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Introduction to the Secret Epistles

This is the post excerpt.

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Greetings! We have recently unearthed some previously unknown epistles, dictated by the Apostle Paul to his scribe, Philomenus (whom he refers to as “Phil.”)

We realize that some of these “secret epistles” might seem different in style and substance than the published Epistles. However, we hope that these missives might provide a humanizing viewpoint of one of the Bible’s most prolific authors. Rather than just the towering Church Father that Paul is portrayed as through the letters to the Corinthians, or just the wise pastor that he seems to be in the letters to Timothy, we want readers to understand that Paul was also just a man. He thought out loud. He dictated. He got into arguments with his scribe. He occasionally said the wrong thing, probably thinking that his letters would not be widely read.

Oh, how wrong he was.

So, in addition to giving us a humanizing – and sometimes humorous – look into the Apostle Paul’s day-to-day, we hope that these secret epistles will serve as a pointed reminder that it is impolite to read someone’s mail.

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Letter to Peter, About a Letter to the Church At Phillipi

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, blah blah blah…

Grace and peace to you in His name, blah blah blah…

(I swear to Elohim, Phil, if you put the words “blah blah blah” in the letter… again… I will send you to be scribe to Barnabas. And, he talks even more than I do.)

(I don’t care what you put, Phil. Just church it up.)

To Peter, head of the Jerusalem Church,

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I’m sorry. You know, there was a shipwreck… some jail time… I got chased out of a couple of towns with people throwing rocks at me… the usual. Well, it’s the usual for those of us on the “front lines”. Out here in Goyim Land. I don’t know what kind of stuff you guys are getting up to in Jerusalem. Probably getting yelled at by the Sanhedrin, still. Not as bad as an attempted stoning, to be sure, but still pretty stressful.

(Phil, clean that up so it doesn’t sound quite so passive-aggressive. I just thought about it, and it sounds like I’m engaging in the Persecution Olympics. Like, I’m way more persecuted than them.)

(Of course, I am ACTUALLY more persecuted than them. But, it’s probably bad manners to wave it around at them. “Suffer persecutions gladly”, and all that. They’ll probably just get jealous.)

(Phil, stop writing all this down. Just write down the important parts, please.)

Thanks for all the sympathy letters about the attempted stoning, by the way. It really helps with the prison time, and the shipwrecks, and everything, to know that you guys are pulling for me in the Capital. But, could you maybe talk to James about his sense of humor? I can’t decide if the message inside his card – “At least now you know how it feels!” – is “funny, but not appropriate” or “appropriate, but not funny.” Either way, kindly tell him to make like a foreskin and CUT IT OUT!

(Yes, Phil, I know that it would be more appropriate to say “CUT IT OFF!”, but they know what I mean. We’re all Jewish here… well, you’re not, are you? Not that there’s anything wrong with being goy, you’re just missing out on some good Jewish humor here. A uniquely Jewish experience…)

(Yeah, Phil, circumcision sucks. But, God ordered it, and you don’t argue with a guy who uses floods and FIRE FROM THE HEAVENS to make His point.)

By the way, Cephas, old buddy, old pal: I heard from a little bird that James is writing a letter to the churches of his own. From what I heard, he calls it a “Paul Buster”. Just tell him that I can’t wait to read it, and to go easy on me!

(Phil, get me a copy of that letter as quickly as possible. I need to know what that smug little punk is saying about me.)

To the point of the letter: I need your advice. I wrote a letter to the Phillipians not long ago. They were kind of worried about me after the whole jail-shipwreck-stoning phase of my career, and so I wrote something to ease their minds. Here’s what I wrote, word for word.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Sounds good, right? A bit of gratitude, a bit of encouragement. I mean, Phil and I worked on the wording for a LONG TIME, and we felt really comfortable with it when we sent it.

Here’s the problem: SOMEONE (whose name might or might not be PHILOMENUS) messed up the spelling on ONE WORD. And now, the Phillipians have gotten the whole thing wrong. See how I said, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”? Well, Phil misspelled the word “this”, and instead wrote “things”.

So now, I’ve got this entire church running around like cheerleaders shouting, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST, WHO STRENGTHENS ME!” Not terrible theology… but, they’re skipping the whole prison-shipwreck-stoning bit.

In other words, the entire point of the passage.

Thank YHWH that no one else is going to read that letter, otherwise the Church would never learn the whole “be content in all circumstances” thing. They’d just be a bunch of cheerleaders, spouting off some self-affirming nonsense with absolutely no context.

Again, thank God no one else will ever read it.

(Phil, please make sure that you just mailed out the one copy. To Phillipi.)

(What do you mean, you thought I wanted it mailed to all the churches? IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE, PHIL! LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT PHILLIPI!)

