Monday, May 14, 2012

The Paul Fan Club, Part 1: Douglas del Tondo's "Jesus' Words Only"


Over the next three entries we'll be having an E-Block series that started in April 2009 on Douglas del Tondo's Jesus' Words Only. The "anti-Paul" movement -- of which del Tondo is a spearhead -- is distinguished chiefly by its poor scholarship, it's paranoia towards Paul, and quite frankly, outright dishonesty. This will become clear as this series is posted.

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As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. -- 2 Peter 3:16
For many readers of the Bible, even Christians, Paul remains an enigmatic figure who seems to be speaking on a different plane. This is understandable. Paul was certainly among the three most educated and intelligent of the NT authors (Matthew and Luke come close, or perhaps even match), and it takes a great deal of careful study to avoid misreading him.

Regrettably, Douglas Del Tondo -- hereafter, appropriately, designated as "DDT" -- didn't do that study.

His book Jesus' Words Only (JWO) is a ponderous volume that is overlong by two times, and undersupported in its premises by three times. The most clear and immediate warning sign is Del Tondo's bibliography. For a book that purports to give the skinny on Paul, serious Pauline scholarship is badly underrepresented -- to the tune of "none." No Ben Witherington. No N. T. Wright. Not even a David Wenham. Instead, Del Tondo seems to think that the best defense and interpretation of Paul comes from the likes of popular preachers Charles Stanley and John MacArthur, radio talk show host Bob George, and, errr... "dead white men" like Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Worse, Del Tondo uses several commentaries published in the Bronze Age (like Adam Clarke's) and dips into the well of fringe scholarship, making trustful use of Robert Eisenman, he who believes that the Dead Sea Scrolls have been subjected to a conspiracy.

Needless to say, do not expect a command exegetical performance!

At over 500 pages, and with Del Tondo's rather anemic writing style, it will take us at least two installments to deal with his main arguments (we'll exclude some secondary ones, like his answers to arguments that God would not allow a fraud into the canon), so let us proceed to those now.



#1: Did Jesus Warn Us That Paul Was Coming?
Though DDT denies that God ought to have made sure a faker like Paul did not get into the canon, he does have it so that God cleverly and playfully inserted little warnings in the NT so that we'd be able to spot that faker once he made it in -- at least, we would be able to once DDT cleared up the matter for us. Del Tondo finds a warning in Matthew 7:23:
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
You perhaps missed the reference to Paul, so allow me to explain it as DDT does. The last word "iniquity" is the Greek word anomia. Literally, "no law" or "lawlessness." According to DDT, this doesn't mean general immorality or lawbreaking, but specifically, breaking of the Jewish law. Paul taught the abrogation of the law. Therefore, this is a warning against Paul. See what he means?

And of course, this gets to the heart of what many in the Paul Fan Club are all about. Somehow, they say, the covenant of law is still valid, and Paul denied this; thus -- Black Hat. We'll need now to take a diversion to explain the fatal premise in contextual interpretation this requires.

As I show here, the OT law is part of a covenant or contract agreement. Jesus gave us a new covenant. Yet we may still learn from the old one what God views as right behavior. This of course requires contextualization of the commands. And when the NT writers, including Paul, exhort morals on their hearers, they show that the new covenant isn't a free for all with behavior (though we'll see later how DDT tries to read that out of Paul).

The corner into which DDT paints himself -- and never really figures a way out -- is this: If the law is still valid as is, you have to follow all of it as it is. No excuses. You have to do Temple sacrifices. You have to put a rail around your roof. No contextualizing is allowed. But even DDT does not do this, and even he must admit to contextualizing to get rid of the sacrifice commands: These are moot, he says, because of what Jesus did on the cross. Really? Who said that? What? Hebrews says it? [74] Well, the author of Hebrews was a heretic then. This is how easy it is to use Del Tondo's Biblical Buffet. DDT himself practices "lawlessness" as long as he doesn't do Temple sacrifices, and there's no way around it that also doesn't release Paul from DDT's accusations.

Yet indeed, DDT does "contextualize" the law in his own way. He tries to get out of having to be circumcised, for example, by using the excuse that it was a command solely to Jews. [102] Oh? Yes, this is true. But the entirety of the Deuteronomic law was also given to Jews, and Jesus in his ministry was also speaking only to Jews when he said the law would not pass away. Yet Paul's audience was overwhelmingly Gentile. And DDT admits that the only burden placed in Gentiles was the strictures of the Jerusalem council (though he also adds the Ten Commandments [103-4], on the basis that some of the same commands were applied to sojourners in other places -- though not the Sabbath one, which is the only one anyone would ever say is not representative of a universal moral law). So in essence, DDT condemns Paul for saying the law is no longer applicable, to people who were never under its strictures in the first place! (We'll discuss two major exceptions he claims, related to that council, below.)

In the end, once all the contextualization is done, we DO have exhortations to "follow the law" -- and DDT is right to say (though not on the basis of his own views) that the sacrifices were mooted. So, likewise, were laws associated with eg, keeping kosher or making the followers of YHWH "stand out" from other people. Many moral laws (like the "roof railing" one) have become moot by practice (we don't live and work on a roof; but we do observe the principle behind this of safety standards). And that leaves us with what? Some general moral laws -- which Paul himself either affirms or never denies.

