Ehrman suppresses the facts while falsely accusing Doherty: Part 2

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by Neil Godfrey

This post continues directly on from Ehrman Hides the Facts About Doherty’s Argument, Part 1. Here I show that Ehrman has suppressed the facts about what his own peers think in order to falsely accuse Doherty of arguing without scholarly merit.

First, the passage in question, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16

13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans,

15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men,

16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. [NKJV]

Ehrman’s argument: “simply not true”

I concluded my last post with this paragraph:

But it gets worse. For Ehrman to sustain his accusation that mythicists such as Doherty and Wells are “driven by convenience” and “simply claim” these verses to be un-Pauline, he must hide from his readership what his own scholarly peers do in fact say about the authenticity of these same verses. He will therefore inform the readers only of his own idiosyncratic (I would be surprised if his argument as presented in Did Jesus Exist? has ever passed peer-review) reasons for believing the passages to be authentic.

Ehrman begins his case against interpolation by singling out the last words of verse 16:

It is this last sentence [i.e. “wrath has come upon them to the uttermost”] that has caused interpreters problems. What could Paul mean that the wrath of God has finally come upon the Jews (or Judeans)? That would seem to make sense if Paul were writing in the years after the destruction of the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, that is, after 70 CE. But it seems to make less sense when this letter was actually written, around 49 CE. For that reason a number of scholars have argued that this entire passage has been inserted into 1 Thessalonians and that Paul therefore did not write it. In this view some Christian scribe, copying the letter after the destruction of Jerusalem, added it. (my emphasis)

But Ehrman is sweeping the scholarly discussion under the carpet when he indicates to his readers that it is only “this last sentence” that has “caused interpreters problems”. That is, again to use Ehrman’s own words, “simply not true.”

(Note also that Ehrman will say Doherty “simply claims” for his own “convenience” that the verses are an interpolation, but that professional scholars who claim they are interpolations do so because of a certain “reason”. Ehrman’s hostile prejudice is showing here, especially when (as quoted in the previous post) Doherty cites those same “reasons” and appears to add another one himself. After reading and following up the links and articles in the following discussion perhaps some readers will conclude that it is Bart Ehrman who “simply claims” things that are simply not true “for his own convenience”.)

Doherty named modern scholars who believe the verses are an interpolation. But their arguments in one form or another go right back to the early nineteenth century and Ferdinand Christian Baur. Other nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars concurred: Albrecht Ritschl, Paul Wilhelm Schmiedel, James Moffat, John Bailey, H. J. Holtzmann, S. G. F. Brandon.

In the early twentieth century many scholars began to scoff at theories of interpolation in Paul’s letters and insisted that interpolation should only be considered as a last resort. This did not stop Karl Gottfried Eckart arguing the point in 1961. But it was a publication in The Harvard Theological Review in 1971 that has fanned the doubts more widely since. In this article Birger A. Pearson expressed agreement that one should only consider interpolation “as a last resort”, but that in the case of 1 Thessalonians 2

the historical and theological difficulties . . . are such that one must begin again to entertain such a hypothesis.

His arguments have been challenged, of course, but as we saw in the previous post, a significant number of scholars today have returned to the belief that this passage is problematic enough to justify treating it as un-Pauline. To that list William O. Walker (Interpolations in the Pauline Letters) would add Robert Jewett, John C. Hurd and Hendrikus Boers. We can also add our beloved Richard Carrier to this list: see his blog post, Pauline Interpolations.

Here are the reasons Birger Pearson’s argues the passage is an interpolation:

  1. The passage begins a second “thanksgiving section” in the letter — something that appears to be an anomaly in Paul’s letters
  2. This same passage begins with a repetition of the same words and phrases (or identical ones) as had been already written in 1:13ff.
  3. The passage intrudes into a ‘travelogue’ or ‘apostolic parousia’ section, something used by Paul to declare his travel plans and desire to be with the congregation, etc. — Paul nowhere else breaks up a ‘travelogue’ section
  4. The passage urges one church to follow another church as an example — while elsewhere (including in chapter one of this same letter) Paul commands his churches to follow him, or praises them for doing so, as he follows Christ
  5. This passage points to a period of persecution of Christians in Judea between 44 and 66 (when the Jewish War against Rome began) CE — there is no other evidence for such persecution
  6. The description of Jews as “hostile to all men” is found elsewhere among secular anti-semitic literature of the time — it contradicts Paul’s favourable views of Jews in other letters, not forgetting his own pride in being a Jew and his accomplishments in Judaism in the past
  7. This passage blames the Jews for the murder of Christ — Paul never blames them in other letters, but does accuse “the rulers of this age”, a phrase that is found in other literature to refer to archons or angels and demons. Pearson adds that even if one wanted to interpret this phrase as a reference to human agencies then we must conclude Paul is here blaming the Roman authorities, not the Jews, for the murder of Christ.
  8. The passage says that the Jews have filled up their sin quota, meaning that there is no longer any way for them to avoid condign punishment from God — something alien to Paul’s thought elsewhere about the Jews, and to the fact that Paul could boast about being a Jew himself
  9. The phrase for “to the utmost” means that the Jews have at last, finally, in the past, received their ultimate punishment without any more hope, and many commentators say that this could only refer to the event of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE — while in Romans 11 Paul speaks of ongoing and future hope and promise of salvation for the Jews.

There are additional points. Among them are the syntactical arguments of Schmidt (1983: JBL). Daryl Schmidt went beyond the old method of using statistical frequencies of certain words and phrases to detect interpolation on the grounds that in this case the passage is too small for this sort of analysis to produce decisive results. Advances in linguistic studies now enable us to study “‘the syntactical pattern’ of a text or of an author’s style.”

Schmidt’s approach was accordingly to study the style and grammar of the passage within the context of the letter, focusing on the section from 1 Thess 1:2 to 3:10 (i.e. the pre-exhortation section of the letter between the opening greeting and the concluding benediction). His analysis concludes that interpolation is the best explanation for 2:13-16 because this passage:

  • contains content that does not fit well in 1 Thessalonians
  • has content that does not fit well into Pauline thought in general
  • intrudes into the overall structure of the letter
  • is built around an un-Pauline conflation of Paul’s genuine expressions

All of this would seem to be a formidable set of reasons for thinking the passage to be a forgery inserted into the letter by a copyist. These are the points debated in the scholarly literature. Jon A. Weatherly (“The Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: Additional Evidence,” JSNT 42 (1991): 91-98) and J. W. Simpson (“The Problem Posed by 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and a Solution,” Horizons in Biblical Theology 12 (1990); 52-54) have led some of the counter-argument.

Simpson writes:

The virtue of the interpolation view, as it has been developed by Pearson and Schmidt, is, as we shall see, that it seeks to solve the broadest range of problems, that is, that it draws out in a valuable way the evidence which any view of 1 Thess 2:15f. must take into account.

Ehrman is not doing his lay readership any favours by leading them to think that the question is about nothing more than whether or not the last sentence is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem after Paul’s death.

Weatherly himself conceded of the interpolation arguments are certainly respectable:

“are true as far as they go”

“is also correct as far as it goes”

“once more we must agree with Schmidt’s description of the data as far as it goes”

“though [Schmidt’s] hypothesis would account for the phrase, it is not the only one that will do so”

Weatherly says that Paul himself could have deliberately combined some of his expressions he could use in other letters and conflated them himself to have written in an “exceptional” and “uncharacteristic” (out-of-character) way for a special context (pp. 96-97). I like that. counter-argument against interpolation. The author deliberately decided to write in an uncharacteristic style!

The reason I quote these leading opponents of the interpolation theory is to show that even they acknowledge that their own arguments against interpolation are far from being conclusive. Simpson writes of his own case:

This is not to say that any of these arguments do not point to real problems in regard to 1Thess 2:13-16, only that the interpolation view is not the best solution. (p.62)

After weighing the various arguments pro and con William O. Walker concludes of this passage:

On the basis primarily of contextual (including form-critical), linguistic, and ideational considerations, a strong case has been made for viewing 1 Thess. 2.13-16 as a non-Pauline interpolation. Moreover, the case has been buttressed by comparative, situational and motivational considerations. (p. 220, Interpolations.)

