How did Paul know?

A verse that I often fall back on in times of trouble is that bit of Romans 8 which tells us that the Spirit prays for us when we can't. Later night I began to wonder, how can Paul make this claim? Or all the other bits where he goes beyond the revelation of the Old Covenant? I'm not disagreeing with him, and I accept his statements as Scripture, but how did he know? He can't have got it all on the Damascus road, can he?
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  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Superb question. Dates from the Enlightenment I'd have thought :smile: If one keeps going with that kind of rational enquiry, where will it all end eh? How did Jesus know that He had to fulfill the PSA requirements of the OT for example?
  • Variations on this question have bothered me rather more over the years as I've come to see Scripture, especially the Acts and Epistles, as descriptive rather than prescriptive.

    I increasingly see Paul's epistles as his take on what is going on rather than ex-cathedra, all-but-dictacted absolutes of how things are. Aside from Paul, preaching through Hebrews has reminded me more of the genre of Revelation, and made me think that when the author is describing Christ's travels from and to the heavens busting through layers of angelic powers, they are using coded imagery rather than performing eyewitness reportage.

    That said, my position is that God has seen to it, with the help of the Church, that the Scriptures have come down to us; if he has allowed this, they should be taken as authoritative in the sense of providing at least a pretty good take on how things are, within the limitations of local culture and so on. The challenge is to interpret this take appropriately in our day.

    I'm also repeatedly struck by the consistency and interrelatedness of books written by so many hands over so many different ages. Again, preaching through Hebrews and looking again at Melchisedek, it's hard to fail to recognise in this "king of peace, king of righteousness" who is also a "priest" and who brings out bread and wine for Abram a foreshadowing of Christ.
  • Paul was well versed in the scriptures, filled with the Holy Spirit, spending time with God in prayer, and in service according to his calling. His words would inevitably be of their time and of his way of understanding things, but I believe that they were God inspired.
  • I'll bite. I think the Spirit told him.
  • "A verse that I often fall back on in times of trouble is that bit of Romans 8 which tells us that the Spirit prays for us when we can't. "

    My own opinion is that Paul is trying to describe an experience which cannot be fully put into words. He is talking about a deeper level of prayer that would be normal in private prayer or in the more formal prayers of the synagogue or early Christian congregation.
    I know from my own experience of praying for particular things, such as a seriously ill friend, that I run out of words and it is the unspoken sighs and groans that make up the prayer.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'll bite. I think the Spirit told him.

    I used to assume that, for decades, but now I cannot. He doesn't say so (and he was remarkably honest and objective). Any more than Peter does about that which was later interpreted as the Harrowing of Hell for example. They were all sincere, I don't doubt that for a moment. But like Jesus Himself, they knew nothing. He rightly knew that He was divine is the 'only' difference. They were 1500 years pre-modern.
  • It's interesting that this idea is found outside Christianity. Thus, "God is praying in me", and similar phrases seem quite familiar to me from Sufis, Zen people, and so on. In fact, of course, it goes beyond that, in the sense that It is living my life, whatever description you give to It. In religions which aim to "go beyond the ego", this idea is inevitable and intuitive.
  • "A verse that I often fall back on in times of trouble is that bit of Romans 8 which tells us that the Spirit prays for us when we can't. "

    My own opinion is that Paul is trying to describe an experience which cannot be fully put into words. He is talking about a deeper level of prayer that would be normal in private prayer or in the more formal prayers of the synagogue or early Christian congregation.
    I know from my own experience of praying for particular things, such as a seriously ill friend, that I run out of words and it is the unspoken sighs and groans that make up the prayer.

    This seems to be how Christian spiritual tradition usually reads the passage.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited November 4
    How did St Paul learn the gospel?

    In Galatians he says that, 'the gospel I preached was not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man nor was I taught it; rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Gal 1: 11-12). So he could have got it all on the road to Damascus.

    But he also says that he went to Arabia for a time and not until 3 years later did he go to Jerusalem and begin his ministry (Gal 1: 16-17). So he might have been taught directly by the Risen Christ or he might have studied the Torah in the light of the Christian revelation.

    The role of the Spirit in the life of the believer is very interesting. I had assumed that Paul's reference to the Spirit praying for us in Rom 8: 26 meant praying in tongues (cf 1 Cor 14: 2).

    Jesus said that the Spirit enabled spiritual birth (or spiritual awakening) into the kingdom of God (John 3: 3-8). And that 'the Advocate, the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said' (John 14: 26). Paul says that the Spirit indwells the believer and helps us to understand the meaning of the scriptures (1 Cor 6: 19-20; 1 Cor 2: 12). He is the Inner Knower.

    In Luke 17: 21 Jesus said that, 'the kingdom of God is within you' (KJB) or 'the kingdom of God is among you' (NLT). Which is either a reference to Jesus as Emmanuel 'God with us' or the Spirit indwelling us. Or perhaps both meanings because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited November 4
    Uh huh. We all know what the Bible says. How does that relate to history and experience?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The Bible is history. As for experience, have you ever done Lectio Divina ?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    No it isn't. Of course I have. What's that got to do with Bible quotes being experienced now?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Why do you think the Bible is not history? If you visit the British Museum you can go on a guided tour of the archaeology of the Bible. There are also C1 AD historical sources which confirm the existence of Jesus, John the Baptist, Herod and Pilate in the NT.

    If you are familiar with Lectio Divina then you will know how the ongoing revelation of the Bible speaks to us today.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    Paul was grasping at straws, like all of us.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that spiritual truth is spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2: 14).
  • Paul got inspired and believed some of the things which came to his mind were divinely inspired. Paul funnelled his experiences through his life experience, historical time, and through his personality.

    The bible specifically is not history. It's a collection of historical writings about religious belief and faith. Within there are worthy things but must be read carefully and without presumption.
  • Are we using "history" to mean "photographically accurate account of things that actually happened"? Because that's a post-enlightenment definition of history that the people who wrote the Bible would not recognize or think important.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited November 4
    Rublev wrote: »
    Why do you think the Bible is not history? If you visit the British Museum you can go on a guided tour of the archaeology of the Bible. There are also C1 AD historical sources which confirm the existence of Jesus, John the Baptist, Herod and Pilate in the NT.

    If you are familiar with Lectio Divina then you will know how the ongoing revelation of the Bible speaks to us today.

    Think? I know.

    The Bible has very small degrees of historicity in its polemics. So? Nothing that it uniquely claims is history. Josephus and Tacitus used unknown sources to make their minimal claims 60-80 years after the main, minimally historically valid characters lived. And what has archaeology got to do with it one way or the other?

    If? How will I know?
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I don't think it has ever been contested that the narrative of the Bible is historical. The Hebrews were a nomadic tribal people who settled in Israel, were ruled by judges and then established a line of kings and a Temple in Jerusalem. They lived under a distinctive Law and resisted assimilation into the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome in order to remain faithful to Yahweh. It's a remarkable story of a chosen people which goes global and cosmic in part 2.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited November 4
    What narrative? Who were the Hebrews? Apart from Canaanites. They didn't resist anyone in their faith. Apart from the Greeks. And the Assyrians around the person Hezekiah. Stories are written by people of time and place. And?
  • I don't think it has ever been contested that the narrative of the Bible is historical. The Hebrews were a nomadic tribal people who settled in Israel, were ruled by judges and then established a line of kings and a Temple in Jerusalem. They lived under a distinctive Law and resisted assimilation into the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome in order to remain faithful to Yahweh. It's a remarkable story of a chosen people which goes global and cosmic in part 2.

    Shirley, you can't be serious. It's historicity has been challenged daily for about 500 years.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    Are we using "history" to mean "photographically accurate account of things that actually happened"? Because that's a post-enlightenment definition of history that the people who wrote the Bible would not recognize or think important.

    Well done. Thank-you. This is a very clear statement of it.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    The historicity of the Bible would make an interesting thread discussion. The cylinder of Cyrus the Great of Persia in the British Museum describes the conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and his humane treatment of his conquered subjects. He allowed the deported foreign peoples of Babylon to return back to their homelands. It supports the evidence of Ezra 1: 1-5; 2 Chronicles 36: 22-23; Is 45: 1-13. The conquest of tribes and kingdoms by empires was the norm in the ancient world. What is unusual is a story of non-assimilation by a dominant culture.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited November 5
    @NOprophet_NØprofit

    <doffs cap>

    It will now of course be completely ignored by everybody, who will continue to talk past one another because they are using "history" in different ways.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    The historicity of the Bible would make an interesting thread discussion. The cylinder of Cyrus the Great of Persia in the British Museum describes the conquest of Babylon in 539 BC and his humane treatment of his conquered subjects. He allowed the deported foreign peoples of Babylon to return back to their homelands. It supports the evidence of Ezra 1: 1-5; 2 Chronicles 36: 22-23; Is 45: 1-13. The conquest of tribes and kingdoms by empires was the norm in the ancient world. What is unusual is a story of non-assimilation by a dominant culture.

    And that is pretty much where the historicity of the Bible begins. Everything earlier is legend at best, and unsupported by the archaeological record.
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    edited November 5
    A verse that I often fall back on in times of trouble is that bit of Romans 8 which tells us that the Spirit prays for us when we can't. Later night I began to wonder, how can Paul make this claim? Or all the other bits where he goes beyond the revelation of the Old Covenant? I'm not disagreeing with him, and I accept his statements as Scripture, but how did he know? He can't have got it all on the Damascus road, can he?

    This is why some of us view the writings of Paul with alarm, and think it dubious to have the versicle and response This is the word of the Lord: thanks be to God. after an epistle reading. The over-reliance on Paul for so much of what constitutes "Christian" thinking makes me uneasy - why are we called Christians when so much is Pauline?

    Maybe you question shouldn't be "How did Paul know?" but rather "Did Paul know?"
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    @NOprophet_NØprofit

    <doffs cap>

    It will now of course be completely ignored by everybody, who will continue to talk past one another because they are using "history" in different ways.

    Not my counter.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    It's interesting that this idea is found outside Christianity. Thus, "God is praying in me", and similar phrases seem quite familiar to me from Sufis, Zen people, and so on. In fact, of course, it goes beyond that, in the sense that It is living my life, whatever description you give to It. In religions which aim to "go beyond the ego", this idea is inevitable and intuitive.

    And wrong: projection of the idealized self.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    I'll bite. I think the Spirit told him.

    I used to assume that, for decades, but now I cannot. He doesn't say so (and he was remarkably honest and objective). Any more than Peter does about that which was later interpreted as the Harrowing of Hell for example. They were all sincere, I don't doubt that for a moment. But like Jesus Himself, they knew nothing. He rightly knew that He was divine is the 'only' difference. They were 1500 years pre-modern.

    "They knew nothing." Martin, you are very fond of stating firmly all sorts of things that the rest of us speculate about. Should I start a new thread, "How Does Martin Know?", and which board should it go on?
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    I'll bite. I think the Spirit told him.

    I used to assume that, for decades, but now I cannot. He doesn't say so (and he was remarkably honest and objective). Any more than Peter does about that which was later interpreted as the Harrowing of Hell for example. They were all sincere, I don't doubt that for a moment. But like Jesus Himself, they knew nothing. He rightly knew that He was divine is the 'only' difference. They were 1500 years pre-modern.

    "They knew nothing." Martin, you are very fond of stating firmly all sorts of things that the rest of us speculate about. Should I start a new thread, "How Does Martin Know?", and which board should it go on?

    Hell.
  • how can Paul make this claim? Or all the other bits where he goes beyond the revelation of the Old Covenant?
    The logic of the question, to me, seems to be that it's accepted that the revelation of the OT is assumed and that there's no problem when Paul restates that or only goes slightly beyond that in the light of the revelation of Christ. But, doesn't that just push the same question backwards ... how did those who received the revelation of the OT know? Is there any expectation that how Paul knew and how they knew would be different?
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    It's interesting that this idea is found outside Christianity. Thus, "God is praying in me", and similar phrases seem quite familiar to me from Sufis, Zen people, and so on. In fact, of course, it goes beyond that, in the sense that It is living my life, whatever description you give to It. In religions which aim to "go beyond the ego", this idea is inevitable and intuitive.

    And wrong: projection of the idealized self.

    Well, I think it's saying that the ego doesn't live my life, but is part of it. Whether or not there is a Self is arguable, but some people seem to access it. Whether or not it leads to the numinous and divine, dunno. File under Jung.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    edited November 5
    I suppose one answer to the OP question relates to John's gospel and the discourse on the Holy Spirit. The general scholastic view is that John's gospel was written down after Paul's death. I think that is probably true, but it does not preclude prior oral and apostolic tradition.

    Paul served quite a long apprenticeship before he began his series of missionary journeys which gave rise in turn to his letters. That provides plenty of room for dialogue with the first apostles and learning from them how they understood the role and function of the Holy Spirit to "teach all things". They may not have had a clear understanding, or even been in agreement, amongst themselves about the person and role of the Holy Spirit but it seems very likely that they did deeply believe, post resurrection, in the continuing dynamic influence of the Spirit of Jesus on their thoughts and actions. Something which Paul may have found quite easy to integrate into his own understanding, given his Damascus road experiences.

    Of course this is not in any sense a view based on a photographic history, but it seems to flow reasonably easily from the various voices in the New Testament narrative. However much Paul may have had issues with some of the apostles re the mission to the Gentiles (e.g. Galatians 2) I find nothing to suggest that he was miles apart from apostolic thoughts and ideas about the Spirit of Jesus.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited November 5
    In Galatians 1 Paul is quite emphatic that he did not learn his gospel from the other apostles (Gal 1: 11-12). He names himself as, 'Paul an apostle sent not from man nor by men but by Jesus Christ and God the Father' (Gal 1: 1).

    The Book of Acts has so much to say about the Holy Spirit that it could be called the Acts of the Spirit rather than the Acts of the Apostles. Luke speaks quite naturally of the guidance of the Spirit in the mission of the early church. Matthias is selected by casting lots (Acts 1: 26). The Council of Jerusalem wrote to the Gentile believers that 'it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements' (Acts 15: 28). When Paul and his companions tried to enter Bithynia 'the Spirit of Jesus, would not allow them,' but then he sees a vision of a man of Macedonia saying, 'Come and help us' (Acts 16: 7-9). In Jerusalem the Lord speaks to Paul to tell him to take courage and prepare to testify in Rome (Acts 23: 11). It seems that the guidance of the Spirit occurred in many forms: visions, words of knowledge and the working of Providence in events.

    Paul sets out the pastoral theology of the church in his letters and this is what the Church Fathers such as Augustine used as the basis of church doctrine. The Nicene Creed is noticeably based upon Paul's theology of the death of Christ rather than the gospel theology of the life of Christ.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Always worth it @B62. Always worth it. Ah, the golden age eh?
  • The working of Providence in events, ah, and we see that working through today, do we not! Is God chastising us? If so, we must humbly bow our heads to the yoke.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    In Galatians 1 Paul is quite emphatic that he did not learn his gospel from the other apostles (Gal 1: 11-12). He names himself as, 'Paul an apostle sent not from man nor by men but by Jesus Christ and God the Father' (Gal 1: 1).
    Yes, but I basically read that as Paul asserting his authority in the face of the judaisers to which the foolish Galatians had fallen prey. I believe Paul did receive his calling via a vision of the risen Christ, but I don't think it follows from that that all he says is directly 100% proof Spirit-inspired. Paul himself makes the distinction on several occasions "not I, but the Lord" to distinguish his teaching from the words of Christ.
    The Book of Acts has so much to say about the Holy Spirit that it could be called the Acts of the Spirit rather than the Acts of the Apostles.
    Nooooooooooo. It's all about what the apostles did in response to the work of the Spirit and how they understood this.
    Matthias is selected by casting lots (Acts 1: 26).
    I have heard it said that this was a defective, pre-Pentecost and Spirit appointment, evidence adduced: we never hear of Matthias again; Paul was the Real Spirit-Filled-and-Appointed™ deal. Just sayin'.
    The Council of Jerusalem wrote to the Gentile believers that 'it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements' (Acts 15: 28).
    Exactly. A crucial verse for my understanding of how things should be done. Just as in the example of the man of Macedonia, it was related as a combination of revelation by the Spirit PLUS an informed discussion which led to a consensus. Note the others had to make do with a second-hand revelation: the Spirit didn't speak directly to everyone or even all the apostles.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Rublev

    Eutychus is right. Ministry to the Gentiles is one thing, listening to the apostles re their general understanding and experience of the faith is another.

    Doesn't he describe himself as the least of the apostles? Hardly a declaration that he thought he knew better than them on everything.
  • Barnabas62Barnabas62 Purgatory Host, Epiphanies Host
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Always worth it @B62. Always worth it. Ah, the golden age eh?

    I don't give much credence to the idea of a golden age, nor calls to 'get back to the New Testament'. Understanding moved on as a result of reflection and experience. But there must have been dialogue, sharing, about lots of things. Acts 15 is a kind of clue to that happening.
  • To me Acts 15 is pretty pivotal to the whole of Christianity. If one were able to list "most important chapters of the Bible", that one would be somewhere up near the top of the list for me.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited November 5
    When you read Acts and Paul's letters you do get the impression that he thought he knew better than anyone else. But generally his theological innovations were pragmatic and reasonable and that's why they lasted.

    Re: the Holy Spirit I think the reason why there is so much emphasis on signs and wonders in Acts is because the apostles were engaging in ministry on the spiritual frontiers, actively proclaiming the gospel and seeking guidance in prayer. It's more common in the modern church to think about a church meeting starting with a prayer and making decisions based upon consensus. Have we domesticated the Spirit?
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Are we using "history" to mean "photographically accurate account of things that actually happened"? Because that's a post-enlightenment definition of history that the people who wrote the Bible would not recognize or think important.

    Well done. Thank-you. This is a very clear statement of it.

    Nonetheless, my favorite second-temple scholar, the late David Flusser, was drawn to the NT specifically because he found it to be the best single source for religious practices and daily life from that era. While it may not be what @Rublev had in mind as history, it is certainly historically important in that "post-enlightenment" sense.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Eutychus wrote: »
    To me Acts 15 is pretty pivotal to the whole of Christianity. If one were able to list "most important chapters of the Bible", that one would be somewhere up near the top of the list for me.

    Indeed. It's vastly wise. Probably including putting sexual immorality after food taboos. The gentile converts were tender people and probably needed their consciences protecting from pagan meat preparation rituals. A Sphinx blood sausage could well be purveyed by a temple prostitute after all! It could even lead to DANCING!!!!
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited November 5
    I don't think Paul ever said anything about dancing. Are you thinking of The Crucible or Footloose?

    Ecclesiastes says 'there is a time to dance' (Eccles 3: 4).
  • Rublev wrote: »
    When you read Acts and Paul's letters you do get the impression that he thought he knew better than anyone else. But generally his theological innovations were pragmatic and reasonable and that's why they lasted.

    Re: the Holy Spirit I think the reason why there is so much emphasis on signs and wonders in Acts is because the apostles were engaging in ministry on the spiritual frontiers, actively proclaiming the gospel and seeking guidance in prayer. It's more common in the modern church to think about a church meeting starting with a prayer and making decisions based upon consensus. Have we domesticated the Spirit?

    There's an internal contradiction from your 1st paragraph to your second. An oxymoron: Paul knows better, Paul claims divine inspiration. Is not the resolution of this that it is both? Which is offensive to the unity of the Church and uniformity of dogma, but really only became important when Christianity got married to the Roman Empire, becoming the state religion. Paul was inspired, Paul put his personal stamp on it, about which parts of it he may have believed he was inspired, but wasn't. (Which is why I've never been fond of Paul, beyond the poetical bits and nice phrasing. Considering that the religion is Christianity, not Paulianity.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited November 5
    Paul has been described as a fanatic who changed sides. But he was probably what was needed for the role of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Imagine the job description: Self funding tent maker required for three missionary journeys...
  • tclune wrote: »
    mousethief wrote: »
    Are we using "history" to mean "photographically accurate account of things that actually happened"? Because that's a post-enlightenment definition of history that the people who wrote the Bible would not recognize or think important.

    Well done. Thank-you. This is a very clear statement of it.

    Nonetheless, my favorite second-temple scholar, the late David Flusser, was drawn to the NT specifically because he found it to be the best single source for religious practices and daily life from that era. While it may not be what @Rublev had in mind as history, it is certainly historically important in that "post-enlightenment" sense.

    But then it's not history it's artifact, like Pepys' diary. Pepys wasn't writing history, but we can use what he wrote to inform our reconstruction of historical events (post-Enlightenment sense). We can use people's letters, tombstones, pottery shards (sherds), diaries, chronicles, tapestries, etc., to do history. From this it does not follow that the people who created those artifacts were doing history.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Nice.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Barnabas62 wrote: »
    Doesn't he describe himself as the least of the apostles? Hardly a declaration that he thought he knew better than them on everything.

    He most certainly did say that, but for me it has never rung true. There's just so much of Paul that sounds to the contrary, particularly in Timothy which is where the Lectionary has us at the moment.
  • Rublev wrote: »
    It's more common in the modern church to think about a church meeting starting with a prayer and making decisions based upon consensus. Have we domesticated the Spirit?

    Go back and read Acts 15 again. It's one of the most important chapters in the book and there is no direct intervention of the Spirit at all.

    Read the rest of Acts more carefully and you'll see that the direct interventions of the Spirit are the exception, worth chronicling, not the rule.

    Thinking we have to "get back" to a mythical age when the Spirit did all the directing is in my experience a great way to start faking shit.
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