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Believing What I Want to Believe

14 October 2008

I’ve just finished Wayne Meeks’ magnum opus, The First Urban Christians, which I read at a leisurely pace this time instead of knocking it out for Willis and Thompson (“Intro. to Biblical Exegesis”).  I was shocked at Meeks’ certitude at one piont, when he pointed to a 1975 analysis by somebody I’d never heard of and said, paraphrasing, “this study should have brought the argument to a close:  Paul did not write Colossians.”  My gut-level instinct was actually a jerk of the knee.  How dare Meeks lay his axe at the root of my precious bibliology, borrowed as it is from my religious heritage in the Churches of Christ?  And to suggest that the question was resolved as long ago as 1975, when I was barely 11 years old…the NERVE of this [Yale professor emeritus]!

So when I heard this allegation in an interview yesterday with Michael Medved, it brought all this back to the surface.  My gut reaction was:  How I want to believe that Obama had a ghost writer named Ayers, and how I hope that it becomes a controversy that rages up and persuades a naive electorate that it had nearly been sold a bill of goods, a Big Mac with no beef…resulting ultimately in the election of McCain/Palin.  

And yet I recoil in contempt at the slightest suggestion that Paul did not write Colossians…nor Ephesians, nor the Pastorals?  Nor perhaps even II Thessalonians?  And that there were two, and perhaps three “Isaiahs,” writing at different times to different people for different purposes?

It just goes to show qb that he needs a good, long look under the hood.  My mind is not nearly as open as I would have liked to think; nor am I immune from reacting to different propositions in different ways, based on little more than what I WANT to be true.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 October 2008 2:15 pm

    Blow into a paper bag, qb. That sometimes is better than a look under the hood. Authorial provenance is not crucial to one’s faith in God, only to one’s faith in the thoroughly modern notion of textual infallibility and plenary inspiration.

    As to Pauline authorship, after hearing all the arguments against, I am still inclined to the traditional view that Paul did write or dictate the Pauline corpus. I also accept the traditional take on the other authors. To be cranky, I think Priscilla wrote Hebrews. As to those who argue for later 1st and 2nd century dating, I think they all ignore the elephant in the room: the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD. In my opinion, the entire New Testament was written prior to 70AD. For Jewish writers calling Jew and Gentile to band together as disciples of a resurrected Jewish Messiah to fail to mention a nuclear strike at the geographic heart of the promised land of Judaism is, for me, incredible. It would be analogous to a historian of the Bush Presidency failing to mention 9/11.


  2. queueball permalink*
    15 October 2008 4:29 pm

    Fair enough, Coop, although my piont was directed more at the psychology of personal epistemology than at authorship-criticism per se.

    “Authorial provenance” is no longer a requirement in qb’s world, either. I would only argue that IF Moses certainly wrote X, then X must be interpreted, at least as a default starting position, in light of Moses’ world, experience, and context. Where authorship is in dispute, it does not make sense to me to discount the plausible alternatives, but my faith does not depend on authorship decisions.

    As to Hebrews, strangely enough, I’ve also been persuaded that Priscilla is responsible for it, either with Aquila or not. Your reasons are undoubtedly better and more comprehensive than mine, which I cannot even remember now but wrote in the afterleaves of my previous Bible.


  3. 16 October 2008 1:07 pm

    Hey qb,

    We are–alas! and sigh!–truly creatures of fear-born habit. Occasionally we are graced with insight that breaks through our redoubt of defensive habit. T.S. Elliot’s lines from “The Four Quartet’s” (Quartet III, “Dry Salvages”) speak to that inbreak of insight and what to do in the meantime:

    For most of us, there is only the unattended
    Moment, the moment in and out of time,
    The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
    The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
    Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
    That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
    While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
    Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
    Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
    The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

    If you have interest in the rest, here is the url:



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