Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:33 am

As most of you I am sure by now know, I have been playing around with an idea that the apostle Paul may have been involved in the civil wars that took place in the eastern Mediterranean during the 1st century BCE. Certain passages in his authentic letters seem to lend support to this general piece of speculation. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 come to mind. viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5446

I further speculate that of Paul’s letters, passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Romans might reflect some of the conflicts taking place in Greece, Macedonia, and Asia (the area to the east of Syria not the Roman province in Asia Minor) from the time of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey in 48 BCE to after the civil war between Octavian and Mark Antony. I believe for instance that Romans might have been written in the interval between the battle at Actium in 31 BCE to towards the end of the Cantabrian wars in 19 BCE with the cover letter being written perhaps between 23-17 BCE.

To illustrate this I propose the following.

1: Paul was perhaps present at the battle of Dyrrachium in Illyricum on the side of Pompey in 48 BCE. Possibly as an auxiliary or even perhaps as a mercenary. What happened to him after the battle at Pharsalus being unknown.

2: Paul was again, perhaps, present at the battle of Philippi in Macedonia on the side of Brutus and Cassius during the Liberators war of 43-42 BCE. He may have been interned at Thessalonika for a while after the war and then perhaps ended up in Philippi, Troas, Corinth or Athens.

3: Paul may have taken part in Mark Antony’s invasion of Parthia in Asia in 37 BCE.

4: Paul may have been at Actium on the side of Mark Antony in 31 BCE. Returning to Athens or perhaps Corinth after the war.

5: And finally, Paul may have been trying to participate in the Cantabrian wars which spanned from 29 to 19 BCE.

I also subscribe to the idea that some of Paul’s authentic letters are actually compilations of smaller letter collections, Philippians being perhaps three smaller letters, 1 Thessalonians being two, 1 Corinthians being five, and 2 Corinthians being five as well. viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3487&start=90#p100479

Here is what I would like to advance as possible evidence.

The Pauline passage: Romans 15:19 “by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of God's Spirit; so that from Ierousalem, and around as far as to Illyrikou, I have fully preached the Announcement of Christou” may be a reference to the battle of Dyrrachium in 48 BCE where Pompey had client kingdom auxiliary troops and mercenaries from as far away as Judea and Egypt bulking up his army. This would have given Paul a very good reason to have been in Illyricum as a combatant in the 1st century BCE as opposed to very little good reason to be there in the 1st century CE.
What happened to these non-Roman troops after Pompey was defeated at Pharsalus is unknown, however the auxiliaries from client kings were probably allowed to return back to their points of origin and the mercenaries were either absorbed into Caesar’s army or were cut loose to fend for themselves or enslaved (the first and third being more likely with the third most likely I would think). If Paul was at Pharsalus when Pompey was defeated then he may very well have ended up in Athens and perhaps Corinth when it was established as a veteran colony in 44 BCE. If not as a slave then perhaps as a laborer for hire as opportunity must have been good for this at the time. Although the possibility of his being part of Caesar’s military can’t be totally ruled out.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE Brutus and Cassius fled to the east to raise armies. Again, the Liberators relied heavily on eastern client kingdom auxiliaries and mercenaries for troop manpower. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 may possibly be a reference to Paul being at Philippi under Brutus during this conflict. viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5446#p100923
When this war was concluded, Paul may have found himself in Thessalonika and may have sent Philippians 1:1-3:1 at this time to the newly formed veteran colony at Philippi. viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3487&sid=c5599e8ca1 ... 70#p100175

Is it possible I wonder, that Paul and other non-Roman, non client king auxiliary combatants that fought for Brutus and Cassius might have been interned at Thessalonika (the administrative capital of Macedonia) as POW’s after the conflict? It seems to me that colonies like Corinth, Philippi, and Troas would have been very labor intensive and in need of a large slave population, at least at first.
Would Brutus and Cassius have offered freedom to, or just outright bought, military eligible slaves in the newly created colony of Corinth to help build their armies? Was Paul a slave in Corinth following the civil war between Caesar and Pompey? Pure speculation of course, I just wonder if anything in Paul’s letters might indicate that something like this had taken place.

Mark Antony’s invasion of Parthia in Asia in 37 BCE.
Aside from the passage in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5446#p100895 I really have nothing. All that I can really say is that Paul uses the word Asia without any indication that it might be the Roman province of Asia that he is talking about and the wording that he uses for his situation is much more grim than one would expect if he were just talking about getting roughed up by locals in Asia Minor.

I really have nothing for Paul perhaps being at Actium as well. It just seems that if Paul were indeed a freelance soldier that Antony’s Parthian and later Armenian campaigns as well as the fight against Octavian would have been ideal ways for him to make a living. With Actium at least it seems that Antony would have wanted every soldier that he could have rounded up to beef up his forces against Octavian. Free or otherwise.
Again, pure speculation.

With Paul’s possible attempt to participate in the Cantrabrian wars in Spain after Actiun I may be on firmer ground with the passage in Romans 15:23-24 “Therefore also I was hindered these many times from coming to you, but now, no longer having any place in these regions, and having these many years a longing to come to you, whenever I journey to Spanian, I will come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if I may be replenished by you first”.
With the disbanding of large parts of the armies of Antony and Octivian after Actium, and the general peace in the east, opportunities for mercenaries in the east must have become somewhat scarce. The conflicts in Spain must have seemed the only real chance a freelance fighter might have left to ply his trade.
A flaw in this reasoning however is that Paul seems to just have acquired monies from Macedonia and Achaia with plans to go to Jerusalem with it.
Another problem with Romans 15:19 and 15:23-24 is that there is a chance that chapter 15 may not originally have been part of Romans written by Paul.
One interesting thing however is that in Romans chapter 16 Paul says “Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus” followed by “Greet Herodion, my kinsman”. The sons of Herod the Great were in Rome between 23-17 BCE for their education. So if it is family members of Herod that Paul is mentioning we could narrow the composition of at least the cover letter to when they were in Rome (wouldn’t that be nice). However Aristobulus, while favored as a name by the Hasmoneans and Herodians, was a common Greek name, and no one seems to know who Herodion was. Further, Romans chapter 16 may not have originally been part of the letter to the Romans.
And so it goes.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little foray into attempting to discover if there is anything to the idea of Paul perhaps writing (and fighting) in the 1st century BCE. Any feedback on this is very welcome, especially constructive criticism (or really just feel free to point out what a bonehead I am).

Cheers

Lane

User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Mon Sep 09, 2019 5:44 am

Completely forgot to mention that with the above scenario that the order of Paul's letters might be something like...

Paul at Philippi.

1: Philippians 1:1-3:1. From Thessalonika.

2: The 1st Corinthian letters and perhaps the 1 Thessalonian letters. From Achaia (perhaps Athens).

Paul in Asia.

3: The 2 Corinthian letters and perhaps Philippians 4_10 - 23. Perhaps from Athens (although Ephesus is possible as well as both cities were military bases used by Mark Antony).

Paul at Actium.

4: Romans. perhaps from either Corinth or Athens.

Galatians?

Help me out here people. I'm not a complete screwball. Really. Not complete anyway... I really want to have the flaws in this obviously nutty thesis exposed as the ramblings of a kook that it must be. There must be tons wrong with this.

Lane

lsayre
Posts: 283
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2015 3:39 pm

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by lsayre » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:53 am

Interesting correlations.

User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:43 pm

lsayre wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:53 am
Interesting correlations.
Thanks Isayre, I think so as well. However, please let me know if you see anything obviously wrong. I really worry that I'll fall into the trap of tunnel vision and be so wrapped up in this theory that I can't think of any other scenario. So far I think I'm staying objective and I read a lot of theories by real scholars who usually keep to a mid 1st century CE timeline for Paul, it's just that the correlations that I keep finding (I think anyway) regarding Paul's letters and 1st century BCE events seems plausible on the face of it.

I really don't want to be one of those people who are so wrapped up in one point of view that they can't see obvious problems with it.

Lane

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6632
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:16 pm

Hi, Jax.

I hesitate to comment here simply because I think you already know most of my thoughts on this theory. I doubt there is any internal evidence from the epistles which would forbid it. What I wonder is how necessary it is if the customary dates are also not forbidden by internal evidence but are, furthermore, bolstered by external evidence, however meager, dubious, or slanted.

Do we need, for example, a military explanation for Paul having visited Illyricum in Romans 15.19 (assuming that chapter is genuine)? Another explanation seems apparent, based simply on the proximity of Illyricum to Italy: Paul's rhetoric for his proposed visit to Rome is predicated on his having run out of room in the eastern Mediterranean in some way, and Illyricum would be the last marine port of call, besides various islands, on the way from Judea to Italy. And I think that other elements of your proposal are susceptible to alternate explanations of this kind. Do the Herodian references require an early date? There were still Herodians around within the usual time period, as well.

Something I would love to see addressed is what happens to the correspondences between Paul and the gospels with respect to the generational prophecy, since both the gospels and Paul seem to agree upon a prediction that the day of the Lord would happen before the end of the apostolic generation (that is, all of the relevant predictions imply that at least some of the apostles would still be alive to see it). If we move Paul back in time, do we simultaneously move that entire cycle of predictive prophecy back in time? Or did it happen twice, once in Paul's generation and then again in the generation of Peter/Cephas and his contemporaries? If the latter, what do we do with the verses in the epistles which imply that Paul himself is contemporary with them? I doubt any of these issues is insurmountable, but I for one would certainly like to see what happens to the rest of the picture as a result of moving Paul back in time by a generation or two or three. I am certainly conscious of the possibility of alternate times and places for the genesis of Christianity. One Jewish tradition places Jesus as far back as Alexander Jannaeus. Is that time frame compatible with your theory, or is it too early? (It feels too early to mesh, but I have not done the math, so I may be mistaken about that.)

Just my thoughts so far (some/most of them, again, probably being familiar to you already).
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Sat Sep 14, 2019 8:47 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:16 pm
Hi, Jax.

I hesitate to comment here simply because I think you already know most of my thoughts on this theory. I doubt there is any internal evidence from the epistles which would forbid it. What I wonder is how necessary it is if the customary dates are also not forbidden by internal evidence but are, furthermore, bolstered by external evidence, however meager, dubious, or slanted.

Do we need, for example, a military explanation for Paul having visited Illyricum in Romans 15.19 (assuming that chapter is genuine)? Another explanation seems apparent, based simply on the proximity of Illyricum to Italy: Paul's rhetoric for his proposed visit to Rome is predicated on his having run out of room in the eastern Mediterranean in some way, and Illyricum would be the last marine port of call, besides various islands, on the way from Judea to Italy. And I think that other elements of your proposal are susceptible to alternate explanations of this kind. Do the Herodian references require an early date? There were still Herodians around within the usual time period, as well.

Something I would love to see addressed is what happens to the correspondences between Paul and the gospels with respect to the generational prophecy, since both the gospels and Paul seem to agree upon a prediction that the day of the Lord would happen before the end of the apostolic generation (that is, all of the relevant predictions imply that at least some of the apostles would still be alive to see it). If we move Paul back in time, do we simultaneously move that entire cycle of predictive prophecy back in time? Or did it happen twice, once in Paul's generation and then again in the generation of Peter/Cephas and his contemporaries? If the latter, what do we do with the verses in the epistles which imply that Paul himself is contemporary with them? I doubt any of these issues is insurmountable, but I for one would certainly like to see what happens to the rest of the picture as a result of moving Paul back in time by a generation or two or three. I am certainly conscious of the possibility of alternate times and places for the genesis of Christianity. One Jewish tradition places Jesus as far back as Alexander Jannaeus. Is that time frame compatible with your theory, or is it too early? (It feels too early to mesh, but I have not done the math, so I may be mistaken about that.)

Just my thoughts so far (some/most of them, again, probably being familiar to you already).
Hi back Ben, but please, call me Lane, the Jax name is a holdover from another site that Kapyon and I used to visit. In hindsight I wish that I had signed up here with my real name. Oh well.

I am very glad for your comments and questions and I quite agree that, for instance, Paul being in Illyricum as a jumping off point to get to Rome is very possible. Indeed if he traveled the Via Ignatia to get there he could very well have gone from Troas to Neapolis and picked up the road there thereby traveling through both Philippi and Thesalonika. No need to be in a Roman civil war. Both scenarios are equally possible.

For me it’s a matter of probabilities. Is it more probable that Paul is in Asia Minor, Achia, and Macedonia in the 1st century, traveling around with a few buddies with no real discernible route or objective except to spread the Announcement of God (which would be somewhat atypical for that time period except for the wealthy and Paul gives no indication that he is wealthy, just the opposite really). Or is it more probable that he is part of a series of organized efforts that took place in those areas in the civil wars of the 1st century BCE? The former, to me, seems a little implausible, the latter less so. The former requires a huge cash outlay as travel was not cheep back then, the latter removes the travel expenses and actually makes for a livelyhood (at least sporadically).

It’s a lot of little things in his letters that seem to make more sense in a pre CE context that intrigue me. Things like his calling Illyricum by its 1st century BCE name instead of its 1st century name of Dalmatia like the author of 2 Thimothy does (although that is in no way conclusive), or his use of military imagery and terminology, even to the point of referring to a coworker as a fellow soldier, even though a Jewish man in the 1st century would have very little opportunity to have been in a military (although I do concede that he could have had plenty of exposure to the Roman military as a civilian, perhaps as a tentmaker?). And of course there are the letters to and mentions of Roman military veteran colonies (Philippi, Corinth, Troas) that seem to make more sense in a 1st century BCE context especially if he served with some of them during various conflicts. Also, it seems to me that one of Paul’s main messages is that everybody get along with each other which would make sense if the retired solders in those colonies were on different sides of the civil wars before they were absorbed into the victors armies before being discharged into these veteran colonies.

You mention the Herodians and I quite agree that that is a non starter. As as you point out there were Herodians in both centuries in Rome and elsewhere. I only mentioned Romans 16 as an interesting possibility not as any attempt at a proof. Actually as far as proof goes I have completely given up any hope of that. At this stage I feel that our only chance is in disproving the theory and I have little hope that that is possible as well. In their book In Search of Paul by Crossan and Reed the authors site the passage in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 about king Aretas IV as their only proof of Paul being in the mid 1st century. However as Rainer Riesner in Paul’s Early Period points out in chapter 5 (pages 75-80) and numerous posts here and elsewhere make plain, this is no slam dunk. Actually, the BCE king Aretas III not only works in my timeline for Paul but has the distinction of actually being in control of Damascus except for a three year period when Tigranes II took control of the city when he invaded Syria and area. Is Galatians 1:17-18 a reflection of this? Who knows, it’s impossible to prove one way or another.

You also mention the possibility of a Jesus tradition in the time of Alexander Jannaeus and wonder if it could work in my BCE timeframe for Paul and the answer is yes it could. Jesus One Hundred Years Before Christ by Alvar Ellegard and The First Messiah by Michael O. Wise are two interesting reads in this vein (I really need to reread these as it’s been a while).

I find your questions concerning generational prophecy between Paul and the Gospels interesting and wish to mull it over before commenting. Thank you.

At the end of the day with this BCE theory I am just trying to build a model to see how the letters work out with it. I can’t do any worse than all of the various attempts of building a mid CE timeline for Paul as these have been all over the map as far as possibilities go. So please, really, take me to task over this and let’s see how well it manages to hold up to scrutiny.

Lane

User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Tue Sep 17, 2019 9:44 am

Hi Ben, I've been thinking about your question concerning generational prophecy and the simple fact is I just don't know. It just seems that failed generational prophecy is just not that great of a stumbling block for most Christians, then as well as now.

Image

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6632
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:47 pm

Another thought. I keep running into little hints that Paul may be reliant upon Philo. For example:

Romans 1.22-23: 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the imperishable [ἀφθάρτου] God for an image in the form of perishable [φθαρτοῦ] man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. / 22 φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν 23 καὶ ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ἀφθάρτου θεοῦ ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ πετεινῶν καὶ τετραπόδων καὶ ἑρπετῶν.

Philo, On the Life of Moses 2.32 §171: 171 And, when Moses saw them rushing forward as if starting from the goal in a race, he said, "Surely it is not with your bodies alone that you are hastening to come unto me, but you shall soon bear witness with your minds to your eagerness; let every one of you take a sword, and slay those men who have done things worthy of ten thousand deaths, who have forsaken the true God, and made for themselves false gods, of perishable [φθαρταῖς] and created substances, calling them by the name which belongs only to the uncreated and imperishable [ἀφθάρτου] God; let every one, I say, slay those men, whether it be his own kinsmen or his friends, looking upon nothing to be either friendship or kindred but the holy fellowship of good men."

I have not been actively collecting such instances, and I do not know how strong they are collectively, but I recall having run into a handful of them within recent memory. (This one came up on another thread for me tonight, so I thought I would mention it. To judge both from the scriptural parallels to Romans and from the subject matter of this work of Philo's, both authors are thinking of Egyptian religion, too, on top of the more obvious verbal and conceptual parallels.)

ETA: Ah, but I see that you have this section of Romans listed as a potential interpolation. I bet at least several of the possible Philonic parallels succumb to that list.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑ

neilgodfrey
Posts: 3496
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by neilgodfrey » Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:05 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:47 pm
Another thought. I keep running into little hints that Paul may be reliant upon Philo. For example:
Anyone who reads Philo will run across myriads of reminders of the NT writings, both gospels and epistles.

User avatar
Jax
Posts: 704
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 6:10 am

Re: Paul as Combatant in 1st Century BCE

Post by Jax » Fri Sep 20, 2019 6:58 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 10:47 pm
Another thought. I keep running into little hints that Paul may be reliant upon Philo. For example:

Romans 1.22-23: 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the imperishable [ἀφθάρτου] God for an image in the form of perishable [φθαρτοῦ] man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. / 22 φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν 23 καὶ ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ἀφθάρτου θεοῦ ἐν ὁμοιώματι εἰκόνος φθαρτοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ πετεινῶν καὶ τετραπόδων καὶ ἑρπετῶν.

Philo, On the Life of Moses 2.32 §171: 171 And, when Moses saw them rushing forward as if starting from the goal in a race, he said, "Surely it is not with your bodies alone that you are hastening to come unto me, but you shall soon bear witness with your minds to your eagerness; let every one of you take a sword, and slay those men who have done things worthy of ten thousand deaths, who have forsaken the true God, and made for themselves false gods, of perishable [φθαρταῖς] and created substances, calling them by the name which belongs only to the uncreated and imperishable [ἀφθάρτου] God; let every one, I say, slay those men, whether it be his own kinsmen or his friends, looking upon nothing to be either friendship or kindred but the holy fellowship of good men."

I have not been actively collecting such instances, and I do not know how strong they are collectively, but I recall having run into a handful of them within recent memory. (This one came up on another thread for me tonight, so I thought I would mention it. To judge both from the scriptural parallels to Romans and from the subject matter of this work of Philo's, both authors are thinking of Egyptian religion, too, on top of the more obvious verbal and conceptual parallels.)

ETA: Ah, but I see that you have this section of Romans listed as a potential interpolation. I bet at least several of the possible Philonic parallels succumb to that list.
Thanks Ben, that was a very worthwhile observation. Had Romans 1:18-2:29 not been a possible interpolation you would have had a very strong flaw to point out. Actually, I wonder, how many other suspected interpolations in Paul as we are presented with the letters now, both authentic and pseudopigraphic, have Philonic language in them. It would be nice if we could spot a trend with this. At least timeline wise.

Post Reply