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”:
- Paul’s epistles do not reflect orthodox beliefs in historical Jesus. We would expect them to reflect this if they were second century.
- Claims that Paul’s epistles reflect Marcionism are weak.
- Sections in Paul’s letters that have been said to reflect anti-Marcionite polemics are best explained as later ad hoc orthodox editing.
- 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.)
- “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.”
- 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.
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