Just finished my first week of a three-week class on Paul at Notre Dame, taught by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, a well-known Paul scholar who lives and teaches in Jerusalem. He has focused especially on Corinth and the Corinthian correspondence, and his work was especially helpful to me as I worked on 2 Cor in my ThM. I'm grateful to participate in the class, which is stretching me in all sorts of ways.
So far, along with many interesting and useful historical nuggets, I have learned:
- Paul did not believe Jesus was divine (Col is Pauline, but 1:15-20 is a hymn quoted by Paul not because he endorses it but because he disagrees with it)
- Luke is consistently historically unreliable; for example, Acts 16-18 actually preceded Acts 15 (due to a hint in Gal 2:6)
- Paul believed Jesus' death was exemplary, not substitutionary. By seeing the depth of what Jesus went through, we are empowered to live in a similarly selfless way. What about passages from Romans, then? 3:25, say? Answer: We can't trust Romans, because, as the one letter Paul wrote to a church he did not found, he was trying to impress the Romans by speaking in theologically complex language; he didn't really mean vicarious atonement. (yes, actual question and actual answer)
- In John 20:14, Mary 'turns' and sees Jesus. In v. 16, she 'turns' again and looks at Jesus. Therefore in v. 14 she must have actually been looking at the gardener, as she had initially thought. Therefore this passage was probably a later, uncareful interpolation.
- Not only was 2 Corinthians two letters, but Philippians was 3 letters and 1 Thessalonians was two letters. (Question from the class: Why is it that most scholars believe 1 Thess was a single letter? Answer: 'There are a lot of morons in the world.')
- According to Paul, all those outside the church are not damned, because they cannot be damned on account of something of which they are not aware (the gospel).
It is a privilege to be here, and I am genuinely learning a lot. I have so much to learn. And I have had great conversations with other believers. I had a two-hour talk with a PCA-turned-catholic guy on Calvinism that was a joy (not rancorous in the least, mostly due to his humility and patience with me). The library is great, and the whole experience of being immersed in Roman Catholic higher education is fascinating.
But as I sit in the class, I am sad for those who are diving into Paul for the first time (about 90% of the class; one girl didn't know where the books of the Bible were) and hearing dogmatic statements made that stand over, rather than sit under, Scripture.