2012-06-11

When Is Paul’s Silence Golden?

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by Tim Widowfield

English: Engraving requestin silence from visi...

English: Engraving requesting silence from visitors, Notre-Dame de Senlis (Photo credit: Rama at Wikipedia)

The Casey-Holding Theory of Pauline High-Context Culture

We were treated recently to another dose of apologia run amok in Maurice Casey’s “frightful” diatribe against Earl Doherty. Following in the footsteps of fellow apologist, J.P. Holding, Casey explains away Paul’s silence regarding the earthly Jesus by a misapplication of Edward T. Hall’s cultural context paradigm (ref. Beyond Culture).

According to the Casey-Holding Theory, Paul was silent about Jesus in his epistles because (quoting Casey):

Paul’s epistles were written in a high context culture, which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time, whereas American, European and many other scholars belong to a low context culture, which gives them quite unrealistic expectations of what the authors of the epistles ought to have written.

By the time Paul was writing his letters “in a ‘high-context’ realm,” Holding states:

There was no need for Paul to make reference to the life-details of Jesus or recount his teachings, for that had been done long ago.

However, in “Interpreting Evidence: An Exchange with Christian Apologist JP Holding,” Kris D. Komarnitsky neatly brushes aside the argument by using Holding’s own words against him, writing:

JP goes on to argue that the “high-context” society Paul and the Corinthians lived in can account for Paul’s silence on the discovered empty tomb. But as JP admits, even in high-context societies “repeat of detail would . . . occur if some need were present to repeat.” This just leads us back to the question above. If Paul is trying to defend Jesus’ resurrection, he definitely has a need to repeat information. And in fact that is exactly what we see Paul do. He repeats the basic community creed that Jesus was raised and that this has been confirmed in the scriptures (1 Cor 15:4). He lists those who Jesus appeared to (1 Cor 15:5-8) which, being an already established Christian community, the Corinthians must have heard about before. Drawing on the authority of these witnesses, Paul then challenges the Corinthians, “Now if Christ is proclaimed [by all of these people] as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12). [emphasis mine]

Freudian Kettle Logic

We can be sure that something is amiss when we’re confronted with kettle logic. On the one hand, we’re told that Paul’s silence is quite understandable in his “high-context culture.” On the other hand, we’re told that Paul was not silent about Jesus. Bart Ehrman in Did Jesus Exist? says Paul know many traditions about Jesus. He writes:

Paul indicates that he received some of these traditions from those who came before him, and it is relatively easy to determine when. Much of what Paul has to say about Jesus, therefore, stems from the same early layer of tradition that we can trace, completely independently, in the Gospels

Even more impressive than what Paul says about Jesus is whom he knew. Paul was personally acquainted, as I’ve pointed out, with Peter and James. Peter was Jesus’s closest confidant throughout his public ministry, and James was his actual brother. Paul knew them for decades, starting in the mid 30s CE. It is hard to imagine how Jesus could have been made up. Paul knew his best friend and his brother. (p. 132, Nook edition)

Today’s NT scholarship is nearly unanimous in its incongruity: (1) Paul was silent about Jesus, but that’s completely understandable given his cultural context and (2) Paul was not silent about Jesus, because look at all the stuff he wrote about him. It’s hard to argue with inconsistent assertions.

Paul’s Semi-silence as a Useful Argument for the Authenticity

On the gripping hand, E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies in Studying the Synoptic Gospels find Paul’s limited references to Jesus in the epistles quite useful for determining which material in the NT goes back to the historical Jesus. (Incidentally, this is a useful and well-written book — highly recommended.)  Sanders and Davies write:

Paul shows remarkably little interest (at least in the letters which survive) in the teaching of the historical Jesus. He quite often refers to Scripture as proof of his points, and not infrequently to Christian experience, whether his own or that of his converts. Only three times in the surviving correspondence does he explicitly quote “the Lord” and then attribute to him a saying which is also in the gospels. Thus we cannot think that he freely invented sayings by “the Lord.” (p. 323, emphasis mine)

For the authors, Paul’s reticence with respect to Jesus tends to show he knew some of Jesus’ sayings, but not others. In their judgment it shows Paul was not inclined to make up pronouncements to further his case. At the same time, if he knew of a saying from “the Lord” that would seal the deal, he was not averse to using it. That said, Paul seems to have had gaps in his “independent” sources.  They continue:

