This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology. You can visit my web pages here, but note that they are not kept up-to-date.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hegesippus on the unity between Paul and James

Here I argue that Hegesippus was a supporter both of Paul's legacy, and of James. This bolsters my view that there was no doctrinal division between Paul and James.

Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History 4.22.7-8 tells us that Hegesippus was a Hebrew, and from 4.22 we learn that he travelled to Rome via Corinth:
Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. His words are as follows: “And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine.

This journey was in about A.D. 160 because Eusebius says that it was at the time of Anicetus. Hegesippus passed through Aegean churches such as Corinth. Presumably these churches had preserved Paul's letters and his legacy. Since Hegesippus was in agreement with the doctrine held by all  the bishops that he met, we can assume that he was no opponent of Paul's influence. Indeed, his statement that Corinth "continued in the true faith" suggests that he believed that Corinth was already in the true faith, at least after Clement's correcting letter (and Clement was also a fan of Paul). So Hegesippus endorsed Paul's legacy.

But Hegesippus was also a huge admirer of James:
The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows: “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, ‘Bulwark of the people’ and ‘Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him. (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.23.3-7)
So, Hegesippus endorsed James too. It is therefore hard to believe that there was a lasting doctrinal schism between Paul and James, yet this seems to be the view of many. Neither Hegesippus, nor Luke saw any rift between the two men. The rift is created only by those who misread Galatians. See here.

Incidentally, Peter Kirby has an interesting post on Hegesippus. He suggests that some words of Hegesippus have been misattributed to Josephus by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen. I think this kind of confused attribution is very possible, especially if Hegesippus's Hebrew name was Joseph.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Antipas" (Rev 2:13) as a symbolic name

David Lincicum has tentatively suggested that "Antipas" in Rev 2:13 could be a symbolic name. See here.
Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. (Rev 2:13)
Lincicum provides three new arguments, which I now summarize:

1. The nominative case ending of Ἀντιπᾶς is odd, but is explicable if the seer wanted to draw attention to the meaning of the name.
2. The symbolism of names is very important in the book of Revelation. Consider, for example, the name Jezebel (2:20), which was surely not her birth name.
3. The name could be interpreted as Ἀντι + πᾶς, that is, ‘on behalf of or in place of all’. Thus the name could signify that Antipas had died as a martyr on behalf of all the believers in Pergamum. This idea of vicarious suffering by Christians is well attested.

It should also be noted that the earliest Christians thought that those who showed exceptional commitment to the faith should have names with appropriate meanings (Phil 2:8-9; Matt 16:16-18, Acts 4:36-37, and Rev 2:17).

Now, if the name "Antipas" in Rev 2:14 is symbolic, it may still have been his birth name: it may be that the new meaning was attributed to his name following his demonstration of commitment.

We actually have 3 variants of the symbolic name theory:
1. He received the name (or its new interpretation) while he was still alive, perhaps awaiting martyrdom. Compare Peregrinus Proteus taking the name "Phoenix" in anticipation of his death.
2. The name (or just its new interpretation) was given to him after his death, but before the writing of Revelation.
3. The name was ascribed to him for the first time by John's revelation.
I don't know how to decide between these possibilities.

The Christian martyrs in New Testament times are Jesus-Christ, Stephen (which means "crown"), James and John Boanerges, Simon-Peter, Saul-Paul, James the Just-Oblias, Antipas, and Ignatius-Theodorus. They all received a new name, except perhaps for those (Stephen?) who happened to have been born with a name that already had an appropriate meaning. While we cannot be sure that "Antipas" was not his birth name, it seems likely that the church attributed meaning to the name. Lincicum is onto something.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When did Paul first preach a gospel of Gentile liberty?

According to Paul (and others), Gentile men who accepted Christ were part of the people of Israel without having to be circumcised. Now, I used to assume, with the majority, that Paul preached this message from the start of his ministry, soon after his conversion. However, a recent lecture by Gerry Schoberg has caused me to dismiss this assumption. His conclusions are a little different from mine but can be found in his new book, Perspectives of Jesus in the Writings of Paul PTMS190.

The first preaching by Paul to Gentiles that we know about is during the "first missionary journey" in about 46AD, yet Paul's conversion was in 35AD. Here I argue that Paul did not preach a circumcision-free gospel during the intervening 11 years.

1. If Paul had established Gentile churches in this time period Acts would have said so, since Luke is very interested in the spread of the gospel to Gentiles (see Schoberg p119).

2. We have no surviving letters of Paul to any churches that he established in this time period (see Schoberg p119).

3. The church of Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch after hearing the news of the conversion of many Gentiles there (Acts 20-22). If Paul had already established Gentile churches, why did Barnabas not visit them instead?

4. Barnabas found Paul in his home town of Tarsus (Acts 11:25), which is where Paul had gone years earlier (Acts 9:30). This gives the impression that Paul had remained there, perhaps because he had family and friends there.

5. The controversy in the church about circumcision arose only in ~48AD when men came to Antioch from Judea. If Paul had been establishing churches of uncircumcised Gentiles  ever since his conversion in 35AD, why did the controversy not arise earlier?

6. Paul went up to Jerusalem (in ~48AD) 14 years after his conversion and presented his gospel of Gentile liberty to the church leaders there (Gal 2:1-3). He did so privately because he was worried that he had been running in vain. Why did he take 14 years to check that he had not been "running in vain"? Why did he not make an earlier visit to Jerusalem to discuss the issue? Why did he not present his gospel to them during the famine visit (Acts 11:29-30; 12:25)? John Chrysostom notes, but does not solve, this puzzle:
What is this, Paul? You would not consult the apostles at the beginning or after three years, but you now consult them after fourteen years are past, to make sure you are not running in vain? Would it not have been better to have done so at first, rather than after so many years? And why did you run at all, if you thought you might be running in vain?
 It makes little sense if he had been preaching that same gospel for all those years, but it is perfectly consistent with the account of Acts. According to Acts Paul had been on only one missionary tour before he laid his gospel before the Jerusalem church leaders. The Holy Spirit had commissioned Paul and Barnabas for that tour, so he had no opportunity to check that Jerusalem endorsed his message. His uncertainty about what Jerusalem believed would have been heightened when the men who came from Judea claimed that Jerusalem supported their view that Law-observance was necessary (Acts 15:1,24).

7. Gal 1:23 reads 'they only heard it said, "The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy."' Now, the faith that Paul had tried to destroy did not include a circumcision-free message (Peter's Cornelius episode came later). Paul makes no distinction here between the faith that he proclaimed early in his ministry and the pro-circumcision faith of the church of the time.

8. Gal 5:11 reads "why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision". This may refer back to a time earlier in Paul's ministry when he had preached circumcision to Gentiles.

9. Paul wrote Galatians to counter the view that he believed in circumcision (for Gentiles). The Galatians were thinking that Paul preached Gentile liberty only to please the Jerusalem church leaders. See here. We can imagine how this misunderstanding could have arisen if Paul had not started preaching Gentile liberty until after the Jerusalem church leaders had come to support it. If, on the other hand, Paul had preached a circumcision-free gospel before anyone else did, then it would be surprising that he does not say so explicitly in his letter.

For the reasons given above, we can be confident that Paul did not preach a Law-free gospel until several years after this conversion. His missionary tour of Cyprus and south Galatia with Barnabas was probably the first time that he did so. It is likely that Paul did evangelize Gentiles in the early years, but he did not preach against circumcision at that time.

