A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 15:  Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses (continued)

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by Roger Parvus

For all posts in this series: Roger Parvus: A Simonian Origin for Christianity

Previous post in this series:  A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 14: Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses (continued)


The Apostle, in Gal. 3:7, asserted that “It is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.”

In Galatians the Apostle apparently viewed the Mosaic covenant as ordained by enslaving angels. If so, Israel was never God’s chosen people.

What, then, ought we make of the contrary claim in Romans 9-11?

And we have seen in the two previous posts that, according to one respectable reading of Galatians, the Apostle viewed the Mosaic covenant as being ordained not by God but by enslaving angels. That would seem to mean that of the “two covenants” (Gal. 4:24) allegorically represented by Sarah and Hagar, God was a party to only one.

It is “you, brothers, like Isaac” who “are children of the promise” (Gal. 4:28). Israel, represented by the child of Hagar the slave woman, was promised nothing. In this scenario it is incorrect to say that Israel was no longer God’s chosen people, for it was never that in the first place.

But even if this interpretation is correct, there are many scholars who think that Paul, for one reason or another, went overboard in Galatians. It is often said that from Romans one can get a better idea of what Paul really thought about the Law.

In Romans, Paul takes the time to explain his views more clearly (or perhaps to state his altered views), and in doing so he backs away from the more negative things he said about the law in Galatians. (Dale B. Martin, New Testament History and Literature, p. 241)

So in this post I will go to Romans and consider what is said there about Israel’s status. The most pertinent section is Romans 9-11. As we have come to expect, it is yet another passage that zigzags.


Two voices

The voice in much of Romans 9-11 is recognizably the same one that in Galatians is critical of the Law. It insists that justification is by faith apart from works of the Law and, as in Gal. 3:28, it says that applies to both Jew and Gentile:

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. (Rom. 10:12)

But at other times we seem to hear a different voice, one that says there are important distinctions after all. It tells us in Rom. 9:4-5 that God gave seven gifts to the Jews. Those gifts they still retain, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). And we learn that God keeps for himself a “remnant” (Rom. 9:27; 11:5) of Israel, and that at some point in the future he will see to it that “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). No similar guarantee is extended to the Gentiles. In fact, they are warned to watch their step.

One voice says that “not all who are of Israel are Israel” (9:6). It redefines elect Israel to mean all those called by God whether from the Gentiles or the Jews (9:24). But the other voice still considers Israel “according to the flesh” to be God’s people.

Instead of the Apostle trying “to have it both ways,” it may be that an interpolator had his way with the Apostle’s letter!
C.H. Dodd: “Paul tries to have it both ways.”

So what is going on here? Is Paul letting his emotional attachment to his kinsmen cloud his thinking?

From our standpoint, with a far longer historical retrospect than Paul could have dreamt of, the special importance here assigned to the Jews and their conversion in the forecast of the destiny of mankind appears artificial. It is doubtful whether it is really justified on Paul’s own premisses. The fact is that he has argued from the promise to Abraham on two divergent and perhaps inconsistent lines. If the promise means ultimate blessedness for ‘Israel,’ then either the historical nation of Israel may be regarded as the heir of the promise, and Paul is justified in saying that “all Israel will be saved,” or its place may be taken by the New Israel, the Body of Christ in which there is neither Jew nor Greek; but in that case there is no ground for assigning any special place in the future to the Jewish nation as such. Paul tries to have it both ways. We can well understand that his emotional interest in his own people, rather than strict logic, has determined his forecast. (C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, pp. 182-183, my bolding)

Perhaps, but in line with my Simonian hypothesis, I would like to consider another possibility. Instead of the Apostle trying “to have it both ways,” it may be that an interpolator had his way with the Apostle’s letter!  If the original author of Romans was Simon of Samaria, he did not view Israel’s failure to believe in Christ as in any way bringing into question God’s fidelity to his promises. The Jews may have thought they entered a covenant with God at Sinai, but Moses mediated that arrangement not on behalf of God, but of the angels who made the world. The proto-orthodox, however, held that God had instituted the Mosaic covenant, and so it reflected badly on him that his chosen people had failed to embrace the gospel. Much of Rom. 9-11 could be the work of a proto-orthodox interpolator dealing with that theological problem.

