Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:02 am

Subject: Roger Parvus and early Christian tradents.
perseusomega9 wrote:
Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:06 pm
Perhaps you can throw out some of your recent conjectures Ben, you obviously have a few in mind.
I hate to disappoint, but most of my recent investigations have been been hitting dead ends. I have, for example, been trying to piece together what is going on with James the Just, the other "brothers of the Lord," and the δεσπόσυνοι, but none of my reconstructions seem to come out measurably better than other reconstructions which draw conclusions opposite to mine. I mean, my reconstruction seems viable, but I cannot articulate very many or very good reasons for preferring it over others.

I can relate what may be my most promising recent insight, if you can forgive it being virtually skeletal in its details so far. I wrote in the OP on that thread:
I also find it interesting that Parvus has identified, not only 1 Corinthians 2.6-9, but also Philippians 2.5-11 as part of a secondary layer in the Pauline epistles. I have been slowly thinking along the same lines myself with respect to both passages, which seem closer in spirit to some of the deutero-Paulines than to the Pauline stuff that I think I can demonstrate to be earlier and probably primary.
I have obviously given Philippians 2.5-11 a great deal of thought, and it has struck me that I have no real way of demonstrating whether it predates Paul (who incorporated it into his epistle), it was composed by Paul (whether for this exact epistolary context or for some other context and he decided to include it here), or it postdates Paul (as an interpolation). Verses 6-7 have apparently been identified as an interpolation by Ernst Barnikol, though I am not familiar with his argument, and verses 9-11 have been identified as an interpolation by our own Stuart. The phrase "even death on a cross" in verse 8 has been suspected as a gloss by many different researchers. A very common approach to the pericope, even when it is taken as a whole, is to regard it as independent of and prior to Paul, who merely incorporated it into his letter. Methodologically, however, if we are willing to countenance somebody other than Paul as the author, then it is at least possible that it postdates Paul instead of predating him. If David Trobisch and others are correct that our extant manuscripts of the Pauline epistles derive from early editions, rather than from the autograph itself, then we ought not to expect to find manuscript evidence of interpolations which preceded those editions. The combination of the seemingly proven willingness of some Christians to interpolate authoritative texts and the distinct possibility that our ability to investigate their individual textual histories comes to a screeching halt somewhere in century II forces us, even if against our will, to allow for a lot of possibilities which may rest on what would in other circumstances have to be regarded as flimsy evidence.

The possibility that I have in mind here is that the Jesus Hymn is an interpolation. My only reason for suspecting it as one (besides its distinctness from its immediate context, of course) is that the atmosphere that it seems to breathe more closely resembles the epistles thought to be spurious (such as Colossians and Ephesians) than those genuinely regarded as genuine (including Philippians, which has long been susceptible to partition theories). This is not much to go on, I freely admit. I would love to have more evidence (one way or another), but I am not sure that any exists.

There is more evidence for 1 Corinthians 2.6-9 being an interpolation, not on its own, but rather as part of a longer interpolation: 1 Corinthians 2.6-16.

Now, both of these passages were integral to my idea that Christ was once thought of as a crucified slave. So was Romans 13.1-7, often argued to be an interpolation. And so was 1 Peter 2.13-24, which already has much in common with the spurious Pauline epistles. The point is: that entire "crucifixion of a slave" idea of mine rests upon passages that I cannot with any confidence assign to Paul himself, or as early as Paul, or even to the period of time before the fall of Jerusalem. I was beginning to doubt that it had any merit whatsoever as an expression of early Christian thought.

However, it occurred to me that I had never really explained how Peter and Paul or anyone could be so impossibly naïve as to suggest that rulers are never a threat to those who follow the law. It seemed improbable, of course, that someone familiar with the crucifixion of a blameless Jesus Christ by the ruling authorities, or someone who was even vaguely aware of persecutions of Christians at the hands of the law, could have penned these passages, but honestly: it seemed improbable that anyone could have penned those passages. How could someone have been so sublimely clueless about what can happen in the ordinary course of legal (in)justice?

One thought led to another, and I now suspect that these passages were not penned as general instructions applicable to all times and places, even if later Christians may have read them that way (and simultaneously blunted their impact by acknowledging that sometimes the authorities can be wrong). Rather, they were penned in reaction to a very specific event or set of events.

