What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

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Paul the Uncertain
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What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:17 am

Galatians 1:19 (Paul's meetings with Cephas and James) is seen, along with the received mention of James in Antiquities, as a slam-dunk by some historicists. If Paul met Jesus' brother, and then years later Josephus crossed paths with him, then James' brother Jesus was a historical person.

The Antiquities mention is fairly straightforward to defang, because it so obviously depends on a misrecollection by Origen which was accepted by Eusebius and Jerome. Centuries passed, and by golly, the Origen-Eusebius-Jerome version became the only version there is.

Paul's a tougher nut to crack. Papyrus P46 (dated 150-250 CE) and those "earliest and best" manuscripts (looking like Fourth Century) agree about Paul having used the epithet. Although Paul's "...none - except James..." phrasing may seem awkward to some modern readers and therefore suspicious of being a later addition, Paul often uses similar figures of speech, pretended second thoughts.

None of that rules out interpolation, but there's not much foundation for it, either. Hitchens' Razor isn't just for the impious: what can be proposed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence, this time dismissed by the historicists.

That leaves interpretation as the discussable avenue for assessing the force of the evidence. There are plenty of interpretations: kinship readings, non-kinship but still face-to-face religious relationships and - keeping the mythicists in the game - religious relationships that aren't face-to-face.

https://uncertaintist.wordpress.com/201 ... and-james/

Spoiler alert: I don't even bother with Carrier's "brothers of the Lord = brothers = fellow Christians" I'd award that round to James McGrath and move on. It's fair game in the thread, of course. I also omitted the intriguing interpretation by Origen in Against Celsus (1.47). Even though he himself believed that James and Jesus were kin (of some sort), Origen proposed that Paul was referring to a similarity of "virtue and doctrine" between James and Jesus.

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Secret Alias
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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:28 am

Paul often uses similar figures of speech, pretended second thoughts
Because they are 'second thoughts' of a later editor - cf. 'I am talking like a madman.' If you're really insane you don't know you're insane. If you have episodal insanity I can't imagine that it last until you've gone to the store bought stamps an envelope and postage and then mailed your letter. This sort of stuff starts sounding like the 'crazy' that comes from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. It's just bullshit re-editing from Rome from a later period. We know the Pauline letters were shorter and longer. We know Ignatius came in the short, long and longer variety. 1 Clement contains massive re-editing from the heretical stuff in 2 Clement was mostly removed and made to sound more orthodox. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by robert j » Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:18 pm

I lean to the placement, then insertion, of a marginal note --- “the brother of the Lord” ---in Galatians 1:19 by early and confused scribes as the most likely solution here.

There are no extant MSS variants lacking the phrase, but that is certainly not dispositive. Other related MSS variants in Galatians lend evidence of such activity.

By the time these scribal notes were made, the scribes would have been well versed in the stories and traditions in the NT Gospels and Acts. Reading Paul through the lens of these traditions would certainly have raised questions and caused confusion.

For example, I think in the original composition of Galatians it was all Cephas. In the extant MSS, the occurrences of the names Cephas/Peter is a mixed bag. In 4 of the 6 locations of the name(s) in Galatians some MSS have Cephas and some have Peter. However, in the continuing statements in Galatians 2:8 and 2:9, all the extant MSS have Peter. I suspect the change from Cephas to Peter began in this location as a scribal notation in the margin, by a confused scribe, that eventually was incorporated into the text. The other changes of the name to Peter in some MSS likely resulted from the same process.

In addition, in some MSS, the order of the 3 pillars in Galatians 2:9 was changed from “James, Cephas/Peter, and John” to “Peter, James and John”. I suspect scribal initiative here to give greater “primacy” to Peter over James.

In similar fashion, with all the various “James” characters found in the NT, it is certainly a distinct possibility that a confused scribe entered a marginal note in Galatians 1:19 in an attempt to more clearly identify that James, and to distinguish that James from the James of the pillars. I think few would argue against the concept that marginal notes in early MSS sometimes became incorporated into the text.

In full disclosure, I have been more seriously considering the phrase in Galatians 1:19 originating as a marginal note for some time now, but just this morning put some terms into my search engine and came across this 2016 post in Vridar, and have to admit that my discussion here was influenced by having just read this article ---

https://vridar.org/2016/01/16/the-funct ... tians-119/

That said --- not that I have many significant issues with the article --- I have no intention of defending the various discussions in the article itself, beyond the concepts I presented above.

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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by robert j » Tue Feb 19, 2019 5:09 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:28 am
(Responding to ‘Paul the Uncertain’)
Paul often uses similar figures of speech, pretended second thoughts
Because they are 'second thoughts' of a later editor ...

... It's just bullshit re-editing from Rome from a later period ... We know Ignatius came in the short, long and longer variety. 1 Clement contains massive re-editing from the heretical stuff in 2 Clement was mostly removed and made to sound more orthodox. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Recently you asked in another thread how common ground might be found among disparate theories in early Christian studies. I think finding common ground is very difficult when very different basic assumptions are in play. I rarely get involved in extended discussions with you (and some others) primarily because we hold very different basic assumptions --- it’s a recipe for frustration. At least we agree that trying to construct Marcionite versions of Paul’s letters from the writings of the Patristics is an effort in futility --- in your own words, like using “comic books to develop a history of the 20th century”.

Recognizing that you are likely to find little if any of the following convincing, here goes anyway. Your examples of Ignatius and Clement (of Rome) involve later texts compared to Paul. I would hold that the letters by the earlier Paul --- the “apostle of the heretics” --- were adequately spread around the eastern Mediterranean region by the time Marcion put the letters in-play with his canon such that the early catholics were forced to address them and to accept them.

After Paul died or retired, followers wrote follow-up letters (the Deutero-Paulines) that show significant evolution of Paul’s soteriology in response to the passage of time. As more time went by, the Pauline-friendly letters 1 and 2 Peter were composed to appeal to Pauline oriented groups in Asia Minor. Acts of the Apostles tamed Paul into a good little catholic.

The heretics didn’t just spring from holes in the ground fully formed in the early 2nd century. The evolution of such thought took time, and the Valentinians, the Marcionites, and likely others used Paul’s letters extensively in developing their systems. Had the early catholics made extensive revisions to those treasured letters, such would have likely only served to further alienate prospective patrons.

The Western Irenaeus and Tertullian attacked the Marcionites for “butchering” Paul’s letters in their over-the-top polemics. But their more philosophical Eastern contemporary Clement of Alexandria --- in his very lengthy Stromata --- accused the heretics of selective readings of the scriptures, but never once accused the heretics of altering or deleting material from the letters of his “beloved apostle” Paul.

Paul’s letters are certainly not pristine, and likely contain some incorporated marginal notes, some scribal initiative here and there, copying errors, early catholic interpolations at the beginning and ending (chapters 1 and 15) of the flag-ship letter Romans, and perhaps a few other interpolations. But, how could Paul’s letters have escaped extensive editing by the early catholics? They were stuck with them as-is, and needed them to hope to win-over the very prospective patrons that already treasured those letters.

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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:56 am

@Secret Alias

On the overall authenticity question, it may be so, but in the absence of dispositive evidence that it is so, nobody can complain that discussion continues on the assumption that it isn't so. Those are the rules of the game.

On a point arising, consider caution about the folk-psychiatry maxim that if somebody were "really" insane, they'd not think so. Insane people are crazy, not stupid.

Thank you, though, for impelling me to locate an example of the figure of speech from a work that wasn't inducted into the New Testament. Odyssey book I, lines 19-20 in Tufts' online version:
.. The gods had now begun to pity him, all
... θεοὶ δ᾽ ἐλέαιρον ἅπαντες

except Poseidon ...
νόσφι Ποσειδάωνος ...
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... 99.01.0135


@robert j

I don't follow what the marginal note adds to the underlying hypothesis that "Paul didn't write this." A more specific hypothesis is never more credible than the more general ones that it implies. This cost in credibility is not incurred to explain the evidence better, since the marginal note isn't in evidence.

