by Scott Hahn
The New Testament is our richest, most ancient, and most reliable source of information about St. Paul. Of its 27 books, 13 are letters attributed to St. Paul. (Many Church Fathers, and a small but growing number of modern scholars, credit him with a 14th letter as well, the Letter to the Hebrews.)
In addition to those more direct sources, we find a detailed account of St. Paul’s travels in the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by St. Luke, one of the Apostle’s traveling companions (see 2 Tim 4:11; Philem 24). The Second Letter of Peter also gives us brief but valuable observations about Paul. In just two verses, Peter manages to confirm the authority and office of his fellow Apostle. He describes Paul as a “beloved brother,” rich in wisdom, and he discusses Paul’s writings explicitly as “Scriptures” — though he acknowledges that “there are some things in them hard to understand” (2 Pet 3:15-16). A final New Testament witness is St. Luke’s Gospel, which was surely influenced by Paul. Thus, well over half the New Testament bears some testimony to the life and doctrine of Paul.
Paul’s influence was immediate, profound, and widespread. All of the writers of the generation after his own — the Apostolic Fathers — show a familiarity with his work. Many quote him directly.
In the 2,000 years since St. Paul’s martyrdom, Christians have produced many commentaries on him. In my own library, I have more than a thousand such books — and they are but a small fraction of the works in print! And the works in print are a still smaller fraction of the works that have vanished from memory. Yet Paul’s life and work still hold Christians spellbound — and theological reflection produces new insights even today. His teaching is an inexhaustible treasury.
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