Let’s see if these chapters can be plausibly untangled along the lines of this hypothesis.

Whose sorrow and anguish?

J.D.G. Dunn:
J.D.G. Dunn: “sudden descent to depths of existential angst”

In chapters 1-8 of Romans the theme is the relationship between righteousness, faith, and the Law. In chapters 9-11 the discussion shifts to how this relationship affects our understanding of Israel. The section begins with a “sudden descent to depths of existential angst” (James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 500) and then goes on to list the gifts of God that ethnic Israel has received:

I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites, whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; and whose are the patriarchs, and of whom, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 9:1-5)

Equally worrisome is the remarkable turnaround on display here.

This paragraph, without changing a single word, would fit quite nicely in the Acts of the Apostles. That does not inspire confidence in those of us who are convinced that Acts is tendentious and was composed in the second century. Equally worrisome is the remarkable turnaround on display here. Why, it was only one chapter ago, in Romans 8:15-16, that the Apostle was saying adoption belonged to believers in Christ. Nothing was said there about them sharing that status with ethnic Israel. But, lo and behold, the adoption now belongs to the Apostle’s “kinsmen according to the flesh”.

And “the glory” is now something the Jews can be proud of. In 2 Corinthians it was practically “no glory at all” (2 Cor. 3:10). There the Apostle said that the Jews had been misled about it by Moses. Moses veiled his face in order to prevent them from realizing just how transitory that glory was:

… not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of that which was passing away (2 Cor. 3:13).

It comes as something of a surprise too that the Law-giving is now viewed as one of Israel’s blessings. According to Gal. 3:13-14 the Law had brought everyone under a curse:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone hanged on a tree”—that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Yet another surprise: the promises are now assigned to the Apostle’s kata sarka brothers. In Galatians 3:16 it was quite clear that the promises were not theirs:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his seed. It does not say, “And to seeds,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your seed,” which is Christ.

Did the Apostle really do an about-face? . . . The paragraph in question looks thoroughly proto-orthodox and it clashes with the next part of Romans 9 . . .

So did the Apostle really do an about-face? I doubt it. The paragraph in question looks thoroughly proto-orthodox and, as we will see, it clashes with the next part of Romans 9. My doubt is not diminished by the existential angst exhibited in 9:1-2 and by the protestation that “I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit…” In 1 Corinthians someone “absent in body, but present in spirit” condemned “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (5:3-4) the man who reportedly had the father’s wife. And the enigmatic Romans 7 contains almost a full chapter of existential angst. But as we have seen, there is reason to think that in both those cases the interpolator had been at work. So here too at the beginning of Romans 9 I suspect the interpolator was expressing his own sentiments, not the Apostle’s.

Two Israels

At 9:6 contact is re-established with the man who, in Galatians, made a distinction between the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16) and the Israel that is related to Abraham by blood. Here in Romans we find a similar distinction:

For not all who are of Israel are Israel, nor are they all children of Abraham because they are his seed…  It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as seed. (9:6-8, my emphasis)

The proof offered for the distinction is that, according to Scripture, there were flesh-and-blood descendants of Abraham from the beginning who did not receive the promise. And in the case of Rebecca’s children (9:10), God’s choice of favorite was even made known “before they had yet been born, or had done anything good or bad” (Rom. 9:11). In contrast then to the man who wrote 9:1-5, for the author of 9:6-12 a blood connection with Abraham had no real significance. For him it was “not as though the word of God has failed, for not all who are of Israel are Israel” (9:6). That is, God’s word has not failed, for he did not make his promise to the Israel that was physically descended from Abraham. It was addressed to a different Israel, the one whom God “called from the Jews but also from the Gentiles” (9:24). The Israel of God consists of all who are called by him.

At verses 9:13-22 the argument appears to digress in order to defend double predestination, i.e., the belief that the maker of this world not only blesses some, but also hardens others and causes them to sin. I think the interpolator at this point began salvaging a role for ethnic Israel in God’s plan.

For the sake of clarity, however, I am going to continue to trace what appears to be the original argument in the letter and will save for later consideration passages that I suspect are interpolations.

