The Gift of Obfuscation


He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16)

So. The Apostle Paul. Are we talking inspiration of the Holy Ghost or the influence of amphetamines? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. At least Peter thought so. And if the number two guy (from a Gentile perspective) had a few clarity issues with Paul, it’s probably a safe bet that Paul really overloaded a whole lot of brains in his day.

Paul is notorious for the endless sentence. Take Romans 1:1-7 (and take a deep breath while you’re at it):

Paul a servant of Jesus Christ a called apostle having been separated to the good news of God which He announced before through His prophets in holy writings concerning His Son who is come of the seed of David according to the flesh who is marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of sanctification by the rising again from the dead Jesus Christ our Lord through whom we did receive grace and apostleship for obedience of faith among all the nations in behalf of his name among whom are also ye the called of Jesus Christ to all who are in Rome beloved of God called saints Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whoa. Talk about verbal diarrhea. In Paul’s Greek this torrent of loquacity is a single grammatical thought. Not only that, the original Greek was written in all capital letters without punctuation marks or spaces between words. Here’s an idea of what those poor Romans would have seen:


Yikes. And that’s only the first seven verses of Romans; there are sixteen chapters full of that stuff! No wonder Paul was hard to understand. Those “ignorant and unstable people” that Peter rags on where probably just a bunch of well-meaning editors from the Jerusalem Post trying to do Paul a favor.

To add to everybody’s problems, Paul likes to—oh, elucidate stuff. With Paul, a simple concept becomes positively labyrinthine. For example, where Jesus says simply, “I chose you,” Paul inflates it to

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ according as He did choose us in him before the foundation of the world for our being holy and unblemished before Him in love having foreordained us to the adoption of sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace in which He did make us accepted in the beloved in whom we have the redemption through his blood the remission of the trespasses according to the riches of His grace in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence having made known to us the secret of His will according to His good pleasure that He purposed in Himself in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times to bring into one the whole in the Christ both the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth in him in whom also we did obtain an inheritance being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will for our being to the praise of His glory.

Now, I’m not saying that Paul doesn’t have some cool stuff to say; but the way I figure it,  his logophilia added at least 20% to the cost of printing a Bible. This guy can take your nickel and give you change for a twenty.

What would we do without Paul? Probably understand Jesus for one thing. But then again, if it weren’t for Paul, Christianity wouldn’t be the polarizing, doctrine heavy, word inflated religion that we have come to know and love. Without Paul all we’d have are some farm parables and a handful of “blessed are the ____” mantras. Boring.


One Response

  1. However, it was Jesus who spoke in parables “so that ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding;'”

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