The "Assembly of God"

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Irish1975
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

Post by Irish1975 »

rgprice wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 12:02 pm Well I think the 500 brothers is simply an anti-Marcionite interpolation. I think its just intended to show that Paul was not the one and only apostle to see Jesus, as the Marcionites claimed. Not only did James and Peter, etc. see Jesus, but a whole 500 brothers did as well. Therefore, Paul wasn't actually special.
Maybe, but it doesn’t seem too likely. For one thing, it doesn’t account for the peculiarities of 1 Cor 15:6. And I don’t see how putting such a significant claim in the mouth of Paul would serve to undermine Paul’s special status. Your argument could explain verse 5 and verse 7, the surrounding verses that name Kephas and James. But no actual persons are named in 6. It reads as a vague claim about a past event, based on Paul’s own knowledge of the brothers in question. That hardly undermines his authority.

5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα·
6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν·
7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν·

“Upwards of 500” is not a magic number such as 72. It’s a round estimate. And a plausible crowd size for a religious event, along the lines of what GakuseiDon is suggesting:
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 11:56 pm
Paul also seems to have a travelling 'revelations' show in which 'signs of the apostles were given'
...
These were travelling faith shows where apparent miracles, speaking of tongues and healings were performed. Maybe they had 500 people attend one of the earlier ones, that experienced Christ in action at the show.
But this is a different claim, GD:
Paul claims that the church in Christ said that Paul started teaching what they were teaching.
Does Paul say that specifically, that they all taught the same thing?
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

Post by GakuseiDon »

Irish1975 wrote: Mon May 24, 2021 7:19 amBut this is a different claim, GD:
Paul claims that the church in Christ said that Paul started teaching what they were teaching.
Does Paul say that specifically, that they all taught the same thing?
Yes. Paul preaches the same faith as those churches of God which are in Christ:

Gal 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.


Paul contrasts this with the traditions of the Jewish religion:

Gal 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.


Whatever the church of God was, it must have been critical of the Jewish traditions. That does seem to fit Paul.

Paul says that God has appointed apostles, etc, to the church of God:

1 Cor 12:
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28 And God has appointed these in the church [ekklēsia]: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.


I think we miss the implications of this. It suggests that the churches of God were like the more modern travelling faith shows, with people talking in tongues and miracle healings being performed. I'd suggest that this happened in the churches in Judea as well as in Galatia and Corinth. That then suggests common rituals, messages, money raising schemes, etc.

Paul calls himself an apostle, justifying it by claiming to have performed the "signs of an apostle". Paul does believe that he has been appointed a special mission to go to the Gentiles, so there is that difference. But while Paul indicates that there are arguments within the churches, at no point is Paul saying that the churches in the different areas have differences in doctrine. Paul preaches the "gospel of circumcision" and Peter preaches the "gospel of circumcision". Paul doesn't say that Peter is preaching an incorrect gospel. In fact, Paul goes to Peter and James so that they can vet his own gospel.

My question is: whenever Paul writes about "churches"/"assemblies" [ekklēsia], is he talking about different groups with their own beliefs, or about groups that shared the same beliefs? Do the churches of God in Judea believe something different to the churches of God in, say, Galatia? From what I've read, other than arguments within the churches themselves, Paul assumes a common set of beliefs between the churches.
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Irish1975
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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GakuseiDon wrote: Mon May 24, 2021 4:14 pm
Irish1975 wrote: Mon May 24, 2021 7:19 amBut this is a different claim, GD:
Paul claims that the church in Christ said that Paul started teaching what they were teaching.
Does Paul say that specifically, that they all taught the same thing?
Yes. Paul preaches the same faith as those churches of God which are in Christ:

Gal 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.


Paul contrasts this with the traditions of the Jewish religion:

Gal 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.


Whatever the church of God was, it must have been critical of the Jewish traditions. That does seem to fit Paul.

Paul says that God has appointed apostles, etc, to the church of God:

1 Cor 12:
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28 And God has appointed these in the church [ekklēsia]: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.


I think we miss the implications of this. It suggests that the churches of God were like the more modern travelling faith shows, with people talking in tongues and miracle healings being performed. I'd suggest that this happened in the churches in Judea as well as in Galatia and Corinth. That then suggests common rituals, messages, money raising schemes, etc.

Paul calls himself an apostle, justifying it by claiming to have performed the "signs of an apostle". Paul does believe that he has been appointed a special mission to go to the Gentiles, so there is that difference. But while Paul indicates that there are arguments within the churches, at no point is Paul saying that the churches in the different areas have differences in doctrine. Paul preaches the "gospel of circumcision" and Peter preaches the "gospel of circumcision". Paul doesn't say that Peter is preaching an incorrect gospel. In fact, Paul goes to Peter and James so that they can vet his own gospel.

My question is: whenever Paul writes about "churches"/"assemblies" [ekklēsia], is he talking about different groups with their own beliefs, or about groups that shared the same beliefs? Do the churches of God in Judea believe something different to the churches of God in, say, Galatia? From what I've read, other than arguments within the churches themselves, Paul assumes a common set of beliefs between the churches.
GD,

I don't see how you can confidently assert that Paul preached "the same" beliefs, the same faith, as the pillars (i.e. the Churches of God that pre-existed Paul's vocation), while at the same time you write:
Whatever the church of God was, it must have been critical of the Jewish traditions. That does seem to fit Paul.
and
the churches of God were like the more modern travelling faith shows, with people talking in tongues and miracle healings being performed. I'd suggest that this happened in the churches in Judea as well as in Galatia and Corinth. That then suggests common rituals, messages, money raising schemes, etc.
and
My question is: whenever Paul writes about "churches"/"assemblies" [ekklēsia], is he talking about different groups with their own beliefs, or about groups that shared the same beliefs?
In these statements, you are adhering to the limited (indeed, inadequate and defective) state of our evidence, which leaves you wondering whether Paul and the other Assemblies of God preached the same beliefs.

But then you also want to take the position that Paul certainly did have the same beliefs. If being an apostle or leading an Assembly of God was really about performing signs and wonders, then beliefs or "doctrine" are not essential and not relevant, and at any rate not something we have enough information about to draw the conclusion that you want to make.

It can't be both an open and a settled question.

If you were actually content with the claim that Galatians 1:23 is decisive evidence, or that we can make the giant leap from Paul's silence ("at no point is Paul saying that the churches in the different areas have differences in doctrine"), or that the very suspicious and un-Pauline idea of a Petrine "gospel of the circumcision" at 2:7 is genuine historical information, then you wouldn't be asking the questions and expressing the doubts cited above.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 amI don't see how you can confidently assert that Paul preached "the same" beliefs, the same faith, as the pillars (i.e. the Churches of God that pre-existed Paul's vocation), while at the same time you write:
That does seem to be the evidence which is available in Paul's letters. Paul actually refers to "churches" quite a few times in his letters, and he doesn't seem to distinguish them as separate groups with different beliefs. Certainly he refers to arguments between churches, and some of those arguments probably lead to schisms later, but not in the time of Paul. There don't appear to be any separate structures or hierarchies during the time of Paul.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 am
My question is: whenever Paul writes about "churches"/"assemblies" [ekklēsia], is he talking about different groups with their own beliefs, or about groups that shared the same beliefs?
In these statements, you are adhering to the limited (indeed, inadequate and defective) state of our evidence, which leaves you wondering whether Paul and the other Assemblies of God preached the same beliefs.
Well, no. I'm taking Paul at the implication of his words: that he was preaching the same things as the churches. From what I can see, when Paul talks about the "churches", he doesn't distinguish between them with regards to core beliefs. That's the state of the evidence.

