Should Paul be removed from the NT?

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by iBrian, Jul 13, 2004.

  1. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    But you have to admit that it is this notion of the vengeful God punishing humanity with eternal torment that has driven the orthodox church for the better part of two millenia. We have been haunted by blood atonement ever since Ireaneus decided that dissent was punishable by eternal torment in Hell. The fathers of orthodoxy wrote and acted with hatred, judgment and fear (particularly toward women), and the Church inherited that "anti-heretical" approach through its adoption by the Roman Empire. It may not be your experience, but it is the story of Orthodoxy.

    We are the author of our own judgment. The "sin" of believing we know "good" from "evil" is the thing that separates us. It is a return from reason - a rejection of "knowledge of Good and Evil" that is the path of Love. Unlimited forgiveness, unconditional love and tolerance flows from shedding the artificial line between self and other, human and God, nature and man, man and woman, and every other illusory "knowing." The return from reason is the path back to the Garden.
     
  2. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Religion is a manmade instrument, and humans are fallible, and dare I say, fallen. We are capable of our greatest evil when we think we can speak for others with divine authority. This is the story, or part of the story, but my view is that religion evolves. I do not know that the orthodox church was only driven by fear, but I will agree what I do know is far from pretty and laden with what I can only call avarice. I am not making excuses for this. I do not think it had to be this way.

    I agree with this, and the closer we get to this ideal the closer we get to the Garden/Kingdom. We don't know good from evil, I'm starting to get that the more I think about it. Interesting that in a way it is a more literal interpretation of the Story of the Fall than most Christians talk about. But I'm still a soul with a body making my way through this imperfect life making choices that are almost always shades of grey.

    peace,
    lunamoth
     
  3. lunamoth

    lunamoth Episcopalian

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    Just need to add that what you say about the path of Love, I so fully agree with you. Guess the only difference is is that in my ignorance I have been able to find the thread of this path in the Church.

    lunamoth
     
  4. ghufranakahmad

    ghufranakahmad New Member

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    I am a new membe.I was reading some of the earlier posts written by the members of the forum.
    I agree with you that Paul did not represent Jesus.
     
  5. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    bump for interest...I just read through this entire quite interesting thread. Found it all so interesting I can't comment.
     
  6. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    I'm not sure how Paul could have corrupted the gospels when his stuff was written before them.

    Chris
     
  7. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    "chuckle" excellent point Chris...
     
  8. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    I skimmed the entire thread, but I still don't see a valid argument for dismissing Paul. Admittedly I'm an admirer of Paul, but I've tried to consider the issue open mindedly, and I don't see anything compelling in the emphasis placed on narrow readings of the turns of phrases in the Gospels. In my opinion Paul is one of, if not the most eloquent of voices in the entire Bible.

    Chris
     
  9. Jeannot

    Jeannot Jeannot

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    Yes, Paul can be eloquent. And he is obviously sincere. I too am an admirer of most of his writing, though not all.

    One thing that makes him very human is his attitude toward the Jews, his own people. He must now reject the Jewish way of salvation--the works of the Law--but yet he can't bring himself to condemn Israel as lost. So he twists and turns in his attitude toward his former co-religionists, and ends up saying that Israel will be saved, presumably by mass conversion.

    BTW, about Paul and "the gospel." He's always talking about "the gospel"--but what does he mean? Obviously not the four canonical gospels we have, since they weren't written yet. Does he mean a written document? If so, what? The fabled "Q"?

    Or does he just mean the "kerygma," the proclamation of faith that Jesus is the first born of the dead, and shows the path to salvation?

    PS: One of the very few overlaps between Paul and the canonical gospels is his repeating Jesus' words at the Last Supper.
     
  10. truthseeker

    truthseeker Well-Known Member

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    Should Paul be removed from the NT, there would be no NT. Maybe it would be entitled, 'A Stir in Rome' or just a point in history like the books of the Apocrypha. Of the 27 books of the NT, 14 are the epistles of Paul.
     
