Crucifixion Portrayed Before the Very Eyes of Galatians

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Surely you have taken leave of your senses, you men of Galatia! Who has cast this spell over you, before whose very eyes Jesus Christ has been exposed to view as nailed on a cross? — Galatians 3:1, Cassirer’s translation.

Recent comments on Vridar prompted me to recheck what we know about this odd-sounding verse. Here I’ll quote the ancient sources that provide an explanatory context but I’ll also go one step further and (in debt to Thomas Brodie) look at a plausible inspiration for this expression and how it relates to the Gospel of Mark’s Passion Narrative. When we put this together and embrace the possibility of the Gospel’s debt to Paul’s letters then an interesting relationship between the two emerges over this very verse — of the Galatians apparently seeing Jesus Christ crucified before their very eyes.

But let’s begin with how Jesus was crucified “before their eyes”.

Hans Dieter Betz explains:

One of the goals of the ancient orator was to deliver his speech so vividly and impressively that his listeners imagined the matter to have happened right before their eyes. (Galatians, p. 131)

The evidence for this claim?


aristotle-rhetoricAristotle for one, Rhetoric, 3.11. I quote the passage at some length because Aristotle includes in his discussion a particular feature that we find in abundance throughout the Gospel of Mark — puns and other forms of wordplay .

It has already been mentioned that liveliness is got by using the proportional type of metaphor and being making (ie. making your hearers see things). We have still to explain what we mean by their ‘seeing things’, and what must be done to effect this. By ‘making them see things’ I mean using expressions that represent things as in a state of activity. Thus, to say that a good man is ‘four-square’ is certainly a metaphor; both the good man and the square are perfect; but the metaphor does not suggest activity. On the other hand, in the expression ‘with his vigour in full bloom’ there is a notion of activity; and so in ‘But you must roam as free as a sacred victim’; and in

“Thereas up sprang the Hellenes to their feet, “

where ‘up sprang’ gives us activity as well as metaphor, for it at once suggests swiftness. So with Homer’s common practice of giving metaphorical life to lifeless things: all such passages are distinguished by the effect of activity they convey. Thus,

“Downward anon to the valley rebounded the boulder remorseless; and “

“The (bitter) arrow flew; “


“Flying on eagerly; and “

Stuck in the earth, still panting to feed on the flesh of the heroes; and

“And the point of the spear in its fury drove

“full through his breastbone. “

In all these examples the things have the effect of being active because they are made into living beings; shameless behaviour and fury and so on are all forms of activity. And the poet has attached these ideas to the things by means of proportional metaphors: as the stone is to Sisyphus, so is the shameless man to his victim. In his famous similes, too, he treats inanimate things in the same way:

“Curving and crested with white, host following

“host without ceasing. “

Here he represents everything as moving and living; and activity is movement.

Metaphors must be drawn, as has been said already, from things that are related to the original thing, and yet not obviously so related-just as in philosophy also an acute mind will perceive resemblances even in things far apart. Thus Archytas said that an arbitrator and an altar were the same, since the injured fly to both for refuge. Or you might say that an anchor and an overhead hook were the same, since both are in a way the same, only the one secures things from below and the other from above. And to speak of states as ‘levelled’ is to identify two widely different things, the equality of a physical surface and the equality of political powers.

Liveliness is specially conveyed by metaphor, and by the further power of surprising the hearer; because the hearer expected something different, his acquisition of the new idea impresses him all the more. His mind seems to say, ‘Yes, to be sure; I never thought of that’. The liveliness of epigrammatic remarks is due to the meaning not being just what the words say: as in the saying of Stesichorus that ‘the cicalas will chirp to themselves on the ground’. Well-constructed riddles are attractive for the same reason; a new idea is conveyed, and there is metaphorical expression. So with the ‘novelties’ of Theodorus. In these the thought is startling, and, as Theodorus puts it, does not fit in with the ideas you already have. They are like the burlesque words that one finds in the comic writers. The effect is produced even by jokes depending upon changes of the letters of a word; this too is a surprise. You find this in verse as well as in prose. The word which comes is not what the hearer imagined: thus

“Onward he came, and his feet were shod with his-chilblains, “

where one imagined the word would be ‘sandals’. But the point should be clear the moment the words are uttered. . . .  This is also true of such lively remarks as the one to the effect that to the Athenians their empire (arche) of the sea was not the beginning (arche) of their troubles, since they gained by it. Or the opposite one of Isocrates, that their empire (arche) was the beginning (arche) of their troubles. Either way, the speaker says something unexpected, the soundness of which is thereupon recognized. There would be nothing clever in saying ’empire is empire’. Isocrates means more than that, and uses the word with a new meaning. So too with the former saying, which denies that arche in one sense was arche in another sense. . . .

. . . . The more a saying has these qualities, the livelier it appears: if, for instance, its wording is metaphorical, metaphorical in the right way, antithetical, and balanced, and at the same time it gives an idea of activity.

Successful similes also, as has been said above, are in a sense metaphors, since they always involve two relations like the proportional metaphor. . . .



Then there is Cicero’s On the Orator (De Oratore), 3.40

Here almost every thing is expressed in words metaphorically adapted from something similar, that the description may be heightened. . . .

but, even in the greatest abundance of proper words, men are much more charmed with such as are uncommon, if they are used metaphorically with judgment. This happens, I imagine, either because it is some manifestation of wit to jump over such expressions as lie before you, and catch at others from a greater distance ; or be cause he who listens is led another way in thought, and yet does not wander from the subject, which is a very great pleasure ; or because a subject, and entire comparison, is dispatched in a single word ; or because every metaphor that is adopted with judgment, is directed immediately to our senses, and principally to the sense of sight, which is the keenest of them all. For such expressions as the odor of urbanity, the softness of humanity, the murmur of the sea, and sweetness of
language, are derived from the other senses ; but those which relate to the sight are much more striking, for they place almost in the eye of the mind such objects as we can not see and discern by the natural eyes.


Frontispiece of a 1720 edition of the Institutio Oratoria, showing Quintilan teaching rhetoric

Quintillian informs us that some orators held up graphic images of their message to move audiences. Quintillian does not personally approve of going so far in court trials but he does argue strongly for props to bring the subject of the speech vividly before the eyes of his audience. From Institutio Oratoria, Book 6.30-33

[29] We must not, therefore, allow the effect which we have produced to fall flat, and must consequently abandon our appeal to the emotion just when that emotion is at its height, nor must we expect anyone to weep for long over another’s ills. For this reason our eloquence ought to be pitched higher in this portion of our speech than in any other, since, wherever it fails to add something to what has preceded, it seems even to diminish its previous effect, while a diminuendo is merely a step towards the rapid disappearance of the emotion.
[30] Actions as well as words may be employed to move the court to tears. Hence the custom of bringing accused persons into court wearing squalid and unkempt attire, and of introducing their children and parents, and it is with this in view that we see blood-stained swords, fragments of bone taken from the wound, and garments spotted with blood, displayed by the accusers, wounds stripped of their dressings, and scourged bodies bared to view.
[31] The impression produced by such exhibitions is generally enormous, since they seem to bring the spectators face to face with the cruel facts. For example, the sight of the bloodstains on the purple-bordered toga of Gaius Caesar, which was carried at the head of his funeral procession, aroused the Roman people to fury. They knew that he had been killed; they had even seen his body stretched upon the bier: but his garment, still wet with his blood, brought such a vivid image of the crime before their minds, that Caesar seemed not to have been murdered, but to be being murdered before their very eyes.
[32] Still I would not for this reason go so far as to approve a practice of which I have read, and which indeed I have occasionally witnessed, of bringing into court a picture of the crime painted on wood or canvas, that the judge might be stirred to fury by the horror of the sight. For the pleader who prefers a voiceless picture to speak for him in place of his own eloquence must be singularly incompetent.
[33] On the other hand, I know that the wearing of mourning and the presentation of an unkempt appearance, and the introduction of relatives similarly arrayed, has proved of value, and that entreaties have been of great service to save the accused from condemnation. The practice therefore of appealing to the judges by all that is near and dear to them will be of great service to the accused, especially if he, too, has children, a wife and parents.

Source of the passage?

Now look at what Thomas Brodie suspects is the origin of this Galatians passage. The table is adapted from page 591 of The Birthing of the New Testament:

See the comment below for Brodie’s rationale for each of the parallels. The numbers correspond to the points in that comment.

The link between Galatians and Jeremiah is found at the beginnings of both writings (Brodie 2004: 590)

Jeremiah 1:4-5 Galatians 1:14-15
* The word of the Lord came to me, saying, * But when it pleased God
Before I found you in the womb I knew you, before you came from your mother who chose me from my mother’s womb
I consecrated you, and called me by his grace
. * to reveal his Son to me
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. that I might evangelize among the nations…

“The account of Paul’s confrontation with Peter (Gal. 2:11-14) is a further example of an apparently spontaneous text which turns out to be ‘saturated with scriptural echoes, allusions and concepts’, and an analysis of the surrounding text — all of Galatians 1-2 — shows a pervasive presence of Scripture (Ciampa 1998: especially 157-78, 296) . . .” p. 591

