How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
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12-06-2017, 02:18 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
As many have mentioned, reading Paul's epistles in the rough order they're written and keeping in mind none of the gospels existed yet is a good start. I'm of the opinion that Paul existed, but very much doubt the historicity of the Jesus as portrayed in the gospels (even Paul's Jesus doesn't match up well against gospel Jesus).

When my questions were really beginning to pop up, I found it more useful to study the claims of other religions and then apply the same standards of evidence I put to them for my own.

Congrats on even asking the questions though ...that's more of a first step than many EVER take.
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12-06-2017, 02:21 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
I'm not saying whether or not Paul existed or if he wrote everything attributed to him. But just because he thought it was real and dangerous doesn't mean anything.

Many people were tortured and died during the Inquisition or in modern times because they feel it's real. Makes no difference just because it was a couple millenia ago. Just because he got death threats (supposedly) doesn't mean it's real or that anyone should consider it more valid.
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12-06-2017, 02:31 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 02:35 PM by Shai Hulud.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
I think people have mostly already addressed these, but it's been a surprisingly meaty thread, so to rehash a few things from my point of view, and maybe add one or two:

1. Paul as we know him was more than one author; it's why we have what are known as the Pauline and pseudo/deutero-Pauline letters.

1b. Funny enough of the three times Paul tells us he's writing in his own hand (Galations 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 1:19), most scholars believe that 2 Thessalonians, is actually one of the pseudo-Pauline letters, meaning the man most Christians believe to be Paul did not write it.

2. The Gospel accounts were actually written after the Pauline letters began to appear, so it may not be as much "Paul supports" the Gospels, as the Gospel authors cribbed from Paul.

3. Paul mentions mentions Cephas and such once in a while, but he never goes out of his way to say, "These people knew Jesus!" He just treats them the way I would treat a work colleague. Except I'm more polite. Actually there's a hilarious passage in one of Peter's letters where he snarks Paul for being too wordy.

4. Paul never actually talks about the ministry of Christ or the miracles He performed. He instead focuses on a more "spiritual" aspect of Jesus. One which, to a believer, is disturbingly linked, it seems, with the popular mystery religions of the day. We all like to criticize Scientology for revealing its secrets as you continue and pay more, but, learning more as you go in is something that often happens with mystery faiths. Even my own Church, some parishes will still send away those studying to convert before reading the Gospels, per Tradition, because people weren't allowed to see the Liturgy of the Eucharist back in Roman times...part of why early Christians were accused of cannibalism. Or the Mormons don't tend to go into Kolob and everything right away with those they try to convert ("milk before meat" a former missionary told me).

4b. The closest Paul comes is 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 where he discusses Communion, and even then...well...heh. The earliest dating is 53AD-54AD; which is prior to the Gospel of Luke that shows the same words in Luke 22:19. So either Paul is quoting Christ, or the author of Luke (written in, at earliest estimate80AD-100AD), is quoting Paul without attribution. Now granted, I was going for Word for Word, not the semi-close ones found in the other Synoptic Gospels.

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12-06-2017, 02:32 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 02:06 PM)julep Wrote:  Even if you take the text as an accurate representation of Paul's claims (not their reality, just what he said about them to others), he comes off as half crazy, half conman. It's clear from his writings that at the very least he got a lot of ego stroking (given his issues with women and sex, I think that was the only kind of stroking he could allow himself) from his followers.

Hmmm, why would anyone choose a life where they're adored and admired, fed, clothed, and housed, travel funded, and all you have to do in return is tell them they're scum and bound for damnation unless they do exactly what you tell them to?

Thats how any good con works. Play off someone's vanity or fear, create a needless problem and sell yourself as the only solution. Look at the God character himself. Starts off using to innocent humans as pawns in a rigged bet against Lucifer when he didn't have to set the game up like that, does not give the poker chips any say in the set up, then blames them for the bet he set up and won.

Just like the Vegas 3 card Monty trick, the mark will never win because the mark does not know how the trick really works and it was never intended to be mutually fair in the first place.

The hero stories of antiquity even in polytheism were written for the ruling class and while some hero stories sold motifs about helping the poor, and the Buddha mythology also did that, it was not really for the common man, it was for the agenda to get mass populations to follow.

Even the first known Buddha stories have him being born from Royalty in Queen Maya.

Funny how Jesus is also traced back to royalty. The reason for that literary device is because humans lived under a ruling family back then.

Even the ancient Greeks and Romans had ruling families, their respective senates even back then, had no real veto power over that family. Even then for even Greeks and Romans from generation to generation, the ruler was either more tolerant or less tolerant but there was no power of impeachment or no confidence vote to remove a ruling family back then.

Same with the God character of the Bible. You dont have any veto power over him, you cannot remove him from office. THAT is why words like "Kingdom" and "Lord" and "master" are in that book, because back then everybody lived under ruling families.

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12-06-2017, 03:09 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 10:50 AM)seoq Wrote:  Given that he knew people who knew Jesus first hand / people who allegedly witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Also that he spent years of his life preaching the gospel
message while under persecution and threat of death. That doesn't sound like the kind of life someone chooses when making up a religion, it really seems to me that he believed what he was preaching. I mean why risk so much and labor so much if it was all made up or some sort of conspiracy?

My thoughts about Paul really have me considering things, so I'm making this thread in the hopes that you guys have strong explanations, just so that I can see what logic is left standing.

Here's what we know.

There arose (through whatever means, scholarship remains mirky) a belief in a demigod who, later theological compromises would insist, was wholly-man and wholly-god. This man supposedly preached a new revelation or ethic to the Jews, was eventually crucified for his preaching and violations of custom and established religious law, and then resurrected and eventually ascended. Purportedly he performed many miracles along the way and received endorsements from divine figures. This is not particularly atypical; there were many religious movements in that day that followed this sort of path. Following these purported events, people began to believe in the legend. Belief was spread, through means both peaceful and violent, from hundreds to thousands to myriads, and was met with persecution. Ultimately, this belief supplanted the established religions of the day and went on to be the most populous and powerful in the world. (So far, at least.)

Now here's what we're actually asking.

Take whatever assessment you make of the Jesus story's likelihood of being true, without the knowledge that Paul was a proponent, but knowing that it eventually gained popularity in power.

If you think it's fairly unlikely to impossible in all its magic-wielding fantastic spectacle, ask yourself one more question.

GIVEN that thousands, millions, and billions would come to believe and worship, often in the face of persecution...

... how much more likely should we consider the story because one more man did the same?

*****

Consider also this. Many other religions have arisen in the same way. People joined in their beliefs and faced persecution for doing so.... yet joined regardless. This happened with Islam, with Buddhism, with Wicca and Mormonism and many, many more besides. If Paul becoming a Christian somehow makes it likely that Christianity is true, does that not also make ALL THOSE OTHER religions more likely to be true?

Yet these religions contradict each other. Every time one religions is seen as more likely to be true, the likelihood of the others must be diminished.

The truth is that people have often come to believe in silly things, from Waco to Jonestown to a million other places besides, despite great persecution and other great hazards. Most and perhaps all of these things have been false.

From this we can see that believing in the face of persecution is not at all a good indicator that the beliefs in question are true.
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12-06-2017, 03:10 PM (This post was last modified: 12-06-2017 08:25 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 01:18 PM)seoq Wrote:  Paul's testimony stands out to me as one of the strongest "proofs" (if you will) of the Jesus story.

You're assuming he was, as we would say, "well-intentioned".
There is no reason to assume that. None. Just a bad habit. It was clearly VERY important to him that he be counted among the "apostles". He was VERY ambitious. He was absolutely determined to be counted among the leaders of this new group. How do you know he was not in the employ of Rome, being paid to say what he did, to pacify unruly Jews and slaves ? "Slaves *be obedient to your masters*", and keep the growing set of powerful women in the group, in their place ?

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12-06-2017, 03:10 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 12:53 PM)seoq Wrote:  So Paul's claim to have known people who knew Jesus and the biblical idea that he built the church with those people are just works of literature, in your opinion?

The stories about who Paul met and when conflict. Paul supposedly disputed points of doctrine with the "pillars" --- if I was convinced that the person I was taking to had lived and traveled with a god I think I'd be more apt to accept their opinions and not argue the point.

You should do some reading on early xianity by secular scholars. The church presents a very biased, expurgated version. They'd have you believe that Peter and Paul were united, laid down the foundation of the church as it exists today and that it was clear sailing from then on. The facts are much more convoluted.

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12-06-2017, 03:27 PM
How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 10:50 AM)seoq Wrote:  Given that he knew people who knew Jesus first hand / people who allegedly witnessed Jesus' resurrection. Also that he spent years of his life preaching the gospel
message while under persecution and threat of death. That doesn't sound like the kind of life someone chooses when making up a religion, it really seems to me that he believed what he was preaching. I mean why risk so much and labor so much if it was all made up or some sort of conspiracy?

My thoughts about Paul really have me considering things, so I'm making this thread in the hopes that you guys have strong explanations, just so that I can see what logic is left standing.


Paul may or may not have been a real person, but the Jesus he preached wasn't an actual human being. He was a celestial vision. Paul never discusses Jesus' life or his sermons or his spoken wisdom. There is nothing in Paul's writings which indicates he ever met Jesus in the flesh or spoke to anyone who did know him. For all of Bart Ehrman's bluster when relying on Paul supporting the historicity of Jesus, he avoids this troubling fact.

For more, much more on this, I can recommend Richard Carrier's dense and verbose, but well-researched "On The Historicity Of Jesus" and David Fitzgerald's delightful three volume tome "Jesus: Mything In Action."
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12-06-2017, 03:32 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 03:27 PM)Rachel Wrote:  Paul may or may not have been a real person, but the Jesus he preached wasn't an actual human being. He was a celestial vision.

And another way of saying that, is that he was an "exalted Jewish Apocalyptic hero".

Paul's Jesus was no longer the Jesus who walked on the Earth.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name."
Philippians 2:9

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12-06-2017, 03:38 PM
RE: How much believability does Paul's testimony add to the Jesus story?
(12-06-2017 03:32 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Paul's Jesus was no longer the Jesus who walked on the Earth.
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name."
Philippians 2:9
Paul's Jesus never WAS the Jesus who walked the Earth. He was invented later, by others. If I had to guess i would say that Paul's "heavenly Jesus" was too abstract, and the competing faction vying for orthodoxy wanted a more relatable humanized Jesus. My the time the Gospels were authored, that narrative was able to be codified.

Fast forward to the third century and the victors got to write history; the gnostics were finally conclusively routed and branded as heretics, and Paul's teachings were subsumed in the context of the much later gospels.

In point of fact I would imagine that the Pauline writings were absorbed as a bit of a compromise to gain the support of gnostics who thought (wrongly, it turned out) that those writings would keep some aspect of the gnostic tradition alive.
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