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Discussion with Kind Christian Scholar

I am anonymizing this so you the reader can benefit from a dialogue, but not try to attack the scholar with whom I may disagree. The point is to learn.

Christian Scholar - A 3/29/2013 

Our impasse is with Paul.  It appears that you are not accepting of his credentials as an apostle and think he high-jacked the early Jesus movement.  IF I am correct, you are certainly NOT alone.  There are many who present this

thesis.  I am currently working on an article writing against James Tabor's latest work, "Paul and Jesus" where he presents data around this thesis.  It is a good book if you have not read it.  Unfortunately, it will give you yet another good scholarly work to support your work. Of course, I find holes in this theory.  On a personal level I think the early Jesus movement was stagnant and I think Jesus chose Paul to propel the Church to take seriously his last command to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  I accept Paul's testimony and his writings as inspired.  My guess is that we would disagree on many points, not only with Paul, but more specifically on the nature of inspiration and the NT text.  While I hold the text as inspired I do not hold to inerrancy.  This presents a problem (an impasse) with many who differ on specific points - inerrancy forces one into a corner with "contradictions" where I prefer to say that we have certain problems and disagreements which sometimes cannot be solved.  I attribute this to man's finiteness rather than as an inherent weakness in God's standing.  He is using fallen creatures to do His will.

 

Well, I have now revealed my some of my hand...something a good lawyer would never do.  :) At the same time, I am happy to continue our discussion.  I have already learned some things regarding Tertullian.  Thank you

 


My Reply 3/30/2013

 

A

 

Looking at your biography, we have much in common. I see you were a missionary 6 years...We were missionaries 1998-2002 in Costa Rica, and worked with affiliates to the Assembly of God from the USA.  

 

If you read more of my writings, you will learn I do not contend Paul hijacked Christianity -- not at all. I disagree with Tabor on that point. Rather, I contend Paul was a dupe of a false Jesus whom Paul saw in the wilderness but not those with him. (Acts 9:4-7, fulfilling Matt 24:4-7, 24-28.) This false Jesus via Paul did not gain traction except among Marcionites and not within the orthodox Christian community until the era of Constantine.  Paul's star finally rose only due to his doctrines being in favor with Constantine's political agenda. (See Renan.) Even then, Paul's Jesus rose over Christ only when Luther beat out his co-founder of the Reformation - Carlstadt (who holds my view on Paul's inferior authority which influenced most of the earliest Protestant sects--see link). Paul hijacked nothing. 

 

It is only the false Christ whom Jesus warned about in Matthew 24 who has hijacked Christianity. Paul was an innocent dupe. As Bonhoeffer says, we now have a "Christianity without Christ" - the doctrine of "cheap grace" permeates everywhere. (Bonhoeffer borrowed both famous lines from Kierkegaard who likewise shares my view of Paulinism. See link.)

 

The issue about Paul is not whether we like or do not like Paul's doctrines, or whether we need to respect tradition about Paul's validity. Rather, it is about whether Jesus or God in OT told us not to follow Paul. This is my focus. Jesus' prophesies

-- about the one who will be called "least" by those in the kingdom (the meaning of Paulus in Latin) who teaches you against keeping the Law in Matt 5:17-19 (see my link) which Jesus implies is a lost person in verse 5:20; 

 

-- that after the Ascension someone can dupe you that he is Jesus by "coming in my name"  in the wilderness but you will know it is not the true Jesus because when Jesus comes back it will be on clouds of glory where every eye will see him from eastern to western sky (Matt 24)-- yet Paul's companions (while hearing the voice) saw "no man" in the wilderness outside Damascus (Acts 9:4-7).(See my link).

 

As to Tabor's Paul and Jesus, yes, I have read it. It is not anything I would agree with, as presented. Paul hijacked nothing. Tabor tries to make Jesus a marginal figure, and he was easily pushed aside by Paul. This disgusts me. Many scholars prior to Tabor who love Christ have seen this same difference between Jesus and Paul but dispute that this means the earliest church for first 300 years were swayed by Paul's words over Christ's words. 

 

Renan in St. Paul (1869) at 326-28 viz. 327 said the early apostolic church of the 12 persisted for 300 years, and the Synoptic tradition was the strongest -- not Pauline Christianity. See my article "Renan."

 

My studies confirm this. The early church was very Jesus' words centric. For example,  Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) wrote many long books which have survived with hundreds of quotes from the gospels. But not one quote of Paul!  "Justin [103-65 A.D.] took no notice of Paul...." (Encyclopedia Biblica.) In Justin "Paul...is never quoted directly." (John Romanides, "Justin Martyr and the 4th Gospel," Greek Orthodox Theological Review (1958) Vol. IV  at 115 et seq.)

Likewise, Papias (a disciple of Apostle John) from 130 A.D. too never once quotes Paul. See JWO: 326.

 

Also, and most ironically of all, scholars now concur that Luke's Gospel and Acts demonstrate together Luke knew nothing of Paul's epistles, in particular their doctrines. Recently, Hengel and Schwemer in Paul: Between Antioch and Damascus, supra, at 322 says "since F.C. Bauer and his pupils, there has been no evidence that knowledge of Paul's letter by Luke can be demonstrated." Further, no use was made of them by anyone else until after 100 AD, beginning with Clement. Hengel and Schwemer add: "When Luke was writing, Paul's letters may have been in the archives of one community or another. The use of them begins only with I Clement or shortly after 100 CE....They will have been collected and edited around this time" while Luke wrote "twenty years earlier." Id.  

In my recent article, I demonstrate that Luke wrote a repeatedly anti-Pauline Gospel completely unaware how he was contradicting Paul's epistles. See my article "Luke is a Legitimate Non-Pauline Gospel." Hence, Paul's letters had no initial influence on the earliest gospels, contrary to Tabor's major premise to Paul and Jesus.

I understand your view that Paul was necessary to propel the stagnant church outward to Gentiles to fulfill the Great Commission, and this supports your belief Jesus timely chose Paul to serve as that vesicle. 

 

But I find (a) some Gentiles already existed at Antioch prior to Paul; (b) in Acts 10, shortly after Paul's experience, God through the revelation to Peter sent the message to get out and evangelize Gentiles; (c) then in Acts 15, with Paul present, the Holy Spirit calls PETER (not Paul who is present) the "Apostle to the Gentiles"; and (d) early church history proves Peter and the others among the 12 eventually did evangelize the nations effectively before Paul was actively engaged in any missionary activities -- Paul having 14 initial mystery years of no active evangelization of which we know of. See my summary of early apostolic churches v. influence of Paul at this link.  

 

Thus, the outward propulsion of the church came in Acts 10! with Cornelius and the Holy Spirit. All the evidence for the next 14 years, and even the years of Paul's missionary journeys, are that the main spread of Christianity was by the 12, not Paul. Id. Thus, Jesus had no necessity to use Paul to spread Christianity. 

 

Furthermore, if Paul was that vesicle to fix a stagnant church to fulfill the Great Commission, as you suggest, why in Paul's letters is there not one quote of any teaching of Jesus? Not one! (Only the liturgy  and that worker is worthy of his wage.) All scholars concur. See my Bultmann articleThus, I do not find Paul fulfilled the command of Christ to teach "all that I commanded" to Gentiles or Jews. So why would Jesus have chosen Paul as a vesicle who ends up failing so terribly at carrying "everything that [Jesus] commanded" to the Gentiles in any of his epistles?  

 

On the inerrancy issue,  I agree many texts were not preserved 100% accurately, which means an error is always possible. Hence, you are correct that if both Jesus and Paul were inspired, the solution to a contradiction could be a textual problem at least. I have tried that. The problem is the contradictions between Paul and Jesus are pervasive - crossing little and small issues ... which I carefully document at this link. I only found one textual flaw that saves Paul in one verse (1 Cor. 11:24), documented at that link. Otherwise, there is a mountain stacked against Paul.

