Galatians Summary 2:1-10, addendum

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.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on September 29, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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