Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

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Ben C. Smith
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Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Dec 30, 2015 11:28 am

Various scholars have noted similarities between the New Testament epistles on the one hand and the speeches in Acts attributed to those epistolary authors on the other. Here are some sample statements to this effect with respect to each epistolary author.

With respect to James, I quote Daniel B. Wallace, James: Introduction, Outline, and Argument:

Similarities between James and Acts: James’ speech in Acts 15 contains many striking parallels in language with the epistle of James. For example, χαίρω is found in Jas. 1:1 and Acts 15:23 (and elsewhere in Acts only in 23:26); Acts 15:17 and Jas. 2:7 invoke God’s name in a special way; the exhortation for the brothers (ἀδελφοι) to hear is found both in Jas. 2:5 and Acts 15:13. Further, not-so-common individual words are found in both: ἐπισκέπτεσθε (Jas. 1:27; Acts 15:14); ἐπιστρέφειν (Jas. 5:19 and Acts 15:19); τηρεῖν (or διατηρεῖν) ἑαυτόν (Jas. 1:27; Acts 15:29); ἀγαπητός (Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5; Acts 15:25). Though short of conclusive proof, this is nevertheless significant corroborative evidence.

With respect to Peter, I quote Robert W. Wall, Acts and James, in The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition, edited by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr and Robert W. Wall, page 131:

Because both the narrative world and its central characters are the literary constructions of the storyteller and are shaped by his theological commitments, the interpreter should not expect a more precise connection between, for example, the kerygma of the Peter of Acts and a Petrine theology envisaged by 1-2 Peter. Nevertheless, there is evidence that Luke did indeed draw upon important traditions common to the Petrine letters when composing his narrative of the person and work of Peter. In particular, 1 Peter's interpretation of Jesus as Isaiah's "Servant of God" (1 Pet 2:21-25; cf. 1:10-12), the evident core of Petrine Christology, is anticipated by four references to Jesus as "servant" in Acts (and only there in the New Testament), the first two in speeches by Peter (Acts 3:13, 26) and the last two in a prayer by the apostles led by him (4:27, 30). Moreover, the God of the Petrine Epistles, who is known primarily through Jesus' resurrection (1 Pet 1:3, 21; 3:21; cf. Acts 2:22-36) and as a "faithful Creator" (1 Pet 4:19; cf. Acts 4:24), agrees generally with Luke's traditions of a Petrine kerygma. Even Peter's claim that the central mark of Gentile conversion is a "purity of heart" (Acts 15:9) is strikingly similar to 1 Peter 1:22. Finally, the most robust eschatology found in Acts, famous for its sparseness of eschatological thought, is placed on Peter's lips (Acts 3:20-23), thereby anticipating the keen stress posited on salvation's apocalypse in 1-2 Peter (cf. 2 Pet 3:1-13).

Also, scholars have noted how similar Pauline and Petrine theology comes out in the Acts of the Apostles, and scholars have noted how similar Pauline and Petrine theology comes out in the Pauline and Petrine epistles.

With respect to John, I again quote Robert W. Wall, Acts and James, in The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition, edited by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr and Robert W. Wall, page 131:

A second example may be the far thinner portrait of John in Acts, who, although depicted as Peter's silent partner, uses his one speaking role in Acts 4:19-20 to sound a key note of the Johannine Epistles: "for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (cf. 1 John 1:1-3).

Here are the relevant passages for closer scrutiny:

Acts 4.19-20: 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

1 John 1.1-3: 1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 5.1: 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness/testifier of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed....

2 Peter 1.16-18: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

With respect to Jude/Judas... well, this brother of James does not appear by name in Acts.

With respect to Paul, much work has been done in this area especially. Acts 13.39, for instance, noticeably places the verb δικαιόω, so prominent in Romans and Galatians and also found in 1 Corinthians, on the lips of Paul and nobody else. (James uses the verb 3 times in a manner that seems to contradict Paul, but Acts 13.39 is more consonant with Pauline thought than with Jacobian thought.) Acts 14.15-17 bears certain resemblances to Romans 1.18-32, and Acts 17.30 to Romans 3.25. As F. F. Bruce notes below, Acts 17.28 has Paul quoting from pagan poets, much as 1 Corinthians 15.33 does. Even more to the point, Titus 1.12 quotes from the same poem as Acts 17.28. F. F. Bruce, The Speeches in the Acts of the Apostles, quoting J. H. Moulton:

“Of course Luke is usually credited with Paul’s Areopagitica, and it may be difficult to prove completely that he wrote his report from full notes, given him not long after by his master. But when we find the Lukan Paul quoting Epimenides (Acts xvii, 28a) and the Paul of the Pastorals citing the very same context (Tit. i, 12), with the Aratus-Cleanthes quotation (ib., 28b) to match the Menander (1 Cor. xv, 33), we may at least remark that the speech is very subtly concocted. Paul was, moreover, much more likely than Luke to know the tenets of Stoics and Epicureans so as to make such delicately suited allusions to them. Luke’s knowledge of Greek literature does not seem to have gone far beyond the medical writers who so profoundly influenced his diction” (Moulton and Howard’s Grammar of New Testament Greek, ii, p. 8).

These observations give us four purported epistolary authors (James, Peter, John, and Paul) whose speeches in Acts seem to reflect distinctive wording or phrasing or theological traits. Jude does not figure into the argument.

So my first question is: are these correspondences between Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic) a real phenomenon? It appears so to me right now, but is there a way to select the data so that they prove the opposite? If correspondences of similar number and closeness could be found between, for instance, Petrine speeches in Acts and the epistles of John, then the perceived correspondences between the Peter of Acts and the Peter of the epistles would be mitigated.

My second question assumes that the perceived correspondences are real before going on to ask: how are we best to account for them? It seems to me that there are three basic options at our disposal:
  1. The epistles are genuine, but Acts is independent of them; rather, Acts remembers the living voice of their authors with some degree of accuracy. (Under this option, it may also be possible that the epistles are spurious, but are written by authors still in touch with the living voice of the person to whom the epistles are attributed. The main thing is that this living voice is still accessible, both to the epistolary authors and to the author of Acts.)
  2. The epistles may or may not be genuine, and Acts is dependent on them, importing some of their distinctive features into its speeches by their authors.
  3. The epistles are spurious, and they are dependent on Acts, importing some of the distinctive features of its speeches into their wording and phrasing.
Of course, the truth may also lie with any of a number of combinations of the above. For example, some epistles may be independent of Acts, others may depend on Acts, and Acts may itself depend on still others. But it seems to me that not all options or combinations of options are necessarily equally plausible a priori.

Option 1, for example, would require a robust defense both of the genuineness of the epistles and of the provenance of Acts in relation to their authors. How can Acts accurately be conjuring the living voice, say, of Peter unless its author knew Peter in some way, or had heard him preach, or was relying on witnesses who either had known him or had heard him preach? I am not denying that such a defense may be quite possible (the natural force of the "we" passages is routinely employed, for example, to connect the author with the apostle Paul, at least); rather, I am pointing out that there is a very specific kind of burden to be met under this option.

Option 3, I suggest, would also require some specific fleshing out and explanation. Since there are multiple epistles (Pauline, Petrine, Jacobian, Johannine) and only one book of Acts, one would definitely have to answer a few questions, at the very least. Did different authors independently hit upon the same strategy of mining the speeches in Acts for their pseudegraphs? Or was this sort of thing a common practice among early Christian authors? Or were the various epistles penned by the same author or group of authors? Was there a conspiracy afoot?

Option 2, on the other hand, is pretty simple and straightforward on its own merits, and is therefore quite flexible. Since there is only one book of Acts, only one author is suspected of the strategy of mining the epistles for materials distinctive to the voice of each epistolary author. Furthermore, this option does not have to commit either to the genuineness or to the spuriousness of any given epistle, nor does it have to commit to a particularly absolute date range for Acts; its only requirement is relative: to wit, that Acts must postdate the epistles.

Option 2 also lines up rather nicely with considerations of canon. There were two principal canonical arrangements of the books of the Christian canon in antiquity:

Gospels
Acts
Catholic Epistles
Pauline Epistles
Revelation
Gospels
Acts
Pauline Epistles
Catholic Epistles
Revelation

In both of these arrangements, the book of Acts stands at the head of the two great epistolary collections in the New Testament: the Pauline and the Catholic, thus linking Acts with each collection. The first arrangement, which places the Catholic epistles before the Pauline, is actually the most common among Greek Bibles in antiquity and throughout the medieval period. David R. Nienhuis, Not By Paul Alone, page 77:

...we can note two further Eastern tendencies beyond that of title, number, and sequence. First, we see that the Acts of the Apostles is almost always linked with the CE (Cyril, Athanasius, Synod of Laodicea, Epiphanius, Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus). Second, we see that the Acts + CE collection follows the gospels and precedes the Pauline epistles in all of the above except Sinaiticus. Metzger has pointed out that “virtually all Greek manuscripts” of the NT follow this pattern, which has come to be recognized as the traditional Eastern canonical ordering.

