What If Paul Wrote The Letter of Galatians to Churches Today?

Posted: March 5, 2009 in Uncategorized

…and what if Christianity Today published it?  How would Christians react?  Check out the February 20 post over at The Sacred Sandwich.  Hysterical and frightening.

http://sacredsandwich.com/archives/2781

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Comments
  1. rey says:

    This satire or whatever it is supposed to be ignores a very important point, i.e. that Paul’s purpose in writing the Galatian letters was to PROVE to the Galatians that he is an apostle because they, and indeed all Asia Minor, were beginning to doubt his apostleship. Paul begins with the thesis “I am an apostle not of men but of Jesus Christ” and defends the thesis by saying:

    “I am independent of the 12, and better than them. Whereas they walked faithfully with Jesus throughout his earthly ministry and saw his miracles and heard his teachings, I received an internal revelation of Christ which is much better. Not only that, but the top 3–Peter, James, and John–are a collection of nobodies who only seem to be something, but whatever they are doesn’t make a lick of difference to me. In truth, they’re all Judaizers! Yet, even they acknowledge that God has chosen me to preach to the Gentiles, and they can’t add anything to me. I know you’ve read in that ‘book of Acts’ that in the Jerusalem Council they added letters to me to deliver to the churches, but its a lie. In reality all they tried to add to me in the Jerusalem Council was to remember the poor, as if I wasn’t already going to do that. And, look, Peter’s a big fat hypocrite! I’ll relate to you an incident that happened in a far away place which you can’t possibly verify, and which I have no reason to share with you other than that I need to make the real apostles look bad to make myself seem like an apostle. I chewed Peter down, and that makes me the top apostles now!”

    It is no wonder that after this letter, not only Galatia, but all of Asia Minor (many of which Paul established, and which includes Ephesus, Laodicea, Lystra, Derbe, Colosse) rejected Paul as a false apostle, as Paul complains to Timothy right before his death, 2nd Timothy 1:15 “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me.” John also represents Jesus as having him write a letter to Ephesus (which is in Asia) and say to them on Jesus’ behalf “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;”

    You mock those who find problems with Paul, but the fact is that Paul’s claim to apostleship stands on such shaky grounds that when challenged by the Galatians to prove that he is an apostle, the best he could do was attack Peter, James, and John.

    • Revolution says:

      Actually that isn’t the point of Galatians but thinks for stopping by!

      • rey says:

        It most certainly is the point of the first two chapters. Paul seeks to establish his apostleship by painting the real apostles as Judaizers. The rest of Galatians follows from this: Having painted the real apostles as Judaizers Paul then goes on to disprove Judaizing, and is thus persuaded that he has bashed the apostles sufficiently to prove his own apostleship. Of course, the Galatians saw that he was strawmanning the apostles and rejected Paul as did all Asia Minor, as Paul complains in 2nd Timothy 1:15.

      • Revolution says:

        I must disagree and I don’t know of a mainstream scholar from Oxford to Pepperdine that shares that reading. The problem in Galatia is that they have abandoned the Gospel preached to them and affirmed by the council at Jerusalem and Paul’s point is that the Gospel preached to them by him is valid because he is an Apostle called directly by Jesus just as the other Apostles were. See D.A. Carson’s cogent reading of Galatians as well as the lucid commentary by Longenecker or even the New Interpreter’s Commentary by Hays, etc.

        Paul is not attacking the other Apostles as Judaizers, he is attacking the Judaizers and demonstraing how he is an Apostle on par with Peter, etc. because the key to being an Apostle in the strictest sense is witnessing the resurrected Christ and being commissioned by Him.

        All the best,

      • rey says:

        Where do these scholars get their information? There is only one source, i.e. the epistle to the Galatians itself. And because Paul begins this epistle differently than all others, not with just “Paul an apostle” but “Paul an apostle not of man or by man but by Jesus Christ” and launches into a pseudo-biography, it is clear that the occasion of the letter is doubts about his apostleship in preference to Peter, James, and John. In fact, due to the effort Paul expends on bashing these three it is likely that these or one of them had visited the Galatians. John, of course, we know from the Bible to have been in exile later on the isle of Patmos which is right off the coast of Ephesus. And from extra-biblical tradition we know John to have taught in Ephesus for a lengthy amount of time. On his way to Ephesus, John probably stopped in nearby Galatia and refuted some doctrine of Paul like his view of predestination. This is the true occasion of the letter. Paul provides no real examples of Judaizing. Peter’s not eating with the Gentiles was probably merely that while the men from Jerusalem were in Antioch he ate kosher with them to keep from needlessly offending them as per Rom 14:15, and not that he literally started a new “Jews only” church as many commentators with wild imaginations imagine. It is ironic that Paul is actually bashing Peter for following his own teachings in Romans 14:15, unless you take the view that Galatians was written before Romans and that the Romans 14 teaching comes out of Paul eventually realizing that he misunderstood Peter’s intentions at Antioch! You say that Paul is “demonstraing how he is an Apostle on par with Peter,” but that is something that he cannot demonstrate because it isn’t true, which is exactly why he unjustly accused Peter of something Peter is not doing. In vain attempt to prove himself to be an apostle, Paul attacks the real apostles.

