Paul, Christ, and Believing the Bible

ARC

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The Old Testament says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. There is nothing about him going around doing good deeds but because he believed what God said it was counted to him as righteousness.

In the New Testament, those who believed in Jesus Christ were offered salvation through the Grace of God based on that belief. God's Grace is His mercy in forgiving the sins of those who believe that Jesus Christ, who is a man of flesh and blood, is the Son of God.

That is our righteousness - that we believe. People of that time believed because they witnessed miracles and they also heard His teachings, wherein He attempted to describe heaven in earthly terms - the parables. But Jesus also said "Blessed are they who have not seen" Him, the miracles, His teachings, and yet believed. Many people view this as silly I guess, this so-called "blind" faith.

Once our sins are forgive we can begin with a clean slate, to "prove" our faith by believing His Words and living by them. Christ said if we claim to believe but don't live by His Words we are liars and we have no place in heaven.

Paul was a Jew who converted and began helping other converts to set up churches in various places, and he stayed with them, helping them to continue on the right path, lest they go astray and practice in "vain", outside of Christ's teachings.

A "vice" is a bad habit, like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, which is harmful to the health and body, but a "sin" can be a one-time offense, such as killing someone, or stealing something, etc. I guess to a serial killer, killing would be a "vice", or stealing, to a kleptomaniac, but you see there's a difference.

ARC
 

Laura

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Re: Believing the Bible

ARC said:
The Old Testament says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. There is nothing about him going around doing good deeds but because he believed what God said it was counted to him as righteousness.

Abraham was a mythical construct utilized to push a religio/political agenda at the time of the Maccabees. The OT is a compilation of modifications taken from Homer, Herodotus, Berossos, Manetho AND Plato. There is even a story in Judges that is taken directly from the history of Rome. The "Laws" and such are borrowed from Pythagoras.

ARC said:
In the New Testament, those who believed in Jesus Christ were offered salvation through the Grace of God based on that belief. God's Grace is His mercy in forgiving the sins of those who believe that Jesus Christ, who is a man of flesh and blood, is the Son of God.

You aren't very familiar with the writings of Paul, are you? It's not that simple. Not to mention the fact that the NT, too, is a compilation. The oldest texts are the epistles of Paul and they have been seriously modified in many places. The real model for the character of the Jewish Jesus is Judas the Galilean who was a rabid nationalist and considered all gentiles dogs. The model for the gentile Christ was Julius Caesar. Many of the stories of the gospels are variations on works from Homer. There is also a lot of the OT worked in there not only in terms of "matching miracles" but in terms of rhetorical structure.

ARC said:
That is our righteousness - that we believe. People of that time believed because they witnessed miracles and they also heard His teachings, wherein He attempted to describe heaven in earthly terms - the parables. But Jesus also said "Blessed are they who have not seen" Him, the miracles, His teachings, and yet believed. Many people view this as silly I guess, this so-called "blind" faith.

It's not just silly, it is believing in a complete lie.

ARC said:
Once our sins are forgive we can begin with a clean slate, to "prove" our faith by believing His Words and living by them. Christ said if we claim to believe but don't live by His Words we are liars and we have no place in heaven.

Most of the sayings of Jesus are taken right out of the mouth of Paul and placed in a foreign context. And if you want to quote the Bible, be sure to give your citation reference. There is actually no such saying of Jesus in the Bible as you have stated above.

ARC said:
Paul was a Jew who converted and began helping other converts to set up churches in various places, and he stayed with them, helping them to continue on the right path, lest they go astray and practice in "vain", outside of Christ's teachings.

Paul has a far more interesting history than you can imagine and MOST of what is written about his adventures in the book of Acts is fraudulent, written for religio/political purposes.

ARC said:
A "vice" is a bad habit, like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, which is harmful to the health and body, but a "sin" can be a one-time offense, such as killing someone, or stealing something, etc. I guess to a serial killer, killing would be a "vice", or stealing, to a kleptomaniac, but you see there's a difference.

ARC

Thanks for your input but I think you are in the :wrongbar:
 

Approaching Infinity

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Re: Believing the Bible

ARC said:
The Old Testament says that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. There is nothing about him going around doing good deeds but because he believed what God said it was counted to him as righteousness.

