The Greatness of the Apostle Paul

Deutsche Version: die Größe des Apostels Paulus.

Medieval picture of the Apostle Paul represented with brown hairs and a beard.
The apostle Paul, preacher of the Good News to the Heathens.

Among people critical of Christianity, the apostle Paul has a pretty bad press. Whilst quite a few of them recognize that Jesus had an exceptionally high ethic (at least for his time), Paul is generally regarded as a villain having sort of corrupted the message of his master. 

While I certainly think that Paul had several culturally conditioned false beliefs (about women and homosexuals for instance), I do believe he was a man full of an incredible love and altruism.

There is no better place than the beginning of Roman 9 to notice that:


I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. „


For the sake of his fellows Jews, Paul was ready to lay down his life not only in this world but also forever. To realize the extent of his altruistic love, just ask yourself what it would feel like for you to give up eternal life for the benefits of other people.


But this passage is also very challenging for our understanding of the atonement of Christ. For the sacrifice Paul intended seems much greater than the ordeal Jesus was willing to undergo before being raised from the dead.


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14 thoughts on “The Greatness of the Apostle Paul

  1. […] The Greatness of the Apostle Paul / Die Größe des Apostels Paulus Among people critical of Christianity, the apostle Paul has a pretty bad press. Whilst quite a few of them recognize that Jesus had an exceptionally high ethic (at least for his time), Paul is generally regarded as a villain having sort of corrupted the message of his master. +Während nicht wenige von ihnen anerkennen, dass Jesus eine außenordentlich hohe Ethik (zumindest für seine Zeit) hatte, wird generell Paulus als einen Bösewicht angesehen, der irgendwie die Botschaft seines Meisters verdorben hat. […]

    • Paul’s letters force us to conclude that one of the most influential and important people of early Christianity held and taught beliefs a lot of modern people dislike.

      • Well, Paul also did not believe in the authority of Pope Peter and severely called him into question. Many modern Roman Catholics dislike this idea. Is that a reason for accepting it? 😉

        • Actually, Paul’s admonition of Peter is often quoted by conservative Catholics to justify their criticism of Pope Francis, rightfully so (agree or disagree with him criticism is certainly allowed), and in fact became a core part of the Catholic understanding of the Pope’s authority.

          Paul never questioned Peter’s authority, or ever claimed authority over him.

          Come on, Marc. You’re better than this. Do your homework.

    • Hello Mike!

      What teachings do you have in mind?

      I think that the apostle Paul has often been misinterpreted as well.
      For instance, I think that he believed in the universality of the salvation’s offer and was perhaps even an universalist, as theologian Thomas Talbott argued.

      As for homosexuality, he just thought what every Jewish man having his background thought. He might as well have had plenty of false scientific beliefs (concerning for instance the existence of a historical Adam being the ancestor of everyone), this changes absolutely nothing to the depth of his experiences with the Lord.

      Lovely greetings.

      • Lotherson,
        The doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ, and Penal Substitution (that Jesus died for our sins) are what I am referring to.
        Also his attitude to women and homosexuality are offensive.
        He makes lists of who is in and who is out which Jesus never did.
        And he makes a conflict between the spirit and the flesh which has caused all manner of evil.

        • It is not sure at all he held to penal substitution. There are other ways in which Jesus might have died on our behalf, such as showing us the ultimate defeat of evil (through rising from the dead) and an incredibly great moral example we should all follow.

    • “But the doctrines which have derived from his letters” – could you be more specific on which doctrines that derives from his letters? I am currently studying the Nicene creed in order to examine, if Pauline theology had any influence on it.

      • The doctrine that Jesus death on the cross was atonement for the sin of Adam and Eve – Jesus died for our sins.
        Also Church attitudes to the body – flesh vs. spirit – women and homosexuality.

        • Thank you 🙂
          But how do you determine that these doctrines dows not derive from the other scriptures of the New Testament for instance the Gospels or the other letters?

          • Because the letters of St’ Paul are the first writings of the New Testament. Written about 40-50 CE. The other letters and the Gospels were written after this time. Mark 60 CE, Luke and <Matthew 70-80CE etc..

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