Jeremiah 5:21-25 Galatians 3:1-5 #
Now listen to this, O 1
stupid and thoughtless (a-kardios) people mindless (a-noetos) Galatians. 2
… they have eyes and do not see,
they have ears and do not hear…
Who has put a spell on you?
… before whose eyes
* Jesus Christ was depicted as crucified. 4
Do you not fear me, says the Lord,
This alone I wish to learn from you:
Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law
or tremble before me? or by the hearing with faith? 5
* I placed the sand as limit to the sea
* an everlasting barrier which it cannot pass
* it storms but cannot prevail
* the waves roar but cannot pass beyond.
But this people has a hearingless senseless heart (kardia an-ekoos a-peithes) Are you so mindless? (a-noetos) 6
They have turned aside
and gone away.
Having begun with the Spirit
are you now ending with the flesh?
They do not say in their hearts,
Let us fear the Lord our God
Did you experience so many things in vain?
… if it really is in vain.
* who gives the rain in his season, autumn rain, spring rain, * Does he who supplies the Spirit to you, 9
* and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest. * and works miracles among you 9
Your lawlessness (a-nomiai) have turned those away, do so by the works of the law (nomos) 10
and your sins have kept the good things from you. or by hearing with faith? 10


From Paul to the Gospel of Mark

In this context (or rather, recalling those suggestions that the Gospel of Mark is derived from Paul’s letters) Betz’s further comment about the Gospel of Mark takes on special interest:

It should be noted that the motif [of seeing] is also part of the NT miracle-stories; see e.g. Mark 2:12; cf. 4:12, 8:18. (p. 131)

Have a look at those references:

Mark 2:12

And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all, insomuch that they all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw it in this fashion!”

Mark 4:12

that, ‘seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them.’

Mark 8:18

Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember?

Notice that the motif is not simply a quotidian act of seeing. It is of seeing something unprecedented, something life-saving, something only God could reveal.

We now more readily hear the echoes of Jeremiah in these passages.

What about the crucifixion, though? That’s the scene that was set before the “very eyes” of the Galatians.

Mark 15:15-41 (KJ21)

15 And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them and delivered Jesus, when he had scourged Him, to be crucified.

16 And the soldiers led Him away into the hall called the Praetorium, and they called together the whole detachment.

17 And they clothed Him with purple, and they platted a crown of thorns and put it about His head,

18 and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

19 And they smote Him on the head with a reed and spat upon Him and, bowing their knees, worshiped Him.

20 And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple from Him, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

21 And they compelled one Simon, a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, who was passing by, coming from the country, to bear His cross.

22 And they brought Him unto the place called Golgotha (which is, being interpreted, The Place of a Skull).

23 And they gave Him to drink wine mingled with myrrh, but He received it not.

24 And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots for them to see what every man should take.

25 And it was the third hour when they crucified Him.

26 And the superscription of His accusation was written above: The King Of The Jews.

27 And with Him they crucified two thieves, the one on His right hand and the other on His left.

28 . . . . [omitting probable gloss]

29 And those who passed by railed at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Ah, thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days,

30 save thyself and come down from the cross!”

31 Likewise also the chief priests, mocking, said among themselves with the scribes, “He saved others; himself he cannot save!

32 Let Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” And those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

35 And some of those who stood by, when they heard it, said, “Behold, he calleth Elijah.”

36 And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed and gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Let him alone. Let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.”

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost.

38 And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom.

39 And when the centurion who stood opposite Him saw that He so cried out and gave up the ghost, he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on afar off, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome

41 (who also, when He was in Galilee, had followed Him and ministered unto Him), and many other women who came up with Him unto Jerusalem.

Explicit references to seeing and hearing are sparse: the centurion sees and the people hear Jesus cry out. Whether the centurion truly “sees” is debatable. Some say he is the only one to recognise the identity of Jesus while others that he is as blind as the others and is in fact throwing out a sarcastic barb. Those who hear, note, also “hear not”, confusing the call to God for a call to Elijah.

Women (the only representatives of the disciples attendant) are looking “from afar off” so presumably can only “see” indistinctly.

The whole scene is a graphic depiction of actants seeing but really failing to see who Jesus is.

Back to Galatians

We read a graphic account of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel of Mark, so is this the sort of narrative Paul might have delivered to the Galatians?

I doubt it for several reasons. Firstly, Mark’s narrative actually has very little vivid detail of the crucifixion itself. The account is really depicting the failure of onlookers to see and hear. The most vivid sections are the mock robing and mock worship of Jesus as king and the cynical onlookers mocking the figure on the cross. We see none of the “crucified Christ”, or at least precious little, that so inspired many later artists.

Now to the Gospel of Mark again

Recall that the Gospel’s major motif is that of parable. We might even say “metaphor”. A central message conveyed by the parables is seeing but not seeing, hearing but not hearing. Nothing is spoken without a parable.

Mark 4:11-12, 33-34

11 And He said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables,

12 that, ‘seeing they may see, and not perceive, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted and their sins should be forgiven them.’”

. . . . 

33 And with many such parables He spoke the Word unto them, as they were able to hear it;

34 but without a parable spoke He not unto them.

So Paul meant…?

The Gospel of Mark’s narrative is not a graphic description of Christ crucified but it is a graphic depiction of seeing but failing to see Christ crucified. So it is not likely that Paul rhetorically presented the Galatians with what we read in Mark 15.

That starts us wondering. If Paul did indeed present a vivid picture of Jesus Christ on the cross then would not we expect to find some such image turning up in the later Gospel, especially in a Gospel that appears in other respects to owe so much to Paul?

We are not told, at least not directly. What we read is a parable subsequently written by an evangelist — a parable about those unseeing witnesses before whose eyes Jesus was publicly crucified.


The following two tabs change content below.

Neil Godfrey

Neil is the author of this post. To read more about Neil, see our About page.

Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)

If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!

51 thoughts on “Crucifixion Portrayed Before the Very Eyes of Galatians”

  1. Hello Neil:

    Great post!

    I would like to add one point to your citation (and discussion) of Mk 15:39 “And when the centurion who stood opposite Him saw that He so cried out and gave up the ghost, he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!”

    In Matthew 27:54 the text reads ” Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” [KJ]

    There is a significant problem IF the “seeing” included the tearing of the Temple’s veil [Mk 15:38; Mt 27:51; L 23:44]

    The Temple’s veil could NOT be seen from Golgotha. This point is discussed in my text The Resurrection A Critical Inquiry (pp. 160-164). Numerous writers have discussed this “problem” (Fitzmyer 1985, 1519; France 2007, 1083; Hagner 1995, 852; Stein 2008, 718; 1992,, 596). Gundry (1993, 970), writing in his Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross writes the following words:

    “Since the traditional site of Golgotha lies to the west end of the temple whereas only the east end was veiled (not to mention intervening obstacles to view), either tradition has misplaced Golgotha or the centurion’s seeing of the veil-rending lacks historical substance.”

    Illustrations can be seen in my text (pp. 162-163).

    So as you astutely pointed out at the conclusion of your post there is “seeing” and there is “seeing”. Here, there is no historicity.


    Michael Alter

    1. Agreed. I’ve reached a point where the question of historicity is for me no longer an issue at all. The gospels are writings and their contents — narrative, plot, sayings, characters — are all literary. Even the Pilate in the gospels is ahistorical. So is the topography ahistorical, including Galilee and Jerusalem, and the Temple itself. These are all ahistorical motifs in the Gospel of Mark. They are all theological tropes and belong entirely within the world of the Gospel.

      The question of historicity of any of the events belongs to those exploring religious faith. My interest lies in the history of Christian origins and ironically the question of the historicity of anything behind the narratives in the gospels is ultimately a distraction from that focus.

    2. ….who bewitched you…

      are they being convinced by someone that the crucifixion did not take place or that the crucifixion of jesus as only means to salvation is not required ?

    1. I have difficulties with that literal interpretation in the Galatians context. To me it fails to account adequately for “before your very eyes” and the key point that leads into and follows on from it — spirit versus works. When it comes to the written word Paul also speaks elsewhere if the superiority of what is written in one’s heart over what is written in script. “Before your very eyes” would, on the literal interpretation of “written beforehand”, a stress upon a text they once read (but to which they apparently no longer have recourse) — a process that strikes me as alien to the context.

      Paul’s interpretations of scriptures were rarely literal; I can’t think of too many instances where he read and interpreted what was “before his very eyes” — his reading was always with “spiritual insight”.

      That Paul would chastise his flock for failing to recall or dwell upon a written text they had once been shown (he does not appeal to them to re-read those texts, it should be noted) strikes me as alien to everything Paul was about.

      1. Well done, thank you!
        Gal. 3:1 “…written before…”
        Once again, from reading Vridar…
        I despair of seeing the forest for the Asherah poles.
        That is, seeing an ‘un-Inspired’ English translation.

        Google search reveals “Written beforehand” [in English] in LEB, JUB
        Bing translator: for “written beforehand”
        γραμμένα εκ των προτέρων [presumably Modern Greek]

        Also from:
        Gal 3:1 proegrafh proegraphE G4270 vi 2Aor Pas 3 Sg WAS-BEFORE-WRITTen

        ( And, from: https://www.academic-bible.com/en/online-bibles/novum

        Google Search also reveals “written before” [in English] Romans 15:4-6
        ‘written before’ in NKJV
        Bing translator: for ‘written before’ [Mod.Gr.]
        γραμμένο πριν από

        (προεγραφη google translation is ‘proegrafi’ [not much help]
        Προεγγραφη google translate is ‘subscribe’… an extra “γ”)

  2. This is an extremely important post. One that marks a watershed moment for Vridar, and for Mythicism. It marks the moment Vridar and Mythicism firmly noted the implication that preacher’s,’ Marcionists’ spirituality has for Mythicism.

    That is: that when Christianity itself constantly told us it might all be spiritual metaphor, and not about literal, physical events, Christianity in effect suggested that the Bible’s apparent real, physical events, night not be important, or even true.

    Indeed, the massively popular, spiritual Christians’ contempt for physical or historical reality, their constant subordination of the physical and historical, to the spiritual, is finally very strong support for the Mythicist thesis: for the assertion that likely Christianity came out of spirituality, out of mental hopes and dreams for heaven, rather than from real historical events.

