paul fall adam eve
One of the earliest, most eloquent, and most influential of all advocates for Christianity was the Apostle Paul; his letters are widely quoted the world over. After many centuries of translation, interpretation and analysis, bible scholars and historians have continuously pored over his writings to uncover just what the ancient figure meant, what he truly believed, and what he was trying to convey to the various communities he was reaching out to during the times in which he lived. But have they been correct? In his book Paul's Necessary Sin - The Experience of Liberation, Timothy Ashworth presents a new, coherent and consistent rendering of Paul's central ideas that breathes new life and understanding into what are probably the most famous letters ever written.

This week on MindMatters we discuss Ashworth's book and its rigorous examination of Paul's thoughts on a range of themes: The life of the spirit - as opposed to the 'law', the materialistic identification that individuals have with the self, his understanding of 'The Fall' and the potential for humanity's ultimate redemption, among others. Join us as we look at some of the deepest and most perennial themes and questions that have been asked since, well, Adam and Eve.

Running Time: 00:58:08

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Harrison: Last week on MindMatters, on our second discussion of Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism, we talked about some of the similarities between Zoroastrianism and early Christianity and we got into a little bit from Timothy Ashworth's book, Paul's Necessary Sin, The Experience of Liberation. That will be the book we will be discussing today, but before getting into that, I just wanted to highlight a few things from our shows on Zoroastrianism that will be relevant in the discussion of Early Christianity, specifically Paul.

So, one of the things about Zarathustra was that, in his figure, in Zarathustra as a person, we see what is the nature and the purpose or the role of a prophet. In Zarathustra, we see that for him, it is the ability and the capacity to speak truth, and to battle lies. Of course in Zoroastrianism there is the fundamental, primordial battle between truth and lies, or good and evil. So it's the prophet's role to identify that and to speak that, to point out what is wrong, to be a guide for the benchmark of what is true and what is false. The way that that happens is that it is revealed within the prophet, so a prophet will hear the voice of god, and then share that word with the people, as stated in the Bible, often not to the pleasure of the people around him because he is revealing difficult truths.

One way of putting it - and this was, I believe in West's book, The Hymns of Zoroaster - is that the prophet is a healer of existence, and as we'll see in Paul's case, for Paul, a prophet is a reconciler, bringing a reconciliation between humanity and god or between spirit and the flesh. Another thing that comes out in Zoroastrianism is the nature of spiritual transformation and in that religion, what we see is that the nature of that transformation is to come into alignment with these higher principles, with the higher will, basically with god's will. In Zarathustra's case that would be Ahura Mazda.

As a comment on the name Ahura Mazda that we didn't mention in the shows that we did in the last two weeks, the name can be translated as the mindful lord, or the wise lord, lord of wisdom, but another way of translating it, because there are many ways to do so, is the lord who takes thought. So, if you combine all those together, the main function of the lord in Zoroastrianism has to do with attention, mindfulness, paying attention and taking things in mind. So there's that aspect that will become important as we go on.

So, the thing that the Zoroastrian comes into alignment with are the Ahuras that we mentioned, the Asuras, Good Thought, Right, or Truth, Asha, and by coming into alignment with these things, the goal is that then one will manifest those things, that will experience good thought for themselves, and from that good thought there will issue good words and good deeds. You will actually consistently manifest good thoughts and good deeds. You will then become what you believe. Your thoughts will inform your actions, and those thoughts and those actions will be in alignment with the right half of creation and out of alignment with wrong, or evil thought, or worse thought.

So, the idea inherent in this is there is, in our ordinary state, humanity is caught between all these choices, like we mentioned last week; caught between good and evil, truth and lies, but we can't really see it for ourselves. So the role of the prophet is to reveal that to us from the outside, but the goal really of that is to then effect a transformation in us where we experience that for ourselves from within, we then know good thought for ourselves, and therefore can act consistently in a good way, in the right way.

There's an establishment of a direct connection between these different levels of realities, different levels of existence, between us as these individual humans with the highest level of reality and then everything in between through which that will, that attentiveness, that attention, that wisdom, filters. So, from the very godhead filters these various principles and tendencies which we then embody on earth, and like we saw in Zoroastrianism, that is the purpose. We are on Earth to be avatars of that battle. It's on earth that we are doing the work of god by engaging in the battle between truth and lies, for instance.

So, tying this back again in another way into the role of the prophet, essentially the goal is to become prophets ourselves, in a certain sense, and that entails listening to, and then following, the guidance that comes from those good thoughts. Finally, the thing that Zoroastrianism reveals is god's action in the world, what god actually does, and how god actually works. How does the Ahura Mazda act in the world? We already got to that through the alignment between the good thought of the lord, and the good thought of each human. When those are in alignment we are essentially doing god's work, according to this system. One way that that's expressed in Zoroastrianism is that, by doing so, we are manifesting god's dominion.

Dominion is one of the six lords that are associated with Ahura Mazda. So, through our own, what is called piety - which is an essential word in Zoroastrianism - through our piety, we manifest god's dominion and increase it. So, the way that god manifests in the world is through the people manifesting god's dominion. It's a circular connection that's going on there. As we do what is right, we are enhancing the manifestation of those higher thoughts in the mind of Ahura Mazda.

So that's the picture that I got out of looking into Zoroastrianism recently, and coincidentally, or not, that is pretty much, with a few just minor changes of clothes, that's the picture that comes out in this book that we've been reading, Paul's Necessary Sin.

I'd like to give a bit of background on the book. Timothy Ashworth is a Quaker, and he has a position at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre in the UK. In the work that went into writing this book, he took a slightly novel path in order to understand what was going on in Paul's letters, because just like in any religious text, and especially one that has such a big following now, and so much history, unlike Zoroastrianism in a way, because there is still a Zoroastrian community, but it's not as big, and there have been periods where its come in and out of popularity.

Whereas, with Christianity, it's like this massive thing that has acquired so much theological speculation and dogma, and conclusions that, that history then influences how we approach these early texts, and often to their detriment, because anyone who reads the Bible scholarship literature can see that even among pretty hardcore Christians, true believers in the sense that their scholarship is an extension of their religious practice, even in scholars like that, you'll see how often they disagree, how often they present new interpretations of what's going on in these texts that contradicts hundreds of years of just tradition.

So, what Ashworth did is he decided to go back to the Greek itself and try to come up with a good translation of these letters, because oftentimes when you have a single word - and he uses, he gives several examples - when you have a single word, it'll be translated in a particular way, at a particular time, and that translation will then breed a whole interpretation that creates a theological framework and structure that then is hard to chip away at, because that's what people believe, when, if you go back to the original texts, as he does, you may find that that original translation, and the translation that we've been using for so many years doesn't give the full sense of the text itself, and in fact a better translation might give an entirely different sense.

Throughout the text, but particularly in the beginning, he goes through several important words in Paul's letters. I think I mentioned some of them last week, or at some other time, but there are some important ones, like being justified, or justification, righteousness, the faith in Jesus, several other words, like the elements of creation. What are the elements of creation? But what Ashworth does is look at all these words, look at the traditional classical definitions in the dictionaries for these languages at the time, ancient Greek in this case, and then try to see what fits best in all situations.

So, is like Paul using a certain word consistently, and if not, well what are the range of meanings? Oftentimes, you'll find in modern English translations of the Bible that the same word will often be translated in one sense, in one verse, and then, even in the same verse, or one or two verses later, in a completely different sense, or a sense that just doesn't flow naturally. It's all, it's like you're using two completely different words where when the context of what's going on would seem to suggest that Paul's using the same word in succession for a particular reason, because he has either one meaning, or the same small, closely nested, connected sense of meanings in both cases. By doing so, he comes to some pretty radical conclusions about what Paul was actually saying.

