Thursday, August 12, 2010

341: Still not Crucified

Galatians 1-3
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' " - Galatians 3:13

The book of Galatians is yet another letter by Paul scolding a church (this time the Galatians) for not behaving. I'm starting to get Old Testament repetitiveness flashbacks.

Paul says that the Galatians have turned from one gospel, and gone to another. We are never told the author of this mysterious other gospel, or who delivered it to the Galatians. We are only told that it is not from Paul. In fact, this seems to be Paul's litmus test for whether the gospel is legit or not. If it's Paul's, it's correct, if not, it's not correct.

Paul is so serious about this principle that he says even if an angel from heaven descends and tries to teach a gospel different from Paul's, the angel should be eternally condemned. I wonder what happens if Jesus returns and tries to un-teach some of Paul's nonsense. I guess Paul would have him eternally condemned too.

The rest of the first chapter is Paul recounting his miraculous conversion story. He can't stop himself from slipping in some conceited douchebaggery. "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers". Of course, his awesome Jewry was leading him to send Christians to their deaths, maybe that's not something he should be bragging about.

Chapter 2 starts with Paul recounting his first trip to Jerusalem. He says that this is when he realized that he should preach to the gentiles. The apostles, says Paul, agreed to his preaching to the gentiles on the condition that Paul "remember the poor". Paul says that this was the very thing he was eager to do. Remember them as he's robbing them, I guess.

Paul then says that he rebuked Peter for his refusal to eat with the gentiles. He says that Peter was not acting according to the gospel. Of course, neither is Paul.

In chapter 3 Paul goes on a long rant about the law of the prophets. He says that the only thing the law is good for is cursing everybody. But Jesus has become the curse for all of us by being "hung on a tree". Based on the bible, I'm not sure where, when, or how Jesus was killed. You'd think the writers could at least be consistent on these basics.

Paul then tries to convince us that God's covenant with Abraham was actually about Jesus. And that somehow God's law only applies until Jesus arrives.

Paul talks pretty regularly about nobody being bound by the law anymore. Why is it, then, that Christians condemn other people based on Old Testament law, if not even they are bound by it?Moreover, why is it that Christians claim to base their morality on a set of laws that the bible says don't apply to them any more? This reminds me of an awesome article in The Onion I just read.

I'm really ready to be done with these stupid letters from Paul.

Can you quote the bible in scientific journals? Apparently not:
Though it might work for The DaVinci Code, apparently citing the bible doesn’t fly in a scientific journal. Virology Journal apologized yesterday for publishing a paper titled “Influenza or not influenza: Analysis of a case of high fever that happened 2000 years ago in Biblical time,” which attempts to diagnosis “a woman with high fever cured by our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Did this journal not read over the article before they published it? Next thing you know they'll be publishing articles about the most common color for unicorns, or the genetic makeup of fairies. This is an excerpt from the "scientific" article:
The Bible describes that when Jesus touched the woman, the fever retreated instantaneously. This implies that the disease was probably not a severe acute bacterial infection (such as septicemia) or subacute endocarditis that would not resolved instantaneously.
Right, he can bring people back from the dead, and cure paralytics, but instantaneously curing septicemia is one step too far. Maybe instead of worrying about multi drug-resistant bacteria, we should be worried about those pesky Jesus-resistant bacteria.

As further "evidence" for their bacteria theory, these "scientists" consider whether the patient could be demon-possessed:
One final consideration that one might have is whether the illness was inflicted by a demon or devil. The Bible always tells if an illness is caused by a demon or devil (Matthew 9:18-25, 12:22, 9:32-33; Mark 1:23-26, 5:1-15, 9:17-29; Luke 4:33-35, 8:27-35, 9:38-43, 11:14). The victims often had what sounded like a convulsion when the demon was cast out. In our index case, demonic influence is not stated, and the woman had no apparent convulsion or residual symptomatology.
Does this mean to say that if the bible had said the woman was demon possessed that they would have to throw out their bacteria theory? Thus, I guess, accepting the possibility of demons as a scientific fact? Maybe the Virology Journal should at least skim the articles they publish.

(via Discover)


  1. Galatians is another letter that deals with Paul confronting a church who have found other apostles' teachings (in particular, that Xians should follow the Jewish law and be circumcised) to be more convincing. It's not clear what Paul intended by the word "Galatians," as Galatia was the name of a Roman province that included a northern part that used to be called Galatia, and whose people were known as Galatians, but was not mentioned as a place that Paul visited in Acts, and a southern part that was mentioned in Acts, but whose people were not known as Galatians. Perhaps the most useful feature of this epistle is that it sheds light on what really happened at the Apostolic Conference in Acts 15.

    Gal 1:8. Paul might have mentioned gospels from an angel here in anticipation of his saying in 3:19-30 that the Torah was put into effect by angels. Or else Paul was so arrogant he put himself above the angels. Perhaps both, maybe neither.

    Gal 1:11-12. Paul emphatically states that he did not receive his gospel or was taught it from any other man (thus contradicting the picture in Acts of Ananias instructing him). How did Paul learn the gospel, then? According to him, it was all by revelation.

    This would explain why he knows virtually nothing about Jesus, but how could he possibly pass off to his churches that he was giving them the true religion when other apostles could relate stories of Jesus' ministry? Is this the "other Jesus" that other apostles preach? Or is it that no one had any historical reminiscences of Jesus, putting everyone on a level playing field. Paul's letters (and other epistles) seem to argue for the latter possibility.

    Gal 1:15-18. Paul flatly contradicts Acts again. Acts has, right after his conversion, staying in Damascus for a little while, preaching there, before heading to Jerusalem. Galatians has him immediately going into Arabia (preaching about Christ) and then returning to Damascus, before only visiting Jerusalem 3 years later to get acquainted with Peter and James.

    What was Paul preaching about in Arabia and for 3 years before he visited the apostles (he tells us he didn't consult any man first)? What could he have known about Jesus? Why wouldn't he have been more interested in learning everything he could from people who supposedly knew Jesus about what he was like and what he said and did?!

    Gal 1:18-19. These lines may have been interpolated. Tertullian, in Against Marcion, Book 5, discusses this epistle, but only mentions the second trip, in Gal 2, even though the first trip would've suited his purposes as well. The doesn't say that it was Paul visited Jerusalem "again" either. The detail of Paul staying 15 days may also have been too precise, considering that he was writing this more than 14 years later.

    1 Gal 19. The phrase "James, the brother of the Lord," as I mentioned when discussing 1 Corinthians, may have just been Paul's way of distinguishing another apostle, the way Paul always calls fellow believers (Timothy, Apollos, etc.) "brother." The definite article doesn't mean much, either, because Greek lacked an indefinite article, so he could mean, "the brother" or "a brother." This could also be a later marginal gloss by a scribe trying to distinguish which of the 2 apostles named James in Xian tradition Paul meant.

    1 Gal 1:20. As if there were any doubt, Paul emphatically states, before God, that this is no lie. So either he is a bald-faced liar, or Acts is wrong.

  2. Galatians 2

    Gal 2:1. Paul waits 14 years to go to Jerusalem again. I guess he really wasn't all that curious about the life of Jesus. Moreover, this length of time seems much longer than in Acts.

    Gal 2:2. Paul says he went on his own accord, based on a revelation. Acts has him ordered to go by either some other apostles who showed up in Antioch or the church in Antioch. In this case, Acts sounds more plausible.

    Note also that Paul refers to Peter, James, and the rest of the Twelve, as those who "seemed to be leaders." He doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of them. Also, Acts presents this meeting as a meeting of all the apostles, whereas in Galatians it is only the leaders that meet with Paul. Also, the purpose of the meeting is a little different in Acts - there Paul is sent to get an answer about the question of circumcision. In Galatians he is going there to tell them what he is doing to get their blessing.

    Gal 2:3. There was no mention of Titus having gone in Acts (or even any mention of Titus at all), but Acts does say "along with some other believers." Most people take Paul to mean that Titus was not circumcised, but some, including Tertullian and perhaps Luke, thought that Paul meant that even though Titus didn't have to be circumcised, Paul did it anyway, because of the complaints of the Judaizers. If this is how Luke read it, then he probably transposed this circumcision to that of Timothy.

    Gal 2:4. These "false brothers" are undoubtedly Jewish Christians, even perhaps the Pharisees that Luke mentions in Acts 15:5. Could this be the origin of the phrase "beware the yeast of the Pharisees"?

    Gal 2:6: "As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message." Paul really doesn't have a very opinion of the Twelve (unlike in Acts). How could this be if they were Jesus' handpicked representatives?

    Gal 2:7-8. Peter is the apostle to the Jews? Then why in Acts 10 is he shown making the first gentile conversion and in Acts 11 as advocating allowing the gentiles to join the church, too, without having to follow the Jewish law? Meanwhile, Paul again calls himself the apostle to the Gentiles, whereas in Acts he always seeks to convert Jews first at every stop.

    Note also that this is the only actual place in any of Paul's letters where he says, "Peter." Otherwise he consistently uses Cephas, which is commonly translated as Peter. But why would Paul call him Cephas everywhere except in these 2 verses? Either (1) Cephas and Peter were 2 different people, that later tradition blended together; (2) the 2 lines here about Peter were interpolated in, perhaps by a later scribe, following tradition, who thought that they were the same, whether or not they actually were; or (3) Paul just slipped here momentarily and/or he expected that his readers would understand that they were the same person. I would say that (3) seems to be the least plausible of these possibilities.

    Gal 2:9: "James, Cephas and John, those reputed to be pillars." Could Paul's disdain be any more apparent?




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