What Happened to the Jerusalem Pillars?

In my paper for my Intro to New Testament class, I raised the following:

Though prominently the disagreements between Paul and the so-called Jerusalem Pillars; what is noteworthy is that Paul seems to have, as well as earn, authority despite the fact that he did not know Jesus personally (and according to tradition, the Jerusalem Pillars did, though Paul does not explicitly suggest this).  One has to wonder about the implications of this, whereby Paul has authority and continues to gain authority even after his death—particularly through these so-called gnostic communities—and yet none of the Jerusalem Pillars’ works survive (presuming they wrote something down in the first place).

This for me draws out an important issue. Just what happened to the Jerusalem Pillars?  Did they die during the First Jewish War?  Did they leave and go to Rome?  Syria?  Alexandria?  And why is it that we have Paul and not the Pillar’s works (if any were written)?  Paul must have received some correspondence, I would think, given that he went to Jerusalem on someone’s wishes.  And I find it hard to believe that none of the Pillars were literate (given that they seemed to hold some “rabbinical” position in the church there).

Are there any theories out there?  Any constructions that might be based in some grounding?

The Young Man in Mark 14.52 and 16.5 Through the Lens of 2 Corinthians 5

As the semester progresses I’m finding that I am looking anew at older ideas I’ve read or had myself on various passages in the New Testament.  Two such instances happened last week while analyzing the Gospel of Mark.  The young man who runs off from Jesus naked has played a pivotal role in the Biblioblogging community lately (what with the Jesus Blog bringing up Smith’s discovery–fake or not–which has some implications on the subject).  But for me it brings up an important matter I have neglected, but at some point want to publish on: Mark’s literary indebtedness to the Pauline epistles.

One such correlation between Mark and Paul is this rebirth of the body.  In 2 Cor 5, Paul writes (emphasis added, NRSV):

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off  we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

It seems to me, and in agreement with Carrier, that Paul’s theological belief in an afterlife includes, to a large degree, getting a new and better body.  Not our same body, which is destroyed (καταλυθῇ), but a new and better body, built by God.

This is very interesting.  These are themes that Mark seems to pick up upon and even seems to make note of while describing certain events in Jesus’ life–namely the young man who appears prior to Jesus’ death and then following his resurrection.

While re-reading over Mark 14 and 16, I became more convinced of this play on the narrative elements.  In 14.51-2, Mark writes (NRSV):

A certain young man (νεανίσκος τις) was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked (ὁ δὲ καταλιπὼν τὴν σινδόνα γυμνὸς ἔφυγεν).

It is interesting that Mark makes such a specific notation of the youth’s attire.  I think the emphasis on the linen cloth is important (I’ll tie this all together later) and I don’t think this is the last time we see this young man.

Mark only uses νεανίσκον in two places in his Gospel.  The first is in 14.50-53 above.  The second is in 16.5:

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man (νεανίσκον) dressed in a white robe (περιβεβλημένον στολὴν λευκήν) sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

I find it fascinating that the only other time that a young man is mentioned is in connection with (a) clothing and (b) prior to Jesus’ death and after his resurrection (while he is in his earthly body and when he gains his new and better body, respectively).  Of course I am in agreement, along with most scholars, that the young boy here represents Jesus sitting at the right side of God (which may echo back to Mark 12.36); but in my humble opinion, I do believe this is the same young man in both instances above, used by Mark as a literary analog to portray Paul’s two-body theology.

Now, maybe it is not a direct borrowing, but Mark seems to agree with this to an extent (notice he never says the tomb is empty, as Matthew does–and makes a big spectacle of it in fact being empty).  I believe that the reason why this young man is portrayed as an angel in Matthew is because Matthew did not agree with this theological function–he seems to be keen on the same body being doctrine (i.e., that one’s physical body–the current one we inhabit–will rise) as more important (or just more correct).

You Can’t Convince Everyone: Diglotting Reviews My Chapter in ‘Is This Not the Carpenter’

I’m very grateful to Kevin Brown of Diglotting for reviewing my chapter.  He summarizes my article nicely here:

The key thrust of Verenna’s essay is that “Paul did not believe his Jesus was ever historical in the first place” (132), mentioning in an accompanying footnote that he isn’t necessarily arguing against the historicity of Jesus, but only that one cannot find such a historical figure using Paul’s epistles. He sets out using “a method formed from analyzing intertextuality” (132), with the intent of showing that “what Paul is interpreting, what he is expressing, is not an earthly figure, but an allegorical one” (133). Thus, this essay is “an attempt to look past modern interpretations of Paul, which are far too focused on discovering what he has to say about an assumed historical entity – Jesus – and less about discovering how Paul’s initial audience would have understood his meaning” (135).

via Review of Is This Not the Carpenter? (Part II) « Diglotting.

But to be clear, the statement “Paul did not believe his Jesus was ever historical in the first place” is slightly tongue-in-cheek.  My overall point is to (1) demonstrate that the way Paul is currently interpreted is through a Gospel lens rather than on his own accord and (2) show that Paul cannot be used as a witness to a historical Jesus and that current attempts to do so take for granted (a) Paul’s mystic language as a function towards (b) explaining his esoteric theology to other initiates.

Understandably Kevin dislikes my copious amounts of footnotes (but in order to conserve space, I had to relegate a lot to footnotes).  He also doesn’t find any of my interpretations particularly convincing.   Though he finds my attempts ‘spirited’.

I’d also like to draw attention to our discussion in the comments.  It has ended (I conceded him the last word) but it was an enjoyable exchange and Kevin Brown makes for a well-informed and challenging sparring partner.

Review of ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ Part 1 | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

Aaron Adair takes a look at my chapter and James Crossley’s chapter for Part 1 of his review of ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’!  Here is a snippet:

To mix it up, Tom’s chapter has an opposing conclusion as the previous chapter in the volume by Mogens Mueller who calls Paul the oldest witness to the historical Jesus. So there is dialogue to be had just from this volume. I would also point to the complimentary work from Gerd Luedemann in Sources of the Jesus Tradition who also considers the value of Paul in knowing anything about the historical Jesus (or even his existence). I should point out that Tom does not argue that Jesus didn’t exist, just that for Paul Jesus was a mythical being known through revelation and scripture. That’s a more modest proposal, but it certainly will affect the probability of historicity. How that plays out will need further argument.

Nonetheless, I think Paul scholars need to seriously consider the approach Tom has brought to the letters; it seems very fruitful, and it will probably help uncover more about the intellectual context of the first Christians than previous methods. Maybe it means we loose sight of the ‘real’ Jesus, but we should not bias our results to make sure our favorite historical figure turns out as expected.

Moving on to James’ chapter on the Gospel of John, it has what first got me as a clever title. When he says he will defend a “traditional view”, it made me realize there was a bit of a pun here, since James is actually talking about the traditional view of G.John not being useful to understanding the historical Jesus. In many ways the chapter is an examination of the efforts of Richard Bauckham about eyewitness testimony and the Gospels. James also gets to the heart of the push for making John part of the quest for Jesus, that there appears to be a drive for having our miraculous cake and eating it too. The chapter is useful for summarizing Bauckham’s main points, especially about getting the ‘gist’ of a story from witnesses (something that also seems to come up recently in Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus).

via Review of ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ Part 1 | Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars.

Go there to read the rest.

UPDATE: See Part 2 here.

New Header Image and Updated ‘Mystery’

Because of my love for the Gnostics (and ancient mystery religions in general) I have thought it useful to update my blog header image and the ‘Of the Muses’ (upper-left column) information.

I will not give out the passage of the Greek text (though many of you students of intertextuality and mimesis will pick up on it right away, I hope), but the link in my ‘Of the Muses’ reference is to 11Q13.  See if you can pick up on all the mysteries. In the words of Paul, I suspect that only the mature (the τελείοις) will understand.

As Paul wrote:

No, we declare God’s wisdom a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor 2.7)

Symbolically, then, why not include some in my blog header?  I can’t think of a reason.  Kudos to those who find it.

Some Clarifications on Heb. 2:17

I wanted to make this post separate of my apology to James, mainly because I feel that apologies should stand alone as they are, without dirtying them with lots of explanations and whatnot.  I hold firm to my apology to James and am glad to hear he accepted it, but now I must press on with some clarifications on my last few posts (also I have not been using accents with the Greek because I don’t feel like formatting the font of the Greek to Times New Roman in HTML so it shows nicer–its just too hot to put out much effort today).

