Paul and the Heritage of Israel– Part Eight

Perhaps for the first time in this whole volume, Jens Schroter in his article on “Paul the Founder of the Church” provides a rationale for the title of the volume in saying “The Acts of the Apostles and the Pastoral Epistles belong to a trajectory of early Christianity committed to the heritage of Paul’s mission and theology.” (p. 195). As I have already said, there is a reason to connect those two sets of documents, the middle term being Luke, but if the Pastorals are ultimately from Paul they are not part of the reception of Paul. Acts however can be said to chronicle and be concerned about the heritage of Paul’s mission (though there is much less interest in his ‘theology’ in Acts). As Schroter adds, it is better to focus on documents like the Acts of Paul to get a later perspective on the mission and heritage of Paul. Even better one could look at the later encomiums to Paul by Chrysostom in so many of his homilies (and see M. Mitchell’s work on this The Heavenly Trumpet).

Scroter admits that there have been quite a few studies linking Acts and the Pastorals in terms of vocabulary, style, perspective on Paul (p. 196) and rightly so if Luke is the actual composer of both. The big disconnect for Scroter however is that there is no mention of Paul the letter writer in Acts, and so he does not accept the hypothesis. This conclusion totally ignores the fact that Paul in Acts is depicted as a missionary church planter, not a discipler of Christians who already exist in community. The emphasis is on his travel and being in various places, not on what he did when he was away from his converts, which is hardly chronicled at all, except to focus on Paul’s trials and how he reached Rome. Paul the letter writer is no more the interest of Luke in Acts than is Peter the letter writer. Only James the letter writer comes up for discussion, and that for the specific reason of the Apostolic Decree, not to discuss general communication with converts in the diaspora (see the homily of James). Schroter further confuses the issue when he tries to contrast Acts 20.4 which refers to a journey of Timothy from Ephesus to Greece with 1 Tim. 1.3 where Timothy is to stay in Ephesus, never considering we are talking about two very different points in time with the reference in the Pastorals being from a much later period in time.

On page 197 Schroter admits that the old German contrast of Dibelius and others between the Paul of the speeches in Acts 13 and 17 and the Paul of the letters is no longer sustainable. As the volume edited by Stan Porter on the Paul of Acts shows, what we see in Paul’s letters is the application of Paul’s theology to specific situations. But Paul in Acts does not yet have specific situations to address by letters when he is founding churches. Schroter is also right to dismiss the old idea of Luke trying to paint a picture of Paul as some sort of hero of the faith. Schroter however clings to the assumption of the Pastorals being pseudepigrapha, and one wonders how he would respond to Bart Ehrman’s two books on this matter, the more popular one entitled Forged. He does conclude the Pastorals are likely to all be composed by one person. What he does not reckon with adequately is the possibility of both Luke and Paul being involved in these documents. As I like to put it, the voice is the voice of Paul, but the hands are the hands of Luke.

One of the assumptions Schroter shares with those who want to maintain that the Pastorals are pseudepigrapha is that nonetheless, they address ‘real’ situations in the Pauline mission field (in this case Crete and Ephesus). But this causes more problems then it solves. Are we really to believe that churches in those places are unaware that Paul has been dead for some time, if we date the Pastorals to the post-Pauline period? This seems a huge assumption that cannot be sustained.

Another assumption that cannot be sustained is that while Paul is depicted as an enemy of God in the Pastorals and Acts, before his conversion, he is not so depicted in the ‘authentic’ Paulines (p. 201). I have to say, I don’t know which authentic Paulines he’s been reading, because we see the same admission in a different form in Galatians 1 and 1 Cor. 15. Paul was at odds with the new Christian movement, and so at odds with God’s will, as Paul freely admits. Schroter then makes the further mistake of thinking that 1 Tim. 1.12-17 portrays Paul as the first of the converted sinners, when in fact what it says is he evaluates himself as the most heinous one. Protos here, as elsewhere means ‘chief’ not chronologically ‘first’. About one thing Schroter is right. The person who composed the Pastorals knows a lot about the Pauline circle and earlier mission work. The question is which is easier to believe— that the author of the Pastorals knows: 1) Acts, and 2) the personalia of all the earlier Paulines, and so can 3) write in a manner that would convince a new audience in Crete or Ephesus, that it was actually from Paul, though post mortem, or is it easier to make sense of these being the latest Pauline letters composed at the end of his life when he is indeed passing the torch to Timothy and Titus and others, and helping with the transition to a post-apostolic era. All other things being equal, the simplest theory which best explains all the facts, not just some of them, is to be preferred. Schroter prefers a much more complex theory, which frankly has more problems with explaining all the data. At no point does Schroter deal with the facts of Roman jurisprudence and the likelihood that after two years under house arrest, Paul was set free, somewhere around A.D. 62 in Rome and continued his ministry thereafter. Confusingly, Schroter seems to think that the Pastorals depict a period in time BEFORE the Miletus speech in Acts 20 (p. 205). But they don’t. It is true that the Miletus speech vocabulary is similar to the Pastorals, and this is because Luke was involved in the composition of both. Schroter finally admits “the agreements are striking” (p. 214).

Schroter goes on to point out that Paul’s sufferings, as seen as a part of the sufferings of Christ, is not found in Acts or the Pastorals, but only in the earlier Paulines (p. 211). This is true, but there is reference to Paul’s sufferings in those later works, and so to read a difference of authorship into this difference is an argument from silence.

Schroter admits that Luke seems to know Paul’s theology of justification by grace through faith, and so he is right to complain that attempts to contrast Paul’s theology with the later Paul in Acts doesn’t much work. “Rather, Luke’s portrait of Paul has to be regarded as a creative treatment of Paul’s heritage in a new situation within early Christian history.” (p. 213). Just so, and this implies Luke’s considerable familiarity and agreement with Paul’s thought.

On p. 216, Schroter stresses that the theme of rebirth (Tit. 3.5) and the concept of the epiphany of the Savior which is found in all three Pastorals distinguishes these documents from the earlier Paulines. This is correct, but it does not distinguish them from Luke-Acts where we do find such language. Schroter concludes that Paul is presented as both missionary and theologian in Acts and the Pastorals, and that the label early Catholicism does not suit in either case. “The Acts of the Apostles and the Pastorals are thus connected in that they depict Paul in specific ways as the missionary and theologian upon whom the characteristic form of the Christian church is founded.” (p. 219).

  • david

    Try the jesusneverexisted website for the real truth that will set you free.

  • Ben Witherington

    Sorry David, is you who are into mythology if you believe that stuff. Even as big a skeptic as Bart Ehrman has refuted that nonsense in his book Did Jesus Exist? BW3


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