Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Luca:
Paul’s letters have a central role in Christian doctrine, yet Swedenborg does not mention them. Why? Thanks.
Thanks for the good question, Luca.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) does quote from Paul’s letters in his later theological writings, especially in his final great work of systematic theology, True Christianity. However, in his first published theological work and his greatest work of Bible interpretation, Secrets of Heaven, traditionally known by its Latin title Arcana Coelestia, he does not. Here is his own explanation, in answer to one of his early followers:
In respect to the writings of the apostles and of Paul, I have not quoted them in the Arcana Coelestia, because they are doctrinal writings, and consequently are not written in the style of the Word, like those of the prophets, of David, of the Evangelists, and the Book of Revelation. The style of the Word consists altogether of correspondences, wherefore it is effective of immediate communication with heaven; but in doctrinal writings there is a different style, which has indeed communication with heaven, but mediately. They were written thus by the apostles, that the new Christian Church might be commenced through them; wherefore matters of doctrine could not be written in the style of the Word, but they had to be expressed in such a manner as to be understood more clearly and intimately. The writings of the apostles are, nevertheless, good books of the church, insisting upon the doctrine of charity and its faith as strongly as the Lord himself has done in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation; as may be seen and found evident by everyone who in reading them directs his attention to these points. That Paul’s expression in Romans 3:28, concerning Justification by Faith, has been quite misunderstood, is proved in the Apocalypsis Revelata no. 417, to which you may refer; wherefore the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, which constitutes the theology of the Reformed churches at the present day, is built on an entirely false foundation. (From an April 15, 1766, letter to Dr. Gabriel Beyer published in English translation in R.L. Tafel’s Documents concerning Swedenborg, Document 224, link added)
We’ll dig into all of this further along in the article. But first, we need to take a look at the “canon” of the Bible, or which books are included in the Bible, and why. As it turns out, it’s a much more complicated question than most Christians realize.
For more Swedenborg, Paul, and the biblical canon, please click here to read on.