15th August 2009

“Let as many slaves as are under the yoke count their own master worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, but rather do them service.”

St. Paul the Apostle10 – 64 CE

4 Responses to “15th August 2009”

  1. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    The quote is from 1Timothy (6:1-3), an epistle that the vast majority of biblical scholars believe was not written by Paul but by someone writing in his name as much as one hundred years after his death.

    Most biblical critics also believe that the epistle of 2Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 2Timothy, and Titus were also written in Paul’s name long after his death. Each of these epistles contradict Paul’s actual teaching in his undisputed authentic epistles in various ways. Which, I know, brings up the question of just what it is Christians mean when we say that the Bible is “inspired,” and why it is that such epistles were included in the biblical canon. The short answer?: the canonizers were wrong!

    What Paul did write is, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:27-28) not to mention the entire epistle to Philemon in which Paul uses his rhetorical skills to shame the Christian master Philemon into freeing the Christian slave Onesimus.

    In any case, the practice of “proof-texting” to prove this or that point is a waste of time whether engaged in by believers or non-believers. The Bible is a library containing many books written by many authors over a vast stretch of time; with such a book, as Shakespeare wrote (I think?), “Even the devil doth [can] quote scripture for his purpose.”

  2. Hypatia Says:

    here is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female

    It’s pretty clear that Paul was speaking hypothetically here – he was talking of equality in the spiritual world. In the real world Paul would have been quite accepting of slavery – as long as it followed the Judaic rules.

    Most biblical critics also believe that the epistle of 2Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, 2Timothy, and Titus were also written in Paul’s name long after his death.

    Since the bulk of the New Testament is attributed to Paul this means that most of it is a shoddy forgery.

  3. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    You are half right.

    1) About half the New Testament has traditionally been attributed to Paul. Yet even in ancient times the authenticity of certain of these letters was challenged. Modern scholars have largely confirmed that the letters I mentioned in the above post were in fact, forged. The rest of the New Testament is mostly written by “anonymous” (as is most of the Old Testament/Tanakh), and is therefore not “forged.” So about a third of the New Testament is (in my opinion) “inauthentic.” there is no getting around this conclusion, and there is no point in denying it. Now, to be sure, those Christians who deny this – mostly fundamentalists and literalists, creationists and IDers – are wrong. They fight a hopeless, rear-guard, and ultimately senseless battle which they are (and can’t imagine) losing and will lose. Thus their hysterics. The worst of them are either violent or spew violence-encouraging rhetoric (such as the “evil” Reverend Fred Phelps), but most are just uneducated, ignorant, stupid, or all of the above. It does not follow, however, that these facts invalidate the authenticity of the remainder of the New Testament or Paul’s letters, as your comments seem to imply (?). Whether or not you believe Paul actually “saw Christ” is another question. Paul, at least, did believe it.

    2.) Paul does not write “hypothetically.” For Paul, the distinction between the “spiritual” and “real” worlds is what is unreal. They are one. One who is “in Christ” cannot, in Paul’s theology, be a slave owner anywhen or anywhere. Thus the letter to Philemon (the only one of Paul’s letters written to an individual) represents the “real” world consequences of Paul’s “spiritual” world theology .

    As for Paul and the “Judaic rules” – Paul calls them “the Law” – Paul counts all of that as “loss” since he is now in Christ. In Christ, all are equal – absolutely. Paul does not concern himself with what “The World” does or doesn’t do. he is only interested in what his communities do “in Christ.” Certainly, it should be recognized that Paul would wish The World in its entirety to be “in Christ.” But he is no poster boy for whatever religiously or politically (left or right) driven social program one might come up with (Paul would agree with George Carlin, “Show me a man who has a political solution to a problem, and I’ll show you an idiot.”) This does not mean that we are all the same. This does not mean that we should live without law. But is does mean that we cannot see or treat our fellow human beings as subordinate to our own socially/politically/religiously constructed and affirmed power. And yet, “The Church” (not to mention “The World”) has often done and continues to often do that very thing. Paul, I think, would be appalled.

    All of this is at the very least implied in Paul’s theology, and is often explicit. For more on all of this (I feel like I’m “pontificating”) see the book The First Paul (and bibliography) by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.

    Look, I’m not attempting to convert or proselytize anyone. One can read Paul’s letters authentically without being or becoming a believer. One can live authentically with being a believer. Try reading the New Testament textual critic Bart Ehrman, a fundamentalist who became atheist during his seminary education as a result of what he learned about how the Bible became the Bible. His understanding of the Bibles composition is founded on honest inquiry, well respected by even believing biblical scholars, though I part company with him on the question of “belief,” of course.

    I just want the facts straight.

  4. Oxymoronic Christhinker Says:

    Uh, I meant:

    “One can live authentically without being a believer.”