Either the collection of sayings material which surfaced in the gospels had not yet been made, or he was ignorant of them. For a lot of arguments, sayings by Jesus would have been useful. “The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath” (Mark 2.28) could have stood him in good stead in debating whether or not keeping the “days” was required (Gal. 4.10; Rom. 14.5-6). His failure to cite it helps establish his substantial independence of the sayings material as we now have it. (p. 323)

Hence, for Sanders and Davies, those few points at which the gospel and Pauline traditions intersect are of great interest, because:

[W]hen Paul cites a saying by the Lord, he provides the greatest possible independent attestation of it. (p. 323)

Remember, I’m not quoting Earl Doherty. Apparently, back in 1989 mainstream NT scholars could call attention to Paul’s silence and admit that it was a feature of his writing that deserved to be explained (not explained away, à la the Casey-Holding Theory). And not only could scholars draw attention to the silence, but they could also admit that it was because either the sayings collections that made their way into the canonical gospels “had not yet been made, or because he was ignorant of them.” 

Let that sink in for a minute. The senior whiz at The Processed Cheeses Institute mercilessly mocks Doherty for saying essentially the same thing. He sneers and guffaws at Earl’s “incompetence” and his inability confront modern scholarship. Confront this, Maurice.

Of course, Sanders and Davies’ analysis fits in with their overall understanding of multiple attestation, which to them signifies authenticity. However, as we have noted here on Vridar time and time again, it merely signifies antiquity. Is it older? Yes. Does it go back to the historical Jesus? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.

Everyone’s a Winner!

So, was Paul silent about Jesus? There are three definitive answers: Yes, No, and Sometimes. And as luck would have it, no matter which answer you pick, they all prove the historical Jesus. Isn’t scholarship wonderful?

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34 Comments

  • mP
    2012-06-11 13:13:56 UTC - 13:13 | Permalink

    I love the statement, i cant recall who made it, but the bigger the lie the more they believe…

    So what did Paul actually believe ? If he really did travel and preach, for what purpose did he hope to achieve ? Was he simply someone who liked to travel and in his spare time preached. Im guessing that perhaps social discussions might be very different back then given they did not have TV and other modern entertainment. They were a lot more social perhaps his preaching which i understand occured not from door to door but actually in the town square or market might have been simply a form of public debating for entertainment. Please note I am ignoring the agenda of Paul and message of submission to authority, which i actually believe is the true purpose of his writings. Why would contemporaries believe Pauls message, why would they be impressed by some guy who travelled everywhere and preached ?

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-06-12 09:25:35 UTC - 09:25 | Permalink

      This is the principle of the “Big Lie”, explicitly expounded in modern times by Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (vol. I, ch. 10):

      “All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true within itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

      Used by many authoritarian regimes, military dictatures, divine royalty dynasties, etc…

      Some advocates of mythicism estimate that Christianity itself is the result of the biggest lie perpetrated on mankind. Most religions based on myths can be considered falling in that category, as well as spiritualism, theosophy, etc…

      Many modern secular movements are also applications of the Big Lie principle: political ideologies, such as nationalism, nazism, communism, maoism, divine royalty, sacrosanct democracy, political correctness,, New Age speculations, and conspiracy theories of all kinds.
      Most mass beliefs find their strength and drive on mythical interpretations that are related to the Big Lie principle, including pseudo-scientific, morality and medical beliefs.

      Some Big Lies are engineered and consciously planned: Nero accusing Christians with setting off the fire of Rome (according to Tacitus).
      Others grow spontaneously in a small group and are later actively promoted and magnified once they’ve built momentum, Christianity may have been such a case.

      • mP
        2012-06-12 11:14:57 UTC - 11:14 | Permalink

        Nero’s social trick of picking on a minority to focus the majority’s hate is nothing new. There are an unlimited number of examples in history, such as Hitlers passionate hatred of all things jewish, todays obsession with AL Qaeda and more. If anything we can see that history always repeats itself, after all if a recipe has such a good record of success why not use it.

