Tag Archives: Paul

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AACC Liveblog: Who is “you” and who are “we” – Phil Campbell

This is a proud moment for the Campbell family. The first academic paper to be presented by any of our line for eons, possibly the first ever. Dad has had this idea germinating for some time, so I’m really proud to be sitting here listening to its presentation.

A precis of the argument goes a little something like this:

In Pauline epistles, particularly Galatians, Ephesians, Philipians and Colossians, Paul deliberately employs the pronouns “us” and “you” to distinguish between Jewish Christians (us) and Gentile Christians (you). Commentators have suggested this might be a stylistic alternation. Which doesn’t make as much theological sense as reading the letters as addressing Jewish and Gentile Christians in different passages.

He’s following DWB Robinson, who in 1963, suggested that Paul used “the saints” to refer to Jewish Christians.

Paul consistently uses “we” or “us” language to talk about past bondage to the law. Galatians 3 is a key passage where this reading makes sense. There are plenty of corroborative passages where the language switches from you to us when Paul starts talking about the law. This doesn’t go the other way (from us to you).

Paul more often uses “you” to talk about being foreign to God, or not knowing God, being worldly or uncircumcised.

Passages with a we/you parallelism read better read in this light.

Galatians 2:15 provides an interpretive key “we who are Jews by birth,” while Ephesians 2:11 says “you who are gentiles by flesh.” There are a couple more instances of each of these distinctions.

So who are the saints?

All Christians? Spiritual beings?

After surveying the gospels, Revelation and the Epistles, Robinson found that the use of the term refers to Christians, and particularly Jewish Christians, and mostly the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

Robinson on Colossians 1:

“This means that we have an inheritance which ‘you‘ have been counted worthy to share. And ‘we‘ are ‘the saints’.

Robinson suggests the flow of Paul’s logic is:

  1. We, the saints, have enjoyed the blessings of God’s covenant fulfilment in Christ.
  2. You, the Gentiles, have been invited to join us.
  3. Now we, together, are united in Christ

Ephesians 1-2 Case Study

Paul spends chapter 1 claiming the privileges of Jewish Christians. The key comes in verse 12 “we who were the first to hope in Christ.” Paul develops a parallel between the Jews and Gentiles in 1:3-12 and 1:13-14. As a result the Gentiles are to have love for the saints (v 15).

The same logic and contrasts continue in chapter 2. You Gentiles were dead in your sins (2:1), we Jews were also dead (2:4).

In Ephesians 2:6 Paul fuses the two together into one category – using the same prefix on the verbs “made alive,” “raised,” and “seated” (the prefix translates as “together”).

Implications

This idea has some implications for some pretty major doctrines.

  1. Predestination – If Ephesians 1’s “we” refers to the saints of Israel being elected before creation where does that leave us?
  2. A new approach to Christians and the Law – Our position with regards to the previous efficacy of the law (or lack of position) rarely comes into consideration because we often read the OT as Christian prehistory.
  3. A fresh insight into the Spirit – Reading 3:14 and 4:6 in parallel suggests that the role of the Spirit post Pentecost is linked to the Gentile mission.
  4. A need to nuance “every member ministry” – The popular notion of “every member ministry” built on Ephesians 4:11-12 needs to be reconsidered in this light.
  5. A revised view of the Old Testament as Christian prehistory – we don’t need to see ourselves in terms of the struggle of removing ourselves from the curse of the law (our problem, as slaves to sin, was deeper).
  6. A revised Old Testament hermeneutic – Our desire to identify with Israel rather than the gentile nations (like the Philistines) might be misplaced.
  7. Evidence for common authorship of Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians – you may not be aware, but a bunch of academics don’t think Paul wrote these anymore – this theologically consistent use of the pronouns throughout these epistles suggests common authorship.
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Paul the father of “all publicity is good publicity”

From the PR point of view this idiom is pretty stupid. Some publicity is not good publicity, but in terms of establishing a brand you could argue that Paul fathered this idea in his letter to the Philippians, in chapter 1:18…

15Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

The awesome unawesomeness of Paul

Paul really was awesome. I’m writing an essay about the early church which is turning into an essay on the church in Corinth. Which has brought me to the point where I am arguing that Paul borrowed from some structures that existed in the first century in order to not be too much of a Christian weirdo – but that he was very keen not to borrow the easiest structures – the one where he’d be some big noting keynote speaker who crowds would flock to see. That seems to be the desire of the Corinthian church for Paul. And he’s at his most vitriolic when he’s correcting that expectation. This is from 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. I love the bit in parenthesis in verse 23…

5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.  7Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?

