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Jewish New Testament voices: the case of Matthew 7

December 20, 2011

The word “Christian” does not appear in the original text [of the New Testament]. It is the Greek word for “messianic,” an adjective describing what Jews had always been.
Willis Barnstone

The only first-century Pharisee from whom we have written records is Paul of Tarsus. Paul wrote 7 if not 13 [New Testament] documents…. [T]he more we know about first-century Judaism, the more we know how well he fits into the first century.

The first person in history ever called “rabbi” is Jesus of Nazareth, and his statements make a great deal of sense in a Jewish context. The New Testament becomes for us a marvelous source of Jewish history.
Amy-Jill Levine

I think this book is important to different people for various different reasons. I am tired of hearing people talking about the Judeo-Christian heritage of America, implying that Judaism and Christianity are more or less the same thing!
Marc Zvi Brettler

Let me back up and start this post over by letting you know that the quotations I’ve attributed to Barnstone, to Levine, and to Brettler above are second hand.  I mean that literally.  With my own hands I’ve typed the statements, and so they are re-typed.  But the quotations were originally typed by Mort Rosenblum, Barnstone’s friend, and by Rachel Barenblat, a member of Levine’s and of Brettler’s audience.  The voices, originally, are Barnstone’s and Levine’s and Brettler’s.  So now, as I appropriate the spoken transcriptions into my own blogpost, what’s changed?  And what is the same?  And what happens if I were to translate this post into my other native language, that is, into Vietnamese?  Or would these Jewish scholars sound the same in written French or in handwritten Mandarin?  The questions are too large, aren’t they?

Well, in comments after my post “What Willis Barnstone wants for Christmas: Some questions on the Virgin birth, the New Testament, and its translation,” the questions may be bigger.  “Is is is?” Bob asks.  “Why does the Book of Mormon exist? So Christians can understand how Jews feel about the New Testament,” Theophrastus emphasizes with humor.  And CD-Host suggests questions by stating:  “I agree with the Jesus seminar make the New Testament about a bunch of Ioudaians living in Iouda. Leave their names in Greek. And heck do the same thing with Old Testaments when they are tied to New Testaments.  The root of the anti-semitism is the bible itself, I don’t see any advantage to Jews in making the ties more explicit.”  I’m asking myself whether CD-Host is somehow bringing the questions Barnstone is asking around full circle.  Is there any more sense in restoring Ζεύς [Zeus] from the Roman Jupiter than there is in giving voice to מִרְיָם [Miriam] from the Christian New Testament Mary?

I am not sure we have to agree on the answers.  Can we?  Who envies Barnstone in his attempts to hear the poetic voice of Jesus in his English verse translation of the Greek gospel writers’ translations?  Do we only sympathize with Brettler and Levine in their wish to make a useful Annotated Jewish New Testament?  Might we characterize (or would it be a mischaracterization to call) their projects “Jewish”?  What do they hope to see that we don’t?  Maybe I’m missing their point but would nonethless like to look a bit in this post at snippets from Matthew 7 as a way, perhaps, of listening in, of eavesdropping, on ancient voices that might well be heard as poetic and Semitic however remediated.

In late punctuated Greek, (my formatting) Matthew translates Jesus saying:

κρίνετε, ἵνα
κριθῆτε· ἐν ᾧ γὰρ
κριθήσεσθε· καὶ ἐν ᾧ
μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.

What’s striking whether you hear (audibly) or read (visably) is the wordplay. There are parallels, reversals, alliterations, rhymes, and meters. It’s poetic. It’s written Greek, a presumed translation of spoken Aramaic, but how Semitic, how Hebraic?

What’s gained in the Common English Bible by this translation of that Greek? “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you.

What’s gained in the English Standard Version? “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

What’s helpful in the Jesus Seminar‘s Scholars Version Translation, in which the first two sentences are bold black font (indicating “Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition”) but the third sentence is gray font (indicating “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own”)? “Don’t pass judgment, so you won’t be judged. Don’t forget, the judgment you hand out will be the judgment you get back. And the standard you apply will be the standard applied to you.

What is more restored the way Barnstone translates?

Do not judge so you may not be judged,
For by your judgment you will be judged
And by your measure you will be measured.

Jesus is preaching a sermon here. He had been teaching in synagogues, Matthew writes, in his home, but now he’s out in the open and his audience is from all over. Matthew is translating. His audience, we understand, is not nearly as specific. So the voices, the appropriations of the spoken and the translated and the written down words, are layered over. Who is the real insider to this sermon, to this text?

Let’s keep listening and reading.

Πάντα οὖν ὅσα [ἂν] ἐὰν θέλητε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς· οὗτος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται.

This is the famous golden rule. So many different peoples have it, so many different cultures, in so many different languages. But Jesus’s crowd hears it in Hebrew Aramaic, so the story goes. And Matthew translates it in Greek, as per the legend. And yet, there are variant texts here, one set with ἂν, which I’ve marked with the brackets []. For what it’s worth, the Jesus Seminar Scholars Version Translation translators have this whole bit in bold black. “Jesus didn’t say it.” Matthew, if we read the “Christian” scriptures of Matthew 7:12 closely, has something else: ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται. Before we move on, from this point, there are other Jewish voices today to consider. Let me quote from Rachel Barenblat, who’s doing a lot more quoting than I am, at this point. She says:

You might think this was a very Christian idea, a very Christian understanding of the Hebrew Bible.

But it’s not. Or at least, it’s not only a Christian idea. Quoting from the Talmud Yerushalmi, Dr. Brettler notes — “R’ Akiva taught, love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18) – this is the most important rule in the Torah.” He pointed out the similarities between the New Testament teaching and the Talmudic tradition; and secondly, he argued that anybody who wants to draw a contrast between Christianity as a religion of love and Judaism as a religion of law would do well to remember this passage from Talmud where Leviticus 19:18 is called “the most important rule in Torah.”

In Torah, there’s Leviticus 19:18 and more rules that are the same but that are different: Leviticus 19:33, Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 10:18-19. Similarly, but differently, in the Prophets, there is this: Jeremiah 7:6, Zechariah 7:10. These are rules that make the golden rule. These are rules of Jewish Torah and of Hebrew speaking Prophets that find themselves in the mouth of Jesus as a sermon, in the hand of Matthew as ὁ νόμος καὶ οἱ προφῆται, in the eyes of the readers of the New Testament. Let’s go on a bit further.

At a certain point in the sermon, Matthew has Jesus quoting himself in response to certain imagined interlocutors:

Καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι

Οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς·
ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν.

This is Matthew 7:23. And yet we find that it’s also a quotation of David, the Psalmist, the line known in the Hebrew Bible as Psalm 6:9. But it’s the Greek translation of the first part of it:

ἀπόστητε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ πάντες οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν

For what it’s worth, the JPS has this: “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

Robert Alter has this: “Turn from me, all you wrongdoers.”

Barnstone restoring Jesus’ voice as Matthew uses the Septuagint Greek for King David’s Hebrew has this:

“Go from me / You who are working against the law.”

What Matthew’s Greek is bringing out here is the interplay between “ὁ νόμος” (which Barnstone translates as “the law” and elsewhere as “Torah law”) and “τὴν ἀνομίαν” (which is “against the law”). Greek readers had seen something similar already with Psalms 37, where in verse 31 the Hebrew word תֹּורַת or Torah had been translated in the Septuagint as ὁ νόμος and where in verse 1 the Hebrew word עַוְלָֽה for iniquity had been translated in the LXX as τὴν ἀνομίαν.  Thus, the Hebraic Hellene had created a surface wordplay not so apparent in the Hebrew.  David’s voice as a Greek speaker or as a singer using Hellene had poetry that turned attention to words in a new way.  Jesus, speaking and preaching and quoting David, if in Hebraic Aramaic, would not have sounded this way.  So Matthew restores the turn that the LXX translator(s) took.

After overhearing all of this, we wonder whose text Matthew 7 is?  Whose is the golden rule?  Whose are the law and the prophets?  Whose is the LXX?  Whose is the NT?  Is it entirely misguided to hear Jewish New Testament voices?

25 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2011 5:23 pm

    I was the first to ‘like’ this post. Definitely a fun bit of language gaming – the ‘law’ is still holy of course and anyone who refuses Torah (nomos) as ‘instruction’ – is in an undesirable state. I meandered a response here. I think you are on a vital track to trace the teaching through the Hebrew-Greek bridge. I maybe will audit a Greek course this year in my ‘senior’ state.

  2. December 20, 2011 6:00 pm

    I’d like to correct some comments you quoted from Amy-Jill Levine:

    The only first-century Pharisee from whom we have written records is Paul of Tarsus. Paul wrote 7 if not 13 [New Testament] documents

    This statement is problematic in several ways.

    First, the provenance of the “Pauline epistles” remains a topic of hot dispute.

    Second, Paul (not Saul) wrote his letters after he converted to the Christian break-away group, and his writings are not entirely consistent with Rabbinic writings of the same period. Thus, calling his writings “Pharisaic” is a bit like calling Ravi Zacharias’s writings Hindu: Zacharias was once Hindu, and Paul may or may not have been Pharisaic (there is some scholarly dispute over that point, although he certainly claimed Pharisaic status.

    Third, this claim that this is the “only first-century Pharisee” depends on a narrow interpretation of “writings.” We have a ton of writings from first-century Pharisees, redacted in the Mishnah (the Mishnah was redacted in 200CE.) To mention one of the prominent examples, we have a huge amount of material from Rabbi Hillel (who was called Rabbi, by the way, and who died in 10CE, right about the time Jesus would have become a bar mitzvah, and around the time baby Saul would be learning the alphabet.). To mention another prominent example, we have a huge amount of material from Rabbi Akiva (who was called Rabbi the way, and lived in the first century.)

    Now, perhaps the claim Levine is making here is that “redaction” does not count as “writing.” Then, I would question whether we have writings from Paul or not. Most textual analysts believe that the letters attributed to Paul have been substantially modified in the process of copying and recopying. (To the best of my knowledge, no original manuscript remains.) Similarly, charges are made that the Pauline epistles have been redacted or are pastiches.

    The first person in history ever called “rabbi” is Jesus of Nazareth.

    This seems a dubious assertion at best. Jesus (note she does not call him Joshua) was perhaps called rhabbi (ῥαββί), but we have records in the Mishnah of earlier figures being called rabi (רבי) (e.g., Hillel, as mentioned above) and rav (רב) occurs in the Hebrew Bible. (Note that if רב=master then רבי=my master.) It is certainly false that the first person in history ever called “rabbi” was Jesus, but it is not even the case that Jesus is the first recorded person in history who had this name, unless one uses age of the oldest surviving manuscript as a basis. (However, under that basis, one would say that the Greek New Testament predates the Hebrew Bible, which is certainly an unusual way to talk.)

  3. December 20, 2011 6:26 pm

    @ Theophrastus, re ‘first person called Rabbi’, your counter examples are clear.

    Your phrase ‘after he converted to the Christian break-away group’, begs many questions.

    There are reasonable arguments (e.g. Mark Nanos The Mystery of Romans, and more recently Jason Staples, What do the Gentiles have to do with “All Israel” JBL Vol 130 No 2 371-390) which suggest that Paul is gathering the Gentiles into Israel. This gathering is not conversion to a break-away group.

  4. December 20, 2011 7:26 pm

    Theo, you stole a bunch of the comments I was going to make. So let me throw me too for most of what you wrote. I’d add Josephus as a first century Pharisee from whom we have considerably more information than Paul. But the Mishnah is really the key example, because it is mainstream Pharisaic Judaism. Whether Paul represents an obscure sect, or a new fledgling religion he is without question way outside the norm for Pharisaic Judaism at the time of his letters.

    To consider Paul representative of 1st century Pharisaic Judaism is like considering David Koresh or Thomas Monson’s writings as indicative of 21st century American Christianity. It is very easy to forget how marginal Paul is in his world, because a comment like “Romans is the most important book ever written” is a defensible position in our world. Paul, the most influential theologian to ever live (excluding Buddha), had 0 impact on the Judaism of his day, he wasn’t even meaningfully noticed.

    and [Jesus] statements make a great deal of sense in a Jewish context

    Do they? On the one hand we have a bunch of statements that come right out of the Cynic tradition which seem to have very little to do with Judaism. Next we have a bunch of statements which are apocalyptic and obsessed with John the Baptist, someone hard to imagine embracing Cynics. Then in John we have logos Christianity. And all this intermixed with prophetic fulfillment right out of the Septuagint. His statements make no sense at all in a Jewish context. It would be like taking random statements from American politicians and pasting them together.


    Now with that in mind lets get to Paul and Matthew. First I agree that Paul shows no evidence of any familiarity with Matthew. He doesn’t show any evidence of being familiar with almost any of Jesus’ teachings nor does he show any evidence of Mark or familiarity with most of the events of Jesus’ life. I’m not sure how Paul’s lack of familiarity with Matthew disproves my point about Matthew as an attack on Pharisaic Judaism.

    Regardless, I don’t think Matthew exists at the time Paul is writing his letters.

    I think there is an interesting stuff to discuss in term of Judaism and Christianity. I’ve been thinking a lot about Col 2 and the sect described there (some sort of Hermetic Judaism):

    Col 2:8, Col 2:20 manipulation of matter through spirits, secret magick rituals;
    Col 2:11 circumcision, the importance of earthly acts to control powers, Hermeticism is not gnostic “as above is below” is the core idea of magick.
    Col 2:16-17 special ritual holidays
    Col 2:18 angel worship, a truly distinctive part of Hermetic Judaism provides the strongest evidence for the identification
    Col 2:21-23 legalism, a focus on ritual purity for the laity.

    That sounds a lot like the sect that could very easily have written the gospel of Mark. I could imagine that sect being the Judaizers in Galatians.

    And can view Paul, a 2nd generation Christian trying to steer the church between the two extreme of Hermeticism and proto-Gnosticism. Corinthians provides a wonderful example where he seems to be confronted with a congregation unable to decide whether material things are of no importance (Gnosticism) or what is bound on earth is bound in heaven (Hermeticism). We can imagine the world of Paul, confronting a Hermetic i.e. messianic congregation which has seen its earthly expectations of redemption crushed under Roman might. Jewish / Christian Gnosticism started as a reaction against what the Jews believes was their defeated god, fake god, a god who had promised that his faithful would be redeemed and then allowed them to be humiliated and defeated. Paul’s message that it was not an earthly redemption, and far from a defeat that the cross represented a heavenly triumph against the powers and principalities would have represented an appealing message. When reading the epistles you can hear Paul viewing early Christianity caught between Scylla and Charybdis, Paul moving the congregation away from both magical thinking, believing they could change the course of human history through supernatural means; and at the same time fighting the utter dispair in history and this world that Gnosticism represented. In Paul’s 7 authentic epistles we can view a second generation of Hermetic Jew, his Christianity which will uphold the power of the material sacraments, codes of morality while asserting that their effects are heavenly not earthly; in effect moving his congregation from proto-Christianity to Christianity.

    And that is the kind of conversation we can have about Paul. Acknowledging he is writing in a Jewish context, but we need to be careful about mainstreaming the Jewish sects that Paul is interacting with. In terms of translation though, the word “Jew” today means Rabbinic Judaism which came from Phasic Judaism which is not the branches Christianity came from. ( ). I think a lot of caution needs to be exercised in treating Paul in a Jewish (in the modern sense) context.

  5. December 21, 2011 1:42 pm


    Thank you very much for interacting with my question, “Is it entirely misguided to hear Jewish New Testament voices?” I see in your post (the one you link to) you say, “JKGayle explores tender territory.” That’s not at all a bad way to put it. And I see in another post (this one), you write, “The first words of [Psalm 6] verse 9 are similar to Matthew 7:23: depart from me, workers of iniquity. I never knew you. This allusion allows a different reading of the gap in this psalm.” Doesn’t the LXX fill the gap?

    And I too think Theophrastus’s “phrase ‘after he converted to the Christian break-away group’, begs many questions.” Willis Barnstone suggests that “‘Christian’ is from the Greek-language neologism for “for ‘messianic,’ an adjective describing what Jews had always been.” “Christian” break-away group seems, then, anachronistic. And even the Barnstonian use of “messianic” doesn’t work. At best, Theophrastus’s conversion for Paul has to be, according to Barnstone’s view, from one Messiah-ish Jewish group to another.


    If you’re going to ask me to minimize what Robert Alter says about the “many centuries of stylistic fussiness and supersessionist distortion” that plague translations of the New Testament — and if you’re going to have me discount the force of that statement because he’s merely being neighborly to Willis Barnstone and is making the forceful statement in some mere exchange of promotional puff-rhetoric for a mere dust jacket –, well, then I’m going to ask you if you’d consider something. Isn’t it best that Amy-Jill Levine’s statements, the ones you’d correct, be understood as rather imprecise on purpose, since she’s likely answering a question and/ or is responding to some other even body-language response of her audience? Shouldn’t we ask Amy-Jill Levine what she meant by her statements to an audience one evening recently at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire? Or can’t we ask Reba Kaya Stern-Kaufman, who introduced her to the crowd, and then listened carefully? Or would you please ask Rabbi Rachel Barenblat if how she reported these statements quoting Levine fits in well with Levine’s careful and, I must add, brave scholarship?

    As you probably know, Levine in her book The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus discusses “Honi the Circle-maker, … a Galilean rabbi from the first century BCE” and thus is calling “rabbi” someone before Jesus. (Yes, I noticed that Rabbi Barenblat didn’t quote Prof. Levine as saying, “Rabbi Joshua,” but that phrase does appear in The Misunderstood Jew if she there is referring to another Joshua.) And Levine, as an editor for The Historical Jesus in Context, seems just fine that edited author Hebert W. Basser goes on and on about theories of the “chain of transmission” for the “Rabbinic tradition” (e.g., “the teacher-student” theory or another “popular transmission scenario, Hellel thought X, and someone was there who heard it and passed it on to someone else, who passed it over to someone else [until e]ventually, seven transmissions later, it got into the Jesus tradition, either from Jesus in the Galilee or from someone else”) to pose something else further as plausible: “Yet, given all the arguments that Jesus’ saying as recorded in the Gospels accurately reflect real teaching of Pharisees and Rabbis, does that mean the intended message of Jesus in the Gospels is concentric with the message of the Rabbis? Not at all!” (page 294). This gets at the question of Paul’s being, or if we must Saul’s being, one who produced extant writings as a Pharisee. Yes, I think you may be right in speculating: “Now, perhaps the claim Levine is making here is that ‘redaction’ does not count as ‘writing’.” So we have to go to what might count as writing, and to try to read its claims about authenticity noting in it all the rhetoric about pedigree and so forth. Then, with Marianne Blickenstaff, in A Feminist Companion to Matthew, Levine is careful to note who does and does not (in Matthew) call the Jewish Jesus Rabbi. I’m coming around to that again. But the point, the force of Levine’s work, is that she comes to the “text [of the sacred Christian scriptures] with respect … with generosity, with understanding [so as] not [to] go out of one’s way to point out ‘Here are the difficulities, here are the contradictions, here are the loopholes’.” More than that, she’s saying things like, “In order to understand Jesus fully, we need to have a sense of how the people who first heard him understood him, which means we need to know how his words sounded to First Century Jewish ears. If we get the context wrong, we’ll get him wrong.”

    This, to me, is hardly analogous to my trying to hear how Ravi Zacharias sounds Hindu in his writings, to his Hindu and non-Hindu friends lest we all get him wrong. Or, to return to the joke you told, we may want to help Christians understand the outsider pains of Jews reading the New Testament by getting the former to study Mormon texts for the Christian voice of Joseph Smith; but I don’t think Robert Alter could write a book jacket about “centuries of … supersessionist distortion” if anyone were to try to “restore” The Pearl of Great Price to its Former-Day roots.


    As much as you feel Theophrastus may have beat you to your punch, your own voice comes through just fine. I’m using the voice metaphor here because a looming question remains:

    “Is it entirely misguided to hear Jewish New Testament voices?”

    Are you really saying with a straight face that this is anything like being guided into thinking of “David Koresh or Thomas Monson’s writings as indicative of 21st century American Christianity”?

    When you assert, “we have a bunch of statements that come right out of the Cynic tradition which seem to have very little to do with Judaism,” then what are you saying you mean by “Judaism”?

    You say, “Then in John we have logos Christianity”; so what do you think about Daniel Boyarin’s, “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John” (Harvard Theological Review, 94:3 pages 242-84 or his “Logos, A Jewish Word: John’s Prologue as Midrash” in the Levine and Brettler edited, The Jewish Annotated New Testament pages 546 to 549?

    And given your caution, “we need to be careful about mainstreaming the Jewish sects that Paul is interacting with,” how do you like how Shaye J. D. Cohen ends his essay “Judaism and Jewishness” (in The Jewish Annotated New Testament pages 513 to 515)? Cohen concludes, “In Second Temple times the definitions of Jewishness were not yet firmly established, and the rabbinic rules were still centuries in the future.”

    Or should we all just discount all those who Mark D. Nanos cites (including himself) as being scholars who have found “Paul in Jewish Thought” (in The Jewish Annotated New Testament pages 551 to 554) and Jewish thought in Paul? Bob MacDonald, in his comment above, has already cited Nanos elsewhere, and Nanos in this other essay I’m mentioning drops the names of a baker’s dozen Jewish academics who think Paul to be considerably Jewish. Levine, for example, is one that Nanos mentions:

    Levine, a feminist and a Jewish feminist, must work to counter

    Christian feminists who see the apostle as sexist and placing restrictions on woman as a result of his rabbinic training. [She] points out the anachronism of the charge: that Paul belonged to no rabbinic school, and that the rabbinic literature is of a much later dates. She further suggests that Paul would have been familiar with women leaders in Diaspora synagogues, and thus recognized women leaders in his churches (e.g., Phoebe the deacon and Junia the aposle [Rom 16]). One might even begin to talk of a sort of Jewish reclamation of the Jewish Paul.

  6. John Radcliffe permalink
    December 21, 2011 1:47 pm

    Kurk, you wrote:

    ‘What’s helpful in the Jesus Seminar’s Scholars Version Translation, in which the first two sentences are bold black font (indicating “Jesus did not say this; it represents the perspective or content of a later or different tradition”) but the third sentence is gray font (indicating “Jesus did not say this, but the ideas contained in it are close to his own”)?’

    but I’m left wondering: “helpful to whom, and for what purpose?” Perhaps for us to understand the agenda of the Jesus Seminar?

  7. December 21, 2011 2:09 pm

    Yes, John. Aren’t we both asking (the same) questions? You and I are on the same page.

    Some of my colleagues on campus where I work have been contributors to and / or avid supporters of this would-be demotic but entirely-scholarly “Jesus” Seminar project. Some have invited me to speak, as a linguist, about the language of religion in the context of their work; some have taken me to lunch, because of things I’ve said and have written, to take me to task. But the conversations, as many conversations can be, have been helpful in many regards. CD-Host brought them up in a comment after an earlier post, so I thought I’d include them in this one. I was asking my question rhetorically. If I were to answer the question in fact, I think I would have to say this is the most helpful thing: the Scholars Version Translation brings in as the fifth gospel the gospel of Thomas. That’s helpful to anyone who looks at it because it shows much textual difference (albeit in their rather leveled-out and flat English Dynamic Equivalence translation). What’s sorely lacking is any substantial acknowledgment of what the gospel writers and Jesus translators are doing with the Septuagint. I find, for example, this statement (at Matthew 4) to be entirely misguided: “In addition, the responses attributed to Jesus are all drawn from the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures known as the Septuagint [abbreviated LXX). They are reponses any Judean or Christian could make. This means, consequently, that there is no way to demonstrate that these quotations originated with Jesus rather than with members of the Jesus movement who composed Q.” The logic is fallacious, of course, in several instances. For one, to presume that any Judean or Christian might quote the LXX does not force the conclusion that there’s no Jesus originality in the statement. And second, even assuming Q as a source for Matthew doesn’t mean the writer of the gospel in question isn’t engaged in Semitic wordplay, in making and in mimicking Hebraic Hellene, of the sort I’ve tried to show him engaged in (in this post). The Jesus Seminar scholars do not explicitly consider, and given their presuppositions cannot consider, either the LXX or the NT to be expressing Jewish voices. Their English translation perhaps needs as much Barnstonian restoration as any I’ve seen. So I asked what’s helpful in it?

  8. December 21, 2011 2:46 pm

    Kurk and Bob: thanks as always for your replies.

    (1) I think Amy-Jill Levine is just being sloppy. She’s used that “rabbi” line for at least a decade.

    (2) You missed the main point of my complaint about your use of Alter’s blurb, which is that it does not address what I was addressing: Barnstone’s commentary.

    (3) in a previous comment on another post, I mentioned something about “Christians regarding themselves as a type of Jews.” I think that this is the tendency you are moving in. Something happened to Paul on the road to Damascus, and he stopped believing in what he used to believe in. (For example, his commitment enforcing halacha clearly stopped.)

    For someone to declare:

    (Galatians 3:10) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” (Notice how this distorts the central Torah message of Deuteronomy 27:26)

    (Galatians 2:21) “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

    is to make declarations that directly insult and denigrate central tenants of Judaism.

    Paul’s desire is to fully dissolve Judaism and have complete assimilation: “there is no longer Jew or Greek.” In this way, Paul is, by his own words, an apostate.

    In any case, his expressed claim that righteousness cannot come from the law and those who observe the law are cursed certainly are not views associated with Mishnaic Judaism, contemporary with Paul.

    Thus Paul is a poor guide to understanding the philosophy of first century Jewish thought.

  9. December 21, 2011 3:37 pm

    JK —

    Good response. Let me do a bit of clarification.

    Jew1 = All forms of Jewish sects that exist in the 1st and 2nd century.
    Jew2 = Mainstream sects of Judaism that exist in the 1st and 2nd century.
    Jew3 = The family tree of what we today call Judaism: Pharisaic / Rabbinic Judaism.

    These lists get smaller Jew1 contains Jew2 contains Jew3. My argument is that Paul is exclusively in Jew1. It is absolutely fine to examine 1st century Christianity from the perspective of Jew1.

    Judaism as it exists today came essentially exclusively from Jew3. Even major players like Philo, the Samaritans or the Essenes are all but forgotten in terms of their relevance to Jew3. What concerns me about an Amy-Jill Levine is her conflation or the very least high degree of ambiguity between Jew1 and Jew3.

    Basilides is critiquing Judaism, Basilides is in the Jew1 sense Jewish. Basilides is in the Jew2 way outside the mainstream and far too harsh in his critique and in the Jew3 sense so far removed as to be irrelevant.

    Theo’s point about Mormonism is right here. In some objective sense the LDS is one of the largest churches in the United States. There are tremendous numbers of influential people including the Senate Majority leader and the leading Republican presidential candidate among those members. At the same time Mormonism:
    — is Henotheistic not meaningfully monotheistic
    — denies the crucifixion as key to salvation
    — redefines salvation
    — considers the creeds to be a satanic invention

    Which is to say I think Mormonism is if it is even Christian, barely Christian at all, and certainly, despite its number is not part of the Christian mainstream. Despite the fact that I think you absolutely need to discuss Mormonism in the context of American Protestantism. For example Mormonism has a sacramental theology, but uses the word “ordinances” for these rites, a situation that doesn’t make sense outside of understanding the context of New York of the 1820s.

    The issue is not restoring the Pearl of Great Price, the issue is whether it is accurate to call Mormonism a form of American Protestantism unqualified. If we can agree that Mormonism is not unqualified American Protestantism (i.e. American Protestantism-1 but not American Protestantism-3), that Basilides is Judaism-1 but not Judaism-3 then lets talk about Paul.

    If we were to talk to a Pharisee from Paul’s time he would strongly assert that the keys to his faith are:

    1) A perfect creator God (Paul would agree)
    2) An absolutely unified God. Nothing remotely like a pagan trinity of Osiris/Isis/Horus is remotely true of Yahweh. (Paul would disagree)
    3) The absolutely denial of physicality of God (Most Christians would disagree, i.e. hold to the incarnation)
    4) God is pre-existant to everything (Paul would agree)
    5) That God has commanded specific things and we serve him, rewarding those who are faithful to his command and punishing those who are not. (Paul disagrees)
    6) That the prophetic books are valid scripture (Paul would agree)
    7) That Moses is chief among the prophets (Most Christians would put
    8) The Messiah will come as a conquering hero to bring the world to right via. military force (Paul disagrees strongly).
    9) That torah is understood through a chain of interpretation of rabbis with each generation’s understanding worse than the previous (Paul strongly disagrees).

    Sorry I have trouble calling this guy a Pharisee, for the same reason I have trouble calling Thomas Monson a Protestant.

    Paul is not preaching Judaism or anything remotely Jewish in today’s sense of the word. There are ideas in Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon which are present in Protestantism today. But presented that strongly, in that quantity, that unqualified makes it no longer a Protestant sermon. Say, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” and it is no longer Protestantism. Say, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” or “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” and still call this an unqualified Jewish Sermon.

    To respond to the quotes in the previous essay. Jesus in the New Testament is never portrayed as just a Jewish Rabbi living among Jews in the New Testament. He is rather in the gospels a demi-God come down to notify a people that their relationship with God is in for fundamental change. And while Mary is not presented this way in the New Testament itself, even Mary is not thought of as someone, to paraphrase Hamlet, whose dust is stopping a bung-hole of a beer-barrel. Rather she is still quite alive, Co-Redemptrix who assists her son in fundamental altering supernatural relationships for every human being that has ever lived. You can’t even talk about Mary as just some Jewish chick and do justice to Christian theology.

    So if we want to talk about Christianity in qualified terms, the way we would with Basilides that’s fine. Originally, when I was responding to this essay it was about bible translation for mainstream use. And my opinion is that new testament nullifies and falsifies most of today’s Judaism. The best solution regarding anti-semitism is to de-judify the content by leaving the Greek terms for Jew untranslated. If it is a scholarly discussion on this blog where I think everyone understands how qualified we need to be in talking about Paul that’s different.

    I’ll hit the specific questions in the next response.

  10. December 21, 2011 5:29 pm

    so what do you think about Daniel Boyarin’s, “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John”

    I think he shifts the question. Everyone has always agreed that Logos theology / middle platonism was part of Hellenistic Judaism. Everyone agrees that Sophia theology is part of Palestinian Judaism. (Though this is Jew2 using my previous scale not Jew3).

    The Philo’s logos is an intermediary, it is not the suffering Sophia that bring redemption. Intermixing Sophia theology and Logos theology that is rare possibly unique to proto-Christianity. So I’d call it Christian in an inclusive sense, for example the Sethians also do that sort of thing, Pharisees on the other hand, never adopt this. So again I’m not sure in what sense it is accurate to call it “Jewish” rather than qualifying: Hellenistic Jewish, Ophites…

    Shaye J. D. Cohen ends his essay “Judaism and Jewishness” (in The Jewish Annotated New Testament pages 513 to 515)? Cohen concludes, “In Second Temple times the definitions of Jewishness were not yet firmly established, and the rabbinic rules were still centuries in the future.”

    Well OK I can’t ge the essay but… I agree in 2nd Temple times Judaism was extremely diverse, agreed. But only one main branch survived. We can’t talk about Neanderthals or Rhodesian Man as prehistoric humans. Humans today mean Homo Sapiens. These other branches of humans died out and so we have to specify.

    Again to use Judaism the way Cohen wants to I’d use something like “Jewish sects”. If you say “Christianity maintained ties with some very marginal Jewish sects into the 2nd century” that’s very different than “Christianity remained Jewish into the 2nd century”.

    As for Paul being Pharisee Jewish. I’m not familiar with Nanos but I did read Cunningham ( years ago when I was struggling with this for myself. Even he has problems with Paul as understood by the New Testament. For example Acts 7, recasts Christianity as a rejection of Judaism. To get his Jewish (Jew3) Paul to work he has to limit himself to Paul decontextualized from the rest of the New Testament. He also has to exclude the entire development of Gnostic Christianity,

    Cunnigham’s case is to focus on Paul presenting a gentile form of Christianity with total inclusion based on baptism not circumcision. Pul is also is rather cavalier about food served to idols. Even if that were true, it knocks Paul well out of the mainstream. The Jews as we know considered these issues serious enough to go to war over: sacrifices and circumcision. I personally think Cunnigham’s interpretations are tortured and this becomes evident the moment you start reading sections of Pauline epistles that don’t deal with law and salvation. And in the end I didn’t buy his theories then and don’t today. They are defensible though.

    But it is important to understand to make them defensible Cunnigham has to cut Paul out of the New Testament context. Cunnigham’s Paul would reject the gospels, much less something like Hebrews and would reject almost all of Christian theology. I guess the question becomes…. If Paul is just preaching about an apocalypse that was supposed to happen 1900 years ago and didn’t, his analogies are tortured and his understanding of scripture just wrong. Where does that leave Protestantism which basis itself on Paul?

    The New Perspective on Paul is a bit more interesting in that I think it is more defensible and puts Paul squarely in Jew2 category. The New Perspective is still a key break with Judaism, but at least it makes quite a bit of sense. We could discuss that, but even were New Perspective true I wouldn’t use “jewish” to describe Paul’s thinking.

  11. December 21, 2011 6:32 pm

    Kurk – in response to your question to me: Doesn’t the LXX fill the gap?

    I apologize for using my own terminology here. In many psalms, I sense a ‘gap’ much like the ‘mind the gap’ sign in a subway station (or in the tube station in the UK at least). The gap cannot be filled by words. The LXX retains the gap in its translation (between verses 8 and 9, 7 and 8 Hebrew). The gap is between the prayer and the perception of its response. We ‘get’ the response by the content of the poem after the gap. If these Scriptures were meant for our learning, I think we are meant to step into the same space – when in trouble or not – and know the same or a similar response. I have certainly known this experience repeatedly. In the early days, I would read about the floods and my own house would be flooded the next day! (Think metaphorically).

    This conversation has many twists and turns – I will see if a careful response is possible – on one point Theophrastus is correct. The Ingathering of Israel is what Nanos is talking about. But Nanos would not himself agree that this is accurate with respect to the Messianic age having arrived. At the Hebrew conference in 2006, he responded to me at lunch – ‘how could the Messianic age have arrived with the world in such a state?’ (or words to that effect). And he has a point.

    On another point though, for those to whom the ‘gap’ is revealed, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, and who find themselves using the Psalter as a means of ‘praying without ceasing’, the Torah available to ‘all who fear God’ (not a third group within the community as Alter implies p. xvii) from within the Psalms is very real – and is the substance of the letter to the Hebrews. This ‘walk in the Spirit of Christ’ is of critical importance in the life of any Gentile believer. Hebrews 12:8 makes clear that one who is not under instruction is a bastard. There were many Jews at this conference, some presenting. None of them found any part of the letter anti-Jewish.

  12. December 21, 2011 7:01 pm

    Theo: Something happened to Paul
    Bob: yes – but figuring it out is a bit more difficult than proof-texting
    Theo: Enforcing halacha clearly stopped.
    Bob: no – see Romans 8: 1-12 on the role of the Spirit. The world did not change (as Nanos would desire) but a narrow space opened as wide as the superhighway of Isaiah 35.
    Theo: …re The curse of the law
    Bob: I note that Jeremiah 11 is perhaps even more critical than Paul
    Theo: insult
    Bob: not intended by Paul, see Romans 9-11
    Theo: complete assimilation:
    “there is no longer Jew or Greek.”
    Bob: to whom is this addressed? Who does it threaten? I think there is a very difficult problem with ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. I don’t see it resolved by any form of parochialism of any stripe.
    Theo: Paul is, by his own words, an apostate.
    Bob: he would gladly have been cut off for the sake of his brothers of Israel (Romans 9:3)
    Theo: Mishnaic Judaism, contemporary with Paul.
    Bob: really? That would almost give credence to the condemnations in the Gospels also.

    There is certainly tension between ‘law for’ and ‘walk with’. I cannot myself ascribe to an abstraction of law without a law-giver – or teaching without a teacher.

    I regret that my responses are brief – I have no particular scholarship here. I think response in any case must be with a life. Perhaps years from now after many words, some way will be perceived.

  13. December 21, 2011 8:32 pm

    Bob, it is certainly the case that many statements attributed to Paul seem to contradict each other. That being said, I think that Romans 8:3 also posits that the law is ineffective but that the crucifixion is sufficient. This is a much stronger position than Jesus took in Matthew 5:17, for example.

    Similarly, in Jeremiah, the complaint is that the people have openly flouted the law; there is no suggestion that the law is ineffective.

    As to the condemnations in the synoptic gospels (the fourth gospel is a different case), I have to say that this seems to me to be much more typical of the sorts of disputes recorded in the Mishnah (and the later section of the Talmud, the Gemara). In other words, Jesus ends up looking a lot like a Pharisee. For a detailed analysis of the similarity of Jesus’s halachic interpretations with contemporary disputes at that time, I think that I largely agree with Herbert Basser’s analysis in his Studies in Exegesis.

    I want to particularly recommend this book to you, Bob, because I think you will love it.

  14. December 21, 2011 8:44 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation – I will follow up. I agree with your reading of Romans 8:3 – he writes that the law by itself is ineffective, but what about when the ‘Law’ is used by the Spirit? Paul’s magnum opus is in 10 sections and has innumerable interlocking rhetorical questions. Paul has a four-bit short-term memory – he and presumably Phoebe who I think would have delivered and read the letter could hold more things in their short term memory than normal people!

  15. December 21, 2011 11:43 pm

    Bob, I agree that, to quote Shaye Cohen, Romans presents “more nuanced” positions than Galatians. The question is, which is the real Paul? It is hard to reconcile the author of Galatians to Judaism at all — even under the broadest definitions given above by CD Host and Kurk.

    Here is Cohen in context on Galatians:

    Paul’s negative assessment of the Torah and those who follow it is striking: he insists that the torah does not come from God (3:19-20); no longer has a salvifiic role , and perhaps never did (3:21-22); and its observance is akin to the worship of Greek gods (4:9-10). He furthermore claims that the Jewish people are neither the true seed of Abraham (3:16) nor the Israel of God (6:16). In perhaps the letter’s most famous verse, Paul writes that the distinctions between Jew and Greek are effaced because all are one in Christ (3:28).

    In Romans, Paul addresses these same issues, but his positions there are far more nuanced. Competition prompted this extreme negativity towards the Torah and Jewish distinctiveness. Rival apostles in Galatia sought to convince Paul’s converts that Christian faith required Torah piety, and they insisted that (male) Christians undergo circumcision in consonance with God’s instructions to Abraham in Genesis 17. Paul angrily accuses these teachers of perverting the gospel (1:6-9), of being unprincipled and of demanding circumcision merely to avoid persecution (6:12), and to provide an occasion for boasting (6:13). Because these rivals attacked Paul’s apostolic credibility, Paul not only responds in kind, but offers an autobiographical defense of his beginnings in the faith and his relations with the pillars of the Jerusalem church (1:10-2:14). He also provides empirical proof for his legitimacy: after believing in Christ as Paul taught them, the Galatian Christians received the Holy Spirit and the ability to do miracles, gifts that they did not receive by observing works of law (3:2-5).

    My problem is that Galatians’ rejection of Torah, its equating Torah faith with paganism, and its claim that the Jews are not Israel is in no way compatible with even the broadest definitions of Second Temple Judaisms — much less of the first century Pharisees. Moreover, Galatians’ tone towards those who do claim a connection between Judaism and this the new sect focused on Jesus is one of unremitting hostility.

    Were the author of Galatians suddenly to comment on this thread, I have to assume that he would criticize at length Barnstone and Kurk and you for suggesting that there was a connection.

    This is why I conclude that the author of Galatians, at least, does not seem to speak as a first century Pharisee.

  16. December 22, 2011 2:19 am

    This reading of Galatians seems brusque on first glance. Again Mark Nanos – himself a Jew and not a Christian – has written The Irony of Galatians – I have not read it for a while and I don’t really want to get into polemics or arguments. If that were what Paul is saying I doubt that a Jewish scholar would have completed it. Perhaps I will crack the cover and test out the waters and let you know what I find later. Until this moment, it was not on my to do list, but …

    Paul writes about getting the message to the Gentiles without them having to undergo circumcision – Colossians 2:11 draws out the metaphor as applied to Gentiles in the Anointing and Anointed. There is no contradiction to Abraham. But this is not a matter of following the laws as noted to Noah either.

    Can’t say more for a few days –

  17. December 22, 2011 8:17 am

    Bob, you are indeed correct that Mark Nanos has a contrarian reading of Galatians; he views it as an ironic text (as the title of his book, based on his dissertation, says). It is a fascinating reading, but not a plain or standard reading.

  18. December 22, 2011 1:14 pm

    Bob —

    Now here is the general counter to the Mark Nanos line of reasoning. Lets assume for the purpose of argument his theory is absolutely true.

    1) Jesus is a torah observent Jew.
    2) Paul, is a Pharisee, the Christian churches are just synagogues with gentile followers involved in a Jesus movement and the issue is really about circumcision.
    3) The Jesus movement is religiously Jewish in the traditional sense and doesn’t involve fringe.


    Within 2 generations Paul is mostly forgotten by the Roman church. When he shows up again his letters are being carried from Asia Minor by Marcionites and Valentinians. Paul’s followers are so radical that the, not exactly torah observent Catholics, call him “the apostle to the heretics”. How is in the ancient world we have no hint what-so-ever that Paul is really torah observent, that everyone in the early 2nd century both pro and con thinks of him as a Jewish rejectionist? Look at the list: Ebionites, Nazarenes, Mandaeans, the Catholics, the Gnostics, the Marcionites, the mainstream Jews none of them are in any disagreement what-so-ever that Paul is a Jewish rejectionist.

    And BTW when he shows up in non canonical materials he is equally a Jewish rejectionist. For example in Acts of Paul (Acts of Paul and Thecla) he preaches something very much like traditional Catholic theology regarding virginity, ideas not just rejected but totally alien to Judaism. So it is not like there is a whiff of literature to support Nanos’ theory.

    So if by the 2nd generation, when it has already spread all over the world and has multiple centers, Christianity is a torah observent Jewish sect well into the mainstream with Paul spreading this torah observance to gentiles why is their no notice of this what-so-ever?

    And BTW it might have even been sooner than 50 years after Paul’s death. For example if you believe that the Council of Jamnia actually happened, then within 10 years after Paul’s death you have influential Rabbis considering Christianity totally outside the bounds of Judaism. You may have a prayer, the Birkat haMinim directed at Christians from the same time period.

    And that is on top of the question where are Christian leaders like Dositheus and Simon Magus coming from?

    Even if we didn’t have a single book of Paul’s it would be hard to maintain Nanos’ theories. But we do have Paul’s books and when we open them we find Jewish rejectionism. Just open your bible to a random spot in Paul and start reading. You can’t make it through a page without Paul either rejecting or radically redefining a key aspects of Judaism. You have to keep playing the Nanos’ game of “this verse doesn’t really mean it sounds like” and it is very hard to do. Maybe its possible, I don’t own the Jewish annotated New Testament, but it is a challenge to keep up.

    I think Messianic Judaism is a nice compromise for mixed faith households. And I’m glad in a political sense that Nanos is presenting a theory that Messianics who don’t think about it too carefully can believe. And as part of the fight against anti-Semitism, while I think the strategy is structurally flawed I like the motivation. But the truth is that Christianity formed in sects on the far outskirts of Judaism, and took their views much further than they ever would have to create a new religion. And yes, that was the founder’s intended.

  19. December 22, 2011 1:32 pm

    Thank-you. I reread Nanos intro to Irony last night – suffering from fever cold and cancer treatments (comment designed for sympathy with my slowness). Your comments are well made – no support for this ‘theory’. I find Nanos theory attractive because it makes sense to me. Whether I am a Jew or not, a believer in the resurrection of Jesus or not has a significant effect on how we read this letter. Romans has a similar plausible potential disunity over the same issues – Paul was disturbing the status quo. He was removing worshippers from the idolatrous temples. He was removing potential draftees for the army and economic support for the temples and bringing Gentiles and their cash into the worship of Yhwh. It was an explosive tension between pagan and Jewish authority structures in a tense status quo. It makes no sense whatsoever without the problem of the resurrection and subsequently the theology of incarnation. I think I find the same Spirit in TNK as I said already – a Teacher with Torah. I find it good. I will write an essay later on the good – it is crucial.

    As for Paul, I am not surprised he was misunderstood. He is difficult to read and easily wrenched by the will to power that so easily lives in each of us.

  20. December 22, 2011 1:45 pm

    You may enjoy reading Daniel Boyarin’s “Was Paul an Anti-Semite: A Reading of Galatians 3-4” (later reprinted in A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity), along with N. T. Wright’s critique of the same.

  21. December 22, 2011 3:50 pm

    That was an interesting essay. That being said. reading this I get the impression that Boyarin is just arguing for dispensationalism without wanting to use the word. I don’t like the use of the term “anti-Semitism” for what he’s objecting to. In terms of anti-Semitism I think dispensationalism is not anti-judaic primarily because of the ecclesiology of dispensationalists. I don’t actually think either replacement theology is anti-Semitic though it is unequivocally anti-Judaic (i.e. not against Jews as a race).

    As an aside I think two covenant theology, which Nanos is proposing, which is a liberal Christian solution to anti-Semitism since it basically holds that baptism is ineffectual for (ethnic / racial) Jews is actually anti-Semitism. And yes I am talking about the theories accepted by the UCC, PCUSA and Episcopal church. I think it is actually a specific form of universalism in terms of intent (which is not a small thing). But the problem is that because it is specific it ends up agreeing with the absolutely first principle of anti-Semitism that baptism is ineffectual for ethnic Jews.

  22. December 22, 2011 5:14 pm

    Bob, CD-Host, and Theophrastus,

    You all are commenting and researching here much faster than I am keeping up, but I do appreciate the dialogue. Thanks for the questions, the clarifications, the suggestions and recommendations.


    You say to me: “Christians regarding themselves as a type of Jews.” I think that this is the tendency you are moving in. Your thinking this, and saying it here, helps me a good bit. I don’t mean to be holding this view or to be moving in or toward it. I do understand that pseudo- / self- inclusions by outsiders of any group is disturbing and highly problematic. Since you said this, I’ve been thinking about it a good bit. What helps me now is to try to focus on what has been attributed to Paul, on what he supposedly wrote. It’s the game of perception, of reality, and of talked-about reality. Talked-about reality, for Paul, and for others talking about Paul, makes me less nervous. And it also keeps me thinking about “translation” and how shifting languages often shifts so much, especially when trying to decide who’s the insider and who really isn’t.


    Thanks for your terminology. I like “gap” for what happens between translations. I know you’re looking at Psalm 6 in its entirely, in its language, Hebrew. Can the language shift and the Jewishnesses remain, even if different Hebraisms follow?


    I’m following your algebra of J1, J2, J3 and the relations between the variables. Such precision, I admit, makes me a bit nervous and yet the formulaic language is clear. Given several of the things Theophrastus is pointing out about the different writings of “Paul,” I wonder if we might apply a similar sort of identity abstraction (and plurality) to “him”?

  23. December 22, 2011 6:50 pm

    Kurt —
    Well I guess I’d put Paul in Jew1 only. There is some argument for the “historical Jesus” whether he might be Jew2: i.e. something like an Essene or Zealot but in general I don’t go with that.

    For Paul, I think it is clear for the reasons I discussed above. Perhaps at some earlier point in his life he might have been a Jew2, but the Paul of scripture is already either:

    a) taking the ideas of a marginal sect and pushing them out of Jew2
    b) starting with a sect that is clearly outside Jew2 territory and presenting them to gentiles, where the natural breaks aren’t as likely to be applied.

    Ultimately if we want to start pushing into Theo went with heavily redacted Paul, we unavoidably hit the issue of when Paul wrote and who he is. How true is the book of Acts? Is it mostly Catholic propaganda but with hints, and if so how to deal with those hints. That leads to something like:

    a) The modern Tübingen view. That the early church was basically a Ebonite faction and a Marcionite faction and Catholicism emerged from the merging of Marcionic and Ebonite Christianity. The Mandaeans who essentially agree, Paul is a title Paulis (a Persion word for deceiver) some who came out of the Sabian / Dosithian movement. Which sounds a lot like Simon…. F.C. Baur is maybe not dead.

    b) Paul = Paulat “advocate” or paraklete in Greek. We know that the later followers of Cerinthus rejected Paul. So something like Pseudo-Clementine is maybe our source for his theological context.

    c) Something like Hyam Maccoby view that Paul is the real inventor of Christianity and almost everything interesting or unique about Christianity dates to Paul.

    and I could keep going. I think unraveling Paul is unraveling 1st and 2nd century Christianity. Because you need to have a pretty specific theory about why Paul goes out of fashion and then comes back in.

  24. December 23, 2011 3:03 pm

    Thanks for the additional analysis, CD-Host. In view of all of your alternative Pauls, I like Theophrastus’s imaginative thought experiment more and more:

    Were the author of Galatians suddenly to comment on this thread, I have to assume that he would criticize at length Barnstone and Kurk and [Bob] for suggesting that there was a connection [i.e., the connection between Judaism and this the new sect focused on Jesus]

    But I love Barnstone’s imagination as well:

    Paul, like Walt Whitman, loved to contradict himself.

  25. December 23, 2011 6:57 pm

    I asked one of the authors of Galatians whom I have personally met, one Tertius by name, a third generation slave from the rebuilt city of Corinth. His grandfather had been ‘imported’ from Cryenica during the rebuilding in 46 BCE. In response to my question on the in-gathering of the nations, Tertius writes:

    I suppose if we had not been dragging Paul back to Corinth, he might well have re-entered Asia to see to the situation himself. We were all, not just Paul, astonished that they had so soon departed from the good that they had already received in their flesh. (‘Astonished’ was in fact my word.) My family also had roots in the lands east of Egypt. I remember just enough of my grandfather’s lessons to know that tidings – good tidings – and flesh are the same letters in the ancient tongue. And those letters had been written in my flesh as they had been in all those of our company, or so we thought. It was not as if this were easy. Letters, like a slave’s brand, are not a light burden. I should know. They demand a certain devotion, not to mention obedience and purity. I know these too. But the mark of the brand in this case was beyond life itself and seemed to encompass every living moment with an endless presence. In your tongue – it was light, a fire that burns without consuming. We were perhaps a bit naive at the extent of what we imagined we could accomplish, even in the Spirit. Later, having returned to Corinth, when I again took Paul’s dictation (he had not let me write that earlier letter but insisted instead on taking our dictation himself – not to mention his own content), I realized that unity of Gentile and Jew, slave and free, male or female might take a longer than I had time to give. Still I think our letter to Rome, itself built around the unity of Torah, had a unifying impact on the congregations there, even if we felt strongly the failure in Asia.

    He did go on some. He was a story-teller. But I will spare you more details. He did say he did not have much observation time on subsequent generations – too busy.

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