“Oh yeah, a few more things.”

Besides Jesus himself, there is no more central character to the Christian faith than the Apostle Paul.  Considered “the great interpretor of Jesus’ mission,” his writings significantly defined Christianity, and, in view of his proselytizing mission to the gentiles, instrumental in the religion’s ultimate success.  But there’s something that’s always bothered me about Paul.  His role seems to suggest that Jesus didn’t get things properly across the first time.

It’s not quite clear, if Christianity is true, why Jesus needed to return decades after his death and resurrection to appoint a new apostle.  Were the original disciples simply not up to the task of carrying on the faith?  True, the gospels depict them as dunces, but Jesus personally chose them, with the keen eye of someone who knows exactly what he’s looking for.  Jesus even called one of them, Peter, the rock upon which the church would be built (Matthew 16:18).  If they failed, is there anyone to blame but Jesus?

Even more puzzling, Paul’s epistles make clear there were major theological disputes between him on the one side, and Peter and James (Jesus’s brother) on the other.  Was Jesus insufficiently clear on certain matters, and used Paul to “set the record straight”?  But wouldn’t that undermine the authority of the original disciples, who had actually, you know, been personally instructed by none other than the master himself?  God is not the author of confusion, we are told (1 Cor. 14:33), but with some of his chosen spokesmen saying this, and others saying that, how could one not be confused?

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but the fact that Paul turned out to be Jesus’ “great interpretor” and font of much of Christian theology doesn’t speak well of Jesus’ teaching or tutelage.

4 thoughts on ““Oh yeah, a few more things.”

  1. Indeed. And I hadn’t even raised the issue of which of Paul’s epistles actually were written by him. Most Bible scholars believe that only about half of those in the NT are authentically Pauline.

  2. I have struggled with this and when I have asked, even those that claimed to be scholars have failed to give me a good answer.

    Since we have very few complete original manuscripts from before the 4th century (before Eusibius) (SP?), and the only complete copies are usually from decades if not centuries after these documents were originally written, how can we be sure that a man named Paul that embarked upon a Mediterranean epic to spread the gospel really, actually wrote ANY of those books? What if the real author wasn’t named Paul but just SAID he was? Textual critique would still show them to be by the same author, but since we have no verifiable verification of identity, we don’t know the true name of the author. What if there was, historically, no man ever named Paul that made that trip? What if that figure was a construct?

    Sure, the manuscripts all SAY that Paul wrote them, but we only have the word of the documents themselves as to their authorship. If there is another source that can verify it, nobody has ever answered me to tell me who it was, or what made them an authority.

    Is there independent corroboration of either Paul’s very existence or his actual real authorship of even a few of the Epistles?

    It has been my contention (as a layman) that Paul may have been a construct of the later church to legitimize their theology and organize it to allow for using the church for controlling the population of Europe.

    Since so many of the other books of the bible have no verified sources that can back up church claims as to authorship, it seems odd to me that there would be one group of books (the epistles) that would, especially since those particular books were supposedly written as far back as 60 AD, according to some Christian sources, and we have no complete early copies.

    “…is a puzzlement!”

  3. Hmm…some interesting food for thought. But no skeptical scholar I’ve read has questioned that at least some of the Pauline epistles were written by their putative author. If they were written by, say, “Fred”, what would Fred’s interest be in mis-identifying himself?

    I’m currently reading Robert M. Price’s “The Pre-Nicene New Testament,” and will update with what he has to say on Paul’s epistles.

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