Of course, the question arises: Can DDT actually show that Paul was "lawless" in any sense? DDT claims that Paul "shamelessly put [his sins] on public display" but when we get to the list, we find a series of misapprehensions, misreadings, and misinterpretations of the sort we might expect from the Skeptics' Annotated Bible:
  • James (3:10) and Proverbs (10:7) speak against cursing, but Paul curses people (Gal. 1:8, 9, 1 Cor. 16:22). [64] DDT needs to look past the KJV, and for someone who makes much of Greek, he ignores it here. Paul uses the word anathema, which means something set away from God. James uses katara, which refers to an imprecation, not to someone's status with relation to God. Pslam 10:7 (DDT misattributes it to Proverbs) is equally strong, and is often used to refer to oaths. DDT is illicitly drawing parallels using the English words -- which is quite a feat for someone who says that he has been designated a "Classical Language Scholar" (per the back of his book). I should note that DDT may argue that Paul's "anathema" was a type of "imprecation" and therefore a violation. If he takes that route, then he is in deeper trouble, as by the same token, Jesus himself issued imprecations against a number of persons and cities, and Elisha called down a curse on the youths who were attacked by bears, and Deuteronomy is full of "curses" on those who disobey the law. Obviously, James cannot have such things in mind; he refers rather to "bitter envying and strife" (3:14) in the same context -- which suggests that he does not have pronouncements of judgment in mind, but rather expressions of personal animosity.
  • Jesus said not to call people fools (Matthew 5:22) but Paul calls the Galatians foolish (3:1). [64] Another bit of unHellenistic folly; the word used by Paul is anoetos, and er....it happens to be the word used by Jesus to address Cleopas and his friend when they don't get the point (Luke 24:45). In contrast, the word in Matthew 5:22 is moros, from which we get moron. Perhaps Jesus himself needs DDT's help to get out of that sin.
  • James (4:16, 2:16) and Proverbs (29:23, 27:2) say not to boast, but Paul openly boasts (2 Cor. 11). [65] Here is an example of how DDT's lack of familiarity with NT scholarship hurts him. He fails to understand Paul's "boasting" in 2 Cor. as a rhetorical ploy, an example of irony -- not actual boasting.
  • Jesus saus not to judge people (Matthew 7:1) but Paul does judge Peter in Galatians. DDT has fallen here for the standard misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1. He also illicitly brings in Matthew 18:15, which has to do with sins of one person against another; Peter did not sin against Paul, and so Matthew 18:15 is irrelevant.
From here, DDT presents an extended accusation [66f] that Paul was "against the law" based on 1 Cor. 9:20-1, in which Paul says that he accommodates his missionary work to the persons he evangelizes. In this DDT is again without regard for the principles of covenant and contextualization we have outlined above. Though Paul is not specific in how he practices his "lawlessness," it most likely had to do with him not observing kosher food laws, or in some way expressing his unique identity with Judaism. It ought to be noted that this was important in Paul's day, inasmuch as Jews had a reputation among the Gentiles for being standoffish (see the comments of Tacitus in this regard) such that Paul surrendering any signs of Jewish identity when evangelizing would be regarded as a gracious, meaningful concession. DDT, however, knows of none of this. Instead, he sees this as an effort by Paul to "uproot the Torah." [68] Really? How so? How can Paul be "uprooting the Torah" with actions performed among people who don't observe it in the first place?

Further on, it becomes clear what the problem is: DDT repeatedly confuses Paul's indications of abrogation of the law as covenant with abrogations of the law as a moral guide. DDT claims that Paul "even abolished the moral components of the law" [74] but makes little serious effort to show this.

The first specific issue raised is that of the Sabbath. A case can be made, yes, that Paul denied the need to observe the Sabbath (eg, Col. 2:14), but this is far from a moral issue. DDT tells us that the Sabbath command "is clearly not a ceremonial law about sacrifice. It is one of the Ten Commandments." [77] What of this? DDT has proposed a fallacious logical progression much like that of the critic in our last issue (see article "Stone Sabbath"). That the Sabbath command is one of the "Big Ten" does not make it a moral imperative for all times, any more than listing women along with oxen in the tenth commandment makes them both "property." Like many misinterpreters, DDT has arbitrarily assigned to the Ten Commandments the category distinction, "things to be observed by everyone loyal to YHWH at all times." But he has failed to show why this category ought to be recognized.

After this, DDT turns from specific moral charges to a claim that Paul teaches a "new morality" based on expediency. But here he commits one of his most significant blunders of the sort one commits without recourse to serious scholarship. He cites 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:23, which both say:
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient...
Unfortunately, rather than consult reputable scholars for an understanding of these passages, DDT cites for interpretative authority a Geocities website by authors who say of themselves:
As the authors of this site and the articles posted here, we would like to be up-front about the fact that we have never been to Bible College or Seminary. We are simply two Christians who are committed to God's Word.
...and radio host Bob George! Sadly, neither of these sources is correct in assuming that these words represent Paul's own views. Rather, as is recognized by serious scholars like Witherington (commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 167), when Paul says the words in bold above, he is quoting back to the Corinthians some of their own "slogans" to which he then replies! The Corinthians had fallen sway to a sort of proto-Gnostic heresy which encouraged libertine behavior because of its indifference to the physical body. These and many other verses (7:1, 8:1, 8:4, 8:8, 15:12) reflect the positions of Paul's opponents, not Paul himself.

That said, what of the specific slogan, "all things are lawful unto me" and Paul's response? Witherington judges that perhaps Paul did say something like this, but that if he did, the Corinthians "misunderstood the implications" of what he said, and the portions following represent a corrective. What of those correctives? DDT reduces these to Paul having a morality of expediency, or morality based on how you feel. DDT specifically criticizes Paul for "expediency" based on the Sabbath issue (on which, see above) and that of eating idol meat (an issue he fully misapprehends; see below). But it must be kept in mind, again, that Paul is replying to a libertine, proto-Gnostic slogan with the main principle of denying the usefulness of the body. Therefore, Paul's reply about what is "expedient" is not about moral expediency, but expediency in terms of what affects the body.

In this as well, it ought to be noted that DDT is working with a definition of "expedient" that equals, "what is advantageous without respect for ethical principles." Once again this is a case of DDT abusing the English connotations while ignoring Greek -- as well as alternate English meanings. "Expedient" has a meaning (as it did in King James' time, and still does today to an extent) of being useful, or better than some alternative. The Greek word used, symphero, has this meaning in other places as well:
Matthew 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Would DDT like to correct Jesus for his "morality of expedience" here? I'd think not. But note that further on, Paul's response fits a context in which it is "more profitable" -- in the same way Jesus says! -- to not sin:
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make [them] the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
In light of this -- which DDT does not quote when he treats the "all things are lawful" portion -- it is absurd for DDT to say that Paul has a system where there are "no strict moral rules to follow." [82] If DDT can't get a rule against eg, fornication out of the above, then the problem may be his own clouded moral vision -- not Paul's!

In a section further on, DDT accuses Paul of denigrating the Law because he says it was "given by angels" (Gal. 3:19) -- which he regards as the "most troubling aspect" of Paul's view of the Law [83]. According to DDT, this is to be paired with Gal. 4:18-19:
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
How's this work? DDT believes that the "elements" are to be read as "angels" and thus "Paul clearly says the Law was not given by God." [84]
Sadly, once again, the serious scholarship confounds DDT's views. As far as the angels bit, I once noted responding to a Jewish anti-missionary site:
The word for "angels" means messengers and this is in line with the NT-era Jewish understanding of Wisdom as a messenger through whom the transcendent God's commands were delivered. Moreover, contemporary Jewish tradition regarded angels as having a "positive role in the giving of the Law (cf. Deut. 32:2 LXX; Ps. 67:18 LXX; Jub. 1:27-29...)" [Witherington, Galatians commentary, 257] and the rabbis also spoke of angels descending at the time the law was given (Pesiq R 21).
So far from being a negative reference, Paul's comments in 3:19 reflect a positive view of Jews of his day. What DDT calls "obvious heresy" was actually an affirmation that God handed down the Law via His own divine hypostasis and/or servants. (It is interesting that he is thereafter also forced to say that Stephen [Acts 7:53] and Hebrews [2:2] are "making a misapplication of Scripture" [92] when they say the same thing. It will not be long before DDT has his own "Jefferson Bible" at this rate!)

But what then of the alleged equation of the "elements" with angels in 4:8-9? DDT claims that "in Jewish thought, elements of the world means angels" but in seeking out his support for this, we find what can only be charitably called an outright misrepresentation of his source. DDT footnotes to a page here which he represents thusly:
One commentator points out that in Greek thought, the reference to "elements of the world....likely [means] celestial beings...
But a check of that page shows that DDT is engaging in selective quoting, for what it says is:
The elemental powers of the world: while the term can refer to the "elements" like earth, air, fire, and water or to elementary forms of religion, the sense here is more likely that of celestial beings that were thought in pagan circles to control the world; cf Gal 4:8; Col 2:8, 20.
It should be noted that not even the "celestial beings" view may be correct; Witherington for example (Galatians commentary, p. 298) ties the word to observances related to the Emperor cult, such that it is the Emperors themselves who are "no gods" and the "principles" refers not to celestial beings, but simply and generally to religious rules such as observing times and seasons (as was done in Judaism as well as paganism). But regardless, DDT has plainly misrepresented -- indeed, lied about -- his source, which does NOT identify the "celestial beings" with the angels of Jewish thought.

DDT cites one other source that allegedly makes this connection, Vincent's Word Studies -- which was first published in the 19th century! But apart from the appalling appeal to such ancient source without looking at anything newer, an online copy shows that DDT can't get that fully reported either. He is all he quotes:
The elements of the world are the personal, elemental spirits. This seems to be the preferable explanation, both here and in Colossians ii. 8. According to Jewish ideas, all things had their special angels. In the Book of Jubilees, chapter 2, appear, the angel of the presence (comp. Isa. lxiii. 9); the angel of adoration; the spirits of the wind, the clouds, darkness, hail, frost, thunder and lightning, winter and spring, cold and heat.
Problem? Vincent goes on to say a heck of a lot more than that! Look:
In the Book of Enoch, lxxxii. 10-14, appear the angels of the stars, who keep watch that the stars may appear at the appointed time, and who are punished if the stars do not appear (xviii. 15). In the Revelation of John we find four angels of the winds (xiv. 18); the angel of the waters (xvi. 5); the age in the sun (xix. 17). In Hebrew i. 7 we read, "who maketh his angels winds." Paul also recognizes elemental forces of the spiritual world. The thorn is "a messenger of Satan" (2 Corinthians xii. 7); Satan prevents his journey to Thessalonica (1 Thess. ii. 18); the Corinthian offender is to be "delivered to Satan" (1 Cor. v. 5); the Kingdom of God is opposed by "principalities and powers" (1 Corinthians xv. 24); Christians wrestle against "the rulers of the darkness of this world; against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the upper regions" (Eph. vi. 12). In this passage the elements of the world are compared with overseers and stewards. This would seem to require a personal interpretation. In verse 8, "did service to them which by nature are no gods," appears to be = "in bondage under the elements," suggesting a personal interpretation of the latter. The Galatians had turned again to the observance of times and seasons (verse 10), which were controlled by the heavenly bodies and their spirits.
So it is that DDT turns what was in fact a broad survey of views of "celestial beings" in various contexts into a specific reading of the Gal. 4:8-9 "elements" as Jewish angels present at the handing down of the law. Vincent does not make that identification; rather, he is broadly explaining why "elements" refers to something personal, and if anything, connects the beings in Gal. 4:8-9 to "the spirits" associated with "heavenly bodies" -- meaning pagan elements. The dishonesty, honestly....is a wonder to behold.

One last point against DDT's identification of these "elements" with Jewish angels. It should be noticed that Paul asks the Galatians if they plan to turn again to those "elements." The Galatians were pagans before they were Christians, not Jews. Therefore, the "elements" could NOT refer to anything of a Jewish nature, because they could not turn again to anything to which they had no adherence before.

In a short section, DDT makes much of the accusation against Paul in Acts that he brought a Gentile (Trophimus) into the Temple -- essentially arguing that because Paul did not ever deny the charge, he must have actually done it! [112-3] DDT parses words rather painfully to arrive at this: "Neither Luke nor Paul ever deny Trophimus profaned the Temple. Instead, both Luke and Paul merely try to deny that there was proof that Paul had brought Trophimus into the prohibited area." It is tempting to say that this is a parsing worthy of an attorney like DDT -- and indeed it is. At the same time, the verses cited (Acts 24:13, 25:8) have Paul or Luke saying that his accusers cannot prove their accusations -- not a specific act.

