Re: [XTalk] F C Baur
- To: Crosstalk
In Response To: Coleman Baker
On: Paul at Corinth
COLEMAN: Despite Baur's too simplistic view of Christian origins,
particularly at Corinth, his detection of the conflict between Peter and
Paul (and later Petrine and pauline groups) remains rather convincing, at
least to me!
BRUCE: No argument; indeed, I should think it's convincing to everyone. But
to detect that there was a conflict between Peter and Paul requires, after
all, only that (1) one have some idea of which texts are relatively secure
as direct testimony to Paul's feelings, and (2) that one read those texts.
It is not some kind of breakthrough. And it is a *deleterious* breakthrough
if one stops there, and fails to take note of other oppositions, not only at
Corinth (Paul/Apollos) but elsewhere (Paul/Barnabas, Peter in the early
layers of Mark vs Peter in the later layers of Mark; and so on and on).
So yes, I would agree that Peter and Paul were in some kind of tension. But
what then? I always recommend John Knox's "Chapters" as a good exercise in
clarifying what that tension was, exactly, and what were its historical
conditions, without getting too sugared up with the Acts I view of things.
The thing with the NT texts (not to mention the major and obviously relevant
noncanonical Christian texts) is that in addition to portraying conflicts
such as the Peter/Paul one, they themselves conflict. They argue
passionately (2 Peter is a convenient example; so is 1 John) on one side of
some issue, against those who hold the other side. The interest of this, for
me, is not to say which is right (let alone which is orthodox in the sense
of modern orthodoxy), but what these people were up to, and what that one
particular confrontation means in the whole sweep and panorama of Early
Christian controversy, both internal and external.
How it fits in, and (final metaquestion) what exactly it fits into. The
author of Acts II certainly had a picture of the large great progression of
Christianity to a point of triumph and final decision about its nature and
destiny. As an interpretation of Christian history, it is admirably done.
It's beautiful. But it's beautiful like a church window, which does not
depend for its effect on whether this picture of Esau, over here in the
lower left corner, is historically accurate. It makes its best effect from
about 10 yards away, when Esau (or whoever) gets lost in the blaze of color
and the progression of the design.
Upward and outward; that is the message of Acts II. That picture has almost
wholly dominated thinking on Christian history ever afterward. We are only
now beginning to dig out from under it, and to recover some of the pieces (a
few of them embedded in Acts itself) which speak more directly to a somewhat
more complicated, but probably more accurate, situation.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst