Talk:Paul the Apostle

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Historical vs. Biblical record[edit]

Most of the Wikipedia articles on the apostles and evangelists (authors of the Gospels and some of the other New Testament chapters) have the same huge problem. They don't clearly distinguish between the Biblical accounts and the non-Biblical historical accounts. I can see some attempts at establishing clarity, but most of these articles barren back and forth between Biblical sources, extra-Biblical Christian traditions, and the historical record. Consequently, almost all of these articles are messy and confusing.

Many of the people who work on these articles have sincere Christian faith and consider the Bible a legitimate historical document. Some also like to cite "extra-Biblical Christian tradition." Other editors, me included, have little or no confidence in the Bible, or extra-Biblical Christian traditions, as legitimate historical records. It seems to me there are only two good solutions to this problem. One is two have two separate articles for the important apostles and evangelists. Paul the Apostle (Biblical) and Paul the Apostle (historical). The other is to divide each article into two major sections -- Biblical and Historical. The sections should be clearly marked and consistent from one article to another.

In many cases, the Historical section would be quite short. "Biblical scholars agree the author of this gospel is unknown. Outside of the Bible and extra-Biblical Christian traditions, dating to the X Century, there is no historical record of X's life." That sort of thing. In my opinion, these sections in each article are essential for clarity and authority.2602:306:CDB2:4860:3435:1C9E:D02F:DE6A (talk) 19:34, 4 April 2015 (UTC)

As you correctly point out, there is no historical record apart from the Bible (>95%) and Christian tradition for this topic (Paul the apostle). However, you seem to suggest that biblical sources have no historical value. The vast majority of scholars today would disagree. It is almost universally accepted among historians that the Bible contains at least seven letters that were written by Paul himself (see Pauline epistles), and these are therefore excellent sources to learn about the life of Paul. The book of Acts, which is the other major biblical source for Paul's life is widely accepted to have been written by a contemporary of Paul, and although considered less reliable than Paul's own letters, it is undisputed that its author was well-informed about Paul's career. Obviously, biblical material is critically evaluated by scholars, just like any other historical documents. If you think that there is too little critical discussion of the biblical accounts, please help improve the article by adding such material or point out specific instances where this is required. However, it makes no sense to separate 'historical' from 'biblical' sources, because the New Testament books are exactly that: ancient documents, mostly from the first century, which contain lots of valuable information that modern historians use to learn about e.g. the life of Paul. - Lindert (talk) 20:58, 4 April 2015 (UTC)
The authorship and reliability of Acts are major problems in historical criticism. If these works are truly such great sources for modern historians, then per WP:SECONDARY we should be able to cite such historians for the conclusions they reach, not Acts itself (or for that matter, the Pauline epistles). QVVERTYVS (hm?) 21:27, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

"Other editors, me included, have little or no confidence in the Bible, or extra-Biblical Christian traditions, as legitimate historical records."

Despite the fact that over 5,000 manuscripts of the New Testament exist? Compared to a scant handful for contemporaneous works such as Tacitus, Plutarch, and so forth? If you don't have confidence in the reliability of the Biblical account, especially the New Testament, then I would suggest doing a little research on your own on the topic. The more you dig into Biblical archaeology the more you will find that the New Testament is an exceptionally reliable historical record.

This touches another pet peeve of mine, which is that folks such as this editor have no problem with the authenticity of Tacitus, Cicero, Plutarch, Virgil, and so on, but when it comes to the New Testament, which is incredibly well-documented, a different and probably impossible-to-meet standard is applied. Why two different standards, one for the New Testament and another for all the other works of the same period? Tpkatsa (talk) 21:08, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Guys, WP:NOTFORUM. WP:CITE WP:Reliable sources (and WP:No original research). And we usually treat Tacitus et al as primary sources, only to be cited to verify quotations rather than for independent claims. Ian.thomson (talk) 21:21, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Indeed, there are problems throughout this article and I was quite surprised for one of this length not to be shaped correctly. There are numerous places where neutral point of view has been abandoned. To name just a couple: "tools which he later would use to effectively spread the Gospel and to establish the church solidly in many parts of the Roman Empire". It's clear to historians that Paul pre-existed the gospels as he never quotes them or directly mentions them. If the word "gospel" is being used differently it should be thusly noted, as well as how the word "church" is used, since Christianity was a Judaic sect at the time and not a separate religion (nor the religion that would be established a century later). It's also not neutral to describe his "conversion" when that would not have been the thusly-defined concept at the time. Whatever happened to him on the road to Damascus, the result was his decision to switch from persecution to support. If that's what's meant by "conversion" it should be noted. In the descriptions of Saul as Pharisaic it's not distinguished that Rabbinical-Pharisaic tradition didn't exist yet, and how the term is being used. From the first paragraph on the Pharisee page: "In 70 CE Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (the term 'Judaism' today almost always refers to Rabbinic Judaism)". This conflicts with the statement that his family "had been very attached to Pharisaic traditions and observances for generations". And, Acts may say he was trained at an Hillel school but historians have long pointed out that the writings most likely to be Pauline come purely from the Hellenistic tradition and not the Rabbinical. There are a dozen other non-encyclopedic-type problems. Entire sections read like they were cut/pasted from a religious website.Tangverse (talk) 00:18, 23 June 2015 (UTC)