Saturday, January 09, 2010

Paul on oral traditions about Jesus

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes 'Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.'


As 'infants in Christ' , would these newly converted Christians have wanted to lap up the oral traditions of what their Lord and Saviour had done and preached?

Would converts not have insisted on learning all the stories about the Messiah that they could get?

Clearly there were no early oral traditions about the life and teachings of Jesus. Paul could hardly have described the words of his Lord and Saviour as 'milk', as opposed to the 'solid food' that Christians were told after they had been Christians for a while.

14 Comments:

Blogger pcraig said...

Steven, could you try rephrasing this argument without the rhetorical questions? It isn't clear what point you are trying to make.

As it stands it just doesn't make any sense - you seem to be assuming a lot about what the Corinthians know, and what Paul knows they know - and so on. Your premises are very unclear.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

The Corinthians clearly had been given 'milk'.

So Paul could not have told them all about the life and deeds of Jesus.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Sabio Lantz said...

Steven, I am receiving e-mails showing I am following this post, but my comment was never submitted. Did you reject it or is it sitting waiting for moderation?
Thank you?

2:47 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Comments aren't moderated. I will double-check

12:20 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Your argument makes sense if all Paul taught was Jesus's life and teachings, but if you look through his letters, there's a whole lot more than that. Different audiences - i.e. Jews and Gentiles - needed different things explained to them. And Jesus's resurrection put a whole new spin on things.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

So the 'whole lot more than that' was the 'milk' that early converts , 'infants in Christ' received?

When did they get the 'solid food' - the stories about the teachings and deeds of Jesus?

4:04 AM  
Blogger pcraig said...

Are you going back to rhetorical questions? I can't work out what you're getting at. Why do you assume that either the milk or the solid food would consist of the stories about the teachings and deeds of Jesus?

6:24 AM  
Blogger Rex Howe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Rex Howe said...

I am not sure I am following either. Paul did visit Corinth around AD 51–52, and he remained there for eighteen months (Acts 18:1–18, esp. v 11). He wrote the canonical letter of First Corinthians after his visit. Also, note 1 Cor 15:1–4. What Paul had received (namely, the gospel), he passed on to the Corinthians.
In regard to an oral tradition of Jesus sayings, are you familiar with Q? John Kloppenborg has done extensive work here: http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~kloppen/.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

SO what Paul had passed on , he reminded the Corinthians had been 'milk', because they were still not ready for the 'solid food'

Was Paul familiar with Q?

10:53 PM  
Blogger Rex Howe said...

In regard to your first statement, yes. The writer to the Hebrews says this with reference to beginning or elementary (ie, milk) principles: "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (Heb 6:1–2). It seems that this passage has been structured to fit the context of its Jewish recipients; however, the need to grasp the basic elements surrounding faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ are clear and observable.

To preface my next statement, I am no Q or sayings of Jesus scholar. I was only introduced to the detailed discussion by attending a forum involving John Kloppenborg and Paul Foster entitled "Q and James: A Source Critical Conundrum" at the 2009 SBL Conference in New Orleans, LA. The forum discussed the possibility that James was aware of Q. I am not well read on whether or not Paul was aware of Q; however, there is the interesting statement in Acts 20:35 when Paul is giving his farewell to the elders at Ephesus. He says, "remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" While this saying is similar to Matthew 10:8, it is not (word for word) found in any of the Gospel accounts. Thus, the NET Bible study suggests that Paul may have gotten it from another source; that is perhaps, Q or an oral tradition containing sayings of Jesus, prior to the written record we now have in the Gospels. So was Paul familiar with Q or an oral tradition of the sayings of Jesus? Maybe. Historical criticism here can help the student/scholar with many things, but to shake my fist with dogmatic certainty is taking things too far, I think.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Dogmatic certainty or a readiness to accept that anything Acts says Paul said, then Paul did say?

So was the oral tradition about the deeds of Jesus the 'milk' or the 'solid food'?

2:06 PM  
Blogger Rex Howe said...

In regard to your first comment, is there any reason not to think Paul said it, especially since we know that Luke was a companion of Paul? What would historical criticism in general look like if we apply such reasoning elsewhere? Did Abraham Lincoln really give the Gettysburg Address? One can live life thinking that we can know absolutely nothing or that we can know absolutely everything, or subject to evaluating the evidence and making reasonable conclusions. In this case, I think that it is reasonable to conclude that Paul said what is written.

In regard to the latter, I think it is possible. I think it is sufficient to suggest that the milk consisted of the person, teaching and work of Jesus Christ. Earlier in chapter two of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, "And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." I imagine that he has this in mind when he mentions "milk" in chapter three.

6:58 PM  
Blogger beowulf2k8 said...

"In regard to your first comment, is there any reason not to think Paul said it, especially since we know that Luke was a companion of Paul?"

Do we know that Luke was a companion of Paul? And if he was, why does he bother giving us the story of the first few days of the church under Peter when he wasn't there? Was he a companion of Peter first, then switched to Paul, then ditched him when he finally made it to Rome?

If he is writing as an eyewitness rather than a forger, we should expect him to begin where he meets Paul and is converted by him to Christianity, and leave off his story where they part company or Paul dies.

Instead, he narrates events before his own time. But of course he does this also with the gospel of Luke, seeing he wasn't there at all.

"What would historical criticism in general look like if we apply such reasoning elsewhere?"

Indeed, what would it look like if we let people who weren't at the events make up the story and fill it with all sorts of miracles.

The history of the Iraq war would look like this: John Smith was a companion of Lt. Ford. John Smith met Lt. Ford after Ford was discharged and returned home. Smith has no other experience of what took place in the war. He writes a history of general Petraeus life in which Petraeus goes to Iraq and summons demons to attack Sadaam Husein, thus starting the war. Then Petraeus dies and is succeeded by General Smuck whose meanderings are written of by Smith at length. Until finally Smith begins to write about Ford and how Ford killed a billion Iraqis with a six shooter without reloading, how he killed the enemy with obscure chants, and how he harassed the power of Jinns to attack the enemy. Then, at the very point where Smith actually meets Ford, the story stops!

6:10 PM  

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