|In part two of this series I pointed out that some scholars view the presence of so many inconsistencies in the Paulines as due to insertions made to the letters by someone other than their original author. In line with this possibility, I have so far been examining one particular scenario based on certain peculiarities in the early record that seem to conflate Paul with Simon of Samaria.
My hypothesis is that the Paul who wrote the original letters was the first-century Simon of Samaria and that the inconsistencies were caused by insertions to his text by a second-century proto-orthodox redactor. In this scenario the redactor’s aim would have been to turn Simon/Paul into a proto-orthodox Paul and thereby co-opt his letters for proto-orthodoxy.
If this scenario is correct . . .
Now if this scenario is correct, one would not expect to find mention of Simon’s companion Helen in the letters as they currently stand. Any clear references to her would almost certainly have been removed or rewritten by the interpolator. And not just because she was so closely associated with Simon and his teaching. The interpolator, as a member of the mid-second century proto-orthodox community, would presumably have shared its desire to limit the influence of women in ecclesiastical matters, a desire that many scholars see reflected, for example, in the following passage from 1 Corinthians:
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (vv. 34-35)
These verses are present in one place or another of chapter 14 in all extant manuscripts that possess the chapter. Nevertheless, there are zigzags that are just too jagged even for many mainstream scholars to harmonize. This is one of them. It is a zag they find too hard to reconcile with other zigs like 1 Cor. 11:5. And it “interrupts the flow of the argument.” Its verses “seem to intrude in the passage.” So it is generally deemed acceptable to hold that “These verses in chapter 14 were not written by Paul” (Bart Ehrman, Forged pp. 244-5).
But although for one reason or another Helen’s name may not have survived the redactor’s eraser, there are Pauline passages that, in my opinion, may still contain traces of her. This post will take a look at some of them.
Pauline passages that still contain traces of Helen
1 Corinthians 9: 1 – 18
(divisions and bracketing mine)
Am I not an apostle? Have I not see Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me.
Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only [Barnabas] (…..) and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.”
Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake that the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
[Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.]
Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
[But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting… What then is my reward? That in my preaching I present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel].
There are several things wrong with this passage. . .
First of all . . .
First of all, its author spends a lot of time defending certain apostolic rights that he doesn’t even use. As Robert M. Price’s puts it:
Modern harmonizers plead that the first argument is Paul’s statement of agreement on basics with his critics regarding an apostle’s right to receive compensation, whereas the second argument presents his extenuating reasons for, nonetheless, not exercising the rights for which he has so eloquently argued. But no one takes such trouble to establish the other fellow’s argument, only to dismiss it and establish one’s own position in a few words, as we would have to read Paul as doing here if he wrote the whole thing. (The Amazing Colossal Apostle, p. 335)
And then . . .
And, as Daniel Völter and others have called attention to, the passage provides different and textually separated motives for the waiver of Paul’s rights:
- The first is Paul’s desire not to “put an obstacle in the way of the gospel.”
- Then, after abruptly returning for a couple of verses to a defense of his rights, Paul again protests that he hasn’t used them. This time he brings forward some different motives for his conduct: he preaches the gospel free-of-charge because, by sacrificing his right to compensation, he will have grounds for boasting and earn a reward.
And another contradiction . . .
But this claim to preach the gospel for free is contradicted by other Pauline passages, including one right in the second letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 11:8 he says he took from other churches in order not to charge the Corinthians. So by his own admission, he did not go without. He just got the money from another of his congregations. How does that merit a reward? How is that something he can boast about?
Another problem . . .
Another problem: the presence in this passage of Barnabas who is mentioned nowhere else in the two Corinthians letters. And even in the Acts of the Apostles Barnabas is not connected in any way with the Corinthian mission. Yet here in 1 Corinthians 9 his name turns up without a word of explanation, as if all the Corinthian Christians were expected to know him and to know that his apostolic rights too were being denied by someone somewhere. As Robert M. Price observes, it is “as if the interpolator did not recall which apostolic associate had been mentioned earlier and just thought of them, as modern readers tend to do, in one big lump” (The Amazing Colossal Apostle, p. 334).
The Simonian hypothesis can plausibly resolve the problems . . .
I too think the above problems exist because the original text has been tampered with. And I think my Simonian hypothesis can plausibly untangle the passage and resolve its problems. My explanation is this:
The original passage was written by Simon/Paul and in it he defended his right to the monetary compensation needed to support him and his wife Helen. He was an apostle and, as such, claimed the rights of an apostle. One of the ways he argued his right to compensation was by interpreting allegorically the verse, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Dr. Price aptly describes the attempt as a “blatantly allegorical interpretation which utterly dispenses with the original sense…” (The Amazing Colossal Apostle p. 334). I would point out that this is just the sort of interpretation for which Simon was upbraided by the proto-orthodox.
And the assertions that God has no concern for oxen, and that the Old Testament verse about them was spoken “entirely for our sake” fits well with Simon’s system. The supreme God did not make material things (the sarkika i.e., fleshly things of verse 11) and so does not care about them. His concern is with the spiritual, the scattered elements of his invisible divinity that are lodged in us. No sign here of the proto-orthodox doctrine of a Creator God who provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.
|As I see it, a proto-orthodox redactor subsequently introduced changes to the whole passage in order to hide the identity of the original author and remove Helen from the text.
Thus I submit that verses 4 through 6 originally were:
Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do I not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Helen and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
That Simon took along a woman with him was noted by the early heresy-hunters: “He led about with him a certain Helen…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1, 23, 2); “And after he had purchased her [Helen’s] freedom, he took her about with him…” (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies 6, 19).
Philippians 4: 2 -3
In this passage Paul, from prison (in Caesarea, I suspect), writes:
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, my true yokemate (Greek: syzyge), help these women who have labored with me in the gospel…
|Clement of Alexandria clearly understood the yokemate in Philippians 4:3 to be Paul’s wife. And Eusebius did not contest his interpretation.|
The Greek word translated “yokemate” here can also mean “consort” and was frequently used for a spouse. Clement of Alexandria clearly understood the yokemate in Philippians 4:3 to be Paul’s wife. He wrote:
In one of his letters Paul has no hesitation in addressing his yokemate. He did not take her around with him for the convenience of his ministry. He says in one of his letters, “Do we not have the authority to take around a wife from the Church, like the other apostles?” (Stromata 3, 53)
And Eusebius, in his Church History (3, 31), quotes Clement’s words without contesting his interpretation in any way.
Gender and manuscripts . . .
Now in the current text of Philippians “syzege” is modified by the adjective “gnesie” (“true”) which is in the masculine gender. If that adjective was part of the original text the “yokemate” could not have been a woman. But both Clement and Eusebius were Greek-speaking. It seems unlikely in the extreme that both of them could have overlooked the gender of the adjective. To my mind, it is much more probable that in the manuscript they used the adjective was either absent or it was feminine in form. One way this could have happened was if a proto-orthodox redactor changed the text early on to remove Simon/Paul’s wife from it, but his update did not make it into every manuscript.
The first of the divine syzygies [“yokemates”] . . .
What makes the Philippians passage especially interesting is that Simon’s Apophasis Megale system featured prominently a teaching on yoked pairs (syzygies):
The generated cosmos, therefore, was generated from the ungenerated Fire. And it commenced to be generated, he [Simon] says, in the following way. The first six Roots of the Principle of generation which the generated [cosmos] took were from that Fire. And the Roots, he says, were generated from the Fire in pairs (syzygies)… Of these six Powers… he calls the first pair Mind and Thought (Refutation of All Heresies 6, 12)
Of these shoots one is manifested from above, which is the Great Power, the Universal Mind ordering all things, male, and the other is manifested from below, the Great Thought, female, producing all things. Hence pairing with each other they unite … They pair with each other being one… Mind is in Thought—things inseparable from one another—which although being one are yet found as two. (Refutation of All Heresies 6, 18)
Simon claimed that he and Helen were the uppermost of the three divine syzygies. He was the Great Power (Acts 8:10), the Nous, i.e., Mind of God. And his syzygy Helen was his First Ennoia (sometimes Epinoia), i.e., his Great Thought that he came in search of after she was taken captive by the angelic powers she had generated.
Thus, it seems quite appropriate that Simon/Paul would address Helen as his yokemate, and he may in fact have done so in Philippians 4:3.
1 Corinthians 6: 12 – 20
12. All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other.
The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. 14. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
16. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
18. Flee from fornication. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body. 19. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20. for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
The meaning of this passage continues to be elusive for New Testament scholars. The radical sentiments expressed in its first few verses have always been a problem. Some have proposed that Paul is quoting opinions he held in his younger days, and that in the remainder of the passage an older and wiser Paul revises them. But others find the ideas expressed in 6:12 – 14 too radical to have ever been Paul’s in the first place. Surely, they claim, he is quoting someone else’s slogans.
Unfortunately Paul gives not the least hint either that that he is changing his mind about some former statements of his, or that he is quoting someone else. Proponents of these scenarios, however, generally get around that difficulty by surmising that Paul knew his readers would perceive on their own what he was doing. If he doesn’t tell them he is quoting his own former assertions or slogans of others, it must be because they were already familiar with the assertions or slogans in question.
The words are seen as too radical to be Paul’s . . .
Of these two most common approaches to the passage the “slogan quotation” solution is the more widely held. But there is disagreement about which words belong to the alleged slogans. Some would limit them to “All things are lawful for me” and “Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food.” This was the position, for example, of those responsible for the RSV and ESV translations. But others (for instance, the NIV translator) see the assertion that “God will destroy both the one (food) and the other (stomach)” as part of the slogan.
The words are seen as too radical to be Paul’s. And the destruction has a definitive a ring to it that clashes with the very next verse where, just as God raised the Lord, he “will also raise us up by his power.”
Some see them as gnostic or proto-gnostic. . .
There is disagreement too about the philosophical provenance of the alleged slogans. Some see them as gnostic or proto-gnostic. C.K. Barrett, for example, writes:
Note the gnostic or quasi-gnostic context in which freedom is discussed, both here and in chapters viii and x; also the ground given for bodily freedom—the body is perishable, and its acts are therefore insignificant (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 145).
But those scholars who insist that gnosticism began only in the second century necessarily look elsewhere. Cynicism and Stoicism are two alternatives that have been proposed.
How to explain Paul’s surprising response?
|Paul affirms the validity(!) of the slogans. . . One would expect him to say “No, all things are not lawful for me. Fornication is not lawful for me . . .”|
And then there is the matter of how to explain Paul’s surprising response to the alleged slogans. He affirms their validity(!) though he does add a couple of weak qualifying considerations. But if Paul knew where he was going in this passage, namely, to a strong condemnation of fornication, it is incredible that his initial response is just: “Yes, all things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful.”
And he doesn’t give a single example here of something that is lawful but not helpful.
The kind of response one would expect is a definite: “No, all things are not lawful for me. Fornication, for example, is not lawful for me. Nor are all the other things I just mentioned that prevent one from entering the kingdom of God” (see 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
There is a disconnect between Paul’s tepid response to the alleged slogans in verses 12 and 13, and his forceful rejection of fornication just two verses later in the passage. And it doesn’t do justice to it to just say: “One must acknowledge a certain lack of correctness in Paul’s train of thought” (Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth, p. 233).
Other surprises . . .
There are other surprises in the passage:
- — Verse 6:15a (“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”) is the only place in the whole Pauline corpus that says the “bodies” of Christians are members of Christ. Similarly, Verse 6:19 (“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…”) is the only place in the Pauline corpus where the “body” of a Christian is said to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Earlier right in 3:16ff of this very letter it is the community that said to be God’s temple.
- — In 6:15b there is an unexpected switchover to the first person singular: “Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?” Both in the verse that precedes this one and in the verse that follows it Paul uses the second person plural. Why this switch that Jean Héring calls “most surprising”? (The First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, p. 43) Héring thinks some textual corruption must have occurred at this unfortunate spot. I will propose a different explanation.
- — In his argument against fornication in 6:16b Paul approvingly cites an Old Testament verse about sarx (flesh): “For, as it is written, ‘the two will become one flesh.” In the Paulines the sarx is regularly disparaged. It is a bit unexpected, then, for him to have recourse to a “sarx quotation” here.
- — Verse 6:20 says we were bought for a price, “for cash” (Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, p. 113), with no elaboration. This is surprising for, from a proto-orthodox perspective, the price paid was the infinitely precious suffering and death of Christ. We see this expressed, for example, in 1 Peter 1:18-19: “… realizing that you were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.” By contrast, the verse here in 1 Corinthians looks naked. Jerome apparently thought so too, for he added a word in his Latin Vulgate translation: You were bought at a great price (emphasis mine).
These then are some of the puzzles in the passage. My hypothesis, I maintain, can plausibly untangle it and solve its puzzles.
I propose that the only parts of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 that are original are the following:
12b. All things are lawful for me, and I will not be brought under the power of anyone. 13. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other. 17. But He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 19b. You are not your own, 20. for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God.
|The passage does indeed express gnostic sentiments. He is not quoting anyone. He is rejecting all Jewish food regulations.|
Verses 6:12b and 13 do indeed express gnostic sentiments but they are those of the original author of the letter, Simon of Samaria. He is not quoting anyone. It is he who is here rejecting all Jewish food regulations. His meaning is: “All things are lawful for me to eat.” It is the equivalent of the “All foods are clean” of Mk. 7:19.
(And, incidentally, the reason he doesn’t support his contention by quoting Jesus that “everything that enters one from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine,” [Mk. 7:18-19] is, I would argue, because the Jesus of the original GMark was a later allegorical stand-in for Simon. The words of the Markan Jesus figure reflect the earlier words of Simon/Paul. But discussion of this will have to wait for a later post.)
Enslavement to the stoicheia angels
The enslavement referred to when Simon/Paul says “I will not be brought under the power of any” is that which the stoicheia (element-angels) try to impose by means of the Law. The gender of “any” is usually taken to be neuter and translated as “anything.” But it can also be taken as masculine with the meaning “anyone,” and I maintain that is its sense here. The ones who would enslave by means of food regulations are the world-making, Law-imposing angels.
Gnostic disparagement of the material world
And to Simon/Paul should be attributed the gnostic disparagement of the material world reflected in the assertion that “God will destroy both one [food] and the other [stomach].” Food and the stomach are both equally material, and perishable, and thus not religiously significant.
The reason all foods are lawful is not because of some change introduced in the divine dispensation. No, Simon held that use of all material things has really always been lawful because the material world is the inferior product of inferior powers. The material things that God will ultimately destroy are the same things that, according to Colossians 2:21, “perish with use.” Yet Simon/Paul’s opponents continued to insist that his followers subject themselves to the ordinances regarding material things that the Law-imposing stoicheia angels put in place (see Col. 2:20-21).
Spirit in humans reconnects with its source
By way of contrast to the unimportant joining of food and body, Simon/Paul then asserts the all-important connection of man’s spirit with God:
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him (6:17).
This is the gnostic teaching that man’s spirit is in fact an extension of God, the disconnected sparks of divinity that seek to reconnect to their source. And that great reconnection commenced when the Spirit herself, Helen, was released from the powers that held her captive. The moment of that release was when Simon purchased her from a brothel in Tyre with cash. And included in that purchase of her was the purchase of our spirits too—separated extensions of her. So “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God” (6:20).
The correctives in the passage are not Simon/Paul’s. They are insertions of the proto-orthodox redactor. I will tag them by means of boldfaced type and brackets:
12. [All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.]
All things are lawful for me, and I will not be brought under the power of anyone. 13. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food—and God will destroy both one and the other.
[The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. 14. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16. Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”]
17. But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
[18. Flee from fornication. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the man who commits fornication sins against his own body. 19. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?]
You are not your own, 20. for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God [in your body.]
The original location of “All things are lawful for me”
The opening verse of the passage (“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful”) does not belong with the rest of it. It is misplaced, having been brought in from elsewhere in the letter. Its original location was at the other place it occurs in 1 Corinthians, at 10:23.
There it makes sense. There it is used in the context of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Such eating is lawful, but there are circumstances where it can be helpful to avoid it. It does not fit in 6:12-20 where not a single example is given of something that is lawful but unhelpful.
Rescuing the flesh while distancing Paul/Simon from a prostitute
The next interpolation serves two purposes.
- First, it corrects verse 13’s gnostic disparagement of the material body. This is the proto-orthodox doctrinal zag that renders harmless Simon/Paul’s zig. The material body is not insignificant. It is for the Lord. And it will not forever perish. It will be raised by the Lord’s power. The body of a Christian is a member of Christ.
- Second, the interpolation serves to disassociate the new Paul from a bodily offense of which, as the interpolator saw it, the original Paul was guilty: sexual relations with the former prostitute Helen. It was to distance his Paul from this sin against the body that the interpolator abruptly brought fornication into a passage that originally made no mention of it. And that too was the reason the interpolator changed over to the first person singular and made Paul proclaim:
Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!
Correcting the Holy Spirit
The interpolation that follows the authentic verse 17 continues to discreetly target Simon/Paul and Helen. In the Simonian system Helen was the Holy Spirit, and it was from Simon that she was had. This gets corrected in verse 19 by the words: “the Holy Spirit… whom you have from God.” It also makes material bodies the Spirit’s temples.
Last, the interpolator added “in your body” to the admonition to glorify God in verse 20.
In their current state the Pauline letters refute those who would claim that Paul took a prostitute about with him. They assure us that he did not even take along a spouse. He only claimed the right to do so. Perhaps that is where the misunderstanding arose. And the apostle definitely would not have had sexual relations with a prostitute. His direct and forceful words in 1 Corinthians 6:15 rule that out.
Reassuring, is it not?