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10695Re: Fwd: Gnostic claims to Paul of Tarsus

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  • pmcvflag
    Feb 22, 2005
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      Hey 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 where
      it 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
      Converse Accident.

      >>"Paul even bungles the Torah and appears to be familiar only with
      the 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 of
      thought 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
      read it).

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