Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Socratic Methodology in Corinthians?

Posted by nhilton on September 26, 2007

Scripture is an example of optimal teaching. Paul was an exemplary teacher. Paul, as well as many other scriptural authors, used what I’m terming the Socratic Method as he taught. An example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 as Paul teaches the Corinthians about the diversity of spiritual gifts. Many other examples of this methodology are found throughout the LDS cannon of scripture, including Korihor, the Antichrist. :)

As I approach teaching Paul’s letters in Gospel Doctrine class, I’m immediately struck by my own inadequacy as a teacher in comparison to the skill of the author who’s work I’m attempting to “teach.” Ironic, indeed. However, it is exactly Paul’s teaching expertise that I would like to model after so that gospel doctrine is understood and “owned” by the students—Me, being the primary student!

Paul was no dummy. His education qualified him in unique and powerful ways to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. (Is there any better use for education or any better motivation for attaining it?) Some of Paul’s unique qualifications include:

  • speaking, reading and writing of several languages
  • in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament
  • cultural education and experience
  • educated in philosophy
  • educated in oratory

Can you think of any more?

If I’m to be an effective teacher, using Paul as my model, I must reach for a similar education. On Sunday I’m starting with the Socratic Method. Why? According to one researcher, using the Socratic Method enables the student to draw truth from within themselves, as seen in this experiment in teaching binary arithmetic to third graders. This method seems compatible for teaching the gospel and it clearly was since Paul and other gospel writers have done the same.

This post is intended to get you thinking about teaching methods modeled in the scriptures and how we might, as co-teachers of the scriptures, utilize these models. Additionally, it is intended to motivate us to actually use these tried and true methods in our own teaching efforts whether it’s in a gospel classroom or a man-on-the-street missionary experience. Have you ever employed these teaching methods? If so, you’re invited to share your experience here.

46 Responses to “Socratic Methodology in Corinthians?”

  1. aquinas said

    If you would like an illustration of the Socratic Method used in the context of a religious topic I think this post offers a good example.

  2. mjberkey said

    Ha! I thought this was a blog about Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Socratic Method.

  3. Joe Spencer said

    Nannette, you’ve got me wanting to say so many things at once…

    First off, I was interested to see how your list of Paul’s qualifications differed from the one that I would have come up with. While I certainly would have mentioned the first two, I don’t think I would have mentioned the others at all, and I would have included things like: absolute audacity; a thorough understanding of the meaning of the Spirit; an almost obsessive desire to further the work; a careful lexicon and an awareness of the implications of simple words; etc.

    But now getting down to the business of the Socratic method. Technically speaking, Paul does not at all use Socratic method: one simply can’t use Socratic method in an epistle, since it requires that the interlocutor do half the talking. In fact, the Socratic method cannot at all proceed without the answers of the interlocutor because Socrates’ whole point was to allow the presuppositions of the interlocutor, whatever they were, come into conflict with each other so that he could force them through an aporia, on the other side of which the interlocutor—it was to be hoped—would see the ethical consequences of his (they were always male, unless I’m forgetting something; Diotima, of course, used the method on Socrates, rather than vice versa) presuppositions. Hence, the position and responses of the interlocutor are absolutely necessary to the Socratic method, and Paul does not allow for this.

    Now, one could say that Plato and Paul are to be compared: Plato is the one arranging the dialogue, and Paul certainly poses questions on behalf of a kind of pretend interlocutor. But I think the difference is of some importance: Paul orchestrates the dialogue far more than Socrates (if there is a Socrates) does.

    As it turns out, this point is vital for understanding Socrates in two ways that make this still less applicable to Paul (just wait: I’m getting to the important point still). First, for Socrates, the point of the elenchus (the dialogue itself) is to disrupt the abstract by the reality of the concrete, to show that the ethical calls the metaphysical into question. That is, by getting someone to talk, the teacher (midwife, as Socrates calls her/him) effectively allows the interlocutor to realize (through painful delivery) that he or she is doing violence to others. Does it go without saying that Paul is hardly concerned with these questions of violence, that such a focus on violence is profoundly Greek or Jewish, and Paul sees the gospel of Christ as breaking with both of these identities?

    Second, the universal applicability of the Socratic method is directly related, for Plato but I think necessarily, to a particular metaphysical interpretation of the world: it works precisely because we knew the forms in some kind of pre-mortal encounter. In other words, we can be taught “from within ourselves” precisely because we are born with knowledge we have already gained in some much earlier experience. (The article cited above by Nannette is so amazingly wrapped up in this, it is shocking: learning math is precisely the example Plato employs in the Meno, and he uses the learnability of math as grounding his doctrine of recollection, etc.) As appealing as this pre-mortal existence talk is to Latter-day Saints, I think there are major difficulties with it. At least this much can be said: I think it is problematic to say that we learn only by recollecting what we encountered in some previous existence, since it is the absolutely unprecedented event of the resurrection that grounds the experience of learning. This is especially so for Paul, who never speaks of a pre-mortal existence nor of recollection. I don’t think it is quite appropriate to align Paul with Plato on this point either then: Paul has a completely different understanding of the human subject, and hence a completely different understanding of how one should be taught.

    But why go on at such length about this? Because I think that the Socratic method should only be used within certain bounds in an LDS context. I think it can be used quite nicely when there is a kind of refusal on the part of the students to understand something: the teacher can then get them to bring their presuppositions out such that they can be explored and shown to be contradictory. The aporia thus experienced is certainly of some value. But I think this is really an extreme measure.

    Paul, I think, uses aporiae, but in a rather different way. He maintains control of the conversation and thus orchestrates it as he sees fit. This allows him to develop very particular aporiae, all connected with the particular situation that is abrogated by the resurrection. Rather than asking his readers/listeners to provide him with their presuppositions through discourse, he calls them to the task of faithful declaration, to confess with their tongues that Jesus is the Christ, and that is the announcement of an event that they could never have anticipated, something they could not recollect because it breaks with history itself. Paul’s antidialectic (as Badiou has called it) speaks from the site of a resurrection that renders non-beings as beings and beings as non-beings: Plato is turned upside down (reversed, quite strictly, not done away with).