When did Paul first receive his circumcision-free gospel?
What, then, are we to make of Gal 1:10-12?
Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not according to man; for I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul is challenging the rumour that he opposed circumcision in Galatia only to please men (i.e. the Jerusalem apostles). Paul therefore points out that he had received his gospel of Gentile liberty by revelation at his conversion. At least, that is how he interpreted the revelation in retrospect, it seems. Why, then, did he not preach that gospel from the start? Well, we know from Gal 2:2 that it would have been futile for Paul to preach Gentile liberty when the rest of the church did not yet support such a view. Paul could preach against circumcision only after the Jerusalem church became supportive of that view, following Peter's vision. The church of Antioch was the first to include Gentiles in large numbers (Acts 11:19-22), and it is interesting that at that time Barnabas recruited Paul to come to Antioch to teach (Acts 11:25-26). Presumably Barnabas knew that Paul would support the steps that Antioch had taken to include Gentiles.

I propose, therefore, that Paul received his gospel of non-circumcision (at least in some respects) at his conversion, but did not preach it until much later. Many will object to this. They will use passages such as Gal 2:11-14, 5:2-12 to argue that Paul was uncompromising in his opposition to circumcision and would have preached against circumcision from the start. However, they fail to understand that Paul wrote Galatians to correct the view that Paul actually believed in the need for circumcision. Paul takes an extreme position in these passages only to correct the Galatians' view that a) he believes in circumcision and b) he is writing only to please Jerusalem. Interpreters have become victims of Paul's rhetoric and have cast him as a heroic, principled, individual, rather than as a first century team player who belonged to a collectivist culture.

Imagine a parallel universe in which the rumour in Galatia had been different. Imagine that the Galatians had accused Paul of being a maverick who was stubbornly uncompromising and unwilling to collaborate with other church leaders. Paul would then have written to the Galatians to counter that misinformation. He would have given evidence of his close co-operation with the Jerusalem church, and subsequent generations of commentators would have come away with the view that Paul was a sycophant of Jerusalem. We cannot understand Galatians without first discerning the misinformation that Paul writes to correct.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

New arguments against Knox's chronology of Paul's career

In his "Chapters in a Life of Paul" John Knox used Paul's letters to reconstruct a sequence of Paul's travels, placing Paul's evangelization of Europe before his visit to Jerusalem of Gal 2:1-10. While Knox's chronology may have fewer followers than it once had, it is still popular in some circles, and Robert Orlando appealed to it in a comment on my last blog post. In this blog post I discuss each of the three pieces of evidence that Knox calls upon, as well as the counter arguments.

Evidence that the council was after Paul's first trip to Macedonia

Knox's first argument: Paul's eagerness to "remember the poor"
Gal 2:10 reads "They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do." This request to "remember the poor" is dated to 48 or 49 AD and Paul's collection of money for Judea was delivered in 56 or 57 AD. This interval of 8 years seems too long, especially given Paul's eagerness. Why would Paul wait such a long time to respond to the request. If the conventional sequence of events were correct then Paul's Galatian readers would surely have retorted, "Well if you were eager, why did you wait so long instead of collecting money from us immediately after the request was made?". Knox's solution to this problem is, of course, to place Paul's Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10 after his stay in Corinth, and this means that the delivery of the collection would be 3 or 4 years after the request was made.

However, Knox is too quick to assume that the collection from the churches of Achaia and Macedonia was Paul's first such collection after the request to "remember the poor". He defends this assumption by stating that there is no evidence of any other collection in the intervening years (1987 p38-39). But there are 3 independent pieces of evidence that suggest that Paul collected funds from Galatia soon after the request was made.

1) 1 Cor 16:1-3 mentions a collection from Galatia. It is unlikely that this was to be delivered at the same time as the collection from Corinth, since Galatia is conspicuously absent from the donor provinces that Paul mentions in Rom 15:26.
2) Larry Hurtado has shown that Gal 2:10 itself suggests that Paul had asked the Galatians to give money to the poor in Judea (and that the agitators had taken this to mean that Paul was obedient to the Jerusalem apostles, which is a charge that Paul denies by saying that he had been eager even before he was asked). See my earlier blog post, here. Now, Paul does not encourage the Galatians to collect money in his letter and there is no indication that the collection is still on-going. It is therefore likely that the collection, to which Gal 2:10 refers, had been completed before the letter was written.
3) Titus was in Jerusalem with Paul (Gal 2:1-2) so he knew the needs of the poor in the church there. Titus was therefore Paul's obvious choice to go to (south) Galatia to organize a collection. The collection from Galatia therefore explains why Timothy (who's first name was Titus) was already in Galatia when Paul arrived (Acts 16:1-3) a few months after the conference. Paul had sent him there to arrange a collection.

It seems to me that these three arguments, in combination, show that Knox was wrong to assume that Paul made only one collection after being asked to "remember the poor". While Knox reduces the time interval from 8 years to "3 or 4 years", he is not able to reduce it any further. If 3 or 4 years is better than 8 years, then the interval of a few months, determined by my proposal, is even better.

Knox's second argument: The brevity of Acts 18:22
Knox (p49) drew our attention to Acts 18:22 where we are told simply that Paul landed at Caesarea and then "went up", presumably to Jerusalem. Luke's account of this visit is strangely brief, which supports Knox's view that Luke has taken the events of this visit and brought them forward to Acts 15. However, Luke is equally brief about Paul's visits to Antioch, Galatia and Phrygia in these same verses (Acts 18:22-23). What advantage is an explanation for Luke's brevity concerning Jerusalem if it does not also explain his brevity concerning these other places? And is the brevity really so strange? I have argued before that Acts was written for the Aegean churches. Luke focusses on a) the history of how the faith found its way to the Aegean churches, and b) events where he was personally present (which included not only the "we passages"). Paul's tour in Acts 18:22-23 belongs to neither category so we should not be surprised that Luke gives few details.

The Knoxians' third argument: "The beginning of the gospel"
Phil 4:15-16 reads
You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel (ἐν ἀρχῇ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου), when I left Macedonia no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once.
The Acts chronology places Paul's evangelization of Macedonia some 15 years after his conversion, which can hardly be described as the beginning of the gospel for him. Knox places Paul in Macedonia only 6 years after his conversion, and feels that this explains how Paul can write that he left Macedonia "in the beginning of the gospel". I, along with most commentators, think Knox misunderstood Paul's time reference here. The time interval between Paul's conversion and the Philippians' acts of benefaction is not relevant to the context.  Paul is here praising the Philippians for being so generous even in the early days of their faith. It was the beginning of the gospel for them. It is interesting to note that Paul never asked any province to contribute funds for Jerusalem until a few years after their evangelization. For the Philippians to give to Paul so soon after their conversion went beyond the call of duty and Paul praises them for that. This understanding of Phil 4:15 is confirmed by verse 16, where he accentuates the same point about the Philippians displaying generosity so soon after their conversion: "For even when I was in Thessalonica....".

Arguments for placing the council before Paul's first trip to Macedonia
The Acts narrative is demonstrably correct about the sequence of Paul's journeys, especially in the relevant time period. Luke was a participant in many of the events, as were many in the Aegean churches, to which he wrote. They would not have been ignorant of the correct sequence of events.

It is impossible to cut Acts 15 from its context and paste it into Acts 18:22 without doing violence to one or both passages. Knoxians seem quite evasive on the question of exactly which events of Acts 15:1-16:5 they wish to move to after the evangelization of Macedonia. In Acts 15 Paul travels to Jerusalem from Antioch and is accompanied by Barnabas. In Acts 18:22, however, he travels from Corinth via Ephesus and Caesarea, and Barnabas is nowhere in sight. Indeed, Paul had already split from Barnabas over John-Mark, and Paul's split from Barnabas is the occasion for Paul's selection of Silas-Silvanus (Acts 15:39-40), who was definitely with Paul during the evangelization of Macedonia and Corinth. Furthermore the conference of Acts 15 is a past event by the time of Acts 16:4. The circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3 must belong before the second missionary journey: why would Timothy need to be circumcised in time for the 3rd missionary journey but not for the second? Paul's Jerusalem visit of Acts 15 is simply too intertwined with its context to be a duplicate of a visit glossed over at 18:22.

Gal 2:2 reads "Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain." It seems that Paul needed the endorsement of the Jerusalem church leaders. Now, he would have needed this endorsement before his "second missionary journey", which was a mission the he led. Knox must explain why Paul would manage without any endorsement during his "second missionary journey, but then require that endorsement before his "third".

For me, a strong argument against the Knox chronology is that it places the events of Gal 2:1-10 after the text was written! I see Paul's letter to the Galatians as Paul's response to the confusion that resulted from his circumcision of Timothy (see Gal 5:11 for example). Paul would surely have cleared up that confusion when he passed through Galatia (Acts 18:23), so the letter belongs to the second missionary journey, not the third.

The Acts chronology is confirmed by the Gallio inscription, which places Paul's first visit to Corinth in ~51AD. Knox and, especially, Lüdemann hypothesize that Luke may be correct that Paul was brought before Gallio, but that it may have happened during a later visit by Paul to Corinth. This is a desperate move. Acts 18 is a unity rather than a conflation of events from two different visits. Sosthenes (Acts 18:17) was Crispus (Acts 18:8) renamed, and he had left Corinth by the time that 1 Cor 1:1 was written.

In conclusion, the Knox chronology has nothing to recommend it. Luke, even though he probably did not read Paul's letters, has written a better "Letters-based" chronology than Knox was able to do.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Robert Orlando and I debate "A Polite Bribe"

Robert Orlando has produced an animated movie about the life of Paul and especially about Paul's collection from Macedonia and Achaia. His use of movie to bring the subject matter to life is to be encouraged, and I am also appreciative of his willingness to engage in discussion. Paul's collections do not receive enough attention.

Please read Orlando's 11 page PDF e-book, which you can download for free here. In this blog post I dialogue with this e-book, expressing 13 concerns.  Orlando has kindly responded at length, interspersing his replies in blue font below. I think Orlando here has done a good job at representing the views of many scholars. I will respond to his responses in the comments section.

1) The generosity of believers towards their fellow-Christians was clear evidence of the genuineness of their conversion. Charity was, I think, an identity marker for Christians, just as circumcision was for Jews.

Yes, but these are very broad generalizations: Are you suggesting that the Jews and the entire Greco Roman World were not known for their charity? An extremely Christian centric view of the ancient world. On the contrary Jewish diaspora was involved in charity for a long time prior to Jesus or Paul and the very fact that there were God fearers in their synagogues, was also sign of an outreach, though they understood these Gentiles would not become Jews. As for the Greco Roman world, there was a whole history of (centuries) movements including the Stoics and Epicureans, just to name two that followed systems of virtue, which included the reaching out to their fellow man/woman. Cynics believed that all men were brothers, were against war and slavery, and believed in free speech. They were called "dogs" because they lived a life of poverty in order to care for others, and though their forms of morality would have been different to ours, they were an outreach to others. Almost the hippies of the ancient world and some would say precursors to St Francis of Assisi and the later Monks. However, I digress. I think the discussion of the background of the NT would be impossible for this exchange. There are so many great books to read, but just see Luke Timothy Johnson's, "Among the Gentiles" or read Paul Sampley, Abraham Malherbe, etc

And extracting money from someone's wallet can be as painful as any surgical procedure. The delivery of money from Gentile Christians to Jerusalem may therefore have served to demonstrate to any sceptical Jerusalem Jewish Christians that God had really worked in those Gentiles and transformed their lives and allegiances. By this mechanism the collection might have created a greater sense of unity between the Judean believers and the donor churches.

Exactly, and one of the key points in the film. The collection had much more meaning than merely "taking care of poor people." The Jewish Christians and the original followers of Jesus needed to be convinced of the worthiness of Paul's gospel (revelation) to reach out to Gentiles without the need of Jewish law. Many were not. The collection helped because, along with providing pure resources, it also demonstrated, in light of the growing Gentile population, that the mother church remained in Jerusalem. The collection was something like a Gentile Christian Temple tax that meant they worshipped the same God.

This seems to be what Paul says in 2 Cor 9:13-14, "Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you."

Interesting that you would use this letter and section when Paul must also defend his collection(56AD?). I address these exchanges in great detail in my book in a chapter on the identity of the "Pseudo Apostles."
a) the accusers were claiming that Paul was using the money to persuade (bribe) the Jerusalem Apostles of his true apostolic calling. One scholar said bluntly that they were accusing him of "buying his apostleship."
b) the very idea that Paul could be accused of this is a sign that the other Jewish Christians Apostles knew this was NOT just a gift for the poor, but an act that held political power. If not, why try to stop it?
c) There is a much longer discussion here, but the fact that the trouble makers came with letters of commendation, from Jerusalem, according to almost all the Pauline scholars I cited, meant James was either "aware of them" or possibly even the one that sent them. Another fact that raises suspicion about how acceptable the collection ever was in Jerusalem. How much of this, after the fall out in Antioch, was solely Paul's own doing?

The term "polite bribe", on the other hand, implies that Paul expected the recipients of the money to be influenced by the self interest involved in receiving the money. What is the evidence that Paul expected them to be influenced by self-interest rather than by the donors' demonstration of the grace of God?

I think it is important to point out that a) Paul, at least in his own telling (Gal 2:10), did not offer the collection, but agreed to do, so in actuality it was probably James politely "suggesting" it as a solution to the dilemma he faced, between Paul and the Jewish Christian faction b) if we follow Paul's narrative after that point, there was no sign that the collection was ever accepted (Antioch 52-53AD?), and some scholars even suggested that the Jerusalem Apostles only agreed, so he would go away, a notion that is not entirely "off the charts" when we think of Paul's relationship with Jewish Christians upon his return (Romans15:30-33, 58 AD) c) I find it unrealistic, or even against common sense, that anyone, even divinely inspired, would not have to consider the material considerations (self interest) of their careers, and lives. In Paul's case, the money meant, at least temporarily, that James could keep peace with the other Jewish Christians and he could continue proclaiming Christ to the world before the end. For Apostle to the Gentiles, would it have not been worth a "polite" bribe, to save his mission, stay rooted in the Holy land, and possibly offer his new brethren to the House of Zion? I think so!

2) Paul writes, "join me in prayer ..... that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints" (Rom 15:31).

For further info I have included the footnote from the book [1] the “saints” did not only mean the general body of believers, but those delegates in Jerusalem led by James. The term “saints” as with the term “poor", have both a general connotation, to the “impoverished” or followers of Christ, and a specific connotation to those Jewish Christian leaders in Jerusalem. With the Second Coming, Jerusalem and her eschatological expectations would be realized with James at the center, the role of the Nazarites was to be prepared for this day. Also, Paul would have known their self designation “the poor” when he wrote Romans 15:31, Keith Nickle, The Collection, WIPF and Stock Publishers, 2009, pp 138-143, for the significance of James in Jerusalem see, Richard Baukham, The Book of Acts in its first century setting, volume 4 Palestinian setting, Chapter 15 James and The Jerusalem Church, Eerdmans Publishing 1995, 415-480

You infer from this that Paul was anxious that his collection would be rejected by the Jerusalem church, including its leaders, because it came from uncircumcised men (page 1 with note 2).