Back to Ehrman

I myself do not agree with this interpretation, for a number of reasons. To begin with, if the only part of the passage that seems truly odd on the pen of Paul is the last sentence, then it would make better sense simply to say that it is this sentence that was added by the hypothetical Christian scribe. There is no reason to doubt the entire passage, just the last few words. (my emphasis)

Ehrman, who has done so much to popularize scholarly arguments, is here saying that “there is no reason to doubt the entire passage” despite the fact that between 1971 and 2001 leading journals, The Harvard Theological Review, The Journal of Biblical Literature, The Journal for the Study of the New Testament, as well as a book published by the Sheffield Academic Press, have all published many reasons to doubt much more than just the last sentence.

Yet Ehrman wants his readers to think that Doherty is the one who has failed to engage with the scholarship.

If it’s not in the late manuscripts. . .

From this point on Ehrman starts to hop on one leg. He writes as if there are no contrary arguments that need addressing and all he has to do is pontificate his own opinion to his lay audience:

But I do not doubt even these. For one thing, what is the hard evidence that the words were not in the letter of 1 Thessalonians as Paul wrote it? There is none. We do not of course have the original of l Thessalonians; we have only later copies made by scribes. But in not a single one of these manuscripts is the line (let alone the paragraph) missing. Every surviving manuscript includes it. If the passage was added sometime after the fall of Jerusalem, say, near the end of the first Christian century or even in the second, when Christians started blaming the fall of Jerusalem on the fact that the Jews had killed Jesus, why is it that none of the manuscripts of l Thessalonians that were copied before the insertion was made left any trace on the manuscript record? Why were the older copies not copied at all? I think there needs to be better evidence of a scribal insertion before we are certain that it happened. And recall, we are not talking about the entire paragraph but only the last line.

Given that our earliest manuscript evidence does not appear until the third century (as Ehrman surely read by way of reminder in Doherty’s own book) it is entirely irrelevant for hypotheses that are addressing texts dated to the first and early second century. Robert M. Price summed up in a review of Walker’s work:

[Walker] shows how the uniformity of textual witnesses amounts to exactly nothing in view of the fact that we possess no copies dating from the relevant time frame (as well as raising the possibility that we lack such materials precisely because, as Caliph Uthman was said to have done with the Koran, earlier texts were destroyed so as not to undermine the authority of the official textus receptus).

Even J. W. Simpson, quoted above as an opponent of the interpolation theory, does not accept the relevance of the manuscript evidence in this instance:

An argument against interpolation must meet the arguments for interpolation head-on; we cannot begin an argument against interpolation simply by noting lack of textual evidence, . . .  (Simpson p.43)

Walker reminds us that we must keep in mind that the literary culture of the day was rife with interpolations in all literature of interest. This is his compilation of ancient works that have clearly suffered interpolations despite in many cases lacking manuscript evidence to support this fact:

  1. Homer’s Iliad
  2. Homer’s Odyssey
  3. Orpheus
  4. Musaeus
  5. Hippocrates
  6. Aristophanes
  7. Euripides
  8. Thucydides.
  9. Letters of Plato
  10. Letters of Aristotle
  11. Letters of Epicurus
  12. Letters of Seneca
  13. The Testimonium Flavianum or at least part thereof;
  14. The Sibylline Oracles,
  15. The Synagogal Prayers and such literature
  16. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,
  17. The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah
  18. 4 Ezra.
  19. The LXX
  20. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, claimed “heretics” had both added to and deleted from his letters.
  21. Irenaeus feared his writings would be interpolated.
  22. “Many Greek patristic writings” according to Rufinius
  23. Letters of Paul and gospel of Luke according to Marcion
  24. Pentateuch and gospels were likely built up layer by layer
  25. Epistles of Ignatius
  26. The adulterous woman episode in gospel of John
  27. The longer ending of Mark
  28. Perhaps final chapter of John
  29. The Western text of the Gospels and Acts
  30. And even the Western “non-interpolations”

We know from the above cases that the manuscript evidence is clearly often not critical at all! One might be excused for thinking that if we have such an abundance of evidence for a “culture of interpolations” that we may be being too cautious with our conservative reluctance to suspect interpolations in Paul’s letters.

Yet Ehrman will have his readers believe that we have sufficient grounds to deny interpolation simply because none of our earliest third-century manuscripts provides material evidence for it.