You can see all occurances of the word "ekklēsia" listed on the blueletter site, to see how Paul uses it: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/le ... 1577&t=KJV

Does Paul sound like he is referring to groups with different core beliefs? He doesn't to me.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 amBut then you also want to take the position that Paul certainly did have the same beliefs. If being an apostle or leading an Assembly of God was really about performing signs and wonders, then beliefs or "doctrine" are not essential and not relevant, and at any rate not something we have enough information about to draw the conclusion that you want to make.
I agree, but when Paul doesn't appear to distinguish the beliefs in any of those he calls "churches", what best explains that? He seems to be assuming that the churches had the same beliefs.

Again, I'm not saying there weren't arguments, with some of those arguments probably leading to schisms later on. The Catholic Church in America disagrees with the Vatican on some issues. But I would say that they preach the same core beliefs. The disagreements may eventually lead to a schism, but for now, there is a hierarchical structure with authority still granted to the central body.

Paul's statements about the churches and his deference to the church in Jerusalem indicates the same kind of relationship to me.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 amIt can't be both an open and a settled question.
A "settled" question in Biblical studies is a miracle and proof of the existence of God. :) But again, I'm going by what is there. If there is evidence that Paul thought he was preaching something different to what the churches preached, I'd love to see it.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 amIf you were actually content with the claim that Galatians 1:23 is decisive evidence, or that we can make the giant leap from Paul's silence ("at no point is Paul saying that the churches in the different areas have differences in doctrine"), or that the very suspicious and un-Pauline idea of a Petrine "gospel of the circumcision" at 2:7 is genuine historical information, then you wouldn't be asking the questions and expressing the doubts cited above.
I'm not claiming "proof". Just how it looks like to me based on what Paul writes. Either Paul regards himself as part of the churches of God or he doesn't. If he regards himself as part of the churches of God, then it is reasonable to think he was preaching the same core beliefs as them. Otherwise he wouldn't regard himself as part of the churches of God.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 7:06 amthe very suspicious and un-Pauline idea of a Petrine "gospel of the circumcision" at 2:7 is genuine historical information
My analysis is based partly on that, yes. In what way is a Petrine gospel to the circumcision an un-Pauline idea?
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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Journey of an Exegesis

(1) What Paul Claimed that the Church in Christ Had Said He Was Preaching
GakuseiDon wrote: Sun May 23, 2021 11:56 pm Paul claims that the church in Christ said that Paul started teaching what they were teaching.
(2) What Paul & The Churches of God (Which Are In Christ) Preached
GakuseiDon wrote: Mon May 24, 2021 4:14 pm Paul preaches the same faith as those churches of God which are in Christ.
(3) What the Evidence, i.e. the Words of Paul, imply that he Preached
GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm I'm taking Paul at the implication of his words: that he was preaching the same things as the churches. From what I can see, when Paul talks about the "churches", he doesn't distinguish between them with regards to core beliefs. That's the state of the evidence.
(4) What Paul Seems to be Assuming about the Beliefs of the Churches (the Pillars, the other Apostles)
GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm when Paul doesn't appear to distinguish the beliefs in any of those he calls "churches", what best explains that? He seems to be assuming that the churches had the same beliefs.
(5) What It Is Reasonable to Think That Paul Preached Because of His Probable Belief That He Regarded Himself as Part of the Churches of God
GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm I'm not claiming "proof". Just how it looks like to me based on what Paul writes. Either Paul regards himself as part of the churches of God or he doesn't. If he regards himself as part of the churches of God, then it is reasonable to think he was preaching the same core beliefs as them. Otherwise he wouldn't regard himself as part of the churches of God.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm In what way is a Petrine gospel to the circumcision an un-Pauline idea?
The distinction between two apparently equally-valid "gospels" appears to contradict Paul's vehement insistence in Galatians 1:6-9 that there is only one true "gospel." Paul does, of course, speak in v. 6 of "another gospel," but he immediately adds (v.7) that this "other gospel" is not really another gospel but rather a perversion of the gospel of Christ. There can be only one true gospel--certainly not two as in Gal 2:7b!
William O. Walker, "Galatians 2:7b-8 as a Non-Pauline Interpolation," Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Oct 2003.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 4:52 pm(5) What It Is Reasonable to Think That Paul Preached Because of His Probable Belief That He Regarded Himself as Part of the Churches of God
I would word it like this: It is reasonable to think that Paul preached the same as the churches of God because of (1) he says this, and (2) how he talks about the churches. That's not to say there weren't arguments between the churches.
Irish1975 wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 5:01 pm
GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm In what way is a Petrine gospel to the circumcision an un-Pauline idea?
The distinction between two apparently equally-valid "gospels" appears to contradict Paul's vehement insistence in Galatians 1:6-9 that there is only one true "gospel." Paul does, of course, speak in v. 6 of "another gospel," but he immediately adds (v.7) that this "other gospel" is not really another gospel but rather a perversion of the gospel of Christ. There can be only one true gospel--certainly not two as in Gal 2:7b!
William O. Walker, "Galatians 2:7b-8 as a Non-Pauline Interpolation," Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Oct 2003.
I'm sure that guy has forgotten more about the Bible than I'll ever know, but as befits an unabashed amateur with little knowledge, I disagree.

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The gospel of Christ being preached to the Jews is the same one being preached to the Gentiles.

What is the gospel? It is God's mystery plan of salvation coming to fruition. Peter preaches the gospel to the Jews. Paul preaches the gospel to the Gentiles, after a revelation reveals that that was included in God's plan. They preach the same thing, though they argue about the need for circumcision, etc, in the salvation plan. If you disagree that the two gospels are preaching the same message, then how do you know?

What do you make of Gal 1:23? What do you think Paul was saying about what the churches of Judea (which I assume preach the gospel to the Jews) thought Paul was preaching?

Gal 1:22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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GakuseiDon wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 3:37 pm That does seem to be the evidence which is available in Paul's letters. Paul actually refers to "churches" quite a few times in his letters, and he doesn't seem to distinguish them as separate groups with different beliefs. Certainly he refers to arguments between churches, and some of those arguments probably lead to schisms later, but not in the time of Paul. There don't appear to be any separate structures or hierarchies during the time of Paul.
Actually Paul never refers to "churches", which is part of the point being made here. Paul refers to ekklēsia, which is the same term that was used to describe Jewish assemblies. Paul was not making a distinction between those who believed in Jesus Christ and those who did not. Paul was including uncircumcised Gentiles who believed in the Lord among the assembly of God. The assembly of God was Jewish.

It's really best to stop using the term "church" altogether. It shouldn't appear in the New Testament at all. Ekklēsia should be translated as "assembly", end of story. Use of the term church is an anachronistic English anomaly that just confuses matters.
Gal 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
This passage is at the heart of the problems. In most places in the Pauline letters, the "assembly of God" could easily be seen as a term that incorporates the Gentiles believers in the Lord Jesus within the Jewish "assembly of God". But, this one instance here presents many problems with such a reading. Here the term "assembly of God" is used in a way that clearly cannot be conflated with a Jewish religious body or concept, because Paul sets his devout Judaism against the "assembly of God". This statement claims that Paul persecuted the "assembly of God" because of his devotion to Judaism.

This is very strange, because other Jews also used the term "assembly of God" to refer to devout Jews or to bodies of esteemed worshiper of the Jewish God. That's what 'm trying to figure out here. Why would Paul use this term in this way? It seems very strange.

To a Jew reading this in the first century, it would read almost like, "You have heard that I persecuted the church of Christ and tried to destroy it. I excelled in the Catholic faith above other Italians, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."

That statement just doesn't really make sense. Most Catholics would read "church of Christ" as a description of the Catholic church. So why would a fervent Catholic persecute the "church of Christ"?