    As a result, I think it is the antiphilosophers who will tell us more about Paul’s thinking, and I might point to the three “masters of suspicion” (Ricoeur) as a start: Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche.

    How ironic…

  4. nhilton said

    Joe #3, thank you for your educated insights here. I certainly understand and appreciate your pointing out the need for the interlocutor and the lack thereof in these epistles. However, Paul is often addressing questions and comments from the distant church. Would these writings suffice as a kind of interlocutor? Additionally, could the Socratic Method be stylized or simplified and thus applied here? I see this method being used in other scriptures, along with Paul’s writings, and if it’s not the Socratic Method, then what is it? Especially for those of us who aren’t schooled in philosophy, as you are.

    I also appreciated your additions to my list of Paul’s unique qualifications. Your list, however, seems to include some of Paul’s inherent traits while mine focused on traits that one could acquire through study and practice, including formal education. Tho I lack Paul’s qualifications, there are some that I could attempt to gain through my own education and that is what I was aiming at, whereas I probably could never attain Paul’s absolute audacity, as you claim he possessed.

    If you’d like to point us in the direction of the teaching method you DO see Paul employing, making your explanation as succinct and understandable for the simple mind (mine) as possible, since for most of us your explanation will be the first encounter we have with such methodology, I would appreciate your efforts. I’m not familiar with the writings or “philosophies” of Freud, Marx and Nietzsche in any depth by which to compare it to the Socratic Method. Perhaps you can likewise make this comparrison for me?

  5. nhilton said

    Joe #3, additionally, would you explain what you mean by “careful lexicon and an awareness of the implications of simple words”? Thanx!

  6. Joe Spencer said

    Just briefly for now (got to get to work on Isaiah this afternoon).

    I agree to say that what is at work in Paul can be regarded as a kind of variation on the Socratic method (though I’d certainly prefer to say complicated rather than simplified!), but I think it is important to note that the differences imply something of a gulf between Paul and Plato metaphysically. I’ll have to explain that, perhaps, at more length next time I have a chance.

    I’ll also have to find some time to lay out some basics about Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche, and about how this bears on our reading of Paul. I might for the moment summarize my point by saying that it is a question less of methodology than it is of subjective “structure.” I should probably insert here, though it might seem the strangest of places, the words of Elder Packer: “Studying doctrine changes behavior faster than the study of behavior changes behavior.” I think this is especially true in the case of teaching: teachers do not become teachers by learning how to act, but by learning the truth. Or so it seems to me, at any rate.

    As to the “careful lexicon” and “awareness of the implications of simple words,” I’m essentially pointing out that Paul does not use words thoughtlessly: he is very aware, it seems to me, of the weight a word carries, even as he is fearless to say things in the moment commanded by the Spirit. Hmmm… this too, I imagine, is wrapped up in the “doctrine” to which Paul is given.

    More sometime soon.

  7. Robert C. said

    nhilton, though I think Joe is right that Paul doesn’t technically follow the method Socrates used very closely, I think you’re right in the non-technical use of the phrase “Socratic method” which here is defined as:

    A pedagogical technique in which a teacher does not give information directly but instead asks a series of questions, with the result that the student comes either to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of knowledge.

    I think indirect approach of asking students questions and getting them to think for themselves works very well in Sunday school, and I think we also see it frequently used in scripture (Joe, would you call this more of a Lacanian approach, creating desire by talking about the object of desire only indirectly, trying to reveal hidden or suppressed presuppositions, neuroses, psychoses, etc.?).

  8. aquinas said

    nhilton, I think this is an interesting idea and I think the best thing to do is to actually try it out in practice as you intend, and then examine the outcomes. I would agree with those who do not see Paul employing the Socratic Method, however, that isn’t to say the Socratic Method, as you understand it, cannot be used or adapted to a Gospel setting. One could always try it and see, despite the challenges.

  9. Jim F. said

    nhilton: Like Joe and aquinas, I don’t think we can say that Paul used the Socratic method, but I don’t think that matters to your point about using the method you are talking about to teach Sunday School. As I read it, the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the teacher and the students are equals (D&C 88:122), so in church classes our teaching methods ought to be, as you describe them, methods among equals.

  10. nhilton said

    O.k., guys, I’ve altered the post to indicate a question & that the teaching method is something I’VE called “Socratic.” Tho this might not be to the extreme you’d like, I hope it helps.

    Joe, something I didn’t mention before for lack of time: you say that “Rather than asking his readers/listeners to provide him with their presuppositions through discourse, he calls them to the task of faithful declaration, to confess with their tongues that Jesus is the Christ, and that is the announcement of an event that they could never have anticipated, something they could not recollect because it breaks with history itself.” And, if I’m reading you right, in your paragraph #5 you say that the reality of the resurrection isn’t something that Paul’s audience/readers can gain testamony from within themselves based on an already internalized truth. I differ with this opinion, instead believing that we each KNOW the reality of the resurrection based on our pre-existence understanding of the Plan of Salvation. The Holy Ghost would bear witness to this when drawn out via the “socratic method.”

  11. Jim F. said

    Nanette, this is an interesting idea. It seems similar to, though also–obviously–quite different from, an Islamic belief that I recently learned about, namely that everyone is born a Muslim but then becomes something else either through culture, in other words the teachings of one’s forefathers, or through apostasy.

    I’ve not heard of your belief before. Is this something you just believe (which is good enough–all of us have such beliefs) or is it something you’ve come to conclude from studying the scriptures or the prophets? If the latter, will you share your sources with us?

  12. Robert C. said

    I’m thinking of the series of questions that Paul raises and then says “God forbid” and then goes on to explain why what he is teaching does not imply a particular implication. Thinking more carefully about this, I guess it’s not really that Socratic, even in terms of the Am. Heritage definition I quoted above, esp. since we don’t see anyone actually responding to the questions Paul asks. Would dialectical be an appropriate term? This is counter to Joe’s reference to Badiou calling Paul anti-dialectical—I don’t think Paul is dialectical in the way he argues for the occurrence of the resurrection, which is Badiou’s point, I think, but I do think he employs a dialectic style in these the “God forbid” passages, discussing, for example, the idea that although the law is fulfilled and Christ has freed us from it, this doesn’t mean we should embrace unrighteousness.

