A Pre-Pauline Church?

I have a friend in England who writes that he is giving up on the Constantinian/Nicene Church and seeking the pre-Pauline Church where the true religion must lie.  I’ve bee pondering that for a week or so.  What the heck would pre-Pauline be?  His ministry and writing existed only during the first thirty years of Christianity.  To be sure, the nascent church developed throughout a lot of the Roman Empire without Paul’s help, so there were obviously ways to be Christian without being specifically Pauline.  But doesn’t that beg the question?  There is no pre-Pauline Church.  There is just a Pauline way of being Christian among a small variety of other ways of being Christian all developing at the same time.  

13 thoughts on “A Pre-Pauline Church?”

  1. Isn\’t there a fault here? We are talking about 3 different periods in the development of christianity, Yes Constantine and Nicene are intertwined, but it is an oversimplification to link them too closely together, so maybe four. Pre Pauline, Pauline, Nicene. As to pre Paul, from his letters, or those ascribed to him we see great divisions and not a little chaos, I personally like the idea of a chaotic church where the questions are always asked \”What does it mean to be a follower\” But then I don\’t think how we \”do church\” now would work. (though I do think we would get more people in the buildings) BUT the big question mark in my mind is\”where the true religion must lie\”Paul\’s letters, the different ideas that were battled over in the councils, all point to the fact that there is no \”one true\” version of being Christian. The battles we are having today are over the same ideas. Who has all the truth? The bible is full of God pointing out that God doesn\’t play by our rules and laughs at the idea of one group holding the truth over another.Jesus did the same, and I think Paul\’s contradictions point to the same.

  2. Hey Bruno,Well said. My English friend reads these posts from time to time, though he seldom comments. Perhaps he might wade in here and let us know a little more about what he means. I hope so.CP

  3. The phrase pre-pauline is unfortunate, probaly the r4esult of great passion about the present state of the church as a upholder of the ststus quo. Those who want a culture of non-violence may well applaud him

  4. At the bottom of the \”Leave your comment\” section there is a command for preview. It doesn\’t allow for spell check but it does give you a chance to see what your comment will look like when published. As for me, I just stumble along with the occasional misspelling or incomplete thoughtCP

  5. My friend in England did indeed read this post and preferred not to comment publicly. He did send me an e-mail. He is deeply involved in A Course in Miracles and believes it is a more direct and accurate source of Jesus\’ teaching than is the bible, and especially Paul, whom he believes really messed up and twisted what Jesus intended.CP

  6. The search for \”pre-Pauline\” Christianity is actually just \”the Quest for the Historical Jesus\” by another name. Albert Schweitzer took the subject back to the late 18th century in his 1900 opus, and it is continued in our time by the Jesus Seminar of Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. One of my early college Greek professors, Dr. James Hitt, took up the once popular notion that the religion of Paul was how the early church came to see Jesus, and that it is very difficult to get in back of his vision. Dr. Hitt later became a convert from Methodism to Greek Orthodoxy, which is about as Nicene and Constantinian as one can get! When Dr. Schweitzer was allowed to go as a medical missionary to the Congo in 1913,the French Reformed mission board stressed that he was allowed to go as a doctor, but forbidden to teach any of his theology! (He ignored the prohibition!)Dr. Bill

  7. I can agree with Dr Bill that our fellow pilgrim is a searching for the original Jesus. But there is indicated a desire to belong to a purified comunity. I could identify with him except in that but a community that would accept me, a sinner saved by grace, would be a community that bumbles along asking a lot of questions without any certainty in finding solutions. I don\’t believe that such a purified community ever existed. They all bumbled along looking for answers in a world that does not provide any answers except living by faith.

  8. \”…, and especially Paul, whom he believes really messed up and twisted what Jesus intended.\”So Paul was a person who loved God and in his zealousness did exactly what we all do. funny how nothing changes.May your friend always burn with such love of God that he search to do only that which pleases God.Remember, Jesus called Peter out of the boat to walk on water with him. you know the rest of the story.

  9. I don't think there is anything wrong or misguided in talking about pre-Pauline Christianity. And doing so would not, IMO, be synonymous with a search for the historical Jesus. Exactly how long of a time is covered between Acts 2 and Acts 9 I don't think we can know. But during this time we certainly had a Christian church that was in fact pre-Pauline. Indeed, I would say that Acts 10 is as well. The beginning of the taking of the Gospel to the gentile world was initiated by folks like Peter and Philip. Paul may have been the greatest missionary the church has ever known or will know, but he had his precursors. I think a quest for more than the kerygma of Jesus, but the message proclaimed by the church prior to Paul is a worthy search. When Paul talked about justification by faith, he may have had his own unique understanding of what that meant, but he didn't invent the terms. What would others have heard and meant when those terms were used prior to the unique Pauline lens we read them through today?

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