Was Paul ashamed of his “claim to knowledge by revelation”?
Ed Jones recently sent me an email in which he once again repeats his view that the text of the Sermon on the Mount we find preserved in Matthew is authentic Jesus-movement tradition, while on the other hand Paul’s letters represent a “Great Mistake.” He writes:
Paul had one abiding problem – as he acknowledged “I was born out of time”; he never met the HJ [Historical Jesus], and thus denied the one indisputable basis for authority, apostolic witness. The best Paul could do was to claim knowledge by revelation. To make sense of this point one needs the get the history straight. Christian Origins and Jewish Christianity are serious misleading misnomers. [The term] “Christian” was first used of Barnabas and Paul’s mission in Antioch [Acts 11:26]; it was never used of the Jesus movement. (Ed Jones)
I have to disagree with at least two of Ed’s assertions. First, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Acts of the Apostles when it comes to biographical information about Paul. In fact, anyone who argues that the Judean and Galilean followers (i.e., the “disciples”) have a claim on authenticity while Paul was a charlatan should certainly hold the Acts at arm’s length. For here we have an apologetic, late (second-century CE) work that desperately tries to gloss over Peter’s and Paul’s differences while practically erasing James altogether. Moreover, we have no evidence that Paul himself ever used the term “Christian” or for that matter would have even recognized the term. The only other NT book that uses Christian is the first epistle of Peter, also a very late work.
There’s that word again
Second, Paul never said he was “born out of time.” I fear we will never be rid of this awful translation. In 1 Cor. 15:8 Paul said, rather, that he was the ektroma. As I wrote earlier:
This translation masks an unusual word – ἐκτρώματι/ektromati — which refers to a miscarried fetus (ektroma). The untimeliness of the birth does not refer to lateness, but to being born too soon, and presumably means that Paul was calling himself some sort of monster. However, his meaning is far from clear and has long been the subject of debate. (Me)
Lately I’ve been researching the terms “born out of due time” and “ektroma,” and I’m now leaning toward Robert M. Price’s conclusion. But first some thoughts on terminology.
What does “out of due time” mean?
When James’ team of scholars translated the Greek texts into the Authorized Version back in the early 17th century, they were certainly aware of two previous translations into English: the Wycliffe and the Tyndale. Like the Latin Vulgate, which did not flinch from using the word “abortivo,” the earlier Wycliffe version did not mince words:
And last of all he was seen also to me, as to a dead born child [as to a mis-born child].
However, Tyndale took a softer approach:
And last of all he was sene of me as of one that was borne out of due tyme.
As in many other cases, the KJV team liked what they saw in Tyndale (perhaps it sounded more like the Bible to them) and wrote:
And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
We shouldn’t judge either Tyndale or the AV team too harshly. At the time, and at least up through most of the 19th century, “born out of due time” (which the ESV and ASV clarify as “untimely born”) was a common euphemism and apparently a term of art in the medical community for a premature birth (which might or might not have been a live birth). Consider this excerpt from The Canada Lancet (Vol. 29, 1897)
In every case of prematurity in which we have had an opportunity to analyze the milk we have found distinguishing characteristics. The variations of the colostrum period are present, but exaggerated in the proteids. This increase in the proteids extends over a longer interval than in ordinary colostrum milk, and is not easily dispelled. It consequently taxes the delicate digestive organs of the untimely-born infant for a longer time than is usual.
Note as well this fascinating tidbit from 1867, the English Annual Report of the Registrar-General:
8943 of the deaths are designated premature births, and properly belong to the foetal mortality. A certain number of untimely born survive for a time, and a certain number attain maturity. (p. 177)
It was also a term of art in the legal community, at least in the US, to denote a child born out of wedlock. However, that’s another discussion. The point is that when Tyndale translated a word meaning “stillborn child” or “abortion” he opted for what was at the time a well-known English euphemism.
Unfortunately, as this euphemism fell into disuse, the term of art has become a point of obfuscation. People now (sometimes well-meaning, sometimes not) infer from Paul’s remark that he lamented his late arrival to the scene, after the Resurrection. But as I pointed out in my earlier post, the focus is not on the timeliness of the birth, but on the aftermath of the “untimely birth.” It isn’t the process; it’s the product.
Not “an” abortion, but “the” ektroma!
