My Paper Accepted for the 2016 SWCRS Entitled, “A Neglected Deuteronomic Scriptural Matrix to the Nature of the Resurrection Body in 1 Cor 15:39-42?”

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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 Problem being 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:

TITLE

A Neglected Deuteronomic Scriptural Matrix to the Nature of the Resurrection Body in 1 Cor 15:39-42?

ABSTRACT

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.

My First Paper Presentation at SBL in the Pauline Epistles Section

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The national meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature will be held in the beautiful city of San Diego this year! Good things.

I’m excited about the acceptance of my first paper proposal to the Society of Biblical Literature‘s Pauline Epistles section at the national conference in San Diego on November 22-25, 2014. I will be presenting in a special joint session of the following program units: Pauline Epistles, Paul and Judaism, Disputed Pauline Epistles, Pauline Soteriology, Second Corinthians: Pauline Theology in the Making, and Systematic Transformation and Interweaving of Scripture in 1 Corinthians. This special joint session will be made up of a panel of four presenters and three respondents. Each presenter will submit their papers in advance allowing for a formal response to be written by the three respondents. The three scholars who will be responding to our respective papers are NT Wright, Pamela Eisenbaum, and Ward Blanton. For a lowly student such as myself, I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to present in the company of such accomplished scholars. The four presenters and their respective abstracts are in alphabetical order by name as follows (the second one being mine):

A.      Michael Patrick Barber and John Kincaid

“Cultic Theosis in Paul and Second Temple Judaism: A Fresh Reading of the Corinthian Correspondence”

Since the rise of the Käsemann school the centrality of apocalyptic eschatology in Paul has been widely maintained across the spectrum of contemporary Pauline scholarship, ranging from such diverse scholars as Stuhlmacher and Campbell. In addition to this, there has been the more recent emergence of the place of theosis for comprehending Pauline soteriology, as initially suggested by Hays and later demonstrated by Gorman, Blackwell, and Litwa (e.g., 2 Cor 3:18; 5:21; Col 2:9–10). In this paper we will suggest that these two strands are directly linked by means of second temple Jewish hopes for an eschatological temple and cult, and actualized in Paul. As is becoming increasingly clear (e.g., Tuschling), apocalyptic eschatology was inextricably tied to cultic worship (e.g., 1QHa 19:10-13, 1Q28b 3:25–26). Indeed, building on the work of Deismann, Aune has suggested that apocalyptic eschatology was understood to be realized within the cult in early Christianity (e.g., John 4:23). We will suggest that Paul is no exception. In order to demonstrate this, we shall turn our attention to the Corinthian correspondence, where these themes serve as a leitmotif in Paul’s discussion. Beginning in 1 Corinthians 2:6, Paul speaks of this age passing away yet this gives way to the discussion of a new temple in chapter 3. Paul then elucidates the life of this new temple in the following ways: keeping the feast in chapter 5, linking becoming one spirit with Christ and temple imagery in ch. 6, and, finally, the cultic explanation of participation in Christ in terms of the eucharist in chs. 10-11 and baptism in ch. 12. These cultic emphases continue in 2 Corinthians with the explicit temple language in ch. 6 and almsgiving as liturgical offering in ch. 9.

B.      David A. Burnett 

“‘So Shall Your Seed Be’: Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions”

In Romans 4:18 Paul cites verbatim the “promise” to Abraham in the LXX of Genesis 15:5 “so shall your seed be” in relation to what it means to “become the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).” It is widely recognized that Paul reads the promise to Abraham of becoming “the father of many nations” synonymously with Genesis 15:5 as his seed becoming as the stars of heaven. Modern scholars have traditionally understood the relationship between these two texts quantitatively, both promising a vast multitude of descendants. Conversely, early Jewish interpreters of Genesis 15:5 such as Philo, Ben Sira, and the author(s) of the Apocalypse of Abraham understood the promise qualitatively, to be transformed into the likeness of the stars of heaven. This paper will argue that this early Jewish interpretation could provide a better explanation of the relationship Paul sees between these two texts. This would place Paul in context of already well-established deification (or angelomorphic) traditions in early Judaism that see the destiny of the seed of Abraham as replacing the stars as the gods (or angels) of the nations. This will be demonstrated first by considering the promise of becoming as the stars as it is repeated to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:17 and 26:4 in the broader framework of the Hebrew Bible in its cosmological context. Secondly, it will be demonstrated that this particular interpretation of the promise as seen in early Jewish literature contemporary with Paul should be understood in terms of early Jewish deification (or angelomorphic) traditions. Thirdly, it will be demonstrated that this interpretation applied to Paul’s use of Genesis 15:5 could make clear the relationship between a nexus of complexly related concepts in Romans 4 such as what it means that the “promise” to Abraham was to “inherit the kosmos,” “become the father of many nations,” and his seed to be as the stars of heaven.

C.      Matthew E. Gordley 

“Psalms of Solomon and Pauline Studies”

A number of surface features of the Psalms of Solomon suggest their potentially high value for understanding the world of thought from which Paul emerged and with which he engaged: they are among the few documents known to have been written, edited and translated in or around Jerusalem less than a century before the time of Paul; they offer rich theological reflection on several ideas that were central to the Judaism with which Paul engaged (deuteronomic theology; the covenant; divine justice; sin; messianic renewal); and, though not necessarily a Pharisaic composition, they are about “as close as we are likely to come to a specifically Pharisaic text” (Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, 127). In spite of this confluence of important Pauline touch-points, the Pss Sol have received limited treatment within Pauline studies since the now almost two-decades-old study by Michael Winninge (Sinners and the Righteous). This state of affairs is all the more surprising given the renewed interest in viewing Paul as someone who saw himself remaining closely connected to his Jewish heritage (as recent book titles like “Paul and Judaism Revisited” suggest). This paper briefly reviews the treatment of Pss Sol in several recent major monographs (including those of N. T. Wright and Douglas Campbell), for an indication of how the Pss Sol are being employed in Pauline scholarship today. Noting the limited ways in which these psalms have been utilized, this paper points to an additional area in which further study of Pss Sol could illuminate Pauline studies: namely, in the recognition of the extent to which Pss Sol provides a unique instance of a kind of scribal resistance to the Roman imperial messianic narratives that were being embraced and promoted by Herod the Great (cf. Horsley; Schalit). Reading Pss Sol within the historical context of Herodian propaganda that associates the fulfillment of the covenant promises with the rise of Augustus allows for a greater appreciation of the subtlety and complexity of Jewish resistance to imperial ideology in the form of the otherwise seemingly innocuous genre of biblically-styled psalmody. Attention to this dynamic within Pss Sol allows a new dimension of Paul’s implicit anti-imperial narrative to come into view, particularly in a passage like Phil 2:5-11 with its complex web of biblical allusions. Though Paul writes in the context of a different set of imperial pressures, nevertheless, by comparing the method and the mode of resistance in Paul and Pss Sol we gain a greater understanding of the message of Paul, as well as a path to considering other ways that the Pss Sol might be employed to illuminate Paul’s writings.

