Re: "Don't curse": but Paul does! :(

Carl W. Conrad (
Mon, 18 Mar 96 08:17:28 -0600

On 3/18/96, Shaughn Daniel wrote:

> I get the feeling that if one disagreed with Paul more than once, then one
> was thrown out of his "circle", or rather "cursed out." Maybe the tone of
> Galatians is as sharp as it is because he is just responding in rage with
> moments of ingenious interpretation thrown in here and there while the
> opponents really have won in discrediting Paul and circumcising Gentiles.
> Sorry for the length. Hoping for some thoughts. Please post to me privately
> as well because I'm in digest mode here and would like to get any responses
> outside the digest.

Good work, Shaughn. I wish you continued success as you pursue relentlessly
your fascinating subject matter. By the way, you've surely perused all the
black magic stuff from the Hellenistic era (I'm thinking of something as
obvious as Georg Luck's _Arcana_--and there's a nice new web page on Magic
in Antiquity, the URL for which I can get hold of readily, if anyone's

Has anyone ever accused Paul the apostle of consistency? Seems to me it
would be a very hard charge to prove. ;-) It's always seemed to me that
Paul (in the unquestionably authentic letters, at any rate) is endeavoring
to think theologically through the problems presented in this particular
instance by this particular communication from this particular church. I
think Galatians and 1 Corinthians offer advice that is very different from
one letter to the other, partly because he sees a threat in Galatians from
those who would impose what Tillich would call a radical "heteronomy",
while in Corinth he sees a threat from those who are pushing to extremes
what Tillich would call a radical "autonomy". I think Paul is always trying
to promote Tillich's "theonomy," but in argumentation he seems normally
caught up with defending his own practice against attack from others and
attacking those whom he perceives to be his opponents in any specific case.

I know that we have had a brief but interesting discussion of whether Paul
is sarcastic or ironic in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians (I argued he
was; David Moore argued strongly on the other side). I've always thought
that Paul would, if he could interpret the words as he chose, readily
assent to that celebrated 1964 aphorism of Barry Goldwater, "Extremism in
the defense of liberty is is no vice" (I may be misquoting, but I doubt not
I'll be corrected).

Who was it? Helmut Koester? --who argued that Paul did not undergo a
CONVERSION experience but rather a CALL. Whatever it be called, I've always
sort of felt that Paul was always a FANATIC (not that he could not reason
clearly but rather that his passions could readily carry him into
intemperate language about his opponents)--and that what changed in his
Damascus Road experience must have been the cause which he was fanatically
defending and promoting.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR