Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

A Culture of Equality and Generosity

July 23, 2015

Paul, in the narratives of “collection” to the “saints” in Jerusalem, promotes a culture of equality and generosity as a counter to the greed culture in the society. He considers “remembering the poor” as an integral part of his apostolic mission. This can be seen in his repetition of the “collection” to the believers in need in Jerusalem in Galatians 2.10, I Corinthians 16.1-4, II Corinthians 1.15-16, II Corinthians chapters 8-9, and Romans 15.25-32. In Romans 15.25, Paul says that he is going to Jerusalem on a “ministry” (diakonia) to the “saints” in Jerusalem. The Greek word diakonia is also used for the ministry of the gospel in Rom. 11.13 and II Cor. 4.1, 5.18. That means, for him, “helping the poor” is not separate from the “ministry of the gospel”. Therefore, Paul is encouraging the Gentile churches to participate in the ministry to the “saints” in the Jerusalem church. Interestingly, he uses the Greek verb leitourgein in II Cor. 9.12 and Rom. 15.27. This verb has a secular sense (“to serve the need”) and a cultic sense (“to serve as a priest”). In Philippians 2.30 he employs leitourgein in the secular sense of “serving one’s need”. It is used to Epaphroditus (leitourgos) as he brought the “gift” sent by the Philippian church to serve Paul’s need (Phil. 2.25). In this service Epaphroditus even risked his own life. In II Cor. 9.12 leitourgia refers to the “collection” itself. Leitourgein in Rom. 15.27 may be understood in secular sense when seen in the light of Phil. 2.25, 30 and II Cor. 9.12.

On the other hand, Paul in Phil. 2.17 uses leitourgein in the cultic sense. Also in Rom. 15.27 it may be understood in cultic sense if seen in the light of leitourgos of Rom. 15.16. Paul employs the cultic language in connection with his taking the collection raised among the Gentile churches to the “saints” in Jerusalem (Rom.15.15-33): “priest of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles”, “perform a priestly function with regard to the Gospel of God”, “the offering of the Gentiles, sanctified by the Holy Spirit might be acceptable” (Rom. 15.15-16). The “offering” mentioned in Rom. 15.16 can be taken as the object of Gentiles (i.e. offering given by the Gentiles). This is supported by Phil. 4.18, where Paul describes the Philippians’ “gift” to him as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” Thus, Paul is depicting the economic relationship with a cultic metaphor of “offering”. “Offering” in the cultic context points to an exchange between God and the offerer(s), where the latter offers “an innocent and defenseless sacrificial victim” as a sacrifice to God. Rene Girard calls this “scapegoat mechanism”. The power of this mechanism lies in its deception and concealment. On the one hand, it deceives by depicting God as the one who is demanding “sacrificial victims”, and thus, portraying violence against the “victims” as a sacred act. On the other hand, it conceals the plight of the innocent and voiceless “sacrificial victims” and transforms the “violence against the victims” as a “good violence”. Thus, the cycle of scapegoating the “weak and vulnerable” continues. Raymund Schwager says that “according to its basic structure, the sacrificial cult is a ritual repetition of the scapegoat mechanism.” The OT prophets were opposed to all of the sacrificial rites in Israel. Amos denounced the cultic practices of the people: “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon” (Amos 5:21-22). The prophets demanded, rather to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Aligning himself with this prophetic tradition and depicting the sharing of resources with the needy as an “offering to God”, Paul is providing a counter culture where “offering” required by God’s justice is not “sacrificial violence” against an innocent and voiceless victim, but serving the need of the victim or sharing God’s resources with the victim of the structural violence. Dominic Crossan calls this “God’s distributive justice”. Far from demanding victims, God not only identifies with the victims, but also addresses the situation of their victimization.

1. Equality

Paul presents the Macedonian believers as an example of those who were pleased to participate in “God’s distributive justice”. In Romans he repeats twice that they were pleased to share their resources with the needy in Jerusalem (Rom. 15.26,27). The Macedonian Christians even “begged” Paul and his colleagues to allow them to be partners in this ministry of sharing their resources with the “saints” in Jerusalem. Testifying about them, Paul says: “(D)uring a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity” (II Cor. 8.2). Notice the contrast between the external situation and the character of the Macedonian believers: “a severe ordeal of affliction” and “abundant joy”, and “extreme poverty” and “a wealth of generosity”. The sharing is clearly not from “plenty” to “want” but from “want” to “want”. Their sharing is not a “charity” or a “free giving” of what is “extra” or “useless” or even “free giving” of tax money. It clearly challenges the existing stereotypes of “giver” and “receiver” in exchange relationship that assumes and assigns superior and inferior status to all participants.

Paul also informs the pure intent of the Macedonian believers in their sharing of God’s resources. He employs the Greek word haplotēs for the “generosity” of the Macedonian (and Corinthian) believers (II Cor. 8.2, cf. 9.11). Haplotēs does not mean merely “generosity”, but “generosity arising out of purity of mind”. In other words, this “giving” to those in need arose from pure intentions without any ulterior or malicious motives. It is sharing with pure intent of what God has given them with their fellow brothers and sisters who are in need.

Being conscious of the “obligatory” relationship between the “giver” and the “receiver” present in the existing society, Paul is cautious not to give it a foothold in the counter community of Jesus Christ. One thing that is not emphasized in I Cor. 16.1-4 and II Cor. 8-9 is the economic hardship of the “saints of Jerusalem church”. Even though one could speculate that the Gentile churches already knew about the situation of these believers in the Jerusalem church (cf. II Cor. 9.12), one wonders why Paul did not repeat this important information to gather sympathy from the Gentile churches, since the issue was a matter of urgency for him. In II Cor. 9.11-12, just as in II Cor. 8.13-14, by avoiding the mentioning of the economic hardship of the needy in the Jerusalem church in the context of “collection”, he is careful to see that the Jerusalem church, as a result of receiving the economic contribution, would not be placed in a direct obligatory relationship to the Gentile churches.

Rather, Paul is emphasizing two things: the principle of equality and the source of wealth. Paul speaks of “their need” in connection to equality or “fair balance” (II Cor. 8.13-14): “I do not mean that there is relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.” The common interpretation of “their need” is “the material need of the Jerusalem believers”. If that is the meaning, what about the phrases “your need” and “their abundance”? The reference to Corinthians’ “need” is ambiguous here. It can not be understood as referring to material need because Corinthian believers are considered to be relatively rich and that is why Paul is writing this letter to share from their material riches, nor can it be taken as referring to “spiritual poverty” because in II Cor. 8.9 it is already said that Christ has made them rich. Also Paul in II Cor. 8.15 cites Exodus 16.18 which refers to the experience of the people of Israel in the wilderness when they gathered manna for themselves: “The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.” The implication is that it was God who made “equality” to happen. In other words, God is a God of “fairness” or “equality”. Here it is appropriate to take it as a general illustration of the principle of equality. Thus, Paul directs the focus of the Corinthian believers to God’s principle of “fairness” or “equality”. This should become the motivation for them to share their resources with the needy in the Jerusalem church. For Paul, it is a concrete demonstration of the God’s new creation. Crossan wonders: “What better deserves the title of a new creation than the abnormalcy of a share-world replacing the normalcy of a greed-world?”

Paul also focuses their attention to the source of their wealth, God. In II Cor. 9.11-12, Paul says that the Corinthian church is in a position to give because God the supplier has provided them with wealth (both spiritual and material, II Cor. 8.9, 9.10). The ultimate purpose of their giving is to render thanksgiving to God (II Cor. 9.11,12). In other words, their generosity is out of their gratitude to the Source of their wealth. Thus, by linking the generosity of the Corinthian church to God and not to the economic poverty of the Jerusalem believers, Paul has consciously disconnected the Jerusalem church as the “receiver” from the patronal power of the “giver” and dissuaded the economically rich from using their economic contribution to advance their patronal power.

2. Generosity

Paul gives two examples of “generosity” to the Corinthian believers: Macedonian believers and Jesus Christ (II Cor. 8.1-6; 8.9). He praises the voluntary “generosity” of the Macedonian believers: “(B)egging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry” (II Cor. 8.4)). This is linked to the “generous act” of Jesus Christ: “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 8.9). In these two examples Paul is emphasizing their generous character and their focus on the welfare of the other. The generous character of the Macedonian believers is depicted by the paradox of “a wealth of their generosity” in “extreme poverty”. As explained above, the Greek word haplotēs denotes “generosity out of pure mind”, that is, without any malicious and hidden intent. That means, their “generosity” is purely for the welfare of the believers in the Jerusalem church. The generous character of Jesus Christ is expressed in his act: “though he was rich…he became poor” (II Cor.8.9), and the focus on the welfare of the needy: “for your sakes…so that…you might become rich.” Paul further says that the “generosity” of Jesus Christ exemplifies the “genuineness of love” (II Cor. 8.8-9). In other words, the “generous act” of Jesus Christ is the expression of the genuineness of love. Thus, the model for agape love is Jesus Christ (cf. Gal. 2.20). Paul in Gal. 5.6 exhorts that faith in Christ manifests itself through loving service, or “it erupts into communal life as love” (Gal. 5.6 “faith working through love”). A believer in Christ imitates the agape love of Jesus Christ, and thus breaks free from the culture of greed and becomes a part of the community of the new creation, whose concrete pattern of life is based on agape love (Gal. 5.13-14). It is the love modeled on Christ that becomes the distinctive character of the community of the new creation. It becomes evident, then, that the culture of the new creation becomes a critique and subversive of the existing greed culture.

Paul’s Experience of God’s Revelation of God’s Son, the Victim of the Law

January 23, 2015

Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17) but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). It is an encounter between the one cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), and the “persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law”. This encounter of Paul with Jesus Christ brought forth an insight into the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ “as the epiphany of sacred violence.” It exposed to Paul what had been concealed in Judaism, to which he belonged, that Judaism was a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. This revelation made a radical impact on Paul’s life that resulted in change of his worlds.

A. Paul’s Pre-Conversion Zeal

A zealotic religious ideology affirms the salvific power of violence. It denigrates people who do not follow the social order based on its interpretation of the Torah, thus permitting discrimination and violence. Paul associated violence with which he had persecuted the church with “zeal” for the law. He not only was persecuting the community of Jesus Christ but also wanted to destroy it because of his zeal “for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.13-14). For Paul the way of life in Judaism provided a context where the law was used as a means to violence against those considered to be apostates. The law that governed his life, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, was the law interpreted in exclusionistic terms, which enforced a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. The community of Jesus Christ that he persecuted did not observe the Jewish distinctive rituals (circumcision, dietary laws etc) that expressed this separation, because the cross has made the rituals no longer significant (Gal. 5.11). It is this situation that has led to zealous Jewish persecution to preserve strict observance of ritual requirement of the law or the social order that promoted exclusionism (Gal. 5.11; 6.12).

1. Zeal

Zeal was an important characteristic of the Second Temple Judaism Period (about 515 BCE-70 CE). This is evident in the Maccabean movement. The zealous Jews were vigilant against those who were a threat to the Torah (i.e. zealot interpretation of the Torah), which was the constitution of the Jewish communities. In order to maintain the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, they used violence against individuals and communities that threatened the social order of the Jewish communities. During Paul’s “life in Judaism,” he was “extremely zealous for (his) ancestral traditions,” so much so that he “used to persecute the community of Jesus Christ and tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). The precise reasons for Paul’s persecuting activity are unknown. But there can be no doubt that it had to do with his zeal for the law and what he perceived as the threat by Jesus’ communities to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). Paul characterises his life in Judaism and his persecuting activity to “destroy” the community of Jesus Christ by the Greek term zēlōtēs, meaning a “zealot”.

2. Paul as a Zealot

In Gal 1.13-14, 23 (and Phil. 3.5; cf. I Cor. 15.9) the extraordinary zealotry of Paul is related to his persecuting activity of the communities of Jesus Christ. However, earlier studies on the persecuting activity of Paul did not always pay much attention to the character and role of his zeal. Some scholars have offered psychological reasoning for Paul’s persecuting activity, claiming that it was a result of purely personal aberration. They contend that it was an external attempt to silence his dissatisfaction with his life under the law and to suppress “all humaner tendencies in the interests of his legal absolutism.” However, this view is no longer in currency. Moreover, the zealot Jewish behaviour has precedence in Mattathias, the father of Maccabean movement, and his followers on the model of Phineas.

Echoing the Reformation interpretation of Judaism F.C. Baur argues that Paul’s persecution of the community of Christ has to do with its rejection of the Jewish idea that true religion was a matter of “outward ceremonies”. Baur remarks that Paul understood the gospel as a “refusal to regard religion as a thing bound down to special ordinances and localities.” Bultmann reformulated the Reformation view by stating that the concern at the heart of Paul’s persecution was faith versus works. Paul became a persecutor of believers in Christ because he understood the gospel of the Hellenistic Jewish believers as a message of “God’s condemnation of his Jewish striving after righteousness by fulfilling the works of the law.” However, E.P. Sanders strongly refutes the Reformation understanding of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness by saying that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of it. According to him, the Torah in Judaism functioned as part of a system, not of legalism but of “covenantal nomism”.

Hengel supposes that the proclamation of the crucified one as the Messiah, who would lead the Jewish nation to salvation, would have been an intolerable offence to someone like Paul who combined nationalist aspirations with zeal for God and his law. For Menoud the heart of Paul’s persecution was that “the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was not only a contradiction in terms, totally unanticipated in Jewish eschatological expectation, it was categorically prohibited by Deut. 21.22-23.” According to Sayoon Kim, the scandal of the cross could be the proclamation by the followers that Jesus Christ, the cursed one God, is the Messiah. Hultgren notes that even though there were several messianic movements before and during the times of Jesus Christ, followers of these movements were not persecuted. He contends that the messianic movement centered on Jesus, however, is different in several reasons. Two of the reasons are its proclamation of a crucified one as the messiah and the inauguration of the new age in Christ.