But now to one of DDT's most enormous beefs....and I do mean BEEF! The accusation: Paul violated the command in Acts telling Gentiles not to eat idol meat by telling them that they could. As DDT puts it: "Paul taught idol meat was perfectly acceptable unless someone else thought it was wrong." [118] Let's look at how he addresses each alleged teaching.

1 Cor. 8.
DDT has misread this passage from the start. As Witherington explains (commentary on Corinthians, 186f), this is again a case where Paul is addressing a specific problem in Corinth, and it again has to do with proto-Gnostic (or perhaps Cynic or Stoic) libertines. It is they-- not Paul, as DDT says -- who were arguing that it was all right to eat sacrificed meat, using the rationale that idols were "nothing." Now note that this forces Paul to walk a tightrope: On the one hand, he can hardly be put into the position of saying that the pagan's gods were legitimate entities, such that the sacrifices had real meaning. He can't deny the force of the libertine's arguments in this regard. On the other hand, he must stand behind a prohibition to eat idol meat. To answer the libertines, Paul presents two arguments. The first is that the sacrifices are unwittingly offered to demons (10:20), so that the libertines are in a sense still wrong: The pagan gods may be frauds, but there are still potentially live beings behind them. Second, he offers the argument that DDT wrongly understands to be an allowance to eat idol meat: You may offend a brother who is weaker. Perversely, DDT turns Paul's admonition around -- from a moral appeal for consideration for one's brothers, into a libertine permission to eat idol food as long as your brothers don't see you do it!

As DDT continues, he yet again attributes to Paul that which was far more likely a quoted slogan of the libertines (eg, 8:8: "But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.") which he in turn answers (8:9: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.") It should be noted that the word for "stumblingblock" is a strong one -- implying that your action may lead your Christian brother into apostasy. Far from being a permission as DDT spins it, 1 Cor. 8 is a very strong warning.

This is the next passage dealt with:
1 Cor. 10:25-28 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof...
From this, it becomes clear that the issue is again somewhat different than DDT makes it out to be. In Acts, the ruling against eating idol meat is made with the presumption that the eater knows that the meat has been offered to an idol. But for food sold in the market, or served at the house of a host -- there is no way to tell what was previously offered to idols and what was not. One hunk of meat looks the same as another! And while some or even most meat came from a temple sacrifice (Witherington, 189) there were all kinds of other foods in the market as well. Indeed, the word used for "meat" does not simply mean beef, but all types of food that might be offered to an idol. There was no telling what was what for sure.

Paul's directive therefore is to eat, until someone tells you the meat was sacrificed to an idol. And of course, that is only sensible, for the food itself has no idolatrous properties; it is the knowledge of the sacrifice that instills those properties.

DDT, however, again presents the matter as though Paul were telling people it was all right to eat meat that they knew was sacrificed to idols, as long as no one was offended. To do so he is compelled to again engage is some rather "lawyerly" exegesis. Paul warns that one cannot eat idol meat and also take communion at the Lord's table. DDT tries to evade the blunt force of this warning by saying that it is "not a flat prohibition on eating idol meat." [123] It isn't? A warning that these two practices are mutually exclusive doesn't equate with prohibiting the one versus the other? I do not believe DDT is speaking the same English language we are.

DDT then misreads (again) a Corinthian libertine slogan as Paul's own words (10:23) before selectively quoting from 10:25-27, as in bold:
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, [that] eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the earth [is] the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you [to a feast], and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake:
DDT does also allude to the purchase of meat in the market and eating at someone's home. But he fails to quote the rest of the passage, and interprets it for the reader as Paul saying, "it is best you not know what you are eating. Don't let your conscience dictate questions about what you are eating. In a sense, Paul believes it is better you not know the meat's origin rather than try to scrupulously avoid eating such meat." [123] This is again a twisting of the lesson: As DDT fails to note, once one knows the food is from idols, Paul issues a flat prohibition.

It is also telling that DDT fails to quote Paul's supporting citation of Ps. 24:1. It is also less than honest to describe Paul's point so as to imply that we are to go about consciously trying to avoid finding out if food has been sacrificed to idols. In the market, there simply was almost no way to do this. Food items were hardly put into bins marked SACRIFICED TO ZEUS TODAY, because the average Roman had no objection to eating such food and required no differentiation.
In the case of eating at someone else's home, there was only one way to know if food was sacrificed to idols -- and that was when your neighbor put it down at the table and made the announcement. In that case, you were hardly in danger of eating idol food in the first place; you'd know before it made it to your mouth. But there is more that DDT misses: To make such announcement means that the host was trying to be sensitive to their guests, in case they did indeed wish to NOT eat idol food (Witherington, 227). It would not then be a case of not knowing you were eating idol food once the meal started; you were being "warned" beforehand. Silence on this point indicated that it was not idol food. Therefore DDT's exegesis is wrong yet again.

In the end, DDT forces himself into an awkward position with 1 Cor. 10. If, as his analysis implies, Paul ought to have told people to find out where the food came from before they ate it, then DDT needs to place himself under similar restrictions. He is obliged to not purchase any product until he is sure that every aspect of the chain of production of that product is pure. He is obliged to ensure that every little old lady he helps across the street has not just come from a shoplifting spree. He is obliged to refrain from giving a vagrant a hot meal until he is sure that they are not wanted by the police. Somehow, though -- I doubt that he does all of this!

In close for this section, it is again most telling that DDT ignores credentialed scholars for his source material, and instead digs deep into the texts of obscure, unknown pastors of local churches who have posted their readings on the Internet. But then again, it should be no surprise that even then, he fails to adequately represent their views. The sermon of a Dr. Peter Barnes that DDT cites, is quoted to the extent of a single paragraph -- while ignoring a few contextualizing points similar to those we note above.

