It’s all Bad: V 1 Paul really does believe that he was appointed by Jesus and God – how and when? Do dreams count? V 6-10 Looks like Paul is back to competing with those ‘other Christs’. Curses on them all – there’s no room for tolerance or diversity here – it’s his way or the highway. And who decides which is the ‘real’ Christianity? Those doing the deciding!
V 11-12 Paul admits that his faith is not based on reason, but on revelation – in other words, dreams, drug trips, or his imagination (take your pick). V 15-24 Paul states that when he discovered Christ through ‘revelation’ he didn’t travel to Jerusalem (although this directly contradicts Luke’s account in Acts 9:26, which says that he did go to Jerusalem). So if we take Paul’s own words as correct, why didn’t he go? That’s where the center of the movement was at the time – wouldn’t it have made sense for Paul to travel there and meet the followers? Instead, he went off on his own, and then three years later, he finally decided that he should meet Peter, and even then he only stayed with him 15 days. Duh!
He mentions in passing that the only other disciple he met was James, the Lord’s brother (although, again, this contradicts Acts 9). Let’s take him at his word and assume that he really is referring to the brother of Jesus – wouldn’t Paul have had a lot more to say about that visit? He never met Jesus in person, so wouldn’t he have wanted to learn a whole lot from Jesus’ main disciple and brother? This whole passage makes no sense whatsoever! It sounds like a bad excuse for Paul knowing nothing about his supposed Savior!
The Good: V 10 – Paul remembers to help the poor.
The Bad: It took Paul another fourteen years to head back to Jerusalem, and then only because he had another ‘revelation’. So all that time he was just doing his own thing – no wonder he knows nothing about the earthly life of Jesus – his beliefs are just made up in his head!
When he eventually goes, there are clearly still disagreements between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. Peter leads the Jewish group and Paul the Gentiles, and they continue to squabble about whether or not the OT laws still apply; the most contentious issues being circumcision and keeping kosher. From there we get a rehash of the ‘faith vs works’ debate, which doesn’t merit discussing yet again here. Paul clearly sides with faith.
Quotes: Christians love v 20. But it just makes me go ‘huh’?
The Bad: Paul is turning himself inside out trying to make the case that Christians are saved only through faith in Jesus, rather than by following the OT laws, even though in v 10 he defeats his own goal by quoting from Deuteronomy 27:26, which states that anyone who does not follow the Mosaic laws is cursed. So he scrounges around for a scripture with an opposing view and finds it in Habakkuk 2:4 (v 11). Then in v 13-14 he comes up with a convoluted explanation for how Christ saves people from that curse in Deuteronomy; it involves Jesus taking the curse upon himself so that we don’t have to. I can hardly wrap my brain around the logic…
But it gets worse – in v 16 he tries to claim that Christ is the son of Abraham. And so Moses was just an interim leader, whose laws protected us and applied only until Christ arrived, and so now they need no longer apply. Or something like that. Trying to follow his argument gives me a headache similar to the type I get when listening to William Lane Craig.
The chapter wraps up with some nice platitudes (v 26-29), so we can all live happily ever after. Is v 28 supposed to promote equality? Sexism is still alive and well among Christians. Why doesn’t Paul condemn slavery? And what about black/white, straight/gay? These characteristics are notably missing…
Quotes: V 26-28. Very familiar.