In all this focused discussion of what ἐκτρώμα (ektroma) means, I have neglected one important fact: Paul doesn’t say he is like “an” abortion. What he wrote was this:
ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη καμοί.
Last of all he appeared to me as though to the ektroma.
Is the definite article significant? Yes, and here’s why.
We have examples in the Septuagint of the word ektroma being used in a figurative way. For example, in Numbers 12:12 when Aaron begs Moses not to let “snow-white Miriam” remain afflicted by her leprosy. As the NIV puts it:
Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.
The Greek LXX here renders the Hebrew in a similar fashion:
μη γενηται ωσει ισον θανατω ωσει εκτρωμα εκπορευομενον . . .
Here we see the anarthrous (i.e., without the definite article) occurrence of the word — hosei ektroma ekporeuomenon — correctly translated “as an abortion coming forth” or “as a stillborn child emerging.” It is a term used for comparison. Such a figurative use occurs again in Job 3:16, in which he laments:
η ωσπερ εκτρωμα εκπορευομενον . . .
In this case, the LXX translates literally the word Hebrew word for miscarriage. However, the usage here is still figurative. As the ESV puts it:
Or why was I not as a hidden [i.e., buried or put away] stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?
Job’s lamentation is rendered thus in the KJV:
Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.
Now we clearly see the true meaning of the English “untimely birth/untimely born.” To persist in using a euphemism that has lost its meaning in modern English is dishonest. Everybody, please stop it.
What’s different in the Septuagint’s usage of ektroma should be clear. When we see the anarthrous noun in Greek, we normally insert the indefinite article. And if Paul (or whoever wrote this verse) were using a figurative comparison, we should expect the same.
So what could he have meant? I think Dr. Price is right. The author is referring to the Ektroma: the misshapen, misbegotten demiurge.
A voice from the recent past
Price, as you might imagine, was not the first to notice that Paul was comparing himself to the Ektroma. Back in 1912, William Benjamin Smith in Ecce Deus: Studies of Primitive Christianity noted:
Once more, that these epistles are saturated with Gnosticism comes variously to light. A single illustration must suffice. In I Cor. xv, 8, we read : “And last of all, as if to the Ektroma, he appeared also to me.” Our translators have rendered ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι by “as unto one born out of due time”; but in so doing they omit an important word, the definite article τῷ (to the). Their word one excludes the Greek article. This translation cannot, then, be correct; it does not give the sense of the original. (p. 133, bold emphasis mine)
Continuing a few sentences later he berates Carl Holsten for cramming an entire page with fine print in the discussion of this “dark expression,” while neglecting the obvious:
This same he had evolved from his own inner consciousness, in apparent disdain or ignorance of the fact that the Ektroma is a constantly recurring term in the Gnostic doctrine of Sophia and the Aeons, where it is entirely in place and quite comprehensible, however visionary. That such a doctrine and application of the term could have proceeded from this passage, to which they are quite unrelated, is in the last degree improbable; that the term should have been imported into our passage and used there as sufficiently definite and well known to call for no comment is a simple and natural literary phenomenon. (p. 133-134, bold emphasis mine)
In other words, it’s unlikely that the doctrine of the Ektroma evolved from 1 Cor. 15:8. It’s far more natural to assume that the author of 1 Corinthians is using a term already in use and known from its Gnostic application. More bluntly put:
That such an obscure and far-fetched phrase should have given birth to the highly organised and elaborate Gnostic doctrine of aeons or emanations would be as marvellous as any of the inconceivabilities of that doctrine itself; whereas the comparison in Corinthians appears natural and almost inevitable when, and only when, the whole Gnostic theory is presupposed. (p. 158)
If we free ourselves, if only for the moment, from the current presumption that Gnosticism is a later “corruption” of Christianity, we can see other ways in which the myth of the Ektroma illuminates the passage in 1 Corinthians. Smith reminds us:
Inasmuch as all the preceding aeons were not only substantial, but were heavenly forms, it was perfectly natural for the Gnostic to call this formless emanation of Sophia The Ektroma (abortivum) . . . Thus the Ektroma appears as the last and least of the aeons sent forth, as, in fact, not worthy to be called an aeon, being defective in its generation. In view of this Gnostic speculation, and only in view of it, the self-depreciatory [self-deprecating?] language of the Apostle now becomes perfectly clear and remarkably apposite. (p. 157-158 bold emphasis mine)
As a final argument, Smith concludes:
Lastly, it is plain as day that the Apostle speaks of “the Ektroma” as something requiring no explanation and hence familiar to his readers. It is certain, then, that his language reveals a Gnostic consciousness addressing a consciousness that is Gnostic. This conclusion may be heavy-laden with consequences, but it is none the less unavoidable. (p. 160)
Today it is, of course, extremely unfashionable to posit such an early date for Gnostic ideas, but I think it’s worth re-examining the case for a Gnostic (or proto-Gnostic) Paul and its implications for early Christianity. The alternative, I submit, is to take the appearance of the Ektroma in 1 Cor. 15 as evidence that the Pauline confession is a later interpolation into the text.
Neither conclusion will sit well with today’s post-critical scholars, although I don’t expect it will make much difference. They have a knack for ignoring or dismissing such things. As Charles M. Schultz said via his prophet, Linus van Pelt, “No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from!“
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23 thoughts on “Paul and “The Ektroma” (Revisited)”
Very good post. Thank you.
very interesting.. I had never heard of this issue before. so if the implied meaning is “..the Ektroma appears as the last and least of the aeons sent forth, as, in fact, not worthy to be called an aeon, being defective in its generation”, then is this just a way for Paul to express exceeding humility about his own status in relation to the other apostles?
Will: “. . . is this just a way for Paul to express exceeding humility about his own status in relation to the other apostles?”
It would appear so. And so the next question would be why he engages in such self-deprecating language. Is it because his revelation of Christ is different from (and inferior to) the other apostles’? Or is it because he believes that in person he isn’t as persuasive as the “hyper-apostles,” and that, like Moses and countless other prophets, he is an imperfect vessel that God has called forth to spread his message?
The former is difficult to prove without injecting harmonizing preconceptions. But you can, at least, find the latter idea in Paul’s own writings.
i see… that makes sense.. especially since Paul never calls the other apostles “disciples” of jesus
The New World (Jehovah’s Witness) translation is “as to one born prematurely”.
” the current presumption that Gnosticism is a later “corruption” of Christianity”
I thought that Gnosticism in general preceded Christianity, and various Christians and Jews took up the ideas to form Christian and Jewish Gnositicism.
Tim: “Ed Jones’ view that the Sermon on the Mount is authentic Jesus Movement while Paul’s letters represent a Great Mistake”, then your email: Why do you think these things? At least because Betz thinks these things. He wrote the classic commentary on Galatians and he is the expert on the Sermon on the Mount. Fortunately Tim you have Betz’s Essays on the Sermon on the Mount.
Preface X: “during preparation of the Galatians commentary, as the extraordinarily intimate, more particularily adversarial relationship of the Epistle to the Galaatians and the Sermon on the Mount continued to force itself upon me. – the hypothesis arose that the SM was a pre Matthean source composed by a redactor. This source presents us with an early form — deriving from Jewish Christianity (more properly the Jerusalem Jesus Movement see my ‘repeated comments’) which has direct links to the teaching of the historical Jesus and thus constitute an alternative to Gentile Christianity as known above all from the letters of Paul and the Gospels, as well as the later writings of the New Testament. – – If the (Jesus Movement) represents a responnse to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth critical of that of the Gentile-Christiaity, then it serves unmistakably to unerline the well kn own fact – – of how little we know of Jesus and his teaching. The reasons for our lack of knowledge are of a hermeneutical sort (authorial interpetation) and connot be overcome by an excess of good will (apologetics). The Gentile-Christian authors of the Gospels translated to us only that part of the teaching of Jesus that they themselves understood, they handed on only that which they were able to translate into the thought categories of Gentile Christianity, and which they thought worthy of transmission. – – By conrast, the Sermon on the Mount stands nearer to the Jewish thought of Jesus of Nazareth. and maniifests its afinity and distance over against later Christianity.”
This much for statrers.
