Carr-Paul, trauma, and zeal

David M. Carr in Holy Resilience treats Paul as the traumatized apostle.

Some of his points do not convince me.

He tries to suggest that Paul’s christiopanies (appearances of Christ and visions)were trauma-related. He points especially to the vision recounted in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, which he suggests may be a doublet of the Damascus resurrection experience.  Thus, Paul’s visions would be like some dreams that trauma victims experience.

One problem with this is that even on a chronology that excludes the order of Acts, the 14-years-before-2 Corinthians vision does not come close to Paul’s Damascus experience, which had to be in the mid 30s.  2 Corinthians is mid 50s.

Also it does not take seriously that Paul put his resurrection experience on a par with the experiences of Peter, James and other witnesses.  There was something that united these experiences and counted against them being individual, subjective events.

So, no, I didn’t find anything in this chapter to resolve my concern about how Carr seems to treat the resurrection (see my remarks at the end of my last post).

However, Carr’s notion that Paul was haunted by the memory of having persecuted the church is more solid.

In trauma studies there is a discussion of distinctions between those traumatized exclusively by ways they were acted upon by perpetrators and those haunted not only by violence to themselves but also by horrific acts of violence they have inflicted by [perhaps this is a typo for “on”] others (Chapter 10, footnote 8).

So Paul’s experience seems similar to that of war veterans who are haunted by the killing and brutality they both experienced and acted out.  (Once I asked a WW II veteran to accept a leadership role in the church.  He declined and told me that he felt what he had done in the war, 35 years before, disqualified him.)

Paul always remembered his persecution of the church and told his story as divided by before and after that time, as trauma survivors often do.  This led to Paul repudiating his former zeal for the Torah and adopting a new zeal for an unprecedented monotheistic mission making a stripped-down Judaism open to Gentile converts.

During this mission he suffered new traumas.  Perhaps he suffered from a recurring physical infirmity.  But he also tells how he experienced beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, opposition, and constant anxiety.  Paul came to interpret these sufferings as solidarity with the suffering and cross of Jesus.   He extended this solidarity to his converts, calling on them also to imitate Jesus.   So the “trauma of the cross and Paul’s own trauma became a paradigm for Christian living in general” (p. 191).

Finally, Carr compares Paul to Hosea.  When Carr discussed Hosea, it was as the last Israelite whose monotheism was then taken up by Judah after Israel disappeared.  So Paul’s Jewish identity worked to pave the way for a non-Jewish church.  Hosea enabled Judeans to take up the Israelite identity.  Paul enabled Christians to take up an identity and heritage from Judaism and the Hebrew Bible.

Carr might be accused of replacement theology here.  But it is unclear how far he wants to take the notion that as Hosea’s national identity was replaced by Judah, so Paul’s religious identity was replaced by Christianity.  He discusses these ideas under the heading of the contradictions in Paul.  Paul’s contradictions, including his being a Jew who founded a Gentile church, continue to haunt Christianity.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Bible, Early Church, Paul and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Carr-Paul, trauma, and zeal

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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