Thursday, January 7, 2016

Quotes Of The Day: The Silence Of Paul

The weather just got "cold" here in the big apple and I've been trying to adjust getting back to a working schedule for the past few days while trying to squeeze in reading time of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. He's defending a thesis known as minimal mythicism. And integral to that thesis is to look at the New Testament in chronological order from the authentic Pauline epistles, through the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, which is the agreed upon order they were written by most scholars. If you read the NT that way, without any previous notion of Christianity—as if you were discovering Christianity for the first time, you will be able to notice that the story of Jesus goes from being very vague, and I mean very vague, to having more and more detail added to his life as you read the gospels in chronological order, exactly as a legend would develop. The silence of Paul's letters on any good detail of Jesus's life, ministry, and sayings is quite stunning. And many scholars and non-scholars alike have noticed this. Here's a quote from Billy Wheaton and Joy Fuller's book Hooks and Ladders: A Journey on a Bridge to Nowhere with American Evangelical Christians* that Carrier includes in his book:

Imagine for a moment that one of your friends writes you a twenty-page letter passionately wanting to share her excitement about a new teacher. This letter has only one topic, your friend's new teacher. [But] at the end of her letter, you still do not know one thing about her teacher. Yet, Paul presents the central figure of his theology this way . . . . It [seems] impossible to imagine how Paul could avoid telling one story or parable of—or fail I to note one physical trait or personal quality of—Jesus.

Noted New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann says of Paul:

Not once does Paul refer to Jesus as a teacher, to his words as teaching, or to [any] Christians as disciples. in this regard it is one of the greatest significance that when Paul cites 'sayings of Jesus', they are never so designated; rather, without a single exception, he attributes such sayings to 'the Lord'. . . . Paul thought that a person named Jesus had lived and that he now sat at the right hand of God in heaven. Yet he shows only a passing acquaintance with traditions related to his life and nowhere an independent acquaintance with them. In short, Paul cannot be considered a reliable witness to either the teachings, the life, or the historical existence of Jesus.**

It makes no sense at all, unless Jesus was to Paul a celestial deity who never existed on earth. There will definitely be more QOTDs inspired by Carrier's book in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

*(Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2009), p. 31
**Gerd Lüdemann, 'Paul as a Witness to the Historical Jesus', Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth (Amherst, NY:Prometheus Books, 2010), pp. 196-212

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