Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)
TITLE: The hog-herd scrolls
By Helen Paynter
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On a Thursday afternoon, in July 2005, a pig-herder in Southern Palestine stumbled upon a clay pot on a ledge in a cave. Fortunately for the world, one of his pigs knocked it off and sat on it, revealing its contents to the light of day for the first time in almost 2000 years. Thus was made a startling discovery: the draft of a letter intended for the Apostle Paul, complete except for a few fragments. After the mud and hog-bristles were removed, experts examined and authenticated it. It is here reproduced in faithful translation.
Abigail, wife of Joseph, teacher in Galatia.
To Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ.
I am shocked by the letter which you have written behind my husband’s back to the church in Galatia. I feel it is necessary that I write, in love, and challenge it.
How long did you stay in Galatia? It is all very well buzzing in and making a big noise, but what happens when you leave? My dear husband, seizing the oppo– seeing the need, rose to the challenge and willingly stepped into the role of teacher to the Galatian church which you had abandoned.
Now, you say that the gospel which my husband teaches is no gospel at all. But I say to you – it is not intended to be a gospel. Quite frankly, he was busy enough untangling the mess you had made, without trying to con them that there was good news to be had.
You see, you can’t just swan in and tell everyone that they don’t have to live by laws any more. Laws are what make us human. People who don’t have laws are – well, I know you’d say we have become sons of God, but that’s not the point. People need rules. Who’s going to tell them what to do, otherwise? God living in their hearts? What a ridiculous notion!
You also say that a man is not justified by keeping the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. But my husband (and I’m sure he is right) teaches that this is nonsense. How can anyone please God if they don’t keep the Jewish law in all its points? That, Oh great apostle to the Gentiles, is what you have entirely failed to realise. Have you even read Moses? These Gentiles need to become Jews so that they can please God. It was very sweet of you to come and tell the pagans about God, but you need to understand that you didn’t finish the story. My husband had a lot of straightening out to do after you left.
My husband says the most important error is summed up in two phrases from your letter. ‘Before faith came we were held prisoners by the law,’ and, ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.’ I mean, can’t you see how dangerous all this is? It would destabilise the natural order of society. Can you imagine what the world would look like if people actually believed that? You’d have condemned men whistling on their way to the scaffold. You’d have masters setting their slaves free. You’d have respectable middle class people giving away all they possessed to chase freedom in Christ. And, as you even admit in your letter, it would tear down the dividing wall between Jew and Greek, man and woman, slave and free. Can you imagine a society where that happened? You do see now how ludicrous it all is, don’t you?
So, in summary, you can take your gospel and shove it… [text fragmented at this point]
Anyway, I thought I’d send you a gentle reproof in love to set matters straight. Please don’t go on writing these inflammatory letters. And while I’m sure there’s no need for you to stop your evangelistic efforts altogether, perhaps it would be helpful for you to get some good teaching first. I’m sure if you paid us a visit, my husband would be willing to explain it to you.
It is to be regretted that the discovery was not made before the Council of Carthage in AD 397, in which case it would undoubtedly have been incorporated into the canon. Some say, ‘Pigs might fly’. But the doubt remains: since the pot containing the scroll was standing on a ledge five feet high, perhaps they already have.
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