  11. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    Many contemporary authors like Hyam Macoby go to great length to demonstrate that Paul could not have been the man he purports to be. It's hard to know exactly who the historical Paul was. Christian tradition is that he was an ascetic Pharisee, and scholar of Jewish ceremonial Law. Saul/Paul, the man in the story is an ethnic Jew, but also a Roman citizen by virtue of his patronage. Paul is a tentmaker by trade.

    The consensus of most modern biblical scholars I've read is that some of the material in the NT ascribed to Paul is not from his hand. These psuedo-Pauline works, like Hebrews, are written in the style of Paul by others.

    How one understands Paul, it seems to me, depends on the context within which his story is framed: Paul, as a character in his own story within his own time, Paul in the context of the whole of the NT, or St. Paul- a much larger historical character in the story of the establishment of Christianity, and its evolution through time up to, and including the present.

    Paul himself says that his evangelistic strategy is to become "all things to all men". Paul preaches a message designed for universal appeal, which he tailors to the cultural disposition of his audience. For Jews he's a Jew discussing the Law, to Greeks he purports to be, on one occasion, a representative of the "Unknown God" whose statue he noticed on the way into town, to Roman officials he's a Roman citizen.

    When taken in the narrow, contemporary context of the world of Paul's own experience, and provided we understand his writings as audience specific epistles, or letters, his anti-semitic, misogynist, and apparently pro-slavery sentiments seem pretty unremarkable.

    Paul may not have been a Pharisee, but he was no intellectual dolt. Paul's attempt to reason through the Jewish Law in order to co-opt the seminal elements of Judaism into his universalist Christian philosophy is an example of his acumen as Christ's number one salesman.

    Paul's comments on marriage relations and the role of women in the church reflect the man he was. Paul was an ascetic. Paul probably believed that there was a trade off between abstaining from sex, and spiritual acuity and awareness. All of Paul's relations with women in his writings seem to be quite egalitarian, though he can't bring himself to take a stand against patriarchic control of the church . Paul realizes that his way won't work for everyone, and when pressed for advice he recommends marriage for anyone who just can't subjugate his sexual desire. Again, in terms of Paul's own time, his attitude toward women and sex seems almost liberal.

    Paul exhorts slaves to respect and serve their masters. Is this Paul's endorsement of the "peculiar institution"? I don't think so. Paul wants to get along with the Roman government, and the Roman Empire of Paul's time was cracking down on miscreants and rebels. Paul seeks respectability, and he sees the pounding that anti-empirial messianists are taken at the hands of the forces of Roman law and order. No one in Paul's sphere could imagine a world without slavery, it was a fact of life. Paul the pragmatist chooses order over chaos as a means to an end.

    Paul, when reduced to a local character in a small story becomes quite likeable and innocuous. Zoom out to the next frame of reference, that of the NT writers from Matthew thru John the Revelator, and consider the most immediate effects of the Pauline doctrine on young Christianity:

    The evolution of religion is one process within the sum cultural evolution of humanity. The success of Christianity as the defacto religion of choice for empire building is owed directly to Paul's vision of an inclusive, cosmopolitan religion which transcended localized, ethnic identity oriented rivals. This is why, when the Roman Empire became over-extended and difficult to control centrally, Constantine saw a role for an organized state religion. Freed from it's ethno-particularist bindings, monotheism had come of age.

    While it is true that Paul drove the stake between Judaism and Christianity, the authors of the Gospels evolved Paul's thesis of the universal applicability of God's covenant with the Jews through the Law into a wholesale rejection of the Christ by the Jews. Paul never envisions the Jews screaming "crucify him" and volunteering to have the bloodguilt for murdering the Messiah retroactively, and for perpetuity attached to them.

    The everyday, on the street Jew hated, more than any Roman, the humiliating manner in which his interests were sold down the river by his own corrupt puppet government of the religious elite. It was to this sentiment that both Paul and the gospeliers appealed while they sought the indulgence of Rome by absolving the empire, through the device of Pilate's hand washing, of blame. In this context, the motives of the author of Revelation become clear. He is the backlash against the hypocrisy of condemning the scribes and Pharisees of the Jewish politico-religious establishment for selling out to Rome while actively engaging in the same bootlick behavior.