We have the same problem in Galatians 1:13. The "ekklesia tou Theou" would have been read as a description of a Jewish institution. Why would someone persecute a Jewish institution because of their fervent Judaism?

While I've been reluctant to take Gal 1:13 as an interpolation, I think we have to consider the possibility that it is.

Paul's persecution of the early Christ movement is essentially only mentioned in three places: Gal 1:13, 1 Cor 15:9, and Acts.

The mention in 1 Cor 15 is certainly a later spurious interpolation. The account in Acts is an invention. So that only leaves a single potentially legitimate mention of Paul's supposed early persecution of Christ followers. And that single mention presents significant challenges.

I do worry that Galatians 1-4 has been so manipulated and revised by anti-Marcionites that it may be impossible to figure out what it originally meant. We have to acknowledge that there was considerable controversy around Galatians from the beginning. It was seen by Marcionites as the most important Pauline letter. It was seen by anti-Marcionites as the basis for Marcion's claim that Paul was a unique apostle who was in opposition to the Judaizers.

The evidence for the existence of Gal 1:13 in Marcion is ambiguous. Tertullian does mention Gal 1:13 (5.2.7), but he doesn't clearly affirm that it existed in Marcion's version of the letter. Generally it is taken to support the existence of the passage, but it is actually unclear. Tertullian cross references Paul with Acts, to affirm the legitimacy of the claim of persecution, but it is not certain that Tertullian is affirming that this passage existed in Marcion or whether he is affirming the legitimacy of the passage because it exists in both Acts and the Catholic version of the letters. He doesn't explicitly call Marcion out, but it remains unclear.

Ironically, Tertullian's commentary shows just how much confusion Acts sowed, because Tertullian notes that it was the other apostles: James, John and Peter, who argued in favor of not requiring circumcision and not teaching the Law. This is in fact the claim that Acts makes, but all modern scholars of Acts note that this appears to be an intentional fabrication of the writer of Acts, who was intentionally creating harmony between Paul and other other apostles by having them issue Paul's teachings and having Paul adopt their teachings. Tertullian internalized the propaganda of the writer of Acts, and then used it in his polemic against Marcion.

Marcion claimed that Paul was in conflict with the other apostles, but the Catholics claims that there was no conflict. Acts was key in the counter-narrative. It was intended to show that "Paul's teachings" were actually not unique to him, they came from James, John and Peter. Marcion claimed that Paul's teachings were unique to him, and that James, John and Peter opposed his teachings.

So this whole section of Galatians, from Gal 1 to the end of Gal 2, received a lot of attention and was ripe for manipulation and interpolation.

It seems increasingly likely to me that the claim that Paul was one a persecutor of Christ worshipers is an anti-Marcionite invention intended to subordinate Paul to James and Peter. That is clearly the intention of 1 Cor 15:3-11.

The only way I can make sense of Gal 1:13 is if Paul uses "assembly of God" to mean those who receive the covenant of Abraham through faith, which would be those who do not require circumcision. That would make sense for Gal 1:13, but there are other places where Paul seems to use the term to include the uncircumcised among the larger nation of Israel as opposed to superseding the nation of Israel. In other words, Paul's assemblies were joining with ethnic Jews, not supplanting them. In such a case, Christ worshipers would be joining the "assembly of God". That brings s back to the problem of Gal 1:13. If they were joining the "assembly of God", then why would Paul ever have persecuted the "assembly of God"?

