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 Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 24 Jun 2015, 17:21

I'm reading - as usual several years after everyone else - A.N. Wilson's book about the Apostle Paul. Did this tentmaker/religious genius really invent it all then?

Wilson is a brilliant, fascinating writer. He became a born-again atheist some years ago, but has recently - rather surprisingly -  reverted to his original faith.

Seriously, it's a an interesting topic - well I think so.

The origins of the faith that has shaped so much of history for the past 2000 years. Please discuss a bit.



PS I've also read with great interest Hyam Maccoby's book - to which Wilson refers several times - Myth Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. I wonder what the great Jewish Hasid - Jesus of Nazareth - would say to his "spokesman" (Wilson's word), Paul, were they to meet? And yes, as someone here once said, Paul was indeed a "Hellenized Jew". But was the man from Galilee also "a Hellenized Jew"? And how significant in all this was a place never mentioned, the city of Sepphoris, a city only 5 km north-west of Nazareth?
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 24 Jun 2015, 18:40

Please Miss, I know about Sepphoris, at least a bit about the synagogue with the extraordinary blend of Greek, Roman and Jewish influences in the mosaics.

Helios, in a synagogue, in the middle of a zodiac?



Despite being aware of the town's Hellenistic and Roman history, it had never occurred to me to look at where it lay geographically nor was I aware of the link with Josephus nor the apocryphal tale of JC working there. Thanks be to the Great Wiki.

Do tell more - and I'm sure our very own Helios will elaborate (and/or correct.......)
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 24 Jun 2015, 21:34

Well, Missy here, in her ignorance, had never heard of Sepphoris, described by Barrie Wilson* (Barrie sounds like a builder's name, but he's actually a professor - of Humanities and Religious Studies at York University, Toronto) as "that fabulous Hellenized city situated high on a hill only a few miles from Nazareth". Wilson asks, speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, "Did he visit Sepphoris...Did he or his father perhaps work there, helping to construct this magnificent new city that only today is being unearthed?"

The image of the mosaic you post above is amazing, isn't it? How to explain?

I remember now that you, ages ago, mentioned zodiacs etc. in, of all place, ancient synagogues:

https://reshistorica.historyboard.net/t32-have-you-seen-your-horoscope-today

No one took you up on it - a shame.

A zodiac is strange enough, but Helios - Apollo - Sol Invictus, in a synagogue? What on earth was going on?

Answers on a postcard, please, as Minette always used to say.

* I'm also reading his How Jesus Became Christian: The Early Christians and the Transformation of a Jewish Teacher into the Son of God.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 25 Jun 2015, 04:32

PS It's 4.00am here and I can't sleep. I have to add this.

I wrote in my original post that A.N. Wilson's return to faith was surprising. That was a foolish word to use. Perhaps A. N. Wilson, like Reza Aslan, whose recent book caused such outrage in the USA, has simply found a more thoughtful faith. I hope so. The following, taken from Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, certainly struck a chord with me:

The bedrock of evangelical Christianity, at least as it was taught to me, is the unconditional belief that every word of the Bible is God-breathed and true, literal and inerrant, The sudden realisation that this belief is patently and irrefutably false, that the Bible is replete with the most blatant and obvious errors and contradictions - just as one would expect from a document written by hundreds of hands across hundreds of years - left me confused and spiritually unmoored. And, like so many people in my situation, I angrily discarded my faith as if it were a costly forgery I had been duped into buying...

...Meanwhile I continued my academic work in religious studies, delving back into the Bible not as an unquestioning believer but as an inquisitive scholar. No longer chained to the assumption that the stories I read were literally true, I became aware of a more meaningful truth in the text, a truth intentionally detached from the exigencies of history. Ironically, the more I learned about the life of the historical Jesus, the turbulent world in which he lived, and the brutality of the Roman occupation that he defied, the more I was drawn to him. Indeed the Jewish peasant and revolutionary who challenged the rule of the most powerful empire the world had ever known and lost became so much more real to me than the detached unearthly being I had been introduced to in church...


"The detached unearthly being"... was that indeed the invention of Paul of Tarsus, and would James, the brother of Jesus, and that old friend from another thread, Simon Peter, both men who did not, it would seem, always agree with the teaching of Paul,  rejoice to read Aslan's next sentence:

Today I can confidently say that two decades of rigorous academic research into the origins of Christianity has made me a more genuinely committed disciple of Jesus of Nazareth than I ever was of Jesus Christ.

Aslan says of his old faith that it was  "a costly forgery". Was Paul then the master forger who "duped" so many?
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 25 Jun 2015, 08:49

Aslan appears to have ditched an earlier faith in a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture, but to infer that he at any point lost faith in scripture itself is stretching things a bit. If he dismisses his old style of belief as "costly forgery" could we be excused for assuming therefore that he has replaced it with one typified by "less costly forgery"? Once you level the forgery charge you really have to be aware that it is difficult to retract later.

It's also a bit hard on Paul to blame him for modern fundamentalism's literal interpretation of NT texts, which after all hadn't been written in his day. He can of course however take a large dollop of blame for the willful obfuscation which characterises description of the Jesus character and without which it is very difficult for Christianity to prosecute an argument for divinity on Jesus's behalf. That one was definitely his.

I have said many times in discussions here and elsewhere (much to Tim's annoyance) that the whole Greek thing as it applied in the area at the time is deliberately played down traditionally in the formulation of Christian myth. From a purely historical point of view this is a total shame. It was so important (and if one hypothetically moves young Jesus from the necropolis of Nazareth up the road to Sepphoris you can see how claims for his historical veracity are actually enhanced, not diminished).
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 25 Jun 2015, 17:23

@nordmann wrote:
Aslan appears to have ditched an earlier faith in a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture, but to infer that he at any point lost faith in scripture itself is stretching things a bit. If he dismisses his old style of belief as "costly forgery" could we be excused for assuming therefore that he has replaced it with one typified by "less costly forgery"? Once you level the forgery charge you really have to be aware that it is difficult to retract later.

It's also a bit hard on Paul to blame him for modern fundamentalism's literal interpretation of NT texts, which after all hadn't been written in his day. He can of course however take a large dollop of blame for the willful obfuscation which characterises description of the Jesus character and without which it is very difficult for Christianity to prosecute an argument for divinity on Jesus's behalf. That one was definitely his.

I have said many times in discussions here and elsewhere (much to Tim's annoyance) that the whole Greek thing as it applied in the area at the time is deliberately played down traditionally in the formulation of Christian myth. From a purely historical point of view this is a total shame. It was so important (and if one hypothetically moves young Jesus from the necropolis of Nazareth up the road to Sepphoris you can see how claims for his historical veracity are actually enhanced, not diminished).


Thank you for the reply, nordmann.

You say "...but to infer that he at any point lost faith in scripture itself is stretching things a bit." Did I seem to be inferring that? I didn't mean to. But I suppose it depends on what exactly you mean by "losing faith" and, indeed, what you mean by "scripture".

Aslan, like A.N. Wilson and Maccoby, believes that "the Christ of Paul's creation has utterly subsumed the Jesus of history". Is this really so? Maccoby's thesis - and of course he is writing as a Jew - is convincing. He argues that Jesus and also his immediate disciples, James and Peter, were life-long adherents of Pharisaic Judaism (is this what you meant on the Marx thread when you said that Jesus supported the staus quo?). Paul, says Maccoby, was not, as he claimed, a native-born Jew of Pharisee upbringing, but came in fact from a Gentile background. This Jewish writer maintains that it was Paul alone who created a new religion by his vision of Jesus as a Divine Saviour who died to save humanity. This concept, which went far beyond the messianic claims of Jesus, "was an amalgamation of ideas derived from Hellenistic religion, especially from Gnosticism and the mystery cults. Paul played a devious and adventurous political game with Jesus' followers of the so-called Jerusalem Church, who eventually disowned him."

A shocking statement indeed, but was it even stranger than that? Was the historical Jesus of Nazareth simply a devout and pious - and charismatic - Jewish man? A man devoted to the Torah, but who sincerely believed himself to be the Jewish messiah? For such a claim was in no way blasphemous; but would he ever have claimed that he was the Divine Saviour of Paul's letters? Would such a truly blasphemous idea have horrified Jesus of Nazareth? Or is it possible that he would have considered Paul to have been right? Was he more sympathetic to a "Hellenistic" interpretation of his ministry and death than Maccoby and Aslan suppose? The Sepphoris connection?

I don't know. I'm just fascinated by this and I continue reading. I wonder why Tim was so annoyed by it all? I wish he was still around: I can't remember half the things he argued for and against now. Need Christians - or rather those who embrace the philosophy of the New Testament - be threatened by such discussion? Most are, I know: no one will discuss it in Church circles around here (Devon, I mean) - you would think I had suggested an Aleister Crowley Study Group the way some react to any attempt to discuss the books  of Aslan, Wilson or Spong.