    O.K., zoom all the way out to today. Paul has attained mythological status. He is encrusted, gilded, and opulated in sainthood. Thanks to Paul, some sects like the JW's still force women to cover their heads when taking an active part in the church service. That's merely emblematic of the frozen grip of patriarchic control that has ruled our societies from time in memorial. Thanks to Paul, proponents of human slavery were able to stay under biblical cover until only a century and a half ago. Thanks to Paul and the gospeliers, institutional anti-Semitism became an official function of organized Christianity- a dark legacy that is alive and well just below the surface of our illusions of civility in western society.

    All of that said, I enjoy Paul for the real gems in his writing:


    Chris
     
  12. China Cat Sunflower

    China Cat Sunflower Nimrod

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    That's just one of the tantalizing questions about Paul. There are these little hints in Paul's writings about the inner politics of the emerging Church.

    Chris
     
  13. Devadatta

    Devadatta Well-Known Member

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    Hello Senor Diablo! Nice reversal of fortune, in keeping with the principle that the way down is the way up. Paul & Jesus are joined at the hip, and thought by many to be in mortal danger as a result. There’s a perennial desire to want to save the one from the other. I think you would agree that the prevailing choice – from Thomas Jefferson to the Jesus Seminar – is to save Jesus from Paul, not Paul from Jesus.

    I come at this a little out of my depth, in that I haven’t read the early patristic writers or later theorizers you refer to. But I am hip to the general framework of the times. The New Testament – the strangest book ever written – is a syncretistic document reflecting the interpenetration of Greek & Jew. That interpenetration as you know went both ways. It wasn’t just the Hellenising of Jews but also of the Judaizing of Greeks, noted (usually as an accusation) in the philosophies of Hellenistic times and of late-antiquity from the Stoics to the Neoplatonists.

    So I wouldn’t argue with your general framework, which is indeed pretty much in line with what I know of standard scholarship. But I would put some of what you say into question.

    First, there’s the question of what constitutes Gnosticism in the first place. Its fundamental definition is a method that seeks the divine or enlightenment through knowledge/insight. This is in contrast with (or complementary to) that other royal road to God, submission/love. Secondarily, Gnosticism is associated with certain metaphors dominated by a dualist, world-negating metaphysics. On both counts, the original form of Buddhism is perhaps the greatest example of the Gnostic project. Certainly, insight is the hallmark of the Pali Canon, and the dominant goal is escape from existence – laypeople who weren’t up to that level of renunciation were given the lesser goal of better (or heavenly) rebirth, much as St. Paul advised marriage for all believers who couldn’t handle celibacy.

    The point here is that this Gnostic impulse was extremely varied in practice & expression, that it circulated around the general syncretistic stew of the times, and was not as distinctly defined as might seem to us now or as is reflected in the standard role call of heresies. To me, this presents difficulties to the Gnostic hypothesis you appear to be offering here. There was no definable “iron curtain”, no east/west divide, so how in this incredibly mixed environment could Christianity at any point be characterized as either Gnostic or literal, exclusively dedicated to either knowledge or love?

    Second, this naturally leads to the question of the “gnosticism” of Paul. I’m hardly prepared here to go into the intricacies of the mixed bag of his theology, but I think it’s fair to say that the salient feature of Paul’s theology is that it’s very distinctly his own. It’s possible of course that later redactors suppressed some overtly Gnostic passages, but I think that while it’s possible to read Paul as a Gnostic (it’s possible to read anyone as a Gnostic, for those who have eyes!), I don’t think he can be easily slotted into that camp. Like his times, I think Paul’s thought is highly mixed. In particular, the central theme of love, while perhaps assimilatible to a Gnostic practice is hardly Gnostic in tone to the extent of the emphasis it’s given here.