        Back on xianity, what exactly did Paul hope to achieve ? They books dont really say. I dont quite understand his motivation, partly because he always seemed to move on.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-06-12 10:27:10 UTC - 10:27 | Permalink

      The line is used quickly in Quo Vadis (1951): “”People will believe ANY LIE if it’s fantastic enough!” during the discussion to charge Christians with the responsibility of the fire of Rome

      • mP
        2012-06-12 11:16:57 UTC - 11:16 | Permalink

        I enjoy the old historical movies even if they are contrived and pathetically biased and untrue. Cecil B DeMille might not have been aware of all of the todays findings, but again he would have realised that he is assuming too much. All the Biblical movies are the same, they are never honest about the crimes nad cruelties in Hebrew and xian societies.

  • RoHa
    2012-06-11 13:17:11 UTC - 13:17 | Permalink

    I still want to know (a) how they know the society Paul was writing to was a “High Context” society, (b) whether they have a list of what things would be repeated, and what things would not be repeated, and how such a list is justified, and (c) whether any of these guys has actually lived in a high context society?

    • muuh-gnu
      2012-06-11 21:19:42 UTC - 21:19 | Permalink

      > how they know the society Paul was writing to was a “High Context” society

      Because he otherwise would have written more details about the historic Jesus.

      > whether they have a list of what things would be repeated

      It coincides with the things Paul repeated.

      > and what things would not be repeated

      It coincides with the things Paul did not repeat.

      > whether any of these guys has actually lived in a high context society?

      The gospel writers obviously didn’t.

      • RoHa
        2012-06-12 08:48:48 UTC - 08:48 | Permalink

        I suspect you are right.

  • 2012-06-11 15:31:14 UTC - 15:31 | Permalink

    Roo nailed it with his comment at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/blogger-godfreys-blog-reply-2-to-blogger-caseys-blog-post-on-the-internet/#comment-30501

    Casey is a lot like McGrath. They both like to drop names and book titles to make it sound like they’ve really read and know what they’re talking about, but scratch the surface and you find there’s nothing underneath. I’m not saying Casey is like that with stuff he really knows, but I’ve noticed a proclivity in certain theologians to attempt to impress by speaking beyond their area of expertise only to make fools of themselves to those who bother to check up.

    • 2012-06-11 16:38:17 UTC - 16:38 | Permalink

      Yes, and they all like to call themselves “historians,” even though they clearly do not grasp the funadmentals of the craft.

  • 2012-06-11 16:46:59 UTC - 16:46 | Permalink

    Is this is the same Casey who dismisses the idea that Jesus or his disciples baptised people because the Synoptic Gospels are silent about it? (Jesus of Nazareth, page 178)

    Surely in a high-context society, the Gospels had no need to mention what everybody already knew, and we can’t use such arguments from silence.

  • vinnyjh57
    2012-06-12 02:38:50 UTC - 02:38 | Permalink

    Wasn’t Paul writing for polytheistic pagan converts who had very little understanding of the any of the Jewish concepts behind the gospel? Where were these people supposed to have picked up all this context?

    • 2012-06-12 02:59:23 UTC - 02:59 | Permalink

      That’s a good question. I’m in the middle of Social-science Commentary on the Letters of Paul by Malina and Pilch. I’m still trying to get a handle on it, but apparently they believe that Paul wasn’t actually proselytizing Gentiles per se, but Jews living in the diaspora. The authors think that “Israelites” living in the Gentile world had become so assimilated that they may not even have been circumcised.

      As far as I know, Malina was the first NT scholar who appealed to the high-context culture paradigm, so that’s why I bought the book in the first place. But the way Malina describes it, Paul used loaded terms that we don’t understand. In other words, he doesn’t use it to explain Paul’s total silence, but as a way to explain Paul’s subtext, which we moderns often cannot follow.

  • C.J. O'Brien
    2012-06-12 05:14:36 UTC - 05:14 | Permalink

    They’re just letting this “high context culture” bushwa stand in for actual analysis of ancient thoughtways. (Not that the concept as put forward by Hall is bunk; just that merely invoking it isn’t sufficient to show that one has any greater understanding of ancient thought than another.)