Assuming 9:13-22 is an intrusion, the “call” theme in 9:12 was originally directly followed by the calls in 9:23-26:

10. And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our father Isaac—11. though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12. not because of works but because of his call—she was told, “The elder will serve the younger”…   23. This was to make known the riches of his glory to the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, 24. namely, us whom he has called, not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles. 25. As indeed he says in Hosea: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ 26. And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.” (emphases mine)

We should not assume that the “called” who previously were “not my people” were drawn exclusively from the Gentiles.

We should not assume that the “called” who previously were “not my people” (9:25) were drawn exclusively from the Gentiles, especially since 9:24 refers to “us… called, not only from the Jews, but also from the Gentiles.” And if the Apostle’s gospel was the Vision of Isaiah and if the Son’s descent in that scripture was interpreted as the rescue of people who belonged to a world made and ruled by inferior spirits, the rescued would have consisted of both believing Jews and Gentiles. Before the Son’s rescue mission they both were part of “those who were not my people.”

By distinguishing between two Israels the Apostle has vindicated God’s conduct, for God never promised anything to the nation of Israel. However, Israel’s failure to embrace the gospel does still remain a problem of sorts.  For even though God did not choose Israel as such, he didn’t exclude them either. And it seems to go without saying that a good and lavish God calls many not just from among the Gentiles but also from among the Jews.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. (Rom. 10:12)

So why did relatively few in Israel respond to his call? This is all the more puzzling because Israel professed to pursue righteousness. Why then, when God made his righteousness known, did most Jews not attain it? That is what the Apostle addressed next.

Moses and the nation of Israel

What then shall we say? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith, but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, has not attained to that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall; and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, for justification to everyone who believes. (Rom. 9:30-10:4)

New Testament scholars always approach this passage with the understanding, of course, that Paul believed it was God who instituted the Mosaic Law. So their explanations of what is meant by “seeking to establish their own righteousness” (verse 10:3) are usually along the lines that the Jews mistakenly tried to make the Law into something it wasn’t, i.e., a way of righteousness. Paul’s position, the thinking goes, is that God never intended the Law to be that. He intended it to point to Christ.

They thought that by submitting to the Mosaic Law they were pursuing the righteousness of God, but they were in fact pursuing a righteousness put forward by some other party.

But that common assumption may be incorrect. The passage doesn’t actually say that the Mosaic Law was established by God. So maybe what is meant here is that it was a mistake for the Jews to embrace that Law at all. That is, “being ignorant of the righteousness of God”— the righteousness that Abraham obtained by faith— the Jews at Sinai were fooled into accepting a bogus substitute. They thought that by submitting to the Mosaic Law they were pursuing the righteousness of God, but they were wrong about that. They were in fact pursuing a righteousness put forward by some other party. They had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge,” for the righteousness of the Law is not the righteousness of God. Whoever it was that spoke to Moses, it was not God or his representatives. Christ, by initiating the destruction of this world and its archons, has put an end to the bogus Law.

This interpretation would be in line not just with Galatians but also with what follows in Romans. Moses is not exonerated:

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is from the law, “The man who does these things shall live by them.” But the righteousness which is from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach), for, if you confess with your lips the Lord Jesus and in your heart you believe [that God raised him from the dead], you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and confesses with the lips and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For “every one who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:5-13)

I want to call attention to the opposition set up between what “Moses writes” and what “the righteousness of faith says”.

This side-by-side comparison is reminiscent of Galatians.

The Apostle adapts parts of Deuteronomy against the Mosaic Law, avoiding attributing the Deuteronomy passage to Moses.

This makes sense if the Apostle was Simon of Samaria. . . .

I will save consideration of 10:9b for later, when suspected interpolations will be examined. What I want to call attention to here is the opposition that the first two verses set up between what “Moses writes about” and what “the righteousness which is of faith says.” In Leviticus 18:5 Moses wrote that “The man who does these things shall live by them.” To that the Apostle opposes the words of faith-righteousness, namely that “the word” of faith “is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” This side-by-side comparison is reminiscent of the one in Galatians that set a quote from the prophet Habakkuk (2:4) against the very same verse from Leviticus:

Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law, for “He who by faith is justified shall live.” But the law is not of faith, for “The man who does them shall live by them.” (Gal. 3:11-12)

In Galatians, then, the Apostle pitted Habakkuk against the Mosaic law. Here in Romans he adapts parts of Deuteronomy (9:4; 30:11-14) to use against it. But, strangely, he doesn’t attribute the Deuteronomy quotes to Moses! This makes sense if the Apostle was Simon of Samaria. The proto-orthodox accused Simon of cherry-picking the Old Testament for his own purposes. And they said he was the first of a long line of Christian gnostics who made distinctions regarding which deity inspired which parts of Scripture.

