Paul and co-workers

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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gal 2:18; 1:8; 5:11 and the rumour that Paul is preaching circumcision

Here I will argue that in Gal 2:18 Paul is (amongst other things) denying the rumour that he has returned to preaching circumcision.

Gal 2:18-21 Gal 5:11 Gal 1:8
18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, εἰ γὰρ ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ, But my friends, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you
then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.
let that one be accursed!
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

The majority of commentators agree that "the very things" in 2:18 refers to Law observance in some sense, at least for Gentiles. Paul is then saying "If I build up Law observance, which I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor." Now, this sounds very much like Gal 1:8 and Gal 5:11, as can be seen in the table. All three texts bring up the scenario of Paul preaching circumcision/Law observance, and all three have the form of a condition - an "if" statement. Paul's discussion of the crucifixion of Christ in 2:19-21 parallels his mention of the cross in 5:11b. Furthermore, the words "then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor" in 2:18b parallel "let that one be accursed" in 1:8b. These parallels demand that the texts be interpreted together.

Both 2:18 and 5:11 are first class conditions. The protasis in first class conditions is frequently a statement believed by the audience, but not by the writer/speaker (e.g. 1 Cor 15:13). It is never a purely hypothetical statement believed by neither the writer nor his audience, as far as I can see. For a complete list of NT first class conditions, see Ruben Videira-Soengas. So, either Paul or the Galatians believe that he is building up Law observance again, and that he is now preaching circumcision. Since Paul did not believe these things, it follows that at least some of the Galatians did. So, in 2:18, as in 5:11 Paul is opposing the rumour that he supports Law observance/circumcision. This is a new proposal, I think, and I anticipate four possible objections:
1. "Paul's opposition to circumcision would have been clear to all, so no Galatians could have believed that he was now supporting circumcision."
Paul had delivered the decisions of the Jerusalem church leaders, confirming Gentile liberty (Acts 16:4). He had acted as a messenger, and a messenger (apostle) was expected to deliver his message whether he approved of it or not. The Galatians had no way of knowing whether Paul's support for Gentile liberty was genuine or whether he had merely been trying to please the Jerusalem church leaders. It seems that the agitators proposed the latter. I have argued this in detail here.
2. "The "I" in 2:18 could ever to Peter rather than to Paul."
This seems unlikely since Peter has not been named since 2:14 and it would be difficult for the Galatians to realize that Pal is referring to Peter here. Also, why would Paul not simply name Peter here? It has been suggested that Paul is being diplomatic by alluding to Peter indirectly using the first person singular, but if Gal 2:11-14 is about Peter, it is hardly diplomatic towards him!
3. "The "I" in 2:18 could refer to the Galatian addressees, rather than to Paul."
It is, of course, possible that Paul is offering himself as an example for the Galatians to follow, and that he wants them each individually to identify with the "I" (Gal 4:12). However, it is unlikely that the "I" does not include Paul here. When Paul uses building metaphors, as he does in Gal 2:18, he is invariably talking about the building of the community, rather than about individualistic convictions. He uses οἰκοδομέῶ at Rom 15:20; 1 Cor 8:1, 10; 10:23” 14:4, 17; Gal 2:18; 1 Thess 5:11 and οἰκοδομή appears at 1 Cor 3:9; 14:3, 5, 12, 26; 2 Cor 5:1; 10:8; 12:19; 13:10; as well as Eph 2:21; 4:12, 16, 29. In each case the metaphor is for the building up of others in the community. Therefore we should paraphrase 2:18 “If I again build up a community based on Law observance, which is the very thing that I once tore down, …”. This makes perfect sense if Paul is the “I”, since he is the architect of the communities that he forms. But it is hard to see how the “I” could refer to the Galatians. It would need to represent each Galatian acting individually (otherwise why not use second person plural), but this is tension with the fact that the metaphor is about mutual up-building.
4. "You are mirror-reading Gal 1:8; 2:18; and 5:11 and mirrors can be placed at all sorts of angles. Could it not be coincidence that these texts can be seen as Paul's denials of a rumour that he was preaching circumcision?"
My method has controls. In Paul’s other letters there is no text that can be read as a denial that he preached Law observance. Such texts appear 4 times (Gal 1:8; 2:5, 18; 5:11) and only in the letter written to the province where he had circumcised a disciple. This is surely no coincidence.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Review of Douglas Campbell's "Framing Paul"

This book aims to decide which letters were written by Paul and to deduce their sequence and provenance. This is an important quest, and Campbell is right to note that chronological matters get insufficient attention (pxvi-xvii).

