Over three years ago I began to study, rather inconsistently, Pauline theology. For unknown reasons, I became intrigued by the person of Saul/Paul*. Who was Saul before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus? What drove Saul to stand by and watch Steven stoned to death? What drove Paul's passion for the gospel after his conversion? Why was the Jewish law seemingly such a central issue in his letters, especially Romans?
I had a lot of questions which had accumulated almost unnoticed by me over a long period of time, and which apparently were not answered for me during my seminary days. Unintentionally I found myself deep into Jewish theology as I sought to understand the person of Saul/Paul. Who he was as a person before his conversion, I believed, played a central roll in his life as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and influenced him deeply as the primary author of so much of the New Testament letters we now have in Scripture. Clearly, Paul's influence on how we understand Christ's work on the cross, along with the foundational elements of Christianity, is unmistakable. I found it necessary to understand him better as a person, as well as the development of his zeal and his thought. Thus. . . I am still engaged in this study.
Although I have not consistently studied this topic over the last 3+ years, I have periodically gone back to it. Now, with the help of a friend who is willing to read the books I am reading, so as to engage in dialogue with me about the deep theological concepts found therein, the intense drive to learn as much as I can about Paul and his theology has re-emerged.
There is one thought that continues to surface as I read, journal and discuss Saul/Paul: his truly intense zealous nature. In his own words, he defines himself prior to his conversion as exceedingly zealous (Gal 1:14, NAS). The word "zealous" is an extreme descriptor by itself; to add exceedingly to it seems to dramatically convey the depth and intensity of his zeal. But... zeal for what?
That will be the content of future reflections.
For now, I simply marvel at the zeal for which I am pursuing understanding of Paul's theology, both before and after his conversion to believing (knowing) Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
* When writing about the Apostle Paul, I must take into consideration his birth name of Saul, which he was known by prior to his conversion, as well as the name by which we know him today, Paul. Therefore, I will use both names to indicate the person as a whole, or the specific name that refelcts which part of his life my thoughts are referencing.