D.      Hans Svebakken

“Roman 7:7-25 and a Pauline Allegory of the Soul”

Two distinct lines of contemporary research into Romans 7:7-25 fruitfully explore key aspects of the passage, but they have not fully engaged one other. One line of research focuses on allusions to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3, addressing related questions, such as whether the “I” (ego) of the passage speaks in the character of Adam or Eve (e.g., Stefan Krauter in ZNW 99 [2008]), or how the prohibition of desire in Romans 7:7 (ouk epithumeseis) might represent a version of the command issued to Adam and Eve in Paradise (e.g., Jan Dochhorn in ZNW 100 [2009]). Another line of research focuses on the discourse of moral psychology, addressing related questions, such as which philosophical perspective (Stoic or Platonic) the passage represents, or precisely what moral condition it describes (cf. the respective positions of Troels Engberg-Pedersen and Emma Wasserman). This paper proposes an interpretive framework capable of accounting for and integrating the respective insights of both lines of research by reading the passage in light of Philo of Alexandria’s allegory of the soul, which treats the story in Genesis 3 as a story about moral psychology. The paper has two basic parts. Part one posits the existence of a Pauline allegory of the soul by first identifying the characteristic features of Philo’s allegory then noting analogous features in Romans 7:7-25. Part two explains how attributing a rudimentary allegory of the soul to Paul not only solves specific exegetical problems but solves them in a historically plausible way: comparing Paul’s approach to Genesis with a contemporary Jewish exegete versed in ancient philosophy, not with later Christian theologians articulating a doctrine of original sin (e.g., Augustine).

It will be a stimulating section to attend and I hope to see many of you there. I have hoped to one day participate in critical dialogue at this level, but I have only dreamed of presenting alongside one of my Christian intellectual heroes throughout my biblical education, NT Wright. I am blessed beyond belief to participate at this level and I am grateful to the Pauline Epistles section of the Society of Biblical Literature for affording me this opportunity.

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… and I just can’t hide it.

My Paper Presentation for HBU’s “Paul and Judaism” Conference

imagesI was delighted to hear that my paper proposal was accepted for HBU’s Conference on “Paul and Judaism” on March 19-20. The delight of course has been accompanied by a great deal of fear and trepidation seeing as how this will be my first paper presentation at an academic conference, especially amidst scholars of this calibre. The keynote speakers include NT Wright, Beverly Gaventa, and Ross Wagner. I am also honored to present alongside one of my academic mentors and friend Daniel Streett whose paper proposal was also accepted (if you are curious about his paper, see the abstract here). I am thankful for the encouragement and well-wishing I have received as of late from many of you and I’m sorry I have not had the time to entertain some of the questions regarding what my paper is about. As a result, I thought I would post a brief description here on the blog.

The title of my paper is So Shall Your Seed Be: Paul’s Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions.” The following is the abstract I sent in: 

In Romans 4:18 Paul cites verbatim the “promise” to Abraham in the LXX of Genesis 15:5 “so shall your seed be” in relation to what it means to “become the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).” It is widely recognized that Paul reads the promise to Abraham of becoming “the father of many nations” synonymously with Genesis 15:5 as his seed becoming as the stars of heaven. Modern scholars have traditionally understood the relationship between these two texts quantitatively, both promising a vast multitude of descendants. Conversely, early Jewish interpreters of Genesis 15:5 such as Philo, Ben Sira, and the author(s) of the Apocalypse of Abraham understood the promise qualitatively, to be transformed into the likeness of the stars of heaven. This paper will argue that this early Jewish interpretation could provide a better explanation of the relationship Paul sees between these two texts. This would place Paul in context of already well-established deification traditions in early Judaism that see the destiny of the seed of Abraham as replacing the stars as the gods (or angels) of the nations. This will be demonstrated first by considering the promise of becoming as the stars as it is repeated to Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:17 and 26:4 in the broader framework of the Hebrew Bible in its cosmological context. Secondly, it will be demonstrated that this particular interpretation of the promise as seen in early Jewish literature contemporary with Paul should be understood in terms of early Jewish deification traditions. Thirdly, it will be demonstrated that this interpretation applied to Paul’s use of Genesis 15:5 makes clear the relationship between a nexus of complexly related concepts in Romans 4 such as what it means that the “promise” to Abraham was to “inherit the kosmos,” “become the father of many nations,” and his seed to be as the stars of heaven. 
*
I look forward to seeing old friends and new ones in Houston next month. If you are interested in this topic and want to hear more, unfortunately you will have to wait until Thursday March 20 sometime between 2:00-4:30pm. To register for the conference, you can pay online here. It is only $40 for both days which is a steal considering the nature of the conference. A big thanks to Ben Blackwell and the HBU crew for putting this together. Hope to see you there!

A Jewish View of Paul – A Skype Interview with Mark Nanos

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Mark Nanos via Skype regarding his take on the Apostle Paul as summarized in the most recent “Counterpoints” volume edited by Michael Bird entitled “Four Views on the Apostle Paul.” Nanos presents a Jewish view of Paul that seeks to deal with why Judaism has viewed him in such a negative light and how the so-called ‘New Perspective on Paul‘ does not go far enough in their re-framing of the Apostle because they are still working from within the Christianity-versus-Judaism categories. For Nanos the problematic old understanding of a Lutheran Paul as fighting against a Judaism consisting of legalistic works-righteousness has been simply exchanged for a Paul fighting against a ‘Jewish ethnocentric exclusivism and particularism (p.162).’ Although this may be a helpful observation, there were still many questions that remained regarding many of Nanos’s interpretive decisions and some important places of neglect that are addressed in this particular interview. If you have 45 minutes to spare, you may want to check it out. I apologize for the poor video quality (the bad aspect ration cutting off the top of the screen, the sound, forgetting to move the mouse cursor off the screen, etc.) it’s my first time editing on iMovie.

A special thank you to Jonathan McLeod and Alex and Katy White for their outstanding collaborative effort on our group presentation on Nanos’s view on Paul for the Pauline Theology Seminar at Criswell College Fall 2012.

The Dark Side of the Moon – 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Pt. 2

A few weeks ago, I decided to see how some non-academic Christians would respond to the possibility of YHWH being the referent to Paul’s claim that ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου has blinded the minds of the unbelievers. I presented this possibility in a weekly Bible study that I lead at the church I used to pastor. Long story short, it didn’t go well. Actually, that’s not accurate; it was a disaster. Not only did none of the attendees agree that this was right none of them were even willing to consider it.

(Just like, IMHO, some in the recent blogsphere who have completely overreacted to our current favorite pastor with foot-in-mouth disease’s comments regarding God hating people.)

Apparently, God’s love is so important that to talk of Jesus’ father blinding people so that they won’t see bordered on heresy. It is like everyone gladly acknowledges, in theory, God’s hatred of things (or people) yet we must never speak of it; It’s there but never comes into play — like the dark side of the moon. This hermeneutical insistence among Christians (that I know either personally or through forms of media) has always puzzled me.(I can’t think of a way that deliverance can be accomplished apart form judgment.) But, since I do not share the need to expunge hatred from God I will present the case for YHWH (or Jesus’ Father) as being the referent for this phrase. (Please note: I am not saying YHWH has to be the referent but, he could be the referent.)

Exhibit A for the current case must be the OT witness of God’s character. First, I must assert that the OT (or the NT, or any other non-canonical literature that I am aware of) EVER claims that YHWH loves everyone at all times in such a way that judgement is never an option. Actually, the opposite is clearly true. (For a particularly blunt statement see Prov 1[1].) While one could mention many passages, it seems that Isaiah 6:9, 10 are the most pertinent verses for the matter at hand.

9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10     Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”

Here, we find YHWH commissioning Isaiah the prophet with a message that appears to have no redemptive value whatsoever. The message, it says in verse 10, is to have the result that those who hear his message (this people) will NOT be repentant and thus be forgiven. On top of that, when Isaiah asks YHWH the duration of this negative purpose he is told that it will be, “until the LORD sends everyone far away,” and if anyone remains, “it will be burned again.” So, we have a very clear text that indicates the God of the Scriptures is very capable of hindering individuals from salvation.

Before moving on, I would like to mention some things about this passage that will aid one coming to a proper interpretation. The book of Isaiah seems to make clear that Isaiah did not always understand this as his purpose. Indeed, he attempted to persuade people to trust God. This language appears to be technical language for judgment or, to put it another way, they were no longer going to be given time to change their ways. God had reaching the point of no return with Israel (especially the leaders) and they were going into Exile for their idolatry.[2] In other words, it does not necessarily indicate that YHWH wanted every single person to be kept from repenting but that the nation’s fate was sealed. It also does not necessarily indicate every single Israelite was idolatrous.

Another text that is worth noting is found in Deuteronomy 29:2 − 4. It says:

Deut. 29:2   Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,  3 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, and those great wonders.  4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear.

In this passage we have a text that has YHWH claim that the Israelites needed YHWH to give them the ability to understand, see and hear (i.e., in a salvific way). This would seem to contradict the clear requirement of Deut’s message: Obey! But, the more likely understanding of this passage is to understand the verse as and editorial aside that is meant to be understood as, “Until this day, that is, until the day of the reader, the LORD…”[3] So, the statement was a retrospective observation about the reality of Israel’s past spiritual condition. This verse along with the previous interpretation, really make sense if one sees Paul alluding to this verse in 2Cor 3:12 − 15, which says,

“… Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds;”

If the previous interpretation of the Deut. 29 is what Paul had in mind when he wrote 2Cor then things begin to make sense. Exodus demonstrates that Israel’s Wilderness Generation was hardened, in that they did not trust YWHW, and Deut claims that “to this day [of the reader which is now up to the time of Paul]” Israel still could not trust their God [in a salvific way].

If all of this is true, (I am persuaded of this!) then it would make YHWH as the referent of the phrase in question very possible.


[1] “Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.”
(Proverbs 1:24–28 NRSV)
[2] For a full discussion of this see, “A Foundational Example of Becoming Like What We Worship.” In We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, 37-70. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.
[3] For a full explanation see Biddle, Mark. Deuteronomy. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Smyth & Helwys Pub, 2003, 438.

Could it be Satan? – An Exegetical Inquiry into 2 Corinthians 4:4 – Pt. 1

This semester I have been attempting to determine the referent of the phrase  ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου in 2 Corinthians 4:4. For me, this text was never in question until I read a blog post by Michael Heiser. Previous to his post I had never actually considered any other referent than Satan as possible for this phrase (BTW, I have learned that is step one in producing really bad exegesis yet, it seems that I unconsciously keep committing this faux pas!). After the article, I realized that I needed to do some work on this passages so I took an independent study on the NT’s use of the OT to hash out my thoughts. During this course, I have come to realize that YHWH, in many but not all ways, would make better sense as the implied referent of the phrase.

Of course, after I had done all my research I attended SBL only to hear a marvelous paper by Frederick Long (from Asbury) that made a compelling argument for another unconsidered referent: Caesar. Not only did his paper thoroughly thrash me for lacking knowledge in the vast aspects of the Greco-Roman world, the session itself challenged the view of intertextuality as solely relying on texts. Dr. Long forcefully demonstrated and argued, in response to an objection, that intertextuality must not only include texts (i.e., written works) but inscriptions, coins, statues, even ceremonial rights etc. He claimed, following a scholar I cannot remember, that this view understands intertextuality as really being intertexturality (look closely), that is, this aspect of exegesis must include the ubiquitous availability of texts, symbols and such that may be echoed in a given cultural context.

In the following posts I will do my best to make the best case available for all three possible referents. Hopefully, by the time I get to the view on Caesar I will have received Dr. Long’s paper so that I can properly summarize his view. Now on to the subject of this post: Could it be Satan?

When surveying the commentaries, monographs and articles one thing becomes immediately clear: Satan is so clearly the referent to the phrase in question that no argument is necessary to substantiate the assertion. (An error that ostensibly is not banished from the works of careful, trained scholars.) This was not always the case though. Amongst the patristic interpreters of this text Hippolytus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrosiaster and Didymus the Blind think that YHWH is the referent to the phrase. The most cogent justifications for identifying Satan as the god of this age/world seems to be:

  1.  1) The similarity with other language view: Eph 2:2. εν αις ποτε περιεπατησατε κατα τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου, κατα τον αρχοντα της εξουσιας του αερος. Here we find the writer of Ephesians claiming that those who were “dead” used to walk in accordance with the present age that was ruled by the prince of the ruler of the air. So, the logic goes that since the two verses share this language ―  the lexeme αιων along with the qualifier οὗτος, and the concept of authority αρχοντα/θεος ―  that supposing the link fair. If one wonders how Satan could be called θεος, then the reply would be that this is how he postures himself in this age.[1]
  2. The apocalyptic view which is best represented by C.K. Barrett: “The god of this age is a bold expression for the devil (cf. 1 Cor. 2:8), based on the commonplace apocalyptic presupposition that in the present age the devil has usurped God’s authority, and is accepted as god by his fellow rebels; only when in the age to come God establishes his kingdom will the devil be driven out.[2]”

Finally, while Hafemann does not have his own view per se, he does add a few more pieces of substantiating evidence explaining “how” this description fits into Paul’s understanding of Satan.[3] I believe he has contributed three additions to this theory:

  1. He notices Paul’s exclusive and careful use of νοηματα. Paul states the Corinthian saints are not ignorant of Satan’s “evil schemes” (νοηματα) whereas the unbelievers have their minds (νοηματα) blinded.
  2. There is an explicit (and unique) emphasis on Paul’s ministry attempting to “take every thought captive” to Jesus’ lordship.
  3. The thought that must be taken captive is the desire to reject Paul because of his suffering. If they do this then they we be misled (“thoughts taken away”) just like the serpent deceived Eve.

In the next post I will attempt to lay out the case for understanding YHWH as the ο θεος του αιωνος τουτου.

[1] Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, 126-27.
[2] Barrett, C. K. Black’s New Testament Commentary: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. London: Continuum, 1973, 130. Also cf. Furnish, Victor Paul. Vol. 32A, II Corinthians: Translated With Introduction, Notes, and Commentary. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008, 220.
[3] Hafemann, Scott. Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3. Peabody, Mass: Paternoster, 2005.

James G. Crossley “Mark, Paul and the Question of Influence”

One of my main interests in New Testament studies is the relationship between Paul and the Gospels. So in the next few posts I will be summarizing and commenting on each article that is found in the new book (surprisingly) titled Paul and the Gospels. A day or so after I post the summary I will post my comments on the article.

 

I. Introduction

James G. Crossley starts his article by noting that the scholarly consensus on the potential influence between Mark’s Gospel and Paul has changed. In the past hundred years notable scholars have gone from believing that Paul did not influence Mark to believing that Paul did, at least partially, influence Mark.

He then pauses for just a second to define what is meant by “influence.” By this term, he does not mean, “Mark could have been in some sense allegorizing Pauline theology, adapting ideas floating around the Pauline churches, or, indirectly acknowledging the theologian he could not completely ignore, but whose theology he did not fully approve of.’” He also details another possible view, Paul and Mark are both part of the same general Christian movement and therefore draw from the same pool of resources. This (supposed) reality would give the allusion of dependence. Finally, he also notes that it is possible for Mark to have influenced Paul given that he (soli) has argued for a very early date for Mark’s Gospel. He then turns to briefly noting the main texts that scholars have forwarded as evidence for Paul’s influence on Mark.

 

II. Mark interpreting and/or advocating Paul or Pauline thought? Some precise examples

1. Mark 4:1–20/Romans 9–11 and Mark 14:22–25/1 Cor. 11:23–25

On these supposedly parallels Dr. Crossley points out that the ideas in the texts are parallel but none of the important theological terms are the same. Therefore, there is not enough evidence to link the Romans 9–11 as having influenced Mark.

2. Romans 14:14/Mark 7:19

Here Dr. Crossley notes that this supposed parallel (“all foods being clean”) is claimed by many to be one of the clearest examples of Pauline influence on Mark. This is because most scholars assume that 1) Paul is earlier than Mark and 2) Paul’s gospel is unique because of its negative (or, flippant) view toward the law which, has been nicely summed up in Joel Marcus’s words, “the law was passé for Christians.” Crossley points out that he and a few other notable scholars have shown that this text and Mark only need to be understood as Jesus claiming that the Torah, properly interpreted, never taught that dirty hands made food unclean (therefore Matthew’s interpretation of the pericope is faithful to Mark’s intent).

 

III. Paul and Mark (unsurprisingly) faced similar issues: Jesus’s death and suffering

In this section Dr. Crossley focuses on the supposed  influence that Paul’s atonement theology had on Mark. Again, he rejects this supposed link because none of the important theological terminology is present (e.g., λυτρον, or ὁ ὑιος τοῦ άνθρώπου). He also then points out that the two atonement theories could depend on the president Maccabean martyr theology that was present and formative Judaism.

 

IV. Paul and Mark (unsurprisingly) faced similar issues: Gentiles

In this section, he notes that too much is made of Mark’s Gospel being directed towards gentiles. Crossley takes the view, noting an intriguing PhD thesis, that Mark was merely dealing with the possibility of Gentiles entering the movement which is what any other “Christian” text would’ve had to do. In other words, Mark does not appear to be “concerned” with the Gentile mission at all and this supposed “mission” definitely is not fundamental to Mark like it is for Paul’s ministry. He does agree that the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman and the subsequent feeding narratives cohere nicely with Paul’s theology of “to the Jew first and then the Gentile.”  Again, he points out that there is no linking terminology used in either of these supposed links. He also points out that acts (and maybe Luke) share the same pattern. Next, he discusses the use of the “supposed” Pauline term εὐαγγελιον.  While here Crossley cannot deny the use of the same theological term, he does point out that this term could have been taken independently from the LXX (he notes five occurrences in Isaiah alone) . So, needless to say, Dr. Crossley finds this term to be unpersuasive in showing Pauline influence on Mark.

