A Reading Strategy for Learning St. Paul’s Story and Ministry. Section 1

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The Acts of the Apostles does a bit of jumping in the narrative between different people in the early stages of the Church. Furthermore, some details are not found in the Acts of the Apostles, but instead in the Letters of St. Paul. I decided to try to simply streamline the narrative of St. Paul into a single unit with a weekly post hopefully every Sunday morning on a section of Paul’s narrative. I will be using the Catholic Public Domain Bible for this task for copyright reasons, it is based on DRM translation and the vulgate. You can access the website here: http://www.sacredbible.org/catholic/index.htm 

I may miss something in my readings, so I encourage this to be a forum, please let me know if there is any event in a letter or a piece of Acts that I am missing. Naturally, the narrative of Acts and the Letters will not always go hand to hand, but I will try my best to insert particular passages into the Acts narrative. 

I’ll begin with the first mention of St. Paul. During the event of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, we’re introduced to Saul, the persecutor, who would later become Paul, the Apostle of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. In fact, it’s probably important to begin to the story of St. Paul with the speech of St. Stephen which enrages the crowd to stone him.

Saul’s Introduction 

Acts Ch. 6:8-15, 7:1-60, 8:1-3,

[Acts of the Apostles 6]

{6:8} Then Stephen, filled with grace and fortitude, wrought great signs and miracles among the people. {6:9} But certain ones, from the synagogue of the so-called Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those who were from Cilicia and Asia rose up and were disputing with Stephen. {6:10} But they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. {6:11} Then they suborned men who were to claim that they had heard him speaking words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.{6:12} And thus did they stir up the people and the elders and the scribes. And hurrying together, they seized him and brought him to the council.{6:13} And they set up false witnesses, who said: “This man does not cease to speak words against the holy place and the law.{6:14} For we have heard him saying that this Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and will change the traditions, which Moses handed down to us.”{6:15} And all those who were sitting in the council, gazing at him, saw his face, as if it had become the face of an Angel.

[Acts of the Apostles 7]

{7:1} Then the high priest said, “Are these things so?”

{7:2} And Stephen said: “Noble brothers and fathers, listen. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he stayed in Haran.{7:3} And God said to him, ‘Depart from your country and from your kindred, and go into the land that I will show to you.’{7:4} Then he went away from the land of the Chaldeans, and he lived at Haran. And later, after his father was dead, God brought him into this land, in which you now dwell.{7:5} And he gave him no inheritance in it, not even the space of one step. But he promised to give it to him as a possession, and to his offspring after him, though he did not have a son.{7:6} Then God told him that his offspring would be a settler in a foreign land, and that they would subjugate them, and treat them badly, for four hundred years.{7:7} ‘And the nation whom they will serve, I will judge,’ said the Lord. ‘And after these things, they shall depart and shall serve me in this place.’{7:8} And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so he conceived Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day. And Isaac conceived Jacob, and Jacob, the twelve Patriarchs.{7:9} And the Patriarchs, being jealous, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him.{7:10} And he rescued him from all his tribulations. And he gave him grace and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And he appointed him as governor over Egypt and over all his house.{7:11} Then a famine occurred in all of Egypt and Canaan, and a great tribulation. And our fathers did not find food.{7:12} But when Jacob had heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers first.{7:13} And on the second occasion, Joseph was recognized by his brothers, and his ancestry was made manifest to Pharaoh.{7:14} Then Joseph sent for and brought his father Jacob, with all his kindred, seventy-five souls.{7:15} And Jacob descended into Egypt, and he passed away, and so did our fathers.{7:16} And they crossed over into Shechem, and they were placed in the sepulcher which Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the son of Shechem.{7:17} And when the time of the Promise that God had revealed to Abraham drew near, the people increased and were multiplied in Egypt,{7:18} even until another king, who did not know Joseph, rose up in Egypt.{7:19} This one, encompassing our kindred, afflicted our fathers, so that they would expose their infants, lest they be kept alive.{7:20} In the same time, Moses was born. And he was in the grace of God, and he was nourished for three months in the house of his father.{7:21} Then, having been abandoned, the daughter of Pharaoh took him in, and she raised him as her own son.{7:22} And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. And he was mighty in his words and in his deeds.{7:23} But when forty years of age were completed in him, it rose up in his heart that he should visit his brothers, the sons of Israel. 7:24} And when he had seen a certain one suffering injury, he defended him. And striking the Egyptian, he wrought a retribution for him who was enduring the injury.{7:25} Now he supposed that his brothers would understand that God would grant them salvation through his hand. But they did not understand it.{7:26} So truly, on the following day, he appeared before those who were arguing, and he would have reconciled them in peace, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. So why would you harm one another?’{7:27} But he who was causing the injury to his neighbor rejected him, saying: ‘Who has appointed you as leader and judge over us?{7:28} Could it be that you want to kill me, in the same way that you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’{7:29} Then, at this word, Moses fled. And he became a foreigner in the land of Midian, where he produced two sons.{7:30} And when forty years were completed, there appeared to him, in the desert of Mount Sinai, an Angel, in a flame of fire in a bush.