  • Blood
    2012-06-12 10:19:19 UTC - 10:19 | Permalink

    “This work is mostly of curiosity value, since it shows how far a hypothesis can be pushed despite its lack of fundamental support.”

    — Sanders and Davies, Studying the Synoptic Gospels, on “Q” scholarship.

    It’s always amusing when Biblical scholars criticize some aspect of Biblical studies for not having “fundamental support.”

    Can’t see the forest from all the trees standing in the way.

  • GakuseiDon
    2012-06-15 19:03:49 UTC - 19:03 | Permalink

    According to Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Context_Group

    “The Context Group is an international team of scholars that merges historical exegesis and the social sciences to interpret the Bible in its social and cultural contexts. It initially organized in 1986 as the “Social Facets Seminar,” headed by John H. Elliott as Chair, meeting in conjunction with The Jesus Seminar under the direction of Robert W. Funk and the Westar Institute. In 1989 it broke ties with the Jesus Seminar and reorganized in Portland, Oregon, as The Context Group, A Project on the Bible in its Social and Cultural Environment…

    The work of the group, since inception, has had considerable influence in the field (as attested by widespread citation), but also has attracted a variety of criticisms…

    At the root of the Context Group’s social-scientific method is the belief that biblical scholars have taken western cultural assumptions for granted when interpreting the Bible, an ancient document produced in a much different culture.

    The key difference is that the modern western world is an individualistic, industrial society, whereas the society of the ancient Mediterranean world was collectivistic and agrarian.

    The ancient Mediterranean was also a high-context society, where discourse took shared cultural values for granted. This contrasts with the modern western world, which is a low-context society in which discourse tends to be more specific and specialized (i.e. to particular groups, subcultures, etc.). According to the Context scholars, the interpreter must learn the cultural assumptions and values behind the text in order to understand it correctly.”

    • 2012-06-15 20:16:12 UTC - 20:16 | Permalink

      An important part of reading any encyclopedia is to examine the authors of the articles to know their biases. Wikipedia guidelines generally frown upon people associated with a group from contributing to articles about their group because of the obvious conflict of interest that will be apparent — though there are times when an affiliated person might make a contribution.

      So when reading a Wikipedia article I often like to check the “edit” and “history” tabs to see who has been responsible for the article. In the case of the Context Group article one quickly notices an overlap between Wikipedia contributors and Context Group members themselves.

      That is an alert to the reader to consider the possibility that the article is a whitewash or publicity tract for the group or its publications. So it is regrettable that one reads only postives in this article and only a passing note is made to the fact that there have been criticisms of the group.

      An unbiased article should at least explain what such criticisms are.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-06-15 20:47:52 UTC - 20:47 | Permalink

    Interestingly, GakuseiDon gives us the part of the description of the high/low context movement using only abstract words. He stops just before we get a taste of the meat of the subject:

    “…the interpreter must learn the cultural assumptions and values behind the text in order to understand it correctly. This involves understanding values such as honor and shame, for example, which Malina calls “pivotal cultural values.”
    Other common themes in Context analysis of the Bible include honor and shame, patron-client relationships, the “evil eye”, kinship, purity codes, and dyadic/group-oriented personalities.”

    It is crystal-clear that the “high context” label covers implicit rules of behavior between members of a given social group that involves the morality and fairness of interpersonal relations. Members of the group are supposed to implicitly know the rules of the social game, and are parts of a “collectivistic and agrarian” society.

    This “high-context” pattern does not involve communication about all quotidian aspects of life, knowledge of which is not conferred by membership in the group or by childhood education in the family, but by gossip and language in the market place or the agora, the meeting place for ancient societies.
    In fact, the Ancient Mediterranean societies became very creative at inventing new forms of effective and rapid communication: history, mythology, political discourses, legal argumentation, mathematical and scientific manuals and treatises, technical manuals, philosophy speculations, even religious collections of “commandments” and beliefs, etc..This is where the Greeks and Romans shined, by opposition to Ancient Egyptians or the Hebrews. And why our modern civilization owes most of its content to the Ancient Greeks and Romans rather than the Egyptian or Hebrew worlds.

