Paul of Tarsus vs. Theodore of Tarsus

In the final battle of the First Round, Paul takes on Theodore in the epic Battle of Tarsus (you get extra Lent Madness points if you can find Tarsus on a map). The winner will do battle with Brigid of Kildare in the subsequent round.

Yesterday, in a hotly contested scrum between Margaret of Scotland and William Temple, Margaret ultimately emerged victorious 52% to 48% in heavy voting and commenting (119). Overall, it was a full day of Lent Madness news as the Supreme Executive Committee announced that they are threatening a lawsuit against some basketball tournament that uses "Madness" in the name. This led to an ensuing "controversy" over which virgin the state of Virginia was named after. Fortunately, this was all put into perspective on our Facebook fan page once a picture was posted of our two favorite voters, eight-year-0ld twins Hope and Skye of Burke, Virginia. Yes, that Virginia.

The Round of the Saintly Sixteen kicks off tomorrow with a fascinating match-up between two powerful and popular women, Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene. Tickets are currently being scalped at astronomical prices.

Paul of Tarsus (5-67), the most influential Christian convert of the Early Church, is best known for his zeal in spreading Christianity and for writing more New Testament books than anyone else. His conversion story, from persecutor to disciple, involves an appearance of Christ so real that Paul insisted on calling himself an Apostle even though he had never met Jesus during Christ’s lifetime.

Paul was raised a pious Jew. His zeal for the Jewish faith is detailed in the Book of Acts where Paul condoned the stoning of Stephen, Christianity’s first martyr. Paul was then famously converted on the road to Damascus when he was blinded, knocked off his horse, and addressed by the voice of Christ. Following this conversion his name was changed from Saul to Paul. He then set out on full-time missionary activities, helping spread the Gospel to early Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean.

Paul’s journey included incarceration, which is where he wrote several famous letters to his followers, including Galatians and Philippians. Fourteen epistles in the New Testament are attributed to Paul.

Paul took three missionary journeys, the final one ended in Rome where he settled as a tent maker and Christian leader. Christian tradition says Paul was beheaded during the reign of Nero around the mid-60’s. He is often depicted in art with a bald head. He shares his feast day with St. Peter who was crucified upside down, also in Rome, at the same time.

Collect for Peter and Paul: Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Chris Yaw

Theodore of Tarsus, also known as Theodore of Canterbury (602 - 690) was, according to the Venerable Bede, “the first archbishop [of Canterbury] whom all the English obeyed.” Tarsus was a city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), part of the Byzantine Empire, the same city that the Apostle Paul called home. At some point, Theodore moved to Constantinople and later to Rome to join a community of Eastern monks. At the age of sixty-six, he was appointed seventh Archbishop of Canterbury, a seat which had been vacant for four years.

Most of the information we know about Theodore comes from the aforementioned Bede, who reported that Theodore first of all had to grow out his hair for four months so he could switch from the Eastern to the Western tonsure. Soon after his consecration, Theodore traveled around England, appointing bishops (there were many vacancies due to the plague) and reorganizing dioceses to make them of manageable size for both pastoral care and administration. Upon his return to Canterbury he drew up a book of canon law to organize the Church in England, a diverse church of Roman, Celtic, and Anglo-Saxon Christians. Theodore, perhaps because he was a Greek who lived in many places himself and was an outsider, was able to bring all the parties together into one Church despite the ill feelings engendered from the Council of Whitby’s decision in 663 to favor Roman over Celtic practices in Britain.

Theodore also established the influential school at Canterbury modeled on the great school in Antioch where Theodore himself may well have studied. Latin and Greek, poetics, computistics (the calculation of the church calendar, which was a big issue in that time and place), astronomy, Biblical exegesis and church music were taught at the Canterbury school. The liturgical use of sacred music as taught at Canterbury (which included Roman chant) spread throughout England during Theodore’s archbishopric.

Theodore served for twenty-two years as Archbishop of Canterbury and died at the age of eighty-eight. He is venerated as a saint in both the Anglican (including The Episcopal Church) and Eastern Orthodox churches. His feast day is celebrated on September 19.

Collect for Theodore of Tarsus: Almighty God, who called your servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury, and gave him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos: Create in thy Church, we pray, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Penny Nash


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103 comments on “Paul of Tarsus vs. Theodore of Tarsus”

  1. There is no horse in the story of Paul. One in many paintings but not in the Bible - wonder why people insist he was on a horse?

  2. I didn't want to vote for Paul. Too obvious. Kind of like asking "Mohammed or Jesus?". But he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, and had a fantastic and well publicized conversion experience. Paul wins.

  3. On behalf of every LEM A who must search for Paul's buried subordinate conjunctions at 8am, a gleeful and heartfelt vote for St Teddy.

    1. How true! It constantly amazes me how Paul could write an entire letter with only 2 or 3 sentences! But then again I have not read any of St. Teddy's letters.

  4. Always thought Paul needed an editor! (But then, so do I...) Much as I appreciate the enormous contributions of Theodore (and the fact that he accomplished so much on the last two decades of his life), I think I have to go with Saint Paul of the run-on sentences, and barely diagrammable prose.

    1. I am convinced that Paul’s grammatical issues in English are due to a conservative translation which tries to be faithful to the original document. And I am telling you this because in Spanish we do not have any problem with Paul’s grammar since the Greek grammar structure is somehow similar to the grammar structure we have. We love long sentences and that is a sign for us of being in front of an educated person.

  5. I love Paul - he's such a human Christian, and pastor! And a brilliant writer. A model for Christians in crisis, Christians who care about mission, Christians who struggle with self. He's where the rubber meets the road, if you ask me.

  6. I mean really, this would be like David defeating Golith. Paul one of the most instrimental person to help us sinners reconcile between our flesh and how we want to live and how we actually do and he gives us encouragement to keep on Fighting the good fight!!! GO PAUL!!!

  7. Right you are, Don. It's not just reading it aloud at 8 a.m. that gets me, it's the man's tone. Two thousand years have passed but the ego of the 20th Century television evangelist comes through loud and clear. I'd vote for my rabbit (who is no saint, let me tell you) before I vote for Paul. Go Theo!!

      1. Absolutely - while I agree he did a lot to spread the Word, Paul also was one of the most slanted writers of the Bible. I'm trying hard not to say "bigoted" or "misogynistic" because those terms come to mind when I read Paul's writings if I'm not careful. Yes, I understand he was a product of his times, but so much of his writing has been used to "keep women in their place" that I must vote for Theodore... besides good old Theo's name means Loves God! How can you go wrong with that?!?

        1. Actually, I think that's "Gift of God"--glad to know more about him and have an alternative to the Apostle. And wouldn't it be fun if seminary (or EFM) included astronomy and computistics??? Gotta love that curriculum! Plus, blessed is the peacemaker who got the nod from Bede. Theodore for me.

        2. But if we hold misuse of one's statements against them, instead of taking up their intended meaning, then all of us would be in trouble.Yikes! Can you actually understand what I just think I said?

          I may fall into the same error and assume your statements label you as a man-hating feminist. Sorry, but you can't just put Paul "in his place" by saying he is a product of his time. Paul was radically changed. He worked side by side with women, elevated the status of women and honored their roles in family, society and church.

          Your opinion of Paul is obviously "slanted" and sexist. I think you misunderstand Paul by reading him through modern (and postmodern) values. By the way, my egalitarian stance doesn't require me to abuse Paul. After all, his writings are canonical Scripture, inspired and inerrant. It always bothers me when we try to read the parts of Scripture we like as acceptable and the parts we don't like as cultural and sociological drivel. Can't a man get a little respect?

    1. *facepalm*

      Gosh, it's almost like he believes what he's saying, and actually cares what happens to the people he's writing to!

  8. Who has ever risked more than Paul for the inclusion of all people in the Body of Christ (2 Cor 11:21-28)? How would the Church have become a church of all people, and not remained a Jewish sect, without Paul? Who, as much as Paul in the early Church, empowered women like Priscilla and Phoebe as his co-workers (Acts 18:2,26,26, Rom 16:3, Rom 16:1)? What non-fundamentalist scholar asserts that Paul himself wrote 1 Tim, or Ephesians? Yes, he was a flesh and blood human being who was passionate for his beliefs. And he was committed to removing any man-made barriers between Gentiles and the New Covenant. In this exercise of frivolity that is Lent Madness, all this at least entitles him to the Saintly 16.

    1. "What non-fundamentalist scholar asserts that Paul himself wrote 1 Tim, or Ephesians?"

      Answer: D.A. Carson, C. H. Dodd, J. A. Robinson, C. E. Arnold, D. Moo, L. Morris, M. Gorman (Ephesians), G. Fee, D. Stuart to name a few!

  9. Well lets see if I can get two in a row. Got to go for Paul. In recent readings I've learned he's not the misogenist (sp?) woman hater I had the impression he was, in fact just the opposite. I still thing the decision at Whitby was wrong but shouldn't blame Theodore as he just implemented the changes brought about by that decision. Anyway, go Paul!

    1. Agreed. Misogynist isn't a fair tag on someone who knew that "in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek... male nor female." Not everything attributed to Paul was written by Paul (like with JC you can see how the message gets co-opted to suit cultural norms over time). His matter-of-fact acceptance of women in positions of authority as co-workers warms the cockles of my feminist heart. He could probably be an annoying presence in person (opening his mouth = attempts on his life) but for his willingness to turn and see truth when it was thrust upon him and as a passionate advocate for the way of Christ, God bless 'im.

      For the reminders of the grace of God in Romans, and his beautiful understanding of how love works in 1 Corinthians... Paul!

  10. Women shouldn't speak in chuch? Well, he doesn't need my vote . . . go Theo!

    1. Greetings Sister. I believe that Paul wasn't saying that women should not publicly speak in church, especially since in the same letter, he refers to women prophesying. In the context of the passage's point that the community should worship decently and in order, I think that Paul was simply asking that they not ask their husbands a question during the service, but that they should wait until they get home.

