Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Simon Sebag Montefiore's magnificent book Jerusalem, The Biography (Phoenix, 2012) is by and large respectful of Christianity but unfortunately projects a fashionable caricature of the Apostle Paul, describing him as 'an unmarried puritanical loner' (p141).

Though he was indeed unmarried (1 Corinthians 7v7), such a contention suggests that Paul was somehow deficient relationally, a proto-extreme-Protestant oddball obsessed with doctrine at the expense of humanity.

But this - dare one say? - cavalier distortion runs completely contrary to the historical evidence contained in his New Testament letters to the churches that under God he founded. Two examples will suffice to show Paul's love for people, the first from a letter to a church with whom he enjoyed a fairly easy relationship, the second to one with whom relations were more fraught: 
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1v3-8 - NIV).
Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one.  I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds (2 Corinthians 7v2-4).
Western church liberals presume to sit in judgement on Paul because his biblical writings stand in the way of the innovations they want to introduce, which they vainly hope will reverse the numerical and financial decline of their denominations. So it is important to defend his integrity as an authentic Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul's manifest love for Jesus' people was as much a sign of his true Apostleship as his miracles.   


  1. How many men have worked successfully with other men in teams as Paul did? With Barnabas, Silas, Luke, Timothy and others. Some loner!


  2. Thank you Andrew. He could be fiery - witness his row with Barnabas in Acts 15. But that is very different from being a loner, which as you say he was not.

  3. Quite right. 1 Thess 2, "we shared not just the gospel, but our lives with you... like a mother..." worth searching words like partner, partners, partnership, fellowship, co-workers in Paul's work. Where do these guys get off?

  4. It seems to me that Paul acted properly in refusing to take Mark who had deserted them before (Acts 13:13). How could he, when he had been proven to be unreliable? Perhaps Barnabas put family feeling before the needs of gospel work? Meyer: 'Fickleness in the service of Christ .. was to Paul’s bold and decided strength of character and firmness in his vocation the foreign element, with which he could not enter into any union either abstractly or for the sake of public example.'