Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Die Welt" on Paul

In an article "Paulus, Frauenfeind oder Gruender des Christentums?" ("Paul, Misogynist or Founder of Christianity?" in Die Welt posted yesterday, Gernot Facius announces that on Thursday Pope Benedict will declare a year of Paul celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the apostle's birth.

I translate some of the article here to see what view of Paul obtains in a widely circulating German publication. Note here arguments about the Jewish and inclusive Paul.

Using the work of Hans Kung, the article argues that it is unhistorical to propose that Paul was the founder of Christianity since before the conversion of Saul to Paul, there were Jewish followers of Jesus. However, through Paul the small Jewish sect became a world religion. Paul translated the message of Jesus into specific religious contexts. Paul became the first Christian theologian by means of the Jerusalem Council of the Apostles held around 48 CE in which he facilitated the access of pagans to the universal God Of Israel without taking over circumscision, purity, food and Sabbath regulations. Paul is however Jewish. Anselm Gruen, one of the most widely read spiritual writers of today, calls „a paradox of history “ the fact that Paul, who belonged as a Pharisee to the strictest interpretation of Judaism, dissociated himself in his preaching so radically from the rejudaising tendencies of the early church. Schalom Ben Chorin also opines: „In his argumentation, in his theology and in particular also in his Christology, and theory of the Messiah, Paul remains within Jewish theology.“

As fas as Paul's alleged misogyny goes, exegetes today agree that the command to silence doesn't come from Paul but a redactor of Pauline letters around 100 CE. Was it adjustment to the social environment? Were there time-bound statements like those about the power of the state which comes „from God “and to which everyone has to bear obedience“? The catholic theologian Hans Josef Klauck comes close to such a thesis: „As time progresses, Christian life consolidates. In intensified measures one falls back on patriarchal behavior patterns from the environment. It might also be that the Christians were anxious not to be disqualified in a Roman context with its rigid behavior patterns, if they would continue to grant liberty to women, which they had at the beginning of the church.“ But Klauck thinks that Paul still grants women equal rights within the community.

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