Wikipediatricians and Ways of Knowing

Until relatively recently, I had no idea that there was such a word as “Wikipediatrician.” But having come across it, I was inspired to revisit the question of how to view this widely-used source as an educator. The term is used by some to refer to those who are so immersed in online sources that they fail to consult other kinds of resources even when they need to. And yet the punny word sounds like it ought to be a doctor who seeks to cure Wikipedia from things that ail it.

But what disease if any does Wikipedia suffer from? If we are to offer a cure, first we must have an accurate diagnosis. And I’m less convinced than I used to be that there is something inherently wrong with Wikipedia – although there are definitely issues with some of those who use it. Encyclopedia articles, whether written by individual scholars or crowdsourced anonymously by as much of the whole human race as chooses to participate, summarize the conclusions of researchers but do a poorer job by definition of making clear how those conclusions are reached. It is through painstaking study of individual details and then synthesis of the results. The case for evolution or the historicity of Jesus is not made in Wikipedia articles or even in popular books by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Bart Ehrman, or Maurice Casey, and denialist efforts to poke holes in those summaries will always manage to persuade some. But that is not because of shortcomings in the summaries, now who authored them, but a failure on the part of readers to understand how summaries relate to the processes whereby academic conclusions are drawn.

And so I think that I may have been too harsh towards Wikipedia at times in the past, when the real issues are with how it is used. What we “know” collectively, but no one of us is in a position to know or investigate individually, is a form of knowledge. Perhaps the issue is that, instead of a dichotomy between knowledge and non-knowledge, we need a hierarchy of knowing? As a recent article in 3QuarksDaily emphasized, there are different ways of knowing, and a BioLogos article a while back made a similar point. Collective crowdsourcing and sharing simply have to be one of those ways, since there is simply no way of investigating everything we need to individually. Sooner or later, we have to trust, and in some ways and/or in certain instances, trusting a community may make as much sense as trusting a highly-specialized individual expert. Because, as Yuval Havari emphasizes, we all have limited information, and the idea that any of us reasons in a wholly independent fashion is a deception.

In navigating these questions, the solution may not be to keep students away from Wikipedia, but to get them to write and edit Wikipedia articles, since there is evidence that contributes to their own information literacy development, as well as making a positive impact on our collective crowdsourced knowledge. But in the process, they also need to learn when it is safe and appropriate to rely on a consensus of the general public or the interested, and when one needs to seek out the consensus of those with training and expertise. In a pair of blog posts that I have been meaning to mention here for more than a year, Keith Reich has discussed the matter of trusting experts. In the first of those posts, he wrote:

Once one has achieved a level of expertise in a subject, his or her hard wrought conclusions ought to be trusted, at least by those with no business questioning them.  We ought to trust that those who have put in the hard work of learning the depth and breadth of their field know what they are talking about when it comes to their conclusions in their field.  Yet, since the internet seems to democratize all voices, many feel it their duty to inform the public that the experts are wrong.  This is a shameful practice and one that ought to be ignored.  Yet, all too often people listen to those spouting on about things they have no business spouting on about. Is there a good solution to this problem, or is this the price one pays for the convenience of the internet?

That sounds a bit like the fallacious appeal to authority, when understood individually. In those instances in which my own views are idiosyncratic, someone outside of my field would do better to trust the consensus than me, until such time as I persuade my peers to adopt my conclusions. Reich clarified this point in his follow-up post, in which he wrote:

While I said in my last post that one should not disagree with experts if one is not qualified to do so, I should give the following caveat: what I was really talking about was expert or scholarly consensus. Individual experts may not be correct. A particular scholar may hold an idiosyncratic, minority, or fringe opinion.  Individually, experts are often wrong on particular issues. Yet, there is something called scholarly consensus which non-experts have no ability to judge adequately.

A scholarly consensus is when the vast majority of experts in a given field, with the relevant skills and knowledge, agree that the evidence points to one conclusion. Depending on the field of study, scholarly consensuses can be quite rare.  Experts within any given field disagree on plenty of issues. Scholars are not inherently prone to agree with each other.  Therefore, when the vast majority in a given field do agree, non-experts ought to respect that scholarly process that led to the consensus. Why these consensuses ought to be trusted is that what is being claimed when a consensus is reached is that, of all of the people with the relevant skills and expertise, looking at the same evidence, the vast majority reach the same conclusion. Scholarly consensuses are hard-fought and contentious matters and are not reached lightly.

Another reason scholarly consensus ought to be trusted by non-experts is because, built in to the very fabric of the scholarly world is a strong motivation to overturn consensus.  Most scholars, myself included, want to be respected by one’s peers.  Because scholars spend their lives thinking and producing ideas, we want those ideas recognized for their merit by other scholars. One of the best ways to gain notoriety and respect in one’s field is to successfully challenge a scholarly consensus. If that occurs, what it means is that a particular scholar has gone against the majority opinion of experts, and has been able to convince the vast majority that his or her position is correct. He or she as caused the majority of experts to change their mind.  Therefore, there is a built in motivation for scholars to challenge consensuses. And, this does happen.  Long-held consensuses are often challenged.  Most of these challenges are not successful because the evidence does not support them.  But, sometimes they are successful, and the consensus is overturned, a new consensus is formed, and the collective knowledge of experts in the field grows.

See also Bart Ehrman’s blog post about how to find out “what most scholars think.” Michael Pahl also tackled the subject, in a blog post in which he writes:

[T]his is why that “strong majority” is so important. Again, having participated among experts, having gone to numerous academic conferences, I know that all those personal biases don’t normally come together into some large-group bias. Rather, the group acts as a system of checks and balances and such individual biases tend to get leveled out in the group. After all, academics are a pretty critical lot, by both temperament and training.

And some grand conspiracy among experts? Organizing such people is like herding cats. Seriously. Academics in particular don’t herd easily, if at all. (I know, I’ve been a department chair.)

That, again, is why the “strong majority” is so significant. If somewhere around 95% of published climate scientists from around the world say climate change is real and human activity is the root cause, for example, then, since I’m a non-expert in climate change, I’m going to believe them. Quite frankly, the idea that this many scientists from this many countries employed by a mix of public universities and government agencies and private companies and NGOs are involved in some giant hoax is, to me, far harder to believe than that these scientists are simply correct.

This “strong majority” of experts is important. It’s why we know the earth is round, that it revolves around the sun, and that it’s 4.5 billion years old. It’s why we know the Bible is a collection of ancient human writings from multiple cultures across centuries. It’s why we know that fascism has a terrible track record, as does any system that places too much power in the hands of too few with no checks and balances. It’s why we know you can stick a cryoballoon catheter up someone’s vein to their heart, inflate the balloon with nitrogen, scar the surrounding tissue, and so have a good shot at correcting atrial fibrillation (okay, I only know that because a friend is having that surgery done this week—amazing).

The “strong majority” of experts has given us the knowledge and technology we all take for granted all around us. Imagine a world without modern medicine, without high-speed transportation and communication, without electricity. Imagine a world without constitutional democracies or declarations of human rights.

All this and more is the result of the accumulation of expertise, experts collaborating together, building on the expertise of those before them. Ironically, it is only because of the expertise of experts that someone blogging in their basement can rail against experts and their expertise.

And so, at the end of the day, I’m with the experts. No, I don’t believe everything every expert says, even on their area of expertise. My own experience with expertise has taught me that. But trusting in the strong majority of experts has done us pretty well as a human race—this my experience with expertise has also taught me…

There has been a lot of blogging and other online writing on these sorts of topics in recent months. First Monday had an article a while back on credibility, trust, and authority in relation to Wikipedia (and see also their article on the use of Wikipedia for educational purposes in an Australian context). Darwin-bashing is but one tactic used in support of science denial, the deliberate sowing of distrust in experts in order to achieve ideological or profit-related aims. Figuring out how to combat dismissal of scientific conclusions, while also acknowledging that published scientific results can be wrong, is a challenge, but here too the solution seems to be to focus on consensus and not on individual results. Individual scientists and scientific papers are wrong quite often; the scientific community is much less likely to be wrong, and certainly less likely to be than someone who is not even directly engaged in the scientific process. And if we move beyond mere wrongness to the possibility of conspiracy, David Bailey has a nice explanation of why scientific consensus is not likely to be due to a conspiracy:

In short, there is no possibility whatsoever that major facts of science are being withheld or misrepresented in a conspiracy, at least not for any significant consensus conclusion of modern science. Alleged frauds of evolution, climate science, moon landings, vaccinations or cancer cures would require tens or hundreds of thousands of people, without any exception, to keep secrets over many years, which is exponentially unlikely (contrast these alleged conspiracies to the actual frauds mentioned at the start of this article, which involved only one or a handful of people). And nothing can stop maverick scientists from publishing papers that overturn conventional wisdom.

Unpleasant and inconvenient as some scientific findings may seem, we must accept them (provided they have passed peer review, have been examined and confirmed by numerous independent researchers and are accepted as well-established consensus in the field), not as incontrovertible truth, which can never be provided in science, but as reliable facts on which we can and must construct a rational worldview. To believe otherwise is to detach ourselves from modern scientific progress.

Randal Rauser also blogged about this, and why Donald Trump’s denialist tendencies are not the cause but the result of a widespread popularity of denialism and conspiracy thinking. Bob Cornwall made a connection between Pizzagate and information literacy, and NPR had a piece about a class that seems to do a good job of teaching skills that help see through fake news of that sort.

In an era when there is talk of the “death of expertise” and living in a “post-truth” world, we seem to need a multi-pronged approach.  We need to cultivate the ability to be both appropriately skeptical and appropriately trusting of human perception as a whole, globally and across cultures, including the media. And we need to accept the limits of but also the power of scholarship and expertise, especially or at least when the experts agree. Perhaps above all else we need to focus on cultivating the kind of humility that can acknowledge the limited perspective and imperfect perception of any one individual, nation, political party, or any other grouping.

Of related interest, see Matt Sheedy’s account of attending a skeptics’ conference, and a recent post on the ethics of integrating social media into the classroom. Note too this fast-approaching deadline for a conference on liberal education and discernment:

https://relcfp.tumblr.com/post/167710492449/liberal-education-conference-2018

Here is another conference with an extended deadline that relates to this topic:

https://relcfp.tumblr.com/post/169273448766/cfp-matters-of-fact

And while this call for papers deadline is past, the conference itself remains interesting, and a testament to the increasing focus on studying questions of truth, authority, and expertise:

https://relcfp.tumblr.com/post/167832135988/post-truth-an-interdisciplinary-exploration

An infographic comparing the Bible and Wikipedia perhaps deserves a mention here.

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  • arcseconds

    Bart Ehrman’s approach to knowing the scholarly consensus is to know all the scholars (or all the ‘critical scholars’) in his area in the USA — personally in many cases, or by repute.

    As a procedure to be followed by anyone seeking knowledge on a particular topic, this seems a little impractical…

    I suppose one could say ‘ask an expert, for they will know many of the scholars in their area’, but as Ehrman’s blog post indicates, this may not suffice, as his interlocutor asked an expert — Dr. Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary — and he said that most scholars think Luke wrote Luke, etc. How is an outsider to know who to ask?

    Also, I think one could raise an eyebrow at Ehrman’s restriction of the domain of discourse to North America.

    Firstly, does he know everyone who teaches New Testament in Mexico? I imagine he actually means ‘Canada and the USA’ due to the fact that they virtually constitute one higher education market as far as employment goes, whereas Mexico does not, which in itself would suggest a clarification.

    Secondly, given that it seems to me a stronger case could be made. My understanding is that at least broadly speaking the conclusions of ‘critical scholars’ in the USA are not far removed from similar people in other countries, including the UK and the other former colonies, and Europe, and other countries such as Israel, etc. Ehrman may not know all of these people personally, but he surely knows enough about them to have some idea that the scholars he refers to in the USA and Canada are not out on a limb. This probably situates the ‘conservative/evangelical’ scholarship as being globally insular, not an unimportant point, I wouldn’t think.

    • John MacDonald

      I find some of Ehrman’s blog posts really interesting and informative. For instance, I especially liked this post by Ehrman on Paul’s view of the resurrection: https://ehrmanblog.org/pauls-view-of-resurrection-for-members/

      It would be interesting to ask Paul exactly what he meant by the resurrected Jesus being the “firstfruits” (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the general “harvest” of souls at the end of the age where the Kingdom of God was imminent. We certainly know some early Christians thought this meant bodies emerging from tombs. For instance, Matthew characterizes the first stage of the general resurrection of the dead and Christ as the firstfruits as:

      “The tombs broke open, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus’ resurrection, when they had come out of the tombs, they entered the holy city and appeared to many people.… (Matthew 27:52-53)”

      • John MacDonald

        If Matthew’s view of the first stage of the “general resurrection at the end of the age” was of corpses emerging from tombs (Matthew 27:52-53), and that Christ was the “first fruits” of this, and this was ALSO Paul’s understanding of the end time resurrection, then Paul might have believed in an empty tomb scenario for Christ. Paul seems to think that resurrection meant the dead waking up from their graves (see 1 Thess 4;13-18)

        • John MacDonald

          It’s doubtful that simple postmortem appearances/hallucinations of Jesus to his devastated, mourning followers (Cephas et al) would have been enough to cause the belief that Jesus had been resurrected as the firstfruits of the general resurrection at the end of days, since postmortem “experiences” of loved ones were probably commonplace in ancient times (like today). Paul might have had the empty tomb scenario in mind, and just failed to mention it, just as he failed to mention much about Jesus’ biography (even when mentioning such details would have bolstered his argument).

          • Gary

            https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630183.700-falling-meteor-may-have-changed-the-course-of-christianity/?full=true#.VTn57eSsQ_s

            Before Paul’s episode on the road to Damascus, he persecuted Christians. So, the only information he had on Jesus were oral stories from the very people who he persecuted. So, why would a “vision” not only change his mind about Jesus, but give him a foundation for the Theology he later preached? Meteor? There was not Gospels to read, so what Matthew wrote was pretty much irrelevant to Paul. Actually, so was Acts.

          • Gary

            Btw, that reference was from wiki on Paul’s Conversion. Got to love it.

          • John MacDonald

            Hi Gary. I’m a “Jesus Pseudocist,” which is a “Jesus Historicist” (not a mythicist) who thinks an argument can be made that the original disciples MAY have lied about the visions of the resurrected Jesus / the empty tomb to continue on Jesus’ mission after he died. Movements often fizzle out after the leader dies. See my blog post (you have to scroll up) here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-noble-lie-theory-of-christian.html#comment-form There may indeed have been an empty tomb, because even in ancient times Christian opponents were claiming the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:13). I mention Matthew to point out that bodies leaving graves may have been what some of the Jews of that time thought of as happening at the end of days. I don’t think there is any reason to think Paul had the vision he reports. Regarding Paul’s conversion story/vision, Dr. Barrie Wilson, Author of “How Jesus Became Christian,” argues “Paul’s story is clearly made up, to give himself credibility. What people don’t realize is that, if true, it would undermine the whole point of Jesus’ mission. If all it took was a vision, why waste time with a 3-yr mentoring process?” Dr. Wilson points out that another example of a highly dubious vision is Peter’s vision of Jesus setting aside the Kosher laws. Regarding the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts, Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles but has been derived by Luke more or less directly from 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus. Paul is being portrayed as an even greater testimony to the power of God than Heliodorus. We always have to consider the purpose for stories in antiquity. For instance, when Phaedrus points out that Socrates has made up the ‘Egyptian’ legend he tells, Socrates replies, tartly, that what matters is not the source of such a story, but the truth or falsity of the idea it conveys (Phaedrus, 275 b-c). This is, in effect, to concede the falsity of the story as historical narrative, a point also signalled at the start of the story (see Gill, “Plato On Falsehood – Not Fiction, pg 58, 1993).”

          • Mark

            Peter’s vision doesn’t set aside the kosher laws, it just shows that gentiles who don’t follow them are not “unclean”, indeed that the whole topic has nothing to do with purity/cleanliness.

          • John MacDonald

            Some feel it does have to do with kosher laws too.

            According to the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10, Peter had a vision of a vessel (“a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners”) full of animals being lowered from heaven (Acts 10:11). A voice from heaven told Peter to kill and eat, but since the vessel (or sheet) contained unclean animals, Peter declined. The command was repeated two more times, along with the voice saying, “What God hath made clean, that call not thou common” (verse 15) and then the vessel was taken back to heaven (verse 16).

            At this point in the narrative, messengers sent from Cornelius the Centurion arrive and urge Peter to go with them. He does so, and mentions the vision as he speaks to Cornelius, saying “God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Peter related the vision again in Acts 11:4-9.

            Simon J. Kistemaker suggests that the lesson God taught Peter in this vision is that “God has removed the barriers he once erected to separate his people from the surrounding nations.” Kistemaker argues that it means Peter has to accept Gentile believers as full members of the Christian Church, but also that God has made all animals clean, so that “Peter with his fellow Jewish Christians can disregard the food laws that have been observed since the days of Moses.”

            Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, writes:

            “As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ In other words, there is no kosher code for Christians. Christians are not concerned with eating kosher foods and avoiding all others. That part of the law is no longer binding, and Christians can enjoy shrimp and pork with no injury to conscience.”

            Luke Timothy Johnson and Daniel J. Harrington write that this episode heralds a radical change in Peter’s “identity as a member of God’s people,” but also that “the implication is that all things God created are declared clean by him, and are not affected by human discriminations.”

          • Mark

            Yes, you are quoting familiar Christian supercessionist renderings. Peter himself finds the vision puzzling – unlike these tiresome parsons/ But when Peter does state what is revealed – and he does – it has nothing to do with food, nothing at all. Kosher by the way has nothing to do with cleanliness or purity. It isn’t clear that the vision does anything but bring him in line with pharisaical common sense. He had previously thought that gentiles and non-kosher food were somehow intrinsically lethal and radioactive, when in fact things like pure/impure kosher/trayf are matters of God’s command.

          • Gary

            I thought it interesting that at least there is another option to
            1. Paul crazy
            2. Paul liar
            3. Paul actually saw Jesus
            Now,
            4. Paul saw unexplainable astronomical event. Combined it with guilt over persecuting people. Became vision, and time to jump on the Jesus bandwagon.

            From the reference, Acts, “The three biblical accounts differ over whether his companions also heard this voice, or a meaningless noise.”…

            I don’t know about “Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles…”

            1 Cor 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

            Also, the people coming out of graves, Matt’s “first fruits”, – Paul only saw a “spiritual” Jesus, whether “Vision”, or whatever. No body. Might be why the Gnostics liked Paul. Body bad, spirit good. There were some who thought Paul was more Gnostic than proto-orthodox.

            Beats me.

          • Gary

            Speaking of body bad, spirit good…
            That might explain the lecture to avoid marriage, unless you can’t help yourself. I know people say that Paul expected the end of the world soon, so you shouldn’t get married. I expect that there was more to it than that. Don’t want to bring new spirits into the bad world as flesh and blood babies. If you want to start a religion, and make it big, you need your followers to procreate like crazy (just like the Mormons), to increase your flock. Regardless of the end of the world. Paul wanted numbers, and procreation is the best way to do it, unless you happen to be Gnostic.

          • John MacDonald

            The Mormons are a good example. Joseph Smith was a charlatan who invented the story that he found Golden Plates from heaven and then got others to “confirm” his finding of the Golden Plates.

          • John MacDonald

            Gary said: “Regardless of the end of the world.”
            -Paul preaching the end of the world and what might be implied by that (no need to marry) to emphasize that teaching would also be a good conversion tool: “The end of the age is here so you better get right with God and join the winning team!” Regarding the avoidance of marriage lecture, Paul may simply have wagered that single people without kids to look after would be more able to commit to the cause and go off and win more converts than married people with children and the obligations that entails.

          • Gary

            Or, Paul might have been Gnostic. See “Gnostic Paul” by Elaine Pagels.
            Not saying Pages thinks that. But see lays out the thinking of Gnostics at the time, and their interpretations of Paul. There were many different ideas floating around at the time, not all proto-orthodox.

            “ (no need to marry) to emphasize that teaching would also be a good conversion tool”…

            Tough sell. End of world coming, so no sex for you! Ouch!

          • John MacDonald

            Gary said: “Tough sell. End of world coming, so no sex for you! Ouch!”
            As I said, maybe Paul just thought unattached singles would be better able at going out and winning converts.

          • Gary

            So, Paul was primarily dedicated to recruiting disciples (the people that preach – like 200 years later, priests?). Not so much anyone that’s standing on the street corner? Don’t think so. He was recruiting Romans, primarily. This only makes sense if Paul considered bringing children into the world was bad, because the world itself was bad. Ergo – Gnostic. But I don’t want to obsess on the point. I simply don’t know. But someplace, there has to be common sense. End of world, common sense, better eat, drink, and be happy, because the shit is going to hit the fan.

          • John MacDonald

            And preaching the end of days was a proven model for attracting converts – consider the famous John the Baptist! The end is coming so you better repent of your ways and get right with God!

