Mythicism and Paul’s Claims to Supernatural Revelation

Mythicists regularly claim (as one commenter on this blog recently did) regarding Paul that “Our earliest Christian source claimed to have learned nothing from the Christians who came before him.  He claimed to know what he knew by divine revelation.”

Since the subject has come up once again, in the same form in which it always seems to, let me devote a blog post solely to this topic, in the hope that any mythicists who desire not to be like creationists (who are notorious for repeating the exact same arguments even though they have been addressed adequately on countless other occasions) may at least show a willingness to consider the evidence and respond.

Here are the main relevant points that need to be considered.

First, in Galatians 1:15-17, Paul claims not to have consulted with anyone before starting to proclaim the Gospel. Here is how the New International Version renders it:

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.  I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Important things to note are (1) that Paul had previously persecuted the church, and so was not entirely unaware of what Christians had to say, (2) his aim here is to emphasize that his authority is not dependent on the apostles in Jerusalem, (3) he does not in fact say that he received everything he knew about Jesus or the Gospel by supernatural revelation, and finally (4) if he did mean to claim that everything that he knew was by supernatural revelation, no historian would believe him, since there is obviously a more mundane explanation available for how Paul knew the things that he did.

Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul emphatically claims that the basic message he proclaims is the same one other apostles also preach. He says this to a group consisting not only of people who say “I am of Paul” but also others who say “I am of Cephas/Peter” and thus would be well poised to call Paul out on this if he were lying. Paul disagreed with other Christians about whether circumcision was to be required of Gentile converts, but does not seem to have disagreed about the basic core Gospel message. Here is how Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

In addition, we also have evidence from the Gospel of Matthew, which takes a different stance than Paul with regard to the Torah, of agreements between Paul and other Christians who disagreed with him, such as regarding the practice of the Lord’s Supper.

The only real options are (1) that Paul did in fact miraculously receive the same information that other Christians had, or (2) Paul received information about the Christian Gospel from other human beings, whatever he might or might not say to the contrary.

Since I know of no mythicist or mainstream historian who accepts option #1, can mythicists please stop using this unpersuasive bunk as part of their case for mythicism? I realize that, when it comes to the major tenets of mythicism, unpersuasive bunk may be all you have to work with. But this particular claim seems so particularly bad (not to mention unpersuasive) that I would expect anyone who thinks about the matter even a little to wish to distance themselves from it – even as some creationists have drawn up lists of arguments which are so badly discredited and unpersuasive that creationists ought not to use them.

  • JoeWallack

    The evidence that I Corinthians 15 includes forgery is exponentially better than the evidence for some positions you have (such as 16:8 not being the original ending). Even if we let sleeping dogma lie, in the entire Corpus of Paul (so to speak) he never says that he learned anything about Jesus from a witness. He rePetedly says with emphasis that his source of knowledge about Jesus was revelation. So we have SCOPE for this. Your post above is not based on what Paul says but what you say he meant.

    I think there is an implication in Paul that witness was a source for him and the explanation for Paul’s avoidance of making it explicit is that he intentionally avoided doing that. The lack of a single EXPLICIT though puts the issue well within the range of doubt and ironically also places you with the same type of dogmatical conclusion you accuse MJ of.

    Where you are right is that it doesn’t prove MJ either. There is also nothing explicit in Paul supporting MJ. Why can’t you stop there? Having your supposed primary witness to HJ have the position above does not compare well to evidence for other ancients. Why can’t you acknowledge this?

    Joseph

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @f856584cf44ea948ffcae876b81e001c:disqus , feel free to present those scholarly treatments of 1 Corinthians 15 that have persuaded you that the section I quoted is a later interpolation or forgery.

    As for the rest, obviously we would much prefer to have as a verifiable source about Jesus someone who knew him and did not depend on others for information. We would also much rather than the sources written by those who knew Alexander the Great, rather than later sources that depend on those earlier ones. But historians must make do with what they have, and reach as firm conclusions as possible, if any, based on the evidence available.

    Mythicists do not claim that Paul is ambiguous about the matter of a historical Jesus, leading to agnosticism. They claim that he spoke only of a supernatural figure about whom he knew only by visions and revelations. The reason I insist on pressing on is because what the mythicists claim is not what Paul in fact says. Nor is it the way someone approaching Paul without affirming the supernatural ought to account for the points of intersection and overlap between Paul and the wider phenomenon of Christianity. And it illustrates the inconsistency of mythicists when a defender of the historical Jesus and of mainstream historical methods has to argue against their appeal to miracle to make their case.

  • Anonymous

    I think the OP makes a fallacious assertion here:

    The only real options are (1) that Paul did in fact miraculously receive the same information that other Christians had, or (2) Paul received information about the Christian Gospel from other human beings, whatever he might or might not say to the contrary.

    There are more real options:

    (3) The author(s) of the Pauline epistles made it up from whole cloth but thought it had been miraculously received. Benjamin Creme does the same thing.

    (4) The author(s) of the Pauline epistles are zealously rewriting imagery from prior Hebrew Scriptures in a novel way. This is not mutually exclusive of (3), but it is possible the author(s) of the Pauline epistles consciously chose to do this to create continuity between their new religion and the ancient Hebrew one.
    I’m sure there are more possibilities. This strikes me as a false dichotomy, one very much like CS Lewis’ ridiculous Liar/Lord/Lunatic presentation. Both require one to take at face value Biblical texts without questioning their premises.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    As will be unsurprising to those who have encountered beallen’s comments before, he misses (whether being intentionally deceptive or merely inattentive) that Paul acknowledges to an audience that includes supporters of other apostles that he and they agree on the basics of the Gospel. And so unless one wishes to posit that Paul and these other apostles actually received divine revelation, these other options do not fit the evidence – which was a key point of this post, as anyone who actually read it attentively would already know.

    • Anonymous

      ” Paul acknowledges to an audience that includes supporters of other apostles that he and they agree on the basics of the Gospel.”

      This appears to be eisegesis. What epistle establishes this? He says that they added nothing to him. This does not mean they believed the same things. The Pauline author(s) also clearly dispute their position on circumcision, which would mean they do not preach the same gospel, and they specifically address  the existence of other gospels, other Jesuses and other Christs in the time of the writing of the epistles. So I fail to see how a plain reading of the epistles establishes unity between the other apostles and the Pauline author(s).

    • Grog225

      There are also admissions that other apostles are not preaching the same gospel. I wonder why you overlook passages like this:

      Gal 1:6

      I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    As the commenter you quote at the beginning of the post, I
    would like to point out another comment that I made in that same thread: “I
    am absolutely skeptical of Paul’s claim that he learned nothing from the
    Christians who came before him and of his claim that he learned everything that
    he knew by divine revelation.
      However, his refusal to credit
    his predecessors for any part of his message and the lack of any independent
    evidence of what they believed leaves me without any basis other than
    speculation and conjecture to determine how much of Paul’s preaching and what
    parts of it conformed to what came before him and what part of it was added to
    the mix by Paul’s own theological creativity.” 
    (emphasis added)  I have made
    similar arguments before and I do not believe that you have ever responded to
    them.

     

    I am curious why you criticize me for taking Paul at face
    value when he claims to have learned nothing from his predecessors (which I do
    not), but you seem willing to take at face value Paul’s claim that he is
    preaching the exact same message as his predecessors.  I don’t think that we should.  I particularly don’t think so because Paul’s
    letters indicate that he was frequently involved in disputes with others
    Christians who seem to have understood the message differently. 

     

    Every Republican candidate for any office anywhere claims to
    be the heir of Ronald Reagan.  Civil
    rights leaders regularly claim to be following Martin Luther King.  Democrats often credit Harry Truman for their
    principles and policies.  Sometimes these
    claims are utter bullshit.  We know this
    because we have independent evidence of what these men said and did.  However, the fact that these claims are
    easily refuted in this information age doesn’t seem to deter anyone from making
    them.

     

    Paul might be
    preaching the exact same message as a historical Jesus preached and the exact
    same message as all the other apostles preached.   Unfortunately, without independent evidence
    of what other Christians in Paul’s time preached and believed, we cannot be
    sure.  We know what Paul taught.   Just as
    we cannot take Sarah Palin at face value when she claims that Ronald Reagan is
    the inspiration or source for some position she favors, we cannot be certain
    that Paul is simply preaching the same message as his predecessors just because
    he says he is.  

     

    Isn’t it also possible that Paul originated most of his
    message?  Is it possible that it included
    all sorts of elements that never would have occurred to his predecessors?  As far as we know, Paul’s predecessors in the
    faith may all have been illiterate peasants. 
    Is it possible that there was little more to their cult than a belief in
    a crucified Messianic claimant who came back from the dead and appeared to his
    followers?  Is it possible that Paul
    recognized the potential in this concept, made all the connections to Old
    Testament prophecy, and constructed the entire theological structure of the
    Messiah’s atoning death?   Is it possible
    that Paul persecuted more than one Messianic cult and that he constructed a
    message that was an amalgamation? Is it possible that Paul’s predecessors
    adopted his new interpretation because he was a educated man and a dynamic
    preacher (who also had a reputation for violence towards theological dissent). I
    do not claim that we can say that any of these things are probable.  Rather, I think they are plausible possibilities
    that cannot be eliminated because we have too few pieces of the puzzle.

     

    If I had a thinner skin, I might take offense at your references
    to “unpersuasive mythicist bunk.”  I am
    an agnostic about a historical Jesus and the argument that you find
    unpersuasive is not the argument I made. 
      

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Vince, you are making a mistake of discussing Paul’s revelations and claims in the context of mythicism. I am quite sure McGrath would be open to a serious conversation on this question within the context of mainstream scholarship that did not question the fundamental paradigm. For example, he will oppose a mythicist’s use of the term midrash but not protest when it is used by Dale Allison in the same context. And there are several other examples I and even Carrier have addressed.

      You can find in mainstream scholarly literature incidental support for your arguments but you must not dare take those discussions in the direction of challenging the fundamental paradigm.

      To do so risks eventually provoking insult and being treated the way this scholar used to treat at least one student in 2007: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=594578&page=2 — being ignored.

      • Anonymous

        Neil,

        Thanks for the advice, but I think that my approach in these discussions is working as well as may be hoped despite having endured some derogatory comments as a result of my perceived mythicist sympathies.  I’m not sure that any reliable insights can be gleaned from disgruntled students.

    • Dave Burke

      Vince,

      >>
      I am absolutely skeptical of Paul’s claim that he learned nothing from the Christians who came before him
      >>

      Paul makes no such claim.

      >>
      and of his claim that he learned everything that he knew by divine revelation.
      >>

      Paul makes no such claim.

      >>
      you seem willing to take at face value Paul’s claim that he is preaching the exact same message as his predecessors.  I don’t think that we should.  I particularly don’t think so because Paul’s letters indicate that he was frequently involved in disputes with others Christians who seem to have understood the message differently.
      >>

      No, Paul’s letters indicate that he was frequently involved in disputes with others Christians who had heard the original message and abandoned it for something else (e.g. Galatians 1:6-10).

      Those same letters also show that Paul’s message was consistent with the message taught by all the other apostles and that they officially endorsed his teaching (e.g. Galatians 2:1-2, 6-10).

      >>
      Isn’t it also possible that Paul originated most of his message?
      >>

      Possible, but if so he must have been psychic because his message is identical to the other apostles’ gospel.

      Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27) throughout which the following core doctrines are presented repeatedly:

      * The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired
      * One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power
      * Jesus: the Son of God
      * Jesus: a mortal man
      * Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice
      * Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension
      * Christ as mediator
      * The second coming
      * Resurrection and judgement
      * Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land
      * Promises to David: his kingdom restored
      * Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism
      * One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

      One of these lectures was given by Paul (Acts 13:15-39) and shows that he knew of Jesus’ foreshadowing in Messianic prophecy, his baptism by John, his ministry in Jerusalem and the local area, the opposition he faced from religious rulers, their collaboration in his arrest and crucifixion (including the role of Pilate), his death, his resurrection from the dead, and his appearance to hundreds of believers from Galilee to Jerusalem.

      • Anonymous

        Dave, 
        Do you have independent contemporary evidence of what the other apostles were preaching at the time Paul wrote his letters?  

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vince Hart , inasmuch as you were reproducing a common mythicist argument, and inasmuch as you continue to fail to take seriously that Paul wrote about his agreement with Kephas and others about the basic Gospel message while writing to a group that included some who said “I am of Kephas” (1 Corinthians 1:12), I don’t see how my response is at all inappropriate. There may or may not be good reasons for being agnostic about the historicity of Jesus, but I don’t see how this argument can be considered a good reason. You are ignoring that Paul talks frequently about people who were Christians before him (sometimes merely in passing, as in Romans 16:7), even when it runs counter to his emphasis on his independence and authority. What makes it seem plausible to you that Paul invented the basic Gospel and yet keeps saying that others with whom he was sometimes at odds share the same basic message, and saying that he came to adhere to this group later than them?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      Why do you take Paul’s statements at face value?  We know that there were different groups with different understandings of the gospel message.  Just as denominations today claim to preach the exact same one true gospel that Jesus taught to the original apostles, I have no doubt that every Christian preacher in the first century claimed that he had the original message. 

      I think that Paul sought to appeal to the messianic cult (or cults) that he had previously persecuted.  I suspect that the only way he could do so would be by convincing them that the revelation he received was really just the correct understanding of what it was that they already believed.  I think that he needed to assert both his own independent authority as well as continuity with his predecessors.  I think it would be perfectly natural for Paul to tell people who claimed to be “of Kephas” that Kephas would really agree with everything Paul had to say about Jesus.  Even if Paul suspected that Kephas wouldn’t agree, Paul might well say it anyway because he thought Kephas should agree.

      Let me raise a question I raised in the other comment thread:  What do you think the author of John’s attitude towards the synoptics was or would have been?  Do you think he believed that he was teaching the correct understanding of the same Jesus?  Might he have claimed continuity even if he knew that Matthew, Mark, and Luke would have seen his Christology as very different?

      If the earliest extant gospel was John’s, we would not know that there were earlier writers who had much more ambiguous views about Jesus’ divinity.  If we assumed that John was presenting the same view of Jesus as his predecessors, we would be wrong.  Since our earliest extant Christian writings are Paul, don’t we have to allow for the possibility that his understanding was different from what came before even if he claimed he was preaching the same Jesus?

  • http://biblethumpingliberal.com/ Ron Goetz

    In his book, The Office of the Apostle in the Early Church, Walter Schmithals describes Paul’s concept of apostleship. Tarsus was a major center of vigorous gnosticism, and Paul was undoubtedly familiar with it, as he seems to have been familiar with Greek philosophers in general.

    Gnostic apostles were, by definition, dependent upon no person for their revelations, and, after going through all the possible roots for his understanding, Schmithals argues that it was this gnostic understanding that Paul adopted.

    Remember that in Paul’s very first revelation, if we accept the account of the Damascus Road story, the risen Christ asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Who was Paul persecuting? The church, of course. Yet Christ expresses a transcendent one-ness with his followers.

    This transcendent union of Christ and his people is carried over into the Christological epistles where, if you trace the pleroma language, you’ll find that the fullness of God is the church. Pleroma was a favorite word of at least some gnostics to describe the fullness of the emanations from pure spirit.

    Schmithals’ book is out of print, but you can still find copies.

    Also, a lot of Paul’s theology springs directly out of Jeremiah 31:31ff, which is appallingly absent from our awareness as Christians.

    Anyway, Paul’s insistence on being independent of any human teacher springs from his gnostic understanding of apostleship, IMHO.

  • observer

    Last time I looked the entire argument for 1st Cor 15 being a forgery was basically cause Bob Price wanted to annoy William Craig and it has not advanced beyond that. To put it bluntly no one but Bob and his gullible sycophants take that argument seriously.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Observer wrote:

      Last time I looked the entire argument for 1st Cor 15 being a forgery
      was basically cause Bob Price wanted to annoy William Craig and it has
      not advanced beyond that. To put it bluntly no one but Bob and his
      gullible sycophants take that argument seriously.

      Observer, may I call you Tim? I hope you notice McGrath’s lead by silent example in response to your resort to insulting others in ignorance of the scholarly literature on Pauline interpolations.

