Understanding the Christian Story

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Secret Alias
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Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:44 am

So I am trying to flesh out the orthodox story from Irenaeus and Tertullian. It goes something like this:
  • There is one god who rules over the monarchy in heaven and on earth.
  • The Father is at once the same as the Son.
  • The Son went to earth to witness the Father, who was always known to the Jews but not the Gentiles.
  • His mission was prompted by the fact that 'it was time' to go beyond the Jews i.e. to include the Gentiles in 'the Promise' as per Paul.
  • So the Son was established in Mary's womb. Jesus was born with no seed from Joseph. He was man and God.
  • Previously God had established himself through the Son exclusively to the Jews. The story of the Pentateuch was now the possession of all of humanity.
  • The laws formerly established with Moses (sacrifice, divorce etc) were now replaced by the 'grace' associated with Jesus Christ.
  • The law and the prophets were until John but the overt demonstration of that was the destruction of the temple. There were no more sacrifices because God decreed he didn't want sacrifices any more. Something new was coming in the person of Jesus which replaced the former slaughter of animals. It was new but it wasn't completely new. It was in keeping with what happened before which is why the reading of the 'Old Testament' still shines a light on the new. Because they are 'in harmony' with one another because one and the same god established both.
  • One becomes a Christian by declaring a creed and being baptized. Accepting baptism is a one time chance to wash away old sins. If you sin again, you're liable for punishment as per the rules of the 'old god' (who is still the 'new god') of Christianity.
  • The world is going to be judged and the sinners go to hell forever and the good lambs receive the promise made to Abraham and his seed.
  • The Son had to manifest himself to the world because the Gentiles didn't know him. He went to the Jews so they could kill him and lose their religion. He offered the world 'sacraments' which made the body whole (i.e. established the perfection that once existed in Adam before his sin).
  • He established a college of twelve apostles but Judas fell but was replaced - not by Paul - but someone else to make twelve. Twelve isn't a magical number as the heretics allege but it was a sign of the 'harmony' which exists between the old (Israel) and new (apostles).
  • Paul appeared later and wrote a gospel and went to Jerusalem and submitted for an hour by handing over the text to be reviewed and approved by the pillars. They did. But in the process certain Judaizers misinterpreted the gospel (the Marcionites 'misunderstood' this as meaning that they wrote other 'Judaized' gospels.
  • Eventually Paul and the Twelve reconciled with one another. But Paul was never included as one of the Twelve. He was an apostle. But one appointed 'to the Gentiles' who were the whole purpose of Jesus's coming - i.e. Jesus came to spread 'the Promise' to the Gentiles after the Jews were rejected because of their wickedness or because God knew they would reject his Son (who was at once Himself).
  • But ultimately, for the only Church which would survive (i.e. the Church would made up of only Gentiles and was only meant to spread among the Gentiles viz. 'it was known' the Jewish Church would die out as it did) was the Church of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Which meant the Marcionites were ultimately right. Except they hated Judaism which is wrong because harmony, rather than antitheses, exists between the Law and the gospel.
  • There was a Jewish Church. It was headquartered in Jerusalem where Jews were actively hunting down Christians and murdering them like they did Jesus.
  • There was a Jerusalem episcopal succession made up of the 'family of Jesus' which went down to the time of the Bar Kochba revolt where it disappeared. 'Jewish Christianity' ultimately disappeared except for some documents which are now in our canon. But it's lasting legacy was to force Paul to tone down his radicalism as 'documented' in Acts. Paul not only submitted 'for an hour' to its authority but also reconciled with Peter.
  • Marcion was one of the leftovers of 'pure Paulism.' He was in error because he didn't 'know' that Paul and Peter 'made up.' He thought Paul continued to promote an anti-Jewish doctrine when in fact he submitted to Jewish Christianity. This is where it breaks down for me. In order for the story to make sense, Marcion read Galatians as it was preserved among Irenaeus and Tertullian and 'knew' that Paul submitted for 'an hour' giving up his written gospel to the Judaizers and they corrupted his text with Jewish readings. The Judaizers must also have corrupted Paul's letters too. So that means the letters were in existence before the meeting at Jerusalem. So Paul wrote to the various communities before he actually visited them which is an impossibility. Not understanding things from here.
Is there anything I am missing? Basically the orthodox accused the Marcionites of denying that Jesus knew what he was doing when he established Peter as the head of the Church and the apostles as a collective body of some authority. But the reality is that the Jewish Church gets wiped away from history. They disappear. So Jesus fails the other way too. The only person who emerges from apostolic history with any lasting effect is Paul and Jesus did not include him in his initial 'reach out' for an apostolic college.