In Galatians Moses is apparently not God’s representative. He mediates for the angels who enslaved mankind by means of the Law. And earlier in this series we saw Moses, in 2 Corinthians, veiling his face to deceive the Jews (2 Cor. 3:14). It seems that here too in Romans Moses is still portrayed as on the wrong side. His brand of righteousness is not “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). The implication could be that some other source was behind it.

Hearing and obeying

Next the Apostle refuses to excuse the Jews for their unbelief. They have heard the preaching of Christian apostles and should have believed it:

How then are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!”

But not everyone has obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith is from what is heard, and what is heard is from the word. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Rom. 10:14-18, my bolding)

L. Keck: “He used ‘obey’ … [as] wordplay. The Greek for obey is related to ‘Hear’.”
The emphasis on hearing and the way the Apostle connects hearing with obedience are worth noting. Leander Keck writes:

What is celebrated in verse 15b sets up the poignant observation in verse 16: “But not all have obeyed the good news” (the euangelion). Given the emphasis on believing, one expects Paul to have written “not all believed.” He used “obeyed” partly because he engaged in wordplay: The Greek word for “obey” (hypakouein) is clearly related to the word for “hear” (akouein), like “harken” is related to “hear” (Romans, p. 259).

The wordplay, however, takes on more significance if Simon of Samaria was the one engaging in it, for the etymological meaning of Simon’s name in Hebrew is ‘hear; obey,’ and Simonians apparently called attention to that. They claimed that he was given that name because he had previously obeyed the Father: “They (Simonians) said that he was called Simon, that is to say, the obedient, because he obeyed the Father when he sent him for our salvation.” (Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, vol. 2, col. 1057, my translation and bolding)

JNGNM[Regarding this part of Romans I want to also mention a great observation made by Earl Doherty. In his Jesus—Neither God Nor Man he notes that

The void Paul reveals on the ministry of Jesus is nowhere so evident as in Romans 10… Paul speaks of the Jews’ opportunity to hear about Jesus from apostles like himself. But what of the opportunity they had enjoyed to hear the message from the person of Jesus himself? …  How could Paul fail to highlight his countrymen’s spurning of the Son of God in the flesh?” (p. 50)

I think Earl is surely right that Paul, if he knew of a Jesus who had preached in Galilee and Judaea, would have said something about that here in Romans 10. As I indicated in post 7 of this series, however, I myself think the reason for the omission is that Paul believed Jesus had been on earth for only one afternoon—long enough to get crucified incognito. His Jesus did not have a public ministry on earth—that is, until he subsequently took up habitation in Paul himself. Doherty, of course, maintains that Paul believed Jesus had never been on earth at all.]

The Apostle then asks: “Did not Israel understand?” He responds:

Isaiah is very bold, and says, “’I was found by those not seeking me; I became manifest to those not inquiring after me.” But to Israel he says, “All the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” (Rom. 10:20-21)

And then the conclusion is restated and the argument brought to a close with two quotes from Scripture:

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it sought. The elect obtained it, but the rest were blinded, according as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes not to see and ears not to hear, down to this very day.” And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” (Rom. 11:7-10)

I suspect that the god whom the Apostle held responsible for the blinding in 11:7 was “the god of this world,” for in 2 Corinthians the blinding of Israel is described this way:

… not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of that which was passing away. But their minds were blinded, for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away…

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God may not shine on them. (2 Cor. 3:13-14 and 4:3-4, my emphasis)

But as we will see, another contributor to the letter appears to want the blinding assigned to the supreme God as part of some mysterious plan. 

