did paul kill christians?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
moses
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:34 am

did paul kill christians?

Post by moses » Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am

when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?

robert j
Posts: 747
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:01 pm

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by robert j » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:28 am

moses wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am
when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?
The Greek word Paul uses here is ἐδίωκον/διώκω (I was pursuing or persecuting/I pursue or I persecute). The term can men to pursue, chase away, or persecute. The word itself can be used to pursue love, or to pursue a faith and try to destroy it. But the concept of violence is not inherent. The post below from another thread provides more elaboration on the verse in Galatians (1:13).

robert j wrote:
Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:47 pm
outhouse wrote:
robert j wrote: (referring to some translations of Gal 1:13) where the term "violently" has been inserted. "Violently" does not occur in the Greek text
I don't think any persecutions have ever been listed that were not violent.
Yes, Galatians 1:13 describes Paul's pursuing as extreme, and he claims that he was "endeavoring to destroy", but that does not necessarily imply violence for certainly one can endeavor to destroy ideas, doctrines, and beliefs with rhetoric. That could include impassioned arguments or casting aspersions --- but physical violence is not specified.

Your comment and question here focus on the "persecution". The Greek word Paul uses here is ἐδίωκον/διώκω (I was pursuing or persecuting/I pursue or I persecute). The term itself as used by Paul does not necessarily imply violence. For examples ---

See that no one has repaid to anyone evil for evil, but always pursue (διώκετε) the good also toward one another and toward all. (1 Thessalonians 5:15)


Earnestly pursue (διώκετε) love, and earnestly desire spiritual gifts, and especially that you might prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)

So the word itself can be used to pursue love, or to pursue a faith and try to destroy it. But the concept of violence is not inherent.

Without the "traditions" in Acts in mind, there is no real justification for inserting the word "violently" into the translation of Galatians 1:13.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 7572
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:53 am

moses wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am
when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?
Robert is correct about the range of meanings, both literal and metaphorical, for the Greek word διώκω ("pursue"). On the other hand, adding καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν ("beyond measure" or "to extremes") and πορθέω ("destroy") also sound like they might be the words of a man who does not want the reader to understand διώκω in one of its tamer senses. Acts 9.21 may not be a misunderstanding of the verb πορθέω, which it uses of Paul's activities. For my money, at least so far, a nonviolent interpretation of Galatians 1.13 is possible, but a violent interpretation is more probable. (This is not quite the same thing as saying, necessarily, that Paul actually did employ violence against the churches; his actions may in fact have been more measured, but he may want the Galatians to understand them as violent.)
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

robert j
Posts: 747
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:01 pm

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by robert j » Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:43 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:53 am
moses wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am
when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?
Robert is correct about the range of meanings, both literal and metaphorical, for the Greek word διώκω ("pursue"). On the other hand, adding καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν ("beyond measure" or "to extremes") and πορθέω ("destroy") also sound like they might be the words of a man who does not want the reader to understand διώκω in one of its tamer senses. Acts 9.21 may not be a misunderstanding of the verb πορθέω, which it uses of Paul's activities. For my money, at least so far, a nonviolent interpretation of Galatians 1.13 is possible, but a violent interpretation is more probable. (This is not quite the same thing as saying, necessarily, that Paul actually did employ violence against the churches; his actions may in fact have been more measured, but he may want the Galatians to understand them as violent.)
I agree that we don't know exactly what Paul intended here. Prior to his calling by God by means of revelation, Paul may have wanted the audience to think that he pursued the faith in extreme measure and tried to destroy it with impassioned rhetoric, or he may have intended to imply violence. I doubt we will ever know.

The earlier post that I cited above was an issue of translation. Some Bible translators insert the term "violently" in Galatians 1:13. That term is not in the Greek texts. I don't think that insertion is appropriate because it biases the verse in a direction that is not at all certain. Such is better left for commentary and opinion.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 7572
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:59 am

robert j wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:43 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:53 am
moses wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am
when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?
Robert is correct about the range of meanings, both literal and metaphorical, for the Greek word διώκω ("pursue"). On the other hand, adding καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν ("beyond measure" or "to extremes") and πορθέω ("destroy") also sound like they might be the words of a man who does not want the reader to understand διώκω in one of its tamer senses. Acts 9.21 may not be a misunderstanding of the verb πορθέω, which it uses of Paul's activities. For my money, at least so far, a nonviolent interpretation of Galatians 1.13 is possible, but a violent interpretation is more probable. (This is not quite the same thing as saying, necessarily, that Paul actually did employ violence against the churches; his actions may in fact have been more measured, but he may want the Galatians to understand them as violent.)
I agree that we don't know exactly what Paul intended here. Prior to his calling by God by means of revelation, Paul may have wanted the audience to think that he pursued the faith in extreme measure and tried to destroy it with impassioned rhetoric, or he may have intended to imply violence. I doubt we will ever know.

The earlier post that I cited above was an issue of translation. Some Bible translators insert the term "violently" in Galatians 1:13. That term is not in the Greek texts. I don't think that insertion is appropriate because it biases the verse in a direction that is not at all certain. Such is better left for commentary and opinion.
I agree with that.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

Ulan
Posts: 1326
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2014 3:58 am

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Ulan » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:14 am

I always wondered what kind of authorization to exert violence he would have actually had. Being part of a mob? Some formal hearing in a synagogue?

