Thursday, October 11, 2007

Skarsaune and the Jerusalem Council

I was looking through Oskar Skarsaune's book, In the Shadow of the Temple, today, and I came across the solution that he uses in his book and which he attributes versions of to Bauckham and Bruce (p. 169):
Paul's first visit to Jerusalem: Gal 1:18=Acts 9:26-30
Paul's second visit to Jerusalem: Gal 2:1-10=Acts 11:30; 12:25
Antiochean Affair: Gal 2:11-14=Acts 15:1-3
The writing of Galatians: before the council in Acts 15
Paul's third visit to Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Council: Acts 15:2-29
There is some merit in this solution, but I think it still assumes that the Jerusalem Council ruled on circumcision, which I don't think is a given based on Acts 21:25.

I also am not convinced that the Antiochean Affair is to be connected to Acts 15:1-3 since the former appears to me to be about food laws (which the Jerusalem Council then responded to and ruled on), while the folks from Jerusalem who came to circumcise the Antiochean believers appears to me to be a response to a Jerusalem decision to circumcise the Gentiles, perhaps under pressure of persecution by other Jews in Jerusalem in the 50s. This event had to occur just before Paul's third missionary journey.


Geoff Hudson said...

It is interesting to ask the question: How much of Acts would go or change if there was no mission to Gentiles in the original? Was the material about Gentiles all a later Pauline fabrication, with a few historical facts thrown in of course?

Frank McCoy said...

I cannot accept this scenario because, when Paul wrote Galatians, he and James the brother of Jesus apparently were on the same page as respects circumcision and, for that matter, the broader faith and works issue.

James' position is outlined in James 1:21-25, 2:8-26. The implanted Logos can save one's soul (1:21), but only if one not only hears it, but does it (1:22), and this doing of the Logos is the doing of the perfect Law of Freedom (1:25). This Logos, as a Law one must not only hear but also do to be saved, is also the Royal Law and it is summarized in the command to love one's neighbor as oneself, although it contains other subisidiary laws, some in the Law of Moses (do not kill, do not commit adultery), some not (do not be partial, be merciful) (2:8-13. Since one must do this Law to be saved, a salvific faith, therefore, is one completed by works in accord with this Law (2:14-17. This Law, being the Logos of God, precedes the Law of Moses and, so, some people were doing works in accord with it even before the Law of Moses (2:18-26).

The key point left unstated in James: since this Law is summarized in loving one's neighbor as oneself and precedes the Law of Moses, it does not contain an ordinance that one must be circumcised.

So, I can't believe that James would have backed any effort to have Gentile believers circumcised in the fifties, even under pressure from fellow Jews in Jerusalem.

Nor does Paul ever say that James backed such an effort.

Indeed, Paul's position in Galatians is basically the same as James. One is saved by faith rather than by works in accord with the Law of Moses (2:15-16). But this faith must be a faith working through love (5:6).

He amplifies on this point in 5:13-14,"For, brothers, you were called for freedom (eleutherias). Only, do not use the freedom for a pretext for the flesh but through love serve one another as slaves. For the entire Law has been summed up in one logos, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

Here, I suggest, Paul means, by “the entire Law” the Logos as a Law rather than the Law of Moses:
1. This Law, as with the Logos as a Law in James, is summed up in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
2. This Law, as with the Logos as a Law in James, is a Law bringing one freedom (eleutherias)
3. It is possible that Paul is making a pun in calling the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself a logos. If he is, then the Law he refers to here is the Logos as a Law—with the pun being that this Law, which is the Logos (Word), can be summarized in a logos (word).

Indeed, in support of this suggestion that the Law of 5:13-14 is the Logos as a Law, the next time that Paul mentions a law is in 6:2, where he states, "Bear one another’s burdens and thus you will fulfill the Law of Christ."

This law, which Paul calls “the Law of Christ”, cannot be the Law of Moses--see I Cor 9:21.

Further, since this Law of Christ is fulfilled by bearing one another’s burdens, it must be the Law, of 5:13-14, which is summed up in the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

So, when Paul wrote Galatians, he agreed with James that there is a Law, summarized in the commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself, that is not the Law of Moses and that, further, a salvific faith is a faith completed by works in accord with this Law. James called it the Royal Law and the Law of Freedom, Paul the Law of Christ.

I think that a James zealous for the Law of Moses is as big a fairy tale as Q. Where is the first century CE evidence for this? It's not in Paul's works, for he nowhere characterizes James as being a big fan of the Law of Moses and he claims (truthfully I believe) that James and the other pillars gave him no orders outside of remembering the poor.

James, IMO, was closer to the viewpoint of the Thomas group (compare Saying 12)than he was to the viewpoint of Jews zealous for the Law of Moses.

Geoff Hudson said...

On Sept 27, April wrote: "In the case of Acts, we are so lucky to have Paul's letters." If there was no mission to Gentiles, one then might ask: How come we have all of Paul's letters that support the idea of such a mission? Or, were the letters attributed to Paul a complete fabrication? Or, were original letters changed by Pauline editors to give the impression that there was a mission to Gentiles? Some may regard the extant letters as the standard by which one should judge Acts.

For many years I have had my suspicions about the destination of the Epistles. How were they collected together if they were distributed around the Mediterranean basin? Or, were the letters copied before they were sent?

The answer that I have suspected for a long time is simple. The original letters were written to various ethnic groups of Jews living in different communities spread around Rome. Each group had its own synagogue (assembly/church). Each group spoke its own form of Greek. The original letters to the various groups (Galations, Corinthians etc.) were easily confiscated and collected by Flavian secret police. The earliest ‘Christians’ were prophetic Jews confined mostly to Rome and Jerusalem. Thus the Flavians were able to suppress them easily. They also edited the original letters and original Acts to fabricate an early mission to Gentiles. The Flavians invented and promoted Pauline Christianity with Jesus and the cross.