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.