Tim, Yours is the first I have experienced to question or critically discuss the meaning of “the ektroma” as “one born out of time”. In any case I take it as entirely incidental to the present understanding of our top NT scholars that Paul was the arch opponent of the Jewish Galilean disciples who began the Jerusalem Jesus Movement with their sayings of Jesus, which developed into the Sermon on the Mount, our sole source containing apostolic witness to the HJ. Paul with his Christ of faith myth of the salvific efffects of Jesus’ death and resurrection developed in the Gentile world to become the basic tenet of the writings of the NT, finally becoming Christianity, the winners in the struggle for dominance, able to declare the Jesus Movement heresy to remove it from the pages of history. Only because Matthew included the Q material which contained the Sermon on the Mount do we have apostolic witness to Jesus.
Ed, there is some WordPress mischief going on here. Can you see my reply to your post? Can you see your post?
I think that the ‘best’ translation for 1 Cor 15:8 is the one I found in The Bible Gateway (Traducción en Lenguaje Actual, (c) 2000 – United Biblical Societies):
“Por último, se me apareció a mí; a pesar de que lo conocí mucho tiempo después que los otros apóstoles.”
My own re-translation:
“Lastly, he appeared to me; even though I knew him [or met him] much later than the other apostles.”
That’s creativeness !
Another case of “knowing what the Bible is supposed to say.”
Tim, excellent article,
However (a minor point), checking the Greek, I do not agree too much with:
“Last of all he appeared to me as though to the ektroma.”. Where does the “though” come from?
I think the YLT is closer to the Greek, after replacing “untimely birth” by “ektroma”: “And last of all — as to the ektroma– he appeared also to me”
Another point which puzzles me:
If the ektroma is this misshapen, misbegotten demiurge (as the flawed creator of an imperfect world?), that would still put Paul in a rather high place, even if it is in a bad light. Could that ektroma stand for a lesser character in an early Gnostic context?
Yes, Paul had no reason to self deprecate here, and to such a degree. It would be suicidal for his reputation and put him well below the competition. It is also completely against what he wrote earlier (1 Cor. 9:1-27) and later (2 Cor. 11:5).
“The alternative, I submit, is to take the appearance of the Ektroma in 1 Cor. 15 as evidence that the Pauline confession is a later interpolation into the text.”
I totally agree. I found many reasons (and ektroma is one more) to declare 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation as explained here: http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#adc
What verses would you think are interpolated in 1 Cor. 15:3-11?
Bernard: “Where does the ‘though’ come from?”
Tim: Bauer’s lexicon says that ὡσπερεὶ (hōspereì) means “like,” “as though,” or “as it were.” Perhaps Liddell & Scott is closer to the original sense of it when they translate the word as “just as if” or “even as.” I get a feeling that Paul (or whoever wrote it) at this point is practically cringing.
Bernard: “Could that ektroma stand for a lesser character in an early Gnostic context?”
Tim: It’s difficult to imagine a “lesser character” than the Ektroma. The creator of this world is a horrible character. Not only is he responsible for the evil around us and for our being trapped in these vile bodies, but he is ignorant of his own position in the universe.
Bernard: “What verses would you think are interpolated in 1 Cor. 15:3-11?”
Tim: I’m not sure. I find it odd that while his confession is “of first importance,” it is the only example we have of it from antiquity. That is to say, we have the canonical gospel accounts of resurrection appearances, but they don’t correspond to 1 Cor. 15, in either person or number. It is unique and cannot be reconciled with other accounts.
Still, the interpolated text could have been inserted very early, since it appears that we’re dealing with a tradition that has no knowledge of the doctrine of the ascension. He dies, rises on the third day, and then starts haunting his friends. I take the rising in this case to mean rising immediately into heaven.
Paul believed that in the resurrection our corrupt corporeal bodies would be transformed into perfect spiritual bodies. For him, an empty tomb at Easter would mean that Jesus had left the Earth. The gruesome account of Jesus dragging around his broken, bleeding reanimated corpse is surely a later invention to give the Twelve a special claim of authority and to remove any claim of authenticity for “post-ascension” reports.
The interpolator writes that Jesus appeared to all the apostles. I don’t think that means “all at once,” as in the case of the mysterious 500, but rather one at a time, as each one felt called by Jesus to hit the road and preach the gospel. The entire chain of events seems completely unaware of Pentecost, the Ascension, or any of the post-resurrection events found in the first five books of the NT.
According to Robert M Price, the whole thing (3-11) is interpolated.
