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What is the True Symbolic Nature of Paul and His Christ: Part 1

by Joshua Tilghman on February 8, 2014

images15O6SJYF What is the True Symbolic Nature of Paul and His Christ: Part 1Today’s very brief post will begin a series that will be a bold attempt to decipher the symbolic nature of the Apostle Paul. What does he really represent in the grand scheme of the New Testament?

Although many Christians are blissfully unaware, the Apostle Paul is sometimes considered an enigma in the scholarly world. There are many aspects of his theology that seem to disagree with and contradict the theology of the Gospels. Scholars such as Gerald Massey have done a great job introducing us to aspects of Paul that would never be taught in the institutionalized church. He was a great pioneer that has emboldened many to see the Apostle Paul in a new light. But I also believe this great mind, who I have the utmost respect for, still didn’t understood the fundamental symbolic nature of Paul. More on this later.

Gerald Massey’s Paul the Gnostic Opponent of Peter: Not an Apostle of Historic Christianity

Gerald Massey dropped a bomb on the traditional view of Paul in the 1900’s through his essay entitled, Paul the Gnostic Opponent of Peter: Not an Apostle of Historic Christianity. In that work Massey argues that Paul was opposed to a literal Christ who died and was resurrected. Massey argues instead that Paul’s Christ was the mythical Christ within, the same Christ of the ancient Egyptian mystery schools, a spark of the divine that is realized within the human soul. I believe Massey is correct in this bold assertion, but I also believe he makes a mistake with other assertions. I will discuss what I believe to be these mistakes in future posts.

For now, I want to focus on one of Massey’s reasons for why Paul’s Gospel could not have been one of the Orthodox position, to which I am in total agreement.

Paul’s Conversion had to be 27 A.D.

Massey points out a huge problem for those that contend Paul taught the orthodox position of a literal Christ. I have addressed this before on this blog, but not in detail and without concluding remarks and studies that I will deliver in this series.

When we take Paul’s own words about his conversion in Galatians and line them up with what Luke writes in Acts, we have a problem. Paul himself tells us in Galatians that after his conversion to Christ he spent three years in Arabia (Gal. 1:17-18). Paul then tells us that after another 14 years he went again to Jerusalem with Barnabas. When we add 14 and three we get a total of 17 years. Thus, when Paul went to Jerusalem the second time it had been 17 years since his conversion. Remember that.

In Acts 12:25 Paul and Barnabas escort food and supplies because of a famine prophesied by Agabus in Acts 11: 28-30. This is a historic famine that we can date accurately through historical sources. It happened in the year 44 A.D., during the reign of the emperor Claudius.

This time also marks the second visit to Jerusalem mentioned by Paul from Galatians, which was 17 years after his conversion. So now we do some simple math to get the year that Paul was converted according to Acts and Galatians. 17 years take away 44 A.D. tells us that Paul was converted in the year 27 A.D.!

Why is this important? Because the majority of modern Biblical scholars agree that Christ was crucified between the years 30 and 33 A.D. Therefore if we reconcile the timeline of Acts and Galatians, we must conclude that Paul’s conversion by Christ was not the historical Christ of the Orthodox Church. How could it be? Jesus hadn’t even been crucified yet in 27 A.D.! If this is indeed the case, then what Christ was Paul converted to?

This is a question that we’re going to get to in part 2 of this series when we discuss Galatians. I believe this is where Massey’s brilliance shines. The mistake I believe Massey makes is thinking that Paul was a literal figure. As I already stated, I’ll address this issue in later posts. For now let us just remember that when we take the accounts of Paul’s conversion from Acts and Galatians, his conversion date does not line up with historical Christ of Orthodoxy. A great observation by Massey, and one which I do not think can be ignored, unless you go against the grain of most modern Biblical scholars and contend that Jesus was crucified well before 30 A.D!

Before ending this post I wish to clarify my position. I have stated before on this blog that Christ was based on a real historical person/persons, but that the events in the Gospels are exaggerated to reveal the inner Christ. I believe it is the same with Paul. While the Apostle Paul may be based on a historical person/persons, as a whole, he is symbolic of birthing the inner Christ. Stay tuned!

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brian February 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm

The early history of the Christian Church is such a tantalising subject.

Apparently, Albert Schweitzer spent much of his early academic career trying to find what he called the historical Jesus. Finally, he declared defeat in the face of a sea of chaotic data points, many of which he felt had been tampered with by subsequent generations. As a coroner, he had to declare an open finding; meaning we don’t really know.

He then went and studied Medicine and spent the rest of his life organising hospitals and medical services in colonial Africa. There could be a lesson in there for the rest of us.

Certainly, we are left with some powerful mythical images that can still speeak to us today.

I have found the story of the Passion to be extremely helpful in dealing with personal catastrophe, such as divorce, when my whole life seems to be falling apart.

We seem to move from the absolute optimism of Palm Sunday, when the Messiah has arrived, to suddenly suffering all the foibles of humanity, like betrayal and injustice, to the low point of our depression, lying immobilised in a darkened tomb.

Then slowly, the door of the tomb opens ever so slightly, letting in a thin sliver of hopeful, inspirational light. Once again we engage with our creative imagination and the resurrection has begun. We may not be able to resurrect the old life but we can create a new beginning. And hopefully, the true treasures of life, like the trust to love unconditionally, survive; although from personal experience, there are no guarantees, forgiveness is so much harder than they seem to imply!

Anyway, I really am looking forward to this series from you, Joshua. Separating history from myth about Christ consciousness feels so pregnant with possibilities.

Strength to your arm.

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2 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Brian,

I liked the way you have put the way we rise from the ashes so-to-speak. So true. Thanks for your comment and encouragement!

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3 Kent February 9, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Yes, Paul is a fascinating subject! Certainly Paul’s own story of his conversion and the Book of Acts don’t exactly line up. Acts says Paul went to Damascus immediately after his Damascus road encounter. Paul tells the Galatians he didn’t go to Damascus until after he had spent 3 years in Arabia. And he emphasized the fact saying “In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!” Lots of different stories based on agendas floating around, even back then! I have enjoyed Massey’s work. I also suggest checking out Elaine Pagel’s “The Gnostic Paul.” Great book!

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4 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Kent,

This is a very good point! Acts does state he went immediately to Damascus where he again received his sight, and yet by Paul’s own words, he went into Arabia first.

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5 Gil February 9, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Howdy Joshua,

Time line is off !

Christ’s death/ascension AD 29 [TIBERIUS (18th year) / PONTIUS PILATE, Procurator (3rd year) ]
Paul’s conversion was in AD 37
Paul’s first visit was in AD 40 to see Peter.
Paul’s second visit was in AD 44
Paul’s third visit to Jerusalem for the “council “. In AD 51.
From his conversion to the first visit to see Peter was three [3] years.
In between : From AD 40 to AD 51 was eleven [11]years.
From his conversion to the third visit council was fourteen [ 14] years.

Gil

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6 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Gil,

I appreciate your comment and the attempt to put together the timeline for us, but any timeline according to Acts places Paul’s conversion after 30 A.D. It is when we use Paul’s own words from Galatians that cause problems.

“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter…” (Gal. 1:18).
“Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas…” (Gal. 2:1)

3+14 = 17. Paul went to Jerusalem for the second time 17 years after his conversion (according to Paul’s own words).

According to your timeline it was only 14 years from Paul’s conversion to even his third visit. As you can see, anyway you try to slice it, it doesn’t work.

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7 Arlene February 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

One wonderful thing about all this information is that it results in my going back to the Bible for confirmation of the facts. Such did the Bereans do as they contended for “the faith”, which was then called “the Way”. I’ve read where the term “Christians” came from those who ridiculed the first believers. Originally, followers of Jesus Christ were called followers of “the Way”.

In my confusion about when Saul (later named Paul) was converted, I have a very difficult time in placing this event of conversion prior to the death of Jesus Christ. I truly understand the concept of Christ within us, as Jesus told us where the “kingdom of God” was located…..”within us” (Luke 17:21). But to suggest that Saul became “Paul” prior to the crucifixion of Jesus does not make sense according to what the Scriptures tell us.

Saul persecuted followers of “the Way”, before they were called “Christians”. Acts 9:1-3 described his conversion from being a persecutor OF CHRISTIANS to becoming the Apostle to the Gentiles (Nations).

“And Saul (pre-”Paul”), yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the DISCIPLES of the Lord, went unto the high priest, (vs. 2) And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of the WAY (followers of Jesus Christ), whether they were men or women, he might bring them BOUND unto Jerusalem.”

Verses 3-16 describe his conversion to “Paul” by our Lord Jesus Christ . This absolutely had to be AFTER the crucifixion of Jesus due to the fact that there were now DISCIPLES, and those who were filled with the “Holy Ghost” (vs.17). This could not have been possible prior to the crucifixion. Nobody was filled with the Holy Ghost until after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So, Saul’s conversion to “Paul” would not have been possible prior to the death of Jesus according to what is told to us specifically, because at that time there were both Apostles and disciples in the world. This could not have taken place before the “Cross”.

Perhaps it is better to pay attention to what the Bible says rather than listen to those who give secular dates to Biblical events…..because “men” can always be in error.

Arlene

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8 Robert February 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Arlene,

Ouch The bible is right and men err? Have your ever seen the movies “Inherit the Wind” or “Elmer Gantry”?

I used to use the argument about the Bereans to debate people I considered heretics. I learned it at church. I don’t anymore. I discovered that if I really did what the Bereans did, which is test and challenge what I have been told, instead of locking myself in a box of circular reasoning, I might find out that I was m0re a heretic than the people who I formerly considered to be. So I opened up and listened more. I wished I’d been that smart before I jumped on the bandwagon of church doctrine and traditions. Better late than never.

Here is my little story about tradition, When I was a child we had “Wonder Bread”, purported to “build strong bodies 12 ways”, “the greatest thing since sliced bread”. It was a slight improvement over some totally nutritionless, over-processed breads; but if we were still eating that original recipe today our generation would have a lot more health problems. But we did not believe that in 1960. We believed Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob, who sold us images of strong bodies. So off we went to grade school with peanutbutter n’ jelly and boloney between slices of Wonder Bread in our lunch bags.

What does this have to do with Gnostic interpretations of scripture? Or feedback from scholars who have no religious bias. It tells us a lot of what we believe is based on what we are told, and we have a tendency to stick to it, ignoring new information contrary to our traditional belief. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it keeps us from jumping impulsively on the big, bright train to nowhere. But it is a serious error to mistake tradition for truth. Traditions come and go, and work for awhile in limited circumstances, but they inevitably miss the mark. This is why the church often has to be yanked, kicking and screaming, into a better understanding of Jesus by the world around them which they despise. They despised Valintinus, Galileo, Saint Francis, Luther, and on and on.

Jesus knew the scriptures, but the narrative about being tempted in the wilderness by Satan using scripture to deceive him, tells us that Jesus was not an advocate of believing scriptural arguments if they contradicted a greater principle. Jesus refuted Satan, and did so by using counter examples of scripture, but not because he was a better debater than Satan, but because he was enlightened by the divine spirit (symbolized by a dove) to know (as in gnosis) the truth. If that could be obtained by discipline and study alone, Jesus would not have needed to rebuke the Pharisees, of whom Saul was originally a member.

Being a Berean was better than being ignorant, but study does not guarantee enlightenment. If we are to learn anything from the Bereans, it isn’t that they defended a tradition studiously, but that they were willing to investigate using whatever means they had, testing and challenging, comparing notes, with an open mind. They refused to be blind and stuck in a box. Jesus settled the issue quite dramatically in his rebuke of the Pharisees “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”.

Is Jesus the door to enlightenment (gnosis), or to tradition?

Are we really supposed to cling to the exoteric interpretation of the bible, using arguments from the same interpretation, without checking if there is something missing?

Jesus said we would know them by their fruits. What kind of fruits are the fundamentalist schools on the whole turning out these days? Are they healthy, happy, well rounded people who are open minded, adaptable, respectful of people who think differently than they do; or are they arrogant, judgmental, hypocritical, narrow minded, ready to point a finger and exclude from the realms of decency anyone who does not join their club. Even if I am exaggerating, have you ever noticed that there might be something missing? Why is the divorce rate of fundamentalists the same as the national average? Why are there fundamentalist shysters on TV raking it in?

I think this is worth reflecting on.

With all respect,
Robert

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9 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Arlene,

I do understand the unwillingness to accept what is stated in my post. Ten years ago I would have searched the scriptures for a week to disprove what I stated in the first two post of my series. But remember, I am not trying to state that there was a literal Paul who was converted before a literal Jesus. I am trying to unveil the true nature of the scriptures. As you’ll see in part 3 of this series, the Bible doesn’t have to be historically accurate to be effective. That’s not what it was designed to do. The scriptures only contradict each other when we DO take them literally. But the true design and reason for the scriptures transcends historical accuracy. It’s spiritual, not literal.

The letter of the law kills, but the spirit brings life! Hopefully the final post will shed some light on this for you.

Many blessings!

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10 Arlene February 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Hi Joshua…

Your postings are super great! I totally understand about interpretation of the Bible being spiritual, as we are told this in I Cor.15:46. However, I cannot understand how it is possible for Paul to have been converted prior to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit had already been given, as Acts chapter 9 tells us. The Holy Spirit was not given to the people until after the resurrection. And the Holy Spirit is there in Paul’s conversion.

I’m hoping that maybe in your “part 2″ something will make me understand this concept. I’m fully aware of the spiritual things you have brought out….especially when I read your column on who Adam and Eve really were. And I really look at things much differently due to your telling us these things.

It’s really not that I’m not unwilling to accept certain things, but I must understand them as to fit in with what I read in the Bible. And workings of the Holy Spirit, such as I read in Acts chapter 9, don’t seem to fit in with Paul being converted prior to the resurrection.

I’m really looking forward to reading the final post…..

Your writings have really blessed me!

Arlene

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11 Joshua Tilghman February 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Arlene,

I made a typo in my first reply. I meant to say that I am not trying to state that Paul was a literal figure converted before a literal Christ. I just went back and edited that statement. To be clear, I was only using Massey’s argument as a jumping point for what I believe to be a much more important discussion. Massey’s argument is useful to me because I believe half of his argument is correct. Again, I’ll explain more in part 3.

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12 Robert February 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I can’t stay on this blog more than a few minutes a day. Please view this debate from Feb 4 this year on Ev0lution vs Creation between Ken Ham and Bill Nye (science guy). Ken Ham basis his entire Creation argument on the literal interpretation of the Genesis and all his arguments proceed from there, with him concluding that Creation (as he defines it) is God’s (as he defines God) explanation, and Evolutions is man’s explanation. God vs man. I think you can understand the narrow mindedness in applying the” God vs man ploy” when applying a literal interpretation of the bible.

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13 Robert February 16, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I can’t stay on this blog more than a few minutes a day. Please view this debate from Feb 4 this year on Ev0lution vs Creation between Ken Ham and Bill Nye (science guy). Ken Ham basis his entire Creation argument on the literal interpretation of the Genesis and all his arguments proceed from there, with him concluding that Creation (as he defines it) is God’s (as he defines God) explanation, and Evolutions is man’s explanation. God vs man. I think you can understand the narrow mindedness in applying the” God vs man ploy” when applying a literal interpretation of the bible.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=z6kgvhG3AkI

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14 Thomas February 9, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I’m having difficulty with the math to determine Paul’s conversion date. We have two completely different accounts of Paul’s travels to Jerusalem/Judea. One in Acts and another in his own words in his letter to the Galatians. In Paul’s own words, he never makes a trip to Jerusalem to deliver aid for a famine. His first trip is three years after spending an indeterminate amount of time in Arabia. He says this first trip was to obtain information from Peter. He returns again after 14 years because “God revealed that I should go.” If we believe Paul’s own words over someone named Luke, the date of the famine is a spurious argument and has no bearing on determining the year Paul converted. Paul never mentions delivering famine relief. He was never “sent” by anyone to go there for any reason other than his own.

If we take the account in Acts to be historical, which is highly questionable, we still have no idea when Paul’s “conversion” took place in relation to his trip to take aid to Jerusalem (it was money, not food). Even Acts account doesn’t directly connect the trip with a famine. It is assumed this is the reason by being placed next to Agabus’ so called prophecy. Massey then tries to have it both ways. When an interpolation doesn’t fit his thesis, he throws it out. When it does, he keeps it. There was a famine during Claudius’ reign in Syria in 46-47, but no historical evidence of a famine in Judea. Massey takes part of Acts and part of Galatians and fits them together to come up with a conversion date before Jesus is supposed to have been crucified. There are so many issues with this it respectfully can’t be taken seriously.

Massey is also wrong about Marcion. While Marcion may have believed Jesus was not fully human, he did believe he was historical. For Marcion, Paul was the true Apostle. So, if Marcion had seen in Paul a skeptic or non-believer, while he himself feeling strongly about Jesus as historical, how could Paul have been his champion? Massey’s twisting of dates and Marcion’s beliefs don’t jive. Massey also says Marcion didn’t buy the redactions of the church in Paul’s letters. He has it backward. Marcion had the collection of Paul’s letters before the church had them, which made them suspicious of them. Any redaction would have been after Marcion’s time. There are other inconsistencies like this.

Whatever the case, there is no logical or historical way to determine the date of Paul’s so-called conversion. The two pillars of Massey’s argument don’t stand up.

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15 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Thomas,

I think we may be more in agreement here than at first meets the eye.

But first a few words on the famine of 44 A.D. The famine is stated to have lasted from 44 A.D. – 48 A.D. by both Josephus and Suetonius. Luke’s historical mention of this famine in 46 A.D. is most likely at it’s zenith. We also have to remember that Agabus supposedly prophesied this event BEFORE it actually took place, and Acts states that Paul and Barnabas responded immediately after Agabus’ prophecy (Acts 11:29-30). It’s very reasonable to assume that Paul and Barnabas were in Jerusalem, ACCORDING to Acts, in late 43 to early 44 A.D, IF this were meant to be a historical document. The key word is IF.

You state: “Even Acts account doesn’t directly connect the trip with a famine. It is assumed this is the reason by being placed next to Agabus’ so called prophecy.”

Maybe I am misunderstanding you here, but Acts 11:28 very clearly states that a great famine was throughout all the earth, and the succeeding verses state it was Paul and Barnabas who were sent to send relief (in the form of money as you say).

Yes, you are right that Paul does not connect his trip with a famine in Galatians, but I don’t think this is necessary. If the scripture were a historically accurate document (which point I am going to argue that it is not) it shouldn’t matter. Paul, or whoever wrote in his name, said he went to Jerusalem a second time after 17 years in Galatians, but according to Acts there was famine which Paul and Barnabas were sent to. If this text were meant to be historical, we have a problem. That’s the issue here.

As I stated, and to which I know you agree, the Acts timeline cannot be trusted as a historical when compared with Paul’s Epistle. Where I disagree with Massey is that neither can Galatians. Massey seems to assume that Galatians is historically accurate, whereas Acts isn’t. I think this is silly as well.

You also state:

“Whatever the case, there is no logical or historical way to determine the date of Paul’s so-called conversion.”

Agreed! And that’s sort of my overall point. These post are being written to show many people that the Bible is not a historical document, while also pointing out whoever was writing in Paul’s name was also using metaphor and symbolism to reveal the Christ within. I will explain more in the 3rd post.

Now to your point about Marcion. It is a very good point that should be explored, but think of this also. Marcion eliminated Jesus’ nativity, baptism, and genealogy from Luke’s Gospel! Curious! This one point seems to strengthen Massey’s point. I know most scholars attribute Marcion doing this because of his anti-Jewish views, but on the other hand it’s almost as if Marcion is erasing any physical evidence of Jesus’ literal historical life as well. Thus, the point could just as easily be made, based on Marcion’s own actions, that he did not care to think of Jesus as a literal figure he is made out to be in Orthodoxy.

For the benefit of other readers who may not be aware, I would like to point out that Marcion established the first cannon before the church. However, he only used the Gospel of Luke, of which he eliminated most of the first 3 chapters, and then only included some of Paul’s letters. His Bible was a lot shorter than ours! In reaction to this, the church declared him a heretic – not because of his cannon necessarily, but because of his views about the God of the Old Testament. Curiously, the church went to work developing it’s own cannon shortly after Marcion. Some scholars believe that Marcion actually had an earlier version of the Gospel of Luke, but this is not widely accepted by most scholars.

Blessings!

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16 Joshua February 11, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Thomas,

Not that it matters according to our discussion, but I also wanted to point out that Herod died in 44 A.D. According to Acts 12:25, Paul and Barnabas had just returned from Jerusalem after fulfilling their ministry of delivering relief because of the famine.

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17 Tommy February 12, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Thanks Josh. We could both go on debating the details, but you’re right that we agree on the big picture. My disagreement is with Massey, whom I’ve read along with his modern day parrot Tom Harpur. Massey was a fine poet, which is how he made his mark, but he was a terrible amateur Egyptologist who lacked any formal training. Not that this is necessarily a disqualifier, but in his case apparently it is.

As a fellow historian, there is book I know you’d love to add to your library. It’s “Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Moment.” You can pick it up on Amazon.com. In short, the argument is that Luke-Acts was a second century orthodox forgery to discredit Marcion. It’s a convincing scholarly work, and I know you’d appreciate it. Looking forward to part 3.
All the best my friend,
Tommy

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18 Robert February 13, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Tommy, Josh,

Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle by Joseph B. Tyson (2006) ia out of stock at Amazon, but may be available at Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/marcion-and-luke-acts-joseph-b-tyson/1112695355?cm_mmc=google+product+search-_-q000000633-_-978157003650&ean=9781570036507&isbn=9781570036507&r=1

Here is a summary from B&N:

“Building on recent scholarship that argues for a second-century date for the book of Acts, Marcion and Luke-Acts explores the probable context for the authorship not only of Acts but also of the canonical Gospel of Luke. Noted New Testament scholar Joseph B. Tyson proposes that both Acts and the final version of the Gospel of Luke were published at the time when Marcion of Pontus was beginning to proclaim his version of the Christian gospel, in the years 120-125 c.e. He suggests that although the author was subject to various influences, a prominent motivation was the need to provide the church with writings that would serve in its fight against Marcionite Christianity. Tyson positions the controversy with Marcion as a defining struggle over the very meaning of the Christian message and the author of Luke-Acts as a major participant in that contest.

Suggesting that the primary emphases in Acts are best understood as responses to the Marcionite challenge, Tyson looks particularly at the portrait of Paul as a devoted Pharisaic Jew. He contends that this portrayal appears to have been formed by the author to counter the Marcionite understanding of Paul as rejecting both the Torah and the God of Israel. Tyson also points to stories that involve Peter and the Jerusalem apostles in Acts as arguments against the Marcionite claim that Paul was the only true apostle.

Tyson concludes that the author of Acts made use of an earlier version of the Gospel of Luke and produced canonical Luke by adding, among other things, birth accounts and postresurrection narratives of Jesus.”

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19 Joshua Tilghman February 13, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Robert,

Thanks for the summary. Definitely going to add this one to my library. Tommy, thanks for bringing this to our attention!

20 Arlene February 9, 2014 at 10:54 pm

On Robert’s comment:

Like you, I also went through the “Wonder Bread”, “Howdy Doody” (as well as Princess Summer-Fall-Winter-Spring & Flubbadub) phase as well……..along with “American Bandstand” and “Ed Sullivan” and all the endless “healthy” commercials.

I have seen “Elmer Gantry” and “Inherit The Wind”….and all the other garbage that comes out of the infamous Hollywood. I take it as entertainment by MEN.

What I mean by not taking opinions of “men” is that we shouldn’t take the writings of mere “men” as GOSPEL. We are supposed to use our brain for thinking about things. There are so many different versions of the “Bible” now, and ALL of them are translated by “men” (although there are a few women in there now as well….Virginia Woolencott (NIV) for one. I have read that she was a lesbian….but, I can’t take that one for gospel, either.

I’ve been through almost everything you’ve spoken about in your comment until I grew wiser in my errors of the past. I learned from them, and I’m still learning every day. When someone tells me something which doesn’t make sense, my “red flags” go up. Then, I search out the matter through whatever resources with which I am able to find.

Why the “ouch”?? Yes, men do err! And “men” translated ALL the versions of the Bible. However, when things don’t seem to make sense with what they say, such as this Massey guy, then it’s time to realize that something doesn’t “smell” right about his philosophy. I know little to nothing about him, so I can’t argue with anything he has said except what I have read in this blog.

Saul, becoming Paul, was converted at the time the Holy Spirit had been given to men. This could not possibly have happened before the death of Jesus. And that’s what I wanted to bring to attention of others. Read Acts chapter 9.

The “church”, is so horrendously split into factions today that there probably is very little resemblance to “original” followers of “the Way”. We are supposed to love one another. And that’s the bottom line. Yet, I find most “Christians” today extremely mean in attitude toward those “Christians” who do not believe as they do. This attitude seems to come from the pulpits of today’s church buildings.

This is what we need to get away from today. And as this website brings out so wonderfully is that the changes we are to go through have to happen within ourselves. Each one of us is responsible for ourselves in progressing to become more Christ-like. And I don’t think any of us will accept this fact until something changes….WITHIN US. And arguing facts, dates, figures, and determinations from other “men” won’t do the job.

I don’t know everything…and neither does anyone else. But each day is one more day we are given in our progression to who God wants us to be. This journey doesn’t end until we breathe out last breath….

Thanks for your comment, nevertheless….

Arlene

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21 Robert February 10, 2014 at 12:12 am

Arlene,

Thanks. I’ve learned a lot from your reply. Your comments are very thoughtful and well-taken. I will endeavor to be more resserved in my comments and research things a little more, instead of running my mind off during the long and dreary commercial breaks during the Winter Olympics. :)

In Jesus Love,
Robert

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22 Brian February 10, 2014 at 12:23 am

Hi Arlene.

I am not sure that you can dismiss Elmer Gantry and Inherit the Wind as mere Hollywood fantasy, because the essential themes of these films continue to this day.

Benny Hinn continues to beguile us with clever camera angles and carefully selected subjects in order to coax us to believe that he is some sort of an annointed miracle healer. And a huge number of Americans still believe in a Young Earth and seek to replace Science with Creationism in our schools. And won’t losing a whole generation of young scientists rocket us back to the Dark Ages.

And what is the source of all this dogmatic certainty, in the absence of any supporting evidence? The notion that the Gospels are God’s infallible word.

The Bible has page upon page of some of the most inspiring thoughts available to humanity, but it is not unambiguous historical fact. Using it as scientific fact is like using Hamlet to study the history of Denmark. It is not what it is about.

As one sage put it, “If you take the symbolism and the metaphors out of the Bible, all you are left with is the covers.”

By all means use the poetry within the Bible to experience your God in your way. I am sure it is a blessing to you and indirectly to the rest of us, since it helps you to be a better human being. But beware lest you ignore a lot of other equally valid truths, simply because they are not in the Bible.

“In my father’s house there are many mansions.”

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23 Robert February 10, 2014 at 12:35 am

Arlene,

Still, I will stick up for Sinclair Lewis’s take on revivalism in small town America. He wrote Elmer Gantry not long before receiving the Nobel Prize. Even though he was just a man, his insight into human nature exceeded mere entertainment.

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24 Arlene February 10, 2014 at 12:55 am

Comment to Brian:

After reading both of your comment entries, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to get across….

After living as long as I have, I’m positive I haven’t ignored many “truths” that aren’t contained in the pages of the Bible I study. My life has been my education, and I certainly don’t find much “truth” that hasn’t been badly distorted by Hollywood.

I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s works and have enjoyed them immensely! And this is because he displays in his writings much of the thinking in human nature. And I’ve learned a lot about human nature which corresponds to Shakespeare’s works while I worked in the medical field for decades. One corroborated the other…..

The problem with most of us is that we are too quick to criticize others when their thinking is not quite like ours. And most of the criticisms I have made to others happened to be when I was a “baby Christian” and going to a church taught by a “man”. Sometimes I look back and hide my head in shame for my ignorance back then. Thus, I live and learn by making my own errors.

If you, yourself, enjoy the output of Hollywood and the “idiot box” (television), that’s entirely a personal choice. I just choose not to base my own inner beliefs on that stuff. Also, I’m much more simplistic than using fancy words to explain myself and things I believe. I’m intelligent enough with the education I’ve received to sift out most of what I call “poisons” and keep what nourishes me.

I’m spending the last days of my life in trying to love others and in not chopping off a budding relationship at the knees by being as critical as I have been in the past. I’m no Schweitzer or Einstein, but I’m trying to do the best I can with what I have. Whether parts of speech in the Bible be metaphors….or not….I don’t analyze these things as being most important. It’s what I learn from the whole thing….and then try to apply it to my own life. That’s what is most important to me. Television and movies I can safely ignore….

I appreciate you and your comments…..they gave me pause to think!

Arlene

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25 Arlene February 10, 2014 at 12:59 am

For Robert:

Barack Obama also won the Nobel Peace prize shortly after beginning his Presidency. Just saying…..

In Christian love,

Arlene

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26 Robert February 10, 2014 at 2:21 am

Arlene,

Understand. Sounds like you have a good plan.

Back to you in Christian love,
Robert

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27 Tommy Smith February 10, 2014 at 8:34 am

I enjoy civil discussions on subjects of such importance. I don’t want to lose site of Josh’s point, while I think there is a stronger argument to be made without Massey. From internal evidence in the New Testament Josh is right on in his main thesis. Paul, if he is in fact a historical figure, preached the “Christ-in-you” gospel and the “Judaizers” preached the gospel of a new kind of apocalyptic Messiah. This is where Paul and Peter butted heads

Inherit the Wind and Elmer Gantry are two of my favorite movies because of the excellent art in crafting them and the outstanding performances of Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Both are fiction though based partly on real events and personalities, which the producers themselves publicly admit. Both are caricatures of the characters portrayed as villains. The point that evolution theory is more theology than anthropology and that there were “evangelists” with selfish motives, is accepted by most people today, even in church. However, it is a historical fact that the “Scopes Monkey Trial” as it is called, was entirely made up by the town to draw publicity. The American Civil Liberties Union was duped into defending Scopes, as key figures, including the teacher Scopes, were part of the deception.

