Hearty Heresy


Something I Like about Paul
April 3, 2007, 3:55 pm
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Heresy, Jesus, Religion, Theology

A while back a fellow blogger asked me, “What is it you don’t like about Paul?” He was commenting on a post where I said that “I think Jesus’ message would have been better off if Paul would have had a spiritual director who had told him, ‘If you meet the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, ignore him.'” I really didn’t have a specific answer about my distrust of Paul, just a general feeling that he was pretty much responsible for transforming the teachings of Jesus into Brand Xianity by putting the Cross at the center of the story. Well, I’m happy to report that The Last Week, the Borg & Crossan book that analyzes Mark’s account of Holy Week, has given me a new appreciation for Paul.

They note (correctly, of course) that the “genuine letters of Paul were written before any of the Gospels,” making Paul’s interpretation(s) of the meaning of the Cross some of the earliest. They say that “Paul refers to the fact of Jesus’s crucifixion many times:”

he speaks again and again of Jesus’s death, of the cross and Christ crucified. It is “wisdom and power of God,” though it is a “stumbling block” to Jews and “foolishness” to Gentiles. It is the demonstration of God’s love for us, the sacrifice that makes our redemption possible, and the path of personal transformation as dying and rising that lies at the lies at the heart of Christan life….”

They go on to say “that Paul, the earliest author in the New Testament, uses multiple interpretations leads to an important point: there is no uninterpreted account of the death of Jesus in the New Testament.” I like that idea that Paul was approaching the crucifixion from a number of different angles. As a heretic, that’s all I’m trying to do, too. But if I had to choose one of Paul’s interpretations, I’d have to go with the last one: “the path of personal transformation as dying and rising that lies at the lies at the heart of Christan life.” Following Jesus (for both the orthodox and the heterodox) is meaningless unless it includes the path of personal transformation.

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