    At any rate, I think this technique of teaching something and then asking if it implies another rather unsavory teaching, and then proceeding to think about why it doesn’t, is a good approach or technique, in teaching as well as in letters or talks….

  13. Robert C. said

    Jim F. #11, I’ve heard the idea nhilton is describing as a way of interpreting John 14:26, how the Holy Ghost will bring “all things to [our] remembrance,” meaning things from the pre-existence. It seems I’ve heard this also applied to other occurrences of the word “remembrance” in scripture, the BOM in particular (not just remembering the people, fathers, and stories in scripture, but these stories/scriptures being more of an aid to helping us remember things, like “eternal truths,” from the pre-existence, or some such thing).

  14. Joe Spencer said

    Fascinating turn this discussion has taken. I wonder what light the forthcoming study by John Tanner and Terryl Givens will shed on these kinds of questions: http://terryl.givens.googlepages.com/projects

    But for now, I think I remain uncomfortable with the idea of learning-as-recollection. Two scriptural themes seem to me to be at least in strong tension with the doctrine, if not in outright contradiction. First, the newness of the resurrection, the absolute break that it is with reference to the way of all the earth with which we are so acquainted, is so continually stressed that I’m not sure how to think otherwise. Second, the scriptures are so profoundly silent, for the most part, about premortality, and what little emerges that clearly does have reference to it is so contextually overdetermined that all the most usual interpretations seem remarkably naive and reductionistic (I know this can always be said, but I think it is much more the case in this context than in most).

    Now, let me say that these two ideas might be given a “more subtle arrangement” (to draw from Marion’s repositioning of Heidegger and Derrida… just for fun), especially given the obviously prominent theme of primordiality (“the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” the grace that is the creation more than the atonement, etc.). And really, it is this “more subtle arrangement” that is behind all the caveats in my earlier comments. How do we think about this primordiality, given the newness of the resurrection and the rather complex situation presented by Abraham 3 (in the end, I think only that chapter really provides us with an explicit reference to the premortality)? Put another way: how are we to think the scriptures as a whole in light of the irruption that is the resurrection and the radical redefinition of human beings to be read in the Book of Abraham?

    It maketh me to lie down in green pastures: I feel at once as if I need a nap just thinking about all of this and as if I am in the peaceful security of the Lord’s care as I take up the task. :)

    More soon, I hope. (For now, I’ve got a lot of homework to get today!)

  15. RuthS said

    I don’t know very much about the philosophy discussed above and frankly I don’t have to vocabulary to make a whole lot of sense out of it. What I do know is that methodology is important in teaching and that too often teachers in Sunday School class use Paul’s formula (not a one bad for a letter)of asking and then answering their own questions. This does not lead to discussion and usually shuts down comments from thinkers in a class that might be able to get at something new and even true.

    There are lots of methods that can be used in class and the more the better. I think an understanding of how people learn is of utmost importance. And, we do not all learn the same way.

  16. BobW said

    Having been abused by the Socratic method at one level or another during three years of law school it appears to me that its most effective use as a teaching method happens when the students are prepared. In law school they are prepared by having read the cases to be considered during the class. In Sunday School they will be prepared if the have a) read the scripture assignment for the day, and b) are able to perceive when they are being taught by the spirit. In my mind Nanette’s point (#10) that the spirit will bear witness when brought out through the Socratic method is the key to using this teaching method in Sunday School. My effective use of a modified Socratic method with my gospel doctrine class depends entirely on three things; a) am I prepared and do I have the spirit, b) are the students prepared, and c) do the students have the spirit. When the stars align and all of these occur wonderful things happen and I get to watch the looks on their faces as the spirit tells them that two concepts they had previously thought were unrelated are in fact intertwined and together testify of Christ. Almost as important are the experiences where the spirit and the synergy of the class teache me new things which I had not even considered in my hours of preparation.

  17. nhilton said

    Jim #11, I don’t think what I’ve mentioned here is unique to LDS understanding of truth: Truth being eternal and omnipresent. Truth rings true.

    Learning as recollection, per Joe’s #14? Joe, are you telling me that we aren’t here in mortality to learn to know and trust our Father in Heaven and our elder brother, Jesus Christ? I believe I trusted them previously–all those born on earth did. Thus, I am recalling a past skill or remembering as I exercise faith, pray, etc.

    Pres. Kimball (I believe) said that “remember” was perhaps the most important word in the scriptures. How often are we asked to “cast our mind back”? I think a lot of this life’s effort is focused on remembering that which we already know to be true and a truth upon which we have made pivotal decisions. If we knew something once and acted upon that knowledge, and in order to proceed through the next “door” must recall and act upon that previous knowledge as if it’s freshly gained, I’d say it’s a good deal about remembering.

    Robert’s #13 sums up most of this belief. However, I think putting off the natural man is also part of it. As we become re-born in Christ, this being a process, the line upon line principle kicks in. Light added to light. Truth added to truth.

    The “socratic method” or whatever the _ _ _ _ you want to call it, works well here as a question is raised and answered and then we proceed to the next question and answer. As one answer leads to the next, so each kernel of truth leads to the next until we have one great whole of understanding…eventually. The key here is to stay on a course of truth, not being diverted. I think the Spirit is the guide here and thus BobW #16 strikes home. The Spirit will bear witness of these truths as their arrived at via the “socratic method” and we can proceed down the line of questioning as truth leads to truth.

    The saying that “the devil can quote scripture” is true of the “socratic method,” too. This teaching method, as evidenced by Kohihor, can be used to come to falsehood, as well as truth. So, I’m not promoting this teaching technique, or any other in particular, based on it being divine or something–it’s clearly man-made. My goal of this post is to isolate and identify THE teaching technique(s) used by Paul and other gospel writers so that I, copying at best, might marshall an iota of their teaching power and success.

