2011-04-06

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

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

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).

 

As for Justin not mentioning Paul:

“I regard Justin and those apologists as coming out of a separate strand of early heavenly Son belief, and that Paul was not widely known outside of his own branch of that faith until the diverse strands of what we now call Christianity became more amalgamated after the middle of the century. “

As for the generalized geographic addresses of the epistles:

“When the letters were collected and published or bundled into a canon, such particulars could well have been dropped. It became a convention to style such an epistle as “To the Galatians.” Not that the receiving congregation couldn’t have made a point of circulating the original, or copies of it, to nearby congregations, whether Paul intended that or not.

 

Nor do I find it hard to envision Paul speaking to a specific congregation as “You Galatians.” Surely this is not much on which to base a rejection of the epistle as ‘authentic’. Besides, if Paul had visited Galatia, it would be entirely feasible that he had given rise to or visited more than one congregation, justifying a collective address.”

As for Romans 11:

If this passage were meant to reflect an agenda, a commentary on the fall of Jerusalem in 70 (rather than the failure of the Jews, in Paul’s eyes, to respond to his and others’ preaching about the Son), such an agenda would surely be more clearly discernible. Christian forgers have never been known for their subtlety (just look at the Testimonium Flavianum). . . .  And what about the rest of Romans? For such an appeal to chapter 11 to have any force, we should find the entire epistle reflecting an agenda pertinent to a 2nd century writer. . . . .  In fact, that is one of the glaring silences right in Romans 11. Paul appeals to Elijah’s words about the killing of the prophets, with not a hint that they had killed the greatest of these right in Paul’s own lifetime. No 2nd century forger could possibly have left that void staring out at the reader if he had any knowledge of the Gospel story. Nor would it have been anachronistic, for a Paul he was forging would be expected to know that the Jews had killed Jesus.

The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

  • Bob Carlson
    2011-04-06 09:28:17 GMT+0000 - 09:28 | Permalink

    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.

    In Jesus Potter, Harry Christ Derek Murphy says:

    The epistles of Paul are notoriously obtuse and contradictory, because he seems to be saying different things to every one. This is because not every community was at the same level in the process of initiation. As a mystery religion, Christianity had several layers of meaning that would be divulged slowly when initiates proved their worth. To the beginners, Paul was careful not to reveal too much; the higher teaching would be wasted on them if they weren’t spiritually prepared, and the process would be ruined if rushed. To strengthen their willpower, Paul told them to have faith, to be strict in their habits and diet, and to become masters over their physical bodies. Once members had shown a certain level of spiritual maturity, they would be initiated into the higher mysteries and told that the Christ story was a metaphor for spiritual transformation. These advanced pupils who believed in developing personal wisdom, or Gnosis, are the communities referred to by historians as Gnostics. To these higher initiates, Paul left behind the initial steps and skipped ahead to more advanced topics.

    His theory is that it was Paulian communities that never made it beyond the initial levels in the initiation process that were left with the notion of an earthly Jesus. They split off from the Gnostics and ultimately prevailed as the orthodox branch of Christianity. This is reflected in the title of his Chapter Nine, “Stupid Galatians: The Resurrection of the Flesh.”

  • mcduff
    2011-04-06 16:07:45 GMT+0000 - 16:07 | Permalink

    I’m highly sceptical of any chronology claim of orthodox christian ‘history’ for a variety of reasons.

    In the past, piqued by some comment somewhere where I have come across something like ‘Joe Blow, who wrote “Confessions of ….” in December of 73 CE….probably in Moscow” and I have then gone to the bother to check out what is known about ‘Joe Blow’ I have frequently found ….nothing.
    Nothing except assertions written by someone [also of uncertain identity], much later [dating confused] somewhere [maybe here, maybe there].
    And the provenance of the history spirals into a murky confusion.