    Third, I think the scholarly consensus that Paul’s genuine letters are among the earliest and least altered Christian documents is not automatic proof that Paul is representative of the earliest or most authentic Christianity. You’ve said yourself that the truth is the truth no matter who says it or where it’s found, so that the trail of documentary evidence is hardly the final & unassailable factor in judgement. In fact, we have no more independent evidence for the existence of Paul than we do for Jesus. The difference is that we have in the Pauline writings a much more rounded personality, and thus a heightened sense that we are indeed hearing the voice of an actual person. On the other hand, I think you would agree that while this is a kind of evidence for the existence of Paul, it’s not necessarily evidence against the existence of Jesus.

    Someone else has already pointed out on another thread that the most plausible assumption is that an historical Jesus actually did exist, but that nearly everything else we think we know about what he did or said is open to question.

    That’s what makes most sense to me. In modern terms, one might see Paul as an early example of the process of branding. Before Paul’s conversion the Jesus “brand” was metastizing throughout the Middle East, as open source, one might say. Paul took that open source and made it a fully registered brand, so that between the sayings gospels & the fragmentary narratives and the final canon, he managed to stamp his register on nearly the whole story. “His” gospel is both a brilliant elaboration of the original, and a decisive (sometimes unfortunate) redirection.

    So I would take almost a traditional, or at least a middle view here. I don’t think Paul is an evil doppelganger of Jesus, but I also don’t think Jesus is & his gospel is merely a projection of Paul. Like beans & cornbread, they’re ultimately inseparable.

    Sincerely,
    Devadatta
     
  14. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    Devadatta:

    Thanks for the interesting replies and comments. I don't know if you are still visiting this forum, but if you are I apologize for not noticing these comments earlier.

    I think both need to be saved from us.:D

    My statement that everything but the genuine Pauline Epistles should be removed was intended as a thought provoker. (It didn't really work:rolleyes:) I like plenty of other stuff in the NT, including the basic story. I think much of it has been tampered with and forged by polemicists (including the Book of Acts, Luke, Matthew and John, and the Pastorals) though I find a lot of truth scattered about in these books as well.

    I agree with that assessment. I think that's pretty similar to the way I've expressed it in various places here.

    That's only if you understand Gnosticism through the lens of literalism. Gnosticism is the road to Love by understanding the mythical vehicle that allows you to transcend yourself and have epiphanous moments of connecting empathy with others. The Gnostic ideal is "know thyself" and the Gnostic moral is "knowledge and law should never get in the way of love and understanding." (my version :)) Thus, if you think those who came up with the idea of a "demiurge" meant it literally, you are missing the point entirely.

    Gnosticism is finding the balance between the inner and the outer worlds through creative mythology. If you only understand the denotation of the myths, it might seem otherwise, but they almost always have double (and sometimes triple) meanings.

    I agree with this.

    There are those who know the law of Love. All else is vanity.

    Of course it is. But you can make it yours, too.

    LOL :D

    Again, this may be a result of thinking Gnosis isn't first and foremost about love, empathy and connection.

    I wouldn't contend with you on this issue. Paul is clearly at odds with something in Jerusalem that sounds from Paul's letter like a precursor to the Nazarenes or Ebionites, but which is clearly claiming some sort of "faith" in the revelation of the Christ before it came to Paul.


    This is a very interesting way to think about it. I've been reading books about cultural evolution and memes in religion that may speak to some similar ideas. I am just finishing Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell, which I highly recommend if you want to go a little further with this idea. I'd love to discuss this further with you.

    Best regards.
     
  15. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    That is certainly subject to debate...;)
     
  16. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    What isn't subject to debate? :D
     
  17. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    i don't know...death and taxes? The periodic chart? Murphy's Law? (though I do contend that Murphy was an optimist...):rolleyes: :)
     
  18. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    LOL. I know we have tax protesters and death protesters. And I bet even the periodic chart has its detractors. But you may be right about Murphy's Law.
     
  19. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    Nuts, I would rather have been right about the first two...:eek: :D

    v/r

    Q
     
  20. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    It seems your link only shows up in my response, however I found it extremely thought provoking.

    What is pointed out as the "new periodic table", is something "Wiccans and Druids" knew about all along...:rolleyes: :cool:
     

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