Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Paul’s Apostleship

     At what point Paul was officially recognized as an apostle of Jesus Christ is uncertain. He is not so designated in the book of Acts except in the generic sense of the term. The verb ἀποστέλλω (“I am sending”) is used of his commission to the gentiles (Acts 26:17); accordingly both he and Barnabas are described as ἀπόστολοι (Acts 14:4, 14), lit. “sent ones” (cf. 13:2-3). Paul did possess the ability to perform “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12), but his first recorded miracle was about eleven years after his conversion (Acts 13:11).1 Moreover, a distinction seems to be made in the book of Acts between Paul and “the apostles” (Acts 9:27; 15:2, 4, 22; 16:4).
     In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, probably the earliest of the extant Pauline writings, Paul is mentioned by name only, and the term ἀπόστολοι is applied generically to the three missionary co-authors (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6). In all subsequent correspondence, except Philippians and Philemon,2 references to Paul's apostolic commission and authority are added. It has been suggested that something must have happened after the apostle’s earliest correspondence that changed his confident silence into embellished expressions of his apostleship, perhaps the conflict in Antioch (Gal. 2:14-21) prompting a defense of his apostolic authority against questions raised by his opponents (J. Murphy O’Connor, Letter-Writer 45-48; cf. Paul: A Critical Life 25-26). However, there is no evidence that the incident alluded to in Gal. 2:11 ff. instigated antagonism toward Paul, and according to the chronology followed here (see K. L. Moore, Critical Introduction 36-46), the Antioch conflict occurred before the composition of the Thessalonian epistles. Nevertheless, the opposition that eventually harassed the apostle probably did not catch up to him until after the letters were sent to Thessalonica (as indicated in Galatians and the Corinthian correspondence).
     Paul is the only apostle described as “called” (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1),3 perhaps a subtle allusion to his unique situation (cf. Acts 1:21-25; 9:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:8-10; 2 Cor. 11:5). Paul’s self-designation as a “called apostle” sets him apart from the other apostles. In referring to “the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5) or to other apostles contemporaneous with him (2 Cor. 12:11; Phil. 2:25; Rom. 16:7) or to the apostles active before him (Gal. 1:17), he does not use the term κλητός (“called”). “The apostles who were known to Paul were ‘sent out,’ either by Christ or by a church, to perform a specific function. Paul holds a unique position in that he was ‘called’ by the risen Christ” (C. Dorsey, “Paul’s Use of πόστολος” 193-200). Paul’s special apostolic position was related to the purpose of his calling, seeing that he was the first person specifically called by the risen Lord to be an apostle to the gentiles (J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship” 263).
     While the word ἀπόστολος (“apostle”) [vb. ἀποστέλλω = to “send out or away”] can be used generically with reference to anyone who is sent as a delegate or messenger (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 1 Thess. 2:6), Paul’s frequent use of the term as applied to himself almost certainly carries the special sense of God’s authoritative representative.4 In letters designed to teach and reprove Christian communities, the apostolic appellation makes a fitting introduction (Bailey and Vander Broek, Literary Forms 23-24). Paul is a self-described apostle “of Jesus Christ,” but not a self-appointed apostle; it is “by the will of God” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Ananias laid his hands on young Saul for the express purpose of healing his blindness (Acts 9:12, 17-18a). Another reason Ananias was sent to Saul was to enable him to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17), which occurred in a non-miraculous manner at his baptism (Acts 9:18b; cf. 2:38; 5:32). The exact point in time that Paul received the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit is not disclosed in scripture; his first recorded miracle was performed about eleven years later (Acts 13:11).
     2 These are more personal letters in settings wherein a reminder of Paul’s apostleship was unnecessary (cf. G. Fee, Philippians 61-63).
     3 “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle …” (Rom. 1:1). “Paul, called an apostle …” or “Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1). Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     4 Rom. 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; 11:5; 12:11-12; Gal. 1:1, 17; Eph. 1:1; 2:20; 3:5; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1, 11; Tit. 1:1. On the word ἀπόστολος and its various uses, see BAGD 99-100; D. Müller, NIDNTT 126-35, with C. Brown’s addendum 135-37; K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT 1:407-45; J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship since Rengstorf” 249-64; also J. D. G. Dunn, Theology of Galatians 10-11.

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