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Dr. James Tabor

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I would appreciate to learn the reaction, preferably of Orthodox theologians, to James Tabor's "Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity." In a nutshell, Tabor claims that St Paul reinvented Christianity. Here is Amazon' starred review:

"There have been a number of books written about Paul and his relationship to the apostles; to James, the brother of Jesus; and to the early Christian community in Jerusalem. But Tabor, a professor of religion, does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul’s unique view of Jesus and how he originated a gospel that had almost nothing to do with the life of Jesus, nor the messianic message as it was understood by Jesus’ first followers. Tabor contends that Paul’s letters—Corinthians and Romans, especially—are the oldest biblical documents we have dating to Jesus’ time; the Gospels and even the Acts of the Apostles came later. Within this time line, it is possible to trace Paul’s thinking and to come to an understanding of both Paul’s gospel and the schism that developed between Paul and Jesus’ apostles. Tabor does very little speculating, keeping his focus on the texts and placing them within the context of first-century Judaism and early Christianity. The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. Tabor writes in the preface that he has spent much of his adult life studying early Christianity in general and Paul in particular. The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history’s greatest mysteries."
 

NicholasMyra

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Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) said:
I would appreciate to learn the reaction, preferably of Orthodox theologians, to James Tabor's "Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity." In a nutshell, Tabor claims that St Paul reinvented Christianity. Here is Amazon' starred review:

"There have been a number of books written about Paul and his relationship to the apostles; to James, the brother of Jesus; and to the early Christian community in Jerusalem. But Tabor, a professor of religion, does a particularly fine job of explaining Paul’s unique view of Jesus and how he originated a gospel that had almost nothing to do with the life of Jesus, nor the messianic message as it was understood by Jesus’ first followers. Tabor contends that Paul’s letters—Corinthians and Romans, especially—are the oldest biblical documents we have dating to Jesus’ time; the Gospels and even the Acts of the Apostles came later. Within this time line, it is possible to trace Paul’s thinking and to come to an understanding of both Paul’s gospel and the schism that developed between Paul and Jesus’ apostles. Tabor does very little speculating, keeping his focus on the texts and placing them within the context of first-century Judaism and early Christianity. The crisp, clear writing gives readers much to consider—especially the fact that it is a Pauline Christianity that most Christians practice today. Tabor writes in the preface that he has spent much of his adult life studying early Christianity in general and Paul in particular. The depth of his scholarship shows, but he also makes this an enjoyable read for those who want to know more about one of history’s greatest mysteries."
Well, it's a pop book by an oddball, so I wouldn't give it much credence. But most of all, it sounds absolutely boring.
 

IreneOlinyk

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I am wary of the credibility of the research of this book due to this review by a real scholar of note:

The thesis has the character of a historical novel—drawing on good knowledge of historical conditions and sources, but tweaking the latter to make the specific case. The problems arise with the tweaks. For example, Tabor allows only one conception of Jesus’ resurrection (that of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15) but ignores the physical character of resurrection assumed in 2 Maccabees 7:10–11 and implied in the Herodian practice of collecting the bones of the deceased in an ossuary. Tabor’s argument that Peter would have realized why the tomb of Jesus was empty (p. 80)—the initial tomb was temporary and Joseph of Arimathea had returned when the Sabbath was over to remove Jesus’ body and transfer it to a permanent tomb (pp. 76–77)— hardly explains how Peter and the first disciples came to the conclusion that God had raised Jesus from the dead. Again, Tabor makes much of the tension between Paul’s insistence that he had received his gospel directly from Christ (Galatians 1:12), and his assertion that the gospel he preached to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:3) was one he had received (from Christians before him). But he ignores the likelihood that the distinctive feature that Paul attributes specifically to Christ and that caused problems with the Jerusalem believers (Galatians 2:2) was the commission to take the gospel also to gentiles. He is deaf to Paul’s affirmation that he shared his gospel with the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:11). And his overblown assessment of Paul’s evaluation of his commission (“surpassing anything any human being had ever received”—p. 95) likewise ignores the fact that Galatians 1:15–16 is framed precisely in the language of the prophetic call of Jeremiah 1:5. Likewise Tabor’s confidence that following his conversion Paul went to Sinai ignores the more likely scenario implied in Galatians 1:17 that “Arabia” refers to Nabatea (south of Damascus). Tabor’s further argument that Paul invented the ritual act of baptism “into Christ” ignores the evidence that Paul could assume that all believers had been baptized in the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:13). And his claim that Paul believed the Torah to be obsolete ignores passages like Romans 8:4 and 1 Corinthians 7:19.

So a lively and thoughtprovoking attempt to resolve some of the historical problems that Paul poses—yes. But, sadly, tendentiousness and text-selectivity renders most of the thesis increasingly implausible.
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/reviews/paul-and-jesus/
 

TheTrisagion

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Religious Studies Experts: Because believing the same thing about Jesus for 2,000 straight years is just boring.
 

DeniseDenise

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Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) said:
I would appreciate to learn the reaction, preferably of Orthodox theologians.....

Then perhaps going to ask some actual Orthodox theologians is probably more useful than asking here........
 

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This seems like a revival of Tübingen theology to me. The idea that Paul's ideas were fundamentally opposed to those of the other Apostles, and that orthodox Christianity was a revisionist attempt at synthesizing the two, was the key belief of the Tubingen schoolers as well.

According to Wikipedia, the Tübingen school's ideas became popular in Germany in the 1800s but eventually "lost ground to historical fact".
 

Mor Ephrem

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DeniseDenise said:
Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) said:
I would appreciate to learn the reaction, preferably of Orthodox theologians.....

Then perhaps going to ask some actual Orthodox theologians is probably more useful than asking here........
I think you took the ice bucket challenge a little too seriously.  :p
 

Iconodule

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DeniseDenise said:
Carl Kraeff (Second Chance) said:
I would appreciate to learn the reaction, preferably of Orthodox theologians.....

Then perhaps going to ask some actual Orthodox theologians is probably more useful than asking here........
If you post truly, you are a theologian
 

truthseeker32

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When I was studying for my MA in history, I read quite a few revisionist works, particularly from Bart Ehrman and Geza Vermes, and I have read many more reviews and articles by other revisionists. The biggest weakness of such works tend to be their fallacious approaches to the sources. For instance, if one only allows for secular explanations of how religious texts or beliefs came to be, they will necessarily have to exclude numerous other explanations solely because they don't fit within their circle of acceptability.

Others have also highlighted that academia encourages what is new and controversial at the expense of well-researched, logical and scrupulous assessment.
 

scamandrius

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truthseeker32 said:
When I was studying for my MA in history, I read quite a few revisionist works, particularly from Bart Ehrman and Geza Vermes, and I have read many more reviews and articles by other revisionists. The biggest weakness of such works tend to be their fallacious approaches to the sources. For instance, if one only allows for secular explanations of how religious texts or beliefs came to be, they will necessarily have to exclude numerous other explanations solely because they don't fit within their circle of acceptability.

Others have also highlighted that academia encourages what is new and controversial at the expense of well-researched, logical and scrupulous assessment.
Ehrman et al. tend to think that St. Paul and other NT writers as well as other early Christian fathers and theologians were academics just like them.
 

NicholasMyra

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truthseeker32 said:
When I was studying for my MA in history, I read quite a few revisionist works, particularly from Bart Ehrman and Geza Vermes, and I have read many more reviews and articles by other revisionists. The biggest weakness of such works tend to be their fallacious approaches to the sources.
What did you read by Bart Ehrman?
 

truthseeker32

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NicholasMyra said:
What did you read by Bart Ehrman?
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Lost Christianities and Jesus:Apocalyptic Prophet...
 

Second Chance

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Here is the link to the "starred review" that I quoted.
http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Jesus-Apostle-Transformed-Christianity/dp/1439123322

Regarding my desire to get input from Orthodox theologians, I am only going to say that there are at least half a dozen posters here who can either point to "real" theologians or who could provide input as darned-good enthusiasts. :)

I have to say that many folks have already come through with pretty good responses. Hat tip to truthseeker32, Minnesotan, and IreneOlinyk.
 

NicholasMyra

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truthseeker32 said:
NicholasMyra said:
What did you read by Bart Ehrman?
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Lost Christianities and Jesus:Apocalyptic Prophet...
So not to be a you know what, but why were you reading Ehrman's pop-history works instead of his scholarly works if this was for an MA program?
 

truthseeker32

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NicholasMyra said:
So not to be a you know what, but why were you reading Ehrman's pop-history works instead of his scholarly works if this was for an MA program?
No problem. I didn't read him more widely because he wasn't in my area of specialization, and I needed to dedicate my time to the authors writing on my subject (justification in Paul and Chrysostom) so I read his more accessible books just to get a general idea of where he is coming from.
 

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I'm just spitballing here, but if I understand it, his timeline is (and I'm assuming certain details he didn't mention but that I expect wouldn't be contested):

1) Jesus and the Apostles live, the Lord dies.

2) After Jesus dies, Christianity or 'the way' or whatever starts, and St. Paul persecutes the Church.

3) A couple years later St. Paul converts, then wanders for a bit, then goes up to Jerusalem to meet James and such. Apparently there isn't a problem here? Can't know for sure, but there's no sign of it yet...

4) St. Paul starts preaching and teaching this modified Christian message (according to the guy), and does speak against Judaizers, but so far as I know doesn't mention any of the known proto-Christians in a negative way by name (there are records and names of several other people he had some kind of arguments with)

5) The Apostles and Christians who followed the proto-Christianity don't make much of an effort to refute him, if at all. They would have had to have heard of him and what he was doing/saying (e.g., John Mark went back to Jerusalem after doing missionary work with St. Paul and Barnabas).

6) So speaking of those saints, St. Paul meets various people here and there, and travels with some of these proto-Christians (e.g., John Mark), and it is actually one of them (Barnabas) who introduces St. Paul in Jerusalem in the first place. There was some friction between St. Paul and John Mark, over some suspected lack of drive/work ethic/zeal, but if he was the Apostle Mark he didn't seem to mention anything wrong with Paul's teachings. But even if he wasn't the Apostle Mark it wouldn't matter, because...

7) If the Apostles wrote after Paul, and Paul had changed things in a fundamental way, then why weren't the proto-Christians more proactive and explicit in contradicting Paul? Why did they not challenge him in letters or compilations or the book of Acts? Acts records in ch. 15 and ch. 21 St. Paul going to Jerusalem to meet with St. James and others, yet there is nothing about him getting into a major disagreement. In fact the apostles were suspicious at first, but the divinely inspired message that St. Peter got convinced them that Paul was fine, as long as he followed a few guidelines.

8) None of the early Church Fathers or others who were disciples of the Apostles seem to indicate that there was this breach between Pauline and original Christianity.

To sum up one thing that sticks in my mind: it seems like his talk about St. Paul being the earliest writer (which seems likely) actually works against him. If their was an original Christianity different from that of St. Paul, and they had decades to write against the innovations, we have no trace that they did so, and actually in the few of their writings that mention St. Paul do so in a positive way.
 
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