PS Sorry to go on, especially as I'm sure you and others have said all this before, but it's important to acknowledge that with the possible exception of the Q document (which is after all a hypothetical text), the only writings about Jesus that existed in 70C.E. were the letters of Paul. The order of things in the New Testament is all wrong. A lot of people don't realise this. The gospels were deeply influenced by Paul's letters - yes? One can trace the shadow of Pauline theology in Mark and Matthew. But it is in the gospel of Luke, written by one of Paul's devoted disciples, that one can see the "dominance of Paul's views", while "the gospel of John is little more than Pauline theology in narrative form." (Aslan). And Luke's other great work - the Acts of the Apostles? What are we to make of that?

These dates are disputed, but it is recognised that the time-line was not, as most people suppose from the Bible order of things, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Paul's Epistles, but rather:

Paul's letters (48/50 - 66 C. E.)

Mark's Gospel (70 C. E.)

Acts of the Apostles (90 C. E.)

Matthew's Gospel (90 - 100 C.E.)

Luke's Gospel (90 - 100 C. E.)

John's Gospel (100 - 120 C. E)

Lord, what a great long post. I bet no one reads it. I keep saying I should stick to the Moggy Thread, but I never do.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Fri 26 Jun 2015, 01:17

Well, Temperance, I never read the Moggy thread, but I have read your post.  I don't comment because I have nothing to say, though I do think Jesus lived.  Or someone similar who led a new cult. I now read the Bible (well, that's not quite true, since I don't really read the Bible at all) as a historical account of Jewish history really.  The New Testament and I only really got as far as the four Gospels and a few quotes of Paul, but not the letters in any depth at all.  Religious education basically finished at the end of school and never got picked up again.  

But reading your struggles to make sense of it all gives new life to this topic.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Fri 26 Jun 2015, 06:20

@Caro wrote:


But reading your struggles to make sense of it all gives new life to this topic.


And it is a struggle, Caro, one that at times drives me crazy: I sometimes wish I could simply walk away from it all. But I can't. It is a relief sometimes to acknowledge that, even if only on a message-board. Such a struggle does seem very adolescent at times - such an embarrassing admission. But it is also a relief that someone like A.N. Wilson, a man of my age and a reasonably educated person, also seems to be struggling. But then perhaps honest - ongoing - struggle is what it's all about. But you are not supposed to say that, are you?

I've just read something in Wilson (A.N., not Barrie) that again I suppose has been discussed by nordmann and Tim to exhaustion: it's about the nature of myth. "To return to, and make sense of, the world of the ancients, the modern person must attempt to regain the mythic habit of mind. The ancients perceived truth through myth." Wilson then quotes this from Bronislaw Malinowski's Myth in Primitive Psychology: " Myth 'is not of the nature of fiction...but it is a living reality.' "

He then comments that it is all but impossible for post-Enlightenment humanity to comprehend a world where myth, thus defined, was the natural way of coming to terms with history and experience.

"Post-Enlightenment humanity"  - is there not a profound irony in that description of our condition? I also keep thinking of St. John's description of the reality of a Christ as one who came "full of grace and truth". God knows we need a bit of grace and truth these days, just as they all did back then. Nothing changes, does it, for all our cleverness and "progress"? We "enlightened" ones still seem to be struggling indeed. Perhaps we do need to return - with some humility - to a more imaginative way of looking at things. It worked for the Greeks, after all. But, as ever, I can only confess: "I don't know" - and go and put the kettle on.

PS I am profoundly shocked that you have never read the Moggy Thread.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Fri 26 Jun 2015, 09:00

Temp quoting Wilson quoting Malinowski wrote:
" Myth 'is not of the nature of fiction...but it is a living reality.' "

No, it is the illusion of reality and like any other illusion requires construction - often meticulous, often very convincing, often even superior to actual reality, but a construction all the same however "alive" it might also be deemed to be. This is why the strict academic definition of myth - a recognised construction but whose value socially, culturally and philosophically extends well beyond its apparent value as a fictional narrative - is always the one that has to be assumed when discussing religion, especially mainstream religion whose mythical concepts have been "bought into" by so many. If one does not acknowledge the construction of Jesus then one simply cannot even begin to analyse the character in terms of veracity or importance. Likewise, if one cannot contemplate the motives behind the construction of the Christian myth then one can never really begin to understand the reason Greek philosophical influence was so obviously written out of the script at a very early stage.

Religions, like certain philosophies, are often best understood in relation to those concepts against which they stand and which are therefore pointedly ignored, denied or vehemently refuted in their core beliefs as expressed by their followers. Identifying these can often give very strong clues as to how (and why) a particular faith erupted in that form in that place at that time. Christianity is no exception, and Greek philosophy as then understood, as well as Greek influence as then historically proven to have pertained, is of immense importance in understanding any issue of veracity related to its origins.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sat 27 Jun 2015, 09:15

@nordmann wrote:
Temp quoting Wilson quoting Malinowski wrote:
" Myth 'is not of the nature of fiction...but it is a living reality.' "


No, it is the illusion of reality and like any other illusion requires construction - often meticulous, often very convincing, often even superior to actual reality, but a construction all the same however "alive" it might also be deemed to be.



Just like your illusions, nordmann? Only joking - honest. Despite Caro's kind words about how the confession of my "struggles" can bring a thread like this alive, I do understand that this is actually not the place for me to air my spiritual agonisings, nor for argument as to whose illusions of "reality" serve as the more useful and effective way of dealing with, as some Greek once put it, "this heart-breaking universe".

Enough of that - I really do to want to look at, and talk about, the importance of Greek thought on the historical Jesus and on the enormous part it played on the later development of so-called "Christian" doctrine and why such influence came later to be so passionately denied. Why it still is denied.

For clearly any discussion of Greek influence does/did annoy people. I don't get it. The Greek influence surely cannot be ignored - it was everywhere 2000 years ago and it is just so blinking obvious in the writings of Paul, Luke* and John (I see that now  Smile ). But is there any way of assessing how much it influenced Jesus himself? Did it actually influence him at all? Did he, for example visit the great theatre at Sepphoris (did he help construct the place for that matter), or, as a devout Jew (which he seems to have been?), would he have shunned any contact with pagan belief/philosophy/poetics? Was the historical Jesus simply used by Paul et al. as a convenient vehicle for their interpretation of Greek thought/religious belief - or should we say Graeco-Roman thought/belief?

Plato's influence on Christianity has been mentioned elsewhere, but was Jesus perhaps influenced by the Cynics (in the Greek sense, of course, not our contemporary understanding of the word)? This is only from Wiki, but it sounds very like the teaching of Jesus:



The goal of life is eudaimonia and mental clarity or lucidity (ἁτυφια) - freedom from τύφος (smoke) which signified ignorance, mindlessness, folly, and conceit.
Eudaimonia is achieved by living in accord with Nature as understood by human reason.
τύφος (arrogance) is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions, unnatural desires, and a vicious character.
Eudaimonia, or human flourishing, depends on self-sufficiency (αὐτάρκεια), equanimity, arete, love of humanity, parrhesia and indifference to the vicissitudes of life* (ἁδιαφορία).
One progresses towards flourishing and clarity through ascetic practices (ἄσκησις) which help one become free from influences – such as wealth, fame, and power – that have no value in Nature. Examples include Diogenes' practice of living in a tub and walking barefoot in winter.
A cynic practices shamelessness or impudence (Αναιδεια) and defaces the nomos of society; the laws, customs, and social conventions which people take for granted.

Thus a cynic has no property and rejects all conventional values of money, fame, power and reputation. A life lived according to nature requires only the bare necessities required for existence, and one can become free by unshackling oneself from any needs which are the result of convention.




@nordmann wrote:


If one does not acknowledge the construction of Jesus then one simply cannot even begin to analyse the character in terms of veracity or importance. Likewise, if one cannot contemplate the motives behind the construction of the Christian myth then one can never really begin to understand the reason Greek philosophical influence was so obviously written out of the script at a very early stage.

Religions, like certain philosophies, are often best understood in relation to those concepts against which they stand and which are therefore pointedly ignored, denied or vehemently refuted in their core beliefs as expressed by their followers. Identifying these can often give very strong clues as to how (and why) a particular faith erupted in that form in that place at that time. Christianity is no exception, and Greek philosophy as then understood, as well as Greek influence as then historically proven to have pertained, is of immense importance in understanding any issue of veracity related to its origins.



Yep - I agree with all that; and it is because I really do want to (try to) "analyse the character in terms of veracity or importance" I started this thread.

PS We are all so ignorant these days - very few students "do" Greek any more, and even translations of the great Greek dramatists/philosphers are rarely studied - or talked about - in state schools. A friend of mine, who could understand Greek, told me you really have to read the New Testament in that language to fully understand its beauty and poetic power.

*PPS Saint Luke: the Man and His Work by Herbert McLachlan is a rather interesting book. It's very old - published in 1920 - and it's on the "Forgotten Books" site. He looks at classical influences on Luke's use of Greek. For instance, there are numerous echoes of Euripedes in Luke, notably the following. In The Bacchae, the character Pentheus (a very angry person) attempts to fight the "outrageous cult of Bacchism" ; but he has an encounter with the god Dionysus, the god disguised in human form, who tells him that his efforts to resist the new movement will be completely worthless, for he is contending not against flesh and blood, but against a god: " You are a mortal; he is a god. If I were you, I would control my rage and sacrifice to him, rather than kick against the pricks."

Shock of recognition there: "kick against the pricks" is of course the exact phrase used by Luke in his third re-telling of the story of Paul's conversion - significantly the one (Acts 26) in which Paul is defending himself before the Roman Governor (is that the right word??), Festus, and King Agrippa, and speaking in his very best Greek.

PPPS ** Take no thought for the morrow?

PPPPS I wonder what the great 16th century thinkers - who were all such brilliant Greek scholars - thought/said about this? Then again, you had to be careful just what you said - or even were thought to be thinking - back then. I might get a really black look from the Charismatic Curate these days - back then I'd have been in really big trouble. And nordmann would have definitely ended up in a bonfire.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 28 Jun 2015, 12:15

Temp wrote:
Plato's influence on Christianity has been mentioned elsewhere, but was Jesus perhaps influenced by the Cynics (in the Greek sense, of course, not our contemporary understanding of the word)? 

Who knows? There was probably never one guy to whom any such specific influence can be inferred to have applied. You're on safer speculative ground if you substitute "Jesusism" for "Jesus" as that at least is a phenomenon with some tangible evidence supporting its development from an early stage in the story. However if you take Paul as the first and most vocal Jesusist who we have on record and attempt an analysis of his utterances using standard contemporary philosophical precepts as the parameters within which this is done, then the influence from Greek philosophy can be equally deduced as having emanated from Platonism, Stoicism and some huge dollops of Gnosticism. Outside analysis of early Christianity these disciplines are (and always were) seen as exclusive. 

Christianity, Paul being just one example, mashes these up with scant regard for their exclusivity, one reason of course that the church from the beginning has never much encouraged normal philosophical treatment of its theology. Theologists as a rule will always resist philosophical attribution or analysis as this involves the testing of hypotheses and no religion tolerates this exercise when used to undermine its core articles of faith. 

Analysis of Jesus as a character, based on the later writings purporting biographical detail and actual quotation applicable to him that we call the gospels, is therefore handicapped by this departure from standard method too. You, Temp, may recall a short discussion between myself and Tim of Aclea in mutual discussion sites earlier which attempted to explore this difficulty but which in the end served simply to advertise its intransigent obstruction to logical analysis all the more, ironically but completely understandably through logic the more Tim attempted to refute it. "Was it all Paul's fault?" as a question is doomed to descend into the same dichotomous reasoning if discussed between a logical person and a person for whom faith in illogical premise is subjectively allowed supersede pure logic on occasion. 

It is interesting though that you detect Cynical philosophy in the Jesus of gospel fame. Many have of course, and in the history of the church the two terms - cynic and Christian - have even been applied to the same characters with complete local sanction by the church, especially in pre-Islamic northern Africa. However, probably due to the extremely obvious overlaps, it has also been the one philosophy adherence to which has been most inclined to elicit a violently negative reaction from "official" christendom. The official reason has always been along the lines that Cynics were "proud" of their intentions and that this marks them out as "bad" Christians. Unofficially it appears to have been a recognition that this was the one philosophical discipline study of which would most likely unravel faith-based adherence to Christianity's weaker theological instruction to abstain from material pursuit, the avoidance of property, and renunciation of a primary allegiance to secular authority (logically "weaker", that is). Christianity exploded into being, suspiciously coincidentally, alongside a huge and documented resurgence in Cynicism in the Hellenic portion of the Roman world. 'Nuff said, in my book.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 28 Jun 2015, 14:17

@nordmann wrote:




You, Temp, may recall a short discussion between myself and Tim of Aclea in mutual discussion sites earlier which attempted to explore this difficulty but which in the end served simply to advertise its intransigent obstruction to logical analysis all the more, ironically but completely understandably through logic the more Tim attempted to refute it. "Was it all Paul's fault?" as a question is doomed to descend into the same dichotomous reasoning if discussed between a logical person and a person for whom faith in illogical premise is subjectively allowed supersede pure logic on occasion.


Very Happy

G.K. Chesterton said, "Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do."

Really interesting post, nordmann. No time to discuss now - serving wine, trifle and Game of Thrones Season 4.

Back later.

EDIT:


G.K. Chesterton

“Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.”
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 28 Jun 2015, 16:43

Chesterton's claim is a load of bullshit. "Mad" is a rather vague term anyway, but using it in the colloquial sense (as he seems to have condescended to do) simply infers that the reason poets and other creative types don't go mad is because they're already there when they start.

Outside of its colloquial sense then Chesterton is making an argument based on a false dichotomy between logic and imagination, one moreover which says much more about his own failure of imagination than it does about its actual nature, role or meaning. Or for that matter that of logic.

But then we all know what happened to Chesterton when he thought he was joyfully abandoning logic and embracing imagination and mystery (as defined by religion, in his case Roman Catholicism). A more logical descent into the pedantically unimaginative, in fact, is difficult to find.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 28 Jun 2015, 20:36

@nordmann wrote:
A more logical descent into the pedantically unimaginative, in fact, is difficult to find.


Oh dear. Shouldn't have said anything.

Will read up about the Cynics - very interesting. I know very little about them.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 08:30

On the contrary (and I notice you're not looking for nordmann light any more having edited your initial response) the connection between Cynicism and Christianity is a very good point at which to start when attempting to deduce any causal progression from the milieu in which the former originated and that which then developed in the eastern Roman provinces. Christians, quite understandably, tend to have a fixation on their own favourite characters and narrative when studying this phenomenon. However if they cast their gaze just a little further afield regarding who was doing what and where at the time, and in doing so provide a little more accurate historical context for the origin of their faith, then it becomes blatantly obvious that the role of Cynicism cannot be ignored. But this was a new Cynicism, a reawakening of a philosophy that had lain largely dormant and discredited for two hundred years. An analysis of exactly which members of society were regenerating support for Cynical ideals and why, and of course what effect this was having on prevailing philosophy (and religious belief) in the broader Hellenic world, inevitably delivers one at the threshold of widespread belief in the peculiar hybrid of isms, including Judaic monotheism, that would become Christianity.

nordmann light version: Quoting Chesterton regarding sanity and creativity is akin to quoting Ronald McDonald regarding nutrition and comedy.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 10:53




Genuine apologies for flippant message and quote - I had had too much to drink. I should know better to post on a Sunday afternoon. I never learn. This is an interesting discussion and I will indeed try to find out more about the Cynics - they do rather sound like the  original hippies. But was Paul greatly influenced by them?

I agree that Christianity - whatever that label means - is, as you put it, "a peculiar hybrid of isms": that presumably is what gave it its strength and growing appeal. And it must be acknowledged that it was Paul's genius to realise that. This should be discussed more - and honestly. For, as I keep saying, I don't see exploring these ideas as in any way threatening - quite the opposite. But where do we go from here? I'm going to come out with another quote now - hopefully not a mindless one. It may be a surprise for some folk to be told these are the words of a bishop - John Selby Spong:

Paul cannot be taken literally. He did not write the Word of God. He wrote the words of Paul, a particular, limited, frail human being. But he had contact with a powerful experience that changed his life, and his changed life was instrumental in changing millions of other lives throughout the years of Christian history. Can we use his words to get into the power of his experience? Can we participate in that experience and know something of that life-giving power? Can we then translate that power into words that do communicate in our day with assumptions and presuppositions that are in touch with reality as we know it?

If the New Testament is a distillation of the best of Judaic and especially Greek thought, it surely is still relevant to "reality as we know it". It can't be - shouldn't be - easily or scornfully dismissed. But it has to be read - and discussed - honestly.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 11:21

Temp wrote:
If the New Testament is a distillation of the best of Judaic and especially Greek thought ...

Not the "best" surely! There are realisations and advice to be found in Greek philosophies of various hues with equal or superior claim to being "good" (in any sense of the word) as those that are found in the NT, and neither source in any case retains enough consistency in its output in that regard to be qualitatively assessed on the whole. It might be more accurate to say the NT represents a distillation of the most relevant of Judaic and Greek notions as judged subjectively by a section of society at the time. Even Christians today dispute the actual philosophical content of the work, so piecemeal, haphazard, intellectually lazy and sometimes downright dishonest the NT is as a document representing a theological standpoint, let alone a philosophical one!

Its relevance to reality as we know it hardly extends beyond being part of that reality, in my view. Unlike philosophy theology represents a clumsy and extremely flawed tool with which reality can be assessed, or even deduced. The NT gives us snippets of other, more thought-out, philosophies that have shown enduring attraction to those who wish to live good lives. This is a credit to the Greeks who devised such philosophical codes, not to the later pilferers who had not the decency even to acknowledge their sources.

And nor had they of course the wit to exclude the contradictory cherry-picked pieces that merited inclusion purely on the grounds that they suited the compilers' agendas. A poor basis for honest philosophical or historical study, if a dynamic one on which to build a religion. You can see what you're up against in your plea that the time has come for that religion's adherents to adopt such a view.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 12:19

Paul I find intensely interesting, more so in many ways than the 'Jesus' character and certainly more than the 'Christ' - being the Son of God precludes analysis somewhat.

Being a cynic (In the modern sense only) I find myself asking "Why? What was in it for him?" Did he truly have some kind of revelation, did he really come to believe in the Jesus sect, did he see it as something through which he could promote his personal ideology and, arguably, status?
Was he a believer or an opportunist?

What also strikes me is the peculiar conjunctions that allowed Christianity to escape from being just a tiny cult in an obscure country: the narrow space in time when the Roman Empire's fluidity of races and cultures, the persistence of the Greek influence, the easier logistics of travel amid the general aegis of Romanitas and the existence of widely understood common languages.  Not so many years before or afterwards, this little cult would have quickly and quietly disappeared along with so many others.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 12:38

It's an important point, ferval, and one that is often made when studying the history of philosophy in the ancient world. A philosophy's tendency to become popular and widespread has as much to do with the social conditions pertaining than its innate appeal. In Greece this sporadic proliferation of beliefs can be neatly and logically tied to the rises and falls that occurred in inter-state stability prior to Roman interference. 

Rome's hegemony likewise facilitated the rapid standardisation and proselytisation of what otherwise would have remained obscure and short-lived cults. This cannot be better illustrated than with Christianity itself, though even then it also had to rather fortuitously fend off some competition from other cults benefiting from the same pretty unique (in sociological terms) circumstances. Yet this rather obvious facet of its early manifestation - the flukiness of its survival beyond popularly perceived crankdom - is so utterly ignored or downplayed when its integrity is assessed by its adherents.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 13:20

@nordmann wrote:
Even Christians today dispute the actual philosophical content of the work, so piecemeal, haphazard, intellectually lazy and sometimes downright dishonest the NT is as a document representing a theological standpoint, let alone a philosophical one!


You forgot to mention how awful Mark's Greek was too - apparently when Luke borrowed bits from the earlier evangelist, he found himself constantly tut-tutting and altering Mark's grammar.

I think you are very hard on us all, nordmann, but what did I expect? You see, I do think there is a "grace and truth" in the original message, whatever happened later. You don't, and that's all there is to be said.

This is not the place to discuss such things - you'll only wipe the floor up with me anyway. I withdraw from the discussion - but with genuine thanks to you for your thoughts and to Caro and ferval who also contributed.  

ferval - Paul and Jesus of Nazareth are both interesting characters, I think. Sorry I can't discuss this any more, but I can't.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Mon 29 Jun 2015, 13:46

I don't mean to be "hard" on anyone, nor deter anyone from discussing these issues. And of course there's a grace and truth in much of the philosophical content of the NT. After all it had been tried and trusted with respect to both of those virtues in many cases already, thanks to earlier Greek philosophising. And I wouldn't place too strong an emphasis on proficiency in the Greek language as a crucial element in all this either, just as one does not need to speak classical Greek fluently now to study their philosophies. The important thing was the dissemination of essential elements of Gnosticism, Cynicism, Platonism etc, and in fact the more cultural and linguistic hoops through which these were put the more understandable it is that they ended up incongruously stuck together in the manner they did within one community's lore.

All my points up to now have been largely to illustrate why I don't think one can say anything was "all Paul's fault", tempting as it might be for those of us unimpressed by his rationale and utterances to maintain. In much the same way that Paul apparently stamped his own attitudes and desires on the nascent cult's beliefs, the same in turn was done to his own by his successors in the church. He may very well have been the organisation's first great proselytiser and organiser but much as people say about Jesus, I wonder what on earth Paul would make of the structure built in his name too? And in fact that IS something that can be discussed much more easily than in the case of Jesus as we are fortunate enough to have in writing what the guy actually envisaged.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 30 Jun 2015, 08:54

@nordmann wrote:
I don't mean to be "hard" on anyone, nor deter anyone from discussing these issues. And of course there's a grace and truth in much of the philosophical content of the NT. After all it had been tried and trusted with respect to both of those virtues in many cases already, thanks to earlier Greek philosophising.


Fair enough - and I shall admit that posting with a hangover is as unwise as posting when inebriated. Does tend to make one touchy and emotional.


@nordmann wrote:

All my points up to now have been largely to illustrate why I don't think one can say anything was "all Paul's fault", tempting as it might be for those of us unimpressed by his rationale and utterances to maintain.



The title of this thread is not good. Muddle as to whether I was trying to get people to discuss Paul or the development of Christianity. I think it was both. The "fault" perhaps is applicable to what Proto-Orthodox Christianity pulled off in the fourth century: what Barrie Wilson calls "The marketing coup of all time" when the imperial version of "Christianity" replaced all the other brands of the faith - and also managed to close down all the schools of Greek thought. The only other belief system that survived - ironically - was that one competitor: Judaism. That post-Constantine marketing victory is what we are stuck with today: "It is especially ironic," says Wilson, "that a movement that started off as a radical challenge to the Pax Romana succeeded in becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire...That new religion would not have succeeded so brilliantly without the Christification process...Simply put, the teachings of Jesus himself were smothered by the religion of Paul."

But is that really fair? That's what I've been agonising over - and what Wilson says about how the provocative message of Jesus of Nazareth "needs to be examined again, as a radical social alternative" not only to the Pax Romana, but to any society marred by by arrogance, greed, self-righteousness and self-centredness: "In other words we should endeavour to focus on the message, not the messenger, to visualise him as his earliest followers did, as a rabbi who painted a vision of a better world and who dared us to live in an enhanced manner."

So what exactly was he teaching? Can we ever know as the man never wrote anything down - just doodled once in the dust.

But I'm really interested in the idea of Jesus as a Cynic, especially as I have learned since yesterday that Gadara - famous for its loopy pigs and Cynic philosophers - was only a day's walk away from Nazareth. I read this article with interest:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3266896?seq=8#page_scan_tab_contents

The description of Cynics as "hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies" made me smile. There was a superb aquaduct at Gadara too, I believe, which immediately made me visualise Monty Python type hippy Cynics enjoying cooling draughts of water as they debated, while angrily demanding: "What did the Romans ever do for us?"
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 30 Jun 2015, 10:33

Temp wrote

But I'm really interested in the idea of Jesus as a Cynic, especially as I have learned since yesterday that Gadara - famous for its loopy pigs and Cynic philosophers - was only a day's walk away from Nazareth.

Off topic, but maybe not entirely: when I visited Gadara, or Um Quais as it is today, a fleet of decrepit old buses arrived and out poured dozens of Jordanian school boys who were led to the edge of the car park and stood facing across the Sea of Galilee towards the distant towers of Jerusalem just visible through the mist and, pointing repeatedly, chanted 'Allah Aqbar'.  Then went and played football among the ruins.

It is especially ironic," says Wilson, "that a movement that started off as a radical challenge to the Pax Romana

But did it though? It may have been interpreted as such by some of its adherents but is it not more that the teachings of that movement were really concerned with the current state of Judaism and reflected the belief that whenever the Jewish people were subjugated or exiled it was as a consequence of their straying from the essential truths of that faith? Certainly Judaism as practised then in the Second Temple with its huge civic festivals, mass sacrifices, rigid hierarchies and absolute identification with the Jewish state paralleled Roman religious practice and emperor cult very closely. If the Jesus cult had hoped for the fall of Rome, it would be as the work of of an approving deity and not the direct action of the cult followers.

