What would Christianity look like without Paul's writings?

by AK - Jeff 107 Replies latest jw friends

  • Pistoff

    "One in particular is Ben Witherington, he states that many of Ehrman's arguements come straight from the German school of higher criticism from over one hundred years ago. All of these objections have been refuted by scholars. "

    No, not actually. Are the German scholars you are referring to the ones who came up with the documentary hypothesis for the jewish bible? That theory has not been successfully challenged.

    Are you suggesting that scholars have abandoned the Q theory? They have not, and there is consensus that Paul did not write all of his books.

    What I got from Ehrman's book is that the errors are a death knell to fundamentalist belief, the idea that the Bible is inerrant. It takes five minutes with an internet connection to prove it isn't, but that does not affect many, maybe most, christians. The bible does not need to be inerrant for them.

    I am not suggesting that the NT is without merit by agreeing that it is full of errors. But it was not written, or meant, as history as we know it; it is a theological view of what happened to Jesus, and the rest is understandable as the growing pains of a new fellowship that tries to see a divine reason for the bad things that are happening to them, much like the Israelites and the Jews did.

    Christianity without Paul may well not have happened at all is my 2 cents; the Pauline texts were selected for the canon because they worked better for building communities. They did that well; whether or not it was what Jesus had in mind is another question.

    I have to wonder how modern christian belief would be different if at least some of the gnostic content had been allowed into the canon.

  • Pistoff

    Reniaa said:

    "talking about receiving the holy spirit for them to use, if you believe in Jesus you must also trust that Paul and the other writers in the gospels got holy spirit to guide them on the right course."

    This is circular logic; "since the bible is inspired, when we say it is inspired we must believe it"

    I believe Jesus existed, but I don't believe that Jesus is a central figure in the fight between good and evil; I don't believe he died for anyone's sins, that is an idea that is retrojected onto the history of Jesus, mostly by Paul himself, and is a viewpoint about Jesus, not history. And the idea of a god being killed and reborn is not unique to christianity.

    I reject the idea that I have to trust Paul or any other figure that we have very limited information about, except what he tells us about himself. It is all a package that is presented: this book is inspired, the accounts are all true, if you doubt it you are atheist and you are condemned by God.

    I believe that bad things happen when people accept things they can't understand, defend or prove.


  • allelsefails

    "The bible" is not a book. It cannot be examined and accepted or rejected. "The Bible" is a library with 66 books in it. (Unless yours has more or less - which many do.)Each of those 66 books must stand or fail on its own merit. For me I see the synoptic Gospels having great value, John less so - written much later and out of joint with the other 3. Acts - good history, but inspired... not so much. The other books Again interesting insight into Early Christianity, but none of them claim inspiration so I don't need to attribute it to them. Hebrews - Not written by Paul - doesn't claim to be - why do we need to add to the scriptures - they are what they are. ........ When ALLelseFAILS just read the thing don't interpret it.

  • AllTimeJeff


    I have to go to work, but I will address some of what you suggested now, and the quotes after work. (I do want to say, I have no issue with your personal beliefs. However, I take exception to your pervasive arguments, as if a conspiracy exists to trick people into not believing the bible. The issue is, does the evidence support the claim that worshipers and adherents insist upon?)

    ATJ asks:

    Can you give me a quote where I made an assertion?

    Here you go:

    Still, the fact remains that men wrote these letters, men translated these letters, men preserved them, and there is very real evidence that they were "tweaked" if not outright changed through the centuries as various religio/political views came and changed with them.

    When you said "assertion", I took this definition of the word, which I understand it to mean.

    a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason: a mere assertion; an unwarranted assertion. (dictionary.com)

    I couldn't disagree with you more. It is no assertion that men wrote, translated, preserved, and tweaked the letters of Paul. Due to time constraints, I cannot type in direct quotes, but I will later. Hope you will be reading later on.....

    You mention Bart (not Brad) Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus.

    OOPS! Sorry about that. It was late when I typed that. I have a Simpson's mental block on Bart.

    Many conservative scholars have come out with papers that are critical of Ehrman. One in particular is Ben Witherington, he states that many of Ehrman's arguments come straight from the German school of higher criticism from over one hundred years ago. All of these objections have been refuted by scholars.

    I take exception to this as well. Conservative scholars have a predisposition to be critical of those critical of anyone who says the bible is uninspired of god. As for Ben Witherington, its not like he is neutral.

    Ben Witherington III is an evangelical Biblical scholar, and lecturer on New Testament Studies. (Wikipedia)

    I couldn't give 2 nickels about what this quack says.

    BART Ehrman's book is a lightening rod precisely because it takes aim at the sacred cow of Christianity, the bible. It exposes the flaws without a religio/political point of view. Those who would criticize this book do so for the same reasons that "apostates" are criticized by JW's. They can't dispute the facts, but they can muddy the waters and change the flavor of the debate.

    I will have to go back to "Misquoting Jesus" but there is a passage in it that shows exactly how 1 Corinthians was altered. I think chap 11 and 14 were given as examples concerning statements that contradict on Paul's view of women. While I was a JW and had to explain away Paul's misogyny several times, this chapter demonstrated not only the changes that occurred over time, but that in all likelihood, the most inflammatory of Paul's words in Chap 14 about a woman not teaching was likely added by a scribe with a thing against women.

    The point being: Paul's letters were altered, that this alteration allowed a direct contradiction chapters apart in the same book, and that this certainly shows a lack of inspiration of the divine.

    How often have women through the centuries (millenniums) been held back and down because of mens understanding of women thanks to passages of Paul? This occurred several times in JW land, and it still occurs today in churches all over. Pragmatic evidence also shows that there is no wisdom in these words that are accepted as the word of god by Christians.

    It's quite a conundrum to defend: Either Paul was directed by God to be a misogynist and we got the direct quotes from god through Paul, or we acknowledge the contradiction, which opens up a can of worms people of faith would sometimes rather not deal with.

    The problem is people that are so eager and willing to reject the Bible based on the old and refuted arguments of the 19th century. The problem is simple. I, like you will not argue with these sorts. However, I will not stand by and allow conclusions based on flimsy or no evidence, to remain unchallenged.

    What constitutes "flimsy or no evidence"? The many MSS that contradict each other? The internal evidence of Pauline dogma as relates to women? To consider Paul's letters on just those 2 lines of evidence is solid enough. If you want to throw in the rest of the bible, then I will give you a very simple reason to be skeptical:

    It's an ancient collection of scrolls that have been deified throughout antiquity. Far from leading to progress, it is only when secularists have been able to be free from biblical bondage that progress in science, technology, and equal rights for women and minorities has taken place.

    You assert that 19th century higher criticism has somehow been successfully argued against? How can anyone with an education take this statement seriously? (I mean no disrespect to you personally, but that is just an amazing statement to make) Here is an outline of what higher criticism is:

    Historical criticism or higher criticism is a branch of literary analysis that investigates the origins of a text: as applied in biblical studies it investigates the books of the Bible and compares them to other texts written at the same time, before, or recently after the text in question. In Classical studies, the new higher criticism of the nineteenth century set aside "efforts to fill ancient religion with direct meaning and relevance and devoted itself instead to the critical collection and chronological ordering of the source material," [1] Thus higher criticism, whether biblical, classical, Byzantine or medieval, focuses on the sources of a document to determine who wrote it, when it was written, and where. For example, higher criticism deals with the synoptic problem, the question of how Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate to each other. In some cases, such as with several Pauline epistles, higher criticism confirms the traditional understanding of authorship. In other cases, higher criticism contradicts church tradition (as with the gospels) or even the words of the Bible itself (as with 2 Peter).

    The Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466? - 1536) is usually credited as the first to study the Bible in this way [2] .

    The phrase higher criticism is used in contrast with Lower criticism (or textual criticism), the endeavour to determine what a text originally said before it was altered (through error or intent).

    Higher criticism treats the Bible as a text created by human beings at a particular historical time and for various human motives, in contrast with the treatment of the Bible as the inerrant word of God.

    In other words, instead of treating the bible as sacred first and working backwords, it examines the texts and the evidence, and lets this evidence move forward.

    There is no compelling reason in the absence of "god" telling us all that the bible is really his book to take it any other way then men writing it. We have evidence of this, as the scrolls were found to be written with ink and parchment or vellum. Great evidence that man wrote it in my opinion.

    I say this not to disrespect your personal faith, but I do take issue with how you would characterize the arguments of atheists and agnostics who for very good reasons, do not believe the bible is the inspired word of god.

    No, I have not asserted anything. I prefer to try to understand your views before I make my views known.

    Thats not very helpful, and rather superior, but I have humbled myself before your lofty questions.