          • Gary

            Except, how many Jewish converts were really Baptized by John the Baptist? Is he a hero to the Jewish people? Or just to Christians?Remember, in John the Baptist’s time, there were no Christians. Only Jews. Are there many Jewish texts that mention John the Baptist? I personally don’t know. But I have never heard Jews be in awe of John the Baptist!

          • John MacDonald

            I think the no marriage thing has to be considered in the light of the idea of what would make it easiest to dedicate one’s life to Christ and bringing Christ’s message to the world, which, as I said, would be easier if you were single and unattached rather than married with children and tied down having to support them, etc. Paul says: “14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor 5: 14-21).”

          • John MacDonald

            1. Gary said: I don’t know about ‘Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles…’
            – Your right. I meant the details of the narrative account in Acts has no basis in the epistles.
            2. Gary said: “Beats me.”
            -Again, you’re right. Who knows what was going through Paul’s mind? lol. Maybe in his persecuting time he “learned” from one of the inner circle of the Jesus movement that the resurrection stories were lies (it’s amazing how honest people can be at the wrong end of a whip, lol) and decided to join up because he thought it would be an effective way of creating a better world. After all, God could be a fan of liars if it suited Him (see 1 Kings 22:21-22)

          • Gary

            “Who knows what was going through Paul’s mind?”
            Maybe the scales that dropped from his eyes were pussy, burn scabs that were a result of UV radiation from the meteor exploding? I guess the key question, is, is Paul a liar, and his effort is ala Joseph Smith (although Joseph was motivated by sex and power – can’t be with Paul), or was he really convinced by a vision? Meteor caused, or otherwise. I personally wouldn’t want to go and try to convert Romans, based upon a lie. Might result in your being put in jail, and executed! Wait a minute – that’s what happened to Paul!

          • Gary

            I think I’ll add one final comment, my personal “Paul-moment”, with more a dose of stupidity on my part, than religion.
            When I was maybe 5 or 6, the neighbor kids got into a dare/double dare moment, on how long you can stare at the sun.
            So, the next morning, I couldn’t open up my eyes. No pain, just a bunch of gunk had glued my eyelashes together. Apparently, the stuff coming out of my eyes during the night, had dried on my eyelashes, in the dry climate, and so I couldn’t open them. My mother took some warm water, with epsom salt in it, and slowly got the gunk off with a washcloth. I was luck – I was perfectly ok, except for the “scales” on my eyelashes. Needless to say, I didn’t tell my mother how it happened, and how stupid I was.

            So, I could easily see Paul getting his eyes sunburned by watching an exploding meteor, and combining guilt (instead of stupidity), with the event, to end up with a religious “vision”.

          • John MacDonald

            Paul was quite proud of his ability to deceive (like Odysseus). Paul writes:

            – “But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with trickery.” (2 Corinthians 12:16)

            – And remember Paul says he says one thing to the Jews; another thing to the Gentiles. He is crafty (see 1 Corinthians 9:20-21)

            Also some scholars equate Paul to “the Liar” who appears in the Dead Sea Scroll documents. He’s the member of that community who argues against keeping the Torah. Sort of fits. Either he is THE Liar or else he is a parallel Liar. Eisenman and some others believe that the community reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls is either James’ Torah-observant group or else a similar messianic Jewish movement….that view is not widely accepted, but I think they are on the right track, early Christianity being one of several messianic movements. That doesn’t mean that the DSS people were early Christians, just that the two groups shared similar views.

          • Gary

            Paul would have made a good used car salesman, or a politician. But can’t argue his success. The DSS people mostly disliked the established priesthood running the Temple in Jerusalem. But, reading how they lived communally, and buried their poop in the desert, I can’t help but picture them as Woodstock hippies, or Sierra Club campers, minus the women.

          • John MacDonald

            I believe wholeheartedly that Paul had good intentions, just that he was willing to bend the rules to realize his desired ends (like Plato with the Noble Lies in The Republic and Laws and Phaedrus – see also 1 Kings 22:21-22). Paul clearly had as his goal making the world a more loving place:
            – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another (Romans 12:10).”
            – “The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:14).”

  • chapman546245

    Wikipedia is a store of knowledge, Learner always learning from this site, we are really so lucky of living the technological era. As a wikipedian we are very helpful.