    Thus, any attempt to identify and define the teaching techniques in a repeatable fashion is of utmost value. This is what I invite you all to do, that we may all be edified. :) Joe’s debunking efforts at defining the socratic method, or it’s antithesis, is helpful only if he gives us a better understanding of what Paul did (in plain English, please) so that we can duplicate it. I’m not the first to think Paul’s technique was the socratic method. I’ve heard it referenced before. So, there are a lot of us out there mis-naming this method, perhaps, but trying to put a handle on it so that we can better understand and copy it.

  18. s james said

    nhilton #17, you have a point. Consider the position put by Truman Madsen in Eternal Man (1966): “… that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them… every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning … then one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” (D&C 93:31,38,39).

    “Every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit …” (D&C 93:32,33)as BH Roberts puts it, that the spirit is ‘native to truth’ – that as a flame leaps toward a flame, the soul’s very nature is to reach forth and embrace the light. One who thrusts down or represses these impulses, sunders himself… He who welcomes truth and light moves towards “a perfect bright recollection” and “receiveth truth and light until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” growing “brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C93:28; Compare 50:23,24;88:67)

    Though Madsen’s use of the term ‘recollection’ does not appear to be scriptural as ‘suggested’ above, he still suggests that knowing self, truth and God is more a process of recovery than discovery – through, not a union, but a re-union with God and what we already know – an ongoing process of divine self-revelation.

    Hugh B Brown also notes: Sometimes during solitude I hear truth spoken with clarity and freshness; uncoloured and untranslated it speaks from within myself in a language original but inarticulate, heard only with the soul, and I realize that I brought it with me, was never taught it nor can I efficiently teach it to another.

    Madsen: One hears truths expressed, “hidden from before the foundation of the world” and is pulled towards them with overwhelming gratitude. Jesus Christ, who promised he would bring all things to our remembrance, defined all this and more when He said, ‘My sheep know my voice’.

    Joseph F Smith, (from “Spirit Memories” in Gospel Doctrine): All those salient truths which come home so forcibly to the head and heart seem but the awakening of the memories of the spirit.

    Consider also Madsen’s application of JS’s teaching: “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves”, where he suggests that in order for God to reveal Himself to Christ, He needed only to reveal Christ to Himself, in “the glory he had with Him before the foundations of the world”. And asks,” Is it really different with us?”

    Spiritual Remembering, Recollection, Reverberations, Recognition, Recovery are all themes found in the meditations of latter-day prophets.

    Finally to Joe #3: Harold B Lee was of the view that Paul’s claims in Acts 17:26 have implied reference to our premortality.

  19. Robert C. said

    nhilton #17, your comment about truth being eternal made me curious to see if I could find this idea in scripture. D&C 1:39 is the closest I could find: “the truth abideth forever and ever.” In this context, it seems that “truth” is linked very closely to God’s word which “shall not pass away” (1:38). I think this is importantly different than a notion of truth which is merely reflected in God’s word. That is, what makes God’s word true is that it will “all be fulfilled” (1:38), not that it simply reflects some eternal truth which God is in line with.

    I think this distinction is important when considering how Paul teaches (as well as what he teaches) and how (and what) we should teach. I don’t think we should be trying to learn some sort of eternal truth in scripture so much as trying to enter into a true and faithful relationship with God and each other.

    This is what I think is admirable about Paul’s Socratic-like methodology: even in a letter, he seems eager to address what he expects will be his listener’s questions. He is trying, it seems, even in this letter, to be in a genuine, interactive relationship with his listeners.

    And so, content-wise, one of his major themes is the spirit of the law vs. the letter. The letter of the law is dead, in the same way a stagnant, eternal notion of truth is dead, in contrast to the living word of God. What God has promised through his word, he actively works to fulfill, just like we should actively work to fulfill our promises and obligations to others.

    I think this spirit vs. letter distinction (which I think corresponds closely to Levinas’s Saying vs. Said distinction) also might help us think about the pre-mortal life, as you and s james are thinking about it. It’s not so much that we must remember some eternal truth that we knew before this life. Rather, we are to enter into a true and faithful relationship with God like the one we had before the Fall. This, it seems to me, is what practically all scripture is pointing to, as well as the temple endowment. And so, I think it is this way of being true and faithful that we should strive to embody as teachers, regardless of whatever techniques we employ. As has been already mentioned, at least obliquely, I think techniques as techniques are like the law: without a clear idea of the end or purpose of the technique (or law), then I think the Spirit can all too easily get lost in the shuffle….

  20. Joe Spencer said

    Let me sum up teaching in a paragraph or two. And let me say even before I write these paragraphs that I believe this is perhaps all that needs to be said about the “how” of teaching. Really.

    Teaching is absolutely not—not at all, in the least—a question of method. I don’t believe that there are any secrets to teaching, nor do I think that experience makes one a better teacher. I am completely convinced that teaching is through and through a gift, and that Elder Holland’s advice during the teaching broadcast some months ago was the best advice anyone could receive: pray for the gift of teaching. I think that teaching is thus a question of charisma, not of charisma in some kind of Weberian sense (that is, in the sense we as Americans tend to think of), but in the Pauline sense: it is precisely the word charisma(ta) he uses is discussing the spiritual gifts.

    But God then becomes capricious, right? He becomes a great fool for us, blessing so and so with the gift of teaching and leaving the rest of us in the dark, does He not? God forbid! Let God be wise and the rest of us fools! But what am I really saying here, then? That most of us will have nothing to do with the gift of teaching (let me be quite clear I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, but speaking of the Church as a whole; it is between any particular person and God whether this applies to them): we reject it because it is foolishness to us.

    Foolishness: we do not believe what the scriptures say about this all. We are to do what? Quite straightforwardly: get into the scriptures in the most profound way, and then stand up to teach without taking thought for what we will say. Every moment of our pathetic lives ought to be another engagement with the prophets, with these texts to which we are bound by covenant. And if every moment is not such, we will not teach! I wholeheartedly believe that.

    I really believe that things are this simple. We have got quite simply to get into the scriptures, to be thinking them again and again, to stop wasting our time in frivolous activities, in mere entertainment or other ways of making covenants with death instead of keeping the covenants we’ve made in the temple (God will probably never call me as a bishop because, were I to be interviewing someone for a recommend and were to ask whether they keep their temple covenants, I would respond to a “yes” with “The law of consecration, then?” and probe them on that question). Why on earth don’t we believe God?

    Again, I hope it is clear that I’m not addressing any one person here. But all of this discussion simply draws this out of me. When will we as a people believe? Why don’t we? Why will we die? Why does a young men president spend all of his time trying to convince his priests that despite their parents’ attitudes, despite the bishop’s way of talking, despite their seminary teacher’s approach, despite everything, the gospel is true and they must be buried in it?

    It would take a God to save this people! Praise the high heavens—I do everyday—we have One. May He speed His coming.

  21. mjberkey said

    Amen Joe! “the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.”

  22. NathanG said

    Elder Bednar’s article “Seek Learning by Faith” at the end of September 2007 Ensign is interesting in light of this and other recent posts on this blog regarding teaching. He talks about learning by faith as a complement to teaching by the Spirit and at the end talks about several implications for teachers.

  23. nhilton said

    Doesn’t the very essence of the word “repent” imply a return to something original? If we are to “cry nothing but repentance” then we are to strive for nothing but a restoration…ahhh, that word “restoration”…once again a return to the original. It seems to me that this world is but a forgetting and a good deal of our experience here is to choose to remember. As we choose to remember, or bring about a restoration on a personal level, we incorporate our new knowledge based on experience with our “old knowledge” based on perfect teachings of the pre-existence.

    It strikes me, as this conversation has evolved, that I simply assumed other LDS thought as I did about the remembering factor that was initiated in my comment #10 by accident. I never really intended this post to turn and twist as it has, but it has been enjoyable.

    Back to the focus, however, it appears that no one really cares or sees any value in Paul’s teaching techniques or our feable-tho-they-may-be attempts to model them. Am I reading you correctly?

  24. Jim F. said

    nhilton: “Repent” means “to change.” I don’t see that it implies a return to an original. Restoration, however, is different. It does usually imply a return of some kind. However, as the word is used in scripture, I don’t see any place that the original seems to be something from the pre-existence. We will be restored to the spiritual condition we acheived in this life. Our bodies will be restored as well, but in this case “restored” does not imply an original. We will be restored to our bodies, but not as they originally were. Instead, they will be perfected: we will be “restored” to something we have never been, immortal beings.

    It is interesting to discover that what seems perfectly natural to me is not at all natural to someone else. For me, it was perfectly natural not to think of learning as a recollection of what we already knew in the pre-exitence. Such a view seems to me to devalue our experience here. So when you assumed the opposite of what I believe, I was caught off guard. Thanks for the discussion.

  25. Robert C. said

    nhilton #23, I’m sufficiently overwhelmed thinking about Paul’s content that I haven’t really put that much thought into his teaching style, though I do think the series of “God forbid” statements is, as I’ve tried to explain, at least somewhat Socratic-like or dialectical, and I think that’s something worth emulating. Essentially, however, I think this means we have to think pretty carefully about what scriptures are saying, and I think Jim F.’s SS questions do a good job of helping us in this way. If we’ve thought carefully about these topics, like Paul obviously has, then I think the kinds of questions and discussions we have in SS will be much better.

  26. Joe Spencer said

    I’ll echo Jim’s #24 so that I don’t have to rewrite it.

    I think there is certainly reason to discuss Paul’s methods of teaching. What I mean is that I don’t think Paul was much interested in them. Nor am I particular interested in mine. But I think it would be rather difficult to interpret Paul at all without paying careful attention to how he presents things. In the end, what I’m suggesting is that Paul teaches the way he does because of the way he believes, and so I think we become “better” teachers not by studying how another teaches, but by studying the scriptures as scriptures, by involving ourselves in the word.

    I’m not sure whether or not that is the same thing as what Robert is saying.

  27. nhilton said

    Jim #24, My understanding of the “turn, return and restore” concept of repentance comes from the Hebrew word “shube.” i.e. Isa. 55:6-7: That is what Isaiah had in mind when he wrote: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him [shube, or] return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon [if he will only shube].”

    The very essence of the word repent implies a restoration, i.e.: Ezekiel 33 outlines three main steps of repentance: (1) commitment, (2) restitution, and (3) forsaking sin. “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity: he shall surely live, he shall not die.” 1 Ne. 15:19–20 speaks specifically of a restoration of the House of Israel which is predicated upon their repentance. If repentance leads to restoration, I see these two words intertwined. Additionally, 1 Ne. 10:3 speaks of returning and “possess(ing) again the land of their inheritance.” I see this is a type for us, that we, too, will return to our land of inheritance (Heaven) if we repent. Thus, the restoration resultant of repentance.

    Additionally, it’s hard to even find a reference to repentance w/o an accompanying reference to returning. i.e. “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God.” (Alma 34:34). Clearly the concept of returning is wrapped up in repenting.

    I think “change” is wrapped up in the word “repent” but not singularly. As I’ve written above, “repent” means so much more. I agree with you that the restoration of all things includes taking us to new heights never experienced before, both physically and spiritually, so the word “restore” is somewhat of an oxymoron. But the restoration concept prevails in that we will be restored to association with our Heavenly Parents and home if we are righteous.

    I do not mean to imply that ALL knowledge we gain here is simply a remembering of things past! However, I do believe that whenever we hear testimony born of the Savior or of the Plan of Salvation and related truths, these are things we knew and defended in the pre-existence and our spirits will thrill to hear these truths again, in this life. I think Paul was using this fact as he appealed to the Corinthians’ inherent testimony of Jesus that they had experienced & expressed when he was in their presence.

    When a non-member first hears of Jesus Christ, this old knowledge (since they kept their first estate they clearly knew of Christ’s divinity and the Plan) will ring true as the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost echo this truth such that it reverberates in their soul as an ancient awareness re-discovered vs. something entirely new.