Summing up the Apostle’s argument

It seems to me, then, that the verses I have spotlighted (Romans 9:6-12; 9:23-26; 9:30-10:9a; 10:10-18; 10:20-21; 11:7-10) form an argument that could have been made by someone like Simon of Samaria who did not believe the Mosaic Law was instituted by the supreme God. They address in two steps the unbelief of the Jews:

  • First, it is asserted that the unbelief does not impugn in any way God’s fidelity, for he never promised anything to the Jews as such.
  • Then the reason is given why in fact so few of the Jews, compared to the Gentiles, have believed the gospel. Blinded by the mistaken belief that their Law was instituted by God, they failed to recognize the means of salvation he really did establish, i.e., faith in Christ.
The remaining verses would be the work of the interpolator. These are the verses that claim privileged status for ethnic Israel.

The remaining verses (Romans 9:1-5; 9:13-22; 9:27-29; 10:9b; 10:19; 11:1-6; 11:11-36) would be the work of the interpolator. These are the verses that claim privileged status for ethnic Israel. We have already considered the first segment, Romans 9:1-5, which serves as a preface. It listed seven of Israel’s privileges.

I will now show how the remaining segments would serve the purposes of a proto-orthodox defense of Israel.

The interpolations

The proto-orthodox said Christians superseded Jews as the chosen ones, [and that a faithful God] continued to look after Jews in certain ways.

In contrast to the heretics who denied that ethnic Israel had ever been God’s chosen people, the proto-orthodox maintained that the Jews had in fact once held that status but forfeited it by their rejection of Christ. Christians, they said, superseded Jews as the chosen ones. But since God had entered into a covenant with the Jews at Sinai, it seemed blasphemous to think that he could have allowed them, in large part, to fall away. God’s fidelity to his promises seemed to demand more of a commitment from him. So the proto-orthodox argued that God had continued to look after the Jews in certain ways and had reserved a special role for them to play.

In chapter 11 of Romans we see some of these arguments. First it is claimed that God has not totally rejected his people. The assertion is made by means of a device—rhetorical question and emphatic response—that I have previously attributed to an interpolator:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? Of course not! (11:1)

The proof offered that the people have not been rejected is that Paul himself (11:1) and “a remnant” of other Israelites have believed in Christ:

So also at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. (11:6)

Moreover, Israel’s unbelief is more of a stumble than a fall. One would have thought, based on the Scripture quoted at 9:33 and 11:9, that Israel had fallen. Not so! And again a rhetorical question and emphatic response is employed to make the point:

I say, then, have they stumbled so as to fall? Of course not! (Rom. 11:11).

For God has a mysterious plan. He is using his chosen people for a providential purpose: “through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles” (11:11). And “their transgression is for enrichment of the world… their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles” (11:12). And this enrichment is going to make the Jews themselves jealous and lead to their ultimate conversion en masse: “All Israel will be saved” (11:26).

In fact, this section of Romans would have us believe that the reason Paul glories in his ministry to the Gentiles is that he wants to make the Jews jealous:

Inasmuch then as I am apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my own people jealous and thus save some of them (11:13-14).

Such divine severity makes more sense if the passages were written sometime after the 66-70 Jewish War.

Screen shot 2014-12-28 at 6.08.03 AMNext comes the allegory of the olive tree. In chapter 7 of Romans a confession was made that the Law is holy (7:12). Here at 11:16 there is confession that ethnic Israel is holy. They are the holy branches of a cultivated olive tree. I suspect that in both cases the one making the confession is the proto-orthodox interpolator. And he may have unwittingly tipped his hand a bit by saying that God did not spare some of the holy branches. Some were “broken off” (11:17, 19-21). That sounds severe, especially when read in conjunction with the “remnant” prophecy quoted in Romans 9:

And as Isaiah predicted: “Unless the Lord of hosts had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom and have been made like Gomorrah” (Rom. 9:29)

Reference to such divine severity makes more sense if the passages were written sometime after the 66-70 Jewish War.

Preparing the way     

The interpolator’s argument, then, defending a special status for the nation of Israel is laid out in Romans 11. Already, however, at three places in the two earlier chapters he had introduced some disconnected elements of the argument.

(1) In Romans 9:13-22 there is a defense of double predestination. God hardened Pharaoh for his own purposes.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “This is why I have raised you up, to show my power through you, that my name may be proclaimed throughout the earth.” Consequently, he has mercy upon whom he wills, and he hardens whom he wills. (9:17-18)

In the context of chapter 9 the introduction of double predestination looks like an intrusion. It would have been enough, for the purposes of the 9:6-12 argument, to show that God blesses some and not others. But 9:13-22 brings in and defends the doctrine that God actually hardens some. Unsurprisingly, the defense includes a rhetorical question.

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on the part of God? Of course not! (9:14)

Man is told that he has no right to even question his maker about this:

But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction?

Two chapters later the subject of divine hardening reappears. The interpolator tells us that God, for his own mysterious purposes, has caused the partial “blindness” (11:25) in Israel. “God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (11:32).

(2) Romans 9:27-29 brings in the idea of a “remnant” of Israel who will be saved. As we have seen, this idea is only put to use two chapters later. The reason for its insertion in chapter 9 may have been to make it look like the quotation from Hosea (9:25-26) had only Gentiles in view.

(3) In 10:19 of Romans Moses is quoted predicting Israel’s jealousy. The quote is lodged in a passage about Israel’s understanding of the gospel. The original point being made was that Israel understood the preaching of gospel but rejected it because, as Isaiah asserted, they are “a disobedient and contrary people” (10:21). Israel’s future jealousy of the Gentiles is out of place in that context. It may have been inserted because the interpolator wanted a quote from Moses that would offset the negative portrayal of the patriarch that is present earlier in Romans 10.

Raised or rose?

The singling out of resurrection belief as a requirement for salvation seems strange.

Finally, I want to say a few words about one other clause whose authenticity I question. In Romans 10:9-11 we read this:

… for, if you confess with your lips the Lord Jesus and in your heart you believe [that God raised him from the dead], you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and confesses with the lips and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” (my bolding and brackets)

My suspicion is that the resurrection belief I have bracketed is a proto-orthodox insertion. Originally 10:9 would have been:

for, if you confess with your lips the Lord Jesus and in your heart you believe in him, you will be saved.

Resurrection VeroneseThis makes the “believe in him” of 10:9 consistent with the “believes in him” of 10:11. Moreover the singling out of resurrection belief as a requirement for salvation seems strange. My emendation removes that oddity as well as the awkwardness of having the lips confess one thing and the heart believe another.

In part 12 of the series I assigned the extensive defense of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 to the proto-orthodox interpolator. Resurrection, according to proto-orthodox belief, is resurrection of both body and soul, and they taught that Christ’s resurrection was of that kind. As such, Christ’s resurrection was the model of the future resurrection of believers. The doctrine played a key role in proto-orthodox resistance to heretical denigration of the body and its creator. I suspect that explains its presence in the current reading of 10:9.

It is the proto-orthodox interpolator—not Simon/Paul—who is requiring belief that God raised Christ from the dead. I think Simon/Paul, in line with the Vision of Isaiah, believed that Christ rose from the dead by his own power after having disposed of the human appearance he had temporarily donned to fool the princes of this world.


Next — Romans 1:18-2:29 was addressed in post 2 of this series, Romans 7 in post 13, and Romans 9-11 here. I still need to consider what is said about the Law in Romans 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8.


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Roger Parvus

Roger Parvus is the author of this post. Roger is the author of A New Look at the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch and Other Apellean Writings and two series of Vridar posts: Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius and A Simonian Origin for Christianity. In a previous life Roger was a Catholic priest.

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16 thoughts on “A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 15:  Simon/Paul and the Law of Moses (continued)”

  1. Thought provoking as ever, Roger. I had one doubt surface, however, when you address the statement about those who are being called are now God’s people and no longer “not my people”. Not knowing the nuances in the Greek text it seemed to me that one would make a point of saying so-and-so is now/was not “my people” if one already understood that there were indeed some who were regarded as “my people” from the beginning. To say someone is “not my people” seems to imply that they once were “my people” or that some other group is “my people”.

    However, as I understand your argument, you are saying that Simon had never considered any group to be the true God’s people prior to God’s call through him.

    Is this query making sense?