  2. rey says:

    If saying that somebody “seemed to be something” and then adding “whatever they were makes no difference to me” is not an attack, then….I can’t even finish the sentence. The notion is so silly. Its would be obvious to even a child that Paul is attacking the apostles. I saw it as a child, but I ignored it because I was told that the Bible was inerrant and that what I saw there could therefore not really be there. But, it turns out it is really there nonetheless.

    • Revolution says:

      Again, along with every scholar I have ever read, sees clearly that he issue is (1) Judaizers i.e., those who insisted on circumcision before being admitted to the Body, had come to Galatia and preached their message and attacked Paul personally as one who was not a member of the 12; (2) Paul is responding, not out of concern for himself but for the message he preached and he is responding to attacks on his credibility but he is not attacking Peter but only stating that he and Peter are on even ground because both were commissioned directly by Christ.

      “whatever they were”…does not necessarily refer to Peter, John, etc. but may refer to full gathering at Jerusalem among whom some failed to grasp freedom in Jesus.

      Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence from the early church that Paul and Peter were anything but co-laborers who appreciated one another.

      Again, I would urge you to seek out Don Carson’s work on the subject over at Bethinking.org esp. his historical reconstruction of the events behind the letter.

      Grace and peace.

      • rey says:

        “Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence from the early church that Paul and Peter were anything but co-laborers who appreciated one another.”

        The early church for me ends at 140 AD. Past that, tradition becomes meaningless as it becomes a synthesis of early Christianity and later heresy. Up to 140 AD, there is no mention of Paul in extra-biblical writings at all. Justin Martyr, writing in 140 (according to his own self, for he says “I, writing 140 years after Christ’s passion…”) the 12 apostles went throughout the world spreading the gospel. The 12 apostles spread the gospel through the whole world? Justin Martyr says so. He doesn’t know anything about any Paul. He doesn’t know about a bunch of layabout apostles who hardly ever leave Jerusalem and let an ex-persecutor do all the real work. He knows only of the 12 spreading the gospel throughout all the world. Paul only arrives in Christian tradition after 140, because Marion the Dualist Docetic, considered a heretic obviously and sometimes called “first-born of Satan”, is the first to have published a canon including Paul’s letters in late 140. The 10 Pauline epistles published by Marcion catch on even in ‘orthodox’ circles, and Paul is rehabilitated and brought into the orthodox canon, even though prior generations of orthodox didn’t know this man as an apostle because the first century churches had all eventually rejected him as did all Asia Minor (2 Tim 1:15, Rev 2:2),

      • Revolution says:

        The scholars get their information from the text of the Epistle, all the other epistles & books of the NT (including Acts) early Christian letters, etc. I’ll be honest with you, the only scholars who hold your view are conspiracy theorists who probably also believe that space aliens killed JFK and then abducted Elvis.

        All the best, bro.

      • rey says:

        You clearly overstate your case. I think the Tubingen school and Dutch Radicals pre-rexist alien conspiracy theories and certainly didn’t teach any, yet they believe most of Paul’s epistles to be spurious and clearly believe Paul to be a corrupter of the original message of Christ.

      • Revolution says:

        The “scholars” you refer to are wholly discredited (even now in Europe) and for good reason. I hate to say this but it is the height of arrogance to discredit 2000 years of Christian scholarship based on a questionable reading of a few paragraphs. Again, look closely and see what lies behind Paul’s anger, it is not his apostleship but their acceptance of a “different gospel” and then note what that different gospel is = circumcision then acceptance. National “identity markers,” as N.T. Wright and James Dunn note, separate so that there is Jew and Greek where there should be no boundaries…only a mission.

      • rey says:

        “Again, look closely and see what lies behind Paul’s anger, it is not his apostleship but their acceptance of a ‘different gospel'”

        But if Peter, James, and John really were teaching a different gospel, as Paul is arguing, then wouldn’t theirs be the right one and his the false one, since they were the real apostles that Christ very publicly approved and who are named for us in all the gospels? How can Paul come along later and speak of a vision he saw in private that even his armed goons who were with him didn’t see, and expect anyone to believe that his gospel is more accurate than the one being taught by Peter, James, and John? I agree with Paul that his gospel differs from Peter’s, James’, and John’s, but not with the reason he assigns. He says “they are Judaizers and want to mutilate your privates” but I say, they taught the moral teachings of Christ while he taught faith alone, and this is the real difference. But he must make the difference something bad, to scare the Galatians out of following Peter, James, and John, so he says “they want to cut your privates” which is not true.

        “The ‘scholars’ you refer to are wholly discredited” in your imagination, perhaps, but there is actually growing interest in their views, especially of Marcion’s role in popularizing the Pauline Epistles.

      • Revolution says:

        1) He is not attacking Peter, James and John. He does argue that he is on their level and, as Acts displays, they ultimately found themselves in agreement. Moreover, as to your earlier argument that Paul brought in predestination, read The Gospel of John and Peter’s Letters. Obviously, no disagreement.

        2) The scholars I refer to encompass Cambridge, Yale, Duke, Princeton, etc. The ones you refer to are teaching religion at state colleges for a reason (i.e., those like Marcus Borg) and spend their time publishing pieces of dook via HarperCollins and running to do specials on A&E (something even radical liberals like Norman Gottwald admit).

        Finally, Paul taught that we would in fact be judged by our works. Do a word seach.

      • rey says:

        “The scholars I refer to encompass Cambridge, Yale, Duke, Princeton, etc. The ones you refer to are teaching religion at state colleges for a reason”

        Jesus wasn’t popular with the Academics of his day either, i.e. the Pharisees, which is why they finally replaced him with one of their own, i.e. Paul.

      • Revolution says:

        First of all, that’s not an argument.

        Do you believe in God? Do you believe he didn’t care enough about the church for 2000 years to let such false teaching proliferate? Do you believe that the church would be able to successfully smother such inconsistencies for 2000 years? How? Has any such “conspiracy” ever survived so long?

        You still haven’t answered any of my statements re: predestination, other arguments in Galatians clearly pointing to the circumcision/gentile inclusion problem, etc.

      • rey says:

        “Do you believe in God? Do you believe he didn’t care enough about the church for 2000 years to let such false teaching proliferate?”

        Are you a Catholic? Because if you aren’t then this has got to be the most ironic question you could possibly be asking.

      • Revolution says:

        No and actually its not ironic at all as anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of church history would attest and, again, you didn’t answer the question.

        Speaking of church history, you realize Igantius and other early church fathers (and by early I mean late 1st and early 2nd century) quoted Paul approvingly.

      • rey says:

        You should read this article http://depts.drew.edu/jhc/Rpcanon.html, especially the section called “Second Coming Theories” which deals with the treatment Paul received from early ecclesiastics like Polycarp and Clement.

        “No and actually its not ironic at all as anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of church history would attest and, again, you didn’t answer the question.”

        For 300 years God apparently left the church without the doctrine of inherited sin from Adam, because nobody preached it between Paul and Augustine. The same for predestination based on nothing in the individual rather than based on foreseen faith. The same also for faith alone, if not longer, perhaps all the way to the reformation. If you try to appeal to various writers who used the phrase “faith alone” here or there, keep in mind that Pelagius himself said justification is by “faith alone” but he clearly didn’t mean it the way Protestants do. Neither did any of these writers. If you truly believe that Pauline doctrines have always been held because God has made sure of it, you have no accurate concept of church history whatsoever.

      • Revolution says:

        Again, I just read Ignatius, etc. all of which quote Paul approvingly and, again, the Gospel of John and Peter’s letters both teach predestination. You have to twist and dismiss large swaths of the canon in order to reach any other conclusion, which, of course, is what lies behind the desire for most of higher criticism…”let’s redefine anything that doesn’t fit our preconceived notions and call anything that we can’t re-define ‘inauthentic.'”

        I’ll stick with the canon and its teaching on predestination. After all, it is the same one that fed John Newton, William Wilberforce, etc.

  3. rey says:

    You should read this article http://depts.drew.edu/jhc/Rpcanon.html, especially the section called “Second Coming Theories” which deals with the treatment Paul received from early ecclesiastics like Polycarp and Clement.

    “No and actually its not ironic at all as anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of church history would attest and, again, you didn’t answer the question.”

    For 300 years God apparently left the church without the doctrine of inherited sin from Adam, because nobody preached it between Paul and Augustine. The same for predestination based on nothing in the individual rather than based on foreseen faith. The same also for faith alone, if not longer, perhaps all the way to the reformation. If you try to appeal to various writers who used the phrase “faith alone” here or there, keep in mind that Pelagius himself said justification is by “faith alone” but he clearly didn’t mean it the way Protestants do. Neither did any of these writers. If you truly believe that Pauline doctrines have always been held because God has made sure of it, you have no accurate concept of church history whatsoever.

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