  28. JakeW said

    nhilton 27: If hearing about the Gospel isn’t something entirely new, but is rather a remembering of something previously obtained in the form of experience or discourse, what implications does that have on the meanings of faith and accountability as such?

  29. Jim F. said

    Nanette: I agree that return is central to the scriptural understanding of repentance, but it seems always to be returning to the Lord rather than returning to some original state, such as our state in the pre-existence. That was the question, whether we are remembering what we learned there, returning to the state we were in there. I understand that you and I disagree. However, I don’t think there is a convincing case to be made from scripture that learning is recollection or remembrance. That is not to say that the teaching isn’t true, of course, just that–as far as I can tell–scripture doesn’t teach it.

    Of course there must be things we knew there that we learn here. I knew that I have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother there. I learned it here. I knew about the Savior there. I learned aboout him here. Even then, however, it doesn’t follow that I learned those things by remembering them. I remember hearing the Restored Gospel preached for the first time, so I recognize well the experience you describe, that what I heard rang true as the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost testified of its truth. However, that is also not necessarily a matter of remembrance.

    I’m not trying to talk you out of your belief that we learn such truths by remembrance. I’m merely arguing that I don’t think the claim that we learn them that way is a scriptural claim.

  30. Robert C. said

    Nanette and Jim, thanks for this discussion, I’m enjoying it very much. The word “restoration” as used in scripture fascinates me. I’m inclined to think of it, quite generally, in terms of the prodigal son who’s status as son and heir was restored, but this conversation has me rethinking all of this much more carefully. Also, my understanding of shub is that of a “turning toward” without necessarily a “returning” connotation, although I know it can mean that too.

  31. Joe Spencer said

    Jim’s words here point somewhat obscurely to what seems to me to be the most important point in all of this discussion (from the very beginning): the “debate” here is less a question of “what is the case” or of “how things really are” than it is of whether “what is the case” or “how things really are” is somehow more important than “what is to be read in the texts.” I understand my own disagreement (that word always sounds harsher than it ought) with Nanette to be centered on this question: are the scriptures a means to the end that is actuality, or is actuality a means to the end that is the scriptures? I get the sense that while Nanette leans toward the former, I lean toward the latter.

    Nanette, I would greatly appreciate it if you would correct me on the above, but let me elucidate how I see us parting ways by commenting on a comment you wrote above: “I think Paul was using this fact as he appealed to the Corinthians’ inherent testimony of Jesus that they had experienced & expressed when he was in their presence.” Your statement here reveals much about how you read scripture: you explicitly, knowingly interpret Paul’s epistle in light of a “fact” you have discovered elsewhere. That is, you are more interested in what is behind Paul’s epistle than in what Paul’s epistle actually does. Or so it seems. I differ from you here in that I am (or attempt to be) more interested in what Paul says than in whatever may be behind his text. I am far more interested in unraveling the logic of his arguments, in feeling the tensions introduced by his language, in catching allusions and intertextual complications, than I am in knowing some absolute or indifferent truth.

    Could it be that this is closely tied to my lack of interest in pre-mortal remembrance? This world is the text I’m reading, and I’m not very interested in getting behind it because I’m afraid that I will then miss what is actually being said here? My experiences might very well be remembrances of a previous existence, but nothing in my experience tells me that, and so I want to be careful not to transgress the hermeneutical limits placed on me by moving away into a realm I know nothing about.

    Again, I find it so interesting that I can find only one passage in all of scripture that seems quite explicitly to be talking about something like a pre-mortal existence, and it is in a remarkably complex and overdetermined passage (Abraham 3). Might it be worth doing some collective work on that text to see what we can’t come to understand?

  32. Robert C. said

    (If I ever find time, I’m hoping to do a series of posts addressing the issue Joe raises in #31, since I’ve just been reading in Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament a discussion of this very issue and how it figures in to the current state of Biblical scholarship.)

  33. RuthS said

    Unfortunately I am not able to remember all the names and numbers of the places where these ideas are mentioned. But Here goes anyway.

    The words truth eternal comes from a hymn, “Truth that’s reason, truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.” Madsen also said in the preface to Eternal Man that people are always attributing things to the pre earth life that have no basis in scripture implying there by that a lot of what people believe about that existence is largely unfounded. I personally believe the light of Christ that lightenth every man teaches everyone things that will cause them to be moral and entice them to do good rather than evil. I believe that the Holy Ghost will bring things that we have experienced and learned in this life to our remembrance. I believe that when the veil of forgetfulness was drawn at our birth into mortality it was complete. If not we wouldn’t need faith.

    All questions and answers posed in a setting intended for learning do not constitute the Socratic method. That has been pretty clearly shown. the Socratic method is something that has to be thought about carefully and planned. It is not doing what comes naturally, unless a person is gifted to be a master teacher.

    Nobody teaches the way they write. That was one of the criticism leveled by Paul’s enemies, (false prophets) that his letters were powerful but his speaking was weak. So I think it is safe to assume his strength was in writing not in teaching.

    I agree that teaching is a gift, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved upon. I appeal to the parable of the talents for support. But faith is also a gift and some of us have more of it than others. So if you have more than I do, I think that’s great. Just remember, D & C 19:31 “And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.”

    Just one more thing. Elder Balard in a video about improving teaching in the church said the way to teach by the spirit is to love your students, seek the spirit (pray) and finally prepare.

  34. nhilton said

    Jim #29, you write “return is central to the scriptural understanding of repentance, but it seems always to be returning to the Lord rather than returning to some original state, such as our state in the pre-existence.” This is what I understand to be true. I’m not promoting the concept that we return to a state we were once found to be in in the pre-existence, a backwards movement. But, rather, a return to the Lord spiritually now, here and ultimately physically, later. My premise is only that as we learn eternal truths it will be like “dejavu” because these are truths we were taught at the feet of our Heavenly Parents. I think others have given good scriptural support for this premise.

    And, Joe #31, I think Hebrews 11:9-16 clearly teaches of a pre-existence as Abraham & Sarah are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” and potentially “mindful of that country from whence they came out…an heavenly (country)” and one to which they hope to return OR be restored to.

