Two classes of Christians after all?

by Narkissos 36 Replies latest jw friends

  • Narkissos


    I have not read this book but several articles by Bart Ehrman which I always found very serious and interesting. He's one of the few scholars who have succeeded in renewing interest in textual criticism beyond its classical function, i.e. ascertaining "the" original text. There is a lot to learn from this approach.


    Thank you.

    I guess there is a time for the microscope approach and a time for stepping back, gradually enriching both perspectives as we move back and forth...

  • LittleToe

    Happy New Year!

    I noticed, too, and couldn't resist posting it (KJV)

  • TheListener

    I'm resurrecting this thread (imagine me with arms outspread raised high standing with my a mane of white hair and a large white beard blowing in the wind)

    I'm resurrecting this thread.

    Narkissos linked a discussion of 2 Cor. 5:20 to this thread and I think for good reason.

    After thoroughly reading the material I have a couple of questions:

    1. If there are two classes of christians do they have different rewards?

    2. Could the two classes of christians be jews vs. gentile?

    3. Would one of these two classes also be the firstfruits mentioned in Revelation?

    As I read the scriptures it seems that everyone has the opportunity for the same reward. But, it does seem that some will have a greater role in God's kingdom as well (like kings and priests, firstfruits and sitting at Jesus' right hand). Perhaps those that exert themselves more and have an extra measure of God's spirit will be on the top of the heap in God's Kingdom and the rest of us be the base of the pyramid.

    Same reward; different responsibilities?

  • Narkissos

    Thanks TL for this unexpected resurrection...

    1. If there are two classes of christians do they have different rewards?

    First, although I mentioned "two classes of Christians" (somewhat provocatively) in the thread title, you have certainly noticed that the difference I suggested did not apply to "early Christianity" as a whole (I don't think a common "Christian" identity emerged before the very late 1st century) but to different, largely autonomous groups which eventually came to be called "early Christians" by later generations. This makes room, not for just "two classes," but for several such informal hierarchies which at first did not acknowledge each other. For instance, the "apostles" which were on the top of the Pauline scale of value were probably those whom Judeo-Christians most looked down upon as "the least in the kingdom of God" (Matthew 5:17ff) or even as "workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23), whereas some Judeo-Christian "apostles" could be called "false apostles" and "ministers of Satan" by Paul (2 Corinthians). My point is that each group had its own inner hierarchy (of value if not of function).

    And it seems indeed that in both cases it did imply different "rewards" (which has nothing to do with different destinations as per the WT): in Matthew, those who have forsaken everything to follow Jesus would be sitting on thrones and judging the tribes of Israel. Paul also seems to refer to different rewards for different preachers in Hellenistic Christianity (such as Apollos, Cephas and himself) in 1 Corinthians 3.

    2. Could the two classes of christians be jews vs. gentile?

    Obviously not for Paul, because his top-team of "apostles" or "ministers" included both Jews and Gentiles (e.g. Titus). As soon as "Judeo-Christians" accepted the idea of a mission to the Gentiles (as is the case in the last strata of Matthew) it is quite likely that ethnicity was not an essential criterium either: provided (contrary to Paul) that Gentile converts would accept the full yoke of the Law, including circumcision (e.g. the Didachè), and live up to the missionary ideal of poverty, I doubt this would remain a big difference. Note that Matthew has the most characteristic kind of Jewish anti-Judaism: the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation which will bear its fruits.

    3. Would one of these two classes also be the firstfruits mentioned in Revelation?
    Revelation is much in the continuity of "Judeo-Christian" tradition (following the Lamb wherever he goes reminds of the Synoptics), but the notion of martyrdom becomes central.
  • Narkissos

    In another thread Terry commented:

    owhere is the idea of vicarious suffering so clearly expressed as in (the probably post-Pauline) Colossians 1:24:
    I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

    Although the logical connection is far less obvious, one can't help notice a similar difference of requirement in the Synoptic Gospels: the disciples have to forsake everything to follow Jesus, while nothing is required from the multitude that Jesus feeds and heals -- except kindness and respect to the disciples -- even handing them a cup of water would bring everlasting reward.

    I guess I'm reading it an entirely different way.

    I read it as Paul chiding and making himself out to be THE WAY others should go/appreciate--but do not YET go or appreciate.

    Paul is always beating his breast and saying, "Look at me..look at me..look at me..." as a kind of substitute Christ.

    He wants to be respected, followed and listened to because he is suffering.....oh is he suffering... while others party.

    That is the feeling I get. Paul is Mr.Martyr whom nobody seems to appreciate.

    All the letters from Paul are him whining, "Why can't you appreciate how important I AM?"

    Paul is always in a snit. He is jealous, angry and ranting that other christians seem to have more gravitas and an easier life.

    Paul annoys me more than anything. But, I'm not really reading two or more classes of Christians per se into his writings. However, I could be wrong.

    I'm not sure we really disagree here.

    Don't believe "saints" and "martyrs" too easily when they say they want everybody to be like them. They don't mean it most of the times. Standing out -- and mildly complaining about it -- is part of the game.

    I find the psychological and (in the broad sense) political motivations of Paul's very original theology fascinating. The greatest ideas of the history of mankind can come from sick minds and sordid situations. That doesn't make the ideas less interesting. To the contrary imo.

    For instance, the Pauline notion of "justification by faith alone" can be, to a large extent, "explained" by Paul's own psychological plight in dealing with the law (cf. Romans 7) and the political necessity to justify "his" Gentile "law-less" churches and ministry in the face of Jewish-Christian criticism (cf. Galatians). The intellectual solution to this not-so-remarkable situation is genial nonetheless.

    Similarly, the mystical "economy" of sufferings I tried to point out clearly serves pretty trivial purposes. The "self-sacrificing" missionaries need less self-sacrificing sympathisers (especially the wealthy Christian patrons in the upper-middle class of the Graeco-Roman society) to back them up. Those are not meant to forsake everything and become missionaries -- that would be economically disastrous. Support and appreciation will do. The "vicarious suffering" notion makes that possible. It is a great idea nonetheless.

  • avidbiblereader

    Phil 3:10-15 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

    Pressing toward the Goal

    12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, [ d ] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

    15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you


  • peacefulpete

    I have to admit I miss threads like this. Not sure why. But I wanted to toss in the thought about how typical these Christian notions of "class" distinction are in religion. Throughout the OT theology and preChristian Judaism there exist the insiders (chosen, perfected e.g.) and the marginalized (god fearers, foreigners e.g.) who receive favor via the blessing of the insiders and minimal commitment. Perhaps its an inevitable consequence of group dynamics. Even within the WT world there are these currents albeit unspoken. There are articles in the mags aimed at the publisher class and a few (sometimes just paragraphs) aimed at the more invested members like pioneers and missionaries. They have a very different message when read carefully.

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