      Contrary to your assertion William O. Walker Jr in his discussion of “Interpolations in the Pauline Letters” describes Robert Price’s argument for interpolation of 15:3-11 as a “serious argument” — pp. 192-3 of Stanley Porter’s “The Pauline Canon”.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @openid-100197:disqus , would you care to provide evidence for the claim that “Tarsus was a major center of vigorous gnosticism” in Paul’s time? One may certainly speculate that this was the case, but we do not have any evidence for it being so, unless one considers Paul’s own writings to indicate it.

  • http://biblethumpingliberal.com/ Ron Goetz

    James McGrath, I am dependent on reading I did a number of years ago for that opinion, but the following authors are of that opinion–Hyam Maccoby (2006), Francis Neilson (2006), Paul Johnson (2005), and David Hernandez (2009).

    So, evidence? No, only secondary (and tertiary) sources.

    But Schmithals thoroughly presented the gnostic conception of apostleship, and demonstrated that Paul’s concept lined up with theirs in every detail, including the explanation for Paul’s insistence on complete independence from any human teachers.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    OK, but since our primary and secondary sources about Gnosticism are all post-Pauline, is it not possible that the resemblances are a result of their dependence on or influence by Paul, rather than vice versa?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @yahoo-BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM:disqus , I am not simply taking Paul’s statements at face value. I am noticing where his statement is made to an audience that included people associated with the very other apostles in question, and where Paul is making statements which he would have done well not to make had they not been true, since they do not help make the case for his authority over against other figures with whom he was at least sometimes in tension.

    The issue as it relates to mythicism is not whether Paul agreed completely with others – he clearly didn’t agree completely. But he also seems to have clearly agreed with them about some things. And to posit that he agreed about those things because of supernatural revelation is problematic from the perspective of mainstream historical study.

    Does that clarify things?

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    To observer,
    I am not Bob Price or any of his sycophants, but I think 1Cor15:3-11 is definitively an interpolation. See here for explanations:
    http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#adc
    Why is 1Cor15:3-11 not declared an interpolation?
    It is the earliest (alleged) testimony of post-mortem Jesus’ appearances, at a time where (alleged) eyewitnesses where still alive. Actually many Christians trust that one (in Cor15:5-7) better than the ones described later in the gospels and ‘Acts’.
    Doherty is fairly defensive about 1Cor15:5-7 (ref: Jesus Puzzle) but Carrier sees in it mass hallucinations which were the start of Christianity.
    BTW, I came out against 1Cor15:3-11 well before Bob Price ever did.

  • observer

    Zero textual evidence

    The rest of the passage makes little sense without 1 Cor 15:3-11

    The use of the title “The 12″  seems very unusual for a latter forger.

    Most forgeries tend not to be this large.

    For all these reasons I doubt this passage is a forgery. I am sure I can think of more.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      “The rest of the passage makes little sense without 1 Cor 15:3-11″

      Actually, the passage makes a lot more sense without 1Cor15:3-11 than with it. And 1Cor15:3-11 stands out as a blatant insertion.

      “The use of the title “The 12″ seems very unusual for a latter forger.”

      Actually, it is in Paul’s epistles “the 12″  does not make any sense because, although Paul referred to the leadership of the Church of Jerusalem a few times, never again he mentioned the 12.

      “Most forgeries tend not to be this large.”

      There are exceptions. See Mark16:9-20

  • http://biblethumpingliberal.com/ Ron Goetz

    My first inclination is to say, Of course the dependence could work the other way. But Schmithals was one of those extremely careful German scholars, and I’m not sure he’d have let that one slip by him. I’d have to dig the book out of one of my boxes.

    [I need to emphasize this: we may be able to boil down Paul's good news to "the Romans Road" or something similar, but, in all seriousness, he really did lay a lot between the lines.

    The closest Peter comes is his single reference to becoming "partakers of the divine nature." And that, for all I know, could have been a gnostic addition.]

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    One of these days @beallen0417:disqus is going to actually read the posts that he comments on, and pay attention to things that are in bold. At least I hope that one day that will be true, so that he ceases to be a nuisance and instead becomes someone with whom it is possible to have a conversation. Conversation involves listening and paying attention, and not merely commenting the same things over and over again ad nauseam. 

    • Anonymous

      Again, this is simply fallacious. The 1 Cor text is referring simply to appearances by Christ to apostles. Authors like Marcion believed in the resurrection in some fashion. Yet they did not preach the same gospel. The Pauline author(s) clearly believe someone is going around preaching other gospels in Galatians. So all the bold text in the world can’t confer uniformity of belief among early Christians simply because some agreed that there was some sort of resurrection and appearances, any more than it does today between Baptists and Mormons.

      That the OP considers this to be a lock-tight case is evidence of the narrow categorical thinking behind it.

  • observer

    Muller

    Still zero textual evidence. That is a tremendous problem with your argument. Forgeries this large leave evidence. That is why the existence of Mark 16:9-20 does not help your argument one bit.

    Your ability to type it makes more sense does not impress me one bit. Can you give me a NT scholar besides Price who supports this highly unlikely argument.

    Do you have any examples of the expression the 12 being used in late literature. It is almost certainly a titular name that went out of fashion early.

    The fact you have zero textual evidence for an alleged forgery this large is damning for this position.

    Again do you have any examples of the expression ” the 12″ being used in latter Christian Literature.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      “Still zero textual evidence. That is a tremendous problem with your argument. Forgeries this large leave evidence …”
      BM: The first copies of Paul’s epistles we have date from the end of the second century at the earliest. So that gives a very long time for interpolations and “standarization” of the Pauline Corpus. As far as large forgeries, the 1&2Timothy and Titus epistles would be in this group too. Both short interpolation or long one can be inserted without leaving trace: I do not see why length would make a difference. And 1Cor14:34-35 is generally seen as interpolation by critical scholars, even if it shows in all ancient manuscripts.
      I also found other interpolations in Paul’s epistles which shows in all early copies. More, I have many reasons to believe that 1Corinthians is actually the assemblage of three different letters by Paul, done around 100CE (which is when the interpolations would have been added).

      “Your ability to type it makes more sense does not impress me one bit. Can you give me a NT scholar besides Price who supports this highly unlikely argument.”
      BM: I do not know other scholars who rejected 1Cor15:3-11. But quite a few are puzzled by some of the content of the passage. And I repeat, scholars, most of them Christians, would not declare 1Cor15:3-11 a forgery for obvious reasons, more so because this passage is very critical into justifying Christian faith.

      “Do you have any examples of the expression the 12 being used in late literature. It is almost certainly a titular name that went out of fashion early.”
      BM: Yes I do, after Paul’s letters, in the first century, that is in the 4 gospels. I do not need to go any farther because around 100CE would be the most likely time for insertion. But the 12 are also featured in 2nd century Christian texts such as Apocryphon of James, Dialogue of the Savior and Justin Martyr’s works.

      • observer

        You can keep dancing around the issue but the fact that we have zero textual evidence of a forgery this large is demonstration to any reasonable minded person that this passage is not a forgery.  You keep citing small passages that SOME scholars think are interpolations but can you produce a single LARGE passage that scholars tend to argue is a forgery?

        For Pete’s sake, the fact that we have textual evidence from the 4th century that the ending of Mark is not authentic is proof positive such scrubbing that you postulate  simply did not happen. Same with the emendation of John to include the woman caught in adultery.

        So there is absolutely no scholar support for your argument by your own admission, you just have a few unnamed scholars who are “puzzled ” by this. Who these scholars are must remained unnamed apparently.

        So there is then nothing wrong with the expression the 12 being used. Therefore it would not be inappropriate for Paul to use the expression.

        I repeat, large forgeries and emendations are caught. The ending of Mark and the adulterous woman in John clearly demonstrate that principle that even with centuries to scrub these issues away the church could not do it.

        There is no scholarly support for this argument and there is no evidence for it period. Furthermore for your argument to be correct it should have textual evidence, as that is the pattern with large scale forgeries and emendations.  This refutes the argument period.

        Yes this passage is important to Christians, which is why Bob Price and his sycophants go after it. However they have yet to produce a single argument in their favor.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Tim, you protest that interpolations are not ‘large’.

          You ought to bring yourself up to spead with the scholarly literature on this before you argue so dogmatically. You should know that this view probably has a lot to do with how interpolations have most commonly been studied rather than interpolations per se.

          There are indeed scholars who argue for very large chunks of text as interpolation, such as Winsome Munroe in “Authority in Paul and Peter”.

          • observer

            Yawn

            No remote attempt to kick over my argument for why is is exceedingly unlikely 1st Cor 15:1-11 is an interpolation.  

            I looked up the book in question. First you misspelled the name of the author ( it is in fact Winsome Monro) it has nothing to do with the passage in question and it was written almost 30 years ago.

            Seems no one is up to date on this book, no one seems to be aware of it arguments ( you know arguments are always the best if almost thirty years no one is aware of them).

            Seems someone needs to bring them self up to date on scholarship, but I am talking with someone who tries to peddle  arguments from the 19th century, so thirty years is pretty current to you.

            By the way I am not Tim. Your third sentence makes no bloody sense by the way so I will not answer that.

            • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

              Tch tch, tim. (Tim is just my nickname for anonymous posters — nothing personal — I have no reason to believe it is your real name.) 

              First you misspelled the name of the author you just looked up! It is in fact Munro, not Monro!

              Secondly, you are failing to sustain a logical response to my comment. My comment was about your generalized claim that scholars do not argue for extended interpolations. Yet I showed you that this is false You should also read the chapter by Walker to understand the background to this question a little more, too.

              Thirdly, I was not addressing the argument for the Corinthians passage in question being an interpolation but your dogmatic assertion, laced with insult (do try to be inspired by McGrath’s shining silent example!), that no scholar treats Price’s argument seriously. That is simply a false claim.

              You should be thankful for having an error of fact pointed out to you.

  • http://biblethumpingliberal.com/ Ron Goetz

    Gee, I hope that wasn’t directed at me . . .

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Dr. McGrath,

    Since I have never posited anything as silly as Paul agreeing with his predecessors because of supernatural revelation, I don’t find much clarity in that comment.  What I do posit is that Paul’s claim to an independent supernatural revelations raises the possibility that there is much less continuity between Paul and his predecessors than he would have us believe.  I am not sure of the exact extent of the diversity in the early church, but I suspect that each and every group claimed that its teaching conformed to the correct understanding of the original message.  I think we have plenty of later examples of radical new ideas being proclaimed as the correct original message. 

    Your statement that “Paul is making statements which he would have done well not to make had they not been true” reminds me of the claims conservative apologists make about the gospels being historically reliable because they were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses who would have disputed any falsehoods.  I think that men who believe themselves to be the recipients of divine revelations are not overly deterred by the possibility that someone is going to challenge the veracity of their claims.  If it served Paul’s purposes to claim continuity with other well-known Christians, I don’t see any reason to think that he would have been afraid of someone disputing the claim.

    One thing that i find interesting is that in his letter to the Galatians Paul is adamant about establishing the independence of his revelation and his authority from the apostles in Jerusalem whereas he wants the Corinthians to believe that everyone is on the same team.  Might it not be that Paul knew that the Galatians were much more likely to encounter Christians from Jerusalem than the Corinthians were?  Paul may have had much less concern that the Corinthians were likely to accept Jerusalem’s authority above his own because they were farther away.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Even in Galatians, Paul is adamant that the Jerusalem apostles added nothing to his message. He seems concerned to assert both his independence from them and their agreement with him.

    I’m not sure how the rest of your comment relates to the topic at hand. It certainly could be the case that Paul believed that he and other apostles were more in agreement than they actually were. But does any of that help support the mythicist interpretation of Paul having received his message and his ideas about Jesus solely from visions and dreams rather than by more mundane means? Or to put it another way, don’t the points at which Paul and other early Christian sources intersect and agree suggest that Paul could not have been as independent of earlier Christian authorities as mythicists (and some other interpreters) understand him to be claiming to be?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr.  McGrath,

      Since you cited my statements at the beginning of your post, I thought that the argument I was making with those statements might legitimately be considered part of the topic at hand. 

      I don’t know how much dependence on earlier Christian authorities we can infer from the points at which Paul intersects with other early Christian sources.  It is a question that I think about a lot and my inability to answer it is what keeps me in the camp of agnosticism. Since Paul is our earliest Christian source, we have to consider the possibility with respect to each particular intersection point that it results from the later source following Paul rather than from Paul following an earlier authority. 

      There are some points that seem to me like they necessarily preceded Paul like crucifixion, resurrection, and appearances.  However, most every other theological idea that Paul writes about seems to me like it could have been added to the mix by Paul either by his own creativity or by borrowing it from somewhere else.

  • Anonymous

    “Then he appeared to James”  
    “Appeared” and “received” is the language of the Spirit.  ‘Paul’ is adapting the language to suit his purposes.   

    He is aware of what has gone before and he uses strong-arm tactics  to change it – “this is what you believed”.  “What” is used frequently.     

    James, the principal player, is put at the bottom of the list.  

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Thank you for clarifying your view on this.

    Do you find persuasive the claim of Doherty and other mythicists that Paul and his contemporaries thought that details that seem to go back prior to Paul’s time – such as the crucifixion – more likely referred to events in a celestial realm rather than on earth? If not, then I am not sure why you want to have your agnosticism associated with mythicism, since it seems as though it could be taken a lot more seriously if dissociated from what mythicists claim.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I haven’t read Doherty, but it is hard for me to imagine that such a scenario could rise to the level of “more likely than not.”  I wouldn’t preclude the possibility that someone like Carrier could convince me that it is one member of the universe of possibilities (which would include any number of historicist scenarios) that needs to be taken seriously. 

      I don’t particularly want to have my agnosticism associated with mythicism, but I’m not sure that there is any way to avoid it.  I try to make my position clear, but historicists are wont to make the association regardless of what I say.

      The fact is that my doubts about the historicist case are generally the same ones that mythicists have.  That is enough for many historicists to put me in the mythicist camp regardless of my insistence that I stop at agnosticism.

  • observer

    So seriously you want people to believe that after 50 years after numerous copies of Corinthians was made, that finally a single forger edited the 15th chapter to include details not found in the Gospels  ( why not make it line up with the Gospel accounts) and why would he do this forgery anyways. I mean who was he trying to convince by this forgery? Who was his audience? Christians who already believed and had the Gospels? Seems pointless to me. If he was trying to convince outsiders why not just use the Gospels?

    Now this one forged copy is floating around an no one notices this? Then the same church who could not scrub unaltered copies of Mark and John scrubbed this one.

    Your are suggesting something without motive and without means.

  • observer

    minor correction, does not affect my argument at all. I should have said 15:3-11

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      I am not dancing about the issue.
      Dominic Crossan thinks that Mark15:43-16:8 is an interpolation (I do too).
      Just because there is textual proof of interpolation of long passages does not, in any way, prevent other passages to be interpolation even if they have no textual proof (that is omission of them in some ancient manuscripts).
      The earlier the interpolation, the more likely it would show in all the ancient manuscripts.
      For the “puzzled” scholars, read http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_apocapp.htm
      You said there is no evidence for interpolation of 1Cor15:3-11. I found many. Did you read my webpage passage I posted earlier?
      How do you know that 50 years later, there were many copies of 1Corinthians. Evidence please.
      Details of 1Cor15:3-11 not found in gospels? That works both ways: if 1Cor15:3-11 is authentic, and with many copies of that epistles available early on, then how do you explain the gospelers did not standarize their reappearances on 1Cor15:3-11? Even if 1Corinthians was not known to them, the oral traditions about the reappearances in 1Corinthians would still be floating around. But the gospelers did not seem to know.
      Why make the forgery? I explained that already here: http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#adc . I want to add that the forger knew of GLuke but probably not of GMatthew and GJohn.
      A lot of Christian texts (or texts critical of Christianity) did disappear in early Christianity. And as far as Christians noticing or not additions in their texts, that did not prevent interpolations to be made, as the long ones you mentioned yourself. And consider the following:
      “For I wrote letters when the brethren requested me to write. And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others, …” Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (165-175), fragments from a letter to the Roman church

  • Chris

    Now, when I read: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being.”

    I tend to look at it as Paul didn’t bother to seek out “permission” to preach, especially among the Gentiles.

    Prior to this statement, however, there is talk of a “revelation.”  Of course to what extent is this revelation?  Paul doesn’t flesh it out in this letter.

    However, the question at hand:  he apparently sided enough with the apostles on what the Gospel was.  Though there may have been disagreement with what that meant for the Jew/Gentile.

    However, Paul clearly didn’t seek permission to preach the Gospel, nor did he think he needed to: God gave him permission.

  • observer

    Tch tch, tim. (Tim is just my nickname for anonymous posters — nothing personal — I have no reason to believe it is your real name.)  Observer- Everyone knows your personal little vendetta against Tim O’Neill which is completely understand seeing he has made you look like a fool countless times.First you misspelled the name of the author you just looked up! It is in fact Munro, not Monro! Observer- Oh well neither one of us can spell the name correctly.Secondly, you are failing to sustain a logical response to my comment.Observer- I really cannot make a comment on your comment because you brought nothing to the table to discuss. My comment was about your generalized claim that scholars do not argue for extended interpolations. Observer- You told me to read a book written by one person that is almost 30 years old. I know this is cutting edge for mythers but one thirty year old book does not prove ” scholars” do not argue for extended interpolations.Yet I showed you that this is false.Observer- Showing a book that strokes your prejudices hardly does that Neil. You should also read the chapter by Walker to understand the background to this question a little more, too.Observer- Basically you are using a member of the Jesus Seminar to support Price. That is scholarly incest at best.Thirdly, I was not addressing the argument for the Corinthians passage in question being an interpolation but your dogmatic assertion, laced with insult (do try to be inspired by McGrath’s shining silent example!), that no scholar treats Price’s argument seriously. That is simply a false claim. Observer So far out of literally thousands of scholars you have found at best two. Get a clue Neil.You should be thankful for having an error of fact pointed out to you.Observer What error, so far you have done what you always do. Find a clown or two who agrees with you and act like it is a fact.If I wanted to be called Tim I would use that as my name so lets go with Observer.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Observer What error, so far you have done what you always do. Find a clown or two who agrees with you and act like it is a fact.

      Another error of fact. The two authors I mentioned do not “agree with me”. They are simply there as black and white evidence that your assertion that no scholar takes Price’s argument seriously is false. Walker takes it seriously.

      Some scholars do argue for extended interpolations.

      Simple as that. You can argue all you want for or against the authenticity of the passage. I don’t care one way or the other if it is an interpolation or not. But do get your facts straight and do not make false claims to support your case.

      • observer

        Well so far you have just claimed they take Price’s claim seriously, you know there is such a thing as verifying that . So basically out of thousands you found two, who support Price’s nonsense. Congrats, I can find a lot more then two geologist who think the Earth is about 30K years old max, do you think that shows any form of scholarly support for the Earth being 30K years old max?

        Yes some scholars do argue for extended interpolations, why are you stating that? No one disagrees with that. I do recall mentioning two famous examples.

        Get a clue Neil. One scholar you mentioned is a dead maverick who is so obscure her book doesn’t even have a single amazon review on it and the other is a member of the Jesus Seminar.

        My case is pretty strong. Price’s argument has almost no support from scholarship, there is no textual evidence which is a damning argument against such a large alleged interpolation, it does not look like what one would suspect such an interpolation to look like  and there is no  real motive for such a forgery. 

        Which is the many reasons the vast majority of scholars have no such time for Price’s nonsense.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          Take a valium, some deep breaths, and read what what I said :-) (You should take McGrath’s sage advice to read a post or comment attentively.)

          “They” do not (as far as I know) write in “support” Price’s argument. ONE of them describes Price’s discussion as “a serious argument” for interpolation. It is not “nonsense” in the view of at least one respected scholar on Paul.

          Your case against interpolation may be as strong as the mountains but you are wrong to say that no scholar takes Price’s argument seriously.

          Now try not to fly off about creationists and muddy the waters with slurs against an irrelevant scholarly inquiry or other ad hominem.

  • observer

    I am not dancing about the issue.Observer-  Yes you are dancing around the issue cause you have yet to explain why such a large interpolation has not left any textual evidence when other larger interpolations have.Dominic Crossan thinks that Mark15:43-16:8 is an interpolation (I do too).Observer-  That’s nice but again you can think this all you want, however as I pointed out again and again large interpolations leave textual evidence.Just because there is textual proof of interpolation of long passages does not, in any way, prevent other passages to be interpolation even if they have no textual proof (that is omission of them in some ancient manuscripts).Observer- You seem not to get the argument at all, such an interpolation would leave textual evidence. Are you seriously suggesting things such as Mark 16:9-20 leave evidence until the 4th century but this wouldn’t.The earlier the interpolation, the more likely it would show in all the ancient manuscripts.Observer- Talk about circular reasoning, you assume your argument to prove your argument. So how many days after Paul died was this added?For the “puzzled” scholars, read http://www.robertmprice.mindve…Observer-  You do realize Bob Price does not teach at an accredited university and peddles 19th century arguments. Hardly a reliable source.You said there is no evidence for interpolation of 1Cor15:3-11. I found many. Did you read my webpage passage I posted earlier?Observer- You have zero textual evidence and a convoluted contrived explanation for a motive. I read it and I was not impressedHow do you know that 50 years later, there were many copies of 1Corinthians. Evidence please.Observer- Critical thinking please. Send a copy to a community, it then makes one for keeping, one for storage and passes on the original to another community. Even allowing for just ten communities that is 20 copies. Don’t you think somewhere down the line they would have noticed.Details of 1Cor15:3-11 not found in gospels? That works both ways: if 1Cor15:3-11 is authentic, and with many copies of that epistles available early on, then how do you explain the gospelers did not standarize their reappearances on 1Cor15:3-11? Even if 1Corinthians was not known to them, the oral traditions about the reappearances in 1Corinthians would still be floating around. But the gospelers did not seem to know.Observer-  How in blazes does this work both ways. If someone writing this “forgery” after the Gospels were written he would have wrote it like one of the accounts. If not why not?Why make the forgery? I explained that already here: http://historical-jesus.info/c… . I want to add that the forger knew of GLuke but probably not of GMatthew and GJohn.Observer-  Seems a bit convoluted. Why not just write a letter to the church in question. You still have the issue of how this did not become a painfully obvious forgery unless you think all the churches were too dumb to have a single copy of a letter from Paul on hand.  Amazing we tend to easily catch the other large interpolations…A lot of Christian texts (or texts critical of Christianity) did disappear in early Christianity. Observer- Really and the ones from the first century are? What did they say?  Can we evaluate them or the reasons they disappeared?And as far as Christians noticing or not additions in their texts, that did not prevent interpolations to be made, as the long ones you mentioned yourself. Observer- have you noticed a pattern for these large interpolations, they leave textual evidence. Seems you don’t get this concept.And consider the following:”For I wrote letters when the brethren requested me to write. And these letters the apostles of the devil have filled with tares, taking away some things and adding others, …” Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (165-175), fragments from a letter to the Roman church.Observer- We both agree interpolations happen. We disagree on you evidence free arguments for 1st Cor 15:1-11.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To observer,
      All over, you are hammering the idea: because some large interpolations show textual evidence, all large interpolations should. Rather close-minded and simplistic, I may say. A bit like saying that because some large clouds provides rain, all large clouds should. If they don’t, they are not clouds. And it seems to you that short interpolations follows different rules. Why?

      About distribution of epistles, I would not trust your so-called critical thinking. You think you are dealing with a very organized Church where any new literature would be immediately distributed all over. Sweet dream and no evidence for that.
      About 1st century Christian texts which disappeared, I would put at least one of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Q, and possibly the gospel to the Hebrews. Some scholars are adamant about a gospel of signs and a passion narrative. 
         

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  • Trey

    James, I think the reason Paul is very keen to claim that his gospel was not taught to him by man but through revelation from Jesus (Galation 1:12) is that the gospel he was proclaiming was in some respects fundamentally different from the gospel proclaimed by the apostles who were in practice and faith torah observant Jews. The original 12 disciples were Jewish to the core of their beings…see Acts 21:20 where James talks about the zealousness and faithfulness of his converts to the law. The main thing that separated the disciples from other jews was their belief that Jesus was the messiah…in the Jewish sense of the word…that is they believed that Jesus was God’s appointed agent on earth.  Other than stressing that I agree with the thrust of your argument.

    • Anonymous

      So Trey, is it your contention that the Pauline author(s) believed the same gospel as the Jerusalem Christians?

      • Trey

        beallen0417, I believe Paul created a unique gospel that was fundamentally different in some respects from the gospel preached by the original 12. He says as much in Galations when he attributes the source of his gospel to a revelation from Jesus and not from any teaching from man. So what was the core teaching of Paul’s gospel that was a departure from the gospel of the apostles? That Jesus death and resurrection was a sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind and that anyone who had faith in Jesus and his act on the cross was saved and that faith was sufficient for salvation. While the apostles and Paul saw Jesus as an important figure in relation to Gods divine plan, I believe the apostles would have been baffled by Paul’s interpretation of the crucifixion as they were faithful Jews who never abandoned their Jewish faith and who continued to uphold the validity and practice of the Law. Paul appears to suggest repeatedly in his letters that Jesus actions on the cross made the Law redundant, but one wonders if Jesus did indeed teach this how is it that his disciples who knew him best and who were with him from the beginning failed to grasp this teaching which is so central to Christian belief.

        • Anonymous

          Trey, good to hear that you agree with me that there is no textual evidence to support the idea that the Pauline author(s) believed the same gospel as the Jerusalem pillars. I wonder what this does to the argument of the OP and comments made here. To recap:

          The only real options are (1) that Paul did in fact miraculously receive the same information that other Christians had, or (2) Paul received information about the Christian Gospel from other human beings, whatever he might or might not say to the contrary.

          Paul acknowledges to an audience that includes supporters of other apostles that he and they agree on the basics of the Gospel.

          You would disagree with both of these statements out of hand then, correct?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Beallen/Evan illustrating once again that he either engages in deliberate bait and switch or fails to read carefully. Is it any wonder that I gave up trying to interact with him, when he ignores what I write and responds as though I had written something else instead?

    I have to acknowledge that Neil is right: it is no more true that no scholar takes mythicism seriously than that no scientist takes creationism seriously. Nevertheless, both statements are a close approximation to the truth, however hyperbolically expressed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vince Hart, I hope that one day you read Doherty. I think that you will then become embarrassed that you thought him a good ally for your stance of agnosticism.

    • Anonymous

      Dr.  McGrath,

      If you can find any point at which I have cited Doherty as a good ally, I would be very surprised.  

  • observer

    Neil

    You get lumped with creationist cause you play the games creationist play. You find a single academic who supports your views and you suddenly act like this means your views have academic legitimacy.

    Price’s arguments have convinced pretty much just Price.

    I notice though you have no protest against my creationist analogy you simply do not like the association.

    My case for the universe being 13.5 billions years old may be as strong as the mountains but you are wrong to say no cosmologist takes young earth creationism seriously.

    How is your comment any less absurd  then the above.

    When mythers stop acting like creationist people will stop treating them like creationist.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Oh dear, but you fail to notice that Walker does not at all “support my views” and I am not arguing a point of view on the question of whether the passage is an interpolation at all.

      You seem to be incapable of admitting you have made an erroneous statement.

  • observer

    To Observer,
    All over, you are hammering the idea: because some large interpolations show textual evidence, all large interpolations should. 
    Because all agreed upon large textual interpolations have textual evidence.

    Rather close-minded and simplistic, I may say.

    You really do not like providing evidence for a pet argument don’t you.

     A bit like saying that because some large clouds provide rain, all large clouds should.

    Utterly false analogy. There is no known large interpolation that did not  leave textual evidence, many large  clouds do not produce rain.

     If they don’t, they are not clouds.

    See above

     And it seems to you that short interpolations follows different rules. Why?

    Because as a general rule short interpolations do not greatly alter the text.
    I think you are a victim of over-generalization.

    I think you a victim of desperately wanting an argument to be true.About distribution of epistles, I would not trust your so-called critical thinking.

    Well we saw your critical thinking skills  with the cloud analogy. Lets see if you can do better.

     You think you are dealing with a very organized Church where any new literature would be immediately distributed all over. Sweet dream and no evidence for that.

    Unless you think we are discussing a clan of cave men we certainly have people who come from a prior religious tradition so how hard  do you think organizing the basic of a religious organization would be. Not hard at all. Are you seriously suggesting no one at any church would have any desire for Paul’s writings?

    My evidence is that people through the ages have critical thinking skills and would realize the need to preserve basic documents and insure others would have them for reasons that should be obvious. Other churches would be curious about what Paul said for reasons that again should be obvious. 
    About 1st century Christian texts which disappeared, I would put at least one of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Q, and possibly the gospel to the Hebrews. Some scholars are adamant about a gospel of signs and a passion narrative.

    Please discuss the contents of these documents and explain how they help your case

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      Observer wrote: “There is no known large interpolation that did not leave textual evidence”
       
      BM: You are making a circular argument: if there is no textual evidence, then there is no known interpolation. So, of course, only known interpolation have textual evidence. And you did not explain why my analogy about clouds is “utterly false”.
       
      “Because as a general rule short interpolations do not greatly alter the text.”
       
      BM: But they do. For example 1Cor14:34-35. That affects half of the adult Christian population. It has been used to keep women submissive to husbands. And 1Th2:15-16, that justified anti-Semitism.
       
      “Are you seriously suggesting no one at any church would have any desire for Paul’s writings?”
       
      BM: Paul was not liked by everyone. At times he was rejected by the Corinthians. That’s one example. In his letters Paul said he was competing against superlative apostles and false apostles. The followers of those would not be interested by Paul. Later Justin Martyr ignored the Pauline epistles.
       
      “Please discuss the contents of these documents and explain how they help your case”
       
      BM: First you asked me for 1st century disappeared Christian documents. You were doubful of the existence of those. I proved otherwise. Why should I discuss the contents of these documents? Anyway it is self-explanatory for some, we have a good idea about Q, and one thing or two about the missing Pauline letter and the one pseudo-Pauline.
      Just to say that 1st century documents can disappear, just like some original Pauline epistles which were later combined into one letter. A bit like Q being incorporated in GLuke and GMatthew and then not being preserved independantly.

      • observer

        Observer wrote: “There is no known large interpolation that did not leave textual evidence”
         
        BM: You are making a circular argument: if there is no textual evidence, then there is no known interpolation. So, of course, only known interpolation have textual evidence. And you did not explain why my analogy about clouds is “utterly false”.
        OB- Hardly is this circular reasoning. One could hypothetically find a large interpolation without textual evidence if for example a letter from a church father was discovered claiming that he knew a certain section of the new testament was forged.

        Another possibility is you could have a section that is linguistically impossible for the time period of original authorship.

        So this is hardly circular, it is simply pointing out a fact of textual sciences. There are no known large interpolations that have not left textual evidence.

        Your cloud analogy is false cause we know many large clouds do not produce rain, however we do not know of a large interpolation without evidence.

          “Because as a general rule short interpolations do not greatly alter the text.” BM: But they do. For example 1Cor14:34-35. That affects half of the adult Christian population. It has been used to keep women submissive to husbands. And 1Th2:15-16, that justified anti-Semitism.

        OB By alter I mean greatly increasing the size of the text, I thought that should have been obvious from my statement. Many small interpolations are possible alternate readings.

        I must observe your argument is a bit anachronistic  though, none of the above possible interpolations would have altered any practices or views of the early church. 

         ”Are you seriously suggesting no one at any church would have any desire for Paul’s writings?” BM: Paul was not liked by everyone. At times he was rejected by the Corinthians. That’s one example. In his letters Paul said he was competing against superlative apostles and false apostles. The followers of those would not be interested by Paul. Later Justin Martyr ignored the Pauline epistles.

        OB  But in the end these churches obviously accepted his letters and so did other churches that showed some hostility. So if they wanted one letter from him, don’t you think they would have wanted the others? If not why not?

        Of course followers of those superlative apostles and false apostles would have no use for an edited letter from Paul for obvious reasons.

        The only people who would have been the target audience of your forger would have been the very audience who could easily detect it. ”Please discuss the contents of these documents and explain how they help your case” BM: First you asked me for 1st century disappeared Christian documents. 

        OB  I know about these alleged documents, I simply wanted to show you that you cannot make an argument using alleged documents that no one cannot evaluate. We simply do not know why they were not preserved.

        You were doubful of the existence of those.

        OB I am still doubtful of the existence of all of those except  the lost letter of Paul and Quelle.

         I proved otherwise.

        OB You asserted otherwise, so far you have not proved a thing.

         Why should I discuss the contents of these documents? 

        OB You can’t no one can, assuming they ever existed. Hence they cannot be evidence for anyone

        Anyway it is self-explanatory for some, we have a good idea about Q, and one thing or two about the missing Pauline letter and the one pseudo-Pauline.

        OBI agree with you about Quelle, but can you please tell the world what is in the missing letters of Paul.

        Just to say that 1st century documents can disappear, just like some original Pauline epistles which were later combined into one letter.

        OB Then it didn’t disappear.

         A bit like Q being incorporated in GLuke and GMatthew and then not being preserved independantly.

        OB Why preserve it then when it has already been preserved in a larger document?
        And that would throw out your theory that early Christian documents were well distributed and well preserved, including Paul original letters.

        OB Hardly if anything it would prove my theory as they were preserved in the later documents.

        Why should the church keep the original small documents when they have been incorporated into larger documents?

        • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

          Observer wrote:
          “a church father was discovered claiming that he knew a certain section of the new testament was forged.”
          BM: You certainly have a lot of faith in Church Fathers and their honesty. Did you study their writings?

          “Another possibility is you could have a section that is linguistically impossible for the time period of original authorship.”
          BM: Some of my points against authenticity are in that line.

          “By alter I mean greatly increasing the size of the text”
          BM: Sorry I did not know that “alter” meant greatly increasing the size of the text. Pardon my English! So now an interpolation of 2 verses is not an alteration but one of 9 verses is.

          “But in the end these churches obviously accepted his letters”
          BM: But do you know where and when. Maybe you miss that it is commonly acknowledged that the author of ‘Acts’ (& likely his/her community) did not know about several Pauline letters, including ‘Galatians’ (and the author of ‘Acts’ was very much pro-Pauline!).

          “The only people who would have been the target audience of your forger would have been the very audience who could easily detect it.”
          BM: What about other interpolations, including the ones which come with your kind of textual evidence. They were made regardless, they were not removed. If they were detected by some, that did not matter. On the contrary, some become canonical, such as the ending of GMark (Mk16:9-20).

          For the rest of your posting, you seems to agree that original Pauline letters can disappear after been incorporated in a larger letter. That’s all I wanted you to accept. And if small authentic letters can be incorporated in a big one, so interpolations can be inserted at the same time.

      • observer

        This is my last comment on this issue.

        Those who assert something is an interpolation have an obligation to demonstrate their argument.  Muller has failed in this. In order to accept his argument you have to accept the following.

        a.) Such a large interpolation left no textual evidence period.

        b.) The forger in question fifty years or so after the composition of Corinthians managed to edit every copy so thoroughly no evidence of an interpolation remained. This is pretty impressive considering such large interpolations such as Mark 16:9-20 are pretty well know
        c.) The forger in question who would have known some of the Gospel accounts of the resurrection choose not to use them.
        d.) Instead of doing some remotely intelligent like simply writing a letter ( like the author of 1-3 John) the forger went through this convoluted means of editing Paul   .
        e.) None of the recipients of this edited letter would have realized it was edited. This is very odd as the target audience would have been people who held Paul’s writings in high regard.

        For all the reasons above I simply find the argument that 1st  Cor 15:1-11 is an interpolation is too far fetched to be taken seriously.

        • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

          To Observer,
          I think Dr. McGrath did answer some of your concerns for a) and b). I will not go back of them.

          For c), an opposite argument can be made, from 1Cor15:3-11 as authentic “The gospelers who would have known about 1Cor15:3-11 accounts of the resurrection choose not to use them.”

          For d), something inserted in a Pauline letter carries a lot more weight than written in an anonymous letter. Furthermore, the reason to include post mortem appearances in the Pauline epistles is obvious, considering there is none narrated elsewhere in the Pauline Corpus, when the gospels were later coming with some. That a huge lack, more so when Paul, elsewhere, declared believing in the Resurrection is a matter of faith.

          For e), how do you know the interpolated letter was initially targeted to Pauline fans? And that the target audience knew exactly about the content of the original letter?

  • observer

    Actually Neil I just refuse to fall for creationist/myther claptrap and pretend that your ability to find a scholar who supports Price suddenly means Price’s arguments have a modicum of scholarly merit.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I point out you made an error of fact — and you simply cannot admit this despite the evidence supplied — so you accuse me of being like a creationist? My my.

  • observer

    I fail to see why this is so difficult for you Neil. Finding  a scholar who agrees with Price does not magically elevate his views to scholarly or academic acceptability  any more then Duane Gish supporting creationism magically elevates it to scholarly or academic respect.

    The fact that out of thousands of scholars one finds some merits to Price’s argument ought to be a strong hint Price’s arguments are trash.

    However if it makes you happy I will from now on say, out of thousands of scholars, Price has managed to convince perhaps one or two that his views on Corinthians has any merit.

    Enjoy your very cheap victory over hyperbole, being a myther victories are pretty hard to come by ehh. Let me know when any university system’s history departments take it seriously.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Thanks for the gentlemanly exchange. Always good to have a friendly disagreement.

      No wonder you want to maintain anonymity.

      • observer

        Yes I like my privacy. Like a certain Earl Doherty who does not want every aspect of his life analyzed. If you have no problem with Earl’s private   ways why do you have  problems with my private ways.

        For crap sake Neil you made an entire blog post about Tim O’Neill called from Sublime to Slime simply cause Tim demolished that idiotic book Nailed.

        Why you think you have anything to say useful about manners is beyond me.

        Neil I have zero sympathy for peddlers of bunk be them holocaust deniers, mythers or creationist. Your side has no problem tarnishing the names of  legitimate scholars, misinforming the public so when your side cries  for kindness it is  crocodile tears indeed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I think there are perhaps distinctions to be made here. On the one hand, it is certainly possible that there were interpolations or copying errors that were made early enough that they did not leave behind clear manuscript evidence. On the other hand, it will rarely if ever be possible to say that something is most likely an interpolation when there is no textual evidence, unless there is such an obvious change of style and vocabulary so as to make it all but impossible to treat the material as by the purported author.

    And so there is no harm in speculating about possible interpolations. But there is harm and deception when someone treats the mere possibility of interpolation as a basis for drawing conclusions about what is most likely, historically speaking.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Dr. McGrath,
      I congratulate you on your posting and agree with it entirely.
      But I want you to know I treat possible interpolations very seriously and I declare a passage to be just that only if I found solid & valid reasons to do so. For 1Cor15:3-11, I have no less than  8 arguments against its authenticity http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#adchttp://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#adc .Please feel free to review them and blog what you think.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath,

      Would you agree that it is highly likely that there are some interpolations that will never be identified and that this is a good reason, all other things being equal, to give more weight to ideas and concepts as being genuinely Pauline if they are multiply attested in his letters than if they only occur once?

  • Trey

    beallen0417, The fact that Paul spent some time persecuting the church indicates to me that he had to have been aware of the nature of the gospels being preached by the apostles. I think Paul added his own unique spin on it.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Trey,
      According to my studies, I think those apostles were actually proto-Christian Greek speaking Jews. They believe the man Jesus was saved in heaven and will come back soon on earth during the awaited “day of the Lord” as the King of the Kingdom of God. That was rather anti-Roman.
      Paul changed the location of the Kingdom to heaven, took pre-existence, then Son of God and sacrifice for atonement of sins for his Gentiles Christians.
      The “Nazarenes” were left behind, not believing in resurrection, just seeing Jesus as a dead prophet for the Kingdom at hand, that Kingdom being meant for poor righteous mostly Jews.
      Take it or leave it.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      It may be a mistake to think that the gospel of Paul was a set of formal propositions or a charter of points about Jesus. Paul says the gospel is something that cannot be understood or grasped by outsiders. If the gospel has more to do about an experience and demonstration of spirit powers — “the gospel is a power” he says in Romans, and a mystery, and something revealed in one, etc. — then that changes the direction of the argument about Paul’s source — and goes a long way to explaining how multiple apostles can arise teaching the same thing that they have each independently “received” from heaven.

    • Anonymous

      So would you say that the Pauline author(s) and the Jerusalem pillars agreed on the basics of the gospel, whatever that was?

      • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

        To Balleen0417
        According to my studies, when Paul (with Barnabas) met  the pillars, his gospel did not have yet pre-existence, Son of God and sacrifice for atonement of sin. That came later, during the third journey, after the break from the Church of Antioch, Peter and James.
        That would explain his gospel to Gentiles was tolerated by the pillars at the “Jerusalem council”. Furthermore, the Church of Jerusalem was in need of money and they were expecting Paul to raise funds among the Gentiles for them (which he did!).

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @VinnyJH:disqus , I don’t think that multiple attestation is a good guide to what is authentically Pauline in the letters which are likely to be authentic themselves. Correspondence is occasional in nature, and some things that seem to have been central to Paul rise above the surface and get explicit mention only occasionally, yet when they do so persuade interpreters that they have been in the background all along. 
    I think it was J. C. Beker who emphasized the importance of remembering that, if Paul emphasizes something in a letter or even a few of them, it may well be because of things that he had heard were issues in those particular congregations to which he was writing, rather than because they were things that he would normally emphasize anyway, all other things being equal.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr.  McGrath,

      I can appreciate that we would not expect to find multiple attestation of every point that Paul makes, however, I would still think that multiple attestation would always increase our confidence that a particular passage or idea is genuinely Pauline.  For example, however weak one might believe Price’s case for interpolation in 1 Cor 15 to be, if Paul made similar references to post-resurrection appearances in another letter, it would be weaker still.   I am not saying that interpreters cannot be reasonably persuaded about the authenticity of singly attested concepts or that multiply attested concepts are any more important in Paul’s theological scheme.  However, I would still think that the probability of interpolation always decreases with the number of references.

  • Dave Burke

    Vinny,

    >>
    Do you have independent contemporary evidence of what the other apostles were preaching at the time Paul wrote his letters?
    >>

    Does it need to be contemporary? No reason that I can see. This sounds like an arbitrary criterion deliberately selected for the purpose of excluding evidence supporting a contrary view.

    At any rate, Acts is contemporary and contains everything you’ve asked for; see my reply to Vince (here: http://bit.ly/qse2yz) and feel free to address the issues it raises.

    I’ll also throw in James, Hebrews & I Peter, all contemporary with the Pauline corpus. Fill your boots!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dave,

      My comments here have been premised on consensus dates for various writings that I think are generally in line with Dr. McGrath’s position.  You seem to have a completely different set of dates in mind.

  • Dave Burke

    Grog225,

    >>
    There are also admissions that other apostles are not preaching the same gospel. I wonder why you overlook passages like this:
    >>

    I don’t see anything in that passage which says other apostles are not preaching the same gospel. I don’t even see any mention of apostles.

    • grog225

      Try this one as well:

      2 Cor 11:4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
       5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] 

      [snip] 
       12 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

      Here Paul does refer to apostles as teaching a different gospel. What we see here is not tranquil agreement that Professor McGrath wishes to envision. No, we have competing Christianities, competing groups of apostles, all claiming legitimacy. Paul is within one camp and even within that camp he has disputes.

      You may want to object on the grounds that Paul’s adversaries are not “true apostles” while the Jerusalem apostles are. To me, that is reading fiction into this historical document. The evidence of the early Christian documents does not support the view that the “jerusalem pillars” should hold any more legitimacy than any other Christian. They were not eye-witnesses to any Jesus of Nazareth in the first century. Paul, himself, downplays their status by saying that they were “reputed” or “seemed” to be pillars (the word that Paul uses is δοκοῦντες, which implies an opinion, possibly “held to be.”

      Again, this is curious language. If these pillars were eyewitness authorities and their message came from the mouth of Jesus himself, why would they only “seem” to be pillars. If, indeed, they were eyewitnesses, why wouldn’t that be the source of authority that Paul refers to here, rather than the weak “seem to be” pillars, referring to anonymous holder of this opinion. To Paul, there is nothing special about the position of these “pillars.”

      This brings me back to the passage in question. Paul talks about appearance of the Risen Christ as being the source, the ultimate source, of the Gospel. Nowhere is there mention of an earthly ministry. The gospel was bestowed on the apostles through reveletion…that is the significance of the passage that Professor McGrath has offered for our study here. Paul’s revelation is no less worthy than any of the others…just later.

      My suspiscion is that Jesus migrated down from the heavens, first making an appearance as the logos, then as a revealer of knowledge. The sayings that are in the Gospel of Thomas and Q are post-resurrection sayings. They are the teachings of Jesus after the crucifixion. His first earthly appearances were not in the context of the Gospel story (ministry, crucifixion by Pilate, empty tomb), none of that story existed. Jesus first emerges as an illuminator who revealed secret knowledge to select apostles.  In this stage of evolution, an evolutionary process that we can clearly see in the documents themselves, the time, place and circumstances of the crucifixion itself are shadowy. Paul describes it as:

      1 Cor2:7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

      The use of “archons” here has a long history of debate, but I fall into the camp of “elemental powers” (see Lee, Demonic Powers in Paul, Novo Testementum). Usually, Romans and Jewish officials are read into the text at this point, they acted as agents for the elemental powers. Paul does not say that. And, in fact, I would argue that Ro 13 militates against that position.

      Ok, so now, I am an agnostic on the historicity of Jesus. I don’t think the case has been demonstrated convincingly despite 2,000 years of trying (desperately trying, even). Maybe there was some such preacher. Right now, I think there are better explanations that better fit all the evidence we have at hand. As far as Professor McGrath’s OP, I have to say it is light on evidence, fails to take into consideration all the evidence there was on disagreement between so-called, mostly self-styled apostles.

      As for what Paul learned from other human beings: he learned everything from them, apart from his own made up fantasies (oh, I’m an atheist, so any claim to revelation is probably spurious in my book, so I have to distrust the honesty of the author from the outset!). What he didn’t learn: That Jesus lived on earth and spoke personally to the pillars in Jerusalem. There is no doubt in my mind that had that information been passed on to Paul, he would have made mention of it. Curious they didn’t think that was important.

      One more note. In our passage that Professor McGrath quotes, Paul clearly says that the ultimate source of information outside revelation is the scriptures…the jewish scriptures which make no mention of Jesus. Again, 1) Revelation. 2) Jewish writings. No earthly Jesus.

      • Dave Burke

        Grog225, it’s difficult to tell if
        you’re being deliberately obtuse or you really are totally disingenuous
        and struggling to make sense of the evidence. All I see here is a
        classic example of quote mining without any reference to context. I
        don’t see a logical, substantive case for your position.

        • grog225

          Wait, when I quote Paul, it is quote mining? I’m not quoting Paul out of context. I see both you and Professor McGrath make the same charge, yet make no argument against me. Professor McGrath quoted Corinthians to support his view, why isn’t that quotemining? You don’t seem to have a firm grasp of what quote mining really is. Let me give you a little lesson on that.

          For example, when I referenced Lee, I was not referencing him to support a mythicist position. I quoted him in reference to the interpretation of archons 1 Cor 2:7 referring to elemental powers, not earthly rulers. That is a perfectly legitimate use of Lee’s work. If I had referenced Lee to support a mythical Christ, I would have been in error. I, in fact, stated the counter to my opinion (Romans acted as agents for the elemental powers) and listed my objection to that (not in the text, Romans 13 works against that reading). Neither you nor Professor McGrath chose to address my points, instead you both accussed me of quotemining.

          Is that a common tactic to dodge engagement on this board? I’m new here.

      • Dave Burke

        Grog225,

        >>
        Paul talks about appearance of the Risen Christ as being the source, the ultimate source, of the Gospel.
        >>

        Where does Paul talk about the appearance of the risen Christ as the ultimate source of the Gospel? More to the point, where does he talk about the appearance of the risen Christ as the only source of the Gospel?

        >>
        Nowhere is there mention of an earthly ministry.
        >>

        In Acts 13:15-39 Paul describes Jesus’ foreshadowing in Messianic prophecy, his baptism by John, his ministry in Jerusalem and the local area, the opposition he faced from religious rulers, their collaboration in his arrest and crucifixion (including the role of Pilate), his death, his resurrection from the dead, and his appearance to hundreds of believers from Galilee to Jerusalem. If that’s not earthly ministry, what is?

        Additional details of Jesus’ life are found in the Pauline corpus. For example, Paul says Jesus was a Jew, descended from Abraham (Galatians 3:14-16). Paul knows Jesus was a genuine human being, born to a woman and subject to the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4).

        Note that ‘born of a woman’ is a well established Jewish idiom for humanity, occurring everywhere from Job 14:1 to the Qumran scrolls (e.g. IQS 11.20-21). This is an unequivocal statement, precluding any suggestion that Paul believed Jesus was a supernatural being in the imaginary ‘sub-lunar realm’ of Earl Doherty.

        Paul knows that Jesus literally died and was raised on the third day (I Corinthians 15:4), that he appeared to the 12 disciples (I Corinthians 15:5) and later to more than 500 Christians at one time (I Corinthians 15:6). Paul knows Jesus’ disciples by name (I Corinthians 15:5; Galatians 2:9) and he knows they became apostles (I Corinthians 15:7).

        Paul knows Jesus was betrayed at night (I Corinthians 11:23), that he instituted the Eucharist in a meal with his disciples on the same night (I Corinthians 11:23-26) and that the ritual symbolised his sacrificial death (I Corinthians 11:27). Paul quotes Jesus directly, and his account of the Last Supper corresponds to the one we find in gLuke 22:17-20.

        This list is not exhaustive; examples could be multiplied.

        Stephen J. Bedard gives a more comprehensive overview in ‘Paul and the Historical Jesus: A Case Study in First Corinthians’ (available online here: http://bit.ly/p87kIz). See also Paul Barnett, ‘The Importance of Paul for the Historical Jesus’ (here: http://bit.ly/pFwnYs) and James Sweeney, ‘Jesus, Paul, and the Temple: An Exploration of Some Patterns of Continuity’ (here: http://bit.ly/p3dMW2).

      • Dave Burke

        Grog225,

        The ‘rulers of this age’ who crucified Christ (I Corinthians 2:6-8) are
        obviously the Jewish and Roman authorities. I see no reason to assume
        they were being controlled by evil spirits, and there is not a single
        suggestion that the archons themselves are supernatural beings (this
        idea has to be imported to the text, as you have done).

        Paul’s observation that they would not have crucified Christ if they had
        understood the wisdom of God makes no sense unless these rulers are
        human (why would evil supernatural beings seek the wisdom of God in the
        first place, and how would it prevent them from crucifying Christ?)

        The point being made here is that the Jews and Romans would have allowed
        Jesus to live if they had understood his purpose in the plan of God.

        >>

        In our passage that Professor McGrath quotes, Paul clearly says that the
        ultimate source of information outside revelation is the
        scriptures…the jewish scriptures which make no mention of Jesus.

        >>

        Evidence, please? Paul repeatedly insists that the Jewish scriptures spoke of Jesus.

    • grog225

      Try this one as well:

      2 Cor 11:4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
       5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] 

      [snip] 
       12 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

      Here Paul does refer to apostles as teaching a different gospel. What we see here is not tranquil agreement that Professor McGrath wishes to envision. No, we have competing Christianities, competing groups of apostles, all claiming legitimacy. Paul is within one camp and even within that camp he has disputes.

      You may want to object on the grounds that Paul’s adversaries are not “true apostles” while the Jerusalem apostles are. To me, that is reading fiction into this historical document. The evidence of the early Christian documents does not support the view that the “jerusalem pillars” should hold any more legitimacy than any other Christian. They were not eye-witnesses to any Jesus of Nazareth in the first century. Paul, himself, downplays their status by saying that they were “reputed” or “seemed” to be pillars (the word that Paul uses is δοκοῦντες, which implies an opinion, possibly “held to be.”

      Again, this is curious language. If these pillars were eyewitness authorities and their message came from the mouth of Jesus himself, why would they only “seem” to be pillars. If, indeed, they were eyewitnesses, why wouldn’t that be the source of authority that Paul refers to here, rather than the weak “seem to be” pillars, referring to anonymous holder of this opinion. To Paul, there is nothing special about the position of these “pillars.”

      This brings me back to the passage in question. Paul talks about appearance of the Risen Christ as being the source, the ultimate source, of the Gospel. Nowhere is there mention of an earthly ministry. The gospel was bestowed on the apostles through reveletion…that is the significance of the passage that Professor McGrath has offered for our study here. Paul’s revelation is no less worthy than any of the others…just later.

      My suspiscion is that Jesus migrated down from the heavens, first making an appearance as the logos, then as a revealer of knowledge. The sayings that are in the Gospel of Thomas and Q are post-resurrection sayings. They are the teachings of Jesus after the crucifixion. His first earthly appearances were not in the context of the Gospel story (ministry, crucifixion by Pilate, empty tomb), none of that story existed. Jesus first emerges as an illuminator who revealed secret knowledge to select apostles.  In this stage of evolution, an evolutionary process that we can clearly see in the documents themselves, the time, place and circumstances of the crucifixion itself are shadowy. Paul describes it as:

      1 Cor2:7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

      The use of “archons” here has a long history of debate, but I fall into the camp of “elemental powers” (see Lee, Demonic Powers in Paul, Novo Testementum). Usually, Romans and Jewish officials are read into the text at this point, they acted as agents for the elemental powers. Paul does not say that. And, in fact, I would argue that Ro 13 militates against that position.

      Ok, so now, I am an agnostic on the historicity of Jesus. I don’t think the case has been demonstrated convincingly despite 2,000 years of trying (desperately trying, even). Maybe there was some such preacher. Right now, I think there are better explanations that better fit all the evidence we have at hand. As far as Professor McGrath’s OP, I have to say it is light on evidence, fails to take into consideration all the evidence there was on disagreement between so-called, mostly self-styled apostles.

      As for what Paul learned from other human beings: he learned everything from them, apart from his own made up fantasies (oh, I’m an atheist, so any claim to revelation is probably spurious in my book, so I have to distrust the honesty of the author from the outset!). What he didn’t learn: That Jesus lived on earth and spoke personally to the pillars in Jerusalem. There is no doubt in my mind that had that information been passed on to Paul, he would have made mention of it. Curious they didn’t think that was important.

      One more note. In our passage that Professor McGrath quotes, Paul clearly says that the ultimate source of information outside revelation is the scriptures…the jewish scriptures which make no mention of Jesus. Again, 1) Revelation. 2) Jewish writings. No earthly Jesus.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Dave Burque,
      “apostles” can mean different things. The 12 were declared to be apostles, so the like of Paul. To avoid confusion, I tend to declare “apostles” the early Christian missionaries and “disciples” the companions of Jesus.
      What does “apostle” mean for you? Do you think the “disciples” were preaching all over with the “apostles”?

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    My comments here have been premised on consensus dates for various
    writings that I think are generally in line with Dr. McGrath’s
    position.  You seem to have a completely different set of dates in mind.

    >>

    This does not answer my question. Please answer my question.

    Consensus date range for the Pauline corpus: AD 50-80
    Consensus date range for Acts: AD 60-90
    Consensus date range for Hebrews: 60-70
    Consensus date range for I Peter: AD 60-96
    Consensus date range for James: AD 50-130

    Paul’s writings could easily be contemporaneous with these other texts.

    • grog225

      Can you provide the arguments for these dates? In particular, Acts is clearly second century (see Tyson, Knox dating Acts to around 125)

    • grog225

      Can you provide the arguments for these dates? In particular, Acts is clearly second century (see Tyson, Knox dating Acts to around 125)

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      I am not familiar with a consensus that puts Paul writing at so late a date as 80 A.D.  

      • Dave Burke

        Vince,

        >>
        I am not familiar with a consensus that puts Paul writing at so late a date as 80 A.D.
        >>

        You should be by now, because I’ve given you at least two sources for it. At any rate, I believe we have now established that you’re resorting to special pleading in an attempt to exclude Acts as a source of information about Paul’s beliefs and teachings.

        • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

          >>
          I am not familiar with a consensus that puts Paul writing at so late a date as 80 A.D.
          >>

          You should be by now, because I’ve given you at least two sources for it.

          Tim, do be patient to those of us who have not read all your comments and tell us the two sources for this “consensus”.

          (I thought you liked to refer to the original Greek but you seem to avoid doing that when it suits, by the way, in your sweeping claims about “born of woman”; further, I thought you liked to promote yourself as a historian, but I am mystified by whatever standard you use to rely on Acts as a source for Paul’s teaching — not even mainstream historicist scholars do that unless they are on the fundy end of the spectrum.)

        • Anonymous

          Dave,

          Early Christian Writings has no date later than 60 A.D. for any of the seven genuine Pauline epistles.  Wikepedia puts six of them before 60 A.D. and Phillipians at 62 A.D.  It is true that some of the disputed letters show much later dates but that is most likely because scholars who doubt Pauline authorship give them later dates, not because anyone thinks that Paul himself was writing as late as 80 A.D.  

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Dave Burque:
      Consensus is hard to define. Most of the time, in this wild scholarly world there is none. Or regarding dating, you have to enlarge the range so much, that the so-called consensus become useless.
      According to my studies:
      My date range for the Pauline corpus: 50-58 (for the seven (mostly) authentic letters (1Th, 1&2Cor, Php, Plm, Gal & Ro).My date range for Acts: around 90 (& after gLuke)My date range for Hebrews: 54My date range for I Peter: around 80My date range for James: AD 60-64
      My date range for gMark: end of 70 to early 71
      My date range for gLuke & gMatthew: 80-90
      My date range for gJohn (final version): 100-105

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I regularly wonder whether mythicists deliberately twist things, or simply don’t read them carefully, or like their fundamentalist mirror images are simply woodenly literalists selectively when it suits them.

    Surely the fact that Paul indicates in Galatians that he and the other apostles had previously agreed confirms what he says in 1 Corinthians, namely that there was a basic Gospel about which they agreed.

    And surely the letter as a whole indicates what the “other Gospel, which is no Gospel at all” was: the imposition of circumcision and Torah-observance on Gentile adherents of this Messianic sect which would eventually come to be referred to as “Christianity”.

    • grog225

      Professor McGrath,

      Your first paragraph is poisoning the well. It seems to me, reading your posts, that you are light on evidence and heavy handed when it comes to insults. I’ve provided passages where Paul does indeed speak of apostles preaching a different gospel.

    • grog225

      Professor McGrath,

      Your first paragraph is poisoning the well. It seems to me, reading your posts, that you are light on evidence and heavy handed when it comes to insults. I’ve provided passages where Paul does indeed speak of apostles preaching a different gospel.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      To Dr McGrath,
      I do not read “agree” in Galatians. But I read the pillars were not asking for addition to Paul’s gospel. And as I said in another posting, once again according to my studies, Paul’s gospel (quite fuzzy then) did not have yet many objectionable elements. And then, the pillars were in dire need of funds for their community! That called for compromise.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    It would be great if, rather than engaging in the selective quotation typical of Christian fundamentalism, you read Paul’s letter as letters and did so in their entirety, in the manner that historians and scholars do. You seem to think that you have supernatural knowledge yourself regarding what Paul “didn’t learn.” I am not sure why Paul’s references to a Jesus who was born of a woman, born under the Law, descended from David according to the flesh, who had a brother, was crucified, bled, died, and was buried, leave you with the impression that he had not received information about a Jesus who lived on earth. That is certainly the natural impression to get from what he wrote.

    Paul is very clear in his letters about what he did and did not disagree with other competing authorities about. If his references to “other Gospels” and “other Jesuses” were not hyperbole, would we not expect him to engage in debates and arguments about that rather than about circumcision and the observance of the Jewish Law by Gentiles? 

    • grog225

      You make assumptions, Professor McGrath about what people have or have not read. If you read what I wrote carefully, I very clearly address Lee’s assertion that Romans acted as agents of the elemental powers. You didn’t address the point, which seems to be your MO.

      This is my methodology. To find out what Paul knew, I read what Paul says.  Do I know what Paul “didn’t know,” of course I can’t be sure about that. I can only be sure about what Paul does know when he actually makes a positive statement. That Paul does not mention Pilate or Jews (and B. Pierson addresses 1 Thess on that) of course does not mean he did not have knowledge of the gospel tale. That much I agree with you on.

      So I look further to see what else can cast light on this issue. I find Romans 13.

      ro 13:3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

      I hardly think that this supports the view that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pilate as the result of a Jewish high priest conspiracy and frame up. This adds, it is cumulative, with the observation that Paul nowhere mentions crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Added to that is the fact that Paul’s own sources are 1)revelation, 2) Jewish scriptures (not eyewitnesses, nowhere does Paul say that!). Added to that is when Paul does make direct reference to the circumstances of Jesus’ death, he refers to elemental powers, not Roman or jewish authorities. This all adds up and overpowers the rather vague references you make to Galatians passages.

      I do believe that early Christians believe that Jesus became manifest as a human being. I dn’t believe that they themselves had experience with that being. I don’t believe that at the time of Paul they had a time reference for when this occurred. They believe it had already occurred and was held a secret, a mystery, until it was revealed to them in scripture, in revelation. That is why Paul says in Galatians “according to the scriptures.” The Jesus story comes directly out of Jewish scriptures–Isaiah, various Psalms, Daniel. This was all evidence to early Christians that Jesus had come to earth. They, as far as I can tell, did not have direct experience with that entity. they discovered Him in scripture.

    • Anonymous

      I had a professor in school who once regaled us with the importance of reading the whole Bible as a way to assure a proper understanding of it. It’s nice to know that historical Jesus studies recommends the same thing. If something is out of context, I think it behooves the person making that claim to show what and where the context is lacking. Birth from a woman is a key gnostic concept. Revelation has an image that is clearly supernatural that includes the birth of the Messiah from a woman. The gnostics postulated all sorts of divine aeons of either gender and the dualism of gender played a major symbolic role in that system. Pagels’ Gnostic Paul interprets Gal 4:4 very differently, and is not a mythicist. Yet somehow when historical Jesus supporters point to Gal 4:4 they are not prooftexting and selectively quoting, but just showing things as they are. While when mythicists quote from Gal 1, 2 Cor and 1 Cor as well as Romans to show what Paul means, they are prooftexting and selectively quoting.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @656bd957f3f41dca3e10f63d7d846fe2:disqus , you seem happy to jump into an ongoing discussion and rudely ignore all of the discussion that has taken place thus far.

    If you wish to simply treat Paul’s references to “a different Gospel” literally at face value, because context doesn’t matter, then surely you will agree to do so in the case of the references to birth, bleeding and brothers. If you are not willing to do so in the case of the latter instances, then please don’t ignore such relevant considerations in the case of the Pauline language you quoted.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @656bd957f3f41dca3e10f63d7d846fe2:disqus , you seem happy to jump into an ongoing discussion and rudely ignore all of the discussion that has taken place thus far.

    If you wish to simply treat Paul’s references to “a different Gospel” literally at face value, because context doesn’t matter, then surely you will agree to do so in the case of the references to birth, bleeding and brothers. If you are not willing to do so in the case of the latter instances, then please don’t ignore such relevant considerations in the case of the Pauline language you quoted.

  • Dave Burke

    Grog225,

    >>
    Can you provide the arguments for these dates? In particular, Acts is
    clearly second century (see Tyson, Knox dating Acts to around 125)
    >>

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com

    That’s a non-Christian site, by the way. I don’t agree with all of it because the webmaster is a little selective with his evidence and doesn’t always provide a comprehensive case, but it’ll do for a start.

    On arguments for and against a 1st Century dating of Acts: http://bit.ly/oG2lrE

    Confirmation that the consensus date range is AD 60-90: http://bit.ly/cuOxOH

    That second link also contains a summary of the consensus date ranges for the other books I’ve listed.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I’d question any attempt to date Acts as early as 60. Most date Mark in the 60s and thus Matthew and Luke, which used Mark, sometime post-70. The second-century date is getting increasing discussion, but doesn’t represent a consensus. Raymond Brown’s view (An Introduction to the New Testament p.273) is that it ought to be dated no earlier than 80 and no later than 100. 

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    If you actually read what Paul wrote, not merely selectively, and without imposing a bizarre and unpersuasive framework on his letters, you would not draw the conclusions that you do. 

    Few letter writers in history have ever felt the need to mention that human beings to whom they refer were in fact human beings and not phantasms. 

    You are obviously free to believe whatever you like, but all apologists claim to simply be saying what the evidence says and following where it leads. Rarely if ever is it actually so.

    • grog225

      This is a vague, indirect critique. It doesn’t seem to even bear on what I said. In regards to phantasms, the only Jesus I see making an appearance is exactly that: a revelation. a spirit of a dead guy. What is that other than a phantasm? No one in Paul is reported to have seen a human Jesus walking the earth.

  • Dave Burke

    Grog225, if you ever study Biblical interpretation you will learn that context is usually a broader than a sentence or two. The context of Paul’s remarks in II Corinthians 11 extend beyond that chapter. This is why your little snippets are not fit for purpose.

    >>
    Neither you nor Professor McGrath chose to address my points
    >>

    I have addressed all that I have time for at present. I have started writing a reply to the specific points you raised, which I will finish and post tomorrow. It is currently past midnight here in Australia and I have no intention of spending another hour or two on the internet.

    • grog225

      Ummm…I didn’t quote 2 cor 11, other than to say it is about revelations of the Risen Christ. If you want to say it is something else, then please bring the evidence to support that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @656bd957f3f41dca3e10f63d7d846fe2:disqus ,

    Since you are new here, perhaps you would like to see what has already been discussed, and to not simply post things as though they had not been addressed on this blog countless times before. Here’s a good place to start:  http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/07/27/round-up-of-mythicist-blogging/ 
    I am happy to discuss this subject, but it is a common ploy of creationists, mythicists, and other purveyors of bunk to simply recycle claims as though they had not been previously addressed.  I do not have the time to simply repeat myself over and over again, nor do I see why that ought to be necessary.  

    • grog225

      I don’t see where you addressed my point about Romans 13 bearing on 1 cor 2:7. Could you point me to that?

    • grog225

      Also…you tried to play me off as someone who ignores the Galatians references to an earthly Jesus. I responded to that. I don’t see where you’ve taken that into consideration. Instead, you are setting up a straw man caricature of what you consider “myther.”  I could do the same with what I see as tactics of “apologists.” I try to refrain from poisoning the well. I think it would serve you better to follow my lead on that.

  • grog225

    I’m actually responding to the OP and the responses which I have read through within this thread. I don’t see anywhere that you’ve addressed the points I made.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    If the “OP” is the “Original Post” then it was not about Romans 13 but about the claim mythicists make that Paul received his ideas about Jesus independently of information received from other people.

    As for your question about Romans 13, it seems to me to have little bearing on the subject, although Steven Carr always loved citing it over and over again. In all our early Christian documents, there was a tendency to shift the blame for the crucifixion away from Roman authorities and onto others, which might be reflected here. But more to the point, early Christian sources prior to Revelation encourage obedience and submission to authorities and yet also recognize that one may suffer at their hands. And so why this passage is felt to be incompatible with belief in Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of the Romans is not clear to me.  

    As for your other comments, are you saying you think that Jesus was born (of Davidic descend and under the Law), had a brother and bled in some phantasmal realm? Have you really thought through what is involved in treating the references to Jesus in Paul’s letters in such a manner? 

  • grog225

    “are you saying you think that Jesus was born…had a brother and blend in some phantasmal realm?”

    First, you are reading into my comments your preconceptions of what a ‘myther’ must believe. I think in this case, the ‘myther’ in question is Earl Doherty. This is not what I am saying. I was VERY clear in my previous post what I was saying. I will repeat it out of courtesy:

    I believe the early christians believed that Jesus had already appeared. They discovered this Jesus by reading scripture and having what they claimed were “revelations.” They had no timeframe for when or where this Jesus lived.

    As for the James reference, that would be somewhat persuasive if not for the whole weight of evidence going the other way. I think, with many before me, including Origen, that “the Lord’s Brother” is a title, not a claim to being a blood brother of the human Jesus.

    As for your explanation of Romans 13, I find it unpersuasive. Yes, in later writings it is true that the weight of blame is placed on the Jews, not the Romans. However, to Paul and early Christians, Jewish authorities would stil be regarded as authorities. Romans 13 does not distinguish between Roman and Jewish authorities. It is all authorities. Romans 13 contradicts the Gospel story in ways that no other attempt to “distance” Roman blame does. It stands out and directly contradicts the events depicted in the passion story.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @656bd957f3f41dca3e10f63d7d846fe2:disqus , why is an appeal to Origen the correct way to interpret Paul if and when that supports mythicism, but an appeal to not merely Origen’s understanding but that of the Gospels much earlier than Origen is not appropriate if it does not support mythicism?

    As for the meaning of James the Lord’s brother, I think that that has been adequately dealt with here:  http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/2011/05/29/in-mythicism-but-not-of-mythicism/

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      The main reason I think “Brother of the Lord” may designate something other than a biological relationship is because nowhere else in Paul do I find anything that indicates that Paul thought that any of his contemporaries had known the human Jesus prior to the crucifixion.  Like Grog225, nowhere can I find any indication that Paul thought that Jesus Christ had made himself known other than through direct revelation and through the scripture.

  • grog225

    Ok, Professor McGrath, I am going to be out all weekend, I will try to check back next week for follow-up comments. I am starting to enjoy this exchange at the point you started to engage with me.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vince Hart, that seems to me to be a circular argument, since Paul’s letters only lack such indications if one has already dismissed his references to birth, lineage, Jewishness, bleeding, death, and burial – not to mention his having an ordinary human name. In view of all those things, his having had a brother seems to be simply one more mundane human detail.

    • Anonymous

      Dr.  McGrath,

      How do any of those other factors indicate that Paul believed that someone that he knew personally had also known the human Jesus?   If Paul thought that the heavenly being who appeared to him in a vision had once been a man who walked the earth, would Paul need to know anyone who had personally known that man in order to believe that he had been born of a woman, that he had died, that he bled when wounded, or that he had been buried?  If Paul thought that the heavenly being had been the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies in scripture, would Paul need to have talked to anyone who knew Jesus as a human in order to know that he was Jewish and descended from David? 

      Joseph Smith claimed that a heavenly being named Moroni had appeared to him and that this heavenly being had once been a human being who walked the earth.  Although I have never read the Book of Mormon for myself, from what I know of the stories, I would guess that Smith made references to Moroni’s birth, lineage, Jewishness, bleeding, death, and burial.  Smith did not, however, believe he was personally acquainted with anyone who had known the human Moroni during his lifetime.

      I am not dismissing any references that indicate that Paul thought that the risen Christ had once been a human being.  I am saying (and I think Grog225 is saying) that the reference to “the Brother of the Lord” is the only thing in Paul from which it might be inferred that Paul thought that any of his contemporaries had known that human being personally.   I don’t think that there is anything (else) to indicate that Paul or anyone he knew had encountered Jesus Christ other than through the scriptures or by supernatural revelation.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Is there anyone who finds it plausible that “born of a woman, born under the Law” is a reference to Gnostic aeons, other than Evan?

    I think he has confused Pagels’ description of how Gnostics interpreted Paul for her own view of the text’s meaning…

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Oh I do, I do…. :)

      (Revelation 12:1-2) . . .And a great sign was seen in heaven, a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon was beneath her feet, and on her head was a crown of twelve stars, 2 and she was pregnant. And she cries out in her pains and in her agony to give birth.

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    To Ivan,
    “Revelation has an image that is clearly supernatural that includes the birth of the Messiah from a woman”
    BM: Are you suggesting that Messiah in Revelation is the same as in Christian belief?
    Please note the story is different. That Messiah is saved in Heaven as a newborn and the mother is provided wings to flee in the desert. Not what you can find in the gospels for Jesus and Mary. How to explain that mess? Essentially, that part of Revelation is from a totally Jewish one (with a different Messiah than the Christian one). That Revelation got added up later with Christian stuff. Everything explained here:
    http://historical-jesus.info/rjohn.html

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      “Then, right on time, the woman bears her child: “And she gave birth to a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was caught away to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:5, 6) The child is “a son, a male.” Why does John use this double expression? He does it to show the child’s suitableness, his competence for ruling the nations with adequate power. It also emphasizes how momentous, how joyous an occasion this birth is! It plays a key role in bringing the sacred secret of God to a finish. Why, this male child will even “shepherd all the nations with an iron rod”!
       Now, does that expression sound familiar? Yes, YHWH promised prophetically regarding Jesus: “You will break them with an iron scepter, as though a potter’s vessel you will dash them to pieces.” (Psalm 2:9) It was also prophesied regarding him: “The rod of your strength YHWH will send out of Zion, saying: ‘Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.’” (Psalm 110:2) Therefore, the birth seen by John closely involves Jesus Christ. No, it is not Jesus’ being born of a virgin back before the first century of our Common Era; nor could it refer to Jesus’ being raised again to spirit life in 33 C.E. Furthermore, it is no transmigration. Rather, it is the birth of God’s Kingdom  as a reality, with Jesus, now in heaven for close to 20 centuries, enthroned as King.—Revelation 12:10.”

      • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

        Howard, all you are saying can apply, actually better apply to a Jewish Messiah to come, with all the joy and drama and big sign (no, not just a new star!) in the sky. Of course, that Messiah for a Jew would have to be a man, so that’s why it is emphasized. And bits and pieces from the scriptures are employed. Not surprising for a Jewish writing, although Christians used the same device.
        BTW, where does the idea of a Jesus as conqueror Messiah appears in the NT? Well, I can think only of Revelation and a particular passage in 1 Cor (15:23-28), which is so foreign of Paul “meek and gentle” Christ that it is certainly an interpolation:
        http://historical-jesus.info/co1c.html#add
        Of course, you are mentioning the parallels between that Jewish Messiah and Jesus, but you draw the characteristics of that Jesus from the Jewish Messiah! That’s a circular argument. But look at the differences: one is saved in heaven as a newborn, the other after being crucified as an adult. And the mother, nothing to do with a Mary: Satan’s action against the mother, the two wings, the flash flood, fleeing in the desert, staying there for more than 3 years: that’s not the Mary of the gospels!     

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

          Bernard, did you read the last line in my comment? I said the child that was born represented the birth of the kingdom of God, not Jesus. If you read all the events in chapter 12 and see the outcome towards the end in verse 10, it says, “And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ. . .” Notice that these events brought forth the kingdom of God. Also notice the word “Now” which in the original language means “at the present moment” (See note below) and that when the kingdom was brought forth, at the moment the events in chapter 12 were concluded. Which includes the birth of this symbolic child. So I agree, these verses have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus or with Mary, it is describing the birth of the kingdom of God with symbolism.

          Again, this is about Jesus receiving his kingship at the birth of God’s kingdom as portrayed in the OT. So I agree that when Jesus is described as the king of this kingdom, he is more like the Messiah that the Jews had in mind. However, I do not see a problem in this. It was the Jews that erroneously expected only a powerful king. But the reality is that Jesus would first appear as the meek sacrificial lamb, and many years later after God’s kingdom was established, he would return as this powerful king. And really, in the end, this was a Jewish writing, as John was a Jew, and Christianity is merely the planned evolution of Judaism. Think about it for a minute, if most of the Jews would have accepted Jesus, Christianity might also have been referred to as a form of Judaism today.

          3676  arti adverb of time; (1) now, at the present moment (JN 9.19); (2) of the immediate present presently, right now, at once (MT 26.53); idiomatically ha;. wra literally the present hour, i.e. this very moment (1C 4.11); (3) of the immediate past just now, recently (MT 9.18); (4) in prepositional phrases. until now, up to now, hitherto (MT 11.12); avpv a;. from this time, henceforth, from now on (JN 13.19).” – Friberg Lexicon

    • Anonymous

      Bernard, I’m Evan, but I assume you’re addressing this to me. I am not suggesting it. I’m pointing out it exists in Christian scripture. Obviously at some point before the end of the 4th century someone thought it was. Scholarship on Revelation is all over the map, but one scholar, Bruce Malina says this about the birth from a woman:

      “The first piece of activity after the presentation of the characters is the birth of a son from the Pregnant Woman. The action, then, involves the separation of our constellation from another, with the removal of the new constellation to yet another called the son’s throne, undoubtedly like the thrones of the elders/decans mentioned in the previous sector. Again, such thrones are not surprising. In Matt 25:31 we are told that the son of Man likewise has a throne in the sky.’”

      Bruce Malina is not a mythicist. He has no “agenda” to prove, but he clearly thinks this is an important early Christian concept.

      • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

        Evan, what Bruce Molina is saying is beyond what I can understand and look very far-fetched. Who thought what in the 4th century? The fourth century seems a bit late in regards of influencing early Christianity. For gMatthew, Jesus is King, and after being in heaven following the resurrection, we can expect to have him depicted on a throne up there. No big deal.

        • Anonymous

          Bernard the 4th century is when the canon was formalized. Obviously in the 4th century Revelation was considered a foundational text for orthodox Christianity. So someone thought it was about Jesus Christ — as he is mentioned quite a bit in the letters as well. What evidence do you have that Revelation isn’t about the stars, as Malina posits? The author of Revelation certainly isn’t writing about earthly events directly.

          • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

            To Evan,
            Of course, after a fully Jewish Revelation was Christianized through additions, it was “considered a foundational text for orthodox Christianity” (but also disliked by some Christians who thought that book was better off the canon).
            Revelation is mentioned in Justin Martyr writings (mid 2nd century):
            ‘Trypho’, LXXXI “… there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.”
            No, Revelation does not jump at you as being about stars. Do you think Revelation was addressed to (very early!) Malina’s readers? Furthermore, Malina took probably months, possibly years to research his arguments. Do you think the author of Revelation would expect that from his readers/listeners? 

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    To Howard,
    12:1 is a sign about the woman, no the woman herself. The earthly woman starts at the next verse, complete with labour pains during birth. Anyway the whole thing is part of some Jewish legend, as I explained to Ivan and my website.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vinny, presumably the choice would be between Jesus having been handed over, shared bread and wine, and been seen to exhibit humility in the heavenly realm, or these things having been visible to human beings at some point. Is there some particular reason that you find the former inherently more likely than the latter, when the setting is not explicitly specified?

    I also think it is worth noting that, if Paul and other early Christians meant that the Scriptures predicted Jesus, then they were not being very honest. Jesus as described in both epistles and Gospels does not provide a precise fit at all to the texts quoted and alluded to. If The Scriptures were the source of this Jesus, I would expect the correspondence to be as close as many conservative Christians seem to actually believe it is, largely because they have never read the prophetic texts quoted in the New Testament in their original contexts.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      If The Scriptures were the source of this Jesus, I would expect the
      correspondence to be as close as many conservative Christians seem to
      actually believe it is

      Can you name a single example where any midrash (Dale C. Allison’s term) at all has such a close correspondence as you would expect here? (Not saying you can’t. Would like to be informed of examples, that’s all.)

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath,

      It is very difficult for me to avoid having my agnosticism associated with Doherty’s mythicism when you insist on reading Doherty into every comment.

      I have not argued that Paul thought that any of those events occurred exclusively or partially in a heavenly realm and I have no present intention of ever making that argument.  I have no problem believing that Paul thought that the things Jesus did during his lifetime were visible to other human beings.

      The argument I am making is that Paul doesn’t indicate that the things Jesus had done during his life had been visible to anyone that Paul personally knew.  Paul indicates that he encountered the risen Christ by appearance and revelation.  Other than the reference to “the brother of the Lord,”  there is nothing in Paul from which to infer that he thought that any of his contemporaries had encountered Christ in any other fashion.

      Grog225 wrote  “I believe the early christians believed that Jesus had already appeared. They discovered this Jesus by reading scripture and having what they claimed were ‘revelations.’ They had no time frame for when or where this Jesus lived.”  I think that this hypothesis makes more sense of Paul’s writings than any historicist reconstruction I have seen.  

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I was discussing claims that Jesus “fulfills” prophecy or that things happened “according to the Scripture.” I am not sure what you are looking for in relation to Midrash. Could you clarify what you are asking me to provide?

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      So you disagree with Dale C. Allison Jr and other of your peers and dedicated scholars of midrash that what we commonly understand in the gospels as “fulfilled prophecy” or “according to the scripture” etc is “midrash”?

      I was merely asking where in any Jewish writings — DSS or apocryphal or other — any “fulfilled prophecy” or “according to scriptures” narratives are “exact” as you say you would expect of a mythicist case.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJ6PZMYZVJL4CGQBUYBVMQSDPQ james Harrison

    I regard mythicism as one of those more or less ingenious theories that appears from time to time and sets out to provide a detailed explanation for poorly documented, dimly remembered, and intrinsically ambiguous cultural phenomenon, though as a connoisseur of such projectors I wouldn’t put Doherty in the same league with Rene Girard, let alone Dumezil or Freud. Such accounts have the same plausibility and unlikelihood characteristic of conspiracy theories. Thing is, though, reading over the to and fro on mythicism in this blog has an ironic effect, at least on me. It’s not just that the debate reinforces my previous belief that we know next to nothing one way or the other about what went on in the time of Jesus, but it advertises a fact that everybody knows but perhaps for that very reason doesn’t emphasize, the extent to which Paul really didn’t have very much to do with the original followers of Jesus and had a remarkably weak claim to the status of apostle.

    Thanks for reminding me about that. 

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      I regard mythicism as one of those more or less ingenious theories that appears from time to time and sets out to provide a detailed explanation for poorly documented, dimly remembered, and intrinsically ambiguous cultural phenomenon

      On the contrary, mythicism has been “there” as an alternative since the period of the Enlightenment. And far from setting out to provide a detailed explanation of the origin of Christianity it merely provides enough argument to challenge the prevailing and propose an alternative paradigm through which to explore Christian origins. No-one would suggest that arguing Jesus was an earthly mortal in first century Galilee is an explanation for the rise of Christianity. The paradigm is only the bare framework. From that point on the real work and really fascinating questions and exploration commences.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vinny, thank you for clarifying your own stance! If we are dealing with a figure who was until his death a contemporary, then I would not expect this to require a mention. On the other hand, if the figure were being said to have lived at some point in the unspecified past, then more information would be expected.

    If you are happy not to accept some claims of mythicism, I wonder whether you would also agree that when they play the Gospels off against the epistles because of a distance in time of a decade or two, it may be appropriate to question the imposition of a divide even when the two fit together fairly well.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath,

       

      What I get from reading Paul is that nothing Jesus said or
      did prior to the crucifixion had any significance.  Everything that mattered was bound up in God
      raising him from the dead and exalting him to heaven.  No mention of when or where Jesus lived or died
      is required because all that mattered was the exaltation and revelation which was
      occurring in the here and now for Paul.

       

      However, if there had been people in Paul’s time that could
      legitimately claimed to have known Jesus personally, I think that would have
      been reflected in a variety of ways.

       

      I think that it is a virtual certainty that there would have
      been people who claimed the earthly Jesus as authority on some theological
      issue.  Among those false brothers who
      were plaguing the Galatians with demands that they be circumcised, there would
      have been someone who claimed that something they had heard or seen Jesus say or
      do supported their view point.  I think
      the question of the authenticity of teachings or deeds that were attributed to
      Jesus would have arisen over and over again.  

       

      I think the way that Paul cites revelation and scripture only
      makes sense if everyone else at the time was also relying on revelation and
      scripture in support of their positions. 
      If there were people going around who could claim first person
      familiarity with the things that Jesus had said and done during his life, I
      think you would see that reflected both in Paul’s arguments as well as the
      other first century epistles.   

       

      The Jesus of the gospels is a contemporary authoritative
      teacher and miracle worker whose every word and act carried profound
      significance.  I don’t see that guy
      anywhere in Paul or the other early epistles. 
       The main cause of my agnosticism
      about a historical Jesus is my inability to fit the epistles and gospels
      together at all.  My problem with
      mythicists isn’t that they play the gospels off against the epistles, but that they
      don’t do a sufficient job of reconciling them.   

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I wonder if you have ever tried to imagine yourself into a situation comparable to Paul’s, in which you are a latecomer to the Christian movement, you are at a disadvantage when it comes to the things that those who were there before you know and can claim to know better than you. How often would you put in writing “Jesus said X” when all of your knowledge was ultimately dependent on the very authorities from which you felt the need to stress your independence. Any time you wrote “Jesus said X” you were opening yourself to being contradicted. It seems like it would be rather risky, even assuming that you felt you knew enough to even try it.

    It will always be hypothetical why Paul doesn’t say more than he does about certain things, whether historical details or mythical details. But I find there to be several scenarios which seem less far fetched, and seem to do better justice to the evidence, than moving the story of Jesus to the indeterminite past, or exclusively to the pages of Scripture, or to a celestial realm.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I can see why Paul might want to do it.  I just don’t see how he could get away with it if he is arguing with people who can claim (or simply are claiming) to have been taught personally by Jesus.  It is one to thing to say “I got a revelation from the Lord” when everyone else is saying “I got a revelation from the Lord.”  However, it would seem to me to be a very different proposition when everyone else is going around saying “I was the Lord’s personal companion and disciple for three years.”  If people from Jerusalem are telling the Galatians that Jesus was a practicing Jew who specifically told us what we are telling you, I think Paul would have had to confront the problem head on. 

      Moreover, it is not just Paul who eschews such arguments.  We don’t see arguments rooted in personal contact with the earthly Jesus in the pseudo-Pauline epistles, the Johannine letters, or Hebrews, James, or Jude.  Even if Paul’s  personal reasons explain why he avoids the issue, I don’t think that explains why the other writers don’t rely on the things Jesus said or did to bolster their arguments.

    • Anonymous

      Dr. McGrath,

      One further thought:

      I do think it possible that Paul is compensating for some inferiority he felt as a latecomer who hadn’t known Jesus personally.   On the other hand, I also think it possible that Paul really was as contemptuous and dismissive of the Jerusalem apostles’ contribution as he appears to be in Galatians.  The former is plausible, but I can’t think of anything in Paul’s writings that would make me think it more likely than the latter.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Let me add that I don’t really disagree with your first statement in any significant way – perhaps slightly. But Paul absolutely considered the crucifixion and resurrection as the important moments in the story of Jesus. And that isn’t surprising. The cross cried out for explanation and so required attention. And the belief that the resurrection from the dead had begun was literally epoch-changing from a Jewish perspective. And so I don’t find it surprising that those things steal all the focus.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

    Dr. McGrath,

    I find it interesting that 2 Thessalonians references a letter attributed to Paul  which the author claims Paul did not write.  Regardless of who you believe wrote 2 Thessalonians, this shows that there were people around who had no qualms about putting words in Paul’s mouth to support their own position.  If Jesus was believed to have been a recently deceased authoritative teacher, I have to believe that people would have been claiming him as support for their positions all the time.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @yahoo-BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM:disqus , are you saying that you don’t think that people did just that in the Christian movement? Presumably the main difference between the proliferation of material attributed to Jesus and the proliferation of hadith attributed to Muhammad is that the former was believed to continue speaking through prophets in a way that muddies the water. 
    Isn’t it surprising to find such consistency about the time period in which Jesus supposedly lived and interacted with disciples, if those details were only added later?

    Something that I never thought of previously, and it might be interesting to look into in relation to Doherty’s claims, is the reference Paul makes to Jesus having done certain things “on the night that he was handed over/betrayed…”  Did ancient Jews, or any ancient people, think that there was night and day in the celestial realm? I can’t think off hand of a source that makes a clear statement about this one way or the other…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

      Dr. McGrath,

      I’m saying that I don’t see that reflected in the early letters but I think I would if the thought within the community in which they were written was that Jesus was an authoritative teacher.  I do think that there is plenty of evidence of that later.

      I do think that consistency regarding when Jesus lived is a point in favor of historicity, however I still find problematic the failure of the earliest sources to corroborate it.  I haven’t in general seen any mythicist explanations for the development of the gospels that strike me as particularly compelling.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Something that I never thought of previously, and it might be interesting to look into in relation to Doherty’s claims, is the reference Paul makes to Jesus having done certain things “on the night that he was handed over/betrayed…”  Did ancient Jews, or any ancient people, think that there was night and day in the celestial realm?

      I am confused or maybe I simply misunderstood. I thought you (McGrath) had explained you could make definitive statements about the entirety of Doherty’s book in your Amazon review because you “read ahead” beyond the chapters you had actually reviewed on your blog. Doherty does discuss this very point, however. So it seems you accidentally missed it.

      May we conclude that you no longer intend to continue posting reviews of Doherty’s book?

  • Dave Burke

    Grog225, Paul’s comment about the ‘super-apostles’ refers to the men he spoke of in II Corinthians 10:12 (‘For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.’)

    He accuses them of hubris, but not heresy.

    Paul does refer to false apostles in II Corinthians 11:12-15, but these are identified as ‘those who want a chance to be regarded as our equals in the things they boast about.’ They are not rogue apostles, but men who merely wish to be seen as apostles (we find similar warnings in the Didache).

    What you need is a passage which shows that Paul’s doctrine was at odds with the doctrine taught by men universally accepted as apostles by the wider Christian community; men like the Jerusalem pillars, for example. This passage does not do the job.

    >>
    You may want to object on the grounds that Paul’s adversaries are not “true apostles” while the Jerusalem apostles are. To me, that is reading fiction into this historical document.
    >>

    No, it’s a perfectly logical deduction that’s entirely consistent with the evidence.

    >>
    The evidence of the early Christian documents does not support the view that the “jerusalem pillars” should hold any more legitimacy than any other Christian.
    >>

    Evidence, please?

    >>
    They were not eye-witnesses to any Jesus of Nazareth in the first century.
    >>

    Evidence, please? All the evidence shows they were eye-witnesses. You couldn’t be an apostle unless you were an eye-witness to Jesus of Nazareth. That was one of the criteria (Acts 1:21-22).

    >>
    Paul, himself, downplays their status by saying that they were “reputed” or “seemed” to be pillars (the word that Paul uses is δοκοῦντες, which implies an opinion, possibly “held to be.”
    >>

    He’s not downplaying their status. He’s affirming it.

    ‘οἱ δοκοῦντες. those who have a reputation of being important or are generally recognized as being important—”important persons, influential persons, prominent persons.” ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατ̓ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν “in a private meeting with the prominent persons, I explained to them the gospel message that I preach to the Gentiles” Ga 2:2.’

    Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. 1996. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). Vol. 1 (737). United Bible societies: New York.

    You’re the only one downplaying their status, and you’re doing it by trying to twist an alternative meaning from οἱ δοκοῦντες. This is classic eisegesis.

  • Dave Burke

    Vince,

    >>
    Like Grog225, nowhere can I find any indication that Paul thought that Jesus Christ had made himself known other than through direct revelation and through the scripture
    >>

    I Corinthians 15:5, Jesus appeared to the 12 disciples. I Corinthians 15:6, Jesus appeared to more than 500 Christians at one time. I Corinthians 11:23-26, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples on the night he was betrayed and instituted the Eucharist at that time.

    You seriously want us to believe Paul is claiming all of these events were made known via direct revelation and through the Scripture? He doesn’t even make such a claim, so where’s your evidence?

    • Anonymous

      No Dave.  I was thinking of the appearances as instances of direct revelation although I will be happy to modify my statement to read “nowhere can I find any indication that Paul thought that Jesus Christ had made himself known other than through direct revelation/appearances and through the scripture”

  • Dave Burke

    Neil, it’ll be a little easier to take you seriously when you start getting my name right. Is there any particular reason you keep confusing me with Tim O’Neill? It’s a curious monomania.

    >>
    Tim, do be patient to those of us who have not read all your comments and tell us the two sources for this “consensus”.
    >>

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com
    http://bit.ly/cuOxOH

    >>
    (I thought you liked to refer to the original Greek but you seem to avoid doing that when it suits, by the way, in your sweeping claims about “born of woman”;
    >>

    Avoid what? There’s no need to argue from Greek in the case of ‘born of a woman.’ I can quote the Greek if you like, but will that make any difference to you?

    On ‘born of a woman’, Jesus Seminar scholar Gregory C. Jenks writes:

    ‘Paul has only two passages that could be interpreted as a reference to the birth of Jesus (Gal 4:4; Rom 1:3). Both assume a normal human conception and birth.

    The phrase “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4) is a well-attested idiom for “human being,” occurring in Jewish literature as diverse as Job (14:1; 15:14; 25:4), the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran (IQS 11.20–21; 1QH13.14; 18.12–13, 16) and Matthew (11:11). In no way can it be read as excluding human paternity.

    Similarly, the phrase “descended from David according to the flesh” in Rom 1:3 is best understood as reflecting the tradition that a messianic figure must have Davidic connections. It simply has no relevance to the question of Jesus’ paternity.’

    (Source: http://bit.ly/rpVCAw).

    Good luck overturning that evidence.

    Incidentally, Carrier wasn’t impressed by Doherty’s abuse of this verse:

    ‘There are some specific places where Doherty needs to do more convincing by adducing more primary evidence.

    For instance, when he argues that the “born of woman” of Galatians 4:4 could be a mythical/scriptural attribute rather than an assertion of earthly incarnation, he says it is “something that was said of certain mythical saviour gods, like Dionysius,” that Isaiah 7:14 “was taken by Jew and early Christian alike to refer to the Messiah,” and that “national gods were often regarded as having the same lineage as the nation itself” (p. 124).

    He does not demonstrate any of these claims.’

    (Source: http://bit.ly/1am0Qw).

    >>
    further, I thought you liked to promote yourself as a historian, but I am mystified by whatever standard you use to rely on Acts as a source for Paul’s teaching — not even mainstream historicist scholars do that unless they are on the fundy end of the spectrum.)
    >>

    I have never trained as a historian, I am not qualified as a historian, and I have never promoted myself as a historian. I am a trainee theologian and my name is Dave Burke, not Tim O’Neill.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Well I did expect something a bit more knowledgable from Tim. I do apologize to Tim for thinking he was so inept at argument as you. I am surprised he has not come here under that name to defend his honour.

      As long as you are a trainee theologian I hope you will not fall into the vainglorious trap of thinking yourself a historian like a number of other theologians do.

      Do you have arguments of your own or do you think that by linking to Jenks and Carrier all your work is done? And what does Carrier’s review of a 2002 book of Doherty’s have to do with either the question in hand or to anything Doherty has written since?

      Jenks? I know Jenks and he is a lovely man. But here his argument is banal. What in it impressed you? (I even once raised a question of mythicism with him and he was far more tolerant in his approach than you are.)

      But I fail to see where you have offered any evidence that there is some “scholarly consensus” that Paul’s letters extend to the year 80! Neither of the links you offered does anything remotely like that. Can you explain?

      And I am disappointed with your failure to refer to the Greek in the other question.

      I don’t mind ineptness in argument. But arrogance and belligerence I find boorish. I’d rather have the company of a fundamentalist who believes in creationism or hippie who believes in auras and who are not arrogant than with someone who is “right” and lets others “know it”.

  • Dave Burke

    Neil, substance trumps rhetoric and evidence-based arguments trump rants.

    >>
    I know Jenks and he is a lovely man. But here his argument is banal. What in it impressed you?
    >>

    The fact that it’s supported by a large body of evidence spanning more than a 600 years which consistently demonstrates that ‘born of a woman’ was a Jewish idiom for ‘human being.’

    >>
    And what does Carrier’s review of a 2002 book of Doherty’s have to do with either the question in hand
    >>

    I was replying to Grog225. Carrier’s critique of Doherty’s comments about Galatians 4:4 are entirely relevant to the points he (Grog225) raised. Carrier punctures Doherty’s Galatians 4:4 argument very neatly, which is why I quoted him.

    >>
    or to anything Doherty has written since?
    >>

    I didn’t claim it was.

    >>
    But I fail to see where you have offered any evidence that there is some “scholarly consensus” that Paul’s letters extend to the year 80! Neither of the links you offered does anything remotely like that. Can you explain?
    >>

    I said consensus for the *date range* is AD 50-80. Some of the Pauline epistles are dated no later than AD 62. Others are dated as late as AD 80 or 100.Peter Kirby’s site does a good job of showing this, as does the Wikipedia article (note the suggested late dating of Titus and Timothy, for example).

  • Dave Burke

    Neil, the dating of Acts is a sideshow emerging from the distraction raised by Vince, who asked:

    >>
    Isn’t it also possible that Paul originated most of his message?
    >>

    I replied:

    ‘Possible, but if so he must have been psychic because his message is identical to the other apostles’ gospel.

    Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27) throughout which the following core doctrines are presented repeatedly:

    * The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired
    * One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power
    * Jesus: the Son of God
    * Jesus: a mortal man
    * Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice
    * Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension
    * Christ as mediator
    * The second coming
    * Resurrection and judgement
    * Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land
    * Promises to David: his kingdom restored
    * Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism
    * One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

    One of these lectures was given by Paul (Acts 13:15-39) and shows that he knew of Jesus’ foreshadowing in Messianic prophecy, his baptism by John, his ministry in Jerusalem and the local area, the opposition he faced from religious rulers, their collaboration in his arrest and crucifixion (including the role of Pilate), his death, his resurrection from the dead, and his appearance to hundreds of believers from Galilee to Jerusalem.’

    Vince left the party, but Vinny swung by to ask:

    >>
    Do you have independent contemporary evidence of what the other apostles were preaching at the time Paul wrote his letters?
    >>

    I offered Acts, which describes events contemporary with Paul’s ministry. Was it written at the same time as the Pauline epistles? Maybe, maybe not. Does it need to have been? No reason that I can see.

    The bottom line is, Acts tells us what Paul was preaching. It also shows his preaching was consistent with the preaching of the other apostles.

    >>
    I don’t mind ineptness in argument. But arrogance and belligerence I find boorish.
    >>

    Projection is a classic sign of insecurity. Doherty does this too.

    • Anonymous

      Dave,

      Since you seem to be easily confused, I thought that I would let you know that “VinnyJH” and “Vince Hart” are the same person.  For some reason which I do not recall, I am logged into Disqus with different IDs on my laptop and my desktop.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

    Did Paul have contact with eyewitnesses of Jesus?

    “It must have been with some apprehension that Saul, who later became known as the apostle Paul, returned to Jerusalem for the first time since his conversion to Christianity. Three years earlier he left the city, breathing threat and murder against Jesus’ disciples. He had a mandate to arrest any Christian he might find in Damascus.—Acts 9:1, 2; Galatians 1:18. Once he himself became a Christian, Saul boldly declared his faith in the resurrected Messiah. As a consequence, the Jews in Damascus wanted to kill him. (Acts 9:19-25) Could he really expect a warm welcome from former Jewish friends in Jerusalem? What mattered more to Saul, however, was making contact with Christ’s followers in Jerusalem. That would not be easy. “On arriving in Jerusalem he made efforts to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, because they did not believe he was a disciple.” (Acts 9:26) You can understand that. The last they knew of him, he was a merciless persecutor. His profession of faith as a Christian might seem to be a ruse to infiltrate the congregation. Thus, Christians in Jerusalem wanted to keep him at arm’s length.

    One of them did help Saul, however. The Bible states that Barnabas led the former persecutor “to the apostles,” evidently referring to Peter (Cephas) and James, the brother of the Lord, apprising them of Saul’s conversion and of his preaching in Damascus. (Acts 9:27; Galatians 1:18, 19) How Barnabas came to trust Saul is left unexplained. Were the two acquainted, moving Barnabas to sound Saul out and then to vouch for his sincerity? Did Barnabas have contact with Christians in Damascus and know of Saul’s about-face? Whatever the case, Barnabas allayed suspicions about Saul. Consequently, Saul stayed with the apostle Peter for 15 days. Saul had received his commission directly from Jesus without the need for any human sanction, as he emphasized to the Galatians. (Galatians 1:11, 12) But Saul doubtless recognized the importance of being well-informed about Jesus’ ministry. The stay with Peter would afford Saul ample opportunity for that. (Luke 24:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8) Saul would have many things to ask of Peter and James, and they would have questions for Saul regarding his vision and his commission.”

    So what am I missing?

    • Anonymous

      Howard,

      You may be missing the possibility that Acts is a later version of Paul’s conversion story in which details were changed for propaganda purposes.  It is impossible to be certain, but such things have been know to happen.  If you ever read any histories of the Mormons, you will find that the officially sanctioned version of Joseph Smith’s life is quite a bit different than the version you get from non-Mormon historians.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

        Vince,

        That seems like a rather arbitrary way to dismiss the connection between Paul and Peter. In fact it is Galatians that identifies the anonymous “apostles” that he met in the Acts account, which also serves to support the claim, since both books refer to this meeting. Notice also that in Galatians, the word “visit” is defined by Louw-Nida as “to visit, with the purpose of obtaining information.” It is true that Acts is loaded with variant readings, but if we allow this type of reasoning, then anyone can dismiss any part of the Bible without convincing evidence. It should also be noticed that in Galatians 1:18 only one variant reading is found that I am aware of, and that is the form of Peter’s name. So for me, your proposal is not convincing and does not address the account in Galatians.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BKNHTDAA6WTSRXXCL2T4UQL6YM Vince Hart

          Howard,

          I see Paul as telling the Galatians that there is no reason for the them to listen to anyone else because everything there is worth knowing about Jesus, Paul learned through direct revelation.  Paul says that his message didn’t come from man, that he didn’t bother going to see other leaders until he had been preaching for three years, and that the apostles in Jerusalem added nothing to his message.  I can’t see anything to suggest that Paul thought that the apostles in Jerusalem had any information about which the Galatians should care regardless of the word he used for “visit”.

          I don’t think that there is anything arbitrary about considering the possibility that later versions of a story have been changed for propaganda purposes.  It’s pretty standard historical methodology.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

            Vince,

            Could you provide the scriptures in Galatians that you think Paul is saying these things? Because I do not see nothing like that, and I would like to know what you are referencing. I think it is also important to realize that we are dealing with two completely different notions. The disciples that were eye witnesses to the man Jesus, did not have divine knowledge during Jesus’ life, all they knew is what Jesus said and taught, and the majority of that is what was already contained in the Hebrew Scriptures, which the Jews should have recognized but didn’t. When Jesus did touch on divine wisdom through parables, the disciples were just as confused as everybody else as to the true meaning. It is clearly stated that it would be after Jesus’ death that the holy spirit would guide them into the truth. And we are not really informed as to what sort of divine knowledge the spirit would later guide them into except for maybe John. It was Paul that was mainly used to disseminate this divine knowledge to his readers. Simply put, the gospels were merely the record of what Jesus said and did, Paul’s letters were what it all meant based on the Hebrew Scriptures. All Paul needed to know was that the Messiah had come, that he fulfilled the Law, that he died and rose again. As a Pharisee he was well acquainted with what the Hebrew Scriptures said concerning the Messiah to understand the revelations he was given, but it does not mean he knew that Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman at a well. The other details of Jesus life were probably related to him by another person. That is why he only discusses the few topics I listed, because these are the important issues surrounding the Messiah. For example, the miracles Jesus performed were merely signs to authenticate his role as the Messiah. Christian communities that were already putting faith in Jesus as the Messiah did not need to be reminded of these signs to explain the theological implications of Jesus death and resurrection. I don’t get it, were four gospel accounts not enough, how many times should Jesus life be iterated?

            “I don’t think that there is anything arbitrary about considering the possibility that later versions of a story have been changed for propaganda purposes.  It’s pretty standard historical methodology.”

            Well that is all well and good, but is there any evidence of an earlier version of Acts? If not, its merely speculation and we could apply the same rule to every other writing that is over 200 years old.

            • Anonymous

              Howard,

              These are the passages where I see Paul telling the Galatians that they should not pay attention to anyone other than him.

              “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Gal. 1:12.

              “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me” Gal 1:16-17

              “And they were glorifying God because of me.”  Gal 1:24.  

              “But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour” Gal. 2:5.

              “what they were makes no difference to me” Gal. 2:6  

              “those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me” 2:6.

              I am not thinking of an earlier version of Acts, but rather the earlier version of the story of Paul’s conversion and interaction with the apostles in Jerusalem found in Galatians.  It is not hard to imagine why the author of Acts might want to alter the story to portray Peter and Paul as more unified than they actually were.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

                Vince,

                “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal. 1:12.

                The “it” in this verse is “the gospel” and it can often be a misconception. The four accounts of Jesus’ life are termed gospel accounts, but the real meaning of the word is not a story about the specific events of Jesus life. The word gospel means good news, and refers to the good news of the Kingdom of God and of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. It is called in the Bible “the good news of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23), “the good news of God” (Ro 15:16), “the good news about Jesus Christ” (Mr 1:1), “the good news of the undeserved kindness of God” (Ac 20:24), “the good news of peace” (Eph 6:15), and the “everlasting good news” (Re 14:6). So when Paul talks about the gospel or good news, it does not mean he is describing the events of Jesus’ life, he is describing the benefits we receive from the results of what Jesus did, the good news that believers will be saved by means of God’s kingdom, along with other good things. And I had already agreed that Paul received this divine knowledge by revelation. And again, this good news about the Christ was that the he had come, he fulfilled the Law, and he died and was resurrected. These events alone pave the way for salvation by God’s kingdom, the good news.

                “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem
                to those who were apostles before me” Gal 1:16-17

                I’m not sure what your point is here, but first we notice there are two events being discussed, as “flesh and blood” is not referring to the apostles. As for the first part it means.

                I did not go to anyone for advice is literally “I conferred not with flesh and blood.” “Flesh and blood” is an idiom which simply means a living person. The verb translated “conferred” is used in the New Testament only here and in 2.6; here it means “to hold conference with” or “to communicate with someone” (compare JB “I did not stop to discuss this with any human being,” NEB “without consulting any human being”). One may also render this clause as “I didn’t go to talk with anyone about this,” “I didn’t ask anyone to tell me what all this meant,” or “I didn’t ask anyone to tell me what to do.” (Arichea, D. C., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. )

                And to the second part, by saying “apostles before me” Paul is confirming their apostleship and the whole point of this section was that Paul was their equal and did not have to see them to receive instructions. His instructions were from Jesus himself, the same as the apostles in Jerusalem.

                “And they were glorifying God because of me.” Gal 1:24.

                Unless I am missing something, these Christians were glorifying God’s power to turn a great enemy of Christianity into a Christian.

                “But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour” Gal. 2:5.

                Again, if you are implying that the “them” are the apostles, that would be a mistake. Not even bringing into this what is being discussed, it can clearly be seen in verse 2:4 that the “them” is the “false brothers” which were Judaizing Christians that were “brought in.” Brought into what? The Jerusalem church, however, the apostles could not be brought in since they were the foundation, the beginning of the church. So it is referring to those who quietly snuck in to spy. Paul is saying he did not yield to their judaizing ways.

                “those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me” 2:6.

                Made no new suggestions translates the same verb found in 1.16, where it means “to submit for consideration, to confer with.” NEB takes it in the same sense here (“did not prolong the consultation”). Most translations, including TEV, take it to mean here “to impart something” or to “impose something” (Phps “they had nothing to add to my gospel”). The implication is clear: the Jerusalem authorities were completely satisfied with what Paul was doing. Made no new suggestions to me may be expressed as “didn’t tell me to do anything different,” “said to me, We have nothing else to add,” or “did not ask me to make any changes in the good news which I was preaching.” (Arichea, D. C., & Nida, E. A. (1993). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.)

                • Anonymous

                  Howard,

                  You are correct about Gal. 2:5.   I misread that as referring to the real apostles in Jerusalem rather than the false brothers.  The implication you see in the other verses is not clear to me however.   I think the implication is clear that Galatians were to look to Paul exclusively and not to pay any attention to what the apostles in Jerusalem had to say.

                  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

                    Vince, maybe you are confusing the following events between Judaizers and apostles.

                    Even after the apostles settled the circumcision issue, certain individuals who claimed to be Christians stubbornly kept the question alive. The apostle Paul called them “false brothers” who wanted “to pervert the good news about the Christ.”—Gal. 1:7; 2:4; Titus 1:10. The Judaizers’ objective was apparently to appease the Jews, to keep them from opposing Christianity so violently. (Gal. 6:12, 13) The Judaizers argued that righteousness was established by works of the Mosaic Law in such matters as diet, circumcision, and Jewish festivals.—Col. 2:16.

                    Understandably, those who held to these views felt uncomfortable in the presence of Gentile believers. Sadly, such unwholesome feelings were even manifest among a number of reputable Christians of Jewish background. For example, when representatives from the Jerusalem congregation visited Antioch, they kept separate from their Gentile brothers. Even Peter, who until then had freely socialized with the Gentiles, withdrew—not even eating with them. Yes, he went against the very principles he had earlier defended. As a result, Peter received strong counsel from Paul.—Gal. 2:11-14.

                    Perhaps, too, some of the Galatian Christians were succumbing to the low moral standards of the populace, as may be inferred from the message of the letter from chapter 5, verse 13, to the end. At any rate, when word of their deflection reached the apostle, he was moved to write this letter of straightforward counsel and strong encouragement. It is evident that his immediate purpose in writing was to confirm his apostleship, counteract the false teachings of the Judaizers, and strengthen the brothers in the Galatian congregations.

                    The Judaizers were crafty and insincere. (Ac 15:1; Ga 2:4) Claiming to represent the congregation in Jerusalem, these false teachers opposed Paul and discredited his position as an apostle. They wanted the Christians to get circumcised, not seeking the Galatians’ best interests, but so that the Judaizers could bring about an appearance of things that would conciliate the Jews and keep them from opposing so violently. The Judaizers did not want to suffer persecution for Christ.—Ga 6:12, 13.

                    To accomplish their objective, they claimed that Paul’s commission came to him secondhand, that it was only from some men prominent in the Christian congregation—not from Christ Jesus himself. (Ga 1:11, 12, 15-20) They wanted the Galatians to follow them (4:17), and in order to nullify Paul’s influence, they had to paint him first as no apostle. Apparently they claimed that when Paul felt it expedient, he preached circumcision. (1:10; 5:11) They were trying to make a sort of fusion religion of Christianity and Judaism, not denying Christ outright but arguing that circumcision would profit the Galatians, that it would advance them in Christianity, and that, furthermore, by this they would be sons of Abraham, to whom the covenant of circumcision was originally given.—3:7.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Neil, are you referring to what Doherty wrote on p.142? I was not asking whether someone today could claim that a nighttime setting was possible in the celestial realm. I was asking whether there are ancient authors that confirm or disconfirm that idea one way or the other.

    You should be unsurprised to learn that when Doherty merely asserts that something isn’t a problem for his view, without providing persuasive evidence and arguments, I am not liable to find that satisfactory.

    • http://vridar.wordpress.com Neil Godfrey

      Have you decided not to continue with your “reviews” of Doherty’s book?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Not at all.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Vinny/Vince, let me place myself also in the category of the easily confused and thank you for letting us know that the two user names refer to the same person. I never like to assume that is the case, and so that will indeed help those of us who are easily confused, like me! :-)

    • Anonymous

      I have logged backed in on my desktop as VinnyJH so hopefully all my comments will appear under the same ID now.   My wife occasionally uses my laptop so I have to guard against commenting under some ID of hers as well.

  • Anonymous

    Howard,

    It seems clear to me from Gal. 2:11-14, that apostles and Judaizers were not two neatly separable groups.  Cephas was an apostle but he was also requiring Gentiles to conform to Jewish law.  To suggest that they were trying to create a fusion between Christianity and Judaism is anachronistic.  At that time, Christianity was still a sect of Judaism.  They were not fully separate until later.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Howard-Mazzaferro/1297383749 Howard Mazzaferro

      Vince, I don’t agree with that. Paul called these judaizers “false brothers” meaning they only appeared to believe in Christ. Peter was not a “false brother” as he knew the Christ personally. Undoubtedly he and other men of faith succumb to the fear of man for a time and were influenced by the judaizers, but that was merely a momentary lapse of faith, which he was given council for. The judaizers as a group never were nor would they ever be faithful Christians. That is probably why Jewish Christianity eventually was relegated to the heretical fringe.

  • Anonymous

    Howard,

    Paul doesn’t say anything in Galatians about Peter knowing the Christ personally nor does indicate that Cephas’ problem was a mere momentary lapse of faith.  According to Gal. 2:11, it was a group associated with James that was advocating circumcision and it was this group that influenced Cephas.  Unless you are arguing that James was a false brother who only appeared to believe in Christ, I don’t think that Galatians supports the bright line that you would like to draw between judaizers and apostles.


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