In the above studies Paul’s claim that he was “an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14; cf. Phil. 3.6) is not taken seriously. However, in his 1975 article on the call of Paul, Klaus Haacker focused on Paul’s zeal as important for understanding his persecuting activity. According to Haacker Paul’s zeal should not be understood as a psychological category, but as a “pure theological category”. For Paul as a Pharisee, the law was his ruling measure and as a persecutor, the zeal his “obligatory norm, which is a decisive governing principle.” Haaker understands the term “zeal” as referring to a violent religious intolerance rooted in the times of the Maccabean movement. This zeal was directed primarily against Jewish apostates, but not foreigners. He contends that the claim of Paul to be a zealot does not indicate that he was a member of a revolutionary Zealot party, since it is doubtful that such a party ever existed. So Paul’s designation as a zealot denotes that he belonged to a radical wing of Pharisees.

Some scholars assume that references to zeal or zealot in the New Testament, such as Simon the zealot, refer to the Zealot Party. Justin Taylor argues that Paul’s claim to being a “Zealot”, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, should be understood as a reference to his membership in a Zealot party. He suggests that the reason for Paul’s persecution of the community of Jesus Christ was due to “the supposed hostility of a Zealot towards a group which stood apart from the national struggle.” According to Taylor, the Zealots were already opposed to Jesus and his teachings because of his “refusal to ally himself with them, and more generally his preaching of non-violence and even of non-resistance to Roman rule.” Therefore, they considered him to be a “no-less-dangerous quietist, hardly better than a collaborator and a traitor.” Paul’s persecutions were of the same kind as the Zealots’ political struggles. As Taylor notes, “He persecuted the followers of Jesus for the same kinds of reasons that Zealots had to be hostile to Jesus himself, namely that not only did they not take part in the national struggle . . . but they were a threat to it.”

However T.L. Donaldson and M.R. Fairchild disagree with Taylor’s view. They contend:
(Considering) diversity of offenses, the cross-section of literature glorifying zeal, and the variety of individuals and groups to which zealous actions were attributed (eg. Paul the Pharisee was a “zealot”) suggest that the term “zealot” was not a sectarian designation but descriptive of a type of piety which was not limited to one group or sect.

Donaldson and Fairchild argue that the evidence from Josephus indicates that the “Zealots” as an identifiable party did not appear until Roman-Judean War during 66-70 C.E.

Donaldson emphasizes that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not denote that he belonged to a specific revolutionary party. He contends that a zealot is one who was not only passionate towards observance of the Torah, but also willing to use violence against those who were a threat to the Torah. Donaldson notes, “Zeal was more than just a fervent commitment to the Torah; it denotes a willingness to use violence against any – Jews, Gentiles, or wicked in general – who were contravening, opposing or subverting the Torah.” The reason for persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ by the zealots, according to Donaldson, was the conflict between Jewish sequential understanding of the Torah and Messiah, with the Torah defining the community guaranteed salvation when the Messiah arrives, and the “peculiar already/not yet structure of early Christian messianism.” He explains:

In early Christian proclamation the Messiah had appeared in advance of the full eschatological salvation, and participation in that salvation is dependent on acceptance of this Messiah. In consequence of this, Christ becomes, at least implicitly, another-thus rival-way of drawing the boundary in this age of the community guaranteed of salvation in the age to come.

Fairchild also argues that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not make him a member of the Zealot party, because there had been zealot ideology that was cultivated over decades from the times of the Maccabees. The zealot ideology transcended the boundaries of the Jewish parties and had adherents not only among the various Jewish parties, but also among the unaffiliated Jewish masses. Zealotry expressed itself in violent actions against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah, such as Paul’s persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.

Paul claimed, “I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.14 cf. Phil. 3.6). This terminology is so close to the words of Mattathias, the father of the Maccabean movement, in Josephus’ Antiquities 12.271: “If anyone be zealous for the laws of his nation”. Septuagint records these words in I Maccabees 2.27 differently and uses the verbal form of the word for zealot: “He who is zealous for the law and the established covenant”. This change is significant in view of Josephus’ consistent concealment of past Zealot history. The pivotal demonstration of zealous piety, which inaugurated the Maccabean movement, may have become a pattern of pious action for the future. This implies that Paul was a follower of zealot tradition. He aligned himself with his predecessors of venerable individual zealots. This does not, however, make him a member of the Zealot party. But Paul, being zealous for the Torah, saw himself as acting out the model of Phineas, even to the extent of using violence against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah. Thus he became a persecutor of the communities of Jesus Christ. Paul’s zealotry resembles that of Mattathias. The zealotry of Mattathias was first, zeal for the purity of the ancestral tradition, and second, zeal that drove him to use violence against those considered to be apostates and posed a threat to these traditions. In Gal. 1.13-14 Paul mentions the same concerns: zeal for the ancestral traditions and violent action against those considered to be posing a threat to these traditions. By turning into a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities, the communities of Jesus Christ have become a threat to the Jewish freedom of patterning their lives according to the zealotic interpretation of the Torah, a privilege the Jews were enjoying in the Roman empire.

3. Paul as a Persecutor

In the NT “to persecute” (diōkō) is used in the sense of “pursue” (Phil. 3.12,14; Lk. 17.23), “follow” (Rom. 9.30, 31, 12.13), and “persecute” (Mt. 5.10,11,12,44). Therefore, the context becomes important in determining the meaning of diōkō.

In Gal. 1.13 Paul testifies about his conduct in Judaism. His use of the term “Judaism” (Ioudaismos) is very significant. In the NT this term is used only in Gal. 1.13,14. “Judaism” came into currency with II Maccabees, where it was used to distinguish those who were faithful to the Jewish way of life from those “adopting foreign ways” (II Macc. 2.21, 8.1, 14.38). According to Dunn, Judaism is “a description of the religion of Jews, only emerged in the Maccabean revolt…in reaction to those who attempted to eliminate its distinctiveness (as expressed particularly in its sacrificial system, its feasts, circumcision and food laws – II Macc.vi).” Thus, the religion represented by “Judaism” is a religion based on the zealotic interpretation of the law. Paul followed the same kind of Jewish religion that demanded exclusionistic way of life expressed primarily by the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals. This is confirmed not only by the description of Paul’s way of life in Judaism in Gal. 1.13-14, but also the usage of cognate expressions “Jew” and “live like a Jew” in the context of the controversy over the dietary laws in Antioch (Gal. 2.14). These cognate words are found only in Galatians. Raisanen aptly comments that “the word Judaism carries connotations which hint at those practices which separated Jew from Gentile.” Moreover, the word “way of life” occurs only in Galatians. Significantly this term also occurs in II Maccabees 6.23 (and Tobit 4.14) in the context where the Jewish way of life was seriously threatened.

Paul explains his way of life in Judaism by two interrelated clauses in Gal. 1.13-14. The first one is “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Gal. 1.13). It is significant that the word “persecute” (diōkō) is used in I Maccabees to describe the Maccabees’ pursuit of “the sons of arrogance” and the “lawless” (I Macc. 2.47, 3.5). Paul uses the verb diōkō not only in describing his own persecuting activity (Gal. 1.13-23; cf. I Cor. 15.9; Phil. 3.6), but also the persecution he himself suffered (Gal. 4.29, 5.11, 6.12; cf. I Cor. 4.12; II Cor. 4.9). The persecuting activity of Paul, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, is recorded not only in Paul’s letters but also in Acts (I Cor. 15.9; Gal. 1.13, 23; Phil. 3.6; Acts 8.1-3, 9.1-2, 22.4-5, 26.9-11). The verb diōkō is modified by the adverbial phrase kath’ huperbolēn, which means “beyond measure”, “excessively”, and “intensely” (Gal. 1.13).

Paul also uses the verb “to destroy” (portheō) to describe his way of life. This term occurs only in Gal. 1.13, 23 (and Acts 9.21) in reference to Paul’s activity towards the communities of Jesus Christ. P.H. Menoud argues that because Paul was never accused of murder, portheō here refers to the destruction of faith (Gal. 1.23), rather than physical destruction. Hultgren too contends that the verb portheō does not have violent connotation and so it simply means that Paul tried to put an end to Christian faith, or Christian church. However, the zealot context in which portheō is used implies the meaning of physical violence. Here portheō is used in the sense of “devastate” or “destroy” cities. This verb is directly associated with diōkō both in Gal. 1.13 and 1.23. What is evident is the intensity of Paul’s violent activity beyond trying to destroy “the faith”. Paul does not need to exaggerate his violent activity, because the communities of Jesus Christ knew about it (Gal. 1.23). Therefore, the violent zealotic nature of Paul’s persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ in the model of Phineas and rooted very much in the Maccabean movement is evident.

The second clause that describes Paul’s way of life in Judaism affirms what the first clause explains: “I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.14). Paul’s sense of superiority with regards to his progress in Judaism, based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, is expressed by his usage of the preposition “beyond”. This sense of superiority is based on his “being an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14). Zealotry for the ancestral traditions, the Torah, and God would not have been perceived differently (cf. Gal. 1.14; Acts 21.20, 22.3; Josephus Ant 12.271). It was this extreme zealotry for the ancestral traditions of the law that had prompted Paul to use violence against those perceived to be a threat to the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law.

Considering Paul’s activities as a persecutor in the mould of Mattathias and the Maccabees with Phineas as their model, leads to a conclusion that such a behaviour stemmed from his zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Such an interpretation of the Torah demanded exclusionism expressed by the Jewish distinctive rituals that formed walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Maccabean crisis had promoted a few rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws, as key elements of law observance or boundary markers of God’s covenant community. These rituals remained central even in the time of Paul as the boundary markers between those who belonged to God’s covenant community and those who were outside this community. Any community that tried to remove the walls of separation was considered to be posing a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities. Donaldson comments, “Persecution arises not because a group holds ideas at variance with the norm, but because it does so in ways that threaten social cohesion.” Paul saw the communities of Jesus Christ as representing such a threat. This is implied in Gal.5.11-12, where Paul says that the cross of Christ has become a “scandal” to the Jews (cf. Gal. 6.12; I Cor. 1.23). The scandal of the cross for the Jews is that it has annulled the Jewish distinctive rituals in the communities of Jesus Christ, thus removing the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles (Gal. 5.11). This results in upsetting the social order that has been constructed on the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. In order to maintain social order based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law, it demands “good violence” against the “bad violence”, which is the cause of social disorder. The cross by demolishing the ritual barriers around the Jewish community and thus bringing together the Jews and the Gentiles, those who were excluded by the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, has given zealous Jews the motivation to engage in scapegoat mechanism, to maintain social order based on the zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Since in a zealot context faith in God is understood in terms of zealous action for God or the law, it is linked to sacred violence. It is a violent action against apostates to maintain conformity to a pattern of life according to the law, and thus preserve unity and order of the community. The unanimity of the members of Judaism in directing their violence against apostates is required to maintain the system of sacred violence. All cooperate mimetically in directing their violence against the victims. Those who withhold consent and cooperation in this conspiracy against victims are a threat to the very foundation of the sacrificial structure of Judaism. When Paul confessed that as a zealot, he was violently persecuting the communities of God and was trying to destroy it, he was, in fact, confessing that he used sacred violence against apostates to preserve the pattern of life according to the law, the constitution of the Jewish communities. In other words, by guarding the constitution of the Jewish communities, he was protecting their freedom to live according to the zealotic interpretation of the law.

B. Paul’s Conversion-Call and God’s Revelation of God’s Son

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17), but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). There are different views surrounding this experience. Some scholars insist that it is inappropriate to call this experience “conversion”. Krister Stendahl argues that the emphasis in the autobiographical account is on Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles, rather than on his “conversion”. In his essay “Paul among Jews and Gentiles” Stendahl argues that Paul, by echoing the language of Isaiah and Jeremiah, describes his experience as a call, similar to that of the prophets. The same God whom Paul had been serving since birth has now given him a new task. This task is, through the risen Messiah, God “asks him as a Jew to bring God’s message to the Gentiles.” Though Stendahl does not deny the fact that Paul’s experience on the Damascus road has resulted in a striking shift in his perspective, he rejects the description of this experience as “conversion”, because Paul did not change from one religion to another. However, Stendahl’s “call rather than conversion” formulation is an overstatement, because the term “conversion” properly understood can be appropriately applied to Paul.

There are many scholars who consider Paul’s experience as “conversion”. They have offered several proposals to explain Paul’s conversion. It is interpreted in terms of the psychological struggle with the Torah, and a result of his long struggle with the law in which he was dejected of ever achieving the righteousness it demands. J.S. Stewart describes how “Paul’s growing sense of the failure of Judaism” gave way to the sudden conviction “that he had found the truth for which all men everywhere were seeking.” However, Paul nowhere in his letters gives a hint of going through a period of dissatisfaction or mental turmoil. He rather testifies about his extraordinary zealotry for the Torah. The only thing that can be understood from his testimony is that his conversion was sudden and unexpected, and was a result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son. Some other scholars understood Paul’s conversion in terms of his reaction to the scriptural apologetic and steadfastness under persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ. Some argue that Paul through his experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ realized that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Further he understood that since Messiah had come, the law ceases. E.P. Sanders contends that Paul on the road to Damascus was convinced that God had provided in Christ a universal means of salvation both for the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul’s rejection of the Torah as a means of salvation is a consequence of his new conviction: if the salvation is through Christ, then it is not through the law. Donaldson sees the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the demonstration of God’s provision of universal salvation in Christ. Therefore, if salvation is through Christ, then it does not come through the Torah. Heikki Raisanen proposed a different view of Paul’s conversion. For him, Paul was converted from a rigid Jewish religion to Hellenistic Jewish Christianity and adopted its less rigid attitude towards the Torah, particularly the ritual and cultic aspects. F.F. Bruce maintains that for Paul who considered the proclamation of a crucified one as the Messiah as blasphemous, the experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ is a “conversion” experience. He further says that this conversion was both an external and an internal event. It was an objective revelation of the risen Christ as well as an overwhelming inward experience. Bruce takes seriously the change in Paul from persecutor to apostle.

There are also diverse views regarding the connection between Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son and his gospel. Concerning the essentials of Paul’s gospel, Raisanen proposes developmental hypothesis. Paula Fredriksen argues that the autobiographical conversion report of Paul tells more about his state of mind at the time of reporting than at the time of conversion. However, these views can not be sustained in view of Paul’s polemic against the teachers of the “other gospel” that the essentials of the gospel he preaches remain same from the beginning (cf. Gal. 1.17, 5.11). Otherwise Paul would have faced criticism from his opponents, had he preached a different gospel at the beginning of his ministry. That means, Paul’s view of the Torah and the essential content of his gospel are the result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus. Bruce rightly sees the connection between Paul’s experience and his theology. He supposes that although Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith was not developed fully at that time, it too was implicit in the conversion. However, the weakness of Bruce’s analysis is that he relies more on the secondary source, the Acts, instead of Paul’s letters. Developing on his mentor’s view Seyoon Kim finds Paul’s conversion as the source of his thought.

It is important to refer to Paul’s account of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son to see a connection between his conversion and his gospel. Paul claims that his gospel is not “of human origin” but “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.11-12). “Revelation” and its verbal form ”to reveal” in Paul’s letters refer most often to the end time and linked to God’s action in the end time (I Cor. 1.7, 3.13; Gal. 3.23). Therefore, Paul’s reference to “revelation” in Gal. 1.11-12 and 1.16 underlines the eschatological significance of the experience. This revelation is “of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.12), which may be taken either as subjective genitive (revelation from Jesus Christ) or objective genitive (revelation about Jesus Christ). In the light of Gal. 1.16 which refers to God’s revelation of God’s son, “revelation of Jesus Christ” should be understood as objective genitive. It implies that the content of the gospel is Jesus Christ, who was revealed. What is striking is that in the following verses (Gal. 1.13-14) Paul, instead of explaining the revelation, first describes his former way of life in Judaism (notice the usage of the temporal particle hote). This implies that the information about his former way of life in Judaism has significance in the context of Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ. After explaining his extraordinary zealotic way of life based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, expressed in the exclusion of the Gentiles, Paul returns to the apokalypsis (Gal. 1.15-16). In order to express the transition due to the impact of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son in not only putting an end to his former way of life in Judaism, but also starting a new life and vocation, Paul uses the temporal phrase hote de. Through this Paul is indicating a sharp contrast between the two periods of his life.

In Gal. 1.15-16 Paul describes the action of God and the purpose of that action. Paul says that God revealed the son “to me”. Paul elsewhere describes his Damascus road experience in terms of “seeing” Christ, or Christ “appearing” to him (I Cor. 9.1, 15.8; cf. II Cor. 4.6). In Gal. 1.16 Paul describes it in terms of God “revealing the son”. The subject here is God. God is disclosing the reality that has been hidden. What has been concealed is the scapegoat mechanism that is generated by the zealotic way of life in Judaism. The power of this mechanism lies in its deception and concealment. On the one hand, it deceives by depicting God as the one who is demanding “sacrificial victims”, and thus, portraying violence against victims as a sacred act. On the other hand, it conceals the plight of innocent “sacrificial victims” and transforms violence against victims as a sacred violence. The content of God’s revelation is God’s son, the victim of the curse of the law (Gal. 3.13). Through this God is revealing not only his rejection of the law (the law on which Paul’s zealotic way of life was based) that crucified Christ, but also God’s vindication of the victim of the curse of the law. Paul says that God has revealed this en emoi. Beverly Gaventa argues for a meaning of “to me” based on parallel usage en tois ethnesin Gal.. It is an encounter between the cursed one of the law and the persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law. This encounter of Paul with Jesus the crucified and cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), brought forth a realization that the one cursed by the law is vindicated by God. By vindicating the cursed one of the law, God has revealed to Paul that the cursed one of the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) is not cursed one of God. Paul reiterates this in Gal. 2.19: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” That means, the way of life expressed in strict adherence to the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and special days, and thus excluding the Gentiles, is not equivalent to living for God.

Paul draws on prophetic imagery in Gal. 1.16-17 (cf. Isaiah 49.1; Jeremiah 1.5) to “convey the radical impact of the revelation.” Even though Paul’s language here echoes the call of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and implies that he views himself as standing in the prophetic tradition, it does not mean what has happened to Paul may be considered simply as his call. Though Paul’s call and commission are included in this experience, his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son is not limited to these. His experience has called into question his zealotic understanding of the law and the way of life patterned according to such an understanding. When Paul experienced God’s revelation of the risen Christ, the victim of the “curse of the law”, he realized the problem of Judaism to which he belonged. This problem of Judaism is the exclusionism expressed in its distinctive rituals. Paul realized that it is the way of life in Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law that has led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom God has vindicated. In other words, the law that has excluded the Gentiles is the same law that caused the crucifixion of God’s son. And God is rejecting the way of life based on the law. Paul understood how the law was (mis)used in Judaism to serve violence, which was expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, persecution of those considered to be apostates, and exclusion of the Gentiles. Thus, the revelation of Jesus Christ has exposed what has been concealed in Judaism, to which Paul belonged. That is, Judaism is a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. Paul realized the law and the community that patterned its life according to this law as a system of sacred violence. This realization made a radical impact on Paul’s life and disrupted his way of life in Judaism. Paul’s cosmos has been shattered (cf. Gal. 6.14). This has resulted in his transfer from Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law, to the community of the new creation, where circumcision and uncircumcision are no longer significant (Gal. 6.15). The contrast between these two worlds is expressed by the conjunction de (Gal. 1.15). Charles Cousar comments, “God’s revealing of the son to Paul not only involved a radical assault on his previous life, but also that assault was part of God’s world-changing activity, the bringing of new creation.”

God’s revelation of God’s son has a purpose: “that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1.16). It implies that the conversion and the call of Paul belong to a single event. Interestingly the content of God’s revelation that disrupted Paul’s way of life in Judaism and the content of the message that Paul was asked to proclaim are same. It is Jesus Christ, the victim of the curse of the law. It is also significant that Paul was commissioned to preach this message to the Gentiles, who are also victims of the Torah (Gal. 1.16; cf. Is. 49.1-6; Jer. 1.5). Paul understands his commissioning from that very moment of his experience of the revelation of the son as having Gentiles in view. This conviction is integral part of his experience on the Damascus road. It did not come to Paul later or grown over a period, as some have argued. Christiaan Beker comments that “Paul’s conversion experience is not the entrance to his thought.” However, Paul claims that he already had a well formed conviction before he first met other apostles (Gal. 1.16-17), and asserts its divine origin (Gal. 1.1, 11-12).

Thus, Paul mentions his conversion-call experience in contrast to his persecuting zeal for the ancestral traditions in the context of Galatian controversy in order to affirm that the way of life patterned according to the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) and that according to the gospel of Jesus Christ are mutually exclusive. His experience of God’s revelation of God’s son disclosed that the death of Jesus Christ was the result of sacred violence. Paul realized that it was the same sacred violence expressed in exclusion of the Gentiles. This realization has resulted in his transfer from Judaism, the system of sacred violence, to a community of Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence. Paul was commissioned to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, God’s disclosure of Judaism as the system of sacred violence, which is expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and exclusion of the Gentiles, and the vindication of the victim of the sacred violence. The conversion-call experience of Paul has a direct implication on or become a threat to the self-understanding of Jewish Christians (and Jews) as the covenant people of God, and their zealotic way of life in Judaism. It poses a threat to the Jewish social order and freedom to live according to that order. This led Paul, in his former life in Judaism, to persecute the communities of Jesus Christ. This has also led the Jewish community, to which Paul once belonged, to persecute Paul and the members of the communities of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Experience of God’s Revelation of God’s Son, the Victim of the Law

October 20, 2014

Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17) but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). It is an encounter between the one cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), and the “persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law”. This encounter of Paul with Jesus Christ brought forth an insight into the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ “as the epiphany of sacred violence.”[1] It exposed to Paul what had been concealed in Judaism, to which he belonged, that Judaism was a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. This revelation made a radical impact on Paul’s life that resulted in change of his worlds.

 

  1. Paul’s Pre-Conversion Zeal

A zealotic religious ideology affirms the salvific power of violence. It denigrates people who do not follow the social order based on its interpretation of the Torah, thus permitting discrimination and violence. Paul associated violence with which he had persecuted the church with “zeal” for the law. He not only was persecuting the community of Jesus Christ but also wanted to destroy it because of his zeal “for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.13-14). For Paul the way of life in Judaism provided a context where the law was used as a means to violence against those considered to be apostates. The law that governed his life, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, was the law interpreted in exclusionistic terms, which enforced a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. The community of Jesus Christ that he persecuted did not observe the Jewish distinctive rituals (circumcision, dietary laws etc) that expressed this separation, because the cross has made the rituals no longer significant (Gal. 5.11). It is this situation that has led to zealous Jewish persecution to preserve strict observance of ritual requirement of the law or the social order that promoted exclusionism (Gal. 5.11; 6.12).

  1. Zeal

Zeal was an important characteristic of the Second Temple Judaism Period (about 515 BCE-70 CE). This is evident in the Maccabean movement. The zealous Jews were vigilant against those who were a threat to the Torah (i.e. zealot interpretation of the Torah), which was the constitution of the Jewish communities. In order to maintain the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, they used violence against individuals and communities that threatened the social order of the Jewish communities. During Paul’s “life in Judaism,” he was “extremely zealous for (his) ancestral traditions,” so much so that he “used to persecute the community of Jesus Christ and tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). The precise reasons for Paul’s persecuting activity are unknown. But there can be no doubt that it had to do with his zeal for the law and what he perceived as the threat by Jesus’ communities to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). Paul characterises his life in Judaism and his persecuting activity to “destroy” the community of Jesus Christ by the Greek term zēlōtēs, meaning a “zealot”.[2]

  1. Paul as a Zealot

In Gal 1.13-14, 23 (and Phil. 3.5; cf. I Cor. 15.9) the extraordinary zealotry of Paul is related to his persecuting activity of the communities of Jesus Christ. However, earlier studies on the persecuting activity of Paul did not always pay much attention to the character and role of his zeal.[3] Some scholars have offered psychological reasoning for Paul’s persecuting activity, claiming that it was a result of purely personal aberration. They contend that it was an external attempt to silence his dissatisfaction with his life under the law and to suppress “all humaner tendencies in the interests of his legal absolutism.”[4] However, this view is no longer in currency. Moreover, the zealot Jewish behaviour has precedence in Mattathias, the father of Maccabean movement, and his followers on the model of Phineas.

Echoing the Reformation interpretation of Judaism F.C. Baur argues that Paul’s persecution of the community of Christ has to do with its rejection of the Jewish idea that true religion was a matter of “outward ceremonies”.[5] Baur remarks that Paul understood the gospel as a “refusal to regard religion as a thing bound down to special ordinances and localities.”[6] Bultmann reformulated the Reformation view by stating that the concern at the heart of Paul’s persecution was faith versus works. Paul became a persecutor of believers in Christ because he understood the gospel of the Hellenistic Jewish believers as a message of “God’s condemnation of his Jewish striving after righteousness by fulfilling the works of the law.”[7] However, E.P. Sanders strongly refutes the Reformation understanding of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness by saying that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of it.[8] According to him, the Torah in Judaism functioned as part of a system, not of legalism but of “covenantal nomism”.

Hengel supposes that the proclamation of the crucified one as the Messiah, who would lead the Jewish nation to salvation, would have been an intolerable offence to someone like Paul who combined nationalist aspirations with zeal for God and his law.[9] For Menoud the heart of Paul’s persecution was that “the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was not only a contradiction in terms, totally unanticipated in Jewish eschatological expectation, it was categorically prohibited by Deut. 21.22-23.”[10] According to Sayoon Kim, the scandal of the cross could be the proclamation by the followers that Jesus Christ, the cursed one God, is the Messiah.[11] Hultgren notes that even though there were several messianic movements before and during the times of Jesus Christ, followers of these movements were not persecuted. He contends that the messianic movement centered on Jesus, however, is different in several reasons. Two of the reasons are its proclamation of a crucified one as the messiah and the inauguration of the new age in Christ.[12]

In the above studies Paul’s claim that he was “an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14; cf. Phil. 3.6) is not taken seriously. However, in his 1975 article on the call of Paul, Klaus Haacker focused on Paul’s zeal as important for understanding his persecuting activity.[13] According to Haacker Paul’s zeal should not be understood as a psychological category, but as a “pure theological category”. For Paul as a Pharisee, the law was his ruling measure and as a persecutor, the zeal his “obligatory norm, which is a decisive governing principle.”[14] Haaker understands the term “zeal” as referring to a violent religious intolerance rooted in the times of the Maccabean movement. This zeal was directed primarily against Jewish apostates, but not foreigners. He contends that the claim of Paul to be a zealot does not indicate that he was a member of a revolutionary Zealot party, since it is doubtful that such a party ever existed. So Paul’s designation as a zealot denotes that he belonged to a radical wing of Pharisees.

