HTS Theological Studies
Print version ISSN 0259-9422
VAN HOUWELINGEN, Rob. A godfighter becomes a fighter for God. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2008, vol.64, n.4, pp. 1715-1733. ISSN 0259-9422.
The Pastoral Letters refer twice, in biographical notes, to the religious past of the apostle Paul. In 1 Timothy 1 he is qualified as "a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (NIV). These qualifications are the stereotypes of a "godfighter" (θεομάχος), as they are known in secular and early Jewish literature of antiquity. Nevertheless, Paul did not become a recipient of divine vengeance, but of the grace of the Lord. He thus became a fighter for God: the advocate of Christianity. Against this background, how can 2 Timothy 1 state of the same Paul that he, like his Jewish ancestors, has continued to serve God with a clear conscience? This could be seen as a strange discrepancy. Exegesis of both statements in context makes clear, however, that the Pastoral Letters draw a consistent picture of Paul. He had to redefine his faith, but in doing this he did not engage in the worship of any other God than the God of his forefathers.