To the modern ear I think referring to Gentile men as uncircumcised (alone) seems to trivialize the matter. Not that circumcision alone could not be a painful and life threatening experience, especially for young men who as a group bled more than others, but the procedure alone misses the larger point. Circumcision, like shared meals, and other forms of "marking" ethnic boundaries, was not an issue about foreskins, but about what group was in (with God) and what group was out. I hate to use modern references because they are never quite accurate, but I think a 1960s lunch counter in Birmingham Alabama is the closest we have experienced to what was occurring in the early conflicts between Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians. Jesus himself spoke to these distinctions with the Canaanite women Matthew 15:21-28 and later Peter in Acts 9. However, scholars like Richard Esler are quick to point out the important distinction between post 19th century ideas of "race," and the ideas of "ethnicity" in the 1st century. He explains,

         “The Greeks and the Romans were certainly ethnocentric; they did dislike other peoples, including Judeans and one another, but they did not do so on racial grounds. The basis of these entirely predictable stereotypifications was what I am here calling ethnicity, usually that part of an ethnic boundary constituted by a distinctive culture. Thus the Romans thought the Greeks were characterized by levitas, that is flightiness, lack of determination and grit. They found the Judeans antisocial, and hence misanthropic, especially because of their refusal to participate in imperial feast days. The Greeks found the Romans vulgar and lacking in taste. Philo probably mouths the views typical of Judeans generally when he says, ‘It has been said that the disposition of the Egyptians is inhospitable intemperate; and the humanity of him who has been exposed to their conduct deserves admiration.’”

He continues,
“In spite of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism still exists in the world. The first step in meeting an evil like this is to understand it. Such understanding is only possible via a clearheaded investigation of phenomena in their own historical context, not by sloppy application of concepts appropriate to another time and place, however well intentioned.”[i]
[i] Philip F. Esler, Conflict in Romans, 2003,): 52-, 53.
In light of this cultural background, the reader of scripture will witness a more severe, and volatile dilemma, very capable of derailing the early Christian movement, keeping some from participating in the Passover and later Sacramental meal, or as Paul would say, freely partaking of the "freedom" found in Christ. Yes, the manifestation of Paul's early conflict was the circumcision procedure and table fellowship, but its cause was ethnic division, how to maintain or dissolve with the new age reality of being "in Christ."
 I concede that "ministry" here probably refers to the collection, at least in part, given 15:25, but I have some concerns about your conclusion.

The point you are making is crucial, and I can only say that I studied NT Greek, used numerous study guides for my film/book, and a pile of New testament commentaries, plus completed 50 hours of discussion with modern scholars in Socratic style, to find what I believe to be a majority opinion. I also tried to make certain that the opinion was not stronger on one side or the other of the theo-political aisle. What I found was that when interpreting Romans 15:30-33, in the broadest possible context the scholars were convincingly in favor of two facts, a) that Paul was in fear of his life and b) that it was not only a fear of the non Christian Jews but it included (was linked to) Jewish Christian brethren. [1] Many commentators emphasize that Paul saw serious danger in going back to Jerusalem. See for example, C. K. Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, rev. ed. (London: A & C Black, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991), 256); Leander E. Keck, Romans (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005), 367-368; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press,, 1990, 108-128); Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans,1980), 406-408; and especially Gerd Lüdemann, Paul: The Founder of Christianity(Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2002), 42-43. The list goes on...

i) It would have been immodest for Paul to write "join me in prayer .... that my gift to Jerusalem may be impressive to the saints". He may therefore have chosen the phrase "acceptable to the saints" for modesty.

a) I think we are moving unnecessarily into speculation when we have the strong case made above. Moreover, I don't always think of Paul as modest, especially when his apostolic legitimacy is being questioned as it is in 2 Corinthians. When he has that tone of I"M HUMBLE I TELL YOU, I"M HUMBLE! b) And while he is being humble, Paul just happens to mention that he might have remembered himself, or was it another person?, being taken to the seventh heavens, and given revelations, so powerful for the human spirit that it required a "thorn." In my book, I interpret the word in light of Hebrew Scripture as "another person" who follows Paul around undermining him. In other words, he is basically saying to his opponent, I only put up with you because my spirit is so heavenly minded, I don't require your status seeking pettiness. Note* I am not mocking Paul, but only showing his exposed spirituality mixing with his humanity, which, for me, is what makes him so accessible.

When people give money they often underplay its potential impact by saying things like, "I hope it will make a small difference", when they actually mean "I hope it will make a big difference".

I think Paul feared for his life, but as Ben Witherington says in the film, was ready to face the consequences for going all the way to Jerusalem with this delivery to "do it right." He clearly did not need to. Luke has Agabus warn him beforehand, and Paul expresses in his response this very sentiment. (Acts 21:10-12) *** It is very intriguing to me that Luke mentions the journey AND the warning but not the collection?

 Therefore, isn't it possible that Paul was hopeful that the collection would be a spectacular success, but worried that it might merely be OK? How can we know that Paul was anxious that the collection would be a failure or be rejected?

We cannot know precisely, but if we roughly accept a time line sequence as, Thessalonians 48-50AD, 1 Corinthians 50-52 AD, Philippians, Galatians 53 AD, 2 Corinthians 54-56 AD, and Romans appx 58 AD, we find Paul's encounters with his Jewish Christian brothers to get progressively worse! If we simplify and hold to 2 pegs in the sequence a) the agreement at Jerusalem Council (49 AD) and b) the return to Jerusalem (58AD?), we can see a decline in Paul's confidence, though it seemed, given the original need for a collection, it was on shaky ground from the start. When I interviewed Troels Engberg-Pedersen, he pointed out that one of the reasons why the agreement (collection) ultimately did not work was because it was never fully fleshed out, but temporarily glossed over (my words).

ii) Why do commentators assume that the donors' foreskins were the only possible impediment to the triumph of the collection? Are there not other things that could have taken the shine off the collection?

Again, I think using the term foreskins trivializes the severity of the conflict. Re: Your point, one possibility I wrote about in the book was external pressures from Roman leaders in Jerusalem. In other words, those who might fear infighting or splitting, which might, with Imperial eyes, be construed as disorder and possibly leading to chaos. As a result the Messianic movement was being pressured to shut down and return to a stricter observance that did not allow Gentile participants. This could be the pressure James found himself under or perhaps He agreed with? I have read scholars that concluded both ways. Also, this notion of Roman pressure does concur with some of the the secular events of the times.

Perhaps Paul worried that the Jerusalem believers might think that the quantity of money, though generous, was not consistent with Jesus' radical teaching on giving. Perhaps he was concerned that there might be disputes about how he distributed the money. Perhaps the recipients might grumble that they had expected the collection earlier.
iii) Could you try to explain again why you think "the saints" here includes the Jerusalem church leaders? Is it not possible that Paul has others in mind?
Again, I think Paul's underlying central conflict with Jewish Christianity that informs the majority of His writings does not require any further speculation. It speaks for itself and with a rough time line, as I constructed above, we can see the progression, or in this case, the digression of the agreement on collection. You can read my review where Gager goes as far as to say that Paul's gospel was never meant for Jews, but was a Sonderweg, a second path,

iii) Could you try to explain again why you think "the saints" here includes the Jerusalem church leaders? Is it not possible that Paul has others in mind?

I gave the references above. There are more, but I think what I have offered is enough to cover the point.

3) You write that the collection from Achaia and Macedonia, mentioned in Romans, was requested by the Jerusalem church leaders (Gal 2:10) (page3).

I did not write "Achaia and Macedonia," on page 3, but did cite Paul's words from Galatians.

However, even if the request to "remember the poor" (Gal 2:10) refers to a collection (which is far from certain), how can you be sure that it refers to the same collection?

On your first point, I did not interview one scholar, or find one book, that suggested Galatians 2:10 was NOT a collection, but rather the collection that played out for almost a decade in Paul's life until he reached Jerusalem(58AD). The film and the book take the position that there had always been collections from Antioch to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, and originally for the great famine in Jerusalem, but this is NOT Galatians 2:10. This was a new collection, offered at that time as a "sweetener" to help Paul's Gentile Mission find approval. James, with the promise of the Gentile collection had a way to settle down the false brethren who had "wormed" into the room, no?

The request In Gal 2:10 was made in AD49 and the Aegean collection was delivered in AD56 or AD57. In Gal 2:10 Paul says that he had been eager, so isn't it unlikely that he would wait 7 years?

Paul says he was eager to carry out their wishes. I don't read that as "he was eagerly waiting to be asked to make a collection from the Gentiles??" First, he would have dreaded anything that slowed down His itinerant sharing of the Gospel and this collection consumed his time. Writing in Galatians, retrospectively, I think he was "eager" to offer a collection so he could find agreement and leave, with his apostleship still in tact. Let us not forget, he was called in because there was a real problem. The problem was what to do about Gentile converts who did not want to take the full step (circumcision) to become Jewish? If you we put aside the collection for a moment and its influence and consider what the resolution (agreement) was, it is bit mind boggling. They actually agreed to divide the mission fields! - Peter to the Jews, Paul (and Barnabas) to Gentiles. But, dividing the mission fields? Is this the solution to the new life of Christ now offered to "Jew and Greek" the message that Paul will proclaim in Romans1? This tepid consent, using our modern vernacular might better be described as an "agreeing to disagree." But, as long as the collection was in play, as a source of funds and symbol of Gentile Jewish Paul would remain yoked to James in Jerusalem. The exchange in this meeting raises many questions about who believed what, and where was this movement going, and who followed Jesus' original intentions?

We should consider the possibility that he called upon the (south) Galatians to give right away (in 49AD) and 1 Cor 16:1-3 does indeed refer to a collection from Galatia.

It is interesting that the Galatians do NOT contribute to that (new) collection, but is it really that surprising? Could their lack of participation be related to what happened between Paul and Peter, James and even Barnabas. Once, Paul was ousted, and the faith was turned into a more rigorous practice under James' rule, did they no longer follow the movement, and remain loyal to Paul, the Apostle who offered salvation free of law? Scholars have made this argument and though it is speculative it is plausible.

This collection from Galatia was probably not part of the collection from Achaia and Macedonia because the Galatians are absent from Rom 15:26. So why should we connect Gal 2:10 with the Aegean collection rather than with the Galatian collection?

As I mentioned above, I don't think they are the same. There was an early collection (40s?) that Barnabas and Paul managed in Antioch for the famine in Jerusalem. I read one scholar who said this might have been the reason Paul was sent Antioch to begin with. Paul begins his mission field work with Barnabas and eventually word returns to Jerusalem that Paul is NOT enforcing the Jewish Law on his converts, and a meeting needs to take place. a) this is strange, because what was Paul preaching that had not been agreed upon, and b) why was Barnabas not in trouble? Do you think Paul and Barnabas might have had slightly different messages? Do you think Paul's new gospel beyond Judaism, could be what called the break with Barnabas' and his nephew John Mark? It is only after being called into Jerusalem that Paul offers to break the stale mate and agree to "collect for the poor." If James was asking about Galatians, it would not have made any sense, because that is what Paul had been doing all along. Also, how would the Galatian collection had any impact on the conversation over Gentile Mission. The men there already knew about his work in Antioch. It would not have had any additional impact.The only explanation is that it was a new offering that opened Jerusalem to Paul's Aegean Crescent and beyond. Paul was responsible for this collection for almost the next ten years.

4) The e-book tends to assume that the leaders of the Jerusalem church were sceptical of the gospel of Gentile liberty. I have argued against this">here
. Have I missed something?

Unless one allows Luke Acts to cover over the Pauline corpus, and even then there are echoes of trouble, I think the central conflict at Paul's mission, letter writing, and even key theology (exception Philemon) is in defense of his ministry to his Jewish brethren in Jerusalem. And for very good reason! No we don't need Galatians to make the point, which is the most obvious example. Orthodox (non Christian) Jews and Jewish Christians, who fellowshipped in synagogue and Temple, were both deeply rooted in the worship and honor of the Temple. And there was no "separate church" of Jewish Christians outside of Jerusalem. They remained in synagogue, where they had always been. The "Godfearers" that chose to worship with them, were also in synagogue. Most of these Gentiles would not have chosen to be Jews and for those who did they would need to be circumcised. In the mind of Jewish Christians, even with the Messiah's appearance in Jesus, none of their Jewish beliefs would have changed. Jesus was the Messiah who came to fulfill Jewish destiny. As part of Hebrew Scripture, there are prophecies that explain the end times when the Messiah would come. When there would be a great invitation of all "nations" (Gentiles) to join the House of Zion, and the new kingdom. We don't know how much of the original Pre Paul evangelism had occurred before, but we know it was a very different message, because of how the Jewish Christians reacted to Paul. Also by Paul's own account his calling came directly from Jesus - no "man" was involved. Given this background, it was only a matter of time before Paul's message was going to stir things. a) If you follow Paul's words, there WAS no other gospel but the law free gospel and b) any other gospel, which, in most cases, meant the preachings of His fellow Jewish Christians, or gospel plus Jewish law and c) when they finally tried to create a "middle way" or compromise at the Council, it was resolved in part by splitting the mission fields and in part by the collection. And as I wrote earlier, the track record from Paul's letters after show a deteriorating relationship, culminating in the scene in Jerusalem.

5) You write "The very vision Paul described so joyfully in his letter to the Romans, that of God's grand scheme to save both the Greeks and the Jews, had from the beginning created a massive conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem Christians" (page2). However, in Rom 15:15 Paul says that he has written "by way of reminder". His letter was therefore not introducing a new doctrine. The Roman believers had received the same teaching, presumably from believers who came from Judea.
Yes, Rome was evangelized by some one other than Paul. In ln my book (film) I'm arguing that though there were other Jewish Christian missionaries in the outreach to the world, preaching Messiah, that does not mean that their message was the same one that Paul is preaching. a) In Paul's mind, there was another gospel (with law) but it was "'false" and from "messengers of Satan." b) who else would have been traveling and preaching a message of Messiah plus Law, but the Apostles from Jerusalem or a group affiliated? c) Rome was known historically for having a thriving Jewish synagogue, so this was not necessarily a "beyond the synagogue," Pauline message. d) The argument of my book and film, and that of many scholars, is NOT that there were no other missionaries, but that Paul's mission and message were never fully embraced by the core of Jewish Christian leaders (James, Peter, Barnabas, etc) or believers. Paul's ability to work in and around this fact, was present when he wrote His letter to the Romans, because he still needed the support of the Mother Church for legitimacy, and, at this late stage, knew he might have to compromise. His rationale for doing so is possibly the argument behind Romans chapters 9-11. Paul no doubt needed financial support (Romans 15) and without Jerusalem, there is no Rome, and without Rome there is no Spain or "end of the world" and in essence Paul's mission would have ended.

Therefore Paul's gospel was not unique to him.

