The apostle Peter writes in 2 Pet. 3:16, “…there are some things in them that are hard to understand [in Paul’s letters], which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (ESV) Peter wrote this for a good reason. Paul’s writings are often hard to understand, especially when the ‘other Scriptures’ are ignored. Those ‘other Scriptures’ that Peter is referring to are the Tanakh (the “old Testament”). If one losses sight of who Paul was, and what he grew up with, and both the Jewish culture and the cultures Paul was working with, one can twist Paul’s words to mean just about anything. This blog will attempt to set the record straight on quite a bit of what Paul wrote, but I’m not claiming I understand all either. Thus comments are welcome and wanted!
There are a couple facts that one has to be able to accept before even beginning to undergo such an adventure. The first fact has to do with the English translations of the Bible.
Translations are just that: translations. They are not the originals. Translating text from one language to another is difficult enough to do without changing meanings and thoughts. It becomes harder when poetry and religious texts are involved. And it is even harder when the originating culture’s world view is different then the target culture. All of this comes together in our English translations, and on top of everything, the translators often have an agenda they either consciously or unconsciously promote.
Even worse is that Paul’s letters bridge several cultures.
Paul is a Hebrew, and the Hebrew language and culture is diametrically opposite to the Greek and Roman cultures.
For one thing, Greek is very much about philosophy and thought, and Hebrew is more about action. This, and other background info, will be brought up as the series progresses.
As for the translations themselves, the first thing to understand is that the titles over sections in the Bible are not actually there. They are added by the translators to “help” people understand what is going on. Often, though, the translators add their own bias to what they think is going on.
Turn your Bible to the book of Acts, chapter 9. Most Bibles will have the title, “The Conversion of Saul” above the beginning of Acts 9:1. And this is pretty much accepted as fact. But it isn’t true. Saul didn’t convert to anything. Read the entire book of Acts closely. Even at the end of the book he is stating how he continues being a Pharisee and living the Jewish traditions. He didn’t convert. He did, however, come to know Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised Messiah.
Neither did Paul suddenly change his name.
Just about every Jew has a Hebrew name, and if born or living in a non-Jewish country, then they have a gentile name. Consider Daniel, who was giving the name Beltshazzar, and Esther, whose real name is Hadassah. It’s a long standing tradition.
To sum up, this series will be dealing with Paul and his teachings, keeping all in the context of the cultures and languages used. There are some surprising, and even some humorous differences between the traditional Christian understandings and this view.
As always, this is meant to ignite a love for God’s word, and for us to grow closer to Him.