By Jerry and Joe Long
The following manuscript was found intact in a cave at the northwest end of the Dead Sea in 1999. It appears to be the transcript of a dialogue between Brian of Lamb, the host of Scroll Notes, who was considered the finest interviewer of the first century A.D.; and St. Paul, the father of modern Christianity. Or it could just be something my brother and I thought up.
BRIAN: Talking with Paul of Tarsus...author of The Collected Letters of Paul of Tarsus. First of all, you refer to yourself as being "of" Tarsus...so you are from Tarsus?
BRIAN: And you're an actual human being?
BRIAN: You're not a composite?
BRIAN: Some of these religious authors are composites of fragments of writing accumulated over centuries...did you know that?
PAUL: Yes I did.
BRIAN: What are your letters about?
BRIAN: Which god?
PAUL: The true God.
BRIAN: Which true god?
PAUL: Jesus...the Son of the true God.
BRIAN: Some people feel this Jesus was a reform-minded Jewish rabbi.
PAUL: They're wrong.
BRIAN: What god is this Jesus the son of?
BRIAN: The Jewish god?
BRIAN: Why would the Jewish god suddenly have an interest in the so-called "gentiles"?
PAUL: He just does.
BRIAN: In the Jewish books, god is petty, insecure, vindictive, bloodthirsty, and intolerant.
PAUL: That's right.
BRIAN: Yet in your letters, the same god is all-loving, all-caring, and all-forgiving. What happened?
PAUL: He is Who was... and will be.
BRIAN: All right. You've said that Jesus is the son of god.
BRIAN: Did he ever make that claim for himself?
PAUL: Not as strongly as I am making it.
BRIAN: Were you a close friend of Jesus when he was alive?
BRIAN: Hang out together once in awhile?
BRIAN: Ever meet him at all?
BRIAN: So you might call this an unauthorized biography.
PAUL: No. I wouldn't.
BRIAN: Well, how are you qualified to speak for this Jesus?
PAUL: I used to persecute his followers.
BRIAN: Persecute them?
PAUL: That's right. And then one day, as I was riding along the Damascus Road, I heard a voice.
BRIAN: You heard a voice?
PAUL: Yes. I heard a voice. And the voice said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
BRIAN: And who was Saul? A guy riding next to you?
PAUL: No. I was Saul.
BRIAN: I see.
PAUL: So the Spirit filled me, I changed my name to Paul, and I began interpreting what Jesus said and adding on to his teachings many things that he never actually said himself but that he wills me to write.
BRIAN: Do you consider yourself nuts?
BRIAN: When you heard the voice, did you worry that you might be going nuts?
BRIAN: So this new religion of yours has a son of god who becomes man and dies to forgive our sins.
PAUL: That's right.
BRIAN: Did you know that the cult of Mithras-which has been around several hundred years-has a god who becomes man and dies to forgive our sins?
PAUL: Yes. A coincidence.
BRIAN: Any conscious or unconscious plagiarism on your part?
PAUL: No. But it does make it easier for gentiles to identify with the letters.
BRIAN: Turning to the letters. You write, "A man ought not to wear anything on his head in church, for he is the image of God and reflects God's glory, while woman is a reflection of man's glory. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man. That is why she ought to wear upon her head something to symbolize her subjection." Is that Jesus talking, or you?
PAUL: Jesus talking through me.
BRIAN: You're not married yourself.
BRIAN: I didn't think so. Now Jesus' actual apostles, they still consider themselves to be Jews, don't they?
PAUL: Yes they do.
BRIAN: Do you get along with them?
PAUL: I'd rather not say.
BRIAN: I see. So what are your long-range plans? Any more scrolls in the works?
PAUL: Well, as I say in the letters, the world is going to end shortly-so there wouldn't really be much point.
BRIAN: The world's going to end?
BRIAN: Now, did you write that to sell scrolls or do you really believe it?
PAUL: I believe it.
BRIAN: Is it going to end soon?
PAUL: We are living in the final days.
BRIAN: You're sure?
PAUL: Oh yes! Many alive today will witness the end of the world. This is as absolutely and undeniably true as anything else I have written.
BRIAN: Paul of Tarsus, thank you.
Paul was executed in 64 A.D. A few years later, the Emperor Galba, having grown weary of Brian of Lamb's persistent, reasoned questioning, had him sown alive inside animal skins and thrown to a pack of dogs. The world is still here.
Jerry Long and his brother Joe are known as the satirists The Sturdy Beggars. They live in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. JerryBeggar@aol.com
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