On St. Paul

I have just reread chapters 13 and 14 of The Myth-Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity by New Testament scholar Hyam Maccoby, after twenty-four years that I read the whole book, and I still find them fascinating. Maccoby wrote:

“As we have seen, the purposes of the book of Acts is to minimize the conflict between Paul and the leaders of the ‘Jerusalem Church,’ James and Peter.

Peter and Paul, in later Christian tradition, became twin saints, brothers in faith, and the idea that they were historically bitter opponents standing for irreconcilable religious standpoints would have been repudiated with horror. The work of the author of Acts was well done; he rescued Christianity from the imputation of being the individual creation of Paul…

Yet, for all his efforts, the truth of the matter is not hard to recover, if we examine the New Testament evidence with an eye to tell-tale inconsistencies and confusions, rather than with the determination to gloss over and harmonize all difficulties in the interests of an orthodox interpretation.”

For those who are biased against the late Maccoby because he was Jewish, let me now quote what a few non-Jews opined about Paul:

“My long-time views about Christianity is that it represents an amalgam of two seemingly immiscible parts—the religion of Jesus and the religion of Paul. Thomas Jefferson attempted to excise the Pauline parts of the New Testament. There wasn’t much left when he was done, but it was an inspiring document.” —Carl Sagan

“Paul was the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.” —Thomas Jefferson

“Where possible Paul avoids quoting the teaching of Jesus, in fact even mentioning it. If we had to rely on Paul, we should not know that Jesus taught in parables, had delivered the sermon of the mount, and had taught his disciples the ‘Our Father.’ Even where they are specially relevant, Paul passes over the words of the Lord.” —Albert Schweitzer

“Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ… Fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ.” —Will Durant

“The new testament was less a Christiad than a Pauliad.” —Thomas Hardy

If Christianity requires an Antichrist “and if, in place of an ideal, they can put up with a real Antichrist, —an Antichrist of flesh and blood— they need not go far to look for one. Of Saul, alias Paul, the existence is not fabulous.” —Jeremy Bentham

“Paul hardly ever allows the real Jesus of Nazareth to get a word in.” —Carl Jung

“Paul’s words are not the Words of God. They are the words of Paul—a vast difference.” —Bishop John S. Spong

Published in: on March 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm  Comments (4)  

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