What makes you think Paul is writing to you?


I’ve spent several hours tonight reading posts about Christianity on a variety of Google+ Communities. One question keeps springing to mind:

“What makes you think Paul is writing to you?”

It is very tempting to pick up the Bible, especially the letters of Paul, and assume that Paul is writing to us. When he uses second person pronouns, we get excited because he’s talking to us. We feel the same way when he uses first person pronouns, as if we are part of Paul’s club.

Here’s the thing:
When reading the Bible and arguing for some sort of “authorial intent” or “original meaning,” we should pay attention to context. Paul’s letters are occasional; they are written to a certain group of people at a certain place and time. No one living is part of that group. Therefore, we need to be careful about universalizing what Paul says. Simply because Paul says something about “you” or “we” doesn’t mean that he is referring to a 21st century Christian.

To be sure, much of what Paul writes is applicable to a modern Christian. I’m not saying none of it is about us. BUT, if we’re going to argue that it is indeed about us, then we need to be prepared to answer this question:

“What makes you think Paul is writing to you?”


3 thoughts on “What makes you think Paul is writing to you?

  1. Confession: I do not think he is all that often. Paul’s travels did not take him into the unknown world of the darker races found in Africa. He used examples to illustrate pain, suffering, forgiveness, and rules to follow, but in the context of apartheid or Jim Crow, he could not comprehend such. And for the most part, nor can I. We like to look to Paul’s examples — but I do not think they are cookie cutter stuff all of the time. Norms and behaviors vary from people to people groups. The 21st Century is incomprehensible to Paul. To ask the 21st century actor to follow ancient actors is like asking lap top teens to revert back and have faith in the pony express. Thoughts?

  2. Hey it’s Paula! I didn’t read this but idk how to contact you and you haven’t added me on insta and you should I’m downbetch! Bye!!!

  3. Hey it’s Paula your favorite student everrrrr! Add me on insta at downbetch! I tried posting on here early but I don’t think it worked!

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