10695Re: Fwd: Gnostic claims to Paul of Tarsus
- Feb 22, 2005Hey Crispin and Mike, thought I would jump in on this conversation
Crispin, a few things in your post that I wanted to outline....
>>>"unfortunately, as far as i know, we have little to go on whereit comes to such "foundings" other than simple claimsmanship: i.e.,
to my knowledge there's no real evidence to support such Gnostic
claims to Paul. yet i don't find it surprising such claims were
made: after all, Paul, according to some scholars, practically (if
not literally) invented the Jesus myth (as opposed to a
faithful "gospel" representation of an apparently failed Jewish
Messiah who was probably executed for political reasons"<<<
Very true that there is little evidence directly linking Paul, or
any other of the Apostles, to Gnosticism. It is also true that the
same evidence is lacking for all of the Christian texts and sects.
Critical academic outlines today don't present Paul's teachings as
reflective of some "original Christianity", but the same is true of
Mark, John, etc.. Since this group does attempt to maintain a
critical position concerning the historical half of the focus here,
we cannot give much serious attention to the Eusebian paradigm.
It has been suggested that Paul not only created the myths about
Jesus, but even created Jesus himself (I point this out since you
mention the Jesus Mysteries later in the post). While I don't think
that this extreme theory is well thought, I mean to point out that
there is no real way to reconstruct an "historical" Jesus.... and,
for that matter, there is no real way to reconstruct an historical
Paul. May I then caution you, Crispin, that perhaps a bit of an
objective detachment could be helpful for this subject. Lets take a
look at the various theories of Paul, and measure them against each
But first, a couple more things...
>>>"Paul is shown to be a fraud at most, a liar at the very least:his desire to be perceived as coming from a Pharisaic family
background (Romans 11:2) (which is further exacerbated in Acts 22:3,
which ridiculously claims Saul/Paul was a student in the Pharisee
academy of Gamaliel) is patently absurd."<<<
It is true that it is unlikely that Paul studied under Gamaliel...
just as it is unlikely that he claimed to have. Just as Jesus and
Paul only became well known names later than their actual lives,
Gamaliel too is a person built more out of legend than fact. His
important position on the Sanhedrin is debated, whether he every
publically taught is debated, and the attempt made in Acts to
connect Paul with Gamaliel speaks more to the late date of Acts that
coincides with the growing tradition surrounding both names.
However, as to Paul being a Pharisee... the vast majority of Jews in
this era were Pharisees, and the sect constituted a pretty wide
range of subsects. If Paul was a Jew at all, this is likely his
I would not take your wife's NIV Bible table overly seriously where
it says "They were champions of human equality" and "The emphasis of
their teaching was ethical rather than theological." concerning the
Pharisees. Already the statement is rendered false simply by giving
a particular stance to the vast majority of Jews... what I mean is,
the very statement itself is a prive example of the logical flaw of
>>"Paul even bungles the Torah and appears to be familiar only withthe Greek Septuagint: a Pharisaic student who can't read Hebrew?"<<<
Of course, not a student of the famous Gamaliel *lol*. However, let
me point out that the Septuagint was made by Pharisees for
Pharisees. Hebrew was almost a dead language in the time of Jesus
and Paul, and very few Jews spoke or read it. Since the vast
majority of Jews were Pharisees, it pretty much follows that a good
number of those Pharisees could not read Hebrew. Aramaic may have
been the language of Palestinian Jews, but elsewhere it was Greek
(dont' forget, there were more Jews in Alexandria than in any city
in Israel). Part of the Dead Sea texts were the Septuagint, and we
know that even in the city of Jerusalem itself there were a good
number of Greek speaking Jews. Hebrew was primarily championed by
the Sadducees, and only reintroduced as important for in Pharisaic
Judism after the Sadducees no longer existed.
>>>"but let me point out that there's a current Gnostic school ofthought that believes...."<<<
I need to point out, Crispin, that technically speaking there is no
current Gnostic school of thought... period. Yes, I do understand
that there are many people today who feel a connection to
Gnosticism, and may even call themselves "Gnostic", but in the
academic usage of the term "Gnosticism" there is no such thing today.
Ok... so now to the point. What is the relationship between Paul and
Gnosticism? In his letters to Corinth he seems to be specifically
speaking against Gnostics. On the other hand it is long been
observed that he doesn't really give attention to a physical Jesus,
and he uses many Gnostic terms and concepts. As both of you, Mike
and Crispin, point out, it is possible that Paul could have borrowed
from Gnosticism. However, some of these terms were also common in
the Hellenized Jewish (primarily Pharisee) practice of Merkabah as
well. To assume that it was Paul who borrowed from Gnostics we have
to assume that Gnostics existed prior to Paul. While I think it is
likely they did, I don't think we should assume it.
Valentinus' claim is unproven, but I also think we need to be
careful before thinking it was for nothing but prestige. There has
been actual academic debate about this, and we are only talking
about two generations within a literate range of history (as opposed
to the generations prior to Paul). We must pay attention to both
sides of the debate, and not assume a cause and effect relationship
for the history that came later... since the evils of the Church
that Crispin mentions are based on faulty hermeneutics that could
have been applied to any material.
I'll be honest, I could frankly give a fig if Paul turns out to be
Gnostic or not (though I doubt the debate will be solved any time
soon). Some have pointed out Paul's literary achievements, while
others have blamed him for the fall of Christianity.
BTW, I have to admit that I have not read Dr Pagels' "The Gnostic
Paul", and I am not familiar with her arguments on the subject.
Since it is easy to present the letters to Corinth as a case
against, I was wondering if anyone who has read this work by Dr
Pagels might be willing to present her points (if anyone here has
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