    For example, take the reference to 1 Clement.
    Wiki says about him:
    “Few details are known about Clement’s life. According to Tertullian ….” and Tertullian is dated [by a similar murky process] about 100 years later than purported Clement.
    Wiki goes on to state rather categorically that Clem “is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century”, Wiki even names him [if there really was such a ‘him’] as Pope Clement 1, which is very generous rendition of what is actually known.
    Which is that someone [also murky and later] claimed there may have been someone of that name [or perhaps 3 entirely different fellas] in Rome around that time of uncertain rank.
    Wiki gives a brief precis of this ‘evidence’ [actually unsubstantiated hearsy] and then describes it as ..
    ” The meaning of these early reports is unclear, given the lack of evidence for monarchical episcopacy in Rome at so early a date.”

    Not exactly confidence inspiring is it?

    Yet this vague hearsay is the essence of naming this ghostly figure as the author of an epistle and dating that epistle by circular reasoning to a terribly convenient date of late first century.
    Essentially by cobling together an apology for not writing earlier in the epistle with Clem’s purported biographical details and a further assertion lacking evidence that this ties in with an otherwise unevidenced persecution of christians by the emperor of the time.

    Shonky.
    Even without considering the known [?] forgeries of the time, for example 2 Clement.
    Here’s Wiki again:
    “A second epistle, 2 Clement, was attributed to Clement although recent scholarship suggests it to be a homily by another author”.

    As a basis for dating anything ‘Clement’ offers no credible authority.

    And when you get to Ignatius the mud is just as thick.
    Some orthodox christian scholars regard him as ‘entirely fictional’ [the words of a 19th century prelate named Killen] but I’ll leave that aside for now.

    Now I’m not disagreeing with Earl, or you Neil, I’m just saying that I reckon the whole issue of dating and naming in early christian history is a very shonky matter and so the question of who [singular or plural] wrote what, when and such has been labelled “Paul” is still open enough for me to put such writings anywhere within a 100 year time span.

    • 2011-04-06 21:38:48 GMT+0000 - 21:38 | Permalink

      The difficulties of dating are not slight. Very often the best we can hope to do is lay all the documents out on a very large table and attempt to arrange them in some sort of relative (or parallel) sequence to one another — and never forgetting the basis of our relative dating when building any case on it.

      In the case of Doherty’s mythicist view, I don’t think that it makes a fundamental difference if Paul’s letters are early or late. Doherty may disagree, however. For me, there is a very strong argument for relegating the gospels to fiction no matter what period they belong to. Even IF (extremely unlikely) Paul’s letters turned out to be later than the gospels, they are certainly independent of them, and would remain as testimony to the Christian myth(s) originating in something more obscure and complex than a romantic narrative about a band of founding heroes.

      • Geoff Hudson
        2011-04-06 23:36:35 GMT+0000 - 23:36 | Permalink

        But were the letters of Paul (before they were Paulinised, ie pre 70) more or less written at the same time as some of the gospel content? Then you might ask yourself, are all of the gospels independent of the letters. See if the following adds up.

        JAMES CALL THE PRIESTS

        {James} went into [Galilee] {the temple}, proclaiming the [good news] {Spirit} of God.

        1.15.”The time has come,” he said. “The [kingdom] {Spirit} of God is near.

        [Repent] {Hear} and [believe] {obey} the [good news] {Spirit}!”

        1.16.As [Jesus] {James} walked beside the [Sea of Galilee] {altar}, he saw [Simon and his brother and Andrew] {priests} casting a [net] {sacrifice} into the [lake] {fire}

        [, for they were fishermen].

        1.17.”Come, [follow] {obey} [me] {the Spirit},” [Jesus] {James} said, “and [I] {he} will make you [fishers of men] {clean}.”

        1.18.At once they left their [nets] {sacrifices} and followed him.

  • Steven Carr
    2011-04-06 19:01:47 GMT+0000 - 19:01 | Permalink

    ‘To the beginners, Paul was careful not to reveal too much; the higher teaching would be wasted on them if they weren’t spiritually prepared, and the process would be ruined if rushed.’

    Gosh,I thought everybody fell over themselves to spread this oral tradition of Jesus’s teachings.

    Now I learn that while every man and his dog was told Jesus sayings, so that they could have a vibrant oral tradition, the teachings of Paul would be wasted on people who were spiritually prepared enough to be told what Jesus had said, but not prepared enough for the teachings of Paul.

  • Geoff Hudson
    2011-04-06 20:21:17 GMT+0000 - 20:21 | Permalink

    You are backing the wrong horse. The arguements are all forward in time, post 70, in a murky future. They should look back to pre 70. There is not one hint here of Romans and Galatians being derived from original Jewish prophetic documents. I have rewritten a part of Galations Chap.3 in the context of what I believe was the arguement between priests and prophets. The vegetarian prophets were against animal sacrifice because they believed that they should obey the Spirit as Lord or master. See if this doesn’t have a ring of truth about it.

    Chap.3

    DID YOU RECEIVE THE SPIRIT BY SACRIFICE?
    You foolish Judeans! Ananus has bewitched you. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by sacrifice, or by obeying the Spirit you heard? Are you so foolish? After receiving the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your cleansing by sacrifice? Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit because you sacrifice, or because you obey the Spirit you heard?

  • Evan
    2011-04-07 02:58:02 GMT+0000 - 02:58 | Permalink

    Earl’s explanation for why he thinks 1 Clement was a real letter don’t strike me as really addressing the criticisms;

    He says: “If the length of 1 Clement is the most cogent argument the Dutch Radicals have to reject the authenticity of the epistle (I read a couple of their articles many years ago, but can only vaguely recall their details), it’s not much of a case. It actually seems to be somewhat fallacious, since if it’s a forgery, it still remains just as long and the question stays on the table.”

    This seems to glide past the criticism, so I’m going to try to make my concerns more visible. If 1 Clement is not the work of a 1st century “Pope Clement” who was familiar with the historical Paul, then it can’t be a witness to the historical Paul. Early Christian Writings dates 1 Clement from 80 – 140 CE. That is a long time, covering from the last of the Flavians to post Hadrian. The reason most scholars date it to the reign of Domitian is due to the phrase “sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us,” which seems pretty vague to me. All it can be is a witness to the belief in the historical Paul at the time of its writing, which could be well into the second century. Its status as a witness to the historical Paul is all that matters, but if it is not the work of a historical person itself, this calls its ability to be a reliable signpost to Paul into question.

    Now 1 Clement is long, but it also makes no sense as a letter. This from XX:

    The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no way hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins, never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, “Thus far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you.” The ocean, impassible to man, and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfill, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen.

    I simply say, “Huh?” What does this have to do with not obeying Bishops. This is sermon, plain and simple, even down to the Amen.

    So this isn’t really a letter from Clement the Pope in Rome to the unruly Corinthians, it’s a doctrinal treatise. It isn’t even named within the text as being by Clement, but only as coming from the church at Rome to the church in Corinth. So it seems a pretty weak reed to put so much weight on to me.

    • 2011-04-07 03:19:37 GMT+0000 - 03:19 | Permalink

      I don’t regard 1 Clement as written by “Clement,” pope or otherwise. At least, not reliably. When I claim “authenticity” for it I exclude authorship (and usually say this). Dating is not determined by the alleged author, but rather by the content and how it fits into the surrounding context of early Christianity generally.

      I don’t find the muddleness of the epistle’s content problematic. This is simply the nature of the writer (and makes even less sense in the hands of a forger). This writer is simply a voluble personality, likes to show off his knowledge of scripture and anything else he can manage to throw in. We cannot expect every writer of the day to be Pulitzer-prize quality. In my view, (and I discuss this thoroughly on my website [Supplementary Article 12] and in my new book, this writer does not know of an historical Jesus (not even in chapter 41), he does not have any developed knowledge of a martyrdom of Peter and Paul, especially in Rome (chapter 5), and derives his Jesus’ voice from scripture (as in chapter 16). All these factors speak to a dating not later than the first decade or so of the 2nd century, and quite possibly in the final years of the first.

      There are too many anomalies here to regard 1 Clement as a much later forgery (or even post-130 or 140) for a specific agenda regarding hegemony for the Roman community. Parts of the letter may indeed smack of a sermon, but not all. But so what? A writer chiding the Corinthians for their behavior toward their leaders is essentially a sermon from him to them.

      Earl Doherty

      • Evan
        2011-04-07 04:59:11 GMT+0000 - 04:59 | Permalink

        Earl, since Clement is not named in the text, it wouldn’t meet the classic definition of forgery. It would be an anonymous work that was misattributed, wouldn’t it? But this is clearly not a typical ancient letter like those of Cicero. It is a sermon, as you seem to agree. Do you feel that “sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us,” is enough to reliably date Clement to 95 CE? I agree that the writer of Clement is not aware of a historical Jesus, or any martyrdom of Peter and Paul, but neither are authors who are much later (e.g. Theophilus), so this doesn’t seem to be an impediment to a post 130 date.

  • Bob Carlson
    2011-04-07 04:18:45 GMT+0000 - 04:18 | Permalink

    Gosh,I thought everybody fell over themselves to spread this oral tradition of Jesus’s teachings.

    According to Murphy, this wasn’t the case with the Gnostics. Moreover, he claims that, unlike present-day Jews, diaspora Jews proselytized Judaism and that the Orthodox offshoot of Christianity acquired this propensity from them. He says that those early Orthodox Christians were called every name in the book, including atheist (i.e. presumably whatever the equivalent would have been in Greek or Latin). As I recall, Murphy surmises that Orthodox Christianity didn’t really take off until those church communities acquired wealth sufficient for providing them ample political power. Jesus Potter, Harry Christ is full of lots of really interesting stuff. The main problem I see is that the book wasn’t edited with sufficient care. There seem to be cases where prepositions have been inadvertently omitted or deleted, and I also encountered a couple of instances where the wrong homophonic word was used (e.g. thrown, where throne was intended). In other cases, there is ambiguity about whether a term like 4th century is referring to BC or AD, and in one case where a BC year was cited, the discussion pertained to the reign of Nero, which was AD.

    • Evan
      2011-04-07 04:49:32 GMT+0000 - 04:49 | Permalink

      Bob, amen to that. The typos are pretty troubling and repetitive. But I felt the book was a very good addition to the extant literature and I appreciated the deeper investigations into the milieu of the mystery religions of the imperial era. His section on the “chronology” of Matthew was probably the weakest section from my vantage point, but the sections on the various levels of initiation of various communities was quite enlightening.

  • Roger Parvus
    2011-04-07 12:05:28 GMT+0000 - 12:05 | Permalink

    I think Earl is right that substantial parts of Pauline letters go back to the first century, but I think that the Ignatians and 1 Clement were written too late to be of use as support for that position. I would assign 1 Clement to the 140s. Its author, while appearing to address the Corinthian church of an earlier time, really had a different readership in view. He aimed to convince his intended audience that the early church founded at Corinth shared his own proto-orthodox beliefs. They were on the same page as him regarding the inspiration of the Old Testament Scripture, and in their belief that the God of the Old Testament was the Father of Jesus Christ. That is why he endlessly quotes the Old Testament and gives repeated assurance that the Corinthians treasured it too.

    Notice the roundabout phrasing of the following: “We knew well that we were writing to men who… have diligently searched into the oracles of the teaching of God” (ch. 62) “You have searched the Scriptures, which are true, which were given through the Holy Spirit; and you know that nothing unrighteous or counterfeit is written in them” (ch. 45); “For you know the Sacred Scriptures – and you know them quite well – and you have gazed into the sayings of God” (ch. 53). In a real letter, one does not keep informing the addressees of what they believe. 1 Clement is providing that information for someone else’s benefit – his readers in the 140s. He wants them to know that the church founded by Paul at Corinth was, right from the beginning, orthodox in their faith.

    So I think that, in reality, 1 Clement was taking aim at Marcion. Marcion was able to interpret the Pauline letters – including 1 and 2 Corinthians – in a Marcionite manner. Using the Corinthian church as an example, 1 Clement aimed to show, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the churches founded by Paul were proto-orthodox in their belief. He knew that if he could succeed in passing off this letter as authentic, Marcion’s version of Paul and early Christianity would be effectively undercut.

    It is true that 1 Clement appears to wander all over the place. Robert M. Price, in a recent (March 31) podcast of “The Bible Geek,” sums it up well: “It (1 Clement) is sixty chapters of incredibly boring pedantry. Nobody wrote a letter like that. Sometimes treatises were written as epistles – formally letters, but really not — but this isn’t even one of those. There’s no coherent argument in it.” But once we realize what the author of 1 Clement was up to, we can make sense of his apparent digressions and meandering. Besides vouching ad nauseam for the whole of the Old Testament, he wanted to teach, one after another, doctrines which were at odds with those held by Marcion. So, for instance, when 1 Clement stops to tell his readers the story of the five hundred year old phoenix that rises from the dead in Egypt, it was not because the Corinthian church had started having doubts about the resurrection of the body. His defense of the resurrection was aimed at Marcion’s denial of it. Or, when he repeatedly urges “fear of the Lord” and tells his readers: “Let us fear the Lord Jesus” (ch. 21) he really has in view the Marcionite doctrine that God and Jesus are to be loved, not feared. Or when he points out that it is the “whole body” that is saved in Christ, he is really countering Marcion’s negative assessment of the body as “so much dung” that is unfit for resurrection. I Clement agrees that we should consider “of what matter we were made… from what a tomb and what darkness” we came (ch. 38). But he nevertheless maintains that it was the good God who “moulded and created” us from that tomb and darkness. The warning, in the same section, that “he that is pure in the flesh, let him be so and not boast” is really directed at the Marcionites’ much-vaunted continence. And the care 1 Clement takes to portray Paul harmoniously alongside Peter is intended to disprove in advance Marcion’s claims about the rift between them.

    Irenaeus called attention to the fact that 1 Clement constitutes a wonderful refutation of the gnostics. Scholars have noticed the same thing. Helmut Koester, for example, writes: “Clement emphasizes traditional Jewish-Christian morality, the creation of the world, the resurrection of Christ, and the expectation of the future resurrection of Christians. All these topics are appropriate in a writing directed against gnostic heretics.” (pp. 289-290 of vol. 2 of “Introduction to the New Testament”). But Koester doesn’t follow up on that clue because, as he points out, “the letter does not contain any polemical remarks about false teachers.” To which I respond: It is understandable to think that the deception of which I am accusing the author of 1 Clement is something he would not have been smart enough to pull off. We are all so aware of the many clumsy deceptions perpetrated by Christians in the early centuries that we are apt to think that all of the deceivers were clumsy and left obvious fingerprints. But I would expect that some were more clever and capable than others. I would put 1 Clement in the “clever” category. He realized he didn’t need to directly engage in polemics with Marcion. He could accomplish his purpose without it.

    I think he did, however, tip his hand a bit too much at one point. His slip reminds me of the one by the forger of 1 Timothy who made Paul say: “Avoid the … ANTITHESES of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20). The Pauline forger wanted his readers to say: “Look at that! The Holy Spirit providentially guided Paul to choose a word that would serve, a century later, as an apt warning about Marcion’s ‘Antitheses.’” The author of 1 Clement wanted to include a providential forewarning too. That is why right at the beginning of the letter he describes the schism-causing troublemakers at Corinth as “alien and strange to the elect of God”(ch. 1). He wanted his readers to say: “Look at that! The Holy Spirit providentially guided him to choose the very two words – alien and strange – that the schismatic Marcion later used for his God.” (Human nature being what it is, I think it must have been almost impossible for the proto-orthodox to resist making fun of Marcionites with those words. “Yeah, you Marcionites are strange and alien alright. We couldn’t agree more.”).

    • 2011-04-07 21:22:35 GMT+0000 - 21:22 | Permalink

      Interesting. Worth thinking through. I have recently begun looking at your book on Ignatius again. One initial question from the early pages: how different are the Pauline Pastorals from Ignatius?

      • Roger Parvus
        2011-04-09 00:54:31 GMT+0000 - 00:54 | Permalink

        As far as I can tell, the Pastorals and Ignatians didn’t come from the same person or even the same community. The Pastorals are thought to have come from the proto-orthodox camp; the Ignatians, I think, were written by an Apellean and only subsequently – sometime between 180 and 220 CE – were modified by the proto-orthodox.

        But I do wonder whether the author of the Ignatians may have had an indirect impact on a different Pauline letter: 1 Corinthians. As you’re probably aware, there are scholars who think that 1 Corinthians 15: 3-12 is an interpolation. I think so too. One reason is because it contains the scenario that Paul was initially a persecutor of the church: “Last of all, as to a premature fetus [Greek: ektroma], he appeared to me. I am the least [or: smallest] of the apostles, and am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” I think the persecutor scenario was something the proto-orthodox invented as part of their makeover of Paul. In Marcion’s Apostolikon Paul was not a converted persecutor.

        In the quoted verse there seems to be some implicit wordplay based on the meaning of Paul’s name. Pa[rv]ulus means “little,” “small” and, as a noun, a “child.” But the interpolator is going further here and making Paul say that he is, in size and significance, even smaller than a child. He’s as small and insignificant as a premature fetus. Humanly speaking, you can’t get much smaller than that! I think the interpolator may have got the idea for this from the Ignatian Letter to the Romans. In that letter (9:2) its author (Peregrinus, in my opinion) says: “But as for me, I am ashamed to be spoken of as one of them, for I am not worthy, since I am the least of them, and a premature fetus (Greek: ektroma).” Christians believe, of course, that they must “become like little children if you would enter the kingdom of heaven.” Peregrinus, with his flair for the dramatic, may have been the first to improve on this by claiming to be a premature fetus.

        I know it is usually thought that, in this instance, the author of the Ignatians was quoting from 1 Corinthians. But I wonder. It may be the other way around. If I am right that the so-called Ignatians were written in the 140s, and if the author of the 1 Corinthians interpolation composed his insertion around, say 150 or so, it may be that he borrowed the cute “ektroma” idea from the author of the Ignatian letters.

        Another example where the author of the Ignatians may have been on the mind of the 1 Corinthians interpolator is the “hymn in praise of love” (13:1-13). The hymn has the appearance of being an interpolation. It breaks up a section on spiritual gifts. In 12:31 we have: “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts” and, after the hymn, this is repeated almost verbatim in 14:1: “Strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.” It looks like someone, by inserting the hymn, wanted to dampen somewhat the enthusiasm for prophesying that is present in the rest of the section.

        Now, scholars are agreed that the author of the Ignatians certainly knew 1 Corinthians. And it is clear from his letters that prophesying was one of his talents. He says, for instance, “I cried aloud, when I was among you, I spoke with a loud voice, with the voice of God… “ And he insists that what he cried out was not something he “learned from human flesh. But it was the Spirit…” (Letter to the Philadephians (3:1-2). And he claimed to be able “to understand heavenly things, the angelic locations, the formations of the archons, things visible and invisible” (Letter to the Church of Tralles 5:2).

        And if I am right that the author of the letters was Peregrinus we have some additional things to consider. We know from Lucian that one of Peregrinus’ functions in his community was as a prophet. And we know that after his release from jail he went home to Parium and distributed all his inheritance to the people there. But at some point he was expelled by the Christians, became a Cynic philosopher, and ultimately ended his life by deliberately leaping onto a flaming pyre. The lesson he wanted to teach by that feat is that we should not fear death.

        With the above in mind, look now at the following section of the hymn:

        “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not charity, I gain nothing.”

        If Lucian can be believed, Peregrinus made quite a splash as a Christian. So, IF the 1 Corinthians hymn is an interpolation and IF it was composed around the middle of the second century, it seems quite plausible to me that Peregrinus was on the mind of its author. Robert M. Price, in his “The Pre-Nicene New Testament,” has this note on 1 Cor. 13:3: “In view here must be the voluntary immolation of the Christian Cynic philosopher Proteus Peregrinus in the early second century, spoofed by Lucian as mere grandstanding.” (p. 357). I agree.

        Finally, let me say, Neil, that I’m happy you’re giving my book a look. It is an admittedly amateur work, and if I were writing it today I would certainly try to organize it better and lay out the argument in a way that is easier to follow. Feel free to ask online or offline for any clarifications. And I really do welcome any observations even if it should turn out that you can honestly offer only negative ones.

        • 2011-04-09 09:42:04 GMT+0000 - 09:42 | Permalink

          Thanks for the response, Roger. Real life commitments are causing me to struggle to keep up with comments on my blog at the moment — especially those that call for a careful rethink of ideas or a grasping of new material, and I also have a promised review of another book I need to keep. I look forward to engaging with some of these ideas more thoughtfully as soon as opportunity permits.

        • 2012-08-04 00:12:06 GMT+0000 - 00:12 | Permalink

          Roger: There is some problems with your theory that 1 cor 15:1-12 could be an interpolation made around year 150 and based on Ignatius letters:
          a) almost all of the content was part of the marcionite version of first chorintians.(c.a ad 140)
          b) it was mentioned by irenaeus.
          c) it was part of P46 ( ca 200)
          We have at least three witnesses within 50-60 years. An interpolation made so late should almost certanly showed up in MSS-tradition.

          • Roger Parvus
            2012-08-06 20:42:50 GMT+0000 - 20:42 | Permalink

            Hello Silvermets,

            One clarification: If you look back over my comment you will see that what I proposed was that the expression “as an ektroma” could have been inspired by a line in the letters of Peregrinus/IgnatIus. I was not arguing that the passage as a whole (1 Cor. 15: 3-12) was based on those letters. I wrote:

            If I am right that the so-called Ignatians were written in the 140s, and if the author of the 1 Corinthians interpolation composed his insertion around, say 150 or so, it may be that he borrowed the cute “ektroma” idea from the author of the Ignatian letters. (bolding added this time around).

            But you are right that, if the ektroma was in Marcion’s version of First Corinthians 15, it would seem to show that the direction of borrowing for the expression was from the Pauline letter to the one of Peregrinus/Ignatius — and not the other way around. (Is it sure that the ektroma was in Marcion’s version? I don’t see it in Tertullian’s Against Marcion discussion of First Corinthians. Do you have a patristic reference for it?) On the other hand, I don’t see the mention of 1 Cor. 15:3-12 by Irenaeus and p46 as problems, since both of those are later than mid-second century.

            While I am less confident that 1 Cor. 15: 3-12 as a whole was an interpolation, I am still very much inclined to see the self-deprecations in the passage as inserts (i.e. the admissions to being an ektroma and a former persecutor of the church). They look gratuitous and needlessly break up the argument for the resurrection. And one of the ways that Tertullian tries to refute Marcion’s version of Paul is by bringing forward some supposed persecution foreshadowings from the Old Testament as well as the portrayal of Paul as a persecutor in Acts of the Apostles (both of which works he knew Marcion did not accept).

            If these sacred (Old Testament) foreshadowings displease you, certainly the Acts of the Apostles has delivered to me the career of Paul, which you also ought not to deny. From that work I show that Paul was a persecutor who became an apostle “not from men nor through man”; from it I am led to believe him; by it I drive you from your defense of him, and I do not fear your taunt: “You then deny the apostle Paul”. I do not calumniate him whom I defend. I deny him in order to compel you to prove him. (Against Marcion, 5,1)

            L. Gordon Rylands comment on this is: “I do not see how these words can have any other meaning than that Marcion had defended Paul against the accusation that he had been a persecutor” (A Critical Analysis of the Four Chief Pauline Epistles, p. 320). And, as you may be aware, the passage in Galatians about Paul as persecutor (Gal. 1:13-14) was not in Marcion’s version of that letter.

            Now it may be that both the ektroma and persecutor scenarios had already been interpolated into the Paulines by the time Marcion came to know of the letters, and that it was Marcion who excised those passages as part of his restoration of the text. As you may know, I think the proto-orthodox first created ‘Paul’ by tampering around 130 CE with a Simonian collection of letters. I think they converted the Simonian letters into ones written by someone of proto-orthodox belief to whom they gave the name ‘Paul’. So perhaps the self-deprecations were their idea. By their editorial magic they in a sense adopted/co-opted Simon, but insisted that his new persona be not only proto-orthodox in belief but also duly submissive and repentant for the harm which, in their eyes, his original persona had caused.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.