But the underlying point is that in point of fact, only Paul 'matters.' The 'Jewish Church' only has one role in history - to 'soften' Paul. They have no real existence, no legacy of any sort. They are raised as a proof that Marcion's version of Christianity was rejected by Paul himself because he 'submitted' to the Jerusalem Church and Peter. Marcion is alleged to have 'misread' Galatians. But the actual 'history' is even more ridiculous. Paul voluntarily submits his written gospel which somehow is Luke. Mark and Matthew are written in a way that betrays some sort of mutual dependence (plagiarism). But again, Marcion's (alleged) inference that Judaizers copied Luke and made it more Jewish is said by the Church Fathers to be a misreading of the text. Paul simply had his text approved and then had a dispute ABOUT THE APPLICATION of the gospel - namely that Jewish dietary laws, circumcision practices and calendar observances remained in force. But if they 'misunderstood' this from Paul's written gospel i.e. Luke (which is clearly how Irenaeus and Tertullian read Galatians chapters 2, 3 and the rest) then Paul must be faulted fro writing a largely incomprehensible gospel. For there is nothing in Luke which would suggest that the Law and the prophets had come to an end.

What is clear from Irenaeus and especially Tertullian now is the fact that the 'Marcionite gospel' - i.e. the written gospel that they said was written by Paul and which Tertullian says they learned about through reading Galatians - originally had the Matthean antitheses (i.e. Matt 5:21 - 48). It also had an opening narrative where Jesus came down from heaven and immediately entered a synagogue declared the antitheses and was recognized by a man possessed by a demon who presumably knew he was a powerful heavenly figure and then the crowd quickly jammed him at the edge of a precipice and tried to push him over only to fall over themselves (when he either flew or passed through the crowd). So already we begin to see the break down in some of this story. Paul wrote a gospel which wasn't quite like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John but as Baarda notes was something like the Diatessaron of Tatian. The idea that Paul submitted 'for an hour' to allow THIS gospel to have been transmitted among the Jewish Christians led to the creation of a gospel which supported the idea that the laws of sacrifices were over had something to do with THIS opening narrative. It was from this opening narrative that Marcionites thought or knew that the Law had come to an end.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

robert j
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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by robert j » Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:24 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:44 am

So I am trying to flesh out the orthodox story from Irenaeus and Tertullian. It goes something like this ...

Is there anything I am missing? ...
I won’t venture an opinion on what you might be missing here, but I think at least part of the problem is trying too hard to make sense of the apologetics and polemic ravings of Tertullian and his ilk.
Secret Alias wrote:
Fri Dec 13, 2019 4:16 pm

But do I believe or am I willing to let the Church Fathers shepherd me to the truth about Marcion or the Marcionite gospel? No. I don't trust them or what they say.
Certainly one doesn't need to trust or believe what the "Fathers" say to attempt to sort out their orthodox version of the story, but one might run the risk of the fate in your Don Quixote example.

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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:59 am

trying too hard to make sense of the apologetics and polemic ravings of Tertullian and his ilk.
But what else is there? Is Acts really a superior source of information? Let me give you an example. I've read in various sources that one explanation for the Galatians-first canon in Irenaeus and Tertullian is that it represents a chronological ordering of the epistles according of the epistles. The Romans-first ordering is generally considered to be by length of the epistles. But I mistakenly assumed that when Gamble and others said this that they simply matched the epistles to Paul's journey according to Acts. That was my mistake. I didn't check Acts (basically because I feel it is such an odious text I avoid reading it). But Ben did and helped me out. But here's what I figured out now (again not checking the original material). I am guessing that when scholars say it followed a chronological ordering I think they mean (1) follow the journey in Acts and then (2) match it up with the Marcionite prefaces statement about where Paul wrote the various letters. I am guessing this. I haven't checked it because I am really busy.

But my point is that all of this information is second-hand. We don't know anything about Paul outside of Acts and the inferences drawn from the texts of the canon. That's really strange given the fact that the events in question only occurred a century and a half before Irenaeus. To rely entirely on documentary information is bizarre. Surely there must have been 'oral tradition' lurking somewhere. And even when the Acts of Paul was created, it appears to take on the character of a 'romance' - that is, wholesale 'invention' - rather than any sort of compilation of 'oral tradition.' Muhammad had oral tradition two or three centuries after his life. But Paul and the apostles don't seem to have these sorts of reflections. Yes Papias says that he is interested in them. But no one seems to have compiled a documentary based on oral traditions. Instead people just picked up pens and invented narratives. Unless you believe that the Acts of Peter go back to something historical.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Jax » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:11 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:59 am
trying too hard to make sense of the apologetics and polemic ravings of Tertullian and his ilk.
But what else is there? Is Acts really a superior source of information? Let me give you an example. I've read in various sources that one explanation for the Galatians-first canon in Irenaeus and Tertullian is that it represents a chronological ordering of the epistles according of the epistles. The Romans-first ordering is generally considered to be by length of the epistles. But I mistakenly assumed that when Gamble and others said this that they simply matched the epistles to Paul's journey according to Acts. That was my mistake. I didn't check Acts (basically because I feel it is such an odious text I avoid reading it). But Ben did and helped me out. But here's what I figured out now (again not checking the original material). I am guessing that when scholars say it followed a chronological ordering I think they mean (1) follow the journey in Acts and then (2) match it up with the Marcionite prefaces statement about where Paul wrote the various letters. I am guessing this. I haven't checked it because I am really busy.

But my point is that all of this information is second-hand. We don't know anything about Paul outside of Acts and the inferences drawn from the texts of the canon. That's really strange given the fact that the events in question only occurred a century and a half before Irenaeus. To rely entirely on documentary information is bizarre. Surely there must have been 'oral tradition' lurking somewhere. And even when the Acts of Paul was created, it appears to take on the character of a 'romance' - that is, wholesale 'invention' - rather than any sort of compilation of 'oral tradition.' Muhammad had oral tradition two or three centuries after his life. But Paul and the apostles don't seem to have these sorts of reflections. Yes Papias says that he is interested in them. But no one seems to have compiled a documentary based on oral traditions. Instead people just picked up pens and invented narratives. Unless you believe that the Acts of Peter go back to something historical.
This is one of the reasons that I had in considering a mid to late 1st century BCE date for Paul. No one seems to know anything about him which I consider odd if he was more recent.

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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:49 am

At the very least we have to acknowledge that the Marcionite rejection of Acts went hand in hand with their rejection of the description of Paul in that book.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:55 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:59 am
But I mistakenly assumed that when Gamble and others said this that they simply matched the epistles to Paul's journey according to Acts. That was my mistake. I didn't check Acts (basically because I feel it is such an odious text I avoid reading it). But Ben did and helped me out. But here's what I figured out now (again not checking the original material). I am guessing that when scholars say it followed a chronological ordering I think they mean (1) follow the journey in Acts and then (2) match it up with the Marcionite prefaces statement about where Paul wrote the various letters. I am guessing this. I haven't checked it because I am really busy.
In his book on the NT canon, Gamble suggests that the Galatians-first order is best understood as an effort to arrange the epistles in chronological order. He does not mention Acts in this connection. Rather, he footnotes pages 295-296 of Frede, "Die Ordnung der Paulusbriefe," which I have not read.

I never considered that the scholars who thought of the Galatians-first order as attempting a chronology might have been thinking of Acts as the source of that chronology, partly because I could never see much of a correspondence. I always assumed that those scholars meant that the arranger had searched the internal evidence of the epistles themselves for clues, and then made guesses on top of those clues.

For example, all the letters written from prison are at the end of the Galatians-first order; this requires no knowledge of Acts, but rather a general "knowledge" that Paul was martyred, as well as a very reasonable guess that he was imprisoned first. The Marcionite prologues themselves locate one of the prison epistles (Colossians) in Ephesus, but no one is arguing that the compiler of the prologues was the same person as the first arranger of the epistles in the Galatians-first order.

As another example, placing Colossians and Ephesians together in the sequence, but in the order of Ephesians first and then Colossians, makes sense if the latter was called Laodiceans at the time, since Colossians 4.16 mentions a letter already written to the Laodiceans and treats it as still relevant.

Keeping 1 & 2 Corinthians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians together is an obvious move, one made by most people who ever arranged the letters into a list.

Galatians makes a certain degree of sense as the first epistle because its itinerary of Paul's early missionary efforts does not mention any destinations important to the other letters.

1 Corinthians 16.1 mentions Galatia, so it kind of makes sense to place the Corinthians letters after Galatians.

I am not yet sure what might have inspired the position of Romans or the Thessalonian letters, and obviously I am doing a lot of educated guessing throughout this entire process, but this sort of reverse logic from the epistles themselves is what I assumed (possibly mistakenly) those scholars had in mind who were suggesting a chronological logic for the Galatians-first order.
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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:39 am

I agree. It floored me when he suggested it. But when I saw how many scholars of Marcion go along with his address to the seven churches hypothesis I thought there must be something to it. Bad argument I know but where there's smoke there's fire I guess.

The one thing I can see is that Galatians is first and it follows from Acts. That Paul is referencing the confrontation with Peter suggests I think it just happened. But is this Antioch in Syria or Galatia?

Then another question which inevitably comes up is - how can someone address a letter to "the Galatians." To the Jews yes. Even to the Egyptians because Egypt was for Greek speakers very much tied up with Alexandria. But writing a letter "to the Americans" or "to the Galatians" is in my mind a difficulty.
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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:08 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:39 am
I agree. It floored me when he suggested it. But when I saw how many scholars of Marcion go along with his address to the seven churches hypothesis I thought there must be something to it. Bad argument I know but where there's smoke there's fire I guess.
Not sure what you are calling a bad argument. I think Gamble makes a very good argument for the existence of an early "seven churches" Pauline canon.
Then another question which inevitably comes up is - how can someone address a letter to "the Galatians." To the Jews yes. Even to the Egyptians because Egypt was for Greek speakers very much tied up with Alexandria. But writing a letter "to the Americans" or "to the Galatians" is in my mind a difficulty.
He addresses the letter to the churches in Galatia, just as he addresses other letters to a single church in a certain city. I do not see a problem here, since Galatia was a district containing multiple cities. There are modern letters addressed to the churches of America; these letters address, of course, what the author perceives to be issues relating in particular to church life in America. The same would be the case for Galatia; presumably many/most of the churches in the area would have been affected by the same teachings about Judaism and circumcision.
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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:11 am

No I meant citing consensus.
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Re: Understanding the Christian Story

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:14 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:11 am
No I meant citing consensus.
I see.
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