Daily Archives: 2011-04-06 21:23:19 UTC

Struggling with a date for Paul’s letters

This post is a kind of “thinking aloud” series of responses to Doherty’s list of reasons for adhering to the conventional wisdom on Paul. I am primarily concerned with the relative dates of the letters. It makes no difference to me if the real person behind them was Buttox who sold the world on his pen-name Paul. What counts is the place of the letters in the history of Christian origins.

Earl Doherty’s reasons (reduced to dot-points in my previous post) are in bold type, with my reflections following. There are, of course, various other arguments than those addressed below for sometimes dating the letters well into the second century. But I am only considering these few explicit arguments for the first century (really meaning pre 70 ce) date here.

# Paul’s epistles do not reflect orthodox beliefs in historical Jesus. We would expect them to reflect this if they were second century. read more »

Reasons to assign Paul’s letters to the first century (distilled from Doherty)

I have attempted to distill the key points from Earl Doherty’s recent comments to sum up his case for maintaining the assigning of Paul’s letters to the first century. I will post my own thoughts on these in a later post. I have not included here details of some previous discussion in which Doherty responds to specific objections or questions, but I have extracted a few summary points he included in his responses.

The argument is that a first century picture is “thoroughly coherent”:

  1. Paul’s epistles do not reflect orthodox beliefs in historical Jesus. We would expect them to reflect this if they were second century.
  2. Claims that Paul’s epistles reflect Marcionism are weak.
  3. Sections in Paul’s letters that have been said to reflect anti-Marcionite polemics are best explained as later ad hoc orthodox editing.
  4. The slightly “jumbled, inconsistent” character of the Pauline epistles is what we would expect from uncoordinated and mostly occasional writings spanning years and different situations. (Notwithstanding some clear tampering in the second century as well.)
  5. “A strong indication of some degree of authenticity is the personality of a writer who is engaged in the type of apostolic work being presented. The strong and emotional personality that emerges in the genuine Paulines is not conceivable as the product of a deliberate forger living in a later time and slaving over a writing desk to create a fictional character of a century earlier.”
  6. Paul is mentioned in 1 Clement and the letters of Ignatius (probably written in his name, but early in the 2nd century). read more »