If I may insert an observation based solely on a personal experience....when I was called for jury duty, the pool was told that they only had to consider evidence presented by the attorneys. They could not check the facts our further for themselves. I immediately disliked this -- for it implied that an attorney could willfully refuse to report evidence that convicted their client (or conversely, for prosecutors, exonerated the innocent defendant).
It seems that DDT is much too used to his privilege as an attorney to withhold damning evidence.

DDT is, though, very attentive to passages in Revelation 2 which condemn those who teach Christians the way of Balaam and to "eat things sacrificed to idols." As we have seen, this isn't what Paul taught at all. But there is an oddity in the use of Rev. 2. The churches condemned for allowing such teaching -- Thyatira and Pergamum -- are, as far as we know, without any association with Paul or his teachings. In contrast, the church praised for rejecting this teaching, Ephesus, is one Paul clearly had positive associations with. In addition, it seems strange that Jesus so clearly identifies one responsible group -- the Nicolaitans -- quite clearly, but not Paul. To be sure, DDT does think that Paul is mentioned -- in a very backhanded way.

Nevertheless, DDT force-fits Paul into the Balaam mold, using a method we find familiar from works like Helms' Gospel Fictions and MacDonald's Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark: Essentially, he collapses down descriptions of Paul and Balaam into least common denominators, ignoring differences in their stories. For example, both are a "prophet of God who was changed from an enemy into a friend by an angelic-type vision" while on a road. [132] (And oddly this is once again secretively and slyly placed in the NT by a God who DDT supposes would not rather just make sure Paul was left out of the NT entirely). Let's analyze each of those.
  • "Prophet of God" -- not quite. Paul is never described as a prophet but as an apostle.
  • "Changed from an enemy to a friend" -- not in Balaam's case, no. Balaam was a prophet for hire; his "friend" was whoever had the most cash. He was never changed to a "friend" (he could only prophesy for favor for Israel because he couldn't say anything else) and was paid to be an "enemy".
  • "Angelic-type vision" -- um, not quite. Paul saw Jesus, not an angel; it's clear DDT sees a problem with his match here, as he calls upon a rather obscure idea from one of the (much older) commentaries that the angel seen by Balaam was Jesus. The commentator, John Gill (1697-1771), uses this rather odd reasoning: "...the angel speaking in the same language as God did before to Balaam, Nu 22:20 shows that not a created angel, but a divine Person, is here meant..." Really? So the fact that the angel says the same thing God does ("but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shall thou do") proves the angel is God? There are good reasons why educated people no longer use these commentaries for anything but historical curiosity!
  • "While on a road" -- well, why not also point to differences? Paul was walking; Balaam was on a donkey. Paul was on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians; Balaam was on his way to curse Israel in the wilderness. And so on. But DDT's "parallelomania" is so great that he tries to find a parallel in Balaam's donkey asking why he is being beaten ("Why have you hit me three times?") and Jesus asking Paul why he is persecuting him. [136] Did DTT intend to imply that Jesus is equal to a donkey and that Paul was riding Jesus into Damascus?
When it gets down to it, the only true potential identification that matters is whether Paul indeed taught what the Rev. 2 "Balaam" taught. We have already seen that the "eating idol meat" charge fails. That leaves fornication. Can DDT make a case for Paul teaching people to fornicate? Well, it's rather legalistic, but here is how he does it: In 1 Cor. 7:15, Paul says that when an unbelieving husband leaves a spouse, she is not under bondage to him any more. According to DDT, this means it is fornication if the woman remarries. Say what? Yes. Why? Because Paul didn't say that she needed a certificate of divorce as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5! Yes, that's right. For lack of mention of a piece of paper, Paul was teaching people that it was OK to fornicate (by remarrying after an invalid divorce)! [140]

The pedantic legalism here speaks for itself, but we can say more. DDT's condemnation fails inasmuch as the certificate of divorce was a specifically Jewish practice. In Corinth, in the Greco-Roman world, a person could enact a divorce simply by leaving (or telling the other person to leave). "Walking out" was the functional equivalent of the Jewish divorce certificate. (See Instone-Brewer's Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, 190.)

Thus it is that DDT's attempts to saddle Paul with the "Balaam" label are proven ineffective. His most important argument for leaving Paul to the history of heresy is defused.

A curious sidelight on page 148 is one in which DDT criticizes Paul's doctrine of grace as one which permits unrestrained sin without penalty. But wait -- what about rewards in heaven, then? DDT acknowledges this point, but dismisses it as being "no loss of something you cannot afford to lose" and "no penalty" because you don't lose salvation. "It is not even a set back. You simply do not move ahead," DDT says. [148] His downplaying of the matter notwithstanding, DDT is here talking about one's eternal rewards, and what one will live with forever. Is it "no penalty" to be told that because of your sin, you will spend eternity scrubbing New Jerusalem's toilets, as opposed to doing something far more important?

Briefly, we may note DDT's chapter on salvation in Paul versus salvation as offered by Jesus. Not much needs to be said here, as DDT's lack of understanding is fundamental: He makes much of how "faith" is seldom mentioned in the Gospels [161], but fails to define faith properly as loyalty -- and surely cannot deny that Jesus demanded loyalty from his followers in practice. By the same token DDT thereby fails to understand works as an essential outworking of true faith, and so wrongly accuses Paul of offering a cheap grace, and of reading into Paul the idea that a "one-time belief in certain facts saves you." [170] Paul and his contemporaries would say: "No, that belief of yours would result in you acting a certain way, if you truly believed it."

27 comments:

  1. Can a will/testament/covenant be changed AFTER the death of the testator? Absolutely not!

    If Yeshua came 'to destroy all power, dominion and authority,' then why would you follow any
    other religious authority?

    There are 12 foundations to the NEW JERUSALEM/BRIDE of Christ in Rev 21, not 13. The number 13 represents apostasy.

