Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On a Circumcision of the Heart: A Paul Postscript

I must pass on an email postscript from Ned regarding Saint Paul, and while I'm at it, point out Ned's book review re miracles posted to his blog The Masterkey. The quality of the scholarship on this Baha'i blog is astounding. -gw

I think Baha'is have been a bit fearful of Paul, actually, because the literal understanding of his teachings underly such things as speaking in tongues and so on. But Paul was anything but literal. Literal understanding was what he called the "faith of fools."

If I were to give one small example, the current Christian understanding of Paul's objection to circumcision is that Paul didn't want physical circumcision (that is, the actual removal of the foreskin) to be an impediment to bringing non Jews into the Christian fold; whereas James and Peter argued to keep it as a requirement. But what Paul was actually objecting to was their literal understanding of circumcision, as he called the true circumcision of the heart; in other words, to cut one's fleshly desires away from one's motivations and intentions which are seated in our hearts. And of course this understanding is well aligned with the Baha'i teachings.

"Saint Catherine's Monastery - Sinai," Uploaded on May 31, 2006 by templar1307 on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

The inner meaning of Jesus' miracles
Book Review: The Meaning in the Miracles by Jeffrey John. 2004 (American Edition), Wm. B. Eerdmans & Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. 248 pp. ISBN 0-8028-2794-2

Recent books, literature, and documentaries in the popular media on early Christianity and the "search for the historical Jesus" signal a fresh look on the part of believing Christians about the origins of their Faith and the meaning of the words and acts of Jesus. This short book ... represents well this kind of investigation. Reverend John shows how the traditional (i.e., literal) understanding of the miracles of Jesus (some 30 or so in number) and the modern (rational or reductionist) explanation for them both miss the point.


Barmak Kusha said...

feel like adding one small point to masterkey's profound deepening, and that is this. i suggest s/he not generalize about "Baha'is" feeling a certain way about Paul at all. maybe Bahais in the West, from a certain Christian background, yes, but that can hardly be said to be the case for many other Baha'is, say Muslims from the Cradle of the Faith or even Christians from say sub Saharan Africa, Asia, or S America, who, generally speaking again, tend to have greater faith of the heart in that great saint's teachings... it's late and im sorry if this is not clear...all i'm saying is this kind of criticism and fear of St Paul appears to me to be more of a thing of western Christian-raised Baha'is rather than all Baha'is...

George Wesley Dannells said...

Good point, Barmak. John Hatcher would say we should explicitly acknowledge our viewpoint at the outset of any philosophical discussion.