Let me back up a bit and call our attention to the liberation movement extant in Judea before the fateful war with Rome. We know that there were Judeans who advocated violence against Rome; they later became the sicarii and the zealots whose blades led to bloody conflict. We also know that there were Judeans who advocated against such violence, to the point of being accused of collaborating with Rome: the Sadducees, for example. But I think we also know that there were Judeans who neither collaborated with Rome nor espoused violence against Rome. Many of them were apocalypticists who preached that God himself would overthrow Rome without any necessary human intervention. My argument would be that these kinds of Judeans counted among their ranks those responsible for the synoptic apocalypse, which advises people, not to fight, but rather to run when things begin to get hot, and which announces that the Son of Man himself will put things right after a period of tribulation. Some of the sign prophets would fall kind of in between these apocalypticists and the outright revolutionaries: they wanted to jumpstart the eschatological process, like an active revolutionary, but they did so by marching in hope that God himself would part the Jordan or make the walls fall, like a more passive apocalypticist. There also seem to have been other groups who were waiting for God himself to inaugurate the fight, but who were then going to join in once it was underway.

From among this spectrum of possible reactions to Rome, there would certainly have been ideological winners and losers once Jerusalem had fallen. Anyone who had suggested that taking up arms against Rome was the best way to get the eschatological calendar to turn its page from "this present age" to "the age to come" would have been proven wrong in the most humiliating fashion that history has to offer. Anyone who had suggested a more peaceful path or a "wait and see" approach, on the other hand, would get to deliver a resounding "I told you so" to the revolutionary wing of the movement. At the very least, they would be able to hold up the revolutionaries (however many of them may have remained) as an object lesson. And it seems to me that the texts I had used to identify that "crucified slave" strain of Christianity may well be the "I told you so" or object lesson I am talking about:
  • Romans 13.1-7 would not be an example of innocent naïveté about the authorities; rather, it would be an indictment of the revolutionary spirit. It is not mainly about the individual's standing with any given state; rather, it is about the movement's/church's standing with Rome, which history had just proven "does not bear the sword for nothing," and which was, in fact, "a minister of God" (in the same way that Babylon and Assyria were viewed as instruments of God by some of the prophets) "who brings wrath" (in the form of the total defeat of Jerusalem). It makes more sense to me that the naïveté on display here should be deliberate and calculating than that it should be genuinely ignorant.
  • Philippians 2.5-11 casts Jesus as (someone in the form of) a slave/servant who was crucified. This could be a way of making sure that Jesus was not thought of as one of those revolutionaries whom Rome so handily dealt with. "See? He was a servant/slave, exactly as predicted by Isaiah. He was no zealot."
  • 1 Peter 2.13-24 both evinces the same brand of naïveté as Romans 13.1-7 and also discusses the imitatio Christi, not in the section about submitting to the authorities, but rather in the section about slaves obeying their masters. Two birds with one stone: Christ was a servant, not a revolutionary, and one ought to obey the authorities, so as to avoid the fate suffered by revolutionaries.
  • 1 Corinthians 2.6-9 may be interpreted in line with almost any thesis presented. The rulers may be human, or they may be demonic; if demonic, their influence may be direct, or it may be indirect. So I doubt that this passage was written specifically in reaction to the revolutionary spirit; rather, it is merely compatible (at least potentially) with the other passages under discussion. (I have a lot of work to do as yet on this passage and on similar passages from the Ascension of Isaiah, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and others.)
Kunigunde once opined:
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Tue Mar 15, 2016 2:41 am
If the church of Jerusalem took an active part in the first Jewish-Roman war, it would explain a lot.
And that may well be the case. Certain churches in Judea, including the Jerusalem one, may have been the principal targets for these sorts of texts.

At any rate, if this thesis is correct, then this whole stratum of passages may well postdate 70 and be, indeed, a direct reaction to the events of that year. (That "if," as usual, is a pretty big one.)

