In my quest to purge, motivate, and otherwise gain control of my life, I decided to peruse the contents of my external hard drive. There are things that I wrote on LSD, bad poetry, a college thesis, good poetry (!), Battles Without Honor or Humanity (FUCK YEAH BUNTA SUGAWARA), and various other pieces of my past that I was shocked to stumble upon. Most shocking was an analysis of Paul’s role in the development of the early church as evidenced in the New Testament. I haven’t picked up a Bible, Tanakh, or Qu’ran in years, and my ignorance of religion is shameful considering that I minored in the subject as an undergraduate. Below is the essay in question. I think it holds up, though I have no idea what I was talking about:
In order to discern what possible meanings are extant in Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is necessary to look at how his background as a devout Jew loyal to the Pharisees may have influenced his reasoning. As spiritual supplicant, Saul of Tarsus was most certainly aware of the laws found in the Torah and most likely followed them closely. The dichotomy that arose from this background and his later life as the ‘Apostle of the Gentiles’ and a major part of early Christianity’s growth is clear throughout Romans. Although many of Jesus’ teachings consist of veiled or overt rejections of both religious and political rulers, Paul takes a distinctly cautionary approach to the matter of possible conflicts between one’s religion and the laws of a governing power. Laws are necessary if people wish to achieve salvation, Paul notes that if there are no laws, how is one to discern what is acceptable and what is not? : “…sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law.” (Romans 5: 13) For Paul, the law is essentially a guide on how not to sin. Since these prohibitions carry the weight of God, the Torah’s legitimacy as the purveyor of God’s laws is never in dispute for Paul.
What is more intractable, however, is the matter of how one can square this with the inclusion of Gentiles into early Christianity and Paul’s assertion that Jesus “is not simply a continuation of Israel’s history” but, in fact, represents an entirely new covenant and relationship with God. (Childs, 259) Paul attempts to reconcile this by asserting the essential equality of Jews and Gentiles in the eyes of God. In doing so, Paul came across what was to become a revolutionary idea in Christianity: that the status of a person’s relationship with God is best determined equally by their faith in God’s actions as by their own actions. In this way, Paul killed two birds with one stone, for he upheld the law’s legitimacy (but over Jews, not over all) while establishing that all people, regardless of what laws they follow, must be equal before God because of God’s nature: “We hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3: 27-31)
Again, no idea what I was talking about. I feel transubstantiated reading this. This is the only reaction that I can coherently muster: