Toomas Pauli keerulised küsimused


  • Helena Risthein



The difficult questions of Toomas Paul

Toomas Paul, born in Tartu in 1939, is a prominent theologian,
church historian, New Testament scholar and translator, as well
as an essayist, and a member of Academia Scientiarum et Artium
Europaea. He took part in the preparation of the Porvoo Common
Statement (1992) and attended the Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission
for 12 years. Paul has published 19 books and countless articles,
and still often gets press coverage concerning current problems
in different fields. He is deeply interested in science and culture and
has held a constant dialogue with physicists, neurologists, historians
and other professionals. His sermons, articles, conversations on the
radio and TV have always interested different communities due to
his intellectual spirit, wittiness, honesty and broad mental horizon.
At the same time, his chosen topics can be uneasy (data leaks, migration,
prostitution, etc.), he is equally critical towards totalitarian and
consumer societies, while he even censures some church activities.
Paul studied in Tallinn and worked at eight parish churches in
the countryside from 1960 to 1986. From then on he served at St
John’s Church in the centre of Tallinn, and, since 1989, at Sutlepa
Chapel on the premises of the Estonian Open Air Museum.
Among other things, Paul’s connection to Tartu is that his teacher
and collaborator Uku Masing (1909–1985), whose legacy he interprets
and publishes to this day in cooperation with Tartu scholars,
resided there. Paul received his doctoral degree (1994, on the history
of Bible translation in Estonia) at the University of Tartu and has
taught at and been a member of the Religious Anthropology Program
Committee. Rector Volli Kalm, who presented Paul with the National
Thought Award on behalf of the University of Tartu, called Paul a
custodian of basic values and stressed his importance in shaping social
mentality. Paul has been awarded many other prizes.
In the article, I present biographical data and briefly characterize
Paul as a reader and interpreter of theologians and philosophers like
Meister Eckhart or Spinoza, scientists and others, as well as an author. I am also publishing an unique questionnaire that he presented
to his audience already in the 1960s as a young cleric, and outline the
difficult questions about religion he has raised in his publications.
I quote other authors and archival sources of the Consistory of the
Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, adding passages from Paul’s
personal archives and our correspondence to show why he is highly
recognised in both the religious and secular societies of Estonia.


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