Monthly Archives: September 2012
Here we continue with Paul’s account of his conversion.
- He preached 14 years before returning to Jerusalem
- His preaching was the result of a revelation, and his decision was the result of another
- His companion, Titus, was not required to be circumcised
Here we begin the discussion between the James Gang, the elders of the Jerusalem Assembly, and Paul, about the role of the Jewish Law. How much, if any, would non-Jewish converts be required to follow?
Note that Paul has been on his own path for 14 years. In a sense, he has come to Jerusalem to get “official approval” of his method and his content.
- The issue of Paul’s secretary/scribe
- The Jerusalem Assembly actually (apparently) sent spies (of a sort) to see what Paul was up to, the intent being to make him toe the line
- Paul brags about being a Pharisee
- Paul claims not to have been impressed by those who seemed to be in power
- Paul claims that he was entrusted by some agent, unspecified–but we can probably assume he means God, given all his revelations–with the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter–not James but Peter–was entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
- The point is that, after 14 years, Paul had been successful in creating assemblies of Jesus in various non-Jewish communities. At this point, we have to wonder if there were more Gentiles than Jews
- We are told that Peter and John, so prominent in the gospels, were indeed leaders of the community in Jerusalem. James, also named as one ‘seeming’ to be a ‘pillar of the community’, had little or no role in the gospels. It’s not even clear if he’s the James known as “James the Lesser”; that is, the James who is not Andrew’s brother and a son of Zebedee
- James enjoins Paul to ‘remember the poor’, which has led some to see James as the leader of the sect/group called the “Ebionites”. More likely, this was the imposition of a requirement for Paul to collect the Temple Tax, which was to be sent to Jerusalem. This was a standard feature, apparently, of the Second Temple period.
Since translating this section, and writing the commentary, I have read most of a book that has had a certain impact on my take on this section.
The book is St Saul: A Skeleton Key To The Historical Jesus, by David Harman Akenson. Overall, I highly recommend it, even if I don’t agree with everything in it. I agree with more than half, certainly, and at one point I would have said 80%, but that has slipped.
First, in his opinion, Galatians is later than I have found elsewhere; it was, he believes, written after 1 and 2 Corinthians. I disagree with this. The letters to the Corinthians, IMO, are a much more mature and considered pieces of theology. The thinking is more developed, the Greek is more complex. In case it’s not obvious by now, I am still working on my Greek; I’m not nearly as fast or as insightful or as proficient as I believe I should be. The odd thing about this it that I believe my lack of skill has benefits. The benefit is that I have to wrestle with passages more than someone more skilled, which means that I have to get down and dirty with the grammar. As such, I believe I have a more intimate sense of how the Greek is flowing. It is my considered, if not entirely weighty, opinion, that when the Greek is difficult, it represents lack of erudition, rather than too much as in a Thucydides.
Again, someone with more knowledge may disagree vehemently, and have a better case. That’s OK. I am an amateur, as it were. If I can’t measure up to a pro, well, who can?
There are a number of passages that are very difficult. A good chunk of 4:10-20 is difficult in this way, as well as not entirely clear in what it’s getting at. A section like this, to me, represents a place where Paul himself inserted a revision, that his Greeksmith (to coin a phrase; and I’m going to continue using it) did not revise. I am finding the middle chunk of chapter 5 to be similar.
More to the point, Akenson’s take on the Council of Jerusalem is rather different than what I have portrayed. He is my source for idea that the injunction of ‘remember the poor’ in 2:10 is the requirement to collect the Temple Tax. The idea that James, the brother of Jesus, was enjoining this as the inspiration for the Ebionites came from Robert Eisenman, in James, The Brother Of Jesus. (Seems like I’ve heard that somewhere.) In all, I have to say that Akenson’s suggestion seems more likely.
Also, Akenson argues that Brother James was not one of the original Apostles; that he became a leader only after Jesus’ death. He skirts begging the question in his proof for this, by stating that the gospels portray Jesus’ family as disowning him, but that this disowning came about after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. He doesn’t quite lapse into a true circularity, but it comes close.
However, I agree with Akenson wholeheartedly in his contention that we need to start with Paul’s letters if we want the earliest possible evidence for Jesus. He does add an important layer by emphasizing that Paul not only had the advantage of being 20 years earlier, he was writing before the destruction of the Temple, which had such a huge impact on the gospel writers, and the entire trajectory of the future Christian church.
Akenson contends that the “Council of Jerusalem” represented something less than the victory Paul would have us believe it was, and this may be a sound judgement. OTOH, it wasn’t a victory for the James Gang, either. IMO, it was a compromise. Paul got official sanction and the concession on Jewish laws, the James Gang got Paul to accept their authority and agree to support the Jerusalem assembly. This may have been an extension, or continuation of the concept of the Temple Tax, whereby every Jew was obligated to support the temple in Jerusalem. If so, I wonder if this was anything Paul had difficulty in accepting.
When I started this, my intention was not to read anything like Akenson’s book, so that my take would not be influenced. It was a good idea, and accurate, but one that gave me too much credit for self-control. I have another book in queue after I finish Akenson. And I heartily and without reservation recommend the book.
6ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει: πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο,
From the ones seeiming to be something—of what sort they were then, it didn’t matter to me: God does not take the face of a man—for those appearing added nothing to me.
Idiomatic: From the ones appearing to be something special—what they actually were didn’t matter, because God doesn’t choose people based on a pleasing face (good looks; pleasing exterior)—these ones appearing to be something added nothing to my message. (they had no influence on me, even though they seemed to be so important).
IOW, Paul stood firm against being influenced, or cowed, by these guys who thought they were big shots in the Jesus community. And remember: some of them had probably known Jesus, whereas Paul had not. Takes a certain type of fortitude. Or pigheadedness. And the term one chooses pretty much depends on whether one agrees with the position or not. Think of Martin Luther’s words before the Council of Worms: “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. Gott helfe mir.”
The Greek in this sentence is pretty tough; given the lack of punctuation, it’s often hard to pick up when something has been inserted parenthetically, as it has been here.
6 Ab his autem, qui videbantur esse aliquid — quales aliquando fuerint, nihil mea interest; Deus personam hominis non accipit — mihi enim, qui observabantur, nihil contulerunt,
7ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἰδόντες ὅτι πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς,
On the contrary, seeing that we have been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, accordingly as Peter (has been entrusted with the gospel) to the circumcised.
But entrusted by whom? God, presumably.
7 sed e contra, cum vidissent quod creditum est mihi evangelium praeputii, sicut Petro circumcisionis
8ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργήσας Πέτρῳ εἰς ἀποστολὴν τῆς περιτομῆς ἐνήργησεν καὶ ἐμοὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη,
For the task to Peter (was) towards (to be) the apostle to the circumcised, and (so) to me the task (to be the apostle to) the peoples/gentiles.
Sort of a division of labor. On the one hand, it seems that Paul is making it sound as if some sort of formal decision was made; OTOH, one senses that the reality is that the James Gang simply bowed to and accepted what was, in fact, something of a fait accompli carried out by Paul.
Now, this is significant. It demonstrates pretty effectively, and—IMO—conclusively that Paul was a bit of a loose canon. He got his own commission—his own mission—from God, and struck out on his own, pretty much disregarding what the James Gang in Jerusalem thought about the matter. This is huge, because, by any stretch, Peter and James were the ‘rightful’ heirs of Jesus message. Paul here is pretty much corroborating the gospel accounts that Peter was part of Jesus’ innermost circle. And, certainly, James, as the brother of Jesus, could, by any reasonable standard, claim to have some sort of authority to represent Jesus once the latter was dead. James has been called the caliph by some modern authors, the relative who had the divine designation to perpetuate the message of the Master.
That Paul, more or less, circumvented—at the least—or usurped—at the most—the authority that should have belonged to Peter or James is a huge development. Why did they, however grudgingly as it might have been, accept this usurpation?
One answer is that, a generation out Paul had been very successful in creating lots of followers of Jesus in lots of Gentile communities. That is, the weight of numbers was on Paul’s side. The Jews resisted Jesus; the Gentiles were more open to the idea of a new prophet coming at the end of a very long tradition. RL Fox, in Pagans and Christians, describes other such pagan prophets, wise men, sages, who were active in the first 1-2 centuries CE. That is, they were pagan versions of Jesus, who stood at the end of a very old pagan tradition, just as Jesus stood at the end of a very old Jewish tradition. The Jews, perhaps, seemed not so willing to accept this change of course; the pagans didn’t particularly mind.
8 — qui enim operatus est Petro in apostolatum circumcisionis, operatus est et mihi inter gentes —
9καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας, ἵνα ἡμεῖς εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, αὐτοὶ δὲ εἰς τὴν περιτομήν:
And knowing the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, those seeming to be the pillars, they gave to me their right hand and Barnabas in common ( = together with Barnabas), so that we (should/could go) to the peoples, while (= δὲ) they themselves (went) to the circumcised.
James, Peter, and John, appeared to be the pillars. Interesting for several reasons: first, the names. Given the reference in 1:19, the logical inference is that this is James, the brother of Jesus. Which leads to the second point: the order in which the names are given. James is given precedence, and this will matter below, in 2:12. Again, as the gospels don’t even specifically state that James the Lesser is the brother of Jesus, it’s a bit surprising to see him as the leading figure.
Cephas and John, OTOH, are perfectly non-surprising. We are used to thinking of them as leaders among the apostles. Perhaps not so much John during Jesus’ lifetime, but certainly as the author of the fourth gospel, and the attributed author of Apocalypse.
Finally, note that Paul states that they appeared to be the Pillars—of the community more or less understood. Why did they only seem to be? Why doesn’t he state definitively that they were the pillars? Simple jealousy? These men had known Jesus, and Paul hadn’t? Or perhaps ignorance? Perhaps he simply was not really knowledgeable about the workings of the Jerusalem assembly. He hadn’t spent much time there; he hadn’t been there in 14 years.
Note: The NIV renders this as “those esteemed pillars.” That really changes the meaning. The Revised English Bible gives this as “those recognized as pillars,” which is also an entirely different sense from ‘seemed to be.’
Finally, they gave Paul their right hands, in friendship, in blessing. They shook hands on the deal. They understood that Paul was divinely appointed (the grace given him, as Paul put it) to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
A word about the Greek. As is so often the case, the Greek omits the verb for “to go” in both of the last two clauses. In the second clause, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. In the first: “that we (go) to the peoples,” it matters in the sense that we are expecting something like the subjunctive rather than the Present Indicative Active. Perhaps a minor point, but it may indicate he felt confident that he could get away with it, or didn’t quite know what he was doing.
9 et cum cognovissent gratiam, quae data est mihi, Iacobus et Cephas et Ioannes, qui videbantur columnae esse, dexteras dederunt mihi et Barnabae communionis, ut nos in gentes, ipsi autem in circumcisionem;
10μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.
Alone of the poor in order that we remember, which also I was diligent/eager to do the very thing.
Updated: (We were enjoined) only/solely to remember the poor, of which thing I was diligent/eager to do.
Per the comments, I’ve revised the translation for the sake of clarity.
Some have taken ‘the poor’ here to refer to the Ebionites. This was yet another sect of Jesus followers, who held some kind of vow of poverty. Some have gone so far as to posit that James, brother of Jesus, was the leader of the group. Given that James was a pillar of the Jerusalem assembly, this seems a bit odd.
Rather, this more likely refers to the Temple Tax that all Jews were required to pay to the temple.
10 tantum ut pauperum memores essemus, quod etiam sollicitus fui hoc ipsum facere.
In Chapter 2, things really start to get interesting.
1Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ, συμπαραλαβὼν καὶ Τίτον:
Then, after fourteen years, I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, bringing along with (us/me) also Titus.
IOW, Paul has been teaching for fourteen years before returning to Jerusalem.
1 Deinde post annos quattuor decim, iterum ascendi Hieroso lymam cum Barnaba, assumpto et Tito;
2ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν: καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατ’ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον.
I went according to a revelation and brought up to them the gospel which I announced (= preached) among the peoples, which I showed (taught) to them in private, lest towards emptiness (= in vain) I race, or ran.
(That my comings and goings be in vain).
A word about the Greek. <<κατὰ>> is a preposition, with a lot of different meanings. The base meaning is ‘down’, sort of the opposite of <<ανα>> which is used for ‘up’, as in Ana-basis: the march up (country). However, it’s also the word used to denote the gospels. κατὰ Mαρκον—according to Mark. Here, it has pretty much that same sense. The point is that there is a pretty wide latitude in how some—a lot—of these words can be used. That gives translators (like me!) a pretty good chance to get it wrong. At least, it requires a pretty healthy dose of circumspection.
As a cross-reference, see 1 Thessalonians 4:16. There, Jesus << καταβήσεται ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ >> Jesus ‘comes down from the sky’. This provides an excellent contrast.