He also argues that Paul is a coherent thinker, in other words, that a lot of these ideas actually make sense with each other. They don't contradict each other because there are several scholars of early Christianity and Paul, who argue that Paul is an incoherent thinker, that he's not really that logical. He might say one thing, and then contradict himself in another sense in something else that he says. Ashworth argues that on the most important level, dealing with these central ideas in Paul's letters that actually they do create a coherent structure. It does make sense. Each part makes sense in relation to all the other parts and that is what he seeks to lay out in this book, to present each of these kind of, these pillars of this structure, and then by the end they kind of all come together to create this beautiful kind of temple, or something, that is there, but hasn't been recognized. So sometimes he will come to conclusions that other scholars have agreed with. Sometimes, he comes to ones that go against the grain, and then a few times he comes up with something that hasn't really been said before.

Back when we were doing Truth Perspective, I think I brought up a couple times, Trols-Engberg Peterson's work, Paul and the Stoics. He's written a few books on Stoicism and specifically Stoicism's potential influence on early Christianity. He wrote the book Paul and the Stoics, for instance. His work, while it is strictly in that comparison of Stoicism and Pauline Christianity and showing how they both essentially have the same structure - I'm not even sure if Ashworth has even read Engberg-Peterson - but coming at it from a completely different angle, he reaches several of the same conclusions about this nature of transformation and what's actually going on in all of these letters.

So, we're going to scratch the surface today and get into a bit of what Ashworth describes and what Paul was actually saying in these early letters. With that said, do you guys have any first thoughts after reading parts of this book?

Corey: Anybody who's been watching MindMatters or has been following us for the past year or so knows that we enjoy looking at different systems of belief, systems of meaning, and the implications they have throughout history and how we can take certain ideas and translate them into meaningful practice and modern life, the kinds of answers and solutions that are there, staring us in the face, but rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, find out who did it best and see how they did it.

With that said, when you're reading this book, Paul's Necessary Sin, you get the idea that he really argues that modern Christianity has been missing the mark in terms of the very fundamental meaning of what Paul was doing and that the only way that you can really discover the system that Paul had - as you say, there was a coherent system in place for these early Christians and something very appealing, and very transformative for these early Christians - is to get down into the nitty gritty details and do the work necessary to find the meanings of the words that Paul was using that will make sense throughout the entirety of his letters.

In order to do that you have to translate one word and translate the whole sentence, translate everything, and continue to find something in modern English that can approximate the meaning, without the kinds of biases that people are prone to bring to religious texts. In that sense, like you pointed out a couple words that have been used to understand Paul's letters, that may not have been accurate, because they weren't meaningful. They made the passage difficult to read, difficult to understand, and so then, you would say, well, he's not a systematic thinker, he just says one thing, and says another thing.

Well, the problem isn't necessarily that he's an unsystematic thinker. The problem could be that we just have bad translations of the words he's using. So he goes through and he strips away the veil of the meaning behind Paul's words and you find what he says makes sense, in terms of modern English. It makes sense in terms of the system of early Christianity, and by doing so, you get a glimpse into the actual coherent narrative that comprised early Christianity, and when Paul speaks of things like the flesh, the law, or the various other things, he's speaking very plainly. He's not speaking strictly of the Torah, when he speaks of the law. He's not speaking strictly of sin. He has this very, very particular system that's built out of the age of Adam, when mankind fell, and the age of Christ and the spirit that rejuvenates people and give them the ability, like you were saying, to prophesy, to tell the truth, and that by adopting the spirit within, that the spirit that is both within you and is objectively its own fact - it's an objective thing that allows you to speak the truth - that by doing this, you become saved, and you are then able to live a life of faith.

But it's a very systematic, step-by-step thing. It's not just, 'Now that I proffer belief in Christ, I'm saved", but it's rather that once the spirit has lived in you, then that is proof that you are a Christian. The spirit was this defining piece. You couldn't pretend to be a Christian without this, the gifts of the spirit, the ability to prophesy, and speak in tongues, and various other gifts were an objective fact that marked whether or not you were living according to the flesh, or whether you were beginning to grow from the childhood of living under the law of the Torah, or even the law of the gentiles, whatever religious law was there, you were free from that, because now you had an objective, independent existence that was connected to the god of truth, the Jesus Christ.

Harrison: Did you want to say something Elan?

