The previous post concluded with
Continuing . . . .
What we would have in Galatians is not Paul’s version of events but Saturnilus’ version of Paul.
There have been biblical scholars who rejected—and not for religious reasons—the Galatians version of events and, on some points, were willing to accept that of Acts.
|4th Jan 2021: See comments below for revisions by Roger Parvus to his original post:|
The Real Paul
If in the Pauline letters someone—whether Saturnilus or someone else—has made Paul the recipient and bearer of a new gospel i.e., the Vision of Isaiah, it would mean that our knowledge of the real Paul is more questionable than ever. The widely accepted rule in New Testament scholarship has been to give Paul’s letters the nod whenever their information conflicts with that of the Acts of the Apostles, especially concerning Paul himself. His information is first-person and earlier than Acts. The author of Acts seems to be more ideologically-driven than Paul. So Paul’s account in Galatians 1:1-2:14 of how he came by his gospel and became an apostle is considered more accurate than what Acts says about the same matters. Likewise regarding Paul’s account of how in the presence of James, Peter and John he defended his gospel and received their approval of it. But this preference for the Galatians account of events takes a hit if it was in fact written by someone like Saturnilus who was looking to promote the gospel he had projected onto Paul. What we would have in Galatians is not Paul’s version of events but Saturnilus’ version of Paul.
There have been biblical scholars who rejected—and not for religious reasons—the Galatians version of events and, on some points, were willing to accept that of Acts. Alfred Loisy was one:
The legend of Paul has undergone a parallel amplification to that of Peter, but on two different lines: first, by his own statements or by the tradition of his Epistles designed to make him the possessor of the true Gospel and of a strictly personal mission for the conversion of the Gentile world; and then by the common tradition for the purpose of subordinating his role and activity to the work of the Twelve, and especially of Peter regarded as the chief instrument of the apostolate instituted by Jesus.
Relying on the Epistles and disregarding their apologetic and tendentious character, even in much that concerns the person of Paul, though this is perhaps secondary, criticism is apt to conclude that Paul from his conversion onwards had full consciousness of an exceptional calling as apostle to the pagans, and that he set to work, resolutely and alone, to conquer the world, drawing in his wake the leaders of Judaic Christianity, whether willing or not. And this, indeed, is how things happened if we take the indications of the Galatian Epistle at their face value. There we encounter an apostle who holds his commission from God only, who has a gospel peculiar to himself given him by immediate revelation, and has already begun the conquest of the whole Gentile world. No small claim! (Galatians i, 11-12, 15-17, 21-24; ii, 7-8).
But things did not really happen in that way, and could not have so happened…
Interpret as we may the over-statements in the Epistle to the Galatians, it is certain that Saul-Paul did not make his entry on the Christian stage as the absolute innovator, the autonomous and independent missionary exhibited by this Epistle. The believers in Damascus to whom Paul joined himself were zealous propagandists imbued with the spirit of Stephen, and there is nothing whatever to suggest that he was out of his element among them. Equally, he was quite unaware at that time of possessing a peculiar gospel or a vocation on a different level from that of all the other Christian missionaries. That idea he certainly did not bring with him to Antioch, where he found a community which others had built up and which recruited non-Jews without imposing circumcision. For long years he remained there as the helper of Barnabas rather than his chief... (La Naissance du Christianisme, ET: The Birth of the Christian Religion, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, pp. 126-7)
My hypothesis supports Loisy’s claim that the real Paul was commissioned as an apostle in the same way that other early missionaries were: by being delegated for a mission by a congregation which supported him. And that the real Paul’s gospel was no different from theirs: the kingdom of God is at hand and Jesus will be coming to establish it. But if that is the way the real Paul was, why does Acts try to take him down a notch?
Many New Testament scholars have either argued or suspected that the author of Acts knew the Pauline letters. The problem has always been: If he knew of them, why didn’t he say that Paul wrote letters to his churches? If my hypothesis about the letters is correct there would be a good solution to that problem. The author of Acts presumably knew the letters pretty much in the form we now have them. But that form is, according to my hypothesis, the amplified form they had already taken on in the Saturnilian church. I suspect he knew that was their provenance and so thought best to keep quiet about them altogether. The Paul that Acts aimed to bring down a notch was the Saturnilian version of him on display in the letters.
What about Paul as the persecutor who converts due to a revelation? Should that be retained as belonging to the authentic Paul? This too becomes questionable if my hypothesis is correct. For Saturnilus, as a former Simonian, could be considered an enemy who converted. And his Vision of Isaiah is a revelation. So I wonder if the scenario of Paul’s conversion may have arisen from Saturnilus just inserting his own story into Paul’s. True, the scenario is present in Acts of the Apostles too. Would the author of Acts have risked borrowing from the Saturnulian version of Paul? Perhaps discreetly. In Acts, Paul is first Saul. In fact we only learn that “Saul is also Paul” in chapter 13. This could be a device used by its author to discreetly indicate that his conversion/revelation for Paul was of suspect origin. It’s curious that SAtUrniLus’ name (my caps) does contain SAUL in it. The switchover to using the name Paul would be the author’s tipoff that he was steering the Pauline ship into safer, more orthodox waters, and perhaps using a different source of information (e.g., the “we” passages that start popping up at Acts. 16:10).
In any case, there does seem to be at least one element of the Galatians biographical section that can be taken at face value: the circumcision controversy. In the Galatians passage the circumcision of non-Jewish converts is the issue that underlies and has been partially hidden by all the talk about Paul’s revelation, his gospel and his divinely authorized apostleship. Someone —most likely Saturnilus—has piggybacked his own agenda onto the original circumcision controversy. He used Paul’s opposition to circumcision for Gentile converts as an opening to promote Paul as the fiercely independent bearer of a distinct gospel.