2 ascendi autem secundum revelationem; et contuli cum illis evangelium, quod praedico in gentibus, seorsum autem his, qui observabantur, ne forte in vacuum currerem aut cucurrissem.
3ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ Τίτος ὁ σὺν ἐμοί, Ελλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι:
Nor was Titus, the one with me, despite being Greek, required to be circumcised.
In here we start the great argument that Paul says occurred between himself and the “pillars,” usually taken to be Cephas (Peter) and James, the brother of Jesus. These, of course, are the actors of the gospels. What Paul is describing is a fundamental disagreement etween Paul and those followers of Jesus who believed that new members of the community had to become Jews; that is, they had to follow the dietary and other restrictions of Judaism, and the men had to become circumcised. This group of Jewish followers, apparently and sensibly, was centered in Jerusalem. This meeting has been described as the Council, or the Synod of Jerusalem, taking it as the first of the ‘ecumenical’ councils that would become a standard affair as the followers of Jesus became The Christian Church.
That Titus, a Greek, and therefore uncircumcised, was not required to become circumcised represents a significant victory for the Pauline/Gentile wing over the Jewish faction of the followers of Jesus. It Is also important to bear in mind that Paul has been teaching for 14 years at this point. As such, he’s probably made a number of converts, a lot of whom are non-Jews. This gives him bargaining power. We have to ask just how large the Jerusalem assembly was; of course, there is no way to know, but it’s not hard to believe that Paul’s groups may easily have outnumbered the assembly of Jerusalem.
Remember, Jerusalem in approximately 50 (+/-) CE was on the Eve of Destruction. Recall that Peter went to Rome, where, tradition has it, he told his stories to Mark, who wrote the first gospel. Peter was also matyred in Rome. Taken together, the Jerusalem assembly did not have a lasting, long-term impact on the subsequent development of what became Christianity. The church’s future, and its history, lay with the non-Jews. As such, Paul’s ‘winning’ the debate with the Jerusalem assembly and the so-called (by Paul) “pillars” of the community was, really, a momentous event.
The other question that needs to be borne in mind is the persecution of Jesus’ followers by Jews—like Paul. Was this happening in Jerusalem? Or was this a phenomenon of places like Damascus, where perhaps the Jewish leaders were a bit less tolerant than they may have been in Jerusalem. Or, had that died down in the two decades between Jesus’ death and this meeting?
As for the Greek: here, the ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ construction is interesting. The Vulgate takes something of a literalist approach by substituting Sed neque in a one-for-one switch. This, however, requires him to insert cum (which also has a broad latitude of uses) in his third clause to give the sense of << despite >>. The beautiful thing is that the Greek here is actually flexible enough that the ἀλλ’ (syncopated form of ἀλλα, terminal ‘α’ dropped when followed directly by a vowel), which is most generally translated as “but.” If you think about it, ‘despite’ and ‘but’ are both exclusionary, and so can be taken as interchangeable. Greek can stretch far enough that the ἀλλα can properly belong to the “being Greek” clause.
The question then becomes, did Paul realize this? In a sense, this is a fairly elegant piece of Greek grammar, it’s minimalist and yet not totally bewildering. This kind of leans toward the style of Thucydides—terse, almost epigrammatic, emulated by Tacitus in Latin—as opposed to the riper style that Plato captures in Gorgias, when he ‘quotes’ from the title character, who was a renowned sophist/rhetorician.
The point of this is, Paul, IMO, did not ‘write’ his own letters. He dictated them. This was standard practice in the ancient world. Julius Caesar reputedly had two secretaries going at once: he’d give one a sentence, and while that was being physically written, he’d dictate a sentence to the other. The level of Greek composition varies between 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Phillipians. And then it hits a whole other level when we get to 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans. Paul was educated, he was from Tarsus, a trading city. He grew up in a milieu in which Greek was the common language used by a number of different communities, Syrians, Jews, Romans, Arabs. (See the story of Pentecost in Acts for a bit of a list). So he probably spoke Greek well enough, but writing is an entirely different animal, requiring an additional skill set. In Phillipians, when Paul is in prison, I suspect he didn’t have ready access to a secretary. As a result, there are certain passages of Philippians that are borderline gibberish.
3 Sed neque Titus, qui mecum erat, cum esset Graecus, compulsus est circumcidi.
4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶν ἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν:
On account of the false brothers brought in beside (us), who came in beside to look down upon (as in th sense of ‘observe from a height; or, to spy) our freedom which we held in Christ Jesus, so that the might bring enslavement down upon us.
This is really interesting. Paul is telling us that the James Gang in Jerusalem is sending spies out to—spy?—on the Gentile Followers. That’s interesting in itself, but it goes further. Paul claims that they were enjoying freedom in Christ Jesus. Freedom from what? From Jewish practice, such as kosher, and with whom you could dine—which was an issue for Jesus, too, as the gospels tell us. Note that Paul, a Jew’s Jew as he brags above, a Pharisee—the sect that gave Jesus so much grief—is claiming that he/they enjoyed freedom from all this, and that others—the Jewish Faction—wanted to re-impose slavery to the laws once again. IOW, Paul himself feels liberated by being able to live outside the constraints of Jewish Law.
4 Sed propter subintroductos falsos fratres, qui subintroierunt explorare libertatem nostram, quam habemus in Christo Iesu, ut nos in servitutem redigerent;
5οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς.
To them towards the hour (= for no time; for a moment; not at all) we did not yield to the subjugation, so that the truth of the gospel remains among you. (We did not yield to them into subjugation for a moment, so that…)
Paul stood tall and firm against these spies from the James Gang, not bending into compliance with their demands for a moment.
This, perhaps, may help explain why Paul was so adamant about having received the revelation of his gospel directly from God: this gives him the stature to stand up to Peter and the Brother of Jesus.
5 quibus neque ad horam cessimus subicientes nos, ut veritas evangelii permaneat apud vos.
16εἰδότες [δὲ] ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ἐὰν μὴ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπιστεύσαμεν, ἵνα δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σάρξ.
Seeing that humanity is not justified from the works of the law, (but) by nothing other (than) through faith in Jesus Christ, and we believed towards Jesus Christ, in order that we be justified from faith of Christ and not from works of the law, that from works of the law no flesh is justified.
First the Greek: << ἄνθρωπος >> Technically, this means “man”. As in, “anthropology”. However, in a looser sense, “humanity” is a better translation. You would not have called an adult Greek male an ἄνθρωπος unless you wanted to be at least semi-insulting. He would have been called << ἄνερ >>. There really isn’t a direct English correlate. I’d suggest “manly man” but there are too many ironic or other implications. In Latin, one has << vir >>, as opposed to the more generic << homo >>, which is how the Latin is rendered here. This latter would be better put into English as “humanity”.
Second, << πᾶσα σάρξ >>. Again, this really should be translated as “everyone.” However, the literal meaning s “all flesh.” << σάρξ >> itself can be used as body, or in the sense of flesh; but not in the sense of “corpse”; there’s a different word for that. However, the thing about << σάρξ >> is that it really has the strong implication of “flesh, in direct opposition to spirit.” This latter implication ends up being very important for both Paul and later Christianity. So, I will tend to translate it as “all flesh”; not as idiomatic, admittedly, but it seems too important to keep the flesh/spirit dichotomy firmly in mind. Things, nuances, like this are the reason why we read the original. This stuff truly gets “lost in translation,” and changes the message in subtle, but significant ways.
For the message: we encounter for the first time the idea of << δικαιω >> or << δικαιοσυνη >>. It is translated here, and everywhere, as “justification.” Indeed, the Latin is “iustificio”, which is obviously the root of our word. It’s a compound word meaning, literally, “to make just.” Liddell & Scott give the first meaning as “justify,” so it’s not an issue of nuance. The problem comes from the fact that the root of the Latin word is “ius”, or “law,” so there is a very overt legal sense to the derivatives like “iusitificio”
The Greek vocabulary cluster including << δικαιω >> and << δικαιοσυνη >> are derived from the word << δικη >>. This can be correctly translated as “just”, or “right,” or “according to custom.” As such, the concept is large enough to encompass the Latin concept of “justice”, but it goes beyond the more narrow legal sense. Certainly, we can talk about ‘cosmic justice’, in which someone gets their comeuppance in ways other than a court of law. This is what happens in a movie when the villain is killed, usually in some way connected to his/her evil intent or action. That’s what the Greek word means. That sense of setting the society into its proper balance, in a way transcending the narrow sense as represented by the scales of justice. We all know that merely because an act is legal, doesn’t make it ‘right.”