(1) The problem I ran into with the Greek in Heb. 2:17 is that it’s rather ambiguous.  Grammatically, there is nothing wrong, per se, if the phrase κατα παντα were rendered as strengthening the verb οφειλω rather than ομοιοω.  And even some of the colleagues I talked to suggested that it was ambiguous, at best.  Even in the Latin Vulgate it is ambiguous (to which Tom Bolin remarks, ‘ambiguity=exegetical goldmine’, and he’s right).

(2) But Richard Carrier pointed me towards 1 Clement 38.4, where the similarly phrased ‘οφειλομεν κατα παντα ευχαριστειν αυτω’ can be found, and in context it renders similarly to how one might translate Heb. 2:17.  This, for me, cemented the translation.  One can render it as the KJV has it rendered, which is fine, but the meaning is the same as it is rendered in the NIV.  (Thanks also to Stephen Carlson for his help as well)

(3) The issue I realized I was having with James’ translation wasn’t so much with the formation of the phrase ‘in all things’, but with how that phrase was twisted to essentially ignore ‘in the likeness of his brethren’.  How James would have us interpret that phrase is to assume that Jesus was completely man but something else.  The issue with that, quite plainly, is that would imply that the author believed Jesus to be both, which is something you don’t start seeing in the Christian community until much later (the idea of Jesus being both God and man in a Creedal sense, which would have been completely foreign to the author of Hebrews, assuming he was writing in the first century).

(4) James wants to interpret this passage in a literal manner (i.e., that Jesus was a high priest to humanity), but this is, once more, an example of a historian anachronistically applying his rationalist mind to a text written for reasons unknown to us almost 2,000 years ago.  Instead, interpreting the priestliness of Jesus as an allegory, along with the illusion of his humanity, fits nicely within the allegorical context of the chapter itself, defined by his sacrifice and his defiance of death.  Indeed, this passage creates a intertextual parallel with the atonement leitmotif from Lev. 16, wherein he represents (as Tim Widowfield points out elsewhere) the sacrificial lamb, the second of the two–the other being humanity, whom he has taken a complete likeness to (and this is supported by the verb ομοιωθηναι, which represents it as though Jesus were wearing a costume), but had not become.

(5) As my 4th point implies, my original post to James (here) was not concerned with the rendering of ‘in all things’, but about James’ interpretation of ‘in the likeness of’.  As of now, that criticism still stands, regardless of the (rightful) inclusion of the phrase ‘in all things’.

Heb. 2:17 and οφειλω κατα παντα τοις αδελφοις ομοιωθηναι

It seems I owe James McGrath and apology.  (I’m sorry, James!) In an earlier post, I stated that words he had bolded in a translation did not appear in the text.  In fact they do appear in the Greek, but they can be read in a different order than how James’ translation had placed them and I hadn’t thought to consider the word order when I made the comment.  In my ignorance, I made a lapse. So I hope he can forgive that mistake on my part.

Though that is settled, I still have a contention with the way James is interpreting the text.  Heb. 2:17, even with the appropriate strengthening of ομοιωθηναι, should be read as ‘He had to be made in the likeness of his brothers in all respects.’   But reading ‘in all respects’ to mean ‘in every conceivable respect’ makes little sense given the context, since this sort of thinking implies a sort of Nicene creed (trinitarianism).  It is a bit anachronistic to presume that the author of Hebrews was thinking of Jesus as a human.  Indeed, not only is it anachronistic in the sense that such thinking is from late antiquity, but also stems from our position in history, looking back through three quests for the historical, earthly Jesus, long after the figure and character of Jesus has been ‘humanized’.  Even though I had been wrong about the word order in the translation, I was not wrong about its meaning, nor about its usefulness (since it still reads ‘in the likeness’, denoting that the author of Hebrews still saw Jesus as an a figure giving the illusion of a human).

I’m also a bit surprised that James used Hebrews as part of his treatise against Doherty on Paul, since Hebrews was not written by Paul and its dating and authorship are unknown (though the date is tentatively set during the early Christian period, mid-late first century).

That being said, I offer James my apologies once again, but stress that, as I’ve done before, he be more cautious with his wording in his polemics.

Defining Mythicism: Paul, Jesus, and Understanding the Context

In James’ recent review of Ch. 9 of Earl Doherty’s book, he makes the following claim:

In addition to the passages we have mentioned so many times already which hint at Jesus’ humanity through their mention of his brother, his blood, his death by crucifixion, and his descent from David according to the flesh, consider the following as well:

Romans 9:4-5 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the Israelites. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them the Messiah according to the flesh.

Philippians 2:7-8 he made himself nothing by taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Hebrews 2:14-17 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil…For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

No hint? Surely this is more than exaggeration.

I believe James is really stretching here.  But before I argue my reasons, I’d like to stress that I don’t think you can use Paul to prove anything about the historicity of Jesus.  In fact, in my forthcoming paper on the subject, I argue that using Paul as a source of testimony for Jesus’ historicity is doomed to fail.  But I don’t think you can argue Jesus didn’t exist from Paul’s letters either.  There are too many unknowns when it comes to Paul.  How much did Marcion manipulate?  How much did the church fathers alter to refute Marcion?  Did Paul write all of the supposed  ‘authentic letters?’  Did an editor (Marcion? Someone else?) redact several letters into one (like Romans)?  Are we certain that ‘Paul’ is not a name given to the authorship of the letters due to a sort of cultural memory or tradition?  Or to bolster credibility of the letters in the eyes of the communities of Christians?  We know very little, and we have all accepted, as an academic body, certain tradition values to fill in the large gaps of our knowledge.  We hope that these traditions are grounded in reality, but we don’t know.  Perhaps Tertullian is right and Marcion ‘found’ Galatians at a convenient time and manner (i.e., he wrote it himself), or perhaps Tertullian is wrong.  Perhaps it was written to counter Luke.  Or perhaps Luke was written to counter Galatians.  In any event, the point we must stress is that we know less about Paul than we’d like, but we should not confuse our comfortable acceptance of this tradition with hard fact.  This must be remembered as how we understand our position is how we will translate and understand Paul.

It seems James’ point here is anchored on the phrases ‘το κατα σαρκος’ (‘likeness of flesh’; Rom. 9), ‘αδελφοις ομοιωθηναι’ (‘made like [his] brothers’; Heb. 2:17–NOTE: ‘in every way’ is in the Greek, but doesn’t necessarily clarify the way it is translated above.  See comments on this post for further details), and ‘ομοιωματι ανθρωπων’/’σχηματι ευρεθεις ως ανθρωπος’ (‘likeness of man’/’found in the form of a man’; Phil. 2:7).  So my point will rest in how we interpret these phrases.  But let me step back a second and press an issue I think is often missed.  Paul is stressing, quite hard, that Jesus wasn’t human but ‘in the likeness of’ a man or ‘flesh’.  In Heb. for example, the word ‘ὁμοιόω’ is found in many classical sources referring to non-human likenesses, for example, in Euripides’ Helen 33-4:

But Hera, indignant at not defeating the goddesses, made an airy nothing of my marriage with Paris; she gave to the son of king Priam not me, but an image (ὁμοιόω), alive and breathing, that she fashioned out of the sky and made to look like me;

And in Plato’s Phaedrus 261e speaks of how one can manipulate speech in drama (art) to resemble something they are not:

The art of speech is not confined to courts and political gatherings, but apparently, if it is an art at all, it would be one and the same in all kinds of speaking, the art by which a man will be able to produce a resemblance (ὁμοιοῦν) between all things between which it can be produced, and to bring to the light the resemblances produced and disguised (ὁμοιοῦντος) by anyone else.

Indeed, σχημα is quite telling in and of itself.  In Aristophanes Wasps, σχημα is used to mean ‘costume’ (1170), and in Aristotle’s Poetics he uses the word when talking about drama:

For just as by the use both of color and form (σχημασι) people represent many objects, making likenesses of them (1447a, 19).

I think this is symptomatic of the issue here. If James seeks to use these passages to show an ‘apparent reference to a human (fleshly) existence of Jesus’, he cannot accomplish his goal.  Not even Paul himself (or whomever) agrees with him!  Indeed, Paul is stating it quite plainly that Jesus was not human.  Not at all.  In these instances, the use is quite clear: when ‘likeness’ is used they mean, quite specifically, that it isn’t what people believe it to be.  Paul does not mean that Jesus was ‘fleshly’; this is a modern anachronistic interpretation, one that stems from our desires to Euhemerize the context into our rational meaning in the same way Palaephatus Euhemerized the Centaurs into the past by claiming they were the first people to ride horses.  Paul doesn’t mean to suggest that Jesus was a human at all!  He is quite explicit about his meaning, even down to the language, he was not a human but that he was an illusion.