A defense of Paul’s position is present where one would most expect to find it: in his letter to a church he did not know personally. In writing to the Roman Christians he did not need to include an exposition of the gospel. They were already Christians, so they had already heard and accepted the gospel. What was needed was an argument against one particular condition for membership that Paul contested: circumcision for Gentile believers. And that is what we get in chapter 4 of Romans. And notice that the argument in Romans 4 does not include any appeal to a special revelation, or a special apostolate, or a special gospel. He supports his argument simply by exegesis of scriptural texts.
In Romans 4 we hear the voice of the historic Paul. And in verse 13 of the same chapter we learn, in passing, what was the gospel to which he subscribed.
The promise made to Abraham and his posterity that they should inherit the world did not come to him through the Law but through the righteousness of faith… It is through faith, that it may be through grace, so as to guarantee the promise for the whole of posterity, and not only to that part of it which comes by way of the Law, but to that which comes through Abraham’s faith, for he is the father of us all. (Rom. 4:13,16, my bolding)
As commentary Alfred Loisy writes:
This passage demands the most thorough consideration; it is an authentic expression of the Christian faith in the earliest period of its diffusion in the Roman world. A promise was given by God to Abraham as a man of faith and to his faithful posterity. The faithful posterity in question are those who are now persuaded that God raised Lord Jesus from the dead. Now the resurrection of Jesus guarantees the promise to Abraham that he and his posterity are to be “heirs of the world.” But the heritage of the world is not a blessed eternity in heaven: it is the happiness of the faithful, made righteous by their faith, on this earth under the Reign of God—the Kingdom..” (Les Origines du Nouveau Testament, ET: The Origins of the New Testament, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, p. 42, Loisy’s italics)
And again, at the conclusion of the same book:
As the argument proceeds we learn what it was that God promised to Abraham and to his posterity. This was not exactly eternal life, the “blessed immortality” of the theologians, but “the heritage of the world” (iv,13), Genesis having said (xxii,17) “thy posterity shall inherit the enemies’ cities,” which Paul understands as promising universal domination over the people of the earth. This shows us that, in the mind of the apostle, the idea of the Kingdom of God and his Christ had not taken the spiritual form. It was still the triumph of God over all the nations as predicted by the prophets. Thus the Gospel is still, as it previously was, the proclamation of the coming Reign of God on earth, except for the clause which now offers salvation to pagans who adhere to the saving faith. (pp. 294-5.)
[Note: Credit for recognizing the key nature Romans 4 should be given to Joseph Turmel who, under the pseudonym ‘Henri Delafosse,’ did a literary dissection of the Pauline letters in his four volume Les Ecrits de Saint Paul, 1926-1928. Loisy acknowledged his debt to the scholar not only for a number of individual insights but also for his overall approach to Paul’s letters as compilations of materials composed by several hands.]
Loisy, following the lead of Turmel, detected the real Paul in a few other parts of Romans but attributed most of that letter to others:
The complementary matter, added by other hands to the original document, is entirely superfluous. Least of all does it need the juxtaposition of a gnosis, which contradicts it at every point of its structure, nor the emollient paraphrases which try to make the gnosis fit in with the primitive teaching here revealed by Paul; nor the violent outbreak against pagans and Jewish sectaries in the opening chapters (i,18-iii, 26); nor the moral counsels (xii-xv,7) which are wholly foreign to its theme. (Les Origines du Nouveau Testament, ET: The Origins of the New Testament, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, p.250)
Loisy’s fellow biblical scholar Charles Guignebert conceded a number of the points Loisy made but contended that he had used his “scalpel” excessively, leaving only a “skeleton outline” of Paul’s letters. To that and like criticism Loisy replied that the resulting letters were simply that— letters—fitted to the circumstances that called them forth and dealing for the most part only with those circumstances. It was the added material—material that was uneven in style, gnostic in character, and over the heads of the recipients—that inflated the letters into epistles. This additional material required a different origin. It didn’t make sense in a letter setting.
In addition to this, we know how the epistolary teaching made acquisitions of many kinds; how it was not only a depository for various gnoses, with or without adaptation to the primitive eschatology, but became charged with doctrinal enlargements and compromises, and especially with moral teaching and exhortation, even with rules of church discipline, all this being done by those who believed they had the right to make the apostles give answers on these points whenever conditions in the churches suggested that a ruling was called for. (Les Origines du Nouveau Testament, ET: The Origins of the New Testament, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, p.309)
By separating the letters from the epistles the real Paul can be distinguished from the fictitious:
We have now reached what is, perhaps, the most important result of this part of our study. This consists in the radical dissimilation of the Paul who really spoke and the Paul who was represented as speaking. The first, the historic Paul, was the preacher of the primitive eschatological catechesis, enlarging it only, as it had already been enlarged by the Antioch missionaries, with a view to bringing pagans into the fold by sparing them the constraint of legal observances. The second was Paul the mystic, with his audacious pretensions, his perpetual and tiresome boastfulness, his gross abuse of the old disciples whom he makes out to be Judaizers. As a personality having a place in primitive Christian history this second Paul would be wholly inexplicable, but is intelligible enough as the mouthpiece of Christian groups which believed themselves heirs of the Pauline tradition. They it was who, in reality, brought into the tradition, not indeed the principle of universal salvation by faith in the risen Christ—from the beginning there had been not great difficulty in admitting that—but the mystery of salvation by mystic union with a Saviour who had come down from heaven and returned to it in glory—a Saviour to whom the ardent believer was united, not only by knowledge of the mystery, but in an intimate communion affected by sacraments, with their ritual of probation, participation and final vision. (Les Origines du Nouveau Testament, ET: The Origins of the New Testament, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, p. 310)
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my revised hypothesis basically adds only two things to Loisy’s scenario: (1) I would identify the above “Christian groups which believed themselves heirs of the Pauline tradition” as Saturnilians. (2) I would identify the above “mystery of salvation by mystic union with a Saviour who had come down from heaven and returned to it in glory” as the Vision of Isaiah. I also said, earlier in this post, that my recognition of the role the Vision plays in the Pauline letters had changed my perspective on a number of early Christian issues. Before closing I would like to say a few things about perhaps the most significant of them: the historicity of Jesus.
Continuing . . . .
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42 thoughts on “Revising the Series “A Simonian Origin for Christianity”, Part 3”
For those interested to know which parts of Romans Loisy would include as integral to the original letter:
A. 1:1-17 —But excluding some parts of the 1-7 salutation, especially from the words “about his Son” (in verse 3) to “Jesus Christ, our Lord” (in verse 4).
B. 3:27-4:24 —But excluding verse 4:15 (“For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation”).
C. 9:1-13 —But excluding “according to the flesh” and “God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” in verse 5.
E. 15:8-12 —And with 15:13 possibly being the conclusion of the original letter.
I see L would exclude the passage about their being two types of people, those made for wrath and those for mercy.
Yes. He thinks that Rom. 9:14-29 “may not be first hand; however it is in line with the sense of the thesis, and nothing, it seems, obliges us to relegate it to a late date, for example, after 150” (p. 12 of Loisy’s “Remarques sur la Litterature Epistolaire du Noveau Testament,” 1935, my translation). The “150” seems intended to distance himself from Turmel who, (in his Ecrits de St. Paul, vol. 1, p. 64) claimed that the passage was a fragment of antimarcionite polemics and written after 150. Loisy saw no need to push its date back that far and, as far as I can tell, did not see it as antimarcionite.
As you know, I think the passage may have been conceived in the mind of a Saturnilian.
Thanks, Roger. Here is a copy of those passages from Loisy (one correction: he omits 3:27 on grounds it “adjusts the argument to the interpolated text”). Let’s see how this goes in the comments field . . .
A. 1:1-17 —But excluding some parts of the 1-7 salutation, especially from the words “about his Son” (in verse 3) to “Jesus Christ, our Lord” (in verse 4).
i, 7, 8-17
“for all the beloved of God in Rome”
So, as much as in me is, I am anxious to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome; for I am not ashamed of the Gospel. For it is the power of God for the salvation of every believer, to the Jew first, but also to the Greek. For God’s righteousness is revealed in it by faith and for faith, as it is written, whoso is righteous by faith, shall live (Habakkuk, ii, 4).
B. 3:28-4:24 —But excluding verse 4:15 (“For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation”).
We hold that a man is made completely righteous by faith without any works of the Law. Is God the God only of the Jews? Is he not also God of the Gentiles! To be sure he is God of the Gentiles, for there is only one God, who will make the circumcised righteous by faith and the uncircumcised by means of it. Are we then abolishing the Law by faith? Not in the least. We are giving the Law a firm basis.
What, then, was it that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, discovered for himself? For if Abraham became righteous by doing the works of the Law, he had something to be proud of, but not before God. For what says the Scripture? Abraham had faith in God and that was imputed to him for righteousness (Genesis xv, 6). Now the wages of a workman are not considered as a favour but as his due, while to him Who does no works, but has faith in him who makes the ungodly righteous, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness. In like manner David describes the blessedness of the man whom God counts as righteous without works on his part. [Here follows the citation of Psalm xxxii, 1-2.]
Was this blessedness promised to the circumcised, or to the uncircumcised as well? Again I say: His faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it imputed? To Abraham as a circumcised man? No, but when he was still uncircumcised. And he afterwards received the sign of circumcision as seal of the righteousness of faith, a righteousness won by him in his uncircumcised condition, to the end that he might be the father of the uncircumcised believers, to whom righteousness would be imputed in like manner, and father also to the circumcised, who follow in the steps of our father Abraham’s faith.
The promise made to Abraham that he should inherit the world does not hold in virtue of the Law, but in virtue of the righteousness of faith. For if the followers of the Law are the heirs, their faith is of no account, and the promise given to it comes to nothing [ ]. That is why faith is the one thing that matters, so that all proceeds by favour, and the promise made secure for all posterity, not only for that which follows the Law but for that which is in the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, even as it is written I have made thee father of many nations—all this in the presence of God who makes the dead alive and calls the non-existent into being, and in whom he had faith. From his despair of posterity he passed to hoping in faith that he would become the father of many nations, even as God assured him, thy offspring shall be numberless (Genesis xiii, 16). He knew that his body was virtually dead, for he was nearly a hundred years old, and that Sarah’s womb was also dead, but that did not weaken his faith in God’s promise. On the contrary his faith asserted itself the more, and he was fully convinced that God was able to give him the promised posterity. And that is why it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now the words “imputed to him” were not written for him alone, but for us as well, according as we have faith in him who raised Jesus from the dead.
C. 9:1-13 —But excluding “according to the flesh” and “God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.” in verse 5.
I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not; my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit that my sadness is great and my heartache incessant: I could wish myself under the curse of Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen in the flesh who are Israelites; theirs is the sonship, the glory, the tables of Law, the rite of worship and the promises; of them is the Christ an issue according to the flesh [ ].
Now it is not possible for the word of God to become obsolete. For Israel is not the totality of Israel’s descendants; all are not children who are descended from Abraham. No; it is through Isaac that thy posterity shall be reckoned (Genesis xxi, 12). I mean that all children of the flesh are not children of God; only the children of the promise are counted as posterity. . . .
