Monday, September 15, 2008

Pauline Gospel

I was pointed to this page by a friend on a mailing list and i felt I should answer its allegations. I promise I will get back to posting political articles in this election season.

You know what I like about the Rainbow Bible? It illustrates that everything is not black and white ;-)

I think that Paul (and subsequent "Pauls") had a "refreshing" view on Jesus and His message. I also believe

1 - that the fore mentioned Jesus was God incarnate, died until He was dead dead dead and then rose bodily from the dead. I believe that His life death and Resurrection mended the gulf between God and mankind.

2 - That the Bible is the inspired message from God through which He reveals His character and His love for us. It's message is much too important to insist that it is 100 percent scientifically or historically accurate, or that it was written in such a way that it is easily transposed into the 21st century without prayerful reflection and study; including study of what it would mean unassailed at the time it was written and to it's original audience. And as such can have messages that seem inconsistent to our modern minds, If we can be sure of any part of the gospels it is what Jesus said. The sequence and context and order of what He did carried lesser importance to the gospel writers and who the other actors were, exactly. They were telling the good news of Jesus, and if a Pharisee became a a Sadducee or some such for the continuity of the story, so be it. But nobody doubts the words. And fewer than you think doubt the narrative, just maybe the order.

3 - Paul was in fact a Pharisee and Pharisees were not all that bad of a group of people, and a convenient composite for contrast to the Church. Paul does not apologize for being a Pharisee, but rather supports his assertions due to his advanced learning. This witness is not only present in his epistles, but also in the book of acts, where "At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane." Acts 26:24. The Pharisees went on to found Rabbinical Judaism, which also believes that God is still speaking.

4- a) asked and answered; Jesus is Lord, this certainly occurs in places other than the epistles credited to Paul (and the ones he indeed wrote)
b) salvation is by grace through the faithfulness of Jesus. It is what the actual words say (in Greek, a language that the Bible WAS written in) and it is more consistent with scripture and the other words of Paul.
c) The blood of Jesus, as a substance has as much to do with salvation as the blood of lambs and goats had in the Hebrew covenant. Paul did not invent this doctrine, but rather appealed to it when addressing a Hebrew audience, as this was the context that they could relate to. It is an imperfect model at best, which is why it is not the only one he used, and even in that his arguments are inconsistent IF that is what he is arguing. For example he cast Jesus as the sacrificial lamb and the scape goat, two incompatible beasts, who are not interchangeable. This cannot be a Pauline invention, because it is not what he is saying.
d) This again is both present in other scriptures, beside the point, and cannot be literally accurate. Jesus never transgressed the will of the Father, so in this He is "sinless". But sin mean separation and Jesus Himself cried out (yes I know He was quoting scripture) "My God, My God why have You forsaken me", and then further He gave up His ghost (which was, you know, God) so the man Jesus was separated from "God". There was a period of time that His body, which was resurrected was separated from God.
e) I am not sure that the concept of "original sin" is the problem, or what conclusions we draw from that, a controversy that has played enthusiastic drama for the entire life of the church. Is man separated from God due to some conditions which the individual does not have control and can be traced back to the act or acts of another or others, sure.
f) I cannot imagine the fellow who wrote this web page could have typed this with a straight face. I mean, there were probably enough specious allegations in the page that most of his intended audience would not show the intellectual courage to refute, but The Holy Spirit? Cmon!!! I, apparently unlike the author of this web page, have listened to and studied many of the folks that I am sure this page is referring to (Crossan, Borg, etc.) and none of them would allege that Paul created the Holy Spirit. That's just embarrassing.

5 - The Gnostic gospels are a good source for understanding the cultural conditions in which Jesus lived and the Bible was written. They shed light on some issues that were not among the priorities of the canonical gospel writers. There are also fragmented and jejune in many cases. Not even Bart Erlman consider them of greater value than the canonical gospels.

It is probably true that the concept of a Pauline gospel is a misunderstanding of the Gospel, regardless of which end of the issue you stand. There is a single gospel that is made up of many voices. Paul himself cautioned those whom he wrote to not take his word above all others, but to follow Jesus. Paul interpreted that journey in one way, Peter another and John and James another still. This is the thing I do have against the "Rainbow Bible" it is confusing with all those colors, we may lose sight of how important the words in red are.

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