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Interfaith Dialogue
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Andalus
 
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Quote Andalus Replybullet Posted: 28 June 2009 at 11:11pm

Originally posted by Apollos

Posted by Andalus:

-so what if the writings you have make the claim for Paul. It is all "circular reasoning", the documents that make the claim for Paul tell us that the church accepted Paul and that Paul is the real deal! We have the same documents tell us to accept him, of the very documents ascribed to Paul himself! Come on, if this weak claim was found in my faith, you would be all over it. But again the ugly special pleading fallacy raises its head in Christian polemics.

Reply by Apollos:

Andalus – There is no circular reasoning at all. Do you imagine one because the Church has collected various writings under one binding called – the New Testament?  I would hope that you can see that collecting different writings under one label does not make all of the writings suddenly lose their own identify or independence.

So when Peter or Luke make written endorsements of Paul or vice-versa, this is not circular reasoning. It is straightforward historical documentation. Furthermore, it is not just the clear endorsements we find in New Testament writings that substantiate Paul’s authority. As I mentioned before, the existence of believers in places that Paul evangelized and the existence of copies of Paul’s letters in these areas substantiates that Paul’s authority was accepted by those who were alive while Paul was alive and proclaiming what he did.

Posted by Andalus:

-if Paul was so full of "proof", why is it that the pagans were his source of followers? Why did he fail so miserably with the Jews? Looking at the most reasonable explanation, which is not what the Church tells us, it is clear that we have two camps: one who knew the knowledge Paul was quoting, and those who did not know anything. So what group can be duped the easiest?

Reply by Apollos:

Paul did not “fail miserably with the Jews” – unless you also think the same of Jesus and even Mohammed. Yes many Jews have rejected the Gospel but Paul succeeded at least as much as others did. Much of the uproar he caused was because he was having great success with Jews. Consider the numerous times his letters refer to the Jewish believers in the groups he wrote to. Consider how his letter to the Romans and Hebrews addresses doctrines and concepts that only make sense to Jews. If he was only writing to Gentile Christians, they wouldn’t understand much of what he wrote about.

And how does your two camp theory account for Peter? He was a Jew, a close disciple of Jesus and yet unfortunately for you, he endorses Paul in his writing.

 

 

If we can start with a simple concept no one could argue is “unreasonable”. The more pronounced the claim, the more evidence is required such that a strong degree of confidence should be engendered. No one would argue this unreasonable, and anyone who would might be susceptible to foolish concepts. The claim in this instance stands in opposition to that which was established.

So according to your account of things, Paul is the lens from which one interprets the faith, and there is a seamless strand from what he thinks all the way back to Jesus. Lets take a look at the evidence you place so much of your faith in to the extent that your life has nothing in common with Jesus or his first followers.

But we have Paul’s own words?

What we have are a series of letters, correspondence mind you from him to his fledgling communities who are also being proselytized to by “Jewish” followers of Jesus, his major competition. Some of these letters, as one cannot be certain that all were saved, were copied and recopied and then placed in the cannon. There were also forgeries circulating in his name that were also copied and recopied and even followed to various degrees. As of now, there are 13 letters that are claimed to be his own in your NT chosen by your great pious doctors.

1)      What was the methodology used by your early doctors to discern between the forgeries and those that were rightfully written by Paul? In other words, what gives us confidence that the letters are of Paul?

2)      What methodology was used in transmitting Paul’s writings such that one has confidence that the transmission was accurate?

3)      Modern scholarship has far more tools and better training than your early doctors for topics such as textual criticism. There is enough scholarly agreement to reasonably reject some of these letters and label them as pseudepigraphical which is a Christian term for “forgery”. Even if you do not agree with the scholars who have given valid arguments to label some of the letters as forgeries, the problem is that the argument against them is strong enough to places “doubt” on the letters, and doubt is all we need to throw them out. Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus are letters that have been placed in doubt by enough scholars to give the claim credence. These letters can be shown to have differences in writing styles, theological view points, and historical context which are a few of the methods used for labeling them as forgeries. I invite anyone to explore the topic on their own and come to your own conclusion. I am not a scholar, but I am able to see that there are enough scholars who do argue valid points to reject them and I am educated enough to understand their arguments. Their points at the very least throws out confidence. Keep in mind, we are looking at letters that are used to assert strong theological ideals, not just minor details.  

 We have as witness to Paul’s claims his letters, to confirm himself, and we have Acts as the main “evidence”. The only evidence we have of Peter being a supporter of Paul, and confriming Paul, is found in Acts.

1)      We have copies of copies of Acts, without any degree of confidence from whom Acts came from, the accuracy of it’s transmission, or the accuracy of the claims. The only thing that scholars can agree on is that Acts and Luke were probably written by the same author.

2)      Acts was written about 30 years after the Pauline letters, and so we have no way of knowing the accuracy of transmission between the authorship of Acts and the 30 years.

 

So speaking to me about any kind of “two camp theory” is absurd given that you have no solid connection to Peter. You have the Pauline letters, half of which is, at the very least, placed in great doubt, and writings from a supporter of Paul about 30 years later.  It is a pro-Pauline account to sell Paul as the one from which we all can interpret Christianity. As an example, Gal 1:1-17 makes it clear from Paul’s view point, he has received his revelation from God, not from man or any apostle. In other words, everyone has it wrong but him, and he has no need to consult anyone to validate his gospel. He just went and began preaching without need for permission. The author of acts wants us to know that Paul had “apostolic validation” from the very beginning, an “early meeting” in Jerusalem with the head leaders. So in acts 9:23-30, we are told that Paul went to Jerusalem right after his conversion, in contrast to Gal where Paul begins his campaign after conversion without an immediate meeting in Jerusalem. Now this might be subtle to the faithful, but this is an obvious attempt by a supporter of Paul to show that everyone was in full agreement with Paul about the direction of the church. The author of Acts wants us all to know that Peter and Paul were in complete balance with one another, and it was Peter who started the mission to the gentiles (acts 10-11), but in Paul’s words, there is tension Gal 2:11-14, and I wish we had the rebuttal of Peter. Please, I have seen the “harmonization” to reconcile these points, but what we have with these harmonizations is simply another “letter” to fill in the gaps.   

I am not sure where you place your faith that Paul was successful to the Jews, but you are absolutely wrong. Paul’s message was only successful with ex pagan gentiles. That was his primary goal in his mission.

Note: I did not bring up 1 or 2 Peter for good reason.

 

Reply by Apollos:

We do have thousands of manuscripts and textual criticism leads scholars to conclude that the autographs behind these copies are from the first century. The evidence keeps getting better not worse. Since you claim the contrary, please provide some details of what you are referring to.

 

Posted by Andalus:

Once more you are over generalizing, and giving a sweeping broadstroke without any clarity by invoking "thousands of MSS", then asking me to provide details.

The question that must be asked is: What does thousands of MSS mean? A question that begs clarification which Chistian apologists tend to be "brief" on.

Keep in mind that in textual criticism, one goes by quality and not quantity. It is not the number but the quality of the MS.

If one actually takes a look at what is used by NT scholars to prepare an NT edition, one will find that only a few select MSS are used, in contrast to thousands. ….

Reply by Apollos:

Concerning the point I am making here, I disagree with your quality versus quantity comments. While there is an answer to the claims you are making, it is a tangent to the point you have missed. That point is – numerous manuscripts, regardless of their quality, substantiate numerous believers. Numerous believers requires a minimum amount of time and this required time excludes the possibility that the manuscripts were created late.

Reply by Apollos:

I have presented a minimal and concise list of documents that exist within 150 years of Jesus walking the earth. Lexionairies are one type and your remarks don’t address their importance. Even if the Lexionaries were filled with the paraphrases, misquotes, etc., they document that there were written Gospels with these words and/or ideas in them prior to the Lexionairies. (Else they couldn’t be referenced). You seemed to be arguing that because the Lexionaries aren’t as good or complete as manuscripts of the Bible that they are worthless. They certainly are not. They document what the early church was practicing and teaching in their services and they consistently quoted passages from the Gospels. 

What about the other documents I reference? You said I was deluded to think there is much in the way of documents during the first 150 years and I showed you many. Paul’s letters alone represent a wealth of documentation for what the Church believed while the Disciples were still living.

 

Posted by Andalus:

Lexionaries are of no use for giving us confidence in what Jesus said or did or believed, or that the Gospel accounts have such attributes.

I agree that many traditions existed in the first 150 years, I ask for proof to show me that your tradition is the correct one authorized by Jesus, or a first hand follower.

 

Reply by Apollos:

As I stated previously Lexionaries like thousands of manuscripts substantiate early acceptance of the New Testament writings they quote. You seem to concur with this. As for your follow-up challenge, (underlined above by me) I think I have already addressed this but I summarize it again.

1. You imply that there were different early traditions and there is uncertainty about which if any is correct. Will you please identify at least one competing tradition to the one I have described that is supported by the Lexionaries, the manuscripts and other things I referenced?

2. We have written accounts from the eye-witnesses (Matthew and John), we have written accounts from people who interviewed eyewitnesses (Luke, Mark). We have letters from Peter and Paul stating that the things Matthew, Mark and Luke described were true. We have letters from Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius and other disciples of the original disciples who confirm that the aforementioned writings were by the people they claimed to be and were correct.

Apollos 

 

 

Non-sequitur. References to the gospels by early doctors who made up the group you have inherited your theology from do not validate the gospels as being what Jesus authorized. One thing does not imply the other. We know that your gospel accounts were among many competing gospel accounts that began as “dynamic” oral stories told in the first two centuries. You seem to think that because something is mentioned, it must be true. The early “proto-orthodox” simply quoted the gospel accounts they accepted, but the acceptance was not based upon anything but conjecture, unless you are willing to cough up something that tells us their method for determining truth from error?

 

You are again committing the fallacy of “non-sequitur” when you ask me to mention a competing gospel. The mentioning of one, or not, does not imply that your gospels are authoritative or not. What is proven with the mentioning of at least one competing narrative is that no one knew what the “hell” they were talking about when they claimed to really have the truth on Jesus, and it would demonstrate that your gospels were no more authoritative than any competing one. Furthermore, your requirement that a competing gospel “must be supported” by the lexionaries is not only beyond absurd, but is asinine and has no play what so ever in the conclusion. It is a juvenile red herring to distract from the very fact that you have no way to assure us that your gospels are any more authoritative than any other gospel that did not make it into your NT.

 

An example of a competing gospel is the Gospel of Peter. It was due to a passage that might give support to docetism that Serapion denounced the gospel as a forgery. Keep in mind that he, like the other doctors of your founding sect, had no way of actually knowing if Peter wrote it or not. The decision was based upon the notion that if a book did not agree with their (proto-orthodox) theological truth (assumption), then it could not be an authentic account. It was all about theological assumptions, not any kind of critical analysis. (ever wonder why the Christian creeds never demanded that one believe the NT to be the word of God as a requirement to be a Christian? They only worried about their theological ideology)

 

Your second “assumption” that Mark and John and Luke were witnesses is simply laughable in light of all of the scholarly work that has been done. I am not even sure how to respond to this absurd belief of yours. Once more, no one knows who authored your gospel accounts. They were oral traditions along with many other oral traditions that eventually were written down. Half of Paul’s letters, especially the Pastoral letters, are argued as forgeries, and at the very least, “doubtful”.  I mean, and I am sitting here laughing when I read your declaration of how Paul describes things you find in your gospels. Really? Why wouldn’t they? The Pauline letters were written first! The gospel accounts were floating around as oral tradtiions differing from one comunity to the next. The gospel accounts simply spell out the evolution in your theology, with “low Christology” starting with Mark, and then it becomes “higher” the later the gospel accounts. The tale just gets better in response to the later gospels. Then you want to declare a kind of apostolic succession from the apostles to the early church doctors. Are you really serious? This is a fairy tale invented by the “proto-orthodox” to write their theological history to validate their sect. The winners get to write the history. Please show proof of this “apostolic succession” you are asserting. I cannot wait to see this! The way I see it, all of the scholarly work does not lead anyone to believe the rubbish you just asserted as proof. The evidence we have shows that your christology is a man made religion far removed from the early “Jewish” movement of Jesus. It only took nearly three centuries to fully define your faith and make a solid attempt at a real canon. I must reiterate, you do not have “witnesses”, you have copies of copies of copies without any “quality control” in the transmission based upon floating oral traditions.

 
"A little jargon is all that is necessary to impose on the people. The less they comprehend the more they admire. Our forefathers and doctors have often said, not what they thought, but what circumstances and necessity dictated." (Gregory of Nazianzus, writing to St. Jerome)
A feeling of discouragement when you slip up is a sure sign that you put your faith in deeds. -Ibn 'Ata'llah
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