A few last notes from Paul: The Mind of the Apostle by A.N. Wilson
Keep in mind the author believes some of the books attributed to Paul
are actually products of a later era when "the Church" with its bishops
and other offices was becoming a more organized entity.
"The misogyny of the Christian tradition could claim its origins in the writings of the New Testament. ... [insert woman-hating quotes by Tertullian].
But is any of the blame for this to be laid at the feet of Paul? True,
in his letters Paul introduces the idea ... of the Fall of Man; 'as all
die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.' The conclusion drawn
by the later fathers of the church is that the blame for Adam's death
must be attributed to Eve, but this is not something which Paul ever
seems to have thought for himself.
[Having read all the Pauline letters many times, I tend to agree. I've
often noticed how Paul uses Adam, Adam, Adam and maybe once or twice
mentions Eve (or woman) so I've never felt my gender is particularly
blamed from just reading Paul. If anything humankind as a whole is blamed and I'm OK with that having realized quite a while ago that I'm a sinner and so is most of the rest of the world!]
His writings do not suggest misogyny. True, he thought that the woman is the glory (doxa)
of the man. But it is hard to know what that means. He believed in the
Jewish myth that women were created from Adam's spare rib and that women
were created for the sake of men. This is not what most people think in
the late twentieth century, but it does not mean you were misogynistic
if you thought it during the reign of Claudius or Nero. In those days
you would have been hard put to find anyone who believed in 'sexual
equality' in the modern sense, and the person who comes the closest to
it is, strangely enough, Paul."
"Many modern people, even
Christians, regard Paul as a restrictive or puritanical presence in the
Christian tradition. They blame him for taking what they suppose to have
been the simple religion of Jesus and institutionalising it, or
theologising it, or somehow making it more 'restrictive.' A reading of
the few surviving authentic writings of Paul - Romans, Galatians, the
two Corinthian letters, Philippians - absolutely contradicts such a
view. Paul is the great libertarian of religious history. Though a Jew
of Jews - by his own account - he had the most cavalier view even of the
written word of God. ... Paul believed that human beings were the
temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit flows through us, and Christ
lives in us. In order to find out the mind of Christ you need to look
in your own heart." (pg. 172)
He gives this passage as example:
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry,
written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on
tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor. 3:1-3)
I also think of Romans 14
one of my personal favorite passages when dealing with 'gray areas.'
You think it's wrong to eat pork, then don't do it! But don't dare judge
another person whom God has accepted. It's not your call to say their
eating pork is right or wrong. You think it's wrong to celebrate
Christmas or Independence Day because they aren't mentioned in the
Bible, then don't. But don't look down on the ones who choose to
celebrate those days. Seriously, check out Romans 14 and feel scolded
for judging others while at the same time feel encouraged to do all things in
love...even forbidding yourself a ham sandwich if eating it makes a
weaker brother or sister stumble.
THE BOOK OF ROMANS
"For it is the most interesting,
as well as the most impenetrably difficult, book about 'religion' ever
written. In fact, of course, it is not about 'religion' at all, if by
'religion' we mean Judaism or Islam or Taoism or Seventh Day Adventism
or Roman Catholicism. Romans is one of the most devastating pamphlet
attacks on 'religion' ever penned. No one who read it and absorbed its
profound messages could feel happy with membership of a 'religion' ever
again. Jesus might or might not have gone into the temple in Jerusalem
and said that he would pull it down and build it up again in three days.
The letter to the Romans pulls down the temple at Jerusalem and the
temple at Ephesus and the temple at Piraeus and the altars of Athens and
every other altar and temple ever build by human hand. 'St Paul
understood what most Christians never realise, namely, that the Gospel
of Christ is not a religion, but religion itself, in its most universal and deepest significance.'" (pg. 195)
That last bit the author quoted is from "W.R. Inge, Outspoken Essays, p. 229" according to the footnote.
I've never thought of Romans like this before, but now I'm going to have to read it with this thought in mind to see if I agree!
Your thoughts on any of this?