 

But even if we put aside whether Paul repeatedly contradicts Jesus, I do not place any emphasis on that pattern anywhere in Jesus Words Only. Rather, Jesus Words Only is focused almost entirely on whether Jesus in Revelation 2 praises the Ephesians for identifying the "false apostles" meant to encompass Paul. Jesus in the same passage praises the Ephesians for having rejected the message of Balaam whom Jesus says taught falsely it was OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The scholar Renan in 1869 in St. Paul  at page 219-220 first recognized Revelation 2 as a prophecy obliquely exposing Paul. For Paul 3x says it is ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols. See this link.  Scholars agree it is a clear contradiction between Jesus and Paul.  Renan attributed the passage in Revelation to hatred by the early church toward Paul. (See link.) However, I see it  as a loving message of our Savior whom Apostle John quotes. 

 

I have also identified two OT prophecies about Paul. First, Habakkuk 2:4-5 -- which Paul quotes but never realized was about himself!! See link. In JWO, I also discussed the Benjamite Wolf prophecy of Gen. 49:27 which overlaps Jesus' words about a "wolf in sheep's clothing" -- confirming once more my 'dupe' conclusion from Matt 24. See JWO ch. 14

I would welcome your critiques. 

Blessings in Christ,

Doug

 


Doug,

 

First, I was referring to Clement of Alexandria, not Clement of Rome.  Irenaeus follows C of Rome.

C of Alex cites Paul some 1200 times, many of those as an apostle. 

 

Now on the issue of what these early fathers taught and believed, part of the problem with reading the

early fathers is that they have not worked out systematic theology, thus they can be all over the map.

As I have written about regarding "Second Repentance," there was conflict among the early fathers as to

many issues.  Even Tertullian voices the conflicts he finds in the biblical text, expressing the difficulties of

understanding/explaining - the particular text I am thinking about is his exposition on 1 John 1.

 

C of Alex is again, all over the map on theology, philosophy, etc. 

 

Part of my disagreement with Bercot (and yes, I think he has many things wrong) is his simple reading of the

early fathers.  I have an extensive critique of the text you mentioned on my site. [See this link.]

 

We must be very careful trying the use fathers for doctrinal guidance.  Though they were closer to the apostolic

writers, like us, they held positions all over the map.  And they had seriously disagreements which flowed from

the very conflicts you and I are dancing around.  Conflict on what we believe is part of the overall plan.

No married couple agrees on everything, yet they are committed to love - that is our goal as well.

This is why I removed the "lying" phrase so quickly.  I did not intend it to point at you, but as soon as you pointed

it out and I read it again, it was easy to see how it could be read that way.   

 

Your explanation of canon is interesting.

 

If your theory is correct on Paul it would seem to me that Justin, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria - actually I

think the early documents would be replete with examples of people openly attacking Paul as an apostle.  Yet it

is not there.  Irenaeus includes Paul in his list, the Muratorian canon has Paul, Clement and Origen have Paul,

Tertullian includes Paul (notwithstanding your exposition which I clearly disagree with).

 

In fact, these early fathers would have attacked Paul as they attacked Marcion..which does not happen except

in your explanation with Tertullian.

 

To say that it all changes with Constantine is just not accurate.

 

None of these fathers held to faith alone, even if they SAY something that seems to indicate it.  I personally think

Paul did not say/mean this either.  His detractors, yes, accused him of it, but it was not true.  But therein is much

of our conflict - we disagree with how to read Paul.  And my position is:  this is NOT new.  The fathers had the same

conflict.  

 

I gotta go for now.

I am running late for Easter celebration.

 

A

 


 

My reply 3/31/2013
A
Blessed Resurrection Sunday. 
 

 

Well then Clement of Alexandria would be even later, and makes my point even stronger -- that  Paul's success was delayed well after his time... Clement A was 150 to 215 AD. (Wikipedia.) Tabor places it as preceding and influencing the gospels' formation. But there is no direct connection doctrinally between Paul and Jesus on numerous points, and many variances. In fact, in the quotes previously provided, scholars concur that Luke has no knowledge of any of Paul's epistles due to a  variety of issues. So Tabor's thesis is baseless, and your proof about Clement A proves again that Paul's influence was long delayed. Are you disagreeing with that thesis of Tabor at least?  
 

 

Blessings and Shalom this Resurrection Sunday

 

Doug