A Look at the New Testament – St Paul – 20131229

12_stpaulicon_270In the last issue of this article, I began sharing with you the “conditions” of the world into which Christ as born. These conditions and crowding meant that contagious disease was rampant. Life   expectancy was low, about thirty years for those who survived the high mortality rates of infancy and childhood.
The urban working population could be sustained only by continuing migration from rural areas. Roman      agricultural policy virtually compelled migration to cities. Small peasant farms that had provided basic sustenance to the families that had lived on them for centuries were being combined into large estates that now produced grains and other agricultural products for export. Many of the rural class, now without their own land, moved to cities to find work. Most did so out of desperation, not because they desired city life.
When I read this I realize how very much like our modern society the time of Christ was. There are no longer “small” farmers. People have been driven into the urban areas and, at first, entered into manufacturing for a living. Now, however, with the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs, we are in economic trouble.
Migration top cities destroyed the extended family and village relationships that marked traditional rural communities. Newcomers to cities, even if they arrived with their family, were   severed from the familiarity and common concern of village life. They were, in an important sense, alone and on their own. Moreover, cities were populated by many ethnic and linguistic groups, in contrast to the homogeneity of village life. Ethnic estrangement and conflict were frequent.
Thus life was difficult for most of those who lived in cities. Earning enough money to pay for food and shelter was always an issue. Disease and death were constant threats. Community was no longer something that one was born into, but was either absent or newly formed.
Paul’s purpose as apostle was to create and nurture urban communities of Christ-followers – especially from among Gentiles in particular. That was his commission: to go to Gentiles, not Jews. Preaching to the Jews was Peter’s commission.
And yet when Paul arrived in a newc city, he consistently went to a synagogue to tell people about Jesus. Why? Was he trying to convert Jews, in spite of his commission to go to the Gentiles, a vocation and restriction that he and other early Christian leaders had apparently agreed upon?
Almost certainly, the explanation is that synagogues in major cities were likely to have a number of Gentiles who were strongly attracted to Judaism, but not willing or ready to fully convert.
Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit realized also that Christ’s message was for all. He therefore began to preach not only to Jews but to Gentiles. He saw in Jesus the Jesus message something that pertained to all humanity

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