{7:31} And upon seeing this, Moses was amazed at the sight. And as he drew near in order to gaze at it, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:{7:32} ‘I am the God of your fathers: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses, being made to tremble, did not dare to look.

{7:33} But the Lord said to him: ‘Loosen the shoes from your feet. For the place in which you stand is holy ground.{7:34} Certainly, I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning. And so, I am coming down to free them. And now, go forth and I will send you into Egypt.’

{7:35} This Moses, whom they rejected by saying, ‘Who has appointed you as leader and judge?’ is the one God sent to be leader and redeemer, by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.{7:36} This man led them out, accomplishing signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and in the desert, for forty years. {7:37} This is Moses, who said to the sons of Israel: ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own brothers. You shall listen to him.’

{7:38} This is he who was in the Church in the wilderness, with the Angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. It is he who received the words of life to give to us.{7:39} It is he whom our fathers were not willing to obey. Instead, they rejected him, and in their hearts they turned away toward Egypt,{7:40} saying to Aaron: ‘Make gods for us, which may go before us. For this Moses, who led us away from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’{7:41} And so they fashioned a calf in those days, and they offered sacrifices to an idol, and they rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

{7:42} Then God turned, and he handed them over, to subservience to the armies of heaven, just as it was written in the Book of the Prophets: ‘Did you not offer victims and sacrifices to me for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?

{7:43} And yet you took up for yourselves the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, figures which you yourselves formed in order to adore them. And so I will carry you away, beyond Babylon.’{7:44} The tabernacle of the testimony was with our fathers in the desert, just as God ordained for them, speaking to Moses, so that he would make it according to the form that he had seen.{7:45} But our fathers, receiving it, also brought it, with Joshua, into the land of the Gentiles, whom God expelled before the face of our fathers, even until the days of David,{7:46} who found grace before God and who asked that he might obtain a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.{7:47} But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

{7:48} Yet the Most High does not live in houses built by hands, just as he said through the prophet:{7:49} ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house would you build for me? says the Lord. And which is my resting place?{7:50} Has not my hand made all these things?’

{7:51} Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you ever resist the Holy Spirit. Just as your fathers did, so also do you do.{7:52} Which of the Prophets have your fathers not persecuted? And they killed those who foretold the advent of the Just One. And you have now become the betrayers and murderers of him.{7:53} You received the law by the actions of Angels, and yet you have not kept it.”{7:54} Then, upon hearing these things, they were deeply wounded in their hearts, and they gnashed their teeth at him.

{7:55} But he, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and gazing intently toward heaven, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”{7:56} Then they, crying out with a loud voice, blocked their ears and, with one accord, rushed violently toward him.{7:57} And driving him out, beyond the city, they stoned him. And witnesses placed their garments beside the feet of a youth, who was called Saul.

{7:58} And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

{7:59} Then, having been brought to his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord. And Saul was consenting to his murder.

[Acts of the Apostles 8]

{8:1} Now in those days, there occurred a great persecution against the Church at Jerusalem. And they were all dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles.{8:2} But God-fearing men arranged for Stephen’s funeral, and they made a great mourning over him.{8:3} Then Saul was laying waste to the Church by entering throughout the houses, and dragging away men and women, and committing them to prison.

Saul’s Conversion and beginning ministry in Damascus and Jerusalem  

Conversion, Acts 9: 1-31; Note: St. Paul tell us in Galatians 1:16-18 He went to Arabia after his conversion then returned to Damascus, Acts does not report this journey. Ministry and Damascus escape: Acts 9:19-25. 

[Acts of the Apostles 9]

{9:1} Now Saul, still breathing threats and beatings against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,{9:2} and he petitioned him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that, if he found any men or women belonging to this Way, he could lead them as prisoners to Jerusalem.{9:3} And as he made the journey, it happened that he was approaching Damascus. And suddenly, a light from heaven shone around him.{9:4} And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”{9:5} And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”{9:6} And he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” {9:7} And the Lord said to him, “Rise up and go into the city, and there you will be told what you ought to do.” Now the men who were accompanying him were standing stupefied, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no one.{9:8} Then Saul rose up from the ground. And upon opening his eyes, he saw nothing. So leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.{9:9} And in that place, he was without sight for three days, and he neither ate nor drank.

{9:10} Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”{9:11} And the Lord said to him: “Rise up and go into the street that is called Straight, and seek, in the house of Judas, the one named Saul of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying.”{9:12} (And Paul saw a man named Ananias entering and imposing hands upon him, so that he might receive his sight.) 9:13} But Ananias responded: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.{9:14} And he has authority here from the leaders of the priests to bind all who invoke your name.”

{9:15} Then the Lord said to him: “Go, for this one is an instrument chosen by me to convey my name before nations and kings and the sons of Israel.{9:16} For I will reveal to him how much he must suffer on behalf of my name.”{9:17} And Ananias departed. And he entered the house. And laying his hands upon him, he said: “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, he who appeared to you on the way by which you arrived, sent me so that you would receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

{9:18} And immediately, it was as if scales had fallen from his eyes, and he received his sight. And rising up, he was baptized.

[Galatians 1]

{1:16} to reveal his Son within me, so that I might evangelize him among the Gentiles, I did not next seek the consent of flesh and blood. {1:17} Neither did I go to Jerusalem, to those who were Apostles before me. Instead, I went into Arabia, and next I returned to Damascus.{1:18} And then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem to see Peter; and I stayed with him for fifteen days.{1:19} But I saw none of the other Apostles, except James, the brother of the Lord.

[Acts of the Apostles 9]

{9:19} And when he had taken a meal, he was strengthened. Now he was with the disciples who were at Damascus for some days.{9:20} And he was continuously preaching Jesus in the synagogues: that he is the Son of God.{9:21} And all who heard him were astonished, and they said, “Is this not the one who, in Jerusalem, was fighting against those invoking this name, and who came here for this: so that he might lead them away to the leaders of the priests?”

{9:22} But Saul was increasing to a greater extent in ability, and so he was confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus, by affirming that he is the Christ.{9:23} And when many days were completed, the Jews took counsel as one, so that they might put him to death. 9:24} But their treachery became known to Saul. Now they were also watching the gates, day and night, so that they might put him to death.{9:25} But the disciples, taking him away by night, sent him over the wall by letting him down in a basket.{9:26} And when he had arrived in Jerusalem, he attempted to join himself to the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.

{9:27} But Barnabas took him aside and led him to the Apostles. And he explained to them how he had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken to him, and how, in Damascus, he had acted faithfully in the name of Jesus.{9:28} And he was with them, entering and departing Jerusalem, and acting faithfully in the name of the Lord.{9:29} He also was speaking with the Gentiles and disputing with the Greeks. But they were seeking to kill him.{9:30} And when the brothers had realized this, they brought him to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.

{9:31} Certainly, the Church had peace throughout all of Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and it was being built up, while walking in the fear of the Lord, and it was being filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

All Scripture is Inspired by God-Sunday of the Word of God

In Matthew Ramage’s book Dark Passages of the Bible, pages 55-56 really struck me when it quoted St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete for every good work.” (Ramage, Dark Passages of the Bible, p. 55-56)

At this juncture, I think it’s important to examine a much larger periscope or the context surrounding that particular passage: 

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:10-17 ESVCE) 

The importance of expanding the periscope is to further understand the context of the particular passage cited by Dr. Ramage above, as well as biblical Christian exegetes like James White, who attempt to use the passage for a proof text for Sola Scriptura, where as these words of St. Paul in Sacred Scripture point toward a deeper truth which is the sufficiency of God’s revelation passed down by teaching and Sacred Scripture through which humanity is saved by the twofold act of faith and love. 

The New Collegeville Bible Commentary on the New Testament gives a bit of a deeper explanation of St. Timothy’s understanding and context of the passage and what he, Timothy, is suppose to do with scripture: 

He is to use the Scriptures in teaching the sound doctrine he has received from Paul, handing it on to other faithful ministers (2:2). He is to use the Scriptures to refute the false teachers who have already become active (2:14) and whose activity will intensify in the final days (3:5). He is to use the Scriptures to correct his “opponents with kindness” when it is possible to lead them “to knowledge of the truth” (2:25). Finally, he is to use the Scriptures for training in righteousness. In order to accomplish his ministry, (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, ed. Daniel Durken, The New Collegeville Bible Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009), 709.


