Paul and systematic theology


I’ve been reading several debates on this forum where the debators have very different view’s of Paul’s theology.

So here is my question:
*]How systematic was Paul’s theology? He often uses words in ambigioius ways. For example Justification, Salvation, Reconciliation, Expiation, Redemption, Freedom, Transformation, New Creation, Glorification etc…
*]Could it be argued that some of Paul’s points are open ended, or not clearly defined, and that this done on purpose by the Holy Spirit?

2 Peter 15 And consider the patience of our Lord as salvation, as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, also wrote to you, 16 speaking of these things 12 as he does in all his letters. In them there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures. 17 Therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, be on your guard not to be led into the error of the unprincipled and to fall from your own stability. z



Hi Utunum,

No doubt there are numerous works on St. Paul’s theology, or rather teaching. But in reading his letters (except Hebrews), you should remember that these letters were probably dictated (in one instance he says, “I am writing this in my own hand”) and they were written because St. Paul was facing very concrete problems in one or other of the communities. He is never writing a theological thesis, but he is stating doctrine to make his point on the particular problem the community is experiencing. Sometimes he makes a statement then he thinks better of it and states it another way.

However, there is no doubt that St.Paul has a strong (Hebrew) theological formation and states doctrine within the parameters of this formation.

There was no “theology” (as an organized “university” discipline) in apostolic times. Catholic theology evolved over the centuries and is still evolving.

As for being open-ended, a statement from St. Paul can indeed give rise to several developments. It’s like walking on a path, then getting to a choice of several paths. One path does not “contradict” the other, but leads to a different place. This is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit, not only guiding St. Paul but guiding the Church in the reading of him.



Thanks for the post Verbum. This is just another reason to be greatful for the Catholich Church. Since there are so many possible ways to interpret Paul, or any other New Testament author, we need an authoritative church to determine which is correct or not.

God bless,


I think Paul’s letter to the Romans is his most systematic exposition of his ‘theology’, as it meant in the time of the Apostles. Paul’s other letters and also the Deuto-Pauline ones show facets of his theology, or how his ideas were developed by Christian communities, but Romans is the key letter in so far as systematic exposition of his theology is concerned.


Paul did now know he was writing the Bible. His letters are ordinary business letters (albeit in an extraordinary business). They are addressed to specific groups or individuals and address specific issues in a concrete, rather than theoretical way.

Therefore we have to carefully study Paul’s epistles to determine the underlying theology, which shines through here and there in his writing.


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