I know I said this book, Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill, was about Jesus so you're likely confused about last night's post concerning Paul. I don't blame you! :) I think the author is trying to give background to Jesus - the world just before he was born and also people surrounding him or immediately following his life here. Chapter three was The Cosmic Christ: Paul's Jesus. I shared what I did yesterday because I often hear people say Paul invented Christianity. Also I literally laughed when the author said what he did about Paul wondering about the Meaning of his hostess asking if he wanted one lump or two. This guy writes with some subtle humor!
I know a lot of people don't like him, but I do like Paul. To me he is an example of how Jesus can change a person's life. He was a religious man bent on purifying his religion because some new innovation was starting to creep in. He wanted his people to be pure before God and not start having these wrong thoughts about this crazy Jesus person being their Messiah or worse yet - God! He was a good Jewish man and knew the shema as well as the next Jew!
Anyway, you see how Paul went from this religious terrorist to sharing news about Jesus' offer of free salvation? He never spread his religion by force - no telling people to convert, die or pay the tax to live as a second-class citizen. Not that he could anyway seeing how Rome was in control, but again, he never twisted arms to make people convert. Really, how can anyone force another to convert? Does that really "take" in God's eyes if you convert for the sake of not wanting to be killed, taxed or even for the love of a man (for those who convert in order to marry)?
I enjoy authors who draw word pictures for me. So I liked reading and imagining this:
"Dimly, we can see [Paul] entering a new booth, engaging in conversation whomever he can -- potential customers, their servants, his fellow merchants. We can see him taking a room in the tiny house of some merchant from a neighboring booth, gradually gathering a small community around him, instructing them in the Gospel and watching it take root among them. Then far into the night, sometimes with the help of a friendly scribe, sometimes alone, he scratches his letters to the church-communities he has had to leave behind, trying to find the right words, the words that will catch fire in their hearts and enable them to keep going. If nothing else, the overwhelming loneliness of this man -- always beginning again, always 'a stranger in a strange land,' always opening and closing his letters by naming distant friends, always recalling his ties of affection to those he has had to leave behind -- should impress us." (pg. 127)
The author states that Paul made a case for the equality of women reminding the Corinthian church that although the story of creation claims woman came from man (the rib story), from thereon out men have always come from woman - including the Messiah! Although Paul never stated that the rich and poor should have the same income, he would have "no part in treating anyone according to income....Within the community of believers everyone was to be treated equally." (pg. 142)
I especially loved how he summed it up here:
"The cosmic Christ, whose glory knocked Paul from his horse on the road to Damascus, who sums up in himself the whole of the created universe, eventually leads Paul to thoughts that no one has ever had before -- thoughts about the equality of all human beings before God. In this ancient world of masters and slaves, conquerors and conquered, a world that articulates at every turn, precisely and publicly, who's on top, who's on the bottom, Paul writes the unthinkable to his Galatians..."There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (pg. 147)
Another thing of note, the author reminds us that when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, he asked Paul "why are you persecuting me?" Jesus was in heaven, but the persecution of the believers was felt personally by Jesus and he identified the Church with himself. Also Paul had these thoughts concerning Jesus setting us free: "Like Moses leading the People out of Egyptian slavery, Christ the Redeemer has ransomed us all from the slavery of sin. We must go forward into freedom, not backward into chains." (pg. 148) Paul didn't think a gentile had to become a Jew and keep all the Law (which was given to the Israelites not everyone). In his view, this freedom in Christ was meant to free us from "all human rules and conventions."
Next chapter deals with the Gentile (non-Jewish) Luke's Jesus.