Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paul

So, I wanted to reply to Stacey's comment here because Paul as a subject is deserving of more space and exposure.

I don't have a problem with Paul as some have, saying he was a closet homosexual with other issues that he focused on, thus warping the early church and its focus.

My problem is really with Christians, not Paul. He wrote his letters, people saved them. It's not his fault that he's been made into a false god. And he has. Most Christian strains, especially Protestant/Evangelical/Fundamentalist strains, choose to focus on Paul's letters to the exclusion of Jesus and his teachings, and not just Paul, but all the letter-writers. Sure, most Protestant friends of mine have the "Red letter" bibles with the words of Jesus in red to stress how much more important those words are than anything else, but in real life, Protestant/Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christianity is more about Paul and the other letter writers than about Jesus.

We see this in the whole faith vs works argument. It's plain from a thorough and fair reading of Jesus that he was all about the work. He was a man of action. SELL your stuff, FOLLOW me, you'll have treasure in heaven. When I was hungry, did you FEED me? WHen I was in hospital, did you VISIT me? Whatever you DO to the least of them you DO to me. His parables are all about ACTION. It is clear that he is interested in what you DO. Even John's latecoming gospel, when read in context, can clearly be seen in this context of action. But Christianity splits into Catholic/Protestant over an obsessive debate over what Paul wrote in some letters about faith vs works, and Jesus is left standing there, ignored.

Or the idea of not being "unequally yoked." Jesus hung out with everyone, didn't judge people but loved them, and the only people we know he got MAD at were observant priests. But because Paul wrote in one letter about being unequally yoked, it's a major Christian preoccupation. When one person gets religion, often, ironically, they leave their longtime mate because of the unequally yoked thing (I am now sober, they still drink and dont' believe like I do), ignoring Jesus saying that people marry for life...

For another example, take the idea prevalent in Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches that the Man is the Head of the Household and that women should be subservient to their husbands. Now, this is a constantly popular and important issue, and to get support for it, people turn to Scripture. But they don't turn to Jesus, because there's nothing Jesus said on the matter to justify the position. So they turn to Peter. To Paul. To Timothy especially (and Timothy is plainly a terrible reader of Bereshit).

Same with many doctrinal issues. The proofs come from the Letters, not from the Gospels. So we have a religion that claims to follow Jesus but follows his disciples much more closely. If Christianity were built on the Beatitudes and the other red-letter stuff of the gospels, Christianity would be a much different religion.

Anyway. It's all so interesting, I could go on and on, showing you tract after tract where pretty much everything referenced is Letters and not redletter Jesus stuff, but you get the idea.

3 comments:

Stacey said...

Hey Lee!
I finally heard from Carol and she said they are fine. She didn't mention if the hospital was busy, but I assume it is.

I appreciate you responding to my comments and I do understand where you are coming from. From my study of scripture (old and new testament) I have found that I must survey the whole counsel of scripture. Ignoring Paul or Peter, et al and only focusing on the gospels would be like only following Moses without ever looking into Isaiah or Daniel. Have you ever researched how the new testament was put together? I can't remember all the details (makes it sound like I was there! - lol), but I have read that teams were set up in various locations in England and the documents had to pass very rigorous testing before being included. It was painstaking according to historical accounts. And also, because I am a believer, I trust God would not have allowed His word to be mangled in such a way as to have no cohesion. So, anyway - long story, short - I believe the books (or letters/epistles) belong. I understand that this a "faith" thing and I can't expect others to buy this just because I said so. I know many see contradictions in God's word, but usually upon closer inspection, they find that is not the case.

I promise I don't see any of the apostles as gods. In fact, I can tell you right now that Paul was cool, but had a nasty temper. John would have gotten on my last nerve. And, Peter (who I am most like) would react first and then pay for it later. But (I believe) that these men were used by God to complete the message he wanted written just as the old testament was by Moses, Joshua (I love him), the major and minor prophets and many others. When I pray, I pray to God or Jesus and sometimes the Holy Spirit (there's that weird trinity thing!)

Hey, here is a topic that has interested me of late. I believe that "the thorn" in Paul's flesh was that he was in love with Priscilla. Yep, I think he loved his best friends wife. And my pastor believes that Priscilla wrote Hebrews. Neither of us know these things as facts, but I love to debate the issues.

I didn't address the specific topics you mentioned like "unequally yoked". If you want me to, I will. I love to have open discussions like this. If you want me to address anything, just say the word. If you think I am a completely crazy woman who hasn't got a lick of sense - well, you are probably right!

Love you!
Pray for the peace of Israel!
S.

lee said...

Stacey -- I find an interesting difference between Christianity and Judaism in your comments about ignoring the Letters would be like "only following Moses without ever looking into Isaiah or Daniel." And Jews actually tend to do this. We read the Torah in its entirety each year. The Torah. The Five Books of Moses. Sure, Jews read other stuff too, but we pay a lot more attention to Moses than to Isaiah or Daniel. And for good cause. Because Moses was writing G-d's words. If we were to have a red letter bible, though, the stuff in red would be the 613 mitzvot.

Judaism is set up so that at its core, we have the Torah in its most specific sense -- the 5 books of Moses and the Written Law. Then we have the Oral Law and the commentaries in the Talmud. Then we have the rest of the bible -- Writings and the Prophets. At the center, and the source of everything else, are the 613 mitzvot explicitly stated by G-d in the Torah. The Talmud explains the meaning and application of the 613 mitzvot. Jews today live differently than Jews of a thousand years ago, differently than Jews two thousand years ago... but every single thing that Jews do comes back to the Torah and the commandments, which are unchanging. There is no law or tradition that does not come back to one of the 613 mitzvot. No commandment comes from anyone except G-d.

Now. You can see illustrations of what happened to the Jews because they did not did not follow the mitzvot in the Writings and the Prophets. You can read the talmud and see how rabbis interpreted the laws. We can see how the observance of the laws has changed over time as people "build a fence around the Torah" with things like growing really long forelocks or separate women from men in the synagogue. But there is nothing in Judaism not directly rooted explicitly in the mitzvot.

For example, we know that there are all sorts of rules about keeping Shabbat. We know that people don't drive or turn on switches. We know that this isn't in the Torah explicitly but we DO know that lighting fires is prohibited by G-d and we can understand the logic that led Jews to decide that cars have sparks and light switches make little sparks and sparks = fire. It's all directly connected to the 613 mitzvot. So any Jewish tract, if there were to be such things, would cite Talmud, ketuvim, neviim, but would ALWAYS finally cite the particular commandment in the end.

Now, there are other things that are NOT in the Torah that are certainly interesting and important. How about the idea of heaven? Nope, not in Torah. In fact, you have to go to Ecclesiastes for the idea of a soul, I think. But the ideas of an afterlife or angels, or the idea that Satan is an angel under the control of G-d and acting as a kind of undercover agent (rather than some rebellious fallen angel in a war against G-d) -- these concepts are only important to the extent that they help Jews keep the mitzvot.

Stacey said...

Yes, I see what you are saying. Thank you for that explanation. I guess our system is basically the same in the way that the gospels are like the "law" and the surrounding books are the "guide for living". I get so confused sometimes when Charley and Carol talk or especially when Rabbi Joe posts something - he totally leaves me behind! I will also try to remember to type "G-d" instead of spelling it out when I post things. Actually, christians are not exempt from the law - we merely live under a doctrine of grace that says no human can actually keep the whole law (I know I can't - I contantly am at fault!) A friend told me that in Israel on Shabbat, that elevators are set to stop on every floor, so no one has to push the buttons. That is so interesting (although, he said it was kind of annoying having to wait for the elevator to get to his floor). I am so jealous that you are going to meet C&C. They are such wonderful people. Sam and Arielle, also, are great! Oh BTW...I thought the strawberries sounded delicious...made me want strawberry shortcake!
Pray for the peace of Israel (and that the rest of the world would stop being idiots!)...xoxo S.