Thursday, July 20, 2017

Paul, Eschatology, And The Kingdom Of God (Part 4)

Part 1 is available here. Part 2 is here. And Part 3 is here.

AP: What about Rom. 14:16–17? These verses fall within the exhortatio or what you sometimes hear called the paraenetic section of a discourse. Paul is focusing on the importance of the unity of this community. According to Paul, it is the group that is saved before God and found within it, the individual. Based on this, those who have a better understanding of the faith––the "strong" (i.e., those who know perfectly well that nothing is unclean when it comes to food, and impurity comes by divine decision––must have patience, respect, understanding, and love towards the "weak," who are not as mature in their faith. The latter are tripped up easily with "scandal." In a metaphorical sense, this use is very Jewish; see Lev. 19:14; 4Q 271:1–3. The term is used later by Josephus, the Mishnah, and two Talmuds. The "weaker" believers are drawn by the example of the "stronger" and end up eating what their consciences tell them is impure. That scandal can be an impediment to salvation, according to Paul. It is in this context that we encounter v. 17, which deals with the future kingdom of God and the ethical preparation necessary to enter it. Paul argues that, in the moments preceding the actual reign of God and his Messiah, such preparation is not affected by what you eat or drink.

In fact, says Paul, everything is lawful. He uses a two-part argument: (1) The law of Moses that discriminated between clean and unclean foods, was not already in force for the Gentiles who have believed in Christ; (2) the gods, those to whom certain foods have been offered, do not really exist. They are demons (1 Cor. 8:4–7). The world to come will be a spiritual space, marked by goodness, full of life and joy, granted by the indwelling of God's Spirit in every believer.

Then there are the two passages in 1 Corinthians 15 (vv. 22–28 and 50–55). These must be read very carefully since they contain the essential information needed to investigate Paul's understanding of the kingdom of God. Here are those texts one more time:
1 Cor. 15:22–28: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive. However, this will happen to each person in the proper order: first Christ, then those who belong to Christ when he comes. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has done away with every ruler and every authority and power. For he must rule until God puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be done away with is death, for 'God has put everything under his feet.' Now when he says, 'Everything has been put under him,' this clearly excludes the one who put everything under him. But when everything has been put under him, then the Son himself will also become subject to the one who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all."
1 Cor. 15:50–55: "Brothers, this is what I mean: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and what decays cannot inherit what does not decay. Let me tell you a secret. Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed––in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed. For what is decaying must put on what cannot decay, and what is dying must put on what cannot die. Now, when what is decaying puts on what cannot decay, and what is dying puts on what cannot die, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory!', 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'"
In these texts, Paul argues that the disobedience of one man (Genesis 3) brought about the most terrible of consequences for all of humanity. In the same way, the obedience/faithfulness to God all the way to the cross by one person, the Christ, had an absolutely transcendental effect: forgiveness and forgetfulness (that is, the not taking into account mentioned in Rom. 3:25) of sins by God and the final reconciliation of humanity with its creator.

So, according to Paul, those who believe in the Messiah who died prior to the second coming of Jesus––in fullness of power, in the parousia––will be resurrected. That general resurrection is Jewish: It takes place before the Judgment. Paul holds that it is the whole person that will be raised from the dead; therefore, not just the soul, but also the physical body of each person. This concept is very Jewish and Semitic in general. But these bodies, he argues, will be immediately transformed into "spiritual bodies." The reason for the necessity of this change is based on Platonism (the opposition of the material world to the realm of spiritual ideas). For this reason, Paul says, "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Nor does corruption inherit incorruption (1 Cor. 15:50). Those who are still living at the time when the kingdom comes (and this includes Paul as far as he was concerned up to this point when he wrote 1 Thessalonians––will have their bodies transformed into that corporeal-spiritual entity, just as the bodies of those who were raised first (of the dead). For Paul, there is no contradiction in this area between "physical" and "spiritual," as it is understood today. Therefore, those who participate in the future kingdom of God and his Messiah will have a "bodily-spiritual" existence in the world to come, even if no one knows exactly how it will be. The whole man is an indissoluble "soul-body" for Paul.

There's more to come. We'll pick up in the next post.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Paul, Eschatology, And The Kingdom Of God (Part 3)

Part 1 is available here. Part 2 is here.