    1. Hi Neil,

      My grasp of Greek is only at the Catholic seminary level, but as far as I know the expression “not my people” in Romans 9 doesn’t necessarily imply that the people in question were once God’s people. The expression is usually understood in a proto-orthodox sense, as referring to Gentile Christians before they became believers. These Gentiles, before becoming Christians, were never God’s people, at least in the sense of having been the beneficiaries of special calls and promises from God. They only became his people by—to illustrate with the olive tree terminology—being grafted into the people that did receive the promises: the Jews. (Of course, from a proto-orthodox perspective God also made everything, and so everyone belongs to him. In that sense everyone is “God’s people” and Christ, by dealing with sin, made reconciliation with him possible. But that does not seem to be what the author of Romans had in mind by the expression “not my people.” He has in view the absence of some special relationship to God involving calls and promises.)

      Nor do I see any necessary implication that some other group is “my people” although, even if that were the case, there are ways that a gnostic like Simon could accept this. That is, the supreme God’s “people” are the spirits that inhabit the highest heaven. God, by rescuing from this inferior world the spirits of those who were not his people (Jewish and Gentile Christians), has made them citizens of the highest heaven and co-citizens with all the angelic beings already there.

      In the writings of the earliest heresy hunters you can find criticism of this gnostic teaching. They mock the gnostics by accusing their so-called supreme God of being a thief. The God of the gnostics would be someone who took what wasn’t his. He stole people that rightfully belonged to the Maker of the world.

    2. One other clarification, Neil. You wrote:

      “However, as I understand your argument, you are saying that Simon had never considered any group to be the true God’s people prior to God’s call through him.”

      I think Simon/Paul considered God’s people to consist of all those who ever responded with faith to God. Abraham is the example he brings forward in Galatians and Romans, most likely because the Jews prided themselves on being the children of Abraham. But assuming the Vision of Isaiah was the source of the Apostle’s gospel, Isaiah himself as well as his group of prophets, and “Adam and Abel and Seth and all the righteous” (Asc. Is. 9:28) would also have been considered by him to be part of God’s people. And he believed that God had recently sent his very Son on a rescue mission that would shortly be followed by the destruction of the world. Just as in the cases of previous contact, those contacted had to believe the message in order to benefit from the rescue.

      This, by the way, is something that Marcion later misunderstood. He seems to have believed that the supreme God, before sending his Son, had never contacted anyone in this world. His God was a total Stranger to this world. I don’t think that was what Simon/Paul actually taught. To me, Marcionism appears to be a distorted simplification of Simon/Paul’s system.

  2. In contrast to the heretics who denied that ethnic Israel had ever been God’s chosen people, the proto-orthodox maintained that the Jews had in fact once held that status but forfeited it by their rejection of Christ.

    Even if partially off topic, regard to this Proto-orthodox defense of ”continuity” with Jew tradition, I find this remark about the famous passage 1:199 of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho (often cited as proving that some ancient people were already ‘mythicists’ about Jesus).

    …Justin’s Tripho now launches a criticism which is not an attack on Justin’s account of the message of the old man, but … the critique of a Marcionite form of Judaism.
    Trypho does not reject the old man’s talk of Christ
    [a reference to personal conversion of Justin], who was born, existed and needed the endorsement of the Prophet Elias to anoint him and make him manifest, but the invention of a Christ, based on ’empty fables, or words without any foundation’, hence a Christ unrelated to the Jewish Scriptures, not predicted by the Prophets, but endorsed by invented narratives. The dialogue unfolds between Trypho and Justin after a short remark about ‘the war that waged in Judaea’. Whether or not Justin reports historical data, his narrative reflects the arguments that the ‘so-called Gospel’ that Trypho has read was regarded as fiction and literature.
    (Markus Vinzent, Marcion and the Dating of the Synoptic Gospels, Peeters 2014, p.44, my bold)


    1) for Vinzent, that ‘so-called Gospel’ was Mcn. But it’s possible that a Simonian Gospel is meant, too.

    2) the traditional Jews as ”Trypho” could sympathize with Proto-Orthodox against ”heretics” to the extent that the Proto-Orthodox were still supposed to live as Jews, even if only in appearance.

  3. Another question: to what extent does this teasing apart of the letters of Paul compare with the identification of the different layers that went into the final OT: J,E,D,P?