 

V. Paul and Mark faced different problems: The Torah

Here Crossley claims that there is not enough evidence to prove that Paul and Mark’s comments regarding the law are a result of the same problem. His main point is, while some believe Mark’s gospel to be evidence of a law free Christian community, the Gospel of Mark never clearly depicts Jesus as breaking the Torah. If this is true, then Mark doesn’t depict Jesus as having an uninterested view of the Torah, like Paul. Instead, Mark depicts Jesus as being interested in the Torah, especially its proper interpretation.

 

VI. Christology in conflict

Many have read Mark’s Gospel and claimed that it contains what some scholars have called a “corrective Christology.” Dr. Crossley then gives the thesis of Joseph Tyson as being representative of this reading. Tyson’s reading can be boiled into these two antitheses: 1) Jesus’ Messiahship is not to be confused with conventional Jewish nationalistic royal Messiahship (and thus little is done with the phrase “son of David”). 2)  The Early Church that did understand Jesus in conventional, militaristic terms.

 

Crossley shows that this view is based on little evidence and is therefore mostly conjecture. Not only that, Crossley goes on to show that there are plenty of texts in the New Testament that fly in the face of this supposed view of the Early Church.

 

As for the lack of use of the title “son of David,” Crossley shows that we are not able to be certain what this term should mean so it shouldn’t play a fundament part in one’s argument. He then moves on to the term “son of God.” Again, he notes that there is a major debate in how this term is to be understood; does this term denote “high Christology” or should it be understood as indicating a “low Christology?”  The purpose for pointing this out is that if scholarship cannot come to a firm consensus on Mark’s Christology then we cannot in any way say that Mark is “correcting” anything.

 

VII. Concluding remarks

Not surprisingly, Dr. Crossley does not find enough evidence to merit the view that Paul influenced Mark. He does agree that there are definitely overlaps in their theology, but, these overlaps are not enough to suggest that Mark aware of the Paul.

 

Edit: My comments may be found here.

Krister Stendahl’s Classic Article, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West”

First published in 1963 in Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 55, No. 4, Stendahl’s classic article is always helpful for those entering into the difficult terrain of Pauline scholarship, especially the question of Paul’s understanding of justification. A worthy read for those entering into the question and an enjoyable re-readable classic and refresher for those who have read him in the past and are familiar with the conversation. Click on the title below for a copy of the whole article for your intellectual reading pleasure:

The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West

Rival Jewish Mysticisms at Colossae: Paul’s Realized Angelomorphic/Theotic Participatory Messianism in the Epistle to the Colossians (Part 3)

“Delivered us from the Domain of Darkness and Transferred us to the Kingdom of His Beloved Son”

 

The forgiveness of the Gentiles’ sins and entrance into the heavenly kingdom is inextricably linked in Colossians to the Messiah’s triumph over the heavenly rulers and authorities, as they are likewise caught up with him through faith and participation “in Messiah”. Paul refers to Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah as “our Lord” (1:2) insinuating that those in Colossae now share the same “Lord” as he himself does. The Messiah has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (1:13-14).” This language echoes that of God’s deliverance of a people enslaved and their redemption in the Exodus.[1] Those who were “once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (1:21) and “dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh” (2:13) have now died to the “στοιχειων του κοσμου” or “elemental spirits of the world” (2:1).

Paul’s narratival understanding of the Messiah-event is cosmically Exodus-shaped. The mystical participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection in baptism (2:12) is understood for Paul as a new Exodus, this time not from Pharaoh, but from the “elemental spirits of the world”. Through the Colossians’ baptism into Messiah, he envisions a very real mystical participation in the new Cosmic Exodus as may be outlined in this way: the purchase of the people from cosmic slavery through participation in his death (1:12) and their being led forth in freedom through participating in his resurrection (1:12).

There has been much debate over the meaning of the phrase “στοιχειων του κοσμου”[2], but after a consideration of its use here within the narratival framework of a new Cosmic Exodus, it may become apparent that these elemental spirits should be understood, as by Wright, in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition as the angels over the nations.[3] The context demands that the “elemental spirits of the world” (2:8, 20) be understand as the “rulers and authorities” (2:10, 15). Through Messiah, God would “reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His (Messiah’s) cross” (1:20). In the Colossians’ baptism they “have been buried with Him” (2:12) and with Messiah have “died to the elemental spirits of the world”. They were “also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God” (2:12) sharing in the exaltation of Him who is “the head of all rule and authority” (2:10). Now they are to let the peace of Messiah rule in their hearts” (3:15). In keeping with the narratival idea of a Cosmic New Exodus in Messiah, the angelomorphic translation and exaltation with Messiah of the “holy ones” in Colossae is not only a rescue from the “domain of darkness” but the superior theotic hope of assuming the role of the inheritors of the cosmos and rulers of the nations, evocative of that previously demonstrated in the Jewish apocalyptic expectation of Daniel and the Wisdom of Solomon.

Participatory Messianism

 

“In Him the Fullness of Deity Dwells Bodily, and You Have Been Filled in Him”

As it has been demonstrated previously, Paul recognizes those in Colossae to have assumed the title of God’s “holy ones” who look forward to the full enjoyment of their angelomorphic inheritance in light, as well as being delivered from and exalted above their former oppressive regime of angelic patrons; all this is realized due to their faith and participation “in Messiah”. The Participatory Messianism of the apostle to the Gentiles is seen in no greater light than in the expression “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority (2:9-10).” As the Messiah Jesus had been filled with deity in bodily form, so those who are in him also share in the fullness of deity.[4] Some commentators regard the language of being “filled” in 2:10 to be rhetorical or hyperbolic if it appeals back to verse 9 and the “fullness of deity”,[5] while others say grammatically it would be asserting too much.[6] The problem with both of these views is that the utilization of the language of “fullness” in 2:9-10 as a deliberate echo of that in the Messiah Hymn of 1:19 must be downplayed or ignored for either to be the case.[7] How to understand the idea of being “filled with deity” may be best explained by the use of what can be recognized as interchangeable expressions for Paul in the same context, especially as aided by the shared nexus of ideas that can be found in early Jewish apocalyptic and mystical literature.

