Friday, September 24, 2010
Paul, the apostle: Called, not converted
That puts Paul in the line of Old Testament prophets whose aim was to correct or redirect Israel/the Israelites/Judaism back to God's first intentions for them as the firstfruits, but just the firstfruits, of the Promise of Abraham to become the father of all nations; it helps tie Paul's emphasis on community more directly to Sinai and the law's emphasis on neighborliness and "love God and love neighbor as yourself."
It helps explain the earliest conceptions of the Jesus movement as a new expression of, or new direction (or a return to an old expression of, or redirection) of Judaism, and not a new religion.
It reduces the need to "explain" how Paul was not a Christian but can be said, but only by people looking back to him, to have been the "founder of Christianity."
It helps make the Hebrew Bible much more relevant to me personally to see the Jesus movement more as a prophetic movement within Judaism in which Gentiles have been enveloped rather than as a "break" with Judaism or as "Part 2" of the story.
Studying Paul's account of his conversion as given in Galatians, as well as certain remarks on ecstatic experiences he notes in Thessalonians, he notes that these follow far too closely with reams of stories cross-culturally on what happens when an individual is "converted" from one world-view to another.
While there are, of course, continuities (consider the heavy hand of Plotinus and Mani on St. Augustine), the break is also there.
BTW, you're blogrolled.
Personally, I doubt it. He held himself out to be perfect under the Law. And the apparent anguish he expresses in Romans, I have been convinced is a kind of rhetoric common in learned correspondence of the time and place -- diatribe -- employed to make his point about Gentiles, post-Christ, being adopted into the covenant with Israel.
And, hey, welcome and cool.