Given Paul’s background, and early political and cultural affiliation, how might we come to understand the Pauline perspective? How might the context of the ancient world have shaped Paul’s view and subsequently the Christian tradition?
This is a great question. Paul's background is essential in understanding Paul's theology and outlook. If we look at who Paul was, he had three cultural influences.
First, he was Jewish. According to the book of Philippians, he was from the tribe of Benjamin, and according to the book of Acts, he was trained in the school of the Pharisees.
Second, Paul was living in a hellenistic world. The clearest evidence of this is his ability to write in Greek. In fact, all of his letter are in Greek. This shows that his education was hellenized. He also refers in several places to Greek literature. For example, he refers to a hellenistic poet Aratus in the book of Acts chapter 17.
Third, Paul is proud to say that he was a Roman citizen. When he was in prison, he made sure to tell the guards that he was a Roman citizen. At one point he even appealed to Caesar. In other words, he exercised his rights.
All of these elements played profound roles in his theology and perspective. To give an example, Paul wrote a lot on the law. Paul was perfectly situated to speak on this topic. He had the ability to see in action Jewish and Roman law. To give another example, Paul wrote on a theology of adoption. Again he had great recourse to see the workings of adoption in the Roman world. As a final example, Paul also wrote much about spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6). Paul understood something about warfare, as he had the ability to observe Roman soldiers in action. He probably made tents for Roman legionaries.
In conclusion, we can say that much of what Paul wrote was influenced by his surroundings.
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