(Even Dr McGrath who attempted to make the same sort of attack on Doherty quickly backtracked on his original assertion that it is invalid to argue for interpolations if manuscript evidence for them is lacking.)

Arguing to the utmost

He continues:

The other point to stress is that Paul did think the wrath of God was already manifesting itself in this world. A key passage is Romans 1:18-32, where Paul states unequivocally, “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven on all human ungodliness and unrighteousness, among those who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” When Paul says that God’s wrath is “being revealed,” he does not simply mean that it is there to be seen in some ethereal way. He means it is being manifested, powerfully made present. God’s wrath is even now being directed against all godless and unrighteous behavior. In this passage in Romans Paul is talking about God’s wrath now being directed against pagans who refuse to acknowledge him here at the end of time before Jesus returns from heaven. It would not be at all strange to think that he also thought that God’s wrath was being manifest against those Jewish people who also acted in such ungodly and unrighteous ways. And he has a full list of offenses against which God has responded.

With such a sweeping statement Ehrman can draw the curtain down upon the linguistic arguments of his peers that point out that the passage really speaks of a past, completed and final event.

This is also the argument of Eddy and Boyd (p. 213 in The Jesus Legend) but Ehrman does not acknowledge this. Yet even the “anti-interpolationist” J. W. Simpson can see that this argument does not stand:

It is accurate, therefore, to speak of God’s wrath being on “the Jews” as a part of the course of Romans 9-11. But Romans 9-11 does not end with “wrath”: there is its greatest difference from 1 Thess 2:15f. (p. 59)

What Simpson argues is that Paul eventually came to change his mind by the time he wrote 1 Thessalonians. I don’t recall at the moment what arguments Simpson uses for dating Thessalonians long after Romans, however.

Embarrassing for a scholar, Ehrman appears to be ignoring his Greek grammar here and relying entirely on the English translation. Birger Pearson pointed out long ago the passage uses the aorist tense for saying the wrath “has come” upon the Jews, indicating that the punishment has come upon them “finally, completely, utterly”:

All of these suggestions fail to do justice to the text as it stands. The aorist εφθασεν must be taken as referring to an event that is now past, and the phrase εις τελος [finally, completely, utterly] underscores the finality of the”wrath” that has occurred. It need only be inquired further what event in the first century was of such magnitude as to lend itself to such apocalyptic theologizing. The interpretation suggested by Baur and others is still valid: 1 Thessalonians 2:16c refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Pearson, pp. 82-83)

Birger adds:

There is ample evidence that Christians post-70 interpreted the destruction of Jerusalem as a punishment inflicted by God upon the Jews for killing the Christ. Indeed, certain of the rabbis connected the destruction of the nation and the temple with the theme of the persecution of the prophets by the fathers. (p.84)

See also his point #9 above in his list of reasons for believing the passage to be an interpolation.

Jeffrey S. Lamp (2003) discusses the meaning of this passage by comparing its other occurrence in The Testament of Levi 6

But the Lord’s wrath as come upon them finally (Testament of Levi 6, Lamp’s translation)

Here the parallel passage refers to the massacre of the inhabitants of Shechem (Genesis 34).

Selling his readers short

So having kept his readers ignorant of all such scholarly discussion and debate over these verses from 13 to 16, having presented his own personal view that takes none of these scholarly publications into account, Ehrman is satisfied to conclude for the benefit of his lay readership:

In short, I think that Paul originally wrote l Thessalonians 2:14-16. He certainly wrote everything up to verse 16.

Certainly? Ehrman fails his readers here.

He has suppressed the facts about what his own peers think in order to falsely accuse Doherty of arguing without scholarly merit.

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20 thoughts on “Ehrman suppresses the facts while falsely accusing Doherty: Part 2”

  1. I have this vague recollection of a famous New Testament scholar saying that it didn’t really make sense to talk about the “original” manuscripts because what we have are copies of copies of copies and we lack evidence of what changes may have been made during the earliest period of transmission when scribal practices were most haphazard. There was also something about how the changes tended to be made in the direction of orthodoxy (which might cause one to assume that the originals were almost certainly less orthodox than what has come down to us). What was that guy’s name again?

    I have never understood the methodological justification for the apparent presumption against interpolation. It has always seemed to me (at least since reading that scholar whose name will come to me before long I’m sure) that the starting point should be that our texts represent the understanding of Paul’s positions held at the time the earliest extant manuscripts were produced by the communities that produced them. From there, we would look for positive reasons to think that a particular passage or concept goes back to Paul himself. The best reason would be corroboration, i.e., we can be much more confident about an idea that appears multiple times within the genuine Pauline corpus than we can about one that shows up only once. It seems to me that it should be perfectly legitimate practice to take any passage regardless of the manuscript evidence and ask how our understanding of Paul might change if it turned out that it was an interpolation. If our view would change radically because the concept in the passage is found nowhere else, we might not be able to prove an interpolation, but we would need to be cautious about attributing the idea originally to Paul.

    1. “I have never understood the methodological justification for the apparent presumption against interpolation. It has always seemed to me (at least since reading that scholar whose name will come to me before long I’m sure)….”

      Might that scholar be William O’Walker Jr.?

  2. Irrespective of Ehrman’s opinion (and certainly not with the spirit of defending the idea of a historical Jesus), I also think that 1 Thes. 2:14-16 may not be an interpolation, because I don’t see anything in it that differs substantially from things that Paul says elsewhere.

    While it may have been Paul’s “heart’s desire and prayer to God that [Israel] may be saved” (Rom. 10:1), he also goes on to say that their zeal for God “is not enlightened” and that they were “ignorant” of God’s righteousness because they did not submit to his idea that “Christ is the end of the law” (10:2-4). And in 11:28, regardless of his reasoning, he calls them “enemies of God.”

    And his opinion of Hebrew “superlative apostles” who preached a “different gospel” from his (2 Cor. 11:4-5; 11:22) was that they were “false apostles, deceitful workmen” and servants of Satan, whose “end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).

    He also attacks Moses, saying that the law he brought was “the dispensation of death,” and that his own followers were “not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the fading splendor” of the law. “But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds” (2 Cor. 3:7-18).

    He also wishes that those who preached the need for circumcission “would mutilate themselves!” (Gal 5:12).

    This tone and way of thinking is certainly in keeping with 1 Thes. 2:14-16. And the statement there that his followers “suffered the same things from your own countrymen as [the churches of God which are in Christ Jesus in Judea] did from the Jews” is not substantially different from Paul’s account of his own sufferings “at the hands of the Jews” (2 Cor. 11:24-25).

    And the statement that “God’s wrath has come upon them at last” is not difficult to explain if one does not assume that 1 Thessalonians is early and that Paul died before the outbreak of the war with Rome. Know one knows when Paul died, and Eisenman makes a compelling case that he may have been the Saulus in Josephus that acted as Nero’s intelligence agent regarding the uprising (cf. Php. 4:22).

    And the concern of 1 Thessalonians with “the coming of the Lord” and comforting “we who are alive, who are left” regarding “those who are alseep” (4:13-18) also fits in with a later dating than usually suggested.

    For the sake of saving time, I have culled from comments I’ve made on previous posts here concering this passage.

  3. When I read this part of Ehrman’s book I was really shocked. I recently finished reading Erhman’s “The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”–an entire book about textual changes and interpolations, including many for which we have no manuscript evidence!

    Ehrman describes the method: “I work to establish the earliest form of the text, employing standard kinds of text-critical argumentation (evaluating, that is, the strength of each reading’s external attestation and such things as intrinsic and transcriptional probabilities.).”

    Ehrman describes two kinds of evidence for interpolation that are possible even without manuscript evidence. He goes on to cite many, many cases of interpolations that can be identified with reasonable certainty *despite the lack of manuscript evidence.* Having just read this work of his, I could not believe what I was reading in these passages of “Did Jesus Exist.” It was the first time I had to doubt his honesty.

  4. “A key passage is Romans 1:18-32, where Paul states unequivocally, “For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven on all human ungodliness and unrighteousness, among those who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” … In this passage in Romans Paul is talking about God’s wrath now being directed against pagans who refuse to acknowledge him here at the end of time before Jesus returns from heaven. It would not be at all strange to think that he also thought that God’s wrath was being manifest against those Jewish people who also acted in such ungodly and unrighteous ways. And he has a full list of offenses against which God has responded.”

    Memo to Ehrman: Romans 1 is a diatribe against Jews, not pagans, as is made fully clear by 1:28 (“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer…”). The pagans never “acknowledged [a single monotheistic] God,” so if he wanted to write an anti-pagan diatribe their greatest sin would have been acknowledging all gods except the God Most High. It’s embarrassing to have to explain the obvious to a scholar who has studied this subject his entire life.

    Occam’s razor: 1 Thessalonians 2:16 is authentically “Pauline,” but written after 70. Paul, or the people pretending to be Paul, are consistently anti-Jewish in all of the epistles.

  5. We’ve been over this before, but it bears constant repeating until people get it.

    If we are trying to determine if a passage like 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 is an interpolation, it is very important to consider whether it was in Marcion’s Apostolikon. If the passage is one Tertullian claims the Marcionites removed from the Paul’s epistles, then it’s instead very likely to be a Catholic interpolation. That is because it is quite clear from the analysis by Paul Louis Couchoud, John Knox, Joseph Tyson, David Trobisch, and many others, that Tertullian most likely had the direction of dependency between the Marcionite edition and the Catholic edition of Paul’s epistles backwards. The Catholic edition appears quite clearly to be an expansion of the Marcionite edition, or possibly of another version closely related to the Marcionite edition.

    The Catholic edition of the Pauline corpus is about a third longer than the Marcionite edition due to extensive interpolations made by the ecclesiastical redactor in the late second century. We don’t merely have a few isolated interpolations in Paul’s epistles; we have a extensive pattern of interpolations running all through them. Thus, we should be on high alert when reading Paul that if any passage doesn’t seem to fit, it probably doesn’t belong. As the prior probability that any random passage in Paul is an interpolation is already around one in four, the additional burden of proof to show an interpolation in any particular instance is low. If there’s even a minor reason for suspecting an interpolation in a particular case and it’s similar in character to other known interpolations in Paul, that’s already enough evidence to say that the passage, more likely than not, was interpolated.

    Still, since the extensive pattern of interpolation pertains primarily to passages that were not in Marcion’s edition, we must check there first. If a given passage was probably not in Marcion’s version, then the chance of it being authentic is very very low. If a given passage probably was in Marcion’s version, the odds of it being a authentic is significantly increased, although still not certain since we don’t know the provenance of the epistles prior their collection by Marcion.

    How much of 1 Thes. 2:13-16 was likely in Marcion’s version of 1 Thessalonians?

  6. It seems to me that Neil’s case concerning Ehrman’s dishonesty in dealing with Doherty’s arguments is decisive.

    The historicity of Ehrman’s Jesus seems to depend very heavily upon his contention that the James who was with Cephas (Peter) in Jerusalem when Paul visited, was the “actual brother” of Jesus. In the Jesus Puzzle, Doherty makes cogent arguments against James being the sibling of Jesus, but Ehrman’s argument seems to rest entirely upon the claim that if “brother of the Lord” had only pertained to James in the sense of his being one of the close associates of Jesus, then he would have used the term for Cephas as well; Paul didn’t do that when he wrote:

    Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to consult with Cephas. And I remained with him for fifteen days. I did not see any of the other apostles except James, the brother of the Lord. What I am writing you, I tell you before God, I am not lying! (Galations 1:18-20)

    I can’t help suspecting that Ehrman isn’t providing the reader a fair sample of what other biblical scholars thought about this statement. Ehrman purpose is to argue that James and Peter would have known about the crucifixion of Jesus and that they would have discussed that with Paul. But then Ehrman also says that James, as the brother of Jesus was also aware of the resurrection, but Given that Ehrman doesn’t believe in the resurrection, how can he believe that the “actual brother” of Jesus knew that Jesus had been resurrected. Evidently, Ehrman doesn’t see it as a conflict.

  7. Do you really mean “period of persecution of Christians in Judea between 44 and 66 (when the Jewish War against Rome began) BCE”. BCE?

    I guess that Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2.30.6-7, if Tacitean, would provide evidence for such a persecution.

  8. No, not pre 66, of course. A thoughterror of mine. The only support for such a persecution is perhaps the view that the Neronian persecution as described in Tacitus’ Annales 15:44 was a persecution set not only in Rome, but also in the provinces; this view could be supported by the Lustianian inscription CIL II 231*, if genuine (cf. Ramelli 2000).

    1. Lusitanian? I’d like to say these possibilities strike me more as will o’ wisps than evidence, but that’s not a good response. Maybe here’s an interesting test case for Bayes’ Theorem to lend some credibility to the matter?

  9. The NIV states :-
    ‘ You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.’

    Paul went to Jerusalem like once every 15 years. And when he did , he only went for a fortnight.

    How could he be driven out, when he was hardly ever there in the first place?

    And if Christians were ‘driven out’ of Judea, how could there still be a Jerusalem lot still left there?

    1. This is the relevant section from Birger Pearson’s article. My mistake about the 1:13 reference — looks like I was working second hand from some notes.


      “Formally v. 13 introduces a “thanksgiving” period, indicated by εὐχαριστοῦμεν. The “thanksgiving” form in the Pauline letters was delineated and described form-critically in the pioneering work of P. Schubert. In the case of I Thessalonians (and 2 Thess., which is deutero-Pauline and in structure a slavish imitation of I Thess.) there is an apparent anomaly in that it has as now constituted two “thanksgiving” sections – or even three, if one counts 3:9 as a further instance, where the εὐχαριστῶ formula does not occur but the clause εὐχαριστίαν δυνάμεθα τῷ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι could be taken as parallel to it. Schubert decided that in fact there was only one “thanksgiving” period in 1 Thes-salonians, which is simply repeated in 2:I3ff. and 3:9ff., these repetitions “serving to unify formally the entire section from 1:2- 3:13.”

      Subsequently J. Sanders analyzed the transition from “thanks-giving” to “body” in the Pauline letters. He pointed out that in the case of 1 Thessalonians the opening “thanksgiving” period is rounded off with an “eschatological climax” in 1:10, and that the following verse, 2:1, is an opening formula introducing the “body” of the letter. This “body” draws to a close at 2:12, and with 2:13, strangely enough, a second “thanksgiving” period begins which continues up to 4:1. “Thus,” he writes, “these two thanksgiving periods may be more concisely delineated, on the basis of formal considerations, than is done by merely uniting them functionally into one.”

      R. Funk has done further form-critical work on the Pauline corpus, and has delineated an entirely new form, the “travelogue,” more recently defined as the “apostolic parousia.” This form has as its function the effective application – in letter, as a substitute for personal presence – of the apostle’s authority in his churches. It includes such items as the apostle’s travel plans, his desire to be with his congregation, etc. In the case of 1 Thessalonians Funk has defined the “apostolic parousia” as constituting the verses from 2:17 through 3:13.13 Funk’s analysis now allows us to solve the apparent difficulty of the double “thanksgiving” in 1 Thessalonians, for it is clear that the “apostolic parousia” is introduced formally not by the verses from 13-16 at all, but by the apostle’s remarks in vv. 11-12:

      For you knowh how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (RSV)

      Note, then, how naturally the transition to apostolic parousia takes place by means of these verses, the apostle continuing in v. 17:

      But we, brethren, were bereft (ἀπορφανισθέντες) of you for a short time in person if not in spirit, etc.

      Now, we are able to solve Schubert’s aporia in his discussion of the “thanksgiving” period in I Thessalonians, for he noted the absence of a formal transition from 2:16 to 2.17, and remarked that 2:17 “follows most naturally upon the reminiscences of his relations to the church (2:1-12).”

      The conclusion, therefore, which form-critical analysis suggests is this: vv. 13-16 do not belong to Paul’s original letter at all, but represent a later interpolation into the text.”

  10. I had made this comment on your earlier post on this matter, but perhapsI sould have put it here. In short,

    1. Wells does not regard this as an interpolation, nor does it pose any problems for his view of mythicism, as he explains in one of his books.

    2. Ehrman in his book Misquoting Jesus, in the same chapter where he quotes 1 Thess 2:14-16 as authentic, also claims that Christian anti-semitism didn’t emerge until the 2nd century and that certain verses in the Gospels are interpolations even though all extant manuscripts contain them, without ever pointing out the obvious possibility that 1 Thess could’ve been interpolated, too.

    1. On further reflection, I recall that Ehrman was claiming in Misquoting Jesus that there were interpolations in Paul’s letters (2 Cor, specifically) that appear in all extant manuscripts.

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