12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

16I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. 17In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. 18Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. 19You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! 20In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. 21To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!

What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

Refreshing and inspiring at the same time. This is why Paul makes the grade in my ten Bible stories for boys… though he probably wouldn’t want to…

Apocalypse Now? Or not yet

Six days later debate still rages (though slower now) on the Friendly Atheist thread (I even scored a second post about my comments that was actually quite flattering… check it out)… here’s a testimonial from the author of the original post – it probably gives a more balanced view than the quotes I mined here.

First of all, I want to thank Nathan for his continued patience and politeness in comments. Yes, we disagree with him – vehemently on some issues – but I’m impressed that the comments have stayed mostly productive and substantive.

Fellow commenter, Wayne, has raised an interesting interpretation of the mission of Jesus and the kingdom he proclaimed. His comments alone make that thread worth reading. He is singularly the most interesting commenter I’ve ever come across there. He is prepared, it seems, to not completely dismiss the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ teaching. He just interprets them in an interesting way.

He introduced his views like this:

You comment that you follow the teachings of Jesus. I assume that, like most Christians, you consider him the Son of God. I submit to you that, on the contrary, he was a human being who was an apocalypticist who was preaching that God was about to arrive in his kingdom and that the people must prepare themselves. In Mark 9:1, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death before they have seen the Kingdom of God having come in power. And Mark 13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation (i.e., presumably, the one he was addressing) will not pass away before all these things take place. In Mark 14:62 Truly I tell you, You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. In Mathew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

I am a former Christian who had questions that religion could not answer, such as why Jesus would be preaching fervently for the people to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom when it wasn’t supposed to happen for millenniums later. It simply made no sense. I’ve since realize the problem after much research from non religious sources, that it was actually supposed to happen back then, but it didn’t, which blew Christianity out of the water for me.

Then he brought up this theory on the promise to David…

Here is something to cogitate over. Yahweh made a covenant with the House of David that David’s descendants would hold the reigns of power over Israel for ever. Let me remind you that this is from a god who is all knowing. Well, the leader of a nation, I forget which, removed the ruling Davidian and replaced him with a nonDavidian. So much for an all knowing god.

Like most Christians I think Jesus was talking about his kingdom coming at the crucifixion (and resurrection). I’m a 2 Corinthians 1:20 man myself…

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

One thing I hate in these arguments – and it’s similar to Ben’s disdain for experts – is when people quote “scholars” as though an issue is decided. Like this quote from Wayne (who really did have an interesting hermeneutic, and one I hadn’t really encountered before. I knew it existed, I’d just never met anybody who bought it):

“How can we look at the Old Testament and take it seriously? Scholars have determined that Abraham was simply a legend and didn’t exist. Also, the book of Joshua tells a powerful tale of conquest, supported by a God who showed no respect for most of the Holy Land’s existing inhabitants, however scholars have determined it is not history and it never was.”

Oh yeah, and anything in the Bible that contradicts his interpretations of other bits of the Bible is invalid…

Unfortunately, scholars are convinced that Paul did not write the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (called the “Pastoral” epistles, because they deal with how these pastors should oversee their churches.) So this passage you quoted has no validity.

When I objected to his “scholars”, I got this response:

When it comes to religion, I will pick the majority of scholars over the majority of Christians anytime, especially when their interpretation makes more sense.