It is yet another of the many ironies of this tale that the destruction of the Temple in many ways funadentally changed Judaic practice and focu;, how, I wonder, did the early Christian communities view that event?
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 30 Jun 2015, 11:24

Wilson wrote:
a movement that started off as a radical challenge to the Pax Romana

One does get tired of hearing this false claim repeated ad nausea when all three synoptic gospels themselves ensured they contain the one quotation which so utterly refutes this premise. Judaism was the religion most likely to earn the ire of the Roman authorities for non-compliance. And it is when Jews ask Jesus if it is in accord with the Jewish faith to pay taxes to Rome (what a marvellously Jewish take on turpitude!) that he replies with the famous instruction that is used along with a few others in the same texts to discern Jesusism from mainstream Judaism; "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" (King James, best version - again). In fact Jesusism is all about conforming to the status quo and being happy with one's lot in life - a philosophy that only the most obtuse Roman military or bureaucratic functionary at the time would have failed to endorse in the powder keg that was first century Judea. Had it emanated from an actual roaming rabbi I imagine Pilate would have been setting him up on a podium rather than a crucifix.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 30 Jun 2015, 16:22

@nordmann wrote:
Wilson wrote:
a movement that started off as a radical challenge to the Pax Romana


One does get tired of hearing this false claim repeated ad nausea when all three synoptic gospels themselves ensured they contain the one quotation which so utterly refutes this premise.



Well, one does get tired of simplistic - literal - readings of the Bible too. "Render unto Caesar..." is a tricky bit of text, and it's worth looking at the whole verse, not just the opening words: "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's."

I presume you are inferring that these words are probably not the words of Jesus of Nazareth at all, but should be read as a typical example of tactful toadying by those lazy and dishonest authors of the synoptic gospels who, post-70CE, were anxious (as they indeed were) that the new "religion" should be seen as acceptable to Rome.

I, of course, in my innocent naivety, read the words as being an authentic appeal (by Jesus the Cynic?) to us all to put aside worrying about "the things of this world" - taxes and tributes and money generally - and to focus one's heart instead on the only things that matter: spiritual integrity and trying to live a good life. Such an interpretation of course perfectly accommodates the perception of Jesus as Paul's Christ - a detached, other worldly spirit and, I must admit, could be as simplistic an interpretation as any other.

Aslan, however, like Wilson, sees Jesus of Nazareth as no meek and mild Lamb of God, but argues for him being a revolutionary who, like Shakespeare, was a master of clever ambiguity. This "Render unto Caesar" reply was most definitely slippery and ambiguous, and its verbal cunning stunned his interrogators. Jesus did that on several other occasions, of course. But Aslan suggests we look carefully at the Greek: he maintains that the truth is that Jesus's answer is "as clear a statement as one can find in the gospels on where exactly he fell in the debate between the priests and the zealots" - not over the issue of the tribute, but over the far more significant question of God's sovereignty over the land. Give back (apodidomi) to Caesar the property that belongs to Caesar...The verb apododomi, usually translated as "render unto", is actually a compound word: apo is a preposition that means "back again"; didomi is the verb meaning to give. Apodidomi is used specifically when paying someone back property to which he is entitled: the word implies that the person receiving payment is the rightful owner of the thing being paid. In other words, according to Aslan, Caesar is indeed entitled to be "given back" his denarius coin, not because he deserves tribute, but because it is his coin - his name and picture are stamped on it. But God is entitled to be "given back" the land of Israel because it is God's land, not Caesar's. "The land is mine" says the Lord in Leviticus. Caesar had nothing to do with it. That was an inflammatory suggestion - and it was enough to get Jesus arrested a couple of days later as a "lestes" - a messianic bandit or zealot.

It's an interesting argument.

I don't know Greek, so I don't know if Aslan is talking nonsense or not: I'm sure you'll say he is. But I looked in Strong's concordance and found this:

apodidómi: to give up, give back, return, restore
Original Word: ἀποδίδωμι
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: apodidómi
Phonetic Spelling: (ap-od-eed'-o-mee)
Short Definition: I give back, return, sell
Definition: (a) I give back, return, restore, (b) I give, render, as due, (c) mid: I sell.



Here is The Tribute Money by Titian. I think it's superb.



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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 30 Jun 2015, 17:23

I like this too: it's Masaccio's The Tribute Money painted in 1427.




PS For anyone interested this is a pretty fair review of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. It should be noted that, as is pointed out in the article, Aslan does not fall into the anachronism of making Jesus a member of the Zealot Party as described by Josephus. He knows that party did not exist in Jesus’ day, but arose later. Aslan means zealot with a small “z.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/books/reza-aslans-zealot-the-life-and-times-of-jesus-of-nazareth.html?_r=0
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 01 Jul 2015, 08:46

Temp wrote:
"Render unto Caesar..." is a tricky bit of text, and it's worth looking at the whole verse, not just the opening words: "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's."

I see what you did there Smile You say it's worth looking at the full verse and then don't do that.

Here's one I prepared earlier:


Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marvelled. And they left him and went away.

That's Matthew's version but the other two (Mark and Luke) don't deviate much from the "Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ" statement, which itself is interesting in the use of Theos as a word for God, a transliteral liberty that occurs now and again in the gospels and an issue which excites debate even amongst those scholars beloved of our absent friend, given its lack of a suitable Aramaic equivalent. It's anyone's guess how exactly that line would actually have been delivered by a typical Aramaic-speaking Jehovah-fearing rabbi at the time.

But anyway, in the ancedote the issue was presented to him as a tax evasion question by some scheming lackeys of the local top guys (in the hope that he'd openly recommend such an action). Instead he adopted the stance that it was hypocritical of Pharisees and the like to claim to be upholding Jewish law while simultaneously acquiescing in the payment of Roman tax. He on the other hand was no hypocrite, he inferred. Instead he openly recommended the payment of this tax as it was not God stuff anyway. I doubt very much if the Herodians "marvelled" at this, as claimed, but to pretend it wasn't essentially a tax question is doing the original Jewish authors of the story a huge disservice. This was a burning issue of the day, and a really sensitive one in Judaea throughout the entire Roman occupation: It therefore actually smacks more of having an origin in a real exchange than most of the other anecdotes in the general story. It is exactly an issue in which proclamations regarding the rights and wrongs of it would have been watched like hawks by the authorities.

But as a Jesusism it's a classic, coming as it does sandwiched between two other ancedotes designed to reinforce his credentials as God's spokesperson on all matters, including presumably tax. Whether all three anecdotes concern a real lad called Jesus is rather less important than that someone later saw fit to bundle these anecdotes together, even the ones concerning taxation, and then set such a Greek slant on things too, even while bringing up peculiarly Jewish concerns.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 01 Jul 2015, 09:19

I meant sentence. tongue

Oh, with what joyful glee you pounced on that, nordman. tongue


Just for good measure. tongue

Smile


Seriously, interesting stuff about tax evasion. I know you and Tim have read far more than I have - my job around here is just to try to ask intelligent (using the word loosely) questions.

I'm also interested in ferval's question about what happened to the Jewish Christians after the destruction of the Temple - and just about everything else in Jerusalem - in 70AD. Seems the only Jews who survived that terrible event were the Pharisees, plus the Zealots holed up at Masada. What happened to the aristocratic Sadducees? They were the real collaborators, weren't they, all for sensible accommodation with the Romans? How come they didn't survive?

Paul, Peter and James were all dead by then of course.

PS Also seriously, the more I read and confuse myself utterly with all this, the more I realise the truth of what Dale Martin, the writer of the Aslan review in the NY Times and Professor of Religious Studies at Yale, said in his opening paragraph: "Jesus the loving shepherd. Bringer of peace and justice. Teacher of universal morals. Jesus the rabbi. Jesus the philosopher. Jesus the apocalyptic prophet. Jesus the Christ of faith. People have constructed many different Jesuses."

I'll say - and we all (including even you) construct our own version of the man - the one we need. No doubt that will continue into the future - the interest doesn't seem to wane.


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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 01 Jul 2015, 10:14

I try to deconstruct the lad more than construct him - there's enough of that going on without needing any help from me.

I'm having trouble envisaging myself pouncing on anything at the moment. But thanks Cheers
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 01 Jul 2015, 10:53

@nordmann wrote:
I try to deconstruct the lad more than construct him -


Exactly.

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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 01 Jul 2015, 14:41

I wrote:

I'm also interested in ferval's question about what happened to the Jewish Christians after the destruction of the Temple - and just about everything else in Jerusalem - in 70AD.


I'm not doing very well at all on this thread, am I? That isn't what ferval asked. She asked what the early (Gentile?) Christians would have thought about the destruction of the Temple. At least that's what I think she asked - can't access her post just now.

I wonder if they believed what Titus said about his successful destruction of everything and everybody in Jerusalem? According to Wiki:

Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as he claimed that he had not won the victory on his own, but had been the vehicle through which their God had manifested his wrath against his people.

Did Jesus really prophesy that the Temple would be destroyed, or was his reported warning of what was to befall Jerusalem simply an another example of the evangelists - post-70 CE - using what I believe is called the midrashic technique (nordmann would call it making things up to suit your agenda)? The use of the midrash was, I believe, a perfectly acceptable Judaic literary/teaching device back then - not viewed as dishonest at all.


http://whosoever.org/v6i4/spong.html

What most Christians do not realize is that the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) employ midrash to tell their story. For example, midrash was employed in the story of the virgin birth to say that Jesus, from his very beginnings, was divine. It was not meant to say, however, that the male agent in conception was negated to form a being that could have only been (at most) halfway human! The question to ask of the Gospel narratives, Spong says, is not "Did it really happen?" Instead, we should search for what the midrash symbolizes as we seek to uncover the true meanings of these Biblical texts.

Once the Jewish midrashic tradition is understood, a whole new doorway to Biblical interpretation is opened. Spong takes the reader...through critical moments in the Christian faith story, arriving at conclusions that actually make sense to the postmodern mind...




PS The Jewish Christians were apparently miraculously warned of the coming catastrophe: they fled to Pella and so survived. Have no idea if the information given on the following sites is accurate or not.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_to_Pella


http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-places/pella-a-window-on-survival/

EDIT: This was ferval's question:

@ferval wrote:

It is yet another of the many ironies of this tale that the destruction of the Temple in many ways funadentally changed Judaic practice and focu;, how, I wonder, did the early Christian communities view that event?
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 07:33

More on the midrash idea:

http://johnshelbyspong.com/store/resurrection-myth-or-reality/

Continuing his project of making Christianity viable in a secular world, Bishop Spong here pursues the mystery of Easter. The solutions he proposes are not grounded in a literal understanding of the Bible; nor are they based in a quest for the historical Jesus. Easter, for Spong, was not a supernatural event that occurred inside human history. He asserts that even though Jesus was of history, we will never know all that Jesus was or meant. Most especially, we will never know exactly what happened on that moment that is called Easter. What we can know is that the first Christians became convinced that Jesus did not die and, to express the intensity of their experience, they used the language and style of midrash. Thus, Bishop Spong believes that to enter the meaning of the Gospels, to enter the experience of Easter, it is necessary to enter the tradition of midrash. His book, consequently, is a long and complex journey into the images of the biblical texts, the midrashic vehicles employed to carry the transcendent meaning of Easter.

I am a huge fan of Bishop Spong; to me he is a sane man in a world of lunatics. However, I should add that most Christians I have encountered loathe him and refuse to read him, or to discuss his ideas.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 08:02

The midrashness never stops, does it? Though I suppose if you're going to allow "filling in the gaps" with total inventions (midrash) as having a validity equal to actual fact then why not simply go through life armed with what amounts to religious Polyfilla and forget about facts completely?

Incidentally when it comes to Easter quite a lot of societies completely independently of Christianity (and in many cases over millennia beforehand) came up with their own transcendental version of that festival and its meaning and significance, all of which, amazingly, Christians have adopted and then midrashically appropriated as their own faith's invention (along with other stuff).

When a house is built with more Polyfilla than actual building materials (and I have rented a few in my time) then it is time for the sane person to move out. Spong's approach as a tenant would seem to be to accept that it must be that way for a good reason, though of course we'll now never know how it got into that state. Amazingly he then advocates sticking around within the construction.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 09:45

@nordmann wrote:
The midrashness never stops, does it? Though I suppose if you're going to allow "filling in the gaps" with total inventions (midrash) as having a validity equal to actual fact then why not simply go through life armed with what amounts to religious Polyfilla and forget about facts completely?



You do sound like Mr Gradgrind at times, nordmann: I'm sure you don't mean to.


"Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts. Nothing else will ever be of service to them ... Stick to Facts, sir!"


Mr Gradgrind, in Dicken's Hard Times, published 1854.


There is room in life for a bit of poetry and story-telling, you know. And it does help a lot of people cope. Each to his or her own. Loving such stuff isn't always the sign of a feeble mind.


@nordmann wrote:

When a house is built with more Polyfilla than actual building materials (and I have rented a few in my time) then it is time for the sane person to move out.



But sometimes there's nowhere else to go.

I must admit, though, I do like your Polyfilla image: Polyfilla Expanding Foam, however, would have been better.



This thread has run its course - time now to go up the airy mountain and down the rushy glen.

Edit: Sunday afternoon - so of course I will add a bit more. Like Tim, I always come back for more: wounded pride or masochism - not sure which, possibly both.


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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 10:01

If you are content to live in a house built from Polyfilla then believe me, you will always have alternative places to go to. And if you like your poetry and story-telling designed primarily to service scripture and make up for its shortcomings then you will encounter no shortage of bad poets and story-tellers too.

Personally I prefer sturdy accommodation and quality literature. Not so much because I can only appreciate facts, but more because I just can't abide bullshit that leads people astray and often up their own backsides.

Not Gradgrind - more this lad:

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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 11:04

Midrash is certainly a creative heuristic...........


  A midrash manicure:                                                                             

http://judaism.about.com/od/jewishculture/a/The-Midrash-Manicures-Club-Yael-Buechler.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Thu 02 Jul 2015, 12:45

It's not quite midrash though - unless of course the nails enlighten us in a manner that the associated scripture cannot hope to compete with.

Manicures however cannot even begin to hope to compete with graffiti as a midrashi tool. Off-the -wall (in every sense) scripture analysis includes such gems as:

Existentialist Christianity


Make up new Evangelists Christianity


Just about sums the whole thing up Christianity



None of this is new of course. Here's a Roman take on things (presumably drawn by a Mithradesian as opposed to a Midrashian)


And ironically, much of the above could - I suppose - be said to be Paul's fault ...
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sat 04 Jul 2015, 14:58

I got talking to a rather earnest and devout follower yesterday of what might be called the "Martin Luther Sect " and to whom I could pose Temp 's question in the spirit in which it was presumably meant.  Amazingly (at least to me)  he was in agreement with those who would tend to the affirmative in response and stopped only slightly short of labelling Paul a Quisling of the highest order (still not a good thing to be here - even amongst the neo-nazis).  He said he can only imagine with tender fondness and remorse the Christianity that might have been had it not been for Paul 's superimposed agenda and compunction to organise into something owing more to Roman sense of order and Hellenic mysticism than to a poor carpenter 's revolutionary take on morality and the strength of humility. He wished he could do even the slightest thing to make himself a better Christian in the carpenter 's eyes rather than those of any church modelled on Paul 's diktat.  I referred him to a cheap amateur surgeon I know who will help him with the foreskin removal he needs to get going in his quest. 

Or was that rude of me too?  Surprised)
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 05 Jul 2015, 15:12

@nordmann wrote:


Or was that rude of me too? Surprised  


Well, only you know what your intent was when you advised your friend. Let's give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were actually making a serious point: that the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as a devout Jewish teacher and passionate upholder of the Law (the Torah), would possibly have considered circumcision as being vital for a true disciple.

One of the most puzzling events described in Luke's Acts is actually about circumcision, and is one which A.N. Wilson calls "pure fiction". It is the account of how Paul drags poor Timothy off to be circumcised (or even does the job himself Shocked ). Wilson declares that this is one of the details "which above all others casts doubt on Luke's credibility as a historian". It is very odd because in his letter to the Galatians, written possibly in the same year as he met Timothy, Paul inveighs against those who insists that Gentile converts should undergo this rite of passage. Paul considers circumcision as a useless, barbaric mutilation:

"Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourself be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire Law. You who want to be justified by the Law have cut yourself off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything: the only thing that counts is faith working through love."

"Faith working through love" and the mention of "the Martin Luther sect" made me think how part of the "all" that could - were we determined to be uncharitable - be blamed on Saint Paul is the Protestant Reformation, and all the bloodshed and Wars of Religion that that unfortunate movement led to. Paul's letter to the Romans, notably Romans 1:17, was the inspiration for Luther's famous sole fide - the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Yet Luther on this (see big long quote below) - like Paul at his best - is sublime in his passion and sincerity. Perhaps the "fault" of my thread title is neither Paul's nor Luther's - those two fragile, tormented souls frantically searching for forgiveness for their shortcomings. Perhaps the blame for all the evil, violence and hatred that has happened in God's (or Paul's or Luther's) name in the past miserable 2000 years or so is simply the fault of our human stupidity, wilful ignorance and lack of good-will. And the fault of our inability or unwillingness to understand - or to try to understand - what great men (who, being men, not gods, say stupid as well as sublime things) have tried to teach. Like Shakespeare, we can only ask in despair: "Is there any cause in nature that makes these hard hearts?"  You, nordmann, if it is not presumptuous of me to say so, would no doubt reply: "Of course there is a cause. Don't waste your time searching for it in the N.T. - go and read Darwin." The point I am trying to make is that perhaps we need to read and consider Darwin and theology to find the cause.


Luther's own words:

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven … .

If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face.


PS I hope my utterances today are not complete nonsense - futile witterings from the dark place where I have yet again disappeared. A postcard from a dark edge, certainly, but not, I sincerely hope, my bottom.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sun 05 Jul 2015, 21:08

Temperance, my friend,

(in Dutch: my "vriendin", in German: my "Freundin" :
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freundin
The difficulty in a language is to evaluate what the concept of a word is...in German as in Dutch there is a double meaning:
"eine weibliche Person, zu der eine Freundschaft oder Liebesbeziehung unterhalten wird"
(a female person to who a friendship or a love relation is establshed) I have the impression that in English the word "friend" even from a male to a female has only the first connotation of friendship? If not, excuses and I will never say it again... Wink )


"You, nordmann, if it is not presumptuous of me to say so, would no doubt reply: "Of course there is a cause. Don't waste your time searching for it in the N.T. - go and read Darwin." The point I am trying to make is that perhaps we need to read and consider Darwin and theology to find the cause."

About your fat "and" between Darwin and theology...

I, and I presume you too, already took part in several discussions overhere in the same vein...
My take was that in the evolution (your Darwin) the brain and the social relationships became very elaborated...and all that complex material was influenced by the million years of learning process...and in that evoluated brain and by the social cohesion of the new societies was there always a questioning of why are we here on this earth, who or what makes our being...and that, many "thinkers" tried to explain, some in "logic" some in "allegories"...and the "group" instinct makes that some "groups" adhere to this and other to that and are even prepared to die for it or murder other "groups" with a distinct explanation...?

Attention on the questionmark Wink ...

Kind regards from your friend, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 07 Jul 2015, 08:58

I'm not actually sure I understand your post, Paul, but thank you for replying. I only mentioned Darwin because nordmann and ferval so often do, as obviously any sane and reasonable person would in any discussion of what makes us humans tick. I'm sure nordmann and ferval long for me to be a loopy Creationist - someone ripe for baiting: alas, at least where Darwin is concerned, how I must disappoint them.

Going back to Paul. I am so enjoying my A.N. Wilson book (written during his atheist period).Disconcertingly, I find myself agreeing with much of what he says and fascinated by all of it. I wonder if I an a closet atheist? Nah! I've always said here - for several years now - that I am a confused and woolly agnostic. Indeed I rejoice and glory in that, my default position.

Wilson points out that Paul has usually been attacked for being a restrictive or even puritanical presence in the Christian tradition. He is blamed for taking what is supposed to have been the simple ( Shocked ) religion of Jesus of Nazareth and institutionalising it or theologising it, imposing his own "rules" on the teaching of the Galilean. Wilson challenges this view, something I found immensely interesting. Wilson declares: "Paul is the great libertarian of religious history". Though a "Jew of Jews", he had "a most cavalier view even of the written 'Word of God' ". I think that's true! It sometimes amuses me to see modern evangelical Christians poring over the works of Paul as if they were Holy Writ, especially when such folk, pronouncing on some of the questions which so obsess the modern church (such as allowing women to be priests, or thinking about what goes on in private between two people who love each other), these good evangelicals will produce phrases of Paul to enforce their arguments one way or another, as if Paul's letters were "Scripture" in the sense of the Torah being "Scripture". Paul's writings to his friends became this in the later ages of Christendom, but they didn't start out that way. This from Wilson really struck me: "One of the reasons that Paul must have made his own Jewish contemporaries so angry, and one of the reasons they must have wanted to beat him with 'the thirty-nine strokes' and drive him out of the synagogues, was that he was an outright non-believer in such evangelical readings of the Bible." He was, Wilson suggests, "far more like Swedenborg or Blake than Luther!" That's certainly something I've never considered before!

Wilson goes on to quote the stupendous passage from 1 Corinthians 13, which, if he had written nothing else, would have guaranteed that subsequent generations would have revered Paul as one of the greatest religious poets the world has ever seen.

Wilson also offers an explanation for the famous " through a glass darkly" (KJV) image and mentions a scene painted on a wall in a Pompeiian villa where a young satyr is gazing intently into a bowl held out for him by old Silenus. It is a representation of a Dionysiac initiation: the initiate would look in the bowl (bowls of water, Pliny tells us, were used as mirrors in the ancient world) and see a mere reflexion: then he would look up and see reality. Is this comparable to Plato's cave, or is that a ridiculous thing to ask? It is so interesting (well, I think it is) that Paul, in his sublime language about the inner life of the follower of Christ, borrows what Wilson refers to as "mystery-terminology" - terminology which would have been instantly recognisable as "mystery-talk" to the Hellenised world. "Paul is happy to use with a boldness lacking in other N.T. writers tropes and figures from paganism. He made the converts feel at home."

I like looking at how things are written - tropes and things. That's why I mentioned the use of midrash which provoked such hilarity from nord and ferv.


Paul at his best - lovely bit of writing this:

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 07 Jul 2015, 19:50

I was reading your post, Temp, when my granddaughter appeared at my shoulder and asked, "What does Was it all St Paul's fault mean, why is someone asking that?" As I tried to construct an answer suitable for an 8 year old and one from a proundly agnostic and feminist household, she said, "Who was St. Paul, was he a good man or a bad one?". To her credit, she didn't laugh as I stumbled out some stuff about him saying very good things about love and kindness being the most important qualities and some not so good, about women's place, for instance.

This is the child who, in the car one day, piped up, "Why do some people think it's unlucky to walk under ladders?". I gave her the falling paint pot response and then said it was just a superstition. "
"What's a superstition?"
"Something people believe in without any proof".
"Oh, like God, you mean".

I think she should join this board.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 07 Jul 2015, 20:31

@ferval wrote:
I was reading your post, Temp, when my granddaughter appeared at my shoulder and asked, "What does Was it all St Paul's fault mean, why is someone asking that?" As I tried to construct an answer suitable for an 8 year old and one from a proundly agnostic and feminist household, she said, "Who was St. Paul, was he a good man or a bad one?". To her credit, she didn't laugh as I stumbled out some stuff about him saying very good things about love and kindness being the most important qualities and some not so good, about women's place, for instance.

This is the child who, in the car one day, piped up, "Why do some people think it's unlucky to walk under ladders?". I gave her the falling paint pot response and then said it was just a superstition. "
"What's a superstition?"
"Something people believe in without any proof".
"Oh, like God, you mean".

I think she should join this board.


I love your message ferval...

Kind regards from Paul R, not "the" Paul...
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Tue 07 Jul 2015, 20:54

"I'm not actually sure I understand your post, Paul, but thank you for replying. I only mentioned Darwin because nordmann and ferval so often do, as obviously any sane and reasonable person would in any discussion of what makes us humans tick. I'm sure nordmann and ferval long for me to be a loopy Creationist - someone ripe for baiting: alas, at least where Darwin is concerned, how I must disappoint them."

Temperance,

I thought that you meant with "Darwin and theology" the difference

on one side the real (I wanted to write "factual" Wink , but then some odd persons will ask to prove the facts) evolution which acts with coincidences and adaptations to be the fittest in a coincidentally environment and just going on as everywhere in the cosmos with trial and error and among the millions of dead locked tracks there is always a lucky one which has a result

and on the other side the thinkers, who believe in a guiding principle, some say that they have it revealed by a "God", others say or his adepts say that one was "God" himself...

Kind regards from Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 08 Jul 2015, 08:09

@ferval wrote:
I was reading your post, Temp, when my granddaughter appeared at my shoulder and asked, "What does Was it all St Paul's fault mean, why is someone asking that?" As I tried to construct an answer suitable for an 8 year old and one from a proundly agnostic and feminist household, she said, "Who was St. Paul, was he a good man or a bad one?". To her credit, she didn't laugh as I stumbled out some stuff about him saying very good things about love and kindness being the most important qualities and some not so good, about women's place, for instance.

This is the child who, in the car one day, piped up, "Why do some people think it's unlucky to walk under ladders?". I gave her the falling paint pot response and then said it was just a superstition. "
"What's a superstition?"
"Something people believe in without any proof".
"Oh, like God, you mean".

I think she should join this board.


She should - clearly a very bright little girl. Why should she have laughed at your reply? It seems very sensible and fair to me. Good she's asking questions so eagerly and being allowed/encouraged to do so: isn't that what it's all about?


Are the great world religions no more than superstition then? Was Saint Paul merely peddling the kind of mumbo-jumbo all sensible (and adult) people have grown out of? Or was there - is there - a bit more to it all than that?


That would make a good thread,  but not today and not here. Tennis now for the rest of the week.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Wed 08 Jul 2015, 08:50

Temp wrote:
Are the great world religions no more than superstition then?

If only they were.

But no, they are much worse than that. They are superstition masquerading as the key to fulfilling impossible ambitions such as eternal life, salvation from invisible threats etc etc, though when it comes to being of actual practical help in achieving anything worthwhile they are in reality of dubious value indeed. They mendaciously claim credit for all that is deemed naturally good by humans anyway, as well as for all humanity's higher aspirations and their product. They then quite cynically and equally mendaciously encourage humanity's basest tendencies and - as long as these efforts are expended in nominal support for one "faith" above the other - will quite enthusiastically endorse this often murderously evil activity with promises of spiritual reward and (probably more often) some extremely non-spiritual rewards in the form of material wealth, abusive positions of power, and a notion of legal and moral impunity conferred upon their acolytes and "believers".

A lot of superstitious people would have to spend a lot of time walking under a lot of ladders before their particular delusional tendencies would have so drastic and disastrous an effect on their fellow humans as the one labelled "religion".
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Fri 13 May 2016, 15:13

I hesitate to bring this up because, the site being so very, very quiet, I, in my paranoia, have decided that it is all my fault. I have killed off Res His by incessant rabbitings about religion.

I do hope not.

Other people, of course, have contributed to Holy Threads, so if, perish the thought, the site is dying, I cannot be entirely to blame. So here goes with encore un rabbiting. It's about something I've just read in my Christopher Hitchens book. I have always thought, despite never having read any of Hitchens' stuff (apart from God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything ages and ages ago), that Hitch was an arrogant prat. That harsh and ill-informed judgement was perhaps unfair. I have come to realise that he was an enormously intelligent, witty and erudite man (despite his tiresome militant Marxism while at Oxford). That said, I do wonder if the following comment he makes in his book about Athens v. Jerusalem is very unfair on Saint Paul (whom, I must admit, Hitchens does not actually name here). Wasn't Paul more a Greek - an Athenian in outlook and temperament than Jewish, whatever his early commitment to "Jerusalem" had been? The "Jerusalem" adherents to "the Way" (the idea of a new religion called "Christianity" - as we misunderstand it - still being in the making, of course) were, after all,  pretty fed up with Paul and his nasty Greek ideas by the time he left for Rome. Here's the bit from CH I noticed. He is talking about Christian moralising and hypocrisy, especially in sexual matters:

"I understand in retrospect that this was my first introduction to a conflict that dominates all our lives: the endless irreconcilable conflict between the values of Athens and Jerusalem. On the one hand very approximately, is the world not of hedonism but of tolerance of the recognition that sex and love have their ironic and perverse dimensions. On the other is the stone-faced demand for continence, sacrifice and conformity, and the devising of ever-crueller punishments for deviance, all invoked as if this very fanaticism did not give its own game away. Repression is the problem in the first place..."

I think that's a tad unreasonable - true of later "Christians" no doubt, but not of Paul and certainly not of Christ himself. The latter was remarkably tolerant of "deviants" - of all shapes and sorts. And - you know what? - I think Paul was too - in the writings which are genuinely his, that is.


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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Fri 13 May 2016, 21:16

Temperance,

quiet...I expected a reply of Nordmann about my Chesterton thread. And still pending my Stuarts history...
But Nordmann seems to be absent last days...
What if you tried once to reply to my Chesterton thread, Temperance...after all Chesterton converted to Roman-Catholicism...I wonder why...
And BTW was Paul that tolerant? I mean Paulus, not me, as every one knows I am hypertolerant...

Your friend, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sat 14 May 2016, 06:34

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Temperance,

quiet...I expected a reply of Nordmann about my Chesterton thread. And still pending my Stuarts history...
But Nordmann seems to be absent last days...
What if you tried once to reply to my Chesterton thread, Temperance...after all Chesterton converted to Roman-Catholicism...I wonder why...
And BTW was Paul that tolerant? I mean Paulus, not me, as every one knows I am hypertolerant...



I once had the temerity to mention Chesterton - here on this thread, as it happens. Alas, I was given short shrift. This was nordmann's response:

@nordmann wrote:

Chesterton's claim is a load of bullshit. "Mad" is a rather vague term anyway, but using it in the colloquial sense (as he seems to have condescended to do) simply infers that the reason poets and other creative types don't go mad is because they're already there when they start.

Outside of its colloquial sense then Chesterton is making an argument based on a false dichotomy between logic and imagination, one moreover which says much more about his own failure of imagination than it does about its actual nature, role or meaning. Or for that matter that of logic.

But then we all know what happened to Chesterton when he thought he was joyfully abandoning logic and embracing imagination and mystery (as defined by religion, in his case Roman Catholicism). A more logical descent into the pedantically unimaginative, in fact, is difficult to find.


Yelp.

I thought my suggestion that Saint Paul was perhaps not quite the bigoted, misogynist, gay-hating, intolerant old prig (and supporter of the slave trade, to boot) - "the apostle we all love to hate" - would be one that would surprise some people. However, Robin Lane Fox (an atheist incidentally - an extremely fair and clever one) and the brilliant Karen Armstrong (who is something of a Woolly Person after my own kidney) are just two historians who are giving a revisionist view of those "patriarchal villains", Paul and Augustine, these days. Rowan Williams is too - but I suppose one must admit he could be a bit biased. His article from the New Statesman  is good - well, I think it is.


http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/religion/2015/11/patriarchal-villains-it-s-time-re-think-st-paul-and-st-augustine



But perhaps the central fact to bear in mind is that they both do something that only a few other ancient authors do – Plato being the other most obvious example: they invite their readers to imagine a social order quite different from what is now taken for granted. They are not simply “religious” thinkers, if that signifies only that they are trying to elaborate a system of teachings about something called spiritual life, distinct from the ongoing business of living together in society. Armstrong in particular gives an excellent reading of the way in which Paul’s letters make very stark demands about social relationships; Paul’s readers/hearers are instructed “to liberate themselves from habits of servility and ethnic prejudice by creating an alternative community characterised by equality”. They need to be freed from “solipsistic introversion”, false spiritualism and elitism, insensitivity to the poverty or suffering of others. In a nutshell, they are being told that they must show the world around them a model of belonging together in which no one either suffers alone or succeeds alone: well-being is always, uncompromisingly, a mutual and corporate affair.


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PostSubject: Re: Was It All Saint Paul's Fault Then?   Sat 14 May 2016, 21:06

Oops, lost my message when I returned from Google and it is not the first time that happens, although my message was already in "preview". Will ask Nordmann on the Technical forum...

Temperance,

thank you for mentioning the comments of Nordmann on Chesterton. But I will come back on Chesterton in my own thread.

And back to Paul.
I reread the whole thread and yes Chesterton is there too...
I have to admit Temperance that you and Nordmann know a lot more than I in all my superficial reading. Nor can I make references to the Bible as in my Roman-Catholic childhood there was little reference to the Bible, let alone to as you mention: Corinth nr and so on...
In our Roman-Catholic school it was not the Bible which counted, but the voice of the Pope we had to listen to Wink ...

But I met Paul in quite other circumstances...while I discussed in the time the work of Peter Brown on the BBC board:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Brown_(historian)
The Body and Society. Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity
http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=19015253029&searchurl=sts%3Dt%26tn%3DThe%2520Body%2520and%2520Society%26sortby%3D17%26an%3DPeter%2520Brown
http://www.amazon.com/Body-Society-Renunciation-Christianity-Columbia/dp/0231144075


There I learned that a Paul adapted the early Christian faith to the customs of the Roman elite from the time of August, to the Greek elite also part of the Roman empire. And adapting the religion to the ideas of Greco-Roman thoughts, he made it "salonfähig" among those elites. As I read the messages of Ferval and Nordmann about the unity in culture among the whole Roman empire, adapting to that culture was a very clever action to expand the particular religion allover the empire...and that is perhaps Paul's greatest achievement in the establishing of the new "church"?
And indeed when one reads about the customs about sexuality in the Rome of the first century of our calendar, one is struck by the similarities with the same educated behaviour to the early Christians, who especially are influenced by Paul.
And even when I in the Fifties went to a Roman-Catholic college in Belgium, then between twelve and fifteen, we were educated along the same lines of sexuality, as the young Romans 2000 years ago and the early Christians of that period. I only see it nowadays in the Opus Dei movement, but you don't hear that much anymore from them. Or are they that secret, that they don't appear in the open anymore... Wink ?

As a conclusion: Had it not been of the figure of Paul, early christianity would have disappeared in the Roman empire...?

Kind regards, Paul.
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