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    1. I can see you're a loony, so let me break this gently and advise you to take your meds before reading this.

      1) No one "changed" any will or testament. Rather, a new covenant was offered.

      2) No one is "following" Paul as a primary religious authority any more than anyone is "following" Peter or James. All play the same role as someone like Elijah of Elisha -- a covenant broker.

      3) What's your point? No one, not even Paul, claims to be one of the Twelve. You might as well object to James being one of the NT authors, or Jude.

      4) "13 represents apostasy"? Really? What cereal box did you get that little slice of ignorance off of?

      Del Tondo males big bucks off of unthinking suckers like you.

      Now address the arguments made in the post instead of going off into outer space.

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    2. "I can see you're a loony, so let me break this gently and advise you to take your meds before reading this."

      That response, that opening prefacing remark, spoke volumes more about who you are, your position, where you are coming from, than all your reasoning and logic. It is the fruit by which you are known.

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    3. Your fake-pious boo-hoo victim response, without engaging my four reply points, speaks volumes more about who del Tondo's sucker fans are, their position, where they are coming from, and why they have to use a victim complex as an excuse to reject reasoning and logic they can't refute.

      It is the fruit by which you are known -- namely, BANANAS! :D

      Delete
    4. I am not a follower of Paul for my own reasons. That does not make me a "Del Tondo fan", or part of any 'anti-Paul movement'. That was your knee-jerk assumption.

      I also did not come here to judge an exegetical gymnastics meet, or engage in the nauseatingly pedantic scripture (or personal) bashing. I agreed with many things that you wrote, but these don't affect my own views as to why I see Paul as someone that I need not follow or imitate in order to gain entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      As a child I was drawn to Jesus - by Jesus alone. Not John the Baptist, not His apostles or anyone in the Old Testament, and not by any careful exegesis or scholarly understanding. The draw for me was the unprecedented, unparalleled power of all the sayings attributed to Jesus while in the flesh. I know that voice, and it is the only one that I follow. For me, other voices can only clarify or obscure, affirm or deny, with no primary draw.

      I was genuinely surprised later in life - dumbfounded even - to learn that there were so many who professed to follow Jesus Christ -- but did not believe they needed to obey His sayings. Their profession of faith was in the "Jesus whom Paul preacheth" – as understood by them. I had learned from Jesus first, and could only affirm the truth of His sayings by following them. Nothing I ever read in Paul's words ever lead me to anything close to their conclusions, and I wanted to know why.

      So what is a better metric for judging Paul's theology/eschatology: how it is viewed in the minds of a few leading contemporary biblical scholars - Wenham 1945-, Wright 1948-, and Witherington 1951- (WWW), or the net effect of Paul's words throughout the past two millennia based on how they have been received and practiced by hundreds of millions of his other followers and imitators? And don't think that I am here to disparage their scholarship. I am not. I appreciate very much the actual scholarly work that they do, all of their over-riding theology or personal conclusions notwithstanding. I ask because the vast majority of these people's lives, which matter as much as anyone else, preceded our highly esteemed WWW, and so they could not have benefited in any way therefrom.

      Christianity on the whole (mostly Pauline) is a complex, chronically heterogeneous and historically ever-shifting hodge-podge of oft-conflicting belief systems. What does this condition reflect best: Paul as produced by the exegetical scholarly machinations that are required to see him accurately, or Paul as generally received at large, sans rigorously academic corrective lenses?
      You focus above on what you see as the 'real' intent and contextualized meanings behind Paul's words, which are, admittedly, as oft misunderstood as they are difficult to understand. Paul's real intent, however, pales to nothingness in relevance when compared to the net effect his words now have, and have had on so many others throughout history.

      Jesus taught that a true test is one’s fruits - what he gathers - the net effects of his words and deeds. For me that is the only meaningful metric by which Paul or anyone else can be known; not how he can be reckoned once his intent is discerned through the fine-filtering by even the most unbiased and careful of scholars. I myself, in fact, find that I can reconcile most of Paul's words with Jesus', but only upon extremely careful examination and contextualization, as you have also shown must be done. Only then can I say that I can't not say that I don't disagree with my beloved brother Paul on many things. As you concede of Paul, and I agree, "...it takes a great deal of careful study to avoid misreading him", and that makes it a defining characteristic.

      The net effect of Paul's words appears to be the polar opposite of what the Father in Heaven accomplished through Jesus in the flesh, as Paul on the surface reveals only to the wise and prudent things which are hidden from babes.

      Caveat infantes.

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    5. >>> am not a follower of Paul for my own reasons. That does not make me a "Del Tondo fan", or part of any 'anti-Paul movement'.

      Sure, Stevie. Use any excuse you can to avoid defending your views after they get shredded. :D

      >>>>I also did not come here to judge an exegetical gymnastics meet, or engage in the nauseatingly pedantic scripture (or personal) bashing.

      In other words, you can't defend your views where you allegedly disagree. Again.


      >>> Not John the Baptist, not His apostles or anyone in the Old Testament, and not by any careful exegesis or scholarly understanding.

      Thank you for admitting that ignorance was a chief factor in your conversion.

      >>> I know that voice, and it is the only one that I follow. For me, other voices can only clarify or obscure, affirm or deny, with no primary draw.

      Sure. Stevie. Joseph Smith and the Mormons say the same thing. So do numerous other cults. Worthless and subjective criteria like that are at the heart of all heresy.

      >>So what is a better metric for judging Paul's theology/eschatology: how it is viewed in the minds of a few leading contemporary biblical scholars - Wenham 1945-, Wright 1948-, and Witherington 1951- (WWW), or the net effect of Paul's words throughout the past two millennia based on how they have been received and practiced by hundreds of millions of his other followers and imitators?

      The scholars. Not what stupid people do by misusing Paul's words.Peter warned about that in the first century, but the warning doesn't take hold with the uneducated and ignorant, who prefer instead to say they hear voices in their heads telling them what to do.