And it is this arrangement that most closely follows the narrative logic of Acts, the first half of which deals with the likes of Peter and John, and the second half of which is mostly about Paul.

(On a side note, the order of the Catholic epistles — James, Peter, John, not counting Jude — seems to reflect the order in which the Pillars are listed in Galatians 2.9 — James, Cephas, John — thus providing an interesting link between the two letter collections themselves.)

Acts, in fact, tends to serve as the narrative rationale for the epistolary collections, almost as if it had been written in order to answer the burning question: why ought we to pay attention to letters written by people named James, Peter, John, and Paul? What is the basis for their authority?

Robert W. Wall, Acts and James, in The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition, edited by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr & Robert W. Wall, page 129:

Among the most important roles Acts performs for readers (if not also scholars) of the New Testament is to proffer biographical introductions to the implied authors of the New Testament letters that follow.

David Trobisch, The Book of Acts as a Narrative Commentary on the Letters of the New Testament: A Programmatic Essay, in Rethinking the Unity and Reception of Luke and Acts. edited by Andrew F. Gregory & C. Kavin Rowe, page 119:

My thesis is that the main function of Acts is to fill in the gaps in the story as it is told through the two New Testament letter collections: the Letters of Paul and the Catholic Epistles.

I admit, I rather like the idea that Acts was composed or compiled as a narrative commentary to the Catholic and Pauline letter collections (probably not including Jude yet in the former nor possibly Hebrews in the latter). The heresiologists inform us that various groups emphasized Paul as the one and only (true) apostle, a tendency to which the narrative of Acts served (and still serves) as counterbalance and control from its very first attestations in the patristic record (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.13.1-3, for instance). Acts justifies the reading and appreciation, not only of the Pauline epistles, but also of the Catholic, as authoritative.

Are there other points or counterpoints to be made in this regard?

Ben.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Tue May 16, 2017 12:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Dec 30, 2015 2:23 pm

Interesting post, Ben.

Just to clarify; when you refer to 'correspondences' viz. -
Ben C. Smith wrote: ... So my first question is: are these 'correspondences' between Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic) a real phenomenon? It appears so to me right now, but is there a way to select the data so that they prove the opposite? If 'correspondences' of similar number and closeness could be found between, for instance, Petrine speeches in Acts and the epistles of John, then 'the perceived correspondences' between the Peter of Acts and the Peter of the epistles would be mitigated.

My second question assumes that the perceived 'correspondences' are real before going on to ask: how are we best to account for them? ...
- I presume you are referring to similarities, equivalences, or congruence of passages or concepts, rather than the role of direct, written correspondence (such as epistles) in contributing to such similarities, equivalences, or congruence of passages or concepts [in the different texts or different communities]?
  • .
    correspondence (noun)
    • 1. a close similarity, connection, or equivalence.
      • "there is a simple correspondence between the distance of a focused object from the eye and the size of its image on the retina"
        synonyms: correlation, similarity, resemblance, comparability, compatibility, agreement, consistency, congruity, conformity, uniformity, harmony, affinity, accordance, accord, concurrence, coincidence ...
      2. communication by exchanging letters
      • "the organization engaged in correspondence with [xyz]"
        synonyms: letter writing, writing, written communication
        "he kept up a ceaseless round of correspondence"

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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Dec 30, 2015 3:00 pm

MrMacSon wrote:Interesting post, Ben.

Just to clarify; when you refer to 'correspondences' viz. -
Ben C. Smith wrote: ... So my first question is: are these 'correspondences' between Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic) a real phenomenon? It appears so to me right now, but is there a way to select the data so that they prove the opposite? If 'correspondences' of similar number and closeness could be found between, for instance, Petrine speeches in Acts and the epistles of John, then 'the perceived correspondences' between the Peter of Acts and the Peter of the epistles would be mitigated.

My second question assumes that the perceived 'correspondences' are real before going on to ask: how are we best to account for them? ...
- I presume you are referring to similarities, equivalences, or congruence of passages or concepts, rather than the role of direct, written correspondence (such as epistles) in contributing to such similarities, equivalences, or congruence of passages or concepts [in the different texts or different communities]?
  • .
    correspondence (noun)
    • 1. a close similarity, connection, or equivalence.
      • "there is a simple correspondence between the distance of a focused object from the eye and the size of its image on the retina"
        synonyms: correlation, similarity, resemblance, comparability, compatibility, agreement, consistency, congruity, conformity, uniformity, harmony, affinity, accordance, accord, concurrence, coincidence ...
      2. communication by exchanging letters
      • "the organization engaged in correspondence with [xyz]"
        synonyms: letter writing, writing, written communication
        "he kept up a ceaseless round of correspondence"
Yes, I use the term "correspondence" in its first definition above throughout. Whether the epistles themselves contributed to these congruences is precisely the question to be explored.

Ben.
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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by GakuseiDon » Wed Dec 30, 2015 3:40 pm

I don't want to start another 'mythicist' thread, so Peter please remove if the following appears off-thread. But the OP does put me in mind with what Dr Carrier wrote in OHJ on the trials of Paul in Acts. Carrier suggests there is a perceived correspondence between what is NOT written about in Acts and the epistles.

For background: Carrier writes on page 371:
  • The second peculiar thing about Acts is how thoroughly all the people associated with a historical Jesus (as opposed to a cosmic, 'revealed' Jesus) disappear from the historical record entirely. This a historicist cannot plausibly explain. Not only do Pontius Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea immediately vanish from Christian history (Pilate alone gets mentioned only as the crucifier of Jesus and only in speeches by Christians echoing Luke's Gospel), as do Simon of Cyrene and his sons (Mk 1 5.21 ; Lk. 23. 26), and Martha (Lk. 10.38-42 Jn 1 1 .1-12.2), and her brother Lazarus (Jn l l -1 2), and Nicodemus (Jn 3.1-9; 7.50; 1 9.39), and Mary Magdalene (from Acts 2 on, none of these people is ever mentioned, or ever does or says anything, nor is their departure or lack of involvement ever noted or explained), but so does the entire family of Jesus.
Carrier then goes onto the trials of Paul. Carrier writes starting from page 375:
  • Another curious thing about Acts is that when the trials of Paul are examined (rather than his sermons elsewhere or the speeches of others), the historical Jesus himself mysteriously disappears. Surely this is at least somewhat less likely on h than on ¬h, since on the latter hypothesis we can expect that in any actual trials Paul was in, only a cosmic, 'revealed' Jesus was attacked, defended and debated (and that appears to be what Acts reports to have happened), whereas on the former hypothesis many issues and facts pertaining to the actual deeds and sayings and fate of the historical Jesus would come up as pertinent or even essential.
Carrier suggests that the author of Acts may have been drawing on a source (even if fabricated) that included information on a 'celestial Jesus believer'. Carrier writes on page 376:
  • Again, what we make of this strange omission depends on whether the author of Acts is making it all up, in ignorance of what actually happened, or whether he is adapting, reworking or rewriting some earlier source that portrayed what happened at those trials. That source need not be historical. It could itself be a complete fabrication, perhaps itself an earlier Acts of Paul, telling tall tales of how he stood up to the authorities in legal contexts and won, but still written by people more in the know (whether the actors themselves, or those who knew them), and thus building on assumptions held at the time about what would occur in such trials or what would make sense to them given what the first Christians such as Paul actually believed. For example, if this proposed source-text were written by a companion of Paul who had no conception of a historical Jesus recently executed by Pontius Pilate (because that exoteric myth hadn't been invented yet), then even his made-up accounts of the trials would reflect that.
Carrier concludes on page 385 (my bolding below):
  • If Acts is a wholesale fabrication, however, written in total ignorance of what may have actually happened, then Acts might afford no evidence for either historicity or myth. Its historical value either way could then be simply nil. So its effect on the probability of historicity depends on whether we conclude Acts was composed in total ignorance of what may have actually happened or with some awareness of what actually happened during the first years and decades of Christianity, and thus has been at least partly influenced by that information. As I argued after discussing the trial transcripts (§§4 and 5) and the vanishing acts (§3), I think it's unlikely the author of Acts had no information. His having some better explains the oddities I document. I will therefore assume he did (that the probability of this approaches 100%, close enough not to have to consider the alternative mathematically). But you may have a different view, believing it more likely that Acts was written in total ignorance, in which case you have a harder mathematical task ahead of you.
Ben, I hope this helps as an example for an alternate view. If it isn't helpful in that context, or if it drives discussion off-thread, apologies and please ignore.
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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:09 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:
... Carrier suggests that the author of Acts may have been drawing on a source ... that included information on a 'celestial Jesus believer'.

Carrier writes on page 376:
  • Again, what we make of this strange omission depends on whether the author of Acts is making it all up, in ignorance of what actually happened, or whether he is adapting, reworking or rewriting some earlier source that portrayed what happened at those trials. That source need not be historical. It could itself be a complete fabrication, perhaps itself an earlier Acts of Paul, telling tall tales of how he stood up to the authorities in legal contexts and won, but still written by people more in the know (whether the actors themselves, or those who knew them), and thus building on assumptions held at the time about what would occur in such trials or what would make sense to them given what the first Christians such as Paul actually believed. For example, if this proposed source-text were written by a companion of Paul who had no conception of a historical Jesus recently executed by Pontius Pilate (because that exoteric myth hadn't been invented yet), then even his made-up accounts of the trials would reflect that.
Carrier concludes on page 385 (my bolding below):
  • If Acts is a wholesale fabrication, however, written in total ignorance of what may have actually happened, then Acts might afford no evidence for either historicity or myth. Its historical value either way could then be simply nil. So its effect on the probability of historicity depends on whether we conclude Acts was composed in total ignorance of what may have actually happened or with some awareness of what actually happened during the first years and decades of Christianity, and thus has been at least partly influenced by that information. As I argued after discussing the trial transcripts (§§4 and 5) and the vanishing acts (§3), I think it's unlikely the author of Acts had no information. His having some [information] better[-]explains the oddities I document. I will therefore assume he did ... But you may have a different view, believing it more likely that Acts was written in total ignorance, in which case you have a harder mathematical task ahead of you.
Ben, I hope this helps as an example for an alternate view. If it isn't helpful in that context, or if it drives discussion off-thread, apologies and please ignore.
I think those comments help somewhat, if even to give a different view to contemplate, or a view about a different issue.

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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:29 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:I don't want to start another 'mythicist' thread, so Peter please remove if the following appears off-thread. But the OP does put me in mind with what Dr Carrier wrote in OHJ on the trials of Paul in Acts. Carrier suggests there is a perceived correspondence between what is NOT written about in Acts and the epistles.
I for one do not mind observations such as these in this thread. If I understand correctly, to put it in the terms I used in the OP, Carrier is arguing that, not necessarily the final redaction of Acts, but at least some of its sources may well have been in touch with the living voice of the apostles; it just so happens that the living voice has little or nothing to say about an HJ. Is that correct?
For background: Carrier writes on page 371:
  • The second peculiar thing about Acts is how thoroughly all the people associated with a historical Jesus (as opposed to a cosmic, 'revealed' Jesus) disappear from the historical record entirely. This a historicist cannot plausibly explain. Not only do Pontius Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea immediately vanish from Christian history (Pilate alone gets mentioned only as the crucifier of Jesus and only in speeches by Christians echoing Luke's Gospel), as do Simon of Cyrene and his sons (Mk 1 5.21 ; Lk. 23. 26), and Martha (Lk. 10.38-42 Jn 1 1 .1-12.2), and her brother Lazarus (Jn l l -1 2), and Nicodemus (Jn 3.1-9; 7.50; 1 9.39), and Mary Magdalene (from Acts 2 on, none of these people is ever mentioned, or ever does or says anything, nor is their departure or lack of involvement ever noted or explained), but so does the entire family of Jesus.
To be fair, certain witnesses associated with an HJ do remain; Peter springs to mind. However, I have pointed out before that many of the apostles seem to have shadow selves. One version of the apostle will be associated with an HJ (Philip the apostle, for example), while another version may not (Philip the evangelist, for example).
Carrier then goes onto the trials of Paul. Carrier writes starting from page 375:
  • Another curious thing about Acts is that when the trials of Paul are examined (rather than his sermons elsewhere or the speeches of others), the historical Jesus himself mysteriously disappears. Surely this is at least somewhat less likely on h than on ¬h, since on the latter hypothesis we can expect that in any actual trials Paul was in, only a cosmic, 'revealed' Jesus was attacked, defended and debated (and that appears to be what Acts reports to have happened), whereas on the former hypothesis many issues and facts pertaining to the actual deeds and sayings and fate of the historical Jesus would come up as pertinent or even essential.
Carrier suggests that the author of Acts may have been drawing on a source (even if fabricated) that included information on a 'celestial Jesus believer'. Carrier writes on page 376:
  • Again, what we make of this strange omission depends on whether the author of Acts is making it all up, in ignorance of what actually happened, or whether he is adapting, reworking or rewriting some earlier source that portrayed what happened at those trials. That source need not be historical. It could itself be a complete fabrication, perhaps itself an earlier Acts of Paul, telling tall tales of how he stood up to the authorities in legal contexts and won, but still written by people more in the know (whether the actors themselves, or those who knew them), and thus building on assumptions held at the time about what would occur in such trials or what would make sense to them given what the first Christians such as Paul actually believed. For example, if this proposed source-text were written by a companion of Paul who had no conception of a historical Jesus recently executed by Pontius Pilate (because that exoteric myth hadn't been invented yet), then even his made-up accounts of the trials would reflect that.
Carrier concludes on page 385 (my bolding below):
  • If Acts is a wholesale fabrication, however, written in total ignorance of what may have actually happened, then Acts might afford no evidence for either historicity or myth. Its historical value either way could then be simply nil. So its effect on the probability of historicity depends on whether we conclude Acts was composed in total ignorance of what may have actually happened or with some awareness of what actually happened during the first years and decades of Christianity, and thus has been at least partly influenced by that information. As I argued after discussing the trial transcripts (§§4 and 5) and the vanishing acts (§3), I think it's unlikely the author of Acts had no information. His having some better explains the oddities I document. I will therefore assume he did (that the probability of this approaches 100%, close enough not to have to consider the alternative mathematically). But you may have a different view, believing it more likely that Acts was written in total ignorance, in which case you have a harder mathematical task ahead of you.
I am honestly not sure how to evaluate this argument of his yet. I noticed it before in his book, and basically put off any analysis of it until I get a better grasp (independently) of what might be going on in Acts overall (part of the purpose of this thread, of course). It seems to me that the force of the argument absolutely depends on separating the different sources in Acts, since if the same author is responsible both for the HJ-light trial speeches and for the HJ-heavy other speeches, then its force is completely muted, as far as I can tell. Right? It feels like maybe Carrier is trying to score some easy MJ points without actually putting in the work of sifting out these various sources. But... there is also always the chance that I have not fully understood him.
Ben, I hope this helps as an example for an alternate view. If it isn't helpful in that context, or if it drives discussion off-thread, apologies and please ignore.
I would call it an alternate approach rather than an alternate view, since it does not directly answer the question of why the epistles might share certain characteristics with the speeches delivered by those same epistolary authors. Rather, it seems to argue for a possible connection between Acts and the living apostolic voice on other grounds, which in and of itself might be seen as lending support to my option 1, if you would wish to press it that far.

Does that make sense? Thanks, GDon.

Ben.
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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:39 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
... I have pointed out before that many of the apostles seem to have shadow selves. One version of the apostle will be associated with an HJ (Philip the apostle, for example), while another version may not (Philip the evangelist, for example).
That's an interesting observation.

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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue May 16, 2017 8:40 am

In the OP I laid out connections between the speeches in Acts and the epistles of Peter, James, and John. I want to add a similar, somewhat parallel observation concerning another early text, the Didache. I will not be claiming that Acts is drawing directly upon the Didache (though that is possible); rather, I think that the Didache preserves some early Christian lingo that Acts picks up on.

First, the church offices:

Acts 13.1: 1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers [προφῆται καὶ διδάσκαλοι]: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

Acts 20.28: 28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops [ἐπισκόπους], to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

2 Peter 2.1: 1 But false prophets [ψευδοπροφῆται] also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers [ψευδοδιδάσκαλοι] among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

Philippians 1.1: 1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the bishops and deacons [ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις].

Didache 15.1: 1 Elect, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons [ἐπισκόπους καὶ διακόνους] worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not covetous, and true and approved, for they perform for you the service of prophets and teachers [προφητῶν καὶ διδασκάλων].

Now, 1 Corinthians 12.28, 29 and Ephesians 4.11 both have prophets and teachers, but they have apostles, as well at the head of the list. 2 Peter 2.1 is close, but Didache 15.1 is even closer to Acts 13.1. I have included a couple of references to bishops and deacons for the sake of completeness, but I think the real story here is the inclusion of prophets and teachers, which offices Didache 15.1 indicates are being taken over by bishops and deacons (which were the wave of the future in Christianity, as it turned out). It appears to me that Acts is deliberately mentioning the earlier church structure, trying to avoid (at least in this one spot) an anachronism.

Second, the breaking of bread:

Acts 20.7: 7 And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread [κλάσαι ἄρτον], Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.

Didache 14.1: 1 But on the Lord's day, after you have assembled together, break bread [κλάσατε ἄρτον] and give thanks, having in addition confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure.

Both passages affirm that the breaking of bread occurred on a certain day of the week. Other passages mention either this day of the week or the breaking of bread, but not many reference both at the same time.

Third, the naming of believers as Christians:

Acts 11.26: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians [Χριστιανούς] in Antioch.

Acts 26.28: 28 And Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian [Χριστιανὸν]."

1 Peter 4.16: 16 But if anyone suffers as a Christian [Χριστιανός], let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.

Didache 12.3-4: 3 But if he wish to settle with you, being a craftsman, let him work, and so eat; 4 but if he know not any craft, provide ye according to you own discretion, that a Christian [Χριστιανός] may not live idle among you.

It is interesting that Acts says that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, whereas the Didache is generally associated with Syria and Peter with Antioch in particular, and both the Didache and 1 Peter use the term. So does Ignatius of Antioch:

Ignatius to Polycarp 7.3: 3 A Christian hath no authority over himself, but giveth his time to God. This is God's work, and yours also, when ye shall complete it: for I trust in the Divine grace, that ye are ready for an act of well-doing which is meet for God. Knowing the fervour of your sincerity, I have exhorted you in a short letter.

Ignatius to the Ephesians 7.3: 3 A Christian hath no authority over himself, but giveth his time to God. This is God's work, and yours also, when ye shall complete it: for I trust in the Divine grace, that ye are ready for an act of well-doing which is meet for God. Knowing the fervour of your sincerity, I have exhorted you in a short letter.

Ignatius to the Magnesians 4.1: 1 It is therefore meet that we not only be called Christians, but also be such; even as some persons have the bishop's name on their lips, but in everything act apart from him. Such men appear to me not to keep a good conscience, forasmuch as they do not assemble themselves together lawfully according to commandment.

Ignatius to the Trallians 6.1: 1 I exhort you therefore — yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ — take ye only Christian food, and abstain from strange herbage, which is heresy.

Ignatius to the Romans 3.2-3: 2 Only pray that I may have power within and without, so that I may not only say it but also desire it; that I may not only be called a Christian, but also be found one. For if I shall be found so, then can I also be called one, and be faithful then, when I am no more visible to the world. 3 Nothing visible is good. For our God Jesus Christ, being in the Father, is the more plainly visible. The Work is not of persuasiveness, but Christianity is a thing of might, whensoever it is hated by the world.

Ignatius to the Philadelphians 6.1: But if any one propound Judaism unto you, here him not: for it is better to hear Christianity from a man who is circumcised than Judaism from one uncircumcised. But if either the one or the other speak not concerning Jesus Christ, I look on them as tombstones and graves of the dead, whereon are inscribed only the names of men.

Fourth, the application of the relatively uncommon epithet of "child/servant" both to Jesus and to David:

Acts 3.13: 13 "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His child/servant [παῖδα] Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him."

Acts 4.24-30: 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your child/servant [παιδός], did say, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples devise futile things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ.' 27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy child/servant [παῖδά] Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. 29 And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your slaves may speak Your word with all confidence, 30 while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy child/servant [παιδός] Jesus."

Didache 9.2-3: 2 First, concerning the cup. We thank You, our Father, for the holy vine, David Your child/servant [παιδός], which You have made known unto us through Jesus Christ Your child/servant [παιδός]; to You be the glory for ever. 3 And concerning the broken bread, we thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You have made known unto us through Jesus Your child/servant [παιδός]; to You be the glory for ever.

Didache 10.2-3: 2 We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name, which You have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which You have made known unto us through Jesus Your child/servant [παιδός]; to You be the glory for ever. 3 You, Almighty Master, created all things for the sake of Your name, and have given both meat and drink for men to enjoy, that we might give thanks unto You, but to us You have given spiritual meat and drink, and life everlasting, through Your child/servant [παιδός].

This title for Jesus has an archaic ring to it, and other titles or epithets became far more common (Lord, Christ, son of God, and so on). It is worth pointing out that 1 Peter 2.21-25 explicitly applies the Suffering Servant terminology of Isaiah to Jesus — without, however, actually using this exact epithet for him. The application of the same epithet to David is striking, making me strongly suspect that the author or editor of Acts had access to the same eucharistic traditions now preserved in Didache 9-10.

