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SkotiadGender: male2 Stars Out Of 5If you want the real Paul, read his lettersJuly 8, 2013SkotiadGender: maleQuality: 2Value: 2Meets Expectations: 2Although this author's writing style is not too academic, he seriously distorts the life and message of Paul, even though he claims to be revealing the "real" Paul. He claims that almost the entire New Testament is the result of a conspiracy of Paul's admirers, who "suppressed" the simple religion of Jesus so that Paul's "distorted" religion of Jesus-as-Savior would be the dominant religion. Putting it bluntly, the author spins a very elaborate conspiracy theory, not that different from The Da Vinci Code, except that Da Vinci Code was a work of fiction, and here the author is a scholar who nonetheless plays very fast and loose with the Bible in order to convince the reader that Paul has been an harmful influence on Christianity for 2000 years. He claims that only the Letter of James retains the "real" teaching of Jesus, while all the other parts of the New Testament, including all four Gospels, were under the influence of Paul and his party, though he has no explanation about how the "suppressed" Letter of James managed to makes its way into the New Testament. But the worst part of the book is this core idea: Christians today are on the wrong track, following the Paul religion instead of the Jesus religion - an outrageous claim that never occurred to anyone for two millennia.
Books like this can do a great deal of harm. If people really wanted to know the real Paul, the obvious thing is: read his letters, which take up about 50 pages in the New Testament, whereas this book runs more than 200 pages and will leave the reader with a very twisted view of the great apostle. The book may appeal to people like the author, who grew up in conservative churches, lost their faith at some point, and need books like this to confirm their suspicion that Christians today are on the wrong track.
PlesionGender: male2 Stars Out Of 5The old Paul versus Jesus businessJuly 3, 2013PlesionGender: maleQuality: 2Value: 1Meets Expectations: 2There is a large market for books about "real" Christianity, and one popular subject for such books is based on a very old (and ridiculous) claim: that the "good" religion of Jesus was changed by the wicked apostle Paul into the "bad" Christianity that now exists. In other words, Paul (whose writings make up a large part of the New Testament) was history's great Distorter-in-Chief, and wouldn't it have been wonderful had he never existed, since the "real" Jesus religion would have suffered instead of this nasty Christianity?
It's all old stuff, ground that has been gone over a thousand times. Believing that Paul was the great Distorter requires believing that a gaggle of non-Christian scholars living in the 21st century understand Paul and Jesus better than the Christians living in the 1st century. The early Christians had some harsh disagreements, including debates about which writings went into the New Testament. However, they did NOT see any conflict between Paul's writings and the Gospels which contain the words of Jesus. And, for the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived, there was no conflict. Numerically, the skeptics like this author are in a tiny minority, but, given that most people today know nothing of the Bible or Christian history, they can speak with an authoritative voice and find an audience, particularly since they are preaching a message the audience is eager to hear: Christians are bad people who aren't even practicing their religion the right way.
In this book and its various clones (one recent one is by theophobe Marcus Borg), Paul is a bad and disturbed man, one prone to "ecstatic visions." In pressing this, the author is assuming that the readers are people like himself: skeptics, cynics, people who mock any sort of supernatural experience and believe in nothing that lies outside their own narrow experience. Obviously earlier generations of Christians really did believe that Paul had an encounter with the risen Jesus. For the modern cynic, Paul was either a liar or mentally ill, or both. Painting Paul as an "ecstatic" and "visionary," the author expects the reader to believe that Paul was what we would politely call a "nut." And what is the point of studying the writings of a nut?
The Book of Acts show Paul acting harmoniously with the apostles ministering in Jerusalem. However, the author doubts this harmony and insists Paul was "doing his own thing," hence distancing himself from the "real" apostles of Jesus, such as Peter.
This is definitely NOT a book that will enrich a person's faith, nor is it intended to. If the reader believes all (or even half) of the author's claims, he will find himself doubting everything Paul wrote or, even worse, doubting Christianity itself.
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