As an example of how an amendment might have happened, that's fine, but as the hypothesis of choice? As I say, I don't follow the attraction.

I am unsure that the Cephas-became-Peter phenomenon is strongly analogous. Gawdnose that the scribes felt little obligation to practice word-for-word fidelity to their exemplars, much less character-for-character. With or without a marginal note, if a scribe has been commissioned to produce a Greek language manuscript, and finds non-Greek words in his exemplar, then it isn't obvious that he'd lack the authority to make them Greek within the scope of his commission.

Plus, if there were marginal notes, then their significance here may be different than elsewhere. It's not just that a scribe might "confuse" an explanatory note for a correction to the body text. He might take the marginal note as a valid editorial suggestion from a reader (that is, a member of his audience). "This is a Greek document, and as a reader of Greek, I'd rather lose the cutesy local color and call the guy what Greek speakers call him, not what he may have called himelf in his own tongue."

I'm also more with Tim on the order of the pillars. Whether or not they are the same people in both works, Mark made a "wedded triple" of the names Peter, James and John, in that order. Whether or not some scribe cared to give Peter the Purported Pillar more prominence, any literate Christian may well have "thought" the more familiar triple when presented with the less familiar one, or even experienced a cringe of "That doesn't sound right; but I know how to fix it" - without ever reaching the question of why one sounded better than the other.

I confess my fondness for the heuristic "Be reluctant to attribute to malice what can be explained equally well by incompetence."

@robert j

Perhaps like you, I am generally skeptical of shenanigan interpolation theories. It's often easier to write a new "genuine letter" than retrofit an existing one (the lesson of the Pastorals). Besides, Paul uses more than enough figurative language and undefined terms of art that readers have broad latitude in finding in Paul what they bring to him.

Like brothers of the Lord :) .

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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Feb 20, 2019 7:03 am

The heretics didn’t just spring from holes in the ground fully formed in the early 2nd century. The evolution of such thought took time, and the Valentinians, the Marcionites, and likely others used Paul’s letters extensively in developing their systems. Had the early catholics made extensive revisions to those treasured letters, such would have likely only served to further alienate prospective patrons.
But genius's rarely emerge from the middle. The idea that Paul was 'normal' or normative in any way is difficult for me to swallow. I am not saying that the heretics are right and the orthodoxy wrong out of spite or out of any particular love for extremists. But modern musical geniuses tend to be on the fringe. Modern 'titans of industry' tend to have a 'screw loose' and exhibit anti-social behavior or at least eschew modern morality. The way I look at it, we have two choices given the frequent reports of (a) an association with extremism and (b) editorial changes to his writings and those who comment on his writings (= the second century Church Fathers). Either Paul was in the middle and drawn to the extreme by extremists attracted to his writings or he was a successful extremist (viz. his religion spread like wildfire) who was dragged to the middle by a concerted effort of the Roman state and rich patrons who got involved in his extremist religion i.e. that the government, like George Bush's 'good Islam' (i.e. Islam which accepts American hegemony) chose to recognize or favor a form of Christianity which espoused bourgeois values and punish those who rejected the newly accepted religion. Of course I accept the second proposition because it is what happens time and again in history.

To me, the question of whether Jesus had brothers can't be viewed strictly in terms of textual criticism. The question goes back to the binary choice which essentially comes down to - did the Roman state act as a modern liberal regime in the West i.e. as an observer rather than getting directly involved in the controversies. Or did it - in the manner of a totalitarian regime - favor one side or the other in the ancient Christian debate. I think that because we all grew up in a liberal democracy we just assume that our air was their air. In other words, that the world and world history was a continuum. We had religious freedom, the ancient Roman Empire had religious freedom. I happen to think this is a stupid point of view, though perhaps I am somewhat biased in the sense that my father and mother grew up in the shadow of a totalitarian regime. In other words, I am less prone to the perpetuation of liberal democracy into the stone age argument that many pampered North Americans have.

