Why Paul Could Contextualise

Apr 19, 2013

God’s choice of Paul would almost certainly have brought some questions into the minds of the early Christians. When he first arrived in Jerusalem the disciples there were afraid of him, not believing he was really a disciple. With the benefit of being able to look back we can see how well placed Paul was to be able to reach the people he did.

Paul could become almost an ‘insider’ in four cultures. He was a Hebrew/Aramaic speaking Jew, both groups had very different cultures. He addressed the Council in Jerusalem in Aramaic in Acts 22:1 and God spoke to him in Hebrew in Acts 26:14.

He was from Tarsus, so would have lived amongst Hellenic Jews there (a Hebrew speaking family in the Diaspora was rare). They kept the law, often more zealously, but the difference in culture is reflected by language.

He had a Greek education, with outstanding knowledge of Greek language, writers, poets, philosophers and rhetoric. In Acts 21:27 he even spoke idiomatic Greek, recognised to his surprise by the tribune.

He was a Roman citizen. This was a great blessing for Paul as it gave him a helpful passport that would have allowed for relative ease of travel as well as ensuring that he would be listened to by certain people. It helped him to identify with Romans and he also uses his citizenship sparingly to get out of trouble as seen in Acts 22:26.

Understanding a culture and its people is a crucial step in sharing the gospel and Paul was uniquely placed so that he could have understood and related to, at least in part, the people he sought to reach.

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