Paul - the Apostle of the Gentiles


PAUL - The APOSTLE of the GENTILES

It has been suggested by some eminent scholars that the matter of the Canonical Gospels is, to a large extent, 'mythical', and that the Gnosis of Ancient Egypt was carried into other lands by the underground passage of the 'Mysteries', to emerge at last as the legend of 'Historic Christianity'.
It is suggested that the 'mythical Christ' was as surely continued from Egypt as were the 'mythical types' of the Christ on the Gnostic Jewels, and in the Catacombs of Rome !
Once this ground is felt to be firm underfoot it emboldens and warrants some in cutting the Gordian knot that has been so deftly complicated for us in the Epistles of Paul.


Paul of Tarsus
The result of such speculation suggests that Paul was the 'opponent' and not the apostle of Historic (that is Judaic) Christianity.
It is well known to all serious students of the subject that there was an original rent or rift of difference between the Paul (Saul of Tarsus) and the other founders of Christianity, whom he first met in Jerusalem - namely, Cephas (or Peter), James, and John.
He did not think much of them personally, but scoft at their pretensions to being 'Pillars of the Church'.
Those men had nothing in common with him from the first, and never forgave him for his independence and opposition to the last.
It is significant that two voices are heard contending in Paul's Epistles.
They propound different doctrines which it is suggested are so fundamentally opposed as to be for ever irreconcilable.
The two doctrines in question are those of the Gnostic Christ, and the 'historic Jesus'.
Both cannot be true to Paul; and it has been suggested that both doctrines were not originally derived from Paul.

PAULINE THEOLOGY


From a political perspective Pauline Christianity can be seen as a method of taming a dangerous sect among radical Jews, and making it palatable to Roman authorities.
Pauline Christianity was essentially based on Rome, and made use of the administrative skills which Rome had honed.
Its system of organization with a single bishop for each town was the means by which it obtained its hegemony.
The theological aspect is the claim that Paul transmuted Jesus the Jewish messiah into the universal (in a wider meaning "catholic") Saviour.
Mainstream Christianity relies on Paul’s writings as integral to the biblical theology of the New Testament, and regards them as supposed amplifications and explanations claimed to be consistent with the teachings of Jesus and other New Testament writings.
There is, however, a Pauline distinction different from that found elsewhere in the New Testament, a distinction that unduly influenced later Christianity.
The pejorative use of the expression "Pauline Christianity" relies in part upon a thesis that Paul's supporters, as a distinct group, had an undue influence on the formation of the canon of scripture, and also that certain bishops, especially the Bishop of Rome, influenced the debates by which the dogmatic formulations known as the Creeds came to be produced, thus ensuring a Pauline interpretation of the gospel.
The thesis is founded on differences between the views of Paul and the apostles in Jerusalem, and also between the picture of Paul in the Acts of the Apostles and his own writings, such that it is claimed that the essential Jewish or Old Testament character of the faith was lost.
It has been suggested that Paul radically distorted Jesus' teachings, and that Paul was instrumental in the church's "deviation" from Jesus' teaching and practices.
It has also been stated that 'Paul spoiled the message of Christ.'
And it is significant that the Ebionites believed Paul was a false prophet, whose task was not to convert Romans to Christians but Christians to Romans.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, wrote in the latter half of the 2nd century that the Ebionites rejected Paul as an apostate from the law, using only a version of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, known as the 'Gospel of the Ebionites'.
It has also been postulated that several key elements were added by Paul to Christian theology that were not evident in Jesuism.
These included:

Original sin
Making Jews the villains
Making Jesus divine
Transubstantiation of bread and wine into actual flesh and blood
Jesus' death being seen as atonement for human sin
Making Jesus the Messiah
Shifting the emphasis from an earthly to a heavenly kingdom
Enlarging the chosen people to include anyone who accepted Jesus as Saviour
Making salvation a matter of belief in Jesus almost regardless of the demands of the Torah
Establishing a hierarchy (literally a holy order) to create and control a Church, and more importantly, to create and control the beliefs of its membership.


The argument made that Christian doctrine (that is, the teachings of Jesus) was subsequently distorted by Paul and the Church of Rome depends on a view as to how the canon of Scripture came to be compiled, about which relatively little is known.
The earliest references to Paul's writing are fragmentary: Clement of Rome, writing about AD 95, quotes from 'The Letter to the Romans'; Ignatius of Antioch (d. AD 115) quotes from 'The First Letter to the Corinthians', 'The letter to the Romans', and from 'The First Lettter to Timothy' and 'The Letter to Titus' as if authoritative, not merely as the opinion of one writer.
Among the more radical views regarding Paul is the contention that Jesus was a mythical figure, and that Christianity was in good part invented by Paul.
More widely influential is the view that Paul was utterly opposed to the disciples, based upon his view that 'The Acts of the Apostles' was late and unreliable, and that Catholic Christianity was a synthesis of the views of Paul and the Judaising church in Jerusalem.
In addition, the view that Paul took over the faith, and transformed the Jewish teacher, Jesus, to the 'Son of God' is still widely accepted.
As for the 'New Testament' itself, there are evident tensions between the Judaizing party and Paul's views, which are made plain by a comparison between 'The Acts of the Apostles' and Paul's letters in which Paul is often seen as anti-Jewish (pro-Hellenization or Romanization).

PAULINE MYSTICISM

Pauline mysticism is mysticism associated with Pauline Christianity.
Pauline mysticism shows distinct differences from 'mystical theology'.
A survey of the mysticism of Paul the apostle suggests that there are different types of Mysticism.
Paul's mysticism is not of the kind that attempts a contact with the cosmic or super-natural.
It is of a different kind.
This mysticism is not a 'God contact mysticism'.
It is a 'Christ Mediation Mysticism', in which man cannot achieve a union with God directly, but may enter into a union with Christ, who is both man and God.
This contact is made not by magical rites, sacraments or any works on our part, but by a literal co-experiencing of Christ's death and resurrection.
Pauline mysticism and Gnostic or Hellenistic Christian mysticism have been considered to be in direct contrast with one another.
Pauline mysticism is not about “being one with God or being in God” and 'son-ship' to God is not conceived as “an immediate mystical relation to God, but as mediated and effected by means of a mystical union with Christ”.
Paul does not commend any kind of “God mysticism”, but rather saw human beings to enter into relation with God by means of a “Christ mysticism”, and it is this mysticism which is central to Paul's message.
The fundamental thought of Pauline mysticism runs thus: in the mystery of
"I am in Christ; in Him I know myself as a being who is raised above this sensuous, sinful, and transient world and already belongs to the transcendent; in Him I am assured of resurrection; in Him I am a Child of God."
Another feature of Paul’s mysticism is that the Christian is “conceived as having died and risen again with Him”, thus, the believer has been set free from 'Sin and the Law', and now possesses the 'Spirit of Christ', and is thus assured of resurrection.
'Christ mysticism' experienced by Christians is reckoned by Paul to be a kind of co-experiencing of Christ’s death and resurrection: And as for redemption, it is accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection.
The perishable world is a stage on which angels of heaven and demons do battle.
Jesus also becomes a 'Messianic King', with command over angels who is able to defeat all who oppose God.
Paul emphasise 'justification by faith alone' (Sola fide), in the 'Epistle to the Romans'.
Christ’s death is portrayed as a 'sin offering', which erases sin and makes God’s forgiveness possible.
This “righteousness by faith” is also individualistic, and detached from participation in the 'mystical Body of Christ', and it does not lead to an ethical theory:
Paul arrives at the idea of a faith which rejects not only the 'works of the Law', but works in general.
Yet, ethics are not absent from the thought of Paul, but rather they are re-conceived.
By participating in Christ’s death and resurrection, the believer becomes a 'new creation'.
In principle the believer is no longer able to sin.
However, this participation proceeds gradually making ethics necessary.
It is only in so far as a man is purified and liberated from the world that he becomes capable of truly ethical action”.
Paul describes ethical action in many ways, including sanctification, giving up the service of sin, and living for God.
'Love' is seen as the highest manifestation of this ethical life.
Paul is seen as the architect of this "cross centred" theology, referring to Jesus as "Christ" and stressing his messianic role.
His resurrection is seen as the prototype for the future resurrection of all of humanity.
St. Paul had often been criticized for directing attention away from the life and teachings of Jesus to a more mystical religion revolving around the godlike Christ, one focused upon his saving death.
It had also been pointed out that his concept is almost entirely absent from the speeches of the disciples as described in the Acts of the Apostles.
Redemption is seen as an act of ascent, not mystical experience.



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