Some scholars assume that references to zeal or zealot in the New Testament, such as Simon the zealot, refer to the Zealot Party. Justin Taylor argues that Paul’s claim to being a “Zealot”, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, should be understood as a reference to his membership in a Zealot party. He suggests that the reason for Paul’s persecution of the community of Jesus Christ was due to “the supposed hostility of a Zealot towards a group which stood apart from the national struggle.”[15] According to Taylor, the Zealots were already opposed to Jesus and his teachings because of his “refusal to ally himself with them, and more generally his preaching of non-violence and even of non-resistance to Roman rule.”[16] Therefore, they considered him to be a “no-less-dangerous quietist, hardly better than a collaborator and a traitor.”[17] Paul’s persecutions were of the same kind as the Zealots’ political struggles. As Taylor notes, “He persecuted the followers of Jesus for the same kinds of reasons that Zealots had to be hostile to Jesus himself, namely that not only did they not take part in the national struggle . . . but they were a threat to it.”[18]

However T.L. Donaldson and M.R. Fairchild disagree with Taylor’s view. They contend:

(Considering) diversity of offenses, the cross-section of literature glorifying zeal, and the variety of individuals and groups to which zealous actions were attributed (eg. Paul the Pharisee was a “zealot”) suggest that the term “zealot” was not a sectarian designation but descriptive of a type of piety which was not limited to one group or sect.[19]

Donaldson and Fairchild argue that the evidence from Josephus indicates that the “Zealots” as an identifiable party did not appear until Roman-Judean War during 66-70 C.E.[20]

Donaldson emphasizes that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not denote that he belonged to a specific revolutionary party. He contends that a zealot is one who was not only passionate towards observance of the Torah, but also willing to use violence against those who were a threat to the Torah. Donaldson notes, “Zeal was more than just a fervent commitment to the Torah; it denotes a willingness to use violence against any – Jews, Gentiles, or wicked in general – who were contravening, opposing or subverting the Torah.”[21] The reason for persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ by the zealots, according to Donaldson, was the conflict between Jewish sequential understanding of the Torah and Messiah, with the Torah defining the community guaranteed salvation when the Messiah arrives, and the “peculiar already/not yet structure of early Christian messianism.”[22] He explains:

In early Christian proclamation the Messiah had appeared in advance of the full eschatological salvation, and participation in that salvation is dependent on acceptance of this Messiah. In consequence of this, Christ becomes, at least implicitly, another-thus rival-way of drawing the boundary in this age of the community guaranteed of salvation in the age to come.[23]

Fairchild also argues that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not make him a member of the Zealot party, because there had been zealot ideology that was cultivated over decades from the times of the Maccabees. The zealot ideology transcended the boundaries of the Jewish parties and had adherents not only among the various Jewish parties, but also among the unaffiliated Jewish masses. Zealotry expressed itself in violent actions against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah, such as Paul’s persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.

Paul claimed, “I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.14 cf. Phil. 3.6). This terminology is so close to the words of Mattathias, the father of the Maccabean movement, in Josephus’ Antiquities 12.271: “If anyone be zealous for the laws of his nation”. Septuagint records these words in I Maccabees 2.27 differently and uses the verbal form of the word for zealot: “He who is zealous for the law and the established covenant”. This change is significant in view of Josephus’ consistent concealment of past Zealot history.[24] The pivotal demonstration of zealous piety, which inaugurated the Maccabean movement, may have become a pattern of pious action for the future.[25] This implies that Paul was a follower of zealot tradition. He aligned himself with his predecessors of venerable individual zealots.[26] This does not, however, make him a member of the Zealot party.[27] But Paul, being zealous for the Torah, saw himself as acting out the model of Phineas, even to the extent of using violence against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah. Thus he became a persecutor of the communities of Jesus Christ.[28] Paul’s zealotry resembles that of Mattathias. The zealotry of Mattathias was first, zeal for the purity of the ancestral tradition, and second, zeal that drove him to use violence against those considered to be apostates and posed a threat to these traditions.[29] In Gal. 1.13-14 Paul mentions the same concerns: zeal for the ancestral traditions and violent action against those considered to be posing a threat to these traditions. By turning into a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities, the communities of Jesus Christ have become a threat to the Jewish freedom of patterning their lives according to the zealotic interpretation of the Torah, a privilege the Jews were enjoying in the Roman empire.

  1. Paul as a Persecutor

In the NT “to persecute” (diōkō) is used in the sense of “pursue” (Phil. 3.12,14; Lk. 17.23), “follow” (Rom. 9.30, 31, 12.13), and “persecute” (Mt. 5.10,11,12,44). Therefore, the context becomes important in determining the meaning of diōkō.

In Gal. 1.13 Paul testifies about his conduct in Judaism. His use of the term “Judaism” (Ioudaismos) is very significant. In the NT this term is used only in Gal. 1.13,14. “Judaism” came into currency with II Maccabees, where it was used to distinguish those who were faithful to the Jewish way of life from those “adopting foreign ways” (II Macc. 2.21, 8.1, 14.38). According to Dunn, Judaism is “a description of the religion of Jews, only emerged in the Maccabean revolt…in reaction to those who attempted to eliminate its distinctiveness (as expressed particularly in its sacrificial system, its feasts, circumcision and food laws – II Macc.vi).”[30] Thus, the religion represented by “Judaism” is a religion based on the zealotic interpretation of the law. Paul followed the same kind of Jewish religion that demanded exclusionistic way of life expressed primarily by the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals. This is confirmed not only by the description of Paul’s way of life in Judaism in Gal. 1.13-14, but also the usage of cognate expressions “Jew” and “live like a Jew” in the context of the controversy over the dietary laws in Antioch (Gal. 2.14). These cognate words are found only in Galatians. Raisanen aptly comments that “the word Judaism carries connotations which hint at those practices which separated Jew from Gentile.”[31] Moreover, the word “way of life” occurs only in Galatians. Significantly this term also occurs in II Maccabees 6.23 (and Tobit 4.14) in the context where the Jewish way of life was seriously threatened.

Paul explains his way of life in Judaism by two interrelated clauses in Gal. 1.13-14. The first one is “I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it” (Gal. 1.13). It is significant that the word “persecute” (diōkō) is used in I Maccabees to describe the Maccabees’ pursuit of “the sons of arrogance” and the “lawless” (I Macc. 2.47, 3.5). Paul uses the verb diōkō not only in describing his own persecuting activity (Gal. 1.13-23; cf. I Cor. 15.9; Phil. 3.6), but also the persecution he himself suffered (Gal. 4.29, 5.11, 6.12; cf. I Cor. 4.12; II Cor. 4.9). The persecuting activity of Paul, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, is recorded not only in Paul’s letters but also in Acts (I Cor. 15.9; Gal. 1.13, 23; Phil. 3.6; Acts 8.1-3, 9.1-2, 22.4-5, 26.9-11). The verb diōkō is modified by the adverbial phrase kath’ huperbolēn, which means “beyond measure”, “excessively”, and “intensely” (Gal. 1.13).

Paul also uses the verb “to destroy” (portheō) to describe his way of life. This term occurs only in Gal. 1.13, 23 (and Acts 9.21) in reference to Paul’s activity towards the communities of Jesus Christ. P.H. Menoud argues that because Paul was never accused of murder, portheō here refers to the destruction of faith (Gal. 1.23), rather than physical destruction.[32] Hultgren too contends that the verb portheō does not have violent connotation and so it simply means that Paul tried to put an end to Christian faith, or Christian church.[33] However, the zealot context in which portheō is used implies the meaning of physical violence. Here portheō is used in the sense of “devastate” or “destroy” cities.[34] This verb is directly associated with diōkō both in Gal. 1.13 and 1.23. What is evident is the intensity of Paul’s violent activity beyond trying to destroy “the faith”. Paul does not need to exaggerate his violent activity, because the communities of Jesus Christ knew about it (Gal. 1.23). Therefore, the violent zealotic nature of Paul’s persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ in the model of Phineas and rooted very much in the Maccabean movement is evident.

The second clause that describes Paul’s way of life in Judaism affirms what the first clause explains: “I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.14). Paul’s sense of superiority with regards to his progress in Judaism, based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, is expressed by his usage of the preposition “beyond”. This sense of superiority is based on his “being an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14). Zealotry for the ancestral traditions, the Torah, and God would not have been perceived differently (cf. Gal. 1.14; Acts 21.20, 22.3; Josephus Ant 12.271). It was this extreme zealotry for the ancestral traditions of the law that had prompted Paul to use violence against those perceived to be a threat to the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law.

Considering Paul’s activities as a persecutor in the mould of Mattathias and the Maccabees with Phineas as their model, leads to a conclusion that such a behaviour stemmed from his zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Such an interpretation of the Torah demanded exclusionism expressed by the Jewish distinctive rituals that formed walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Maccabean crisis had promoted a few rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws, as key elements of law observance or boundary markers of God’s covenant community. These rituals remained central even in the time of Paul as the boundary markers between those who belonged to God’s covenant community and those who were outside this community. Any community that tried to remove the walls of separation was considered to be posing a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities. Donaldson comments, “Persecution arises not because a group holds ideas at variance with the norm, but because it does so in ways that threaten social cohesion.”[35] Paul saw the communities of Jesus Christ as representing such a threat. This is implied in Gal.5.11-12, where Paul says that the cross of Christ has become a “scandal” to the Jews (cf. Gal. 6.12; I Cor. 1.23). The scandal of the cross for the Jews is that it has annulled the Jewish distinctive rituals in the communities of Jesus Christ, thus removing the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles (Gal. 5.11). This results in upsetting the social order that has been constructed on the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. In order to maintain social order based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law, it demands “good violence” against the “bad violence”, which is the cause of social disorder. The cross by demolishing the ritual barriers around the Jewish community and thus bringing together the Jews and the Gentiles, those who were excluded by the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, has given zealous Jews the motivation to engage in scapegoat mechanism, to maintain social order based on the zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Since in a zealot context faith in God is understood in terms of zealous action for God or the law, it is linked to sacred violence. It is a violent action against apostates to maintain conformity to a pattern of life according to the law, and thus preserve unity and order of the community. The unanimity of the members of Judaism in directing their violence against apostates is required to maintain the system of sacred violence. All cooperate mimetically in directing their violence against the victims. Those who withhold consent and cooperation in this conspiracy against victims are a threat to the very foundation of the sacrificial structure of Judaism. When Paul confessed that as a zealot, he was violently persecuting the communities of God and was trying to destroy it, he was, in fact, confessing that he used sacred violence against apostates to preserve the pattern of life according to the law, the constitution of the Jewish communities. In other words, by guarding the constitution of the Jewish communities, he was protecting their freedom to live according to the zealotic interpretation of the law.

  1. Paul’s Conversion-Call and God’s Revelation of God’s Son

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17), but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). There are different views surrounding this experience. Some scholars insist that it is inappropriate to call this experience “conversion”. Krister Stendahl argues that the emphasis in the autobiographical account is on Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles, rather than on his “conversion”. In his essay “Paul among Jews and Gentiles” Stendahl argues that Paul, by echoing the language of Isaiah and Jeremiah, describes his experience as a call, similar to that of the prophets. The same God whom Paul had been serving since birth has now given him a new task. This task is, through the risen Messiah, God “asks him as a Jew to bring God’s message to the Gentiles.”[36] Though Stendahl does not deny the fact that Paul’s experience on the Damascus road has resulted in a striking shift in his perspective, he rejects the description of this experience as “conversion”, because Paul did not change from one religion to another.[37] However, Stendahl’s “call rather than conversion” formulation is an overstatement, because the term “conversion” properly understood can be appropriately applied to Paul.

There are many scholars who consider Paul’s experience as “conversion”. They have offered several proposals to explain Paul’s conversion. It is interpreted in terms of the psychological struggle with the Torah, and a result of his long struggle with the law in which he was dejected of ever achieving the righteousness it demands.[38] J.S. Stewart describes how “Paul’s growing sense of the failure of Judaism” gave way to the sudden conviction “that he had found the truth for which all men everywhere were seeking.”[39] However, Paul nowhere in his letters gives a hint of going through a period of dissatisfaction or mental turmoil. He rather testifies about his extraordinary zealotry for the Torah. The only thing that can be understood from his testimony is that his conversion was sudden and unexpected, and was a result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son. Some other scholars understood Paul’s conversion in terms of his reaction to the scriptural apologetic and steadfastness under persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ.[40] Some argue that Paul through his experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ realized that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Further he understood that since Messiah had come, the law ceases.[41] E.P. Sanders contends that Paul on the road to Damascus was convinced that God had provided in Christ a universal means of salvation both for the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul’s rejection of the Torah as a means of salvation is a consequence of his new conviction: if the salvation is through Christ, then it is not through the law.[42]  Donaldson sees the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the demonstration of God’s provision of universal salvation in Christ. Therefore, if salvation is through Christ, then it does not come through the Torah.[43] Heikki Raisanen proposed a different view of Paul’s conversion. For him, Paul was converted from a rigid Jewish religion to Hellenistic Jewish Christianity and adopted its less rigid attitude towards the Torah, particularly the ritual and cultic aspects.[44] F.F. Bruce maintains that for Paul who considered the proclamation of a crucified one as the Messiah as blasphemous, the experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ is a “conversion” experience. He further says that this conversion was both an external and an internal event. It was an objective revelation of the risen Christ as well as an overwhelming inward experience. Bruce takes seriously the change in Paul from persecutor to apostle.

