St. Paul and a hot plate

It’s bothered me for a few decades that the body of testimony re: the life of Jesus came from people who never laid eyes on him. Before you object, the Gospels were penned by four someones between approximately 40 and 100 years after the crucifixion, and nobody can prove who those someones were. That brings us to St. Paul, who’s always struck me as a nasty piece of work. I can understand the business of the secondhand biographies – if that’s the best you can do, I can see that, write down what you remember, we’ll see what sense we can make of it. Paul’s corpus of work, on the other hand, has always felt to me like a dark cloud settled over Jesus, and no flashlight would help you through it. Currently, I’m working my way through a pile of books on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and I find I’m not alone in my antipathy. The residents of Qumran felt a murderous rage toward someone from within their midst who betrayed them, the community at large, and the Teacher of Righteousness, who was probably James, brother of Jesus. I suppose I should feel vindicated, but mostly I feel curious about the terrible things done in the name of spreading Paul’s word, and the sorrow created by it. Then again, some people devote their whole lives to learning what they can about these things, and I can’t decide what to make for dinner.

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