Wednesday, February 27, 2002

AND IN THIS CORNER: The Paul thing has sparked a ton of good debate and responses. Here's Kevin Holtsberry:

What Chris is guilty of is looking to the bible for comfortable pieces he can pick and choose from in order to satisfy his own personal preferences - this does not work. There are plenty of good works on the consistency of the entire Bible if Chris should choose to seek them out rather than look for guidance from Thomas Jefferson and Albert Schweitzer.

Can you recommend some of those good works, Kevin? But I wonder why you would need it to be consistent, or what's wrong with picking and choosing from the vast buffet that is the Bible. Isn't that a freedom of modern life, to be able to pick and choose as your personal preferences suggest?

HokiePundit has more, including a sort of pocket history of Paul:

On his was to Damascus to persecute the Jews, Paul, known then as Saul of Tarsus, was blinded. During this time, Jesus appeared to him and told him that he was chosen to spread his message. Paul was a very unique man. He was of both Jewish and Roman descent, and was thus a citizen of Rome. He had lived in Greece growing up, and was thus intimately familiar with Hellenistic culture and styles of argumentation. Finally, he was a Pharisee, and knew the Jewish techniques of midrash and parable. If not for his Jewishness, he would never have been accepted by the other apostles. If not for his Greek upbringing, he wouldn't have been able to begin the conversion of the Gentiles, a task the original apostles didn't want. Lastly, due to his citizenship, he was able to have the right to trial in Rome, saving him from his Jewish persecuters once, and allowing him time to write several letters while in prison. Paul was the instrument that allowed Christianity to become more than simply Neo-Judaism.

As I noted before, Mark Byron also did some work resolving doctrinal differences between Paul and Jesus. As for the historical problem Chris raises:

The Apostle Paul was not one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth (Yahoshua Ben Yosef). Even by the earliest timelines, he didn't show up on the Christian scene till ten years after the execution of Jesus. He was, however, the father of Christianity. Without Paul there is no Christianity. Modern Christianity owes more to Paul than to Jesus. In this sense, most modern Christians are followers of Paul rather than followers of the example of Christ.

Tony Adragna has this to say:

Didn't Christ found the church? Yes, that's very true. But, that doesn't mean that the early church in Jeruselem knew what they were doing. In fact, the early Christians were just about as clueless about the church's mission as any Christian has ever been - so much for fundamentalism (in the sense of returning to the ways of the early church). For instance, we understand that Christ's message is meant for everybody, but the Jeruselem church couldn't get past Judaism. The very first council, held in Jeruselem, was all about dressing down Paul for preaching to the Gentiles. How did it happen that the Jeruselem Christians didn't get the point.

Well, that brings me to an apparent contradiction between Christ's message as understood by early Christians, and Paul's preaching. Reconcile (paraphrased) I came not to break the old law, but to deliver a new one, with Paul's clear break from Mosaic law. You can't do that textually, because where Christ himself does so (especially in an instance where he's confronted on breaking the Sabbath) he does it by proving to his inquisitors that he's not breaking the law (Matthew 12 : it can't be unlawful to do good on the Sabbath). Paul can't do that - he clearly breaks from Mosaic tradition by welcoming into the church uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul goes even further, arguing that Christians are set free from the law of Moses.

How does Paul reconcile the apparent inconsistency? He doesn't! Instead, he makes a logical leap to get at what Christ meant but never actually said:divine mercy and forgiveness are offered in Christ; baptism unites the believer with Christ; the believer is put into the right relationship with God, and good works advance the believer in holiness. Paul doesn't argue, as Christ teaches, that Mosaic law needs be tempered with love and mercy. Paul simply throws away Mosaic law!

Neat stuff all around. I love being Gavrilo Princip sometimes.

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