I am excited to announce the acceptance of my paper proposal for the 2016 annual meeting of the Southwest Commission of Religious Studies on March 11-13. This paper has slowly developed out of the research for my upcoming article in the 5.2 volume of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters entitled “‘So Shall Your Seed Be’: Paul’s Use of Gen 15:5 in Rom 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions.” I shared the idea for this paper with Matthew Thiessen of Saint Louis University two years ago at the annual meeting of the SBL in Baltimore which resulted in him citing me in his upcoming book Paul and the Gentile Problembeing published with Oxford Press and due to come out in March of this year. The need for this study was apparent from the defense of my paper against NT Wright’s push back in the Pauline Epistles section last year where my friend Brant Pitre also came to my defense using the same text (1 Cor 15) and told me afterwards my paper “blew his mind” (that was very cool coming from a scholar of his caliber because his stuff has blown my mind as well). After conversations with Michael Heiser and Daniel Streett regarding my argument, I feel confident about finally presenting on the topic. The abstract of the paper is as follows:
A Neglected Deuteronomic Scriptural Matrix to the Nature of the Resurrection Body in 1 Cor 15:39-42?
In the Pauline discussion regarding the nature of the resurrection body in 1 Cor 15:35-49, he employs the metaphor of the sowing of the natural (or earthly) body and the raising of the spiritual (or heavenly) body. Both kinds of bodies differ in glory and are fit for different habitats. In order to demonstrate this, in 1 Cor 15:39-42 Paul enumerates a list of the creatures who inhabit the earth followed by those who inhabit the heavens, the resurrection body being likened to the later. Scholars have generally understood the background of this list to be found in the creatures from Genesis 1, even though they do not follow the same order (as recognized by Fitzmyer, Ciampa, Rosner, etc.). Other scholars have put forth reasons for this discrepancy by suggesting that the list evokes the cosmology of popular Greek philosophy (i.e. Martin). This paper seeks to propose an alternate answer to this problem. The list of earthly and heavenly creatures here in 1 Cor 15:39-42 follows the same order of creatures as enumerated in the aniconic discourse of Deut 4:15-19. If this is in fact the text Paul is alluding to, he is more than likely participating in an exegetical tradition in the Second Temple period which reads Deut 4:15-19 as part of a wider Deuteronomic scriptural matrix employed to describe the nature of the cosmos as constructed and administered by God, appointing the celestial bodies as the gods or angels in his cosmic polis as attested in Philo, Spec. Laws 1.13-19. Reading the present text within this scriptural matrix not only supplies a strong argument for this particular enumeration of creatures, but also provides a more robust reading of the passage in its wider context, connecting the language of the abolishing of the principalities and powers in 1 Cor 15:24 with the earlier discussion in 1 Cor 6:2-3 regarding the judgment of the cosmos and the angels.
Well, hope to see you there, and look forward to some critical engagement and dialogue. This will build off of a similar construct in my previous work and hopefully be a welcome contribution to the conversation of deification in Paul as well as conversations regarding Paul’s Judaism.
There are many good reason why students of the NT should spend a fair amount of time studying and becoming familiar with Stoicism, the least of which is that Stoicism had its hey-day in the first century of the common era. Yet, there is another reason why such knowledge is of significance. We find this reason in the second-century Acts of John.
Midway through the narrative, John receives an epiphany telling him to make his way into the country. John obediently follows the divine order and comes upon a farm, where he notices a young man running toward the farm with a sickle.
Through their conversation, we learn that the young man was on his way to commit suicide because he had just murdered his father with a lethal kick. The son discloses that there was some tension between him and his father, specifically over his desire to take another man’s wife as his own, an act of which his completely unreasonable father disapproved. The son had decided, therefore, to gruesomely kill himself with a sickle (probably because his other lethal weapon, his foot, is not among the weapons of choice for killing oneself).
John decides to intervene and alleviate the regrettable situation by resurrecting the son’s father. What happens next may perhaps be a tad bit over the top: “But when the young man saw the unexpected resurrection of his father and his own deliverance, he took the sickle and took off his private parts; and he ran to the house where he kept his adulteress and threw them down before her, and said, ‘For your sake I became my father’s murderer…. As for me, God has had mercy on me and shown me his power.”
In a state of ebullience, the son “went and told John before the brethren what he had done. But John said to him, ‘Young man, the one who tempted you to kill your father and commit adultery with another man’s wife, he has also made you take off the unruly (members) as if this were a virtuous act. But you should not have destroyed the place (of your temptation), but the thought which showed its temper through those members; for it is not those organs which are harmful to man, but the unseen springs through which every shameful emotion is stirred up and comes to light.”
What could have saved this young man from such an impetuous act? Stoicism 101! We might wonder why John, who is cast in the Acts of John as a man of superior wisdom, did not consider teaching the transparently distraught and emotionally charged young man, who happened to be wearing a sickle on is belt and disclosing his intent to kill himself in a “more cruel” manner than that of his father, a brief lesson on Stoicism. Why did he wait until later to reveal to the young man the beliefs of the group? Perhaps it was events like this that caused the church to think that catechism prior to initiation was better than the alternative.
We should not miss the other take away, though: Stoicism is more than a philosophy that helps us interpret the NT, it also has practical life applications and might one day keep you from feeling a little sheepish in front of a group of people you are trying to impress.
Typically, when I think about the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism, I picture binary opponents. That is, there are two extreme positions, each one deeming the other a heresy and, thus, self-identifying in relation to their extreme counterpart. More specifically, I picture Christians who viewed Judaism as antiquated, erroneous, or simply insufficient. On the other side, I picture non-Christian Jews viewing the Jesus movement as a heretical and defunct sect of Judaism, erroneously attesting to have certain ties to Judaism. Within this latter group I would also place Jewish Christians who would view Jesus and the movement associated with him as completely harmonious with Judaism and any Christian suggesting otherwise demonstrates in their beliefs that they are, in fact, not followers of the God of Judaism, and thus, not followers of Jesus.
This default picture of extreme parties having it out against their mirror opposites is a product of the common view that the NT authors represent such binary conflict. While I do not doubt that James and Matthew would have liked to punch Paul in the face (and vica versa), there seems to be evidence that there were “bipartisan” groups, who viewed the extremist’s as valid in their own way.
Finding this voice of a middle group is not always easy, for it is buried beneath the voice of its louder opponents. Nevertheless, it seems that we first hear of such a mediating view from Barnabas (late first–early second c.).
For Barnabas, the Jews never obtained the covenant. Just when they were about to receive it, they permanently lost it when Moses smashed the stone tablets on the ground. From that point on, according to Barnabas, the covenant was established for the Christians (4.6–8). “Christian” for Barnabas is strictly of a non-Jewish persuasion. In fact, to believe otherwise––that is, to believe that the Jews qua Jews also receive the covenant––is sinful. He writes:
Watch yourselves now and do not become like some people by piling up your sins, saying that the covenant is both theirs [Jews] and ours [Gentiles]. (4.6)
This statement reveals to us that there was a group of believers––whether of Jewish or Gentile origin––who believe that the Jesus movement is not an either/or but (perhaps) a both/and. In other words, there are some who do not see Jesus as a divisive line between Jews and Gentiles, but rather, Jesus was a mediator of a shared covenant.
This mediating position emerges again later in the second century in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho. In the middle of Justin’s defense of the virgin birth, Trypho retorts:
Let you who are of Gentile origin…who are all named Christians after Christ, profess him to be Lord and Christ and God, as the Scriptures signify. But we Jews, who adore the God who made him, are not obliged to confess or worship him. (64.1)
Despite Justin’s excoriating response to Trypho’s inability to understand his argument, Justin is fairly “flexible” in what he views as acceptable conduct for Jewish converts to Christianity. For instance, when Trypho asks whether a Jew who confesses Jesus to be the Messiah and yet continues to observe the Mosaic Law, would still be saved, Justin responds:
In my opinion…I say such a man will be saved, unless he exerts every effort to influence other men [Gentiles]…to practice the same rites as himself, informing them that they cannot be saved unless they do so. (47.1)
Justin then speaks of “some Christians who boldly refuse to have conversation or meals with such persons [Jewish-Christian law observers]” (47.2); thus, showing that there was diversity in Gentile Christianity about the validity of Law observance for Jewish Christians. For Gentile Christians who observe the Mosaic Law, Justin is uncertain of their final outcome. For these, he can only say that they “will probably be saved” (v. 3). Finally, Justin states what he assumes to be the correct (“orthodox”) belief of the time, that Jews or Gentiles who only practice Jewish Law and deny Jesus, forfeit salvation (v. 4). There is no uncertainty in Justin’s tone here. Justin’s uncompromising tone (and the fact that he brings the issue up at all) suggests that there were Jews and/or Gentiles who argued that the “covenant is both theirs and ours” (Barn 4.6). In other words, it seems that Justin is reacting against a group who believes that Jesus is good for the Gentiles, Moses is good for the Jews, and both are from God; thus, both are acceptable.
At the beginning of the fourth century we find a text that stands between the extremes. The author/editor of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions appears to be a Jewish Christian and sees no conflict between Jesus and the Torah or Moses. He writes:
If anyone has been thought worthy to recognize by himself both [i.e., Moses and Jesus] as preaching one doctrine, that one has been counted rich in God, understanding both the old things as new in time and the new things as old. (Hom. 8.7; cf. Rec. 4.5)
From this selection, the author/editor is similar to Matthew, in that Jesus is the like Moses and speaks and teaches in harmony with Moses. However, in the Recognitions we find a flexibility that we do not see in Matthew. In Matthew, those who reject Jesus’ interpretation of the Torah will be damned at judgment. In the Recognitions we read:
By which it is certainly declared, that the people of the Hebrews, who were instructed out of the law, did not know him [Jesus]; but the people of the Gentiles have acknowledged Jesus, and venerate him; on which account also they shall be saved, not only acknowledging him, but also doing his will. But he who is of the Gentiles, and who has it of God to believe Moses, ought also to have it of his own purpose to love Jesus. And again, the Hebrew, who has it of God to believe Moses, ought to have it also of his own purpose to believe in Jesus; so that each of them having in himself something of the divine gift, and something of his own exertion, may be perfect by both. (Rec. 5.5)
For the author/editor of the Recognitions, each group “ought” to recognize the validity of the other, but it is not commanded. It would seem that, for this author, the Gentiles are in good standing if they do not acknowledge Moses and the Law and the Jews are in good standing if they do not acknowledge Jesus. Perfection, though, is attained when the extreme parties acknowledge the beliefs and traditions of the other as acceptable before God.
I can only imagine that this group found itself getting beat over the head by both extremes (similar to the way bipartisan candidates today receive criticism from both Republican and Democrats). In the end, the extreme groups are often the loudest and most prolific in writing; thus, we find ourselves inundated with literature from the extreme parties. Perhaps, though, the best way to see the legitimacy of the work of God is through the eyes of the author/editor of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, who views the extreme factions as factions and perfection is attained when these factions cease and harmony among God’s people is realized.