Stuart Waugh, however, evidences that only the second half of 4 through 10 is post-marcionite interpolation; whereas the rest of 3-11 might be a Marcionite interpolation into an earlier context.
About “lesser character”, I did not mean a worst one, but someone less high on the totem pole, such as a demon. Having the interpolator put Paul so high up, even as a very bad entity, makes me rather unconfortable. Or did the interpolator mean Paul was as surprised to “see” heavenly Jesus as the ektroma would be to see the ultimate highest god?
The problem about “inserted early” is that the gospelers did not know about the interpolation. Inserted late, the problem is that the interpolator did not know about the gospels.
For me, I place gLuke around 85, with Acts a few years after. gMatthew, which did not have the two reapparitions at first, at about the same time. gJohn 10 to 15 years later.
Since I think the interpolator knew about gLuke (and likely Acts), because of the two “according to the scripture” clauses (see Lk24:45-46), I would put the interpolation around 90-100.
In common, we have Peter first, then the 12 (gLuke has the eleven and others in the room: the replacement of Judas, the 12th one, could have been thought among the others). No ascension mentioned in 1 Cor. So after the apparitions would be as for Paul, from some heavenly Jesus, to 500 (among the early Church of Jerusalem with its 3000 sudden Greek converts), then James who achieves prominence later in Acts, then to apostles before Paul, then Paul.
That’s when and how it would fit the best, as I think.
Bernard: “Or did the interpolator mean Paul was as surprised to ‘see’ heavenly Jesus as the ektroma would be to see the ultimate highest god?”
Tim: Hey, that’s not bad at all. The Ektroma believed he was the only god (an idea that the other aeons laughed at). Imagine his surprise if he suddenly became aware of the truth.
Bernard: “The problem about ‘inserted early’ is that the gospelers did not know about the interpolation. Inserted late, the problem is that the interpolator did not know about the gospels.”
Tim: Even as it is, the evangelists and Paul show virtually no knowledge of each other. In those very few places where they might intersect, they could just as easily gotten the info from common tradition (e.g., the prohibition on divorce).
Finally, I don’t see how you can reconcile 1 Cor. 15 with Acts, so the idea that the “interpolator knew gLuke (and likely Acts) is unconvincing.
The fairy-tale of the apostles was not written in one piece; therefore, some Catholic interpolations in First Corinthians maybe largely compatible with a draft of what would eventially become the official acts Acts.
Tim, cancel the sentence “Or did … highest god”. That does not make any sense. Now I am still trying to get confortable with the initial interpretation.
Since we’re talking about gnostic mythology here, I’ll type below what Elaine Pagels says about Valentinian interpretation of 1 Cor 15:8-10 (The Gnostic Paul, pp. 80-81). Even though this is later exegesis, it might be worth looking at for comparison. First is Pagels’ translation, and then commentary:
1 Cor 15:8-10: Last of all he appeared to me, as to an abortion. For I am the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace in me was not empty, but I labored more than any of them, not I, but the grace of God with me.
But now Paul describes his own unique experience: “Last of all he appeared to me, as a kind of abortion” (15:8). Here he alludes symbolically to the pneumatic election to show how the savior appeared to Achamoth “when she was outside the pleroma, ‘as a kind of abortion.’” 158 Basilides explains that the whole elect has undergone the same experience, having remained “in formlessness, ‘like an abortion.’”159 Theodotus says that “as long as we were children only of the female (Sophia), as of a shameful syzygy, we were incomplete, infants, mindless, weak, unformed, brought forth like abortions.”160
From this amorphous state, Paul – symbolizing the elect – is redeemed by grace: “his grace in me was not empty” (since grace, charis, is an aion of the “fullness,“ the pleroma). 161 Taking 15:10 as Paul’s account of how he was “spiritually born,” delivered through the “labor” of the “the grace (charis) of God,”162, the Valentinians explain that Paul alone received “the mystery of God” through the pleromic aion charis, while the other apostles received only what was transmitted through the psychic demiurge.163 From this they conclude that Paul alone received the pneumatic gospel, while the preaching of the rest remained only psychic.164
Just happened to have listened to Price on the Aeon Byte Podcast taking about the Gnostic Paul. He seems convinced that Gnosticism came first.
In some form, Gnosticism certainly came first; but it is a rather broad term, as seen specifically in the Refutationes assigned to Hippolytus. Also, the works found in Nag Hammadi frequently disagree on basic things. The same can be said to a lesser degree about the more judaizing sects.
A better understanding of the formation of the NT requires a further determination of the shift of dogms which caused interpolations, logical gaps, and glosses.
Can you comment on that (which seems to favour your case):
“And that the Saviour appeared to her when she lay outside of the Pleroma as a kind of abortion, they affirm Paul to have declared in his Epistle to the Corinthians [in these words], “And last of all, He appeared to me also, as to one born out of due time.”” Irenaeus, AH, book I, XIII, 2
I won’t be surprised “one born out of due time” shows as “the ektroma” in the Greek. Here it appears some Gnostics (Valentinians) thought the Saviour showed himself to the ektroma. That seems to be confirmed in the same chapter.
And that also is interesting:
“For she was excluded from light and the Pleroma, and was without form or figure, like an untimely birth, because she had received nothing [from a male parent]. But the Christ dwelling on high took pity upon her; and having extended himself through and beyond Stauros, he imparted a figure to her, but merely as respected substance,” Irenaeus, AH, book I, IV, 1
Once again “like an untimely birth” might be “ektroma” in the Greek.
You can actually see it for yourself in Greek and Latin for free online at Google Books.
See pp. 32 and 69. As you suspected, ektroma is the original word in all cases.
Here are Paul’s words in Latin:
Novissime autem tanquam abortivo visus est et mihi.
This topic emerged, today, on the “Bible Geek Listeners” Facebook page and engendered considerable discussion. One of the party’s suggested this article and I thought that it was enlightening. I thought that I’d share some additional thoughts on this term.
First, I don’t think that I remember any discussion, in your article, of whether or not the term ἐκτρώμα applied to the Christ or to Paul. The assumption is usually Paul because (among other reasons) the idea of referring to the Christ as the Abortion would be anathema to most Christians. However, the ambiguity does seem to exist – as near as I can understand the grammar of the 1 Cor 15:8. What is your understanding of the sentence construction?
Second, the application of ἐκτρώμα as a gnostic term applied to the Demiurge makes a lot of sense given the conceptual background of the Demiurge. However, it seems to me that it makes less sense when applied to people believing themselves to have access to True Knowledge. Theology creates many strange conceptual terms but I have to wonder if the Pauline School might have had a different definition of ἐκτρώμα in mind.
If we go back to the propose etymology of the word, then it means “out of a wound / wounding”. I’m not seeing that “time” was a part of the etymology, only of the later denotations, so I’ve set the “out of time” definition aside as idiomatic. The common use was “miscarriage” or “abortion”. This was an obvious reference to the damaged nature of the fetus and, often, the mother. Yet, if one focuses on the aspect of wounding, then I suggest that there are two other woundings that should be considered.
The first is the wounds borne by the Christ. I don’t think that we can be sure that the Christ of 1 Cor 15 was crucified but it does state that he died and was raised up (though, interestingly, not actually stated to be returned to life) so it seems reasonable that he was wounded.
The second is the wounds borne by Paul. I realize that “Acts” and the Epistles don’t overlap very well but Acts 9 refers to Paul being struck, falling to the ground, and losing his mundane sight for a time. Likewise difficult to be certain of a direct connection is 2 Cor 12:2 in which “a man in Christ”, known to “Paul” and generally thought to be self-referential, was snatched up the Third Heaven. Assuming that both incidents are related, it seems reasonable that the incident could have been thought of as a wounding. Spiritual awakenings like this in shamanic cultures are often described as like being struck and / or killed.
Both cases seem to imply a special status conferred by wounding. Is it possible that the ἐκτρώμα used by “Paul” referred not to state of being without knowledge of the True God (as was the Demiurge) but to a sanctified state conferred “out of wounding” of the Christ or “Paul”? Indeed, given that 2 Cor 12:2 used the phrase ἄνθρωπον ἐν Χριστῷ (anthropon en Christo, “man in Christ”) and suggested a unity with the Christ, it is even possible that Paul’s wounding was analogous to or considered derived from the Christ’s wounding. Thus ἐκτρώμα might, in the Pauline School, have referred not to “the Abortion” but to the “Wounded One”.
Here’s hoping that my speculation was reasonably clear.