The Paradigmatic-Rhetorical Structure of Paul’s So-Called Seven Authentic Letters

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Wikipedia (March 4, 2014) notes that “There is wide consensus, in modern New Testament scholarship, on a core group of authentic Pauline epistles whose authorship is rarely contested: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.”

For the moment, I would like to ignore Romans and replace it with 2 Thessalonians. I don’t really see the significant grounds for dismissing 2 Thessalonians as inauthentic and it makes the development of the epistle writer clearer. I will deal with Romans in a separate blog.

It is easy to see that the seven “authentic” letters of Paul are rhetorical exercises written by someone pretending to be the Apostle Paul. They are paradigms showing how Paul might react to a certain set of possible developments in churches. They are not about resolving real situations but promoting a certain ideology. The ideology is a cross between Judaism and Greco-Roman Polytheism. Basically the deal proposed in the ideology is that the Jews give up their laws and the Greco-Romans give up their polytheism and they all come together to worship the Jewish creator god.

We need only look at the reason Paul has for writing the letters in each one of them to see that the writer is mainly interested in propagating his ideology. The letters to the churches are the vehicles that he is using. As his writings develop, the writer becomes increasingly concerned with proving the authenticity of the letters. The seventh letter, “Philemon” has almost no ideology at all, but is designed to be authentic sounding and to prove that Paul wrote all these letters.

Here are each of the seven and the reason the text gives for their coming into being:

1.   Ephesians: The text does not tell us why Paul is writing to the Ephesians. He just decides to tell them his ideology because he has heard that they believe the gospel. They are a good Church and Paul has never met them. The writer is just giving Pauline ideology and hardly pretending that it is a real letter at all.

2. 1 Thessalonians: The writer realizes that he has to at least give a reason for why Paul is writing and giving his ideology to make the epistles sound believable. This is a good church where the members are faithful. It is the first church that has converted outside Jerusalem and Paul just wants to say, “keep up the good work, and by the way, here is my ideology on the gospel.”

3. 2 Thessalonians: This is the resolution and sequel letter supposedly written a year or two later. It is basically a reinforcement of the first letter. Paul repeats for them to keep up the good work and warns them against straying from it.

4. 1 Corinthians: The writer reverses the earlier scenario of writing and encouraging Good churches to continue their work. This time Paul is writing to a bad church that he founded where things have gone wrong. The members are fighting over which Apostle to follow. Paul tells them not to fight, but be like the Thessalonkians, and be unified.

5. 2 Corinthians: This is another resolution and sequel letter. He tells them again to stop the fighting, straighten out and be like the good Thessalonians.

6. Galatians: This is another bad Church, only instead of other apostles being the problem, the problem is that the whole Church has decided to go fully over to Judaism and follow all the Jewish laws. There is some Pauline ideology and this is the only one of the epistles where there are stories about Paul and the other Apostles.

7. Philemon is the only letter not concerned with ideology, but completely concerned with proving the authenticity of the other epistles. We may conclude that the writers got feedback that the other letters did not sound real, but exercises in rhetoric. He is producing a real sounding letter to counter that criticism. This is the only letter which is actually addressed to a person, the head of a church. The other letters are addressed to churches which are corporations. Corporations do not have physical bodies so they cannot receive, read and hear letters. If I want the Coca-Cola company to change the formula for their soft drink or change the size of their bottles, I do not write a letter addressed to the Coca-Cola company, but a letter to the President of Coca-Cola or maybe the person in charge of formulas or bottle sizes. Philemon is more of a memo than a letter. Paul has borrowed a slave, Onesimus from Philemon and used him without Philemon’s permission. Paul is worried that Philemon might punish the slave for listening to Paul and not returning to him instead. Paul asserts his right as head of the church to confiscate Onesimus’ services for his own purpose. The letter is meant to show the authority of Paul and all apostles to use the property of heads of churches for their own purposes. At the same time, Paul is shown to be a nice guy concerned about a slave being beaten for obeying an apostle instead of his master. This is the one letter that imitates the form of an actual letter rather than a piece of rhetoric. It is designed primarily to lend authenticity to the other letters that the author has written.

Thus we have Paul writing to six churches. Three letters are to good churches. One letter to a church that Paul has never met (Ephesus), the next two to a Church that Paul founded (Thessalonians). The next three letters are to bad churches. There are two to a church that Paul founded  but things have gone wrong and one to a church that Paul did not found. The Church of Corinth (founded by Paul) has  fallen victim to the preaching of other apostles and their different immoral – too Greco-Roman – interpretations, while the Galatia Church (not founded by Paul) has missed the mark by turning too Jewish and accepting the laws.

Each of these churches are representative of types of churches: Ephesian – Good Church not founded by Paul, Thessaloniki – Good Church founded by Paul, Corinth – Bad Church founded by Paul, but taken over by other apostles’ ideas, and Galatia – bad church founded by Paul, but taken over by Jews.

The seventh letter, Philemon, is designed as a counterpoint to the other six letters. It shows that Paul does not always write rhetorical speeches to corporations, but writes real letters to the heads of churches about ordinary things like borrowing a slave.

The rhetorical structure between the letters show them to be definitely not spontaneous letters responding to actual events, but they are altogether a single rhetorical power-point type presentation. The presentation could be named “Good Churches and Bad Churches and How Paul Might Have Handled them”.

The epistles are meant to cover four situations (a good church not founded by Paul, a good church founded by Paul (2 letters), a bad church not founded by Paul, and a bad church founded by Paul (2 letters). The churches are not real but imaginary inventions to allow Paul to express his ideology in four different situations.

Paul’s Christ are the Children of Abraham

My daughter, Aphrodite, gave birth to a daughter, Allayah, yesterday. I am a new grand-dad.

I gave birth to a new idea today. I figured out the meaning of a really confusing passage in the Biblical work “Galatians” –4:4. = The passage is only confusing because people think that the writer is referencing the gospel character Jesus Christ or some mystical God. When we read the text and forget the assumptions, the meaning becomes clear.

Shades of Frege, the Morning star is the Evening Star. Wittgenstein was right : Nothing is hidden.
By George, I’ve got it. Hallelujah and yippee Kay-yay

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

The phrase “his son” does not refer to Jesus Christ. The word “son” refers to the children of Abraham.

Follow the yellow brick road:

Galatians 3:16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. [b]It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. [/b]

The offspring of Abraham is Christ.

Gal.3:25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Through faith and baptism, you have become Christ, il.e. the children of Abraham.

4:1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,a though he is the owner of everything, 2but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principlesb of the world. 4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Christ is the offspring of Abraham. The offspring of Abraham is the offspring of God. God has sent forth his son (the offspring of Abraham who have only been heirs under the guardianship of the law until the fulness of time.) The Jews were heirs but under the law, they were no better than slaves. Now because you Galatians have faith in God, you have become adopted as children of God. You are no longer slaves, you too are the sons of God and an heir.

In other words, the jews were heirs, but heirs when they are children are no better than slaves. Now the time has come when God had sent forth the heirs (children like slaves while under the law). They are his sons. Those who adopt the Jewish faith (but not the law) are also sons of God.

The words “his son, son of women, born under the law,” is a reference to the Jewish offspring of Abraham, living in Paul’s time. It does not refer to a God or a specific man.

The Super Difficult Situation Faced by Historical Jesus Proponents

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I would like to compare the position of a character in a fictional story and the situation of Historical Jesus Proponents. The story is called “Superboy in the 50th Century” and appears in a comic book, Adventure Comics, published in December, 1960. It was written by Eando Binder (AKA Otto Oscar Binder).  Binder was a science fiction writer, besides writing comic books. He is best known for his short story in [B]Amazing Fantasies Magazine[/B], “I, Robot,” published in 1939, which inspired Arthur C. Clark’s Book, “I, Robot,” published in 1950.