Ben.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:34 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:02 am
I have obviously given Philippians 2.5-11 a great deal of thought, and it has struck me that I have no real way of demonstrating whether it predates Paul (who incorporated it into his epistle), it was composed by Paul (whether for this exact epistolary context or for some other context and he decided to include it here), or it postdates Paul (as an interpolation). Verses 6-7 have apparently been identified as an interpolation by Ernst Barnikol, though I am not familiar with his argument, and verses 9-11 have been identified as an interpolation by our own Stuart. The phrase "even death on a cross" in verse 8 has been suspected as a gloss by many different researchers. A very common approach to the pericope, even when it is taken as a whole, is to regard it as independent of and prior to Paul, who merely incorporated it into his letter. Methodologically, however, if we are willing to countenance somebody other than Paul as the author, then it is at least possible that it postdates Paul instead of predating him. If David Trobisch and others are correct that our extant manuscripts of the Pauline epistles derive from early editions, rather than from the autograph itself, then we ought not to expect to find manuscript evidence of interpolations which preceded those editions. The combination of the seemingly proven willingness of some Christians to interpolate authoritative texts and the distinct possibility that our ability to investigate their individual textual histories comes to a screeching halt somewhere in century II forces us, even if against our will, to allow for a lot of possibilities which may rest on what would in other circumstances have to be regarded as flimsy evidence.

The possibility that I have in mind here is that the Jesus Hymn is an interpolation. My only reason for suspecting it as one (besides its distinctness from its immediate context, of course) is that the atmosphere that it seems to breathe more closely resembles the epistles thought to be spurious (such as Colossians and Ephesians) than those genuinely regarded as genuine (including Philippians, which has long been susceptible to partition theories). This is not much to go on, I freely admit. I would love to have more evidence (one way or another), but I am not sure that any exists.
Philippians 2:6-7

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων
οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο
τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ,
ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν
μορφὴν δούλου λαβών,
ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος·
καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος

One problem is how to interpret the relationship between ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων on the one hand, and τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ on the other. How is being in the form of God not the same thing as being equal to God, such that there would be the idea of a ἁρπαγμὸν in the transition from the first to the second? I.e., if Christ is one with God, how could he not already be equal with God; and if not, how could there ever be a thought of seizing that equality? There doesn't seem to be a natural way to interpret this.

He did not consider it plunder to be equal with God is to many exegetes an incomprehensible thought. Instead of reading ἁρπαγμὸν as a completed action, they take it as a contemplated and therefore only potential action, and render it as some type of gerundive: a thing to be plundered, seized. Even that is too much, so they soften the meaning and end up with simply a different idea: a thing to cling to, to preserve, to retain.

F.C. Baur sees a contrastive allusion to the gnostic myth of the rebellion of Sophia in Irenaeus AH 1.2.2--
But there rushed forth in advance of the rest that Aeon who was much the latest of them, and was the youngest of the Duodecad which sprang from Anthropos and Ecclesia, namely Sophia, and suffered passion apart from the embrace of her consort Theletos. This passion, indeed, first arose among those who were connected with Nous and Aletheia, but passed as by contagion to this degenerate Aeon, who acted under a pretence of love, but was in reality influenced by temerity, because she had not, like Nous, enjoyed communion with the perfect Father. This passion, they say, consisted in a desire to search into the nature of the Father; for she wished, according to them, to comprehend his greatness.
Curiously, in the Apocryphon of John, Sophia does not appear to be motivated by temerity toward the All-Father, trying to comprehend it. So this version of the myth must come from a different gnostic source.

Sophia's "unfaithfulness" leads to her fall from the pleroma into the kenoma (AH 1.4.1), which amounts to another association with the Philippians Hymn in respect of Christ's self-kenosis.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:47 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:34 am
One problem is how to interpret the relationship between ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων on the one hand, and τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ on the other. How is being in the form of God not the same thing as being equal to God, such that there would be the idea of a ἁρπαγμὸν in the transition from the first to the second? I.e., if Christ is one with God, how could he not already be equal with God; and if not, how could there ever be a thought of seizing that equality? There doesn't seem to be a natural way to interpret this.

