Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Paula Fredriksen: Paul was NOT a Trinitarian

DH Can you speak to the problem of anachronism and its effect on understanding Paul?

PF I’m a historian, and the most grave “original sin” for a historian is anachronism. What that means is that you lift something out of its historical context and put it in a different historical context, and so misinterpret it. If in addition we think of Paul as an orthodox Christian, we will only misinterpret him that much more. He’s living in a period where he’s not thinking in a Trinitarian manner. The idea of the Trinity hasn’t been conceived yet. His letters will have Jesus Christ in them; they will have God the Father in them; he will talk about the Spirit of God. Those are the textual origins that will be used to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity, but Paul’s not thinking in a Trinitarian way.
People reading Paul assume that he’s hostile to Judaism because he’s the “inventor” of Christianity. In fact, he’s still imagining himself as a Jew and he’s presenting Christianity in continuity with Judaism. The fact that Paul is such a huge figure for Christianity makes it almost impossible for us not to interpret him anachronistically when we look at him, because it’s so important that his message speak immediately to modern Christianity. If we allow ourselves to see how much his message actually cohered with first-century Judaism, then we have to relinquish an immediate connection between him and us, between this ancient Jewish messianic movement and the modern church. [Source]

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