    I would love to dialoge with you further on this, but if you are convinced that I am just blindly following the Bible, then there would be no benefit to either of us.

    I am not convinced that you blindly follow the bible, I think you do so with eyes wide open. My argument isn't your own personal choice here. You have come here very clearly to defend the bible. I respect that you personally have decided to do this.

    However, you have an untenable position as to defending this in public. At that point, it is proper to question your evidence. The issue isn't the amount of handwritten copied MSS available, as if this somehow shows how great the bible is. It actually works against the arguments of divine inspiration. Nor is the issue those higher critics who look at the bible as simply the words of men, and this somehow means that there evidential findings should be discarded simply because they don't believe the bible as you do.

    Your evidence will always be in question, as there simply is no evidence that Jesus was any more then a great man. Only the bible maintains he was resurrected. The "miracles" in the bible? Unproveable. Sorry. I don't need clarification, I need repeatable evidence. God could certainly help your argument by showing up? I would be happy to offer my life as an example of how god will judge all non believers who should have "seen" that he was the true god. Maybe my sacrifice will spare others from judgment. I don't know......

    A Christian is asked to devote their life to Christ, to accept the bible as the word of god, and yet to ignore clear contradictions and hateful statements regarding the destruction of non believers and others? No, the burden of proof isn't even on you as a person of faith. It is really on god. Who once again, must rely on you, and others, to do his talking for him, while he invisibly sits somewhere and lets us all stumble around, groping in the dark for our salvation.

    It's not just contradictions in Paul's letters, or the bible in general. Just read it. It is a discombobulated collection of scrolls, written by men, copied again and again and again by man, and the superstitious value put into it is finally melting away.

    The point of this thread is that Jesus seems like a great man. Paul introduced all sorts of crud, claimed it as coming from Jesus, and got considerable power off it. He was a religious zealot, not a clear minded apostle, as the bible would have you believe. We would all be better if we could take the gospels, and throw out the rest of the NT.



    Thanks for your reply. I do not think dialoge with you would be profitable based on this comment:

    I couldn't give 2 nickels about what this quack says.

    So your mind is madeup regardless of the facts? That comment makes your apology ring hollow. Therefore I believe that Matthew 7:6 applies in this situation.

  • PSacramento

    In regards to Pauls' teachings, we must be critical of what ANYONE preaches in reagards to what seems to be contray to the written word of God, and we must also take into account that, while the Holy Spirit guides US in terms of faith and God, he may not in terms of "misc." issues such as those that Paul mentions.

    I doubt that the HS cared if Women braided their hair or didn't cover their heads, Paul, outside the issues of faith, had very jewish ideas in regards to certain things that have ZERO to do with Faith.

  • AllTimeJeff


    You didn't even need to comment if you didn't want to. I have no idea what constitutes profitable to you, but I can tell you that Matt 7:6 is every Christian's favorite cop out scripture when they are on the wrong side of a factual debate.

    Having said that, your scholar is a quack, and I will elaborate why. His point of view is not that of a scholar or a learner, it is of an apologist. While his degrees are credible, it also means that he has the same access to information regarding the bible as most other scholars, but chooses for whatever reason to ignore the very real evidence that the bible is the word of man, not god.

    To review the history of the bible is to simply be acquainted with the truth. The facts. What you or anyone else decides to worship is fine, just don't misrepresent the bible as the unerring word of god. It most certainly is not.

    And insofar as that FACT is irrefutable, I would most certainly agree that a dialog between the two of us would not be profitable for you.

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff

    X - What 'evidence'? Well, show that the Bible is more than words dreamed up, and written by men.

    More pointedly to the thread - show that Paul's words are more than Paul's words.

    It's that simple.




    Remember that your thoughts on Witherington apply equally to Ehrman or any other liberal theologian you trot out, or do they get some sort of special pleading beacuse their presuppositions match your own?


    You have not answered the question. What specific type of evidence would you accept? With out a common ground on the evidences you would accept, there is no purpose to me supplying information tht you will only dismiss as not the sort of evidence you desire. Too many years of dialoging with atheists and skeptics have taught me not to walk into that minefield.

  • reniaa

    You guys may not like the paul letters but I just was checking the revelations as part of the canon and one thing that came up is how early the confirmation on the Paul letters was, they were always completely accepted as canon by literally everyone. They also have very early dates on them.


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