He did not consider it plunder to be equal with God is to many exegetes an incomprehensible thought. Instead of reading ἁρπαγμὸν as a completed action, they take it as a contemplated and therefore only potential action, and render it as some type of gerundive: a thing to be plundered, seized. Even that is too much, so they soften the meaning and end up with simply a different idea: a thing to cling to, to preserve, to retain.
The phrase οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο can also be an idiom meaning that "he did not take advantage" of something.

N. T. Wright, after trying to sort through the various proposed meanings of this passage for a number of pages, and after trying to distinguish clearly between the various senses of res rapta, res rapienda (there is the gerundive you mentioned), and res retinenda (another gerundive) for this key phrase, offers a handy table of 10 different propositions on page 81 of The Climax of the Covenant:

Wright's Ten Interpretations.jpg
Wright's Ten Interpretations.jpg (269.8 KiB) Viewed 227 times

It may be important to understand that the passage/poem/hymn itself is not exactly striving for clarity. One often hears leveled at opposing interpretations the charge that, if that is what the passage means, there were much easier ways to express it. One scholar (I cannot remember who) has commented on that charge to the effect that, no matter what we think this passage means, there were always much easier ways to express it.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:15 am

I'm not impressed with a theory of "idiomatic usage" that conveniently enables NT Wright to come up with "not regarded as something to be taken advantage of." It can't be an "idiomatic usage" if there are no other usages of the phrase with that idiomatic sense (at least I'm not finding any). How is this not fudging?

If exegetes and translators feel the need to substitute a "clear" meaning for the unclear (or just unpalatable) meaning of the actual text, how is that not a deception and a betrayal? (I wonder if Jason BeDuhn talks about this passage in his book Truth in Translation.) Obviously I understand the pressure to make sense of the text, but sometimes that isn't possible and I wish scholars were better at simply admitting the fact in a footnote. D.B. Hart does so in various passages of his translation of Romans, but is just as fudgey as Wright when it comes to this hymn.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:58 am

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:15 am
I'm not impressed with a theory of "idiomatic usage" that conveniently enables NT Wright to come up with "not regarded as something to be taken advantage of." It can't be an "idiomatic usage" if there are no other usages of the phrase with that idiomatic sense (at least I'm not finding any). How is this not fudging?
:lol: Did Wright run over your cat or something? You can see on the table that I posted that the two competing arguments for "idiomatic usage" derive, respectively, from Lightfoot and from Hoover (who relied on earlier work by Jaeger, Foerster, and Gnilka); Wright himself prefers Hoover's correction of Lightfoot to Lightfoot's original analysis, but the main point of the table was to get as many different options in view as possible.

You can read Lightfoot's treatment easily enough: both as a brief footnote in his commentary and as an appendix to the commentary. Hoover's article is available on JSTOR, if you have an account.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:24 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:58 am
:lol: Did Wright run over your cat or something? You can see on the table that I posted that the two competing arguments for "idiomatic usage" derive, respectively, from Lightfoot and from Hoover (who relied on earlier work by Jaeger, Foerster, and Gnilka); Wright himself prefers Hoover's correction of Lightfoot to Lightfoot's original analysis, but the main point of the table was to get as many different options in view as possible.

You can read Lightfoot's treatment easily enough: both as a brief footnote in his commentary and as an appendix to the commentary. Hoover's article is available on JSTOR, if you have an account.
I'm not a fan of Wright, but no, I wasn't trying to pin the idea on him.

Judging from Lightfoot, the case is weak. He admits that there is no existing usage to justify the "idiomatic" reading, so he looks instead to the apparently idiomatic sense of a different expression, ἃρπαγμα ἡγεἶσθαι. Still a fudge.

What do you think about Baur's interpretation of the text as gnostic? The docetic overtones of verse 7 support this.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:57 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:24 pm
Judging from Lightfoot, the case is weak. He admits that there is no existing usage to justify the "idiomatic" reading, so he looks instead to the apparently idiomatic sense of a different expression, ἃρπαγμα ἡγεἶσθαι. Still a fudge.
Does "a sandwich short of a picnic" fail to qualify as an idiom just because some people prefer to say "a few sandwiches short of a picnic," while others speak of being "a few cards short of a deck," and still others speak of sixpence and shillings or of slices and loaves?

Besides, Hoover talks about that issue in his article. There is more to the idiom than just the one exact configuration of words.
What do you think about Baur's interpretation of the text as gnostic? The docetic overtones of verse 7 support this.
I personally see no gnosticism in the passage (unless you think that the idea of a descending and ascending figure is itself already gnostic, which I do not). I potentially see a lot of docetism.

I find discussions of what is gnostic and what is not to be mostly useless and always tiresome. I prefer to just define the term specifically for the conversation at hand, since it is not one that everybody agrees on.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:50 pm

I doubt very much that "gnostic" was used in the second century in the way we use it today.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Irish1975 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:11 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:57 pm
I find discussions of what is gnostic and what is not to be mostly useless and always tiresome. I prefer to just define the term specifically for the conversation at hand, since it is not one that everybody agrees on.
Secret Alias wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:50 pm
I doubt very much that "gnostic" was used in the second century in the way we use it today.
1) The idea of there being (or contingently not being) a ἁρπαγμὸν within the Godhead does not sit easily with Judaic creation theology. As I mentioned above, Baur's suggestion is that this idea may derive from a version of the myth of the fall of Sophia, the lowest aeon who had emanated from the unknowable One.
In most versions of the Gnostic mythos, it is Sophia who brings about this instability in the Pleroma, in turn bringing about the creation of materiality. According to some Gnostic texts, the crisis occurs as a result of Sophia trying to emanate without her syzygy or, in another tradition, because she tries to breach the barrier between herself and the unknowable Bythos. (Wikipedia)
2) The docetism of Ph 2:7 at least suggests a connection to the theology of texts such as the gospels of Peter, Philip, Judas, and Basilides, and other (sorry) "gnostic" texts, which contain docetic elements.

I haven't made up my mind about this argument but it does seem worthy of consideration.
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Re: Philippians 2.5-11, Romans 13.1-7, and 1 Peter 2.13-24 revisited.

Post by Irish1975 » Sat Jul 13, 2019 2:51 pm


What an extraordinary conception it is that Christ, though he was in the form of God, did not count it robbery, or, to give the words their exact grammatical force, did not think that he must make it the object of an actus rapiendi, to be equal with God. If he was God already, how could he wish to become what he was already? But if he was not equal with God, what an eccentric and perverted and self-contradictory thought it must have been, to become equal with God!

...Though Christ did not proceed to such an act of rapacity and arrogance, yet it seems it was possible to him, not morally indeed, but abstractly. How is this to be explained? ...It is a well-known Gnostic representation, that in one of the aeons, the last of the series of them, the Gnostic Sophia, there arose the passionate, eccentric, and unnatural desire to penetrate forcibly into the essence of the All-father, in order to connect herself directly with him the absolute, and to become one with him. This desire is described as a προάλλεσθαι, a darting forward, as a rash and passionate striving, as a τολμὴ, a bold and violent attempt (Irenaeus AH 1.2.2). This whole act, and what it aims at accomplishing, is a thing purely spiritual. Sophia wished, as the Gnostics expressed it, to associate herself with the father, the absolutely Perfect, and to take up into herself spiritually his greatness, his absolute essence. This amounts to such an identity with God the Absolute, as is conveyed by the expression of our epistle, to be equal with God, and only this consideration, that, according to the original Gnostic conception of it, the act was a purely spiritual one, makes it intelligible how our epistle comes to speak of such a self-contradictory attempt as εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ.

...What, we must ask, was Christ, if, while existing in the form of God, he yet possessed the divine glory only in potency, if, though actually God, he yet was not God?

...With the Gnostics the ἁρπαγμὸς (robbery) is a thing that actually takes place, but by its unnaturalness comes to an end without spreading further, and has merely negative consequences. In the epistle, however, there is a moral self-determination, which stops short of such a robbery. It is not, in this case, that the action has failed, but that it has not taken place at all: there is a voluntary renunciation and self-abasement, and instead of the Gnostic fall into the kenoma we have a self-kenosis.

...We have a right to conclude that the statement has reference to, and is occasioned by, some previous speculation. The statement could not otherwise have been made, at least in the form in which we find it.

F.C. Baur, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, Vol. 2, pp. 46-49.

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