Given what I have stated above and from some of my earlier responses, I must reiterate, that from my analysis of the sequence of his narrative, I think the uniqueness or Paul's gospel, right or wrong, and the fact that it began with a vision and not from the collective authority of Jerusalem, WAS the central conflict in Paul's ministry and life. It's unique origin was why he at first did not go to Jerusalem. His unique message was why he ultimately felt betrayed in Antioch, why he felt besieged by the Apostles in Corinth, and why he needed to return with the promised collection to make the offering. The reason why there was conflict was NOT merely because it involved the technical procedure of circumcision, but that he was saying that "the gospel that I preach" that had been revealed to him alone was directly from God. It meant that God thru the Messiah Jesus was leading the whole world into a new age. One without class (master or slave) or gender (man or woman) or ethnic boundaries (Jew or Greek), and therefore Judaism as "he understood it" was being transcended, or no longer necessary. Those old dead laws, or their rituals, or practices, were no longer of use because of the surpassing power of being "In Christ. Though, all of the original Apostles believed in Messiah, I don't think the majority of them, or even many of them, believed that this movement entailed the ending of Judaism in quite this way.

We know from Acts 15 that some Jewish Christians opposed the gospel of gentile liberty and Galatians speaks of the same group. Apart from those people at that time, we have no firm evidence that any Judean believers opposed gentile liberty.

One of the basic building blocks of my narrative, supported by a majority of scholars, is that when we compare Paul's letters 50-60AD with Acts written perhaps 30-60 years after, we recognize they have very different (narrative) goals. Actually, Paul does not have a long term goal at all, with the exception of possibly Romans, and even with the great Epistle, still always attempted to meet contingent needs. Some, and I agree with them, point out that Luke had different sources, and different traditions behind his sources, and therefore could not match Paul's outlines or facts all the time. However, even offering these and other concessions, I think it is still odd and possibly even suspicious that Luke 1) does not mention what actually happened to Paul at the end of the story, that featured a great journey and even an arrival in Rome? 2) Mentions a final journey to Jerusalem to meet and reconcile with the Apostles, and find harmony with the greater community, motivated namely by the delivery of the collection, but does not mention the collection (though it slips out in Acts 24:17). Luke also does not describe the contentious relationship between Paul and his fellow Apostles, which I think should be the most obvious source of our curiosity. So, a) I don't think we can totally rely on Luke when it comes to discovering conflict in the early church and b) with the conflict of Acts and Galatians alone, one can begin to link a course toward some of Paul's broader struggles. Acts 21 is linked to Romans 15:30.31, which is linked to the collection that links to 2 Corinthians 8 and elsewhere. Galatians, in one fell swoop, links Peter, Barnabas, back to James in Jerusalem, it also exposes in graphic language and detail exactly how Paul defined the distinction between their gospels and the one true gospel which was his.

I don't think we need to hypothesize judaising missionaries from Judea to explain tensions between Jews and gentiles in Paul's churches.

Through my efforts, I came to the conclusion that it takes more exertion to hypothesize, or is more of "a stretch," to conclude that Paul's Judaising opponents were anyone BUT the Apostles from Jerusalem or their emissaries, though one could argue, James had more or less control at different times in the mission. Though there are numerous others, here is just one footnote supporting this perspective which appears in the section of my book on Pseudo Apostles, and offers the most comprehensive overview and perspective for favoring the above conclusion.

Paul in his defense reveals they are “Hebrews,” “Apostles,” aware of Paul’s collection, and carrying “letters of commendation.” He also refers to them possibly as Superlative Apostles, a name that sounds much like the “Pillars” of Galatians. If Superlative and Pseudo Apostles are the same group, they would also qualify in Paul’s mind as messengers of Satan. In all likelihood Paul is writing of those in Jerusalem seeking to undermine him. No one else would have the authority to try to undermine Paul and be threatened by him, except those who had the only claim to authority that he lacked: the early Christians out of Jerusalem with their historical knowledge of Jesus. C. K. Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1973), 30-31 and 277-78. In light of this, see mention of Paul’s claim that he had “no room for personal rivalries: Michael Grant, 2000, 144.

In Rom 16:7 Paul says that Andronicus and Junia were "prominent among the apostles", and from the context we can assume that Paul meant this as a compliment. Rom 16:7 therefore implies that Paul considered that it reflected well on Andronicus and Junia that they were prominent among the apostles. If Paul had disdain for the apostles he would not have complimented Andronicus and Junia for being among them. Doesn't all this make it unlikely that Paul was in conflict with the leaders of the Jerusalem church?

Again, I don't see this as a either/or proposition, but a both/and. Paul did not need to "despise" everyone for the points above to have merit. I DO think Paul would have welcomed the partnership of most Apostles, if he felt it did not interfere with "his gospel." I believe, though some in the film have characterized his trip to Jerusalem as a brash "in your face" event, I also believe, Paul longed to see his Gentile Mission reunited with the Jerusalem Apostles, and that the collection, though of financial value was also of true symbolic meaning. The Gentiles were welcomed into the House of Zion and here, the collection, were their offerings to show honor to the true God. Paul hoped and prayed this would be successful, or His mission and message, in the eyes of his brethren, would not have been honest or true. So, again, showing cases where Paul sought out the fellowship of other Jewish Apostles or that he acknowledges his work or shared suffering with them (in prison) does negate the point that Paul ultimately stood on ground that was too far outside the comfort level of the Jerusalem authority and, although for a while they might have found a "tepid" compromise, He was ultimately rejected. It's not one or the other, it is both.

6) You assume that James allowed Paul to preach his gospel of Gentile liberty on condition that he remembered the poor (page 3-4). However, I see James as being fully supportive of Gentile liberty and I don't see any evidence that he would have restricted Paul's preaching if Paul had refused to remember the poor. I don't think there was a deal in that sense. Paul and the pillars found themselves to be in full agreement and no compromises were necessary.

7) What is the evidence that the relationship between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles had soured by 58 AD (page 4),

See responses above that link the Paul time line to the digression of conflicts between Paul and the other Apostles.

or that James, Peter, and the other apostles were ever "highly suspicious of Paul's motives" (page 5)?

For one clear example: Jerusalem leaders had sent emissaries to Corinth to disturb the way Paul was conducting his mission, and that meant the collection. These emissaries spread rumors about Paul’s dependence on Jerusalem and accused him of embezzling the funds. And so Paul, who had been in jail for at least two years and maybe even four, who had been beaten and weakened from all his sufferings, was now forced to confront an all-out assault on his character. It must have seemed almost too much to bear. Paul had been thrown in jail and forced to work with his hands. He had had trouble in every congregation, so much so that he had had to write numerous letters from prison to prevent his congregations from turning their backs on him (2 Cor 11:5-11). See also some of my earlier responses to the sources and identities of Paul’s conflicts.

Your assumption (page 6) that the Jerusalem apostles are the "superapostles" has been rejected by nearly all 2 Corinthians specialists.
We cannot know for certain if the Super Apostles were Peter or James because they are not named, though we can associate the tone of “Super Apostles” in 2 Corinthians with “Supposed Pillars” from Galatians.” But outside that fact there are also two other reasons that make a convincing case:

a) the written commendations. It is important to point out that Paul offers in defense that he, unlike these Apostles, did not require letters of commendation (1 Cor 3:1-3). He said his converts alone were his commendations, reiterating his themes that the sources of authority for him came from God (in the work he did with Gentiles), not man. Philemon itself is a commendation letter. See Efrain Agosto, Paul's Use of Greco-Roman Conventions of Commendation (Boston University, 1996): Chapter 4, and J. Paul Sampley, 2003, 101., and b) While scholars have debated the exact identity of these agents we can make an informed guess based on the descriptions we have. Paul calls them "false apostles” (2 Cor 11:13) or “counterfeits of the real thing, dishonest practitioners” (2 Cor 11:15, Phillips). We know they were Jews, as Paul acknowledges in saying, “Are they Hebrews? So am I” (2 Cor 11:22). They also preach a gospel of “good news,” a false gospel, but a gospel nonetheless. And, contrary to Paul’s gospel, they wanted all Gentile converts to become Jews by submitting to the Law and to circumcision, raising the very same conflict that had caused Paul to bargain with Jerusalem.

