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Re: [Synoptic-L] The Conversion of Paul

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  • David Cavanagh
    ... I m left wondering why it is supposedly more objective and exemplary of academic distance to insist that what Paul experienced as a supernatural vision
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 31, 2010
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      On 31/01/2010 5.48, brooks@... wrote:
      >
      > To: GPG
      > Cc: Var
      > On: The Conversion of Paul
      > From: Bruce
      >
      > I have found out something. It is possible to go to your library, take
      > off the shelves everything with "Paul" in the title, pile them by a
      > chair, and read through them, say 3000 or 4000 pages, without getting
      > the answer to the first question a child is likely to ask about Paul,
      > or even having that question come up at all. That question is:
      >
      > Why did he change?
      >
      > I suspect that the answer is ultimately the same as the answer to this
      > question:
      >
      > Why did Mician logic emerge in the 04c?
      >
      > But at this moment I am interested in what answers other people may
      > have thought of (or found convincing) to the Paul question. Paul's
      > conversion was probably experienced by him, and it was certainly
      > represented by later writers, as an instantaneous and supernatural
      > vision. I take that as symbolic, including the possibility of
      > symbolism in the mind of the person to whom the change of view is
      > happening. But what precisely is being symbolized? What does that
      > change consist of, and what produced it? What did it solve, in the
      > mind of Paul?
      >
      I'm left wondering why it is supposedly more objective and exemplary of
      academic distance to insist that what Paul experienced as a
      "supernatural vision" was really "symbolic" rather than taking it at
      some kind of face value. Granted that academic study deals in
      objectives, this still comes uncomfortably close to a Dawkins-like
      reductionism for my liking, given that visions are -by their very
      nature- a subjective phenomenon.

      In any case, it's arguable that Paul did not become a Christian only on
      the basis of a "supernatural vision" or encounter with the risen Christ.
      After all, Galatians 1:17-18 may indicate a gestation period of three
      years before Paul fully absorbed whatever happened on the Damascus Road.

      And -as a parting consideration- doesn't this discussion belong on
      "Corpus Paulinum" or a similar forum rather than "Synoptic-L" ?

      David Cavanagh
      Major (The Salvation Army)
      Florence (Italy)


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
      To: Synoptic Cc: GPG, WSW In Response To: David Cavanaugh On: The Conversion of Paul From: Bruce I had wondered why Paul changed, from being a persecutor of
      Message 2 of 11 , Jan 31, 2010
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        To: Synoptic
        Cc: GPG, WSW
        In Response To: David Cavanaugh
        On: The Conversion of Paul
        From: Bruce

        I had wondered why Paul changed, from being a persecutor of early
        Christianity to being a zealous apostle of Early Christianity, and
        invited opinions or references.

        DAVID: I'm left wondering why it is supposedly more objective and exemplary of
        academic distance to insist that what Paul experienced as a
        "supernatural vision" was really "symbolic" rather than taking it at
        some kind of face value. Granted that academic study deals in
        objectives, this still comes uncomfortably close to a Dawkins-like
        reductionism for my liking, given that visions are -by their very
        nature- a subjective phenomenon.

        BRUCE: I think the bottom line here, uncomfortably enough for some, is
        that (1) faith and reason don't mix, and that (2) academe is dedicated
        to reason. If study of the early Christian movement is to occur at all
        in an academic context, it is going to be on what David calls an
        "objective" basis. This excludes taking miracles literally. Visions
        people see are real to themselves, and are reported as facts, and can
        be dealt with by the academic historian accordingly. Historians need
        not share a belief to record it and treat it as part of the record.
        Napoleon's feelings or lack of feelings for Josephine are as
        subjective as you get, I should suppoed, but no historian shrinks from
        making them (when appropriate) part of the story. It is just that the
        historian does not need to feel about Josephine exactly as Napoleon
        did. In this distance, in standing at one remove from the people in
        the story, while trying to report them as accurately as possible,
        history as a discipline gets whatever credentials it may have as an
        academic discipline.

