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Paul's Letters

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York University
HUMA 1110
Stephen Ford

Early Christian Writings: Paul’s Letters Three selected topics in Paul’s letters: 1. The diversity of Early Christianity 2. Paul’s changing Eschatology 3. Paul’s maintenance as his status as patron (even while away, he maintains contact, through letters, with his followers. Paul’s letters, which are occasional letters, are evidence of three types of early Christianity: 1. Paul’s apocalyptic 2. Torah-observant 3. Wisdom Christianity (Corinthians Letter B) similar view as Socrates THESIS #1: occasion determines genre: Galatians is polemic, while Romans is request Galatians THESIS: Galatians is a polemical letter against the Torah-observance form of Christianity in order to persuade the communities Paul had founded in Galatia to return to his Euangelion, which they had abandoned when they accepted Torah-observancy that has its source in the Jerusalem Christian community. • Paul’s most passionate writing (fears losing his converts to other Christian leaders) • Lays out fundamental reasons for the separation of Christianity and Judaism • Excellent examples of Paul’s interpretive and rhetorical art • We get a comprehensive picture of one group of Paul’s opponents • Valuable chronological framework of Paul’s career • Mirror reading – technique of using the words of Paul to recreate the otherwise lost positions of other participants • Using this technique we can determine: a. Paul’s opponents were Christians (1:6-7) who may have had an impressive position in Christian circles themselves (1:8, 5:10). They claimed the support of, or a connection with, the Jerusalem apostles (1:18, 2:6-10). b. They called for the Galatians Christians, who were Gentiles (4:8-10), to become Jews by being circumcised and accepting the covenant of Moses (6:12-13, see3:1-5, 10, 28, 4:21, 5:2-6). c. They challenged the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship (1:1) and accused him of pleasing men rather than God (1:10). • The technique of “mirror reading” should be used very carefully, as we do not always get a clear picture of other participants through what Paul says (108). • Paul skips the ‘Thanksgiving’ section in his letter to Galatia, because he is furious with the Galatians. “For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” – (Galatians 1:11-12) • (1:11-12) Paul received his Gospel from Jesus directly, and not from Apostles. “But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me, sothat I might proclaim him among the gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to thosewho were already apostles before me, but I went away at once…” – (Galatians 1:15-17) • (1:15-17) Paul, after receiving the Euangelion from Jesus, did not go to Jerusalem to meet those who were Apostles before him. “ • (5:14) As in Philippians, Paul exploits the Greco-Roman horror of castration. “You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – (Genesis, 17:11) • (Genesis, 17) circumcision is the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham “Watch out for thosedogs, thosemen who do evil, thosemutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, 4 who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidencein the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.” – (Philippians, 3:2-3) • (Philippians, 3:2-3) Beware of those who mutilate the flesh “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to thosewho by 9 nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to thoseweak and miserable principles?Do you wish to beenslaved by them all over again? You are0 observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” – (Galatians, 4:8-11) • (Galatians, 4:8-11) Judaizing Christianity as distinct from Jewish Christianity “I wish thosewho unsettle you would castrate themselves.” – (Galatians, 5:12) • (5:12) I wish those…would castrate themselves • (3:27-28) Paul explains the initiation for Christianity (Baptism) – he uses the metaphor of clothing. This is compared to the ritual of circumcision, which is the initiation of Judaism. Why does Paul downplay Baptism in his letter to the Corinthians(1)? • “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to evangelize.” …because loyalty was given to the one who had baptized you. Many Corinthians were baptized by others, and Paul wanted to be accepted as their leader, not the person who had baptized them. Why does Paul emphasize baptism in his letter to the Galatians? In his letter to the Galatians, Paul does not amend his Euangelion • Paul has the ‘Trademark’ on Euangelion “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eyeon thosewho causedissensions and offenses,in opposition to the teachings that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceivethe hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedienceis know to all, sothat I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil.” – Romans, 16:17-20 • Paul refers to other message as ‘teaching’ not Eu
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