Episode 79: The Pauline Epistles

Possibly the most influential theologian in history, Paul codified and clarified Christianity as it emerged into the diverse world of the Eastern Mediterranean.

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The Letters of Saint Paul, c. 50-65 CE

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Hello, and welcome to Literature and History. Episode 79: The Pauline Epistles. This program is on the fourteen books of the New Testament that have traditionally been attributed to Saint Paul, these being Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. These books of the New Testament, which include the oldest parts of the New Testament, are letters, written from Paul to various Christian churches and communities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Pauline Epistles bear various features standard to published letters in the world of Greco-Roman antiquity – these kinds of letters included formal identifications of senders and addressees, opening greetings, and opening and closing prayers and exhortations to deities. Due to the uncertainty of letters reaching their intended destinations in the ancient world, it wasn’t uncommon for senders to retain copies of the letters they wrote, and, over time, expand and develop these, as writers like Cicero, Ovid, and Seneca did, in order to transmit them to posterity, and something like this happened to Paul’s letters, as well.

The letters attributed to Paul are addressed widely – all over Asia Minor, mainland Greece, and even to the island of Crete.1 The period of their composition stretches 15 or even 20 years from earliest to latest. The earliest of them, First Thessalonians, written from Corinth to the mainland region of Thessalonica, warmly greets Paul’s congregation there and discusses the afterlife as the earliest Christians were beginning to formulate it. Galatians, from this same period, is written to churches in the north-central Anatolian province of Galatia around 50 CE, and it shows Paul already working on one of the Apostolic generation’s central concerns – whether Gentile converts needed to follow the extensive Mosaic Law outlined in the first five books of the Bible. Paul’s latest and longest epistle, Romans, was likely produced some time around 60 CE, and it demonstrates Paul’s continuing dedication to creating an ecumenical, one-size-fits-all Christianity with a simple doctrine of salvation, and a courteous but firm dismissal of pagan religion and philosophy.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with the Pauline Epistles is that they are older than the Gospels and the Book of Acts. We might today have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and Acts. We have no idea what Paul possessed in regards to records of the teachings of Christ, whom by all accounts he never met – a couple of episodes ago we discussed the possibility of a sayings book that was used in the production of the Synoptic Gospels Matthew and Luke, but the evidence for such a document remains conjectural. While Acts presents us with a wealth of information about Paul and his life, Acts was likely undertaken at least two decades after Paul’s death in the mid-60s, and so the Pauline Epistles have the distinction of being the earliest documents produced by the Christian world, and maybe the most reliable documents on what was actually happening in Christianity during its first couple of decades.

The early days of Christianity (1922) (14579320328)

Looking at maps of Paul’s missionary journeys might be the quickest way to understand the context of the Pauline epistles. The Eastern Mediterranean between 50 and 65 CE was a slurry of cultures – Greek, Roman, Persian, Egyptian, and dozens of others – all, having assimilated to varying degrees (and in some cases scarcely at all) to Julio-Claudian rule.

Unsurprisingly, these letters engage with many questions central to the Gospels and Acts. A messiah – in fact the messiah written of in Isaiah and other Prophetic Books had come, but three decades later, by which time Paul was neck deep in his ministry and his theological writings, a great deal still had to be decided. The question that seems to have been of most pressing importance was how, exactly, salvation worked. Was it a collective process, manifested on earth on judgment day, or was it something that happened to individuals after they died? Would there be a corporeal resurrection, as was written of in the Old Testament? Did God have a list ahead of time of who would be saved? And if not, what did you have to do in order to be saved – was it abiding by a rules list like the one set out in the Old Testament, or could you be saved merely by having faith in Christ? What about a modified rules list? And beyond salvation, there were other questions, too. Would asceticism be a part of the new Christian faith? What would be the roles of women and children and slaves? Did Christianity offer a new answer to the age old question of the problem of evil? If a messiah had indeed come, then why was the world still trundling along as it always had? Paul, a former Pharisee, with one foot in the ancient traditions of Mosaic Law and the other in the electric new world of Gentile Christianity, had to answer all of these questions, being perhaps the single most important human bridge between the eastern province of Judea and the new religion that had flared up there, and the deep blue water of the Greek Aegean and pale columns of Roman public squares.

The Pauline Epistles offer snapshots of Paul working to stabilize and standardize the earliest Christian communities of the Eastern Mediterranean. Let’s talk for a moment about the circumstances about some of the Pauline Epistles, just to give you a sense that at their inception these were often documents written to answer the needs of specific communities and historical situations. First and Second Corinthians, written to the Christian community of the bustling Greco-Roman metropolis of Corinth, show that Paul preached in and out of synagogues, winning converts from all walks of life. When the Corinthian Christian community fell under the spell of another religious leader – an Alexandrine Jew schooled in philosophy and rhetoric, appropriately named Apollos, Paul was ready with Christian arguments as well as easy familiarity with stoic philosophy, Corinth’s athletic Games, and a famous differentiation between Christian and pagan love. Against the Platonic doctrine of desirous sexual love, or eros, set out in the Symposium, Paul writes about agape, that Greek word used in the Bible for the exalted love between man and God, writing the famous verses “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth” (1 Cor 13:4-6). The fact that Paul could write such a lyrical passage to arbitrate a leadership squabble that later became a standard part of Christian wedding vows, not to mention countless modern tattoos and wall plaques, is only one small testament to his ability to create striking rhetoric out of what was in his time the newborn and scarcely systematized doctrines of Christianity.

Other Pauline epistles, while they seem like carefully deliberated essays addressing universal Christian themes, were also written to meet the demands of precise places and times. The Book of Romans, while of course it has plenty to say on Christian theology, also seeks to ease tensions between Gentile and Jewish Christians in Rome (11:13-36), and to dissuade Roman Jews from civic uprisings that might result in violent clampdowns (13:1-7). The Book of Philippians, an affectionate letter to one of Paul’s dearest church communities in Northern Greece, speaks of a man named Epaphroditus, who has just visited Paul in prison and brought him gifts either in the Judean city of Caesarea or in Rome itself. The Book of Philemon, a book whose inclusion in the New Testament at all is a matter of some curiosity, asks its addressee to grant a favor to a slave who has been useful to the imprisoned Paul, and has converted to Christianity. So in short, unlike the narratives of the Gospels and Acts, parts of the Pauline Epistles are improvised to meet the circumstances that occasioned them, and often rather than making Paul’s letters seem like incidental documents tossed into the Bible, the improvised quality of his epistles give the New Testament’s reader the exciting sense of seeing Christianity being born in the Eastern Mediterranean during the reigns of the Roman emperors Claudius and Nero.

Not all of the Pauline Epistles demonstrate evidence of such specific addressees and historical situations. The more general Ephesians may have been circulated and recirculated in variant forms, and as a whole, the collection of Pauline letters that we have might be a distillation of some of his best theological work, partly redacted and compiled by Paul himself. But along the way, other editors and compilers were involved, because out of the fourteen Pauline epistles, only seven today are generally recognized as demonstrating the consistency of compositional quality and theological interests we now associate with Paul. These are Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, First Thessalonians, and Philemon. Two more, Colossians and Second Thessalonians, are today debated as to whether or not they actually come from Paul. And five more are thought not to have been composed by Paul – these are Ephesians, Hebrews, First and Second Timothy, and Titus.2 That’s a lot of names, I realize, so let’s consider the Pauline Epistles by numbers. There are 100 chapters in the 14 Pauline Epistles. A majority of these chapters – 61, are attributed to Paul with some certainty. Seven more chapters are of questionable authorship. And the remaining 32 chapters are most likely from other, later sources. The gist of this analysis is that even though over 30% of the Pauline Epistles are probably later, pseudepigraphal contributions to the Bible, enough of the collection is Paul himself that we can still call the set “Pauline” and be relatively accurate. So let’s talk for a moment about our main guy for today. [music]

Paul and the Context of the Pauline Epistles

The personality of Christianity’s most famous missionary suffuses the 14 Pauline Epistles. Near the beginning of the collection Paul proclaims himself “a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish” (Rom 1:14). The verse acknowledges that Paul thinks of his theological work as syncretic, making use not only of Christ’s teachings and ancient Jewish traditions, but also the abundant philosophical ideas and cultural practices of the pagan world. It also acknowledges that Paul didn’t think of himself as infallible. Four of the Pauline Epistles are prison letters – these are Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, and in his days spent on lockdown, after he’d settled in, and his followers had heard news of their leader’s various incarcerations, Paul had plenty of time during his later career to contemplate how things might have gone differently at various junctures. At the same time, though, in his darkest moments, his memories of the challenges that he had faced seem to have brought him strength, and confidence. In 2 Corinthians, frustrated with the fickleness of the young Christian community he’d helped establish there in Corinth, Paul singles himself out as a singularly qualified minister of Christ’s teachings. Paul writes, in the New Oxford Annotated Bible,
But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings. . .often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant? (2 Cor 11:21-9)
The rhetoric establishing what we might call Paul’s “street cred” is colorful here – Paul’s self depiction of himself as starving, cold, and naked may take some poetic license. But the final, punchy questions, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant?” – these questions show that Paul felt accountable to the actions of his various satellite Christian communities, and that amidst a variety of persecutions and environmental hazards endemic to an ancient traveling minister, he carried an exhausting burden on his shoulders.

Andrea Vanni. St Paul.Boston MFA

Andrea Vanni’s St Paul (1390). Paul is often depicted with a sword in Catholic art, due to two reasons – first, the martial language in passages in Ephesians 6:11-12, 6.:17 and Hebrews 4:12. Second, Paul was purportedly beheaded (in the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla) on Nero’s orders in Rome, though miracles that occurred during his final moments did much to convince the Roman Emperor of the verity of Paul’s faith.

At the core of this burden, for Paul, was a sense of obligation to ignite Gentiles, specifically, with a passion for conversion to Christianity. This was perhaps the cardinal theological issue of the first two generations of Christians, as we heard last time – whether Gentile converts had to follow Mosaic Law, and Paul seems to have worked so diligently to convert Gentiles that it eventually made him feel a little alienated from the Jewish Christianity back in the heartland of Judea, leading to him calling himself, at some point toward the end of his life, the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13).3 While Paul had ecumenical Christianity in his mind as an ultimate goal, his epistles particularly demonstrate fluency with and fondness for Gentile communities. This may have been an exception, rather than a rule, among Christianity’s tiny ministerial operations in the 50s and 60s CE. Scholar Leslie Houlden writes that,
Evidence from his own letters indicates that Paul was somewhat of a maverick, operating for the most part outside the main circle of earliest Christianity and relating only awkwardly to its original leaders. He may well have represented the wave of the future: since the middle of the second century those characteristic elements that it took all his formidable resources to establish and defend – full and equal membership for Gentile believers, no obligation to adhere to the law of Moses, and so on – have simply been taken for granted as basic elements of the Christian faith. But the very success of Gentile Christianity can serve to obscure the degree to which Paul’s mission represented radical innovation in its own day.4
The Pauline epistles, then, invite us to ponder the astounding possibility that the first phase of Christianity’s expansion and geographical transmission hung on the shoulders of one strange, iconoclastic, doctrinally idiosyncratic person who, in spite of imprisonments, corporal punishments, shipwrecks, and perilous journeys, just kept going, and going, and going. The Gospels, once again written after the Pauline Epistles, were produced by individuals in church communities that had in some cases been founded and guided by Paul himself, and in all cases, likely felt his influence in some way or another.

Paul’s authorship looms large over many of the Pauline Epistles. And while determining the exact authorship of all of the 14 Pauline epistles is a piece of unfinished business, so, too is the analysis of their theological contents – a project of interpretation 2,000 years in the making that shows no signs of slowing down. In the remainder of this program, I want to look at the Pauline Epistles in detail, although we won’t go through all 14 of them one at a time. Being a letter collection, this section of the New Testament is naturally repetitious in nature, the chronologically out of order epistles often making the same points and theological arguments at different junctures – I should note that they are organized based on length, from longest to shortest, in the New Testament. Anyway, rather than going straight through from Romans to Philemon, we’re going to divide the remainder of this episode into two major portions. The first, briefer section, will show the letters attributed to Paul outlining the architecture of a Christian community and identifying patterns of behavior that are acceptably Christian. While Paul is hardly interested in blasting out a rules list like the one in the Pentateuch, the Pauline Epistles do have some general directives for self conduct and community organization.

Once we get a sense of the overall ethical and social engineering Paul has in mind for the first Christian communities, we’ll dive into the heart of the Pauline Epistles, and that is his theological writings on salvation. From Augustine to Martin Luther and beyond, some extremely influential theologians have thrown themselves into the Pauline Epistles and found some very different ideas about the mechanics of salvation – whether it comes from free will and conscious ethical decisions, whether it comes from mere faith in Jesus Christ, whether it’s predetermined, whether it’s collective and corporeal, or individual or incorporeal, or some combination of the these. It was Paul’s task as the self-proclaimed “apostle to the Gentiles” to decide what to do with the Pentateuch’s sizable rules list, and what he did with these rules was instrumental to the conversion of the earliest Gentiles, and later, had far reaching consequences in the history of Christianity. The split between Catholicism and Protestantism has at its epicenter a mere dozen or two verses in the Pauline Epistles, most often in the Book of Romans, and while the magnitude and implications of this division are vast, understanding where, say, Augustine and Luther read Paul differently is pretty simple.

So let’s begin by discussing those portions of the 100 chapters of the Pauline Epistles that have to do with community structuring and self conduct. While Paul, once again, is indisposed to drafting a brand new rules list, once in a while he does set down instructions for what you can and can’t do in the tiny world of early Christianity. These regulations, housed as they are in the New Testament, haven’t exactly fallen by the wayside of theological history.

Ethical Regulations in the Pauline Epistles

1 Thessalonians, the earliest document to survive from Christianity, is a warm letter sent from Paul to the Christian community of Thessalonica in the Roman province of Macedonia, some time around 50-51 CE.5 We don’t know the demographics or size of this community. Scholar Philip Esler notes that “Recent research on the social structure of Pauline communities has tended to favour socially stratified congregations with wealthy members providing a house for the meetings of the community and virtually acting as patrons to the members.”6 Addressed, then, to an assortment of mostly Gentile converts in the northwestern Aegean, 1 Thessalonians makes it clear that key converts of Paul’s ministry clung fast to Christianity in spite of the risk of doing so. Some of the first lines of Christianity’s first surviving document show Paul marveling at the newly faithful – he writes, “you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess 1:6-7). We learn in this book of the New Testament that Paul himself hadn’t had an easy time up until coming to Thessalonica – the city’s northeastern neighbor Philippi had initially been unkind to him. Paul writes, “You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God. . .in spite of great opposition” (1 Thess 2:2). The letter’s audience is explicitly the formerly pagan converts of Thessalonica, as Paul makes clear a moment later: “For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews” (1 Thess 2:14). These three passages, from the outset of 1 Thessalonians, teach us some immediately important lessons about the Pauline Epistles.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri - Saint Paul

Guercino’s Saint Paul (sixteenth century). While Paul’s conversion on the Damascus Road has been a popular image for artists, along with the apostle standing with a sword, a number of painters chose to show the theologian at work reading and writing, portraying Paul as a thinker and even poet just as much as a saint.

The most obvious of these is that Paul was carting Christianity out into an expansive and foreign world – a world content with its ancient and variegated regional polytheisms that was largely apathetic about the latest cult religion to come out of the east. Scholar Margaret MacDonald mentions “The growing awareness of the need to understand [New Testament] groups in the light of the context of Greco-Roman society.”7 This need may be a bit more glaringly obvious to us, as in this podcast we’ve spent over a hundred hours learning about Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greece, and Rome, from its first literary productions in the 260s BCE all the way down to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in the 160s CE. Coming from where we have come, both in terms of classical antiquity as well as Jewish religious history, we have no illusions that Paul was bringing his teachings to an inert and uncluttered world. 1 Thessalonians tells us the extent to which this wasn’t the case – as the Emperor Claudius celebrated his tenth year on the throne, Paul’s little Christian community in Thessalonica weathered the general suspicion and unfriendliness of pagan and Jewish communities alike.

Paul, though once again not keen on setting up a huge new rules list, still peppers his letters with dos and don’ts from time to time. Paul writes in Romans, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13.1). Though this morsel of advice had a specific historical incentive – preventing the Roman Jews of the 50s CE from a possibly disastrous uprising – it is consonant with Christ’s teachings in the Gospels.8 Jesus, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, advises, “Give. . .to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:26), and in both of these cases, the New Testament recommends keeping one’s head down beneath the might of Rome’s officials.

So, what we’ve covered so far is fairly obvious stuff. Christianity emerged into a dynamic world that was at best indifferent toward the new religion, and Christ and Paul alike cautioned their flocks to stay in line, since so many Roman wolves raged beyond the sheepfolds. To move us toward some of the subtler aspects of the Pauline Epistles, we need to recollect some basic facts about Paul. Paul, once called Saul, was the son of a tentmaker, born in the southern Anatolian city of Tarsus in a very religious Jewish community. Earlier, in 2 Corinthians, we heard the extent to which Paul identified as a Jew even when ministering to Gentiles – he tells them in this letter that he is a Hebrew, an Israelite, and a son of Abraham. Paul reminds an assembly of hostile Jews in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts, perhaps with anger and emotion in his voice, speaking Hebrew, that in spite of all of his work with Gentiles, that he has nonetheless been “educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted [Christians] up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison” (Acts 22:3-4).

Readers of the New Testament are generally familiar with these aspects of Paul’s background, and there’s little mystery about it. To get a little deeper into the theology of the Pauline epistles, we need to consider the following – what we might call conundrum at the heart of Paul’s thinking. Simply put, though Paul was ready to allow Gentile converts to set aside the hundreds of law codes in the Old Testament, Paul’s background as a Pharisee – that especially scrupulous and legalistic sect of Second Temple Judaism – Paul’s background sometimes blinded him to the fact that Gentile converts needed at least some kind of regulatory ethical framework, lest they create very divergent strands of Christianity and populations that looked nothing like the initial Jewish Christians of the Apostolic generation. In other words, Paul, in passages we’ll soon look at, dismisses Jewish law codes again and again, telling his Gentile converts that they don’t need to be circumcised, or follow dietary regulations, or sacrifice anything. But he seems to forget that a total lack of regulations might well encourage Gentile converts to practice something like a pagan Christianity – believing in salvation through Jesus Christ but at the same time sacrificing to other gods and honoring their holidays, engaging in bisexual practices, caring naught for marital fidelity, wrestling nude in public gymnasiums, and in all other ways looking nothing like the Jewish Christian community that Paul had envisioned without really realizing the extent of his own Jewish cultural assumptions. As scholar Craig Hill puts it, “In practice, what Paul expects of his converts is a fairly typical Jewish morality, which he can assume for himself but which comes less naturally to his Gentile associates. Consequently, Paul is put in the awkward position of legislating rules of behavior ad hoc, since he no longer has the law to draw on for authorization. Therefore, he is forced, in effect, to reinstitute Jewish laws with Christian warrants.”9

The question of which broadly Jewish cultural practices made the jump from the Old to the New Testament is a fascinating one. With the exception of a few passages of the Gospels here and there, especially in the Book of Matthew, the Bible’s four stories of Jesus’ life depict him as pretty relaxed about the 613 Commandments of the Pentateuch. Memorably, at two junctures in the Gospels, Jesus tells his disciples that you most of all needed to love god and honor your neighbor (Matt 22:37-9, Mark 12:29-31), and that the rest of it is just a bunch of details. Following, perhaps, Christ’s nonchalant attitude toward Mosaic Law, from time to time Paul tries the same approach. In parallel to some of Christ’s statements in the Gospels, Paul writes in Galatians “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5.13-14).10 You don’t need to do the Sabbath thing, Paul tells the recipients of Galatians, or all the sacrifices and meat cutting, or eat this thing and not that other thing – that’s not what it’s about. You just have to have a warm and openhearted attitude toward your fellow human beings, and faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a nice doctrine – both in Christ’s words in the Gospels and Paul’s in Galatians. But it seems to have been problematically vague, because elsewhere, we find Paul being a bit more deliberate and clear about what his Gentile converts actually needed to do. [music]

Jewish Cultural Norms and Greco-Roman Society

Paul’s directives – his orders for self conduct – are scattered miscellaneously throughout the epistles attributed to him, but let’s look at a few of them. In 1 Corinthians, Paul entertains a hypothetical conversation between a Gentile convert and himself. The convert in this dialogue seems to take the position that Paul’s indifference toward law codes meant that anything was permissible, whereas Paul gently chastens him, fastening on some additional moral advice. This short dialogue begins with the pagan convert saying, “All things are lawful for me.” Paul replies “[B]ut not all things are beneficial.” And the former pagan again, “All things are lawful for me.” And Paul, “[B]ut I will not be dominated by anything.” The pagan, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” And Paul, “[A]nd God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor 6:12-3). In the short exchange, we see something happening that happens everywhere in the Pauline Epistles, and must have happened often in Paul’s career. Pauline Christianity’s official message was that the unwieldy law codes of the Torah were obsolete. But in reality, Paul had all sorts of tacit assumptions about self conduct – assumptions that bore the stamp of Jewish culture and that he slipped into the theology of the writings he left behind.

One of these assumptions was the continued subservience of women. 1 Corinthians states that “As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor 14.33-5). Three of the Pauline Epistles that are most likely erroneously attributed to Paul also make it clear that women ought not be outspoken leaders in the incipient Christian world. Ephesians states “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands” (Eph 5.22-24). The Book of Colossians, similarly, advises, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 4:18). And a final pseudepigraphal Pauline letter follows along these lines. First Timothy proclaims, “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty” (1 Tim 2.11-15). Not all of these quotes, again, are definitely Paul, pure and simple, but collectively, they demonstrate that Paul and his colleagues were trying to replicate a system of monogamous marriages, sexual morality, and gender hierarchy that reflected the traditional Jewish practices of their homeland – a system not necessarily present in the urban centers of Anatolia and the Aegean coast.

Waterhouse Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896.15

John William Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs (1896). Heracles’ lover Hylas is abducted by water-nymphs toward the end of Book 1 of Apollonius’ Argonautica. The Pauline epistles, whose Jewish cultural values were set against those that pervaded the Mediterranean world, occasionally disparage extramarital and homosexual behavior.

While blood sacrifices and other rules from the Pentateuch were things Paul was ready to part with, the Old Testament’s regulations on sexual conduct were not. Paul writes of the Greco-Roman communities of the Aegean rim, “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1.26-7). Now, of course we know what Paul is referencing here, from reading Greco-Roman literature and philosophy. From Homeric Ganymede, to the poetry of Sappho, to legends of Heracles and Hylas, surviving records of Spartan sexual practices, Socrates and Alcibiades, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, Plato’s Symposium, Philip II and Pelopidas, Alexander and Hephaestion, the poetry of Catullus, Virgil’s Eclogues, various stories from Ovid, Paul’s contemporary Petronius, later writers Apuleius and Lucian of Samosata and ancient biographies of almost every single Roman Emperor to don the purple, it’s abundantly clear that various phases of antiquity had very different attitudes toward sexuality than those found in the Abrahamic religions. It’s fascinating to consider whether the passages in the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament, dealing with male homosexuality may have had some roots in cultural animosities toward westerners from the Philistine coast and beyond – Leviticus and Romans are the only texts I know of from the ancient world that issue blanket strictures on male homosexuality, and both were written by members of a Jewish minority population hemmed in by a large empires, who didn’t want their cultural norms to be dissolved.

To return to Paul and the rules he sets out in his Epistles, the social position of women, and the matter of who ought to have sex with whom, and what sort of sex is authorized, are all issues that Paul works to legislate to his readers. Another issue has to do with sacrifice. Throughout his letters, as we’ll soon see in a bit more detail, Paul assures his Gentile converts that they don’t have to worry about all of the sacrifice laws printed in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. What he neglected to make clear to at least one nascent Christian community was that they really needed to stop sacrificing to their pagan gods. Now, it’s kind of funny to think that after converting to Christianity, a zealous young pagan follower of Jesus might continue to make burnt offerings to Zeus and Apollo, but, these were polytheists, and Paul’s intractable followers in Corinth, at least, seemed to do just this. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, I imagine with some incredulity in his epistolary voice, “I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Cor 10:20-1). In other words, come on, folks, you’re Christians now, please stop those pagan sacrifices.

Perhaps a more learned subgroup of Paul’s Gentile converts weren’t so much drawn to continued polytheistic sacrifices as they were Greco-Roman intellectualism. This intellectualism, though Paul was no stranger to it, was also something he saw as a potential threat to the first tiny Christian communities. Paul’s letter to the Colossians warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col 2:8). 1 Timothy follows along these lines, advising, “Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” (1 Tim 6:20-1).11 Don’t go frittering away your time with pagan intellectuals at symposiums and agoras, the Pauline Epistles tell us, and don’t mistake cleverness for truth. And while Paul certainly didn’t want to lose any fresh converts to Plato or Aristotle, there are wide swathes of the Pauline letters that reflect ideas prevalent in contemporary Greek philosophy. So now that we have a sense of some of the baseline regulations that Paul sets out in his letters, and how many of these regulations aim to require some baseline Jewish rules on new Gentile Christian communities, let’s change gears for a moment. As much of Paul’s ideology was, naturally, based on his upbringing as a Jewish Pharisee, some of it seems to have been formed by being a Greek-speaking citizen of the Roman Empire. He may have warned the Colossians against a naturalistic view of the universe divorced from God. But a lot of Paul’s ideology, nonetheless, sounds like a fairly familiar mixture of stoicism and Platonism. Let’s talk about some of the distinctly Greek elements of the Greek language Pauline epistles. [music]

Mind-Body Dualism in the Pauline Epistles

A number of episodes ago we traced out the parallels between stoicism – especially Senecan stoicism – and Pauline ideology in the New Testament. A very old tendency in pagan theology and philosophy – one that began with Orphism and then Pythagoreanism, then later Socrates and Plato, and then later movements in the 300s and 200s BCE like Cynicism and Stoicism, preached a dualism between mind and body. In this conceptual framework, as you likely know, the mind is capable of weighing lofty, timeless matters and through will and meditation, insulating itself from the ups and downs of daily life. And the body is a fleshy encumbrance, its needs and passions a distraction from the loftier world of the mind. Christianity, through Paul himself, enthusiastically embraced mind-body dualism.

Sanzio 01 Pythagoras

Raphael’s depiction of Pythagoras in The School of Athens (1509). Beginning in the sixth century BCE, we begin to have records of Mediterranean cult religions and philosophical movements emphasizing the existence of immortal souls, and how tempering one’s physical appetites through diet and cleanliness can lead to a better posthumous existence. Plato, and after him many major Greek philosophical movements followed this tradition, as did Christianity via Paul himself, although the Hebrew Bible, produced in a separate lineage, does not.

Paul writes in Romans, “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom 7:23). This bipartite model of selfhood pervades the Pauline epistles. In Galatians, Paul tells his reader, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other” (Gal 5:16-17). The same letter adds a moment later, “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Gal 6.7-8). Sowing to the spirit, to Paul, is an act of daily maintenance that continually rejuvenates us, even as our material selves age and wither away. In 2 Corinthians, Paul proclaims, “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16).

The New Testament, more broadly, takes this philosophical dichotomy between body and mind seriously. In one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the Gospels, as Christ awaits his execution in Gethsemane, agonized and unable to sleep, he laments in Matthew and Mark that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:42, Mark 14:38). When spoken by Jesus, this famous phrase is perhaps meant to contrast the dualism of Christ’s own unique, half-divine, half-human composition. But Paul, and after him Augustine, and many more in Christian theological history followed suit, and envisioned, like so many Greco-Roman thinkers had before them, that their snowy white spirits had, regrettably, been stuffed into fleshy lodgings. Extreme versions of mind-body dualism, as we’ll soon see, turned into full fledged Christian splinter groups – Gnosticism and Manichaeism. For now, though, let’s stick with Paul – and the canonical Christian ideas on mind and body.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul lays out some standard stoic censures against the pleasures of the flesh. He writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion, like [those] who do not know God” (1 Thess 4.3-5). Along the same lines, in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself” (1 Cor 6:18). With fornication being such an anathema, by extension, the Christian convert does best to not be married. Paul writes, “he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better” (1 Cor 7.38).

The aversion to sexual intercourse shown here, together with the general mind-body dualism scattered through Paul’s epistles, are familiar material, and certainly come up in Apocryphal Acts literature like the Acts of Paul and Thecla. But what we’ve considered thus far in this episode still leaves us with some big questions about Pauline theology. We’ve explored how he sets up some basic regulations for Gentile converts. And we’ve considered how these regulations were motivated by some combination of Jewish cultural norms and the sorts of Greek Platonic and stoic ideas that Paul’s contemporaries like Seneca were setting down in the same timeframe. What we haven’t done yet, and this is a whopper of a task, is to consider the cardinal issue that Paul may have spent his entire life trying to answer. This was the issue of how Christians were to be saved, and what, exactly, salvation was. [music]

The Apostolic Conundrum: Gentiles and Mosaic Law

When Paul wrote his epistles, he knew that for centuries, Jews had a clear theological path to follow – a path that had been outlined in the Pentateuch. They were to follow the laws of Moses and uphold their covenant with Yahweh, and eventually, according to various prophecies in books like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Joel, and Habakkuk, the Jews would see much better days on earth.12 For Gentile converts, though – those not given the mandate to follow Mosaic Law, a different path toward salvation had to be set out. It would not, by and large, include the 613 commandments of the Pentateuch.

Throughout the Pauline Epistles, Paul disabuses his readers of the notion that they need to honor the Pentateuch’s sizable rules lists. And while Paul spends a great deal of time in his extant writings defining what Christians might do to be saved, he also spends a lot of time elaborating on what Christians don’t need to do in order to be saved. In the Book of Galatians, whose main purpose is a discussion of Gentiles and Mosaic Law, Paul writes that “the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:13-14). This is a core notion in the New Testament – it also comes up in two of the Gospels (Matt 22:37-9, Mark 12:29-31), in Romans (13:8-10). In the latter book, Paul draws a portrait of Jewish practitioners of Mosaic Law following the directives of their holy book without having faith themselves. The issue of Mosaic Law comes up early in the Book of Romans, with a long rhetorical question to a hypothetical Jewish person:
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself?” (Rom 2:17-21).
As to what the addressee of the question ought to teach himself, the answer is that following rules lists is no substitute for having true spiritual faith. Another famous Pauline verse, in 2 Corinthians, states that God “has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives it life” (2 Cor 3.6). In this case, the letter is legalism and formulaic liturgy – but the spirit is passionate, honest religious conviction. Spiritual faith, Paul writes in Galatians, has replaced the disciplined legalism of the Pentateuch. In Galatians, Paul argues that “now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ. . .you are all children of God through faith” (Gal 3.25-6). Now that was a flurry of quotes, but they all add up to similar conclusions – the Law of Moses, when followed for its own sake, Paul seemed to believe, can be an ossified routine exercise, and what’s really important is genuine faith and spiritual conviction.

Paul’s point in these passages may have been that when you do something many times by force of habit you can forget the sometimes profound motivations that drove you toward it in the first place, and that this can occur at a cultural level, as well. He directs his readers, then, toward a more active, mindful spirituality than one of inherited customs and ceremonies. And sometimes, maybe due to an ardent desire to welcome uninitiated pagans off the Roman street and into Christianity, Paul can be especially dismissive toward the regulatory legacy of Judaism. This dismissiveness sometimes causes him to make striking statements – statements out of step with the mainline Jewish Christianity of the Apostolic generation. In Galatians, he writes, “Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourself be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law” (Gal 5.1-4). It is possible that Paul had undergone such a turnabout from his long held Jewish beliefs that he no longer thought anyone should be circumcised for any reason, and we’ll talk about this a bit more later. To stick more closely for the moment to the subject of the anti-legalist ideology in the Pauline Epistles, let’s look at a few more of the Pauline passages on this same subject that are of questionable authorship.

The Book of Hebrews is very clear on the subject of animal sacrifice – it’s no longer necessary after Christ, so cut it out. Hebrews says that Jesus “has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. . . he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12). Along these same lines, the Book of Colossians announces that Christians don’t need to bother about Jewish food and festival laws, stating, “do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2.16-17). Laws, in the lines of these pseudepigraphal Pauline letters, were not only a distraction from the awesome power of Christ – they were also asinine. The Book of Titus advises its audience to “avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissentions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3.9). The same book warns against “paying attention to Jewish myths or to commandments of those who reject the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure” (Titus 1.13-15).

Throughout the Pauline Epistles, then, both those considered genuine and those considered spurious, Christ’s coming has been the central historical event of the cosmos, upending all of Earth’s religious practices, including Judaism’s. To Paul, the longstanding ethical framework of the Pentateuch was now defunct – those who had a relationship with the one true God were no longer a single ethnicity with a single covenant, but instead the whole earth. And while various practices might persist, and while a blended Jewish Christianity had been born that would persist for centuries, Mosaic Law, according to what would soon be the New Testament, had been replaced by something else. [music]

The First Two Types of Pauline Salvation: Good Works and Faith

At the very heart of the Pauline Epistles, once one has dealt with the complex matter of their attitude toward the Mosaic Law, is the related subject of salvation. With the Pentateuch’s rules out of the picture – with animal sacrifice, and cleanliness regulations, and civic conduct rules all swept off the table, Paul still had to tell his new converts what it was that they needed to do. And what he wrote on this subject engendered some of the core parts of Christian theology – ideas still central to the basic structure of the religion’s many variants today – original sin, predestination, salvation by good works and salvation by faith, and Christian apocalypticism, to name just a few. Above all of these in importance is probably the issue of how salvation operates, a subject to which we can now turn our full attention.

When we are young, perhaps, in countries with Christian and Islamic heritage, we learn that if we’re good, we go to heaven, and that if we’re bad, we go to hell. Zoroastrians, seated in modern day Iraq and Iran, taught a version of this as well, as had Ancient Egyptians since the Middle Bronze Age. For the entire duration that the Bible and Qur’an were being written, individual salvation and damnation, which Plato also develops a version of at the close of the Republic – individual salvation and damnation were out there. And for a lot of us, this is salvation in a nutshell. Flocks of theologians might draw some lace around the edges, but the notion that good behavior leads to heaven, and bad to hell is really what it says in the Bible. Right? No, actually. Not really. Not in the verses of the New Testament, at least.

Christianity has a complicated relationship with the notion that good behavior, or to use Christian terminology, good works, are the keys to God’s favor. At the roots of this complex relationship are Paul’s own writings about the Law of Moses in the Pentateuch. Most notably, in the Book of Galatians, Paul goes so far as to say that if following the Law alone and doing good works were sufficient, we wouldn’t have needed the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Specifically, Paul writes, “[W]e have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by works of the law. . .for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (Gal 14-15,21). The statement is pretty striking, but still pretty straightforward. If all we need is free will and a clear rules list, then salvation is a fairly simple piece of machinery that requires neither a compassionate deity at the top nor a genuine devotee at the bottom – merely the mechanistic protocol of rules and adherents.13

Some passages of the New Testament, then, are skeptical about the notion of good works leading to salvation. Other passages, though, give a thumbs up to good works. In Romans, Paul writes, “For [God] will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2.6-8). The Book of Revelation describes salvation working by similar mechanics, its narrator, relating a vision of the afterlife, telling us, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books” (Rev 20:12). These passages confirm what we’re told when we’re young – you are judged based on an assessment of the amassed actions you’ve taken during your life. The situation is the same in the Bronze Age Egyptian Book of the Dead, in which the heart of the deceased is weighed against the feather of ma’at, and the same as in the Middle Persian Zoroastrian Viraf, in which a believer’s actions are evaluated on the Chinvat Bridge, and he is saved or damned based on his deeds.

Pelagius (c. 358 – c.418) had a more sanguine view of humankind than Christianity embraced after Augustine. Pelagius, adopting a more Platonic view, believed we were not sullied by original sin, and the exercise of will and reason would lead to good works and through them salvation. Augustine, whose view of humanity was not so positive, saw to it that Pelagius was excommunicated and condemned in 416.

As simple and popular as this doctrine of salvation – in other words salvation by good works –was in antiquity, though, Christian theology has never quite embraced it without reservations. A theologian of British origins named Pelagius, born in the mid-300s CE, advanced the doctrine that humans were not morally tainted at birth, and that Christians might use their own intellects and ethical convictions in order to perform good works on earth and save themselves from damnation. And in 416 CE, urged on by Augustine, Pope Innocent I condemned Pelagius’ teachings, and two years later, Pelagius himself was excommunicated. In 431, Pelagius was condemned as a heretic at the First Council of Ephesus. Early Christians took Paul’s words in Galatians seriously – “if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”

For various reasons, then, passages of the Pauline Epistles that have to do with salvation do not clear a path for the doctrine of salvation by good works. To Paul as well as Augustine, if you had a clear rules book, you could simply keep a tight watch on your own self conduct without ever thinking much about God or the sacrifice of Christ – if you had rules to follow, you were all set to do it on your own. And about eleven hundred years after Pelagius’ teachings were condemned, an institutionally grounded form of Pelagianism had gained control over European theology, replacing good works with its own purchasable catalog of virtues, and mediating the relationship between Christ and believers with a thick layer of clerical functionaries. This, of course, was one of the more ignoble periods of the Catholic Church’s history, when the selling of indulgences had angered and alienated an energized grassroots of European Christians who would go on to begin the Protestant Reformation.

The theologian Martin Luther, who lived from 1483-1546, was one of the most important individuals to ever read the Pauline Epistles. And his take on them, and in some cases the way that he translated them, is that they do not at all support the notion of salvation through good works. So we’ve talked about how the Pauline Epistles are very iffy on the value of good works. Let’s look at some of the passages in the Pauline Epistles that contradict the notion of salvation through good works and introduce a different doctrine. This second doctrine is, as mentioned earlier, that salvation doesn’t come from anything other than faith, or, to use Martin Luther’s term sola fide, “by faith alone.” Here’s Paul, in the third chapter of Romans, in what is arguably the most influential passage in the entire New Testament outside the Gospels – this is once again the New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV translation.
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed. . .For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ. . .whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. [God] did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. (Rom 3.21-28)
Let’s hear that last line one more time. “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Now, Martin Luther loved this line so much that he took the liberty of mistranslating it. He wrote – and I’m going to use a recording, because I don’t speak German – “So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben.”14 Or, in English, to the original line, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law,” Luther added the word allein, or “alone,” so that it read, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith alone apart from works prescribed by the law.” Not quite what Paul wrote, but then, Luther was pretty pissed about the selling of indulgences and evidently willing to bend the rules a bit.

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Martin Luther (1529). Luther’s deliberate mistranslation of Romans 3:28, his detailed and highly motivated readings of the Pauline epistles, and more generally his doctrine of sola fide, were instrumental to the birth of Protestantism in the sixteenth century.

So that passage, and the Book of Romans more generally, is the epicenter of a whole lot of Christian theological work about salvation. We suspect that Romans was the last of Paul’s surviving epistles, and in it, he is perhaps the most ardent about insisting that faith is the core of what makes Christians Christians. He writes in the tenth chapter of Romans, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart. . .because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10.8-9). Such a confession, to Paul, commenced a relationship in which Christ becomes a synecdoche for the collective of his believers, annulling their transgressions, and saving them all. Paul believes that after one’s faith is awakened in Jesus, “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. . .So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:5-8,11). These lines ring true to the hearts of hundreds of millions of modern Christians, who generally agree that the core of salvation is faith in Christ.

However, the doctrine of sola fide – that one must only have faith, while it has been useful to certain junctures of Christian theology, also has some issues. In the Book of Ephesians, an early Christian writer emphasizes that Christ “has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in pace of the two, thus making peace” (Eph 2.15). As with so many moments of the Pauline Epistles, it’s a lovely passage, but one that leaves us with questions. If Christ demolished the commandments, why are the first ten still ubiquitous? In the once again key text of the Book of Romans, Paul writes, “now that you have been freed form sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:22-3). This often quoted passage is as sonorous as it is ambiguous. After all, if sola fide is the doctrine, and genuine faith offers the free gift of eternal salvation, the broad issue of how Christians ought to conduct themselves on earth is left pretty unclear.15 Later epistles in the New Testament only muddied the waters further. The epistle of James, hauntingly, states that “Even the demons believe – and shudder” (Jas 2:19). In other words, demons could have faith in the primacy of the Christian God, so wasn’t something other than that required of the pious believer?

This is a pretty important issue in Christian theology, so let me repeat it. If we toss Mosaic Law into the waste bin, and proclaim that all we need for salvation is faith in Christ, then what’s to stop us from adopting radically different worship practices and vastly different ethical systems all called Christianity? This is a whopper of a question, and Paul himself seems to have thought about it during the latter part of his career. Paul writes, once again in Romans, “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness” (Rom 2:14-5). In other words, to Paul and other Christian theologians, the process by which one comes to experience genuine faith in Jesus, whether by a miracle or something more mundane, is concomitant with an instinctive understanding of a certain fundamental code of ethics. Put more briefly, the Pelagians held that good works led to salvation. But Paul, toward the end of his career, may have believed that faith made good works – whatever, exactly, good works meant – into a foregone conclusion, and thus faith was the only necessary precursor to salvation. It’s a certainly a dizzying logical leap, but nonetheless a common way to reconcile the rather different doctrines of salvation by faith and salvation by good works.[music]

The Second Two Types of Pauline Salvation: Predestination and Apocalypticism

John Calvin - Young

An anonymous 16th-century Flemish school painting of the theologian John Calvin (1509-64). The French reformer was attracted to passages in Paul that supported the doctrine of predestination.

Beyond the central dichotomy between salvation by good works, and salvation by faith, and possible ways to reconcile them, there are other important theological odds and ends related to salvation lying around in the Pauline Epistles that we should spend at least a little bit of time with. The most important of these is what has historically been Christianity’s third path toward salvation, and this is predestination. Paul writes in the Book of Romans, “What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy” (Rom 9.14-16). That sounds more like John Calvin than it does Pelagius or Martin Luther. A moment later, writing about the Pharaoh whom Yahweh smites in the Book of Exodus (and assuming, by the way, that his Gentile readership knows the story), Paul observes that God “has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses” (Rom 9.18). So much, evidently, for the individual’s faith, or her pursuit of good works. And speaking just after this about the small portion of the Jewish community that has become Christian, Paul is similarly fatalistic. He writes, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Rom 11.5-6).

At certain moments in the Pauline Epistles, then, God saves sinners through a process of selecting them ahead of time regardless of what they do on earth. Imagining his readers questioning this controversial doctrine, Paul writes, “who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?. . .How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 9:20,11:33). Paul’s answer to the question of divine injustice here is the same one we find in the Books of Job and 2 Esdras – in a word, God is all-powerful, shut up.

While, as we’ve seen, the Pauline Epistles have passages that can potentially support salvation by good works, salvation by faith alone, and predestination, there is, incredibly, a fourth possibility for salvation in the Pauline Epistles, one that we might call apocalyptic, or general salvation. This fourth type of salvation, while it has always broadly been a part of Christianity, has distinctly Jewish roots. Redemption and deliverance in Judaism do not come at an individual level – the Old Testament does not have doctrines of heaven, hell, and individual salvation. What it does have are prophecies of a coming time of general corporeal resurrection and earthly justice for the Israelites. The Book of Daniel promises that “[A]t that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book” (Dan 12:2). And in Joel, Yahweh promises, to “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. . .Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty, for the LORD dwells in Zion” (Joel 3:1, 20-1). In this glorious and triumphant moment for the Israelites, spoken of throughout the Old Testament, the Book of Habakkuk proclaims, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habb 2:14). And although the Israelites have had a tough time of it, the God in Jeremiah tells us, “I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty” (Jer 31:13-14).

There are quite a few moments in the Old Testament’s Prophetic Books that sound like this. Christians have been most drawn to oracles in Isaiah – Chapters 9, 11, 25, 52 and 53, specifically – that mention a specific messiah, but from end to end the massive expanse of the Prophetic Books much more often foretell a coming period of earthly glory for the descendants of Abraham in covenant with Yahweh. In the centuries that they were written – generally the 600s and 500s BCE, the Prophetic Books’ visions of the future were fueled by the same desire to justify an inglorious present as the Historical Books were. Sure, it appeared on the surface, the Israelites had been conquered by the Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and then ruled over by the Achaemenid Persians, the Greeks, and more. But it was all part of the agenda of their ethnic group’s God, to whom great nations were merely rooks and bishops and knights on the chessboard of fate, spinning around the central node of the Israelites, and who would eventually dash his fist downon the chessboard and elevate the Israelites into a position of superiority forever.

So this ancient doctrine of general salvation, like the 613 commandments, was something Paul had to deal with in the epistles he wrote. Paul intended to grow Christianity far beyond the province of Judea and its satellite communities of diasporic Jews, and so Old Testament prophecies that promised deliverance for the Jews, and only the Jews had to be modified. And so in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor 15.51-2). There is no sense here that the resurrection will be of Israelites only, but instead that in a blinding flash, he and the letter’s recipients and all like them will be transmogrified into eternal versions of themselves. Apocalypticism was at the center of Paul’s beliefs and drove his energetic urgency. According to Pauline scholar N.T. Wright, downplaying the apocalypticism of Paul’s ideology is a grave mistake. Scholar N.T. Wright argues that
The Western churches have, by and large, put Paul’s message within a medieval notion that rejected the biblical vision of heaven and earth coming together at last. The Middle Ages changed the focus of attention away from ‘earth’ and toward two radically different ideas instead, ‘heaven’ and ‘hell.’. . .Paul’s. . .gospel was then made to serve this quite different agenda, that is, that believing the gospel was the way to escape all that and ‘go to heaven.’ But that was not Paul’s point.16
Paul’s point was, in his own time, apocalypticism more than personal salvation. Apocalypticism was a common notion in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East. The Jews had, by the time of Jesus, lived alongside Achaemenid and Parthian Zoroastrians for 500 years. These Zoroastrians, perhaps since the Bronze Age, had believed in a time of increasing decline, a final battle between good and evil, a prophesied son of a virgin called the Saoshyant, and an event called the Frashokereti that would redeem and purify the earth and make humankind immortal.17 Their apocalyptic narrative has a structure similar to the ones in Judaism and Christianity, and we’ll consider Zoroastrianism on its own soon.

But to leave the possibly Zoroastrian roots of the Pauline Epistles, let’s hear Christian apocalypticism as it’s written in the New Testament. The story of the world’s end begins, in 2 Timothy at least, with a general decline. 2 Timothy’s writer predicts, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with the sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths” (2 Tim 4.3-4). 2 Timothy adds, “You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of God, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim 3.1-5). This moral degeneration, according to other New Testament epistles, will invoke the fiery wrath of Christ.

The writer of 2 Thessalonians envisions a time “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1.7-9). And at this time, “the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming” (2 Thess 2.8). The Pauline Epistles – especially those no longer attributed to Paul – speak of a time when the meek, cheek-turning behavior that Christ advises in the Gospels will have to be set aside for Armageddon. The author of Ephesians writes – slightly longer quote here:
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6.12-17)
The apocalyptic prophecies in throughout Pauline Epistles are diverse. Some envision a final deliverance and corporeal resurrection, undertaken by God, that happen as in a sudden flash of light, sorting out the injustices of the cosmos in an eye blink. Others depict a final war between good and evil. The Book of Revelation, the most important apocalyptic text in Christianity, involves a similar mashup of last judgments, sometimes instantaneous chronological narrative jumps between rotten present and glorious eternity, and at other times martial clashes between the forces of good and evil.

To return more generally to the subject of salvation in the Pauline Epistles, then, apocalypticism is the fourth and final means for the deliverance of the faithful in the New Testament. Those who want to be saved, we learn from Paul, might pursue their salvation by good works, or by faith alone, or by faith whose inevitable outcome is good works. Those seeking salvation might simply be predestined to salvation or damnation from the beginning of time. And at the end of time, whatever the intermediary mechanics of salvation are, those seeking salvation may experience some sort of bodily resurrection and eternal life, depending on either their good works, their faith, their predetermined fates, or some combination thereof.

The fourfold possibilities of salvation in the Pauline Epistles, then, have given theologians plenty to contemplate. In a way, the doctrine of judgment day and corporeal resurrection, originally a product of a Jewish ideology that had no doctrine of posthumous salvation, is redundant in Christianity. In other words, if we are judged, however exactly we are judged, after death, to the individual believer, who has already received her eternal rewards or punishments in the afterlife, a judgment day is superfluous. However, this sort of analysis is anachronistic. The doctrine of Christian salvation, as we’ve seen over the past hour or so, was in the Pauline Epistles in a state of flux and historical development, as too were the apocalyptic doctrines floating all over the Eastern Mediterranean. Parthian Zoroastrians taught that judgment day was on the way, just as some surviving Egyptian texts from around the time of Christ – like the Oracle of the Potter and the Prophecy of the Lamb sound pretty much like what the New Testament would have sounded like if it had been written in Egypt. One of these, the Prophecy of the Lamb, our surviving copy of which was copied around 7 BCE, states the following:
[And it will] happen in the time in question that the rich man will become a [poor] man. . .[. . .Falsehood will thrive] in Egypt. Men will not speak the truth. […] Many [evils(?) will be] in Egypt, inflicting injury. . .against their standing men. . .[Then] A man will go before [his companions]; he will say to them what is. . .in his heart. . .Truth will be manifest. Falsehood will perish. Law and judgment will occur within Egypt. The shrines of the Egyptian gods will be recognized for them at Nineveh in the district of Syria. When it [happens] that the people of Egypt go to the land of Syria, they will control its districts and they will find / the shrines of the Egyptian gods. Because of the good fortune that will happen in Egypt they will be speechless., The one abominable to god will fare badly. The one beneficent to god will receive beneficence from god.18
This prophecy, penned in the new Roman province of Egypt around the time Paul’s parents were teenagers, contains the various elements of Jewish and Christian apocalypticism – things will go downhill, but then the poor will be made rich and the rich poor, some sort of messiah figure will show up to speed things along, the good will be rewarded and bad punished, and our god or gods will be recognized as legitimate.19 This is what ancient Mediterranean apocalyptic writing sounds like, and we’ve found more and more of it in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Gnostic scriptures, and so we shouldn’t be surprised to find it in the Pauline Epistles, even if it sits adjacent to different, more individual-centric doctrines of salvation.

Before we move in, let’s review what we’ve talked about so far. We started by looking at the sparse peppering of ethical instructions in the Pauline Epistles. These instructions are nowhere near the size and detail of those in Mosaic Law, and we learned that Paul dismisses Mosaic Law, sometimes quite forcefully, often in the Pauline Epistles. We also learned that, while Paul provides a smattering of ethical instructions to his readers on various subjects, he more broadly embraces a mind-body dualism in his letters, complaining that his wayward body sometimes goes its own way in spite of the best efforts of his mind and spirit, and also recommending celibacy and avoiding wedlock as the best paths to spiritual fulfillment.

The rest of the present program has been on the issue of salvation in the Pauline Epistles. We considered those parts of the letters that seem to promote the idea of salvation through good works, and learned a bit about the legacy of interpreting the New Testament this way, which led to the Pelagian controversy in the early 400s. And then we looked at sections of the Pauline Epistles that have to do with salvation by faith, the importance of this idea during the Protestant Reformation, and how Paul may have believed that spiritual faith automatically led to the practice of good works. Finally, we considered the two other ways salvation gets discussed in the Pauline Epistles – first, the doctrine of predestination, or limited atonement, which comes up once or twice in Paul’s writings, and second, the doctrine of apocalypticism, that fourth and final idea about salvation that holds that at some final juncture at the twilight of time, all of the good will be rewarded and evil punished.

For especially my Christian listeners who know these texts well and perhaps have well-formulated but different takes on them, let me say that I appreciate your patience and apologize if I’ve failed to engage with the Pauline Epistles in ways that make them meaningful to you. This is a complex juncture of a complex book which humbles all of us, and I’m under no illusions that I can provide anything other than a general structural introduction. Still, before we move on to the other epistles in the next program, I do have one more thing I’d like to think about with you for a while – and I should add that this is driven by a personal interest in the New Testament Epistles. Here goes. [music]

Paul’s Blind Spot: The Theological Developments of the Late Second Temple Period

We all have different paths toward learning about the Bible, depending on our upbringings and our interests. I, personally, read the New Testament only after having read the Old Testament. And not just Genesis and a potpourri of Psalms – but the whole thing, together with Apocryphal literature stretching deep into the Second Temple period – the masterful Wisdom of Solomon and optimistic Book of Tobit, cut from Protestant canons, the book of Second Esdras, cut from all major bibles except the Slavonic one, and all the Maccabees and history of Jerusalem under Alexander’s successor kingdoms, followed by the Hasmonean and Herodian dynasties, under which the fascinating Books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees were written. While I’m not Jewish myself, I find often that my interests in the New Testament have to do with its Jewish heritage and the way that its authors, Jewish or Gentile or something in between, envisioned their new theology’s relationship with the older one already being practiced in first century synagogues.

My interests drove the analytical portion of our program on the Gospels, in which we took a closer look at the Pharisees and the Sadducees, those largely faceless gaggles of individuals whom Jesus clobbers in arguments again and again in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We learned that the Pharisees, while they were indeed associated with a punctilious devotion to written and oral law, also had a lot in common with first century Christians. The Pharisees believed in life after death. They believed that the Hebrew Bible was not the final word, but that more would be written. And unlike the aristocratic Sadducees, the Pharisees were popular with the commoners, just as Christianity would prove to be, century after century.

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s Ruth in the Field of Boaz (1828). Ruth, a postexilic narrative placed in the otherwise dark and gloomy Deuteronomistic History, exemplifies how Judaism and its writings were changing in the cosmopolitan and diasporic climates of the Persian and Hellenistic periods.

To turn our attention to back to the Pauline Epistles, then, and to do so with a mind toward the Jewish prehistory of Christianity, I have to make a confession. The portions of the Pauline Epistles that have to do with salvation were the single hardest part of the entire Bible for me, personally, to understand. They are intrinsically complicated, as we saw in this episode. And coming to them from deep within the Second Temple period of Jewish history and culture, I may have put myself at a special disadvantage. Arriving at the New Testament fresh from the theological renaissance of Second Temple Judaism, from the stirring plot of the full version of Esther, the almost Dickensian tale of Tobit, in which virtue is rewarded, the proud Hasmonean Book of Judith, the fireworks of 1 Enoch, which prophesied an anointed savior and a differentiated afterlife a century before Christ was born, and once again the vibrant prose of Esdras and the Wisdom of Solomon, what Paul had to say about salvation in the New Testament did not add up. Lest I sound terribly offensive, let me to explain myself.

The Jewish writings that we have from the Second Temple period do not show a sterile, calcified, conservative culture prattling about Mosaic Law while the rest of the world evolves. During the Achaemenid, Hellenistic, and early Roman Imperial periods, Judaism, too, was evolving. Zoroastrian ideas glimmer in the Books of Daniel and Tobit. Greek philosophical idioms and ideas shine throughout the Books of Maccabees and the entire corpus of Second Temple literature produced during the late second and early first century CE. 1 Enoch is the most important apocryphal scripture on Earth, demonstrating that most of the ideas of the New Testament were already pinballing around Jerusalem a century before Jesus was born. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which fill nearly 700 pages of the standard Penguin translation of them, show a theological world in flux just east of Jerusalem – one at a cusp between Mediterranean West and Parthian East, with plenty of elements from both. During the life of Jesus, Judaism was already a faith that flourished on multiple continents, which had evolved into several different main sects.

Historical events altered the textual output of Second Temple Judaism. A lot of Second Temple period literature is sunnier and more optimistic than the older parts of the Hebrew Bible. The Pentateuch, Historical Books, and majority of the Prophetic Books were made in the often traumatizing crucible of the 600s and 500s. But as dawn broke on the Achaemenid period of Jewish history, and later the Hellenistic period, while these periods certainly brought new challenges, they also brought long stretches of tranquility and economic opportunity. The Book of Ecclesiastes shows us a world of almost wearisome commercial plentitude. Sirach offers a mass of often stuffy proverbs and directive to pursue wisdom in a book that often sounds more like the epistles of the Roman poet Horace than anything biblical.

The full version of Esther – with its Greek additions – is the tale of a resilient Jewish woman in a faraway land who, through her intelligence and her resourcefulness, helps secure the longevity of diasporic Jewish community in modern day Iran. The Book of Judith, while its internal historical knowledge is sketchy, is nonetheless another tale of a Jewish heroine – one who saves her small town from a marauding army and enjoys prosperity thereafter. In the folkloric Book of Tobit, another Second Temple period story, God helps a lovelorn girl marry an eligible suitor and heals the suitor’s father. Jonah, a late prophetic book, is the tale of a seemingly doomed city, Nineveh, receiving a warning from a reluctant prophet, repenting, and thereafter enjoying the kindly forgiveness of Yahweh. In all of these Second Temple period books, by all means pioneering works of prose narrative in addition to everything else, the doom and gloom of books like Numbers, Deuteronomy, and 2 Kings has dissipated. Israelites are largely able to take their fate into their own hands through the force of their own volition, Yahweh is much less furious and capricious, and at times – such as in the Book of Jonah – he is more than willing to let sinners repent for their misdeeds on earth once they’ve understood the nature of their transgressions and learned their lessons.

Toward the end of the Hebrew Bible is the Song of Songs, that ancient poem often dated to the Second Temple Period. While we often read this book today as an Ancient Near Eastern love poem that, for whatever odd reasons, made its way into the Old Testament, Jewish commentators have declared it an impassioned exchange of affection between Yahweh and the people of Israel. If there is something to this, then – and indeed Yahweh as a bridegroom and Israel as a bride surface often throughout the earlier Prophetic Books – then toward the end of the often dark Hebrew Bible we get the sense that Yahweh ultimately does love the Israelites, and taking into account other works of Second Temple literature, that Yahweh can forgive trespasses, that good things are happening to good people, and that life is quite a bit better than it was in the bygone days of Assyrian and Babylonian invasions. In short, there is a joy, and a lightheartedness in the patchwork of texts that make up Second Temple literature, some apocryphal, and some not, that we often forget when we read strictly within the confines of our Biblical canons, if we even bother much with the Old Testament in the first place.

The Pauline Epistles, broadly speaking, paint a starker portrait of Second Temple Judaism than what we actually see in books like Tobit and Jonah, as though all there is to Judaism is the Pentateuch’s rules and then a Hindenburg inferno of a failed covenant. In the words of scholar Craig Hill, writing on the Book of Romans, “The popular picture of first-century Judaism as a religion of sterile legalism, supercilious piety, and haughty self-righteousness is not supported by Jewish documents. When allowed to speak for themselves, first-century Jews are not heard advocating a religion of merit, the photo-negative of a uniquely Christian notion of salvation by grace. Functionally, [first century] Judaism and Christianity are quite similar: one ‘gets in’ by means of God’s gracious calling; one then is obligated (not least by gratitude) to obey the will of God, however defined.”20 This, then, to me, was what was puzzling about Paul’s doctrines of salvation. People had already been getting joyfully saved throughout the texts of the Second Temple period – the Ninevehites in Jonah, forgiven by God, the Persian diasporic Jews in Esther, the frightened Judahites in the Book of Judith, the good and pious believers in 1 Enoch, gentle old Tobit, in his book of the Bible, the unnamed Jerusalemites who are neighbors of the preacher in Ecclesiastes, eating, drinking, and being merry as the book advises. I think I had some questions about Paul’s doctrines of salvation in his epistles because to me, apocalyptic salvation had unquestionably been there all along in the Old Testament, and in addition to that, Second Temple texts were showing an increasingly gentle Yahweh, and connectedly, increasingly rosy portraits of Jewish life on earth. I am not the only one who has noticed this blind spot in the Pauline Epistles.

To quote scholar Craig Hill again,
Needless to say, the existence of any pre- or non-Christian Judaism in which one might find right relationship with God creates a severe problem for Paul. On the one hand, he wants to argue that God saves only in Christ and that Judaism, apart from Christ, is a way of ‘sin’ and ‘death’ (Rom 7:9-11); on the other hand, Paul feels compelled to cite precedents in Judaism for God’s saving [people]. The question is, can one have it both ways? Paul might have argued on the basis of essential continuity: the God of the Jews, always a God of salvation, has worked this saving purpose ultimately in Christ. . .Instead, Paul’s argument traces the line of essential discontinuity, which is precisely what Marcion and other despisers of Judaism have found congenial in his thinking.21
In that quote, we heard the name “Marcion.” Born a couple of decades after Paul died, Marcion was one of the most influential Christian theologians of the second century. Paul, as we’ve learned in this program, was ready to set aside some of the more elaborate and inconvenient aspects of traditional Jewish law to win Gentile converts. Marcion, however, and a certain lineage of early Christian thinkers, were willing to set aside Yahweh, the Old Testament, and all of Judaism. [music]

Two Early Christian Responses to Paul: Marcion and Chrysostom

A number of writings survive from early Christianity in which we encounter Christians who read Paul, watched Paul gloss over the regulations of the Pentateuch, and decided that the entire Jewish heritage of Christianity and even Old Testament ought to be thrown out. This is a pretty sensitive subject, so let’s be very clear. First of all, there are many moments in the Pauline Epistles and Acts at which Paul touts his own Jewish heritage with a clear sense of pride.22 But there are also moments in the Pauline Epistles at which Paul is quite dismissive of the Jewish history behind Christianity.23 Elsewhere, from time to time, Paul envisions some Jewish people who carefully follow the law of the Pentateuch, but lack a true faith in God, not by any means with the sense that all Jews carefully pursue the letter at the expense of the spirit, but instead as a sort of corner case or negative example, so that his Gentile converts might get the sense that Mosaic Law in and unto itself isn’t necessarily a good thing.24 These critiques of a certain kind of Jewish person – a Jewish person meticulous about law codes but perfunctory about faith, may be nothing more than a straw man figure Paul sets up for the sake of argument – but all the same, these critiques were read with great zeal by some very important early Christian theologians who sought to cleave the Old and New Testaments apart.

One of them, Marcion, again born a couple of decades after Paul’s death, dismissed Yahweh as a lower deity, and a belligerent secondary god unworthy of Christian worship, whose followers were misguided. Marcion seems to have introduced a shorter canon of scriptures than eventually made it into the New Testament – one which included only a version of Luke and most of Paul’s letters. Interested only in the Gentile version of Christianity, then, Marcion clung especially to those portions of Paul’s writings that granted license to abandon Mosaic Law and Judaism more generally.

Another thinker along this line, John Chrysostom, was active as Archbishop of Constantinople over the second half of the 300s CE. John Chrysostom, who wrote heavily on the Pauline epistles, also composed a series of sermons called the Adversus Judaeos, or Against the Jews. John Chrysostom was ardently anti-Jewish – he is often associated with popularizing the inculpation of Jews for the murder of Jesus, and made public speeches explicitly against Christians who clung to their Jewish roots. In his first of eight sermons against Jews, John Chrysostom says synagogues are no better than pagan theaters and brothels (1.2.7). He says that they are dwelling places of demons (1.3.3), and expresses a special disgust at Christians who attend synagogue for Rosh Hashanah (1.5.7). Chrysostom concludes his speech to his Christian audience with the words, “If any of you, whether you are here present or not, shall go to the spectacle of the Trumpets, or rush off to the synagogue. . .or take part in fasting, or share in the Sabbath, or observe any other Jewish ritual great or small, I call heaven and earth as my witnesses that I am guiltless of the blood of all of you” (1.7.8).25

We can certainly grimace at the rank anti-Semitism evident in Chrysostom’s writings here. But to consider Chrysostom’s writings from a different perspective, the very fact that Chrysostom was growling about Christians munching unleavened bread for Passover in the late 300s indicates that these same Christians did not share his bigotry. Scattered passages in second century theologians like Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus indicate that a small population of Jewish-Christian gospels existed – a Gospel of the Ebionites, a Gospel According to the Hebrews, a Gospel According to the Egyptians, indicating the fact that in spite of Marcion working to chop Judaism and Christianity apart, in a number of communities it was sticking together. Chrysostom’s writings, again, suggest that even by perhaps 400, there were still many Christians fluent in the Jewish festival calendar, circumcision, Mosaic Law, and, we can presume, many communities where what are today two different religions existed in various amalgamated forms. This syncretism, we can safely assume, had persisted since the Apostolic generation of Christianity and the ministry of Paul. It was a syncretism, I think, that Paul himself would have been very comfortable with.

Paul and the “God-Fearers”

One of the biggest mistakes we make when we think about first century Christianity is that we assume that there were two rigid categories of early Christians – that there were Jewish converts and Gentile converts. Many gradients existed between these two categories. As Paul undertook his missionary journeys, his first stops were most often synagogues, situated, obviously, in the Jewish communities within the urban centers of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean. The largest of these communities – the Jewish population of the city of Rome, numbered between 20,000 and 50,000 during the lifetime of Christ.27 But diasporic populations with thousands of citizens were tucked away into many corners of the Roman Empire, including Paul’s hometown of Tarsus in the southern part of modern-day Turkey. It is important to remember that these were not sealed off, insular groups of resident aliens who had no dealings with their Greek and Latin speaking neighbors, but instead, parts of the fabric of urban Roman civilization who in many cases enjoyed special esteem due to the ancient vintage of their religion, and in King Herod’s time and before the First Roman Jewish War, as sons and daughters of a very glamorous and exotic provincial territory. From some records, we possess evidence of outbreaks of prejudice against Jews, such as the one that took place in 40 CE, when Greek mobs attacked and committed murders throughout Jewish neighborhoods in Alexandria, which led the Jewish writer Philo to join an assembly to Caligula in Rome – Philo himself reports various persecutions by the Roman prefect Aulus Avilius Flaccus, giving us hard evidence that being a Jew even under the pax romana was never safe or secure.28 But elsewhere, due to their impressive history, their ancient culture, the expansiveness of their scriptures and the natural curiosity of a certain segment of the Greco-Roman public, Jewish communities and their synagogues, even prior to the time of Christ, attracted a population of Gentiles interested in, and respectful toward Judaism even if they didn’t take the plunge and follow all the dictates of Mosaic Law.

Saint John Chrysostom in a Byzantine mosaic in the Hagia Sophia. Chrysostom read Paul’s occasional dismissals of Mosaic Law as an invitation toward Anti-Semitism. While Marcion and surviving Gnostic writings are dismissive of Yahweh and Old Testament theology, Chrysostom’s focused specifically on Jewish communities.

The Gentiles in this population, in the Bible as well as modern scholarship, get called “God-fearers.” They are mentioned at different points in the Book of Acts (13:16, 13:26, 16:14) as being attendees of Paul’s sermons, and various groups and individuals in the works of the philosopher Phil and historian Josephus are identified as sympathizers to Judaism. These “God-fearers,” or Greeks and Romans already curious about Jewish ways, were some of Paul’s readiest converts. As Paul embarked on his second and third missionary journeys, marching northwest through Anatolia and then spinning counterclockwise twice around the Aegean, his first stops were at synagogues, because these synagogues gave him his best chance of getting a foothold in the wild west of Greco-Roman paganism. The fact that synagogues already had groups of Gentiles who were already partial to Jewish history and theology was likely part of the reason for Paul’s attraction to synagogues from the beginning. Here, after all, were ready made populations of sympathetic listeners, deeply curious about Judaism but perhaps still reluctant to reveal a circumcised penis at the Roman bathhouse or Greek gymnasium. Here, in the “God-fearers,” was group perfectly tailored for Christian conversion, a group dazzled by the awesome mystique of Judaism, but iffy about the full brunt of Mosaic Law, a group variously familiar with other salvation-based religions like the cults of Isis, Eleusis, and Dionysus, but also captivated by the Jews who lived down the street from them in their communities. A Jewish savior figure called Jesus Christ, and a wandering Apostle ready to distill his teachings into simple, appealing doctrines, would have seemed very captivating indeed to the miscellaneous Greeks and Romans already drawn to Jewish synagogues for various reasons.

One of the things that we observed in this episode is that Paul never sets out a systematic manual for etiquette. I think one of the reasons Paul is fairly sparse with ethical and ritual instructions in his letters is that a great many of his converts weren’t encountering the world of Jewish culture for the first time. There was less of a need to spell out the basics of Abrahamic social norms for Greeks and Romans who had already been hanging out in and around synagogues, hearing bits of the Septuagint here and there, chatting in Greek with rabbis and elders and maybe developing friendships with and crushes on various members of the Chosen. These Gentile sympathizers were not, to use the language of a sales department, “hard sells” – they were already, to varying degrees, interested in and committed to Judaism. And while Paul does tell his Gentile converts, sometimes quite emphatically, that they don’t need to worry about Mosaic Law and the Jewish festival calendar, at other times he quietly assumes familiarity with these things, at one point in Corinthians rolling out an elaborate metaphor for self purification involving Passover bread.

I think that if Paul had encountered the work of the theologians Marcion or John Chrysostom, he would have been surprised, and perhaps appalled at the way they interpreted him. When Paul preached at synagogues, it was not with the intention of telling any practitioners there to leave Judaism, join some breakaway new religion, and shun their old practices. Paul believed that the prophecies in books like Isaiah and Malachi heralded the coming of a Jewish messiah, that Christ had been that messiah, and that while Christ was the messiah for circumcised Jewish Christians who would continue their age old worship practices with a big thumbs up, the “God-fearers” orbiting Jewish synagogues, not to mention the full-blooded pagans who converted to Christianity, didn’t necessarily need to be circumcised, give up pork, or call in sick to work every Sabbath. Paul’s willingness to downplay and dismiss the importance of Mosaic Law, then, likely came more from a desire to convert a broad array of new believers than any personal aversion to the instructions of the Pentateuch that were such a deep part of his own cultural identity. Paul could be a chameleon – one who shaped his message to the audience that received it. We see him doing it in Philippians, thought most likely to be genuine, a letter that stirs Christian ideas together with the Greek technical vocabulary of stoic philosophy, evidently intended for quite an erudite audience. We see him being a chameleon in his emotive speech to Jewish religious officials in Acts, when he addresses them as one of their own in Hebrew. And while he could be a Greek intellectual when he needed to, and a devout Jew when he needed to, he could also drop his pretenses and connect with the many gradients of Gentiles he met during his extensive travels, telling them not to sweat all the statutes that the Jews had traditionally followed. Unfortunately, readers like John Chrysostom, reading their own religious clannishness into the Pauline Epistles, mistook Paul’s ecumenically-minded willingness to push his own cultural heritage under the rug for actual disdain toward Judaism. The Pauline Epistles, then, like so many other parts of the Bible, are a bit kinder, and smarter, and more complex than certain sectarian interpreters have made them out to be. [music]

The “Crux of Apostolic History”

Before we call it a day, let’s have one final word about Paul – a word about biography, rather than doctrine. This is quite an important point to cover, or else I wouldn’t shoehorn it in at the end of a long show, so let’s shake it out and focus for just a bit longer. There is a famous discrepancy in the New Testament. One book tells us one thing about Paul, and another book tells us something pretty different. We will likely never know which account is true, but in looking at the two accounts side by side, and considering what happened later in Christianity’s next two centuries, we can still make some compelling observations. The discrepancy in question was summarized as “The Crux of Apostolic History” in a 1907 article.29 And the kernel of this discrepancy is that Paul’s account of his early life in the Book of Galatians and the later account of Paul’s life from the Book of Acts tell us very different things about Paul himself, and a certain conference in Jerusalem and what happened there, a conference on the subject of none other than what to do about the tension between Jewish and Gentile variants of Christianity. Let’s go through the details, but do so pretty quickly, since we’ve been at it for a while here – we’ll hear the Acts story of these events, and then the Galatians story, and see where they diverge.

Petrus et Paulus 4th century etching

This fourth-century etching from a catacomb depicts Peter adjacent to Paul. Acts and Galatians depict totally different relationships between the two thinkers, giving early Christians plenty to ponder in regards to the apostolic generation’s actual theology.

The Book of Acts, which we looked at last time, shows us a version of Paul who, though he begins as a persecutor of Christians, converts and generally thereafter falls into step with the other Apostles. In Acts (7:58), Paul first appears as an oppressor of Christians in Jerusalem. A couple of chapters later, on the way to Damascus he experiences his revelation and converts. Not long after – in fact just a couple of weeks (9:9, 9:19) Paul goes down to Jerusalem. There, the Apostles who knew Jesus react to him hesitantly (9:26). But the disciple Barnabas puts in a good word for him, and soon Paul’s relationship with Judean Christians is good enough that Christians help Paul escape to his home turf of Tarsus when he gets in trouble with Greek authorities in Jerusalem. Later – and this is still in the Book of Acts – Paul and Barnabas spend a year preaching in Antioch, and bring emergency food to Judea from Antioch during a famine. Later still, during the time of Paul’s first missionary journey, it becomes clearer and clearer that Gentiles are interested in converting to Christianity and that Gentiles will be a part of the religion’s future. And when Paul returns to Jerusalem a sixth time, a general council is held on the subject of Gentile converts. At this council, a congenial session on the future of the religion’s missionary work, Barnabas and Paul tell of all the uncircumcised strangers who are proving interested in Christianity, and a broad consensus emerges that Gentile converts don’t need to be circumcised or follow the 613 commandments – in fact they just need to follow some very basic directives that God had given Noah after the flood – don’t eat animals that have been sacrificed to idols, don’t drink blood, don’t have illicit sex, and so on. Peter announces in Acts that he was early on told by God that he – Peter – would be the Apostle to the Gentiles (15:7), and that the Gentile converts shouldn’t have to carry the heavy weight of Mosaic Law (15:10-11). After this cordial meeting ends, Paul heads back up to Antioch, but this time he parts company with Barnabas, due to Barnabas wanting to bring along an assistant named John Mark. The two go their separate ways, and Paul is off on his second missionary journey. And that’s what Acts tells us about Paul’s early life – his immersion into the Apostolic world was slow and step by step, consensus about Gentile Christianity was broad and straightforward at the General Counsel in Jerusalem, and the Apostles pretty much believed the same stuff.

The earlier book of Galatians, very famously, tells a different story. Galatians is generally thought to be a genuine letter from Paul, done around the year 50 or 51. And if the Paul of Acts is to some extent a bad boy and outsider, the Paul of Galatians makes himself sound almost like the product of a different world altogether – a person who discovered Christianity completely independently and personally compelled the religion to take new and unforeseen directions in spite of the sluggish conservatism of Apostolic consensus. Almost immediately in Galatians, Paul tells his audience he didn’t hear about Christianity from people – he converted due to a divine revelation from Christ. And significantly in Galatians, Paul announces that after this conversion, “I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus” (Gal 1:16-7). In Paul’s own account in Galatians he says he spent three years in Damascus, and then went to meet Peter in Jerusalem – staying there for just fifteen days. And Paul adds, “In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!. . .I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea” (1:20,22). Fourteen more years passed, meaning that Paul had been a convert for seventeen years, and at this juncture, finally, in the Book of Galatians, the General Counsel took place. As Paul describes it in his earlier, first person account in Galatians, it wasn’t Peter who was the Apostle to the Gentiles – it was Paul himself, and at this General Counsel, there was no harmonious agreement among the Apostles on the subject of Gentiles and Mosaic Law.30 In fact, quite the opposite – after the meeting in Jerusalem, Peter and Paul confronted one another up in Antioch. Paul writes,
When [the Apostle Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. . .[W]hen I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to [Peter] before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Gal 2:11-14).
This is quite a serious schism, and one we will keep in our minds as we move forward. But as we’re wrapping up a program on the Pauline epistles, we should summarize the differences between what the Books of Acts and the Book of Galatians tell us about Paul, because they do not tell us the same thing.

In Acts, after his conversion, Paul is down in Jerusalem after just a couple of weeks, and thereafter is in and out of Jerusalem five times before the General Counsel, having been introduced to the Apostles by Barnabas and had various interactions with the Christians of Judea. In contrast, in Galatians, Paul converts, does missionary work for three years, visits Peter for just two weeks, and then spends the next fourteen years up in the north once more, adamantly asserting that he did not know any Christians in Jerusalem, and did not know any one of the first generation of Christians except for Peter and James. The stories are completely at odds with one another. The second main difference is that in Acts, Paul goes with the flow of the general Apostolic sentiment that Gentile Christians are just fine and don’t have to follow Mosaic Law. In Galatians, there is no flow in this direction – it is only Paul who is pressing for a Gentile Christianity unbuckled from Mosaic Law, such that he concludes the tale of his frustrations at the council by telling his listeners, in a passage we’ve already heard, “for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (2:21). And finally, in Acts, Barnabas is Paul’s conduit to the Apostolic inner circle during Paul’s first month as a Christian, and thereafter companion, the two parting to go their separate ways at the moment of Paul’s second missionary journey. In Galatians, Paul only goes to Jerusalem with Barnabas after seventeen years of being a Christian, the two presumably falling out after Paul’s tiff with Peter in Antioch.

There are substantial questions raised by these discrepancies. When did Paul first go to Jerusalem? What actually happened at the General Counsel that both texts describe? Why does Galatians, written by Paul in the early 50s, say that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, whereas Acts, written maybe three decades later, claim that Peter was the Apostle to the Gentiles? Was Paul merely a late convert who politely fell in line, as he is in Acts? Or, as in Galatians, was Paul’s singular, progressive attitude toward conversion literally the reason that Christianity ever became something more than a transient Jewish cult? Who should we believe?

It is tempting, I think, to trust the third person omniscient narration of Acts, thought to have been written around the 80s. But Galatians, even though it tells a rougher and more disputatious version of Apostolic history, is the second oldest document that we possess from Christianity beyond the short and rather formulaic lines of 1 Thessalonians. Because of the vintage of Galatians, and scholarly consensus on its genuine authorship, and perhaps precisely because it depicts a fractious and unruly Apostolic generation, I personally think that Galatians is more reliable. The Book of Acts, with its tale of a collegial and affable General Counsel in Jerusalem, may be spackling over the previous generation’s rifts in an attempt to make the earliest Christians appear more harmonious than they actually were. This sort of thing happens all the time in the Bible. Deuteronomy revises Leviticus. Chronicles revises Kings. Jubilees revises Genesis. Matthew and Luke revise Mark. The intention of such revisionism is always the same – to take the bumpy parts of posterity and make them answer to the needs of contemporary ideology. Paul, if Galatians is indeed reasonably accurate, was so far ahead of the other Apostles in terms of understanding how Christianity needed to adapt that the author of Acts changed Paul’s biography a bit to make it seem that all the Apostles shared Paul’s spirit of ecumenical conversion.

These are subtle details to weave together at the close of a show on the potentially dry subject of the Pauline Epistles, but the implications of these details are important. The unambiguous discrepancies between Galatians and the later Book of Acts show us that within the very first generation of Christians, a split had already emerged, a split perhaps typified by Peter, who championed Jewish Christianity, and Paul, who championed ecumenical Christianity. Both sides of this split, over the next few centuries of recorded history, as we learned in this show, would go on to have important futures. And just as sectarian divisions formed within the Apostles themselves just a decade or two after Jesus’ death, two views of Jesus began to spread on a continuum that would be equally consequential – the human, tragic figure of Mark, and the ethereal, sphinxlike figure in John, the Gospels themselves containing the seeds of the great Christological debates which would last nine centuries and never really end. If the tireless disputations of second- and third-century Christianity and beyond are any indication, it’s not at all surprising that we find forceful disagreements between the Apostles in the New Testament. As we’ve seen in this episode, the very nucleus of Christian ideology – salvation through Christ, even in the hands of the greatest Christian theologian who ever lived – Saint Paul, still takes a bit of legwork to understand. [music]

Moving on to the General Epistles

Well those, my patient listeners, were the fourteen Pauline Epistles, along with a bit of historical context, and information about how they initially were received. The next program, our second-to-last-show on the Bible proper, will be on what are often called the Catholic Epistles or General Epistles – the set of seven letters that come before Revelation in the New Testament – these include James, First and Second Peter, First, Second and Third John, and the Epistle of Jude. While these documents contain some important departures from Pauline theology, they are also a useful gateway into the subject of Christology – broadly speaking, the theological discussion of the nature of Christ, a subject which engrossed some eight hundred years of Ecumenical Councils. While the full brunt of the Christology debates is probably of interest only to specialists, next time, in addition to learning about the General Epistles, we’ll explore some of the most important terms and pitched battles that happened in Early Christian theology on the subject of who and what Jesus actually was. Additionally, we’ll begin to move more decisively into the 100s and 200s CE, and talk about Christianity’s expansion during this period, and some of its growing pains.

There are some truly exciting episodes coming up – we will soon finally wrap up the Bible with the Book of Revelation before going on to finally learn about Zoroastrianism and its extant writings, and then Gnosticism and Manichaeism, two early Christian movements that were wildly different than the religion that’s practiced today. But our next episode on the General Epistles, dry as it might sound in comparison, will nonetheless teach us a lot about how Christian doctrines, and the New Testament itself, were coming together in the two centuries after the Apostles lived.

As always I have a quiz on this program at literatureandhistory.com – it’s right there in your podcasting app, along with links to the episode transcription. For you Patreon supporters, in the continuing effort to call attention to the wonder and diversity of Second Temple Jewish texts, I’ve recorded the Book of Ruth, a much-loved Old Testament short story in which family, forgiveness, and second chances temporarily upstage the otherwise rather glowering Deuteronomistic history in which Ruth is embedded. For everybody, this concludes the serious portion of the show – thanks for listening and I’ve got a song coming up – hit stop and I won’t sing it, but if you don’t hit stop, I will.

Still here? So I had to do a song about that Apostolic Incident at Antioch. I hadn’t done a rap battle in a while, and I thought, taking the theology of Galatians over that of Acts for this particular song, that I would perform a tune in which Peter and Paul settle their differences using the age old method of rhythm and poetry. This one’s called “Peter and Paul Rap Battle,” I hope it’s decent little learning exercise if nothing else, and yeah, thanks a million for listening and supporting educational podcasts.

[“Peter and Paul Rap Battle” Song]


1.^ Titus, like the other pastoral epistles First and Second Timothy, is probably pseudepigraphal.

2.^ I’m relying on the scholarly consensuses discussed by New Oxford Annotated Bible editors like Jennifer K. Berenson, Neil Elliott, Laurence L. Welborn, Sze-kar Wan, Sheila Briggs, Carolyn Osiek, David G. Horrell, Margaret M. Mitchell, and Cynthia Briggs Kittredge.

3.^ Romans was written prior to Paul’s departure from Corinth to Jerusalem, and thus in it Paul may be anticipating a return to the Jewish community he isn’t habituated to as he once was. Hence, as scholar Craig Hill observes, Romans’ special emphasis on ministry to the Gentiles might see Paul trying to prepare arguments for Judea prior to arriving there. See “Romans.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Braton. OUP, 2001, p. 57.

4.^ Houlden, Leslie. “Introduction to the New Testament.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Braton. OUP, 2001, p. 28.

5.^ Esler, Philip. “1 Thessalonians.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton. OUP, 2001, p. 216.

6.^ Ibid, p. 217.

7.^ MacDonald, Margaret. “2 Corinthians.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton. OUP, 2001, p. 127.

8.^ Alexandria had recently seen a massacre against Jews between 38-41, and riots related to taxation in the city of Puteoli had resulted in the deaths of some of the Jewish citizenry there.

9.^ Hill, Craig. “Romans.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton. OUP, 2001, p. 62.

10.^ See also “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13.8-10).

11.^ We should note that Colossians’ authorship is disputed and that 1 Timothy not thought to have been written by Paul, so these counsels against pagan philosophy may not have their origins in Paul’s own ideology.

12.^ Non-messianic prophecies that simply propose a coming prosperity for Israel from these books include Is 27:12, 33:19-20, 60:3, 66:23-4, Jer 31:13-14, Dan 12:1-2, 12-13, Joel 2:26, 3:1, 3:20-1, and Habakkuk 2:14.

13.^ Some Second Temple literature has no problem at all with this, as in Sirach 15:14-16 and 16:12.

14.^ The German recording is courtesy of https://www.wordproject.org/bibles/audio/09_german/b45.htm

15.^ Salvation by good works is implied by the words of Christ in Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.” Psalms 62:12 shows this doctrine at work centuries earlier: “steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord. / For you repay to all / according to their work.”

16.^ Wright, N.T. Paul: A Biography. HarperOne, 2018, p. 406.

17.^ While Zoroastrian Apocalypticism is hashed out fully in New Avestan and Middle Persian texts, the Old Avestan Gathas nonetheless display its roots (Yas 28.1-3, 30.3,5,51.13,53.1)

18.^ Anonymous. “The Prophecy of the Lamb.” Printed in The Literature of Ancient Egypt, ed. William Kelly Simpson et. al. Yale University Press, 2003, pp. 446-8.

19.^ Other Ptolemaic and Roman period apocalyptic texts include the Demotic Chronicle, the Dream of Nektanbu, and the Text of Tebtynis.

20.^ Hill, Craig. “Romans.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton. OUP, 2001, p. 60.

21.^ Ibid, p. 62.

22.^ For instance, Acts 28:17, Gal 1:14, Phil 3:4-6.

23.^ As in 1 Cor 10:11.

24.^ As in Rom 2:17-21 and Rom 9:32.

25.^ Chrysostom, John. Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Amazon Digital Services, 2010. Kindle Edition, Location 336. The melodramatic allusion to Matthew’s Pontius Pilate here shows Chrysostom trafficking in egomania as well as anti-Semitism.

26.^ What is known about and survives from these texts is available in The Apocryphal Gospels. Ed. Bart D. Ehrman and Zlatko Pleše. Oxford University Press, 2011.

27.^ Hill, Craig. “Romans.” Printed in The Pauline Epistles. Edited by John Muddiman and John Barton. OUP, 2001, p. 57.

28.^ Flaccus 9.58-72.

29.^ Bacon, Benjamin. “Acts Versus Galatians: The Crux of Apostolic History.” The American Journal of Theology. Vol. 11, No. 3 (Jul 1907), p. 454.

30.^ The council Paul describes in Gal 2:2 may not be the same one as in Acts, though the subject of the disputations is certainly identical.