There are also diverse views regarding the connection between Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son and his gospel. Concerning the essentials of Paul’s gospel, Raisanen proposes developmental hypothesis. Paula Fredriksen argues that the autobiographical conversion report of Paul tells more about his state of mind at the time of reporting than at the time of conversion.[45] However, these views can not be sustained in view of Paul’s polemic against the teachers of the “other gospel” that the essentials of the gospel he preaches remain same from the beginning (cf. Gal. 1.17, 5.11). Otherwise Paul would have faced criticism from his opponents, had he preached a different gospel at the beginning of his ministry. That means, Paul’s view of the Torah and the essential content of his gospel are the result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus. Bruce rightly sees the connection between Paul’s experience and his theology. He supposes that although Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith was not developed fully at that time, it too was implicit in the conversion.[46] However, the weakness of Bruce’s analysis is that he relies more on the secondary source, the Acts, instead of Paul’s letters. Developing on his mentor’s view Seyoon Kim finds Paul’s conversion as the source of his thought.[47]

It is important to refer to Paul’s account of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son to see a connection between his conversion and his gospel. Paul claims that his gospel is not “of human origin” but “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.11-12). “Revelation” and its verbal form ”to reveal” in Paul’s letters refer most often to the end time and linked to God’s action in the end time (I Cor. 1.7, 3.13; Gal. 3.23).[48] Therefore, Paul’s reference to “revelation” in Gal. 1.11-12 and 1.16 underlines the eschatological significance of the experience. This revelation is “of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.12), which may be taken either as subjective genitive (revelation from Jesus Christ) or objective genitive (revelation about Jesus Christ). In the light of Gal. 1.16 which refers to God’s revelation of God’s son, “revelation of Jesus Christ” should be understood as objective genitive. It implies that the content of the gospel is Jesus Christ, who was revealed. What is striking is that in the following verses (Gal. 1.13-14) Paul, instead of explaining the revelation, first describes his former way of life in Judaism (notice the usage of the temporal particle hote). This implies that the information about his former way of life in Judaism has significance in the context of Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ. After explaining his extraordinary zealotic way of life based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, expressed in the exclusion of the Gentiles, Paul returns to the apokalypsis (Gal. 1.15-16). In order to express the transition due to the impact of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son in not only putting an end to his former way of life in Judaism, but also starting a new life and vocation, Paul uses the temporal phrase hote de. Through this Paul is indicating a sharp contrast between the two periods of his life.[49]

In Gal. 1.15-16 Paul describes the action of God and the purpose of that action. Paul says that God revealed the son “to me”. Paul elsewhere describes his Damascus road experience in terms of “seeing” Christ, or Christ “appearing” to him (I Cor. 9.1, 15.8; cf. II Cor. 4.6). In Gal. 1.16 Paul describes it in terms of God “revealing the son”. The subject here is God. God is disclosing the reality that has been hidden. What has been concealed is the scapegoat mechanism that is generated by the zealotic way of life in Judaism. The power of this mechanism lies in its deception and concealment. On the one hand, it deceives by depicting God as the one who is demanding “sacrificial victims”, and thus, portraying violence against victims as a sacred act. On the other hand, it conceals the plight of innocent “sacrificial victims” and transforms violence against victims as a sacred violence. The content of God’s revelation is God’s son, the victim of the curse of the law (Gal. 3.13). Through this God is revealing not only his rejection of the law (the law on which Paul’s zealotic way of life was based) that crucified Christ, but also God’s vindication of the victim of the curse of the law. Paul says that God has revealed this en emoi. Beverly Gaventa argues for a meaning of “to me” based on parallel usage en tois ethnesin Gal..[50] It is an encounter between the cursed one of the law and the persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law. This encounter of Paul with Jesus the crucified and cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), brought forth a realization that the one cursed by the law is vindicated by God. By vindicating the cursed one of the law, God has revealed to Paul that the cursed one of the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) is not cursed one of God. Paul reiterates this in Gal. 2.19: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” That means, the way of life expressed in strict adherence to the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and special days, and thus excluding the Gentiles, is not equivalent to living for God.

Paul draws on prophetic imagery in Gal. 1.16-17 (cf. Isaiah 49.1; Jeremiah 1.5) to “convey the radical impact of the revelation.”[51] Even though Paul’s language here echoes the call of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and implies that he views himself as standing in the prophetic tradition, it does not mean what has happened to Paul may be considered simply as his call. Though Paul’s call and commission are included in this experience, his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son is not limited to these. His experience has called into question his zealotic understanding of the law and the way of life patterned according to such an understanding. When Paul experienced God’s revelation of the risen Christ, the victim of the “curse of the law”, he realized the problem of Judaism to which he belonged. This problem of Judaism is the exclusionism expressed in its distinctive rituals. Paul realized that it is the way of life in Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law that has led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom God has vindicated. In other words, the law that has excluded the Gentiles is the same law that caused the crucifixion of God’s son. And God is rejecting the way of life based on the law. Paul understood how the law was (mis)used in Judaism to serve violence, which was expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, persecution of those considered to be apostates, and exclusion of the Gentiles.[52] Thus, the revelation of Jesus Christ has exposed what has been concealed in Judaism, to which Paul belonged. That is, Judaism is a sacrificial structure of sacred violence.[53] Paul realized the law and the community that patterned its life according to this law as a system of sacred violence. This realization made a radical impact on Paul’s life and disrupted his way of life in Judaism. Paul’s cosmos has been shattered (cf. Gal. 6.14). This has resulted in his transfer from Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law, to the community of the new creation, where circumcision and uncircumcision are no longer significant (Gal. 6.15).[54] The contrast between these two worlds is expressed by the conjunction de (Gal. 1.15). Charles Cousar comments, “God’s revealing of the son to Paul not only involved a radical assault on his previous life, but also that assault was part of God’s world-changing activity, the bringing of new creation.”[55]

God’s revelation of God’s son has a purpose: “that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1.16). It implies that the conversion and the call of Paul belong to a single event. Interestingly the content of God’s revelation that disrupted Paul’s way of life in Judaism and the content of the message that Paul was asked to proclaim are same. It is Jesus Christ, the victim of the curse of the law. It is also significant that Paul was commissioned to preach this message to the Gentiles, who are also victims of the Torah (Gal. 1.16; cf. Is. 49.1-6; Jer. 1.5).[56] Paul understands his commissioning from that very moment of his experience of the revelation of the son as having Gentiles in view. This conviction is integral part of his experience on the Damascus road. It did not come to Paul later or grown over a period, as some have argued.[57] Christiaan Beker comments that “Paul’s conversion experience is not the entrance to his thought.”[58] However, Paul claims that he already had a well formed conviction before he first met other apostles (Gal. 1.16-17), and asserts its divine origin (Gal. 1.1, 11-12).

Thus, Paul mentions his conversion-call experience in contrast to his persecuting zeal for the ancestral traditions in the context of Galatian controversy in order to affirm that the way of life patterned according to the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) and that according to the gospel of Jesus Christ are mutually exclusive.[59] His experience of God’s revelation of God’s son disclosed that the death of Jesus Christ was the result of sacred violence. Paul realized that it was the same sacred violence expressed in exclusion of the Gentiles. This realization has resulted in his transfer from Judaism, the system of sacred violence, to a community of Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence. Paul was commissioned to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, God’s disclosure of Judaism as the system of sacred violence, which is expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and exclusion of the Gentiles, and the vindication of the victim of the sacred violence. The conversion-call experience of Paul has a direct implication on or become a threat to the self-understanding of Jewish Christians (and Jews) as the covenant people of God, and their zealotic way of life in Judaism. It poses a threat to the Jewish social order and freedom to live according to that order. This led Paul, in his former life in Judaism, to persecute the communities of Jesus Christ. This has also led the Jewish community, to which Paul once belonged, to persecute Paul and the members of the communities of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence: Paul’s Hermeneutic of the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 66.

[2] Justin Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. by Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 105.

[3] Torrey Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism: Reading Gal. 1.13-14 in Light of Philo’s Writings,” in Biblica 83 (2002), p. 453.

[4] C.H. Dodd, “The Mind of Paul: A Psychological Approach,” in BJRL 17/1 (1933), pp. 12-13; “The Mind of Paul: Change and Development,” in BJRL 18/1 (1934), p. 36.

[5] F.C. Baur, Paul: Apostle of Jesus Christ (London: Williams & Norgate, 1876), I. 57.

[6] F.C. Baur, The Church History of the First Three Centuries (London: Williams & Norgate, 1878), I. 46.

[7] Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, tr. by Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951), I. 187-188.

[8] E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977); and Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

[9] Martin Hengel, Pre- Christian Paul (London:  1991), p. 83; The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), p. 40.

[10] P.H. Menoud, “Revelation and Tradition: The Influence of Paul’s Conversion on His Theology,” in Interpretation 7/2 (April 1953), p. 133.

[11] Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 47.

[12] Arland J. Hultgren, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church: Their Purpose, Locale, and Nature,” in JBL 95/1 (1976), p. 110.

[13] K. Haacker, “Die Berufung des Verfolgers und die Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen,” in ThBeit 6 (1975), pp. 1-19.

[14] Haacker, “Die Berufung,” p. 8.

[15] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 112.

[16] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 108.

[17] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 108.

[18] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 110.

[19] David Rhoads, “Zealots,” in ABD, Vol. VI, ed. by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), VI. 1045.

[20] Rhoads, “Zealots,” VI. 1045.

[21] Terence L. Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert: The Origin of Paul’s Christ-Torah Antithesis,” in CBQ 51/4 (October 1989), p. 673.

[22] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert” p. 679.

[23] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert” p. 679.

[24] Martin Hengel, Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod until 70 AD (Edinburgh: 1989), p. 155; E.P. Sanders, Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992), p. 409.

[25] Mark R. Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations A Re-Examination of Gal. 1.14 and Acts 22.3,” in NTS 45 (1999),” p. 522.

[26] Torrey Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism: Reading Gal. 1.13-14 in Light of Philo’s Writings,” in Biblica 83 (2002),” p. 466.

[27] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 673.

[28] Hengel, The Pre-Christian Paul, pp. 70-71; J. Dupont, “The Conversion of Paul, and Its Influence on His Understanding of Salvation by Faith,” in Apostolic History and the Gospel, ed. by W.W. Gasque and  Ralph P. Martin (Exeter: 1970), pp. 183-87; N.T. Wright, “Paul, Arabia, and Elijah (Galatians 1:17),” in JBL 115 (1996), p. 686.

[29] Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations,” p. 527.

[30] James D.G. Dunn, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, London: A. & C. Black, 1993, p. 56.

[31] Heikki Raisanen, Jesus, Paul and Torah: Collected Essays, tr. by David E. Orton (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), p. 23.

[32] Philippe H. Menoud, Jesus Christ and the Faith: A Collection of Studies, tr. by Eunice M. Paul (Pittsburg: Pickwick Press, 1978), pp. 47- 60.

[33] Hultgren, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church,” p. 110.

[34] Richard N. Longenecker, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 41: Galatians (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990), p. 28.

[35] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 671.

[36] Krister Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p. 7.

[37] Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles, pp. 7-23.

[38] A. Deissmann, St. Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912), pp. 93-98, 122; C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932), p. 115; J.S. Stewart, A Man in Christ (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935), pp 83-88; J.C. Beker, Paul the Apostle (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp. 24-243.

[39] J.S. Stewart, A Man in Christ (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935), pp. 119, 141.

[40] O. Pfleiderer, Paulinism (London: Williams & Norgate, 1891), I. 3-13; J. Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (New York: Macmillan, 1943), pp. 312-329.

[41] W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London: SPCK, 1948), pp. 16, 71-73; Hans Joachim Schoeps, Paul The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, tr. by H. Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), pp. 88, 171-73; Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Seabury, 1968), pp. 188-93, 198.

[42] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism; and Paul, the Law and the Jewish People. 

[43] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 680.

[44] Raisanen, Paul and the Law, pp. 231-236.

[45] Paula Fredriksen, “Paul and Augustine: Conversion Narratives, Orthodox Traditions, and the Retrospective Self,” in JTS 37 (1986), pp. 3-34.

[46] F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977), pp. 69-75, 87, 188.

[47] Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel.

[48] Beverly Roberts Gaventa, From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), p. 23.

[49] J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 163.

[50] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 28.

[51] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 28.

[52] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[53] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[54] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[55] Charles B. Cousar, Reading Galatians Philippians, and I Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Maco, Georgia: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2001), p. 32.

[56] The prophetic call-stories from which the vocabulary here derived, also contain the phrase “to the nations”.

[57] Dupont, “The Conversion of Paul”; J.G. Gager, “Some Notes on Paul’s Conversion,” in NTS 27 (1981).

[58] Beker, Paul the Apostle, p. 10.

[59] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), p. 92.

 

Justification by Faith in Christ, not by Works of the Law

October 18, 2014

The term “to justify” and its cognates are predominantly Paul’s words in the New Testament.[1] In Galatians the verb “to justify” is used eight times, of which four occurrences are in Gal. 2.16-17, and the noun “justification” four times (one of them occurs in the Old Testament quotation in Gal. 3.6), of which one appears in Gal. 2.21.

In order to understand Paul’s usage of the term “justify”, the incident at Antioch where the Jewish distinctive ritual, the dietary laws, which has served as a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, is to be taken seriously. The repeated usage of the term “justify” in Gal 2:15-21 reflects on the withdrawal of Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish believers from table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch. This indicates that “justify” has a corporate dimension. Paul uses this term in the context of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles.

The separation between Jews and Gentiles is expressed by the Jewish separatist vocabulary “we ourselves are Jews by birth” and “Gentile sinners”. Striking here is the Jewish description of Gentiles as “sinners”. In Jewish thought “sinners” are “pre-eminently those whose lawless conduct marked them out as outside the covenant, destined for destruction and so not to be consorted with (eg. Pss. 1.1, 5; 37.34-36; Prov. 12.12-13; 24.20; Sirach. 7.16; 9.11; 41.5-11).” Thus, this term is used to characterize the Gentiles (Tobith. 13.6; Jubilee. 23.23-24; Psalms of Solomon 2.1-2). Paul, by using this separatist Jewish language, echoes not only the conduct of the group “from James”, but also the behavior of Peter and the other Jews who withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers. It is in this social context Paul uses the term “justify”. Paul’s concern here is the relation between Jews and Gentiles. (The traditional understanding revolves around remitting of sins. But the vocabulary of “forgiveness” is missing in Galatians.)

The term “justify” refers to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, who are separated by the “works of the law” lifestyle.

Justification is a social event. It ties human to human together. Leander Keck has proposed the translation “rectify” for the Greek verb dikaioō (“justify”). The action involved in the Greek verb “justify” is the idea of “rectifying” a relationship or righting the wrong. Justify depicts God’s activity of rectifying a relationship or righting the wrong. What has gone wrong in the world is relationship among human beings through construction of walls of separation. In the context of Antioch incident it is the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish distinctive ritual, dietary laws. This Jewish lifestyle, which excluded the Jews from having fellowship with the Gentiles, prompted the usage of the phrase “works of the law”.

Paul contrasts “works of the law” with “faith in Jesus”. Paul is  not criticizing “works” as such in an attempt to divorce “believing” from “doing”, but “works of the law”, which is “living like a Jew”. This Jewish way of life has crucified Jesus Christ, persecuted apostates and excluded Gentiles from having fellowship with Jews. Paul reminded Peter and those who followed Peter at Antioch that although they were Jews they believed in Jesus Christ, because they knew that “a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16). God justifying a person or making one right is through faith in Jesus Christ. This implies that he/she has died to the law, “a death to its ritually excluding aspects that undergird Jewish separatism.”

Peter being convinced that a person is justified by faith in Christ abandoned the “works of the law” lifestyle and had table fellowship with the Gentile believers before the group “from James” arrived at Antioch. By withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentile believers after the arrival of the group and following the abandoned Jewish way of life based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, Peter made Jesus “a servant of sin” (Gal. 2.17). Because his faith in Christ has made him to abandon the “works of the law” lifestyle and so, to transgress the law by eating with the Gentile believers. To return to the Jewish way of life was tantamount to making Jesus an agent of sin. By his withdrawal from the table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch, Peter demonstrated that violation of the dietary laws was a sinful action. His withdrawal further displayed that Christ was promoting the sinful action, which, for Paul, was an absurd conclusion. Paul argues that Christ does not promote sin, because to be justified means to be crucified with him (Gal. 2.19) and that means “to die to the law through the law”.

Paul has refused to return to the way of life demanded by the lifestyle patterned according to the works of law. Because it would amount to again “building the walls of separation” between the Jews and the Gentiles that have been torn down. Paul uses two terms kataluō and parabatēs to express what he intends to say (Gal. 2.18).  Kataluō means dissolve, dismantle, tear down, abolish, bring to an end and destroy. In the light of the issue of table fellowship at Antioch (and circumcision at Jerusalem Gal. 2.1-10) Paul’s metaphors of “tearing down” and “building up” (oikodomeō) refer to the distinctive laws of the Torah that maintained separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. Ta and tauta in the context refer to the distinctive customs of the Jews such as dietary laws (circumcision 2.1-10, 5.2-3 and special days Gal. 4.10).

By withdrawing from eating with the Gentile believers at Antioch Peter demonstrated himself a parabatēs. The nouns parabatēs and parabasis are related to the verb parabainō. The verb parabainō means not only “to transgress, to violate”, but also “to deviate, to step by the side of” (LXX Dan. 9.5; Sirach 23.18, 42.10; Acts 1.25).  In Gal. 2.14 Paul has accused Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish believers of deviant behaviour when he charged them of not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the Gospel, when they withdrew from eating with the Gentile believers. Rebuilding the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles by adopting the “works of the law” lifestyle is in a way denial of God’s justifying or rectifying or unifying act through the Christ event.

The truth of the gospel, according to which Jews as well as Gentiles are justified or unified by faith in Christ, establishes a new pattern of life. Paul tries to explain that the life expressed by works of the law and that by faith in Christ are mutually exclusive. Paul expresses his severed relationship with the life patterned according to the exclusionistic understanding of the law through the metaphor of “dying to the law”: “Through the law I died to the law” (Gal. 2.19). Paul died to the law when he participated mimetically in the death of Christ on the cross, when he put faith in Christ, the victim of the curse of the law (Gal. 2.19). The identification of Paul with the crucified Christ has brought an entirely new relationship with Judaism, to which Paul once belonged. The perfect tense of the verb “crucify” denotes both the punctiliar action of dying to the law and the continuing life for God. In other words, Paul says that the system of sacred violence that crucified Jesus Christ is the same system that excluded the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish ritual boundary markers. Notice that the system based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law is not destroyed. Rather the death of Jesus Christ has exposed the system of sacred violence, and that the life demanded by this system is not living for God. Paul says that he died to the life patterned according to the works of the law that mandated the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles. Dying to the law is necessary to live to God. Since through the law Paul died to the law and his present life in Christ is a life to God, he deviates from the truth of the gospel if he once again lives according to the law which enforced separation between Jew and Gentile.

In Gal. 3.19-25 Paul argues that the law is active in its function of imprisoning and guarding its subjects from having any contact with the “outsiders”. It is from this “bondage” or “slavery” that God through his justifying act in Jesus Christ has redeemed humanity. God’s justifying act in Jesus Christ is a unifying act, unifying Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female into one single community. This righting of relationships between the Jews and the Gentiles fulfils God’s promise to Abraham: “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you” (Gal. 3.8). Therefore, for Paul no one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbor and for Jew the primary neighbor is Gentile and vice-versa. The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by Paul is the good news that the promise of God to Abraham (that is, the unity of the nations) is fulfilled through the Christ event. The death of Jesus Christ brings in the new creation where people irrespective of their ethnic, class and gender backgrounds are united in Christ as the children of God, and possess God’s eschatological gift of the Spirit.

 

Therefore, a believer who maintains a lifestyle based on caste, class, language, race or gender that separates him/her from other believers is actually joining the forces that crucified Jesus Christ. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has demolished the barriers that separated human beings from one another and united the believers in him. Those who are justified received the spirit of God irrespective of their ethnicity, caste, class, gender, race and region.

 

 

[1] Pauline corpus contains 27 of the 35 New Testament occurrences of the verb “justify”.

Wisdom of This World and the Wisdom of God

September 8, 2014

1. Problems in the Corinthian church:
– Groupism (1.11-12): These groups are formed around influential figures such as Peter, Apollos, Paul. The members are boasting about their leaders (3.21). They are“puffed up in favour of one against another” (I Cor. 4.6). They are involved in comparing their leader with other leaders.
– There was also quarrelling and jealousy in the church (I Cor. 3.3).

2. Root cause for this situation

I Cor 1.17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.”

In this verse Paul mentions “wisdom” for the first time. The words “wisdom” and “wise” occur over twenty five times in the first three chapters. Paul calls the wisdom mentioned in 1.17 as “wisdom of word (eloquent wisdom)” (1.17), “wisdom of the world” (1.20), “human wisdom” (1.25, 2.13), “wisdom of this age” (2.6), and “wisdom of the rulers of this age” (2.6).

This is the wisdom which Corinthians claim to be possessing: in 3.18 Paul says “If you think that you are wise in this age…For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

What is this “wisdom”?

“Wisdom” refers to rhetorical wisdom, which is characterised by eloquence and logic – logical and clever arguments, rhetorical skills or oratorical skills. Wealthy people and people of high status learned rhetorical wisdom. In the Greco-Roman society rhetorical wisdom indicates high socio-economic status. This is a highly valued feature for recognition and reputation.

That means human wisdom had connotations of importance or worth or valuable in the Greco-Roman society. In other words, there is a social value and power associated with this kind of wisdom (I Cor. 2.5 cf. 1.17). Thus, it constituted a social definition of power rooted in the values cultivated by those in the society, who had wealth, status and honour.

The Corinthian church has made “human wisdom” its value. That means, wealth, status and nobility acquired significance in the church. Thus, the church allowed the value system of the outside society to control its life. The influence of the Greek rhetorical wisdom made them to value wealth, power and status. That means, the root cause for factionalism in the Corinthian church is the influence of the value system of the outside society. The result is “quarrelling and jealousy” within the church (3.3) and “boasting about human leaders” (3.21) or “puffing up in favour of one against the other” (4.6).
What do their present behaviour and value system signify?

I Cor. 3.1-4

Paul charges that “jealousy and quarrelling” among them express that they are “of flesh” and “behaving according to human inclinations” (3.3). The literal translation is “walking according to man”. Their sloganeering conveys that they are “merely human” (3.4). In Paul’s letters “walking” usually refers to one’s way of living or lifestyle (cf. 7.17). Their behaviour confirms that they are “people of the flesh” (3.1).

“Flesh” refers to “this worldly existence” or living with the perspective and value system of this world. That is why human wisdom has become valuable in the church.

“Wisdom” is in contrast with God’s wisdom

Paul says that human wisdom is in contrast with God’s wisdom. In I Cor. 1.17 Paul contrasts the “wisdom of word” with the cross of Christ. Paul explains this contrast from 1.18 onwards. That is why v. 18 starts with “For”. In 1.18-2.16 Paul elaborates on this contrast by making a series of arguments.

Paul wants to make them realise that their present perspective and value system associated with the human wisdom are in contradiction to God’s perspective and value system: I Cor. 1.18-2.5

1. Paul first turns their attention to the content of the gospel, which is the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ is “foolishness” and “weakness” for the human wisdom, whereas it is “wisdom of God” and “power of God” (1.18, 23-25).

2. Then he turns their attention to Corinthians themselves whom God has called (1.26-28). Paul is asking them, “Consider your own call”. Although this refers to their call to salvation, Paul is concerned more about their status at the time of their call. I Cor. 1.26 “Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” “Human standards” qualifies all three – wise, powerful and noble birth.

God chose what was considered “foolish” “weak”, and “low” by human standards (1.27-28). That means, when God called them he did not show any regard to their present value system – human wisdom, wealth, status and nobility. That means, God’s perspective and value system are different from their present perspective and value system.

3. Paul turns their attention to the basis of their faith when they first heard the gospel (2.1-5).

Paul gives the existence of Corinthians as Christians as an evidence for the power of the gospel of the crucified Christ. He says, it was not his rhetorical skills that persuaded them (2.4). He further says, “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (2.3). However, his proclamation was “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2.5). Here “Spirit” and “power” are not two separate words. Paul uses these two words interchangeably. To speak of spirit means to speak of power. So here, it is not “spirit and power” but “spirit, that is, power”. The evidence for the power of the Spirit in the gospel of the crucified Christ lies in the very conversion of the Corinthians.

Paul tries to make Corinthians to see that their own existence as Christians stands in total contradiction to their present perspective, value system and conduct.

So, what is evident in the Corinthian church?

In I Cor 2.1-2 Paul says, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

In I Cor 2.2 Paul uses the word “Know” (oida). The same word is used in II Cor. 5.16: “From now on, therefore, we know no one from a human point view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.”

What Paul is talking about, here, is two mutually exclusive bases of knowledge. Our perspective and value system come from the basis of knowledge. One of the bases is “flesh”. Before conversion Paul had “flesh” as the basis of his knowledge. Paul viewed Jesus Christ from this perspective. He saw crucified Christ as one cursed by God. That was why he rejected Jesus Christ as God’s messiah and so persecuted the church. However, his conversion changed the basis of his knowledge. Now the basis of his knowledge is “the cross of Jesus Christ”. His perspective and value system are based on the cross of Christ. That is why for Paul, the crucified Christ is the wisdom and power of God.

So what is the problem of Corinthians? I call this epistemological crisis. Even though the message of the crucified Christ has led them to faith, their basis of knowledge is not the cross of Christ, but flesh.

That means, there is an existential tension in the Corinthian church as a result of trying to live in two diametrically opposite worlds (I Cor. 3.1).

Parents’ Influence on Their Children

August 6, 2014

Do parents have any important, long term influence on the character development of their children? This was the question raised by psychologist Judith Rich Harris, author of the controversial book, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, published in 1998. She argues that parents matter much less, at least when it comes to determining the behaviour of their children. Instead Harris contends that a child’s peer group play a much more influential role.

On the other hand, there is the debate about Nature vs Nurture. Some raise the question: why do children reproduce the skills, intelligence and habits of their parents? They argue that personality resemblances between biological relatives are due almost entirely to heredity rather than home environment or nurture. Genes is much more important than the home environment in the personality development of children, they say.

So the important question is: what shapes a person? I would include nature (genes), parental nurture, peers, society and life’s experiences that make a person. Neither one of these factors is in themselves deterministic.

Teach Children by Example

Parents play a critical role in shaping the character or personality of their children. Parents’ personality and the nature of parent/child relationship influence children’s attitudes, choices, decisions and behaviour. Parents leave not only their physical looks, to a certain extent, but also their footprints in the lives of their children. Susan B. Campbell states, “Negative, inconsistent parental behaviour and high levels of family adversity are associated with the emergence of problems in early childhood and predict their persistence (in adult life).” The philosopher John Locke once said, “Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain.”

One of the best ways that parents can influence their children is to teach by example. In II Timothy 1.5 Paul reminds his coworker Timothy the influence that the latter’s mother and grandmother had on him: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” We don’t know when these women had come to faith in Jesus Christ. Eunice was a Jewish believer (Acts 16.1). But Timothy’s father was a Greek. He was not a believer in Christ. That could be the reason why his name was not mentioned by Paul. Even then Timothy’s mother maintained her faith in Christ. Most probably Eunice became a believer in Christ after her marriage with Timothy’s father.

The faith of Lois and Eunice was described as “sincere”. The word “sincere” literally means without play acting, without show or pretence, or without hypocrisy. It describes that which is unhypocritical or genuine (cf. Rom. 12.9; II Cor. 6.6; I Tim. 1.5; James 3.7; I Pet. 1.22). A hypocrite was “a stage-actor. It was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice; hence the word became used metaphorically of a dissembler (i.e. the one who puts on false appearance), a hypocrite.” A hypocrite is, therefore, an actor. The faith of Lois and Eunice was completely genuine, without hypocrisy or pretence or deceit. Having a sincere faith doesn’t imply perfection. But it does imply reality (and not pretence) with God. It means to have godly character, qualities, attitude and behaviour (cf. II Pet. 1.5-7).

Paul says that the sincere faith “lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (II Tim. 1.5). The word “live” literally means to dwell in, to take up residence. That means, sincere faith took up residence in the lives of Lois and Eunice. This defines the depth and extent to which faith in Jesus Christ has become a vital and integral part of their lives. Sincere faith was not an occasional visitor, but a permanent resident and an abiding presence exerting its influence on their behaviour. Timothy was blessed with a godly heritage, although it was only one parent and grandparent who contributed. In the Roman world, fathers had absolute authority over family, and since Timothy’s father was not a believer in Jesus Christ, his home situation was less than ideal. But the two women were persistent in their faith and provided a model for Timothy to emulate. J.R. Miller writes, “There is something in genealogy, after all. It is a fine thing for a young man to have had a good mother and a godly grandmother. This does not mean that a man (or a woman) is necessarily good because of the faith that dwelt in his grandmother and his own mother. Goodness cannot be passed down like an estate. Some very bad men have had most pious ancestry. At the same time, it is fitting when in successive generations piety is found. A young man (or a woman) with worthy ancestors owes it to them to be worthy. We are responsible for the carrying on of the work which they have begun. Paul was persuaded that the faith of his grandmother and mother was also in Timothy. It should always be so with young people with Christian parents. Those who have a noble inheritance, or memories, influences and teachings should be better than those who have not had these blessings.”

Parents give a lot of thought to what they pass on to their children. By the example of their lives, they can pass on to their children the more important things than a pile of money and possessions. Paul says the best gift of all is the example of sincere faith in Jesus Christ. The faith in Jesus Christ and the related values parents leave in the lives of their children are more important than the valuables they leave to them.

Timothy received sincere faith from his grandmother and mother. This faith was reflected in his life. This was acknowledged by people of his home town and others: “He was well spoken of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16.2). Paul too confessed, “I have no one like him (Timothy) who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (Phil. 2.20).

Guide Children in the Right Path

Godly parents not only teach their children through their exemplary lives, but also attempt to guide them in the path of right living based on the scriptures. Eunice, and probably Lois also, taught Timothy the scriptures starting at a very young age (II Tim. 3.15). Jewish boys start formal instruction in the scriptures at age 5. The Jewish people were instructed as follows: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deut. 6.4-7). Parents have responsibility to nurture their children. Parental training is emphasized in the Bible. “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Prov. 22.6). “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6.4). The Greek word for “to bring up” is ektrephō, which means “to educate” or “to nurture”. The texts of Deut. 6.4-7, 11.13-21 and Ex. 13.1-10,11-21 were written in small parchments and placed in small leather boxes and were tied into phylacteries of the Pharisees apparently to remind themselves their obligation to teach their children to obey Yahweh’s commands.

Timothy’s mother instructed him the scriptures and that prepared him to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ (II Tim. 3.15). Nurturing children in scriptures lead them not only to salvation in Jesus Christ, but also to a life of godliness (II Pet. 1.3, 4). Scriptures is profitable for teaching the ways of God, i.e. how God wants us to live, for reproof, i.e. to convince us of our wrongs, and for training us in righteousness, which means not only right relationship with God and neighbor, but also right living (II Tim. 3.16, 17). That means, scriptures helps us to maintain sincere faith that is reflected in godly character, qualities, attitude and behaviour (II Pet. 1.5-7).
Parents, therefore, play a vital role in helping their children to develop godly character and behaviour. Parents who spend time with their children, and are involved, responsive and hold their children to a reasonably high standard of behaviour tend to have their children less likely to engage in risky behaviour. And children who report feeling “connected” to their parents are also least likely to engage in risky behaviour. Often times parents, who have misbehaving children, allow them to continue in this bad behaviour for many different reasons. Children are often very effective in convincing their parents that what their parents say is irrelevant to their lives, and the mistake parents make is to believe it and withdraw from taking any corrective measures for the bad behaviour of their children. Some believe that their children will grow out of it. Unfortunately these parents are actually making things worse for their children. Instead of being indifferent towards your children’s bad behaviour, help them learn about consequences, so that they may behave well and not have problems later on in life. In essence parents should be knowledgeable about their children’s activities and interests in order to guide them to become mature and responsible human beings.

Parents have, therefore, an immense responsibility to bring up their children through positive model life and nurture. Since this is a God-given responsibility, they are accountable to God for the way they discharge their responsibility. Through their positive influence on their child, they are also helping their child to become a responsible adult in society. So actually when parents have influence on their child, they are also influencing society. The quality and quantity of time, accountability to God, setting proper role models, providing security and showing responsibility – all these should be great motivators in helping to see how parents have an important influence on a child.

The Centrality of the Cross in the Apostleship of Paul

November 3, 2009

One of the issues that Paul addresses in his two letters to the Church at Corinth, a Roman colony, is the character of leadership in the Church. Paul presents his view of leadership/apostleship in response to the Corinthians’ criticism of his apostleship basing on their perception of leadership. In his arguments characterizing his apostleship, he refers to the turn of the ages realized through the cross of Christ.[1] Therefore, the focus of this article is how the cross or the death of Christ is intrinsically associated with the existence of Paul and his ministry in I and II Corinthians.

The Cross of Christ: An Epistemological Turning Point

A fundamental theme that coheres I&II Corinthians is the character of Paul’s apostleship. Paul explicates this in response to the Corinthians’ perception of apostleship and their criticism against his ministry characterized by sufferings or “weakness”. Paul’s lack of “words of wisdom” and his “weakness” were contrary to their perception of apostleship (I Cor. 2.2-4; 4.10; II Cor. 10.10; 11.30; 12.9-10).  In II Corinthians it is evident that the criticism against Paul’s apostolic ministry is instigated by the “super apostles” because it did not conform to their criteria for what constituted apostolic ministry (II Cor. 2.14-6.10). The “super-apostles” had considerable influence in the Corinthian church, with their ecstatic visions, miracle-working powers, and oratorical skills (II Cor. 10.10; 11.6;12.12). Their perception of a true apostle is based on the “face” or outward appearance (II Cor. 5.12). On the basis of this criterion, the “face” of Paul is weak and inferior, not glorious like their “faces”. They boast en prosōpō, which Paul terms as boasting kata sarka (II Cor. 11.18).[2] Thus, their criticism of Paul based on the standards kata sarka is directed mainly at the character of Paul’s apostolic ministry, namely “weakness” or suffering (II Cor. 4.7-12; 6.3-10; 10.10; 11.5-6; 11. 23-30; 12.5-10; 13. 3-4) and lack of perceptible ecstatic manifestations of the Spirit (II Cor. 5.12-13; 12.12).[3] What the Corinthians questioning Paul about is the apparent incompatibility of the gospel of power and his “weakness” or sufferings. So Paul wants to explain to Corinthians “why his apostleship took the form it did”.[4] In view of this Paul directs their attention to the eschatological significance of the death of Christ.

In II Corinthians Paul, for the first time, mentions the death of Christ in the context of the “unglorious” character of his ministry: persecuted, afflicted, perplexed, and struck down (II Cor. 4.8-12 cf. I Cor. 4.9-13). He again refers to the death of Christ in order to give ground for the Corinthians to answer “those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart” and to be proud of his ministry (II Cor. 5.12-15). As mentioned above, the perception of the opponents, as well as that of the Corinthians, is that the visible ecstasy is a sign of apostleship. By contrasting those who boast en prosōpō with those who boast en kardia, Paul indicates the inappropriateness of the perception and the criteria of the former group. This is more obvious in II Cor. 12.1-12 where Paul says that even though he too could claim “signs of a true apostle” such as “signs, wonders and mighty works,” and boast about the “visions and revelations of the Lord”, instead he boasts in his “weaknesses”. He validates the character of his ministry by appealing to the death of Christ: “he died for all” (II Cor.5.15). For Paul, the love of Christ manifested in Christ dying “for all” controls him. This love expressed by the cross of Christ is defined as existence for others (II Cor. 5.15; cf. Gal. 2.20; Rom. 14-15).[5]   

Paul points out that  the death of Christ has brought a change in his (and his associates’) perception: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way” (II Cor. 5.16). Some of the scholars like Alfred Plummer and Rudolf Bultmann take  kata sarka[6] adjectivally, thus modifying christen. This interpretation implies that in II Cor. 5.16 Paul is referring to “fleshly Christ”. On the other hand, scholars like C.K. Barrett and J. Louis Martyn, support adverbial meaning of kata sarka. Furnish points out that “whenever Paul does construe kata sarka with a noun or pronoun (Rom. 1.3; 4.1; 9.3, 5; I Cor. 1.26; 10.18), the phrase follows the noun, whereas here kata sarka precedes the proper noun, Christ.”[7] Moreover, Paul in II Cor. 2.14-6.10, is mainly concerned with the turn of ages that the death of Christ has brought and the perception associated with the old age and that of the age initiated by the Christ event.[8] Therefore, Paul, in II Cor. 5.16, is not concerned with Christology, but rather with epistemology. He wants to point out to the Corinthians that the death of Christ has brought an epistemological crisis. This is not a private event relating to Paul and his associates, but, as II Cor. 5.16-17 shows, it is an event of cosmic proportions.[9] Kainē ktisis taken in the context of II Cor. 2.14-6.10 as well as the background of the expression in Judaism (I En. 72.1; Jub. 4.26; IQS iv. 25; IQH xi 10-14) has mainly the eschatological meaning. So “now” in II Cor. 5.16 refers to the “eschatological now”. Paul is saying that there are two ways of knowing and it is the eschatological event of the cross of Christ that separates these two ways of knowing: one is, “knowing kata sarka”, and the other “knowing kata stauron”. Kata sarka is associated with the old age and Paul, in the past, knew Christ in that way. Paul says that this way of knowing is past for the one who is in Christ. But Paul’s opponents are boasting kata sarka (II Cor. 11.18 cf. 5.12).

It is often understood that the opposite of kata sarka is kata pneuma. However, Martyn persuasively argues that Paul does not actually use this expression nor does the one he has employed in I Cor. 2.14, “to discern spiritually” (anakrinein pneumatikōs). Martyn suggests that this could be due to the misinterpretation by the Corinthians of his reference to such a remark in his first letter. So the other way of knowing is, what Martyn calls, “the way of knowing which is granted at the juncture (or turn) of the ages”, i.e. “knowing kata stauron.”[10] The eschatological event of the death of Christ determines the believers’ perception of reality, which is contrary to the perception kata sarka. Martyn explains that “those who recognize their life to be God’s gift at the juncture of ages recognize also that until they are completely and exclusively in the new age, their knowing by the Spirit can occur only in the form of knowing by the power of the cross.”[11] This is confirmed by the “eschatological now” (‘now’ in II Cor. 5.16) of the believers’ existence and the wider context in which Paul has been discussing the character of apostleship, where he has characterized his apostleship as a “carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “being given up to death for Jesus” (II Cor. 4.10-11). As Christ is regarded now only as a crucified one, so from now on those who are in Christ are to be judged not kata sarka but only kata stauron.[12] In other words, it is the cross which determines the character of the new creation. The presence of a new creation means that the old-age standards, such as wisdom, power, nobility according to the standards of the old age, are not valid (I Cor. 1.26-29). Paul’s reference to the ‘new creation’ in II Cor. 5.17 is polemical and with it he confronts those in the Corinthian community who are following the old age norms, particularly to judge the leaders (II Cor. 10.1-11). In the new creation, contends Paul, no one is judged kata sarka.[13]

Therefore, the problem of the Corinthians is their epistemology, where they failed to perceive in the cross of Christ the epistemological turning point. They also failed to understand that in the new creation the standards and the conduct that characterize the old age are inappropriate. The fundamental eschatological reality is that Christians stand at the juncture (or turn) of the ages. Paul maintains that the understanding of this eschatological reality determines one’s perception of Christ and inferentially of Paul’s apostolic existence and ministry. For a believer there is a new way of perceiving the reality, that is, the way of “knowing kata stauron” and a new value system and so the perception and the value system kata sarka are inappropriate.

The Cross of Christ: Its Intrinsic Association with Paul’s Apostleship

Paul has perceived his vocation, received from God, as “the call to engage in the eschatological struggle at the juncture of the ages,”[14] where some are being saved and others are perishing (I Cor. 1.18; II Cor. 2.14-16). This realization of his vocation has shaped the character of Paul’s apostolic ministry. In contrast to Paul, the Corinthian believers, particularly the opponents of Paul, want to avoid that crucial juncture and its struggle by associating themselves with the accepted pattern of perception, values and behaviour in the Greco-Roman society. Thus, they live in the “old age”, as though the eschatological event in the cross of Christ has not yet taken place. Paul charges them that they are sarkikoi, i.e. “the people of the present age”[15] and are behaving kata anthrōpon, particularly regarding the leadership in the Corinthian church (I Cor. 3.3-4).

The following characteristics of the leadership in the Greco-Roman society indicate how it has influenced the perception of leadership in the Corinthian church:[16]

1. The personality-centered politics is a characteristic of the Greco-Roman society. The underlying dynamics is that of inequality of relationships: the superior (or the leaders) and the inferior (or the common people). The inferior are dependent on the superior for their survival, and so associate themselves with the latter. Plutarch succinctly indicates the benefit of associating with the one having reputation: “But the safe and leisurely way has been chosen by many famous men…For just as ivy rises by twining itself about a strong tree, so each of these men, by attaching himself while still young to an older man and while still obscure to a man of reputation, being gradually raised up under the shelter of his power and growing great with him, fixed himself firmly and rooted himself in the affairs of the state” (Plutarch, Moralia 805 E-F). The superior, thus, cultivate a large following of subordinate adherents to enhance their own status in the society.

The personality-centered politics in the Corinthian church is reflected in the slogans of the members: “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas” (I Cor. 1.12). This is reinforced by their “boasting about human leaders” (I Cor. 3.21) and being “puffed up in favor of one against another” (I Cor. 4.6). A secular understanding of the elevated position of leadership and thus the underlying distinctions in rank and status between the members in the church and the ‘apostolic’ figures like Paul, Cephas and Apollos made the members to be associated with one or the other of these figures for their own advantage. They considered it important for them to be patronized by one of the “apostolic” figures. Such an attitude of patronage towards the relationships within the church is strongly denounced by Paul (I Cor.1.11-17; 3.1-23). Paul exhorts that this perception of relationships within the church is symptomatic of “the present age”, which has resulted in eris and zylos, even though, he says, the Corinthian believers’ very identity and existence are grounded in the cross of Christ, which is the power of God that saved them from the “present age” (I Cor. 1.18). Therefore, their social value system is associated to the “present age”.  

2. The socio-cultural ethos of the Greco-Roman society involved an obsession with status. Because of the gulf between the minority of the wealthy and powerful elite, and the great mass of the poor, the Greco-Roman society was preoccupied with status.[17] The distinctive language Paul uses highlights such a situation in the Corinthian church: “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (I Cor. 1.26). The features of social status, such as wealth, power, nobility, and wisdom, are considered to be important criteria for the leadership in the society (cf. I Cor. 1.26-28).[18] Philo in his treatise That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, comments on the lifestyle of the ruling classes of Alexandria: “Those who take care of themselves are men of reputation, rich, leaders, men in the enjoyment of praise and honour; moreover, they are healthy, stout, and vigorous; living delicately, nursed in luxury, strangers to labour, living in the constant company of pleasure, and using all their outward senses to bring delights to the soul…” (X, 34). Thus, the qualities such as reputation, wealth, and honor are important for leadership.  

Few “wise”, “powerful” and “noble born” Corinthian Christians (I Cor.1.26) measured their value and worth and of others in terms of the accepted secular standards of high rank and status (I Cor. 4.18). Sophia logou or sophia anthrōpōn “had connotations of power in the sense of importance or worth” in the Greco-Roman society.[19] In other words, there is a social value and power associated with “words of wisdom” or “human wisdom” or “wisdom of this age and of rulers of this age” (I Cor. 2.5 cf. 1.17).[20] This is a highly valued feature for recognition and reputation: “Indicative of this wisdom is the significance placed on the social class and the importance of boasting in the establishment of personal reputation” (I Cor. 1.20-22, 29; 2.6).[21] Thus, it constituted a social definition of power rooted in the values cultivated by those in the society, who had wealth, status and honor. This led to leadership crisis, which consequently resulted in serious divisions within the Corinthian community. Instead of offering a bit of conflict management to reconcile the warring parties, Paul affirms the message of the cross as a critique of human wisdom. Human wisdom is bound to misconstrue the character of God and the way God works in the world, and a community’s behavior based on human inclinations, not surprisingly, results in jealousy and factionalism (I Cor. 3:3-4). The Corinthians must readjust their vision. They must come to a different way of viewing God and their life together. Thus Paul points to the message of the crucified Christ as the wisdom and power of God.

3. An accepted aspect of leadership in the Greco-Roman society was self-promotion.[22] On the one hand, leaders would elevate themselves, and on the other hand, their followers, with certain element of self-interest, would praise them. Self-promotion as an important tool for social status is clearly pointed out by Plutarch: “There are the feelings and language to which we are prompted not only by stratiōtai and the neoploutoi with their flaunting and ostentatious talk, but also by sophistai, philosophoi and stratēgoi who are full of their own importance and hold forth on the theme” (Plutarch, Moralia, 547 E). In the Corinthian church such “boasting” was also a part of the leadership dynamic. Boasting not only on the basis of the prevailing social norms such as wisdom, but also about human leaders was very much evident in the church (I Cor. 1.20, 29; 3.21). 

4. Enmity, in Roman politics, was a tool of self-promotion and self-preservation. It was seen as a necessary evil in self-advancement.[23] D.F. Epstein, in his book Personal Enmity in Roman Politics explores the importance of enmity for successful politics within the Roman world. Paul rebukes Corinthians for “jealousy and quarrelling” and terms it as belonging to those who are “of the flesh” (I Cor. 3.3).

Therefore, the existential tension in the Corinthian church is a result of trying to live in two diametrically opposed social worlds (I Cor. 3.1). This tension must have been more for those who were “wise”, “powerful” and of “noble birth” according to the standards of “this age” (I Cor. 1.26; 4.8, 10). For them, to pattern their perception, values and conduct kata stauron would mean shame and weakness, for the message of the cross is foolishness to the “wisdom of this age or…rulers of this age” (I Cor. 1.18, 21-23; 2.6). Hengel says that the cross was considered to be a “particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves and rebels against the Roman state.”[24] He goes on to say that “the word of cross” “ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people.”[25] The cross of Christ and its proclamation would have been foolishness to and was surely considered despicable in the prevailing Greco-Roman culture. So the cross and the value system associated with it are a scandal to the wider society. Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine why Corinthians, particularly the elite and the powerful in the church, followed the perception of the wider community with regards to the leadership in the church.

Paul, on the other hand, finds his calling in the eschatological centrality of the cross. He finds himself standing at the juncture of ages engaging in God’s eschatological struggle to liberate and reconcile the world (II Cor. 5.18-20). He uses an image to describe his apostolic ministry in 1 Cor 4:9: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals,” to challenge the “kingly” (I Cor. 4:8) style of leadership highly valued by the Corinthians.[26] He uses a similar image in II Cor. 2.14-16: “[T]hanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

On 1 Cor 4:8-13 Martyn comments:

The picture Paul employs is in part that of the Roman circus in which the last act (the eschatological one) is that of the gladiators who are eventually to die a public, spectacular death enjoyed by the (cosmic) onlookers. In this picture, Paul implies that the Corinthians understand themselves to be safely in the stands, already filled and already rich. By contrast, his vocation places him down on the blood-red sand where the Two Ages meet and collide in the paradoxical life-giving cross. The vocation to life which God grants is given nowhere else than in the struggle and daily suffering and victorious rejoicing at this eschatological turning point where God elects what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.[27] 

Paul exercising his apostolic role at the turn of ages proclaims the message of the cross of Christ, which is foolishness and weakness to “the wisdom of this age”, but is the expression of the power of God (I Cor. 1.18) and the wisdom of God (I Cor. 2.6-7). The inappropriateness of the wisdom of this world at the juncture of ages is evident in the action of the rulers of this age, crucifying “the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2.8) and also in God choosing “what is weak in the world…what is low and despised in the world, things that are not” (I Cor. 1.27-28). Paul, thus, asserts that God has turned the value system of this world or this age on its head, i.e. God has “made foolish the wisdom of the world” (I Cor. 1.20), because wisdom and power have been redefined by the cross of Christ (I Cor. 1. 23-24). F.F. Bruce rightly comments that “nothing could be more subversive of these canons in the first century Greco-Roman world than the proclamation of a crucified man …as Lord (of glory).”[28]

Paul draws the attention of the Corinthian believers to the mode of his apostolic existence. He reminds them of his own “weakness”, “fear”, “trembling” and lack of eloquence, which signified an inferior status in the Greco-Roman society: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” and “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor. 2.2-4).[29] Paul identifies astheneia as a mark of his apostolic mode of being (I Cor. 2.3; 4.10; II Cor. 10.10; 11.30; 12.5, 9-10). In II Corinthians he lists in a unique series the “weaknesses” that characterize his apostolic existence (II Cor. 4.8ff; 6.4ff; 11.23ff; 12.10). Paul presents his hardships in his apostolic task in I Cor. 4.8-13 to remind the Corinthians of his “ways in Christ Jesus”, in comparison to the privileged social position of those whose conduct is characterized as arrogant and boastful: “you have all you want; already you have become rich…you have become kings” (I Cor. 4.8). He contends that the apostles have “become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals” (I Cor.4.9). From the world’s point of view they are “the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things” and Paul emphasizes that this position of theirs continues “to this very day” (I Cor. 4.13). In this way the mode of his apostolic existence is very much rooted in the cross of Christ,[30] for in II Cor. 13.4, Paul characterizes the crucified Christ as astheneia: “he was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God.”

Paul strongly argues that his “weakness” is not an evidence of his powerlessness nor does it discredit his apostolic ministry. Rather paradoxically, God’s power is manifested in his weakness (II Cor. 12.9-10; I Cor. 2.3-5). Furnish maintains that the series of antitheses in Paul’s list of hardships is to show that the weakness actually discloses the power of God (II Cor. 4.8-9; 6.4-10).[31] Paul boasts in his “weakness” because of this paradox of power in weakness, rather than in the heavenly visions and revelations, which he could claim (II Cor 12:1-10). He further says that his apostolic credentials are evidenced not through the “signs and wonders and mighty works” (II Cor 12:12), which he could claim if he wanted to, but through the hardships which he has endured for the sake of the gospel (II Cor 11:23-33). The paradox of power in weakness stands in contrast to his opponents’ understanding of God’s power, that is, God’s power makes the individual powerful in some noticeable sense. For them power and weakness are incompatible. For Paul, weakness and power are not mutually exclusive, but are coterminous. Paul, thus, consciously subverts the conventional socio-cultural standards by depicting the character of his apostleship and his style of preaching in conformity with the “wisdom” and the “power” of God manifested in the cross of Christ.[32]

Not only is God’s power manifested in his “weakness”, Paul maintains, but his “weakness” in his apostolic ministry has an intended purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8; 12.19; 13.10). It is observed that in II Corinthians in all the lists of “weakness” or sufferings that Paul experienced, except in II Cor. 12.10, the notion of diakonia is included (II Cor. 4.8-10; 6.4-10; 11.23-33). Paul is rejoicing not in weakness per se but because of its constitutive purpose of serving Christ and the community. That means “weakness” refers to a mode of human existence, marked by willingness to endure suffering and hardship in giving oneself in service to others.[33] Paul says this in contrast to the ‘leaders’ who made the members of the Corinthian church as their slaves and exploited them for their own self-serving goals (II Cor. 1.24; 11.20). He is arguing that even though his weakness reflects social inferiority as per the prevailing social value system, it serves the purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8;12.19; 13.10).[34] Thus, it identifies him with the cross of Christ, which symbolizes the existence for others (II Cor. 5.14-15).

Paul further characterizes his ministry as “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake” (II Cor. 4.10, 11). The purpose clause in these verses, hina, denotes the purpose: “the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” and “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh”. Thus, the paradox of life in death is articulated in II Cor. 4.10,11. Paul exhorts the Corinthians, who could not reconcile his sufferings and his apostolic ministry of the “extraordinary power of God”, that the paradox of life in death is inextricably connected to his vocation at the turn of ages. Paul, in II Cor. 4.12, summarizes the benefit of his ministry of sufferings to those he ministered: “death is at work in us, but life in you”.

Thus, Paul acknowledges that the paradox of power in weakness and of life in death is fundamentally associated with his apostolic ministry. This paradox is very much evident in the cross of Christ. Therefore, the cross of Christ is intrinsically associated with the concrete existence of the apostle Paul at the juncture of ages.

Conclusion

Paul’s perception of his apostleship is kata stauros, not kata sarka as maintained by the members and Paul’s opponents in the Corinthian church. In contrast to the personality-centered, status-oriented, self-promoting and self-preserving leadership model of the Greco-Roman world, which the members and his opponents in the church are following, Paul characterizes his apostolic ministry as the paradox of power in weakness and of life in death. He acknowledges that the reality of suffering or “weakness” is intrinsic to his vocation, which “is the call to engage in the eschatological struggle at the juncture of ages.” He exhorts that it is in his “weakness” that God’s life-giving power is manifested. He exults in his “weakness” because of its constructive purpose of community building.  

 


[1] J. Louis Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 92.

[2] Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians: Translated with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984), p. 308.

[3] Raymond Pickett, The Cross in Corinth: The Social Significance of the Death of Jesus, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), p. 127.

[4] V. Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 42.

[5] Pickett, The Cross, p.145.

[6] Kata sarka occurs nineteen times in the undisputed letters of Paul. Excluding the two occurrences in II Cor. 5.16, of the seventeen, it is used thirteen times adverbially, while four times as adjectivally.  

[7] Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 313.

[8] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 92-93.

[9] Martyn, Theological Issues, p. 94.

[10] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 107-108.

[11] Martyn, Theological Issues, p. 108.

[12] Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 332.

[13] J.R. Levison, “Creation and New Creation,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, eds. (Leicester: IVP, 1993), p. 190.

[14] J. Louis Martyn, “Focus: Theological Education or Theological Vocation?” in USQR, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3&4 (1974), p. 219.

[15] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1987), p.122.

[16] Andrew D. Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth: A Socio-Historical and Exegetical Study of I Corinthians 1-6, (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1993), p. 92.

 

[17] Richard A. Horsley, I Corinthians, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), pp. 30-31.

[18] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 96.

[19] Pickett, The Cross, p. 65.

[20] Pickett, The Cross, p. 76.

[21] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 113.

[22] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 96.

[23] D.F. Epstein, Personal Enmity in Roman Politics, (London: 1987), p.28.

[24] Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 83.

[25] Hengel, Crucifixion, p.5.

[26] A. Katherine Grieb, ““The One Who Called You….”: Vocation and Leadership in the Pauline Literature,” in Interpretation, Vol. 59, Is. 2 (April 2005), p. 159.

[27] Martyn, “Focus: Theological Education or Theological Vocation?” p. 220.

[28] F.F. Bruce, I & II Corinthians, (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1971), p. 36.

[29] By saying this “Paul is not simply subordinating the means of communication to the efficacy of the gospel. Nor is he merely using the typical rhetorical device of an orator deprecating his own ability in eloquence. …In Paul’s day, eloquent speech…was also associated with other marks of high social standing (such as those Paul mentions in I Cor.1.26-28).” Charles H. Cosgrove, The Cross and the Spirit: A  Study in the Argument and Theology of Galatians, (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1988), p. 46.

[30] Cosgrove, The Cross and the Spirit, p. 78.

[31] V. Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 280.

[32] E.A. Judge, “Cultural Conformity and Innovation in Paul: Some Clues from Contemporary Documents,” in Tyndale Bulletin 35, (1984), p. 14.

[33]Thomas Stegmann, The Chracter of Jesus: The Linchpin to Paul’s Argument in 2 Corinthians, (Roma: E.P.I.B, 2005), p. 207.

[34] Pickett, The Cross, p. 194.