What shall we say then ? We say that the Gentiles, who were aiming at righteousness, attained it, the righteousness that comes of faith; whereas Israel, who were aiming at a law of righteousness, failed to reach that law. And why? Because they sought it, not by the way of faith, but by conduct, and ran into the stone that makes men stumble, according as it is written. [Here follows citation of Isaiah viii, 14; xxviii, 16. The letter continues (x, 1).]
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God are for their salvation. I can bear witness to their zeal for God; but not a zeal enlightened by knowledge ; for, in their ignorance of the righteousness of God, they failed to submit to it and sought rather to establish their own. For the end of the Law is the Christ, that everyone who believes in him may thereby become righteous. For Moses wrote of the righteousness which comes by the Law, whoso practises that, by that shall he live (Leviticus xviii, 5); but the righteousness which comes of faith speaks differently (Deuteronomy xxx, 12-14): Say not in your heart: Who will go up to heaven?—to bring the Christ down—or: Who will go down into the abyss?—to bring the Christ up from among the dead. No, what faith-righteousness says is this (Deuteronomy xxx, 14): very close to thee is the word in thy mouth and in thy heart—meaning the word “faith” which we preach. Mouth and heart mark you. For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, saved you shall be. For with the heart we believe to be made righteous, and with the mouth we confess to be saved. For the Scripture says (Isaiah xxviii, 16): Whosoever believes in him shall never be put to confusion. There is no difference here between Jew and Greek, seeing that all have one and the same Lord, who is full of bounty to them that call on him, for everyone who calls on him shall be saved (Joel ii, 32). But how shall they call on a Lord in whom they have no belief? And how believe in a Lord of whom they have never heard ? And how shall they hear of him without a preacher ? And how shall we preach him unless we are called?—even as Isaiah writes (lii, 7) : how beautiful are the feet of him who brings good tidings. But not all have yielded to the Gospel, even as Isaiah says (liii, 1): Lord, who has believed our report? So then, faith comes from preaching, and preaching by the word of the Christ. But, say I, have they not heard it? Yes, they have: their voice has gone all over the earth and their words to the end of the world (Psalm xix, 4). Then, I ask, have they not understood ? Moses was the first to say it : I will make you jealous of a nation that is no nation; I will provoke your pity for a nation with no understanding (Deuteronomy xxxii, 21). Then Isaiah boldly says: I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have revealed myself to those who question me not (lxv, 1). And to Israel he cries: I have held out my hands all day long to a disobedient and contradictory people (lxv, 2).
E. 15:8-12 —And with 15:13 possibly being the conclusion of the original letter.
Now I tell you [continuing with xv, 8] that the Christ has been ready to serve the circumcision by showing them God’s veracity in confirming the promises made to the patriarchs and that the Gentiles glorify God by his mercy, according as it is written (Psalm xviii, 49) : Therefore I will exalt thee among the Gentiles and sing praises to thy Name. And again he says (Deuteronomy xxxii, 43): Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his People. And again (Psalm cxvii, 1): Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles, and let all peoples extol him. And Isaiah once more (xi, 10): there shall be a shoot of Jesse springing forth to rule the Gentiles: in him shall the Gentiles hope.
Loisy doesn’t spell out exactly which parts of the salutation he would retain. If it were up to me, I would retain this:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, set apart for the gospel of God 5. to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 7. To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanks for that. I should have added some explanation for the gap I left.
I noticed another typo I made. I have “B” going through to 4:27. That should read 4:24 (There is no 4:27 in Romans).
Also my mistake. I somehow looked at that but my brain ignored it at the time. 🙂
I’ve had some second thoughts about the opening salutation of Romans (Rom. 1:1-7): Loisy does not accept as authentic most of verses 3 and 4, including the words “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power […] by resurrection from the dead”. He doesn’t give his reasons. The exclusion is puzzling to me because those words are right in line with his hypothesis about the original Paul. Recall that, for Loisy, Paul was a preacher of the primitive eschatological catechesis which Loisy summarizes thus:
So if that is what Paul preached, what would be the problem with either “born of the seed of David according to the flesh” or “established as Son of God in power […] by resurrection from the dead”? The reference to David would seem natural enough on Paul’s lips, since the catechesis he preached was, per Loisy, about kingdoms. David was the most beloved of the Jewish kings. And even more tellingly, Loisy accepted Rom. 15:12, as authentic: “And again Isaiah says: The root of Jesse shall come, raised up to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope”. Thus, per Loisy’s own analysis, Paul apparently believed that Jesus was descended from David. (Since Jesse was David’s father, Paul’s “reasoning” likely went something like this: The resurrected Jesus is the one who will come to establish God’s kingdom. But according to Scripture the one who will do that is the root of Jesse. Therefore Jesus must be descended from Jesse and his royal son David.)
As for the second part, “established as Son of God in power [ ] by resurrection from the dead”, many New Testament scholars see this as an expression of the earliest belief about Jesus. It seems to indicate that Jesus’ divine status was initially believed to have been conferred upon him at his resurrection. And again, as far as I can tell, Loisy had no problem ascribing such a belief to Paul:
And from the same source:
I don’t understand, then, why Loisy did not accept verses 3-4 as the voice of the real Paul. I can understand why many mainstream scholars don’t want to do it. They prefer to assign its origin to some primitive creed. Paul, they say, was just being civil, and so he cited a creed that he knew some of his readers still subscribed to. His own belief in Jesus, they say, had advanced beyond that primitive creed, as is clear from other Pauline passages that express his belief in Jesus as a pre-existent divine figure. But since Loisy saw such passages as interpolations, I don’t know why he did not turn the mainstream analysis of Romans 1: 1-7 on its head: The primitive belief was Paul’s; the advanced belief was that of the later interpolators.