So this is what I think is going on. As per the OP, I think that it is far more likely that a single author, the author of Acts, took it upon him/herself to imitate various early epistles (those of Paul, Peter, James, and John, whether pseudonymous or not) than it is that the (necessarily pseudonymous) authors of the various epistles all took it upon themselves to imitate the speeches in Acts. This probability dovetails neatly with the observation that those speeches, as well as certain descriptions in Acts, seem to go out of their way to introduce archaic vocabulary of the sort found in early materials such as those found in the Didache. The shaping of the speeches, especially, in particular style found in the epistles might be considered in the light of this famous passage from one of the greatest of ancient historians:

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 1.22.1-4 (translation modified slightly from that of Richard Crawley): With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said. And, with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible. My conclusions have cost me some labor from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eyewitnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other. The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but, if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things it must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as an everlasting possession.

I make no claim here that the author of Acts is even in the same race as Thucydides, so far as history is concerned, but I think we can detect what our author is doing: s/he is placing words on the mouths of the various apostles in Acts which s/he deems appropriate both for the occasion (as guessed from the situation) and from his/her sense of what that speaker might have really said (as gleaned from the epistles). There is a sense of history in Acts, a knowledge that the vocabulary of the earliest churches (prophets and teachers, child/servant) was not exactly the same as what was found in later churches (bishops and deacons, Lord). Simultaneously, there may be a genuine effort to piece together the various earlier texts and traditions into a coherent whole: the naming of disciples as Christians first at Antioch may well be a good-faith guess based on the fact that said term can be found in concentrated form in texts either from or associated with that area. It seems quite possible, to my mind, that the inclusion of the so-called "we" passages in Acts might be of the same cut of cloth: perhaps our author included snippets from an actual travelogue or journal. I will not press this here and now, and I am not utterly convinced of it (since it could simply be a forgery), but the possibility is there, since such a move could easily have been motivated by the same instincts driving the inclusion of genuine ecclesiastical vocabulary and authentic apostolic voices.

The picture of our author that is forming in my mind is one of a Christian sitting at some distance from the events at hand, with texts and traditions at his/her disposal, and the desire to paint a picture of the early church which will ring true for the readership. I am certain that this process was quite tendentious (obviously rejecting some versions of early Christian history in favor of others); but I am not certain that the process had to be rabidly fraudulent. Maybe it was, but I can see where it might have been done largely in good faith, by way of creatively assembling the evidence at hand (epistles, church orders, and so on) into a coherent whole.

One more thought on this. Acts never explicitly quotes from the epistles, and never shows an apostle sitting down to write one. Perhaps the reason for this is simply that the author had them all on hand and actually published the ones known as the Catholic epistles (with the possible exception of Jude) as a set, right along with the Acts. This would explain the nearly universal canonical order found in the Greek manuscripts: Acts followed by the Catholic epistles before the Pauline epistles (the latter of which may have already been edited as a set before Acts came along). No need to mention epistolary actions in the text proper if the epistles themselves are being published as appendices to it. Just a possibility.
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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue May 16, 2017 10:40 am

GakuseiDon wrote: For background: Carrier writes on page 371:
  • The second peculiar thing about Acts is how thoroughly all the people associated with a historical Jesus (as opposed to a cosmic, 'revealed' Jesus) disappear from the historical record entirely. This a historicist cannot plausibly explain. Not only do Pontius Pilate and Joseph of Arimathea immediately vanish from Christian history (Pilate alone gets mentioned only as the crucifier of Jesus and only in speeches by Christians echoing Luke's Gospel), as do Simon of Cyrene and his sons (Mk 1 5.21 ; Lk. 23. 26), and Martha (Lk. 10.38-42 Jn 1 1 .1-12.2), and her brother Lazarus (Jn l l -1 2), and Nicodemus (Jn 3.1-9; 7.50; 1 9.39), and Mary Magdalene (from Acts 2 on, none of these people is ever mentioned, or ever does or says anything, nor is their departure or lack of involvement ever noted or explained), but so does the entire family of Jesus.
The claim that the entire family of Jesus disappears, requires one to hold that James the church leader at Jerusalem in the latter part of Acts is not James the brother of Jesus. Although possible, I've never found this idea particularly likely.

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Re: Acts and the epistles (both Pauline and Catholic).

Post by perseusomega9 » Tue May 16, 2017 11:51 am

I don't recall Acts identifying him as such.

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