It Is Paul Who Writes

It Is Paul Who Writes

This site is under revision at the present time.

All 340 Sections of the text and commentary will be
reviewed and
annotations added progressively.

The completion date is anticipated as being mid 2017.



Unit  Sections
The Conversion of Paul    1—33
First Missionary Journey   34—39
Letter to the Galatians   40—53
The Decree on Gentile Converts   54—57
Second Missionary Journey   58—67
First Letter to the Thessalonians   68—74
Second Letter to the Thessalonians                                                 
Second Missionary Journey continued                                                79—79
Third Missionary Journey   80—81
First Letter to the Corinthians
Third Missionary Journey continued
Second Letter to the Corinthians 126—153
Third Missionary Journey continued
Letter to the Romans 154—198
Third Missionary Journey continued 199—204
Arrest and Imprisonment
Letter to the Hebrews 226—261
The Voyage to Rome
Letter to the Ephesians
Letter to the Colossians
Letter to Philemon 297—298
Letter to the Philippians
Letter to Titus 311—315
First Letter to Timothy
Second Letter to Timothy


The Imprimatur

                                                VISITOR AUSTRALIAN PROVINCE

                                                BISHOP OF AUCKLAND
                                                22 August 1956



The Old Testament text is the translation of
Ronald Knox © 1948, 1950
The commentary © Ronald Cox 1960

Reproduced here with the permission of the copyright holders.



Fr. Ronald Cox C.M. was a member of the Congregation of the Mission – otherwise known as the Vincentian Fathers.  This Order has a long and distinguished history of educating young people in schools, universities and seminaries among other works of charity. His three books: “The Gospel Story“, “Waiting For Christ,” and “It Is Paul Who Writes” provide the reader with scholarly yet uncomplicated commentaries or explanations side by side with the Biblical texts. We are very grateful to the trustees of the Vincentian Fathers who administer the estate of the late Fr. Cox for permission to use these three books.



Annotations appear as footnotes in some of the above sections. These are not part of the original text and are offered merely as a guide to those less accustomed to the study of Sacred Scripture. They are written from a Hebrew Catholic perspective.


“Introduction — It Is Paul Who Writes”

This book is a sequel to The Gospel Story; it takes up at the point in Scripture where that left off, at the Descent of the Holy Ghost. The layout of both books is the same: on the left-hand page the text of the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Letters runs continuously; on the opposite page there is a commentary, paragraph for paragraph (1). I have made almost no attempt to explain difficult passages but have concentrated on supplying the atmosphere in which St. Paul wrote, and on following his main line of thought.

The New Testament arranges these letters according to their length and importance. I have rearranged them so that they are now read in the order in which they were written; the Letter to the Romans is in sixth place in this book, not first as in the New Testament. Seven of these letters were written during the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys as recorded in the Acts; I have interrupted the narrative of the Acts in order to fit in these letters where they belong. The remaining seven are grouped together at the end of the book; they were all written after the conclusion of the Acts.

For reasons of convenience rather than conviction I have located the Letter to the Hebrews at Caesarea in 60 A.D. The date of writing is uncertain, so I have taken the liberty of placing it where I think the reader will most easily appreciate its message. The events leading up to St. Paul’s arrest and imprisonment give the authentic background for the Letter to the Hebrews.

Monsignor Knox’s version was made from the Latin Vulgate.

The slight variations in my text arise from the fact that I have corrected his text in accordance with the original Greek; practically all of these corrections were made by Monsignor Knox himself; in the majority of cases they do not alter the meaning of the passage.

In interpreting St. Paul’s thoughts I am greatly indebted to Mgr. Knox’s A New Testament Commentary (Sheed & Ward); most of the paragraph headings and many of the ideas in my commentary have come from this source. For the chronology of St. Paul’s life I have followed ‘A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture’ (Nelson). For those readers who wish to look up individual verses this book can be highly recommended. But the two classic works on St. Paul are ‘The Theology of St. Paul’ by Fernand Prat (Newman), and ‘Paul of Tarsus’ by Joseph Holzner (Herder). The two large volumes of Prat are the most profound study of St. Paul yet published. Holzner is a more popular presentation of the Life and Letters of St. Paul against the background of his time.

The theme of St. Paul’s Letters is the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. He never forgot his dramatic introduction to this truth. On his way to Damascus, a bright light blinded him, and a voice called to him from above: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ That last word is the important one. Jesus Christ, seated in glory at the Father’s right hand, was complaining of personal persecution by Paul. The only conclusion Paul could reach was that Jesus identified himself with each individual Christian. The identity of the Christian with Christ remained St. Paul’s central doctrine for the rest of his life.

R. J. COX                                                                                           Holy Cross College

22 August 1956                                                                                   Mosgiel, New Zealand.

(1)       To allow on-line access to this excellent resource we have placed the commentary under each section so that the two parts remain closely associated, as in the printed book.


How To Read This Book

1.    “It Is Paul Who Writes” is a brilliant laying out of the New Testament Scriptures which includes an amalgam of the Epistles St. Paul actually wrote to young Christian communities. Scripture, which talks about him and his work (such as Acts), and Scripture which was either written by him or at least records his theology (such as “Hebrews”). Most readers will have heard or read virtually all of the contents, yet will almost certainly have some difficulty in bringing it together and holding it all in mind. It is for this reason that we feel his letters and the other New Testament Scriptures mentioned above are best read in a chronological sequence which allow their magnificent story to unfold before us.

2.    As is explained in the ‘Introduction’ by the distinguished author of the commentaries, Ronald Cox C.M., S.T.L., S.S.L., nothing has been omitted from the works named: they are merely placed before us in a way which enables us, to accompany St. Paul on his great mission.

3    Readers of Fr. Ronald Cox’s commentaries find his presentation simple to follow and awesome in the understanding he brings to the texts.

       We wish to pay tribute to his deep appreciation of the significance of that which Judaism has bequested to Christianity. As in the case of St. Paul, Fr. Cox is totally respectful of the culture and Biblical teaching which flowed from Judaism, our Elder Brother, into Christianity. One could say he was “ahead of his time”. One could also say, many haven’t yet caught up to where he was, let alone reflect our Third Millennium position.

       We need to remember, however, that he was writing his commentaries in the early to mid- 1950’s — and his language and expression sometimes, inevitably, reflect current attitudes then prevalent. If he was critical of Jews in St. Paul’s day, or of their practice, it was usually in relation to two categories of people:

●    Jews who betrayed genuine Jewish teaching from the Torah by giving greater recognition and binding
authority to man-made substitutionary teaching and practices;


●    Jews who became followers of Jesus Messiah but insisted that all Gentiles literally “became Jews first”
and followed traditional Jewish religious customs.

       In the light of Vatican II documents, as well as very clear guidelines from the Popes since that council, we felt it would be beneficial to add annotations to the written texts, written from a Hebrew Catholic perspective. These, we believe, give clarity and help readers understand the special relationship between Judaism and the Church as exemplified in the teaching of the Popes. Please note that the same or similar annotations are repeated throughout the Sections to ensure readers who have not read earlier Sections receive adequate assistance.

4    Each of the Sections contains text from St. Paul, plus commentary from Fr. Cox. These can be read as spiritual reading or used as material for in-depth reflection. In the case of the latter we offer guidelines in our Section: “Scripture Meditation — A Hebrew Catholic Perspective”.

5.    Some Sections are sub-divided into parts to make them more manageable during devotion time. We have tried to match appropriate commentary with the text. They should be read as parts of a whole and not as though complete in themselves.

6.    Do not be daunted by the long line-up of writings as something that needs to be got through as fast as possible. On the contrary, the 340 Sections form a cyclic programme we hope you will choose to continue in, be strengthened by and through which you are helped to build a robust relationship with the real subject of St. Paul’s writings: our Lord Jesus Christ.



An Essential Understanding of St. Paul

(“How to read his letters”)

As we make our way through the letters of Rabbi Shaul (St. Paul) we meet the full power of his vehement statements opposing, as any Christian rabbi must, the serious error of maintaining that Gentile converts to Christ must undergo traditional Jewish rites of initiation. Commentaries on Scripture sometimes reflect a common theological position held, and thus sometimes display such headings as “Circumcision Repudiates Grace”.

Any statements like that represent St. Paul’s strong reaction to the lobbying of the Judaisers. Whenever he is challenged by   these well-intentioned but misguided converts, St. Paul states in the most emphatic manner humanly possible, that when a Gentile becomes a Christian (in baptism) they fulfil every requirement in Jewish Law by virtue of their new bond with Christ. Thus to turn around and then seek circumcision of non-Jews would be tantamount to denying the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing about their baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. All Hebrew Christians would agree with that.

Quite some time later, St. Paul wrote to the Church at Colossae, which he had not founded, but in which certain errors were emerging:

In Christ you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands,
by putting on the
body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ. You were
buried with him in baptism, in which
you were also raised with him through
faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead
(Colosians. 2: 11)

Our commentary and annotations are especially important if we are to study and understand St. Paul’s letters. He was a very great rabbinic scholar and a much esteemed rabbi. There would be few rabbis, even in our times, who do not take a close look at his writings at some stage or other in their career. St. Paul venerated his Jewish Faith and never, ever deviated from this position of profound respect and gratitude for his membership of it; though some commentators read into his lines a cut-off point with Judaism.

All of St. Paul’s vehement statements about Jewish Law and Practice refer to two very specific contexts:

●      After what is usually referred to as his “conversion” (an often somewhat
        misrepresented experience) he boldly distanced himself from much of
        the popular teaching of his fellow Pharisees which he even more boldly
        proclaimed, buried God’s Torah — His Holy Teaching — under layers of
        man-made, burdensome religious practice.

●      His personal and dramatic encounter with Jesus Messiah made such
        an impact upon him that he constantly and consistently — powerfully and
        persistently — emphasised two non-negotiable principles:

   It is right and proper for Jews to live their whole Torah-compliant
Judaism #, as members of the Christian
Church in the light of Christ!
This could include circumcision, mikvah, or and any other Jewish
religious customs seen, in the light of Christ, to preserve the Hebrew
cultural heritage; but the binding nature of the Ceremonial Law was
abrogated by the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

#   Torah-compliant as in the original intentions of God in giving His Sacred Law.

  It is right and proper for non-Jews to be equal members of the
Church by being incorporated into Christ by baptism
and thus meeting
all the requirements of God’s Holy Torah
as fulfilled in Jesus Christ! 
[Thus requiring no other Judaic compliance].

St. Paul’s justification for this position was always to be found in his glorious teaching about the Mystical Body of Christ. At baptism we all become members of His Body, the Church. We can enter as Jews or Gentiles — but we all become members of One Body.

Hebrew Catholics are very proud of Rabbi Shaul, St. Paul, who manifested intense love for and loyalty towards Judaism yet was empowered by our Lord to become such a gifted agent in His grafting of the Gentiles on to the well cultivated “olive tree”, Israel, as children of Abraham:

Many Religions — One Covenant” by Cardinal Ratzinger page 23;
Nostra Aetate”, Second Vatican Council.)

In reading St. Paul’s Epistles, it is easy to take quite the wrong message from his apparent negative comments about Jewish Faith and practice. The reasons for this include differences in translation together with the absence of education of Christians in the fundamentals of Judaism. For this reason we have tried to assist the reader with annotations throughout the readings. These seek to demonstrate that St. Paul’s vivid comments and criticisms are directed, not at Judaism itself, but the incorrect application of its teaching by (perhaps sincere but) misguided opponents.

St. Paul, filled to overflowing with zeal for the in-grafting of the “wild shoots”, the Gentiles, on to the “olive tree Israel”, saw and understood so very clearly the opportunity for non-Jews to enjoy the privileges of being children of Abraham. He saw how they could fulfil all the obligations in the Torah by developing “the mind of Christ” (Phillipians. 2: 5) and listening to Him” (Luke 9:35), for Jesus the Messiah is Torah — Christ the Annointed is our Torah!

We close this note with a beautiful paragraph (1968) from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law [= the Torah].
The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the
moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and
has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human
truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to renew the
heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and
impure, where faith, hope and charity are found ….. The Gospel thus brings
the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly