|أحمد محمد لبن Ahmad.M.Lbn|
مؤسس ومدير المنتدى
عدد المساهمات : 27085
العمر : 67
|موضوع: Chapter 11: Saint Paul الثلاثاء 22 أغسطس 2017, 5:49 am|| |
Chapter 11: Saint Paul
Lastly, I reread all of the books ascribed to Paul the Apostle. According to my Oxford Companion, Paul has been called "the second founder of Christianity" and it's true that he wrote the majority of the books found in the New Testament. What I had been taught about him and his work was quite varied.
When I had been growing up as a Lutheran, he had generally been portrayed as a bit of an authoritarian. Later, in the Baptist Church, he had been acclaimed as a great liberator, proclaiming freedom for Christians from bondage to the Law. I wasn't sure what to expect.
I had always believed that Paul taught that Jesus was God, because he said in Philippians 2:6: “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”, and in Colossians 1:15-16: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth.” But Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 11:7 that “a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.”
When I actually sat down and read everything Paul had written, I realized that figuring out what he had originally meant to say was going to be difficult. Paul was a Pharisee and had trained under some of the greatest teachers of his time.
The language and phraseology that he used frequently seemed confusing to me, perhaps because he assumed that those of us who read it would be more familiar with the context of his words and the intellectual climate in which he lived than we are today.
For instance, the Wisdom books of the Apocrypha were written around the time that Paul lived, and he was no doubt more familiar with their content than most modern day Christians. As I have already shown, these works and the book of Proverbs identified the Spirit of Wisdom as the firstborn of God's creations, an image of God, and as an active participant in the rest of God's Creation.
If Paul said that Jesus was the firstborn through whom all else had been created, and Jewish theology at that time identified the Spirit of Wisdom in the same way, then it seemed to me that Paul likely meant that he believed Jesus to be the incarnation of the Spirit of Wisdom. Certainly, the modern Christian interpretation seemed less likely to me in the context of everything else that I had read.
Likewise, if Paul said that man is the image and glory of God, and that Jesus was the image of God, these verses could not be interpreted to mean that Paul thought that Jesus was divine. When I was a Christian, I had always been sure that I understood what Paul had meant. Now, having read everything that I had, I realized that I probably hadn't understood him at all.
My teachers and pastors had always said that Philippians 2:6 proved Paul had believed that somehow Jesus had been God in Heaven, and then willingly had become a man on earth. I had always tended to avoid thinking about this verse too much because this interpretation had never really made sense to me.
No one had ever been able to explain to me how God could choose not to grasp at equality with Himself! Now I realized that in the Old Testament creation stories from which Paul had worked, the people who had grasped at equality with God had been Adam and Eve. According to Genesis, they had eaten from the forbidden fruit in order to gain knowledge of good and evil and so become more like God.
Now looking at what Paul had written to the Philippians, it seemed to me that he was only saying that before the Spirit of Wisdom left God’s presence and came among men, it had not committed the same sin as Adam and Eve had. Instead of being expelled from paradise, the Spirit of Wisdom had come willingly.
Another of the verses that had been written by Paul, Romans 9:5 said: “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” When I first read this, it appeared to me that Paul had been convinced that Jesus was God. Since Paul, by his own report, had been given a personal revelation and had spoken to some people who had personally known Jesus, this confused me.
However, my NIV Bible's margin notes relating to this particular verse stated that there were three versions available in the translation of early documents: “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” (the version found in later translations), “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is over all, God be forever praised!” and “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, God who is over all be forever praised!” (a version that no Muslim would argue with).
You can see how the different word orders and punctuation resulted in serious variations in meaning. I tried to find out, but could not discover, how the version used in the current translated text of the Bible was chosen over the others. Unfortunately, my NIV footnotes and my Oxford Companion shed no light on this question.
In speaking to some experts in this area, I have since learned that commonly, contentious translations like this one are put to a sort of vote where the total number of versions available are tabulated, and then the frequency of each in the earliest documents available is evaluated. Experts confer, and the most common early version is then generally perpetuated.
The problem I see with this sort of enumeration is that one is necessarily influenced by the bias of the people who were either the most prolific in recording their own preferred verse, or else most skilled in its preservation.
The truth is that Paul taught only one of the versions, and this was likely the one most consistent with his other work. It is possible, and maybe even probable, that the early writers and editors of the Bible, who compiled it hundreds of years after Paul died, simply chose the version of the verse that supported existing doctrine, and that this has been reproduced ever since.
Paul frequently referred to Jesus as a sacrifice, but he was quite unclear about how he felt that this sacrifice brought about our absolution. What he did say in Acts 13:38 was: “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed”, and in Romans 2:6-8 and 16: “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life.
But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” and “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my Gospel declares.” The Bible said that in Romans 3:25, Paul had written: "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood." If these were all his words, then it seemed to me that Paul had contradicted himself. However, my NIV said that another available version of this verse says: "God presented him as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood." I already knew from John that taking away sin and taking away punishment were two different things.
On the one hand, I found as I studied that Paul repeatedly said that Christ died for sinners, and that all were "justified" by his blood. On the other hand, Paul repeatedly taught that everyone would be judged on the basis of his or her (own) behaviour, obedience and faith.
Reading through Romans, it even seemed to say that Paul somehow felt that sin was created by God's Law. I actually began to wonder if Paul had purposely set out to confuse those he taught. I wondered if he had decided that he couldn't destroy the early Christians by killing them, and that he should destroy their faith instead by teaching false doctrines, argued skilfully enough to confuse even the best of Jesus’ followers.
In Ephesians 1:13-14 and Romans 8: 9-17, I finally found verses that indicated Paul taught just as Jesus had. I discovered that although his phraseology was very different from the other writers of the New Testament, his meaning had probably been the same. Salvation came to Jesus’ followers through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He said in Ephesians 1:13-14: "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession – to the praise of his glory" and in Romans 8: 9-17, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory."
It was pretty obvious reading this that among other things, Paul had a very different idea of what "Son of God" meant than what my evangelical teachers had understood him to mean. In 2 Corinthians 6:17, Paul took a selection of verses and phrases and joined them together as if they were all one, and I think that this conglomeration explains best his own understanding of the "Fatherhood of God". "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
On one of his trips to Jerusalem, Paul was confronted by the Jewish Christians about his obedience to the law. He was told by the leaders in Acts 21:24-25: “Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved.
Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
Paul, who is revered in Christianity as the man who taught that the Law no longer had any power over the followers of Jesus, is recorded in Acts 21:26 to have done the following: “The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.” So for all that he apparently wrote about the end of Law and obedience through the Law, Paul didn’t actually practice what I had always thought that he had preached.
Before being sent to Rome, Paul was questioned by Agrippa. In Acts 26:15-23, Luke records that he said regarding his ministry: "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles.
I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. That is why the Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.
But I have had God's help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles."
Paul was more easily misunderstood than Peter and John. Despite this, I don't think that Paul actually intended in his own letters and lessons to go beyond what Jesus had taught. Paul did not say that Jesus was God, nor did he teach that forgiveness came as a result of belief.
The only significant departure I think I found was that he tended to ascribe God's gift of the Holy Spirit to Jesus, even though Jesus had said that God chose to send it to those who obeyed him. It turned out that the problem that I had understanding Paul's epistles had been identified by Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 when about Paul, he wrote: “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.
His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” It was comforting to realize that I had not been the first to experience some confusion when trying to understand what Paul had actually meant. I thought it was unfortunate that this verse had never been the subject of a sermon in any church that I had attended, as it may have caused some of us to be a little less emphatic in our interpretations of his work.