Reading Paul for the Summer

The long summer days invite us to recline and indulge in a good book or two. For my summer reading, I plan to include the letters of St. Paul the Apostle.

Biblical History

The first words written about Jesus come from Paul (51-58 A.D.). In the New Testament, the gospels come before the Letters of Saint Paul, but they were written (70-95 A.D.) after Paul had completed his ministry. Paul was concerned with the challenges the early Christian church faced and addressed them in a series of letters, carefully written to that specific community. 

Paul's Background

Paul, who went by his Jewish name, Saul, was a student of Gamaliel, a doctor of Jewish law and a Pharisee respected by all the people. In the early Christian days, followers of Jesus were threatened for speaking out. Gamaliel’s response was to warn his colleagues by offering examples of unsuccessful religious movements. He told them to “have nothing to do with these men, and let them go”. He argued that if it is of human origin, it will destroy itself. “But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them.” (Acts 5:39). It would seem to me that Saul missed this important point. He went on to persecute Jesus followers until his encounter on the way to Damascus.


Thirteen letters are credited to Paul. Most theological commentators recognize only seven as having been written by Paul, the rest by his followers. I am excited about examining the works of such a great scholar and well-travelled missionary. It should provide a good picture of how the early church operated, worshipped and governed. Their challenges are certainly not much different than our own.