Paul asserted that things happen “according to that which was spoken” – orally recollected. Paul also asserted that Jesus Christ was preached “according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” – Rom. 16:25. “But now to be made manifest” and “by the scriptures of the prophets” – 16:26 – a reference to OT books. Paul speaks of a “revelation” that came to him of a “mystery” in his letters and epistles. His writings are similar in tone to John’s “Revelation of Jesus Christ” in his apocalyptic midrash book “Revelation” and also John’s fourth gospel. All three are appear abstractive, but very real, compared to the much later missionary Gospels.
So why would such a tumultuous time be described as a “mystery”?
Spong states correctly that the “Gospel concepts dramatically distort our understanding of what Paul actually wrote” – Resurrection. Spong correctly goes on to assert that “literalizers counter, that the risen Christ (note risen Christ) had appeared to certain witnesses? But I would assert that if Paul’s words are read apart from the distorting images of the Gospels, these (Gospel) witnesses were the recipients of revelatory visions of the living Christ exalted at God’s right hand” – not the Christ of Christianity, a post-Jerusalem burning would embolden a “living” Christ for the obliterated nation.
Spong correctly asserts that “literalizers counter, that the risen Christ (note a “risen Christ”) had appeared to certain witnesses? But I would assert that if Paul’s words are read apart from the distorting images of the Gospels, these (Gospel) witnesses were the recipients of revelatory visions of the living Christ exalted at God’s right hand.”
Once you apprehend that multitudinous midrashic recordings in Revelation, a book conceived and largely written before the Gospels, one comes to the same conclusions as Spong:
– “once more we must we reminded that Paul never knew the earthly Jesus”
– “James and all the apostles” must be understood to be parallel to “Cephas and the twelve” and represent later appearance tradition connected with the church’s mission-inaugurating function”
– “The twelve were the pillars and the apostles were the missionaries”
– “that if Paul’s words are read apart from the distorting images of the Gospels, these witnesses (post the burning of Jerusalem) were the recipients of revelatory visions of the living Christ exalted at God’s right hand”
– “clearly so as to counter the fear so rampant among literalizing Christians that without a physical body there is no Easter”
– “Christ, for Paul, was the first fruits of the final resurrection that would occur at the end of the age”
– “Ōphithē means to have one’s eyes opened to see dimensions beyond the physical”
– “Paul is saying something quiet different from what we have usually assumed he is saying:
1. “and how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” – The wrath is to come – we have suffered two thousand years of literalising without a living God was a great prediction of Paul.
2. “the gospel (not the Synoptic) concerning his Son, and designated Son of God (in the OT) in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship.”
All quotes from “Resurrection – Myth or Reality” – John Shelby Spong – chapter – The Witness of Paul.
When one reads Paul and the midrash book of Revelation prepared and written well before the duplicating Gospels a different Jesus Christ is perceived. Yes the gospels were well written after Roman overlordship dominated the nation in the 4th decade of the 1st century leading to catastrophe for their Jewish nation with the destruction of Jerusalem. But correctly even the Gospels concentrated on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the early decades. Rome is only precursory, hardly mentioned, even post 70 AD. Their sarcasm was solely directed at their religio-civil governing body that failed the nation. They were written to their people not to the construction of a Christian church.
Paul “never knew an earthly Jesus” and it appears he sole purpose was to make each body see a living Christ.
The words “see” or “appear” with be the subject of midrashic articles to follow.