I decided that Wayne had been pretty heavily influenced by the previously featured Bart Erhman… I found, and posted, this quote from a scholar about Ehrman’s “scholarship”…

A criticism of Erhman from an NT lecturer:

It is mystifying however why he would attempt to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted which frankly reflect no in-depth interaction at all with exegetes, theologians, and even most historians of the NT period of whatever faith or no faith at all. A quick perusal of the footnotes to this book, reveal mostly cross-references to Ehrman’s earlier popular works, with a few exceptions sprinkled in—for example Raymond Brown and E.P Sanders, the former long dead, the latter long retired. What is especially telling and odd about this is Bart does not much reflect a knowledge of the exegetical or historical study of the text in the last thirty years. It’s as if he is basing his judgments on things he read whilst in Princeton Seminary. And that was a long time ago frankly.

Then another commenter took me to task for bringing Ehrman into the discussion. How dare I be so presumptuous. And Wayne linked me to this friend of his, where he’d commented with similar views (almost word for word) in the past… and credited Erhman. Priceless.

“I was originally Christian, but had too many questions like why did Jesus preach back then that you must prepare yourself for the coming Kingdom if it wasn’t going to happen until millenniums later. Or why did Jesus tell his disciples that some of them would still be standing when his Father would arrive in glory in his kingdom, if it wasn’t supposed to happen then? Ministers could never give me an answer, but Bart Erhman did.”

Perhaps this post will be enough to bring Wayne here to continue this discussion. Lets see. It’s certainly the rambliest thing I’ve posted for a while.

The myth of the perfect minister

While I’m in a “reflect on Sunday’s sermon” kind of mood…

There is much talk in pragmatic circles about getting the “best” ministers possible. We all want the next Driscoll/Piper/Chandler/Jensen rocking up to preach on a Sunday – or being an assistant minister doing what we tell them to do.

In a semi-tangental point in last night’s sermon our minister made a reference to difference between Paul’s approach to team ministry and Barnabas’ approach. Paul didn’t want John Mark on his team after the guy had a bad first innings, while Barnabas was happy to give the loser a second chance (which later paid off).

I suspect those of us heading down the pathway of full time ministry see this story as a chance to identify with either Paul or Barnabas – the perfectionist v the whatever it is that Barnabas is. I wonder if most of us are more likely to start off being John Marks – people who stuff up a bit and cause a schism amongst the older generation…

Were any of these guys perfect? I’d say no. Paul was too picky, Barnabas was probably not picky enough, and John Mark? Well who wants a rookie John Mark type character on their team?

One of the great things about the list I posted in that last post is that every guy on it (except Jesus) has at least one pretty major character flaw, and in most cases it’s kept for posterity’s sake in the best selling book of all time.

That’s a more preachy tone than I’m normally comfortable with (unless I’m telling atheists how to be better people)… so I’ll leave it there. For now.

Extreme Segway

Segways are our future. So it’s great to know that in the future there’ll still be something like Motocross for bogans to enjoy.

Speaking of Motocross reminds me of an old motorbike racing game Paul (best man at my wedding – currently in South America and occasional reader) and I bought once where you could design your own awesome tracks and win money to upgrade your bikes… it was awesome.

Anyway, I found this at Gizmodo.

Segway Supercross!

The chips are down

I have made passing reference to the fact that I engage in a series of emailed conversations with my friends Ben, Paul and James. These conversations keep me sane. James was the guy who looked like the guy who eats scorpions – although if like me your workplace blocks Facebook there’s only one photo in that post so you’ll just have to picture him as that guy with the scorpions. Ben has been written about so many times that his name appears as one of the most used tags on this site. Paul, well, you don’t want to see a photo of Paul or have me talk much about him. Lets just call him a man of mystery.

Anyway, today’s discussions rest on potato chips – well that and the infinitely more painful subject of how cool iPhones are. That’s painful for me. I don’t have one. More specifically we’re discussing the superior brand and variety of potato chip.

Based solely on brand and not taking flavour into account my list is as follows*:

1. Pringles
2. Tasty Jacks
3. Red Rock Deli
4. Kettles
5. Smiths crinkle cut

*Potato chips only – doritos and CCs are a different category entirely.

Any advances on this list? Favourite flavours that I should consider in expanding the list to include finer details?