Ok here we are at the third and last post thinking about Saint Paul. Here are the final questions:
- In his letters was Paul sometimes speaking of his times or was everything he wrote meant for eternity?
- What about the Jeffersonian opinion of Paul? Have others believed the same thing?
- Are we looking at Paul’s words with a 21st century mind or of the times they were written
Let’s get right at it.
Was Paul sometimes speaking for his times and not for eternity? This goes back to the last topic of the previous post below. I just can’t get it out of my mind that Paul was just writing letters and not issuing strict rules for Christianity. First century letters were akin to blog posts in the 21st century. Many Christian blogger today have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who follow their posts daily. Do those bloggers even fathom that someday their writings will take on a very literal sense of Christian edicts. I can’t imagine anyone, even the most egocentric among us, who would believe that! Yes, I do believe that some of the things that Paul wrote were a direct result of revelations from Christ but I don’t happen to believe that even Paul thought that all he said was directly from our Savior and meant for eternity.
The Jeffersonian opinion of Saint Paul was basically that he came along later and complicated the very simple message of Jesus with a lot of rules and edicts. We are talking here about Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence and was a founding father of the U.S. When he wrote the Declaration he was not particularly religious and definitely not a Christian as we know it today. In his later life after leaving the presidency and spending the rest of the life at Monticello. He did espouse many Christian views but with a slant. ( I guess you could say the same thing about me 🙂 ) Jefferson even went to the point to make his own version of the Bible. Of course he deleted all of the Pauline letters and many of the miracles of Jesus. He said the miracles where not germane to the meaning of the Bible and many were probably added later to unnecessarily “enhance” Jesus’ authority. He also melded the four Gospels into one chronological text. I don’t think that any of the 35,000 different Christian sects uses his Bible but I guess I wouldn’t be too surprised if one or two did.
Are we looking at the Pauline letters with 21st century eyes? Of course we are! But just where that is detrimental can be up for discussion. I believe that where Paul seems to put women into their place is more a sign of the times in which he lived than for us today. If Paul were to have given a 21st century answer to women’s rights today he would have been ferociously attacked during his time. I believe that much of the reasoning used to give these verses present day authority are rationalizations. Let me give you the definition of rationalization that I intend for this topic.
to ascribe (one’s acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes.
Pasted from <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rationalization>
Ok, that closes this series of posts. As a summary I want to unequivocally state that I do believe that Saint Paul received personal and unique revelation from Christ. But, I must temper that with the feeling that today many people give the Pauline letters the same weight at the words of Jesus. I just don’t believe that they deserve that rating. Some of what Paul mentioned in his letters were just that. They were things in letters to friends and not meant to be held into eternity. Discerning the difference is where it is the most difficult, not the realization itself. I absolutely believe that we should look at Jesus’ word first and filter all the others through what he says. Yes, that might even mean questioning some of the things in Saint Paul’s many letters. I hope I have not offended too many of you; but I’m sure I have offended some. All I ask is for you to respect me as a Christian even if I may not conform to your current version of one.