The Transformation of Simon/Paul into Proto-Orthodox Paul in Galatians 1:1 – 2:14
|This post will consider Galatians 1:1 – 2:14 from the perspective of my Simonian hypothesis. That passage contains some of the few bits of biographical information the Pauline Corpus provides about Paul.
If my hypothesis is correct, it should be able to untangle that information, plausibly assigning some parts to the real Paul (Simon of Samaria) and the rest to a later proto-orthodox interpolator. And that separation should help solve the puzzling features of the passage.
The puzzles I have in mind are:
1. The turnaround by Paul: In 1:8 he is ready to curse himself or anyone else—even an angel from heaven— who dares to preach a gospel contrary to the one he had preached. Yet in 2:1-2 he says that he went up to Jerusalem to present his gospel because, after all, he might be running or have run in vain! How, in the short space of time it takes to compose fourteen verses, does one’s attitude change from the adamant “there’s no way I’m wrong” to the conciliatory “well, maybe I was wrong?”
2. The turnaround by Peter: In 2:9 he is shaking hands with Paul and agreeing that he should go preach his brand of gospel to the Gentiles. But just a few verses later he, “fearing the circumcision party, separated himself” from Paul.
3. The switch back and forth between the names Cephas and Peter. Cephas is the name of the person Paul stayed with during his first visit to Jerusalem. But in the account of the second visit the name “Peter” is used for him twice before the switch back to Cephas. In the Antioch incident Cephas is the only name used for the one who stood condemned.
4. The double notice, in the space of only three verses, that Titus was with Paul (2:1 and 2:3).
5. The use of the expressions “those who seemed to be something” and “those who seemed to be pillars” for the leaders of the Jerusalem church. Why not something more straightforward? And why does Paul only use the expressions when recounting his second visit to Jerusalem. He tells us that at his first visit he made the acquaintance of Cephas and saw James. Didn’t they “seem to be something” at that time? So why do the “seem” expressions appear four times in the account of his second visit (which was, at least temporarily, a success) but not at all in the first?
An Adamantly Independent Paul
Now if the real Paul was Simon of Samaria and if his contribution is anywhere to be found in the passage in question, it seems reasonable to think it consists at least of those verses in which he asserts his independence. Use of that criterion would identify verses 1-12 and 15-21 from chapter 1 and verses 3-5 and 11-14 from chapter 2 as being Paul’s. Taken together these verses present a sustained argument for independence, the kind of argument that could plausibly flow from one who was angry enough to curse his opponents twice (Gal. 1:8 & 9).
- He asserts that his apostleship and his understanding of the gospel were directly from Jesus Christ. After he received the revelation of the Son he initially didn’t consult with any Christians, nor did he go up to Jerusalem until three years later. Even then, it was only to make the acquaintance of Cephas. On that occasion he didn’t speak with or even see any other of the apostles except James. And there is not the least indication that the subject of Paul’s apostleship or his gospel even came up during that first visit.
- And then, to further prove his independence, Paul asserts that, despite pressure from false brothers, he never compelled his uncircumcised missionary companion Titus (Menander?) to be circumcised. And he adds that on one occasion he even opposed Cephas to his face, reprimanding him “before them all.”
To me, the outburst in the first two chapters of Galatians is more consistent and believable in this undiluted form, unmixed with the irrelevant recall of Paul’s pre-Christian activity (Gal. 1: 1:13-14 and 22-24) or the mention of his fears that he was running or had run in vain (part of his second visit, Gal. 2: 1-2 and 6-10). Without those interruptions, the passage, at least at first glance, could pass as the work of Simon/Paul.
We will take a closer look at those questionable larger intrusions in a moment. But first there are two smaller suspects to take note of. In the opening verse, as it currently stands, we read:
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—…
The reference to God the Father in Gal. 1:1 was not present in Marcion’s version of the verse. Without it, Jesus raises himself from the dead—a scenario in no way unlikely if Jesus was the Son of God even before he came to redeem us. That Jesus was a man, a mighty prophet, who only became divine after being raised from the dead by the Father seems to have been an idea initially floated by the proto-orthodox. It figures prominently in the GLuke and the Acts of the Apostles. So I suspect the original form of the verse was:
Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ who rose from the dead—…
Second, in Gal. 1:4 we read:
… the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil aion.
The phrase “for our sins” is the kind of simple insertion that changes a Simonian release soteriology into a proto-orthodox atonement. Other examples of this were given in part four.
Incorporating those two small changes I propose that the following should be assigned to Simon/Paul:
1. Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ who rose from the dead—2. and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4. who gave himself to deliver us from the present evil aion, according to the will of our God and Father, 5. to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7. not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be the servant of Christ. 11. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 15. When he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16. was pleased to reveal his Son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult anyone; 17. nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. (20. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!)
21. Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
3. And even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—5. to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
The Transformation of Paul the Enemy
Having tagged the verses that could, at first blush, plausibly pass as the original work of Simon/Paul, we need to now consider the remaining verses. The first ones are 13-14 and 22-24 of chapter one. They relate Paul’s former activity as a persecutor of the church of God:
13. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers… 22. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judaea that are in Christ. 23. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24. And they glorified God because of me.
J. C. O’Neill, in his The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, points out that this account of Paul’s former career as persecutor of Christians contributes nothing to Paul’s argument. It is basically irrelevant. And O’Neill shows how the concepts, vocabulary, and style of the section are unlike Paul’s. For O’Neill the section is an interpolation albeit an innocent one. He thinks a scribe may have known of a Judean tradition about Paul and decided to enrich a treasured epistle with it.
I think there is much more to it than that. In O’Neill’s scenario the history of Galatians was one “of continual expansion as explanatory and expository notes were added to the text…” (p. 12), notes made by well-meaning but often misguided scribes:
It is often almost impossible to recover a clear train of argument from a paragraph, the reason being that it is made up of, perhaps, one pregnant sentence from Paul, a meditation on the sentence by a theologian who wished to apply an argument directed to the Galatian situation of the 50s to the life of all Christians fifty years later, plus a gloss on one word by a scribe interested in clearing up an exegetical puzzle. (p. 12)
But O’Neill realized that his proposed scenario was based on a particular crucial assumption:
I am feeling my way, and cannot be dogmatic about Paul’s theology. I have tried to face every difficulty in Galatians as squarely as possible, and to argue from the text alone in the first place, but I have needed some general picture of the crucial relationship between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders in order to see whether or not Galatians is really in touch with history, and to test whether this remark or that could have been made by Paul. (p. 10, my bolding)
I cannot hope to have been completely right at every point in assigning this verse to Paul, and that to a glossator, and the other to an interpolator; even if the division be right, I can easily have ascribed to Paul what was written by a commentator on Paul, and to a commentator what was written by Paul himself—and one such mistake could affect the whole enterprise. (p. 11, my bolding)
Unfortunately O’Neill, in my opinion, was working with an understandable but incorrect assumption about “the crucial relationship between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders.” And that incorrect assumption did affect his whole enterprise. He writes:
The great difficulty about accepting all Galatians as written by Paul is that Paul can scarcely have adopted the attitude towards Judaism that sometimes appears in Galatians” (p. 9).
But since O’Neill followed the almost universal assumption that the original Paul was proto-orthodox, he assigned the radical assertions that appear in the text to a subsequent interpolator. I am convinced that assumption is wrong. If the original Paul was Simon of Samaria (see part 1 of this series), he could indeed “have adopted the attitude towards Judaism that sometimes appears in Galatians.” Better sense can be made of Galatians if we see its radical assertions as protrusions of an original letter that was Simonian in provenance, protrusions that a subsequent proto-orthodox redactor rendered harmless largely by means of interpolations.:
Now if, as I maintain, the real Paul was Simon of Samaria, his conflict with the Jerusalem church came after his embrace of belief in Christ. The proto-orthodox heresy-hunters acknowledge that Simon was a Christian at least in name. Even the portrayal of him in Acts of the Apostles includes his reception of baptism and a time of continuance with Philip. So it would appear he came into conflict with the leaders of the early church sometime after he professed belief in the crucified Son of God.
And if my hypothesis is correct that the Paul who wrote Galatians was Simon, it is likely around the time of composition of this letter that the conflict was getting serious. In Galatians 4:16 we read: “So now have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Paul, because of the kind of gospel he preached, was apparently being called an enemy by some. And in 5:11 he uses the word “persecuted” to describe the treatment he is receiving from his opponents. He, in turn, uses strong language in opposing them, cursing anyone who preaches a gospel different from his. And saying, for example, that Cephas himself “stood condemned” (2:11). We see the same thing in the Corinthian correspondence which was likely written at about the same time. Paul’s conflict with those he scornfully calls superapostles and false apostles was heating up when he wrote the Corinthian letters and Galatians.
This reality would have been a problem for a later proto-orthodox Christian bent on presenting Paul as a proto-orthodox apostle. His Paul could not be a proto-orthodox apostle and at the same time be at odds with the early church. One way the interpolator could resolve that problem was by changing the nature of the conflict and shifting the time it occurred to a time before Paul’s conversion. He could then concede that Paul had indeed been an enemy of Christians, but get him off the hook by restricting his inimical activity to the period before he became a Christian.
This, I submit, is what the interpolator has done by inserting 1:13-14 and 22-24. His interpolation has the effect of transforming the real Paul who in the late 50s came into conflict with the Jerusalem church. It turns him into someone who was earlier an enemy of the early Christians, using physical violence against them, but who after his conversion worked—with the exception of a few minor misunderstandings—in harmony with them.
The Transformation of Paul’s Second Visit to Jerusalem
I think something similar can explain the second set of leftover verses: 1-2 and 6-10 of chapter 2. They give an account of Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem. The interpolator needed to have his new proto-orthodox Paul accepted and his gospel approved by the Jerusalem church. So he decided to construct and insert a second visit that accomplished those ends, even though it interrupted Paul’s strong protestation of independence. (Later the Acts of the Apostles will mess even more with Paul’s trips to Jerusalem).
If this is so, the bringing of the name Peter into the text was the work of the interpolator. Likewise his mention that Titus was with Paul in 2:1. This was a way for the interpolator to tie his fictitious second visit to an authentic part of the letter, Galatians 2:3-5. And just as he sandwiched his previous interpolation on both sides of an authentic section, he has done the same here. The resulting disconnect of Gal. 2:3-5 from its real context has caused the many scholars who realize the passage is out of place to basically put it within parentheses. It makes no sense for there to be false brothers spying out the freedom of Paul and Titus at the Jerusalem meeting. O’Neill is one of many who think that “This description of the false brothers must apply to their activities away in the churches from which Paul has come” (The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians pp. 32-33). Paul, it is claimed, has again got ahead of himself.
Now I want to be clear that I am not saying that there was no second visit to Jerusalem. There very likely was. And the interpolator may have even dated it correctly at “fourteen years” (Gal. 2:1) after Paul’s call. He could have taken the time indicator from 2 Corinthians 12:2—written about the same time as Galatians—where Paul says: “I know a man in Christ who, fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows), was caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2, my bolding). But I don’t think there was an account of the visit in the original letter to the Galatians. In any case, the one that is there goes against Paul’s protestation of independence and serves proto-orthodox purposes.
More likely, in my opinion, is that when the real Paul wrote Galatians he was in fact preparing for his second (and, as it turned out, final) visit to Jerusalem. He was gathering money from his churches to bring to the poor ones there. And since knowledge of certain radical aspects of his gospel had reached the leaders of that church, he feared the reception he would receive (see Rom. 15:31). His fears, I suspect, were justified, and when he went up to Jerusalem he was arrested in the temple (reflected in Acts 21) and disowned by the Jerusalem church. To them he had become the “lawless one” condemned in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 (see part 3 of the series)
Thus the real Paul would have been truly independent during his ministry to the Gentiles. And his gospel was never approved by the pillars or even submitted to them for approval. It was this reality that the proto-orthodox interpolator of Galatians was trying to fix by his insertions.
The Transformation of Paul’s Gospel
The Galatians’ account of Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem is authentic. It says not a word about Paul being accepted or his gospel approved.
The interpolator fixed those problems by his composition of a second visit. But the approval he gave to Paul’s gospel needed qualification, for the gospel of the original author, Simon/Paul of Samaria, was far from acceptable to the proto-orthodox. The qualifications provided by the interpolator took this form:
I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed to be something) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. (Gal. 2:2)
And from those who seemed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed to be something added nothing to me. (Gal. 2:6)
I see part of this interpolation as motivated by proto-orthodox concern to have the new Paul duly submissive to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, regardless of what they were formerly. “What they were previously”(just fishermen?) “makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality”. But what are we to make of the new Paul’s explanation of his gospel in private to those who seemed to be something?
Why private and why the unusual expression “those who seemed to be something?”
I am none too confident here, and I am certainly open to other suggestions, but it seems to me the best solution is this: The interpolator wanted to retain but explain away two problematic characteristics of the real Paul’s gospel.
- First, his gospel was said to be docetic. His Jesus only seemed to be a man, and only seemed to suffer. To correct this, the interpolator would lead us to believe that such a feature became associated with Paul’s gospel by mistake. The mistake arose because Paul referred to those before whom he set his gospel as “those who seemed to be something.” The Greek word used all four times for “those who seemed” in the alleged interpolation is a form of “dokeo” (to seem or appear) and is the word from which the term “Docetism” is derived.
- Second, it was said that Paul was secretive and taught his gospel privately. This was, again, something the interpolator could not abide for his new Paul. So what he does is have him explain his gospel privately on the occasion of his second visit, but with the clear understanding that it is a gospel he normally preached openly, “the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:2). I think the interpolator is again giving his reader a reason to believe that some people have mistakenly and unfortunately thought Paul always explained his gospel in private.
|If this is right, it would mean that the interpolator not only retained but transformed the element of enmity between Paul and the early church. And not only retained but transformed the element of a second visit to Jerusalem after fourteen years. It would mean that he also retained but transformed the elements of “appearance” and “privacy” that characterized the Simonian gospel. He attached those elements to the gospel in a new way, one that was inoffensive to proto-orthodoxy.|
I have been arguing in this series that a proto-orthodox interpolator was basically trying to steal Simon/Paul and his letters. If that is so, I think he had to expect that his attempted theft would at some point meet with resistance. The hands of Simonians were tied to some extent by their secrecy, but I find it hard to believe they would let the theft go unopposed. So it could be foreseen that at some point the new portrayal of Paul was going to collide in public with the old one. Objections like the following were bound to arise:
“But there are Christians who have a different view of Paul. They say he was considered an enemy by the Jerusalem church. And that they abandoned him when he went up to Jerusalem. They say too that he revealed much of his gospel only in private and that according to his gospel the Son only seemed to be a man, and only seemed to suffer.”
Interpolations like the ones in Galatians transformed Paul in a way that permitted this kind of response:
“Those people are mistaken, but their mistakes are understandable. Paul was indeed an enemy of the Jerusalem church, but that was before his conversion, not after. And when he went up to Jerusalem his gospel was approved by the church. He did on the occasion of that visit explain his gospel privately to the leaders of the church, but his preaching was otherwise public. And he didn’t say the Son only seemed to be a man. What Paul said was that he presented his gospel to those who seemed to be something. If you like, you can read Paul’s letter to the Galatians and you will see that what I say is so. You will see how the mistakes you mentioned arose.”
I will bring this post to a close by laying out the whole passage and indicating by means of bolding within brackets the parts I think are interpolations.
1. Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ [and God the Father, who raised him] (who rose) from the dead—2. and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4. who gave himself [for our sins] to deliver us from the present evil aion, according to the will of our God and Father, 5. to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7. not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be the servant of Christ.
11. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12. For I did not received it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
[13. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
15. But] When he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16. was pleased to reveal his Son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult anyone; 17. nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. 18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21. Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
[22. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judaea that are in Christ. 23. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24. And they glorified God because of me.]
[1. Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed to be something) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.]
3. But even [Titus] (…..), who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—5. to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
[6. And from those who seemed to be something (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (8. for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9. and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10. Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
11. But] When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even [Barnabas] (…..) was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
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31 thoughts on “A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 5: The Transformation of Simon/Paul in Galatians”
That of Paul persecutor (1:22-24) is something that I cannot understand why Doherty or Carrier do not regard an interpolation (if not for sake of discussion with the actual Consensus).
…the unusual expression “those who seemed to be something”
so unusual and improbable to remember the story of a Western colonizer (of first 1800) that visits a foreign oriental land or island in Asia or Pacific Ocean and identifies, as the first thing important to do, their kings and vassals, i.e. ”those who seemed to be something”. Very improbable and romano-centric.
19. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
How do you see that famous passage? (It’s to be expected this question).
I will be coming shortly to the gospel part of this series and will there go into more detail about my scenario of how the gospel began and developed. But for now I will say that I don’t think James was the brother of the gospel Jesus figure. I think that when the original Paulines were written (by Simon and Menander) and when they were later systematically reworked by a proto-orthodox Christian, a gospel did not yet exist that included a public ministry for the Son. As I summarized it in part one of the series, the earliest gospel had
“a Son of God who descended to Judaea for a few hours and—in order to trick the powers that be into killing Him—transfigured himself to look like a man, then surreptitiously switched places with a messiah-wannabe who was being led away for crucifixion. No birth, no public ministry, no prolonged stay for the Son; just the kind of limited, particular task that we find disguised gods or angels performing in other Old Testament and intertestamental literature (e.g., Abraham and Lots’ heavenly visitors; the angel Raphael in Tobit). Then, after having returned to heaven, the Son appeared to certain chosen individuals, revealed to them the redemptive trick he had played, and commissioned them to tell others.”
If then the brother of James in Galatians 1:19 was not the gospel Jesus, who was he?
The word “lord” was used freely in the early Christian literature, its referent often determined by its context. It was used not only for God and Christ but also as a respectful title for men. In Galatians itself the expression “lord of all” (Gal. 4:1) is applied to a son who reaches age of independence. So “the lord” in Gal. 1:19 could just be a title of respect for some distinguished leader of the Jerusalem church. The situation would be much like that of a Catholic who went to Rome and, when he returned, said he had seen the brother of the Holy Father there. Everyone would understand that the Holy Father in question was the Pope, not the God that John 17:11 calls “Holy Father.” Likewise, I think that when Simon/Paul said he went to Jerusalem and saw no other apostle except James the brother of the lord, his readers would understand from the context that the lord in question was the human lord of the Jerusalem church.
I realize, of course, that my example is not a perfect fit. We know “Holy Father” is a title used by the Pope. Unfortunately we know little about the Jerusalem church and have no proof what titles were used by its leaders. But there is this: the title “lord” did at some point come to be used for James himself, for in the two letters at the beginning of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies he is addressed as James the lord:
“Clement to James the lord and the bishop (overseer) of bishops who rules Jerusalem, the holy church of the Hebrews…” (Letter of Clement to James); “Peter to James the lord and bishop of the holy church…” (Letter to Peter to James).
And notice that in the first address it is said that James “rules” the holy church of the Hebrews. There are indications in GMark that there was early controversy about how the church should be ruled. When the brothers James and John ask Jesus to sit at his left and his right in his glory, the ten others become indignant. Jesus tells them they must not rule like the “rulers” of the Gentiles who “lord it” ( kataKYRIEuousin) over their subjects. He does not deny that they will be rulers, i.e., lords, but says they must exercise their authority differently: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great (megas) among you will be your servant” (Mk. 10:43). What we may have here is an allegorical portrayal of how the leadership style of Paul/Simon Megas was different and better than that of the brothers James and John.
I don’t want to get too much ahead of myself but, as I indicated in my part one summary, I think the earliest written gospel that contained a public ministry for its central character was written sometime between CE 100 and 130 and was a Simonian allegory about Simon. And I will argue that the proto-orthodox reworked that allegory in several ways. One principal aim they had was to turn the central character into a kind of John the Baptist redivivus. For Simonians John would have just been another of those who claimed to be disciples of the crucified Son but dismally failed to recognize him when he returned in the person of Simon Megas. But for the proto-orthodox John was not that at all. It was they who held that “among those born of woman none was greater than he” and that he was “a prophet and more than a prophet.” I think it was John they viewed as the real founder and human lord of the early church. And, if the passage about him in Josephus is authentic, it was he for whom the early Jewish Christians were “ready to do anything he should advise” (Antiquities 18,5,2).
So, in short, while I remain open to other possibilities, I am not yet ready to concede that “the brother of the lord” is an interpolation or to give it a more spiritual meaning. I think the brother in question may be John the Baptist who, in the original Simonian allegory, was just portrayed as one of the first disciples of the Son. He was just the brother of James and one of the sons of thunder, both of whom were to die violent deaths (Mk. 10:39).
When Simon wrote Galatians[When Simon made his first visit to Jerusalem]* John may have already been dead for a few years. If he was, all the more reason for Simon to just use the title that the Jerusalem saints were using for their martyred founder. No need to come across as disrespectful of the deceased hero.
(*Corrected by Neil)
Correction: In the last paragraph of my comment, “When Simon wrote Galatians…” should have been: “When Simon made his first visit to Jerusalem…”
Yes, James the Lord’s Brother. I wonder if Paul was lying about James? Or that he was lying about visiting them in the first place?
“But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!”
When someone stridently says he is not lying right after making a certain point, that is (to me) when the red flags go up that he is lying about that very point.
There is reason to be suspicious. But people do sometimes call upon God as witness to their veracity, especially when angry and faced with opponents who are calling their truthfulness into question. That Simon/Paul was angry comes out in the curses he calls down on his opponents. And we know from Galatians and other Pauline passages that he was accused of being a deceiver. So I’m not confident that Gal. 1:20 should be ascribed to the interpolator.
The author of Galatians was being sarcastic. In Galatians 5:12, he wishes the circumcisers would emasculate themselves. In Galatians 3:1, when he rhetorically asks “Who has bewitched you?” he knows that it was Cephas sent by James. They were discrediting him so he spent two chapters discrediting them.
In Galatians 2:6, he seems to be scoffing at what they seem to be as it makes no difference to him. He applies the same scoffing in verse 9 to James, Cephas, and John with the “reputed to be pillars” line.
The scenario I imagine is that when he got to verse 2:12 about the men James sent to Antioch, he went back to verse 1:1, a standard opening, and inserted before “sent by Jesus Christ” the “sent not from men nor by a man” line. If Jesus sent men on missions and James also assumed the authority to send men on missions, James must be at the same level as Jesus, so he sarcastically added “the Lord’s brother”.
In 1 Corinthians 9, the author seems to be defending his position as an apostle and his right to be supported. In verse 5, he uses “brothers of the Lord”. He may be referring to James and John.
The name “Peter” is only used in the Pauline Epistles in Galatians. A year and a half ago, I began to wonder if Cephas and Peter might be different people. I asked Richard Carrier that question in the comments of his blog. Later, I found that Bart Ehrman said he wondered earlier in his career whether Peter and Cephas were different people, too, but both Carrier and Ehrman said the name “Peter” was rare in Greek and both concluded they were the same. Now I wonder if “Peter” is a mocking name for Cephas in light of all the sarcasm in the letter.
The name could be, if it’s not part of the Petrine interpolation, for the Greek for Peter (petros) means “stone”, a small rock that can be thrown.
If, as you propose, Paul was being sarcastic in the account of the second visit, he was still the one who came across as diminished in it. He can scoff all he likes, but his readers would still see that he was the one who was afraid he may have been running in vain. And he was the one submitting his gospel to those who appeared to be something, not vice versa. In the eyes of his readers, he would come across as one who talked big but whose actions did not correspond with his words.
If the man who is so sure of his call and gospel in chapter one of Galatians had written the chapter two account of the second visit, it would have been written very differently. It would have been something like this:
“I went up in accord with a revelation, and I had those who appeared to be something present to me the gospel they were preaching to the circumcised. Once I was satisfied their gospel did not differ from mine I added nothing to them. On the contrary, when I saw that Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, just as I to the Gentiles—for the one who worked in me for an apostolate to the Gentiles, worked also in Peter for the circumcised—and when I recognized the grace bestowed upon those who seemed to be pillars, I gave to them the right hand in partnership.”
In other words, in the account Paul would have made clear to his readers that he was the one passing judgment on the gospel preached in Jerusalem. It was that gospel that needed verification, not his, “for if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let that one be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8)
So was it Paul who brought himself down a notch in the Galatians account of the second visit but at least took satisfaction in referring to his judges sarcastically? I don’t think so. I think the account was part of the proto-orthodox interpolation. In it Paul receives the same kind of treatment that he later got in the proto-orthodox Acts of the Apostles.
Roger, what I find disconcerting is that your explanations appear to be so coherent, simple, solving so much . . . . But at the same time so disconcerting. I like Simon Magus when he was as fictitious as Santa Claus. How can anyone accept the very idea that the Scriptures to which they/their Church have been so devoted for millennia are in fact disguised blocks of text from that mythical arch-enemy of Christianity, the very epitome of all the Satanic enemies of the Church itself?
Do you know if Robert Price — or Hermann Detering — have responded at any site to your ideas expressed here?
Yes, disconcerting enough if it should turn out the original Paulines were written by Simon of Samaria and Menander. But that may only be the half of it. Even more disconcerting would be the discovery that the public ministry of the Jesus figure started out as an allegory about Simon!
No, I am not aware of any reaction to my hypothesis from Robert Price or Hermann Detering.
The interpolator seems so clever until he slips and uses the name, “Peter”. Or did he have a reason for using it?