 

In the story, Superboy is flying through the air when he finds himself captured by a “Time Sampler Machine.” The Time machine brings him to the 50th Century where he meets the inventor Thaddee Lang and his daughter Lita Lang. They are both descendents of Superboy’s 20th Century girlfriend Lana Lang. Superboy soon finds out that the people of the 50th Century believe that Superboy was not a real historical person, but a myth like Peter Pan, Robin Hood, Mercury and Santa Claus. Only Lita Lang has kept the faith and believes that Superboy was a real historical figure.

 

Superboy tries to prove he is real by demonstrating his superpowers. Unfortunately, he finds that machines have been invented that can duplicate all of his superpowers (flying, super strength, x-ray vision, etc.). He claims that he does his superpowers without machines. The authorities respond that Professor Lang has invented superpills that can give people these powers without machines. They accuse him of being an alien from the planet Xanthia who stole the superpills. They threaten him with deportation back to Xanthia.

Given a short reprieve, he visits a Superboy museum that Lita Lang has set up. He is surprised to find out that only “the statue of liberty’s torch, a piece of the Eiffel Tower and the scoreboard from Yankee stadium” has survived from the 20th century. He also finds a mysterious rock which turns out to be white kryptonite, a type of kryptonite which does not harm him, but nevertheless has strange properties.

 

At this point a spaceship crashes into Earth unleashing spores that start to destroy all the vegetation on Earth. Superboy uses the white Kryptonite rock to destroy the spores and save the Earth. For saving the Earth, the authorities grant him honorary citizenship. However, Superboy refuses this and show them a Kryptonese inscription on the White Kryptonite rock.

 

This proves that planet Krypton was real and thus the legend of Superboy/Superman was not a legend, but an historical reality. Superboy flies back to the 20th Century having convinced the people of the 50th Century that he really existed.

 

In Narratological Theory, there is a separation between the fibula and the syuzhet. The fibula is the main events or raw material of the story, while the syzhet is how the story is told. We can look for the moment just at the fibula.

Now, we know that Superboy/Man does not exist. Only in the fibula of the story does Superboy/Superman exist. In the same way the people of the 50th century do not exist. Only in the fibula , do they exist. So a non-existent being convinces other non-existent beings of his historical existence in the non-historical fibula.

 

The problem for Superboy in the fibula is that his superpowers have been replicated by Science and cannot be used as proof that he is Superboy. One can easily imagine a story about Jesus Christ in the same situation. All of Jesus’ Christ’s miracles are today easily duplicated by science or machines, so his magical powers, such as healing a crippled or blind man, would fail to convince a critical modern audience that it was him.

 

In the comic book, Superboy ultimately has to rely on archaeology to prove his existence. He has to produce an artifact from the planet Krypton to prove his existence. One can easily imagine that Jesus Christ would need to do the same thing. It is hard to imagine though, what Jesus Christ could produce to prove his existence.

 

Since Jesus Christ has not come back, those with an historical Jesus prospective have to take his place in the story. They must substitute themselves for him and seek out the archaeological evidence. They must find the artifact, the rock from the planet Krypton, that will prove his existence.

To be “Your Own Hero” is to be a “Villain”

1208155451Mickey-Mantle-Retirement-Day-Card-04-14-08I have decided to make my posts more personal. Philosophers should be concerned with the personal as well as the great things in the world.

My brother, Mark, tells me that he wants to be “his own hero.”

What does it mean to be “my own hero”? A hero is someone who saves somebody else. Is somebody who saves only their own self really a hero?

We think of people who are heroes as people who sacrifice themselves for other people. They give up something of their own to help others.

To be your own hero is to put your self and your needs before all others and to help your self before others. But isn’t that exactly what a villain does? A villain puts their own needs, wants, and desires before others. To be “your own hero” is to be a villain to everybody else.

If the self is a creation of what others see in us, then others will see a person who is a villain when they see a person who is “their own hero.” They will see a personal who sacrifices and gives nothing.

We love people who are true heroes and sacrifice for others. We do not and cannot love people who sacrifice only for themselves. Ultimately, what they sacrifice is the other or “other people.” Ultimately, they sacrifice their humanity and their humanness.