    But even among the Hebrews, knowledge of rules of conduct were not immediate and implicit.
    There’s the famous example of 2 Chronicles 34:14-33 which describes how King Josiah’s high priest “rediscovers” the Book of the Law during renovation works in the Temple (7th century BC):

    “Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
    19 When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. 20 He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 21 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book…
    29 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 He went up to the temple of the Lord(AH) with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites—all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 31 The king stood by his pillar(AI) and renewed the covenant(AJ) in the presence of the Lord—to follow(AK) the Lord and keep his commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book.
    32 Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors.
    33 Josiah removed all the detestable(AL) idols from all the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”

    So knowledge of the sacred rules of behavior towards God and his priests were not implicitly taken for granted. Communication by the priests, the prophets and the books was necessary.
    Ancient urban centers were not simply “agrarian”, but contained a lot of craftsmen, artisans and workers, where specialized knowledge had to be learnt through apprenticeships and studies, and explicit communications of rules and values was paramount.

    Conversely even in our modern “individualistic and industrialized” societies, there is a multitude of sub-groups that are self-centered with autonomous rules of conduct and hermetic professional jargon. They can be characterized as “high-context” societies: religious or ethnic communities, guilds, professions, political parties, gangster organizations such as the Mafia, scholars with their rules on citations and plagiarizations, different national cultures, etc..
    But these in-groups still need to subject members to initiation, learning and testing. The “high-context” rules of behavior and shared values are not immediate or innate, but have to be learnt. Every American has to get Americanized by schooling, every Jew has to learn in his “schule”, and priests and scholars of any religion have to indoctrinate believers, including in the Ancient Mediterranean world.

    It is clear that the anthropological opposition of the two modes of “high or low context” applied to the specific knowledge of morality or inter-personal behavior is not clear-cut, and does not reflect the radical opposition of two worlds, the Ancient and the Modern. Every society seems to have its share of “high-context” and “low-context” subgroups.
    These two modes are simply the extreme poles of a continuum curve of acquisition of basic knowledge of rules and values, with most societies presenting a variable mix of the two modes of learning.

    With the invention of writing, a lot of high-context rules were entrusted to explicit communication and became objects of “low-context” learning, as was the case of Hebrews having to “rediscover” and hear the book of Josiah recited to them in public to discover how to behave in their relationship with the Lord. In that book, Moses had given the example that the Ancient Hebrews were incapable of behaving properly without receiving the commandments from their leader. And their history shows how the prophets had to keep harping on the fundamentals since the Jews were too prone to forget their “high-context” rules and switch to “low-context” modes of worship.

  • vinnyjh57
    2012-06-15 22:48:12 UTC - 22:48 | Permalink

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems to me that you can explain Paul’s silence in as many different ways as you want, but you still can’t make him talk. We are still left with the fact that our earliest source didn’t know the earthly Jesus and doesn’t claim to know anything about the earthly Jesus other than what a heavenly Christ told him in visions and revelations or what he figured out from scripture. Although we can be sure that Paul knows more than he says, we can only attempt to reconstruct history from what he tells us. We can’t make Paul give us evidence for a historical Jesus that he doesn’t give us.

    • 2012-06-16 03:09:48 UTC - 03:09 | Permalink

      I think this is a significant weakness with the Apocalyptic Prophet historical model. Paul never talks about “the Lord” as if he were a prophet, let alone an apocalyptic prophet.

      He could have referred to any of several sayings in the “rich, vibrant oral tradition” to prove that the general resurrection and final judgment were coming soon. Instead, he inferred the imminent eschaton from the resurrection of Jesus (the first fruits argument).

      Ehrman (following Schweitzer et al.) says that “our earliest sources” agree that the early Jesus movement was apocalyptic. He says that John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul all believed the end of the age was at hand. However, the silence of Paul is puzzling if he believed he was following a prophet. Jewish prophets characteristically had important revelations from God that needed to be passed on to his people. These would be new revelations that would bear repeating, even in a supposedly high-context cultural setting.

      It seems to me that Paul envisions Jesus as a king or a priestly king, not as a prophet. But where would he have gotten such a notion? Is it just our bad luck that the earliest and most prolific NT author happened not to understand Jesus the way everybody else did? Is it a quirk of history that Paul was the one guy who was ignorant of the “rich, vibrant oral tradition”?

