Schweitzer on Pauline Suffering

Albert Schweitzer’s Mysticism of Paul the Apostle[1] is often cited in the debate over participation and union with Chris but his chapter on “Suffering as a Mode of Manifestation of the Dying with Christ”[2] is most informative with regard to understanding Pauline suffering. Schweitzer sees Pauline suffering as a part of participating in Christ’s death (though Schweitzer does not use these terms).[3] While some of the verses Schweitzer cites[4] speak more to identity or self-denial or self-sacrifice in the ministry of the Lord rather than suffering per se, Schweitzer is correct that there is certainly a “dynamic conception of union with Christ in His death”[5] and this union, which Paul relates is signified by baptism, is more than simply an identity marker; this union is a constant lived experience.

Schweitzer’s claim that suffering with Christ is a primitive Christian concept that did not originate with Paul[6] is undoubtedly true, but it is Paul[7] who brings suffering with Christ to the fore.

Schweitzer goes against the notion that Paul’s teaching in this regard is “explained by the unique character of his experience at his conversion” and instead, regards that Paul views his “Christ-dedicated life” as a” being delivered over to death.”[8] This experience, Paul has “generalised in his teaching.”[9]

Schweitzer is correct that Paul sees his suffering as divine validation upon his life and ministry a true Apostle of Jesus Christ and that his suffering is the direct result of his daring to “speak out the full truth about the significance of the Cross.”[10] Paul’s suffering “only shows how far he has already advanced in the dying with Christ, and accordingly, how vigorously the life of Christ is unfolding itself in him. Thus in the end his sufferings come to mean more to him than even being caught up into the third heaven and into Paradise.”[11]

[1]Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, trans., William Montgomery, New York: Macmillan Company, 1955.

[2]Chapter VII, 141-159.

[3]141, 142




[7]As well as Peter, though their emphases might be different.





About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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