Friday, June 26, 2015
The Holy apostle Paul
Anne, the lady in my life is, like me, an ex-Christian and our Christian past is still influential with us both. She doesn't like the apostle Paul's view of the place of women, however -- as in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 11, for instance. Being a born tease, however, I enjoy pointing out that according to the Bible, women should be submissive to their men. Anne is no feminist but she is a pretty independent lady so she doesn't like Paul at all and why is he in in the Bible anyhow?
I replied that if God inspired the Bible writings, surely he could also make sure that the right documents were included in it. On hearing that she burst into peals of laughter. I am not totally sure why but I think she saw the logic in it and realized that you could not arbitrarily exclude Paul from being a divine messenger.
So how do I think the books of the Bible were chosen? I do actually lean to an explanation that would fit in with God's guidance. The history of the matter is that there was a considerable debate in the early days about which books were new revelation -- and various collections were made which embodied particular people's view of what was divine. But after a while a consensus did emerge. And it was an inclusive consensus: Enough books were included to keep most people happy.
So was God behind that consensus? Since I am an atheist I think not but a Christian could reasonably think so. What I think happened is that those books which made most sense and sounded good at the time gradually, amid debate, came to be generally accepted as holy.
With his background in Greek learning, Paul was quite a good theologian, he wrote very energetically, wrote very extensively and he explicitly claimed divine guidance -- so it would appear that the whole available corpus of his writing was included.
And in the nature of these things, a tradition developed which saw that early consensus as authoritative.