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Re: [Synoptic-L] The Conversion of Paul

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  • 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 1 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)


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    • 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 2 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 3 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)


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        • 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 4 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?






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          • 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 5 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 6 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.

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              • 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 7 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 8 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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