The second we start ignoring this context we start down a slippery slope of rationalizing an allegorical phrase into a historical context, whereby we lose the context completely. What do I mean?  Consider how thisis any different than saying ‘Well the Biblical authors meant that one year was a thousand.’  No, they didn’t, and Paul didn’t mean ‘he was a human on earth’.    Quite specifically, the second we start to interpret Paul’s ‘likeness of human flesh’ as ‘human but interpreted as a likeness’ we are redacting Paul’s words to fit our own modern (academic, even) cultural milieux.  If James wishes to do that, he is, of course, welcome to do so.  But I would ask he present evidence that such interpretations are acceptable in multiple cases (he can start with Euripides).  Otherwise, we must interpret Paul’s words the way he meant them, that is, that to his knowledge the figure of Jesus was an illusion (as the word is used); his humanity was, quite definitively, a fiction.  And this seems to be how the other words (i.e. σχημα) are used as well.

Then James makes leap to suggest that, not only must we interpret the words of Paul counter to how he has written them, but we must demand that ‘in likeness of human flesh’ also means ‘on earth’ without realizing that Paul himself speaks of planes of existence where Jesus was crucified (he speaks, for example, of the ‘Jerusalem above’).  But this requires more time and effort than I’d like to give on this brief discussion, and I’ve already argued it in detail in my forthcoming treatment on the subject, so I won’t spend too much time rehashing those arguments.  The treatment is quite long and I suspect it will speak for itself (esp. on those verses most used, like Gal. 4:4, Rom. 1:3, etc…).

To conclude, however, I will reiterate to the reader that what we know of Paul is nothing beyond tradition.  And how we interpret the text must be based on the recognition that we don’t have Paul’s cultural setting, we don’t know his background (other than that he thinks Pharisees are trash), we don’t know if we even have his true words in every case (or, perhaps, in any case).  We just hope.   There are many references to mystery rites and the language seems to resemble a certain initiation language which has been seen in other literature (including discussions of the Essenes in Josephus), but there is no definitive way to know since we cannot even agree on what is Pauline and what isn’t and I don’t particularly find the arguments for the validity of the tradition convincing (particularly in light of the studies done by Tyson and Pervo which raise the importance of Marcion’s role in the formation of that tradition).  The best argument that can be made is that Paul is inconclusive (at best) on, or (more controversially) does not make reference to, a human figure of Jesus.  And a handful of verses won’t make or break this; the context, overall, is what will make a difference.  And since that context is damaged, or possibly even lost to us, I again ask that James use more caution when making claims like this.  Overstating the evidence will not help your position.  One must always recognize the limitations of the data we have.

‘Monotheism’ in 1 Corinthians 8:6

James asks this question on his blog:

What do you think Paul meant in this passage? Was Paul a monotheist in exactly the same sense as his other Jewish contemporaries? Please answer in the comments here, or on your own blog!

via Paul’s Expanded Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6 | Exploring Our Matrix.

I would like to open the discussion with a reminder from Philip Davies which I have given in the past about such subjects:

Many scholarly books mention the “religion” of “Israel” as “Yahwism.” As far as I know, Yahweh was a god worshipped in Israel and Judah, and apparently also in Teman and elsewhere. But a “religion of Yahweh”? There was no “Baalism” “Mardukism,” or “Elism.” Deities are not religions. Indeed, it is misleading to use the word “religion” to imply a system of belief and practice. In the ancient Near East, people venerated many deities and participated in many cults simultaneously. Their “religion” was an amalgam of these—ancestral cults, city cults, royal cults, national cults, cults of sacred places, and so on. People were far too religious to have one “religion.”

But the real concern here is how we can make this determination from written sources; was Josephus a ‘monotheist?’  What about Philo?  Were the Gospel authors?  In a world where ancient Jewish synagogues had images of Orpheus, where cultural diversity was as dynamic as it is today, where even ancient historians  and theologians had trouble defining piety, and where social memory was not defined by a ‘history’ of facts but a ‘history’ of mythic tropes, can any determination be made of ‘Pauline theistic thought?’

Let me elaborate.  In intertextual studies, we must ask, in the vein of Roland Barthes, is what we are reading double-voiced?  By ‘double-voiced’ dialogue I refer here to a dialogue which contains, sometimes unbeknownst to the author, a trace of the words of someone else, which retain their own meaning.  And by ‘someone else’ I don’t necessarily mean that the individual in dialogue took the words (as if to steal them) from another, but that through the process of education or assimilation, in a cultural standpoint, the person speaks outside of themselves.  Josephus, for example, writes in a double-voice.  He speaks from a position of being a Jew but also from being assimilated into wealth and prosperity in the Roman elite class.  His words echo the values of both cultures, but at times he speaks from a position of one more than another, or in a manner that does not represent what he portrays himself to be–whether he portrays himself as a pious Jew, for example, comes into question when one sees him writing in ways that subvert his heritage with a Roman or Greek one.

In Paul, we see this as well.  There are clear signs of his Greek education in his writing; his rhetoric, his philosophic understanding, the subtle concepts of Plato’s cave in his use of the language of a mystery religion (“the mature”, “awake/asleep” terminology, initiations, and so forth).  But at times we see direct “Jewish language” (that is, language closely worded to imitate the scriptures he is interpreting) intermixed in his Greek.  We see similar instances in  II Maccabees, which Erich Gruen points out, where the author is directly opposed to the Greeks, yet writes to his audience in Greek and expects his readers (which we assume to be Jewish) are able to understand Greek.

In 1 Cor 8.6, we come to another instance, in my opinion, of such a double-voiced dialogue.  But it must be seen in the context of what surrounds the passage (1 Cor 8:4-11):

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”  For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),  yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.  But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.  Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

Paul speaks rhetorically and does so for a reason.  He is not saying, “there are no other beings who reside in Heaven”–in fact, quite the contrary, he says that there are beings (and he refers to them often as ‘powers’ [as in Gal 4.3: stoixei=a tou= ko/smou]  or ‘rulers’ [as in Rom 8.38: pe/peismai ga_r o3tiou1te a!ggeloi ou1te a)rxaiou1te duna&meij] of the cosmos).  And he doesn’t even say “don’t participate in the offerings”, but instead issues a warning (paraphrased):  “If you do this, be careful that someone without as much knowledge (more of that mystery-religion language) in Christ (probably referring to a level of initiation–someone who is not yet ‘fully mature’ [as in 1 Cor 2.6-8: te/leioi] or able to understand) as you have might fall prey to the thinking that you are following these idols as Gods.”

The double-voice here is the valuing of a single God in the mix of many, wherein Paul’s “Jewishness” is coming through his rather Greek mystery language.  The danger in assuming monotheism here is it devalues this double-voice and in essence builds a fictional concept of cultural conflict.  We all might hate The Jersey Shore television show, find them all quite annoying, but that doesn’t stop us from dressing up our kids like the cast and tuning in to watch it.  Social conflict exists certainly (well, there was a war after all), but to the extent that there was some sort of “Greek/Roman” vs. “Jew” mentality during this period, at least across the board, makes little sense.  And whatever that conflict was, it did not stop Paul from writing, even while he was in custody (assuming that he was actually imprisoned and killed by the Romans–it might just be tradition after all)!

So is Paul monotheistic?  Certainly he is, but certainly he is not.  The answer, from an ancient socio-cultural perspective, isn’t as simple as ‘yes’ and ‘no’; anachronistically, the answer is a definite ‘no’.  But in an ancient context, with the recognition of the play of the mythic mind?  The answer is going to be a cloudy one, at best.

Richard Carrier Blogs on Pauline Interpolations

This blog was quite interesting and I am glad I took the time to read it.  I believe you will enjoy it as well.

In the New Testament, at least two passages have been interpolated into the letters of Paul: 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Today I’ll present the evidence for this conclusion that most experts have long known about, but most laymen never hear.

For those not savvy to the study of ancient manuscripts (called textual criticism), an “interpolation” is a word or passage that was added to a text after it was written and disseminated, added of course by someone not the author, who wished to pass off that “interpolated” text as being by the author (or, often times, this insertion happens by accident–but that didn’t happen here). We have hundreds and hundreds of examples of interpolations in the Biblical manuscripts (most of which you don’t hear about because they are so obviously interpolations that they aren’t in your bibles but were deleted by modern scholars, or never got in because our bibles came from only one of many lines of the textual tradition, each line interpolating its own words and passages like crazy). For examples and discussion (and books to consult) see my slideshow (PDF) for the Carrier-Holding debate.

via Richard Carrier Blogs.

That was only a snippet.  Go on, go read the rest!

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