Wednesday, August 11, 2010

340: Super Apostles & 2 Corinthians: In Review

2 Corinthians 10-13
"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing." - 2 Corinthians 12:11

Paul really goes off the deep end today. This entire section seems like Paul got shitfaced and wrote the Corinthians an angry letter.

Like any drunk trying to write a letter, he starts out rather incoherently. Chapter 10 starts out with a long-winded appeal to the Corinthians to come back to Christ. If they are obedient, Paul says, they will be able to capture thoughts and make them obedient to God. And they will also be able to "punish" every act of disobedience. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he's speaking in metaphor, but I can't be quite sure that he hasn't just lost his mind.

This is my favorite part of the chapter:
I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. For some say, "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
Christians seem to be big believers in the absolute truthfulness of eyewitness accounts. So listen to this eyewitness account, Paul in person is "unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing". Notice that Paul doesn't actually rebut this, he just tries to claim that people in writing are exactly like they are in person.

Paul spends the rest of the chapter trying to legitimize boasting (which he's going to do for the rest of 2 Corinthians). He says that while some boast with their own standards, Christians boast with God's standards. And when they boast, they "boast in the Lord". Of course, the Lord constantly tells us to be humble (both Yahweh and Jesus), so what makes Paul think God wouldn't tell him to shut the hell up?

Paul's opening to chapter 11 is priceless:
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.
Hell yeah we are.

Paul goes on to say that he's jealous for the Corinthians (with a "godly jealousy"), because he promised them to Christ as virgins. I haven't the faintest idea what Paul is talking about. Is he talking about mental virgins? Indeed he seems to be. Paul says that when someone comes to them and preaches Christ in a different way than he did, the Corinthians accept it.

Paul calls these other preachers "super-apostles". Is he being sarcastic? Is he talking about the real apostles (the twelve)? Either way, Paul says these super-apostles have led the Corinthians astray from their "pure devotion to Christ", thusly breaking their mental virginity (I guess).

Paul then brags about providing the gospel free of charge. But now that the Corinthians are failing to be good Christians, Paul says that he's "robbed" the other churches by taking their money to preach to the Corinthians free of charge. He would have been robbing them even if he did succeed with the Corinthians. After all, didn't the Corinthians then pay for Paul to go preach somewhere else? How is this "free of charge"?

Next, Paul says that he is going to start talking, not as the Lord would, but "as a fool". I thought he was already doing that (he just said he was). Paul says he's doing this because the only thing the Corinthians understand is foolishness.
What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
He goes on for quite a while longer about how he was shipwrecked and beaten and how he has to worry about all of his churches all the time. This, I guess, makes him a superior Christ worshiper? Is Paul somehow showing the Corinthians what not to do? Is he being sarcastic? Or is he just lowering himself to their level in the hopes of their salvation? Either way, he comes off as a nut job (or "out of his mind" as Paul describes himself).

Chapter 12 is a continuation of the boasting, "although there is nothing to be gained" says Paul. Well I guess that throws out the theory that Paul is hoping for the Corinthian's salvation. Paul is now, self-admittedly, rambling on for no reason.

Paul decides to tell a story about a man he knew. This man, fourteen years ago, was taken up to the "third heaven". How many heavens are there? He says, in heaven, this man heard things that he is not permitted to tell. Paul says that he will only brag about this man, but not himself (as if he hasn't already been bragging about himself).

In order that Paul wouldn't be conceited (I think it's a little late to prevent that), Paul says that God sent him a messenger of Satan to be a thorn in his side. Paul pleaded for God to take the thorn away, but in the end Paul decided it was a good thing. Because "[God's] power is made perfect in weakness". For brevity's sake, we'll just pretend that makes sense.

In the last half of chapter 12 Paul rambles on about how the Corinthians should be grateful for hearing Paul's message, because Paul is much better than the super-apostles. I still don't know who these other apostles are, or if they're really super.

Paul starts chapter 13 by saying that this will be his third visit to the Corinthians. Wait, I thought he wasn't even going to visit them for the second time? We seem to have been severely left out of the loop here. Paul then randomly says that every matter "must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses". Is Jesus's appearance to Paul established by two or three witnesses?

The rest of chapter 13 (pretty short) is about testing yourself and making sure Jesus is really in you. Paul ends by saying that we should aim for perfection, and live in peace. Living in peace would probably be far easier if Paul had never written these letters.

2 Corinthians: In Review
There's not too much to add from the Romans/1 Corinthians review. Except maybe that Paul is even more obviously nuts.

Is this really a guy that you're willing to base your life on? A guy with no evidence of Jesus appearing to him. A former Pharisee that obviously denies some of Jesus's more loving attributes. A self contradictory bigot at every turn. What makes people think this guy is legit?

More an more every day I realize that there are followers of Paul all around me, rather than followers of Jesus. Instead of striving to be Christlike, they strive to be Paullike. That is, constantly bragging, conceited, bigoted, and half insane. Oh, and we can't forget homophobic, and women controlling (neither of which Jesus ever mentioned).

I think I could almost deal with people being like Jesus. Then we'd only have to worry about people trashing temples, stealing donkeys, drowning pigs, and maliciously killing fig trees.

Oh boy, let the twisting of Christopher Hitchens's words begin:
Hitchens is not an atheist, however. His agnosticism often seems to undo God, but he is admittedly incapable of doing so, merely limited as he is to undoing the legitimacy of divine spokespersons. He reveals his limits in this interview.
Link to the interview here, if you care to watch it, I warn you though that it's almost exactly like the CNN interview I already had on this blog.

The "limits" Hitchens reveals in the interview are the limits of not being able to disprove anything (except in mathematics). Yes, at some point you can't disprove God, just as you can't disprove invisible unicorns or floating teapots. That certainly doesn't make me an agnostic on the subject of invisible unicorns.
As he deals with the awful burden of esophagal cancer spreading through his lymph nodes, he is concerned about rumors of a death bed confession. He is trying to make clear to us what he believes before he is incapable of doing so later-on.
In fact, if you watch the interview, he clearly says he's not concerned. Perhaps he has reason to be concerned if people are already trying to twist his words to this extent.
Despite that over-arching political concern, Hitchens' first real philosophical assumption is that the universe exceeds in complexity, full human understanding. And so, uncertainty is inescapable. He did not discover the principle, he must concede to it. He also concedes the possibility of a prime mover.
Again the writer is quote mining. Like I just explained, I too concede the possibility of God, just like I concede the possibility of invisible unicorns. That still doesn't make me anything but an atheist. Or an agnostic atheist if you really want to get technical.
Hitchens mission against these taxing shepherds [priests] subverts his acceptance of new possibilities, however. He cannot know beforehand, what his death will or will not teach him.

I hope Hitchens recovers by whatever miracle or medicine. And I hope for Hitchens that he knows he is loved by the universe, as is my hunch.
I have a hunch that the writer of this article is an idiot trying to take advantage of someone's possibly imminent death. Fortunately, I don't make judgments about people, much less the universe, based on my hunches.

1 comment:

  1. 2 Corinthians 10-13

    This is what I was talking about when I said that 2 Cor is a good chance to see Paul rant like a lunatic. This is also where you can see what the conflict was that Paul alludes to in chapters 1, 2 and 7. This is actually the beginning of the "angry" letter, which Paul wrote after his second visit to Corinth and before the later, friendlier letter that is found in 1:1-2:13 and 7:5-16.

    Bryan, as I pointed out before, Paul never says that we will coming for a "second" visit - he says "another" visit, which would've actually been his 3rd. During his 2nd visit, which occurred between 1 Cor and 2 Cor, Paul was insulted by some member of the congregation, who compared Paul unfavorably to the "super apostles" who came to Corinth after Paul. This was what prompted Paul to write the letter that appears in 10-13 (except possibly a few verses in chapter 13) and 2:14-6:13, 7:2-7:4. In that letter Paul threatened to come for a third visit, but after they made amends to him, he wrote another letter, which we've already read, saying that it won't be necessary for him to visit.

    As for who these "super apostles" are, Paul doesn't say, but we know that they are Jewish Christians (Paul says that they are Hebrews, Israelites, and descendants of Abraham, all 3 meaning practically the same thing). He seems that he is still fighting against the same opponents that he does in Galatians and Romans. But notice also that there wasn't any kind of apostolic succession, that the group in Jerusalem didn't run the movement and nobody claimed any kind of authority directly from Jesus or his appointees. In this free-for-all, anyone could claim that his gospel was superior, who no way to settle the argument.



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