      >>>And don't think that I am here to disparage their scholarship. I am not. I

      Yes you are, and you just did.

      >>> I ask because the vast majority of these people's lives, which matter as much as anyone else, preceded our highly esteemed WWW, and so they could not have benefited in any way therefrom.

      And that has zero to do with the truth of the matter. Arguing otherwise is reflective of a childish mindset.

      >>>What does this condition reflect best: Paul as produced by the exegetical scholarly machinations that are required to see him accurately, or Paul as generally received at large, sans rigorously academic corrective lenses?

      Once again, the former. The intellectual convulsions of the profoundly stupid are not an argument.

      >>> Paul's real intent, however, pales to nothingness in relevance when compared to the net effect his words now have, and have had on so many others throughout history.

      Again, childishness. I just this past week dealt with an idiot atheist who blamed Matthew 27:25 for historic anti-Semitism, and the persecution of Jews. So you want to dump Matthew? By the time you're done, you'll have nothing left in your Bible but James 1:1.

      >>>>Jesus taught that a true test is one’s fruits - what he gathers - the net effects of his words and deeds. For me that is the only meaningful metric by which Paul or anyone else can be known;

      Well, miseducated person, what you're judging is not Paul's fruit, but the fruit of people who read his words -- and misunderstood them. That's a highly intelligent and responsible approach.

      >>> I myself, in fact, find that I can reconcile most of Paul's words with Jesus', but only upon extremely careful examination and contextualization,

      Precisely. Which makes it all the more foolish to blame Paul.

      >>>The net effect of Paul's words appears to be the polar opposite of what the Father in Heaven accomplished through Jesus in the flesh, as Paul on the surface reveals only to the wise and prudent things which are hidden from babes.

      And where in Jesus' words do you find the admonition, "stay stupid"?

      Delete
    6. I just realized you didn't really read what I wrote, and you are not really addressing me at all. You're all verbal fistacuffs, a real life Don Quixote, having fashioned a romanticized version of your own vain knowledge into an ad hominem coated sword with which you slay all the 'stupid' windmills. You're like Rain Man, reciting Who's On First by heart without the slightest idea of what any of it means.

      Take care.

      Delete
    7. Like I said -- take any excuse you can to justify your continued ignorance and inability to defend your views. It's your only option.

      Joseph Smith has a room waiting for you.

      Delete
    8. "If the law is still valid as is, you have to follow all of it as it is. No excuses. You have to do Temple sacrifices. You have to put a rail around your roof. No contextualizing is allowed."

      Your "no contextualizing allowed" prohibition is a logical absurdity born of your own imagination.

      The destruction of the Jerusalem temple took away the ability to continue with temple sacrifices, not the validity of the law, nor the ability to fulfill the law. Jesus showed others the way to fulfill the whole law by observing much higher standards of attitude and behavior than what the letter of the law required.

      "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." (Matthew 12:7)

      "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)

      Mercy does not rob justice because as a fundamental requirement of the original law and covenant, mercy is justice. With it the law is fulfilled, with no sacrifice required.

      Saying that the Mosaic law is still valid as it is does not mean that it must all be followed to the letter. For example, I don’t own any slaves, literally or figuratively speaking, so the letter of the law concerning slaves does not apply to me. Gentile disciples are only under those commandments given by the apostles (abstinence from meats offered to idols, blood, things strangled, and fornication).

      In addition, I am under Jesus’ (higher) commandments:

      "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28: 19-20)

      Thus, I am to observe all the same sayings and commandments given by Jesus to his Jewish disciples. And while I am not under the Mosaic law, I am under a higher law, given by the Father through Jesus, which fulfills it.

      Do you believe, as Paul alone claimed, that he was chosen by God to be the apostle to the gentiles, with agreement from the Chosen Twelve that they would tend to the circumcision with a message intended only for the Jewish disciples? If you believe that such a division of the flock took place, say so directly, and if you would like we can discuss it.

      Gentiles are now on the King's wedding feast invitation list, which has been vastly broadened to include them. But it is not a new feast, nor is any new law being fulfilled by observing Jesus' sayings. The requirements for attending the feast are the same as they always were, and under the same law that existed in the beginning. The higher Way to fulfilling the law and the prophets has simply been revealed, by the Father through Jesus; first to the Chosen, then to the Gentile babes (while hidden from others).

      Jesus fulfilled both the letter and the spirit of the law and the prophets, including prophecies that were specifically about Him which no other could fulfill. However, many others have fulfilled and continue to fulfill the spirit of the entire law as it relates to their own righteousness, justification and ultimate salvation, without the letter of the Mosaic law, long before and long after Jesus' mortal ministry.

      If you are forgiving and merciful, you will receive forgiveness and mercy. When that happens the law and the prophets are fulfilled, with no sacrifice required.

      Without mercy there is no love, and therefore no fulfilling of the first two great commandments upon which all the law and the prophets depend. Without mercy, there is no justification, no salvation, and no entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

      Those who are neither forgiving nor merciful, but still believe that they are saved for entrance into the kingdom of heaven on the basis of faith and belief in Jesus' sacrifice and God's unilateral mercy alone on their behalf are the ones who paint themselves into a terrible corner. In the absence of forgiveness and mercy on their parts toward others, their faith is dead and in vain.

      Delete
    9. >>>>Your "no contextualizing allowed" prohibition is a logical absurdity born of your own imagination.

      No, it's a problem with del Tondo's logic, period.

      >>The destruction of the Jerusalem temple took away the ability to continue with temple sacrifices,

      Too bad, Dougie will just have to build a new Temple, or else he goes to hell. That's where his position takes him, whether he (or you) likes it or not.

      >>Saying that the Mosaic law is still valid as it is does not mean that it must all be followed to the letter.

      Already answered in the above. DDT doesn't make any such distinctions, so either he is a crappy teacher who is ranting at Paul for doing something he does himself, or he needs to build a Temple if he doesn't want to go to hell. Take your pick.