AP: Perhaps Paul identified Jesus as the mysterious "son of man" found in Daniel 7:13–14, although he does not use that Aramaic expression, since it would have been absolutely unintelligible to his Gentile audience. The syntagma is replaced by "son of God." But it does employ the characteristic background image: Christ will come carried by clouds traveling through the air. This is the same vehicle by which he had been brought before God as the son of a man (mentioned in Daniel). The imagery of being transported by clouds is found throughout the Old Testament to the divine realm. And in this way Paul signals that the resurrected Messiah is the character mentioned in Daniel.

The image of the angels who accompany Jesus with their trumpets announcing the Judgment and the beginning of the reign of God or his messiah is also very common in apocalyptic literature (Apocalypse of Zephaniah 9:1–12:1; Paralipomenos of Jeremiah 3:1ff.; and above all IV Esdras 6:22ff.). After the faithful of Jesus are called up in the clouds and meet the Lord Jesus, his kingdom will take place for a moment (it is presupposed) on earth, to put an end to all his enemies (1 Cor. 15:22–28) as the divine Messiah according to Paul. The definition of the content of the Kingdom seems to be summarized in the laconic expression "so we shall be with the Lord forever" (also in Philippians 1:23: "to be with Christ"). "To be with God and his Messiah" is the highest reward for the righteous. It is understood that this will occur in heaven or final paradise, according to the common apocalyptic belief, although Paul does not specify it here. There is, however, another passage from the apostle that seems to clarify this question:
"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord––for we walk by faith, not by sight––we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:1–8)
This passage is relatively clear and fits into the general Pauline conception of the last days, as a variant of the Jewish apocalyptic. The future kingdom of God and his Messiah––pointed out indirectly with the mention of longing to be stripped of the body as it is in this world (before clothed with incorruption; 1 Cor. 15:22–28, 50–55)––are seen as ultra-terrestrial, although perhaps the Messiah has a small role on earth, as we have indicated. The future heavenly existence, bodily but transmuted, as we shall see in the commentary on the text 1 Cor. 15:50–55, is conceived of in a way that is both very Jewish and very Greek. We therefore reaffirm that there seems to be no idea of ​​a lasting kingdom of God on earth in the apostle's way of thinking, much less a millenarian concept as expressed diaphanously in Rev. 20:1–7.

Galatians 5:19–21 was written by Paul in Ephesus around A.D. 54–58, according to most scholars. In this passage, Paul uses, probably from memory, the lists or catalogs of vices common among the listeners of the propagandists Cynics and Stoics in the Roman Empire. The concept of "inheriting the kingdom" is typically biblical, for Israel will inherit the world in the time of messianic restoration and will rule over all nations.

1 Corinthians 6:9–10 is similar to Gal. 5:19–21 and requires no special comment as to its content.

1 Corinthians 4:18–20 should be seen as a response to the so-called "eschatology of the present" (typical text: John 5:21–29: the world is already judged; the resurrection has already happened) held by some of Paul's audience in Corinth. Such individuals boasted of having already achieved the resurrection and entrance into the kingdom of God in this life thanks to the fullness of the Spirit of God that they had received. A key idea of these individuals, ironically referred to by Paul in his own letter, was the following (vv. 8–9):
"You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men." 
According to the ironic tone of this passage, Paul thinks that the opinion of the Corinthians is not entirely true (they do not possess the Spirit as they think), even if he does accept the foundation, namely: the possession of the Spirit of God, or Christ, is what allows someone at the time, in the future, to enter the kingdom and reign with Christ. By not describing how this kingdom is, Paul implies that between him and his readers there is no substantial difference in their understanding.

There's lots more for us to comment on. I'll pick up here in the next post. Please feel free to post some comments. Thomas and I would enjoy seeing some interaction in the comments sections.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Paul, Eschatology, And The Kingdom Of God (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: The first thing that catches your attention as you read the passages mentioned in Part 1 is that something seems like it is missing in the letters of Paul. Missing is the common Jewish understanding that the kingdom of God would come to the physical land of Israel, as the material aspect of that kingdom. That is quite different than the concept for he kingdom of God in the teachings of Jesus, even though in the Gospels even that characteristic is not jumping off the page. According to Jesus, the kingdom of God will have material goods, such as plentiful food and drink. There would also be spiritual goods, and among them will be the renewed fellowship with God, the joy of fulfilling his law, and spiritual peace. But Paul did not think of the kingdom (βασιλεία) in this way. His theology was conditioned conditioned by the needs and characteristics of most of his readers within the Roman Empire: former polytheists, most likely those known as "God-fearers," for whom a Jewish kingdom of God in the land of Israel and full of material goods made no sense whatsoever. Paul, on the contrary, indicates that the true kingdom of God is not something intramundane (i.e., occurring within the physical world) but ultramundane (i.e., something beyond this world). Not only this, but Paul seems to distinguish between "kingdom of the Messiah" and "kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:22–28).

