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Re: [Synoptic-L] The Conversion of Paul

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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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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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