Monday 21 December 2015

Mythmaker: Paul, who art thou?

Chapter 10 of Mythmaker raises the question of just who Paul thought he was. Clearly, as he dusted himself off after his Damascus Road experience, he wasn't just any old convert.
A convert is a person who humbly approaches the authorities of the religion which he wishes to join and submits himself for instruction. Paul denies such a description of his entry altogether... instead he goes off 'to Arabia'.
There's more than one resonance in the official story with Old Testament precedents.
Just as Moses, on receiving the tablets of the law, stayed in the Arabian wilderness for forty days and forty nights (Exodus 34:28), so Paul retired to the desert to assimilate and meditate on the new revelation before returning to impart it to mankind.
Once he has cogitated the situation thoroughly, Paul comes out with some astonishing claims, for example speaking of  "my gospel".
Paul is claiming a much higher authority than that of the Jerusalem apostles, Peter, James and John; for their claim derived from acquaintance with the earthly Jesus, while Paul's claim derived from acquaintance with the heavenly Jesus...
Then there's Galatians 1:16.
... what the Greek actually says is '... to reveal his Son in me', as the Revised Version says. Paul is saying, quite straightforwardly, that he is himself the incarnation of the Son of God. He is thus claiming to have even higher status in his new religion than was claimed for Moses in Judaism.
But wait, there's more. Paul gets plugged in to the magic revelation machine again, being caught up to the third heaven and hearing secret stuff that simply cannot be repeated to mere mortals (2 Cor. 12:2-3).

But wait, there's even more. Galatians 6:17 is all about the holy stigmata. Protestants tend to react by seeing this reference as mere metaphor, but perhaps not.
The stigmata of Paul, whether self-inflicted or psychosomatically produced, made him, in his own eyes and those of his followers, the supreme embodiment of the power of the mystery of god, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It all makes Joseph Smith's claims seem utterly credible. Can't you just see N. T. Wright choking on his communion wine? Paul isn't just adding a few more spices to the stew, according to Maccoby, he's cooking up a whole new dish.

(This is the latest part of a review of Hyam Maccoby's 1986 book Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.)


  1. Well, to cite Bart Ehrman from his book, "Forged: Writing in the Name of God — Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are," "Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon"; individuals claiming to be Paul wrote 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians, he adds.

    So here we are: The good news is that apparently Paul (/Saul) did write Galations, but the bad news is that he made outrageous spurious claims that are flat out lies. And worse, the other books of the New Testament don't seem to be much help either, particularly since they were probably written long after the 'Epistles of Paul'.

    Nevertheless, in spite of it all, Christians maintain their faith, believing that they know that the Bible is the Word of God upon which they can rely for redemption and salvation.

    If God really is responsible for the Bible, shouldn't He at least issue an apology?

    1. Agreed, Mikey. God should at least issue an apology. The problem is ... I don't think he's able to.

  2. Those astute in Logic would be wary of the (conflicting) revelations of Seers who claim to communicate with extra-dimensional beings. Thus Paul(and Ellen G White)are making no headway with the Intelligentsia. Their Groupies are puzzled by this: -- but not to worry -- wait, Stand-by, Paul is receiving another news-flash from Heaven: It says "God is not interested in intelligent people, he just wants to work with simple folk"

  3. Gentile [Ebionite contention] 'Apostle'Paul would be uncircumcised:
    What a perfect segue to start slashing the Law of Moses:
    Circumcision, Sabbaths, Festivals, New Moons - all done-away with!
    Prohibition on Pork & foods dedicated in pagan temples - lifted!
    But the"not muzzling the ox"law [sending Paul money] - retained!

  4. Sadly, The moment people depart from the sound teaching of the bible to ponder the speculations set out in the Mythmaker, they become deluded and irrational.

    I could set in detail why Paul was called by God, and given the title, The Chosen Vessel. Why he was led into the desert Arabia, and given a revelation of mysteries that were kept secret since the world began(Cols.1:27; Ephesians 3:8). Then go back and read from verse 3 to 7, but no one here would be able to understand the reasons.

    1. ... said the deluded and irrational true believer whose detailed explanation will be utter nonsense to all who are not indoctrinated into cult thinking.

  5. Armstrongism uses a collection of extrabiblical theories to turn what they say is "God's Truth" into an exclusive Anglo-Centric affair. If we are to learn anything from the latest developments in the science of genetics, we must acknowledge that the Lemba tribe in Africa is more closely related to the Jews and Israelites in the Bible than are white Western Europeans. I would think that that would cause non-Anglo followers of Armstrongism to re-examine some of their cherished premises.