    Christian spirituality hints that indeed, the physical events in the New Testament were rather arbitrarily made up or put together. To simply use physical-seeming events, to illustrate spiritual ideas and wishes.

    Thus ironically, Christian spirituality rather confirms the notion that the origin of Christianity, Jesus, are not based on physical, historical things; on any real, actual, historical Jesus, for instance.

    In its practical effect, this is enormously important. Since seeing this in effect, potentially recruits centuries of liberal sermons; as the ally, not the enemy, of Mythicism. Making the Mythicist case far more plausible to many Christians.

    All this can begin when we understand that, say, apparent biblical reports of eyewitnesses “seeing” Jesus, may actually have referred to biblical writers metaphorically “seeing” an image of an invented figure, in their mind’s eye or imagination.

  3. I believe Brodie made the major breakthrough when he proposed that the Pauline Epistles are themselves carefully constructed literary pieces that carefully track Jeremiah and other LXX texts, no different than the gospels except for the injection of the first person to replace the third. They aren’t real letters at all, just attempts to re-write “The Prophets” in a new Christian context. The anonymous authors of the Pauline Epistles imagined a “prophet” that didn’t exist writing to an implied audience which also didn’t exist, with the purpose of fooling a real audience that DID exist. And they have succeeded in doing that for 2,000 years.

    1. Yes. I find myself wavering at the moment between Brodie’s and Roger Parvus’s views on the Pauline epistles. Until I read more from one or both of these authors I think I’m going to have to take time out to refresh my NT and LXX Greek and do some serious studies — When to find the time for that? Then again, the two views may not in the end be incompatible. (Have you commented before? — I’m not sure if you might be aware of the Parvus view that I am addressing.)

    2. In addition to Brodie, thanks to the millions of earlier liberal Christians. Who told us that “the Bible is not a history book.” Who told us that it was about spiritual things, in our hopes and desires.

      Thanks to the liberals. Who were 3/4 of the way to Mythicism. Telling us that the events of the New Testament are really written as a mostly fictional illustration of things some people wished were true, in their minds or “spirit”s.

      In spite of their own errors, liberal Christians were much, much closer than evangelicals, to the truths of Mythicism.

      1. Once you see the New Testament as rewriting history to conform to someone’s hopes or dreams, and not to historical facts, you are halfway to Mythicism.

        Once you realize that even alleged “eyewitnesses” “see”ing things, can mean seeing things in their imagination? Then we are close to seeing that the New Testament could be entirely, utterly fictional. A made-up allegory for things seen in the mind, only. With little – or no? – grounding in real, historical, physical events.

        1. It could be said that the New Testament is an update and rewrite of the Old Testament. But updated, I would add more specifically, with ideas from Greece and Rome. Including various spiritual, neoplatonistic/Marcionist spiritual, cosmological longings.

            1. Or, following them, believers felt free to simply make up physical-seeming events. Having no respect for physical facts, when asked to furnish physical evidence, they felt free, if asked for such things, to make it up. “Miracles,” and a genealogy for Jesus, say.

              1. IMHO, “having begun with the spirit,” and Paul, they attempt to at times, in Mark, “end with the flesh.”

                Or they entertain both, at least for a while. Before coming to the core priestly assertion: that between spirit and matter, heaven and earth, word and world, the spiritual realm is the higher, better reality.

              2. Most intellectual priests and ministers believed, with Paul, that the 1) “visible,” material “world” of physical “flesh,” material “possessions,” seen by our physical, literal “eyes,” was at best just a crude reflection or “shadow” of 2) the “invisible,” allegedly higher realities, spirits, in “heaven.”

              3. In the elitist Protestants’ churches – like the Episcopal and some Presbyterian and Lutheran churches, etc. – we were told, till about 1970, that even the physical, historical world around us, was just a pale reflection, of the spiritual kingdom inside the believer, and in a spiritual-seeming heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

                So the mind or spirit, its hopes and dreams, was said to be the higher, better reality. Better than crass material, physical “possessions.” And we were told to disregard our physical eyes, and the physical things the saw. Being told to look for deeper, spiritual things. With what we’re often called “spiritual eyes.”

                So intellectual, liberal preachers, were indirectly showing that indeed, the apparent physical world of historical Jesus, might be illusory. In this way, they were halfway to Mythicism.

  4. It seems in my modest opinion that just as Paul clearly feels himself independent as an apostle compared to other apostles in Jerusalem, so per Gal 3:1 in turn the same Galatians should feel themselves fiercely independent compared to the Christians of Jerusalem since Paul made their partakers of the object of the his heavenly visions (the same crucifixion of Jesus).

    Is not this true evidence that Paul believed to be a real witness of the crucifixion?