To me, it makes perfect sense that as long as Christianity remained an unseen underground religion that it could do as it pleased. That any tampering with texts occurred naturally and this situation led to dozens of gospels floating around with slight to moderate changes made by unscrupulous scribes. However by the time of the 172 revolts in Alexandria I am quite certain that things changed. The attitude of the Roman state to Christianity changed and an effort to codify the dozen collections of Christian writings into one 'above ground' collection took place. It was in this environment that a fourfold gospel as one gospel emerged. The fourfold-ness clearly testifying to its lateness and its compromise. I don't think that the Roman government was directly involved in this process. I don't think a minister of the government 'supervised' things. But something like Julia Domna's philosophical circle 'encouraged' the process. The editor or editors knew key people in the government. When Marcia for instance rescued the future Pope Callixtus from the mines c. 187 - 189 CE this was part of an effort to help establish a favorable ecclesiastic climate. Callixtus is the key.

From 188 CE to 222 CE an Imperial collaborator was behind the scenes guiding Victor's efforts to align the calculation of Easter and the Roman obsession with establishing the date of Jesus's birth day as the day of the Sun found traditionally in Syrian worship. We see this latter struggle continue to manifest itself in the fifth century (i.e. between Pope Julius I and the eastern churches). The Severans were particularly attracted to this religion of the Syrian sun god. The coincidence is too unlikely that the decision to venerate the 25th of December came independent of an Imperial 'wish.' The canon fits somewhere in the middle. Given that Jesus could not wholly assimilated with the sun god a demigod Jesus half human/half divine was preferable to what the heresies preached. Why? Because IMHO the religion of the Sun God was centrally about monarchianism (or is it 'monarchism' I never know) and an attempt - tacitly or otherwise - to assimilate all religions into the Imperial cult. The Emperor was god and quite naturally a sun god. Having Jesus a god who wasn't a sun god implied that there was another besides the one true ruler of the universe and this 'resistance' was tantamount to rebellion.

To this end, I think that it was better to encourage the establishment of a Jesus with brothers than a Jesus who was a god who was not the Sun God, who could not be easily assimilated with the Imperial cult. So it was encouraged and the manuscripts rewritten, likely at the end of the second century. Perhaps alternatively it was done under the influence of Commodus's obsession with Hercules. I don't really know. But I think it is folly to assume that these things came about 'naturally' - i.e. that Jesus was always a guy with brothers.
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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:03 am

Now with regards to the broader question - i.e. how do we proceed given that many are both accepting and skeptical that the received material is an authentic representation of the original canon - as I said earlier I really don't know. Part of me says, just stay out of the discussion of those who suppose that the Imperial government had no role in determining the outcome. I tend to adhere to that protocol. But as you can see I am rather unpredictable and undisciplined. And in case you feel the Imperial government had no role in punishing unwanted sects EVER - https://brill.com/view/journals/jsj/20/ ... p97_13.xml
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by robert j » Wed Feb 20, 2019 12:47 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:17 am
... That leaves interpretation as the discussable avenue for assessing the force of the evidence. There are plenty of interpretations: kinship readings, non-kinship but still face-to-face religious relationships and - keeping the mythicists in the game - religious relationships that aren't face-to-face.

... I don't even bother with Carrier's "brothers of the Lord = brothers = fellow Christians" ... '

... I also omitted the intriguing interpretation by Origen in Against Celsus (1.47). Even though he himself believed that James and Jesus were kin (of some sort) ...
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:56 am
... Besides, Paul uses more than enough figurative language and undefined terms of art that readers have broad latitude in finding in Paul what they bring to him.

Like brothers of the Lord :) .
I do lean towards the idea of an incorporated marginal note --- arising from scribal confusion over all the various “James” characters in the NT --- as the most likely solution.

However, I certainly don’t reject the possibility that Paul wrote the phrase as-it-stands, and not at all intending to specify a biological brother of Jesus. You seem inclined to accept that broader interpretation (correct me if I'm wrong on that), but have rejected some explanations for why Paul would have used that phrase in that non-sibling context.