Yeah, Paul quoted this story, but based on the context, he quoted it for a scriptural 'proof text' to counter what some Judaizing subversives were saying to his churches. Like Laura pointed out, Abraham wasn't real. Paul was using a mythic example that his churches would recognize and understand to make a point, and to counter his opponents who were using similar proof texts to manipulate and corrupt his church members.

In the New Testament, those who believed in Jesus Christ were offered salvation through the Grace of God based on that belief. God's Grace is His mercy in forgiving the sins of those who believe that Jesus Christ, who is a man of flesh and blood, is the Son of God.

This is just wrong. Belief is only one meaning of the Greek word pistis, and it is relatively rare in proportion to other meanings. Laura mentioned that Paul's letters have been distorted. Well, aside from interpolations, I think one of the main ways in which they've been distorted is through terrible translations to fit a theological agenda (in this case the "Lutheran" reading of Paul). The point Paul was making about the mythical Abraham was that he was FAITHFUL, not that he believed, just as "Christ" was faithful (to God, to his ideals, to his Being) unto death. I.e., he had trust, confidence, fidelity, integrity, character. The 'Christian's' faith is a relatively minor theme in Paul's letters. Much more important to him was being "in Christ", i.e. in the body, i.e. community. And part of being in community was having virtue by living the example of Christ/Caesar: virtue through suffering, dying to one's old self and transforming into a new life and being.

A "vice" is a bad habit, like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, which is harmful to the health and body, but a "sin" can be a one-time offense, such as killing someone, or stealing something, etc. I guess to a serial killer, killing would be a "vice", or stealing, to a kleptomaniac, but you see there's a difference.

Not in this context. There is a long tradition of vice and virtue. In this tradition, vices include such things as pride, cowardice, rashness. They are dispositions and corresponding behaviors that tend toward an end contrary to the highest good. In theological terms, that makes them sins.
 

ARC

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Re: Believing the Bible

"The 'Christian's' faith is a relatively minor theme in Paul's letters. Much more important to him was being "in Christ", i.e. in the body, i.e. community. And part of being in community was having virtue by living the example of Christ/Caesar: virtue through suffering, dying to one's old self and transforming into a new life and being."

Paul called himself a "slave" to Jesus Christ" (albeit a willing one), being kept by a "thorn" in his side which (apparently) kept him from straying too far one way or the other. Faith in Christ is not a "relatively minor" issue for Paul but if it seems that way in his letters it is probably because he is operating on the assumption that his readers to have already taken that first step of faith, otherwise there would be no letters to write.

ARC
 

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ARC said:
Paul called himself a "slave" to Jesus Christ" (albeit a willing one), being kept by a "thorn" in his side which (apparently) kept him from straying too far one way or the other.

Yes. And the 'slavery' to Christ/God is contrasted to slavery to vice/sin. In other words, he is now bound to justice, or virtue, one aspect of which is fidelity.

Faith in Christ is not a "relatively minor" issue for Paul ...

"Relatively." As in, mostly in Romans and Galatians (62 references between the two of them, compared to 47 in his other 8 letters and some of those just use it in an basic way, like "he believes this" or "she entrusts this to him"), which were probably written very close to each other in time, and in response to the same circumstances (see Campbell's "Framing Paul). Whereas 'in Christ' is found pretty much throughout all the letters and occurs over 200 times in many more contexts than Paul's faith language. (See Campbell's "Quest for Paul's Gospel" and "Deliverance of God", Hays's "Faith of Jesus Christ", Miller's "Practice of the Body".)

...but if it seems that way in his letters it is probably because he is operating on the assumption that his readers to have already taken that first step of faith, otherwise there would be no letters to write.

That itself is an assumption, based on a reading of Paul that presupposes theological ideas he may not have had (and probably didn't). You'll probably enjoy the books I mentioned above. There's been a lot of pretty good stuff written on Paul's letters in recent years.
 

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ARC said:
Faith in Christ is not...

