in the same thread I noted that was going on over at TC Robinson’s blog was a discussion of the development of Paul’s theology, that by reading his letters chronologically we can see such a development. It’s the question as to the origin of Paul’s gospel (where did it come from and how did it come to be?). What is meant by this? This means that some see a progression or a development of Paul and his theology from Galatians to Romans with Romans being the fuller more fully developed theology.
Well, I don’t see it that way. I personally do not think that Paul’s theology developed much if at all. I think there is very little evidence, if any, of a development of his theology in his letters.
To me, it’s almost a non-sequitor, in that it doesn’t necessarily follow that because Romans is the longer more developed work as compared to Galatians (often called the “little or short Romans” (or something like that) that Paul’s theology “developed” over time. While I can’t exaplain why Romans is longer, I don’t think it’s development or detailed nature necessarily show a more fully developed or matured Paul. My guess is that because Romans is very much a kind of introductory letter to the church at Rome, whom Paul had not yet met or known, it makes sense he took a little more time to explain things than he did in his letter to the Galatians because he had spend time with the Galatians (even if it was early in his missionary/church planting venture).
As I see it, Paul was a quite well educated Pharisee and was quite well developed theologically. It was just that he was a Jew and really seemed to have a serious problem with the notion of Jesus being the Messiah, as did many other Jews at the time. However, it seemed he was thinking about it, processing it, wondering how could it be, especially after seeing how Stephen responded to his martyrdom. So as he was raging and tromping his way to Damascus to arrest and kill more Christians, he has a supernatural encoutner with the risen Jesus…
I am of the opinion that, at that very moment, the moment he realized Jesus of Nazaeth was/is the Messiah, everything clicked together, all the questions, all the concerns, all the wondering if it could possibly be true, everything, all at once, made sense, and at that moment, Paul had his theology, his gospel. Perhapas over the next three days while he was blind, fasting and praying, he processed it all, he put it all together, then repented and was batpized!
So I also don’t think he went off to Arabia to “study the Bible” and develop his theology. Instead, he was off preaching the gospel, he knew almost immediately he was to be an apostle to the Gentiles and he started in Arabia, until he was forced to leave due to some changes in Roman leaderhsip there. He fled to Jerusalem, met with the pillars of the church, confirmed his call as Apostle to the Gentiles and went from there.
That’s my take.