    1. I’d like to see some sort of test of this hypothesis. Do these zags have a different authorial fingerprint from the zigs? I mean in choice of function words and grammatical forms, since content words are more likely to show differences. And once that test has been made, how does it compare to a random division of the letter in similar chunks?

      1. I would like to see a test like that too. At present I don’t have the time for it, but maybe someday. Or maybe someone else out there has the time and inclination to attempt it?

    2. Neil, as far as I can tell there seem to be only two “layers.” At each point where controversial subjects come up, the components can be separated into those that a proto-orthodox Christian can assent to and those that seem to reflect some proto-gnostic form of Christianity. But, as you know, I am approaching the text with Marcion’s claim in mind that the original letters had been interpolated by someone who was more favorable to Judaism than their original author. That doesn’t mean I reach the same conclusions as Marcion. It seems, for instance, that Marcion totally removed Romans 9-11 as an interpolation. To me, as I explained in my post, it looks like a tug-of-war is going on in those chapters. The question is: Was the tug-of-war going on within Paul himself (as many mainstream scholars hold)? Or was it between Simon/Paul and a subsequent proto-orthodox interpolator (as this amateur suspects)?

  4. Hi Roger,
    I wrote this and this comment moved from by a passionate reading of Adamczewski’s book. You are very right about the markan John as the same John the Baptist (while Herod is none other than Peter!). There is very much to say. I hope in a your future review (and by Neil) of this important great book (in my view, the only book beside OHJ that has something of very new to say).

    As usual, feel free to answer me when you want, just I hope that you notice this comment.



  5. I write here a particular point that will be better appreciated (and possibly corrected with other possible suggestions) by those who have read the book (I apologize for my English).

    Given the sequential hypertextuality (I would call it midrash for major semplicity) between the Baptist’s death and the betrayal of Barsaba in Antioch (according to which Herod=Peter, Barsaba=Salomé, Paul=Philip & John the Baptist, mother of Salomè = the Jews that persuaded Barsaba to betray Paul at Antioch, the banquet of herodian court in Galilea=the theme of fellowship table at Antioch), I first find strange that the author fails to comment on the same frequencies the last verse of entire episode: Mark 6:29 . If he ad made so, he would derive the identity Paul = the future risen Christ.

    Until here, the last proposition is only a my little suspect.

    But after I arrive to read what this (extraordinary) book has to say about Mark 9:11-13:

    The related, paradoxical idea of the suffering of the glorious characters of the Son of Man (Mk 9:12d-f) and of Elijah (Mk 9:13cd), the latter of which being surprisingly presented as having already been afflicted (Mk 9:13bc), presumably unwittingly in the beheadal of John the Baptist by ‘King Herod’ (Mk 6:14-29), illustrates Paul’s related thought that the rulers of this world have unwittingly crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8bc). Since the combination of the Pauline statements 1 Cor 2:8c-9a presented the crucifixion of the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8c) as having been somehow predicted in Scripture (1 Cor 2:9a), Mark likewise, somewhat surprisingly, presented the suffering of not only the Son of Man, but also of the eschatological character of Elijiah, as having been predicted in Scripture (Mk 9:13e).
    (p.117-118, my bold)

    The point is that King Herod didn’t kill no John the Baptist in Mark (because Herod is allegory of Peter, and the Baptist is allegory of Paul).

    if I bring that allegory (Paul=the Baptist=Elijiah) to its extreme consequences, Jesus is responding to his disciples who ask:

    Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?

    …with the following response:

    But I tell you, Elijah(=John the Baptist = Paul?) has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

    ”Jesus”/Paul is perhaps alluding enigmatically to himself when says that he was killed (as allegorized by Elijah and John the Baptist) by the Jews Pillars as the Lord of Glory?

    I can not wait that Roger ports to the bottom all the profound implications of this book!


  6. Neil or Roger, are you aware of anyone who has put together a hypothetical time line of what occured in the development of Christianity under this theory (along with Price’s work) say prior to CE 40, CE 40-70, CE 70-100, CE 100-150 (or whatever makes sense), etc.? This would be a tremendous help for those of us trying to bootsrap ourselves enough to understand all of this. Great series. Thank you.

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