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28 Robert February 10, 2014 at 11:32 am

Tommy,

Thank you for your balanced and well-informed comments. I guess we are all anticipating an explanation of “why” Paul’s emphasis was so different than the Jerusalem church, and why his letters found their way into the canon, but then the early Catholics ignored “Christ in you”.

I think you lost me somewhere with your comment “evolution theory is more theology than anthropology”. I was thinking that creation theory was more theology, based on a literal interpretation of the bible, than anything else. Maybe intelligent design has more merit.
What do you think?

I think some of the reasons Elmer Gantry is still relevant to us beyond entertainment value, regardless of its caricaturing, may be because there are far too many present day evangelists on TV who are milking the public and getting away with it. As the fundamentalists are fond of saying “Satan does not have any new tricks”. He does have a larger audience in this day and age of modern media. They are powerful enough to discredit the whistle blowers. There is no law in this country to limit them. No federal agency to make them validate their claims. It is 100% legal to dupe the public. I do have one TV evangelist that I like. If you have any you would recommend, I’ll give them another look.

Like you I a eager to read Josh’s next post and get back to topic.

Thanks for your clarifications.
Robert

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29 Robert February 10, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Tommy,

I just discovered how ignorant I am in terminology now used in the creation vs evolution problem. Intelligent design isn’t what I thought it was. I have not nailed down what Theistic Evolution is either. One thing for certain, evolution has a lot more scientific credibility from multidisciplinary fields than ever before. DNA technology especially has shifted things. We are only just beginning to bridge the gap between science and theology, but a lot of it is still speculation. This is a fascinating time to be alive.

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30 Tommy Smith February 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Hey Robert,
I was the one not being clear. Duh. Thanks for calling it to my attention. What I was trying to say and not doing so well is that compared to when the movies were released, most people today, except for the most fundamentalist, do not find evolution of some kind incompatible with theology. As a Gnostic egghead, I’m okay with intelligent design, er, I mean, the Logos. : ) I’m with you on the Elmer Gantry type. My parents dragged us across the stage at an Ernest Angley show when I was a teenager, and I was either “healed” of an illness I did not have or had a demon cast out. I can’t remember which. You can’t caricature a guy like that. He made Elmer Gantry look legit. As far as the movies, they really are among my favorites. I was adding some background to “Inherit the Wind” thinking it might be interesting for youngsters Josh’s age, since I’m an old fart who prefers black and white movies on TCM to 1080p HD movies on my 50″ wide screen TV.

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31 Robert February 11, 2014 at 1:30 am

Tommy,

I was with my wife and her kids on stage when Benny Hinn laid hands on us. The kids were convinced he pushed them down. In between jobs, I taught high school biology and earth science in a fundamentalist Christian school and it was challenging when expected to favor creation science over evolution and my beliefs about the greenhouse effect on global warming were brought into question teaching earth science. The principal’s husband was a right wing political lobbyist and it was my first experience with the political overtones of modern fundamentalist Christianity. I held my ground on the greenhouse effect, but I was later ashamed at giving in to favoring creation science. Later on, my wife taught in another fundamentalist Christian school for a long time, similar teaching agenda and expectations. I could not interfere with her conditioning there or it would make her insecure and endanger her job, and put her at odds with other teachers who had become her friends Parents spend good money to send their kids to Christian school to be trained in conservative Christian values. Not the first time I had to learn to be a spiritual chameleon, weaving skillfully in and out of two worlds.

32 Arlene February 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm

For those extensively watch television:

Most people are unaware that there is danger in what comes into the mind, itself, through watching television. There is said to be a program of “mind control” which comes through the television. The bible warns us to be careful what comes into our body through our eyes and ears. Sometimes things that seem innocuous to us can do much harm within us.

Hopefully, this link will open to explain this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAobaMYtx5U

If the link doesn’t open, google “television and mind control”.

Arlene

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33 Robert February 10, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Arlene,

Thanks for the link. This was very interesting. I checked other sources and it is true, TV can induce an alpha brainwave state within minutes that is suggestible to input and bypasses our waking level of discernment. Overuse can cause mind fog.

I agree that this phenomenon is market driven. I didn’t agree that it is all a result of a grand conspiracy by the Illuminati; that assertion has always been a scare tactic of religious fanatics to get naïve people to run to them for protection and in so doing, fall under their control and succumb to their appeals for financial support. I agree that phenomenon is also market driven, not a worldwide conspiracy.

Both market driven strategies ad to our potential for illusion. Esoteric wisdom seems to be less market driven. At least I hope so.

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34 Arlene February 11, 2014 at 5:07 pm

For Robert:

It’s a joy to me to finally hear someone who brings what is important to the light of others. This website does that….and so do you!

For longer than I care to admit, I was an avid fan of “conspiracy theories” and other such fear-mongering among those who should know better. I have learned the hard way of my error.

Things that affect the mind and induce fear should be avoided if at all possible. Television affects the mind. We should all be aware of this, and that is why I posted that link. I apologize if what was taken from it was mainly the background of “conspiracy theory” because that was not my purpose. And watching television is a choice people make for themselves. I, myself, watch murder mysteries and detective stories because I love seeing solutions to complex problems. But I do not watch the “mindless” sit-coms that flood the tv today because they promote aberrant lifestyles and immorality in today’s youth….and these youth will grow up to be our leaders. This has been proven by the fact that today’s leaders are those who were rebels to society in the ’60s. And our country is getting worse and worse….and it is, in great part, due to what is broadcast on television.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be separate from the world. The “kingdom of God” is within us….and we are to grow in Christ. But far too many of us are growing via television evangelists instead.

But, back to the “conspiracy theories”….you are absolutely correct. We continuously seem to live in FEAR of something, or someone. It’s a subtle “disease” that we have to overcome, each one of us has to work on this within ourselves. It’s developing the Christ within that is of utmost importance. And nobody can do this for us. We have to get rid of the “beam in our own eye” first….

I have searched for a day or so to find some information about this, and I found a wonderful column which seems to explain it quite well:

http://www.acts17-11.com/conspire.html

Piece of the article:

What could be a more obvious ploy by our spiritual enemy to thwart the life of Christ in us?

The tragic thing is that this attack comes not from without, but principally from within the church. And our itching ears and guilty consciences cannot seem to get enough of it.
Have we fallen so far from being “conquerors in Christ” that we need a systematic philosophy of paranoia? Is the life of Christ in us content to lay curled in fetal position in the corner reading another Conspiracy Theory book? Are we content to be losers quaking in the fear of men–in direct disobedience to our Lord?

************

This pretty well explains “conspiracy theories” and should help those who are confused by them as I was for so many years….

Thank you so much for bringing this to the light….for me, and others…

In Christian love,

Arlene

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35 Robert February 11, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Arlene,

You are very welcome. It is interesting how enlightenment peeks through.

I think when I was younger and didn’t have too many rules, I liked the structure of Christianity because of all the rules. Also it gave me some ammunition to look down on those unruly pagans who had given me a hard time. When the messages got very strong, I got used to them. Guilt over my shortcomings would lead to confession and making up with God so I could feel whole.

Sometimes it got out of hand. It seemed like the preacher was preaching to the choir. But it felt so good to confess the sin I didn’t do anyway so I could have my emotionally satisfying makeup session with God. Kind of like a platonic version of makeup sex. As long as I did not commit blaspheme against the spirit, I could fix it, and I was never clear what blaspheme against the spirit was. So it was safe. Once saved, always saved.

I drank it all in. listened to all the exhortations about my human defilements and what is wrong with the lazy, ignorant, backslidden church. That was the church down the block, but it would be this one soon if something was not done. So I’d better get it right and get off my butt and repent some more.

I heard a story about a guest minister in a Baptist (alcohol is sin in a bottle) church which had grown so apathetic and unresponsive to the same old exhortations, he talked them into going out to a bar and getting very drunk. The next morning they had a real interactive time repenting and people recommitting themselves, weeping and crying at the altar.

Interesting though, if you do a word search through the NT, you will find with very little exception, that Jesus did not use the word “forbid. ” Even when he rebuked Peter for defending him, he did not order him not to. He explained in a somewhat emphatic colloquialism “Get behind me Satan” (meaning “Trust and follow me on this one, instead of yourself”) followed by an explanation that there was more at stake regarding destiny in the greater scheme of things than Peter could understand at the time.

Too much exhortation and finger pointing in the church at the outside world and toward itself is never very healthy. Also, it is not effective in changing behavior. “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life” was Paul’s motto.

Of all the TV evangelists I have ever listened to, I dislike Joseph Prince the least. Sometimes I even like him. He preaches grace. He never sticks your shortcomings in your face. He never points a finger saying “Repent, you bad boy you” or “Repent, you backslidden church.” He does not talk so fast to impress you that you just accept what he says without thinking it over. And yet he inspires people to improve, to have faith. to have joy, to have loyalty to what is good. When I have heard him being interviewed, I discovered he knows almost everything about every kind of spirituality. He’s not just another off-the-shelf preacher.

Like you, I can’t go back to the stick it in your face mentality of the fundamentalists. They learned it from their mentors who stuck fingers in their faces. It is like the chain of abuse.

The spirit on this blog is a different tune, very light, pleasant. full of promise, full of knowledge, respect for different points of view, trust that an individual has a spark inside that inspires each to grow, no whipping posts here , just tips on “how to” and not just “what to”. No condemnation.

Now that’s the Jesus I want to spend time with. It’s easy to make him proud, to always feel good about yourself, to have confidence in yourself that no matter what you can always choose the next right thing, and that you can go at your own pace, responding to issues that arise from your heart. No deadlines. No global catastrophe around the corner, time is running out. And best of all…. it works.

Hope you like it.
Robert

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36 Arlene February 12, 2014 at 4:27 pm

For Robert:

I not only like it….I love it!! You’ve just about read my mind. This blog is the first time that I’ve seen discussions which promote thinking, research, increased knowledge in spiritual things, and all with respect for others’ opinions, thoughts, and feelings. It’s the greatest way of developing wisdom.

We can’t know about things that are different from the accepted standards until we open our eyes and ears to understanding. And this is how we grow!

Most of us have a lot to unlearn as well.

I’m almost “chomping at the bit” to delve into part 3……

Arlene

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