By Brian Welter
St. Paul's original zeal for his religion and its law “changed towards Jesus Christ Himself,” Father Bernardo Estrada said on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at St. Peter's and Paul's parish. St. Paul's experience on the road to Damascus shocked the apostle's worldview and entire life.
Estrada, professor of New Testament at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, noted that before this experience St. Paul had been “a very good observer of the law,” and “a genuine pharisee with a very strong zeal for the law of God. The salvation of Israel depended on law” according to this outlook. For this pre-Damascus St. Paul, the “Messiah would be the vindication of Israel at the end of the times. The glorification of Israel would be through the accomplishment of the law,” the scholar said.
Concerning the Christians, Estrada added that pre-Damascg, sometimes troubled relationship with the other Christian leaders of the time. On the one hand, because of the impact of his Damascus experience, St. Paul “didn't ask for advice from human beings,” but claimed toe Christians.”
After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, according to Estrada, St. Paul no longer believed that Israel would be vindicated in a violent, this-worldly power-oriented transformation. He “realized that the Messiah was the very vindication of Israel. Israel did not need a glorification of God to repair the sufferings of the people. Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection were the real glorification of Israel. All of Paul's love for Israel was put forward in the love for Jesus.”
Calling St. Paul's life “the plenitude of the calling,” the professor emphasized the basic points of the saint's message, and the definition of the Good News for St. Paul, which was “the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.”
This wan fulfill the commandments.” As Estrada pointed out, there are not 10 commandments, but 613 when we count up all the dietary, cooking, and other laws. Estrada notes that while St. Paul was inconsistent in his treatment of the Jewish law, “Paul knows that that accomplishment [the establishment of the law] has some problems, such as the pride that comes from being a perfect Jew.”
St. Paul's shock not only came from his experience on the way to Damascus, but from the very theology that he was led to pr have gotten “his knowledge about Christ from a revelation,” Estrada said. The scholar noted that the saint wrote in Galatians of having “received the Gospel directly from God, not from men.” The saint also adopted the stance of the Old Testament's Jeremiah, who claimed to have received God's call while still in his mother's womb.
On the other hand, Estrada noted, “St. Paul was a good apostle, so also prudent [regarding the contents of the faith]. He had the fear that his revelation would not be authentic, so he checked with the e, theology,