There is a few point points I’d like to dialogue with this particular passage. The first is what is the purpose of following the teachings of St. Paul, the importance of all scripture being breathed out by God, its profitableness for reproof, for correction, and for training. The second is the phrase “man of God,” and finally, the usage of this particular passage is not an argument for the total sufficiency of Sacred Scripture explicitly, bur rather points toward the sufficiency of revelation of God in its entirety from the witness of St. Paul’s example of his witness (persecution), teaching (tradition) and apostolic authority (Magisterium), and Sacred Scripture. Keegan explains, Timothy is also aware of Paul’s way of life and purpose. Timothy is aware as well of the six qualities that characterized Paul’s life: the Christian virtues of faith, patience, love, and endurance (3:10), which were the basis of his teaching, life, and purpose, and the persecutions and suffering (3:11) that were the inevitable result.” (Terence J. Keegan, “The Second Letter to Timothy,” in New Testament, 709.) 

The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is now known as Sunday of the Word of God promulgated by Pope Francis on the feast of St. Jerome in 2019. I think the first aspect to examine is the purpose of God’s revelation or end. Naturally, the purpose or end of Man is the beatific vision, simply heaven. It can quite simply be described that humanity has sinned against God in a corporate sense and individual sense. God, Who is merciful, by means of salvation history and the Jewish people sent His only Son to reconcile humanity to Himself by his free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son. Our salvation comes by means of faith in Jesus Christ, a twofold act of the will assenting to an act of faith and the act of love as explained by St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Gal. 5:6)

The exegete, who is a man of God, or rather one who has assented to faith in Christ Jesus, should be equipped with a proper understanding of what faith is in the traditional Catholic understanding by an assent to things not self-evident, which is included in the method of Theological Exegesis (Method A)—for that is faith. It is through the teaching of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, with Sacred Scripture that gives us proper understanding of Sacred Scripture to use for teaching. Naturally, this is something a strict Historical Critical (Method B) exegete could not do or can they? Philosophically, what is the purpose or end of Sacred Scripture? Can both strictly Method A and Method B exegetes come to an agreement on the purpose of Sacred Scripture? Or I shall reframe the question, Can it be recognized that the historical intention of the historical author is the same as the Divine author?

The man of God’s perspective is first ‘teaching,’ as it was with St. Paul who taught Timothy. The teaching of Sacred Scripture should be framed within the context of the great commission (Mt. 28) for the purpose, in the office of prophet, to spread the good news that those of us who are condemned by the sin and the law and then through the blood of the lamb, Jesus Christ, are given the grace to be eternally saved. If an exegete examines the Prophetic literature such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, do the calls for repentance for the same purpose? A Method B exegete can reasonably object that the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time were far more concerned with the material aspect of land and progeny. There is a theme that runs through the Prophets to St. Paul, which is the concern with God’s righteousness, which can be labeled as His justice. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for their idolatry, so does St. Paul. The prophets rebuke the people of Israel for immorality being condemned by the law, so does St. Paul. The prophets also rebuke the people of Israel for their mistreatment of the poor, so does St. Paul in first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11). And so, there is a basic foundation of the purpose of the tradition, teaching, and Scripture to which St. Paul alludes, the righteousness of God. It is only through the pedagogy of God’s revelation does humanity learn more about God’s kingship and kingdom to which he refers in the Prophetic literature. 

 St. John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Grammar of Assent, the man of God can only propose the probability of the propositions much in the image of weights tipping a scale to one side or another. After the proposition and the evidence is presented in the Method B approach, otherwise known as preambles of faith then it up to the person whether or not they can assent to the probability of things not self-evident that found more in the Method A approach through signs or motives of credibility. Method B can only ever exhaust the argument of probability, so it is naturally incomplete and will always come to incomplete conclusions with some propositions, therefore; the man of God needs to rely on the unified tradition and memory of the Church to assent to a certitude. The goal of Method C (a combination of the Method A&B) is to develop the assent of one who has assented to the probability of the faith through Method B by Method A. Method C, an approach that is promoted through the scholarly work of Pope Benedict XVI, is an important approach for evangelization in our post-Enlightenment skeptical world.  As concluded by Dr. Ramage , “Method B exegesis may therefore come first in order of execution, but it is not first in an absolute sense, What is first absolutely is something the historical-critical method can only examine on a material level…Method A gives the exegete the real reason for his investigation because it gives him God’s word.” (Ramage, Dark Passage of the Bible, p. 87)