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12215
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:15 am

I always took the claims of Acts as a re-spinning of something historical. The Christian 'apostle' was associated with some sort of history of persecuting Christians. Beyond that who knows.
Last edited by Secret Alias on Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“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

User avatar
Giuseppe
Posts: 7660
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Aug 30, 2018 11:32 am

Martin Luther "persecuted" the Church simply by his preaching.

Could Paul the Apostle be cast in a pre-Christian persecutor only because he, as Christian, was too much disturbing for other Christians and in the same time too much useful?

Perennial thanks to Roger Parvus for this sight.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

Stuart
Posts: 584
Joined: Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:24 am
Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Stuart » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:37 pm

moses wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 5:26 am
when paul said he persecuted christians does he mean he killed them ? what does the word which is translated "persecuted " mean in greek? is "persecuted" wrong translation? could it simply mean chase away ?
It's not a wrong translation, rather it's a case of the word changing meaning, in a similar way as martyr which in the NT simply means witness -- the additional attribute of dying for the faith is likely first considered in the Decian persecution in 250 AD. Most translations use witness for marytyr, recognizing the word is now "loaded."

Act 13:50 probably has the best sense of the word διωγμός (or διώκω). The word basically means to harass, to chase away, to pursue. Sort of like left wingers on campus interrupting speakers they don't like, harassing them, driving them off campus.

However we today invest additional meaning in it, more along the lines of the Spanish inquisition. That is to hunt down and deny basic rights to people even killing them. Today the best example if probably in Turkey with the persecution of the Gulanists, although China's treatment of the Uigher's is definitely heading in that direction. This is another term which likely changed meaning in Christian eyes during the Diocletian persecution although perhaps the change started during the Decian.

Acts 22:4 is the one verse where the association might appear to be with the more modern sense and implicating Paul. But actually I think that may be a wrong reading. The words "harass" or "pursue" work better. My translation of 22:4

"I pursued 'this Way' until death, binding and delivering up into prison both men and women."

It is the movement which he pursued/harassed to try and metaphorically kill it off. "until" (ἄχρι) is close to "the start" or "the beginning" (ἀρχὴ). Speculation on my part, but perhaps ἄχρι θανάτου might be a phrase similar to our "start to finish" or more literally "until death" as in the marriage vow. He is basically saying he pursued members of "this Way" (saying it in a condescending manner, like you might say "this Rasta thing" -- no offense to Rastafarians) with the vigor of man who was making it his lifetime passion. He is delivering people up to prison, not to death.

But of course Paul is a fiction here, a legendary hero, or rather a literary character the author of Acts is feeding some dialogue. As a literary character he can do pretty much anything, even do magical things.

Anyway, the answer is words changed meaning between the 1st and 4th century, especially in context to how Christians read it, and consequently how we read it.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

User avatar
Secret Alias
Posts: 12215
Joined: Sun Apr 19, 2015 8:47 am

Re: did paul kill christians?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:43 pm

There's nothing wrong with the translation 'persecute.' Look at Epiphanius:

“Josephus was not only privileged to become a faithful Christian, but a despiser of Arians as well. In that city, Scythopolis, he was the only orthodox Christian – they were all Arian. Had it not been that he was a count and the rank of count protected him from Arian persecution, he could not even have undertaken to live in the town (οὐκ ἂν ὑπέστη κἂν ἐν τῇ πόλει διατρίβειν), especially while Patrophilus was the Arian bishop. Patroophilus was very influential because of his wealth and severity, and his familiar acquaintance with the Emperor Constantius. But there was another, younger man in town too, an orthodox believer of Jewish parentage. He did not even dare to associate with me in public, though he used to visit us secretly.” Epiph., pan. haer. 30,5,5f. (GCS 31, 340,9–14 Holl): ἦν γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ οὐ 1όνον Χριστιανὸς πιστὸς καταξιωθεὶς γενέσθαι, ἀλλὰ καὶ Ἀρειανοὺς σφόδρα στηλιτεύων. ἐν γὰρ τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ, Σκυθοπόλει φη1ί, 1όνος οὗτος ὀρθόδοξος ὑπῆρχεν, πάντες δὲ Ἀρειανοί. καὶ εἰ 1ὴ ὅτι κό1ης ἦν καὶ τὸ τοῦ κό1ητος ἀξίω1α ἐκώλυεν ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὸν τῶν Ἀρειανῶν διωγ1όν, [ἐπεὶ] οὐκ ἂν ὑπέστη κἂν ἐν τῇ πόλει διατρίβειν ὁ ἀνήρ, 1άλιστα ἐπὶ Πατροφίλου τοῦ Ἀρειανοῦ ἐπισκόπου τοῦ πολλὰ ἰσχύσαντος πλούτῳ τε καὶ αὐτοῦ Ἀρειανοῦ ἐπισκόπου τοῦ πολλὰ ἰσχύσαντος πλούτῳ 3
“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

Post Reply