        DAVID: In any case, it's arguable that Paul did not become a Christian
        only on the basis of a "supernatural vision" or encounter with the
        risen Christ. After all, Galatians 1:17-18 may indicate a gestation
        period of three years before Paul fully absorbed whatever happened on
        the Damascus Road.

        BRUCE: We don't have to take Paul's word for it, or for anything else.
        It does make sense to notice what he says, or what he thinks is
        happening to him. His take (by which I do not mean the Acts narrative)
        is that his turnabout was sudden, not gradual. We might want to argue
        with him, but I think his testimony as a witness is admissable.

        DAVID: And -as a parting consideration- doesn't this discussion belong
        on "Corpus Paulinum" or a similar forum rather than "Synoptic-L?"

        BRUCE: That's for the list managers to say, always assuming they are
        reading this stuff at all. If hauled before the Board to explain my
        conduct in raising the question, I would answer in more or less this
        way:

        1. It is given that a discussion of Mark, including the possibility
        that Mark is a stratified text, is legitimate on this list according
        to the list's own stated rules.

        2. I have previously presented, on this list and at SBL meetings both
        local and national, a hypothesis of an accretional Mark, specifically,
        a core narrative about half the present size gradually augmented by
        new material. The successives waves of new material are there, it
        turns out, to update the text so as to keep it current with prevailing
        doctrine. That is, the layers of Mark give, like an ice core or a
        stratified archaeological site, a mini-history of evolving Christian
        doctrine at one center (the Markan community, wherever it was) from
        very early times onward, for a total time depth of about 20 years,
        including most of the career of Paul. If this is true, and standard
        philological procedure seems to support it (I refer to my earlier
        critique of Adela Yarbro Collins's stratification of only one portion
        of Mark, which in my judgement respected standard procedures), then
        the history of doctrinal evolution recovered this way from Mark can be
        in turn an important new datum with which to approach other problems.

        3. It is, or ought to be, relevant to even the most narrow construal
        of "synoptic" to display evidence in favor of a synoptic hypothesis,
        however remote the evidence in question may be from synoptic data per
        se. My Paul question was asked in hopes (now seen to be vain) of
        eliciting evidence along that line, without exactly saying what the
        bearing of the evidence on the question would be. I will now state
        what it would be, or would have been.

        4. Paul had a "zealous" temperament, to use his own term. His zeal was
        at first directed against the young belief, and then with equal energy
        exercized on its behalf. What changed him? (I ask the question that
        way as respecting Paul's own account, of an event happening to him,
        and not a decision of his own). Was it guilt for those he had killed?
        There is no sign of it in his writings. Was it the acquisition of a
        larger human outlook? Again, no sign; Paul is narrowly focused from
        beginning to end. I think it may be that the Christianity Paul at
        first opposed did indeed deeply offend his Pharasaic sesnsibilities,
        but that a later version, which he encountered after a period as a
        persecutor of primitive Christianity, made more of an impression on
        him, creating an inner cognitive dissonance which, given his logical
        mind (logical of a certain sort, but not shrinking from the
        conclusions to which logic leads: one has to concede Paul his courage)
        would have sooner or later produced a break. That is, it is possible
        that Christianity A struck him as merely offensive, whereas
        Christianity B raised questions about Judaism which in the end he
        could only answer by agreeing with them. Hence the intellectual
        explosion and reconfiguration.

        5. What might that logical challenge have been? We have two kinds of
        clue. One is the point of doctrine Paul most stresses in his earliest
        letters (minus their interpolations, the prior question on which some
        good recent work has been done). Whether or not his emphasis later
        changed is not decisive; what counts is his first convictions. As
        David points out, these may be lost to us in a Nabatean mist, but we
        can only work with the nearest thing we have.

        6. The second is the series of doctrinal changes that the stratified
        Mark reveals to us as taking place in at least one locale of early
        Christianity.

        7. If the two match, that is, if the difference between Christianity A
        and Christianity B should fit what we see in Paul's earliest
        doctrines, then we might have something interesting, I submit that
        such a result would also be interesting in the specifically synoptic
        sense, as tending to confirm a synoptic theory.

        Respectfully submitted,

        Bruce

        E Bruce Brooks
        Warring States Project
        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      • David Cavanagh
        ... DAVID: I beg to differ. This is the hoary old chestnut that faith is irrational. Not so: faith, in all major world religions (Christian, Buddhism, Muslim
        Message 3 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
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          On 31/01/2010 20.54, brooks@... wrote:
          >
          > To: Synoptic
          > Cc: GPG, WSW
          > In Response To: David Cavanaugh
          > On: The Conversion of Paul
          > From: Bruce
          >
          >
          >
          > BRUCE: I think the bottom line here, uncomfortably enough for some, is
          > that (1) faith and reason don't mix, and that (2) academe is dedicated
          > to reason.
          >
          DAVID: I beg to differ. This is the hoary old chestnut that faith is
          irrational. Not so: faith, in all major world religions (Christian,
          Buddhism, Muslim etc) has its reasons. Certainly there are
          presuppositions involved, but that is the case with all topics in which
          humans seek for (or create) meaning. That includes academe, which has
          its' own presuppositions -a good example of which is the a priori
          exclusion of the supernatural.
          >
          > Visions
          > people see are real to themselves, and are reported as facts, and can
          > be dealt with by the academic historian accordingly.
          >
          DAVID: Exactly: people have experiences which can be described as
          "visions". We don't have to subscribe to the content of the vision, but
          we do have to take the experience itself seriously. To my mind, to
          simply describe this as "symbolic" is to prematurely superimpose a
          modernist understanding of what is happening in "visions" and therefore
          a failure to maintain that "distance" and "critical disengagement" which
          is the academic ideal, and which would lead us to seriously investigate
          the nature and origins of that "vision".
          >
          > DAVID: In any case, it's arguable that Paul did not become a Christian
          > only on the basis of a "supernatural vision" or encounter with the
          > risen Christ. After all, Galatians 1:17-18 may indicate a gestation
          > period of three years before Paul fully absorbed whatever happened on
          > the Damascus Road.
          >
          > BRUCE: We don't have to take Paul's word for it, or for anything else.
          > It does make sense to notice what he says, or what he thinks is
          > happening to him. His take (by which I do not mean the Acts narrative)
          > is that his turnabout was sudden, not gradual. We might want to argue
          > with him, but I think his testimony as a witness is admissable.
          >
          DAVID: I did not suggest that we "take Paul's word for it". I said it
          was "arguable" that his conversion was not completed in a moment. Paul
          certainly gives the overall impression that his turnaround took place in
          a flash, but Galatians does hint otherwise. That is part of the
          admissible witness, surely.....
          >
          >
          > BRUCE: That's for the list managers to say, always assuming they are
          > reading this stuff at all. If hauled before the Board to explain my
          > conduct in raising the question, I would answer in more or less this
          > way:
          >
          > 1. It is given that a discussion of Mark, including the possibility
          > that Mark is a stratified text, is legitimate on this list according
          > to the list's own stated rules.
          >
          > 2. I have previously presented, on this list and at SBL meetings both
          > local and national, a hypothesis of an accretional Mark, specifically,
          > a core narrative about half the present size gradually augmented by
          > new material. The successives waves of new material are there, it
          > turns out, to update the text so as to keep it current with prevailing
          > doctrine. That is, the layers of Mark give, like an ice core or a
          > stratified archaeological site, a mini-history of evolving Christian
          > doctrine at one center (the Markan community, wherever it was) from
          > very early times onward, for a total time depth of about 20 years,
          > including most of the career of Paul. If this is true, and standard
          > philological procedure seems to support it (I refer to my earlier
          > critique of Adela Yarbro Collins's stratification of only one portion
          > of Mark, which in my judgement respected standard procedures), then
          > the history of doctrinal evolution recovered this way from Mark can be
          > in turn an important new datum with which to approach other problems.
          >
          DAVID: a fascinating defence of the relevance of the original question.
          I'll take it as your "vision" of the question, but, while I don't have
          time to look into it in depth (I should be reading on Buddhism this
          morning!) I have to say that I find it rather unconvincing, though I see
          connections to Ralph P Martin's hypothesis that Mark, far from being
          based on Peter's reminiscences, is heavily influenced by Paul.

          David Cavanagh
          Major (The Salvation Army)
          Florence (Italy)


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
          To: Synoptic Cc: GPG In Response To: David Cavanagh On: Accretional Mark From: Bruce The nature of Paul s vision seems to me, for reasons earlier given, not
          Message 4 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
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            To: Synoptic
            Cc: GPG
            In Response To: David Cavanagh
            On: Accretional Mark
            From: Bruce

            The nature of Paul's vision seems to me, for reasons earlier given,
            not really amenable to discussion in an academic context, and I
            forbear accordingly. Its content, on the other hand (about which there
            are different early opinions) seems to me a matter of great and
            discussable interest. As to my theory of Mark, we had the following:

            DAVID: I have to say that I find it rather unconvincing, . . .

            BRUCE: Not surprising, since the theory wasn't presented, only one of
            its results. Someone interested in that theory, or in theories of that
            type, can start out by consulting Adela Yarbro Collins' reconstruction
            of what she calls the Pre-Markan Passion Narrative, at the back of her
            recent commentary on Mark. I think she stops too soon, but as far as
            she goes, I generally agree with her result.

            DAVID: . . . though I see connections to Ralph P Martin's hypothesis
            that Mark, far from being based on Peter's reminiscences, . . .

            BRUCE: Don't know Martin's work, but I doubt that any serious
            investigator needs help in ignoring, at least at the outset, any
            author statements whatever that are made about an ancient work.
            Authorship is typically the least certain point, and thus the least
            satisfactory place to begin research. Maybe at the end. What matters,
            or anyway what it is usually the most fruitful to investigate, is what
            the text is and what it says.

            DAVID: . . . is heavily influenced by Paul.

            BRUCE: I wouldn't say "heavily." I think it likelier that Paul was
            heavily influenced by the kind of Christianity that is reflected in
            the later layers of Mark. As to things going the other way, I do find,
            after years in which it seemed frivolous to me, that there may after
            all be something in Loisy's suggestion that the rival exorcist of Mk
            9:38f is a reference to Paul, the rival preacher par excellence.

            It's just that this suggestion, like so many other isolated ones, is
            best judged after a certain amount of acquaintance with the whole
            text. Isolated ideas are generally hard to work with; it is easier to
            take them in groups and bunches. For the general principle, see Bryan
            Van Norden (ed) Confucius and the Analects: New Essays (Oxford 2002)
            163-215.

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • David Cavanagh
            ... Maybe it is just that I am younger and less experienced, but I would agree with your past self -Loisy s hypothesis is frivolous and indeed I would
            Message 5 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
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              On 01/02/2010 11.56, brooks@... wrote:
              >
              > I do find,
              > after years in which it seemed frivolous to me, that there may after
              > all be something in Loisy's suggestion that the rival exorcist of Mk
              > 9:38f is a reference to Paul, the rival preacher par excellence.
              >
              Maybe it is just that I am younger and less experienced, but I would
              agree with your past self -Loisy's hypothesis is "frivolous" and indeed
              I would suggest it is eisegesis.

              David Cavanagh
              Major (The Salvation Army)
              Florence (Italy)


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Chuck Jones
              Bruce, A couple of comments on Paul s conversion. First, it seems historically safe to conclude that Paul did in fact experience a vision of Jesus. Second,
              Message 6 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
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                Bruce,
                A couple of comments on Paul's conversion.
                First, it seems historically safe to conclude that Paul did in fact experience a vision of Jesus.
                Second, referring to Paul as converting to Xnty is anachronistic and incorrect.  Paul lived and died as a Jew, having (often heated) conversations with other Jews about whether Jesus was the Messiah and whether and on what basis Gentiles could join the (Jewish) messianic community.  At most one could say that Paul joined the sect of the Way, but he doesn't seem to think of it that way, since he describes himself as a Pharisee, not a former Pharisee.
                Third,  I believe the problem Jesus solved for Paul--and for many, many diaspora Jews--was I just can't believe that my God-Fearer friends, whom I love like family, are really going to be condemned by God.
                Rev. Chuck JonesInterim Executive DirectorWestar Institute___________________________
                Bruce wrote:

                Paul's

                conversion was probably experienced by him, and it was certainly

                represented by later writers, as an instantaneous and supernatural

                vision. I take that as symbolic, including the possibility of

                symbolism in the mind of the person to whom the change of view is

                happening. But what precisely is being symbolized? What does that

                change consist of, and what produced it? What did it solve, in the

                mind of Paul?






