As It Is Written . . .
The World of Paul's Mind
by Patrick Henry Reardon
Theology should be personal—even biographical—in the sense that a man's reflection on the things of God is preferably of a piece with the rest of his life. Obviously, this attribute is easiest to trace in those theologians whose writings include correspondence or other autobiographical elements. One thinks of Justin, Basil, and particularly Augustine, and, in more recent times, Bonhoeffer and Schmemann.
The earliest models of this feature of theology, I suppose, were those eighth-century b.c. prophets whose messages were explicitly rooted in their personal experience: Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. And in varying degrees, we find this true of later prophets as well, notably Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It was St. Paul, however, who established the standard of this trait, because we know an unusual amount about his life, education, and personal experience—certainly more than we know about any other New Testament writer. Moreover, the nature of this information is such that we can even speak of "sources" and "influences" on the structure, content, and development of Paul's thought. I suggest that we may distinguish five influences that especially shaped the mind of the apostle in ways easy to discern in his writings and helpful to their interpretation.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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