Finding Paul in the Gospel of Mark — Volkmar translation

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

by Neil Godfrey

Gustav Volkmar (wikidata)

Here is a copy of what I have posted as a standalone page — see the right side margin under Pages and scroll down to Gustav Volkmar.

. . . .

Gustav Volkmar (1809-1893) has been referenced a few times in this blog but the most detailed synopsis of his views on the Gospel of Mark came from a post by Roger Parvus: A Simonian Origin for Christianity, Part 16: Mark as Allegory

The following notes are taken from

  • Skoven, Anne Vig. “Mark as Allegorical Rewriting of Paul: Gustav Volkmar’s Understanding of the Gospel of Mark.” In Mark and Paul. Part II, For and against Pauline Influence on Mark: Comparative Essays, edited by Eve-Marie Becker, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Mogens Müller, 13–27. Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Für Die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Und Die Kunde Der Älteren Kirche; Volume 199. Berlin, Germany ; Boston, Massachusetts: De Gruyter, 2014. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110314694.13/html?lang=en

    [Anne Vig Skoven who wrote this essay was a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen until her tragic, premature death in 2013]


Unlike exegetes of the patristic tradition and also unlike most of 20th century scholarship, biblical scholars of the 19th century were not foreign to the idea that Paulinism was to be found in the Gospel of Mark. The founder of the so-called Tubingen School, Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860), for instance, regarded the Gospel of Mark as a synthesis of Petrine and Pauline traditions. . . .

In 1857, the German exegete Gustav Hermann Joseph Philipp Volkmar (1809-93) characterized the Gospel of Mark as a Pauline gospel. Although Mark’s story was concerned with Jesus’ life and death, it was also, so Volkmar argued, permeated by Pauline theology. During his lifetime, Volkmar remained a solitary figure, and David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874) once considered him a “närriger Kauz” [= a ludicrous little owl]. Nevertheless, at the end of the 19th century knowledge of Volkmar’s thesis and writings was widespread among German speaking scholars. His thesis drove a wedge into German biblical scholarship; Adolf Jülicher (1857-1938) and William Wrede (1859-1906) both appreciated Volkmar’s work, Albert Schweizer (1875-1965) and his student Martin Werner (1887-1964) did not. . . .

. . . . From 1833 to 1852, he taught in various Gymnasien, in which he primarily worked within the field of philology and classical studies. In 1850 he published a book on Marcion and the Gospel of Luke, in which he claimed against Baur and Albrecht Ritschl (1822- 1889) that Marcion’s gospel was a rewriting of Luke.’ According to Adolf Jülicher, Volkmar had deserved a chair for this – today widely accepted – thesis. However, a series of dramatic events prevented that. Due to church political controversies, Volkmar was arrested in the classroom in 1852 and charged with lese majesty and dismissed from his job. In 1853, he was called lo Zürich where he was finally appointed professor of New Testament studies in 1863. In Zürich he published the works which are of special relevance to the present study:

  • Die Religion Jesu und ihre erste Entwickelung nach dem gegenwärtigen Stande der Wissenschaft (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1857); a popular work, which introduced Volkmar’s thesis of Mark as a Pauline gospel.
  • Die Evangelien, oder Marcus und die Synopsis der kanonischen und ausserkanonischen Evangelien nach dem ältesten Text mit historisch-exegetischem Commentar (Leipzig: Ludw. Fr. Fues Verlag, 1870); a scholarly commentary on the Gospel of Mark, in which Volkmar, against Baur, forwarded his thesis that Mark was the first gospel, Luke the second and Matthew only the third. The commentary was republished in a slightly edited second edition with a new title in:
  • Marcus und die Synopse der Evangelien nach dem urkundlichen Text und das Geschichtliche vom Leben Jesu (Zürich: Verlag von Caesar Schmidt, 1876).

In addition to Volkmar’s traditional commentaries on the Markan text, the books from 1870/76 offer an early reception history of the Markan narratives. . . . .

In his biographical sketch of Gustav Volkmar from 1908, Adolf Jülicher characterizes Volkmar as an exegete whose work was framed to the one side by Baur’s Tendenztheorie and to the other side by Strauss’ scepticism (772 f). Yet, he differs from both schools on two important issues: historicity and Markan priority. With regard to Strauss, Volkmar welcomes his critique of the rationalistic and harmonizing exegesis of early 19th century scholarship. But he is also critical of Strauss’ concept of the gospel narratives as mythoi, instead he prefers the term “Poësie”. Unlike Strauss Volkmar emphasizes the historicity of the gospel narratives.Yet, his understanding of historicity, as well as his method are closer to those of 20th century redaction criticism than to the Leben Jesu Forschung of his own century. With regard to the Tübingen School, Volkmar treats the early Christian literature as Tendenzschriften. His overall project was to reconstruct the history of the gospel traditions as a reflection of the developments in early Christianity. But unlike the Tübingen exegetes, he accepted, as already mentioned, the thesis of Markan priority. Consequently, he rejected the idea of an “Ur-Evangelium” which was needed for the Tübingen explanation of the gospel relations. Likewise he rejected the idea of a Spruchbuch or Schriftquelle (1870, vili-xi; 1876, 646) – later identified as Q. According to Volkmar, Mark’s only sources were: the Old Testament writings, four Pauline letters (Romans, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians), the oral tradition of early Christian communities – and, surprisingly, Revelation.

(pp 13-16)

The work I have translated and made available here is Volkmar’s 1857 Die Religion Jesu. Perhaps I will also be able to make either his 1870 or 1876 work available in time.

The Religion of Jesus
and its first development according to
the current state of scholarly knowledge



6. Paul the Apologist

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

by Neil Godfrey



Paul the Apologist

If Paul, as portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles, had to share the fame of miraculous power with Peter, and even had the honor of being worthy of direct revelations from heaven and wonderful visions, which he could only make use of after it was legitimized by the same privilege given to Peter, and finally, if entry into his historical sphere of influence was only possible after Peter had opened it for him – in short, if he had to sacrifice all his individuality and originality and give up his historical significance in favor of the primitive apostles – then during his last stay in Jerusalem, this work of humiliation was completed, and even the apostles protested against the idea that he was a revolutionary, as the people perceived him, and as he appears in the letters.


He now expounds his own protest, whereas hitherto events and their entanglements had deprived him of the glory of originality and of revolutionary power. He did not sacrifice the glory of the conquest himself, but the circumstance that Peter won the first fruits of paganism and first surrendered the privilege of Judaism, wrested from his hand the palm of the first victory which the epistles bestow on him. But now he himself assures us that he is a strictly legal man and that it could not have occurred to him to leave the legal ground – now he is the apologist of himself and proves by his legal conduct that the reproach of his opponents that he wants to undermine the appeal of the law is unfounded. If the revolution that triumphs in the dedication of salvation to the Gentiles cannot be denied, he at least excuses it by invoking the irresistible force that his heavenly Lord had driven him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Finally, in Rome and in his dealings with the local Jewish community, another side of his apologetics is completed, as he formulates a principle that he has strictly followed throughout his entire activity in pure generality: with their stubborn resistance to salvation, the Jews themselves are to blame for his turning to the Gentiles with the Gospel.


Thus, he presents the apology for his work and his person in three forms: – he is a strictly legal man, only the irresistible force of heaven drove him to the Gentiles, and the Jews themselves, in their blindness, pointed him to the sphere of activity to which his Lord had called him.

Therefore, the contrast against the letters reaches its highest point. Let’s see if he can maintain it.


The legalism of the apostle

Even before his last journey to Jerusalem, the apostle was driven to the holy city by his legal duty. He had just arrived in Ephesus and had left the synagogue, the Jews there invited him to stay for a long time, but duty *) called him to Jerusalem, he had to hold the upcoming feast there, the consideration of his legal duty made him overlook the possible and, given the willingness of the Jews, almost certain successes of his apostolic activity [in Ephesus] – he left for Caesarea, but actually only stole away to Jerusalem, i.e. the author only hints at the actual departure. i.e. the author only furtively hints at the actual departure for Jerusalem by only reporting that the apostle, “after he had gone up and greeted the church **), returned to Antioch”.

*) 18:21. δει με παντως …..

**) V. 22. ἀναβὰς …..


But why so furtively? Why does the author only hint at the fact that the departure for the holy city really took place in a fleetingly thrown participle? Why does he even avoid the name of the holy city?

The reason why the author uses the motive as evidence for the apostle’s legalistic attitude is because it is repeated shortly thereafter, and a detailed report on the journey to Jerusalem would have created a disturbing pleonasm.
Before his last trip to Jerusalem, when the apostle left Europe, he waited in Philippi until the Passover was over (Acts 20:6), thus demonstrating his legalistic attitude again by observing the festival in peace, even if not in the midst of the sacrificing community in Jerusalem. However, he did indeed want to celebrate a festival in the holy city when he bid farewell to Greece, the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 20:16), and he was in such a hurry to be in Jerusalem at the right time that he even bypassed Ephesus and summoned the elders of the local church to Miletus.
If the fear of overcrowding the narrative led the author to conceal the previous trip to Jerusalem, he, on the other hand, created an overabundance of motives in his account of the apostle’s last journey, which proves the uncertainty of his pragmatism and overall destroys his festival pragmatism.

The Feast of Pentecost drew the apostle to Jerusalem and at least hastened his journey. He had already made the decision to travel before, while he was in Ephesus in the midst of a fruitful ministry. Despite the success that surrounded him in Ephesus, he wanted to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome – he said, “I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).


He was only called to Jerusalem by the holy significance and legal importance of the city – he had to visit Jerusalem before he went to Rome – so he says later in his speech to Felix himself (24:11, 17) that he came to Jerusalem purely and solely with the intention of worshipping, and that after an absence of several years – (the author forgets that the apostle had secretly stolen away to Jerusalem shortly before) – he was driven by the desire to sacrifice in the holy city.

In the speech to the elders at Miletus, on the other hand, he gives a completely different motive for the journey: the spirit has bound him, a supernatural power drives him to Jerusalem towards his destiny – he does not know his destiny, only that he knows that bonds and tribulations await him in Jerusalem – the spirit has proclaimed it to him from city to city and has not let him rest because of this testimony, driving him inexorably on – he suspects that his career will soon be complete (20:22-24).

Each of these two motives, however, makes the other superfluous – both even lay claim to such exclusive validity that they finally exclude each other – i.e. they originated in writing, but the writer’s skill was not great enough to bring them both into an intelligible connection.

In another respect, the report is overfilled, but this overfilling is at the same time a contradiction that drags the whole into its unhappy fate.

The day after his arrival in Jerusalem, Paul went to James and the elders, heard from them that the believing Jews of the capital were disturbed by the rumour that he was persuading the foreign Jews to apostatise from Moses, and received from them the advice to join four men who had taken a vow upon themselves and to be purified together with them in order to prove the groundlessness of the rumour and to show that he was also walking in strict observance of the law (21:20-24). Paul follows the advice, takes those four men with him to the temple and lets himself be purified together with them by haircut and sacrifice.


So it had happened by chance that Paul had taken the same vow on his arrival in Jerusalem, that he had let his hair grow as a result of this vow?

Indeed, the author answers, already in Greece the apostle had taken a vow, already in Cenchrea he had had his hair shaved *) – the author wants to prepare and explain here what happened in Jerusalem, he wants to report the beginning of the vow from which Paul released himself in Jerusalem, but he was mistaken in making the shaving of the hair, which signifies the end of the vow, the beginning of it, and he did not consider that it was impossible for the apostle on his journeys and in his constant contact with pagans to avoid the defilements which the Rasiraean had to flee from all.

*) 18:18. That Paul is the one who had the vow on himself is proven by the continuing unity of the subject vv. 18,19: ειχε . . . κατηντησε . . . κατέλιπε and the distinction of the apostle from the others xxx

Paul had already had to take a vow for a long time if he was to be able to join those four men on the mission. The author wanted to avoid this difficulty earlier, but he made the preparations so badly that the later event remains impossible. The event remains impossible.


James presupposes that the rumour that troubled the Jews in Jerusalem concerning the apostle was false – this presupposition is so certain to him that he considers every word about it to be useless, – Paul, too, does not say a word about the fact that he does abolish the law, nor does he give an apologetic discussion about the fact that this rumour does have a reason, but otherwise is based on a misunderstanding, he says nothing about the sense and extent to which he abolishes the law – rather, he tacitly agrees with James that the rumour lacks all foundation, and immediately knows how to follow his advice and to prove by the public solution of his vow that, with his strict legalism, an unfaithfulness to the law, such as the rumour presupposes in him, is impossible for him.

The Gentiles are not mentioned in the accusation which the rumour brought against him, only that he was accused of seducing the foreign Jews to apostasy from Moses and leading them not to circumcise their children and not to observe the legal customs, – and only James mentions in passing (21:25), that by the prompt suppression of this rumour the liberty of the Gentile Christians should not be affected, – only this anxiously added clause, which is partly intended to lift the inner improbability of the report, perhaps to cover it altogether, only serves to complete its dissolution.

The clause in itself is completely meaningless, since the rumor of the apostle’s unlawful transgression does not even remotely consider relying on a maxim that he observed towards the Gentiles. Neither by that rumor, nor by the Apostle’s obedience to the advice that James gave him, is the freedom of the Gentile Christians threatened, since it hardly existed on the ground that the current controversy took place.


On the contrary! That accusation, which had reached the ears of the believing Jews in Jerusalem, was supposed to encompass everything that was known about Paul, – was supposed to sum up his entire revolutionary activity in one expression – the people who spread that rumour wanted to attack Paul’s entire effectiveness – the crime of which he was accused was supposed to characterise his entire being.

His opposition to the law – and that is the main thing and the reason for the confusion that runs through the account and throws it to the ground – is thus misconceived in that accusation – wrongly approved and conceded in James’ clause – (he is right to spare the Gentiles from circumcision) – wrongly limited and brought back to its supposed correct limit – (so that the clause is based on the assumption that he would certainly violate the law if he wanted to exempt the believing Jews from circumcising their children, which is not the case).

When the author wanted to clear the apostle of the accusation that he was a revolutionary, he had to specify the accusation in some way. The accusation that he did not keep the law and did everything in his power to overthrow it would have been too general and vague — later, when the crisis broke out and the foreign Jews aroused the rebellion against the apostle, they generally only accused him of his enmity against the people, the law and the temple (21:28) – later, in the speeches in which the apostle justifies himself against his enemies, even reproach and accusation take on new forms and shapes, thus the author proves his inability to express in his “proper” way the real and historical opposition that Paul had formed against the law.


Not only his incapacity (the work of confusion thus still continues), but he also proves that it was actually impossible for him to form an accusation that was somewhat reminiscent of the apostle’s struggles and of his opponents’ accusations. His Paul is not a revolutionary, he did nothing that could even arouse the suspicion of the believing Jews; what he did among the Gentiles is only the continuation of the value of Peter, and if he remitted circumcision to the Gentiles, he acted under the authorisation of the primitive apostles and only carried out their express decision, which was moreover inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The revolutionary, the victorious opponent of the law stands outside, fights and wins in the letters – in the Acts of the Apostles he is to be cleansed from the stain of the revolutionary attitude – from a stain that fell on him through no fault of his own.

So how to shape the stain? How to formulate the accusation? How? It was a matter of the author’s fancy and art. When, therefore, he had at least to introduce the collision, to form it intelligibly, when it was a question of putting down a groundless rumour and at the same time leaving the Gentiles in peace and quiet and in the enjoyment of their liberty, he formed that rumour that the apostle was leading the Jews to apostasy from Moses, he formed the accusation which, according to the conditions in which he himself lived, was at most still the most conceivable crime of which the apostle could be accused, and he added the safeguarding clause of James.


Hence the thoroughgoing confusion!

But it remains the case that the accusation that the Apostle wants to free the Jews from the yoke of the Law, strikes at his whole historical effectiveness, and that the Apostle, by refuting the accusation, is to prove his unconditional and complete loyalty to the Law. He is not a revolutionary – an attack on the law, such as the rumour ascribes to him, would have been an outrage which he – he, the strictly legal man – found utterly impossible.

The Paul of Acts thus disavows the Paul of the Epistles – the apologist disavows the revolutionary – only this disavowal is unfortunate in so far as nothing in Acts could give rise to the suspicion that the apostle was a revolutionary.

Only in the Epistles does the man live and work who, in the freedom he won for the Gentiles, at the same time founded the freedom of the Jewish Christians and, by freeing the Gentiles, overthrew the law altogether. But this fighter and liberator, whom the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles disavows, will never recognise him either.

The Paul of the Epistle to the Galatians asserts his abolition of the law so absolutely, asserts it so ruthlessly for Jews and Gentiles, that the thought of any exemption is impossible to him and would even appear as a betrayal of the dearly bought freedom. He does not want to know that the freedom of the Gentile Christians, as an exceptional privilege, should not interfere with the legal custom of the Jewish Christians – nor does he think of leaving the Jews their law and only preserving the freedom of the Gentiles by a proviso in addition to their legality.


Instead of giving the apologists of today, who partly admit the contradiction between Paul’s behaviour and conduct in the Acts of the Apostles and his own statements in the Epistles, but hope to eliminate it by the assertion *) that the apostle, “if he did not want to be unfaithful to himself,” must have sent “more detailed explanations” before he followed the plan devised by James, – instead of taking away their hope and showing that the author of the Acts of the Apostles does not know and does not need explanations that would correct James’ presuppositions, since he knows nothing of the apostle’s activity and teaching that is directed against the law, – instead we prefer to point out how the author completely destroys his report by the way in which he brings about the catastrophe.

*) For example, Schneckenburger, op. cit. p. 64. 65.

The many myriads of believing Jews of whom James speaks (21:20) are, according to the own presuppositions of the Acts of the Apostles, an impossibility and cannot hold their own next to the presuppositions of the Epistles, according to which the early church consisted of poor alms-receivers.

When James explains that the zeal for the law of these thousands of believing Jews and their suspicion, which the rumor about the apostle’s revolutionary teaching has instilled in them, is to be feared, he particularly relies on the fact that a meeting of this multitude, as soon as they hear of Paul’s arrival, is absolutely necessary and cannot be avoided *) – and indeed an official, communal meeting, since the author knows very well that a popular gathering **), a gathering of the crowd, is not a meeting and both are precisely distinguished by language.

*) V. 22. παντως δει πληθος συνελθειν

**) V. 30. συνδρομη του λαου


Nevertheless, the author had the following popular gathering in mind already when he made James express his concern about the inevitable meeting of the community – he wanted to motivate and prepare this gathering in advance – but when the tumultuous gathering actually takes place (V. 30), the whole people of Jerusalem are on the square and the Jewish-Christian zealots have disappeared – yes, so completely disappeared and forgotten that it is only foreign Jews (V. 27) who have to come out and incite the crowd, the whole people ***) against the Apostle.

***) V. 27. παντα τον οχλον

The author himself eliminated the myriads of believing Jews, together with their suspicion, and he was right to do so, for the creation of these countless believers and zealots was a misguided one from the start and could not hold its own next to the brethren who received the apostle kindly on his arrival in Jerusalem, and next to the elders together with James, who supported him with their benevolent counsel. The contrast between these brothers and the hostile myriads is chaotic and groundless – the worrying position that the myriads of law-seekers occupy destroys the connection between the congregation and its leaders and rulers – those “myriads” therefore only experience their deserved fate when they are soon forgotten by the author.



The apostle’s speeches of defence

No! He is not a revolutionary – not a man of violence who, by virtue of his sense of self, rebels against the statutes of the old world and throws them down – he is not an opponent of the law – not the powerful destroyer who wants to destroy the law and free the world from its yoke – he is innocent – the apostle himself demonstrates this in his speech before the people, before Felix and Agrippa and, what is more, he shows before the synod with what anxiousness he seeks to obey every letter of the law.

This is not an innovator, who, with the same eagerness with which the apostle speaks to the people (22:3-21), presents the mission he received from the Gentiles, the mission that had not even been charged to him previously, as one that he could not avoid and that was even forced upon him by a higher power against his will. Thoroughly instructed in the paternal law at the feet of Gamaliel and a zealot for it, he was cast down by the Lord and when he wanted to work among the Jews in Jerusalem, he was sent by him to the Gentiles. Even then, when the Lord had taken him, he did not leave the connection with the Law, for Ananias, a legally pious man, introduced him to his ministry and he was kneeling in prayer in the temple when the Lord sent him to the Gentiles.


Thus no innovator speaks like the apostle, when he, before King Agrippa (26:2-23), again leads the proof from the notoriously established circumstance that he formerly belonged to the strictest sect of the Jews, that he did not throw himself into a work out of frivolous courage, into which rather the irresistible force of his Lord placed him – no! even that for which he is now accused is nothing new, – he hopes for nothing new, but only for the promise made to the fathers, and this hope is still common to him with the twelve tribes of his people – he also does not teach one word apart from what the prophets and Moses taught (26:6-7, 22).

He is no rebel, no apostate, for even if his opponents call the association to which he now belongs a sect, he still serves in it, as he explains to Felix (24:14-15), only the God of his fathers, he believes only what is written in the Law and the Prophets, and his only hope is that there will be a resurrection of the dead.

If these turns of phrase were perhaps only timid, his behaviour before the Synod is downright inappropriate, unattractive, and the position he gives himself to the Pharisaic part of the Synod can be called unworthy.

The Apostle uses a mistake of the high priest, which immediately causes his supporters to strike him on the mouth for the beginning of his defense speech, to “tell the truth” to the barbarian and at the same time to prove with what conscientiousness he follows the law, while his opponents do not respect it. He attacks the high priest, even using an insult against him, but when he is reminded whether he wants to insult the high priest, he retracts his outburst and assures that he did not know it was the high priest, otherwise he would certainly have shown him the respect that the law requires (23:1-5).


He acts as if he did not know the high priest – he wants to say that he had to conclude from his conduct that he was not the high priest – he secretly rejoices in the cleverness with which he strikes a blow at the high priest, tells him the truth and at the same time protects himself against the consequences of his dishonourable conduct against “the chief of his people”, – Unfortunately, however, only the author himself has spoiled the apostle’s unpleasant joy in his cleverness, this ugly tickle over his modesty, by having him address the high priest in his outburst as this authoritative person who sits in judgement over him *).

*) V. 3. και συ καθη κρινων με κατα τον νομον ;

Equally unsightly and unworthy is the eagerness and self-abasement with which the Apostle appeals to the sectarian spirit of the Pharisees in order to win them over to his side against the Sadducean assessors of the Sanhedrin – unsightly the zeal with which he exclaims and assures: “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees!” – unworthy the turn he takes, avoiding the actual accusation and pretending to be accused for the sake of hope and because of the resurrection of the dead – (“of the righteous and the unrighteous,” as he adds in his speech before Felix) – The author does achieve his purpose and ultimately enjoys the pleasure that the two factions in the Sanhedrin confront each other and the Pharisees outright declare that they find nothing wrong with the accused, even admitting that a spirit or angel – (as if the Damascus appearance were one of the disputed points or had even been mentioned in the course of the proceedings!) – could have spoken with him. However, the author enjoys this pleasure only at the expense of the Apostle, who must discard everything he is in the letters for the sake of this triumph, and at the expense of probability, as despite the author, it remains impossible that the Pharisees, if the Apostle really wanted to avoid the actual point of contention, would have allowed it and forgotten that the belief in the resurrection of the dead is not at all the same as the belief in the risen Jesus.



Nor do we want to argue with today’s apologist about whether the apostle was capable of answering to the people and the authorities in such a fearful and unworthy manner – rather, we will put an end to all arguments and free the apostle from the stain that the author’s unattractive composition casts on him, by showing how these negotiations before the spiritual and temporal rulers, as well as the catastrophe with which they ended, are copied verbatim from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ interrogations and the final tragedy of his life.

The Roman governor, who had imprisoned the apostle in the popular tumult, first sends him before the Sanhedrin, Paul then has to answer before the governor Felix and finally meets with King Agrippa – so the sequence is repeated in which the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel first stands before the Sanhedrin, then before Pilate, and finally before Herod.


When Jesus pleads before the Synod, the servants strike him on the face – (Mark 14:65) – so the high priest gives orders to strike the apostle on the mouth *).

The Synedrium “bound” Jesus and “delivered” him to Pilate – so the prophet Agabus prophesied to the apostle when he stopped in Caesarea on his last journey to Jerusalem that the Jews would bind him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles **).

Pilate initially refuses to comply with the Jews’ intentions, “knowing (Mark 15:20) that the chief priests had delivered him up only out of envy” – so Felix also seeks to stall the Jews, “knowing full well how the matter stood” (24:22).

Pilate’s wife learns in a dream that Jesus is a righteous man, warns her husband and the latter, when he has to give in to the people, declares that he does not want to be guilty of the blood of this righteous man – so Felix, with his wife Drusilla, a Jewess, listens to the apostle about his faith, is frightened when he hears his argument, and is only strengthened in his intention to stall the cause ***).

*) The scene John 18:22-23 is only copied from the Acts of the Apostles.

**)Mark 15:1 δήσαντες . . . παρέδωκαν
Acts 21: 11. δησουσιν . . . και παραδωσουσιν.

***) Acts 24:24-25. Whether the author had the present Gospel of Matthew (27:19, 24) in mind or a source scripture used by the compiler of the same, this question does not belong here.


Felix – whose hesitation the author clumsily explains even from the circumstance that he hoped for a bribe from Paul for his release – wants to show the Jews a favor as he leaves his post and leaves the Apostle behind in custody (Acts 24:27) – Festus, his successor, wants to show the Jews a favor again and proposes to the Apostle, although the case has already been referred to Rome and is settled, whether he wants to be judged in Jerusalem (25:9) – the author has combined a twofold allusion from the Gospels into one – he thought of the fact that Pilate used to show favor to the people by releasing a prisoner at Passover, and at the same time of the other circumstance that Pilate finally wanted to do enough for the people and their hatred of the accused when he released Barabbas and offered them Jesus *).

*) Mark 15:15. βουλομενος τω οχλω το ικανον ποιησαι
Acts 24:27. θελων χαριτας καταθεσθαι
Acts 25:9. θελων χαριν καταθεσθαι

The overcrowding which the author brought from the source material of Luke’s Gospel in the original arrangement of the last tragedy has been faithfully repeated by the author of the Acts of the Apostles.

As Herod happened to be in Jerusalem in those days when the cause of Jesus came before Pilate, so it happened that Agrippa also happened to be “several days” in Caesarea, where Paul’s trial was being conducted. (Luke. 23:7, Acts 25:13.)

Herod had for some time desired to see Jesus, when the Roman governor granted him his wish-so Agrippa says to the governor Festus: “I would also like to hear the man,” and Festus promises him the fulfilment of his wish. *)

*) Luke 23, 8. ην γαρ θελων εξ ικανου ιδειν αυτον
Acts 25, 22. εβουλομην και αυτος του ανθρωπου ακουσαι


Herod is in the company of his soldiers when Jesus stands before him – Agrippa, accompanied by the captains, enters the judgment house where he will see the apostle **).

**) Luke 23:11. συν τοις στρατευμασιν αυτου
Acts 25:23. συν τοις χιλιαρχοις

“You have brought this man to me as if he would draw away the people,” Pilate declares to the chief priests and rulers of the people after Herod had sent Jesus back, “and behold, I find in this man none of the things of which you accuse him, nor does Herod” – even when he stood before Herod, “nothing has been done to him that is worthy of death” – so the governor and Agrippa say to each other after the apostle’s conversation with the latter has ended: “this man has done nothing worthy of death” – both agree with the favourably disposed Pharisees of the Sanhedrin, who also declare that they find nothing wrong in this man ***)

***) Luke 23:15. ουδεν αξιον θανατου εστιν πεπραγμενον αυτω
Acts 26:31. ουδεν θανατου αξιον πρασσει ο ανθρωπος ουτος
Acts 23:9. ουδεν κακον ευρισκομεν εν τω ανθρωπω τουτω

Pilate certainly wanted to release Jesus – so Agrippa also says to Festus: this man could have been released if he had not appealed to the emperor (26:23) – but the fate of both must be fulfilled in spite of the good will and the favourable mood of their Gentile judges – Pilate finally hands over Jesus to the will of the Jews – Festus hands over Paul to the official who takes him to Rome *)

*) Luke 23:25. παρεδωκε
Acts 27:1. παρεδιδουν

But now we also know what to make of the Roman citizenship, which the apostle is said to have possessed from birth, against all historical probability. It is a means of pragmatism to fulfil the destiny **) that wanted him in Rome, and if we find no other reliable evidence that the apostle was really once in Rome, then the Acts of the Apostles are also unable to vouch for the fact that the apostle appeared in Rome. For the journey of which it reports, the stay in the metropolis which it describes, is only a work of pragmatism, and is only intended to give the apostle the opportunity to express in basically full clarity and generality the basic apologetic maxim which he followed from the beginning and throughout the whole course of his activity.

It is about the esteem in which he held the Jews.

**) In passing it should be noted: – his citizenship and the appeal to it frees the apostle from the scourging that was already intended for him (22:24) and that is really carried out on Jesus (Mark 15:15) – earlier in Philippi (16:23) the apostle had been scourged, but the authorities of the city were also frightened when they heard that he was a Roman citizen.



The basic apologetic framework of the apostle

Although the apostle’s appointment to the ministry, that he should bear the name of the Lord before the Gentiles, was clear from the beginning and established (9:15) by divine revelation, he still appeared directly after his conversion before the Jews only. Even the bad experience he had of their malice – they threatened his life and forced him to flee from Damascus – could not stop him from trying again with them when he arrived in Jerusalem, but again he had to flee because the obdurate were still trying to kill him (9:20-30).

He tried again with the stubborn and turned to them when he appeared on his first missionary journey to Antioch in Pisidia – but again with the same unfortunate success, whereupon he openly and frankly *) stated his principle with Barnabas – (a principle, by the way, with whose establishment Peter had likewise preceded him 3:25-26) – “to you,” he cries, “the word of God had to be proclaimed first, but now that you have cast it from you and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.”

*) 13:46. παρρησιασάμενοί

Nevertheless, he still does not appear as the resolute and independent apostle to the Gentiles as he characterises himself in the Epistle to the Galatians. When the hatred of the Jews had driven him out of Antioch, he immediately preached in the synagogue of Iconium (14:1) – in order to arouse the Jewish hatred anew, which then pursued him to Derbe and Lystra, where he found no Jews, so that his effectiveness among the Gentiles had to be disturbed and interrupted by the Jewish persecutors of Antioch and Iconium who were rushing after him.


n the second great journey of discord, the same course of events, the same entanglement, the same end in Thessalonica and before (17: 2-14) – indeed, at the very moment when the author describes the apostle’s public appearance in the marketplace of Athens as a consequence *) of the impression made on him by the sight of the pagan nature of the city, he cannot refrain from inserting in the sentence indicating this consequence the note that the apostle appeared in the synagogue before the Jews, he thus confuses the construction of the sentence to the extent that he separates the consequence from the occasion.

*) 17:17 οὖν

In Corinth the scene is repeated which had already taken place in Antioch: – the apostle first addresses the Jews, teaches in their synagogue, but when they interrupted him with blasphemies, he explained to them that he leaves them to their fate and “now goes vindicated to the Gentiles. (18:5-6.)

In vain – as if he meant only the Gentiles of this one city, in the midst of which he then teaches for a year and a half – as if he were not the Apostle to the Gentiles par excellence, he first teaches again in the synagogue in Ephesus, until the obduracy of the Jews forces him to use the school of a Gentile for his lectures (19:8-9).


In Rome, finally, the same beginning, the same entanglement, but this time a conclusion of really general importance – a really final decision!

Immediately after his hasty arrangements were made, Paul called a meeting of the heads of the Roman Jews – they agreed on a day on which he was to give them a detailed lecture on his teaching – they appeared on the appointed day, Paul preaches to them about Jesus from the law and the prophets – the Jews, however, got into inner discord because of his teaching and left him after he reminded them of the saying of Isaiah about the hardness of heart and obduracy of this people and explained to them that salvation is sent to the Gentiles and that they will hear it (C. 28, 25 – 28). 28, 25 – 28).

This people, the Jewish people and the Gentiles, now stand in opposition to each other with their opposite nature and destiny, decidedly and forever.

The matter is ended, the matter is decided and the author has achieved his purpose.

Paul is and remains the apostle to the Gentiles, but he did not bring about the break with Judaism either wilfully or of his own accord; rather, the Jews, through their obstinacy and obduracy, brought about and forced the break.

Paul was faithful and compliant to Judaism even after his conversion and throughout his entire ministry, but the Jews rejected him and drove him to the Gentiles.

The apostle broke through the barrier of Judaism, but only with the help of the Jews, who pushed him away and thus caused him to go to the Gentiles.


Christianity is universal and also extends to the Gentiles – but only the hatred of the Jews has made it the property of the Gentiles.

By achieving this purpose and brilliantly proving the innocence of the Apostle, the author of the Acts of the Apostles has achieved even more – he has robbed Christianity of its creative and conquering power, and only by the chance that the Jews opposed him, has he made it the principle of life and salvation for the nations – his Paul does not turn to the Gentiles by virtue of his original and independent conviction that salvation belongs to them, but he brings them the gift of the gospel only after the Jews have rejected it – he does not act from the outset in the certainty that the Gentiles are the heirs of salvation, but he brings it to them only after the Jews have dispossessed themselves and made the heavenly treasure ownerless – in short, the author has finally achieved so much that the great turning point that the Paul of the letters brings about through his own conviction and establishes on the basis of the power and universality of the gospel itself is only due to chance – the chance that the Jews did not accept the offered salvation.

And yet he did not achieve his actual intention, as he rather betrayed his intention through the uniformity with which he repeatedly and constantly allows his Paul to turn to the Jews despite his calling as the apostle to the Gentiles and despite all adverse experiences. He exposes his intention completely and at the same time destroys any thought of implementation by letting the Apostle in Rome follow the same maxim and only refer to the disbelief of the Jews as a reason to turn to the Gentiles. In order to achieve his intention, the author must present the matter as if there was no community in Rome yet – he must therefore forget and make his readers forget that at the time when Paul entered Rome as a prisoner, the Epistle to the Romans must already have been written and that the Roman community is presupposed to be world-famous from the same letter – finally, he must speak of the Jews, as Paul explained to them that he carried his chains for the sake of the hope of Israel, in such a way that it is clear that they had not yet had the opportunity to get to know the new sect closely and were only dependent on the rumor that told them that it was being contradicted everywhere (Acts 28:22). However, the author was not completely able to deny the assumption that he had to exclude; rather, by letting “the brothers” (v. 15) from Rome come to meet the Apostle upon his arrival, he unintentionally revealed that he was aware of the assumption that there was already a community in Rome at that time, which was so familiar and insurmountable that he could not completely deny it despite his best intentions. –


We now summarize our investigation.




5. The Speeches of Paul

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by Neil Godfrey



The speeches of Paul.

The contradiction that the one who himself appears primarily in the Acts of the Apostles as the Apostle to the Gentiles and as the tool chosen by the Lord to preach to the Gentiles must cede to Peter the glory of the first and decisive conquest, and to the apostles of the primitive community the honor of the umpire’s office over the internal affairs of the Gentile-Christian communities – this contradiction, this dependence on Peter and the original apostles, drives the author so much that he only lets the Apostle to the Gentiles repeat Peter’s teaching, presents salvation only as a continuation of the grace of the God of the Old Testament, and only preaches the risen, not the crucified, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and as the author of forgiveness of sins.


The Apostle to the Gentiles no longer knows anything about his strict opposition to Judaism and the Law. Just as Peter enjoys addressing the people in his speeches in Jerusalem as the “men of Israel” and emphasizes with pleasure that Jesus was raised and sent to them, “the children of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with their fathers,” so Paul emphasizes with particular emphasis in his speech in Antioch in Pisidia that the word of salvation has been sent to them, the Jews, his “brothers, the children of the race of Abraham and those who fear God among them” – (the proselytes who have joined their community). *)

*) Acts 2:14 ανδρες ιουδαιοι και οι κατοικουντες ιερουσαλημ V. 22, id. 3:12 ανδρες ισραηλιται
Acts 13:16 ανδρες ισραηλιται και οι φοβουμενοι – (V. 26 και οι εν υμιν φοβουμενοι ) – τον θεον

The death of Jesus, which the Apostle to the Gentiles makes the center of his preaching and the foundation of the work of salvation in his letters, is in his speech in Antioch (Acts 13:27-30) a catastrophe that was brought about only by chance and only by the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders – a means that had to serve God, against the will of the wrongdoers, to prove Jesus as his chosen one by raising him from the dead – a means that incidentally served to bring salvation, which the inhabitants of the capital city rejected, to the foreign Jews and the Gentiles who had joined them as proselytes *) – – in the speeches of Peter, too, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders, in their ignorance, brought about the glorification that was destined for him when they denied the Holy and Righteous One (Acts 2:23-24, 3:14-15, 10:39-40).

*) 13:26, 27 υμιν . . . οι γαρ . . .


However, both Peter and Paul prove from the Psalm that this glorification was predetermined for the chosen one of God, in which the Holy One of God expresses his confidence that God will not let him see corruption. They both derive the necessity of the reference to Jesus from the fact that David cannot be this Holy One, as he died, was buried, and his tomb has been preserved to the present day and can still be seen (Acts 2:25-31, 13:35-37). Therefore, both apostles prove the necessity of the glorification of the Holy One of God from a Psalm, based on the impossibility of another assumption, namely that David himself is the Holy One, applying to this Psalm verse, just as Jesus in the original Gospel (Mark 12:35-37) shows the impossibility that the Messiah could be David’s son from the Psalm in which David calls the Messiah his Lord. The author of the Acts of the Apostles had this argument in mind and simply repeated it when he proved the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus from the Psalms – he even explicitly reveals his source when he, in Peter’s speech (Acts 2:33-35), cites the same Psalm in which the Jesus of the Gospel demonstrates the infinite superiority of the Messiah over David, and proves that the glorification of Jesus was divinely intended from the beginning, since the heavenly scene that the Psalm presupposes does not apply to David, “who did not ascend into heaven.” The author only gave the argument from the Psalm, which Jesus in the original Gospel used to prove his point, the twist that matched the previous argument from the other Psalm.


While Paul, in his speech in Antioch, presents the story of Jesus, his connection to the promise, and the tragedy that resulted in the proof of his divinity in exactly the same form as Peter had repeated several times before, the author is so careful to suppress any reminder of the sharpness with which Paul developed his opposition to the Law and the significance that the Apostle to the Gentiles attached to the suffering and death of the Savior. He succeeded to such an extent in flattening the level on which the arguments of the Apostle to the Gentiles moved that only in the speeches and statements of Peter can some keywords that remind us of Pauline doctrine be found, but of course only keywords.

Lost keywords of the doctrine of the only saving power of grace and faith are only when Peter reminds the apostles in Jerusalem that God made no distinction between them, the Jews, and the Gentiles and cleansed the hearts of the latter through faith, when he further proves that the attempt to put the yoke of the law on the Gentiles was an injustice because they, the apostles, and their fathers, were not able to bear it, and then concludes with the sentence that faith is common to them as well as to the Gentiles, that only the grace of Jesus Christ can save (15:9-11) — if these sentences had been more than just lost key words, they would also have had the power to force the resolution of the Jerusalem Council, which nevertheless prescribed abstinence from sacrifice to idols, from blood and from suffocation as indispensable for the believing Gentiles, Peter would have had to prove the indifference of these regulations and would never have been allowed to admit that they were the necessary norm of the faithful and that the observance of them was the testimony of their “earnest will” to behave well.


Only once, in the farewell speech of the Apostle to the Gentiles of Ephesus, does the Pauline reminiscence of the church of God occur, which he “acquired by his own blood” (C.20,28). ) – but it is only an “isolated”, accidental, inconsequential reminiscence, and if in the Antiochian discourse (C. 13, 38) there is also an allusion to the apostle’s use of language, that in Christ the believer is justified from all that from which the law of Moses could not justify, this allusion is even so inappropriately applied and processed that it only comes to the result that law and faith are not essentially, but only in degree, different from one another. The law, too, already had justifying power, but it could not yet provide justification for all sins – the law was already strong, but the Lord is stronger. The law was only insufficient, could not yet justify completely, was not yet able and victorious against all sins – the Lord, on the other hand, completes the power of the law, supplements its weakness, accomplishes what it still left him to do.

In the two speeches that the apostle makes to the pagans, namely in the speech with which he referred the people of Lystra to the living God and in the other speech at the Areopagus in Athens, the strong contrast disappears. There is no close relationship that the same Apostle gave to paganism and the One God of revelation; there is no room for the strenuous dialectic with which the Paul of the letters gives the God of Justice, after revealing his invisible nature to the Gentiles, the right to punish them; the strictness of the thought that those who have sinned without law must also be lost without law is finally missing – and that firm association of Gentiles and Jews under sin is not possible, thus leaving no room for pure grace. Incapable of firmly implementing a contrast, the author has made Christianity only a continuation and extension of Judaism, and now softens the contrast between paganism and Judaism. In his Enlightenment, he is an enemy of dialectics, which pushes contrasts to extremes – his liberalism, which forms its own ideal world, sees the sharpness of thought that goes to the root of the contrasts of the real world as a futile and cruel game.


God has not left Himself unwitnessed to the Gentiles, as the apostle in Lystra points out, but in what has He revealed Himself to them? He gave (C. 14, 16) rain and fruitful seasons from heaven and filled their hearts with food and drink.

Thus God, as it is said in the Athenian discourse, caused the Gentiles to seek him, whether they would take hold of him and find him (C. 27, 27) – but why could he count on this possibility? Because he is not far from each one of us – because we live and move and exist in him – because the Greek poet is right with his commonplace: “of the same family we are”.


We – we are his race – we live and breathe in him – to us – he has done much good and given us victories from heaven and fruitful times – to us, the Gentiles and Jews – we, the Gentiles and Jews live and breathe in him and are of the same divine race – in this shared, the antithesis of history, the antithesis of paganism and Judaism is abolished – there are only human beings, only the Jew is the true human being – Christianity is the true Judaism, paganism is the hidden Judaism.

The speech in Lystra ends with this reference to the common benefactor of humanity, because the author was only concerned with dissuading the people of Lystra from their idea that Paul and Barnabas were gods, and from their intention to sacrifice to them. However, when he gave the Apostle the opportunity to expound on his new teaching before a group of heathens in Athens, he completely forgot that he should have shown the reader, on this one occasion that he had created for himself, how Paul acquired the name of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and how he was able to win the hearts of the Gentiles. Instead, his Jewish nature overwhelms him; he cannot bring himself to represent, in all its power, the force that drew the Gentiles to Christianity – in other words, he fails to present the Apostle as the teacher of the Gentiles. This teacher and leader should have been at the same time the liberator from the law and the vanquisher of Judaism at the same time.


Therefore, the author has designed the whole narrative for a rather glaring contrast. The Jew in him moves him to present the matter in such a way that the Gentiles, as soon as they heard of the Risen One, immediately put an end to it and wanted to hear nothing more. The speech, which up to then had simply been monotheistically enlightened and contained nothing new or striking for the enlightened Gentile, had to conclude with this brief mention of the Risen One, so that the Jew – the Christian as the true Jew – could rejoice in his sublimity over the pagan sphere – the author finally made the resurrection the stone of offence on purpose, in order to give the reader’s judgement of the later behaviour of the Sadducees against the apostle the necessary direction in advance. While the sympathy which the Pharisees showed the apostle proves his conformity with Judaism, the Sadducees, who persecuted him because of his doctrine of the resurrection, are to be exposed as pagan-minded. Whoever was able to persecute the apostle was actually no longer a Jew, – had to be a pagan in the depths of his soul – therefore the Sadducees acted like the Athenians and therefore the latter had to ridicule the preaching of the resurrection.

When the author pursued this intention, he partially overlooked that he portrayed the teaching wisdom of the apostle in the most unfavorable light. Paul, according to this portrayal, understands so little how to captivate his audience that he cannot even force the seriousness of the assembly when he moves to the main point. Thus, he does not even satisfy the requirement that is rightfully placed on a teacher and speaker. The author also did not consider that the immortality of the soul was the subject of a controversy that the heathens liked to discuss extensively.


If it is so clear that the speech was made up by the author, then the details of his portrayal, which should have been familiar to anyone even moderately educated, cannot be considered as evidence for the historical character of the event. The Athenians were known throughout the world for their curiosity, talkativeness, and love of debate. To reproduce the charge made against Socrates – “he does not respect the gods of the city and seeks to introduce new ones” – in the mockery of the apostle as a “proclaimer of new gods,” as well as to invent the detail that Paul was brought to the Areopagus to explain his doctrine to the body responsible for religion, did not require any particular knowledge of history. Similarly, it was no secret that in Athens there were altars dedicated to unknown gods, but Paul would never have found an altar with the inscription “to the unknown god” in Athens, nor could he have linked his doctrine of the one and living God to such an inscription. Such an altar did not exist in Athens.

We only mention the farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus, whose later origin is evident from the fact that it reminds church officials, whose office arose later *), of their obligation to be vigilant against false teachers and sectarians, to show that the author did indeed know the Apostle of the Letters, as he unwittingly reveals this acquaintance, but he does not know how to harmoniously weave the features known from the letters into the new image he has drawn of the Apostle.

*) The author also knows the bishops (20:28), but he was careful not to include the whole detail of the later hierarchical constitution in his writing, and when he mentioned the bishops to indicate the greatness of their dignity and responsibility, he phrased it in such a way that it could also be interpreted as a description of the presbyters: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”


That the apostle remembers the false teachers and seducers, with whom he is already fighting in the letters themselves, as a future danger to the church, we will only accept in passing as a testimony to the impression left by the apostle’s letters, so that the apostle’s image would be considered incomplete if he did not remember the false teachers, even if only as an imminent appearance. On the other hand, we may particularly emphasise the detail and discreetness with which the apostle remembers his self-sacrificing behaviour at the end of his speech, and the unmotivated way in which the author introduces this reminder of the apostle’s behaviour, as a brilliant testimony to the impression of the letters.

The apostle reminds us that he (C. 20, 33.34) does not demand silver, nor gold, nor clothing from anyone, but rather that he has procured his need with the work of his hands – but how does he arrive at this reminder? How does he come to affirm his generosity? No reason. There is no occasion for this – the reproach that alone could induce him to do this lies outside – in the Epistles to the Corinthians.

Or did the Apostle want to set an example for the elders? Did he want to motivate them to follow in his footsteps? The author certainly intended this turn of events – at least he has the Apostle immediately add the remark (v.35): “I have shown you everything, that one must work in this way and accept the weak” – but the expression “everything” goes far beyond the last point – that the Apostle showed how one must work refers to his entire activity and cannot be limited to his manual labor alone – finally, accepting the weak is a spiritual act and has nothing to do with renouncing justifiable support.


The author did not achieve his intention and could not naturally introduce the reminder of the apostle’s self-sacrifice. The allusion from the Epistles to the Corinthians was only inserted mechanically.


After having demonstrated the weakness of the author’s imagination by pointing out the fact that in his speech in Antioch, Paul only repeated the phrases that had already been used by Peter in his speeches, the beginning of the same Antioch speech gives us the opportunity to complete this proof.

This introduction is a replica of Stephen’s speech – but at the same time also a weakening of it. While Stephen carries out an artfully designed plan firmly and securely, the whole Jewish history is characterised as a continuous disharmony between the divine plan of salvation and the rebelliousness of the people, so that even the fulfilment which Solomon finally gave to the divine promise to Abraham – (“in this place shall thy seed serve me”) – through the building of beautiful “temples”, the existing law affirms that the divine plans were turned into their opposite under the hands of this people – while Stephen proves from the deadly opposition in which the people placed themselves to Moses and the prophets, the betrayal which the present generation committed against the Messiah, as a natural expression of the national enmity against the holy spirit (7:51-52) – Paul only lists the earlier great deeds of God one after the other in the beginning of his Antiochian speech, so that the redemption of the descendants of David is only a continuation of the earlier graces, at best also the completion of the plan of salvation, which was also carried out in the extermination of the seven Canaanite nations (13:19).


The author could not use the same speech twice, but he was also unable to provide a copy of the original that could claim its own value through the uniqueness of its plan and execution.

Incidentally, this speech of Stephen’s is not able to overturn our earlier statement that real history remains a mystery as long as one holds on to this congregation of the Acts of the Apostles, these leaders and party heads. It is created, like all its surroundings and like the fate of Stephen.

The elaborate plan underlying it can only be designed and executed by the writer. The memory that could immediately grasp it, link by link, with all its intricate interweavings after a single hearing, belongs to the impossible, and a tradition that would be capable of reciting such a systematically elaborated work of art in one breath and always unchanged has never existed.


While in the history of the people, from the appearance of Moses onwards (C. 7, 23-53), the disharmony between the divine plan of salvation and the behavior of the people is the theme, in the introduction of the speech, the idea of ​​contradiction is also held and pursued by the speaker (C. 7, 3-16) by presenting the circumstance that the promise that his offspring would possess the promised land came to Abraham at a moment when he was a stranger in Canaan and had no child, and thus representing the contradiction between the divine plan and human probability, and proving this contradiction, as the divine promise even mocks all human calculation of probability, even in the fact that the sale of Joseph brought the patriarchs to Egypt and they were to grow into a people far from the promised land. But where is the memory that could immediately hold word for word this twofold development of the category of contradiction?

Where was the tradition that, in the repetition of the speech, would always have paid close attention to the point of incidence in the middle of it (vv. 35-37) and would always have remembered the significance that lies in the circumstance that the very Moses whom God had sent as leader and redeemer, and whom the people disowned and rejected, had prophesied of the future prophet whom the Lord would raise up like him?

The diffuse obscurity, finally, in which the contrast and contradiction of the promise that the people would serve God in this place and the sinful and perverse fulfilment that Solomon gave it by building the temple, remains, the obscurity that also hovers over it, why David, by his desire to find a permanent tabernacle for the God of Jacob, did not sin just as his son did by building the temple – should it have remained in memory and tradition for years, many years, perhaps a century, and have been preserved unchanged?


No! Like the whole thing, it comes from the writer.

Stephen is said to have been stoned to death. But he stood before the synod and the synod was not allowed to execute a death sentence independently of the Roman governor.

Of course, not even a sentence was pronounced – the crowd stormed him, pushed him out of the city and stoned him – but there was no room for this tumultuous crowd in the midst of the synod.

How exactly historical it looks that the witnesses laid down their clothes before the stoning – but what a coincidence that they met the place in front of the feet of the young man who was destined to complete the break with Judaism, which Stephen initiated, as Paul and to bring salvation to the Gentiles!

The defense speech of the martyr does indeed correspond to the accusation, which was based on the testimony of false witnesses who claimed that he had spoken blasphemy against the holy place and the law (6:13) – it is a pity, however, that the same accusation is made against Paul, the completer (21:28), and that false witnesses also came forward against the Lord, who claimed to have heard blasphemy against the temple from him (Mark 14:57-58).

Everything is all arranged, except for the fact that the angry mobs lead the martyr outside the city, so that he may find death outside where the Lord suffered – except for the move that the martyr, like his Lord, intercedes for the murderers hei God and commends his spirit to the Lord Jesus, as the Lord Himself had commanded his spirit into the hands of His Father (Luke 23:34, 46).


In short, neither the speech nor the martyrdom of Stephen can make this community, of which the Acts of the Apostles speaks, a real and historical entity. Therefore, when, for example, Dr. Baur says *), “the martyrdom of Stephen and the Christian persecution associated with it confront us with the significance of historical reality”, we lack the account that could really authenticate that martyrdom along with its consequences. And even if the same scholar insists **) that the contrast between Christianity and Judaism first “became more clearly conscious in Stephen”, we lack the historical sources that could attest to the existence of a Stephen who earned the first crown (stephanos) of martyrdom through initiating that break with Judaism.

*) op. cit. p. 38.

**) op. cit. p. 42.



4. The Apostles’ Convention

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

by Neil Godfrey



The Apostles’ Convention

A local dispute in Antioch, which was accidentally caused by some arrivals from Judea by their assertion of the necessity of circumcision for salvation, causes a decision that settles the whole dispute about the necessity of the law, secures the freedom of the Gentile Christians and establishes the peace of the parties.

But again, it is not Paul who conquers and secures the freedom of the Gentile Christians – but he and Barnabas, since both cannot control the unrest caused by those arrivals from Judea, are sent by the church of Antioch to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders to get their decision on the question (15:1-2).

If Paul’s activity had been initiated by the early church from the beginning and had received its legitimation from the leaders of the church, he now had to get the document from Jerusalem that would resolve the question of the position of the Gentile Christians, and he had to get it before he started his great missionary journey to Europe.

The apostles and the elders of Jerusalem come together as a court of justice when, after the arrival of the Antiochene envoys and after their report on the work of divine grace outside among the Gentiles, the question of dispute (v. 5) was once again stirred up by Pharisees who had become believers and insisted on the unconditional validity of the Mosaic Law – no! no! The author has already forgotten that the Antiochian envoys are to present the already pending dispute for solution, and only now, after their arrival, does he allow the dispute to break out through the preaching of the converted Pharisees.


Enough, – the court meets – a public hearing takes place in the presence of the congregation (v. 12) – it is debated, finally a decision is made and the congregation helps to give it the force of law by agreeing to it.

After the argument had wavered unsuccessfully at first, Peter prepares the decision by recalling how “the Gentiles”, the heathen in general, heard the word of the Gospel through his mouth and how God had testified about them through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then Paul and Barnabas tell about the great deeds the Lord has accomplished through them among the Gentiles. But only James gives the decisive statement, creates the real decision and, what is more, only refers to Peter’s report in his argumentation – only relies on the testimony which God had laid down in Peter’s work. He does not pay any attention to what Paul and Barnabas have said. He only proves from Peter’s report and deed that “God has accepted a people from the Gentiles for His name” – only from Peter’s report and deed does he draw (vv. 14-16) this conclusion, which he proves with the prophecy of Amos. The agreement of Peter’s deed with the prophecy has therefore decided the matter and James only gives the decisive answer by drawing attention to this agreement and drawing the conclusion. While Paul stands humbly before the Apostolic Council with Barnabas and must await the decision, he even has to hear that the foundation of the universal church is nothing new, but only the restoration and renewal of the fallen tabernacle of David – nothing but an expanded Judaism, and that the conversion of the Gentiles is only their attachment to the glorified Judaism.


The Creator of the new freedom must humble himself even deeper: —- the council of the early church does not reject Paul’s approach, but also does not approve it unreservedly. Instead, they believe that they can only give the real decision by (v. 28) establishing four “necessary” provisions, which Paul had not yet adhered to, and whose observance would only prove (v. 29) that the Gentile Christians are serious about “behaving properly.” Therefore, the Apostle must quietly endure that dogmas, which he would consider as “weak and worthless elemental forces” and rudiments of humanity, as “worldly elements” (Gal. 4:9, Col. 2:20-21), are imposed on Gentile Christians as highly necessary.

Yes, the apostle must experience that the Gentile Christians, through the obligation to these four regulations, are put on a par with the Gentiles of the OT. who, even if they did not participate in all the lawful things, were nevertheless forced to show some consideration for the holiness of the chosen people and had to comply with the law of the chosen people in four respects: They had to refrain from participating in idol worship, they were not allowed to eat anything with blood or strangled, and they had to avoid the prohibited sexual relations *). If the Gentile Christians are allowed all other freedoms besides observing those four points, what does this leniency mean other than the recognition that they occupy an equally exceptional position in the community, just as the foreigners who lived among the chosen people were part of its theocratic union? And if circumcision is specifically waived for them, does not this leniency still put them on the same level as the foreigners of the Old Testament, for whom circumcision was also not required, even though it would have made them fully-fledged members of the legal community?

*) Leviticus 20:2, 17:12, 17:15, 18:26.


While the Paul of the Epistles knows nothing of these four regulations and even contradicts the first point, which forbids the eating of things sacrificed to idols, since he declares this eating to be indifferent, in the Acts of the Apostles he recognises the decision of the early church and its leaders to such an extent that there is nothing left for him to do but to deliver it to the church – simply to hand over the solution. He and Barnabas come to Antioch with the delegates of the early church, assemble the crowd, deliver the decree to them and the community feels reassured and uplifted by this decision (15:30-31). And when he went on, “travelling through the cities”, he again had nothing more to do than to hand over the apostle’s decree, and always a consequence of this spreading is that the churches are strengthened in the faith (16:4, 5).

The contradiction between the subordinate role assigned to Paul in Acts alongside the leaders of the early church and the force with which the apostle asserts and enforces his independence in the epistles is so great that even the apologists must acknowledge it, albeit with evasive words, but can never compensate for it. If, for example, Schneckenburger *) says that one turned to Jerusalem because of the Antiochian discord, it was “natural, because in a certain sense the authority of Jerusalem was recognised in all the congregations”, he does not take into account that it is at the same time about Paul and that he does not recognise this authority in his everyday affairs. If Schneckenburger, on the other hand, finds it natural that “now a decree went out from Jerusalem that made the Gentile Christians secure,” he does not bring up the fact that Paul fights for their freedom in his own strength and makes them secure beside and against Jerusalem. If it seems very natural to him that Paul simply spreads the decision of the primitive apostles in his congregations “because he hoped thereby to oppose the Judaizers with a more respectable defence than his own spiritual authority was capable of, he can only ascribe this hope and intention to the apostle if he carefully refrains from how jealously he preserved his independence and that he always wanted to decide only by virtue of his own authority and by virtue of the revelation that was given to him personally.

*) op. cit. p. 72, 73.


chnecktnburgrr is of the opinion that the report of the Acts of the Apostles and the communications of the apostle (Gal. 2) about his negotiations with the apostles at Jerusalem refer to the same fact – (and indeed, if a parallel is to be proved in the apostle’s letters, that report can only be brought together with these statements of the Epistle to the Galatians) – but the contradictions between the two cannot be attributed to a mere “difference of viewpoint”. The apostle’s own account does not help us to “complete the picture” *) which the author of Acts draws of the teacher of the Gentiles, but both are mutually exclusive.

*) ibid. p. 76.


Step by step, the two portrayals exclude each other.

Immediately after his conversion, the Paul of Acts preaches the Gospel to the Jews in Damascus, but persecutions that immediately rise up against him force him to flee and he goes to Jerusalem. The stay in Damascus is so short that the author counts by days **), and the fact that the disciples in Jerusalem, when the apostle wanted to join them, avoid him (9:26) is also consistent with this assumption of the historian – they do not think it is possible that he is a disciple, and their suspicion was natural, since the conversion had happened shortly before and the news of it had not yet reached Jerusalem.

**) “after a number of days” the persecution broke out 9:23, ως δε επληρουντο ημεραι ικαναι

The same assumption is made by the author in the two accounts that Paul gives of his conversion. In the first account – the speech to the people – the Apostle is given the command by his Lord to go to the Gentiles only when he prays in the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21) – so here in Jerusalem is where the vision from Damascus is completed. Both visions are essentially one vision – they are just two acts that take place in different locations but form an immediately connected whole, and therefore cannot be separated by a longer interval. And they are indeed closely connected, for the Apostle returns to Jerusalem (v. 17) after his conversion, as if he can only stay there; his trip to Damascus has fulfilled its purpose.


In the second account – the defence before King Agrippa – his first appearance in Damascus and Jerusalem is just as closely connected: – “first I preached, says the apostle (26:20), to those in Damascus and Jerusalem”, then to all of Judea and the Gentiles.

In the Epistle to the Galatians the apostle assures us that after his conversion he did not go to Jerusalem (1:17-18) but to Arabia, then “returned to Damascus, and after three years went to Jerusalem, and here, besides Peter, he only saw James, the brother of the Lord. Only James, no one else of the other apostles, he assures with great pride and invokes God (v. 20) that he is not lying – not lying, while in the Acts of the Apostles Barnabas introduces him to the circle of apostles immediately after his first stay in Jerusalem – not lying, when he claims that he is unknown to the face of the church in Judea (v. 22). 22), while according to the account in Acts, after a fine introduction in the circle of the apostles, he preaches to the church of Jerusalem until persecutions force him to flee.

Only after fourteen years had passed since his first visit to Jerusalem, according to the Galatians letter (2:1-2), Paul went up to the holy city again in response to a revelation to discuss his gospel with the apostles. He united with them, agreeing that the Gentiles belonged to him and the children of circumcision belonged to them – this being the only trip that can be compared with the journey to the council of the early church in the Book of Acts in terms of its purpose and success. However, it remains the case that this trip is explicitly referred to as the second one in the Galatians letter, while in the Book of Acts it is the third one.


The apostle of the Epistle to the Galatians does not know anything about the second one of the Acts of the Apostles, which (11:30) only had the purpose of bringing alms – if it nevertheless wanted to intrude, then he would adamantly include it, since he, in order to preserve his independence, insists that he only made these two journeys to Jerusalem in that time period.

The second journey of the Acts of the Apostles cannot be the second journey of the Epistle to the Galatians, since the purpose of both – the purpose that each of them had alone – is completely different.

So the contradiction remains that the second journey of the Epistle to the Galatians is the third of the Acts of the Apostles – to which is added the contradiction that not even the first and third journeys of the Acts of the Apostles can be separated by the period of fourteen years, Finally, the negotiations that follow the third journey of Acts and the second journey of Galatians about the relationship between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians have an essentially different format and an equally different result.


In the Acts of the Apostles it is a public, official negotiation that leads to a legal decision of the congregation – the negotiation that the Epistle to the Galatians speaks of is conducted privately between Paul and the pillar apostles (C. 2, 9), James, Peter and John.

The Paul of Galatians stands up for his rights and forces the three pillar apostles to recognise him – the Paul of Acts, hardly noticed, has to stand before the barriers of the convention and submit unconditionally to the decision of the congregation.

The former comes to Jerusalem of his own accord, as a result of a revelation, in order to discuss every case with the original apostles, and the private negotiation which he initiates with them is the only correct course worthy of him which he could take – the latter, however, is sent by the Antiochian congregation in order to obtain a decision and solution from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for a question and a dispute which he could not master.

He stands alone in Jerusalem and when he defended the freedom of Titus from circumcision against “intruding brethren”, the apostles were at least passive “and they did not indicate with a word that the demands of the law-setters were not also theirs – he, on the other hand, received from them the document that secured the freedom of the Gentile Christians.

However, the three apostles in the Galatians letter do recognize Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. They shake hands with him, expressing their willingness to have fellowship with him *). However, this fellowship is reduced to the observance of neutrality, that they will tolerate each other’s separate spheres of influence. There are two gospels, the gospel of the Gentiles and the gospel of circumcision, two spheres of influence in which grace operates, two teachings, and the peace treaty that the apostles of circumcision make with the apostle to the Gentiles contains only the declaration of neutrality, that they will let each other alone and tolerate one another. In short, the original apostles of the Galatians letter allow Paul to work on his own field and leave him to his own responsibility. Therefore, they are very cautious about interfering in his sphere of influence, which is a foreign world for them. In the Book of Acts, however, they are the ones who ensure the freedom of the Gentile Christians and intervene decisively in their living conditions. They sanction what they only tolerate under Paul’s responsibility in the Galatians letter. They act as supreme arbitrators and owners of a domain that, in the Galatians letter, is just outside their inheritance as foreign property and a foreign conquest.

*) 2:9 δεξιας εδωκαν . . . . κοινωνιας


These contradictions must be recognised and can never be resolved in the sense that their conflict ceases. They can only be explained, i.e. recognised as the products of two different points of view.

That the author of the Acts of the Apostles, when he wrote his work, followed a very definite purpose, and also calculated quite precisely, is proved by the fact that he excerpted several characteristic features from the life of the apostle, which were known to him from his letters.


He does not mention Titus at all, so he does not report that Paul did not allow him to be circumcised; on the other hand he emphasises very deliberately how the apostle, when he came to Derbe and Lystra, circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess but of a Greek father, purely and solely for the sake of the Jews (C. 16, 1-3), – purely and solely for the sake of the Jews, because they knew very well that Timothy’s father was a Greek, so that they also had no claims on him – Timothy was also not destined to work among the Jews. The apostle had only appointed him as a companion for his further journeys – but he circumcised him so as not to cause offence to the Jews by taking an uncircumcised man with him as a helper on his journeys – purely and solely for the sake of the Jews, in order to show that he did not want to get in the way of the law.

That is, the Paul of the Acts of the Apostles allows himself to be driven by the consideration of the Jews to an action that the apostle of the Epistle to the Galatians was not capable of. The author of the Acts of the Apostles first created this timorous act of the apostle – if we also consider how he placed it in the same close connection with the apostle’s decree and the quarrel with Barnabas, in which the struggle for the freedom of Titus stands with the negotiations about the freedom of the Gentile Christians and with the groundless behaviour of Barnabas, then we will no longer be in doubt about the author’s intention.

He does not mention the Antiochian quarrel between the apostle and Peter, and he could not include it in his writing, since Peter’s fear of the men who came from James (Gal. 2:12) was impossible, when the latter had only just tipped the scales in favour of the freedom of the Gentile Christians at the Jerusalem Council.


Of course he could not mention that Barnabas was seduced by Peter and his Jewish environment (Gal. 2:13) – instead he lets a third person cause the rift between Barnabas and Paul in that the former (Act. 15:37-40) was the one who would bring John Mark with him on the journey, but Paul did not want him because he had previously departed from him (13:13). Only Paul’s dislike of Mark is to blame for the dilemma – Barnabas had not caused the separation through his personal behaviour.

Paul also does not mention the collection that he gathered in Europe for the early church, and whose delivery was the purpose of his last trip to Jerusalem – of course not! – as it served as a gesture of love from the Gentile Christians to the Jewish Christians and as the only bond that could connect the separated, theoretically separated, in a practical way. At the same time, it testified that their life journeys were completely separate and that they lived in such different worlds that the only bond that could still connect them to some extent was the memory of the early church for the Gentile Christians, and the proof of that memory could only be a donation. On the other hand, in the Book of Acts, the early church creates the freedom of the Gentile Christians and regulates their circumstances.

He could not incorporate the collection into his work, especially since its collection was the only stipulation that the three pillars of the Galatians letter (Gal. 2:10) added to their private agreement with Paul and their concession to recognize him in his own sphere of influence. Meanwhile, in the Book of Acts, the author added a completely different judgments to the decision of the early church, which established the freedom of the Gentile Christians and should apply to the life of the Gentile Christians.


He only involuntarily remembers this collection when he has the Apostle in his speech before Felix describe the purpose of his journey to Jerusalem (24:17) as the offering of a sacrifice and alms – only these alms are offered by the Apostle as his personal gift *) and is offered “to his people”, to the Jews in general, not to the Christian community in Jerusalem.

*) παρεγενομην ελεημοσυνας ποιησων

Earlier, when he had begun his work abroad in Antioch, the apostle brought a collection to Jerusalem on behalf of the elders of this church (11:27-30) – this alone was only arranged by chance, because the brethren in Judea wanted to be helped in an upcoming famine prophesied by the prophet Agabus. It is the freely formed counterpart to the collection, the raising of which the apostles in the Galatian letter laid out for the apostle as a stipulation and condition of their recognition, just as the author, with well-considered intention, had made John Mark the companion of the apostle and created his anger (12:25, 13:13), in order to later bring about the rift with Barnabas in his own way. If one wanted to call the report of the Antiochian collection with Schneckenburger **) much too “harmless” to bear the suspicion that it was a freely formed metamorphosis of the collection of the Pauline letters – the notes on John Mark much too “simple, harmless and unbiased”, *) than that they could be regarded as calculated preparations for the break with Barnabas – if, then, one were to acknowledge intention and calculation only in the case where the author calls them out, one would be asking a thing of impossibility and more of the author than he could and was allowed to do.

**) ibid. p. 114.

*) Ibid. p. 108.


With such deliberate intent, the author suppresses any memory of the partisan struggles within the church and of the battles the apostle had to wage with the Judaizing party, that he does not even let him preach the gospel during his first journey through Galatia and Phrygia. (16:6) – Galatia with its tearing battles over the validity of the law and with the testimony of the Epistle to the Galatians about the battles the apostle had to fight with the Judaizing zealots of the churches there, was the most dangerous country for the author, therefore he lets the apostle pass through it quietly and silently “and would have achieved in his way what he aimed at, if only he had not, during the apostle’s second passage through Galatia and Phrygia (C. 18, 24) he had established churches in these countries without reporting their foundation, and had let the apostle strengthen them without explaining how the apostle came to relate to these churches. But he had to be inconsistent. He finally had to admit that there were also churches with which the apostle had communicated.

But in this he is consistent, that he suppresses everything that could remind of those inner struggles of the church. Only the faithless Jews persecute the apostle and pursue him – within the church, on the other hand, there is peace and unity and false teachers are even impossible to the extent that the apostle has to prophesy about them and portray them as deceivers who will only appear after his return (20:29-30). Only once, when he came to Jerusalem for the last time, did the believing Jews express some concern about the rumour that the apostle was leading the foreign Jews to apostasy from Moses (21:20-21), but it was only a rumour, the groundlessness of which Paul proved by showing his strictly legal attitude.


Thus, there was no fighting or struggle, and even the freedom of the Gentile Christians was safe-guarded by the early church in Jerusalem on the occasion of an accidental misunderstanding. The apostolic decree was a foundation that made any further dispute and discord impossible!

And yet history tells of a deep discord that divided the congregations, of a struggle that only came to an end when, around the middle of the second century, the value of circumcision had so declined that it was no longer mentioned in the Clementines and only the course of life was praised as the means of rebirth and deliverance from paganism, that in the Epistle of Barnabas *) circumcision is completely refuted and even called a mirage with which an evil spirit bewitched the Jews, while God had not spoken of a carnal circumcision. Ignatius opposes the true, the upper, i.e. the spiritual circumcision to the false and lower circumcision **).

*) Ch. 7.

**) κατω περιτομη ad. Philad. c. 6


Where, then, did the struggle come from that led to this late conclusion of peace, after a solution had already been given in the Apostles’ Decree that must make every dispute impossible and cut off all questions from the outset?

We have already given the answer by proving the late origin of the Acts of the Apostles. The peace that followed the struggle, the peace that surrounded the author in his time, – he transferred this peace to the early days of the Church, and by this anachronism brought about the problem, which is, however, insoluble on the grounds of his work, of how this ancient and original peace could ever again be lost in the struggle.

In the Apostles’ Decree he laid down the judgement of his time on the freedom of the Jewish Christians and the recognition of this freedom, and he created this decree freely and independently.*)

*) Schwegler has drawn attention to the stylistic similarity of the Decree and the Prologue to the Gospel of Luke. (Post-apostolic era I. 127.)

The late editor of the Gospel, which Marcion had in his hands, styled the Decree after the Prologue, which he prefixed to the Gospel of Urlukas:

Luke 1:1-3 επειδηπερ πολλοι επεχειρησαν αναταξασθαι . . . εδοξε καμοι παρηκολουθηκοτι ανωθεν πασιν ακριβως καθεξης σοι γραψαι . . .

Acts 15:24, 25 επειδη ηκουσαμεν οτι . . . εδοξεν ημιν γενομενοις ομοθυμαδον . . . . πεμψαι προς υμας . . . .

The author also proved his skill for the pure Greek style in the entrance to the speech of the rhetor Tertullus before the governor Felix (24:3). It was only fortunate for him that his rhetor gave in immediately after the elegantly and artistically styled entrance (v. 4), did not promise to delay the governor too long and went straight to the point. In other words, it was difficult for the author to write in this style for more than one episode, and he sought to return to his usual course as soon as possible.


By the way, at the very moment when the freedom of the Gentile Christians was to be secured by borrowing the clauses that he attached to the apostolic decree from the Old Testament provisions regarding the position of gentiles, he created the illusion that Gentile Christians should occupy the same exceptional position within the community as the gentiles did in the midst of the holy people, according to the assumption of those provisions. However, when he modeled the clause that Gentile Christians should refrain from fornication on the provision that strangers should avoid forbidden degrees in marriage, this allusion probably sufficed for him, and he would likely have regarded the question of whether fornication referred to marriage within forbidden degrees or even second marriage as somewhat intrusive.




3. The Conversion of Paul

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

by Neil Godfrey



The Conversion of Paul.

The differences between the author’s own account and the portrayal that Paul himself gives of his conversion before the people and later before King Agrippa will never be of practical service to those who wish to use them *) to eliminate some gaudy features and to move the event from its external appearance to the interior of the apostle. For example, if Paul says in his speech before the people (22:9) that his companions did not hear the voice of the Lord who spoke to him before Damascus, while the author tells the opposite in his historical account (9:7), we should not admire the fidelity of the tradition that carried Paul’s entire speech unchanged, nor the conscientiousness of the author who transmitted this deviating feature in the Apostle’s speech unchanged, even though he had given a different picture of the event in his historical account. Such a tradition, possessing a memory so mechanical and a breath so long that it could recite the same material in various forms unchanged, has never existed **). Moreover, even that deviation would not be able to turn the miracle into an internal occurrence of the mind. In his speech before the people, Paul also announces that the appearance of the Lord was a wonderful and truly visible one, and cites the fact that his companions also saw the heavenly light that flashed around him in the middle of the day and were terrified by the enormity, to confirm the sensory reality. It is irrelevant whether the companions heard the voice without seeing the one who spoke with Paul, or whether they saw the miraculous light, the envelope, the sensory body of the appearance and did not hear the voice – in both cases they were witnesses of the appearance, and only the author’s changing interest would lead him to shift the features of the picture and to put them in the opposing position. In his own account, he only wanted to establish the reality of the voice that Paul heard beyond doubt – that is why the companions must also hear it. *) Later, when Paul justifies himself before the people, he wanted to ensure the divine legitimacy of his mission against even the slightest doubt – that is why it must now be shown that Paul was really and solely the purpose of the appearance. He now hears the voice alone.

*) as, for example, also Dr. Baur, the Apostle Paul p. 64.

**) as is proven in my critique of the Gospels.

*) and he still followed the original most faithfully, which he used for his depiction. For he has before his eyes the description of the Viston of Daniel (Dan. 10:7), which the Prophet also saw alone, while his companions, who did not see it, were seized with horror – (at the miraculous voice). Dan. 10:6. καὶ ἡ φωνὴ τῶν λόγων αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὄχλου. V. 7 καὶ εἶδον ἐγὼ Δανιηλ μόνος τὴν ὀπτασίαν καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες οἱ μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ οὐκ εἶδον τὴν ὀπτασίαν ἀλλ᾿ ἢ ἔκστασις μεγάλη ἐπέπεσεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς


The author proceeded as freely as later in the apostle’s speech before King Agrippa, in which Jesus (26:17) immediately at his first appearance appoints the apostle to the Gentiles, while in the earlier historical account (C. 9, 15) Ananias is the only means by which Paul could learn his new destiny, since circumstances led him to the field of his activity.


On the basis of the report of the Acts of the Apostles, the previous theological dispute as to whether the vision of the Apostle was a sensory = external or an internal one, is unfruitful – the effort to burden the later tradition with the disturbing sensory experience and yet to form a kind of historical course out of all the individual features, is fruitless, for the report knows only one course of events, the sensually miraculous one, and if it is no longer regarded with all its individual features *) as a witness to the miraculous event, then it no longer exists at all and is even deprived of any basis for the dispute about the nature of the phenomenon.

*) The apostle’s blindness and his healing from it is and remains a part of the miracle, and Dr. Baur tries in vain to make the former a spiritual affliction, the latter a spiritual orientation, and to attribute to tradition the transformation of the spiritual blindness into a physical one.

Without the account of the Acts of the Apostles, we know nothing of the way in which the conversion of the apostle took place – but as the account stands, it excludes any natural mediation of this change, any preparation by an inner struggle of the soul. Either one believes the account as it stands and believes the various accounts of the Acts of the Apostles, or one admits that this account tells us nothing about the conversion of the Christian persecutor and cannot tell us anything.


According to the premise of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is so firmly established in Judaism, his conviction of the unconditional justification of the law is so certain, his will to uphold the law at all costs is so determined, that only heavenly power can win him over for the church and the conversion of the Gentiles.

His conviction, his will, his decision, his inclination do not and shall not come into consideration. He should not even fight within himself, should not waver, should not be inwardly broken or even inwardly involved with the world he is fighting against, but should be purely decided, a whole man, clear about himself and determined to assert the law and the Jewish privilege.

Although he is decided against the new teaching par excellence, he is nevertheless to be called – but since this calling happens against his will, the Lord Himself must intervene to make it possible, i.e. break his will and cast him down Himself.

Even at the moment when the Lord breaks him and throws him down, the new thing that hits him finds so little prepared place and point of contact within him that he lets the new thing pass him by and asks the Lord: “What do you want me to do?” and the Lord has to send him to the city so that he can learn from Ananias, who immediately receives the necessary revelation, what he has to do (9:6).

According to the Acts of the Apostles, this is the only course of events that Paul’s conversion had, and could only have, – the only necessary course of events, so that it would be beyond all doubt and certain that the Lord had called the man who was to bear His name before the nations, and the Lord had to draw His chosen witness to Himself with such striking force, so that the calling of the Gentiles and their justification would also be revealed as His work and His will.


It is only a continuation of this testimony when later the Holy Spirit, on a journey through Asia Minor, forbids the apostle to preach the word, and when finally in the vision at Troas the interpretation of this prohibition follows, when a man from Macedonia appears to him, who calls him to come over to Macedonia and help them; this call of the Lord (C. 16, 10) turns into an explicit command to stay in Corinth without fear, because there he has a many people. In Jerusalem the Lord appears to the apostle and tells him (C.23,11) that he has to go over to Macedonia and help them. ) that He will testify of Him in Rome as well as here in Jerusalem.

Visions and appearances reveal to the apostle his destiny – the author was therefore allowed to venture, in the lecture which Paul gives to the people, to change the opening which in the actual historical account of Paul’s conversion Ananias receives into one which the apostle himself received in the temple during his first sojourn in Jerusalem (22: 21) – and finally, after reporting all these visions, he was able to weave into the “Apostle’s” last account of his conversion the Lord’s reference to these following visions: – you shall be a witness of this, says the Lord already before Damascus (26:16), “what” you have seen, and of the visions in which I will yet manifest myself to you.

Like this reference to the later visions, like the transformation of the word to Ananias into a direct opening to Paul – like the visions that call the apostle to Europe, hold him in Corinth and point him to Rome, the vision that casts him down before Damascus and transforms him from the legal zealot into the apostle to the Gentiles is also created from the outset and is the free work of the writer of history.


Like the conversion of the Apostle to the Gentiles, the conversion of Cornelius by Peter is also created. The parallel goes so far that both miracles move through two interlocking visions.

The miracles that result in the conversion and baptism of the pagan Cornelius are also necessary, because without them none of the things that are brought about by them and only by them would have happened. The vision of the animals, all of which God has cleansed so that man no longer has the right to call some of them unclean and to shun them as such, is something entirely new for the apostle; it is connected neither to a previous development nor to an inner struggle of his spirit, it finds nothing related to it within himself; Peter does not even know how to interpret the vision and only a wonderful chain of circumstances into which he is drawn involuntarily unlocks his understanding of it.

As little as Cornelius, when the angel of the Lord commands him to fetch Peter, knows the intentions of heaven – (Peter must tell him what to do) (10:6) – so little does the apostle know, when he had followed the Lord’s call and is already in the house of Cornelius, what he should do with the pagan captain (V. 29). Only when he hears about Cornelius’ vision and realizes how it is connected with his own in a divinely intended context, he discovers that God does not show partiality (V. 34) and that all kinds of people who fear Him and do what is right are pleasing to Him, and therefore he wants to also take members of his community from the circle of the Gentiles – and even then it is still a wonder that, as a result of his preaching, the Spirit falls on the present Gentiles and they speak in tongues, which finally convinces him of what it is all about (v. 47) and that he cannot deny baptism to the called Gentiles.


What happened to Cornelius and his household is just as unprepared for in the history of the early Church up to that point, and just as unheard of and unexpected for the entire community of the apostle, so bewildering in fact, that the believers who accompanied Peter to Caesarea were horrified when they (10:45) experienced that even on the Gentiles the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out – in a phenomenon that contradicted all their notions and expectations; they could hardly come to terms with it, indeed, they were so reluctant to accept it that Peter had to calm them down expressly by remarking whether anyone could deny baptism to those who had received the Holy Spirit. Only reluctantly and subdued by a supernatural force, the believers of the circumcision bow to the unexpected event, admitting that they cannot prevent the water of baptism, which is flows over the barrier of Judaism to the nations. If it had depended on them alone, they would have denied the holy water to the Gentiles – if the Lord had not impelled Peter, the Gentile from Caesarea would have remained without the comfort of baptism – if the most extraordinary miracles had not intervened, the apostle himself would not have known what to do with the Gentile in the house of Cornelius.


That only a miracle, only the openly and unmistakably expressed will of heaven could bring about the admission of the Gentiles into the church, that therefore what happened in Caesarea had no basis and point of connection in the previous history of the church, was shown once again when Peter, on his return to Jerusalem, received the bitterest reproaches from the believers that he (11:2-3) had entered with uncircumcised men and had eaten with them.

Indeed, Peter also silences these dissatisfied ones (11:18) by explaining to them the miraculous course of the event that had troubled them – but if it was striking up to this point that an event which was decisive for the community had no preparatory elements within it, neither in the mind of its most important leader, and had to receive its possibility from heaven, it is now highly surprising that the great, decisive, and miraculously wrought and testified event was not actually decisive and did not have the consequences that it deserved.

The early church was not touched by the change that had taken place in Caesarea; as if heaven had not yet pronounced its judgement. Later, long after the Gentiles had really been won over, the believers in Judea demanded that those whom the Lord Himself had called should earn their blessedness through circumcision. All that had been done so far was therefore in vain, unsuccessful, forgotten, as good as unprecedented. Peter first has to remember (15:7) the deed that the Lord had done through him a long time ago – in the early days *) of the church, and James refers to Peter’s account of how the Lord first (v. 14) formed a people out of the Gentiles for His name, in order to enforce the freedom of the believing Gentiles from circumcision – – so only now does the event take effect? And Peter was the chosen means by which God won the firstfruits of the Gentiles?

*) ‘αφ ημερειν αρχαιων.


Peter was the first to bring the “Gentiles” to the church? And James says this at the same moment when Paul stood before the barriers of the Apostolic Convention “and awaited its pronouncement on the freedom of the Gentile Christians?

Only now does this event take effect? Is the original intention of heaven revealed?

Indeed! Only now can the author achieve his goals! That is why the event had to remain unsuccessful for so long, so that it could only now exert its true and original effect. Now Paul has already worked among the Gentiles and is waiting for the decision on his effectiveness before the Apostolic Convention – only now can it be shown that the deed God accomplished through Peter was done for his sake, so that his work among the Gentiles would be justified. Paul is justified through Peter.

The author already had this justification in mind when he reported and created the conversion of Cornelius. The purpose that Peter’s action serves also made this action possible.

The conquest of paganism is a deed that Peter accomplished. He alone deserves the honour, he alone has the merit of having broken through the obstacles of paganism. Paul is no longer a creator, he did not establish the freedom of the Gentile Christians, he did nothing special or unique when he brought the Gentiles to the Lord – Peter is the original, the creator, the pioneer.


This contradiction against the presupposition of the Pauline letters, according to which Peter is only the apostle of the circumcision, Paul the chosen and only apostle of the Gentiles, Schneckenburger tries in vain to eliminate by the remark that the appointment of Peter for the circumcision “does not exclude an exceptional activity of the kind represented by the conversion of Cornelius” *). The deed that Peter performed on Cornelius is “according to the account of the Acts of the Apostles not an exception and isolated, but a groundbreaking, forever decisive deed – one that sanctifies everything similar that follows it. This is how it is understood at the Apostles’ Convention by the Apostle James, and James advocates it as the author wants it to be understood.

*) op. cit. p 178.

Of course, after such a groundbreaking and sanctifying act, there should be no attacks on Paul’s way of acting on the part of the Jerusalem congregation – but Schneckenburger is also unable to resolve this contradiction, which the author of the Acts of the Apostles brings into his own premises, when he recalls **) “what a difference it is to succumb to the overwhelming impression of an evidently divine manifestation in a particular case and to now recognize the principle realized in his case in all cases, contrary to the entire previous way of thinking.”

**) op. cit., p. 179.


The revelation in the case of Cornelius was not a special case, but a sanctioning fact – an event of general significance, as the believers in Jerusalem, when Peter explained the events to them, expressly acknowledged that it was now *) clear that God had also given repentance to the Gentiles for life. If it was divine will that Cornelius received baptism – and that it was so was acknowledged by the initially reluctant Jewish Christians – then this will also had general, binding force for all times. Once the principle had been realised by God, even if only in one case – and that God had acted is expressly emphasised by James – no one was allowed to resist in the later cases in which the same principle was realised.

*) 11:18. ἄρα γε καί . . . .

So we are left with the absolutely correct explanation that James gives to the event of Caesarea: God Himself decided, for all times and cases, and decided through Peter as the chosen instrument, so that the same apostle, who in the Pauline epistles is preferably and only the apostle of the circumcision, is denied the title of conqueror of the Gentiles. Peter won the Gentiles of the church; Peter won the Gentiles their freedom.

Just as certainly, however, there remains the contradiction that the miracle of Caesarea remains unsuccessful, that the community of Jerusalem resists the freedom of the Gentiles despite the clear and for all times binding will of the Godhead itself – above all, there remains the contradiction, that the primitive apostles only remember this miracle when Paul had already begun to set the Gentile world in motion – finally, the contradiction that the whole interest of the Acts of the Apostles revolves around the recognition and appreciation of Paul’s effectiveness among the Gentiles.


Also in the Acts of the Apostles Paul is the only and real apostle to the Gentiles and yet Peter is his original, Peter deserves the glory and the merit of having founded the freedom of the Gentile Christians.

In other words: Peter wins over the Gentiles, convinces the Gentiles that the Gentiles are called – Peter legitimates and sanctions the effectiveness of Paul – Peter has the honour of the process – but since he is supposed to justify the real Apostle to the Gentiles, even through this legitimation the reproach against the latter resounds that he proceeded too boldly when he redeemed the Gentiles from the law, and too quickly when he gave up the privilege of the Jews over the Gentiles.

Even the tribute that the Acts of the Apostles pay to Peter is permeated by the memory of the earlier, real battle that Paul waged with Judaism and the latter against Paul, i.e. also by the memory of the old fact that Paul won over the nations.

The Acts of the Apostles bears witness to the victory that Judaism, i.e. Jewish interest in the church, won when it subjugated Paul and his life, deprived him of his originality and transferred his historical honour to Peter. The Christian Judaism of the Jews was far from overturning the undeniable and invincible fact that the Gospel also belonged to the nations; it also recognized Paul’s divine calling and his merit in the conversion of the Gentiles, but it only makes the effectiveness of the apostle to the Gentiles legitimate by sanctioning his action through the process of Peter. It even defends Paul against the accusation that he acted too quickly and hastily when he won the nations to the Gospel and at the same time freed them from the law – Peter’s deed is “his” protective and legal title – but this defence must, against its will, acknowledge that Paul was the creator and liberator.


The honour Peter wins is a late conquest of Judaism within the congregation – through the apologia, on the other hand, which Peter’s deed is supposed to serve, the memory of the earlier struggle against Paul and the deed as it appears in the Pauline epistles unmistakably resounds.

The honour that Peter wins is a late triumph over Judaism within the community – the apology, on the other hand, which Peter’s deed is supposed to serve, unmistakably echoes the memory of the earlier struggle against Paul and the facts as they appear in the Pauline epistles. The same relationship is repeated in another respect. If we consider how carefully the apostle of the epistles emphasises that he did not receive the gospel from men, but through direct revelation of the Lord (Gal. 1:12), and how he has to answer for the visions and revelations of the Lord against adversaries and enviers (2 Cor. 12:1), it is at least this much clear that the judgement of his apostolic reputation also depended on the judgement of his visions. Well then! The Acts of the Apostles recognise miraculous visions as a real source of divine revelation, but in such a way that they also confer the honour of this direct contact with the Lord on Peter and, through the revelations that the latter received, ensure the credibility of those that were given to Paul. Paul is not the only visionary — already Stephen, who initiated the break with the Jewish people, has a vision before the synod, in that the Son of Man appears to him sitting at the right hand of God, and Philip, one of the deacons of the early church, is directed by an angel (8:26) to the Ethiopian in need of salvation.


In the same way, as a result of the victory that Christian Judaism had claimed over him, after he had lost the glory of his own creative significance, Paul was surrounded by a multitude of witnesses, all of whom testified to his perfect conformity to the early church at Jerusalem and to his intimate connection with it.

Ananias, who is involved in the vision of Damascus and was supposed to open his calling on behalf of the Lord, is (22:12) a legally pious man who had a good reputation among the Jews who lived in Damascus. Barnabas, the deserving member of the early church, introduces him to the apostles in Jerusalem, stands up for him, since they shunned him at first and did not trust him, and tells (9:27) how the Lord Himself had called him. Since he was threatened with danger in Jerusalem, the brothers sent him to Tarsus (9:30) and from there Barnabas fetched him and led him to Antioch, where he had opened up a wide sphere of activity (11:25). With Barnabas he was then sent to the elders of the church of Jerusalem to hand over the proceeds of a collection that had been organised for the brethren in Judea at Antioch (11:30, 12:25). When he left Jerusalem again with Barnabas, he took John Mark with him, the same one in whose parental home Peter found the brothers gathered in prayer after his rescue from prison (12:12). Even now, when he left Antioch and started his first great missionary journey, he did not set out on his own initiative, he did not directly follow the voice of the Spirit, but the church received the revelation of the Spirit and the commission to “set apart Barnabas and Paul to the work to which they were called” and to send them into their ministry (13:2-3). Later on, it becomes clear that he is also closely associated with Philip, that deacon of the early church who baptized the Ethiopian eunuch. He stays with him in Caesarea, and the same prophet of the early church who, through his prophecy about the impending famine, had brought about the collection for Antioch, announces to him, as he binds his hands and feet, the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-11).


Where this pragmatism has brought about the most conspicuous linking of the facts, its intention and origin will also be betrayed.
Why does Paul, although the Lord had already designated him as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15), allow himself to be sent to Tarsus by the early church in Jerusalem when the Jews were plotting against him? Why does he remain here quietly until Barnabas fetches him to Antioch? Why is he resting while the Lord had sent him away from Jerusalem immediately among the Gentiles (Acts 22:18, 21)? How is it that the author completely suppresses the historical fact when he leaves the Gentile apostle idle in Tarsus, while later he cannot completely deny the impression of it?

But the question is not just about Paul. At the same moment when he sits idly in Tarsus, other threads are also left dangling that the author had previously thrown out, and other events continue to have necessary consequences without results, and only at the moment when Paul is called back to work, does the author pick up those threads again and allow the earlier events to lead to their consequences.


The whole church of Jerusalem was scattered after the execution of Stephen – only the apostles remained (8:1) – but why is nothing mentioned about the activity of the dispersed except what Philip did in Samaria and with the Ethiopian stranger? Why is the outward activity of the believers suddenly interrupted after it had begun so successfully? Why does Philip leave Caesarea after such a promising beginning (8:40)? Why is he forgotten, why are the dispersed not remembered – why does the whole work abroad stop?

Why do the dispersed, after being completely forgotten, reappear so late and so suddenly? Why is their effectiveness in the circle of the Greeks at Antioch – at least the effectiveness that some Cyprians and Cyreneans among them were found in the circle of those Greeks *) – introduced as a consequence of the preceding?

*) Namely only this second part of the whole sentence 11:19-20, that they spoke to the Greeks (ελαλουν προς τοις ελληνας) is introduced by the “therefore” in the beginning of the sentence (οι μεν ουν).

Why? Nothing could be clearer! The preceding, on which the conversion of the Antiochian Greeks depends, is Peter’s great deed to Cornelius – the miraculous event which (11:18) also brings the believers in Jerusalem to the conviction that God has given the Gentiles repentance for life. Those foreign Jews who addressed the Greeks in Antioch with their sermon are said not to have “heard” directly of Peter’s deed, not to have been directly dependent on the pioneer – but they did not break ground themselves either. It “turned out that now, when Peter had opened the way, they preached the gospel to the Greeks. Only now, when Peter had gone ahead, was it proper for others to come forward and address the Gentiles. It was only now that Paul was to leave – that is why the early church sent Barnabas to Antioch to see the work there, and Barnabas, having seen the grace of God in the Gentiles, brought Paul from Tarsus and introduced him into his congregation.


The whole thing is a pragmatic machine, made to give Peter the glory of having been the first to bring divine grace to the Gentiles. Just as a machine is mechanically brought to a standstill by a pressure, so the external work that had already begun suddenly comes to a standstill – Philip celebrates in Caesarea, the scattered members of the early church have all but disappeared, even Paul has to “idle away” in Tarsus – only after Peter’s action is the machinery set in motion again: the scattered preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and Paul is now allowed to enter into fine work.

Mechanically, as the machine is set in motion, it is also put together by the author. Not to mention that he wanted to precede Paul’s appearance with the general, great prelude, which continued in the suffering of the Apostle to the Gentiles, he also needed the dispersal of the church in Jerusalem for the purpose of initiating the conversion of the Gentiles in “Antioch”. But at the same time, the apostles in Jerusalsem were still important to him, so they must be spared from the general persecution and remain in the temple city. The opponents must spare the heads of the hated sect and exempt them from persecution. For the following story of Paul, he needs the whole original congregation in Jerusalem – that is why it is there immediately after the general dispersion and in spite of it. He needs a calm and solid foundation for the operation of his machine – therefore the persecution is suddenly forgotten and the church in all Judea, Galilee and Samaria has rest and peace (9:1).


He summons the storm and summons it up again as he pleases – after Paul has already begun his work, he even causes the storm (C. 12) to rumble again *), but the machine will never become real history and those who nevertheless want to erect a historical edifice on the work of this man and interpret the dispersion of the church in such a way **) that as a result of an inner conflict only the Hellenists had reason to fear the fury of the Jews, while the “Judaizers” on the other hand remained and could remain, are building on an untenable foundation. As long as one continues to speak of this church, which presupposes the Acts of the Apostles, to make assumptions about the relationship of the “party” which it assumes, to hold fast to these men whom it calls the leaders and heads of the party, so long will one not arrive at the real history. In order to get to the bottom of history, one must dig deeper and first remove the chimerical construction of the Acts of the Apostles.

*) The execution of James, brother of John, by Herod, an event whose historical character we have to examine only in the context of the examination of all the statements of James.

**) such as Dr. Baur, op. cit. p. 38, 39.


Like the machinery that suddenly stands still for Peter’s sake, only to be set in motion again by Peter, the report of the Apostles’ Convention will also fall to the ground.




BRUNO BAUER: Acts of the Apostles – in English

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by Neil Godfrey

The German text that I used for the translation is on Google Books:
Die Apostelgeschichte: eine Ausgleichung des Paulinismus und des Judenthums innerhalb der christlichen Kirche.




Another Angle on Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

Greg Doudna once again challenges us to think outside the box (recall his thoughts on the John the Baptist passage in Josephus and related discussion): this time, regarding Paul. See his conference presentation online at:

Note his second part of the title. His thoughts, as I understand that title, are an invitation to dig further into the possibility.

The proposal here is that the Christian Paul and Apollonius reflect independent tradition trajectories from a single original figure, i.e. that Paul was Apollonius.

GD takes up the suggestion that Saul the Herodian in Josephus is our Paul: see Robert Eisenman’s Paul as Herodian. (GD earlier opened up the questioning of the conventional date for Paul on the basis of his letters — though other evidence allows for a far wider set of options for the time of Paul’s activity) He notes the presence of three famous anti-Roman namesakes in Jerusalem: Simon bar Giora, John bar Sosa and James bar Sosa. Were the different visits of Paul to Jerusalem that we read about in Galatians and Acts actually different versions of the one visit? Is it possible that Joses (=Joseph) Barnabas in Acts is Josephus, the Jew who remained observant to Judaism while his companion Saul the Herodian rejected Jewish observance?

The original gospel of Paul was analogous to the views set forth by Josephus in his post-70 writings concerning the positive role of Rome in the divine economy in dealing with the Jewish rebels’ bloody defilement of the temple in Jerusalem. As Josephus told it, the Roman destruction was a purification of the Jewish temple cult, a temple which Josephus portrayed as defiled by the revolutionaries who brought divine wrath upon the Jewish nation as a result of their misdeeds, wrath carried out through the divine agency of the Romans, the severity and scale of the disaster and atrocities squarely the fault of the rebels who could have avoided it by surrendering earlier.

This was the ideology of Josephus in interpretation of the disasters which befell the Jews in 70 even as Josephus in Rome continued to be observant and sought in his writings to represent the Jewish people favorably to the educated world through his writing of Jewish history. Josephus’s ideology or “gospel” is startlingly similar to the ideology or gospel of Paul in the epistle to the Romans and in the other epistles as well. The writings of Josephus and Paul reflect the same basic ideology or lines of interpretation in response to 70, though Paul went beyond Josephus in arguing creatively—on the basis of Jewish scripture and in the name of a Jewish messiah—that Jewish religion and practice were superceded and now obsolete.

And to come back to the title of the article…..

This teaching of Paul with respect to Jewish religion and ideology in a post-70 context may be understood as in keeping with, a special case of, Apollonius’s rejection of sacrifices and cult practices in Apollonius’s view of true religion.

I simply have no idea where to place the canonical letters attributed to Paul in the history of the early church. I have no idea who the person behind the name of “Paul” was — and that name pops up in all sorts of places with all sorts of (contradictory) beliefs and practices. But I am increasingly partial to the idea that Christianity as we might recognize it as something with a distinct identity as a “movement” did not begin until after the Jewish War of 66-70/73 CE. This possibility makes me open to exploring ideas such as those raised by Greg Doudna.



Only One Explanation: Paul Believed in a Divine Christ “Before Jesus”

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by Neil Godfrey

There remains only one explanation: Paul believed in such a celestial being, in a divine Christ, before he believed in Jesus. Paul, by William Wrede

I found this little book of particular interest not because of the ideas themselves but because of who wrote them. William Wrede is best known for his study of the Gospel of Mark, The Messianic Secret. I was unaware until recently that he also wrote a book about Paul. It’s available on archive.org — http://archive.org/details/Paulpaulus The link is to the English language translation. (It’s not a long book: 180 somewhat small pages only a light population of words on each.)

Wrede cannot accept that Paul himself arrived at all of his concepts and theology relating to Christ simply from meditating on what he knew of the historical Jesus. Even the ethics that Paul teaches derive from Judaism and not from Jesus, he explains. From the reports of the life of a man who existed only a few years earlier it is inconceivable, Wrede argues, that Paul could have arrived at his vision of the celestial pre-existence of the risen Jesus or so magnified the stories of the mortal man that he imagined him as a “superhuman Son of God”.

There remains only one explanation: Paul believed in such a celestial being, in a divine Christ, before he believed in Jesus. Until he became a Christian it seemed to him sacrilege to call Jesus the Christ. This man did not answer at all to the divine figure of Christ which Paul bore within him. But in the moment of conversion, when Jesus appeared before him in the shining glory of his risen existence, Paul identified him with his own Christ, and straightway transferred to Jesus all the conceptions which he already had of the celestial being—for instance, that he had existed before the world and had taken part in its creation. The man Jesus was really, therefore, only the wearer of all those mighty predicates which had already been established; but the bliss of the apostle lay in this, that he could now regard what had hitherto been a mere hope, as a tangible reality which had comeinto the world. Here again we see the great importance ofthe fact that he had not known Jesus. Intimate disciples could not so readily believe that the man with whom they had sat at table in Capernaum, or sailed on the Lake of Galilee, was the creator of the world. But in Paul’s way there was no such obstacle.

If Paul was acquainted with this divine Christ before his conversion, there must have beencircles in Judaism which held the same belief. But can such a belief in this field be really authenticated? So much is certain, that Jewish apocalyptic books are really cognizant of a Messiah, who before his appearance lives in heaven, and is more exalted than the angels themselves. This is a datum of the highest importance. Whether, however, every feature in the Pauline Christ can be explained by means of the extant apocalyptic accounts of Messiah, is a question we shall not here attempt to decide. Investigation is only now beginning to master the problem aright. The immediate point of supreme importance is the perception of this fact: that the Pauline Christ cannot be understood unless we assume that Paul, while still a Pharisee, possessed a number of definite conceptions concerning a divine being, which were afterwards transferred to the historical Jesus?

So how did it all happen in Wrede’s view?

First comes the idea of Christ. On this the whole conception of the redemption rests. For the death and resurrection of Christ are not regarded as the experiences of a man, but as the experiences of an incarnate divine being. It is upon this that their universal, world-redeemed significance depends. The key to the problem, in itself so enigmatical, why the Son of God became a man, was found by Paul in this twofold event. The idea of the redemption itself was again determined by the conceptions which the apostle brought with him. He expected his Christ to vanquish the evil powers of the world, including the demons, and to inaugurate a new condition of things. The accomplishmentof this task was found, where but in the two events of salvation? How Paul came to find it there must remain an open question. Probably these thoughts had long been definitely formulated in his mind before he was led by polemical exigencies to mint the doctrine of justification.

Not that Wrede was allowed the last word. As we would expect, others disagreed. For a two-part critical engagement with Wrede’s ideas see

Morgan, W. “The Jesus Paul Controversy 1.” The Expository Times 20, no. 1 (October 1908): 9–12. https://doi.org/10.1177/001452460802000102.

———. “The Jesus Paul Controversy 2.” The Expository Times 20, no. 2 (November 1908): 55–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/001452460802000202.


Paul and Jesus: Mirrored Rejections, Deaths and Resurrections

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by Neil Godfrey

After posting Paul is Jesus Redivivus in Acts I remembered I had forgotten to include some of the more interesting details from J. A. Mattill’s article. Mattill began with some historical observations of the Paul-Jesus parallels. I have since added key points to the earlier post.

. . . Important is [Eduard] Zeller’s observation that the remarkable feature in Acts that Paul always is compelled only by the unbelief of the Jews to preach to the Gentiles has its undeniable type in the narrative of Jesus’ rejection in his own home town, the narrative with which Luke so characteristically opens Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. iv 16-30 13).

Google translation: The original of Peter and Paul of the Acts of the Apostles is the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels. The author of the Acts of the Apostles had the latter in mind … when he borrowed the lines from which he composed the image of both apostles … Since the Gospel portrait of Jesus is unhistorical, even one word about the historical character of the copy would be superfluous.

About the same time as Zeller, Bruno Bauer, whose interest was in the Jesus of the Synoptics rather than of Luke alone, nevertheless set forth thirteen Jesus-parallels in Luke-Acts. The significant part of Bauer’s study, for our purposes, lies in his famous statement:

“Das Original des Petrus und des Paulus der Apostel- geschichte ist der Jesus der synoptischen Evangelien. Der Verfasser der Apostelgeschichte hatte die letzteren … vor Augen, als er ihnen die Züge entlehnte, aus denen er das Bild beider Apostel zusammensetzte ….”

Since the Gospel portrait of Jesus is unhistorical, even one word about the historical character of the copy would be superfluous.

The most thorough-going presentation of the Jesus-Paul parallels is that of Rackham in his commentary on Acts [link is to the online text; see pp xlvii, 401, 477-478]. The active work of Jesus and Paul “is concluded by a ‘passion’ or period of suffering, which in each volume occupies a seemingly disproportionate space …. After early anticipations (Lk. ix 51 = Acts xix 21) and a detailed journey up to Jerusalem (Lk. xvii 11-xix 48 = Acts xx-xxi 17) with ‘last words’ of the sufferer (Lk. xx-xxi = Acts xx 17-38) we have the ‘passion’ proper (Lk. xxii-xxiii = Acts xxi 17-xxviii 10). And then in each case the book ends with a period of victorious but quiet preparation for further advance,.. “For if in the scheme of Acts the last chapters correspond to the last chapters of the Gospel, this chapter (xxvii) forms the parallel (as is fairly evident) to the crucifixion or Lk. xxii-xxiii’’, followed by resurrection. This general parallelism “at once gives significance” to a number of details “which by themselves would have escaped notice”.

Paul’s shipwreck and plunging into the deep are the counterparts to Jesus’ death on the cross (Lk. xxiii 26-49; Acts xxvii 14-24). The storm and darkness during Paul’s voyage correspond to the darkness and spiritual storm on Calvary (Lk. xxiii 44-45; Acts xxvii 20). The verdict of the centurion that Jesus was a righteous man parallels that of the Maltese that Paul was a god (Lk. xxiii 47; Acts xxviii 6). The rest and peace of the three winter months at Malta, when Paul was entirely cut off from the outside world and old life, is like Jesus’ three days in the grave (Lk. xxiii 50-56; Acts xxviii 1-10). Paul’s rescue at sea at Malta is a resurrection from the dead parallel to that of Jesus (Lk. xxiv 1-11; Acts xxvii 39-44). Paul’s voyage to Rome in the spring, which was to Paul the entrance into a new life, is comparable to the joyful period after the resurrection (Lk. xxiv 12-49; Acts xxviii 11-16).

. . .

* Jesus redivivus: Windisch, “Paulus und Jesus”, Theologische Studien und Kritiken 106 (1934-1935), 465.

From the history-of-religions standpoint, Hans Windisch devotes an entire book to the Jesus-Paul parallels in Gospels, Acts, and Epistles. He is concerned with the similarity of the two figures themselves and the comparableness of both to the “man of God” of the Old Testament and the “divine man” of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Paul is Jesus redivivus*, an incarnation of Christ for the church, a Christ under Christ. Luke found this parallelism in the subject-matter itself, and as a theologically-minded historian he developed it so that he made Jesus to be his own apostle as a forerunner of Paul and Paul to be a second Christ-messenger 20).

Much indebted to Rackham is M. D. Goulder, who calls Rackham “a typologist before his time” [see below]. “Acts”, says Goulder, “is not straight-forward history but typological history, the life of Jesus providing the types of the life of the Church”, the body of Christ. “All of the life of Jesus is matter typical of his Church’s history. But the dominant types are the dominant facts of his life, his passion, death, and resurrection ….” Goulder finds wide agreement about the existence of “an intentional set of parallels” between Jesus and Paul.

Goulder strengthens the argument for the parallel between “Paul’s shipwreck and deliverance and Jesus’ death and resurrection”. To the Semites “death was like going into the sea …. All the sea is death to the Semite, whether we drown or whether we paddle and come out again …” Paul himself refers to his shipwrecks as “deaths” and his rescues as “resurrections” (II Cor. i 8-10; xi 23).

Going down in a storm was the metaphor par excellence in scripture for death, and being saved from one for resurrection: when St Paul speaks of his shipwrecks in these terms, how can St Luke have thought otherwise ? He has shaped his book to lead up to the passion of Christ’s apostle from xix 21 on in such a way as to recall what led up to the passion of Christ himself in the earlier book: and as the climax of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, so the climax of Acts is the thanatos and anastasis of Paul. (Goulder, p. 39)

(Mattill, 18-21)

Ludolf Backhuysen 1630 – 1708 “Paul’s Shipwreck” From Art and the Bible

For those of us interested here is Goulder’s discussion (pp. 34-39) on the shipwreck’s relation to the crucifixion (my formatting): Continue reading “Paul and Jesus: Mirrored Rejections, Deaths and Resurrections”


Paul is Jesus Redivivus in Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

The author of Acts appears to have used the life experiences, trials and death of Jesus as his model for the life and trials of Paul. The following evidence for this claim is taken from a 1975 article by A. J. Mattill, Jr., “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts”. If one accepts that the source of Paul’s life and adventures was the Lukan account of Jesus then there are implications for the purpose of Luke-Acts and the literary-theological function of Paul himself.

The first-listed parallels may not seem so striking but keep scrolling. The four trials of each are surely worth noting. Mattill fleshes out many of the points with numerous verbal parallels but I have omitted most of those here.




Jesus and Paul are from their childhood law-abiding Israelites

  • Jesus is circumcised the eighth day (Luke 2:21-24)
  • Jesus and his parents observe Passover (Luke 2:41-42)
  • Jesus teaches that the Law will never fail (Luke 16:17)
  • Jesus is falsely accused of changing the customs of Moses (Acts 6:14)


Jesus and Paul begin and continue their preaching in the synagogues

A related key parallel:

Zeller’s observation that the remarkable feature in Acts that Paul always is compelled only by the unbelief of the Jews to preach to the Gentiles has its undeniable type in the narrative of Jesus’ rejection in his own home town, the narrative with which Luke so characteristically opens Jesus’ public ministry (Lk. iv 16-30 13).

(Mattill, p. 18)


The Pharisees who believe in the resurrection affirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

  • Jesus affirms the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection from the dead (Luke 14:14; 20:27-40)
  • Hence Jesus enlists sympathy of Pharisees against the Sadducees (Luke 20:39)
  • Jesus declares “all live in God” (to prove the resurrection) (Luke 20:38)


Fulfilment of Scripture

The author of Luke-Acts based his narrative around the fulfilment of scripture.


Jesus quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Luke 8:10)

Jesus proves by Scripture that he is

Jesus affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached


Paul quotes and applies Isaiah 6:9-10 to his work and response (Acts 28:25-28)

Paul proves by Scripture that Jesus is

Paul affirms from Scripture that the Gospel shall be preached


Both are God’s ordained servants to fulfil the divine plan of salvation

Jesus is God’s chosen servant (Luke 9:35; 23:35)

Jesus is divinely sent (Luke 4:18, 43; 9:48; 10:16)


Jesus proclaims (Luke 4:18, 19, 44: 8:1)


attracting multitudes by the message (Luke 5:1; 7:11; 8:4; 11:27, 29; 12:1; 14:25; 19:48; 20:1; 21:38)

Paul is God’s chosen instrument (Acts 16:17)

Paul is divinely sent (Acts 22:21; 26:17; cf 14:4, 14)


Paul proclaims (Acts 9:20; 19:13; 20:25; 28:31)


attracting multitudes by the message (Acts 11:26; 13:44; 14:1; 17:4; 19:10)


Divine necessity (δει) drives the planned careers of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus must be in his Father’s house (Luke 2:49)

He must proclaim the good news (Luke 4:43)

He must go to Jerusalem (Luke 13:33)

He must abide at Zacchaeus’ house (Luke 19:5)

In Jerusalem he must suffer many things (Luke 17:25)

then he must rise from the dead (Luke 24:7, 26)

then he must be received in heaven (Acts 3:21)

Paul is told what he must do (Acts 9:6)

He must suffer many things (Acts 9:6)

He must be delivered from death when cast ashore on a certain island (Acts 27:26)

He must see Rome (Acts 19:21)

In Rome he must bear witness (Acts 23:11)

and there must be judged (Acts 25:10)

and must stand before Caesar (Acts 27:24)


Spirit, Revelations, and Angels direct, control, assure, strengthen Jesus and Paul

Jesus receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Luke 3:21-22)

Jesus is “full of the holy spirit” (Luke 4:1)

Jesus is controlled by the spirit — led into wilderness and returns in spirit’s power to Galilee (Luke 4:1, 14)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:


Angel appears to Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22:43)

Paul receives the Holy Spirit at baptism (Acts 9:17-18)

Paul is “full of the holy spirit” (Acts 9:17; 13:9)

Paul is controlled by the spirit — forbidden to enter Asia and Bithynia, purposes in the spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:6, 7, 21)

Revelations and voices directing his ministry:

Angel appears to Paul during storm at sea (Acts 27:23)


Parallel signs and wonders confirm the teachings of Jesus and Paul

Jesus casts out demons (Luke 4:33-37, 41; 8:26-39; 11:20)

Jesus heals the lame man (Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus cures many sick (Luke 4:40; 6:17-19)

Jesus cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Luke 4:38-40)

Jesus raises the dead (Luke 7:11-17; 8:40-42; 49-46)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Luke 8:52)

Jesus imparts healing power physically (Luke 5:17; 6:19; 8:46)

Those healed provide Jesus with necessities (Luke 8:2-3)

Paul casts out demons (Acts 10:38; 16:16-18)

Paul heals a lame man (Acts 14:8-14)

Paul heals many sick (Acts 28:9)

Paul cures a fever and others stream in for healing (Acts 28:7-10)

Paul raises the dead (Acts 20:9-12)

. . . after affirming the person was not really dead (Acts 20:10)

Paul imparts healing power physically (Acts 19:6, 11-12)

Those healed provide Paul with necessities (Acts 28:10)


Turning to the Gentiles is a theme of both Jesus and Paul

Jesus is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Nazareth) of his ministry (Luke 4:28-29)

and often thereafter (Luke 5:21-30; 6:1-5, 6-11; 7:39; 11:14-23, 53-54; 13:14-17; 14:1-6; 15:2; 16:14-15; 19:39-48; 20:1-8, 19-26, 27-40; 22:2-6, 47-53, 66-71; 23:1-43)

Jesus is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and threatened with stoning, but escapes with his life (Luke 4:29-30)

Audience is enraged when Jesus speaks of gentiles (Luke 4:27-28)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύοντες) to kill Jesus (Luke 11:54)

Jesus declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

Jesus travels through Samaria (prefiguring Paul) (Luke 9:51-19:44)

Jesus sends out the 70 symbolizing the evangelization of every nation (Luke 10:1-16)

Teaches the rejection of Israel (Luke 20:9-19) and commands the gentile mission (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8; 22:21)

From the Law and Prophets Jesus proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Luke 24:44-47)

Jesus proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Luke 24:47)

Jesus is a light revealing salvation to the world (Luke 2:32)

Paul is rejected and persecuted by his own people from the beginning (Damascus) of his ministry (Acts 9:23)

and often thereafter (Acts 9:23-24, 29-30; 13:45-51; 14:2-6, 19; 17:5-15; 18:6-12; 19:8-9; 20:3; 21:27-23:22; 24:1-9; 28:23-28)

Paul is taken outside a city (ἔξω τῆς πόλεως) and stoned by escapes with his life (Acts 14:19-20)

Audience is enraged when Paul speaks of gentiles (Acts 18:47-50; 22:21-22)

Jews lie in wait (ἐνεδρεύουσιν) to kill Paul (Acts 23:21)

Paul declares that just as in days of old Jews to be rejected and gentiles accepted

After first preaching to Jews everywhere (Antioch Acts 13:46-47), Corinth (18:6), Ephesus (19:9) and Rome (28:24-28 — quoting Isaiah 6:9-10, cf Luke 8:10)

Paul travels through Samaria, reporting how gentiles turned to God (Acts 15:3)


From the Law and Prophets Paul proclaims the passion, resurrection and ensuing gentile mission (Acts 26:22-23)

Paul proclaims repentance is to be preached to all (Acts 17:30)

Paul is a light revealing salvation to the world (Acts 13:47; 26:23)


Journey to Jerusalem and the Passion

The two great travel sections: Luke 9:51-19:44 and Acts 19:21-28:31

Luke 9:51-52 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him

Acts 19:21-22 After all this had happened, Paul decided[a] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Luke 18:31-33; 9:44)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Luke 19:47)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets must die (Luke 13:33)

Jesus is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Luke 20:27)

Jesus is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Luke 20:27)

Jesus delivers farewell addresses (Luke 20:45-21:36; 22:14-38; 24: 36-53)

In his last words (Luke 20-22)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Luke 21:18)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Jesus’ passion (Luke 21:37)

Jews plot treachery to kill Jesus (Luke 22:2-6)

Jesus is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to die (Luke 22:40-44) — “thy will be done”

Jesus is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Luke 22:54)

Jesus expostulates with his opponents (Luke 22:52-53)

A last journey to Jerusalem is a journey toward passion, as prophesied, knowing that he will be handed over to gentiles: (Acts 20:22-23; 21:10-11; 28:17)

The ultimate scene of persecution was Jerusalem where the leaders  sought his death (Acts 25:2-3)

Jerusalem is the place where prophets are expected to die (Acts 21:30-36; 22:22-25; 23:12-22; 25:1-12)

Paul is opposed by the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (Acts 23:8)

Paul is accused by the Sadducean high priesthood (Acts 23:6-8)

Paul delivers farewell addresses (Acts 20:1, 7; 20:18-35)

In his last words (Acts 20:18-35)

Not a hair of your head will perish (Acts 27:34)

The Temple is the setting for the prelude to Paul’s passion (Acts 21:26)

Jews plot treachery to kill Paul (Acts 23:12-16)

Paul is severely tempted to abandon his purpose to be ready to die (Acts 21:13; 20:23; 21:4, 10-14) — the Lord’s will be done”

Paul is seized at Jerusalem by the Jews (Acts 21:27)

Paul expostulates with his opponents (Acts 21:40-22:21)


Parallel Trials, Charges and Acquittals

Four trials of Jesus

Jesus is accused of

Pilate asks where Jesus is from and then sends him to the authority (Herod) of that region (Galilee) (Luke 23:6-7)

  • appears by order of Pilate
  • before Herod Antipas
  • who happens to be available (Luke 23:7)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Luke 23:7-8)
  • Herod Antipas hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (Luke 23:8)
  • Jews stand and accuse Jesus before Herod (Luke 23:10)

Roman authority Pontius Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus (Luke 23:4)

Pilate exonerates Jesus (“I have found no basis for your charges against this man”) (Luke 23:14)

Roman governor Pilate finds Jesus has done nothing worthy of death (Luke 23:15, 22)

Pilate would have released Jesus (Luke 23:16, 20)

The crowd shout for Jesus’ death (Luke 23:18, 21)


Four trials of Paul

Paul is accused of

Felix asks Paul where he is from and then holds him until he can be heard before the relevant authority (Acts 23:34-35)

  • appears by order of Festus
  • before Herod Agrippa II
  • who happens to be available (Acts 25:13-14)
  • and can thus have his wish to hear the accused (Acts 25:22)
  • Felix hoped Paul would give him money (Acts 24:26)
  • Jews stand and vehemently accuse Paul before Festus (Acts 25:7)

Roman authority Claudius Lysias finds no guilt in Paul (Acts 23:29)

Pharisees exonerate Paul (“we find nothing wrong with this man”) (Acts 23:9)

Roman governor Festus finds Paul has done nothing worthy of death (Acts 25:25; 26:31)

Agrippa would have released Paul (Acts 26:32)

The crowd shouts for Paul’s death (Acts 21:36; 22:22)

Jesus was shamefully treated in Jerusalem (Luke 18:32)

Last Supper – take bread, give thanks, break it (Luke 22:19)

The people are numbered, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Luke 9:12-17)

Jesus is accompanied by malefactors (Luke 22:37; 23:32)

Jesus kneels to pray (usual posture was to stand) (Luke 22:41)

At his trial Jesus is struck by one nearby (Luke 22:63)

Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (not night, as in Mark) (Luke 22:66)

Jesus is “delivered up” by Pilate to his captors (Luke 23:25)

A crowd follows Jesus (Luke 23:27)

Paul was shamefully treated at Iconium (Acts 14:5)

Meal aboard ship — take bread, give thanks, break it (Acts 27:33-38)

The people are numbered, Paul takes bread, gives thanks, breaks bread, feeds the people (Acts 27:33-38)

Paul is accompanied by malefactors (Acts 27:1)

Paul kneels to pray (Acts 20:36)

At his trial Paul is struck by one nearby (Acts 22:30)

Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin “the next day” (Acts 22:30)

Paul is “delivered up” by Festus to his captors (Acts 27:1)

A crowd follows Paul (Acts 21:36)


Deaths and resurrections

Paul’s shipwreck and plunging into the deep are the counterparts to Jesus’ death on the cross (Luke 23:26-49; Acts 27:14-24). . . .

Goulder strengthens the argument for the parallel between “Paul’s shipwreck and deliverance and Jesus’ death and resurrection”. To the Semites “death was like going into the sea …. All the sea is death to the Semite, whether we drown or whether we paddle and come out again …” Paul himself refers to his shipwrecks as “deaths” and his rescues as “resurrections” (II Cor. 1:8-10; 11:23)

Going down in a storm was the metaphor par excellence in scripture for death, and being saved from one for resurrection: when St Paul speaks of his shipwrecks in these terms, how can St Luke have thought otherwise ? He has shaped his book to lead up to the passion of Christ’s apostle from xix 21 on in such a way as to recall what led up to the passion of Christ himself in the earlier book: and as the climax of the Gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ, so the climax of Acts is the thanatos and anastasis of Paul.

(Mattill, pp. 19, 21)

An amazed centurion judges Jesus to be a righteous man (Luke 23:47)

Jesus was three days in the grave (Luke 23:50-56)

Jesus was rescued from death (Luke 24:1-11)

Post-resurrection joy (Luke 24:12-49)

An amazed Maltese judges Paul to be a god (Acts 28:6)

Paul was at rest and peace for three winter months cut off from the outside world (Acts 28:1-10) (28:11 – “3 months”)

Paul was rescued from death at sea at Malta (Acts 27:39-44)

Paul’s voyage to Rome in spring which was Paul’s entrance into a new life (Acts 28:11-16)


Other parallels though not in Luke

(If Luke was the last written gospel and its author knew the other three, as some have argued…?)

Jesus is said to be out of his mind (Mark 3:21)

Jesus is bound (Mark 15:1)

Jesus is challenged over disrespect to high priest (John 18:22)

Jesus comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Matthew 27:19)

Jesus’ judges wish to please the Jews (Mark 15:15)

Earthquake while on cross (Matthew 27:51)

Paul is said to be out of his mind (Acts 26:24)

Paul is bound (Acts 21:11, 33; 24:27)

Paul is challenged over disrespect to high priest (Acts 23:4)

Paul comes before a judge whose wife is mentioned (Acts 24:24)

Paul’s judges wish to please the Jews (Acts 24:27; 25:9)

Earthquake while in prison (Acts 16:26)


Mattill, A. J. “The Jesus-Paul Parallels and the Purpose of Luke-Acts: H. H. Evans Reconsidered.” Novum Testamentum 17, no. 1 (1975): 15–46. https://doi.org/10.2307/1560195https://www.jstor.org/stable/1560195


Is Luke’s Silence Evidence of Ignorance?

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by Tim Widowfield

The Apostle Paul

When reading scholars’ arguments about determining the dates of books in the New Testament, I often come away feeling as if I know less than when I started. Their works frequently leave me with a dull headache.

Many current scholars have placed all their eggs in the internal evidence basket, admitting that all the external evidence we have is, at best, inconclusive. They focus on what the writers said and didn’t say, compared to what they assume a writer would say — or would not say — at any given period or with any given theological bent.

You might expect that the loss of all external corroboration would bring with it a concomitant drop in reliability. Or, to put it another way, the confidence interval (i.e., the range of dates between which a book was probably written) would now necessarily be quite large. However, you must recall that we’re dealing with NT scholars. Their lack of evidence is more than offset by their brimming self-confidence.

Because mainstream scholarship has generally concluded that the authors of Matthew and Luke used the gospel of Mark, we have a chain of dependency. We can say, for example, that if Luke depended on the availability of Mark’s gospel then Luke must have written his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (assuming the same author wrote both) later than Mark.

Beyond that, if we could peg the dates for Luke and Acts at a certain point, then we would in the same stroke have defined the terminus ad quem for the writing of Mark. Using this logic, conservatives and apologists point to the fact that we never learn about Paul’s death in Acts. He arrives in Rome. He’s under house arrest. Then, silence. What does it mean? Continue reading “Is Luke’s Silence Evidence of Ignorance?”


Making sense of God revealing his son “IN” Paul

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by Neil Godfrey

And now for something technical.

I’m copying here a comment I left on another discussion group a few days ago. How is one to make sense of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:15-16 where he says God revealed his son “in me”:

Galatians 1:15-16 seems really puzzling and important:

But when it pleased God…to reveal his son in me (apocalypsai ton huion autou en emoi), that I might preach him among the gentiles…

Several responses to the question seemed to me to be too quick to sweep aside the detail and to rationalize it with our more conventional understanding of the resurrection appearances and perhaps even something akin to the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts. But several scholars are not so casually dismissive of the “problem”. I copy here how three scholarly sources explain the meaning of “in me”. So if this is a question that interests you, ….. (please excuse some scrambled fonts in the copying of the Greek this time)

The UBS Translators’ Handbook comments:

To reveal his Son to me is literally “to reveal his Son in (or by) me.” Does this mean “to reveal his Son to others, by means of me” or “to reveal his Son to me”? While the first of these is possible (a similar construction occurs in 1.24), yet on the basis of the total context and Paul’s line of argument, the second alternative is more acceptable. The burden of this passage is how Paul received the gospel, not how he proclaimed it. TEV makes this latter meaning clear (so also NAB and RSV). Most other translations keep the construction “in me,” and NEB combines the two ideas (“reveal his Son to me and through me”).

It would be possible to render to reveal his Son to me as simply “to show me his Son” or “to cause me to see his Son,” but this would scarcely do justice to the fuller implications of the revelation. Some translators prefer an expression meaning “to cause me to know who his Son really is,” “to show me who his Son really is,” or even “to let me see what I could not see before—who his Son really is.”

Alan Segal in Paul the Convert understands the words to indicate a spiritual union with God’s or Christ’s heavenly image. Continue reading “Making sense of God revealing his son “IN” Paul”


The Function of the Term: “Born of a Woman”

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by Tim Widowfield

Job: “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.”

Have we, after all, been making too much of Galatians 4:4? That’s the question I keep asking myself. After much reflection, I believe yes, we have, but perhaps not for the reason you would expect.

In Daniel Gullotta’s “On Richard Carrier’s Doubts,” he writes:

Furthermore, while Paul does use the word γενόμενον [genómenon] (to be made/to become)  [see: γίνομαι (ginomai)] instead of the typical γεννάω [gennáō] (to be born), γενόμενον does appear in relation to human births in other pieces of ancient literature, such as Plato’s Republic and Josephus’ Antiquities [of the Jews].61 It is also noteworthy that the similarly worded phrase ‘born of a woman’ is also found within the Book of Job, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Gospel of Thomas, as well as in other early Christian texts, each time indicating a human birth.62 With this convention in mind then, Paul’s expression, ‘born of a woman’, is fitting and certainly not exceptional. Thus, when Paul writes of Jesus’ coming into the world (Gal 4.4-6; cf. Phil 2.5-8; 2 Cor 8.9; Rom 8.3-4), it is apparent that it should be taken at face value to indicate Jesus being born like any other ordinary Jewish human being, that is, ‘born of a woman, born under the law.’ (Gullotta 2016, p. 329)

61 Josephus Ant., 1.303; 7.154; Plato, Rep., 8.553.

62 Cf. Job 14.1; 15.14; 25.4; 1 qs 11.20-21; 1 qh 13.14; 18.12-13; Matt 11.11; GThom 15; Origen, Against Celsus 1.70; Ps.-Clem., Homily 3.52.

I have preserved Gullotta’s footnotes above, because we’re going to take a look at all of his references to see if his assertions hold up. We’ll see whether the phrase “born of a woman” is (1) fitting and (2) certainly not exceptional. Ultimately, we’ll try to determine the function of the phrase in its context in Galatians.

Citations in Ancient Greek Literature

Before we examine the citations in ancient literature, I must praise Gullotta for scouring the thousands of occurrences of genómenon to find three instances in which the word appears (he claims) “in relation to human births.” Let’s begin.  Continue reading “The Function of the Term: “Born of a Woman””


Paul and Eschatalogical Morality

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by Tim Widowfield

In a recent post (What a Bizarre Profession), Neil cited James McGrath over at The Pigeon Trough, discussing Paul’s admonition to the Romans not to resist the powers that be.

13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  (NASB)

English: The Apostle Paul
English: The Apostle Paul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naturally, McGrath mainly wished to take a few fizzling fusillades at mythicists, and that’s no surprise. What did surprise me was the number of respected scholars who actually take the scripture so seriously (if not literally), they feel obliged to tie themselves into rhetorical knots over whether and when to refuse to submit to governing authorities.

As Neil rightly said:

This human universal owes precious little to a few words written from a vaguely understood context and provenance in a civilization far removed from ours.

But even if he had written more clearly, and we fully understood the context of Romans 13, would we have any reason to consider Paul a trustworthy advocate for ethical behavior?

The question intrigues me, so I thought I’d compile a little list of reasons we might not want to trust Paul’s advice.

♦ Imminent Eschatology

Paul was clearly a believer in the imminent eschaton. He seems to have arrived at this belief by analyzing recent events, especially the resurrection, in light of scriptural reinterpretation. We might find his method somewhat odd, since he could have cited the teachings of his Christ instead. However, Paul either chose not to mention Jesus’ predictions concerning the coming of the Son of Man and the destruction of the Temple, or else he was unaware of them. Continue reading “Paul and Eschatalogical Morality”