Minor correction, my good friend, Cephas. Apparently, that might have spread further than I thought. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it gets corrected in another letter. It won’t be a problem for long.

I mean, it’s not like anyone’s going to read this in the future, or take it literally.

In Christ,

Paul, formerly Saul

(Phil, pack your bags. You’re going to Barnabas.)

Introductory Letter to the Jerusalem Church

I, Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), a fairly new convert of Jesus Christ, write to you with grace and peace and… yada yada yada. (Make that sound good, please.)

(Actually, scratch that intro, Phil. Let’s stay simple for this one. We’ll church it up if we write any more letters. Start again.)

To Cephas, James, John, et al,

So, at this point I’m pretty sure that you guys have heard from Ananias about the whole Jesus-Damascus Road-blindness thing, and I hope that he has conveyed my deepest regrets about some of the earlier… misunderstandings between myself and your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. I admit that I might have been a little overzealous in the way I acted, but I promise that I was only defending the faith of our fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I mean, it’s not like you guys were subtle or diplomatic about coming onto the scene! Your leader gets executed by the Romans – okay, okay, maybe we did a little pushing – but it was the Romans who swung the hammers! Then, instead of quieting down a little, you stand up in front of a gigantic crowd and tell everyone that will listen that we crucified Jesus, and that He’s now Lord and Christ -and on and on and on.

(Don’t put that “on and on and on” part in there, Phil. I know you’re used to taking dictation, but use the brains that YHWH gave you for Moses’ sake!)

So, after all of our… misunderstandings, I tried to figure out how to approach you. I mean, I don’t blame you guys for holding a grudge. I mean, Jesus is all about forgiveness and turning the other cheek, but you’re not Him. Obviously. I just mean, it would be good for your image if you welcomed me into the Jerusalem church with open arms – “seventy times seven”, remember? – but, I get it if you’re a little put out. I probably should have sent a card after the whole Jesus-Damascus Road-blindness thing, but how do you properly phrase that?

“Sorry for killing your converts!”

“My deepest sympathies for holding the coats of the guys who crushed Stephen with a bunch of rocks!”

(Phil, seriously, please tell me that you’re not writing all that down. I’m spit-balling here, Phil. I’m thinking out loud. You don’t have to write down every Jacob-damned word that I say.)

Anyway, I’m sorry. I really am. It was a seriously ill-informed and poorly thought-out series of decisions on my part. Obviously, if I had known that Jesus of Nazareth was actually Jesus Christ, the Living Son of God, Word made Flesh, Light of the World, yada yada yada, I might have, you know, not started killing you guys. I mean, Jesus could have appeared to someone in the Sanhedrin after He rose again. I get why He didn’t – the whole crucifixion thing – but, it might have made things easier if someone other than a group of fishermen and tax collectors could have corroborated the resurrection.

(Actually, Phil, leave out the fishermen and tax collectors reference. I don’t want to sound condescending.)

(Yes, Phil, I realize that I am being condescending, but it’s not like these guys are particularly well-educated. They probably won’t pick up on it. By Gehenna, they’ll be lucky to find someone to even read this letter out loud to them.)

I’d really like to come apologize to all of you in person, but I kind of need your assurances that I’m not going to be killed on the spot. Again, I know that you are all into forgiveness and repaying evil with good… but, I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m still a little bit skeptical. Maybe not skeptical, but at least cautious. So, if you could just send me a little note saying, “Paul, we won’t do to you what you did to Stephen and several others, come and see us”… I will come and see you.

I’m not asking to hang out. I mean, we are brothers in Christ now, but I can see how me teaching the Scriptures every Sunday (or are we still doing Saturday? I don’t know with these guys) might rub some less forward thinking people the wrong way. So, let’s just take Jerusalem off the table. BUT, my Greek is pretty good, and I have a feeling that you guys are going to want to take this Jesus Gospel thing worldwide, if you can. So, you hang out in Jerusalem, I go hang out in Corinth, and Ephesus, and Galatia, and Thesselonica… all those places that you probably don’t even want to touch. I’m out of the way, and I get to keep doing what I love – that is, being a religious authority. Two birds with one stone, right?

(You’re right, Phil. The stone reference probably isn’t appropriate. Take that out.)

So, write me, send Ananias back with a message… whatever. Just let me know if I can come. I’ll be waiting here for your reply.

In Christ,

Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus

New Apostle of Jesus Christ

Formerly the Hebrew Hammer

(Philomenus, are you still writing down EVERY WORD that I’m saying? I’m trying to make an apology here, and I can’t do that if you don’t edit some of this down!)

(Alright, at least promise to scratch out the sidebars.)