Wednesday, November 12, 2014

N. T. Wright, Why and How Paul Invented "Christian Theology" at Duke

In my previous post, I linked to the Tom Wright's Panel Discussion with Douglas Campbell, Ross Wagner and Susan Eastman at Duke Divinity School.  This was the first of several events in the area featuring N. T. Wright.  Yesterday lunchtime, Professor Wright gave a lecture "Why and How Paul Invented 'Christian Theology'" and with thanks to Reed Criswell, it is now available on Youtube here:

Make sure that you stay all the way to the end.  There are some enjoyable Q&As at the end, including one from Joel Marcus.


Milton Stanley said...

Professor, I can understand why you're proud of Duke, but isn't it going a bit far to say that Paul created "Christian theology" there?

Alexey Hurricane said...

kind of pointless question he answers in video!!!

Milton Stanley said...

Maybe so, but the misplaced modifier is in the headline.

sourcecritic said...

What if the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus never really happened, but were just invented out of literary models from older Greek and Jewish writing? What if this was done because it was thought the world would be a better place if people believed Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave?

Plato writes: “What they will say is this: that such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding-iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified, and so will learn his lesson that not to be but to seem just is what we ought to desire …” (Republic 2.361e-2.362a). Maybe this passage in Plato’s Republic inspired the crucifixion story in the New Testament in the same way Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and the Wisdom of Solomon did by way of haggadic midrash. Maybe the crucifixion and resurrection story about Jesus was one of those noble lies Plato spoke of in the Republic (see Republic Book 3, 414e–15c), told because it would make the world a better place if the masses believed it.

Plato apparently takes the idea of the noble lie from Euripides’ Bacchae, where Cadmus says “Even though this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you say, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him the son of Semele, for this would make it seem that she was the mother of a god, and it would confer honour on all our race.” Maybe this is why Christians said Jesus was a God.

“The noble lie” would fit in with Jewish and Christian theology, where lying and deception were allowed if it served the purpose of God (see Exodus 1:18-20, Joshua 2: 4-6, 1 Kings 15:5, 1 Kings 22:23, 2 Kings 8:10, 1 Samuel 21:2, Jeremiah 4:10, John 7: 8-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, James 2:25).

Maybe a better world was a cause the original Christians would die for, even if they knew Jesus never rose from the dead. Paul would have been part of this conspiracy too, because he was never hunted down by his former employers when he deserted and joined the Christians.

Of course the Jesus story was all lies. Religion has always been all lies. Did Muhammad fly off into the sky on a winged horse, or was somebody lying? Did Apollonius of Tyana do all those miracles, or was somebody lying? Did Joseph Smith find golden plates from heaven, or was somebody lying? Did Jesus do all those miracles and rise from the dead, or was somebody lying?

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)”