Hearty Heresy

The Trouble with Paul
May 3, 2007, 11:10 am
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Heresy, Jesus, Theology

It’s clear to me after reading about half of Frend’s The Rise of Christianity that I’m going to have to deal with Paul sometime. When I say “deal,” I mean make the effort to put him into the same sort of historical perspective as I have with Jesus (and if any of your know of a good book to use to help me separate the wheat from the chaff in Paul, I’d appreciate a suggestion or two). Frend’s book is about Christianity the institution, not about Jesus the person. In fact, he devotes only one chapter to Jesus, which seems pretty scant. Paul, too, get’s an entire chapter, but they’re the only figures who do. And that sums it up nicely: when we’re talking about Christianity, we’re talking about Jesus and Paul.

Of course, I have a lot more trouble with Paul than I do with Jesus. But I’ve always been willing to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt (which a lot of folks don’t–just take a look at www.jesusneverexisted.com). But it doesn’t take much of Paul before I get rubbed the wrong way. Frend’s book helped my understand why I have such trouble with Paul. “Only with reservations,” Frend says, “can Paul be called the interpreter of the religion of Jesus. For Paul, “The Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man to be known by faith, replaced the prophet of Nazareth experienced by the disciples.”

I’m much more interested in discerning “the religion of Jesus,” thank you. And that means I’d rather spend my time trying to get closer to “prophet of Nazareth experienced by the disciples.” And Paul, more often than not, just seems to get in the way. But I’ve learned that the best way to deal with difficulties like this is to go through them, not around them. So I’m giving Paul the benefit of the doubt. (By the way, I don’t blame Paul for the rise of Brand Xianity. That was–and is–a group project!)


4 Comments so far
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Friend, don’t totally give up on Paul. There is still some redemption in the texts. Freedom, grace, love and mercy. Plus, it is not at all apparent to me that us gentiles would have been fully included in this Christ movement if it were not for Paul’s obscene rants. I just picked up a copy of In Search of Paul by Crossan at Politics and Prose. I have not read it, so I can not tell you much.

Comment by pastorofdisaster

Crossan on Paul…could be good. Yeah, I know the gentile world owes a lot to Paul. One wonders what the church would have been like if James stayed in charge and Jerusalem never fell.

Comment by heartyheretic

You know….I have trouble with some of the writings of the so called minor prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. (minor only because the books are small, not in importance) seems to me they didnt have a good life and put up with a load of cow effluent from time to time. HOWEVER….all scripture is inspired of God and beneficial..etc
That means, the dear man Paul is writing under Gods direction. As such, read the words as IF FROM GODS OWN MOUTH…and then you will see why God chose him to be a major influence on the early Way.
Not many people to choose from who had the dual roman and jewish background, with he title of Rabbi and having being versed in scripture by Gamaliel. Id say…Id state God chose carefully.

Comment by GW staff

I’m finishing up Crossan’s Historical Jesus and Frend’s Rise fo Christianity. After that, I’m taking a very serious look a Paul…and giving him every benefit of the doubt I can muster. Thanks for your thoughts.

Comment by heartyheretic

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