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, 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, http://www.thepaulpage.com/reinventing-paul-3/

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 http://paulandco-workers.blogspot.ca/2011/10/how-acts-explains-galatians.html">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: http://jamestabor.com/2012/11/05/did-christianity-begin-with-a-bribe-a-new-film-on-paul-a-polite-bribe-probes-the-question/ 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.

http://apolitebribe.com/a-polite-bribe-sensationalized-hype-or-expert-opinion/

For a historian’s background to the conflict, see also Catholic Historian & Author of the History of Christianity, http://apolitebribe.com/excerpts/pauljohnsonexcerpt/

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!

11 comments:

  1. Robert, thanks for these detailed comments. Before making specific points, I would like to make some general observations. The arguments that you put forward for a gulf between Paul and the Jerusalem church on the issue of gentiles are indeed supported by many scholars. My criticisms of your writings are therefore really criticisms of theirs.
    a) There is a tendency to fit all data into the pre-conceived theory, giving too much weight to circumstantial evidence that is open to other interpretations.
    b) There is a lot of cherry picking, while counter evidence (which I have not discussed here) is ignored. Attempts are made to support the theory using Acts, but Acts is dismissed when it clearly contradicts the theory.
    c) Assertion and appeals to the authority of other scholars often substitute for real evidence.
    d) Instead of building on what is known/agreed, there is circularity in the arguments. In your case, your answer to my point 1 presupposes an interpretation that I dispute in my point 2. Similarly your answers to 2 and 5 presuppose that my point 9 is wrong, but you half concede point 9. Similarly 8 and 2&5. Also 10 and 4.
    e) Much is built on a (common) mirror reading of Galatians, which I do not accept.

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  2. Here are some specific points on the numbers sections of the blog post.

    2 and 7. I do not accept that Philippians and Galatians were written after 1 Corinthians so I do not agree that Paul’s relationships with other Jewish Christians got progressively worse.

    3. Bruce Longenecker is an example of a scholar who says that Gal 2:10 does not refer to a collection. I don’t agree with him, though I can’t be sure.

    Parts of your historical reconstruction do not sit easily with each other. You say (rightly) that Paul was passionate about the collection, in part because it would make Jewish Christians see that gentile Christians should be included, yet you say that he agreed to the collection only because he had to. Also you say that the pillars were reluctant to include gentile believers in the church, yet they asked for the collection that would include gentile believers in the church.

    Paul’s eagerness to “remember the poor” (Gal 2:10) was not just to please the Jerusalem apostles so that he could get concessions out of them. I don’t see how this reading explains αὐτὸ τοῦτο (this very thing). Paul’s purpose throughout Gal 1-2 is to explain that his opposition to circumcision is genuine and not motivated by a desire to please the Jerusalem apostles. His point is that he made no concessions to them (because they were already in agreement). See my discussion of Gal 2:10 in my last blog post.

    4. I offered an alternative reading of Galatians which shows that the Jerusalem church leaders were on Paul’s side. You have not engaged with the evidence to which I linked.

    5. You suppose that the Jerusalem church leaders supported Law-observance for Gentiles and that they sent the rival missionaries of 2 Cor 10-13 to Corinth. These suppositions are in tension with the fact that circumcision and Law observance are not discussed in 2 Cor 10-13.

    7. I don’t think the rival missionaries of 2 Cor 10-13 spread rumors about the collection. The Corinthians’ suspicions about the collection are evident in 1 Corinthians, where the rival missionaries do not loom large.

    8. The fact that the Jerusalem Christians do not visit Paul in prison in Acts need not mean that they were not his friends. We have to remember that Paul’s life was in danger because of the suspicion that he brought a gentile into the temple. In such circumstances it was in Paul’s interests to stress his associations with orthodox devout Jews (which he does). The Jerusalem church (in my view) was known to support the inclusion of gentiles and it would have been counterproductive for them to openly associate with Paul while he was in prison. They could help him best by keeping a low profile and staying away.

    10. Where is the evidence that Paul’s authority was ever questioned in Galatia? The agitators had told the Galatians, “You should be circumcised because Paul believes in circumcision. Don’t listen to him when he argues against circumcision because he does so only to please the Jerusalem apostles, without believing what his is saying.” Which verse or verses in the letter cannot be understood as Paul’s response to this misinformation?

    Paul, not the 12, was the authority on scripture and he was the Galatians’ apostle. Therefore the Galatians would have looked to Paul, not to the 12, to decide the circumcision question. It is true that the 12 had known Jesus, but it does not appear that Jesus addressed the circumcision question.

    11. You have not answered this question.


    Thanks again for the interaction. You have got me thinking in new ways about the issues and I benefited from that. May the discussions about Paul and his collections continue here and elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robert is still having technical difficulties posting to this blog. Here, in the next 4 comments are his responses, in italics to my further comments.

      Here are some specific points on the numbers sections of the blog post.

2 and 7. I do not accept that Philippians and Galatians were written after 1 Corinthians so I do not agree that Paul’s relationships with other Jewish Christians got progressively worse.


      Even without conceding the progression in my time line (thru letter dates) the general point is not lost that Paul was in conflict with his Jewish Brethren, and it was not a single time, and most importantly, in the end, Romans 15:30-33 speaks the most clearly about how Paul considers his apostolic status. If we pick up on this narrative in Acts 21 with Agabus and the events at the temple, we see how it unfolded. Yes, we cannot know for sure, but I think the strongest narrative weight falls on the side that concludes Paul was utterly rejected. And if we begin with any “tepid” agreement early on (49AD), we have our progression.

      3. Bruce Longenecker is an example of a scholar who says that Gal 2:10 does not refer to a collection. I don’t agree with him, though I can’t be sure.



      I met with Bruce and interviewed him for 2 hours (want to review for any discussion on collection) in Philadelphia 2005. I read his book, but just don’t see how he can avoid so many other sources, I just don’t know. If I entertained that one point, I would have to dismiss so many others.

      Parts of your historical reconstruction do not sit easily with each other. You say (rightly) that Paul was passionate about the collection, in part because it would make Jewish Christians see that gentile Christians should be included, yet you say that he agreed to the collection only because he had to.

      I don’t think Paul wanted to be in the council room, standing by waiting to circumcise one of his spiritual son’s Titus, in front of the “powers that be” in Jerusalem, and the hostile powers from the “false brothers.” I think after his vision he resented having to defend himself. I think he did not want to compromise his message at all. And, I think he only accepted the collection because he had to. He did not want the burden of spending the next 8-10 years or so collecting money from Gentiles! One, most of them probably did not want to give to Jerusalem AND, this was precious time wasted that might have been used to spread the gospel!

      Also you say that the pillars were reluctant to include gentile believers in the church, yet they asked for the collection that would include gentile believers in the church.



      That is why some scholars refer to it as a ”sweetener.” It made what Paul was asking (Gentiles did not have to become fully Jewish) more palatable for his Jewish brethren. I also think at the time, James, a “pillar” was in a different position and might have still been more of an advocate for Paul’s request, but his position would eventually deteriorate under pressure.

      Paul’s eagerness to “remember the poor” (Gal 2:10) was not just to please the Jerusalem apostles so that he could get concessions out of them. I don’t see how this reading explains αὐτὸ τοῦτο (this very thing).

      I hope this does not seem too suspicious, or “reading between the lines,” but, of course Paul was eager to please, his entire ministry was on the line. If James and Peter or the others shut him down, THERE IS NO MISSION. AND IF THERE IS NO MISSION, HIS REVELATION FROM JESUS IS NOT VALID.


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    2. Robert's further replies are in italics below.

      Paul’s purpose throughout Gal 1-2 is to explain that his opposition to circumcision is genuine and not motivated by a desire to please the Jerusalem apostles. His point is that he made no concessions to them (because they were already in agreement). See my discussion of Gal 2:10 in my last blog post.

      I’m sorry you are quite prolific and I was trying to stay with this chain of our argument, but even from what you have stated I can respond that I understand your point, but simply disagree. I think Paul is arguing with two separate groups in Antioch, 1) he is standing his ground on the Apostles in Jerusalem and “sending a message” AND 2) I think he is also admonishing the “foolish Galatians” for going along. It is almost as if Paul was pleading, I leave you and you follow them??? Why because you can be promised a physical sign of your faith? The removal of your foreskin, calendars, and laws??? Do you not know the gift that has been bestowed on you? You do not need those elemental (Jewish) things, you need Christ and his promises, etc. I think this is very clear.

      

4. I offered an alternative reading of Galatians which shows that the Jerusalem church leaders were on Paul’s side. You have not engaged with the evidence to which I linked.



      I know that perspective and repeat I just don’t agree. I think it is a stretch. I also think the key is the way Paul describes the Galatians as having been “bewitched” in light of what was being offered or re-offered by the Jerusalem Apostles. See Betz, Martyn, Bruce, Matera, etc

      5. You suppose that the Jerusalem church leaders supported Law-observance for Gentiles and that they sent the rival missionaries of 2 Cor 10-13 to Corinth. These suppositions are in tension with the fact that circumcision and Law observance are not discussed in 2 Cor 10-13.


      Yet earlier in 2nd Corinthians Paul makes explicit the counter argument of his opponents. According to Paul, I don’t think there could be a more direct assault on those imposing Jewish Law on Gentile freedom.
Paul is clearly stating, WHO NEEDS YOUR COMMENDATIONS FROM JERUSALEM, YOUR STONE LAWS, YOUR HOLY TABLETS….

      3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

      6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

      7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

      14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.

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    3. Robert's further comments are in italics below.

      7. I don’t think the rival missionaries of 2 Cor 10-13 spread rumors about the collection. The Corinthians’ suspicions about the collection are evident in 1 Corinthians, where the rival missionaries do not loom large.


      This passage from the book is supported by 2 Corinthian experts like Victor Furnish, Paul Achtemeier, and numerous others…

      “His accusers used all these hardships against him. They interpreted the fact that Paul had needed to work as a laborer as a sign of his lack of support, an invalidation of his gospel message. “What sort of a leader was this?,” they asked. If Paul was the true Apostle, as he claimed, God would show him honor and wealth and make people respect him for his prophetic insights.[i] Most important, these Apostles from Jerusalem accused Paul of being after his converts' money, saying that his effort to force an agreement through a collection was an attempt to earn himself respect in Jerusalem. According to them, he was using the collection to line his own pockets and/or buy his Apostleship from Jerusalem. Not only was his collection a bribe forcing the Jerusalem church to accept Paul, they said, but also a bribe to force the church to accept the Pauline “law-free” gospel. They saw the collection not as a free-will offering, but as a stimulus being used to provoke a response, and that Jerusalem would not reciprocate. There was just enough truth to these accusations to make them sting. And while some Gentile members of his congregation felt it was an honor to give to God's chosen people in Jerusalem, his accusers probably gave fuel to the fire of other Gentile believers already wondering why they should give support to the center of Jewish worship, especially when the world was soon coming to an end.

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    4. Robert's further comments are in italics below.

      8. The fact that the Jerusalem Christians do not visit Paul in prison in Acts need not mean that they were not his friends. We have to remember that Paul’s life was in danger because of the suspicion that he brought a gentile into the temple.

      It certainly does not say they were? There were other dangerous situations when Paul’s friends risked their lives to comfort him. And it also raises questions that I think have yet to be adequately answered about the true relationship of Paul to James and the others in the context of Judaism and the Temple?? - which I hope to address below.

      In such circumstances it was in Paul’s interests to stress his associations with orthodox devout Jews (which he does).

      For me, if the Jewish Christian question is open for discussion on the finer themes and points, this question is closed. Paul could claim whatever he might later in front of the magistrates (true or not?) but Paul, the former Pharisee was a marked man by Orthodox Jews. Have you read Luke’s descriptions of the assassination plots on Paul as he traveled to Caesarea? Do you know what kind of a Roman army presence that would have required? There was an all out attempt to kill Paul. The only question that remains is, where was James and the others in all of this?

      The Jerusalem church (in my view) was known to support the inclusion of gentiles and it would have been counterproductive for them to openly associate with Paul while he was in prison. They could help him best by keeping a low profile and staying away.



      I’m not sure why this does not raise questions for you as it does for me and others. HOW DOES JAMES AND THE OTHERS MAINTAIN any working relationship with the Temple in Jerusalem and Judaism in general, when Paul’s presence could mean the end of his life?? What separates these men? What did Paul preach that was so different from what the Jewish Christians taught? Do you think circumcision alone would have created this level of hatred and venom? I think it would be naïve to think that these Acts 21 events are over “theological disagreements,” like a session at the Society of Biblical Literature? Read Josephus and other historians of the time to know more about the purges occurring from the Gentile and Jewish sides? What Paul was claiming was revolutionary, and I don’t think there was anyway, a symbol of authority as powerful as James could have been his friend, and also kept his position, let alone his life??? It is a great mystery to me, what James’ role actually was in all of this? Did he pull back from Gentile Mission so far that he was no longer seen as a threat to the authorities? Was Paul so desperate in the end to save his collection and mission that he would violate most of his words about the “pillars’ and those of authority? These are intriguing questions and I think any serious probe needs to move past this casual idea that they were all “future bible authors” disagreeing over the finer points of scriptural exegesis. These were ancient blood feuds, and they occurred all over the Mediterranean in and out of the name of religion.

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    5. Robert's further comments are in italics below.

      10. Where is the evidence that Paul’s authority was ever questioned in Galatia? The agitators had told the Galatians, “You should be circumcised because Paul believes in circumcision. Don’t listen to him when he argues against circumcision because he does so only to please the Jerusalem apostles, without believing what his is saying.” Which verse or verses in the letter cannot be understood as Paul’s response to this misinformation?

Paul, not the 12, was the authority on scripture and he was the Galatians’ apostle. Therefore the Galatians would have looked to Paul, not to the 12, to decide the circumcision question. It is true that the 12 had known Jesus, but it does not appear that Jesus addressed the circumcision question.



      Paul had been battling the Judaisers for at least fourteen years now, and felt these men “from James” were obsessed with the knife. He responded with, “I wish those who are disturbing you might go the whole way and get themselves castrated!" (Gal 5:12). The act of circumcision in and of itself was not a technicality; the idea that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised was symbolic of Paul's entire Law-free message. The fallout from this confrontation would determine Paul’s ministry and his identity, by which he rejected the assertions of the historically based Jerusalem Apostles. And it is from this first principle that he constructed and sustained his Gospel. Whether he sought conciliation or not, he was competing with “another gospel” (Gal 1:6-7). Paul turned the full force of his conviction on the congregation of Galatia that had acquiesced to this division, along with those who now volunteered to be circumcised and to follow works of the Law:

      “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the Law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing? If it really was for nothing, well then, does God supply you with the Spirit, and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the Law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal 3:1-5).

      His language shows Paul's consternation and also the fact that even Paul, who was called to save the Gentiles, still had a very Jewish point of view about Gentiles and their weaknesses. As J. L. Martyn argues, “Paul is also making an ethnic point . . . you Galatians, you ’uneducated, foolish [same word used by Luke with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:25], mindless,” etc. (Deuteronomy 28:54).[ii] But Paul goes even further. He was accusing the Antioch converts of being bewitched and under an evil spell—an “evil eye”—a pagan phrase for one in the possession of a demon. J. B. Phillips translates it, “O you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ the crucified so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you?” (Gal 3:1).[iii]

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    6. Roberts final comments (in this round) are below, in italics.

      11. Why do you reject Paul's visit to Jerusalem that is alluded to in Acts 18? You have not answered this question. Is it because you want to maximize the time interval between 1 Corinthians and Romans and therefore have no time for Paul's visit to Jerusalem between the Gallio incident and your exceptionally early 1 Corinthians?

      You write this like I was playing checkers and decided to withhold something here to win my point there. I think it is more like chess. You have an infinite amount of possibilities and choices yet must move in a finite time and space. If we were all being honest, with each point of logic we commit to, we eliminate a series of other possibilities, hoping to be more true than the alternate moves. In cases like this, as I mentioned earlier, I defer to Paul. Paul says 3 visits in Galatians and Luke says five. Who is write and who is wrong? I think Paul is the better source and with John Knox's the solution might be that Luke changed or had wrong the chronology of the 3 visits.

      Acquaintance visit Gal 1:18 and Acts 9:26,27

      Conference Gal 2:1-10 - Time of the visit = Acts 18:22
      Description in Acts 15:1-29

      Offering Romans 15:25-28 - Time = Acts 21:17
      Description is in Acts 11:29-30

      But that creates other issues as you know in mentioning "Barnabas" with Paul, who in my time line would have no longer been around. I also think this might refer to the initial Antioch collection that preceded the one Paul delivered to Jerusalem. In cases like this, my logic was that this particular story A Polite Bribe: An Apostle Final Bid, is a story about Paul and from Paul's perspective, so when there is a discrepancy like this, I allow Paul to lead me in the right direction (Ockham's Razor?) - 3 visits.


      Thanks again for the interaction. You have got me thinking in new ways about the issues and I benefited from that. May the discussions about Paul and his collections continue here and elsewhere.

      Though I have spent much time trying to understand the research in order to make my best argument and tell the most accurate story, I would prefer to be wrong on many points, if only I knew, an audience of thinking people understood the underlying body of facts we were debating.

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  3. Robert could not post comments because of technical difficulties with the blog, so I have reproduced part 1 of his comments below. His comments are in italics and are responses to my comments in regular font. Robert also points out that by indented a paragraph in the blog post I gave the impression that it was a quotation of Esler, rather than of Robert himself. My mistake.
    ........................

    Robert, thanks for these detailed comments. Before making specific points, I would like to make some general observations. The arguments that you put forward for a gulf between Paul and the Jerusalem church on the issue of gentiles are indeed supported by many scholars. My criticisms of your writings are therefore really criticisms of theirs. 


    I only raise the issue because I do believe there is wisdom in the consensus of scholars, when that consensus is reached with great rigor, and openness of mind, and without a prejudged conclusion. There is no “block of truth” holders, but with the amount of time I have spent and I think others have spent taking in this world of Paul, like a great painting, or great symphony, certain constants do arise. I think my greatest contributions to the conversation is 1) I think not only as an independent scholar but as a literary consultant and story teller, which means I am always collecting brute data “logos” but imagining it in possible paradigms of story “mythos.” 2) as a filmmaker I must look at the human side first, bottom-up, before I reach the theology and that which “gives it meaning” in the “top down.” So yes, the both/and approach, like in the case of the collection that did had a strictly financial meaning, and also had a symbolic one, in unifying the church. BOTH are equally true and that makes for a three dimensional truth.

    a) There is a tendency to fit all data into the pre-conceived theory, giving too much weight to circumstantial evidence that is open to other interpretations.


    People could accuse me of this, but I would have a hard time in understanding why? I know this might be hard to believe, but I did not read F.C Baur until deep into my research. I did not know about the collection at all, for most of my life, but thought of it as an “offering” like alms right up until before I started making the film. I was always suspicious that Paul had enemies, but never assumed his enemies were his Apostolic peers, only his own private struggles or with what he called “demonic forces.” I can go on. I don’t think I knew enough about theories to carry them into my research. As an investigative journalist, I let the effort and the convictions of the truth lead me and then I, in return, sent it through the laboratory of 50 hours of interviews.

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  4. Here is the second part of Robert's comments.

    b) There is a lot of cherry picking, while counter evidence (which I have not discussed here) is ignored. Attempts are made to support the theory using Acts, but Acts is dismissed when it clearly contradicts the theory.


    Again, I’m not sure where my cherry picking would come from? In the final version of the film, in terms of screen time, there is probably a shared presence between N.T Wright, Gerd Ludemann, Dominic Crossan, and Ben Witherington. The book represents over 300 Pauline and NT authors across the theological and political spectrum. There are over 420 extensive footnotes. Not that I could not have missed some of your points, but if I was "picking cherries," I might have accidentally picked the whole orchard!

    c) Assertion and appeals to the authority of other scholars often substitute for real evidence.


    I think I have shared too much to have to defend this statement, other than say: ask any of these 30 scholars who sat in my chair about my appeal to authority?

    d) Instead of building on what is known/agreed, there is circularity in the arguments. In your case, your answer to my point 1 presupposes an interpretation that I dispute in my point 2. Similarly your answers to 2 and 5 presuppose that my point 9 is wrong, but you half concede point 9. Similarly 8 and 2&5. Also 10 and 4.


    Only because you are making a lot of small points in much larger contexts you would need to break these out for me one at a time. You will probably find that with a bit more blog space the connections will be made, but my suspicion is some of the responses will be resolved with more of both/and rather than either/or approach.

    e) Much is built on a (common) mirror reading of Galatians, which I do not accept.

    You are making another dismissive statement. If I agree to your “mirror reading” idea, I assure you this is not "prima facie" thinking.

    1) - Paul was a Pastor and Preacher first, a practical man on the go.

    2) - Most of this letters DO give you the practical reasons for his writing upfront.

    3) - Paul was not fond of ungrounded theology or conceptual thought or speech as he rails in 1 Cor 2 and with Apollos.

    4) - When Paul make his greatest conceptual argument in Romans, he is still using a salvific-historical model, not natural reason, which he characterizes as weak or insufficient.

    5) - Paul was brilliant, not as a theologian, but as a prophet-mystic, his truths emerged out of a deep experience of being “in Christ.”


    Again, thanks for keeping the Paul conversation alive.

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  5. For a refutation of Polite bribe:

    http://apostle-paul-a-polite-bribe-refuted.blogspot.co.uk/

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