The journeys of Paul are covered, historically, by Acts. Volumes have been written with Luke's chronologically arranged narrative as their guide, and with the assistance of Paul's comments in his own letters. In some instances they speak of Paul's intentions to travel to specific locations, but those intended visits were often thwarted by men and circumstances.
Between the two, however, the tale of his missionary adventures is well covered. Therefore, it is not necessary for this treatise to go over the identical soil again, but rather to study the letters he wrote in an extremely thorough manner. It is not Paul's journeys that will reveal the man to us. There is no question as to his many ordeals throughout the Middle East and Europe, adventures that rival any of modern day, but his writings will evidence the motives behind his many pilgrimages.
In this study, we must also include those letters which we know are not Paul's, and which testify to views that opposed those of his personal theology. We must include passages from Jesus' teachings which Paul's own thoughts and actions seem to contradict.
Within the context of this thesis, it would be wise to remember that the Gospels we are so familiar with, did not exist in written form until very late in Paul's lifetime. Those sayings or deeds of Jesus that Paul mentions, predate the written Gospels, and in several instances, influence them.
An excellent example is Paul's account of the Eucharist in 1 Corinthians 11:23. This is the oldest record of that event that has come down to us, and we will learn later that it is Paul's influence that reflects in the Gospels. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 927: 804f)
It would also be proper to keep in mind that the Apostles were already practicing the 'common' meal, and in essence, the 'Passover meal', in remembrance of that last meal with their Lord. In practice, the Jerusalem Church honored Jesus' instructions at the time of the last supper. There was no meal or sacrament commemorating Jesus' death among the disciple's congregation.
From the outset the congregation formed by the Apostles observed baptism and the Common Meal, but it was natural that those who had celebrated the Passover with him should remember the meal during which he had bidden them farewell. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 180)
The information that Paul had concerning the life and teachings of Jesus, who was called the Christ, had to have come from third party information, an oral tradition that might have existed in Jerusalem, and the teachings of the Twelve which had been carried to areas in the middle-east by themselves and their own disciples.
Paul writes that he had received the custom, "...from the Lord." It is obvious that he had not been present at the Last Supper, so what is Paul insinuating? The Interpreter's Bible, openly disagrees with those who take his words to mean that he received this 'sacrament' in a vision from the risen Christ. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 135)
Of personal knowledge of Jesus, Paul had none! The philosophies and theologies that he created were of his own conception, and those colored by his education as a Pharisee in a Hellenistic world, and the pagan religions which surrounded him. His own writings evidence these influences.
Paul often added to simple messages, complicating them with his own theological theories. In was part of his literary method of operation. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 21. IV)
With this in mind, we must search the world of the theologian and historian who have, by their own devices, attempted to catalog the writings of Paul in their proper chronological order.
Within the context of the New Testament, there are thirteen letters which were originally attributed to Paul. Through modern research, and the development of literary examination, only eight of these works can be directly attributed to his mission to the Gentiles, nine if we consider Ephesians, which is more than likely pseudononimus.
In the most widely accepted chronological order they are as follows:
1 Thessalonians 49-50 AD
1 Corinthians 54-55 AD
Galatians 54-55 AD
II Corinthians 55 AD
Romans 56 AD
Colossians 59-61 AD
Philemon 59-61 AD
Philippians 59-61 AD
Questions concerning II Thessalonians, would bring doubt as to Paul's authorship. The eschatology is way off and there is also a prophecy of the advent of Evil. The anti-Christ who has all power evidences an 'anti-religion' theme rather than an 'anti-Christian' motif. It is certainly not Pauline.
The Interpreter's Bible, reveals the thinking of professional researchers and their reasons for believing this second letter must be a later writing and not an authentic letter of Paul's or anyone in his group. It is not only the theology that is in question, but the style and tone of II Thessalonians which form a basis for evidence against it being Paul's. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 11: Page 250)
Even Peake's Commentary on the Bible, takes into consideration the question of authenticity, noting that the challenge has grown as time passes. One of the biggest concerns is the apocalyptic nature of this second letter, most assuredly not Paul's usual style. It is firmly believed that the letter is an imitation. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 996: 869e; Authenticity)
The question of Paul's hand is also the case with, Ephesians.
A growing number of scholars now believe that the epistle is pseudonymous, but it must also be noted that this feeling is not unanimous; a number of excellent critics are not convinced that the letter is not Paul's. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 597)
It was not uncommon for writers to use the name of well-known figures in order to bring importance to their own works, or to plagiarize the works of others. It is also possible that this may be the work of a member of Paul's staff to whom he dictated a letter at an earlier moment. Several of the letters attributed to Paul were written by others for he certainly dictated several of them to 'scribes'. From what we can learn from Paul's own words, his eyesight never recovered sufficiently to allow him the ability to proceed with many such tasks on his own.
Evidently, as already pointed out, the healing he speaks of connected with his conversion 'vision' was an imperfect one, or is another of his fabrications. (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 928: 805b)
We must then consider the letters titled, James and Hebrews. They are most certainly not Paul's. The letter of James, is not only a direct contradiction of Paul's theology of, 'salvation based on faith alone', but an assault and challenge to that theology.
Hebrews, calls up the vision of Jesus being descended of the priesthood, in fact, the priesthood of Melchizedeck. And the writer goes so far as to consider Jesus, a Son of God, and not the Son of God. (Hebrews 5:8-9; RSV)
The author is unknown, but this letter is written in the 'high' Greek, and brings to mind the descendency through Mary and her blood relationship to Elizabeth, who was descended from the High Priesthood of Aaron.
Here, Peake's Commentary, speaks without hesitation. "...it can in no sense be regarded as a Pauline document..." (Peake's Commentary on the Bible; Page 927: 804f)
The writer of Hebrews, obviously calls up a knowledge that extent New Testament scripture has either deleted, ignored, or has conveniently forgotten. At any rate, it is a proper parallel to draw for the Messenger of God.
These writings are not consistent with Paul's line of thought, nor are they in his style. Without question, they would refute that which he has preached. Although we do not have other writings to call upon, there are attacks upon Paul's use of titles and authority to which he himself alludes.
Professionals voice the opinion that Paul's assailants are unknown. They are shadowy figures that try to destroy his work. This student, however, believes that they are the Disciples, who disagree with Paul's actions. It is easy to see why they hound him so relentlessly, for Paul continued to assume titles and authority that were not his. In fact, it is noted that Paul, "...was not of the sort to brood over his wounds." Yet his letters continually wail about his physical ailments and his imagined persecution by the Judiazers. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 7: Page 201)
The effort of this theologian to coerce our minds toward mystifying enemies, is fruitless. Paul makes it obvious that the Judiazers were no less than Christ's Apostles. Why they, '...hounded him so relentlessly...' becomes obvious when the facts are presented. But the statement that, "Paul was not of the sort to brood over his wounds..." it is an absolute aberration, Paul does nothing less!
It is sufficient to indicate that, as usual with him, he managed to stir the anger and resentment of those most high in the organization of the Jerusalem Church and its followers. It was the Twelve, including Jesus' brother, James, of whom he was most jealous. Could he have been preaching a gospel that was completely out of line with the truth they had lived?
Could it have been the Apostles and their followers who continually denounced Paul for embracing a commission to which he had no rightful claim, and for ministering to a false gospel? Even if it were, theologians most assuredly would not dare to implicate the Twelve. They would not dare force the world's congregations to make a choice between Paul and the Twelve. What then? Incriminate someone else, the unnamed, unidentified, Judiazers.
With these matters stirring the imagination, we begin an intense examination of the writings of one called, Saul of Tarsus.