In that scenario the original opening salutation of Romans would look like this:
If correct, this would mean that the Vision of Isaiah gospel that the former Simonians interpolated into Paul’s letters was quite a substantial distortion of him. It falsely represented him as in effect believing in and preaching a Simonized Jesus, a Jesus who had a history of pre-existence as some kind of deity. Paul’s letters, it appears to me, were taken over and expanded by people who believed in a Simon-like Jesus.
Which brings us back to my prime suspects, Saturnilians, followers of the former Simonian Saturnilus. That is, if Saturnilus did in fact convert. Or did he simply add Jesus as being a new manifestation of Simon? It was said that Simonians also worshipped Simon under the name of Zeus. I am thinking that much of what we have in the Pauline letters is Simonians worshipping Simon under the name of Jesus. You have to wonder. The apologist Justin accused Saturnilians of being Christians in name only. And Irenaeus wrote “They do not confess the name of their master (Simon) in order all the more to seduce others, yet they do teach his doctrines” (Against Heresies 1, 27, 4). I don’t know that it was necessarily seduction, since they may have honestly believed that Simon’s most recent manifestation had been as Jesus Christ. But if my hypothesis is correct, they were at least guilty of pious forgery. (By the way, I realize that some have expressed doubt about whether there ever was a historical Simon of Samaria. For my purposes here, however, it doesn’t really matter. As Richard Carrier has pointed out, “The historicity of this Simon has been questioned, but the historicity of his worship as a divine being has not.” [On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 71]. Simonians apparently believed that Simon claimed to be the Christ who suffered in Judaea. Did they hear that claim from a Simon who walked this earth? Or did they learn of it by way of a supposed revelation from heaven by their demigod? I don’t know.)
Hi Roger, about Romans 1:3 being interpolated for Loisy, what do you think about the comparison, in Hevrews, of Jesus with Melkizedek “without father or mother” ? Is not it a contradiction with Jesus being described as “coming from Judah” in the same epistle? How can one “without mother” come from Judah? You argue that the idea that “Jesus had a history of pre-existence as some kind of deity” was a Simonian/Satorninian idea, but Melkizedek is a Jewish figure surely not adored by Simonians. Are you sure that the original pauline Jesus was not considered as a pre-existent figure therefore NOT born by seed of David?
Thanks in advance for any answer
I am not sure “rose up from Judah” means “descended from Judah’s tribe”. Loisy takes it to mean he rose “as a star might rise” (The Origins of the New Testament, p. 262). That is, Jesus appeared on the scene, much like the author of Hebrews has Melchisedec appearing on the scene without human ancestry.
Regarding whether Hebrews was written before or after the Saturnilian interpolations to Paul’s letters:
My window for the Saturnilian interpolations is CE 70 to 135, I am inclined to put them more specifically around 90. My main reason for doing so is because the Paul who appears to be targeted in the letters to the seven Asiatic churches in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation is the Paul who speaks in passages I consider interpolated. Thus, for example, the “deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24) sounds like mockery of the “deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10) touted in the interpolated wisdom section of 1 Corinthians. So since Revelation is thought to have been written in the reign of Domitian (CE 81-96), that would also provide an approximate timeframe for the Saturnilian interpolations.
So, was Hebrews written after that? I think it could be. To me, it looks like the author of Hebrews was trying to put together a gnosis using just the Jewish Scriptures. Maybe the idea for such a gnosis occurred to the author from his or her acquaintance with the Simonian gnoses. He or she may have had a problem with gnoses involving a text like the Vision of Isaiah which was not in the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) and which may have been a Simonian rework of the Descent of Inanna. The solution was to construct a similar one but build it using acceptable materials.
Of course I could be wrong. Maybe Hebrews is the earlier gnosis and provided inspiration to the Simonians.
Correction: Loisy says that the “fundamental thesis” of Paul’s letter comes to its natural close at Rom. 15:12. However, he also accepts 15:14-33 (Paul’s travel plans) and a large part of chapter 16 (16:1-16, 19a, and 20-24) as belonging to the original letter as its conclusion. (Les Origines du Nouveau Testament, ET: The Origins of the New Testament, translation by L.P. Jacks, University Books, 1962, p. 250)
Notice that Loisy sees the doxology at Rom 16: 25-27 as being an interpolation. He is not alone. Many other scholars agree. It reads:
Of this passage J.C. O’Neill wrote:
Hard to see, indeed, on the usual presumption that the prophetic writings in question are the Old Testament scriptures. But the difficulty vanishes if I am right about Paul’s letters having been interpolated by people who knew and used the Vision of Isaiah. For the Vision purports to consist of revelations by Isaiah that had long been kept secret.
I’ve added a note near the beginning of the post to point readers to your revisions, Roger.
Thank you Neil. I imagine that by now you have to be getting tired of my revisions.
I think it is important to keep it updated as a record. Our ideas are always in flux (certainly mine are) and I often find myself returning to options that I spent more time on some time ago but the second time with a fresh set of eyes and questions.
Color me skeptical. Firstly, anyone claiming to be able to identify “the real Paul” is already an biased practitioner. It is an impossible task. Even if one were to be able to convincingly separate out multiple authors in the works its impossible to identify any of the authors and certainly to be able to claim that one of them is “the real Paul”.
Clearly Loisy had an agenda and a bias. He likes some things he finds in the epistles and he dislikes other things. Lo-and-behold, he’s been able to identify that all of the statements in Paul’s letters that he finds offensive aren’t from the real Paul! The “real Paul” was a rational man of valid concerns who was taking a reasoned approach to try to expand the audience for Christianity. The “fake Paul” was an irrational mystic fool whose words should be ignored and whom we should essentially write out of Christianity history as if he didn’t exist and had no role in the development of the religion!
One thing I like about older works is that they don’t hide their biases 🙂
I think that’s a somewhat simplistic view of Loisy’s — and Roger’s — arguments. What do you make of Munro’s identification of a pastoral stratum interpolated in Paul’s letters?
I don’t think Loisy (or Roger) have dogmatically declared their hypotheses as facts that they have discovered. They are conclusions, inferences, drawn from the what we can see in the letters themselves and from what we know of their history. If the arguments do not convince then it is fair enough to present arguments against. The exploratory nature of the discussion is evident in the fact that Roger has had second thoughts about his hypothesis and I think all of us have found many of his observations thought-provoking to say the least.
They become “working hypotheses”. We can work with certain reconstructions and see how the larger picture shapes up on the assumption that those hypotheses are valid. If we find the result is a more comprehensive explanation of certain questions then we have points in favour of the hypotheses.
These are fair and reasonable efforts in the study of the evidence we have before us.
“it is certain that Saul-Paul did not make his entry on the Christian stage as the absolute innovator, the autonomous and independent missionary exhibited by this Epistle.”
Why? Where does this certainty come from?
“The believers in Damascus to whom Paul joined himself were zealous propagandists imbued with the spirit of Stephen”
“That idea he certainly did not bring with him to Antioch, where he found a community which others had built up and which recruited non-Jews without imposing circumcision. For long years he remained there as the helper of Barnabas rather than his chief”
“In Romans 4 we hear the voice of the historic Paul.”
Evidence? How on earth can the passage from Romans 4 be isolated as from “the real Paul?” So much of the Pauline letters, far more than this passage, presents a view quite contrary to Loisy’s interpretation of this passage. How is the idea that “the real” Paul preached the Kingdom of God on earth supportable, when the vast majority of of the content in the Pauline epistles preaches that the Kingdom of God is in heaven, that this earth is an evil husk to be discarded?
I didn’t really find any bit of Loisy’s commentary convincing.
“What do you make of Munro’s identification of a pastoral stratum interpolated in Paul’s letters?”
Possible, but I didn’t see anything definitive. Looked highly speculative, but plausible.
I do recall some very dogmatic claims by you, too, but I gave you more leeway and interpreeted them as rhetorical over-statements as you were thinking through an argument. There is a difference. One can tell when the “certain” claims are couched in the larger exploration of the hypothesis. But it is simply not true that Loisy rejects passages doesn’t like” — he constructs clear criteria, clear rational arguments, and applies them to see where they lead. That’s how “we arrive at the real Romans 4”. We don’t have to agree with them and we’d be silly to do so just because he said so. We engage with them, think them through, raise questions. And it’s certainly not done by just removing the bits we don’t like or have a frivolous bias against.
I have to confess I have also posted before on the habit of many biblical scholars to simply set aside a reasoned argument on the grounds that they “don’t find it convincing”. What I’m interested in is not how they presumably feel about it, what their subjective impressions are, but what specific arguments they can make that leads us to find it “unconvincing”? Where are the failures in logic or in evidence?
Ditto for Munro. I see nothing “highly speculative” — speculative, yes, but with a clear justification based on reasonable inference from the data itself — but clear criteria markers and consistent hewing to the consequences.
Roger’s article was originally titled “second thoughts” (not ‘facts’), follow him as he argues the case and see how many times he uses the language of “I tend to think” or similar. All of that is the rhetoric of an exploring mind that holds all conclusions as tentative pending new arguments and evidence. That’s what I think many of us like about Roger’s posts: not just his observation of new links in the data before us, but also the way he approaches the question, exploring, open to new discovery, to revising and changing his mind. That’s not dogmatism or certainty in any absolute sense.
“I do recall some very dogmatic claims by you, too”
True enough 🙂
“Now the resurrection of Jesus guarantees the promise to Abraham that he and his posterity are to be “heirs of the world.””
This isn’t what Romans says at all. Paul was using the example of Abraham to illustrate that God kept his promise because of Abraham’s faith. The example is about the role of faith. Liosy is trying to turn it into a claim that the resurrection of Jesus is a part of the keeping of the promise to Abraham, but that isn’t at all what Paul says.
Paul said: God told Abraham that if he had faith in him his offspring would inherit the world, and according to the story, Abraham had faith in God so God kept is promise. That’s it.
“Paul [in Romans(?)] was using the example of Abraham to illustrate that God kept his promise because of Abraham’s faith. The example is about the role of faith.”
I’ve been wondering if Jesus crucifixion, death, resurrection, etc is allegory for the Fall of the Temple (blamed on some Jews for their civil ‘wars’ or their war with the Romans) and a hoped rebuilding of the Temple … (has someone proposed that before, and I’m just remembering that proposal?)
It is possible that all four Gospels are an allegory for Paul. This was first postulated (that I know of) by Gustav Volkmar in 1859, “Die Religion Jesu”, and more recently revisited by Tom Dykstra, “Mark Canonizer of Paul”. It was Volkmar’s position that the gospel of the Jerusalem Church was the Book of Revelation, and that the anti-thesis to that gospel was Paul’s gospel. One might further suggest that the Jesus of the Jerusalem church was Barabbas, and the anti-Jesus was Paul’s Christ Jesus.
Robert Eisenman in “James the Brother of Jesus” speculated that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were in fact just an allegory for the later James and John, the “chief priests” of the Jerusalem Church, who gave Paul such grief because of his mission to the Gentiles [and to the Diaspora Jews]. Below you can see Mark’s Pauline Jesus scolding the so-called “sons of Zebedee” for seeking to be or “seeming to be somewhat”, that is to be rulers, in the same way that Paul in his epistle to the Galatians dismissively refers to (apparently) the James and John of the Jerusalem Church.
Mar 10:35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to him, saying: Master, we desire that whatsoever we shall ask, thou wouldst do it for us. But he said to them: What would you that I should do for you? And they said: Grant to us that we may sit, one on thy right hand and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory…And the ten, hearing it, began to be much displeased at James and John. But Jesus calling them, saith to them: You know that they who seem [Greek: dodeko] to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them: and their princes have power over them. (From the Douay Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate, which makes clear the connection between Mark and Galatians)
Gal 2:4 But because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came [down from Jerusalem] in privately to spy our liberty [from Jewish customs] which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into servitude [to the Law and the Jerusalem Church rulers]. To whom we yielded not by subjection: no, not for an hour: that the truth of the [Paul’s] gospel might continue with you. But of them who seemed [Greek: dodeko] to be somewhat, (what they were is nothing to me, God accepteth not the person of man): for to me they that seemed [Greek: dodeko] to be somewhat added nothing. [From the Latin Vulgate, which makes clearer the correct translation of the word “dodeko” as “seemed” and it’s relation to Galatians.)
From “Mark” Brooks Commentary: Mark’s diction is not the best, and his word, which usually means “to seem” or “to appear” has been variously translated, “regarded as rulers”, “supposed to be rulers”, and even “aspire to rule”.
But having read this in a commentary, I immediately recognized Mark’s allusion to Galatians 2:6
I don’t care for Loisy’s style either. He does come across as too self-assured. But it was not for his style that I started re-reading his later writings. Like Loisy (and some others), I think the Pauline letters are a patchwork. And I found I was reaching—by a different route—conclusions about Paul and his patchwork letters that were similiar to Loisy’s. My route, of course, was through the Vision of Isaiah that I suspected was the backdrop for several Pauline passages.
But if the Vision of Isaiah was Paul’s gospel, I expect it should be present somewhere in Romans. I would expect to see something to the effect: “I am going to Rome and I am anxious to share with you my gospel. I know you already believe the gospel but mine is a bit special. As you may have already heard, I received it directly from God when he directly made me an apostle. Let me tell you about it.” And then he would go on to tell them about the Vision of Isaiah gospel. Instead, of course, we get a Paul who goes on and on writing about all kinds of things, many of which are very implausible as material composed for a church he does not personally know.
What Turmel and Loisy have done is find several passages in the letter that, when reconnected, deal with an issue dear to Paul’s heart: the conversion of the Gentiles. The connected sections include Scriptural argumentation regarding why Gentile converts do not have to receive circumcision. That seems plausible as the subject of a letter, but it is not the same as Paul’s gospel. In Romans he never claims that his “Gentile-Converts-Don’t-Need-Circumcision” message was personally revealed to him by God. He never tells them that if an angel from heaven should try to tell them otherwise, let him be anathema. Where is his special gospel?
In the first two chapters of Galatians we re-find a Paul who is confident of his special gospel and apostleship. But strangely, his defense of these is intertwined with his “Gentile-Converts-Don’t-Need-Circumcision” stance. He ends up, in chapter 3, arguing again from Scripture about why that stance is correct. To me it appears that the original issue was circumcision and that subsequently the issues of Paul’s gospel and apostleship were superimposed on the text.
Long story short: I think Loisy’ theory deserves serious consideration. The Paul of the current letters is an unlikeable character. Loisy is far from being the only one to think so. But I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss his theory on the grounds that Loisy doesn’t like the Paul he sees in the letters. There is more to it than that.
Here, you understand ‘gospel’ in the later, restricted sense, likening it to the works of the evangelists. Doherty, who sees the VoI permeating the Pauline epistles, nevertheless goes to great effort to show that Paul’s gospel is a simple proclamation, not some book.
Before reaching that conclusion, I think you need to at least address Schmithals’ thesis that Paul’s opponents in Galatians are circumcising gnostics/Cerinthians, and that the main issue is very much establishing Paul’s apostolic authority.
These circumcising gnostics only exist in Schmitthals’s blooming imagination. Gnosis and Law are a priori incompatible, which once more demonstrates the lateness, forgedness, and editorial fatigue of the falsely so-called epistles.
Already Detering demonstrated many years ago, in some work now disappeared from the net, that there are three types of enemies in Marcion’s Galatians: Valentinians, Elchesaites, and Catholics. The Catholic manipulator of the epistle of course messed with this assessment in his way, leading to more chaos and confusion.
LOL. Maybe so.
Even if Schmithal’s identification is incorrect, his question: what are jewish-christian missionaries doing in the hinterlands of Asia Minor in the 50s? remains valid.
I also find intriguing Schmithals’ suggestion that Paul is not so much in direction conflict with local ‘judaizers’, as seeking to defend himself accusations from gnostic rivals that he is affiliated with the jewish-christians.
But, as you allude to, if the epistles are pastiches spanning time, then material written against 1st century opponent(s) has been repurposed to counter others in the 2nd century.
Setting that muddle all aside, Roger speculates that the conflict depicted in the epistles is a minor one over circumcision, and not related to Paul’s apostolic authority. Further, Roger suggests Paul’s gospel varied little from that of James’ church. Schmithals’ review of the philological debate alone shows that cannot be the case.
Regarding Paul and VoI I think you rightly point out a few similarities between the two, but I also think it’s impossible to draw anything concrete from them. We don’t really know when either were written.
It can just as easily be that VoI was written after the Pauline letters and draws from them.
Indeed the mainstream view is that VoI was written between 50 and 200 years after the letters of Paul, by a Christian. The work is perhaps meant to provide broader support for Christian ideas by having them affirmed by a separate source respected by Jews.
If that’s the case then the similarities are because the writer of VoI was himself familiar with and using Paul’s letters.
The biggest challenge to this case is establishing that VoI came before Paul, which is far from an accepted view.
“But if the Vision of Isaiah was Paul’s gospel, I expect it should be present somewhere in Romans.”
Yes, but if VoI is not Paul’s gospel then the fact that it isn’t present in Romans is fully explained!
It seems to me that the lack of VoI ideas on Romans undermines your hypothesis, but instead of seeing that you are assuming the truth of your hypothesis and claiming that the evidence which doesn’t fit your hypothesis must then be invalid. This reminds me of many Q discussions.
Note that Robert M. Price considers Romans 4 perhaps the only authentic piece of writing by Paul in the entire epistle. (See below.)
Neil, I know that a contemporary of Loisy, the Italian priest and apologist Giuseppe Ricciotti, complained that Loisy, in order to save the his historical Jesus, had to give up large portions of Paul as late Gnostic fabrications. And the same Arthur Drews says explicitly that the Jesus’s historicity may be saved only by considering the epistles as forgeries.
This sounds about right to me.
If we are thinking of, say, passages like Galatians 1:19 I agree that it is simplistic and inadequate to merely declare the passage a forgery in order to save a theory. I don’t think you will find that approach here. (I don’t know what the justification was for either Ricciotti saying that “large portions” of Paul would have to be given up or for Drews apparently saying that Paul’s letters had to be forgeries.)
I think I’ve seen suggestions like this elsewhere. But do we have any evidence that this sorta wordplay was common (or for that matter even attested) in the period?
Not that I know of. That’s why my continuation began with “In any case, …”
Searching for ciphers is a mug’s game.
Munro has been recently confirmed by Stuart Waugh in his reconstructuion of the Marcionite versions of the letters.
Gal. 1:13-14 & 1:18-24 are missing from the Marcionite recension, while Gal. 2 is riddled with redaction.
There’s no reason we should feel constrained to consider either the epistles or Acts as accurate.
Neil, please judge by yourself:
So Ricciotti in his “Life of Jesus Christ”:
But even so thinned, this figure of Jesus always has against himself – as the Couchoud pointed out – the testimony of St. Paul, who not even twenty years after Jesus’ death makes this man a divine being, author of human redemption, of universal grace, of the Eucharist and the Christian mysteries of salvation; therefore, either the figure of Jesus outlined by Loisy is false, or the testimony of St. Paul is false. The Loisy has chosen, of course, the second alternative.
In the past he had admitted the substantial authenticity of the letters of St. Paul, assigning them to the period between the years 50 and 61; but now, in order to escape the aforementioned objection, it retains this assignment only in name, whereas in reality he abandons it, since by breaking down the individual letters into a great number of fragments he still attributes only a small part to St. Paul, and on the contrary he declares interpolated the most ample and above all more imposing fragments for his theory, attributing them to a “mystical gnosis” of the end of the I century. After long hesitations, also the annoying step in which St. Paul attributes to Jesus the institution of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11) is declared false and interpolated.
(page 219-220, my emphasis)
So Arthur Drews:
Either the Pauline Epistles are genuine, and in that case Jesus is not an historical personality; or he is an historical personality, and in that case the Pauline Epistles are not genuine, but written at a much later period.
Note that Ricciotti is 100% a pure apologist. He WANTS that a never-interpolated Paul has to raise a lot of contradictions with the historical Jesus (precisely the contradiction seen by Doherty, for example, and that Roger Parvus himself would see IF he considers genuine any portion of the epistles), so he can conclude that the historical Jesus is the same Catholic Christ.
1) Jesus existed.
2) it is impossible for Paul talk about a cosmic Christ etc after so short time.
3) therefore: Jesus is really a divine being.
For comparison, Price’s dissection of Romans:
1:-:17 from Marcion’s preparatory letter to Rome, except:
1:2-6 Catholic interpolation
1:18 -2:29 part of an Hellenistic Judaic sermon, added by Catholic redactor
3:1-24 Catholic: genuine Pauline insights harmonized with the OT
3:27-31 Catholic temporizing of torah critique
4:1-25 Pauline: part of an epistle to Queen Helena and Prince Izates of Adiabene
5:1-11 Gnostic soteriology, with at least two layers of gnostic redaction
5:12-20 Catholic, with further Catholic interpolation at 14-19
6:1-10 “Paulino-Catholicism”, sacramentalism
6:11-14 either a Marcionite curb on Simonian enthusiasm, or second-stage Gnostic
9:1 –10:21 Catholic, with:
9:14-22 Catholic “insertion by a confused scribe”
10:14-17 Catholic scribal insertion
10:18-20 refutation of 10:14-17
11:1-33 Catholic, by a different author that 9 & 10, except:
11:28-32 scribal refutation
12:1-2 likely another fragment of the Hellnistic Judaic sermon
12:3-8 anachronistic, possibly a precis of 1 Cor 12-14
12:9-21 contains anonymous sayings later attributed to Jesus
13:8-10 “originally an independent statement on love and the Torah” added by a Catholic redactor
14:1-13a an attempt to facilitate assimilation of encratites into the Catholic church
14:13b-15:2 defense of jewish-christian right to adhere to mosaic law
15:3-6 Counter to Marcionite erasure of the OT; 15:6 a closing benediction.
15:7-13 a subsequent Catholic scribe lauding the OT
15:14-16 Another fragment of Marcion’s letter (whether genuine or pastiche)
15:17-21 written by a traditional Paulist
15:22-24 “some pseudo-epigraphical writer unable to keep the details of his fictive premise straight”
15:25-33 post-Acts Catholicizing & Judaizing of Paul
16:1-24 a separate letter on behalf of Phoebe (fictive?) by some heretical sect; except:
17-20 a pastoral interpolation
16:25-27 Marcionite doxology interpolated
We need colour coded text.
My text files of the epistles look like a box of Crayolas!