Perhaps he thought that since Christians of his own day (CE 130?) generally used the name ‘Peter’ in preference to ‘Cephas’, he should make clear that Paul too knew and used both names.
1. What do you make of Price’s suggestion in The Amazing Colossal Apostle, p. 415, following Frank McGuire, that Galatians 1:18-20 is an interpolation and the Jerusalem visit of chapter 2 is the more original passage?
2. I echo the chorus asking for your opinion on what Simon/Paul would have meant by calling James the brother of the Lord.
On page 415 Dr. Price writes:
“In Tertullian’s discourse ‘Against Marcion,’ he does not mention the visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 1: 18-20), which implies that probably Marcion had not mentioned it either, again marking it as an interpolation.”
Dr. Price holds that “The first two chapters” [of Galatians] “are later additions by Marcionites…” (p. 411). As I explained in my previous post, I see no need to date the letter so late. I think Simon/Paul could have written it in the first century.
Moreover, as I see it, the omission of a passage from Marcion’s version does not necessarily mark it as an interpolation. I think Marcion knew that the letter collection had been tampered with but—since he apparently didn’t have access to the original letters—he had to engage in much the same kind of analysis I’m doing in order to try to restore the original reading. And because of that, we cannot have full confidence in his results.
Harnack, in his “Marcion — The Gospel of the Alien God,” says this:
“… for his purifications of the text—and this is usually overlooked—he [Marcion] neither could claim nor did claim absolute certainty. But this is evident also from the history of his text; his pupils constantly made alterations in the text—sometimes more radical than his own, sometimes more conservative—perhaps under his very eyes, but certainly after his death. We are told this most definitely by Celsus, Tertullian, and Origen, and also by Ephraem, and we possess examples of it. Thus the Marcionite church did not receive from its master the gospel and the ten letters of Paul with the instruction to revere the re-established text as a ‘noli me tangere’ [do not touch], but the master gave to them the liberty, indeed perhaps left behind him the obligation, to continue the work of establishing the correct text.” (p. 30)
J.C. O’Neill puts it this way:
“Perhaps the first biblical scholar to have embarked on the task was not Weisse, but the heretic Marcion, and although his results do not seem to be the right ones, the fact that he attempted to discover what Paul originally wrote may be quoted as early evidence that the attempt is necessary. Marcion may not simply have wanted to show that Paul’s thought was a little different from the representation of it in the generally accepted epistles; he may have actually heard that Paul’s original letters had been overlaid by commentary, without possessing accurate information about what was original and what secondary.” — “The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” p. 11
“Someone must have inserted the passage” [i.e., Galatians 1: 18-20] “precisely to abet the notion rejected here, that Paul went to Jerusalem to submit himself to the twelve as soon as he was able to go.” (“The Amazing Colossal Apostle,” p. 415)
But I don’t see that the passage abets that notion much at all. I don’t see any submission in it. Paul says nothing there about his preaching to the Gentiles, his gospel, or his success. Peter says not a single word of approval of Paul or his gospel. Nothing is said about a division of labor between them. No mention of handshakes. To me it is the second visit, not the first, that serves proto-orthodox purposes.
To your second question, please see my response to comment 1 (Giuseppe’s) above.
Would you believe that there were no “apostles” before Paul/Simon and that the whole Jesus Christ thing was his own invention from the Septuagint in about 25 AD? I didn’t think so…so, no use elaborating on that theory/hypothesis.
Whatever the origins of the Pauline epistles, the reference to “the brother of the Lord” can still have been a later gloss, so it doesn’t need to be accounted for by the Simonian hypothesis.
What does bother me about this lovely idea is the lack of concrete evidence – textual or not. I realise we’re limited by the Pauline corpus only surviving as such – perhaps even from a single – exemplar, but I find it hard to settle for the circumstantiality of possible redactions. It is a nice idea to take the haeresiologists on their word, though. If for no other reason, then for the sake of consistency.
One question though. While this series nicely explains the Pauline tradition, which I’ll readily grant is the source of current Christianity, it doesn’t explain what was believed by the Jerusalem Jesus movement that the Disciple formerly known as Paul disagreed with. In that respect this analysis might actually support the historical Jesus idea.
I will eventually get to a more detailed discussion of Paul’s gospel and how it differed from that of the Jerusalem church. But I don’t think either Paul or the Jerusalem church believed in a Jesus who had previously wandered around Galilee and Judaea preaching, healing, exorcising, gathering disciples, etc. Their Christ beliefs were based on scriptures and visions.
Roger, if I may ask you this question, it was in particular the reading of Doherty to lead you to believe with certainty that
Their Christ beliefs were based on scriptures and visions.
or of your own research were already come to that conclusion?
It was Earl’s writings that convinced me of that. Although we disagree about how in fact Christianity did originate, his writings convinced me that the Jesus Paul believed in was not someone who had wandered around Galilee and Judaea preaching, healing, exorcising, gathering disciples, etc.
it doesn’t explain what was believed by the Jerusalem Jesus movement that the Disciple formerly known as Paul disagreed with. In that respect this analysis might actually support the historical Jesus idea.