      Rest of sermon = irrelevant and boring. And stop sending your kissy buddies here to whine about the lashing you're deservedly getting.

      Delete
    10. And one more thing, Small Steve:

      "Do you believe, as Paul alone claimed, that he was chosen by God to be the apostle to the gentiles, with agreement from the Chosen Twelve that they would tend to the circumcision with a message intended only for the Jewish disciples?"

      Only a profound idiot looking for problems takes Paul's comment in that regard as exclusionary to such a degree. Only an even more profound idiot would think this equated with some sort of radical bifurcation in their messages, as opposed to having to do with such things as evangelism starting points, of the sort recognized as widely necessary by mission organizations today, who don't think a message that works in urban Detroit will work the same in rural Siberia. But maybe you're not bright enough to get that it would be profoundly stupid for Paul to have evangelized the Areopagus using Old Testament proof texts.

      Poor contextual readings like yours exemplify the consistent failures of Paul haters.

      Delete
    11. Forget it, Stevie. Those last two posts were so full of bullcrap that it's a waste of time to correct you. For every error of yours I slap down you make ten more in their place. Your whole post is full of decontextualized, fundamentalist/extremist-literalist readings that do zero justice to the range of semantic expression of first century Biblical peoples. That's the kind of intellectual bankruptcy it takes to be a Paul hater like you, and to say things like:

      "Paul's comments seemed to be written quite clearly, and in this case not difficult to understand at all. It does not require a genius scholar to parse what he said."

      Yeah, actually, it does, Mr. Non-Genius. Go salve your damaged self-esteem with these words from Peter:

      "He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people like Steve distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."

      And here's a closing example of why you're so ignorant:

      "whoever these people are that you are censoring"

      Good night you are stupid. ONLY a government body can "censor," you jackass. A private entity MODERATES. You think it's censorship, call these people and report me:

      http://ncac.org/

      and let me know how hard they laugh in your face! :D

      Delete
    12. Sure, Stevie. Orgs like NCAC are just engaged in "semantics" and an everyday moron like you is the real authority for how to define "censorship". :D Typical arrogance of the type required to be a Paul hater, especially since knowing how intelligent Paul is makes you feel so bad about yourself.

      See me on theologyweb.com and prove you're not a coward. Lots more people will see me smack you down there. :)

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  2. Thank you. I had fallen silent for a time and found sites on the fakeness of Paul. This has made my comeback extremely hard. I was about to remove all of Pauls works but will now rethink this. Times are confusing enough to have doubt to scripture. Why is there such a movement in these end times against Pauls writings? Are we being tested? Is it the sorting of the goats and the sheep? Thanks again for your words. I will power on in the spirit as best I can. God bless you. Gareth

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    1. Glad to be of help. I think the matter is summed up well by Peter where he says that Paul's works are sometimes hard to understand. Because of that, people like del Tondo -- with a bit of laziness as part of the problem too -- would rather give up on him than be real disciples.

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  3. J.P Holding: my first thought after reading the discourse between you and Steven Lawrence is that you strike me as a full time jerk. You get the prize for Classic Contemptuous Person.

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    1. boerfarmer:: my first thought after reading your whiny comment is that you strike me as a frustrated child who can't answer the arguments and so resorts to pretend offense. You get the prize for Classic Uneducated Nitwit..

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  4. All you kissy buddies of Steve can stop posting your crybaby whines. They will all be rejected. Either make an argument or stop wasting my time.

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  5. Thank you for your address of the works of DDT (i.e., poison). I came across his site, and am glad to learn I'm not the only one who sees him as a false teacher.

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  6. “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:21-24 (HCSB)
    Mr Holding, i have this concern for you. You repeatedly deride others here in contradiction to the teaching of Jesus on murder. I ask you to acknowledge your error, apologise, correct derogatory naming and remarks (including calling someone a poison - DDT), and go on without transgressing Jesus teachings in this way again.

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    1. Get an education, moron;

      http://www.tektonics.org/lp/namecallfool.php

      And shut up. Mindless "Christians: like you are why I'm suffering right now.

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  7. Paul is a liar. You either follow his words or follow jesus. It's not rocket science here folks. Del tondo obviosly did his homework. I can't understand how any one who reads the bible can not see this like a beacon in the night. I think the biggest issue is that people don't want to admit they have been deceived. I was hurt too when I discovered I was lied to my whole life. I knew this before I read del tondods book. I read it to confirm what I already knew. The world has been lead astray by this false prophet. Jesus warned that this would happen. The problem is everyone thinks they are smart enough to spot a false prophet when they hear one. Satan is intelligent cunning and very deceiving. He sowed the bad seed in with the good and now we have to sort through the weeds.he spins everything to sound good but when you really get to the heart of his message you realize he is altering the truth. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. I believe that whole heartedly. Any one who follows Paul instead of Jesus is going to have some answering to do one day. Hopefully it won't be to late.God bless. Carrie t

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    1. So you have this deluded idea that simply bawling back del Tondo's refuted ideas is an argument? Try to advance from "A" to "B" please.

      Delete
  8. J.P Holding - aside from the "bawling back to" hyperbole, you kind of lost when you wrote, "del Tondo's refuted ideas", as if your dismissals count as objective, let alone canon, or a final word. You're not even going from "A" to "B" - your far more circular in your non-reasoning.

    Carrie, I couldn't agree with you more. Like you, I read Del Tondo and other witnesses to see where they agree on things that I already know. If any new enlightenment comes from it, all the better. Jesus spoke clearly about Paul and others like him - only he did speak through Paul, or "the Jesus whom Paul preacheth".

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    1. Stevie wanna cracker?

      Sorry, your parrot imitation was just that good.

      Delete
  9. Did I just get treated to some of that amazing "smack down" you seem to live and stand for more than anything else in life? I'll take it. And the cracker, thank you.

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    1. Not hard when you have HIT ME tattooed on your forehead. Here, have a whole box of crackers. Eat them all at once.

      http://www.crackers365days.com/images/cracker_box.png

      Delete