The absence of material goods in the kingdom of God, according to Paul, is easily elucidated because for him (1 Thess. 4:15–18) the "carnal" goods do not belong to an ultramundane kingdom of God; therefore, food and drink are not matters that affect that kingdom (Rom. 14:17), neither then nor in the future. Nothing carnal or perishable will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). This theology helps spread the Stoic concept of "indifferent" material, referring to food, drink, wealth, etc. In addition, the end of the world was imminent because "the time that remains" until the end is very short (1 Cor. 7:29: "I say to you, brothers, time is short").

According to Paul, the first assurance of the coming of the kingdom is the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits (1 Cor. 15:23) followed by those who believe in him, each according to his order (1 Cor. 15:23); Paul tells the Thessalonians that the dead in Christ (i.e., those who have believed in Jesus and already died; lit. "those who are asleep") will experience the resurrection first. The second assurance is the divine "call" by grace to enter that kingdom (1 Thess. 2:10–12). We already know that, in Paul's theology, those who are to be saved have been predestined by God from eternity past.

In 1 Thess. 4:15–17, Paul affirms he relies on "a word of the Lord" when it comes to what he teaches on this matter. He does not, however, expressly tell the Thessalonians the content of that revelation. It probably refers to something similar to the tradition recorded in Matt. 16:28: "There are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." And Paul considered himself among those who would not taste death, initially that is. He seems to waiver on this conviction later in his life. When he writes to the Philippian believers, he seems almost certain that he will receive the death penalty (Phil. 1:21; see also Acts 19:23–40).

Paul does not paint the whole picture when it comes to this final event. He only gives them a few brush strokes, and assumes that his readers are satisfied with only a few details, despite some shortcomings in matters of faith that they unfortunately still have (1 Thess. 3:10). In general, the outline of the final events is that which can be found in the Jewish apocalyptic leading up to the final judgment (Jubilees 36:10, Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 3:10; 19:12, 2 Bar. 51:11).

We'll pick up here next.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Paul, Eschatology, And The Kingdom Of God (Part 1)

AP: In order to understand the kingdom of God in the writings of Paul, they must be viewed both in light of Jewish apocalyptic literature in general, which varies greatly, but also (and especially) in contrast to the kingdom of God in relationship to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. While this concept occupies a central position in the message of Jesus, the same cannot be said of Paul. In his writings, the phrase "kingdom of God" (or "reign of God") appears only eight times: Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 6:9–10; 15:24, 50; Gal. 5:21; 1 Thess. 2:12. Let me just go ahead and give you those verses here so you don't have to look them up. My friend David Alan Black was the base translator for the International Standard Version (ISV) New Testament, so I thought I would give you all of these verses using that translation. If you haven't used that translation before in English, you really need to consult it. Instead of presenting the verses in the order that they occur in your New Testament, I've decided to mix it up and present them to you in the order in which Paul probably wrote them, beginning first with 1 Thessalonians and ending with Romans. I've also added some context so that it helps you get a better feel at first read for what Paul is discussing. Here we go:
1 Thess. 2:10–12: "You and God are witnesses of how pure, honest, and blameless our conduct was among you who believe. You know very well that we treated each of you the way a father treats his children. We comforted and encouraged you, urging you to live in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory."
1 Thess. 4:15–17: "For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have died. With a shout of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of God's trumpet, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
Gal. 5:19–21: "Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rivalry, jealously, outbursts of anger, quarrels, conflicts, factions, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild partying, and things like that. I am telling you now, as I have told you in the past, that people who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Cor. 4:18–20: "Some of you have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon if it's the Lord's will. Then I'll discover not only what these arrogant people are saying but also what power they have, for the kingdom of God isn't just talk but power."
1 Cor. 6:9–10: "You know that wicked people will not inherit the kingdom of God, don't you? Stop deceiving yourselves! Sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunks, slanderers, and robbers will not inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Cor. 15:22–28: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive. However, this will happen to each person in the proper order: first Christ, then those who belong to Christ when he comes. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has done away with every ruler and every authority and power. For he must rule until God puts all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be done away with is death, for 'God has put everything under his feet.' Now when he says, 'Everything has been put under him,' this clearly excludes the one who put everything under him. But when everything has been put under him, then the Son himself will also become subject to the one who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all."
1 Cor. 15:50–55: "Brothers, this is what I mean: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and what decays cannot inherit what does not decay. Let me tell you a secret. Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed––in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed. For what is decaying must put on what cannot decay, and what is dying must put on what cannot die. Now, when what is decaying puts on what cannot decay, and what is dying puts on what cannot die, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory!', 'Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'"
Rom. 14:16–17: "Do not allow your good to be spoken of as evil. For God's kingdom does not consist of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy produced by the Holy Spirit."
Go through on your own and make some observations based solely on what you read in these verses. Feel free to look them up and read some more of the context. This is where we are going though. I want to work through these verses and synthesize what Paul taught about the end and especially the kingdom of God.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Liberty University's Reformation Conference

TWH: Liberty University is hosting a conference on their campus in Lynchburg, VA in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The title of the conference is "The Legacy of the Reformation." There are four plenary sessions: Timothy George, Carl Trueman, John Woodbridge, and Paige Patterson. And there will be a number of breakout sessions. You can read more about it here. Hope to see some of you there on September 28–29, 2017.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Change From Saul To Paul (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: The name "Paul" appears to be the nickname that he gives himself as a sign of the change that took place in his life. It pointed to how he went from being the Jew of Jews, traditionalist in every sense of the word, and former persecutor of the followers of Jesus to being the "slave" of God (corresponding to the Greek word δοῦλος). His mission entirely changed. Formerly, he fought zealously against the message of Jesus' followers. From Damascus forward he would focus all of his energies and efforts on the salvation of the gentiles.

To understand the name change we need to keep in mind the custom of changing an individual's name when he transitioned from being free to slave or, when already enslaved or indentured, there was a change in ownership. For example, there was a free Greek man named "Hippodamus" who had been taken into slavery during war. He was often called "Helleno," "Arcadio," "Lidio," or "Lycian", according to the region of origin. His name was changed by his owner so that the slave himself and others were always aware of the fact that his personal and social situation had been transformed.

When such a change was alluded to, there was a fixed formula both in Latin and Greek. For example, take Lucius qui et Porcellus ("Lucio who is also called "Pig"]); Manlius qui et Longus ("Manlio who happens to be called "Long"). Notice that the person's name is listed first. This is followed by the new name using the formula qui et which means "who is also called."

In Acts 13:9, we find the name change for the apostle to the Gentiles. The formula qui et is also present in Greek (Σαῦλος δέ, ὁ καὶ Παῦλος). The ὁ καί is equivalent to qui et. Translated, it reads, "And Saul, who is also called Paul." The use of this formula tells us that, according to Luke, Saul changed his name to Paul when he experienced this status change of free person to slave. From whom? ––From freedom to a slave of God and his Messiah, a point he make often in his letters.

This change takes place after his call by God to a new mission. Paul felt like he had been transformed in a radical way. He had gone from being a free man to a slave of the Messiah, "bought" by him to fulfill the task of proclaiming the gospel, which included the salvation of the Gentiles that was now possible. And it is also possible that this commercial designation (i.e., as a slave or property) is realized at one's baptism "in the name of the Messiah." In other words, it would be the same as becoming the property of the Messiah.

Why does he choose Παῦλος? The answer is simple. ––It means "small." It offered a perfect play on words with Σαῦλος and because he was always considered the least of the apostles and the last to be called an apostle. He writes this to the Corinthians:
"And last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit 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 toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Cor. 15:8–10)
Earlier in the same letter, Paul wrote the following: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong" (1 Cor. 1:27). This is no doubt an indirect reference to himself. It was because of this view of himself––purchasing his life and making him a slave––and based on what he believed God had done in his life––transforming him and giving him this new mission and life purpose––that Paul began to refer to himself as "Paul, the slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (Rom. 1:1).

In conclusion, he went from being Saul the persecutor and freeman to Paul the slave of the Messiah who had been given a new mission. To call attention to this huge change in his life, the apostle changed his name: Saulos qui et Paulus, "Saul who is also called Paul." Paul understood his socio-religious status had changed. No longer a Jewish persecutor, now an apostolic preacher of the Messiah. And as an apostle, he became a slave of God and of Christ. Paul saw himself as a human instrument (Παῦλος) and a person who in and of himself was of little value, but God had chosen him for such an important mission.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Change From Saul To Paul (Part 1)

AP: From Acts 7:1–13:8, the famous apostle to the Gentiles is named and referred to exclusively as "Saul." In these chapters there is not a single reference to him by the name "Paul." And this occurs some fifteen times. But then, all of sudden and without any explanation, we find the following expression in Acts 13:9: "But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him." From that moment forward, Saul as his name disappears, and Paul is used exclusively. In the authentic letters of the apostle, the only name that appears is "Paul."

Saul is שָׁאוּל in Hebrew ("begged/asked God") and Σαῦλος is the translation of the LXX. שָׁאוּל is the name of the first king of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and Παῦλος is the Hellenization of the Latin name Paulus, which literally means "small." Research has made many assumptions to answer the question of the name change. It has been asserted that the Latin name of the apostle was Gaius Julius Paulus, because the family of the apostle––presumably receiving Roman citizenship after the birth of the child Saul––had adopted the name of the famous family to which the general Emilius Paulus belonged. The other two words, Gaius Julius, would have been given to the child by his parents in honor of Julius Caesar, a person from whom the Jews had greatly benefited. But this hypothesis has no basis in the texts that exist today. Before we move forward with the question at hand, it might be necessary to focus our attention for a moment on another: How was a Roman name actually formed?

A Roman name had three parts. Take, for example, the name Marcus Tullius Cicero. The first part was is praenomen (i.e., that which is in front of the name). E.g,. Gaius, Lucius, Marcus . . . This corresponds to what in the present day we call the name of each person. The second part was the nomen (i.e., name or "demonym"). This is the designation as the "gens," tribe or clan, to which each individual belonged. Each citizen received as part of his name, the "demonym." In our example, Tullius. This person was therefore a descendent of the tribe, or gens, of Tullia. In a broad sense, this is like the "last name." The third and final part was the cognomen or the specific designation––sometimes a nickname. This is the name used by a person's family or tribe. In the present example, it's Cicero, which literally means that was called specifically to a "family" within each gens or tribe. In our case, it's Cicero, which literally means "chickpea."

So, in the letters that we know to have been written by the apostle, we only find the name Paul (Παῦλος). The Greek sounds Latin. In the change from  Σαῦλος to Παῦλος, there is a play on words. Only one phoneme is changed. That's all. It's quite a curious change. One is the name of a monarch of Israel, whom tradition portrays as great and handsome, the other a name meaning "small." Why?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Προσέρχομαι, Presence/Absence, And Context

TWH: When the verb προσέρχομαι is used in the Gospels, sometimes it indicates someone was completely absent, showed up, and went to someone or something; other times it indicates someone was present and they come to the foreground in a narrative or that they drew closer to the person or object. Let me show you what I mean using a couple of examples in very close proximity in the Gospel of Matthew:
Matt. 18:1: "At that time the disciples came (προσῆλθον) to Jesus and said, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'"
Matt. 18:21: "Then Peter came (προσελθών) and said to him, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'"
By the way, the prefixed preposition (the προσ- in προσῆλθον and προσελθών) is just a common occurrence in Koine Greek. When someone goes to someone or something, you'll find πρός. When someone goes into something like a house, sometimes you'll find εἰς prefixed. And it works with other prepositions. It happens. It assigns movement or direction to the verb, you know, just a natural way of being clearer in communication. We do it in English, for example, when I tell my wife, "I'm going down to the office." Of course, English doesn't "prefix" prepositions, but that example still works. I could just say, "I'm going to the office," but "inserting "down" throws in some extra details (e.g., where I am in relationship to my office –––> higher than [altitude] or north of [geography]). Truth is, we just do this naturally. It takes almost no thought. And these prefixed prepositions in Greek took little if any at all also.  It's just part of Greek, and sometimes you'll find the repetition of the prefixed preposition (or a synonym) as part of the sentence predicate. But that's not the focus of what we're trying to talk about in this post.

Now, I'm going to have to give you a little more of the passages just so you can see what's going on. The disciples mentioned in 18:1 are not present for Jesus' teaching on the temple tax (Matt. 17:24–27). But Peter is present for the teaching that follows (Matt. 18:1–20). Both indicate a person or group that comes to Jesus, but one is a group that is previously absent and the other a person who is present. The former indicates that the disciples "showed up" or arrived and the other that Peter came forward, kind of like when we say someone raises his hand to speak.

How do we make sense out of the temple tax passage? Matthew writes, "When they came to Capernaum . . ." (17:24). The "they" in that verse refers to the whole group––Jesus and his disciples. So after that, something happens. It looks like the movement goes as follows:
1. Tax-collectors approach Peter (17:24) 
2. Peter came to the house (where Jesus is) (17:25)
3. Peter went to catch a fish (implied) (17:27)
4. The disciples came to Jesus (18:1)
The question is what takes place between 17:27 and 18:1. The other disciples arrive at the house after Peter and Jesus have this conversation. If we could recreate the events, they could go something like this: The tax-collectors approach Peter about the temple tax; the other disciples were also present, but they directed their question to Peter (possibly another indication of his role as leader among them). Peter answers their question in the affirmative and heads off to the house (1) to ask Jesus if he answered the question correctly and (2) to get money to pay the tax. Jesus teaches Peter and then sends him back to pay the tax. Then they all return to the house, fighting amongst themselves regarding greatness in the kingdom. The problem with the view that the disciples were there with Peter when the tax-collectors arrive is Jesus did not mention enough money to cover the tax for all his cohort, only for himself and Peter (Matt. 17:27). This leads to another possibility: The tax-collectors approach Peter, who was out by himself in Capernaum; the other disciples were somewhere else in Capernaum, just not in the same place as Peter. Peter answers the question and runs to the house for the same reasons mentioned earlier. Once he leaves to retrieve the temple tax, one of two things take place. Either the other disciples show up sans Peter and are addressed by Jesus for the heated discussion they had on the way to the house regarding greatness in the kingdom, or Peter catches up with them once he leaves the house and they all fight about who the greatest is before heading back to the house together. The clause προσῆλθον οἱ μαθηταὶ τῷ Ἰησοῦ λέγοντες in Matt. 18:1 is parallel to προσελθὼν ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ in Matt. 18:21. That does not mean, however, that Peter was absent for the teachings prior to v. 21. The provision in 17:27 is really what rules out the disciples’ presence for the teaching on the temple tax.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Neither Philo Nor Justus Say Anything About Jesus: Why?

Question: Why wouldn't Justus of Tiberius or Philo of Alexandria mentioned something about Jesus in their writings?

AP: First, the work of Justus of Tiberias has been lost. Therefore, we do not really know if he dedicated any space to Jesus of Nazareth.

Second, the reason that Philo did not mention anything about Jesus is quite easy to explain and understand. Jesus was not as huge of a personality as the Gospels present. Remember how they talk about large crowds turning out to follow him. Sometimes they chased him from city to another. Sometimes the crowds were so large that he couldn't get out of his boat. Actually though, for the Roman Empire, also for the chiefs of the Jews, and even those living within Jerusalem in particular, Jesus was nothing more than an unimportant figure, just like a couple of rabbis of his day who also went unnoticed––Hanini ben Dosa or Honi the Circle Drawer. These two individuals show great similarities with Jesus: They were craftsmen, teachers of the Law, doers of certain miracles. However, they are not quoted by Philo of Alexandria, who had minimal interest in Galilee.

To this we should remember, as I have emphasized on many occasions, that there were many (some eleven or twelve) Messianic pretenders since the death of Herod the Great (4 BC) until the beginning of the First Great Revolution of the Jews against Rome. And we don't know their names either.

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TWH: I wouldn't be surprised if Justus of Tiberias did write something about Jesus in his writings. He was a historian, like Josephus who included some comments about Jesus––especially the Testimonium Flavianum. Unfortunately, we will probably never know. That paragraph in Josephus, by the way, is hardly the focus of his text. It constitutes only a sliver of the larger work. Josephus, we should mention, recorded that Jesus "won over many of the Jews and many of the Greeks." It would be hard to call Jesus insignificant based on that witness and on the testimony of the Gospels. Questers for the historical Jesus love to toss out details of Jesus' ministry (or shrink them down)––especially the miracles––but those discourses mentioning all of the attention that Jesus received from Jerusalem (e.g., men being sent out to watch Jesus and report on his activities) and the attention he received while in Jerusalem (e.g., flipping over the tables in the temple; fielding questions from the Pharisees and the Sadducees) would have to get thrown out as well. I'm not sure how you do that, or even how you could shrink them down.

Concerning Philo, I would say there were two factors: (1) Philo's focus, and (2) Jesus' renown had not spread, in a significant way, outside of Israel's boundaries. There is no indication, for example, that someone came from beyond Israel to hear Jesus teach or to heal someone (though you'll read about stuff like that in the apocryphal Gospels). And Philo was connected to the ruling class in Jerusalem. Sure he had contact with Israel––both Galilee and Jerusalem. That's true. But given the people that he was connected to, it would make a lot of sense why he wouldn't mention Jesus––the one who had been causing his friends and family so much trouble.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paul And The Use Of Amanuenses

Question: Did Paul use an amanuensis, and if so, what impact did that have on the words of the New Testament?

TWH: It seems pretty obvious that Paul used an amanuensis at least once. At the end of his letter to the Romans, we find the following sentence: "I, Tertius, the one who is writing this letter, greet you in the Lord" (Rom. 16:22). You can't really get around that one. It's interesting. It makes sense that someone like Paul would use an amanuensis at times. For example, the conditions during his imprisonment seem to warrant the use of one. It's more difficult to ascertain whether Paul used amanuenses elsewhere in the New Testament.

Let me give you a couple of quick tidbits of info:
1. There was actually an Old Testament amanuensis. Do you know what his name was and for whom he wrote? You'll find him mentioned in Jer. 36:4–6 and 45:1. His name was Baruch, and he wrote for Jeremiah. It's interesting that Jeremiah is told to make use of an amanuensis. As far as I know, he's the only prophet who is.
2. There are a few Greek words that are sometimes translated as "amanuensis": προχειροφόρος (also προχειράριος), ὑπογρᾰφεύς, χειρογράφος. There may in fact be more, but these are the ones that come to mind right off the top of my head. You'll recognize that last word, I bet, from Col. 2:14, where Paul uses the neuter form χειρογράφον. That word in Colossians refers to a "certificate of debt" (for my distaste for any translation involving the word "handwritten," please see here).
There are questions surrounding whether Luke served as an amanuensis for Paul, or Sosthenes, or Timothy. Some speculate that Mark served in this capacity for Peter, others Silvanus, etc. Did these men make use of amanuenses, specifically Paul, and, if so, what sort of role did an amanuensis have on the actual words of the New Testament? That, my friends, is a seriously debated question.

The reason that scholars debate the issue of amanuenses so much is because of the differences encountered in texts by the same author. For example, why does Philippians or Romans looks so different from 1 and 2 Timothy when it comes to vocabulary, syntax, and rhetoric? In fact, it's based on these arguments that many––over the past couple hundred years––have written those letters off as not written by Paul. Discussions like this have taken place since nearly the very beginning of the founding of Jesus' church. If you do a study on when New Testament texts were accepted as part of the canon, you'll see a debate of sorts pertaining to 2 Peter. It's like for a period of time, certain groups loved it because it was super interesting, but did not believe it was written by Peter. All of this because of the difference in style––vocabulary, syntax, and rhetoric––between 1 Peter and 2 Peter. By the way, in modern times, that's the big reason people have shunned Hebrews from the Pauline corpus, which is where it belongs and where it was for most of the history of the Christian church. What scholars have failed to recognize is that authors have a wide stylistic range, much like certain syntactical constructs (e.g., the simple genitive) have wide range and certain lexemes have wide semantic range. The authors of the New Testament should be allowed to have different style depending on many factors (e.g., what side of the bed they woke up on, to whom they are writing, from where they are writing, how urgent their discourse is, etc.). Nevertheless, the differences in style have taken scholars to places for many there is no path back and most probably would rather never come back. It makes more sense, to them, to just say they are not written by the author whose name is affixed or whose name history has consistently ascribed to said text.

Some have suggested that Luke served as Paul's amanuensis based on 2 Tim. 4:11a, which reads, "Only Luke is with me." If that's the case, then Luke must have served as the amanuensis––so the argument goes. Though, with that said, people have proposed Tychicus instead of Mark (e.g., Jeremias); that of course hinges on the verb ἀπέστειλα being an epistolary aorist––and that Paul wanted and/or needed an amanuensis. Now, I'll grant that Paul was alone during this time in his life and ministry. We know what is said in 2 Tim. 1:15: "You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes." He felt completed abandoned. But I'm not sure we can make a claim that based on 2 Tim. 4:11a, Luke served as Paul's amanuensis. He could have, but I'm not sure he did or that it was absolutely necessary. Consider for a moment was C.F.D. Mouse said about Luke and his relationship to 1–2 Timothy and Titus:
"Luke wrote all three Pastoral epistles. But he wrote them during Paul's lifetime, at Paul's behest and, in part (but only in part), at Paul's dictation" ("The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reappraisal," 434). 
Therein lies the issue. What in the world is going on? Did Paul write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus or did Luke? Did Paul tell him what he wanted to say, give Luke some talking points, and then allow Luke to fill in the parchment? Did Luke write the a letter first, give it to Paul, let Paul mark it up and give his feedback, and then have Luke rewrite it? What's going on? That's what scholars debate regarding the style and authorship. And the use of different amanuenses makes it easy to explain the differences between texts by the same author.

I mentioned earlier that the proposal that Tychicus acted as Paul's amanuensis hinged on the send-verb being an epistolary aorist and that Paul "wanted and/or needed an amanuensis." I can see why Paul would use an amanuensis for his letter to the Romans. It was longer, much longer, than his average texts. But that doesn't necessarily mean he needed or wanted an amanuensis every single time he wrote a letter. 1 Corinthians ends with Paul mentioning to his audience that he is writing a portion in his own hand. That portion is the "greeting" (ἀσπασμός, 16:21). This refers to the portion of the text that begins there in v. 19 (where the word "greet" appears four times) and extends to the end of the letter. Why mention his own hand unless the original letter featured two different scripts, one belonging to the amanuensis and the other––at the end of the letter––to Paul? But the use of the amanuensis here could be attributed to the length of the letter. When it comes to a letter like Philippians, there is nothing within the text to suggest that Paul utilized an amanuensis. Some, to be sure, have proposed Epaphroditus for this position, but where is the evidence beyond the fact that Paul sent the letter by way of Epaphroditus? I can't find any evidence in the text beyond that, and I would caution people to go only so far as the text will permit.

I might also point out another reason why people have argued that Sosthenes in particular functioned as the Corinthian amanuensis. In 1 Cor. 1:18–31 and 2:6–16, you'll find the use of the first person plural ("we" and "us"). Take a look at those texts when you get a chance. Paul identifies himself in the letter opening as the author. He also includes the name "Sosthenes. It's important to note, however, that in the one particular text where we know for an absolute fact that an amanuensis actually wrote the letter (τὴν ἐπιστολήν) Paul did not mention another person's name in the letter opening. In Romans 1, you will find Paul's name and only Paul's name. A better explanation for why Paul mentions a person's name in the letter opening is because of the content of the letter and because of the personal relationship that the co-laborer or brother had with the letter's recipients.

I've sort of run out of time when it comes to the last part of the question at hand.  Did an amanuensis write down the very words of the author? Did he transmit only the ideas of the author? Did he edit and improve the grammar and style before sending the document out? Did he translate the author's work (e.g., from Aramaic to Greek). Etc. There's a lot more to think about here, but I'll go ahead and show my cards. I opt for the former when an amanuensis was actually used. When it came to Paul, he told the person holding the reed what to write and exactly what to write––except, perhaps, when Tertius sneaked a little comment in at the end of Romans (though I could see him asking Paul if he could, and Paul nodding his head and saying, "That'll be fine"). I don't see a lot of editing––if any at all––going on when it comes to these New Testament letters. These letters were usually written out of a serious need. There was a problem in a given church (or, in the case of Galatians, a group of churches in the same region), and those letters needed to be written and carried off as quickly as possible to address said issues.