There is a skeptic who wirtes an entire blog aimed at destroying Paul as an evidental source for the NT. At least I think that's his aim, its certanly the obvious implied effect. The Blog is Paul, an apostle? really? That's not a loaded title is it? As if that's not enough he also issues a big brave challenge:
"doubts on Paul, a challenge to harmonize Paul with Paul
by Paul Sceptic
By the time someone issues a big brave challenge to the "other side" to prove something they usually don't care care what those meeting the challenge have to say.He has to be so convinced that he's right to be confident enough to issue a challenge, so he's not going to be open to listening to the answers. Be that as it may, what I intend to do is to first point out why the whole thing is wrong headed from the get go, then I'll throw out some answers to the specifics of the challenge just so the lurkers will see these things are not cut and dried.
Before getting started I point to my page on Biblical inspiration Because I think the error here comes from an inadequate understanding of inspiration itself. This so called "Paul Skeptic" is concentrated that there's discrepancy in the time line and that's suppossed to invalidate Paul as an authoritative source. But what is the founding assumption in back of that? It has to be the Assumption that if the document is wrong on one point then he whole thing is wrong. This can only because of one of two things: either he assumes that if Paul was there he would know, therefore, Acts must be wrong because its not written by an eye witness; or the must assume that to be wrong it has not be inspired and therefore has no value as a religious text. Both assumptions are false.
Eye witnesses can forget time spans. We all distort time in our minds. The skeptic assumption is that we can't trust if there's is a mistake. The assumption here is there's only one model of revelation and that has to be verbatim, verbal plenary inspiration with inerrency of the text.The assumption is "O we can't trust anything they say if we they are wrong on one little knit picky point. If God is there and wants us to be saved he has to make it real clear with no problems at all..." This s all very foolish, as though if he can't remember a gap in a three week period then he can't remember if Jesus is the son of God or if adultery is wrong! He's out to lunch on this because he's simply assuming the fundamentalist view that it all has to be perfect. The reason he assumes that is because the accepts the fundie model of revelation that the Bible is a memo from the boss, handed down verbatim to be taken literally word for word. But this is not the only model of revelation we can use. There are many more models.See Avery Dulles' book Models of Revelation. The view that I support is called "dialectical retrieval" in which a variety of methods are found in a plurality of textual types. A dialectical relationship between the text and the reader allows the reader to retrieval aspects of truth communicated trough inspiration but not in historically accurate or specially literal methods. In other words, it doesn't matter if there are mistakes.
Another point that must be understood is that Luke was not present during all of the events in Acts.He was not there for Paul's conversion. So we don't know how he pieced together word of the events. He may have heard Paul speak of it directly. He may have consulted the four daughters of Philip who he speaks of in Acts, since they were known as the first keepers of the archives and functions as early historians for the Church. He may have heard the story from older companions of Paul. So we can assume there may be discrepancies, we should never allow atheists to translate discrepancies into reasons for doubting the truth of the Gospel.
On the other hand, I think it's important to realize that so many of these kinds amateur attempts at scholarship are just exaggerations based upon speculation. We should give the text more of a benefit of a doubt. Or rather, the benefit of faith. To illustrate how we might minimize what some take as devastating, let's look at the claims.
Here is an example of the kind of thing he's talking about:
Here's a challenge for everyone, whoever can meet it, and I really kinda hope someone can. Can you harmonize Galatians 1-2 with the book of Acts, and settle all my doubts on Paul's apostleship that relate to other passages? That's the challenge. I look forward to the responses but not the "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against Paul?" type of responses. All you Calvinists can save those for your own childish blogs.
Now when I say harmonize Galatians 1-2 with the book of Acts, I mean where Paul says he did not confer with flesh and blood after his conversion (Ananias? [Acts 9:17]) and that he didn't go to Jerusalem for three whole years (Acts says he headed straight for Jerusalem after being kicked out of Damascus "several days" later by the Jews) and how he only went to meet Peter and was unknown by face to the churches of Judea who merely heard about him and rejoiced in God over his conversion (whereas Acts has him go to Jerusalem to try and join the churches of Judea, who know him by face and reject him! and then Barnabas buys his story and brings him to the apostles for verification, and they apparently accept him and give him access to the churches of Judea, and he goes in and out among the churches of Judea! then he gets in trouble with the Jews again [this time Hellenistic Jews] and is shipped off to Tarsus by way of Caesarea [Acts 9:30]). Can that all be harmonized?
(1) not confer with flesh and blood
Gals? (not) vs Acts (9:17) says he did
Gal 1:12: "I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."
Acts 9:17-Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Act 9:18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
Act 9:19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
Answer: The statement that he makes in Galatians is a general statement. It is not tied down to a time line when he says "not form any man." The account in Acts does not say that the Christians who ministered to him gave him a theology or any elaborate teaching. He's obviously talking his overall approach, his general understanding, what theolgoians would call "systematic theology." He doesn't say he didn't see or speak to a single person. He never says anything like that. This is just atheists making a mountain out of a mole hill. It seems PaulSkeptic is fooled by the wording of a particular translation "I did not confer with flesh and blood" which he takes to meany "I didn't speak to anyone at all" but that's not what it says.
(2) Time frame on going to Jerusalem after conversion
Gals says not for 3 years/ Acts says went straight after Damascus
But when God, who set me apart from birth [fn] and called me by his grace, was pleased
Gal 1:16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,
Gal 1:17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Gal 1:18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter [fn] and stayed with him fifteen days.
(preceded events described around his baptism and beginning to preach in Damascus).
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. [fn]Answer: Nothing in the text tells us how long this gap is. The way it's written in acts makes it seem immediate. That is not proof that Luke thought it was immediate. He may not have know how long it was. I think atheists assume that revelation works by God speaking to people "write this word for word." But it doesn't. So we have to assume Luke is remembering this in his natural mind as people told him the story. They may never have told him that detail. He may not have known how long the gap was. But note: the "contradiction" is only implied, it is' surmised because there is no clear actual statment that it was any shorter a time span than three years.PaulSketpic says: "Acts says he headed straight for Jerusalem after being kicked out of Damascus "several days" it does not say he headed 'straight, it does not use that word. Luke could have known that it was three years and may not meant to imply any less, but just thought it wasn't important to spell out how long it was. Luke did not have Galatians to read and go by.
Act 9:23 After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,
Act 9:24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
Act 9:25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
(Right here we have the gap between leaving Damascus and going to Jerusalem--this gap is three years according to Paul in Galations but appears to be very short in Acts).
Act 9:26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
This is my whole point is answering this stuff. I don't care if Luke did get it wrong. That doesn't' bother my theology one iota. But I'm sick atheists assuming that any little supposition they can read in to a blank space in the text is an absolute fact and mandates the burning the Bible. None of these so called problems are anything more than ambiguities and the suppositions that atheists can use to blow them out of proportion.
Then also in Acts, he never preaches to one single solitary Gentile until after Peter converts the house of Cornelius, after which event Barnabas goes down to Tarsus "for to seek Saul" [Acts 11:25] and take him with him to Antioch to preach to the Gentiles there, Barnabas having been sent by the twelve to preach to the Gentiles in Antioch!Then, after some Judaizers have come to Antioch to cause trouble and Paul and Barnabas (with various unnamed others) are sent by the church at Antioch to the apostles in Jerusalem to hear what they have to say on the matter, we find that at the Jerusalem in Acts 15:7 Peter makes the statement "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should [first] hear the word of the gospel and believe." He says that with Paul present! Yet Paul claims in Galatians 2:7-8 that he Paul is THE apostle to the Gentiles and Peter is THE apostle to the Jews! Again the claim is made by Paul in Rom 11:13 "I am the apostle of the Gentiles." But Peter(!) claims that title for himself in Acts 15:7. And would not Peter's coming to Antioch (Gal 2:11) indicate that Peter had an interest in Gentiles? Such polarization of an apostle for Jews only and one for Gentiles only is clearly not found in Acts, where Paul is often seen as preaching to the Jews first.
Of course he's talking about two different time periods. The events in Acts happened before the events in Galatians. So it could be that Peter was the Apostle to the gentiles at that time, and latter Paul took over. This, in fact, is how most of us understanding. It just makes sense that Peter would have to start the ball rolling on the gentiles. Had Paul tired to launch that mission himself it would be been rejected. With Peter doing it he had to be accepted. But Paul was clearly better suited so he took it over. Paul was better suited because he was from Asia minor. Peter was a hick, he was from the backwater of Galilee. Paul, being of Asia minor, was like most Jews of that region, urbane, sophisticated, well educated, very litter ate in Greek (Paul wrote excellent Greek). Peter had to be shown by revelation that the Gentiles were worthy. Paul grew as part of a urban assimilated society, where he was a citizen of Rome and part of the gentile as well as the Hebrew culture.
The idea that Peter and Paul were struggling against each other is from a Nineteenth century theologian called Wellhausen. He was a Hegelian, and since the dialectic was suppossed to govern all history, he imposed the Hegelian scheme upon the history of the church: Peter was the thesis, Paul was the anti-thesis, the orthodox church was the synthesis. It's just an arbitrary imposition that is the result of ideology.Atheists and skeptics have continued to use it because a major Bible schoalr gave his stamp of approval on it. There probably was some degree of conflict between Paul and Peter because they were so very different. But, this is overblown and over done.
One particularly interesting example is in Acts 13:46 "Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." Note how this is totally counter to what most people believe is Pauline theology, i.e. that we are born worthless and always will be worthless and thus salvation can't have anything to do with us at all but must be all of God and totally monergistic (i.e. Calvinism). Paul's complaint about the Jews here is not that they have too much pride to admit their worthlessness and accept Christ (as most modern Protestants would have it) but that they consider themselves too worthless(!) and hence they reject eternal life because of a sense of worthlessness! not pride! Put that in your Calvinist pipe and smoke it.
I asked Paul-skeptic where hes' coming from on this issue. He is not a Messianich Jew or a Jew of any kind. His reaction to Paul, according to him, is from the basis of a standard Christian view. He doesn't wan to defame the Apostles trained by Jesus but in my view he's thinking in all or nothing terms. You either accept Paul completely and totally toss out the Apostles, or vice versa. In my view this is a reactionary move one need to make. The Orthodox church was able to accept both James, the Apostles and Paul with on trouble. It's a matter of perspective, we need balance.