I really appreciate everyone who has, or will in future, followed along as I blogged about scripture studies. I am transitioning out of that format and will instead be blogging about general interest and current affairs secular topics. But before that, I’m going to be blogging about the ideas of my former professor the Canadian postmodern philosopher David Goicoechea and some of his ideas on Paul, Mark, and Matthew. If you’ve been following along we first encountered him with ideas about the Q source and Nietzsche:
His project was to rethink the New Testament writings through the lens of agape (selfless love), especially love of one’s enemy. So, here is post 1 on Goicoechea and Paul:
Goicoechea points out that just as the transformed Roman soldier looks up at the crucified Jesus in Mark and sincerely says “Truly this man is the son of God,” the parallel death of Luke’s Jesus by Stephen in Acts is going to come back to occasion Saul’s conversion when Stephen says :
- As they were stoning him, Stephen said “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and said out loud, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”
This initially unnoticed act of moral influence is going to allow Paul to see the face of Stephen in the risen Christ who does not condemn Paul, but questions him “Why do you persecute me?”
Goicoechea brings out the agape love of enemy theme that was so important to us when we looked at Nietzsche and Q in previous posts, but this time with Paul:
- Paul had always believed in the Jewish double command of love: Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself. (Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18) What happened when he experienced Jesus’ love in Stephen is that Paul’s understanding of “neighbor” began to change. The Jew thought that his neighbor was his fellow Jew. But Stephen loved each and every person as his neighbor and he especially loved his enemies and his persecutors (76).
- Paul’s conversion took him to a new solution to the problem of suffering which he saw in Stephen and in Jesus who showed that a passionate and graceful suffering for others was a way of loving that could reveal the worth of all suffering. Just as Stephen had lovingly suffered for Paul so now Paul spent his life suffering for others to teach them its worth. (pp. 78-79).
It is this universal love that Paul is going to encourage the Thessalonians to strive for. Paul shares his mission statement with the reader and how the Roman/Stoic ideal of Universal love can be realized. Goicoechea comments that:
- Saul turned away from his old ways of negativity to his new life and mission of love when he beheld the loving face of the persecuted Stephen, when he was called by the Resurrected Christ and when he was served with love by Ananias and the little Christian community…Paul’s letter to them is written in the form of a prayer for them: “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you” (1 Thess 3:12). This is the new Christian Gospel for which Paul is constantly on a mission and for which he is constantly working and praying with great energy and most passionate urgency. This prayer is his mission statement and it must be a prayer… As a Jew and as a Greek with both of those languages as his mother tongue Saul would never have dreamed of loving all other persons as his neighbor and as his own, but this new love is the fulfillment of those old loves which always distinguished Jew and Gentile, and Greek and Barbarian and now for Paul the Roman and Stoic idea of universal love can really happen. (pp. 83-84).
It is the transformational love that a victim can gift a persecutor, transfiguring the persecutor into the apostle, that we are interested in here.
Goicoechea, David. Agape and Personhood: with Kierkegaard, Mother, and Paul (A Logic of Reconciliation from the Shamans to Today) (Postmodern Ethics Book 2). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.
*** NEXT TIME, GOICOECHEA AND PAUL PART 2