Use usage of Gal 1:13 essentially requires that Paul sees ethnic Jews as not part of the "assembly of God", but this is contradicted both in other places in the Pauline letters and also by the understood meaning of "assembly of God" in the first century.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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rgprice wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 5:38 amIt's really best to stop using the term "church" altogether. It shouldn't appear in the New Testament at all. Ekklēsia should be translated as "assembly", end of story. Use of the term church is an anachronistic English anomaly that just confuses matters.
Fair point. I'll use "assembly" from here on in this thread, though apologies if I slip up occasionally!
rgprice wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 5:38 am
Gal 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
This passage is at the heart of the problems. In most places in the Pauline letters, the "assembly of God" could easily be seen as a term that incorporates the Gentiles believers in the Lord Jesus within the Jewish "assembly of God". But, this one instance here presents many problems with such a reading. Here the term "assembly of God" is used in a way that clearly cannot be conflated with a Jewish religious body or concept, because Paul sets his devout Judaism against the "assembly of God". This statement claims that Paul persecuted the "assembly of God" because of his devotion to Judaism.
Actually, it was his devotion to "the traditions of my fathers" that was the issue, not his devotion to Judaism.

Remember that Paul calls belief in a crucified Messiah a "stumbling block" to Jews. I think that the Assembly of God had beliefs that were against the traditions of the Judaism of the ruling Jewish leaders. To my mind, the Assembly "of God in Christ" were a group that believed that they were directly linked to God somehow, and so didn't feel they needed to follow orthodox Jewish traditions. Besides the stumbling block of believing in a crucified Messiah, Paul also believed that God had appointed apostles, prophets and teachers to the Assembly of God, which might have caused alarm to the ruling classes.
rgprice wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 5:38 amThis is very strange, because other Jews also used the term "assembly of God" to refer to devout Jews or to bodies of esteemed worshiper of the Jewish God. That's what 'm trying to figure out here. Why would Paul use this term in this way? It seems very strange.
It's not strange if Paul is using "assembly" as an in-group reference to his own group. Note that Paul often doesn't even use "assembly of God". Just "assembly". Here are some examples:

1. Assemblies of Judaea which were in Christ (Gal 1:22)
2. The assembly of God which is at Corinth (1 Cor 1:2)
3. The assemblies of Asia (1 Cor 16:19) <-- NOT "assemblies of God in Asia"
4. The assemblies of Galatia (1 Cor 16:1) <-- NOT "assemblies of God in Galatia"
5. The assembly which is at Cenchrea (Rom 16:1) <-- NOT "the assembly of God which is at Cenchrea"
6. The assembly that is in their house (Rom 16:5) <-- NOT "the assembly of God that is in their house"

So sometimes Paul just uses the word "assembly" which, as you noted earlier, could be used for Jewish and Gentile groups as well. Yet it is clear in context that Paul is referring to "assemblies of God in Christ". Paul is writing to fellow believers, so we understand who he is talking about, even if the only word being used is "assembly".

For example:

1 Cor 12:28 And God hath set some in the assembly, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I think it is reasonable to assume that Paul is talking about the assembly 'of God in Christ', and not general assemblies of Jews or assemblies of Gentiles.

That's why I believe that 'assembly' and 'assembly of God' were meaningful as in-group terms when talking to fellow believers, even if other groups used the words "assembly" or "assembly of God" as well. The problem is that we only have Paul writing to fellow believers. But if the word 'assembly' was commonly used in Greek by all groups of Greek-speakers, then it is clear Paul is giving it a meaning specific to the assemblies of God in Christ in his letters to fellow believers.
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Re: The "Assembly of God"

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Actually, it was his devotion to "the traditions of my fathers" that was the issue, not his devotion to Judaism.

Remember that Paul calls belief in a crucified Messiah a "stumbling block" to Jews. I think that the Assembly of God had beliefs that were against the traditions of the Judaism of the ruling Jewish leaders. To my mind, the Assembly "of God in Christ" were a group that believed that they were directly linked to God somehow, and so didn't feel they needed to follow orthodox Jewish traditions. Besides the stumbling block of believing in a crucified Messiah, Paul also believed that God had appointed apostles, prophets and teachers to the Assembly of God, which might have caused alarm to the ruling classes.
This may actually be a very important point! I've always read "the traditions of my fathers" as meaning the traditions of Judaism. But, this could in fact be to the key to the whole damned thing, because "the traditions of my fathers" may in fact mean Canaanite traditions!

This goes directly to Margaret Barker's book, The Great Angel, in which she proposes (and I agree) that the distinction between "El" and "Yahweh" was known and remained known to Israelite descendants in spite of the fact that the Temple priesthood taught otherwise. Barker argues that there would have been others who retained the original polytheistic Canaanite traditions, in which Yahweh was the son of El. The writer of the Torah combined Yahweh and El into a single figure. The Torah partially preserves this distinction in the names of God and this is also evident in the LXX in the use of "God" vs "the Lord".

Reading Gal 1:13 in that light gives a whole new meaning:

And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

In that light this now appears to be saying that Paul came to Judaism with a different background. He came with knowledge of, "the traditions of my fathers," which are the Canaanite traditions, in which there is a distinction between El and Yahweh. This makes everything make sense!

This is why Paul both describes himself as a Jew, but also calls out the Jews as not understanding their own religion! Paul is working from a form of Judaism in which some of the older polytheistic traditions are still preserved, traditions which mainstream Jews reject. This is the crux of the whole controversy. This means it is also likely the case that Paul's lack of requirement of circumcision dates back to older traditions.

This would put Paul more in line with Samaritans, which also makes sense of a lot of other things. Wow. I don't want to go too far out on a limb, but this really is a breakthrough in how I read this. Thanks.
It's not strange if Paul is using "assembly" as an in-group reference to his own group. Note that Paul often doesn't even use "assembly of God". Just "assembly". Here are some examples:

1. Assemblies of Judaea which were in Christ (Gal 1:22)
2. The assembly of God which is at Corinth (1 Cor 1:2)
3. The assemblies of Asia (1 Cor 16:19) <-- NOT "assemblies of God in Asia"
4. The assemblies of Galatia (1 Cor 16:1) <-- NOT "assemblies of God in Galatia"
5. The assembly which is at Cenchrea (Rom 16:1) <-- NOT "the assembly of God which is at Cenchrea"
6. The assembly that is in their house (Rom 16:5) <-- NOT "the assembly of God that is in their house"

So sometimes Paul just uses the word "assembly" which, as you noted earlier, could be used for Jewish and Gentile groups as well. Yet it is clear in context that Paul is referring to "assemblies of God in Christ". Paul is writing to fellow believers, so we understand who he is talking about, even if the only word being used is "assembly".

For example:

1 Cor 12:28 And God hath set some in the assembly, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I think it is reasonable to assume that Paul is talking about the assembly 'of God in Christ', and not general assemblies of Jews or assemblies of Gentiles.

That's why I believe that 'assembly' and 'assembly of God' were meaningful as in-group terms when talking to fellow believers, even if other groups used the words "assembly" or "assembly of God" as well. The problem is that we only have Paul writing to fellow believers. But if the word 'assembly' was commonly used in Greek by all groups of Greek-speakers, then it is clear Paul is giving it a meaning specific to the assemblies of God in Christ in his letters to fellow believers.
In light of what I just said above, I think you are right in that Paul uses "assembly of God" to refer to a form of Judaism that incorporates elements of the older Canaanite traditions. As Barker stated in The Great Angel, there must have been strains of Judaism in which the older traditions were maintained and remembered. That such sects of Judaism would have existed in Judea is expected. This is much like the issue of Mormonism, where there are still sects of Mormonism that practice polygamy. Mainstream Mormonism rejects polygamy, but so-called fundamentalist Mormon sects still advocate it and also of course call themselves Mormons. Indeed much of the way that FLDS sects talk about mainstream Mormonism is very similar to how Paul talks about Jews and Judaism. So I can see FLDS sects talking about "churches" in the same way that Paul talks about "assemblies". And of course, we can imagine an FLDS member talking about persecuting the Mormon church because of the traditions of his fathers, in much the same way that Paul does.
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