My first Classics professor defined << δικη >> in this sense of ‘proper balance.” The gods were all owed their << τιμη >>, their ‘honor’. However, it was crucial to give each god his/her << τιμη >>. That is, give each one his/her due. That is, giving all the gods their due would establish the sense of << δικη >>, the ‘proper balance’ between the various gods & goddesses. For example, in the Odyssey, Odysseus got into trouble by paying too much honor to Athene, a goddess of civilization, while not giving enough to Poseidon, a god of nature. As a result Poseidon felt slighted, because Odysseus hadn’t evened out the honor appropriately. [ There’s a little more to it than that, but this is the basic idea. It’s why Ulysses by James Joyce is about a Jew in Catholic Ireland. ]
There is an excellent book called “Iustitia Dei: A history of the Christian doctrine of Justification, by Alister McGrath. He does a great job exploring this very topic, starting with the Hebrew word which was translated as << δικαιωσυνη >>, ended up as “iustificio”, or “iustitia” in Latin. He then describes how each translation both added and subtracted from the concept. [ Word of warning, it’s not light reading. The Amazon reviews are not kind.]
17εἰ δὲ ζητοῦντες δικαιωθῆναι ἐν Χριστῷ εὑρέθημεν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἁμαρτωλοί, ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος; μὴ γένοιτο.
For those seeking to be justified in Christ we also find ourselves (t0 be) sinners, does this mean Christ ministers (is a deacon to) sin?
Don’t entirely follow the logic of this thinking. I mean, I get the point, but it seems a bit odd. But that may just be me. But the next verse doesn’t help, either.
17 Quodsi quaerentes iustificari in Christo, inventi sumus et ipsi peccatores, numquid Christus peccati minister est? Absit!
18εἰ γὰρ ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ, παραβάτην ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω.
For if I build again that which was destroyed, I commend myself (to be a) transgressor.
συνιστάνω: OK, this one has me baffled. First of all, this is supposedly the Present/Active/ Indicative of << συν-ιστημι >>,which is itself the present indicative. It’s not necessarily the active form, since the verb has a middle form, which is a Greek voice that is somewhere between active and passive. So to have the actual active form is very, very unusual.
Secondly, the root verb is << ιστημι >>, which is the basic word for “to stand.” The prefix, << συν >> is ‘with’. So the base meaning of this is ‘stand with’. However, it’s not entirely that simple; L&S give the base meaning of ‘to set or place together,’ which isn’t that much of a stretch from ‘to stand with/together.’
All four of my base crib translations (NIV, ESV, NASV, and KJV) translate this as ‘make’. As in, ‘I make myself a sinner.’ This definition is not to be found in L&S. In context, this definition does make sense. If we look at the Latin, the verb is ‘constituo,’ IOW, ‘constitute’, which does give us the sense of ‘I make’, as in ‘myself.’ The thing is, does this usage of the word really appear that often in koine Greek? Apparently, which is why the Vulgate has chosen the verb it did. Just another big example of how much the definitions of some of these words really drifted. These are the places where Paul’s Greek gets very idiosyncratic. At some point, ‘idiosyncratic’ becomes the functional equivalent of ‘wrong’. For example, is my definition of “dog” as a “woody-stemmed, leaf-bearing plant” (what most people would call a ‘tree’) idiosyncratic? Or just wrong?
18 Si enim, quae destruxi, haec iterum aedifico, praevaricatorem me constituo.
19ἐγὼ γὰρ διὰ νόμου νόμῳ ἀπέθανον ἵνα θεῷ ζήσω. Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι:
For I, through the law, died to the law so that I will live in God. I have been crucified with Christ.
Another signicant concept: The Law. As in, the law of Deuteronomy, and the corpus of Jewish law in general.
The idea of The Law vs. Faith is probably the major theme of this epistle. The first mention of this came in 2:16 above, but the note there was already too long, so I’m moving this down here. This all ties in with Paul’s discussions of the pillars, and the Jerusalem assembly, and the whether Titus had to be circumcised, and Peter’s eating (presumably) like the Gentiles. The Law was very clear on a lot of things, and we have seen, more or less, that the group headed by James believed that followers of Jesus must, or at least should, be Jews first. That is, they should follow The Law.
Paul disagrees. He has told us, and starting here, and running through much of this epistle, we get his case against the need to follow The Law. It is fraught with implications for the history of what became Christianity. First, it opened the assembly up to Gentiles, who would not be required to follow Jewish Law. Second, it lays the foundation for justification by faith, rather than by works, acts, things that humans do. The orthodox position evolved into the need for works, and as the Middle Ages wore on, more and more of the works became dubious and questionable. This lead to Martin Luther’s proclamation of “justification by faith alone.” The root of the thought is that humans are so depraved that we can’t possibly do anything pleasing to God, so trying to merit heaven by our own actions is futile.
In fact, this theme surfaced in the fourth and fifth centuries. A British bishop named Pelagius preached that humans, could, in fact, merit salvation by their own efforts. This seemed blasphemous to a number of church fathers. The chief opponent of this idea became St Augustine. Working from several texts of Paul, but in particular Romans, Augustine eventually ended up at the concept of Predestination. More on that later. For the moment, it suffices to note that Paul’s idea of justification by faith was novel, and very much in opposition to Jewish—and pagan—thought. This is something of a novel concept. But was how Paul managed to eliminate the need for followers of Jesus to adhere to The Law.
19 Ego enim per legem legi mortuus sum, ut Deo vivam. Christo confixus sum cruci;
20ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός: ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ.
I no longer live; rather, Chris lives in me. That which now lives in the flesh, in faith I live in the son of God loving me and giving himself for me.
Offhand, this seems like a fairly novel idea, but I’m not honestly certain that it is. It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that a pagan would say: that the god is living in him. Nor does it sound like anything I’ve encountered in my admittedly limited forays into Judaism. There is a mystical quality to it; later mystics have expressed similar sentiments, about having God inside them, and there is a mystical strain of Judaism. Perhaps this sort of thing was going on at the time; perhaps John the Baptist or the Qumran people had similar ideas.
20 vivo autem iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus; quod autem nunc vivo in carne, in fide vivo Filii Dei, qui dilexit me et tradidit seipsum pro me.
21οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ: εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν.
I do not place aside (nullify) the grace of God. For, if through the law we are justified, how is it that Christ did not die freely? ( freely = in vain)
This gets right to the heart of the issue. We have the fact of Christ’s death. From this we derive the belief or assumption that it meant something, that it wasn’t gratuitous ( = gratis, in the Latin).
It’s pretty good logic, especially if encountered by someone who wants to believe. Faith landing on fertile soil.
21 Non irritam facio gratiam Dei; si per enim per legem iusitia, ergo Christus gratis mortuus est.
In Chapter 2 we get to perhaps the very heart of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. It comes as a result of the question of whether a Gentile has to become a Jew, and follow Jewish law–dietary and other–to be a follower of Jesus. According to Paul, James, brother of Jesus said yes, and Paul said no.
Paul won the argument.
Then we run across this issue in Mark 7:5-15, in which the Pharisee ask Jesus why his disciples eat with unclean hands. Jesus’ response is that ‘it’s not what goes into a person that makes him unclean, but what comes out.’
IOW, Jewish dietary laws are not necessary.
I will save the brunt of this discussion for when we get to the relevant section of Mark. But, ask yourself, did Jesus really say that? If he did, why did Paul and James have to duke it out? Why didn’t the James Gang in Jerusalem follow the teaching of Jesus on this point? Answer, because Jesus didn’t say that.
Implication: it was Paul who made it OK for new members of the Jesus community not to follow Jewish dietary laws, but, more importantly, that adult males would not have to submit to circumcision. This was a huge development. It removed a major barrier to getting non-Jews to accept the word of Jesus.
This is one reason I wanted to take these in chronological order in which they were written. What came first?
The ideas encountered:
- A revelation tells Paul to go to Jerusalem after 14 years.
- The revelation may be the reason he’s able to stand up to the controversy he encounters there
- Significant rift between Paul and James about remaining Jewish. Seems that James sent agents to spy on both Paul and Peter, to undermine the freedom these two had. Freedom, presumably, from maintaining all the Jewish dietary and other laws.
- They reach an agreement: Paul is the Apostle to the uncircumcised, while Peter is the Apostle to the circumcised
- Peter liked to live like a Gentile, until James’ agents caught him. Paul uses this to push his point that if Jews can’t live like Jews, how can Gentiles be expected to do so?
- !!! Justification by Faith !!!
- The Law vs Faith
- Christ living in Paul. Rather a novel concept, I believe
- If we are justified by the Law, why did Christ die?
We continue. This one isn’t quite as dense as the two previous.
11Οτε δὲ ἦλθεν Κηφᾶς εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην, ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν.
Then, when Cephas came to Antioch, I stood against him to his face, (saying that) that he was reprehensible.
However, the contention seems not to be over. Paul and Peter are at odds later, in Antioch.
Note that << ἀντέστην >>is the same word that Homer uses to describe how Achilles and Agamemnon stood against each other. Not to suggest a conscious reference, but perhaps interesting.
11 Cum autem venisset Cephas Antiochiam, in faciem ei restiti, quia reprehensibilis erat.
12πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν: ὅτε δὲ ἦλθον, ὑπέστελλεν καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτόν, φοβούμενος τοὺς ἐκ περιτομῆς.
Before the coming of some (men) from James, he (=Peter) with the peoples (= Gentiles) used to eat; when they came he concealed himself and withdrew himself, fearing those of the circumcised.
Note that the men are from James, and that Peter is afraid of them. This decidedly implies that James was in charge, not Peter as the gospels would have us believe. This is where the fact that Paul wrote before the gospels is very significant. In a situation like this, we have the story of an eyewitness and a participant, vs. the story of someone who wrote 20-30 years after the event, and probably close to 20 years after Paul, who was not there. In terms of history, the participant’s version carries more weight.
This is why I believed that it was more valuable to start with Paul and not the gospels.
12 Prius enim quam venirent quidam ab Iacobo, cum gentibus comedebat; cum autem venissent, subtrahebat et segregabat se, timens eos, qui ex circumcisione erant.
13καὶ συνυπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ [καὶ] οἱ λοιποὶ Ἰουδαῖοι, ὥστε καὶ Βαρναβᾶς συναπήχθη αὐτῶν τῇ ὑποκρίσει.
And the rest of the Judeans played along with him, so that even Barnabas was led together in the hypocrisy.
Remember that Barnabas went with Paul up to Jerusalem, when they first confronted The Pillars, so the fact that he went over to the side of the circumcised seems to have particularly rankled Paul. Peter was bad enough; but Barnabas!
Quick note about the Greek: << καὶ>> basically means ‘ and‘ Here, though, it takes on the sense of ‘even’. Demonstrating once again how flexible some of these words can be.
13 Et simulationi eius consenserunt ceteri Iudaei, ita ut et Barnabas simul abduceretur illorum simulatione.
14ἀλλ’ ὅτε εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσιν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, εἶπον τῷ Κηφᾷ ἔμπροσθεν πάντων, Εἰ σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὑπάρχων ἐθνικῶς καὶ οὐχὶ Ἰουδαϊκῶς ζῇς, πῶς τὰ ἔθνη ἀναγκάζεις Ἰουδαΐζειν;
But when I saw that they were not walking straight towards the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before everyone, “If you, a Jew from the beginning, gentilize and don’t live Jewishly, how can you compel the peoples to Judaize?”
The issue is that Peter, when left to his own devices, started to live like a Gentile. That is, he stopped eating kosher ( note: that term is anachronistic for this period). The implication seems to be that keeping kosher was seen to be something of a burden, or a nuisance, that some Jews at least, would rather have done without. Peter, apparently, was one of these. What this does is give some insight into how important the discussion between Paul and the Jerusalem assembly, led by James, brother of Jesus, was for the future of what became Christianity. Had Paul not won this argument, what we know as Christianity may have ended up with Mithraism and the worship of Magna Mater: sort of a footnote, or trivia question of history.
About the Greek: “To Gentilize” and “To Judaize”, meaning to “behave like a Gentile”, and “to behave like a Jew” are words pretty much coined here by Paul. The same with “Jewishly”. Paul is showing a remarkable conservation of words.
14 Sed cum vidissem quod non recte ambularent ad veritatem evangelii, dixi Cephae coram omnibus: “ Si tu, cum Iudaeus sis, gentiliter et non Iudaice vivis, quomodo gentes cogis iudaizare?”.
15Ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί,
“We are by nature Jews, and not sinners of the peoples.”
Interesting that he equates “sinners” with “Gentiles” (= “the peoples”).
15 Nos natura Iudaei et non ex gentibus peccatores,