This week let’s talk about what Paul said (and didn’t say) about himself and about Jesus.
- Paul was not short on ego. He calls himself “blameless under the law.” He claims he was the best student in his class in rabbinical school. And that he had advanced far beyond his peers in pursuit of holiness. We know he liked to talk … a lot. There’s a story in Acts about Paul talking for so long, he put a boy to sleep and he fell out of a window. Paul healed him, then continued speaking.
- Road to Damascus thing? Many of us have heard about Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus. But that story was written in Acts, by the same author who wrote Luke. And it was written 30 years or so after Paul’s death. Paul himself never mentions a conversion experience on the Road to Damascus.
- So what did Paul say about Jesus? Paul is steeped in Jewish tradition (just ask him). So it was natural for him to draw parallels between Jewish traditions and Jesus.
- The lamb that was sacrificed during certain Yom Kippur became a parallel for Jesus being sacrificed. So when Christians take up the wine and the bread on Sunday morning (it was Welch’s grape juice and wafers in my church) and say “Jesus died for my sins,” they are re-enacting a Jewish ceremony that Paul likely started.
- Paul even says that Jesus died “in accordance with the scriptures.” What was he referring to there? It’s a reference way back to II Isaiah, which talked a lot about an archetype called the “Servant.” The “Servant” was supposed to find meaning in absorbing the world’s pain, bearing hostility, and even enduring death. The Gospel writers (writing 20 years after Paul’s letters) took this idea and ran with it … with their own embellishments.