Nearly 2,000 years later, the Apostle Paul (depicted here) continues to fascinate -- and infuriate -- people. And now he's the subject of a new film, "A Polite Bribe," which tries to tell the story of the offering he gathered from largely gentile churches for the mother church in Jerusalem.
Well, look, you had to be there. It was a fascinating film, though not without flaws, which some of the panel members (as well as some in the audience) picked up on.
Maybe you'll have a chance to see it some day. But I'm writing here today not so much about the film itself as about the remarkable reality that someone today would feel compelled to do a film about Paul.
Renewed interest in Paul began in the 1960s with such people as Krister Stendahl, the Church of Sweden bishop of Stockholm. Later such scholars as John G. Gager, Richard Horsley and others weighed in. (Read Gager's fine book, Reinventing Paul.) And now such scholars as Kansas City's own Mark D. Nanos are leading the way in understanding this complex and fascinating man.
Paul, if you ask me, has been largely misunderstood by both Christians and Jews. Many in both faiths think he rejected Judaism and invented Christianity. Both ideas are badly flawed. Some think he was wildly out of sync with Jesus himself. You'll find some of those sentiments expressed in the film by director Robert Orlando.
Whatever the case, Nanos correctly argues that unless Christians and Jews get a clearer and more accurate picture of who Paul was and what he really was all about, there's little chance that the historic antagonism between the religions will abate.
Anyway, I'm thinking it would be pretty cool to be someone that people are still arguing about 2,000 years after he lived. But, then, I'm a columnist, a task that requires an ego about the size of Oklahoma.
(The art here today was Paul's prom night sketch, I think. I found it here.)
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THE WARRING HUMAN ANIMAL
There's been a marked growth in "social hostilities involving religion" in the last six years, the Pew Research Center reports. Almost every time it seems as if humanity may be making progress in learning how to live in religious harmony, something erupts to show that such optimism is unwarranted. How sad. Is this simply the human condition and there's nothing we can do about it? Or is the goal still to seek peace on Earth -- and let it begin with me? Maybe the answer to those questions is yes and yes.