    Then it seems that the our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles have the undisguised goal of removing completely the presence of Paul not only from the earthly life of Jesus, but also from the list of the first witnesses of the Risen One, to cast him even a persecutor of the church so as to be sure that he had nothing to do with the origins. Paul and Jesus somehow had to be divided. Why? Who was joining them? Perhaps Paul himself? And to what extent? To the point of self-identification with the crucified Jesus? And if so, in which Gospel?

    Suggestions, suggestions…

    1. Paul claimed the – or his – church would be the body of Christ. And suggested that the spirit of Jesus lived in believers, including himself. He also bragged about suffering, like Jesus. And of having a thorn in his side too.

      Jesus for his own part, now and then – though not consistently?- makes Pauline remarks. Particularly his more Marcionist/”spiritual” remarks.

      The split between the two could have happened when literalists, materialists, insisted that seeing it all as spirit, was too ethereal and wispy. And demanded a physical or fleshly or historical, more tactile Jesus.

      A split Jesus Vs. Paul would be easy to sell, after 70 AD. Which wiped recent memory-holders off the map. Leaving much history a blank slate.

    2. My own thoughts on this question are that it was the “proto-orthodox” who were claiming their descent from an authority who came prior to Paul: that of Jesus and his disciples even prior to the visions that all apostles claimed subsequently.

      If Christianity began with visions of the Christ/Logos figure, divisions arose over specific teachings, apparently relating to the place of the Jewish scriptures and law. Paul’s branch rejected Judaism. We see the work of this “Judaism” in the creation of the gospel narratives of the earthly Jesus and his disciples. These pre-visionary narratives were created to establish an earlier authority for the proto-orthodox than that asserted by Paul’s “followers”. Paul’s followings traced their origins to Paul’s visions of Jesus, but the proto-orthodox to the Jesus and disciples and their teachings that came even before those visions. And the later visions were said to be false if they did not conform to the prior-teachings.

      Needless to say, these earthly narratives must have come some time after Paul and I think of them as arising very late in the first or more likely early second century.

      The exception is the Gospel of Mark which probably was written soon after 70. But this gospel was not about an earthly history. It was a parable that established Paul’s authority.

      It was the subsequent gospels – Matthew and Luke in particular — that attempted to “historicize” the stories in that first gospel.

      All of the above is entirely speculative, of course.

  5. Unlike the comparison between Jeremiah 1:4-5 and Galatians 1:14-15, the comparison table between Jeremiah 5:21-25 and Galatians 3:1-5 does not appear to show much similarity between them, no?

    1. Thomas Brodie writes of these two passages (with my own list formatting):

      Paul recasts the Old Testament text into another literary form, that of a diatribe with its questions (Martyn 1997: 281; cf. Betz 1979:130); and he recasts the appeal to nature (controlling the sea, and giving rain and harvest) into an appeal to Christ (to crucifixion, and the giving of the Spirit and of miracles). Otherwise — without going into detail — the texts share either similarity or complementarity:

      1. a call for attention (Listen/O);
      2. senselessness in general;
      3. senselessness in more detail (eyes, ears, spellbound);
      4. a fundamental awesome reality (God’s power over the sea; Christ’s crucifixion);
      5. a challenging question about internal response (fear and trembling; faith);
      6. again, senselessness;
      7. a turning away (a turning from the Spirit to flesh);
      8. a failure to respond (the heart does not fear; experience makes no impact);
      9. the divine generosity (rain and harvest; Spirit and miracles);
      10. misuses of the law (Old Testament: by not acting on it; Paul: by relying unduly on it).

      I have added a third column in the table to link to these explanatory points.

      1. I wonder how many such similarities one would expect to find by random chance in two minimally-related passages, if inclined to look for similarities. I say “minimally-related”, rather than unrelated, because apparently the epistle’s author was very familiar with scripture, so it’s natural that scriptural influences show up haphazardly even when the author isn’t trying.

  6. I wonder whether the Jesus in Mark (historical or mythical) believed he would die from crucifixion? Maybe the cry of dereliction in Mark shows that Jesus thought God had abandoned him, and that Jesus had no thought about being resurrected.

    1. I don’t see Mark’s Jesus as having any inner thoughts at all. He’s not a real character, just a two-dimensional literary figure. Aren’t the words attributed to him simply put there by the author for some theological point? Is it a modern question based on what we expect or like in literary characters to ask what Jesus was thinking?

      I’m thinking of the journey’s of Odysseus and Aeneas into Hades. It seems strange to read of their horror and fear when they learn they must take the journey because as a reader I know they are going to be all right and I know they should know that, too. They are being sent on the journey as a prelude to the next phase of their quest, not to end it. But if the respective authors did not suggest some normal fear of death as if it were indeed final, then something would be seriously missing in the drama.

      Open to alternative views, though.

      1. Interesting thoughts. Jesus is quoting scripture when he says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It seems to suggest that while suffering on the cross, Jesus thought God had abandoned him. Luke apparently thought this was a problem because he replaced the cry of dereliction with something more in line with the idea that Jesus wasn’t fearing death.

