Sunday, 31 December 2017

St Paul

From Logic of Time Travel:

Thought experiment:

consider a pivotal historical figure;
imagine that he was not born, died young or lived differently;
then imagine how history would have diverged as a result;
this is the premise of an alternative history or time travel story and a potential case for Poul Anderson's Time Patrol. See Who Makes History?


no Saul of Tarsus;
Christianity remains a small Jewish sect based in Jerusalem, worshiping in the Temple and led by James the brother of Jesus as well as by Peter and other original disciples of Jesus;
this sect ceases when Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed.

Petrine Christianity was a Jewish sect, worshiping in the Temple and expecting Jesus to return soon to rule the world as Messiah from Jerusalem but that did not happen. When Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 AD, most Petrine Christians reverted to orthodox Judaism. That could have been the end of the matter. However, meanwhile, Paul had founded Gentile Christianity.
-copied from here.

My sources on Paul are:

Karen Armstrong, The First Christian: St. Paul's Impact On Christianity (London, 1983);
E.P. Sanders, Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001).

I will reread these works for any further suggestions towards alternative history.


David Birr said...

An essay by Carlos N.M. Eire (Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University) explored the question, What if Pontius Pilate refused to crucify Jesus?

Among other things, Professor Eire imagined the Roman emperors (even Caligula and Nero) approving of the message, "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar...." Therefore, when Jesus preaches in later years, Rome not only permits this, but details its soldiers to make sure none of Jesus' Jewish enemies attack him. "Those Roman soldiers were such good guards. Some were the very men who had scourged him and beaten him up, but he had forgiven them, and they now had a very special affection for him."

Encouraged practically from the start by the Roman Empire, a faith that isn't quite Christianity as we know it, but isn't traditional Judaism either, spreads throughout the world....

Paul Shackley said...

I doubt that the Jewish authorities and people pressured Pilate to crucify Jesus. Also, also he would not have given in to such pressure. The Gospels blame the Jews but, in fact, the law did allow them to stone their own people for blasphemy and they would not have handed over one of their own to be crucified by the occupying force. The Gospel writers wanted to villainize Pharisees and exonerate Romans but it was the latter that killed Christ.

S.M. Stirling said...

It's quite possible that the Sanhedrin wanted the Romans to crucify Jesus for internal political reasons -- they wanted him dead because he was stirring up trouble, but didn't want the blame among his followers, and so unloaded it on the Romans, who were unpopular anyway.

The Romans in turn were always ready to believe that grass-roots Jewish religious agitators were potential rebels, and for good reason. They also found Jewish religion largely incomprehensible and didn't like what they did know.

Roman-era Judea was always trembling on the brink of revolt, and the Temple authorities were desperate to prevent that because they knew the Romans were too strong, and also that if the radical factions came out on top they'd get it in the neck too.

The reason Judea was always trouble was that a large share of the general populace were fanatical religious nationalists who genuinely thought relying on divine intervention was a viable strategy -- it had worked for Judah the Maccabee, right?

They were also mostly peasants, and peasants from a really insular culture, and hence didn't really understand that Rome was fundamentally different from some local great power like the Selucids.

The fundamental split among Jews at the time was not between pro- and anti-Romans, because none of them liked Rome, but between quietists who thought revolt would be disaster and Rome had to be accommodated, and messianic lunatics who thought God would bail them out.

Intra-Jewish factional politics at the time was really, really vicious.

S.M. Stirling said...

Also, Classical and Jewish conceptions of divinity were so utterly unlike that it was difficult for them to grasp each other's point of view.

Emperor-worship, to a Roman (or Greek) didn't imply that you thought the Emperor was in any literal sense a God; and it certainly didn't imply that you thought he was the omnipotent creator of heaven and earth.

Classical paganism, in its public-civic sense, was orthopraxic; what you believed mattered little, as compared to public observance of ritual.

Romans were even more that way than Greeks, since their concept of divinity was even more primitive -- closer to animism, and largely without the intellectual overlay the Greeks had developed. Sacrificing to the -manes- of the Emperor, or to the Goddess Roma, was a -civic- ritual which signaled political loyalty.

Jews, of course, had an utterly different take on it.

Paul Shackley said...

Mr Stirling,
Thank you for yet another eye-opening comment and Happy New Year.

S.M. Stirling said...

Happy new year back!

Paul Shackley said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree more with Mr. Stirling than I do with you. That is, I already knew from reading Flavius Josephus' THE JEWISH WAR and Daniel-Rops JESUS AND HIS TIMES, of how complex and vicious first century AD Jewish politics could be. So, I did not find it in the least implausible that some Jews, for whatever reasons, goaded or egged on the Romans to kill Our Lord.

I also disagree with the puzzling minimizing of the role played by Christ and his first Apostles in founding and building up Christianity. However crucial St. Paul was, he did found Christianity nor do I think it would have soon died out with out him.

As for books about St. Paul, I would esp. recommend Alan E. Segal's PAUL THE CONVERT and Sarah Ruden's PAUL AMONG THE PEOPLE. Segal's book is a friendly examination of St. Paul by a Jew from a Jewish POV. And Ruden's book was a truly ILLUMINATING study by a Classics scholar who tried to examine St. Paul from the mindset of the Classical Greeks and Romans.


Paul Shackley said...

The law allowed the Jews to stone their own people for blasphemy and they did this to Stephen.
Peter and James would have kept Christianity (not yet called that) as a Jewish sect confined to Jerusalem and based in the Temple. Because of Paul, the gospel was spread and Gentiles were baptized without being circumcised.

Paul Shackley said...

Paul formulated the doctrine of the Crucifixion as a sacrifice for all and, like Peter at Pentecost, described Jesus as a man raised up by God, not as God. The Fourth Gospel deified the Son and personified the Spirit while remaining monotheist. The Church had to make sense of this by formulating the Trinity doctrine.

Paul Shackley said...

Kaor, Paul!

Thanks for your two replies to my comment. Yes, but my point was, as was Stiling, that Jewish politics could get really nasty, including how some Jews wanted to kill Our Lord. And I don't believe a Christianity which never had a Saint Paul would have remained only a Jewish sect. You overlook how St. Peter himself, as a result of his visions, welcomed non Jews like Cornelius into the Church. And there was also the case of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. So, while I'm sure the growth of the Church would have been slower absent Paul, it would have happened.

And I simply don't believe Paul originated the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice of Christ as the once and for all and sufficient means of redeeming mankind. It's more accurate to say Paul drew out the implications of that revelation sooner than other apostles. And it's also my belief that the Synoptics, not just John's Gospel, made it plain Christ said and did thinks that made sense only if He is God as well as man. John, having read and approved of the earlier gospels, merely drew out that belief even more clearly in his Gospel.