Ironically, Paul did not consider himself to be Christian, nor a father of a new religion. Rather, he thought of himself as an observant Jew who believed the experience of Christ was a natural extension of Judaism.
The prolific and well-documented writings of Paul, from his astute letters to the Corinthians to the Book of Romans, offer remarkable insight into his attitude and interpretation of how the Scriptures applied to the great moral and spiritual questions of his contemporaries. Paul's writings dealt with issues from homosexuality to the treatment of women. From them, one might glean a hint of what Paul's attitude would be with regard to the major moral questions of today.
This paper considers how Paul would view the present day issue of capital punishment. The major scriptural evidence concerning this question seems to suggest that Paul would likely support the notion that capital punishment is just. Several of his writings have been interpreted as holding, implicitly or explicitly, that the state's authority to punish wrongdoers with death is upheld by God. For Paul, whose life's course was directed by perhaps the best known episode of capital punishment in human history, and who ultimately met the fate of a martyr himself through capital punishment, the notion that there were offenses worthy of state imposed death was natural and logical. Paul was a product of his time, and his attitudes reflected that reality.
The Historical Paul
According to Jeffery Sheler, "The Apostle Paul, some scholars now believe, was more instrumental in the founding of Christianity than anyone else--even Jesus himself" (par. 1). He goes on to describe Paul as "a tireless mercenary and prolific theologian [who] almost single-handedly transformed a fringe movement of messianic Jews into a vibrant new faith that, within a few generations, would sweep the Greco-Roman world and alter the course of Western history" (par. 2). Paul achieved a "larger-than-life" stature in the early Church that made him as much a target of those seeking to quell his revolutionary ideology as he was a spiritual leader of a budding new sect of Judaism. "He was reviled by religious and political adversaries and arrested, beaten, exiled, and eventually executed for his zealous preaching in the Roman precincts of the Mediterranean rim" (par. 3).
John McRay, in his seminal work on Paul's life published in 2003, emphasizes that "Paul was not the founder of Christianity, that he never ceased to be a Jew, and that Christianity is not a Gentile religion" (p. 12). According to McRay, Paul's contribution to the development of Christianity was his assertion of the doctrine that either Jews or Gentiles could be saved through baptism in Christ. "Monotheism as seen in the faith of Abraham was the foundation of the Judeo-Christian faith Paul proclaimed, and God is thus the Father of all believers" (p. 12). Thus, Paul's teaching molded an evolved and progressive formulation of Judaism; and he did not consider believers in Christ to be practicing a separate religion.
Many biographical glimpses of Paul's life and his work can be found in the Acts of the Apostles. Born as Saul of Tarsus and brought up under the strict orthodox laws of Judaism, Paul's early career was actually devoted largely to persecution of Christians (par. 12). He subscribed to a particularly zealous sect of Judaism that advocated a kind of holy war against perceived