        1. Luke’s Jesus is the classic Maccabean martyr whose God never deserts in time of trial.

          Mark’s Jesus cries out to God for forsaking him. That is not the same as fearing death — but the stress of being abandoned by God himself. Jesus had predicted his death and suffering at the hands of men but not his abandonment by God.

          Perhaps there’s an explanation lurking in an adoptionist Christology? Jesus, recall, was possessed by the Spirit of God that entered into him and drove him from the time of his baptism.

          Need to think more about this question — it’s been a long time since I last visited it.

          1. It could be that the swoon theory lies behind some early stage of gospel development – recall Dr. Robert M. Price’s essay on this topic, “Explaining the Resurrection without Recourse to Miracle,” in the anthology “The End of Christianity (ed. John Loftus),” pg. 219-232.

            1. I had been considering the promising possibility of psycho-active substances being used by Jesus as a miracle-healer and as an explanation for some disciples’ resurrection experiences, but this tentative hypothesis has to go on the back-burner until I have fully reconsidered various myth/literary-fiction explanations for the NT accounts.

              There are several competitive versions of the “swoon” theory.

            2. It seems from some evidenced here that some of those persons around Jesus in Mark, fail to see the spiritual “reality” that priests would proclaim: not just a man, but a Christ crucified, and then resurrected. (Resurrection not even noticed much in the shorter ending of Mark.).

              So people are criticized for failing to “see” theological points. (Like say the metaphorical rebirth of the spirit, when given hopeful promises). .

              To help them see, later versions, gospels, would produce more physical-seeming, “historical” images of the resurrection. Giving the people a visual analogue or metaphor for the earlier spiritual “reality” that clerics wanted to teach the people.

              Thus material reality, history, we’re always manhandled, used, misused, by priests. As a mere tool or puppet or stooge or parable. To make speculative assertions on theological or spiritual ideas.

              So indeed, Pauline spirituality seems to have come, often if not always, before the more material-seeming parts of the gospels. And their allegedly, literally visible events. The notion of a mental revival say, perhaps came earlier than its gospel illustration: the verbal picture of an allegedly physical, material, literal resurrection.

              As I currently speculate here.

    2. The New Testament. overall, shows signs of being concerned about furnishing both 1) internal, spiritual evidence, but 2) also, belatedly, external, physical evidence, for its claims. (“Signs”; Mark 15.20.)

      Most of Paul seems mostly concerned with what an inner and outer “spirit” was saying. But then Mark attempted to counter or compliment that, by nailing it all to a plausible, “historical,” physical setting.

      But were such attempts honest? Fiction writers commonly make up realistic settings. They know that creating a real, vivid-seeming image in the mind, helps to sell any concept. For listeners who want material, physical evidence.

      The various books of the NT tend to emphasize one quality, or the other. But it seems that in the interest of consistency, the editors or redactors made sure that, whatever the particular emphasis of a given book or passage might be – on spirituality, or on visible fruits, works, signs – at least a cursory nod was made to both sides. The spiritual, and the physical.

    3. The cry of dereliction from the cross, along with the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, also suggest Mark did not view Jesus as fully God, one member of the trinity. In these two cases, Jesus is not crying out to himself (which would be absurd), but to God.

  7. Neil: The Gospel of Mark’s narrative is not a graphic description of Christ crucified but it is a graphic depiction of seeing but failing to see Christ crucified. So it is not likely that Paul rhetorically presented the Galatians with what we read in Mark 15.

    I would have some objections: Mark knows Paul more than we can wait (!) even when he represents the Passion and the Crucifixion.

    Please read here.


  8. By the way, Wuest’s Expanded Translation has “O, unreflecting Galatians, who bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was placarded publicly as the crucified One?” So, he is rendering προεγράφη (proegráphē) as “placarded publicly”. Does Wuest intend this to imply that people now among the Galatians actually witnessed the crucifixion in person? This may be an example of Wuest expressing his theological presuppositions.

    In The Pre-Nicene New Testament, Price agrees with Carrier and Parvus in reading proegráphē as simply meaning forewritten.

    1. Placarded publicly is one of several possible alternatives. It derives, I believe, from Quintillian’s comment on the practice of some manipulative “lawyers” displaying pictures of the crime to move the judge — as quoted in the post above…. “bringing into court a picture of the crime painted on wood or canvas, that the judge might be stirred to fury by the horror of the sight. “

      1. If “graphe” means pictured or drawn – as in our “graphic arts” – then we might be talking about people having seen religious pictures, or icons, of the crucifixion.

        1. In the meantime, Paul himself alternates statements valuing visible material evidence, with statements denigrating it. Statements like the most famous quote of all, for antimaterialists: “we walk by faith, and not by sight.”

          1. So after admittedly wandering around on this question for a while, what would I finally say about Gal. 3.1?

            It is not clear, and geographically unlikely, that the Galatians had actually, literally seen Jesus crucified. But in any case, Paul often seems to support not literal visual observations. But over that, here, our inner spiritual eyes or insight, gained by faith (Gal. 3.2-6).