As for Scholars that support the position, in the APB film appears, Robert Jewett, Gerd Ludemann, Phillip Esler, to a lesser degree Paul Achtemeier, and others who might acknowledge the plausibility, but leave the 2 Cor 11’s Apostles an open question. Here are some others in support of this perspective not in my film…

C.K. Barrett:
On Paul [2003], Essays on Paul [1982] Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity [1989]

Michael Goulder :
Paul and the Competing Mission in Corinth [2001], St. Paul Vs. St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions [1994]

David Sim:
The Gospel of Matthew and Christian Judaism [1998]

Hugh Schonfield:
The Jesus Party [1974], Those Incredible Christians [1968], Saints Against Caesar [1948]

James Tabor of North Carolina who spoke at our test screening in Raleigh: See, his book on, Paul and James

On our website, we feature an array of diverse voices that speak to the general tensions between the two factions (James and Paul) which caused the general hostility awaiting Paul and the delivery of his collection. A theme that will also lend support to the conclusion that it was the Jerusalem Apostles or their emissaries that traveled to Corinth in an attempt to stop Paul and his collection.

For a historian’s background to the conflict, see also Catholic Historian & Author of the History of Christianity,

8) On page 7 you make the good observation that Paul was keen to go to Jerusalem in spite of the risks, and you ask why. Perhaps he wanted to ensure that the money was delivered and appropriately administered. Perhaps he wanted to spend time with friends, such as the church leaders, and with family members such as his nephew (Acts 23:16), none of whom he had seen for 4 or 5 years. Paul's desire to visit Jerusalem might reflect his good relationship with the church there, rather than his supposed need to mend a broken relationship with them. In any case, perhaps he felt that he was in danger wherever he went.

In order to hold this perspective about Paul and his final journey I think one would have to ignore…
1 - The warning from Agabus and Paul’s words in Acts 21.
2) -- The contention as the very root cause in the Pauline corpus overall (Gal, Phil, 1 &2 Cor), and one of the main causes for His letter writing.
3) - The very words from the Apostle himself when he expresses how he alone held and preached the “true Gospel” and so vehemently defended it against the other Apostles, namely the earlier followers of Jesus.
4) -- Paul’s anxiety about this trip (Rom 15), and Paul’s doubt about the collection’s very acceptance.
5) - The rejection of the collection itself and the odd way it was “laundered”(Jewett) by James to be made acceptable.
6) - The sheer violence of the crowd's reaction to Paul in the courtyard and without any sign of help from his brethren
7) - The fact that Paul was never visited in prison with the exception of his nephew after he heard about his murder plot.

Acts 23:16-17 - However, Paul's nephew got wind of this plot and he came and found his way into the barracks and told Paul about it. Paul called one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the colonel for he has something to report to him."

- I think it would be naïve to think that Paul would have in any way been casual about the preparation, visit, or aftermath of His entire journey!

9) Also on page 7 you ask why Acts does not mention the collection. You and I agree that the legality of the collection was questionable. If Luke had mentioned it he would have got the donors into trouble with the authorities and he would have provided ammunition to the opponents of the church. So couldn't Luke's silence be protective?

Yes, I could accept that, though that would mean to assume that at an earlier point, Paul was determined to be operating out from under the umbrella of Judaism , which would have otherwise made the transportation of collection of money legal. Possible, but we just don’t know. I think the stronger argument is that Luke cannot communicate some of the more sordid details to his patron (Theophilus) because if would have besmirched the divine origins of the movement, and risked the seamless legacy from Jesus to Apostles to Paul, a faith destined for the entire world. Let’s consider the impression that would have left. A movement that begins with two factions, and one faction is involved, to some degree, whether by negligence or active behavior, in the attempted murder of the head of the other faction, who have both made an agreement in your 15th chapter. Theophilus natural reaction would have been what happened? Why, if there was so much danger, and work to be done, in light of Rome and beyond, would Paul travel to Jerusalem? The only answer to this line of questioning is the collection. The collection is the link or symbol of all that went wrong, or as we say in dramatic writing the “MacGuffin.” It links the Paul story to the Jewish Christian story, which in turn links to ancient Judaism, and without the ancient faith's acceptance, in Rome's eyes, Paul is not a sanctioned Apostle. Remember, the ONLY reason for Paul’s return to Jerusalem, whether financial or symbolic, was to bring the collection. Strangely, Luke reports the Agabus warning, the transaction with the Nazirite Vows, attempted murder, even the after math in prison, but NOT the collection?

10) Your rejection of the famine visit (page 1) assumes that Paul is numerating his contacts with Jerusalem in Gal 1-2, but I have argued that Paul is merely arguing that he was not a sycophant of the Jerusalem leaders.

I do think Paul is making sure that he is NOT a sycophant, but pushing (both/and) further than that, he is also defending the origins of his legacy, that his revelation was not given to him by a human authority BUT by his vision alone. By making the point, he removes the question of true apostolic authority from the fixed limitations of geography, where others could ask, Paul, were you in Jerusalem with Jesus and the original movement? Did you sit and eat and learn from the master? How would you know what is the true gospel?

11) On page 1 you say that Paul only made 3 visits to Jerusalem (as a Christian). What evidence do you have against the visit of Acts 18:22, which happened after the time when you and I date Galatians?

We relied on the Pauline letters for our time line from Galatians and also the final trip from Rome, so when he first visits Peter (and James)(35AD), when he is called back over the Gentile issue (49AD), and finally when he returns with that collection (58AD). For more see also, Robert Jewett, A Chronology of Paul’s Life (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1979).; Gerd Lüdemann, Paul, the Founder of Christianity (Amherst, NY: Promethus Books, 2002), 59-62; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: His Story (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): 1-31; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Doubleday, The Anchor Bible, 1998), 133-141. Note especially the chronological alignment with Junius Annaeus Gallio (Acts 18:1-17; 1 Cor 2:3). Also, for a chronology of Paul based on the progress of the collection, see Gerd Lüdemann, Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology (London: SCM Press, 1984), 80-92. And for an analysis of the collection’s timeline as obtained from Paul’s letters, see John Knox, 1950, 51-58.

12) On page 8 you suggest that Paul's Gentile mission may have required a "do-or-die" journey to Jerusalem. However, in 1 Cor 16:4 Paul seems to say that he might not even go.

Good point. Yet again, I think, in trying to highlight this one verse in 1:Cor 16:4 as a counter to Paul’s desire to go to Jerusalem in Romans 15:30,31, ignores the larger context and time line. You’re making another “either/or” not a “both/and” point. At the time, when Paul was making the rounds for the collection (with the help of Timothy and Titus) from the various cities, he might have felt that his priorities were elsewhere. According to our (APB) narrative, 1 Corinthians (from Ephesians) was written in appx 52-53 AD, 5 years before Romans, in 57-58 AD, so things would have changed. Yet, in between the time span of those 2 letters 2nd Corinthians, 55-56 AD, was written, a much more troubling letter, and one that still exposed deep conflict between Paul and Apostles from Jerusalem. As a result, we concluded, that Paul’s turning point on absolutely needing to return to Jerusalem occurred after the incident with the Super/Pseudo Apostles. It was this confrontation that made it clear that Paul’s Apostleship was still quite vulnerable to the ridicule from Jerusalem and He had to make things right, which meant completing the collection and showing up in person. He needed once and for all to clear up matters with the mother church before he could move beyond the Aegean, farther west, to Rome, to gain support, and eventually reach Spain.

I think that argument is a solid one because it offer a genuine motivation to return that earlier might not have been there (1 Cor 16: 4), and that frankly would have justified a trip that costs Paul a lot of time and money, not to mention the risking of his life. But, if that is not convincing enough, and we need more proof of Paul’s intention to go back to Jerusalem, we only need to read his own words to Agabus in Acts 21 who tried to stop him.

10 While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us and took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.”15 After these days we got ready and started to go up to Jerusalem.

13) There are some chronological errors that can be corrected without effecting the thesis. Page 8 contradicts page 6 and places 4 years between the writing of 2 Corinthians and Romans, which is hardly possible. Why would Paul wait 4 years before delivering his collection?

Yes, we caught that in a later draft, after we finalized the dates for the time line. I will put up new version asap – thanks.

On page 1 you say that Paul was well over 60 years old in AD58. However, most commentators assume, on the basis of Gal 1:13-14, that Paul was born in the common era.

Another correction we made later, that is not in this earlier version. We use the appx 0-5AD for his birth, which meant he was “approaching 60.” - thanks

You also say that Paul had been doing missionary tours for "3 decades" by AD58. This would put Paul's conversion before the crucifixion!

Another correction in language made later. I meant his tours had covered 3 different decades 30s, 40’s, and 50’s, not literally lasting for 30 years. – Thanks again for the free edits. We could have used you much earlier!
And thanks again for the opportunity to respond to your thoughtful and insightful questions. My hope is that, beyond the valuable exercise of debating to find the most accurate perspective, these types of exchanges would open a new conversation to a broader audience, largely unaware of many of the “shared” facts about the story of the Apostle Paul and the early Church!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why did the "pillars" ask Paul to "remember the poor"?

Gal 2:6-10 is one long and complicated sentence:
6 And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders ... those leaders contributed nothing to me   ...  10 they asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do. 
6 ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι ...  ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο ... 10 μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν,  καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι. 
In this blog post I will argue that Paul and the Jerusalem church leaders independently concluded that it was time for a collection, which would unite the church behind the gospel of gentile liberty. I will also argue that Paul writes, "which was actually what I was eager to do" to refute the idea that his participation in the collection showed that he was a servant of the Jerusalem  church leaders and supported gentile liberty only to please them.

It is generally agreed that "remember the poor" refers to a request made by the "pillars" (James, Peter, and John) to Paul and Barnabas to organize a collection for poor believers in Judea. This blog post will shed new light on the motivations for the request and on why Paul mentions it. First we need to explore the evidence that Paul had already organized an earlier collection from gentile churches to Judea before he was requested to "remember the poor". Three points support this view.
1) "remember" (μνημονεύωμεν) is a present subjunctive, which may a continuing action that implies an earlier remembering of the poor.
2) Paul seems to be saying that he had already been eager to "remember the poor", even before his was asked. I'll return to this below. It would appear, then, that Paul and the pillars independently decided that a collection would be worthwhile. It would be a bit of a coincidence if Paul and the pillars came up with the same idea at the same time without any prior precedent. However, if there had been an earlier collection then the thought of a repeat of the enterprise would naturally present itself to both Paul and the pillars. 
3) Acts confirms that Paul did indeed participate in an earlier collection (Acts 11:27-30)

2 Cor 9:11-15 gives us important information on the benefits of the collection:
11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
The collection would relieve poverty, and also do something further. The generosity of the donors would demonstrate their obedience to the gospel and show how much God had transformed their lives. The Judean believers (including those who were not beneficiaries of the collection) would then glorify God for working so powerfully in these gentile churches, and they would realize that the gentile believers shared their same faith. The Christians in Judea would then have warm feelings towards their gentile brothers and sisters. Paul seems very confident that the collection will have this positive impact. It is as if he is speaking from experience, and I have argued above that he did indeed have the experience of an earlier collection or collections.

Now, Paul's earlier collection must have had the same effect of giving Judean believers a sense of unity with the donor churches. There is no reason why one collection should have this effect and another not. Also, Paul would not have been so confident in 2 Cor 9:11-15 if his earlier collection had not had this effect. Therefore, at the time of Paul's visit to Jerusalem (Gal 2:1-10) both Paul and the Jerusalem church leaders knew that a collection for the poor among the churches of Judea would unite the believers there in warm affection towards their uncircumcised fellow-believers. The generosity of the gentile believers would prove their commitment to the faith more than any surgical operation could ever do. Any opposition to gentile liberty would then diminish.

Now, there are two probable implications of all this. Firstly, the Jerusalem church leaders wanted to unit the Judean churches in support of the Law-free gentile churches. I don't think they would have requested a collection if they did not want its expected outcome.

Secondly, it was in Paul's interests to organize a collection, and indeed he was eager to do so (2:10). The Jerusalem apostles therefore did not make any concessions to Paul in return for his commitment to the collection. Why would they trade something to get Paul to do what he would surely have done anyway? His decision to "remember the poor" was therefore not a concession that he had to make in order to get permission to continue his preaching, as many suppose. This collection was not an obligation laid on Paul as part of a negotiated agreement. I see no evidence that there were any negotiations between Paul and the pillars or that they were in dispute in the first place. Paul and the pillars independently decided that another collection would aid the poor and help to unite the church.

Now let's turn to the question of Paul's purpose in writing Gal 2:10. In JSNT back in 1979 Larry Hurtado proposed that Paul brings up the collection in Gal 2:10 because the Galatians had drawn some false inferences from it. I think he is correct. Hurtado writes "it is not difficult to think that some of his converts could have wondered whether Paul was raising the funds because he in turn was under orders from Jerusalem." Paul writes that the pillars added nothing to him (Gal 2:6) ... "only (μόνον) that we remember the poor". The word "only", as Hurtado points out, may suggest that the request to remember the poor (2:10) was an exception to the statement that they had added nothing to him (2:6). Paul then goes on to point out that this exception was not really an exception because he was already keen to do it, even before he was asked. Since this exception did not really count, Paul would not have been under an obligation to mention it for the sake of giving a complete account. This raises the suspicion that the Galatians' misinterpretation of the collection has provided the occasion for this verse. Hurtado also points out that Paul's choice of words here, "remember the poor", presents this collection as a benevolent act, "thereby downplaying any sense of it being a tax upon Paul's churches."

An implication of all this is that the collection of money from Galatia had at least been started by the time Paul wrote the letter. Along with the majority of scholars, I think that the letter makes no appeal to the Galatians to give to the collection, so I conclude the the collection had already been completed by the time that Paul wrote. This is exactly what I had argued on other grounds here.

Why, then, does Paul proclaim his independence from Jerusalem in 2:10 and indeed throughout Gal 1-2? We have to remember that the Galatians thought that Paul believed that gentiles should be circumcised (Gal 5:11). The Galatians would assume that he was writing against circumcision only to please the Jerusalem leaders (Gal 1:10). The agitators, you see, were saying "It's OK to be circumcised because Paul believes in cirmcumcision: he teaches you not to be circumcised because he is under orders from Jerusalem, as the collection demonstrates." See here for an explanation of how this works.