Concerning Paul

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Solace
 
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 06:15 pm
I've seen at least a couple of prominent posters here encourage adherence to Jesus' teachings, but discourage adherence to Paul's. Personally, I found some of Paul's teachings about the nature of grace and the law to be very eye-opening. So my question is, what precisely did Paul say or write that you disagree with?
 
BlueChicken
 
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 08:44 pm
@Solace,
I cannot speak for the other users (I am sure they will offer their input as well) but many of Paul's passages are politically or theologically troubling. Particularly, there is a strong current in theological discussions to bring up that Paul 'distorted' the original message of Jesus as present in the Gospels. How far this goes depends on who you ask, ranging from a simple divergence of opinions between the Gospels and Pauline Epistles to a desire to remove the relics of Pauline theology in Christianity.

Since you wanted a specific example, the one that persistently comes to mind as problematic is 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This is one of the many passages that damns women in the Pauline Epistles, which I obviously take offense to. I have trouble reconciling this misogyny with the message of the Gospels, in which Jesus is so accepting regardless of sex/gender. This causes me to take issues with the Epistles, regardless of the scholarship that suggests this was added by church authorities afterwards to reinforce their own agendas (the evidence for this seems to be strained at best).

That said, I think a refusal of Pauline theology would be a mistake. Of all of the NT I find the Letter to the Philippians to be incredibly illuminating, although I have been known to appreciate some of the stranger texts found within the Bible.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sat 22 Nov, 2008 09:11 pm
@BlueChicken,
Thank you BlueChicken, that is an interesting passage you point out. I've read it before and I don't agree with the commandment given to women either. What strikes me as being particularly odd here is that Paul would even bring up a commandment, when in earlier epistles, Romans in particular, Paul wrote that we are free from the law and commandments. Certainly it feels like not only is there a double standard for the rights of the two genders, but also for when and when not to apply commandments. Interesting stuff. Thank you for your insight.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 08:35 am
@Solace,
One of the problems with the Pauline gospels is that Paul, despite his miraculous conversion, never knew Christ himself, and got his knowledge, as it were, second-hand from some of the original desciples. Another often cited problem is that, given his status and education, he naturally combined those elements with what he knew of Christian doctrine. A third problem, was that he was an organiser par excellence, and spent much of his time "getting everyone on the same page."

The real debate arises between those who see Paulist doctrine often in conflict with what is interpreted as the teaching of Christ and the extent to which his doctrine has influenced organised Christianity.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 09:07 am
@jgweed,
I wonder if, when Christ talked about not being a respecter of persons, was he talking about himself as well? Why should we favor Christ's teachings over Paul's or anyone else's? Simply because he was the Christ? I think this attitude goes down a dangerous path; taking Christ's words as the basic truth simply because it was Christ that said it, but dismissing another's words as inferior or less relevant, no matter how wise those words are, simply because it was not Christ that said it. I think that Christ would have wanted people to pay attention to anything that made sense, whether or not he said it.

Paul was right when he said to accept a doctrine only if it is sound. Whether or not we believe in Christ's divinity, we shouldn't accept what he said simply because he said it, unless we're promoting blind faith. Nor should we place more importance on Christ's words than someone else's. We should look at the wisdom in what anyone is saying and analyze the words irregardless of the man.
 
BlueChicken
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 09:27 am
@Solace,
Solace wrote:
I wonder if, when Christ talked about not being a respecter of persons, was he talking about himself as well? Why should we favor Christ's teachings over Paul's or anyone else's? Simply because he was the Christ? I think this attitude goes down a dangerous path; taking Christ's words as the basic truth simply because it was Christ that said it, but dismissing another's words as inferior or less relevant, no matter how wise those words are, simply because it was not Christ that said it. I think that Christ would have wanted people to pay attention to anything that made sense, whether or not he said it.

Paul was right when he said to accept a doctrine only if it is sound. Whether or not we believe in Christ's divinity, we shouldn't accept what he said simply because he said it, unless we're promoting blind faith. Nor should we place more importance on Christ's words than someone else's. We should look at the wisdom in what anyone is saying and analyze the words irregardless of the man.

I think your sentiment here is perfect, and one that is well offered to anyone struggling through their faith. Christ's message was not that rules worked and thus we should follow them, but making sense of the tradition we come from which may contradict certain parts of it. The goal is not meet every rule, but to live the way they offer rather than what they demand.

The problem for most people is that Paul is divergent from what they see as Christ's message, which they do take as making sense. In general, the argument against Paul is that what he says does not offer the wisdom found in the Gospels; not because Christ said it and Paul didn't, but because what Christ said made sense while what Paul said offends people. I have already thrown in my two sense, but both Bertrand Russell and Freidrich Nietzsche had criticisms of Paul that they did not extend to Christianity for the nature of some of his message.

As for how we should interpret Christ's words versus anyone else's, that is really a whole other topic but I would like to quickly address it. "We should look at the wisdom in what anyone is saying and analyze the words irregardless of the man." This speaks volumes: we should look at what is said rather than what man says it, emphasis on which man. Christ kind of gets a step up here because, for the faithful, he wasn't just another man throwing his opinion into the pile. He was THE man, a prophet or God (depending on who you ask) so his word gets a little more currency than others. His words are not to be evaluated by the faithful, what he said is where wisdom is to be found. How is a whole other question (an impossibly complex one), but for Christians his word is wisdom regardless of how they take it. The reason the Gospels are given prominence in religious practice is because they are about Christ, one step closer to the truth that he was, versus Paul which for the religious lends them a lot more credibility than Paul.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 03:38 pm
@BlueChicken,
It's worth noting that the authorship of works attributed to Paul is questionable. Scholars like Elaine Pagels suggest that Paul was a gnostic and that the clearly anti-gnostic epistles are not the work of Paul Tarsus.
 
Solace
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 04:38 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
It's worth noting that the authorship of works attributed to Paul is questionable. Scholars like Elaine Pagels suggest that Paul was a gnostic and that the clearly anti-gnostic epistles are not the work of Paul Tarsus.


Okay, thanks DT, this brings up another interesting point. Should authorship matter? Certainly to some it does matter, but should it matter whether or not the person to whom a particular scripture is attributed actually wrote it? This comes up a lot as it pertains to scripture. It's nearly impossible to determine with any real degree of certainty who wrote what two thousand years ago. So content should always trump authorship.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 23 Nov, 2008 04:47 pm
@Solace,
Solace wrote:
Okay, thanks DT, this brings up another interesting point. Should authorship matter? Certainly to some it does matter, but should it matter whether or not the person to whom a particular scripture is attributed actually wrote it? This comes up a lot as it pertains to scripture. It's nearly impossible to determine with any real degree of certainty who wrote what two thousand years ago. So content should always trump authorship.


I agree with you to a large extent. The individual author is in a large way irrelevant. No one cares who wrote the Tao te Ching nor should they.

But when we talk about Pauline theology, authorship begins to matter. If certain texts attributed to Paul are not Paul's work, and especially if those texts with questionable authorship contradict the theology of Pauline texts with relatively certain authorship, then we are forced to rethink what we consider Pauline theology.

On a book by book basis, authorship is irrelevant. But when we are studying a number of books which are supposed to have the same source, which are supposed to be theologically homogeneous, the question of authorship becomes vital.
 
Solace
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 10:29 am
@Didymos Thomas,
It must be a nigh-impossible undertaking to positively identify common authorship of a lot of the various books of the Bible. I mean, even if something is said in one of Paul's epistles that contradicts (or even just doesn't stand up well beside) what was written in another epistle, it could possibly be that one was written at a much later time than the other, and in the meanwhile Paul's (or whomever the author was) views on certain things had changed. Couple with that the distinct possibility that, indeed, not all of the epistles share common authorship at all, and we have an impossible to untangle web. I can understand entirely the historical relevance of authorship; I just feel for those scholars whose job it is to figure it out.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 12:39 pm
@Solace,
Yes, the job is a difficult one - and made even more difficult by the politicization of the issues. The continuing debate over the dating of the Gospel of Thomas, for example, is pure politics. On the one hand you have scholars who say the book dates to about 50BC, but because this puts the book before any canonical Gospels, more traditional scholars feel compelled to dissent - and they do so with great public spectacle.
 
Solace
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 12:49 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Okay, here's an interesting question. Although it is off-topic to the thread, I started the thread so I don't mind highjacking it, heh. By all means, though, if anyone wants to bring it back to a discussion about Paul I'm very glad to do so.

In the Gospel of Thomas, is Thomas portrayed as "Doubting Thomas" the way he is in other gospels? (Yes, I'm ashamed to admit that I still haven't read it yet.Surprised)
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 01:05 pm
@Solace,
The short answer is no.

GoT is radically different from all other Gospels. Instead of being a narrative of the life of Jesus, Thomas is a collection of sayings, similar to the Analects of Confucius.

Also, the Thomas of the canonical Gospels may not be the author, or even the mythological author. In the text, the author is named as Didymos Thomas. Both words mean "twin" in Hebrew, and so we might take the name to mean that the author is the spiritual twin of Jesus, or something to that effect.
 
Solace
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 01:26 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Not to cast "doubt" upon the canonical gospels, I can't help but wonder if Thomas was portrayed as a doubter in the Bible in an attempt to discredit the Gospel of Thomas. Presents an intriguing possibility I think. Thanks for the info DT.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 01:58 pm
@Solace,
Perhaps, I really don't know the history well enough to comment on the possibility.

As for Thomas, the Gospel of Thomas does mention him:
13 Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like."
Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger."
Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."
Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."
Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended."
And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?"
Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you."


Quite a bit different than the character we see in the canonical Gospels.
 
Solace
 
Reply Mon 24 Nov, 2008 06:48 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:

Quite a bit different than the character we see in the canonical Gospels.


Ya for sure. The passage seems to have a unique style to it as well. Thanks again DT.
 
Whoever
 
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2008 05:51 am
@Solace,
I'm with DT. feel that the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library settles the question about the Gospel of Thomas. The editor in chief for the Bible was a Roman Emperor concerned with developing a utilitarian state religion, and very successful he was, not with transmitting the teachings of Jesus. I mean, what sort of Christian would outlaw the Gospel of Mary? As for Paul, I suspect he was also discredited for the sake of Bishop Irenaeus' literalist agenda.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Thu 4 Dec, 2008 04:42 pm
@Whoever,
Yeah, you're pretty much spot on Whoever. The Emperor wasn't literally editor in chief in an active way, but that definitely captures the feeling of the editing of the Bible. He wanted a uniform Church through which he could administer a vast, crumbling empire. The more powerful Bishops were all about maintaining their authority - this is why the teachings of Arius was declared heretical. Heck, there was a fist fight over the Gospel of Thomas when they created the Bible.
 
Whoever
 
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 05:23 am
@Solace,
Was there? That's interesting. Can you say more about this fistfight?
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Fri 5 Dec, 2008 06:21 pm
@Whoever,
Fist fight might be a bit strong - one of the Bishops slugged another in the face.
 
 

 
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