Dave Sim's blogandmail #111 (December 31st, 2006)
As promised, here's the part of Ed Komara's letter that dealt with Paul's epistles:
I will be very curious as to how you will read the letters of Paul. While I don't think Paul persecuted the early Christian movement with soldiers, mobs, and stones as Luke describes in Acts, I believe Paul as he wrote in Galatians that he ridiculed and satirized the church's early customs and efforts and aims. Furthermore I believe Paul came to know the lore of early Christianity better than the early Christians. And once he saw a perspective on that lore new to him, I don't think he fell off his horse as Luke describes—which, by the way, Paul never says he did—Paul was nonetheless "floored" by his realization/revelation, as we would say today. I like to think you can revive something of Paul's fervency—and of his infuriating annoyances—as you read aloud his letters out of your experiences. Because his letters are read very monotonously during Catholic Church services, that's for sure.
While I'm a big admirer of Paul's epistles (particularly Romans), I don't personally consider them scriptural and (as you can imagine) I've had a few vociferous discussions with Christians over the last ten years on that very subject—I was hoping that my side of one of those vociferous discussions was in Collected Letters so I could just steer you in that direction, but according to the index, the only reference is in a letter to Billy Beach on page 446. I suspect my longest response was a letter to Billy shortly thereafter so watch for future volumes. The Reader's Digest version: I consider Acts to be scriptural because the core point of the Torah and the Gospels—as far as I can see—is who, of the twelve tribes, inherits the mantle of Jacob. If you believe the Synoptic Jesus is the Meschiach then your answer is basically, Judah—King David of the tribe of Judah is the heir and then the Synoptic Jesus inherits the mantle from there in a direct line of succession. But, of course, that raises the question as to who inherits the mantle of the Synoptic Jesus and there, as I read it, the twelve tribes are supplanted by the twelve apostles so Acts becomes scriptural because it tells us what happened with the twelve apostles after the Synoptic Jesus died. And there, a persuasive argument can be made for Peter as the heir to the mantle if you focus on the Synoptic Gospels (and the Vatican as living proof if The Biggest Pile of Loot is your criteria for evidence of the physical manifestation of the mantle) and for John if you focus on John's Gospel (and which then makes John's Apocalypse that much more central a consideration: he inherits the mantle and then the nature of the End Times is revealed to him). However, in a pure narrative sense, the entire thrust of Acts arrives at Paul and where Paul goes and what he does and what he says and what happened to Paul is discussed at considerable length and Paul is the individual upon whose uncertain fate Acts concludes. We don't find out, scripturally, what happened to Peter and John either but they vanish from the narrative considerably earlier. There, to me, the assumption is that the Synoptic Jesus, after death, bypassed the twelve apostles as candidates to be the heir to the mantle of Judah by way of King David and, instead, picked Paul and presented himself to Paul in spirit form. To me, that violates the analogy of the twelve tribes/twelve apostles. You could stretch a point and say that with the death of Judas, that opened up the twelfth spot—that's certainly seems to be the idea behind Acts chapter 1 and the lot falling to Matthias—and that's really where Christianity gets interesting structurally. Persuasive arguments in favour of Peter, John and Paul as the heir (a less persuasive argument in favour of Matthias) coupled with the (largely goyish) view that all of the apostles are basically interchangeable and are twelve heirs (plus Paul!)…
See, I'm already getting past Reader's Digest size, here. To me, Paul's letters are commentaries. What he is doing is discussing the teachings of the Synoptic Jesus and extrapolating his own teachings from them. He doesn't even quote very much scripture and none of it is the words of the Synoptic Jesus himself which definitely pushes it over in the direction of commentaries in my view. What he is communicating is the overall sense that he gets from the life of the Synoptic Jesus, the overall intent of what he saw as the Synoptic Jesus' teachings—which sometimes matches the Gospels and, to me, often doesn't. My impression of Paul is that he was the first blatantly Christian enthusiast and a goyim. The actual apostles (or what I would consider the actual apostles) were Jewish and understood that the Synoptic Jesus needed to be accorded the same level of reverence as Moshe or Jacob which tends to make the Gospels and their own writings pretty dour and circumspect when compared to the "bouncing off the walls" quality in Paul's preaching. The fact that Matthew Mark and Luke differ on exact wording and sequence, in a Judaic sense, completely undermines the Synoptic Jesus as the Meschiach and the Gospels as scripture. But that still leaves you Paul if you're inclined to see a Moshe/Joshua relationship between the resurrected Jesus and Paul, the aforementioned question of who is the heir to this prophetic office? A vast majority of Christians could be said to believe that the apostles were lesser figures who deserted the Synoptic Jesus in his hour of need, Paul is the heir. I don't think that was an unusual view owing to Paul's enthusiasm, dedication, far-ranging travel and specific doctrine. I wouldn't be surprised if there were huge numbers of people he converted to Christianity who never had any exposure to the Synoptic Gospel narrative. Paul's Synoptic Jesus (which—my own best guess—he pioneered in conflating with the Johannine Jesus) is a very self-contained piece of work. Paul pretty much single-handedly introduced the idea of Grace—about which neither the Synoptic Jesus nor the Johannine Jesus say very much at all, if anything—and Grace is a very persuasive spiritual argument hinging on unquestioning and undeserved acceptance and ruling out personal initiative and decision-making—which is one of the reasons that I include thanks for his epistles in my prayer. I don't think his teachings were right, but they were certainly efficacious. On their own I don't think the Synoptic Gospels could have gotten out of the Jewish Minor Leagues, there's just too much intrinsically wrong and self-contradictory with them in a Talmudic sense. But I think Paul's preaching and writings were the Synoptic Gospels' E Ticket Ride out of Jerusalem.
And, if I read you correctly, you see the same thing in Paul's epistles that I do—the histrionics largely in place of content and we're in complete agreement in thinking that an inflected reading of Paul would certainly be well suited to the theatre stage. I don't think there was any rhetorical point or emotional hot button he wasn't willing to jump and down on if it could persuade his listener(s) to convert and he reacts in interesting ways to the fact that (as people are wont to do) they wouldn't convert the way he wanted them to convert and tried to turn his form of conversion into their form of conversion. I don't think there's a reader born that wouldn't want to tackle the Idealogue Confounded particularly in the Jacobean Prose of the 1611 King James. I'd certainly like to give it a shot but not in a context I've chosen to restrict to scripture—the same reason that I wouldn't read the Talmud or the Hadith in that context—so the Christian side of the Scripture Readings is going to be restricted to The Kingdom Interlinear and 1611 King James versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and John's Apocalypse. Possibly including Acts, but I haven't quite made my mind up about that one yet.
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