    Joe, you write further “are the scriptures a means to the end that is actuality, or is actuality a means to the end that is the scriptures?” This is an intriguing question and one I doubt can be answered. But, perhaps the thought that there is more scripture out there–the cannon is not closed–sheds light on the fact that limiting our understanding/knowledge only to our present cannon is not wise. However, extrapolating past revealed truth is probably LESS wise. So…I do agree that reading the TEXT instead of reading INTO the text is paramount. I am curious now, because of ya’ll’s banter, about the origin of my own beliefs on this subject. I want to be textually grounded so I will continue to study this subject.

    Joe, re: your 2nd paragraph: On Paul’s appealing to the Corrinthians, I think it’s textually clear that they had a testimony when Paul organized the church there…at least some of them… and drifted from that base of truth once Paul left them. What did you mean by “I am far more interested in unraveling the logic of his arguments, in feeling the tensions introduced by his language, in catching allusions and intertextual complications, than I am in knowing some absolute or indifferent truth.” I understand your interests listed above are thought provoking, complicated and entertaining, but is there anything more desireable than an absolute truth? And, what is an indifferent truth?

    RuthS #33, on your estimation of Paul’s teaching/speaking abilities, I beg to differ. He was not a man of ordinary accomplishments and training. During his lifetime he taught the Roman deputy of Cyprus (Acts 13:6–12) and also stood before the Roman magistrates of Philippi (Acts 16:35–39). He gave his testimony and defense before the Sanhedrin, the highest court of Judaism (Acts 22:30; Acts 23:1–9), and before the Roman-appointed governors of Palestine, Felix and Festus (Acts 23:24–25:12). Paul likewise stood before Agrippa, the Roman-appointed king of the Jews. (Acts 26.) Last, he stood before the Roman emperor himself. I can’t imagine someone so well preparred prior to his call and then called of God would be in any way weak in speaking, especially with all his experience. I believe Paul to be a powerful writer, speaker and teacher and that is why his stewardship and legacy was so great.

  35. nhilton said

    Here are some references plainly teaching of a pre-existence:


    Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. . . .

    These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

    And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. (Genesis 2:1, 4, 5.)

    Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God, who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7.)

    Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

    Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:4-5.)

    And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

    And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

    Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest. . . . (John 9:1-3.)

    And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath preserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jude 6.)

    And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

    And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

    And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9.)

    We learn from the prophecy of Isaiah that the Lord named Cyrus, the Persian king, some two hundred years before he was born, Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1.


    In the Pearl of Great Price many of the obscure passages found in the Bible are made clear. These passages in Genesis are amplified in relation to the pre-existence as follows:

    And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth;

    And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air; . . . (Moses 3:4-5.)

  36. nhilton said

    Jim, you asked for some scriptural support for my beliefs on regaining knowledge that we had in the pre-existence. If you consider the teachings of Harold B. Lee as such, here is just one reference:

    (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, Chapter 2) “Our quest is to regain our heavenly home. In the third chapter of Abraham, it is stated: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” Now, note: “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is a space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate”—that means have obeyed and lived up to the challenges of that premortal life—”shall be added upon.” They would have a body added to their spirit, but those who didn’t keep their first estate would not be added upon. “And they who keep their second estate”—that means in mortal life—”shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abraham 3:22-26.)

    Premortal Life Lee, Harold B.TP22 Now, the fact that you and I are here in mortal bodies is evidence that we were among those who were in that great concourse of organized intelligences; we knew God, our Father. He was our Heavenly Father; we were sired by Him. We had a Heavenly Mother—can you think of having a father without a mother? That great hymn “O My Father” puts it correctly when Eliza R. Snow wrote, “In the heav’ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare! Truth is reason; truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.” Born of a Heavenly Mother, sired by a Heavenly Father, we knew Him, we were in His house, and we knew His illustrious Son, who was to come here and redeem mankind as a part of the plan of salvation. What did He mean, then, when He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”? (John 17:3.) It is to regain that knowledge, then, and to go back where we once were that becomes the great quest of all of us.”

  37. Jim F said

    nhilton: My premise is only that as we learn eternal truths it will be like “dejavu” because these are truths we were taught at the feet of our Heavenly Parents. I think others have given good scriptural support for this premise.

    This gets right to the heart of the discussion we’ve had and to the point on which we disagree. I agree that we must have learned eternal truths in the pre-existence. I don’t agree that we learn them here by remembrance. Nor have I seen any “good scriptural support for this premise,” not even including the things people have posted here. Each of the scriptures adduced in support admits of another interpretation that is equally as plausible.

    I think we are at loggerheads on this one!

  38. Jim F said

    Nanette: Our disagreement isn’t undone by the quotation from President Lee since it says nothing about learning by remembrance, which is the thing we disagree about. Regaining knowledge does not require remembering it. If I have amnesia (the veil) I can learn things that I knew before without remembering what I knew before.

    Inquiring minds want to know, but they can also disagree as brothers and sisters. I think that’s where we are.

  39. NathanG said

    Nhilton and all. This has been a fun discussion that has made me think. Thanks.

    Why have we forgotten in the first place? I think this question is interesting, although not likely to receive a definitive answer either as it is more speculative than established doctrine. RuthS brought it up in #33: the veil of forgetfulness. I have heard several theories as to what this is. I favor this the most, (although don’t ask for scriptures to support it:)). The veil of forgetfulness comes from having a physical, mortal brain that controls our body and needs to learn all about God (and it does immediately begin to learn as a baby, or even earlier). Our mortal brain is the place where our mortal, earthly thoughts reside, just as our physical body allows us to perform the other interactions we have with this earthly sphere. When we learn something with this brain it is new for this brain, even if our spirit (which is in there somewhere) has already learned it. That truth we learn resonates with our spirit (you can choose whatever word you like for resonates) and it may even feel familiar to us.

    In a sense this idea of why we have forgotten could support both opposing views of how we learn because it’s new for our mortal brain, but our spiritual brain “remembers” it, we’re just trying to bring the two (spirit and flesh) together and ultimately let the spirit lead. To summarize the process, we learn by a process of hearing and doing and having the Spirit confirm to our hearts and our minds it is true. As we gain more truth it stirs the spirit within us and our spirit begins to lead our lives.