But the Book of Revelation — that is clearly Judeo-Christian & anti-pauline — shows the same entirely celestial Christ of epistles. An ”historical Jesus idea” is really a powerfull ”weapon of defence and offense” against all docetic or ”mythicist” henemies and it’s really strange that has not been used against the enemies of the Judeo-Christians, by the latters (unlike the proto-Catholics).
However Roger (rightly) can not respond with security if the Pillars were interested or not to give more ”historical identity” of the anonymous replaced by the celestial Son on the cross (because, if that was the case, the anonymous would be the HJ).
you wrote that Marcion was historicist, but docetic.
Then my question is: we can distinguish between ”docetic mythicism” of the Pillars (a Son who becomes incarnate for a few hours in an anonymous crucified which role was totally passive and of no importance in the original prophecy and for the Pillars) and ”docetic historicity”, such as Marcion (a Jesus who *only* appears on earth but can be recognized by his disciples, during his visit on earth ? ).
That is, while I understand the ”docetic mythicism” of the Pillars and of the first Simon, I’m not clear how Marcion may have been Docetic & historicist: Marcion believed that the Son was a ghost appeared on earth already adult, and that he was ”someone who had wandered around Galilee and Judaea preaching, healing, exorcising, gathering disciples,” etc.?
According to your ”docetic mythicism”, only the crucifixion was considered an historical event already from the first moment. But the anonymous who was crucified was forever unknown to Pillars. Are you open to the possibility that the anonymous was just the same Pillar John the Baptist? Or are you feel much more probable that the Pillars, even John, did not know virtually nothing about the anonymous, as his only usefulness was to be a mere support of flesh of the celestial Son on earth (and then about his identity all the Pillars could only speculate, for example, imagining that he was a kind of zealot) ?
Thanks for the clarification (and patience),
My scenario is not that the Son became “incarnate … in an anonymous crucified” or that the anonymous man being led out for crucifixion was “a mere support of flesh of the celestial Son on earth.” I think that in the original gospel (ch. 6-11 of the Ascension of Isaiah) there was a swap of appearance between the two. The Son was the “passer-by coming in from the country” of Mk. 15:21 who, having been forced by the soldiers to carry the cross of the man being lead out for crucifixion, effects at Golgotha an undetected swap of appearance with the man in order to get himself crucified. I think this dual transformation is what was really behind the famous dual transformation of appearance involving Simon the Cyrenian that, according to Irenaeus, was part of the teaching of Basilides (Against Heresies 1, 24, 4).
In the Ascension of Isaiah the Son changes appearance repeatedly in order to descend undetected. The swap of appearance I am proposing for Golgotha would have been the final transformation he effected upon his arrival in this world that day.
What about the use of Isu Chrestos by Marcion instead of Jesus Christ in Marcion’s Pauline letters…….Did Simon use the term Jesus Christ……I recently looked at some Marcion Pauline letters and never saw the term Jesus Christ. I saw jesus the good ……….Also what years did simon live on earth ?
1. The “Marcion Pauline letters” you recently looked at were someone’s conjectural reconstruction of such. I myself am not convinced Marcion used Isu Chrestos instead of Jesus Christ. If he had, I think Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, or Epiphanius would have mentioned it. That some later Marcionites changed “Jesus Christ” to “Isu Chrestos” is certainly possible, but I’ve seen no convincing indication that Marcion himself did.
2. I think Simon/Paul did use the names Jesus and Christ for the Son. I’ll explain why in a later post in the series.
3. The earliest proto-orthodox writers who wrote about Simon say he was a contemporary of Peter. If so, he lived in approximately the first three quarters of the first century CE.
I have found this highly suggestive sentence of Paul in 1 Corinthinas 12:3, quoted by Robert Price here:
…the case of ”Separationist” Gnostics who decided that the human Jesus had so tenuous a connection to the Christ that they might curse the former and bless the latter. 1 Corinthians 12:3 mentions such Jesuphobes: ”Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord‘ except by the Holy Spirit.”
(Jesus is Dead, p.86)
and at pages 348-349 of The Amazing Colossal Apostle the same scholar writes:
Conzelmann’s own suggestion is a desperate one: Paul merely wanted to formulate a poetic parallelism, so he created the ”anathema Jesus” blasphemy as an antithetically parallel member matching ”Jesus is Lord”. Who can countenance such a view, which requires Paul to fabricate an offensive, even unthinkable, sacrilege merely as a stylistic flourish?
Adolf Shlatter thougth that the ”anathema Jesus” enivsioned here was the ritual denunciation of Jesus as a deceiver, ehich echoed in Jewish synagoues. Never mind that this theory requires an anachronistic anticipation of the malediction on heretics … The synagogue ritual cursed Christians, not Jesus.
The text is not Pauline. It is closer in time to the period of second-century Gnosticism than to Paul.
But, supposing 1 Cor 12:3 is very Pauline, then I ask me:
1) if the Corinthian opponents of Paul were Judeo-Christians (of Pillars and Book of Revelation), then how to explain the sentence? Were they cursing the spiritual Jesus of Paul?
2) if the Corinthian opponents of Paul were proto-gnostics (followers of Apollos of Alexandria and of the Revealer Christ, i.e. Earl’s thesis) and Paul was not gnostic, then how to explain the same sentence? Were they cursing the human Jesus of Paul (and then it’s a strong clue of an Historical Jesus in Paul???) because his ” tenuous connection to the Christ”?
