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Paul and Christianity

I think to myself that Paul would be horrified at the idea that he had invented Christianity because what he did quite deliberately was take the message of Jesus, the kingdom of God, the challenge of the kingdom’s transformation of the world out, say from the small villages of Galilee where Jesus operated — out into the great big cities, and the capital cities especially of the Roman Empire.  He spoke in a language that if we don’t understand, it’s our problem.  He’s writing letters; we’re reading somebody else’s mail.  If we don’t understand, that’s our problem.  The Corinthians understood it; that was why he had so much trouble with them.  So, what we have to do, in a way, is turn his letters into stories, understand what’s going on, fill it out as much as we can and see that he’s putting into language that everyone would understand.  When we mix, for example, Romans, as difficult as we have made it since the Reformation, by asking questions he never imagined; nobody would have understood it [our questions] in the first century, or it [Romans] wouldn’t be around.  Why would people keep something that they totally couldn’t understand?  We have made his letters unbelievably, unbelievably incomprehensible.

  • John Dominic Crossan

    John Dominic Crossan is an emeritus professor from DePaul University and author of numerous popular books on Jesus and the New Testament world.