say much upon it here. But there is one thing of greatest importance that must not be omitted now. It is this. Greek learning and culture, in any case, was intellectual essentially, and in its better and higher phases was aesthetic. In its ethical phase it was speculative. In what we may term its theological, in t...

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