Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Contradictions with the Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul is a big player in the history of Christianity. He is credited with writing close to 60% of the New Testament; though many of those manuscripts have no verified authorship.

There are conflicting accounts of Paul’s conversion. Acts 9:7 states that when Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel, the men who were with Paul heard a voice but saw no man:

“And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.”

According to Acts 22:9, however, the men saw a light but didn't hear the voice speaking to Paul:

“And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spoke to me.”

Paul’s letters reveal perhaps more about himself than the actual Jesus of history. The Pauline Epistles were written before the traditional gospels. The four Bible gospels articulate an earthly messiah; a Jesus Christ messiah, born into this world. Paul is almost silent regarding an earthly Jesus, and for good reason; the earthly Jesus history had probably not yet been written (or created). Paul never mentions the virgin birth, even though it would have strengthened his arguments in several places. Instead, where Paul does refer to the birth, he says that Jesus “was born of the seed of David” (Rom 1:3) and was “born of a woman,” not a virgin (Gal 4:4). Had he been privy, much of that Jesus information would have been very useful to the doctrinal points Paul was making in the Epistles. Paul almost never mentions the teachings of Jesus. The earthly The Apostle Paul is a big player in the history of Christianity. He is credited with writing close to 60% of the New Testament; though many of those manuscripts have no verified authorship.

Paul (or whoever the authors were) rarely places a physical Jesus in his teaching. His references to Christ seem to be on a spiritual ministry and resurrection. Obviously, Paul never claims that he knew a physical Jesus. What isn’t so obvious is the earliest (biblical) gospel (Mark) makes no mention of the virgin birth. Paul’s Epistles (and Romans) were written about 10 years or more before Mark. Paul never mentions the virgin birth either. This coincides with many other Christian teachers during that same time period. They believed in a spiritual (never physical) Christ savior who conquered evil in the spiritual realm by way of a spiritual crucifixion and resurrection. This is very interesting when you go back and read the words ascribed to Paul. The earthly Christ, as seen in the later-written gospels, places Jesus as the Christ on earth.

Editing and multiple authorships can be seen in the fusion of teachings and doctrines. Put simply, many early Christians never believed that a physical Christ existed (they had nothing to do with a Jesus). Later Christians claimed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. One can easily see how a physical Jesus could be added to the later doctrines seen in the gospels. We tend to look upon the early church as neat little groups within a short time period with just a few problems in conflicting doctrine. This is simply not history. There were many years involved with many differences in belief about whom Christ was and who Jesus was. The group that “won” the battle of doctrine was the council of Nicea under Constantine’s rule. They were the chief editors of the Bible canon and therefore took the liberty of deciding that the person Jesus was the Christ. There were many believers who simply rejected an earthly physical Jesus as the Christ; they simply believed in a spiritual Christ. The many books and writings were fused together and traces of different doctrines are seen throughout the New Testament and apocryphal writings. In short, the Council of Nicaea was an early form of fundamentalism. They insisted on a “legal” book to rule the physical church. The other groups of Christians observed that real faith was spiritually internal; written documents were not authoritative to them. There were many kinds of Christians then and many now. (Thanks to Gary Lenaire)

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