I just spent an hour on my deck enjoying a fine cigar and reading the first 40 pages of Paul W Sharkey’s “The Gospel According to Paul: The Apathetic Agnostic”. I barely spent as much on this outstanding book as I did on that fine cigar. My money was well spent on both!
I cannot overstate the wealth of extensively researched, well thought out, and masterfully presented material contained within these first three chapters of Sharkey’s work. I anxiously look forward to continuing my read; but after completing the third Chapter (“Paul Who?”); I already feel compelled to write my thoughts regarding the material I have read thus far.
My enthusiastic endorsement of Sharkey’s material says quite a bit, if for no other reason than the differences of opinion that I have with his views regarding certain relatively insignificant personal perspectives: a) I don’t believe in the historical Jesus; whereas Sharkey seems to; b) I don’t believe in the historicity of Paul; whereas Sharkey seems to; c) subsequently, I don’t regard any of “the Pauline letters” as being authentic; Sharkey seems to adopt the general position of modern scholarship that 7 of the Pauline letters were actually written by Paul.
So why would I endorse Sharkey’s material; when he and I differ on these perspectives regarding Jesus and Paul?
Basically because these differing views seem minor in the light of our common thinking with regards to: a) the nature of the NT literature itself (I highly recommend his sections on the theories of “Biblical Literalism” and “Biblical Inerrancy”; pp 17-19); b) due consideration given to non-canonical Gospels (I furthermore recommend his sections on “Non Canonical Gospels”, including such writings as “The Testimony of Judas” and “The Testimony of Thomas”; pp 19-23); and c) his theories regarding the influence of the Pauline material on Christianity as we know it today (See Chapter 3: “Paul Who?”; pp 27-39.)
One of the most profound features that appeals to me regarding Sharkey’s style is his most capable and timely utility of the good old fashioned thought provoking QUESTION!!
Just to cite a few of his questions which I have already highlighted in my own personal copy of Sharkey’s book:
“Dare we question the truth of the Gospels? Why not?” (p. 16)
“So, how should the Gospels be understood? Literally?” (p. 17)
“Who authorized the King James Version of the Bible?” (p. 17)
“What difference might it make if we were to consider the testimony of any of these other gospels?” (with reference to the non-canonical gospels; p. 21)
“Is the moral to the story of the gospel one of incompleteness with things unfulfilled and the indefinite expectation of things yet to come or is it one of definitive fulfillment, already whole and complete? What difference does it make?” (p 25; this question directly relates to the section on “The Testimony of Thomas; pp 22-23)
“What does Paul say about himself in his own words?” (p. 28)
“what are some of the other things people think they “know” about him (Paul), but really don’t?” p. 29
“Did Paul have an agenda and if so, what might it have been?” (p. 34)
“Must we have faith in Paul before we can have faith in Jesus?” (p. 37)
“What was his (Paul’s) real personal motivation or agenda in preaching the resurrection?” (p. 40)
If your curiosity is as peaked by any or all of these most pertinent and thought provoking questions as mine has been; then I sincerely suggest you do as I have wisely done: BUY THE BOOK!! (It hardly cost any more than a halfway decent cigar; and won’t harm your health; though it just might expand some intellectual horizons!!!)