a long lost letter back to Paul from the Jewish Christians at Rome that I totally made up

If I could go back in time, I’d love to be a fly on the wall to hear how the Jewish believers in the church at Rome heard Paul’s words in his letter to them. (Actually, if I really could go back in time I’d first make a pit stop along the way so I could win the Power Ball Jackpot, but I digress.)

Here we have Paul writing a letter to a church he had neither founded nor even visited and that had a significant Jewish population. And he says things like the following:

  • Gentiles (a.k.a. Greeks) may be sinners, but Jews are no better off in God’s eyes, since they are the ones who have God’s gift of Torah but don’t do what it says.
  • Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat as far as God is concerned because both are enslaved to the power of sin, both equally fall short of God’s glory, and both equally need Jesus, not Torah, to defeat that power.
  • This decentering of Torah to allow Gentiles to become equal partners with Jews in Israel’s story, though appearing to be an unexpected move, has actually been God’s plan all along, beginning with Abraham.
  • Neither circumcision nor maintaining food laws, both of which are commandments to Israel, remain necessary for God’s people–either Jews or Gentiles–in view of Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • Those whose conscience tells them that they need to maintain food laws may continue to do so, but rather than being praised as obeying Scripture, these believers are “weak” in their faith as opposed to those who are “strong,” i.e., those who understand that no foods are unclean.
  • Neither the weak nor the strong are to judge each other, for love and unity among the people of God take priority over whether Israel’s ancient practices continue to be maintained.

I hope one day we find a long lost letter written back to Paul by these Jewish believers. It might go something like this:

Dear Paul,

We read your letter with great interest, and it sparked no little amount of commotion among your fellow Jews.

Have you lost your mind?

We believe in Jesus as you do, and like you we are still scratching our heads a bit about why our messiah came in humility and weakness, even dying a criminal’s death, and then was raised. You’ve actually helped us quite a bit on those things, especially early on in your letter, and we much appreciate it.

But Paul, you’re Jewish. You’re one of us. Do you really think that the God of our fathers would simply reverse course and expect us to figure out that Jesus the Galilean brought an end to our ancient traditions–especially given how (according to the stories we heard) Jesus himself never said any of what you’re saying here?

We’ve never met, though your reputation precedes you. We believe that you are an apostle, but do you really think we should just take your word for it that all that we’ve known is now, at best, an add-on and at worst a hindrance to true faith in the God of our fathers? 

And we appreciate how fervently and creatively you cite scripture to support your point, but don’t you think you took your creative readings of scripture a bit too far? Was obedience to Torah really never central to the Lord’s overall plan? We’ve read our scripture cover to cover many times and we can’t find where God even hints at that idea.

Your reading of the story of our father Abraham to marginalize Torah-keeping is way over the top, and your handling of the Psalms and the Prophets to show how the Lord has always “elected” Gentiles is…well…you might as well say that there is really no advantage at all to being a Jew–like we’re one big mistake.

You try to get out of that implication a couple of times in your letter. You sense the dilemma, but frankly you don’t do a very good job of talking your way out of it.  

And then toward the end of your letter, when you talk about clean and unclean foods (which seems to be the real point of your letter), you call “weak” those who have the courage and faithfulness amid our pagan culture to maintain God’s holy laws, given by him to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and you call others “strong” for not doing so.

So, what’s up with that?

Paul, we cannot stress this enough: you can’t just pick and choose what parts of scripture you think are worth holding on to.

After all, if everyone did that, there’d be chaos. And where does it end, Paul? Once you start denying one part of scripture, there is no logical reason not to deny anything else. And then what happens to the authority of scripture?

You can’t do this sort of thing with God’s word and you can’t claim that God is telling you to deny what God had told us from ancient days up to know.

We respect you as our brother, Paul, but when you finally pay us a visit, which we do hope will happen in the not-too-distant future, we would like to sit down with you and hear from you more clearly your reasoning process in all of this–exactly how Jesus’s death and resurrection, which we firmly believe, leads you to draw the conclusion that God is turning his back on the very traditions he commanded.

So, those are our main concerns. If in the meantime you decide to write back, could you please work on writing shorter sentences, and maybe not breaking off in mid-sentence to follow another train of thought? That would help us a lot.

We would also appreciate it you used certain key words a bit more consistently–like faith, righteousness, and law. We see some ambiguity here and it’s already caused us no end of debate.

Most sincerely,

Your brothers and sisters in the faith,

fellow children of our father Abraham, according to the flesh

 

brief Bible thought: is there resurrection from the dead in the Old Testament?
Who's up for a little New Testament quiz? (sure you are. do it.)
Does the Old Testament predict Easter? (No. Actually, it does more.)
the Bible is like clay to be molded around Jesus--(from The Bible Tells Me So)
  • http://jwayneferguson.wordpress.com/ Wayne Ferguson

    Love it! :)

  • Orton1227

    They read Scripture “cover to cover”? Haha. Actually, this is totally great. Thanks, Peter.

    • peteenns

      Hey, I had to contextualize the letter for current readers. :-)

      • Alex Harman

        “Reel to reel” seems more apt for a Torah scroll.

  • http://www.walkingtowardsthelight.org/ John Marcott

    A thousand times yes!

  • mark

    Perhaps you could have added something along the lines of Paul saying that the institutionalization of ethnic based “scriptures” as a justification for ethnic self worship is as “pagan” as anything the Gentiles have been up to.

    All of which underlines the Christian need for a real theory of revelation. Not just of inspiration, but of revelation.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I can agree in general with your first 3 bullets on Romans, but question the last 3 because of Acts 21. I think Acts in general is more straightforward to understand than Romans so I use the principle of letting the clearer help me interpret the less clear. In Acts 21, Paul claims to be a practicing Jew (that is, a Torah pursuant Jew) and claims that he NEVER taught a Jew to “forsake Moses” that is, they should stay a Torah pursuant Jew. So when some harder to understand text like Romans SEEMS to contradict this, I wonder if somehow it is rather being misunderstood.

    • http://tiro3.typepad.com/spoudazo_logos_blog/ tiro

      Could you cite the passage where Paul says he is a torah observant Jew. He does say he is a Jew in vs.39. but that is all I’m seeing. what am I missing.

      I did notice in chapter 22 that after Paul says that Jesus sends him to the Gentiles that the Jews wanted to scourge him, and even bound him up intending to do so.

      Also, it seems to me that when Jesus fulfilled the Law, that did not mean that He forsook Moses, just that the purpose of the Law was fulfilled and completed. And now the Jews and all believers are to live within the law of God’s grace.

      • DonaldByronJohnson

        ISV Act 21:24 Take these men, go through the purification ceremony with them, and pay their expenses to shave their heads. Then everyone will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you are carefully observing and keeping the Law.
        James knows that Paul is “carefully observing and keeping” (Written) Torah and Paul tries to do what James suggests indicating Paul’s own agreement with the assessment of James.

        • peteenns

          Don, I’m not disagreeing with your overall point, but I’ve always read Acts 21 as I’ve read Paul having Timothy circumcised in Acts 16 right after the Jerusalem council said this was not necessary: for missional purposes when speaking with Jews. Compare these to Paul’s statements on the law in, say, Romans 5 and Galatians 4 when this missional posture is abandoned. Again, Paul was not “anti-law” by any means, though on the other hand what “keeping” Torah meant for him was clearly something very different from what could have been expected from Jews at the time.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            One aspect is that Paul was against some teachings of the so-called Oral Torah of the Pharisees when it negated Written Torah, as was Jesus, yet Paul claimed he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. Paul was against some Oral Torah, but for Written Torah, yet we today need to discern which is being discussed when nomos/Law is used; I agree this can be confusing, but I think this insight in critical to the correct interpretation of some of what Paul wrote.

          • http://tiro3.typepad.com/spoudazo_logos_blog/ tiro

            As for Paul saying he WAS a pharisee of the pharisees, imo was a statement showing that in the past he adhered perfectly to all the laws and knew them well. It was not a statement that implied Paul was still adhering to all the Torah laws.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            ESV Act 23:6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”
            Notice he says I AM a Pharisee, not I WAS a Pharisee.

        • http://tiro3.typepad.com/spoudazo_logos_blog/ tiro

          What about 1 Cor. 10:23-33
          “31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please allmen in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

          Romans 6:12-15
          “15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

          Romans 7 whole chapter

          “1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law ofher husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”

          It seems to me that Paul does not value the Law in the same way that he used to, and does not teach that it is necessary for Jews to be Torah observant. Rather they should have learned what sin is because of the law and are to avoid sinning but rather than serving the law are now to serve the Messiah under the new covenant of grace directed by the Holy Spirit.

          I’m trying to see what you are saying, Don, for I certainly respect your studiousness in the Scriptures. But I am just not seeing it.

          • mark

            Let me suggest that 1 Cor 8-9 and Gal 3-5 contain material relevant to what you and Pete are talking about. My impression is that Paul’s view of Torah in light of Jesus resurrected is that Torah now has the same status as other ethnic customs. Obviously, some observances–such as those in the ten commands–have greater weight than others. In saying this Paul is doing no more than following where Jesus had already gone. Just as obviously, many Gentile ethnic customs are grossly sinful. But the principle regarding both Jewish and Gentile customs remains the same, as Paul insists in the early chapters of Romans (1-2): all must be judged in the light of Jesus resurrected and what we can know by reason regarding the “hidden things of God” and right conduct for men.

          • http://tiro3.typepad.com/spoudazo_logos_blog/ tiro

            That is what I see as well. Paul does not anymore consider it a matter of righteousness before God to engage in the Jewish customs, as he used to think. But rather a matter of not offending some in order to bring them to the fulfillment in Jesus.

          • DonaldByronJohnson

            I see Romans 7 in light of David Instone-Brewer’s books on divorce and remarriage in context.
            Paul has previously pointed out that gentiles can “marry” Jesus in the new covenant, but Jews are already seen as being married to God in the Mosaic covenant, per some prophets. So how can they “divorce” God, since he gives them no valid reason for divorce? The only other way to end a covenant is by death, so Paul claims that Jews “die” in water baptism and so the Mosaic covenant “marriage” is ended, so they can marry Jesus in the new covenant. Jews should want to do this as it is a better covenant.
            In other words, Paul is doing some fancy footwork so that Jews are not at a disadvantage in “marrying” Jesus in the new covenant. It would be a real bummer if gentiles could get into it but Jews could not.
            The question is what is the relationship of the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant? I think the new covenant is defined in the first place it is found in Scripture, which is Jer 31. The “new” part of the new covenant is WHERE God’s laws are written, not the contents of God’s laws any Jew reading Jer 31 would know where to find God’s laws in Torah. In the Mosaic covenant, God’s laws are written on stone and on scrolls, but when written there there is no ability to actually accomplish them, but in the new covenant God’s laws are written on one’s heart, so one WANTS to do them.

  • C. Bauserman

    … This is absolutely beautiful.

  • Denish Sebastian

    Superb…… a lot of implications for inerrancy debate OR had I misread this post.

    • peteenns

      You read it correctly.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    Peter, I think this letter is old because I hear preachers preaching from it on TV and in some churches I have visited. Even certain scholars refer to it, though I have never seen it cited.

    Thanks for providing the text for us, but be careful of plagiarism by claiming it as your own.

    • SpyPlus

      wow! do you have a link for this assertion? if not, i would be very careful of saying someone plagiarized when you have zero evidence other than random generalizations.

      • peteenns

        JWOB is just kidding, SpyPlus :-) But thanks for having my back. Can I hire you as a body guard?

        • SpyPlus

          Ha! ok my bad sorry I get it now. I have been neck deep in christian culture for many decades and when i read the response it rubbed me the wrong way but at the same time i was thinking to myself i have never heard this before on TV or any church i have ever been apart of. hahaha. Awesome post one of my favorite.

          • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

            No sorry necessary Spy; it is really my bad. I should have added a smiley face because jokes are not always apparent.

            In the future I will remember to add :-) to any similar comment.

  • http://www.linkedin/in/stuarttlyman Stu Lyman

    This post is so timely!! Thank you! I’m am currently in the midst of check the translation of Romans into a local language in SE Asia. I’d love to translate this letter into the national language I work in. I love it. Most the changes I’ve suggested have to do with not having the perspective of the Jewish-Greek tensions in Rome. The target audience gets the tensions they just didn’t have the exegetical resources nor had they ever been given much of the historical and cultural back ground of why Paul wrote this letter. That’s not surprising… I never was either in my conservative evangelical upbringing. Makes a world of difference!!

  • James

    In the Gospel of John Jesus says Moses wrote about him but the Jews believe neither him nor Moses. (5:47) Moses gave the Torah but the people don’t keep it. (7:19) Jesus agrees the law of Moses shouldn’t be broken but then calls it “your law.” (10:34) It is as though Jesus’ personal authority comes from higher up–his relation to the Father. The Evangelist too will quote Scripture as fulfilled in Jesus. His goal in recording all the “signs” Jesus performed is “that you may come to believe…” (20:31) The NT canon was eventually accepted by most Christians as authoritative and normative and it remains firmly grounded in the revelation of Israel’s God put to writing. So, we are still stuck with the works of Moses, Isaiah, John and Paul and their responsible use in the context of today–shocked as we may be by the particular slant each one puts on the Grand Story.

  • Mateo Bergland

    Moshe brought us Torah and Yeshua HaMashiach fulfillled it and the Prophets.

    • RileyS59

      That “but” should really be an “and.”

      • Mateo Bergland

        I agree wit u.

  • http://www.godconversations.com/ Tania Harris

    brilliant

  • http://thescripturesays.wordpress.com/ Josh
    • peteenns

      Darn it all that Justin Martyr. I hate when he beats me to it.

      • http://thescripturesays.wordpress.com/ Josh

        lol. Maybe I should be more specific in saying he gives a typical Jewish response to the Gentile Christian rejection of the Jewish law. I’ve never heard of someone writing a response to Paul’s letter like you have.

        I once created a variant reading of Romans 1-4 assuming the audience consisted of Christians and Non-Christians where Paul argues one only needs to wear a red shirt to be saved… Just for a laugh and hopefully help people understand what it would be like being a Jew and hearing Paul’s letter afresh.

        https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x6NVbEK3ryfLURONNYFcGe7PaEDRdW5Ck-NeANzbelA/edit?usp=sharing

      • http://davidmschell.com David M Schell

        In all fairness he had an insurmountable head start.

  • Seraphim

    I don’t think this is qualitatively similar to what Evangelicals are criticizing you for. Paul was arguing that the Torah, because of its ethnic identity badges, was blocking the way to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, which required a transnational family without identity badges. Hence he says that the Torah was given as a schoolmaster but has now served its purpose- not that he’s discovered that the Torah was irrelevant all along. Indeed, the Torah is central to Paul’s narrative soteriology. It came to shut up all things under sin. In Romans 7, Paul describes how God used the Torah to draw the powers of sin together into one point, where they could be condemned in the flesh of the Messiah. Now, through the Spirit, the circumcision of the heart promised in the Torah in Deuteronomy 30, we can truly “do the law” by embodying the life of Christ. That’s because Torah was modeled on divine wisdom, and Christ is the incarnation of divine wisdom.

    Paul does get creative in his use of Scripture, but once you understand the big shape of his narrative world, you see that there’s a method to his madness, and it’s one you can take back to the Old Testament in a pretty satisfying way.

  • Norman

    Pete,

    It seems to me that Paul is just voicing a Jewish rift that had been brewing for centuries within their different groups. There is a perception that one can detect dissatisfaction with the Jewish status quo throughout OT and 2nd T writings. Apparently there were enough Jews and Gentiles that agreed with Paul to help coalesce around his projections.

    In Romans Paul builds his case from constantly quoting or alluding to OT scriptures that point to the idea that the Jews if they continued as in the past were not being the priest to the Nations as they were called to be. Paul and the NT writers were calling the status quo Jews of their day on the carpet and we can’t expect it to have been a cake walk for Paul. After all we see this simmering in Jerusalem in Acts 21 where the James led faction was quite uncomfortable with Paul’s teaching on circumcision. This battle worked itself out for years in which factions of Jewish Christians never really bought totally into Paul’s Christology implications. In fact Messianic Jews today are often still at variance over the same Jew/Gentile issues.

    Paul’s implication in Romans 5-8 is that works of the Law to obtain righteousness was why Adam was kicked out of the Garden and by extension why the Jews with their embracing of law (self-justification if you will) have suffered at the hands of the Nations (essentially kicked out of the Garden themselves via the Exile). Paul’s theme is therefore for Jews to “cast out the slave woman” in order to embrace the “free woman”.

    Paul simply could not have gained traction with his ideas if it had been something completely out of the blue the no one had ever contemplated.

    • Andrew Dowling

      Paul was apostle to the Gentiles; I don’t find much evidence that a large number of Jews embraced his theology.
      In fact when it comes to the place of Torah and Jewish identity it’s not certain whether the other Jewish-Christian pillars (James, John, Peter) embraced his theology either, at least to the extent that Paul took it.

      • Norman

        Andrew, I think you understate what happened. Paul did not get the majority of Jews to even accept Christ, yet he found pockets of Jews who agreed with him . Paul called them the remnant faithful and there were enough of them that he had to deal with the gentile:Jewish conflicts arising in these communities.

        I think it makes for an interesting discussion to revisit the need to adhere to mosaic law practices today. Are we convinced that we can now discard Paul’s theology as antiquated and outdated. Or can we still say his idea that following the law was a change that needed to be made in order to walk in the freedom of life via the spirit.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Norman, we agree that the Christian theology of heart of Law=the internal ethics and not external markers was not a novel development and had been in development over some time within Judaism, or better put was a constant internal debate among the Jewish people.
          My comment was more to push back a little against the more superseccionist tendencies of much of Christian theology which I think Jesus would’ve deplored. Clearly Jesus was by and large Torah observing although he did break certain aspects of Torah, mainly the “cleanliness code” which in his eyes disenfranchised certain people. Which I think goes to the heart of the matter. One can keep kosher and do it out of love for God and for the purifying spiritual and ethical benefits it can infer in the right mindset. Or one can do it in a self-righteous way which ends up creating classes of ‘in’ and ‘out’. I think Jesus understood this nuance and Paul, not out of malice but in his apocalyptic fervor, went a more “hardcore” route.

          Seeing that, it’s completely understandable that Paul did himself no favors at Antioch by trying to throw out the Torah baby with the bathwater. I don’t think it was just a case of the righteous Paul pointing out the old corrupt ways of the “judaizers” . . .I give more credit to the people there who were much close to Jesus than Paul was. It’s wasn’t a black and white issue.

          Torah was/is not just an ethnic marker but was a tool through which people differentiated their lives, ethically and morally, from their pagan neighbors. Some must have understandably seen Paul and his speaking in tongues, estatic followers and (wisely) thought . . “well if the end doesn’t come, what will prevent them from becoming just like the pagans without a framework like Torah?” (and Torah in this case means less ritual and more spiritual/ethical ;see Epistle of James, . .the Jesus movement clearly did envision a different Torah than some other Jews did)
          And history shows once Christendom came to power, with everyone being “free” in Christ, Christendom pretty much did just end up being Rome 2.0 in many ways. Would things have been different if the more ‘Jewish’ Jewish Christianity had carried the day and not Paul? Maybe, maybe not . . I honestly don’t know. But food for thought . . pun intended!

          • Norman

            Andrew,

            That is a very well thought out and articulated analysis. I agree with much of what you have stated.

            I would also add though that Paul appears to be more nuanced
            about these subjects than we might give him credit for. Pete alluded to some of
            that but Paul says he would give up his rights in order to protect the conscious
            of those who may be overly stepped in areas of Judaism that have taken on “weaker”
            concepts. It may be hard to know exactly what Paul believed unless we could sit
            him down and question him extensively because some of these writings may be
            collaborative writings to an extent. But
            he was often very accommodating (Acts 21, Rom 14 & 15 and 1 Cor9 ).

            I do believe though that essentially Paul and many of the
            other writers of the NT are reflecting some concepts that we see within the
            Essene community to an extent. I personally believe at this time from my own studies
            that the OT was often veiled subversive literature that was fermenting the
            seeds of rebellion against corruption within the Jewish Leadership and
            priesthood and these first Christians took it and ran with it. It is a constant
            drumbeat and theme that the Leaders were not good shepherds and the Temple
            system had become a “den of thieves”.
            They didn’t take care of the poor and widows and thus the reason that
            the idea of a Heavenly Messiah Priest that reigned eternally was agreeable to
            their concepts. The Government was set on high out of the reach of corruption
            became the idea.

            I think your point that Christianity turned into Rome 2.0 is
            spot on but I would say it turned into Jerusalem 2.0 might be the better match.
            We see that both Jerusalem and Rome (either one would be the harlot Babylon) were
            just not good for the people. I believe
            that is the theme of Revelation together in that the Beast from the Sea
            represented Rome and the former Pagan Nations while the Beast from the Land
            represented the Corrupts rulers and Priesthood of Israel (the land formed and
            raised up out of the Sea). They both got
            their comeuppance if you will from the sword of the Word.

            I also think the writers of Deuteronomy were giving us
            commentary on Mosaic Temple worship when they symbolically had Moses die
            outside the Promised Land. I’m guessing
            Deuteronomy was part of exilic literature and is reflecting this already well
            developed theme that corruption had overtaken Judaism and the seeds were found
            in the perversion of the Law. I think
            Paul was steeped in this mindset already and this is really reflected in his
            writings in Romans 7 & 8 especially where he laments the difficulty of
            living under the Law system. He literally
            wails at its failure.

            Romans 7:22-25 For I
            delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
            but I see in my members another
            law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

            I think we have a lot we can learn if we can collectively
            unshackle ourselves from much of our overreaction due to the evangelical
            mindset.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Norman, thanks for the kind words. I concur critiques of the Temple and corruption of the priestly class run rampant throughout the Prophetic tradition (per usual, we will have to agree to disagree on the circumstances surrounding the writing of Revelation :). But there are differences between wanting to clean a house and wanting to demolish the house and build a new one.

            And just to add, I don’t want to give the impression of being a Paul basher. I think the (authentic) Paul of the epistles was a great man filled with the Holy Spirit. Despite it being taken out of context and butchered at innumerable a wedding, 1 Corinthians 13 is probably the greatest articulation of the Christian paradigm ever expressed.

            But Paul has been become an issue when many have taken his words both out of context and for purposes for which they were not intended.

  • axelbeingcivil

    “Paul, we cannot stress this enough: you can’t just pick and choose what parts of scripture you think are worth holding on to.”

    Good advice. Have you picked a time to go out and start killing all those neo-pagan groups who call themselves witches? Because I’ve heard you’re not supposed to suffer them to live.