I haven’t seen your explanation for why Paul might have used that phrase other than, “figurative language and undefined terms of art that readers have broad latitude in finding in Paul what they bring to him.” Is that as far as you are willing to go in providing a rational for the phrase in question?

In my understanding of Paul, it was not his intention to allow his intended readers to "have broad latitude in finding ... what they bring to him". That strikes me as what a Pauline apologist might say to explain the existence of widely divergent interpretations of the letters. Paul wanted his readers to accept his authority and to find in his letters just exactly what he wanted them to find. Not that he always succeeded --- nor that we modern readers can always readily figure it out.

ETA : I responded to the body of your post, not whatever might be in the link.
Last edited by robert j on Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by Stuart » Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:47 pm

Brother meant more or less what it means today when ecclesiastical people greet and speak of each other casually rather than by title ("brother Stephen" rather than "minister" or "elder" or "bishop" or some such). A believer of official status, such as a monk, nun, priest, minister, bishop, rector or elder.

There seems to have been two general classes of Christians in the early "church". Those of standing (ἀδελφός) and those of the assembly (ἐκκλησία) or general members of the faith (πιστός). I would not read much more into it than Paul recognizing the status of recognized official. Onisemus is an example, although using the language of slavery of somebody Paul is asking to be considered an official, a brother.

Related Note: Bishop (overseer) seems to have started as roughly the same as Apostle, which looks like it was synonymous with sect leader. Only later did it come to mean the appointed leader of a specific main church (Synagogue being the physical building in Greek in the early era of the church) and ipso facto the leader of the smaller churches in it's region -- this is similar today, you can really see it functioning in Peru during Corpus Christi celebration, when all the small churches of the countryside bring their main relic and it's alter on a float to the main cathedral. But this bishop role developed later when the church was more formal, certainly not in the early layers of Paul which were written during the early evangelical stages of the church.
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Re: What did Paul mean by brother(s) of the Lord?

Post by John2 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 4:38 pm

Stuart wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 2:47 pm
Brother meant more or less what it means today when ecclesiastical people greet and speak of each other casually rather than by title ("brother Stephen" rather than "minister" or "elder" or "bishop" or some such). A believer of official status, such as a monk, nun, priest, minister, bishop, rector or elder.

There seems to have been two general classes of Christians in the early "church". Those of standing (ἀδελφός) and those of the assembly (ἐκκλησία) or general members of the faith (πιστός). I would not read much more into it than Paul recognizing the status of recognized official. Onisemus is an example, although using the language of slavery of somebody Paul is asking to be considered an official, a brother.
Okay, but the "brother" James in Galatians was powerful enough to send others to Antioch and convince Cephas and other Jews (and "even Barnabas") to stop eating with Gentiles.

Gal. 2:12-13:
For before certain men came from James, he [Cephas] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself, for fear of those in the circumcision group. The other Jews joined in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
That seems like a lot of power for someone who was a "brother" in the casual sense that you see it.
Related Note: Bishop (overseer) seems to have started as roughly the same as Apostle, which looks like it was synonymous with sect leader. Only later did it come to mean the appointed leader of a specific main church ...
The term bishop (or it's Hebrew equivalent mebaqqer) is used in the Damascus Document to describe a leader of the sect, as Chilton, for example, notes here:
That term in fact means "overseer," just as episkopos does, and the mebaqqer was charged to do many of the same things that an episkopos was to do...

As Jermemias points out, comparisons are made between the mebaqqer and a father and shepherd (Damascus Document 13:9); he does not mention, but the point is worth making, that Christ himself is said to be an episkopos, to care as a shepherd does in bringing us to God [1 Peter 2:25] ... Divine care and the institution of the overseer appear to have been linked in both Essene theology and primitive Christianity.

https://books.google.com/books?id=YS_d3 ... op&f=false
Last edited by John2 on Wed Feb 20, 2019 6:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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