THE SAME AGE
A SHARED STORY
Jesus and Paul were approximately the same age.
Matthew’s Gospel presents Jesus being born in the two years preceding the death of Herod in 4 BCE.
Jesus grew up in a very religious family that observed all the customs and duties of Judaism.
It is generally agreed that Jesus spoke Aramaic the common language of Judaea.
Paul regards himself as “old” in summer of 53 CE. Old in that era was a person in their 60’s. That places Paul’s birth around 6 or 5 BCE approximately the date of the birth of Jesus.
Paul came from a Jewish family of the tribe of Benjamin.
He also had a strict Jewish upbringing and joined the sect of the Pharisees.
He grew up in an environment in which Greek was the mother tongue.
A SHARED STORY
Both Jesus and Paul became refugees while still children. They would have noted the tension that their parents felt living with the insecurity of life. Their earliest years were beset with serious disturbances.
Herod was clearly a very dangerous character. In 37 BCE he killed the whole Sanhedrin at one time and even executed his own sons. Jerusalem was a dangerous place for a new infant king. Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to escape to Egypt.
When Joseph and his family returned to Palestine he moved north to Nazareth where Archelaus was governor, another violent leader. Joseph obtained work on the city site of Sepphoris that was being constructed an hours walk away. Nonetheless, as a new arrivals from the south they would have been regarded with suspicion for some time.
According to ancient texts Paul and his parents were forced out of their hometown and deported to Tarsus.
Paul grew up with the shame of having parents as slaves and being deported or sold at markets.
ADAPTING TO AN ALIEN ENVIRONMENT
A SHARED STORY
Both Paul and Jesus grew up in places that were foreign to their parents. Nevertheless, these new towns gave then advantages over the places they left: Gischala and Bethlehem.
Jesus was the ‘rustic’ person who spoke the language of fishermen, shepherds and peasants whereas Paul was the city dweller.
Jesus’ home was in quiet little Nazareth a town near the new capital of Galilee, the cosmopolitan city of Sepphoris,
Paul’s early home was in the bustling city of Tarsus. This was a key trading centre and home to a famous rhetorical ‘university’ in the Greco-Roman world.
The minds of both Jesus and Paul were changed by these cities of Sepphoris and Tarsus.
Alien elements were present that complicated the process of growing up.
Both these young men had to confront choices that Jews, in more sheltered places, never encountered.
For Jesus seeing he construction of Sepphoris nearby would have been exciting. This brand now regional centre had public shows and a theatre holding 4,500 people.
Visiting there would have given him a smattering of Greek; it was the common language of the workers.
Tarsus was big enough to support a Jewish school and Paul’s knowledge suggests that he had attended such a place.
Paul, after his thirteenth birthday, was responsible for his religious identity.
In Tarsus you had to be fluent in Greek and Paul would have used the Greek translation of the scriptures called the Septuagint.
When Paul finished his serious study of rhetoric at nineteen or twenty he would have wondered what to do with the rest of his life. He headed to Jerusalem to study the teaching of the Pharisees.
EARLY ROLES- COMMITTED TO THE QUEST
A SHARED STORY-
In a quest for identity and purpose Jesus and Paul moved out of the environments they had grown up in. They travelled to places where they knew no one.
In both cases they were passionately committed and they both lived on the charity of others.
Jesus early adult life was a certain search to find God’s special role for him. This time might have included a following of John the Baptist’s group.
Paul embraced the teachings of the Pharisees passionately. As a proficient debater and brilliant scholar he was suspicious of any heresy. Paul was especially challenged by the emergence of the Jewish Christianity. He decided to contest the new Christian development, which professed that the Messiah had come in Jesus.
The unthinkable assertion that the Messiah had been crucified under the curse of the law toughened his stance against the Christians.
A BAPTISM AND A CONVERSION
A SHARED STORY
The journeys of Jesus and Paul brought them to destinations they never anticipated.
The Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan was a decisive moment for him: the recognition from God of his special status. He commenced his ministry after this event.
When Paul headed to Damascus he had no idea that he would be converted and would embrace Christ. He was seeking to persecute the followers of Jesus. His conversion hinged on Jesus’ statement: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”(Acts 9:5)
Jesus and Paul both underwent an experience that was to determine the course of the rest of their lives. Both made a decision that was to ultimately cause their deaths.
Jesus began preaching the Good News of God’s love and placed in a new context the Jewish Law. He inaugurated a new teaching that he preached in the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew Ch. 5-7)
Paul says he was “apprehended by Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12)
Whereas once he dismissed the ridiculous claims that Jesus was the Messiah, raised from the dead now he knew those claims to be absolutely true, they were the essence of the Gospel. This was not a new idea but an old one with a new interpretation.
The centre of Pauline theology was not human beings, the church or the history of salvation it was Jesus Christ himself, crucified and risen. This was the elemental force of Paul’s teaching. Paul looked back on the kingdom of God that has already commenced with the death and resurrection of Jesus; for Paul, Jesus is the kingdom of God.
EXECUTION BY THE ROMANS
A SHARED STORY
Both were executed by Roman authorities. Jesus died under Pontius Pilate on Friday April 30, 30 CE in Jerusalem.
Paul died in Rome under the emperor Nero in the autumn of 67 CE.
Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paul was looking for trouble. Paul’s clean death by decapitation is contrasted with the long, drawn out agony of Jesus.