    As an aside, when the scriptures say that we will be taught in our hearts and our minds what does that mean? I have been studying how ‘heart’ is used and don’t think I have a really good understanding of the concept they are trying to express, but perhaps in relation to my views above ‘mind’ refers to our physical mind that we use to interact with this world and ‘heart’ refers to that spirit that is within us that needs to bring the mind into subjection.

  40. Joe Spencer said


    What I mean by expressing my lack of interest in an absolute or indifferent truth is this: I don’t think there are absolute or indifferent truths. I think that these are both invented concepts that distract us from what is at work in the texts. If the plan were about absolute truths, timeless or indifferent truths, then the Lord must be a great fool for having given us the scriptures as He has, since they hardly lay out for us anything like absolute truths, etc. Rather, they are stories and histories, poems and songs, sermons and debates, genealogies and parables.

    I should probably clarify that I do believe there are eternal truths, but I think we need to think far more carefully about that word “eternal,” lest we equate eternal truths with absolute truths.

    Did we learn eternal truths in the premortal council? I’m not sure that the word “learn” is appropriate (I’m not sure of much concerning the pre-mortal world), especially since the only word we have on such a process in the pre-mortal realm is flipped around the other way: we were “taught.” Much to think about there.

    As for the passages you cite: I agree that there are possible interpretations that point to the pre-mortal existence, etc., but only one of them seems to me to be quite explicitly connecting some human on earth with what can only be called a pre-mortal existence, and that is the Abraham 3 passage. And again, I think that passage is far, far more complex than it at first appears. I do indeed think it ought to be connected up with many of the passages you cited, but only because it means far more than we usually allow it to mean, and so it accords itself with the passages that do not appear to say anything explicit about people on earth having been in heaven before.

  41. Robert C. said

    Joe, I’ll bite: how do you think about eternal truths that are not absolute truths? As I think you know, I’m inclined to think about truth in terms of being true, but truth and truths appear, esp. in “English scriptures” (BOM, D&C, PoGP) in ways that make this “being true” reading a bit awkward.

    I tend to think of truth as a reified property, so truth is in God because he acts in a true manner (i.e. true to his word, true to those with whom he’s in covenant with, etc.). I worry that this way of thinking about truth, as a character trait or attribute, is misguided. But I don’t really have a better idea. And I’d love help thinking more carefully about why this might be a bad approach.

    (Sorry for the tangent, nanette!)

  42. s james said

    Reading Paul: A cautionary (and belated)note

    Whenever attributing stylistic qualities to New Testament writers it is important to keep in mind, if using the King James Version, that we are working with an English TRANSLATION where achieving (as with any translation) one-one correspondence with orginal lexis, syntax, rhetorical genre, etc is problematic.
    The scholar William Tyndale first translated and printed the New Testament in English, he has been referred to as the ‘architect of the English language’ and indeed is responsible for much of the literary phrasing and lexis of the English NT that we use today. It has been claimed that 83% of the KJV NT is drawn from Tyndale’s English translations.
    So when we are reading ‘Paul’ we are also reading Tyndale (and others eg Erasmus). What we have in the KJV is not unmediated access to Paul’s orginal writings and stylistics.

  43. s james, your caution is worthwhile, however, I’m also resourcing new translations of the “original” Greek. I think a step back further, to the point of copying the autographs (true original writing of the apostles), is where the boat left the dock, so to speak. But many people have revisited the oldest codexes of these writings in an attempt to get at the “real Paul” and these translations are available today.

    Jim F. I loved your line: “If I have amnesia (the veil) I can learn things that I knew before without remembering what I knew before.” This is a great way to look at it and can’t argue with you here! Thanks for the dialog! Best–Nanette

    I kept waiting for the conference talks to address the issues in this post. Ha! I didn’t really get a specific sighting, however, I did get a specific answer to the comment I made at the “I Have A Question” post re: my friend wondering about God being a respector of persons and why hasn’t he gotten an answer/blessing he’s been asking for in the talk by Elder Spence J. Condie & Pres. Henry B. Eyring. It was quite miraculous, almost like Pres. Monson’s experience in speaking about the non-member woman who was actually listening to his speech in a Calif. member’s home! So…the questions raised here are still on the table & I’ll be listening & watching for further light & knowledge!

  44. RuthS said

    nhilton#34 Paul did acquit himself well before Agrippa no doubt about it. He sat there in jail for many days thinking about what he should do. And no doubt the spirit was with him. I expect the spirit was with him when he taught where ever he went. But it is also plainly stated in 2 Corinthians 10:10 “for his letters, say they [Paul’s detractors], are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” and the following chapter 11:6 Paul himself suggests that his speech may be rude (KJV) or untrained (NIV)but that is not a reflection on what he knows.

    Some time ago Hugh Nibly wrote an essay on Rhetoric and how it was more concerned with form than it was with substance. I think it is probably that these “super apostles” mentioned in 2 Corinthians were very good at Rhetoric while Paul was more concerned with substance. Rhetoric is not much studied today, but to the ancients it was an art form.

    I love Paul. I think he was a great man and I like reading his words. But he himself admits to his imperfections. I hold no disrespect for him.

  45. RuthS, I appreciate what you’ve mentioned here re: Paul. I’m not sure I buy the “rudeness of speech” the way you read it. Reason being, in Acts 14 we see Paul & Barnabas speaking in Iconium so powerfully that “great multitudes of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed” v 1. In v. 3 we learn they have been speaking a long time “speaking boldly.” In v. 12 they call Paul “Mercurius,” or Hermes who is the spokesperson for the Gods. This tells us that Paul has been doing the speaking previously noted. Based on Paul’s background, especially his education, I think he was a powerful speaker. The references he makes to being weak or rude of speak I see as being a sign of meekness & humility, rather than an accurate description of Paul’s actual speaking skills.–nanette

  46. This is a extremely fascinating article. Out of the blogs that I routinely visit is one of the more informative ones and continuously appear to own something that’s refreshing to read.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: