Paul, The Apostle’s Life, Letters and Thought Part Four


On pp. 58-59 Sanders points out that Exod. 22.27 which has Elohim for God was read, because of the LXX as you shall not revile gods, and interpreted by Josephus and Philo to mean that Jews in the Diaspora should not revile or blaspheme other peoples’ gods, or oppose their building temples for them and Josephus even extended the law to mean that Jews should not steal treasure dedicated to other gods, or rob such temples.

On p. 60 Sanders suggests that the uncertain text of the LXX means that we cannot tell which version of the LXX Paul cites, but the fact that his text differs from the standard LXX edition may mean no more than Paul: 1) is quoting from memory with some slip ups, 2) he knew a Greek text not identical with the standard text today. The reason for this argument is to avoid the conclusion that Paul knew the Hebrew and sometimes made his own translation of it, but there is evidence he did know Hebrew (see the work of Ross Wagner).

On p. 61 he compares Rom. 12.1 to Philo Spec. 1.277—‘what is precious in the sight of God is not the number of sacrificial victims but the true purity of the rational (logikon) spirit in him who makes the sacrifice.’ Those from the Diaspora were led to favor spiritual sacrifices. The problem with this whole argument is that neither Paul nor Philo opposed the literal sacrifices in Jerusalem, indeed they assumed they continued, and then there is Paul’s view that the literal sacrifice by Jesus of himself was necessary for atonement as Rom 3 says. It is the death of Jesus, not the Diaspora provenance of Paul that leads Paul to say what he does in Rom.12.1. He thinks that Christ’s death has made obsolete all other literal sacrifices. This has to do with Paul’s theology not his locale at birth or growing up.

p. 66-67 n. 62– Sanders critiques N.T. Wright’s view that most Jews perceived the present period of waiting for the fulfillment of the prophetic promises of a glorious future for Israel as a long extension of the Babylonian exile. He points out— Diaspora, often voluntary diaspora is not the same thing as forced exile, and dissatisfaction with the incomplete fulfillment of OT prophecies should not be labeled considering oneself in exile. Nor is Wright’s evidence for the use of the term exile in such a way very ‘thick’. They did not think their religion had failed, nor that they were in exile. Indeed, in many ways they saw it a flourishing. They thought God still heard their prayers and accepted their worship and that one day he would fulfill the promises.

p. 68—Hellenistic means sort of Greek, as opposed to Hellenic which means ‘Greek’.

p. 69 Both Luke and Paul use the regional names, not the provincial names. So Paul speaks of Cilicia even though it was part of the province of Syria in his day. In fact what he says is he went into the regions(plural) of Cilicia and Syria— so he not using provincial or traditional designations but areas or regions he went to, and in fact one could take Gal. 1.21 to mean the Cilician part of Syria. Sanders adds that both Luke and Paul uses the Roman provincial designation for Asia. Yes they do, and for Achaia and Macedonia too. And there is no reason why Paul could not have used the Roman provincial designation for Galatia (on which see later posts on the problems with the north Galatia hypothesis).

p. 70—Sanders says that Paul’s first missionary efforts were in Syria and Cilicia. This is overlooking Arabia, and the fact that Paul was on Aretas’ most wanted list. There had to be a reason, and the most likely reason is attempting to convert some Nabateans.

pp. 71-73 In regard to Paul’s education Sanders says he received technical education in the form of learning how to make tents, and that while he shows little knowledge of Greek lit. (one quote in 1 Cor. 15.33 does not suggest a plethora of knowledge), but his ability to quote the Bible is remarkable. “The simplest explanation is that he went to a school that primarily taught the text of the Greek Bible…and that he had studied the Bible in the time honored way, by memorizing.”

P. 73 “Paul had probably memorized the text of the Greek translation of Jewish Scripture.” Because scrolls were expensive and in scriptum continuum most writers relied on memory, rather than looking things up.

P. 74: “Study resulted in memorization; memorization led to quotation; therefore Paul had memorized what he quoted.”

p. 75—Paul’s youth probably involved his learning good grammatical Greek, the Bible, probably not Homer etc. and he learned a trade so he could support himself.

p. 76—Sanders assumes (without evidence) that Paul was converted in Damascus, and that he probably persecuted Jewish Christians in his home region of Cilicia. He takes 2 Cor. 11.24 as a clue as to how Paul persecuted other Jews— with the 39 lashes minus one. But one could only inflict this on a Jew if he accepted the punishment and wanted stay in the Jewish community. Otherwise he could walk, and the Roman officials would not touch him in regard to such matters. And Jews in the Diaspora could not drag other Jews off the street and whip them, without their accepting the punishment. Now in Judaea, a senatorial province, day to day administration of justice was left in the hands of the Jewish officials except when it came to capital punishment. Short of that, it was in the hands of the Jewish officials. The other option in the Diaspora synagogues was ostracism of Jewish Christians.

p. 78—Sanders distinguishes between Paul being ‘according to the law a Pharisee’ and ‘according to zeal, a persecutor’ and wants to argue there is no connection between the two. But surely it is the views of the persecuted that Paul objects to, in particular their views about the Law and the Messiah, and the Pharisees had specific views about such things. True enough most Pharisees were merchants and farmers, not traveling persecutors, but this ignores the considerable evidence of the Gospels that the Pharisees were some of those who opposed Jesus and sought to trap him in his words. But Sanders stresses it is the high priest and his council that sought to do away with Jesus. Were there no Pharisees on his council?— surely there were (Gamaliel was, as Acts indicates). He uses the saying of Josephus about leniency of the Pharisees compared to Sadducees to support the notion they were not persecutors. [None of them? This is surely not true. Who was involved in the stoning of Stephen?]

At the bottom of p. 78 Sanders says he shall quote a learned scholar— and then quotes himself! He concludes there is no connection between Paul the Pharisee and Paul the persecutor.

p. 81—As Paul says, Jews are zealous for God and his law (Rom. 10.2). It is a trait of devout Jews in general, not Pharisees in particular. The summary on p. 81-82 repeats the main points mentioned above, and he adds that Paul’s persecuting of Jewish Christians (probably by going to synagogues and denouncing Jewish Christians and suggesting they should be whipped) should not be connected “with any known part of his background, and it was certainly not a general characteristic of Pharisees.” (p. 82).

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