Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [Synoptic-L] The Conversion of Paul

Expand Messages
  • 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 1 of 11 , Jan 31, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      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 2 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        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 3 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
        • 0 Attachment
          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 4 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
          • 0 Attachment
            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 5 of 11 , Feb 1, 2010
            • 0 Attachment
              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 6 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
              • 0 Attachment
                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 7 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
                • 0 Attachment
                  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 8 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
                  • 0 Attachment
                    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 9 of 11 , Feb 7, 2010
                    • 0 Attachment
                      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
                    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.