Thursday, June 25, 2009

Creating Jesus 20: A ritual shift

Paul is quite clear that Jesus' death was a cosmic event that defeated the powers who crucified him. Since he was an embodied angel, his death had more significance than that of an ordinary man dying, even more than a martyr. Paul knows the tradition that God is a great Judge and lawmaker. Whoever breaks his law is subject to the penalty of death. Since everyone had broken the law, everyone receives the death penalty.

The solution Paul develops begins with the martyr's death which atones for the sins of Israel. But with Paul, we discover this is universalized. The Gentiles have been grafted onto the tree. The atonement is efficacious. It is not something earned by righteous behavior. It is a benevolent act accomplished by God through a divine being Jesus, the one who was equal with God but emptied himself to be born in the likeness of a man (Phil 2:5-7). This benevolent act was part of a plan that God had put into place to defeat Satan and his army of angels that had been battling against the archangels since the beginning of time. The defeat of these cosmic powers and authorities began when they crucified Jesus (1 Cor 2:6-7; Col 2:15; Eph 6:12; cf. 1 Cor 15:23-28). This is what Ephesians is about (although we can argue if Paul wrote it or someone else).

This cosmic understanding of Jesus' death as the beginning of the defeat of the demonic powers that rule the world meant that there had to be a ritual shift too. So baptism wasn't just about cleansing from sins. It became about dying with Jesus. Paul reasoned that if at baptism you were cleansed and received the holy spirit by invoking Jesus' Name, the spirit one received must be Jesus' own spirit. Because the person was possessed by the Christ, the person became Jesus participating in his death and its atonement and provisionally resurrected as Jesus was.

This shift is also evidenced in the performance of the eucharist. It could no longer be a Messianic party with joy and celebration in anticipation of paradise. It became about ingesting a sacrificial meal, about reacting the death of Jesus as a sacrifice for all gathered.

13 comments:

Boudewijn (Koole) said...

April,
Thank you very much for this perspective: marvelous series!

Boudewijn Koole

Geoff Hudson said...

"The solution Paul develops begins with the martyr's death which atones for the sins of Israel. But with Paul, we discover this is universalized. The Gentiles have been grafted onto the tree."

We are left in no doubt that this is not a real history. It is someone's artificial reconstruction of it. "Paul" "developed" his theories. He made them "universal". He included the Gentiles in his invented scheme. This is just theological language.

I dispute that the Gentiles were included in the earliest "Christianity". There was no mission to Gentiles. But there was a mission to priests (the Jews). The original writer's intention was to convert the priests away from animal sacrifices to the Spirit. The mission to priests was changed to a mission to Gentiles. We get the sense of this from Rom.15:8.

15.8.For I tell you that [Christ] {I} [has become] {became} a servant of the [Jews] {priests} on behalf of God’s [truth] {Spirit},

So the original writer was writing to fellow prophets telling them to accept one another, because he had accepted the priests.

How Christ becoming a servant of the Jews (the circumcision) so that the Gentiles may glorify God requires a pauline mental leap.
The following scriptures 15.8b, 15.9 to 15.12 are obviously chosen to support the pauline view.

pascal said...

April

It seems to me that the extension of redemption to all, as envisaged by Paul, is a necessary component of any claim that there is only one God. After all, if God could not offer this to all then his powers must be limited, and if his powers were limited then he could not truly claim to be the one, and only, God.

One could argue that Paul was creating monotheism...

Geoff Hudson said...

Creating monotheism? Don't you mean
universalism?

The seeds of universalism were sewn before, the Spirit being the means. The prophet's focus was to convert the priests. They probably thought of Gentiles as joining God's people. Sacrifice was no longer a requirement. I believe Nero was one such Gentile. He is Izates of Ant.20.

Geoff Hudson said...

The Gospel of Mark was edited from a more original document. One of a number of examples is "the cleansing of the leper" Mark 1:40-45. The "leper" was a priest who came to the prophet asking if the Spirit would cleanse him. The prophet was filled with the Spirit, and said "the Spirit was willing to cleanse him, but see that you don't offer the sacrifices for your cleansing". The priest "went out" of the temple (in the extant text, a synagogue in a village), proclaiming the Spirit.

1.40.A [man with leprosy] {priest} came to him and begged him on his knees, "If [you] {the Spirit} [are] {is} willing, [you] {it} can make me clean."

1.41.Filled with [compassion] {the Spirit}, [Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man]."[I] {It} [am] {is} willing,”He said. "Be clean!"

1.43.[Jesus] {Judas} sent him away at once with a strong warning:

1.44."See that you don’t [tell this to anyone, but go show yourself to the priest and] offer the sacrifices [that Moses commanded] for your cleansing,
as a testimony to [them] {the priests}."

1.45.[Instead] He went out, and began to [talk freely, spreading the news] {proclaim the Spirit}.

Whilst this is somewhat speculative, there is strong indication that something similar to what I have suggested did happen. And there is strong evidence that the text of Mark was edited from an earlier document written by an eyewitness.

Geoff Hudson said...

"It could no longer be a Messianic party with joy and celebration in anticipation of paradise." Where does this idea come from?

Liam Madden said...

Dear Dr. DeConick,

Just finished reading my recently arrived copy of the revised and expanded edition of your THE THIRTEENTH APOSTLE. What a treat! In addition to the commentary on the Judas gospel itself, connections to Mark, Luke, John and the Pauline epistles were most welcome. Thank you, thank you :)!

Geoff Hudson said...

A few days after the conversion of the single priest,(Mk.1:40-45) Judas was back in the temple proclaiming the Spirit.(Mk.2:1-12). Only this time the priests had heard of his coming. Many priests were gathered in the temple. Seeing their obedience in the Spirit, he said to them, "Your spirits are cleansed." Some high priests said, "Why do you talk like that? What can cleanse but sacrifice alone?" Judas said to them, "The Spirit of God has power on earth to cleanse." The priests praised God, saying "We have never heard anything like this."

Geoff Hudson said...

And so Judas went into the temple, proclaiming the Spirit of God. "The time has come," he said. "The Spirit of God is near.
Hear and obey the Spirit!" As Judas walked beside the altar, he saw Simon and his brother and James casting a sacrifice into the fire. "Come, obey the Spirit," Judas said, "and he will make you clean." Without delay they joined their father with the prophets and obeyed the Spirit. (Mk.1:4a,14b-20)

Geoff Hudson said...

Correction:

As Judas walked beside the altar, he saw his sons Simon and James casting a sacrifice into the fire.

Steven Carr said...

Why does Paul never produce any apologetic to show that Jesus was innocent of whatever he was charged with?

How could he get over the cross being a stumbling-block to Jews if he never deals with the criminal charges that got Jesus killed as a criminal?

Steven Carr said...

'Paul is quite clear that Jesus' death was a cosmic event that defeated the powers who crucified him.'

'...Satan and his army of angels that had been battling against the archangels since the beginning of time. The defeat of these cosmic powers and authorities began when they crucified Jesus'

I thought the Romans crucified Jesus.

Isn't that how the story goes?

Leon said...

Too much is made of the idea that Paul locates salvation in a divine act of atonement and belittles righteous behaviour. This imposes a philosophical cleanliness on Paul that may make people thologically happy, but it isn't Paul. Paul does speak about good behavior. At Gal 5:21, he makes it very clear that if you are immoral, you do not get into the kingdom. Now you can argue about cause and effect all you want, and argue that Paul says the Spirit comes first, but again, this imposes some kind of philosophical rigor on Paul. The fact is that Paul looks to behavior as one way to determine if someone is truly living in the Spirit. He never downgrades good behavior as much as theologians claim.

Leon Zitzer