                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • David Mealand
                Bruce writes that none of the books in his library answer the question why did Paul change? My memory is that some books do at least have a go at this. I
                Message 7 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
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                  Bruce writes that none of the books
                  in his library answer the question
                  why did Paul change?

                  My memory is that some books do at least
                  have a go at this. I called in G----- books
                  to help out my memory, and duly found a more
                  recent item by Theissen referring to the earlier
                  work I remembered. (key: Paul & vision in
                  author Theissen). A very brief annotated
                  result follows:

                  A theory of primitive Christian religion? - Page 334
                  Gerd Theissen - 2003 - 393 pages
                  (also cites an earlier work of 1987 by Theissen on psychological
                  aspects of Pauline theology)
                  The subjective vision theory has been renewed most recently by Gerd
                  Lu"demann...
                  .... (Theissen then engages with this...)
                  Then he discusses whether Paul's vision has any relation to a prior
                  unconscious conflict with the law....

                  My own view would be that we do need to ask
                  why Paul was hostile, before asking why he changed.
                  That might then not be so distant from
                  the problems of some of those Synoptic passages
                  indicating mutual antipathy between Synoptists
                  and "scribes".

                  David M.

                  ----------
                  Bruce wrote
                  ----------
                  I have found out something. It is possible
                  to go to your library, take
                  off the shelves everything with "Paul"
                  in the title, pile them by a
                  chair, and read through them, say 3000
                  or 4000 pages, without getting
                  the answer to the first question
                  a child is likely to ask about Paul,
                  or even having that question come
                  up at all. That question is:

                  Why did he change?
                  ---------



                  ---------
                  David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


                  --
                  The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
                  Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
                • Dennis Dean Carpenter
                  One might also ask whether it was Paul who changed, or whether those who copied the Paulines over time, those who represented what became the orthodoxy
                  Message 8 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
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                    One might also ask whether it was "Paul" who changed, or whether those who copied the Paulines over time, those who represented what became the orthodoxy "changed."

                    Dennis Dean Carpenter
                    Dahlonega, Ga.

                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
                    To: Synoptic Cc: GPG, WSW In Response To: David Mealand On: Paul s Change of Mind From: Bruce Thanks to David for the reference to Theissen, and especially the
                    Message 9 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
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                      To: Synoptic
                      Cc: GPG, WSW
                      In Response To: David Mealand
                      On: Paul's Change of Mind
                      From: Bruce

                      Thanks to David for the reference to Theissen, and especially the
                      tantalizing capsule "Then he discusses whether Paul's vision has any
                      relation to a prior unconscious conflict with the law...." I will look
                      it up when I next can. Also:

                      DAVID: My own view would be that we do need to ask why Paul was
                      hostile, before asking why he changed. That might then not be so
                      distant from the problems of some of those Synoptic passages
                      indicating mutual antipathy between Synoptists and "scribes".

                      BRUCE: Surely both. To explain a change means to explain both its
                      ends. Either Paul restructured his prior understanding on further
                      contact with Jesus converts, or, as I am currently suspecting, he
                      encountered at some point a second variety of Jesus doctrine which had
                      a different, and catalytic, effect on him.

                      Whether it was (1) a prior unacknowledged conflict with the law (not
                      at all impossible for a Diaspora Jew), as I gather Theissen suggests,
                      or (2) a new concept of Jesus that fitted in differently with his
                      understanding, not only of the law, but of the tradition in which the
                      law was embedded, or (3) something else, is to me still open. My
                      current suspicion is the second alternative. Jesus as a teacher of a
                      revised Mosaic rule would presumably have offended the conventional
                      Paul, who accepted the minute later additions to Moses, and justified
                      his persecutions, not least since it fits Paul's own characterization
                      of himself as zealous for the traditions of the fathers (Ga 1:14; I
                      repeat that Jews in the early lit sometimes accuse Christians of
                      impiety toward Moses, which is otherwise unintelligible), whereas
                      Jesus in the context of saving atonement, reaching as it would past
                      Moses to Abraham and to the primary promise of God to Israel, would
                      put the law itself in a new context, and tap into a deeper sense of
                      what Judaism, and ultimately what God and Man, were all about. It
                      would dethrone the law as a definition of religious identity, which is
                      exactly the point at which Paul seems to have changed most dramatically.

                      Thus the current hypothesis. As I think I earlier suggested (those who
                      were at the 2007 SBL session will have gotten the full details), there
                      is reason in Mark to conclude that the doctrine of the atonement is a
                      second development in early Jesus theory. Then the possibility of two
                      types of Jesus communities, the second of which Paul encountered only
                      after a certain amount of zealous persecution of what for him was mere
                      Moses deviationism, has a second leg to stand on. The evidence of
                      other early Christian documents (not here repeated, but the emphasis
                      in some of them on Abraham rather than Moses is surely suggestive) is
                      the third leg.

                      Or so it looks from here.

                      Bruce

                      E Bruce Brooks
                      Warring States Project
                      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
                    • brooks@asianlan.umass.edu
                      To: Synoptic Cc: GPG, WSW In Response To: Dennis Dean Carpenter On: Paul s Change of Mind From: Bruce DENNIS: One might also ask whether it was Paul who
                      Message 10 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
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                        To: Synoptic
                        Cc: GPG, WSW
                        In Response To: Dennis Dean Carpenter
                        On: Paul's Change of Mind
                        From: Bruce

                        DENNIS: One might also ask whether it was "Paul" who changed, or
                        whether those who copied the Paulines over time, those who represented
                        what became the orthodoxy "changed."

                        BRUCE: I would agree, I have in the past often asserted, that on this
                        or any other problem, the first step is to check the nature of the
                        texts we are working from. If they are spurious, or if they are
                        composite, or if they were later scribally corrupted, all bets based
                        on simple integral readings are off.

                        But the possible problems are wider than just scribal errors (the
                        province of the "lower criticism"), they include early manipulation of
                        the Pauline texts before they went public (the job of the "higher
                        criticism"). There has been some good work done on these matters,
                        unfortunately widely ignored by an increasing number of modern people,
                        but still helpful for those who want to see what was actually
                        happening at the time. P N Harrison's contribution is fundamental on
                        the Pastorals and related issues; William O Walker is very good - and
                        also systematic - on interpolations in the genuine Epistles. And what
                        is the result? One result is that there are tendencies IN THE
                        INTERPOLATIONS which suggest why they were made (in most cases, to
                        legitimize and enshrine later church practices and structures). All
                        this must be subtracted before we can begin talking about Paul.

                        That he changed, Paul himself says (in the surviving, noninterpolated
                        portions of the genuine epistles). We don't need to treat it as a
                        retrospective hypothesis. Orthodoxy changed, or rather it formed and
                        impinged, and thus complicated the text record, but the good news is
                        that the text record can be cleaned up, at least to quite an extent,
                        and thus can tell its part of the story more clearly.

                        On that purified corpus of what can now be called primary evidence, we
                        can now hope to see what Christianity was when Paul first positively
                        encountered it, and also what contributions he himself later made to
                        its content and direction.

                        (And only then can we begin to take up such topics, prematurely and
                        therefore rashly discussed by many, as the "Paulinism of Mark." It's
                        the same in Sinology: we don't know the Chinese doctrine of the state
                        until we get rid of the Empire texts masquerading as pre-Empire texts
                        (eg, Han Feidz), and identify intrusive portions in the pre-Empire
                        texts (all the others), and then put the whole material on a
                        chronological basis, that we have a chance of saying where the idea of
                        the Empire came from, and how it was realized in practice).

                        So it looks from here.

                        Bruce

                        E Bruce Brooks
                        Warring States Project
                        University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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