      • vinnyjh57
        2012-06-16 03:43:08 UTC - 03:43 | Permalink

        Tim,

        I cant’s argue with a thing you say, but what I’m trying to get at is what seems to me to be a matter of fundamental historical logic. Our only evidence of what Paul thought is what he wrote. Those letters are the only basis for inferring anything about his thoughts. While there can be no doubt that he had other thoughts, I cannot see what basis a historian could have for assuming that any of the other thought he had about Jesus were any different in quality or character from the ones that he reveals in his letters. They certainly could have been, but doesn’t the historian have to allow equally for the possibility that those thoughts would have painted a less historical picture of Jesus rather than a more historical picture? Regardless of whether they are arguing high context culture or epistles vs. gospels, historicists always seem so triumphant when they explain Paul’s silence, but I cannot see how their explanations make his silence any less problematic for their case. Those letters are still our only evidence of Paul’s understanding.

        • 2012-06-16 04:08:17 UTC - 04:08 | Permalink

          Vinny wrote: “. . . historicists always seem so triumphant when they explain Paul’s silence . . .”

          I know what you mean. It’s as if they “know” that the Paul of the epistles is exactly like the Paul they learned about in Sunday School. They read their own understanding of the written gospels (and Acts) into Paul’s much simpler good news message. And when we ask, “How do you know?” they roll their eyes and call us hyper-skeptics.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-06-16 03:49:13 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

        This “rich, vibrant oral tradition” seems to be a favorite phrase of Ehman’s. (“Rich, vibrant” are also often used about the merits of immigration and the diversity it creates).

        Checking on Larry Hurtado’s blog, this is what he said (April 20, ’12) a propos our favorite exegete:

        “Ehrman, who has now achieved what I’m told was his aim of becoming a celebrity-scholar, has done so essentially by writing popular-level books that comfort and reassure sceptics, and annoy or even infuriate a lot of those Christians with little exposure to scholarship and a “pre-critical” understanding of Christianity and the Bible. He’s also often on the debate-circuit, given handsome sums to debate scholars and/or apologists critical of his (deliberately provocative) claims. (Indeed, one might wonder whether Bart would have got the media attention he has if it weren’t for all those whose responses actually have made him controversial, and so a celebrity! Bart’s done some recognized and respected scholarly work too, but, clearly, it’s saying naughty things that antagonize fundamentalists, such as he says he was once, that gets you a literary agent and media attention.

        Anyway, his new blog site (very much a celebrity-type site) offers two levels of engagement. You can read postings, etc., of one level of information for free. But, if you want a “full” and deeper draught of Bart’s thoughts, you pay. But, and here’s the novel feature, Bart assures me that the income from this goes entirely to the charities he supports aimed at addressing hunger and deprivation.”
        http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-ehrman-blog-site/

        Larry Hurtado has some very interesting things to say on his blog, especially on Christian origins:
        http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/new-testament-chronology-and-christian-origins/

        He also has delivered four very valuable lectures on “At the Origins of Christian Worship”
        http://www.scribd.com/daanota/d/60388692-At-the-Origins-of-Christian-Worship-the-Larry-W-Hurtado
        It is a pleasure to read his lucid, no-nonsense Scottish prose after too much American hoopla.

    • 2012-06-16 09:59:16 UTC - 09:59 | Permalink

      It seems to me that the “high context” in Paul’s congregations should have been the LXX, not the life and teachings of Jesus.

  • Blood
    2012-06-15 23:35:18 UTC - 23:35 | Permalink

    “There was no need for Paul to make reference to the life-details of Jesus or recount his teachings, for that had been done long ago.”

    More important than Paul’s silence on Jesus’s teachings is his insistence that Jesus’s death and resurrection are the only significant aspects of his existence.
    If that doesn’t scream “myth” to you, I don’t know what will.

  • 2012-06-16 09:48:28 UTC - 09:48 | Permalink

    Even when it came to “pivotal cultural values” Paul was quite prepared to spell them out explicitly when he believed it would reinforce his instructions. Recall his “Does not nature itself teach you that it is a shame for a man to have long [or whatever the original meaning was] hair?”

