It’s time! Dust off your copy of Paul’s letters because we’re launching the #30daysofPaul challenge today. We’re reading all seven undisputed letters of Paul during the month of July. Full details below. First, a quick prequel.
Paul is by far one of the most influential figures in the history of Christianity and Western culture. Not only do we have Paul to thank (or blame) for laying the groundwork for a non-Jewish Christianity, but his writing had a profound impact on later leaders in the church, not the least of which included Augustine of Hippo, whose definition of Paul has reigned for centuries as the quintessential guilt-ridden man in need of redemption. But who was the Paul of history?
This is a difficult question to answer because soon after his death and possibly even during his lifetime, Paul’s writings inspired all sorts of “fan fiction,” for lack of a better term. Based loosely on what Paul said about himself, writers of all persuasions came up a “Paul” to fit their own needs in texts like 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, the Acts of the Apostles, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and the Revelation of Paul. Paul’s creative and often startling explanations of the new relationship between God, Jesus, and the people of God inspired the full spectrum of early Christ-followers, both those commemorated by the Bible and those whose lives have been all but erased from our collective history. People loved to imagine Paul’s adventures on the open road, his tendency to disrupt Roman households, his failings, his successes, but curiously enough, rarely his death.
Today we’re coming back to square one and reading Paul on our own terms thanks to the efforts of Westar’s Paul Seminar scholars. Throughout this challenge I’ll be quoting from the book that emerged from that seminar, The Authentic Letters of Paul: A New Reading of Paul’s Rhetoric and Meaning. I’ve planned a number of different kinds of responses on the blog for the next 30 days to help keep us all going: written, audio, even a creative response or two. We’re all bringing different goals and intentions into this reading, so I hope you will really make this challenge your own.
We have some wonderful readers around the world who are also participating around the world. I’ll be linking across to their contributions as they come out. You can already read an opening contribution from minister Glynn Cardy on 1 Thessalonians 1-3 on the Community of St Luke Facebook page. He begins, “I confess it’s been awhile since I’ve read 3 chapters of this book. It’s kind of like eating a bowl of junket. Junket was a childhood desert in the ‘60s with an odd texture and taste that I was glad to leave behind when I had more of a choice about what I ate!” It gets better from there. Enjoy!
I’m counting on you to keep me going, too. Tag your responses on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, whatever, with #30daysofPaul to make it easy for other challenge participants (including me!) to find your contributions. You are also welcome on any day of the challenge to share your responses on the Westar blog (below) or Westar Facebook page (here).
A quick refresher for new arrivals:
How to Participate in 30 Days of Paul
- Choose your favorite translation of Paul.
I vote for this one, which inspired the 30-day challenge.
- Starting July 1st, read the 7 undisputed letters of Paul in 30 days:
1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, Romans
- Write, draw, or record a response
Daily, weekly, whatever—on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, in a journal, or wherever you like.
- Tag your response with #30daysofPaul to share it with others.
I’ll be following this reading plan, which is in rough chronological order based on The Authentic Letters of Paul. You’re welcome to simply follow along or try another reading plan and compare notes. Here’s a PDF version for easy downloading and printing.
Cassandra Farrin joined Westar in 2010 and currently serves as the Marketing & Outreach Director. A US-UK Fulbright Scholar, she has an M.A. in Religious Studies from Lancaster University (England) and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Willamette University. She is passionate about books and projects that in some way address the intersection of ethics and early Christian history.