Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Revealing Paul's Gospel

"If revealed religions have revealed anything it is that they are usually wrong."
Francis Crick

Paul en route to the 3rd heaven: "Is one of you blokes called Moroni?"
James McGrath has a short but intriguing post up about Paul and his gospel. An excerpt:
It is interesting to reflect on something that Paul says in his letter to the Galatians. He emphasized that his message, his gospel, is not of human origin.
What is his gospel? He doesn't tell us in so many words, and although we may be able to deduce what it is from his letters, I think this is worth noting, and not considered often enough.
His gospel, the message he proclaimed, is something he says emphatically was of divine origin. And that is something he never had written down.
Whatever Jesus might have meant by "gospel of the kingdom", it's clear Paul's understanding is, to use the mildest of descriptions, somewhat expanded. Not only that, but uniquely his.

In fact, the consistent message Paul gives is, follow me, me, me.
Paul an apostle - sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father... Gal 1:1a
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Gal 1:11-12 
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Cor. 11:1 
But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we have proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! Gal 1:8
And yet, despite making grandiose claims for himself and his gospel, Paul - as McGrath notes - never actually gets down to spelling it out in his letters. An oversight or a strategy? At best, to put things as positively as we can, it's implicit rather than explicit.

Grandiose personal claims you say? Surely not humble old Paul?
It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a person in Christ [a round about way to refer to himself] who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows - was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 2 Cor 12:2-4
How's that for a claim for legitimation via revelation. But, sorry folks, y'all don't have sufficient clearance to hear the details, but take it from me, I know stuff you poor schmucks have no idea about - and I ain't telling.

This gospel, says Paul, didn't come down the chain of authority from the other apostles, the guys who knew Jesus up close and personal. No, it came by revelation. To Paul. Just Paul. Specifically Paul.

Just as Joseph Smith had things revealed to him, and the prophet Muhammed. Ellen White had the gift of prophecy bestowed on her. I once chatted with an elderly lady in the Dugger faction of the Church of God who confided, with all due humility, that God revealed "wonderful things" to her. Indeed, she'd been permitted to actually behold the sea of glass mentioned in Revelation 15:2.

It's not hard to be sceptical about Joseph Smith's claims (unless you're a Mormon), or any of the others. But Paul? Surely not Paul?

Then again, why not?

James McGrath writes: "And so what we have from Paul are his own writings, and what he insisted was not merely his own creation he did not write down."

Now there's a conundrum.


  1. Paul may not spell it out as such, but many of the details can be found there in Galatians. The way I read it, angels gave the Law (Torah) to put humankind into bondage, but Christ has now revealed himself so that we can become heirs of the Father through him and be freed from the Law and the elemental spirits of the world.

    It's not hard to see why the Gnostics liked Paul.

  2. This goes directly to the foundation of the WCG. HWA claimed that he was taught directly by Christ while sitting in the Public Library in Des Mones, Iowa. He has no golden plates to give us but he did have a lot of little questionable booklets. Some have cited this Pauline model as the foundation of HWA's Apostleship. (I did notice that the Pope was referred to as an Apostle. I did not know that term was bandied about so much. I thought it was a particular Armstrongite weakness.) And what Christ "taught" HWA was a collection of heresies believed only by strange little non-mainstream churches down through the ages (See Dugger and Dodd).

    The difference is that HWA did not go to the Body of Christ to vet these beliefs. He, being a good advertising man, instead packaged the unusual ideas as a special revelation to him personally of the true gospel that had been hidden for 18 and a half centuries and he promptly started another strange little non-mainstream church (this account would nicely and consistently fit into Dugger and Dodds history as a chapter near the end.)

    But Paul did seek out the other disciples with what he had learned. Peter's comment was only that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand and some could twist these words to their own destruction. There are no polemics against Paul in the writing of the other new testament authors. If anything the different mode in which Paul received the word represents a separate form of verification.

    -- Neo

  3. The fiction writer of Acts created a colorful backstory for Paul's "Joseph-Smith-like" claimed divine encounter.
    Also the creative writer of Acts tried to tone down Paul's strident heretical antinomianism.
    It's not true; it's not history; it's just more ASTOUNDING RUBBISH from the 'New Testament'!

  4. Ken Humphreys?