Forgot this: it's not "faith in Christ" for Paul anymore than it's "faith in Abraham". Just as he speaks of the faith OF Abraham, he speaks of the faith OF Christ. And if he uses these words in reference to 'Christians', he uses it in the sense of "faithfulness TO Christ", following the standard contemporary usage of the term, which is more often social (in terms of relationships of trust and faithfulness) than cognitive (believing certain facts).
 

Mr. Premise

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Re: Believing the Bible

Laura said:
Anthony said:
As regards to the original question in the thread: is developing one's character all there is to 'religion', or is there more? I would say there's much more to it and development of character is just one step on the staircase.

Well, after reading, re-reading, and re-reading more times than I care to enumerate, the epistles of Paul - the inventor of Christianity as we know it - the one thing that stands out is the enormous time and attention that he was clearly giving to some of the most basic ideas of morality and decent behavior. He also had to deal with psychopathology within his groups and attacks from those opposed to him. That people were as bereft of understanding how to interact with one another as his letters reveal them to have been is very instructive.

Paul was intensely focused on getting his converts to understand some pretty simple concepts of love and caring for one another and networking at all times. That his converts appear to have been rather slow is apparent. He fluctuates between being extraordinarily patient and downright frustrated with them. So, certainly, Paul was attempting to inculcate principles that would lead to character development in the communities he evangelized, and these principles were based on a way of viewing reality that was something of a combination of Platonic and Stoic elements with a large dash of pagan mystery religions thrown in.
Laura, what books on Paul would you recommend? I recently read Price's Colossal Apostle and years ago I read Elaine Pagel's The Gnostic Paul.
 

ARC

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Re: Believing the Bible

"Forgot this: it's not "faith in Christ" for Paul anymore than it's "faith in Abraham". Just as he speaks of the faith OF Abraham, he speaks of the faith OF Christ. And if he uses these words in reference to 'Christians', he uses it in the sense of "faithfulness TO Christ", following the standard contemporary usage of the term, which is more often social (in terms of relationships of trust and faithfulness) than cognitive (believing certain facts)."

The first step IS faith IN Christ - believing that Jesus IS the Christ whose coming the scriptures foretold. Once that is established the churches are founded upon that faith - thus, the epistles of Paul instructing the new believers of the Christian faith in how they should conduct themselves.

But if you'll notice in Paul's utter wordiness, if he seems "all over the page" at times it's because he's not only instructing "what to do" but also explaining the reasoning behind doing it such - because in this way he is effectively teaching people how to change their innermost thoughts and thinking since this is the only effective way for one to change one's behavior, attitude, inner character or "being". If a person simply conforms to an acceptable behavior that is not in agreement with his consistent thoughts, that person is not properly aligned and will be prone to behavioral errors. I believe Paul used the words "be ye therefore perfect" to express this.

ARC
 

Mr. Premise

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Re: Believing the Bible

ARC said:
"Forgot this: it's not "faith in Christ" for Paul anymore than it's "faith in Abraham". Just as he speaks of the faith OF Abraham, he speaks of the faith OF Christ. And if he uses these words in reference to 'Christians', he uses it in the sense of "faithfulness TO Christ", following the standard contemporary usage of the term, which is more often social (in terms of relationships of trust and faithfulness) than cognitive (believing certain facts)."

The first step IS faith IN Christ - believing that Jesus IS the Christ whose coming the scriptures foretold. Once that is established the churches are founded upon that faith - thus, the epistles of Paul instructing the new believers of the Christian faith in how they should conduct themselves.

But if you'll notice in Paul's utter wordiness, if he seems "all over the page" at times it's because he's not only instructing "what to do" but also explaining the reasoning behind doing it such - because in this way he is effectively teaching people how to change their innermost thoughts and thinking since this is the only effective way for one to change one's behavior, attitude, inner character or "being". If a person simply conforms to an acceptable behavior that is not in agreement with his consistent thoughts, that person is not properly aligned and will be prone to behavioral errors. I believe Paul used the words "be ye therefore perfect" to express this.

ARC
Well I think one of the reasons "Paul" is all over the page is that many of the passages in the Epistles were added by other people after he died, for other purposes. That makes it really hard to be coherent!
 

Approaching Infinity

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ARC said:
The first step IS faith IN Christ - believing that Jesus IS the Christ whose coming the scriptures foretold. Once that is established the churches are founded upon that faith - thus, the epistles of Paul instructing the new believers of the Christian faith in how they should conduct themselves.

Says who? Not Paul. Just because we hear it in churches, don't make it true. I'd really recommend doing some more reading on the topic and getting up to speed on what is really said in Paul's letters... It can be tough to separate out all the ideas glued onto Paul (ideas from the gospels, written generations after, and church thinkers for the past 1500+ years, and what preachers and pastors assume and insert using translations that are just as misleading and based on ideas that aren't actually there), but it's worth it. Peeps in Paul's churches pretty much faced the same task, in a different context.

...because in this way he is effectively teaching people how to change their innermost thoughts and thinking since this is the only effective way for one to change one's behavior, attitude, inner character or "being". If a person simply conforms to an acceptable behavior that is not in agreement with his consistent thoughts, that person is not properly aligned and will be prone to behavioral errors. I believe Paul used the words "be ye therefore perfect" to express this.

You're missing a crucial step. Changing one's values and emotions come BEFORE changing one's innermost thoughts (or at least the latter change in conjunction with work done on the former), and this only comes about through 'dying' to the old self, which Dabrowski called positive disintegration. And community networking, mirroring, which is a fundamentally social process that works on the emotions, is indispensable in this process. (Thus all the 'body' and 'in Christ' language in Paul, for example.)

ARC, are you familiar at all with the material on which this forum is based?
 

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Mr. Premise said:
Well I think one of the reasons "Paul" is all over the page is that many of the passages in the Epistles were added by other people after he died, for other purposes. That makes it really hard to be coherent!

The thing is, in a lot of cases, this isn't even the problem. It's just a matter of bad translation and bad exegesis. It helps to take specific examples and first ask, "Is this really what the Greek says?" A lot of times people say Paul said something when he actually didn't, not necessarily because he didn't actually write it, but because the translation and interpretation is so skewed by the later theological assumptions of whoever is doing the translation (e.g. the whole "faith in Christ" deal, or "justification by faith"), and ideas are 'read into' the text and the translation.
 

Laura

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ARC said:
Paul called himself a "slave" to Jesus Christ" (albeit a willing one), being kept by a "thorn" in his side which (apparently) kept him from straying too far one way or the other. Faith in Christ is not a "relatively minor" issue for Paul but if it seems that way in his letters it is probably because he is operating on the assumption that his readers to have already taken that first step of faith, otherwise there would be no letters to write.

ARC

Well, you screwed that one up too. Paul actually said, in Roman 7:25:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

And in I Cor. 9:19:
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.

The above two are the only instances where Paul refers to himself as a slave and in neither case is he a slave to Jesus.

Gal_3:28:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Gal_4:7
So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

And then, in Philippians 2:5-11, there is a liturgical formula, not original to Paul, where Jesus is the slave:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Regarding his "thorn in the flesh", the passage is 2 Cor. 12:3-9:

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.
On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses.
But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me,
even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me,
but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

The "thorn in the flesh" had nothing to do with keeping Paul from "straying one way or another" as you put it. Paul is talking about his visions/revelations. Apparently, there was a downside to them, possibly some physical disability brought on by his intense mystical experiences OR, it could simply be that his pronouncements based on his revelations were not accepted or believed by others.

It might do you some good, ARC, to actually study the Bible and read commentaries, theological explications, etc. But, more basically, just to simply know what it actually says, fer gawd's sake! If you can't swim in the deep end of the pool, get out.
 

Laura

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Approaching Infinity said:
Mr. Premise said:
Well I think one of the reasons "Paul" is all over the page is that many of the passages in the Epistles were added by other people after he died, for other purposes. That makes it really hard to be coherent!

The thing is, in a lot of cases, this isn't even the problem. It's just a matter of bad translation and bad exegesis. It helps to take specific examples and first ask, "Is this really what the Greek says?" A lot of times people say Paul said something when he actually didn't, not necessarily because he didn't actually write it, but because the translation and interpretation is so skewed by the later theological assumptions of whoever is doing the translation (e.g. the whole "faith in Christ" deal, or "justification by faith"), and ideas are 'read into' the text and the translation.

Yes. It is very complex. To begin with, there were edicts issued at various times in the early centuries ordering the destruction of all Christian literature. Then, there were edicts ordering the destruction of all pagan literature. So, what DID manage to survive was precious little and most certainly HIGHLY redacted. And, of course, each redaction served the theological interests of the redactor or the congregation for whom the material was produced/changed.

THEN, on top of this is the mess of bad translations as AI has pointed out above. It's a can of worms, I can tell you!
 

Laura

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ARC said:
The first step IS faith IN Christ - believing that Jesus IS the Christ whose coming the scriptures foretold. Once that is established the churches are founded upon that faith - thus, the epistles of Paul instructing the new believers of the Christian faith in how they should conduct themselves.

But, all the evidence, taken together and in context, suggests that there was no Jesus of Nazareth, there was only a Judas the Nazorean who was a blood-thirsty, hate-filled rebel against Rome. After his death, he was supposed to come back with god and angels and destroy Rome and this was preached by his followers leading tens of thousands of Jews to pile up in Jerusalem and wait for god to save them. He didn't. They all died, including all of the early messianists. And Jerusalem was razed to the ground.

The gentile Christianity that Paul taught was very different and had a different agenda: it was a mad attempt to reconcile Jews and Gentiles by getting the Jews to give up their legalism and getting Gentiles to take on monotheism. The objective, IMO, was to prevent the disaster that happened. Paul and the peeps in Jerusalem, James, John and Cephas, were enemies because they taught different gospels and most of Paul's epistles are about this constant fighting and enmity and their attacks on him for daring to abandon their zealous support of the Jewish food laws, etc, and for teaching that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. It is likely that the expulsion of Jews from Rome in 49 AD was due to the riots caused by Paul's teaching.

Early so-called Christianity was a big battlefield on more than one level; it was ugly.

ARC said:
But if you'll notice in Paul's utter wordiness, if he seems "all over the page" at times it's because he's not only instructing "what to do" but also explaining the reasoning behind doing it such -

You clearly have no freaking clue about Paul at all. Paul is not "all over the page". 1) Paul used very standard rhetorical techniques which can be easily understood to the student who takes the time to learn about it. 2) additionally, some of his letters are redacted fragments of several letters put together and it takes knowledge of the techniques to be able to spot the seams.

ARC said:
because in this way he is effectively teaching people how to change their innermost thoughts and thinking since this is the only effective way for one to change one's behavior, attitude, inner character or "being". If a person simply conforms to an acceptable behavior that is not in agreement with his consistent thoughts, that person is not properly aligned and will be prone to behavioral errors. I believe Paul used the words "be ye therefore perfect" to express this.

ARC

Here, you actually, quite by accident, approach part of the truth of what Paul was after. Let's look at Paul's use of the word "perfect" which he employs 5 times in his authentic letters.

Rom_12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2Co_7:1
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.

The next one is back to the "thorn in the flesh" issue:
2Co_12:9
but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

2Co_13:9
For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect.

Col_3:14
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Obviously, these sayings require context to fully understand and appreciate them. But, again, we notice that your quote is not anywhere near any of the actual passages in the text of Paul.

However, your quote is one saying that was attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:48:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

And another reference in the gospels, Matt. 19:21:

Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
 

Approaching Infinity

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Laura said:
Well, you screwed that one up too. Paul actually said, in Roman 7:25:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

And in I Cor. 9:19:
For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.

The above two are the only instances where Paul refers to himself as a slave and in neither case is he a slave to Jesus.

Translation issue again. Gr. doulos is translated as 'servant' in many versions, but really just means slave.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/doulos.html shows all the instances in the right column.

So for example:

Rom 1:1: Paul, a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

1 Cor 7:22: For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant [slave], is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called , being free, is Christ's servant [slave]

Phil 1:1: Paul and Timotheus, the servants [slaves] of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi
 
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