For Paul it is clear that what makes Jesus “Messiah” is his being filled with “the fullness of deity” (1:19). Similarly, it follows that what allows Paul to say the Colossians share “in Messiah” is due to their sharing in “the fullness of deity” (2:9-10). What may be apparent as interchangeable expressions for Paul are those that pertain to glory and enthronement such as: “He is the image of the invisible God” (1:15) and “Messiah in you, the hope of glory” (1:27) as explained further in the subsequent text, “If then you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (3:1-4). We see contextually a shared nexus of ideas (that of the image of God, the glory, and enthronement) in Jewish apocalyptic and mystical literature that may help to understand what Paul means when he says, “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him” (2:9-10).

“The Glory of YHWH” in the HB could be understood at any number of angles. In Exodus the “glory” appears to be a hypostasis of God himself: “Come near before YHWH… and behold, the Glory of YHWH appeared in the cloud” (16:9-10). Also in 24:9-17 using all these titles interchangeably: “the Elohim of Israel”, “the cloud”, and “the Glory of YHWH” whose appearance was “like a devouring fire.” Moses in chapter 34 asks of YHWH, “show me your glory” (34:18). God responds saying, “I will make my glory pass before you and proclaim before you my name YHWH” (34:19 LXX). Later in the next chapter recounting what had taken place the author says, “YHWH descended in the cloud and stood with him there… YHWH passed before him” (34:5-6). In chapter 40 you can observe the same pattern of terms used: “the cloud”, “the Glory of YHWH”, “the Cloud of YHWH”, and “the fire” (40:34-38).[8]

Ezekiel portrays “the Glory of YHWH” as an angelomorphic human figure who is enthroned on the Merkabah, the chariot throne of God. In the vision in the first chapter we see one “… seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance… (a description of his appearance) so was the appearance of the Glory of YHWH. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of the one speaking. And he said to me, ‘Son of Man, stand to your feet, and I will speak with you.’ And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me” (1:26, 28-2:2). He speaks with Ezekiel through chapter 2, and then is described again in 3 as “the Glory of YHWH stood there, like the Glory I had seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face” (3:23). The “spirit entering” Ezekiel is what allowed him to stand in “the glory’s” presence and to hear his words (2:2; 3:24).

As scholars have observed, the Ezekiel account of the “Glory of YHWH” may be the backdrop for the vision in Daniel 7. In the vision we notice “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man (i.e. human being, possibly with a human appearance), and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (7:13-14a). When the explanation of the vision in Daniel 7 is given, we find out that the one “like a Son of Man (or human being)” corresponds to (or represents) the “holy ones of the Most High” who “shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever” (7:18). As it is further stated, “the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came when the holy ones possessed the kingdom” (7:22). It is clear that in Daniel the cloud riding one “like a Son of Man (human being)” is seen not only as an individual figure, but shares a corporate identity with the “holy ones of the Most High”.

Another essential component in exploring the understanding of the “glory” is the close correlation with the HB and subsequent Second Temple literatures’ understanding of mankind made in the “image of God”. It is not uncommon to speak of those faithful to the God of Israel throughout history as sharing the “glory”. Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira 44:1 states in reference to the great figures throughout Israel’s history such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc.: “Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations. The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning.”[9] Proceeding forth five more chapters through the long genealogical list to the end you see expressed “Shem and Seth were honored, but above every other created living being was Adam” (49:16). The implication is that Adam was apportioned a greater glory than any in Israel’s history, or the history of the world for that matter.

In the Greek reception of 3 Baruch, Adam was “stripped of the glory of God” and subsequently men have “become distant from the glory of god” (4:16).[10] Fletcher-Louis discusses what seems to be a liturgical fragment from Qumran, probably preserving a prayer for the first day of the week, acknowledging that Adam was made “in the likeness of Your Glory” (4Q504 fragment 8).[11] In the Life of Adam and Eve, Satan falls because he will not obey a heavenly command to “worship the Image of God” (14:2). Reflecting a high interpretative tradition of texts like Genesis 1:26-27 and Psalm 8, Life of Adam and Eve, along with a great deal of Second Temple Material, see humanity in it’s original form as having an angelomorphic/theotic state, exalting their position over the angels themselves and having heavenly dominion.[12]

We see the “glory” and the Adamic “image of God” meet in texts like 1QH saying God has “raised an eternal [name], [forgiving] offence, casting away all (the community’s) iniquities, giving them as a legacy all the glory of Adam [and] abundance in days” (4:14-15 [17:14-15]).[13] Similarly another text reads “and their descendants forever” possess “all the inheritance of Adam” (4Q171 3:1-2).[14] In other sources we find even possible allusions to the intended purpose of all the hosts and angels is to serve Adam and minister to him (4Q381).[15]

In Colossians, the Messiah is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (1:15), the Adamic Lord of the Cosmos who restores the Glory of humanity. He is the one in whom “the fullness of deity dwells” (1:19; 2:8) in whom those in Messiah are also “filled”. This is the heavenly “mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to the holy ones” (1:26) that is “Messiah in us, the hope of glory” (1:27). The apocalyptically anointed human being who is the “Glory” and those who are baptized into him are “hidden in God” (3:3). Those being “in Messiah” share in the “fullness of deity” (2:10), redeemed in the Cosmic New Exodus and share “in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” (1:12). When compared with Paul’s opponents, their form of mysticism pales in comparison as to his thoroughly developed Messianic thought: one that could be characterized as Realized Angelomorphic/Theotic Participatory Messianism.


[1] Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke, Colossians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (trans. A. B. Beck; AB 34b; New York: Doubleday, 1994), 190; Dunn, Epistle to the Colossians, 77; Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon (Herm; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 36; Margaret Y. McDonald, Colossians and Ephesians (ed. Daniel J. Harrington; SP 17; Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2000), 51; Peter T. Obrien, Colossians, Philemon (WBC 44; Waco, TX: Word, 1982), 27; N. T. Wright, The Epistle of Paul to the Colossians and Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary(TNTC; Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press, 1986), 101-102.

[2] Cf. Arnold, Colossian Syncretism, 158-194; “Returning to the Domain of the Powers: Stoicheia As Evil Spirits in Galatians 4:3,9,” NT 38 (1996): 55-76; Dunn, Epistle to the Colossians, 148-151; Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Galatians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1921), 515-518; Lohse, Colossians, 96-99; Smith, Heavenly Perspective, 80-87; Wright, Colossians, 101-102.

[3] This is not to say that the actual employment of the term “στοιχειων του κοσμου” is explicit within the context of Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic literature to denote the angels of the nations, but it has been argued elsewhere that the terms scope of meaning could certainly include this concept. Cf. Wright, Colossians, 101-102.

[4] Barth and Blanke, Colossians, 315.

[5] Dunn, Colossians, 152.

[6] O’Brien, Colossians, 113.

[7] It is ironic that in Dunn’s comments on 1:19 he says the idea of the “fullness” presented there is strong enough “to be merging into the idea of incarnation”, and in his comments on 2:9 he recognizes the relationship between 1:19 as he says “the later Christology of ‘divine nature’ and ‘essence’ is clearly prepared for but it by no means yet present” while then saying 2:10’s use is merely rhetorical or hyperbolic. Cf. Dunn, Colossians, 102, 151-152.

[8] Gieschen, Angelomorphic Christology, 78-80.

[9] Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 91.

[10] Ibid., 91.

[11] Ibid., 92.

[12] Cf. David Steenburg, “The Worship of Adam and Christ as the Image of God,” JSNT 39 (1990): 95-109. Steenburg uses his legitimacy principle to attempt to see the origin of the worship of Messiah in Colossians.

[13] Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 96.

[14] Ibid., 96.

[15] Ibid., 98-99.

Rival Jewish Mysticisms at Colossae: Paul’s Realized Angelomorphic/Theotic Participatory Messianism in the Epistle to the Colossians (Part 2)

Jewish Angelomorphic/Theotic Traditions

 

“Qualified You to Share in the Inheritance of the Holy Ones in Light”

At the outset of the epistle, Paul addresses those in Colossae who are “εν Χριστω” (in Messiah 1:2), as he addresses most of the assemblies[1] he writes to using the designation “αγιοις” or the “holy ones” (1:2).[2] It is regrettable that commentators have neglected to thoroughly discuss the background of the title “holy ones” in Colossians. As will be demonstrated in the present study, its meaning is vital to Paul’s understanding of the community as it denotes the angelomorphic/theotic character of those “in Messiah”, situating Paul firmly in the apocalyptic traditions of Second Temple Judaism.[3]

The term’s Jewish roots may be found in the Hebrew Bible[4] beginning with Exodus 19:6, “and you shall be to me a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation.” The reason for the attributive designation “holy” is theotic as seen in Leviticus 11:44a, “For I am YHWH your god. Consecrate yourselves, therefore and be holy, for I am holy.”[5] The holy kingdom of priests established at Sinai are to be like YHWH, the theotic expression of himself in the world because YHWH himself is holy.

The Deuteronomist tells of Moses on his death bed recounting the Sinai event, “… YHWH came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand. Yes, he loved his people, all his holy ones were in his hand”.[6] Here YHWH’s heavenly host and divine entourage along with the people at Sinai are called his “holy ones”. Those constituted as YHWH’s people at his mountain, share a heavenly existence on earth corresponding to the host of heaven. They are priestly ministers of the Most High God sharing a similar function as their heavenly ministerial counterparts[7]. The epithet seems to refer primarily and originally to the divine beings that inhabit the heavens, those of which are frequently described by OT scholars as the divine council[8].

The attribution of the heavenly title “holy ones” to the earthly community as a theotic or angelomorphic expression is developed substantially in the Second Temple period, rooted in texts like Daniel where the term denotes the heavenly beings[9] as well as those who remain faithful to the Most High in the eschatological time of trial.[10] Daniel 12:2-3 is a programmatic text for subsequent understandings of the concept of vindication by resurrection for the earthly “holy ones” who have suffered and subsequently receive an angelomorphic translation as expressed in the following terms: “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”[11] The context of this heavenly translation is the arising of Michael the great prince who had previously stood against the evil heavenly forces such as the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” (10:13) and the “prince of Greece” (10:20). These “princes” are understood as the patron angels of the nations[12] and may be those referred to as the “host of heaven” or as the “stars” (8:10).[13] This is significant as the implications may be that the angelomorphic/theotic language applied to the vindicated righteous is to be understood as a change in the heavenly rule over the nations.[14]

The Wisdom of Solomon interprets the tradition along these same lines when speaking of the vindication of the righteous in 3:7-8: “In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples.” In 5:7-8 we see the questioning of the oppressors at the eschatological judgment as the righteous are vindicated: “Why have they been numbered among the sons of God? And why is their lot among the holy ones? So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise on us.”[15] So it follows that the angelomorphic shining of the righteous is linked to them governing nations and ruling peoples. This seems to implicitly refer to an eschatological change in authority where the angels of the nations have been replaced by the angelomorphic human righteous.[16]

There is a great deal of subsequent Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic literature that reflects Daniel and Wisdom’s angelomorphic language.[17] In 1 Enoch 38:4-5, in a similar context of judgment and overturning of the world powers as in Daniel one reads:

“…and from that time, those who possess the earth will neither be rulers nor princes, they shall not be able to behold the faces of the holy ones, for the light of the Lord of the Spirits has shined upon the face of the holy, the righteous, and the elect. At that moment, kings and rulers shall perish, they shall be delivered into the hands of the righteous and holy ones”.[18]

We see similar language later in 1 Enoch 104:2-5:

“I swear unto you that in heaven the angels will remember you for good before the glory of the Great One; and your names will be written before the glory of the Great One. Be hopeful, because formerly you have pinned away through evil and toil. But now you shall shine like the lights of heaven, and you shall be seen; and the windows of heaven shall be open for you. Your cry shall be heard. Cry for judgment and it shall appear for you… Be hopeful, and do not abandon your hope… you are about to be making a great rejoicing like the angels of heaven. You shall not have to hide on the day of the great judgment, and you shall not be found as the sinners; but the eternal judgment shall be (far) away from you for all generations of the world.”

Following the same tradition is 2 Enoch 66:7: “how happy are the righteous who shall escape the Lord’s great judgment; for they will be made to shine seven times brighter than the sun.” In 2 Enoch, this is an unmistakable reference to angelomorphism, and possibly exaltation over the angels, as Stone points out that previously in 2 Enoch 1:5 and 19:1 it is the faces of the angels in heaven that shine like sun.[19] 4 Ezra 7:88-97 follows in the same apocalyptic vein:

“… those who have kept the ways of the Most High… they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders… the sixth order when it is shown to them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on… for they hasten to behold the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified.”

The Jewish eschatological trend of angelomorphism and exaltation over the angels for those who are saved from the final judgment is demonstrated further in 2 Baruch 51:8-10, 12:

“For they will see that world which is now invisible to them, and they will see a time which is now hidden to them. And time will no longer make them older. For they will live in the heights of that world and they will be like the angels and be equal to the stars… And the excellence of the righteous will be greater than that of the angels.”

In the Testament of Moses 10:9 it is said of Israel “God will raise you to the heights. Yea, he will fix you firmly in the heaven of the stars, in the place of their habitations.”[20]

It is through this particular Jewish apocalyptic matrix that we can begin to understand the belief shared by Paul of an “inheritance of the holy ones in light” (Col 1:12). How one is “qualified to share in” (1:12) this inheritance for Paul is by faith[21] and participation[22] in Messiah. For him the people, known as the “holy ones[23], who share the heavenly hope (1:5) of eschatological vindication by angelomorphic/theotic translation and exaltation over the angels is realized now as those who are “in Messiah”. The hope reserved in the eschaton for faithful Israel is now further extended to the Gentiles and is being realized for all those “in Messiah”. As Paul states:

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard (1:21-23a)… to them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Messiah in you, the hope of glory (1:27).”

The Gentiles who were once “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (1:21) he now refers to as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (3:12) applying the language derived from the HB, yet filtered through the Second Temple Jewish apocalyptic matrix for those who will inherit the eschatological vindication and angelomorphic translation for their faithfulness to God. Some of the essential grounds Paul has for legitimating the application of this language to Gentiles comes from a nexus of ideas pertaining to his understanding of what it means to be “in Messiah”: they have been forgiven their sins, received a heavenly circumcision, and a disarming of the rulers and authorities that once ruled over them has taken place, allowing for a transferal to the heavenly kingdom:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (2:13-15).”


[1]The term “εκκλησσια” will be translated in the following study as “assembly” merely as a subtle nuance to disallow any confusion of later Christian theology to obscure the Jewish nature of Paul’s own understanding.

[2] Rom 1:7; 15:25; 1 Cor 1:2; 16:15; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; 3:5; 5:3; Phil 1:1; 2 Thess 1:10. For other uses of the term in the NT cf. Acts 9:13; Heb 6:10; Jude 3; Rev 11:18.

[3] See Col 1:2, 4, 22, 26: 3:12

[4] The abbreviation HB will be used in the following study to refer to the Hebrew Bible or the Protestant Old Testament.

[5] Cf. Lev 19:2; 21:7-8; Num 16:3

[6] Deut 33:2-3a. Other texts that use the heavenly epithet to refer to YHWH’s people are Ps 16:3; 34:10 (9); 106:16.

[7] “Counterpart” not in the sense of later Jewish and Christian theological developments of an ontological heavenly counterpart for each human, but rather simply to highlight functionally the remarkable similarity in function and designation by the employment of the heavenly title to those on earth.

[8] Job 5:1; 15:15; Ps 89:5-7 (Eng): This text speaks of the incomparability of YHWH amongst the others among him that seem to share some sort of “species uniqueness” with him which would explain the need to express his superiority by stating that he is “a god greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones”; For a thorough discussion on the continued conceptual understanding the notion of the Divine Council into the Second temple period see Michael S. Heiser, “The Divine Council in Late Canonical and Non-Canonical Second Temple Jewish Literature” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004).

[9] Dan 4:8, 9, 17, 18; 5:11; 8:13

[10] Dan 7:18, 21, 22, 25, 27; 8:24; 12:7. The view that the “holy ones” in Dan 7 refers to human beings has been contested. Cf. John J. Collins, Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 313-317.

[11] Collins states that the shining like the firmament should be equated with the stars. This is based on 8:10 in identifying the host of heaven as the stars. Collins, Daniel, 393. The heavenly host, whether to be understood in terms of divine council or angels, represented or realized as stars is a tradition represented throughout the HB cf. Deut 4:19 (corresponding to the “gods of the nations” in 17:3 and the “sons of God/angels of God” in 32:8); Judg 5:20; 2 Kings 17:6; 21:3, 5; Job 22:12; 38:7; Ps 148:3; Is 14:12-13; 40:26; 48:13; Jer 19:13; 33:22; Amos 5:26; Zeph 1:5.

[12] Collins, Daniel, 374. The origin of this concept within the HB is found in Deut 32:8-9 at the appointment of the angels (LXX) or the sons of god (4QDeut) as patron angels or deities over the nations while YHWH directly rules over Jacob. Ps 82 reflects this tradition and speaks of the coming judgment of the “gods” due to their unjust rule, ending with a plea for God to inherit all the nations from their oppressive heavenly rulers.

[13] This idea may be akin to a similar conceptual framework as Deut 4:19 (in relation to 32:8-9) or possibly from the “assembly of the stars” idea presented in Is 14:12-13.

[14] This may demonstrate the author of Daniel’s understanding of the theology of Ps 82 as the angelomorphic righteous ones inherit the nations because they have been translated to mediatorial ruling representatives under the restored rule of God.

[15] This citation and all subsequent citations of the Apocrypha are taken from Howard C. Kee, ed., The Cambridge Annotated Study Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

[16] Again, we see here a reflection of a worldview rampant in Jewish apocalyptic discourse that has been shaped by texts such as Deut 32 and Ps 82, as seen programmatically appropriated in Daniel.

[17] There is no space here to discuss dating of such texts, but merely to observe conceptual parallels.

[18] This citation and all subsequent citations of Pseudepigraphical literature are taken from James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Volumes 1 and 2 (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2010).

[19] Michael E. Stone, Fourth Ezra: A Commentary on the Book of Fourth Ezra (Hermeneia: a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).

[20] See further Philo, Vit. Mos. 2.288; b. Ber. 17a.

[21] Col 1:2, 4; 2:5, 7.

[22] Col 1:2, 27, 28; 2:6, 7, 10, 11.

[23] Cf. Col 1:2, 4, 22, 26: 3:12.