Elan: Go ahead.

Harrison: You brought up a whole bunch of interesting things that we could go off in various directions on Corey, one thing being the importance of this Adamic period of time, or this Adamic event. I hadn't realized, prior to reading Ashworth - and I've read a bunch of books on Paul. I wouldn't say I've read a ton, but probably more than the average person, I'll say that - I hadn't realized the importance of that Genesis narrative on Paul's thought. What Ashworth is arguing is, the narrative of the fall of mankind, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is central to Paul's thought because it is a story that tells the story of mankind. It's almost itself a parable. It's tough because he often takes things figuratively and uses things figuratively.

It's hard to get an idea of whether or not Paul actually believed there was a single man, Adam. Maybe he did but the way he presents it, you can take a very modern approach and see it as this totally accurate story or myth about the nature of humanity, the nature of existence, and that informs pretty much all the important things about what Paul is doing. What Paul is presenting is a way to reverse the fall. So all of the consequences of what Adam and Eve did are manifest in the way humanity is and has been. All the negative things about that state that humanity is in are what is reversed with this first deposit of the spirit that the early Christians have, this tidbit, this morself of the spirit that is now manifesting itself inside of them, inside of their bodies and their minds.

What we have is this grand scheme, this grand storyline of the fall and redemption of mankind. It's just remarkable the way it all fits together. You can see how each element of that first story informs this magnificent solution to that predicament that mankind is in. One idea central to that is this idea of the image of god, how in Genesis mankind is created in the image of god and then we think ourselves wise. Adam, who is representative of mankind, disobeys the word of god, and then eats from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and acquires that knowledge, but then acquires death as a result, mortality.

So, for Paul, this is a snapshot image of humanity, that we have lost our connection with the divine. We no longer hear the word of god which comes to us via the spirit, and we are now trapped in mortality. We're trapped in these bodies, but we're identified with these bodies. We've become so identified with fleshly existence, which is this separate, individual, self-oriented biological machine that we're in, that we lose that connection and the result of that is isolation, as individuals, and enmity, the friction and the conflict that we then have with others, with the people around us.

Did you want to say something?

Elan: Well, you said identification, and one of the biggest themes throughout this book is identification among the Jews and some gentiles with the law, the ten commandments. One of the points that gets repeatedly brought up in the book is this reliance upon and this identification with laws that are external to the individual, that seek to, in theory, keep us in line, but that in an attempt to mediate the relationship between an individual and god, actually separate the individual from god, separate one's capacity to be a living embodiment of what is a spark of god's divine will, a shred, a sense of what is truly good and spiritual and quite possibly in potential, innate within the human being.

This is what Paul has been trying to beseech in his listeners through his letters. He's trying to explain through his own revelation, through his own experience of incorporating the word of god in his own understanding, in his own heart, that a literal reliance upon the laws of the Bible are in fact limiting in an individual's attempt to be that representation of good on earth in what they are doing. One quote from the book that sort of speaks to this, and there are many, is:

"Conduct informed and enabled out of a direct and immediate apprehension of the divine will"

which is pretty profound, that somehow, we as individuals, can have that connection, can form that communication that is more or less direct, that is more or less transmitted through prophecy, through the words that Paul was transmitting in his letters. A word about the book itself, it is incredibly rigorous, from what I'm used to reading. Ashworth in writing this has, I think, created a sheer act of love and commitment in looking at other researchers and how they all interpreted what Paul was trying to say through their own translations and through their own filters. So, Ashworth really wants to know, and he wants us to know, as much as it may be possible to know, what it was Paul was trying to convey at its deepest sense, and this is, I think it's a profound effort. I'm just hoping that we come to some understanding ourselves in a revelatory way, a little bit {laughter}, and get to some sense of the power of Paul's letters and the work involved.

One other thing that I just wanted to add is that there are certain passages that talk about Jews being circumcised, and how this is the outward manifestation of their connection to god along with their adherence to the laws. Something very touching that Paul says is that you want to, you want to have a circumcision of the heart. You want the connection to god to be one of spirit, and not one of so literal interpretation so as to have a superficial and almost egotistical connection to god where you can say, "I perform these rituals. I adhere to these laws. I am pious because I wear this, and take this day off."

There is an internal transformation, which seems true to me, which seems correct, the spirit of something. You hear that in conversation quite often, the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law. What is the spirit that makes things truer than the letter? What is the heart of the matter that makes things more correct, more righteous, more in alignment with the will of god?

Harrison: That's one of those invisible things. What is that spirit? What is the spirit? It's not something tangible. You can't just see it like you can see a red apple that is in front of you. It is one of the invisible, eternal things of creation that we've lost the ability to see. That's one of the central ideas of the fall. We have lost a capacity of perception in our identification with our own individuality. Our own perception and thinking processes have become subject to the corruptibility that our bodies are subject to. All of these things are tied together in Paul's thought, that we are trapped in this mortal flesh, and that mortality, that death tinges everything around us, everything that we do, everything that we say, everything that we experience.

In our ordinary state, that is all associated with this mortality. When we've lost our connection with the divine, we've lost the ability to access or see the unseen, to see the invisible things of god, to see the invisible nature of god and that's what creates this disconnect, the strife and enmity that you have between humans, among humanity. It's a result of this disconnection. It's a result of this new blindness that comes with the identification with our physical selves.

When you're talking about the Jews who lived under the law and saw that as a good thing, I like that way you put it. "I do these things. I have this status. I do this. I do this." It's basically me, me, me, me, me. It shows the inherent and inescapable selfishness of humanity, at least one of its manifestations, that, even in our goodness and the things that we do to try to be good, there's still an element of self-centeredness, puffing ourselves up, a reason to boast, as Paul would put it. But all of that is, as Gurdjieff would say, merde, all that's shit.

That's all irrelevant, and it just shows how inured we are in this identification with the flesh, in this selfishness, that even our thought processes, even the way we think about ourselves, about the things that we do that are ostensibly good, even in those things, we are selfish, and thinking of ourselves and thinking highly of ourselves, or too highly of ourselves. It's this inescapable thing, where, when it's pointed out to you, you can't help but respond in a self-centered, arrogant manner. That's the default state of humanity. That's the default state of every single one of us, this inescapable selfishness. For Paul, that's directly related to the fall, this identification with this physical existence.

Slightly changing gears a bit, you mentioned being children, children under the law. This is the image that Ashworth develops that's very interesting. I like the way he does this, because he's trying to figure out why in some places, Paul will be totally dismissive of the law, of the Torah, or laws in general, and other times he speaks of them pretty highly, as if they were a good thing. Well, Ashworth provides the framework for how that all makes sense. He compares that to childhood, the family dynamic. Interestingly enough, this goes back to the show that we did on world mythologies, Witzel's book, and how central to the mythology that has come down through human traditions for potentially tens of thousands of years, it all comes down to these family dynamics.

So, you find the same thing here. He gives the example of a child. When you have a child, it is kind of in this pre-Fall state, where it is imbued with this spark of divinity that is seeking knowledge, and seeking all knowledge. It just wants to explore. It wants to know everything, because it doesn't know. So it's got this curiosity and this adventurousness. But children can be too adventurous. They can wander into danger. They can walk out in the middle of the road. They want to see what's on the other side, but they don't see the car coming that could run them over. So, it's the childminder, or the parents' role to protect that child, to put restrictions on its exploratory behavior.

But the child will then inevitably turn against the parent for doing that. It will get resentful, and will be like, "You can't tell me what to do" as it grows older. It's the curse of teenage angst. "Why do my parents tell me I can't do this? It doesn't make any sense. I'm just going to go off and do it." This is the dynamic. This is the conflict between a child's mind, and the parent, who has more experience and can see more, and does it for the child's protection. The adult places limitations and restrictions on the behavior and the extent of the child's exploratory behavior for the child's own good.

And that's inevitable. You can't escape that. Children need a childminder, children need restrictions on their behavior, otherwise they won't survive. But the flipside of that is that the child now experiences that forbiddenness and oftentimes if something's forbidden, it becomes even more desirable. So an experience of this restriction will often elicit this behavior. The child will now rebel and do the things that are bad for them, specifically and exactly because they have been forbidden to the child.

So, Paul places that dynamic in this historical, worldly, almost cosmic perspective where humanity itself has been in its childhood, and humanity itself has this exploratory capacity. This essentially is free will. But there are certain things that will lead to disaster. There are certain things you do that will screw your life up royally and potentially cut off all your possibilities, in the case of death. It's like, "Okay, well you can't do anything now, because you've done something extremely stupid and now your dead."

That has been the role of the law. We have this freedom in Zoroastrianism, all these choices between the good and the evil, between the truth and the lie, but we can't see our way through, as we were talking about last week. So, what the law does, at least it provides a structure, a framework to help guide people along, to keep them roughly on the right path. It won't necessarily transform them. In fact according to Paul, it'll definitely not transform them. It is strictly this external system of rules and restrictions in order to just try to keep people in line, for their better interests.

But now, along comes the Christ event, the crucifixion and resurrection, where things change. So, for Paul, this is a new event. Just like Adam was a cosmic exemplar, where his betrayal of god, his rebellion, caused death for all, now, Christ's one action, his right action, as Ashworth translates it, his total faithfulness in the prophetic word that he receives from God, his total embodiment of the word and the will of god, that creates a new template.

That provides the energy so that now people can see for themselves and experience that transformation for themselves. So they can now see the reality of their lives as they've been living them. Once that transformation takes place, once there's been a radical reappraisal of your perception of yourself, and now that you see the way that you've been living in a totally different light, and in the system of Paul, now that you have this direct access through the spirit of the mind of god, and the righteousness of god, the right action of god, the way of behaving in the world, then you no longer need the law, because you have this direct connection.

So for Paul, the Christ event was this opening up of potential so that potentially all of humanity could then have direct access. They could directly perceive right or wrong in any situation because of that alignment with, like Zarathustra, the alignment of good thought. "Well I am thinking the thoughts of good thought, and therefore, why would I need some book to tell me what to do, or some religious authority? I experience it for myself." Any going back to the law, any going back to the book would be a regression. Now, you're just looking for something external to, you're looking for a childminder, you're looking to be a child again, For someone to tell you what to do, instead of knowing for yourself or acting for yourself.

So, the whole story is not only the growing up, the maturation of humanity as a whole, but this is playing itself out within each individual, and that's how this process, how humanity transforms - through the transformation of each individual. That's the grand scheme of how Paul is presenting this individual and worldly transformation, this total cosmic transformation. It is through this struggle in each person.

So, right away we can see correlations not only with Zoroastrianism as we've been talking about it, but with personality disintegration from Dabrowski and Gurdjieff's ideas, because some of the correlations with Gurdjieff are quite remarkable, too because Gurdjieff was trying to instil in people that they are in a state of sleep, they are in a state of slavery, that whatever you think about yourself, whatever high opinions you have of yourself, actually, you're pretty wretched. There's so much that you could be. There's so much potential, and if you think you've reached this point, then you're just totally full of yourself. For Paul it was the same thing. For Paul we were in a state of deadness akin to Gurdjieff's sleep. We are so hopelessly identified with our bodies that we can't see the unseen, we can't see the invisible things, we basically can't see reality. For Gurdjieff, you can say the same thing. We're so out of touch, that we, as he put it, in Beelzebub's Tales because of the property of the organ Kundabuffer, we see everything upside-down, we can't see reality. But at some point, through the individual life, as we grow up, and through the history of humanity, we've lost something, we've lost this connection, we've lost this ability to see, and to actually do.

What Paul and Gurdjieff are presenting is the way forward, the way to actually transform oneself, and be transformed in order that we can do things. Do, with a capital "D". For Paul, that was right action, translated as righteousness in a lot of translations. I think that's all I wanted to say on that.