I am curious to ask this question to Earl Doherty, too, because I don’t find a specific reply to it in his book Jesus: Neither God Nor Man.
Can I know your opinion about this point?
(I apologize for my English)
Good end of year and happy new year,
I think 1 Corinthians 12:2-3 is a proto-orthodox interpolation. The verses don’t fit the context which is the role of spiritual gifts WITHIN the community. But for the interpolator, the fact that the spiritual gifts are interventions of the Spirit was apparently enough to justify forcing his own points into the text. And those points were: When Christians are brought before rulers because of their faith they must not deny Christ. In those circumstances the Holy Spirit will give them the necessary strength to be steadfast in their profession that Jesus is Lord. In other words, in no circumstances will the Spirit ever inspire a Christian to curse Christ—even to avoid execution. And if, in the direst circumstances, a Christian professes that “Jesus is Lord,” you can be sure that the Holy Spirit is inspiring him. Regardless of how the Corinthians would have formerly resolved similar dilemmas when they were Gentiles, the above principles are what must guide their conduct as Christians.
So in effect the interpolator was giving further precision to teaching like that in Mark 13:9 & 11 (and parallels):
“You will be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them… But when they shall lead you away to deliver you up, be not careful beforehand as to what you shall say, nor prepare your discourse: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak; for you are not the speakers, but the Holy Spirit.”
And if, as per my hypothesis, the interpolator was making his insertions around CE 130, the situation he had in mind was likely that reflected in Pliny’s the Younger’s letter to Trajan: “Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when… they invoked the gods… and cursed Christ… I considered it right to release.”
Happy New Year!
I find it interesting that your solution to the two visits to Jerusalem is just the opposite from Robert M. Price. You think the description of the first visit is valid, but not the second visit 14 years later. Price thinks the description of the first visit (1:18-20) is an interpolation. The note in Price’s Pre-Nicene New Testament says: “In Tertullian’s treatise, Against Marcion, he does not mention this first visit, implying the text of Galatians did not yet mention it either. If it had, Tertullian surely would have made hay of it; it would have clearly implied Paul’s subordination to the Jerusalem authorities, a point Tertullian would have used against Marcion. He didn’t, though, implying that he didn’t have it to use. Thus, it is a later insertion designed to abet the notion that Paul did go to Jerusalem to submit himself to the twelve as soon as he was able. “Again” was added to 2:1 at the same time by way of harmonization. Tertullian mentions the visit of 2:1-10 apparently as the visit, not as a second visit.”
On the other hand, Price takes Paul’s description of the Jerusalem apostles in 2:6 as authentic (at least to Marcion). My take on the passage is similar to his. It is full of disrespect and rebellion, something a proto-orthodox interpolator would never want. “But as for those esteemed to be something great – what they were then makes no difference to me now; God is impressed by no man’s clout – those of repute added no proviso to me” (Price’s translation). Price writes in the Amazing Colossal Apostle: “How far Paul’s esteem for the Jerusalem leaders, or shall we say Marcion’s esteem for the Roman leaders, has fallen! In Galatians 2:6 they are merely said to be supposedly something great, pretty much the same disdainful phrase that characterizes Simon Magus in Acts 8:9 – not coincidentally, since in Acts we see the other side of this very argument” (p. 418).
I do side with you, however, in saying that Galatians was genuine Paul, not Marcion. I’m open to the Paul = Simon Magus theory, but I’m not there yet. You might eventually convince me by the end of the series. 🙂
In the post I try collapsing the two visits into one. That is, I think the so-called second visit may have been the only visit Paul had thus far made to Jerusalem and it occurred three years after the gospel was supposedly revealed to him. My thinking in opting for three instead of fourteen years is that the longer Paul preached, the more time there was for his controversial views to filter back to the leaders of the Jerusalem church. And less chance that they would express no doctrinal reservations about it. So if there really was a visit during which his gospel received their approval, I’m inclined to think it happened earlier rather than later.
Also, as I see it the Galatians account of the first visit seems to undercut the point Paul is trying to make. Would he not see that by saying he spent 15 days getting acquainted with Cephas he was opening a can of worms? I can hear his opponents saying: “What?! In those 15 days Cephas never spoke to him about the gospel? Come on.” Bizarre too that he offers not a word to explain why he apparently never broached the subject during that visit. That reticence is hard to explain from one who was so angry at the beginning of the Galatians letter and so proud and certain of the gospel revealed to him. It is detrimental to his argument, but I’m not sure it was he who put it there.
Any idea why the writer of Acts would say that Paul was from Tarsus? If he was going to make up a birthplace, it would seem more natural to have him born in Palestine like all the other disciples. Especially since he says that Paul’s nephew (and probably his sister) was also living there (Acts 23:16).
Interesting question. I am sure it must be addressed by someone somewhere. Given the propensity for puns in the gospels and Acts one might be reminded of Tartessus — the destination of the ship Jonah took to escape from his mission to preach to the gentiles. Tartessus also was, I think, symbolic of the far end of the world.
Or maybe a centre of mystery cults, which I believe Tarsus was, was indeed originally associated in some way with the original Simon.