Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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James McGrath Paul never met the historical Jesus. He was also a false prophet, predicting “we shall not all sleep” before “the Lord comes.” And he was delusional for teaching that “many” Corinthian Christians were “ill” and some had “fallen asleep [died]” because God was “judging” them for how they were mis-celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Also delusional for teaching that it’s best not to touch a woman and how it’s also ideal if one did not seek to be married and if married couples could remain chaste… because the Lord was coming soon. It’s also questionable that Paul wrote everything attributed to him. So that’s another delusion, assuming Paul did write every line and section in every letter. And modern biology doubts that Paul’s speeches concerning a literal Adam and Eve, and something called “sin,” had anything more than metaphorical clout. And one must wonder equally about Paul’s belief in a savior that had to die before God could truly forgive anyone anything. I guess God’s forgiveness is not like ours. We forgive and that’s it. But for God it takes a bloody miracle before He can truly forgive anyone anything. Hearing two grown men explain in dulcet tones what Paul really meant as if we should hang on every word attributed to Paul if we want to get to heaven and avoid having to kneel to Jesus “under the earth” is to treat the intelligence of one’s fellow humans with the utmost disdain. How many of us have seen and know for sure who the historical Jesus was and what he really said and did? How many of us has seen Adam, Eve? Heaven? Hell? How can one prove that the Bible is inspired? How long were you a young-earth creationist and why do you remain enamored with the purple prose game played by maximally conservative theologians like Wright? When will humanity grow up, or even the majority of people who choose to go into Christian theology?
Well, that is a lot of scattered points. I’m not sure why you are approaching Paul as though he ought to have known things that no one in his time did, as though he were not just someone who felt called by God, but someone who actually received supernatural revelation.
I’ll pick one of your points to focus on. I don’t think Paul started out by thinking that the death of a human being was required for forgiveness to be possible. I think that he or the Christians from whom his thinking about this derived were starting with the problem of how Jesus could be the Messiah and yet have died, and how to make sense of his death in the framework of a worldview which included the conviction that, if this unexpected state of affairs was not to be considered a disconfirmation of Jesus’ Messianic status, then God must have had a purpose for his death. And so Paul and/or other early Christians drew on the familiar practice of sacrifice, presumably as it had already been extended to figures like Isaac and the Maccabean martyrs, in an attempt to make sense of things within the framework of their thinking.
I see no reason why anyone today should feel obliged to share their assumptions, and if one does not, then obviously the conclusions drawn on the basis of those assumptions also deserve to be revisited.
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