Correct methodology in this quest is obviously to take all the evidence into account. On any issue the data has to be weighed according to their relevance and according to the reliability of their sources. Reconstructing the history behind Paul's letters therefore requires an evaluation of the reliability of each source document. This is an iterative process in which we must continually re-assess our estimates of the reliability of the sources by judging them against our evolving reconstructed history. No source can be dismissed at the outset.

Unfortunately Campbell does not realize this and proceeds with a flawed methodology that he inherited from Knox. He (rightly) keeps an open mind about the disputed letters:
we cannot  at the outset simply exclude as an obvious matter any letters bearing Paul's name. We must make a case for exclusion with respect to each putative Pauline letter; epistolary data is in effect innocent until proved guilty. (p25)
yet he arbitrarily dismisses Acts with a wave of the hand:
the data concerning Paul in the book of Acts, the second principal historical reservoir for his life, is something of an unknown quantity. We do not know who wrote Acts, when, where, or - perhaps most importantly - why. (p20)
The Acts data is initially opaque, irrespective of what we make of Paul. It could be spun out of thin air, for all we know. (p21)
He then proceeds to build his reconstruction using only Paul's letters, which provide insufficient data on many issues.
We will rely on slender snippets of evidence in what follows, because that is all we have - occasional and fragmentary remains of conversations that took place millennia ago. But we do have evidence, and it will not do to dismiss parts of the following reconstruction with a generic claim that "this is insufficient" or "there is still not enough evidence." If this is the evidence that we have and it explains the data in the best existing fashion, then the correct scientific conclusion must be to endorse it and not to complain that we need more data that unfortunately does not exist. (p18)
Campbell's conclusion here is a non-sequator and is obviously false. We should not endorse any conclusion that relies on nothing more than slender snippets of evidence. Yet Campbell does just that throughout the book, building speculation on speculation. However, Paul has left us clear statements on some matters, such as the sequence in which he evangelized the towns of Macedonia and Achaia, and his final voyage around the Aegean. Campbell does a good job at reconstructing these events, as others have done. The fact that Acts scores highly when assessed against these events should give Campbell pause and prompt him to re-consider his dismissal of Acts. Unfortunately he does not make any assessment of Acts and hardly refers to it at all. This left me feeling cheated that I had paid good money for a half finished work.

I very much enjoyed Campbell's demolition of the very common view that Paul visited Corinth and wrote the tearful letter between 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. It is odd that he does not equate Titus with Timothy.

He accepts the conventional view that Paul wrote Romans during his last visit to Corinth. He assumes that the letter was read to the Corinthian believers before it was sent and he suggests that Paul wrote much of the contents of the letter with the Corinthian church in mind. In the same way he proposes that Paul's call for the Philippians to unite was intended more for the Corinthians, to whom he read the letter before sending it.  He also believes that most of Gal 5:13-6:10 was inappropriate for Paul's Galatian audience, but was written primarily to be read to the Corinthians before the letter was dispatched. Thus Campbell arguments that Philippians and Galatians were written from Corinth during Paul's last stay there. Clearly there could be all sorts of theories about letters being written in part to be heard by the communities where they may have been written, and I am concerned that Campbell does not apply proper controls. More importantly I was unconvinced by the concept. If I need help doing the dishes I ask my children directly. I do not write a letter to my sister, urging her to do the dishes, and then read that letter to my children! Campbell does not explain why Paul would communicate to the Corinthians using letters to other churches rather than just talk to them directly. Nor does he explain why Paul would expose himself to ridicule in Galatian by writing things to them that did apply.

His other main argument for placing Philippians (and Galatians) shortly before Romans is that he sees Judaizing opponents in these letters. This is one of Campbell's slenderest snippets of evidence since it rests on the assumption that the Judaizing movement within the Church loomed large at only one time.

In 2 Cor 8 Paul sends collection delegates to Corinth, and this tells us that the plan was for Paul and the collection delegates to travel from Corinth to Judea without returning to Macedonia. If Philippians was written at this time we would have to suppose that Paul changed his mind and decided that both he and Timothy would return to Macedonia. Also, Campbell does not explain why, on his chronology, there is no mention of the collection in Philippians.

Campbell argues persuasively that Gal 2:10 is a reference to the collection of money from Galatia for Judea. He uses a line of reasoning that Hurtado put forward back in 1976, but does not cite his work. He then assumes, without argument, that the collection from Galatia was intended to be at the same time as the collection from Macedonia and Achaia. His main argument for diverging from the Acts chronology, and for placing Galatians late, hangs on this unexamined assumption.  Nor does he explain why Galatians contains no encouragement to the Galatians to give generously, and no expression of disappointment at their failure to give.

It is disappointing that Campbell does not engage with Carlson's work on Gal 2:12, even though he surely must have known about it. Instead he opts (implausibly) for Leudemann's view that the Antioch incident took place before the Jerusalem visit of Gal 2:1-10. It is also disappointing that Campbell assumes that letter carriers read the letters that they delivered, even though Peter Head (who has studied the issue in detail) has told him that there is no evidence for this.

Like most commentators, he places 1 Thessalonians  soon after Paul's first visit to Thessalonica. Strangely, he says that it was written from Athens. Others (e.g. Donfried and Witherington) have pointed out that if it was written from Athens Paul would have written "left alone here" instead of "left alone in Athens" in 1 Thess 3:1.

Campbell places Colossians and Philemon very early suggests that they were written not far from Colossae. His reasoning is this:
Moreover, the letter (Philemon) presupposes an effective founding visit from some member of the Pauline mission. But Paul himself sends no greetings from the local "brothers"at his location, so he does not seem himself to be imprisoned at the site of a successful mission; no local christian seems to be named besides itinerant members of his circle of coworkers. (p256. See also p261).
This is very weak. People send greetings to those they know. The greeters in Philemon (and Colossians if genuine) are all itinerant co-workers because it is the itinerant co-workers who had visited the addressees. The absence of local believers among the greeters means only that Philemon had not visited a church in the town where Paul was being held. It does not mean that there was no church in that town. Campbell's early dating of Philemon and Colossians is therefore without evidence.

Campbell judges Paul to be the author of  Colossians, Ephesians, and 2 Thessalonians. I don't have much to say about his arguments and I am not an expert on this issue. He feels that many of the arguments for pseudonymity have been over-stated. I wonder, however, whether he over-corrects and ends up giving insufficient weight to those arguments.

He judges the Pastoral Epistles to be pseudonymous. It is refreshing that, unlike some others, he does not seek to give the author the benefit of every doubt on the historical accuracy of the contents. For me, his chapter on the PE was the most valuable. His discussion of the author's knowledge (or lack of it) of "Titus" and "Timothy" was particularly inlightening.

While my review of the book is rather negative, it has to be said that I am hard to please when it comes to books on NT chronology. If I have been overly critical please let me know in the comments.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reconciling 1 Thess 3:1-2 with Acts 17:14-15

Here I will argue that 1 Thess 3:1-2 has been misinterpreted and that Acts is right that Paul and Timothy were never together in Athens. Here are the texts:

1 Thess
3:1 Διὸ μηκέτι στέγοντες εὐδοκήσαμεν καταλειφθῆναι ἐν Ἀθήναις μόνοι,
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens;

3:2 καὶ ἐπέμψαμεν Τιμόθεον, τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν καὶ συνεργὸν τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳτοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἰς τὸ στηρίξαι ὑμᾶς καὶ παρακαλέσαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν
and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker of God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith,

3:3 so that  no one would be shaken by these persecutions.  ...

3:5 διὰ τοῦτο κἀγὼ μηκέτι στέγων ἔπεμψα εἰς τὸ γνῶναι τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν,
For this reason, when I could bear it no longer I sent to find out about your faith;

Acts
17:14 Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind.

17:15 οἱ δὲ καθιστάνοντες τὸν Παῦλον ἤγαγον ἕως Ἀθηνῶν, καὶ λαβόντες ἐντολὴν πρὸςτὸν Σιλᾶν καὶ τὸν Τιμόθεον ἵνα ὡς τάχιστα ἔλθωσιν πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐξῄεσαν. 
Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.

17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, ...

18:5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, ...


It is almost invariably assumed that 1 Thess 3:1-2 implies that Paul and Timothy had been in Athens at the same time. This would indeed be in tension with Acts, which says that Timothy stayed behind in Beroea. I propose the following explanation:

Paul and some believers from Beroea travelled to Athens while Timothy and Silas stayed in Beroea. In Athens Paul sent the Beroean believers back to Berea. He was anxious to hear news of the Thessalonian believers so he asked these Beroeans to tell Timothy "come to me soon and visit Thessalonica on the way". Thus, it was these Beroeans who carried the message that sent Timothy to Thessalonica. Their early departure from Athens meant that Paul would be alone there, but it also meant that Paul would soon hear news about the fate of the Thessalonian church. It is this dilemma that Paul describes in 1 Thess 3:3-5. The timing of the return of Paul's Beroean companions to Beroea was determined by Paul's anxiety about Thessalonica.

This explanation creates no conflict between 1 Thess and Acts and has the advantage of parsimony. It adds no events that are in neither text and it adds little to either. Indeed, the only detail missing from Acts is Paul's request to Timothy to make a detour via Thessalonica.

The usual understanding of 1 Thess has Timothy travel to Athens and then make an additional round trip between Athens and Thessalonica. According to ORBIS this round trip by sea was 1080 km, and cost 195 denarii. This is about 6 months wages for a labourer. Paul had to work to earn his keep and this was time that he would surely have rather spent preaching. The missionaries did not have money to spare. It seems unlikely that the team would have chosen to pay for Timothy to make an unnecessary journey back to Thessalonica from Athens. It was more rational for Timothy to stay behind in Macedonia and plan to join Paul latter. The usual interpretation of 1 Thess 3:1-2 has difficulty explaining why Timothy did not visit Thessalonica before leaving Macedonia instead of returning to Thessalonica from Athens.

I anticipate three possible objections:

1. There is nothing in 1 Thess 3:1-2 to suggest that Timothy was not with Paul when Paul sent him to Thessalonica so we can assume that he was. However, this line of reasoning assumes that Paul wrote to record the movements of Timothy. When reading Paul's letters it is easy to forget that they were written for people who knew much more of the background than we do. The audience of 1 Thessalonians already knew the movements of Paul and Timothy. Paul's purpose in writing 1 Thess 3:1-5 was not to record Timothy's journeys but to stress that he (Paul) had been worried about the Thessalonian believers.

2. Acts 17:5 says that Timothy's instructions were to come to Paul ταχέως (as soon as possible). Is this consistent with a detour via Thessalonica? Yes it is. Beroea was only 73 km from Thessalonica, which was the largest city in Macedonia and would be a suitable port from which to find a boat to Athens. Also, the Greek word ταχέως simply means "soon" or "quickly" and does not mean "immediately" in a modern north European sense. In 1 Cor 4:19 Paul says "I will come to you soon (ταχέως)" even though he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost and then make a long detour to Macedonia before travelling to Corinth (1 Cor 16:5-8).

3. Some commentators take the plural verbs in 1 Thess 3:1-2 to refer to Paul and Silas. However, Paul uses the first person singular in 1 Thess 3:5 so, unless he is being inconsistent, he must be using a rhetorical plural in 1 Thess 3:1-2.

I am not the first to suggest that Timothy was never with Paul in Athens. Karl Donfried (Paul, Thessalonica and Early Christianity, 2002, p214) cites Dobschütz [1909] and Rigaux [1956] and writes,
In other words: Paul may have sent Timothy back to Thessalonica either while they were still together in Berea or after Paul arrived in Athens. With regard to the latter, it is possible that those who accompanied Paul from Beroea to Athens (Acts 17.15) presented to Timothy, upon their return, Paul's request. Of these two options, we prefer the former since the latter suggests, dubiously, that Paul had received some new information in Athens.
I don't understand why Donfried thinks that Paul would have had to have received new information in Athens. Paul's anxiety about persecutions in Thessalonica would have been heightened by the arrival of Thessalonian opponents in Beroea (Acts 17:13-14). Persecution from these opponents was enough to force Paul's departure to Athens, so Paul would certainly have worried that these same opponents were persecuting the Thessalonian believers. This worry would have continued to trouble Paul in Athens in the absence of new information. 1 Thess 3:1"when we could bear it no longer" implies such a sustained period of anxiety.

Donfried's preference that Paul sent Timothy to Thessalonica from Beroea is unlikely. Paul says that the sending of Timothy resulted in him (Paul) being left alone in Athens. However, the sending of Timothy from Beroea to Thessalonica need not have resulted in Paul being alone in Athens: Paul's Beroean companions or Silas could have stayed with Paul in Athens until Timothy arrived. Furthermore, Paul writes "when I could bear it no longer I sent to find out about your faith" (3:5), but on Donfried's reconstruction he had to bear it for a lot longer anyway. Paul's words make little sense if the interval between the sending of Timothy and Timothy's return to Paul in Corinth with news of Thessalonica (Acts 18:5) was longer than the period of Paul's anxiety about the Thessalonians prior to the sending of Timothy. This makes it unlikely that the sending of Timothy was as early in the sequence as Donfried's preferred option requires.

Others, on the assumption that Timothy was in Athens when Paul sent him, suggest that Acts got it wrong. However, this is special pleading in light of all the details that Acts gets right in this time period (and at other times). Both Acts and 1 Thess have Paul visit Athens after Thessalonica. In both texts Paul has reason to be concerned about persecution in Thessalonica at that time. Both have Paul spending time alone in Athens. Both have Paul eagerly wanting to meet with Timothy. Both have Paul, Silas/Silvanus and Timothy back together later (1 Thess 1:1; Acts 18:5).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Craig Keener on Crispus-Sosthenes

Craig Keener, in his Acts commentary, mentions the theory that Sosthenes was Crispus (p2683, 2749, 2776) and he cites my own work. He writes,
Since Crispus was an early convert (1 Cor 1:14), Sosthenes also seems a believer (1:1), and both are described by Luke as "synagogue rulers" (Acts 18:8, 17), it is possible that these are two names for the same person (allowing frustrated members of the synagogue community to beat their former leader Crispus in 18:17). This proposal is ultimately unlikely, however; why would Luke change names without an explanation connecting them? (That Paul likewise uses both names reinforces the objection.)
Keener here considers the Crispus-Sosthenes hypothesis but raises the superficial objection that Luke does not explicitly identify them. In this post I will answer Keener's objection using his own observations.

If Luke expected his readers to already know that Sosthenes was Crispus then he would have no reason to state the fact. Keener argues that the audience of Acts already knew James (2241), Jason (2533, 2549), probably Alexander (2869) and possibly Tyrannus (2829). Indeed, he believes that Sosthenes was known to Luke (2779). It is therefore odd that Keener does not explore the possibility that the audience of Acts knew Crispus-Sosthenes. The little that we know about him suggests that he may well have become well known throughout the Aegean churches. He was the synagogue ruler and therefore high status. Many in Corinth had come to the faith under his influence (Acts 18:8), and his name, "Sosthenes" (saving strength), reminded everyone that Paul had honoured him for the part that he had played in the formation of the church. He was so well respected in Corinth that Paul cited his endorsement of the contents of 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 1:1). He had been with Paul in Corinth for 18 months and in Ephesus for perhaps 2 years. We know of no other person in the Aegean region who had spend more time with Paul. He had the wealth to travel among the Aegean churches and his fame would have been spread by 1 Corinthians itself when the letter was copied. It is not at all surprising that Luke's audience, which was likely the Aegean churches (see here and here), knew Crispus-Sosthenes.

There is also a good reason why Luke would have wanted to avoid explicitly identifying Sosthenes as Crispus. Throughout his commentary Keener is acutely aware of the fact that Luke presented the faith as unthreatening to Rome. Indeed, on Acts 18:12-17 he writes,
Although Gallio as an actor within the narrative was not trying to provide an apologetic for Paul or his movement, this is de facto how his response functions in the larger context of Acts' apologetic. As soon as a governor's verdict was read out, it was recorded in the province's official proceedings. Because he was a governor and not a local judge (like Thessalonica's politarchs, Acts 17:6-8), Gallio's decision could have far-reaching implications. It would establish a favorable precedent for the Christians ....  Luke's marshaling of such precedents would provide Christians with a sense of security and perhaps evidence they could use to respond against slanders in the public arena. (2773-4)
If Luke had explicitly equated Sosthenes with Crispus the text would not have provided the Christians with such a positive precedent that they could bring before Roman officials. Gallio had allowed the Jews to beat a Christian benefactor and this is hardly the kind of precedent that Luke wanted to publicize. Luke's purposes were served by his silence about the identity of Sosthenes.

Keener also objects that 1 Cor 1:1 calls him "Sosthenes", whereas Cor 1:14 calls him "Crispus". However, in 1 Cor 1:1 Paul is appealing to the authority of Sosthenes so it unsurprising that he should use the name that honoured him. In 1 Cor 1:14 Paul is wanting to avoid any hint that being baptized by him is a point of honour, and perhaps for that reason he uses his ordinary name, "Crispus". In any case, 1 Cor 1:14 refers to a time before Crispus was given the name "Sosthenes".

Finally, Keener makes a point that supports the Crispus-Sosthenes hypothesis:
We know of food shortages close to 51C.E., and these often contributed to instability ... The schism in the Jewish community had, among other things, caused rancour and divided the community's patrons and resources at a time when it could ill afford the division (after Claudius's expulsion in 18:2). (2765)
This economic hardship explains why the Jews beat their benefactor, who had defected to the Christians.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Craig Keener on the identity of Titus and Timothy

On page 2320 of his Acts commentary, Craig Keener discusses the hypothesis that Titus was Timothy, and expresses some hesitations in his characteristically cautious style. He refers to my 2001 paper, but he is presumably unaware of the ways that I have developed the hypothesis since then. His comments are the fullest defence of the two-person hypothesis printed in English and they give me useful feedback concerning how the Titus-Timothy hypothesis is being viewed. In this blog post I duplicate Keener's words (indented) and try to respond to his concerns.
How could Paul battle circumcisionists in Acts 15:1-2 (on the Lukan literary level) and struggle with Barnabas and contend for Titus's freedom (Gal 2:3-5, 13, on the historical level), then circumcise Timothy afterward? This would become a genuine contradiction only if we argue that Timothy is Titus, 233 and given the sequence, not necessarily even then.
Yes, the non-circumcision of Titus in Gal 2:3 was before the circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3.
233 Fellows, "Titus," skillfully defends the identification of Timothy and Titus (developing a suggestion by Borse, "Timotheus und Titus," 34). Some evidence supports this position's plausibility: Apart from 2 Tim 4:10, which Fellows can discount as later misinformation ("Titus," 35-36), Timothy and Titus do not appear together. Certainly, this argument would also resolve why "Titus" does not appear in Acts.
Yes, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis explains why "Titus" does not appear in Acts. Keener ponders this problem also on pages 242, 2862, 2947, 2954, 2958. The strongest arguments for the Titus-Timothy hypothesis, however, are found in the Corinthian correspondence, where it allows us to greatly simplify the sequence of events without duplications or multiple changes of travel plans. Keener does not discuss this.
Also, "Titos" would make a good nickname, a useful shortened form for "Timotheos."
Against Borse, I do not see Titus as a nickname or a shortened form for "Timothy". I think Titus was his praenomen from birth. "Timothy" could have been his cognomen from birth, but I now think it more likely that it was a new name that was given to him to reflect his role in the church (like Simon-Peter or Crispus-Sosthenes). New names often did have a phonetic similarity to the original name, and "Timothy" has an appropriate meaning (honouring God). No NT name is more appropriate for Titus than "Timothy".
Against it would be the oddity of changing names for a person without explanation, even in same letter (2 Cor 1:1, 19 for "Timothy", and thereafter "Titus," e.g., 2:13), though this sometimes occurred (even in Gal 1:18; 2:7-11, 14; Fellows, "Titus," 34-35). Moreover, "Titus" was not a particularly rare name (e.g., 2 Macc 11:34; it appears 201 times in Josephus, but this is because of Vespasian's son); "Titius" in Acts 18:7 is closer to "Titus" than "Timothy" is, yet most do not link them.
Every time that Paul uses the name "Timothy" he is appealing to Timothy's authority, and this raises the possibility that Paul calls him something else in other contexts. Co-senders are included to endorse the contents of the letters (see Fulton's PhD thesis), so Paul is appealing to Timothy's authority at 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Phlm 1:1. Similarly in 1 Cor 4:17 and Phil 2:19-22 Paul is setting up Timothy as an example for his readers to follow. At 1 Cor 16:10 and arguably 1 Thess 2:2-6 Paul is bolstering Timothy's authority, and he is appealing to his authority also in 2 Cor 1:19. In Rom 16:21-23 he must use the names by which the greeters were best known.

 "Titus", on the other hand, was a praenomen, and praenomina were used among intimate friends and family. In 2 Corinthians, in the context of Titus's recent and forthcoming visits to Corinth, Paul is wanting to emphasize that Titus and the Corinthians had a close and affectionate relationship (2 Cor 7:13, 15; 8:16-17). Presumably Paul is trying to secure that close relationship, perhaps because the success of the collection depended on it. In this context the praenomen is appropriate. By using the praenomen, "Titus", Paul implies that Titus-Timothy considered himself to have a warm relationship with the Corinthians, and that is exactly what Paul wanted to emphasize. Paul's switch between "Timothy" and "Titus" would not have created ambiguity for the original audience, of course, since they would have known him by both names and they would have known his movements and they would have known that there was no other envoy that Paul could be referring to.

Timothy had been circumcised in Galatia and Paul did not want the Galatians to follow Timothy's example. When discussing Timothy in his letter to the Galatians, Paul therefore avoids honouring Titus-Timothy with the name "Timothy". He therefore calls him "Titus" instead, which is appropriate since they knew him well.

So, the name selections are consistent: When Paul wants his audience to follow Titus-Timothy's example, he calls him "Timothy". When he wants to emphasize the warm relationship between Titus-Timothy and his audience, he calls him "Titus".
The thesis is certainly plausible, but given the uncertainty of the positive evidence, whether it is the likeliest solution depends partly on how much one thinks that the author of the Pastorals knew. I favour accurate information in the Pastorals about distinct persons more than Fellows does, believing that the concrete tradition in 2 Tim 4:10 may reflect traditional assumptions about  their distinct identities within living memory of Timothy;
When reading 2 Corinthians, it is natural for readers (other than the original audience) to assume that Titus was a different person from Timothy (see Keener's earlier comment). 2 Corinthians could therefore have led the pastor to assume that there was a Titus who was not Timothy (even if he knew that Timothy's praenomen was Titus). It is possible that there were two Titus's but, for me, it is more likely that the pastor made an understandable mistake. Now, 2 Tim 4:10 reads, "for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia; Titus to Dalmatia." Commentators are too kind to "Titus" here, perhaps because of a pro-Gentile bias. The text is ambiguous about whether Titus had deserted Paul, and such ambiguity would not be fair on Titus if in fact he had gone to Dalmatia on Paul's instructions. My suggestion is that Titus never existed (as a person separate from Timothy) and that therefore no-one in the pastor's community had heard anything about him (other than what they read in 2 Cor and Gal). The pastor than wrote 2 Tim 4:10 to explain why no-one knew anything further about him: he had deserted to Dalmatia where no churches were established. 2 Tim 4:10 has verisimilitude if "Titus" was remembered only as a name in 2 Cor and Gal.
the evidence of Acts 16:3 is also against this speculation, since the author belongs to the Pauline circle and, on my view of authorship (see Keener, Acts, 1:402-16, and comment on Acts 16:10), would have known Timothy and presumably whether or not Paul had him circumcised.
I fully agree that the author of Acts was a companion of Paul and had good information. Indeed, the Titus-Timothy hypothesis supports the historical accuracy of Acts. I admit that the uninformed reader would not necessarily infer from Gal 2:3-5 that Titus was circumcised, but the original audience was not uninformed. Paul did not need to tell them that he circumcised Timothy because they already knew. The issue at the time of writing was not whether Timothy had been circumcised, but how his circumcision should be interpreted.

Acts 16:1-3 suggests that Paul would have let Timothy pass himself off as a circumcised Jew if people did not already know that he was uncircumcised (see my last post), and Gal 5:11-12 hints that the Galatians had misunderstood the circumcision of Timothy and concluded that Paul had come over to the agitators' position. Gal 2:4-5 works well as Paul's correction of the Galatians' interpretation of the circumcision of Timothy. Here Paul implies that the circumcision of Timothy occurred only because the false brothers found out that Timothy was uncircumcised. He then emphasizes that his circumcision of Timothy did not indicate that he had yielded to the agitators. In short, Gal 2:3-5 is just the sort of thing that we would expect Paul to write about Timothy to the region where he was circumcised.

Keener (p2954-5) makes the suggestion that Titus may have been Gaius of Derbe (Acts 20:4). This is highly unlikely since both "Titus" and "Gaius" were common Latin praenomina. It was very rare for someone to have two such names.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Acts 16:3 confirms that Luke was a Jew

Here I argue that Acts 16:3 makes best sense if the author took it for granted that his audience knew that Christian missionaries had to be circumcised to be effective. This is one of a series of posts arguing that all Christian missionaries were Jews in Paul's day.

Acts 16:1-3 reads:
1 Paul went on also to Derby and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
τοῦτον ἠθέλησεν  Παῦλος σὺν αὐτῷ ἐξελθεῖν, καὶ λαβὼν περιέτεμεν αὐτὸν διὰ τοὺςἸουδαίους τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις, ᾔδεισαν γὰρ ἅπαντες ὅτι Ελλην ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ὑπῆρχεν.
 After deciding to recruit Timothy to his mission team, Paul had three options
1. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and present him as uncircumcised in the mission field.
2. Leave Timothy uncircumcised and let others assume that he was circumcised. This was a real option (see b. Yev 45a-b and see here).
3. Circumcised Timothy.

At first sight it seems odd (to us) that Paul should circumcise Timothy soon after winning an agreement that circumcision is not necessary (Acts 15). We can assume that Acts 16:3 explains this apparent contradiction, at least to the satisfaction of the intended audience.

In Acts 16:3 Luke gives two reasons why Paul chose option 3.
(i) He wanted Timothy to accompany him.
(ii) The Jews in those places all knew that Timothy's father was a Greek.

Luke accompanied Paul and Timothy on the second missionary journey. Most commentators assume  that Luke was a Gentile (and that Titus remained uncircumcised). If this were the case, then being a circumcised Jew was not a necessary qualification for being an effective missionary partner on the second missionary journey. So, if Luke was a Gentile (and was presented as such), then reason (i) was insufficient to rule out option 1. On the assumption that Luke was a Gentile, most commentators then conclude that Acts must be saying that option 1 is ruled out by a combination of reasons (i) and (ii), and that option 2 is not considered. They suppose that the Jews tolerated Luke, an uncircumcised Gentile, but would not have tolerated an uncircumcised son of a Jewish woman. This is problematic, not least because the text does not say "they all knew that his mother was a Jew". It says that they all knew that his father was a Greek. Furthermore it is not clear that an uncircumcised son of a Jewish women would have been any more objectionable to anyone than an uncircumcised son of two Gentile parents, since matrilineal descent did not pertain in the first century.

If, on the other hand, Luke was a Jew (see my recent posts), then all of Paul's missionary partners were circumcised (Barnabas, Mark, Silas, Timothy, and Luke). This then raises the possibility that Luke expected his audience to know that Paul's missionary partners had to be circumcised (to be able to have effective ministries in synagogues). We can assume that the audience of Acts knew much more than we do about the required qualification of Christian missionaries in their day. This allows a very different understanding of how Acts 16:3 explains why Paul circumcised Timothy: Luke wrote reason a) to explain why Paul did not choose option 1, and he wrote b) to explain why Paul did not choose option 2. That is to say, Luke wrote "Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him" and the readers knew at that point that it would be necessary for Timothy to at least pass as a Jew. He then wrote "for they all knew that his father was a Greek", which implies that they all knew that Timothy was uncircumcised. Luke wrote this to show that Paul would have let uncircumcised Timothy pass as circumcised (option 2) if people had not already known that he was uncircumcised. Thus Luke communicates that the circumcision of Timothy was not ideological but was merely expedient.

To sum up, in Paul's lifetime his missionary partners would not have been effective in their work if others knew that they were uncircumcised (whatever their parentage). Timothy could not pass himself off as a circumcised Jew because the Jews already knew that his father was a Greek and that therefore  he was uncircumcised.

For me, this understanding of Acts 16:3 is confirmed by Gal 2:3-5
But not even Titus, who with me was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us - we did not submit to them even for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.
I infer from this that the circumcision of Titus (who was also called Timothy) had been misunderstood. The Galatians thought it indicated that Paul had yielded to the position of the agitators, but Paul points out that it was only because the agitators had, by spying, found out that Titus-Timothy's father was a Greek. For more on Titus-Timothy, see here.



Sunday, December 28, 2014

Craig Keener on whether Luke was Lucius (Rom 16:23)

In Keener's judgment the Lucius of Rom 16:21 is probably different from the Luke of Phlm 24; Col 4:14. See, for example, p412 n66. His reasons are as follows:

1. Whereas Lucius was a Jew, Keener (p404) thinks that Col 4:11,14 favours Luke being a Gentile. However, in my last post I argued that Col 4:11, 14 confirms that Luke was a Jew.

2. Following Fitzmyer, Keener points out that the name is spelled differently in Rom 16:23 than in Phlm 24; Col 4:14 (p404 n17). However, this is not surprising. "Luke" is a hypocoristic form of the name "Lucius" and hypocoristic name-forms abound in Philemon and Colossians (Epaphras, Demas), perhaps because the greeters had visited Colossae and had a close relationship with the believers there. Romans, on the other hand, was not written to a city that the greeters had visited, so familiar, abbreviated name-forms would not be appropriate. The greeters had, on their travels, met some believers who subsequently moved to Rome, but they had not met the majority of the audience. Thus Sosipater has his full name-form in Rom 16:21, and the shortened form, Sopater, in Acts 20:4.

3. Keener (p1987n52) notes the view of e.g. Dunn that someone as important as the Lucius of Acts 13:1 would be given a fuller description than that given to the Lucius of Rom 16:21. However, Dunn overlooks the importance of name order. In the list of Greeters, Lucius is named second only to Timothy. This suggests that he had travelled extensively among the churches for many years and had thereby met many who had moved to Rome. It seems that he knew more members of the church of Rome than any of the greeters except Timothy. His position in the list shows that he was prominent and his absence from Acts would be surprising (unless he is the author).

4. Keener correctly argued that Luke may have been present for events where he does not use "we" (as well as events where he does use "we") (p2363-74). However, he back-slides from this conclusion on pages 1987, 2531, 2957, and 2954 where he writes,
Paul there[in Rom 16:21] lists greetings from his coworkers, mentioning Timothy, Lucius (possibly but not necessarily our Luke; the "we" resumes only in Acts 20:5)
But the original plan was for Paul and his companions to sail to Syria directly from Achaia, so it is highly likely that the author of acts assembled, with the others, in Achaia. We should therefore expect to find his name in Rom 16:21-23 since he would know many of the members of the church of Rome. Keener avoids the problem by suggesting, without evidence, that Luke changed his mind about whether to accompany the collection. Keener (p2958) writes,
This may have been a late decision based on Paul's change of course; Macedonia's contribution was complete (cf. 20:3), and Luke could have planned to stay on in Philippi until he learned that Paul was passing through Macedonia en route to Jerusalem. 
This is a desperate move by Keener. Luke had long known about the collection, for Paul had passed through Macedonia on his way to Achaia. Why would Luke decide not to participate in the journey, and then change his mind later?

In conclusion, Keener's tentative decision to distinguish between Lucius and Luke is not well founded.

My own earlier post arguing that Lucius was Luke and also the author of Acts is here.