  • Daniel Merriman

    This is a delightful post. I enjoyed it immensely when I first read it, but a few hours later a more serious thought came to mind. Do you not think it possible that the Jews in Paul’s audience who were so familiar from their own scriptural interpretive traditions that allowed for allegory, typology and even hyperbole might have taken Paul’s letter more in stride? Paul so often seems over the top, particularly when he talks about Judaism, but maybe he was making points that escape us today, blinkered as we are by the gramitical historical method.

  • Muff Potter

    Dr. Enns,
    I think it would be really cool if you could hop aboard Mr. Peabody’s way back machine and see first hand what Saul of Tarsus was up to in the old Greco-Roman world.

  • Sophia Sadek

    I like Reza Aslan’s conjecture on the friction between Paul and the community in Jerusalem. According to the paradigm he presents, such a letter would not be nearly so congenial. It would be more of a cease and desist order. Or they might have written something like:

    To whom it may concern,

    Saul of Tarsus, AKA Paul, is not, repeat not a legitimate disciple of Joshua bar Joseph. He never has been and never will be. He is a charlatan and a fraud who seeks to profit from the name of our teacher. He has caused great harm to our cause.

    Without wax,

    Friends and students of Joshua bar Joseph

    • Edward Colcord

      Saul (couldn’t use it ’cause it means ‘Son’) : the greatest press agent, ever. Takes a nice rabbi who gained some insight and turned him into a Greco-Roma “god”. Oy.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Another way to look at Paul’s mission is that he could not stop the school of Jesus by stoning its members, so he stopped it by pretending to be a member. It is an early form of subversion by infiltration. The true followers of Jesus were burned at the stake generations later.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Tell me you don’t actually believe this conspiracy theory drivel . . .

          • Sophia Sadek

            Conspiracy? It was one guy’s mission, not a conspiracy. If anything could be considered a conspiracy it was the conspiracy to raise Paul’s mission above that of Jesus. That required the support of the emperor centuries after Paul’s demise. That conspiracy is not merely theory. It is historical fact.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Sorry, I’m afraid you are a little behind on Christian history. Pauline/Catholic Christianity was the major form of the faith by the first quarter of the 2nd century . . .almost 200 years before Constantine. It even stamped out the most “pro-Paul” Christian leader in Marcion, who advocated the complete breaking of Christianity from Jewish tradition.

          • Sophia Sadek

            That is an easy claim to make when the definition of Christianity hinges on Paul’s mission. The followers of Paul had a reputation of deception and corruption. They used those tools to their own advantage.

          • cajaquarius

            Good point. Paul even gloats right in Scripture about using guile to win converts. Between that and adding nothing of value to the teaching of Christ, I am surprised that anyone still quotes the guy with and pretense of authority.

  • bill wald

    The reply is Acts 15:6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Menand brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the LordJesus Christ[a] we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

    12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. 13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Menand brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

    16 ‘After this I will return
    And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
    I will rebuild its ruins,
    And I will set it up;
    17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,
    Says the Lord who does all these things.’[b]

    18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.[c] 19 Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, fromsexual immorality,[d] from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

    The Jerusalem Decree

    22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely,Judas who was also named Barsabas,[e]and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

    23 They wrote this letter by them:

    The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

    To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

    Greetings.

    24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”[f] —to whom we gave nosuch commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.[g] If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

    Farewell.

    Would it not been much simpler to impose the Ten Commandments or the 613 statements on the gentiles? Why did the Council select these rules? I suggest that the things mentioned were NOT theological dogma but rules to keep the peace between Jews and gentiles.

  • Ross

    Thanks for that, it was a nice break, personally I find that humans seem to take religion a bit too seriously and ought to approach it with a sense of humour, like God does.

  • Paul Spyksma

    This sounds exactly like what you hear when discussing equal marriage rights with a baptist. Or a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Or anyone from the URC, for that matter. Thanks for the chuckle, Paul


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