    • David Hillman
      2012-06-16 20:35:17 UTC - 20:35 | Permalink

      I remember when my youngest daughter was 5 she asked me if she could join her friend next door in her Sunday school run by a sister of her group. Of course you can,I said. She came back saying Jesus of course had short hair – he was not a hippy.
      She’d also been told the only obviously nasty story in the NT where peter strikes dead a man and wife for keeping some money for themselves. It put her off Christianity for ever.

  • 2012-06-16 11:17:48 UTC - 11:17 | Permalink

    Once more, if only for the record, I repeat the present understanding of top NT scholars: Paul is not taken as a source for knowledge about the HJ.

    James Robinson:

    “Has Paul’s kerygma of cross and resurrection, which lies behind the Apostles’ Creed (not based on a text Jesus taught but developed in Rome in the 2nd century) said everything that we want to know about the significance of Jesus? Paul never met Jesus. He knew very few sayings of Jesus, and did not have a kind of religiousity, much less theology, built on Jesus’ sayings, and even argues that this is not really necessary (2 Cor 5:16) so as to argue that he is in no regard less qualified than Jesus’ own disciples.”

    At least to say: whatever Paul’s instructions they are totally irrelevant to the mythicists case.

  • mP
    2012-06-16 11:30:42 UTC - 11:30 | Permalink

    Has anyone ever given an explanation why Paul was renamed from Saul ? Why do so many characters in the NT change their name for no apparent reason ?

    • 2012-06-16 13:35:02 UTC - 13:35 | Permalink

      I think I recall Hermann Detering suggests that Paul was mutated from Simon: http://www.radikalkritik.de/FabricatedJHC.pdf

      Name changes are not confined to the NT. Recall Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, etc. The changes conveyed theological messages. Justin Martyr in the Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 106 (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01287.htm) says that the reason Jesus changed the names of disciples was to identify him with the God who changed the names of Abram and Hosea.

      • mP
        2012-06-16 14:00:37 UTC - 14:00 | Permalink

        My q had two motifs, firstly to find out from a scholar or learned person 🙂 thanx for the information, but also to ponder, how strange this renaming thing seems to happen in the Bible.

        I am aware of the parallelisms and copy cat theme present where gospels try to best similar stories in the OT, however that hardly warrants a name change for so many people. I cant quite think of anything similar in my limited knowledge of present and past history. Do presidents change their names after their term. Perhaps the closest modern example is popes and kings who use regal names which dont match their personal names, but the apostles and characters like Abraham were hardly kings. Maybe the proto Abraham was a king after all Sarah means princess and the story is trying to show that he was so important that he got an audience with Pharoah and more. Why are names so important, after all a name is just a label, it doesnt make one more hoenst or worthy and so on. I mean would anyone in the past not bleieve Pauls story if he kept his original name ?

        • 2012-06-17 01:15:24 UTC - 01:15 | Permalink

          I wonder if any clues can be found in Philo’s On the Change of Names? There are many overlaps between Philo and the New Testament thought — maybe there is another one here?

  • 2012-06-17 01:16:26 UTC - 01:16 | Permalink

    Like all mythicises’ discusssions, this discussion about Paul’s story, derived from whatever sources, is totally irrelevant to any knowledge of the man Jesus in the thought of present top NT scholars. (See comment 13.) A conclusion: none of the writings of the NT, beginning particularly with the letters of Paul, then the Gospels as well as the later writings of the NT are sources of apostolic witness to Jesus. Hans Dieter Betz: “- – from these texts his (Jesus’) original teaching can neither be reconstructed nor abstracted in its entireity”. To say that the atheist stance all too readily stands as a declaration over against recognition of real credibility for the Guild of NT Studies, thus to create the judgment that the secular critic, as an outsider critical of a discipline one fails to fully take account of, is himself a questionable historian.

  • Bob Jase
    2017-03-23 18:24:30 UTC - 18:24 | Permalink

    “Paul was personally acquainted, as I’ve pointed out, with Peter and James. Peter was Jesus’s closest confidant throughout his public ministry, and James was his actual brother. Paul knew them for decades”

    And we know this how? Because someone who said his name was Paul said he knew them. Of course we don’t actually know who Paul was. Nor do we have any coroboration for these claims. Were they really who they claimed to be? Were they really anyone at all or just more products of ‘Paul’s’ imagination such as his Jesus was?

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