Elan: Well, you used one word in there, Harrison, and that was "faith", and it seems that Paul was making this distinction between following the law and having a faith in the unseen, having a faith in the spiritual hierarchy of the universe, of a god that does know, of knowledge of oneself, of knowledge of what the true intent of a truly spiritually connected life is. This was something that got me thinking about a number of things, because when you think of the word faith, you think of a leap of faith, you think of almost a suspension of disbelief for a moment in order to do the things and to act on the correct impulses that you might not have all the information on, that there's a positive impetus that moves one forward in a certain direction that is informed by a faith in doing the right thing.

Sometimes acting "faithfully" can get you in trouble as well. This is where I think a reverence for knowledge of as many different things as possible helps to informs one's faith in one's actions. There might be information that is part of our thinking that may not even exist on a conscious level, but that affords us an opportunity to be connected with this information field, the unseen as you put it, the life of the spirit, the life of the soul, the life of intelligences that are of a cosmic nature.

So there is this beseeching - maybe that's not the right word for it - but certainly a call on the part of Paul to have faith, to have or make some kind of stretch in one's being personally that would permit them to put external things aside for just a moment and move forward in alignment, move forward in a way that would be closer to their own inner life, inner world, closer to the non-physical as you put it.

This is something that I wanted to actually ask you guys about, because you sort of know what faith means. We've lived with the world for a very long time, and yet this is a very central part of Paul's calling because this is what he's asking us to do. He's asking us to, in listening to his prophesying, to have faith that these are in fact the words, these are in fact the messages that would seem to be coming from a place within him but also from outside of him, having made that connection. So, faith. Any thoughts on what he meant by it, or what you understand of it?

Harrison: Well, I'll get into a bit of what Paul meant by it first. For Paul, you can call it faith or faithfulness. This is one of the words I talked about in the introduction that has been potentially mistranslated in the past. This idea of "faith in Jesus", that's how it's translated in the New Testament. But the alternative, and totally equally valid, linguistically acceptable translation is the faith of Jesus. So, Ashworth is pretty clearly on the side of the faith of Jesus people, because there's a split in the scholarship on it, the people that still believe in faith in Jesus and the people who are like, "No, it's actually faith of Jesus."

So, what he's arguing, and I think he's correct, is that what Paul's talking about is that, when you have faith you actually have a bit of, or the same thing as the faithfulness that Jesus had. The way Paul talks about faithfulness, he gives the example of Abraham. Both Abraham and Jesus are kind of his exemplars of faith. What they come down to is this total trust in the living word of god, the prophetic word, this direct connection. So, it's faith in this word, even against evidence to the contrary.

For Paul, for Jesus, this was being willing to go to death, to be executed by the very people he was supposed to be saving. So it seemed like a total disconnect. "Well, if this is what I'm actually achieving, if I'm this actor in the grand history of the Judaean people, the Israelites, and yet, there, it doesn't seem to be working right? There's a big disconnect in the story, it's not supposed to be working out this way."

But Jesus willingly goes to death, becoming a curse, breaking the law, the Torah, by being hung on a tree, being crucified. There are multiple disconnections in this narrative. This shouldn't be the way it's happening but for Paul, Jesus has such faith in that living word of god that despite those contradictions, he's sure it must be true. But there's something else going on. There's more to the story than is evident on the surface of things.

So, that's the kind of faith that Jesus had, and the same with Abraham. I believe the story is, he was supposed to be the father of many nations and be the originator of all these things. He's this old man who finally gets a son, the first miracle and then god tells him to kill him, to sacrifice him. "Well how am I going to have this progeny, if I kill my son?" So, he goes along with it and god says, "Oh okay, no, no, no. You're good. Don't do it."

Elan: He passed the test.

Harrison: He passed the test, being confronted with this seeming contradiction between the word of god, that there's faith in the living word, faith in that direct connection. But, for Paul, that is the goal, to have faith in that unseen thing, faith in that living word, which for me at least, one way of expressing it seems to be faith in the voice of conscience. I think that's one of the direct applications of faithfulness as presented here. How do you experience the living word? Is it a voice that you hear talking off to the right side of your head, or is it something more felt than directly heard? You know, maybe a combination of the two.

But oftentimes Paul speaks of the spirit being in our hearts and there's very many references to the heart. If you think about what the righteousness, the right action of god is, that comes as a result of this prophetic word and this connection with the spirit, it's knowing what is right and what is wrong, and how do you know what is right and what is wrong within? Well, it's through your conscience, if you have one, and if you have one that's been developed.

So, this unshakeable trust, ideally, is what faithfulness, at least one aspect of what faithfulness is, for believers. It is this unshakeable knowledge within oneself of the right thing to do in any given situation, despite what anyone else may say, despite evidence to the contrary, no, this is the right thing to do, even if it's going to your death, because that's the ultimate disconnect with reality. It's like, "Well, am I doing the right thing? Am I going to die if I do this?" But, it actually might be the right thing to do, for the right reason, for the right cause because no one wants to die, right? How many people willingly go to death and choose it consciously? Not very many.

I think that's why Paul lays out a very simple Jesus story, the story of his death and crucifixion. It's not even much of a story, it's just a fragment, Jesus was crucified and was resurrected. You don't have the whole Gospel narrative in Paul. It's just these basic elements, almost like these fanatic essential elements which are presented and then which have relevance to each individual. Any final thoughts, because we're getting to the end of the show here?

Corey: I'll just touch on my thoughts on faith, just following up on Harrison's excellent definition. My down to earth thoughts are that it seems to be this idea that there is good and evil, that they are objective things. It's our duty as living beings to discern them and to act on them and to keep in mind that there is something higher than us and that we don't know all of the prophets. So for millenia, people have been trying to find god and trying to discern god and some people say god is the big guy up there.

I don't know if I believe in that. I'd rather believe that the highest god is the mind that can discern things and learns and that contains all of these invisible things, morals, ethics, mathematics, insight, love and caring, and to always have faith that that's real and that our actions matter because we are kind of like soldiers out here. You get caught up, you get torn away from friends and family. Everything goes away, everything changes. You're tossed here and there. There's revolutions, there's constant chaos, but always keep the faith of a soldier, that you are doing the best that you can for the good, and that even if that doesn't amount to anything, in the grand scheme of things all of us are together in that, and that everything, every action and every choice matters.

Elan: Well, I just want to say, that was beautifully said, Corey, and made me think that the good is this thing that exists both outside and inside of ourselves like a well of energy, or positive force, or constructivity, choose your own adjective, and that there is something that, in making these individual choices and discerning between good and bad, that we can add to in our daily day-to-day thinking and acting. That's something that seems to be an ongoing theme with the material we've been looking at and trying to understand for ourselves. It's very pleasing actually to go to one show to the next and see how nicely all of these texts dovetail one to the other and to get this grander picture of these figures in history that were able to describe the different parts of the elephant from their respective positions and cultures and times and history and say, "There is something here. There is something here." We can continue to build on that picture of the elephant in the room with all of these discussions and the connections that you, dear listener, also make, for yourselves. That's the hope of this show, that there are some connections that you can make for yourselves. We're not advocating becoming a Pauline Christian, or a Zoroaster.

Harrison: Yeah we are. Become all of them. {laughter}

Corey: Wear all their hats.

Elan: But certainly incorporate whatever you can, whatever makes the most sense, not in a law-giving way, but hopefully in an inspired way, hopefully in a way that kind of lights up a little thought, a little something in you. Yeah.

Harrison: And, with that said, next week, we will be coming back to Ashworth, I think. Maybe we will be getting into a bit more of the actual nature of transformation, what that actually entails for Paul and the role of an apostle, such as Paul was, an apostle or a prophet, in bringing the word and effecting that transformation in others, and what all of that entails and what's going on there.

Elan: And hopefully, Harrison, it'll be a transformative experience for our listeners.

Harrison: Yes, we'll slam the spirit of god right into your ear holes!

Elan: Amen!

Harrison: And, see what happens, and, until that time, make sure to like and subscribe so that you can be alerted. If you click that alerty button too, you can be alerted to your imminent transformation {laughter} which will undoubtedly take place next week, same time, same channel. So, see you everyone. Take care.