      1. Then he should have said, no extraneous talking in church . . . or his translators should have. Sorry, but I don't believe that's what he meant, but if it makes you feel better then say I voted for Theodore because my cat's named for him.

        1. Hi Sister,
          I remember Thomas...
          Theodore sounds like a great name. Is he an orange cat, too?

      2. As an "ordinary folk", I totally agree on the lesser knowns. Paul is a biggie in the church. Add in Paul's comments on women and I cast my vote for Theo.

    2. Paul is generally given a bad rap regarding women. During studies in the Education for Ministry (EfM) course offered insight which turned the tables in the understanding of Paul by both men and women alike. Priscilla was a missionary with Paul. Junia was an apostle. Paul's scribe may be to blame for Paul's centuries-long reputation against women.

    3. I am with you , St. Winifred. No, wives should submit to their husbands jazz for me. Paul suffered for the gospel, yes. He was devoted to his Lord, yes. And he was impossible to please. No one could match him. It's St. Ted for me.

  11. I know it's a long shot but my money is on the saint with hairdo issues. Overcoming those indicates an ability to stay in the game at any cost until the buzzer.

  12. I had to vote for the saint whose life actions did more to edify and praise God, while enlarging a global community of believers. When I was a wee boy keenly interested in getting to know God through Jesus, I was taught Bible versus in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. As I matured in my personal walk with Jesus, Paul's writings nourished me. When I share the Word (and word) of God with friends and strangers, I use many passages attributed to St. Paul. No doubt, he is well loved by our Lord; I know I love and appreciate Paul! I think I just committed myself to being a loyal "Team Paul" member! All the way with Paul!!!!

  13. Have to go with St. Theo - while Paul was a great man, there is value in learning about the lesser known saints. They are more approachable to ordinary folks (like me).

  14. Reading Paul, I still want to smack him. "I'm so humble, but don't forget I did baptize so and so and all his family including great aunts ... but who's counting?" A little like the comedian that holds up a restraining hand to the applause and with the other hand is waving it on. I sometimes
    fantasize what the followers of Jesus might have become without him. But, he was a great PR man.

  15. Having given up the internets for Lent -- with one or two obvious exceptions -- I find I have time to READ of all things! So after years of intending to, I have just finally started and finished Garry "Wills's *"What Paul Meant,* and I like Paul a LOT more than I did two weeks ago. He gets my vote.

  16. I have to go with some of the other women who have commented. I understand Paul was instrumental in the spread of Christianity but his comments about women and women's roles make my blood boil every time they are read in church! Go Theo!!

  17. Gotta go with Paul. You spend enough time with him, you try to do what he did, you get to understand him a whole lot better. I'm willing to wonder about some of the things attributed to him, as in, Did he really write those particular letters, or did someone else in his name? His push to include everyone resonates so very much; as the artwork on facebook says right now, "All means ALL!" I admire Theodore and what he did; I admire Paul for how he lived, risking it all for his belief in the Risen Lord.

  18. Paul's remarks about women make me feel itchy and cranky, but then I read Romans 8 and the sheer, soaring poetry of it is just so undeniable that I have to give my vote to Paul in spite of it all. Sigh. I'm a fool for an eloquent guy.

  19. I did not know Theodore of Tarsus so I thought that my choice today was going to be easy even when I have not been a fanatic of Paul of Tarsus ever. However, now that I learned about his achievements and his important role in the Church of England and consequently in the Anglican Communion thereafter and knowing that his feast is celebrated the day of my birthday along with Saint Januarius, patron saint of Naples, Italy; there is no doubt to whom my point (because it is only one) goes. In addition, I do not stand Paul's disdain for sex which has created so many problems along history.

  20. I question the chances of having two saints from Tarsus facing off against each other. Paul gets my vote, and I expect him to win hands down. The knowledge
    of and sources of information about give Paul the upper hand before the contest
    begins. I however will be watching the comments to see if I am wrong.

  21. In spite of the convoluted syntax of the letters, Paul has my vote. We should all be so zealous in spreading the good news.

  22. I voted with Theodore - anyone who could bring the Brits together after the Council of Whitby gets my vote.

  23. If the past matchups in Lent Madness are any indication today's winner will be decided by the number of people named Theodore who vote versus the number of people named Paul who vote.

    I am off to watch CNN, I need a break.

  24. All honor to Paul of Tarsus, whom I love and respect beyond measure. However, I'm voting for Theodore of Tarsus because of the school of music at Canterbury. Anglican chant and the late sixteenth centuries' greatest hits (music by Tallis, Byrd, et al.) are some of the jewels in the crown of the Anglican worship, and I believe that we have Theodore of Tarsus and the music school at Canterbury to thank for this.

  25. The choice of Theodore of Tarsus does not negate the importance of Paul. It simply says that someone who came in after the plague and Whitby probably suffered illnesses, ill will, and drew people together much like Paul. I vote for Teddy because without him, we may not have the beauty of Anglican worship. And, any priest/Archbishop who has a bad hair day shares my challenges!