            So Paul here especially (though not everywhere), notes problems with assertions that Christianity is based on literal observation, with literal eyes, of physical, material – or here, historical – observed facts.

            Christianity often appeals to alleged physical or historical facts. But in actuality, Paul seems to say here, it was based more on spirit, faith. In this way, Paul here at least, seems to lend support to Mythicism. Over and against Historicism.

            1. In fact, Paul’s passage may be a warning to Christians, not to take apparent depictions, “portray”als , of a physical, historical Jesus, seriously. In the RSV, Paul suggests that Jesus was not necessarily seen by eyewitnesses, but only “publicly portrayed” or described, as such. And he warns against any reliance on alleged physical descriptions of an actual, physical Jesus. Those who rely on such things, he says, are “foolish” and even “bewitched”:

              “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (Gal. 1, RSV).

              In stressing faith, in things “not seen,” Paul even suggests at times (if not consistently), that those who rely on many alleged accounts or portrayals of physical things like a physical, actual crucifixion or resurrection, are under a strong delusion. And are “foolish” and even “bewitched.”

              It, Christianity, was all really, spiritual. It was based not on visible historical reality. But on “Spirit” and ” faith,” Paul says.

              Or, as Mythicists now confirm, it was Marcionist, Platonistic. Christianity was based not on verifiable, visible historical facts. But on an inner “Spirit”ual “vision” of an idealized figure in Dougherty’s cosmic heaven.

              1. Another point perhaps worth investigating might be whether the phrase could even refer to Paul’s signs — he claimed Christ was revealed “in” him — was it through tongues? some sorts of ecstatic trance, “miracles”? — not saying it was — just a thought.

              2. Now, this is something I had never considered before: that “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” might continue the point made in the previous clause? That is, I had always assumed it was saying (paraphrasing here): “Who has bewitched you [i.e. turned bad], even though you have seen Christ proegráphēd as crucified [i.e. off to a good start]?” But maybe it could be read as “Who has bewitched you [i.e. turned bad], maybe because you have seen Christ proegráphēd as crucified [i.e. suggested possible cause of the problem]?”

            2. btw, when you say of Paul that he not everywhere “notes problems with assertions that Christianity is based on literal observation”, what are the exceptions that you have in mind? I can think of 1 Corinthians 15:6 “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;” which I consider very unlikely to be authentically Pauline. One might take the entirety of 1 Corinthians 15 as being about literal observation, but it sounds to me like they’re talking about spiritual visions.

              1. Paul and the New Testament in my reading, entertain two major theologies. One telling us to 1) value visible material evidence: physical “fruits,” “works,” “signs,” deeds, and “proof”s. But 2) when priests could not deliver all the physical wonders they promised – miracles, including a physical ” kingdom” – they began backing away from a religion based on physical Proofs, material evidence. Stressing ” faith” over asking for physical evidence. And insisting the old material promises should be taken as mere metaphors for “spiritual” things.

                Both theologies remained though, competing with each other. Even within two different readings of the very same passages.

      2. So, “placarded publicly”, then, would be a variation expressing basically the same idea as “publicly portrayed”. I had imagined that the “placard” would be the sign on the cross, i.e. the INRI sign, explaining the charges to eyewitnesses. I like Wuest’s translation in some cases, but “placarded” here seems more confusing than explanatory.

        1. “Publicly portrayed” is a decent translation. But we need a way to note the ambiguity in that phrase. Which could mean 1) Jesus was literally crucified before their eyes. Or our preferred reading here: 2) Jesus was pictured, either by words or symbols.

          1. “2) Jesus was pictured, either by words or symbols.”

            could this reading explain verse in the koran which says “neither crucified , nor killed, but was made to appear…”

  9. Just a stray thought.

    Paul’s Christ is almost certainly a hallucinatory experience; he credits a collective hallucination of Christ to five hundred at once (1 Cor., 15:6,); the goings on at Medjugorje in recent times are mass hallucinatory experiences; Peter’s vision in Acts making all foods kosher; cults of this sort attract and give affirmation to schizotypal persons, and have way more schizotypals on board than the general population; the vision/hallucination being used to authorise/affirm teaching and bestow authority on teachers and/or those who experience a vision(s); etc.

    It occurs to me that a collective hallucination of the crucifixion, understood as an affirming vision from heaven, could be behind Galatians 3:1. Paul emphasises in a number of places that he is not a good public speaker, he might be protesting too much: if oratory can put images before the minds eye it can bring on hallucinations in those susceptible to such in an environment that not only accepts, but expects, visions.

    I am speculating. I’ve no idea if this has occurred to anyone else but responses would be appreciated.

    1. I haven’t heard of oratory alone bringing on hallucinatory visions. If the visions are one of the signs of an apostle I would think that most people did not have them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Vridar

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading