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Monday, October 22, 2018

Some Thoughts on Reading

This week one of the books I'm reading is "Jesus and After, the First Eighty Years" by E. Bruce Brooks. Let's look at some quotes near the beginning of the book.
What makes Paul so important? Why has he been called the second founder of Christianity? Why do his letters make up so large a portion of the New Testament? He says of himself in I Corinthians 9:22, "I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some." By his own testimony, then, everything Paul says is said for purposes of convincement; none of it merely documentary... His commission as an Apostle came straight from God. And more than that, God has identified him as an Apostle even before he was born. That is, he outranks them in the hierarchy of the Apostles. Or so he says. Not the least of our problems in getting Paul straight is that Luke (in Acts) also tells us a lot about Paul, little of which matches what Paul himself says.
It seems like Paul was so convincing and congruent that he sold his point of view and people bought it.  No wonder the actual followers of Jesus were upset at Paul. There are some problems to be resolved for us today too.

There is so very much to consider when trying to decipher ancient texts. They were written by premodern people who wrote in languages whose words have either morphed into different meanings over the centuries, or even ceased to be used. There are many translations of the writings that in themselves testify to the challenge of translating meaning, not just words.The basic assumptions of the ancients are light years from ours. Plus we have no copies of original documents for the vast majority, or we only know about what they wrote by critics calling them heretics.

So I am astounded in my 21st century mind that Paul could make such claims. God called him to be an Apostle, the top one, of a man he never met, and this qualified him to redefine the whole shebang. He didn't have to be accurate, just  convincing.

Then the author of Acts wrote a ton about Paul, many years later, much of which disagreed with Paul's writings about himself. We, these many centuries later, can hardly know assuredly what actually was done or said.

To me, the larger issue is how do we here in their future come to have our own experience of God or God as revealed by Jesus? Instead of second hand religion, or 2,000th hand religion, can we get a direct connection? I propose Jesus taught we could.

The immediacy of God to him is offered to us to share. We are part of the same vine. We are brothers and sisters and God is our Father too. We are asked to do even greater things than Jesus did. The kingdom of God is within. etc, etc, etc.

It seems to me our spiritual lives are more important than most anything. Let's pray to move into first hand, alpha relationship with God.

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