Humanness is what the Chinese philosopher Confucius talked about when he talked about “Jen.” This is a discussion of “Jen” from an online course in Oriental philosophy at Lander University in South Carolina.

1. The virtue of virtues; Confucius said he never really saw it full expressed. The other virtues follow from it. He never gives and defends a definition of it although he does characterize it.
2. It is dearer than life itself–the man of jen will sacrifice his life to preserve jen, and conversely it is what makes life worth living.
3. Jen is a sense for the dignity of human life–a feeling of humanity towards others and self-esteem for yourself.
a. Such feeling applies to all men–not just one nation or race. It is the foundation of all human relationships.
b. There is the belief that jen can be obtained; indeed, there is the belief in the natural perfectibility of man. Hence, he rejects the way of human action where one satisfies likes and avoids dislikes.
c. The first principle of Confucianism is to act according to jen: it is the ultimate guide to human action.
4. We should seek to extend jen to others.

Ultimately, it is by what we do for others that we will be remembered by. In the here and now, it is what we do for others that really makes us feel good.

By Blocking Real Gun Control, the NRA is Responsible for 98.5 to 99.7% of All Gun Homicides in the United States

It is perhaps the first job of government to protect its innocent citizens from violent deaths. The organization that prevents the United States government from doing its basic job is the NRA (National Rifle Association). If it were not for the NRA, the government would have responded to the most basic need of its people long ago and instituted the necessary gun control restrictions to stop the epidemic of gun violence in the United States

How responsible is the NRA for this epidemic. We can get a reasonable idea by comparing the results if the United States had the same strict gun control laws as in countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom which have responded to the needs of its citizens with strict gun control laws.

The following statistics are from gunpolicy.org.

In Japan (pop: 127 million), where there is strong gun control, the number of gun homicides in 2008 was 11.

In the United Kingdom (pop: 63 million), where there is less strong gun control, in 2008, the number of gun deaths was 32, about 6.5 times the rate of Japan.

In the United States (pop: 315 Million) where there is less gun control than any industrialized nation, the number was 12.179 gun homicides. Since the population of the United States is approximately 2.5 times the population of Japan, we should times the Japanese 11 murders by 2.5 to get 28 murders for 2008, if Japan was the population size of the United. To get the number of times greater the gun homicide rate in the United States is, we divide 12,179 by 28 to get 435. The murder rate in the United States with lax gun control is approximately 435 times greater than the murder rate of Japan with strict gun control.

For Great Britain the murder rate is 6.5 times greater than Japan, so we can divide 435 by 6.5 to get a U.S. rate of 67 times greater than Great Britain. The gun homicide rate is about 67 times greater in the United States than in Great Britain.

We cannot hold the NRA responsible for every gun homicide in the United States. We can only say that by preventing strict gun control laws as in Japan, for every 435 gun homicides, the NRA is responsible for 434 of them. Dividing 435 by 435, we get 99.7% Thus, by preventing strict gun control laws as in Japan, the NRA is responsible for 99.7% of gun homicides in the United States.

By preventing somewhat less strict gun control as in Great Britain, the NRA is responsible for 66 out of every 67 gun deaths. This gives us a rate of 98.5%. Using this fact, the NRA would only be responsible for 98.5% of the gun deaths.

By preventing gun control laws somewhere between Great Britain and Japan’s gun control laws, the NRA is responsible for 98.5 to 99.7% of the gun homicides in the United States.

It is true that the NRA is not responsible for every gun death in the United States. They are only responsible for somewhere between 98.5% and 99.7% of them.

 

 

 

 

 

The Technology, Function and Practice of Early Christianity

Justin Martyr or his editor gives us a description of the technology of Christianity in his “Apology” It is done almost as an afterthought to his defense of Christians against charges of gross immorality and criminality.

He describes a baptism ceremony for the initiate (Chapter 64).

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But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γένοιτο [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

1. Initiate is brought to a place where the brethen are gathered
2. Initiate washed
3. Prayers for Brethren and Initiate are given
4. Everybody says Amen. (Agreed)
5. President gives thanks and everybody says amen again.
6. Deacons hand out wine and bread.
7. Distribution of bread and wine to those who are absent.

Now that the magic initiation ceremony is over. What does the initiate do for the rest of their life. He describes this in chapter 66:

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And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

This is what Christians do:

1. Remind each other about doctrines
2. Wealthy helps the needy
3. Hang out together.
4. Bless Jesus and the Holy Ghost
5. Gather on Sundays

  • a. Memoirs of the Apostles or works of prophets are read if time permits
  • b.President gives a pep talk to be good and act like Jesus and prophets
  • c. People give thanks and say Amen.
  • d. President gives thanks and everybody says Amen.
  • e. Bread and wine are distributed. People drink and eat.
  • f. Deacons send out bread and wine to those who are absent.
  • g. There is a collection of money that the President gets. Theoretically, he uses this money to care care of anybody who needs it.

What is interesting is that the initiation ceremony is about the same as the regular Sunday ceremony minus the washing.

When we get past all the mystical nonsense, we see that Christianity begins as a primitive form of banking and insurance. People gather and give their money to a custodian (president) who holds it and gives it out to those who are in need. The drinking of wine and sharing of bread is simply a symbolic assurance that the customers (Christians) will get their money back when they need it. It is like the passbook and month accounting statements that the banks use to give out or the online activity and account statements that we now get when we bank online.

It was because it performed an important economic function (banking and insurance) that Christianity grew and continued.

The Origin of Christianity: The Evolution From Circumcision to Baptism

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Circumcision as shown by Egyptians

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3rd Century, John baptizing Jesus.

What really separated Christianity and Judaism in the beginning was not any positive theological doctrines. I should like to propose that a man named Jesus coming back from the dead, being a son of God, or a prophet, or a magician with powers from God were all insignificant later issues. It seems to me that the original issue was circumcision.

The Baptism ritual may be seen originally as a gimmick to get gentiles interested in Judaism. It is a nice cleansing ritual developing out of utensil cleansing rituals. If the body is a utensil that you use like a knife or spoon, why not wash it too and bless it with a prayer?

This is a very nice gimmick for getting the others interested in Judaism and presenting it as a healthy practice. However, the real mark of Judaism is the cutting of the foreskin. In order to become Jewish you have to be circumsized. That’s the mark or the sign that you are a Jew. It is the physical proof of your agreement to the Hebrew covenant with God and all other Jews.

The Jewish revolt against the Romans in the First century needed help. Romans probably outnumbered Jews at least 10 to 1. Therefore the Jews needed help to free themselves from the heavy taxation and political control of the Romans. They needed to recruit Jews from outside the ranks. Increasing the number of Jews was a strategy for liberation. It was purely a strategic move to serve a political goal.

The problem was that it was easy to attract people’s attention. Judaism had a beautiful temple, the idea of an invisible or unknown God who would protect you, and it had the pleasurable watery baptism ritual. The problem was that few gentiles would want to take the next necessary step after baptism of cutting off the foreskin of their penis. (Note: women did not count for much in ruling class eyes at this time in Judea, so recruitment policy would only aim at men)

Christianity begins with the more practical militant Jews who don’t care about the foreskins and Jewish tradition. For them the baptism ritual is enough. Their attitude is “Dunk them under the water and they’re in, they’re one of us. They can fight on our side.” They can argue that if the Jews make someone a king by anointing them with a little oil on the head, can’t just dipping someone under the water make someone a Jew? Is not all things possible with God?

This is the founding idea of Christianity. the idea that baptism can be a substitute for circumcision. It represents the most important and earliest argument in the writings of Paul and it is symbolically represented in the Baptism of Jesus, where a Galilean gentile suddenly gets magical powers and becomes a Jew (a son of God) simply by undergoing the Baptism ritual. (Making Jesus a Jew to begin with is a Second century afterthought

Christianity begins with Jews who want to devalue the circumcision ritual and add value to the baptism ritual.

In a certain sense, the transformation of the baptism ceremony into a full initiation ceremony is all that Christianity was in the beginning and the rest of Christian history is footnotes.