Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

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gryan
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Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

Parallel stories of what happened to Paul after his revelation experiences:

Story one, after his initial revelation: Of the apostles, Paul consulted no qualitatively different one, ἕτερον, except James the Lord's flesh and blood brother (Gal 1:16-19 as I interpret it, cf. a qualitatively different, ἕτερον, Gospel, Gal 1:6)

Story two, after his revelation experiences: to keep him from being conceited, Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet him (2 Cor 12:7).

One interpretation of the thorn in the flesh/angel of Satan is that it was a personal opponent. I had thought of the thorn as a temptation of desire, but I've changed my mind. I'll bet, in Paul's retrospective viewpoint, God allowed "James the Lord's brother" to criticize his claim in order to to keep him from being conceited. James may have literally struck Paul with his fist ( κολαφίζω, 2 Cor 12:7 and 1 Cor 4:11). But maybe he only "buffeted" him with such accusations of weakness as these: "his letters are strong, but when present, his body is weak, and his speech is to be counted as nothing" (2 Cor 10:10).
Last edited by gryan on Wed May 25, 2022 11:26 am, edited 13 times in total.
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Giuseppe
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Re: Was James the Lord's brother Paul's thorn?

Post by Giuseppe »

So, if James is an angel of Satan, Jesus is Satan masked as angel of light!
gryan
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Re: Was James the Lord's brother Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

The consultation was between James, the blood brother of Jesus (an expert on the life of Jesus "according to the flesh," having grown up with him), and the newcomer, Paul, a former adversary of the Jesus movement who now said with conviction: "God revealed his son (Jesus) in me." There was plenty of opportunity for misunderstanding and conflict over who best manifested the light of truth, and who did not.
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GakuseiDon
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by GakuseiDon »

I've read various solutions proposing what Paul meant by "thorn in the flesh" - stuttering, nervous breakdown, even homosexuality. Having the thorn be James is an intriguing idea. There is obvious tension between James' faction and Paul, so it fits. I wonder what Paul's audience made of the reference to the thorn. I.e. whether hints were offered with the expectation that his audience would understand it; or Paul put them in with the expectation his audience didn't understand it.

One idea I had is that Paul is having a go at James and Peter at the start of 2 Cor 12, leading up to one of the verses you refer to:

2Co 12:1 ... I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.


The fourteen year gap is referenced again in Gal 2:1 ("Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also"), which may be relevant.

I've always thought that Paul's use of "God knoweth" comes across like our modern usage, meaning "who knows?" This might be Paul questioning James or Peter's claims of having visions. (I have no knowledge of ancient Greek at all, so I have nothing to back that up.)

2Co 12:3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.


Reading between the lines, I think I see Paul expressing doubt about the significance of James/Peter's visions, while "modestly" downplaying his own. "Sure, I could talk about MY visions, but I'm too modest to do so!"

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.


"Reproaches" matches what happened to Paul when he went up to Jerusalem 14 years later, when false witnesses were brought out. I don't know what to make of "I besought the Lord thrice". I'm guessing that "3 times" has a meaning there that is significant to the thorn. What it is, I can't guess. But it is connected to "lest I should be exalted above measure", and that seems to be connected to the revelations.

No conclusions were proposed or harmed in this post! :cheers:
gryan
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

GakuseiDon wrote: Thu May 26, 2022 3:41 am I wonder what Paul's audience made of the reference to the thorn. I.e. whether hints were offered with the expectation that his audience would understand it; or Paul put them in with the expectation his audience didn't understand it.
Conceding to a claim made by Mullins (JBL, 1957), U. Chicago prof. Margaret Thrall (International Critical Commentary, 2000, p. 812) wrote: "...Jews would recognise (sic) the phrase 'thorn in the flesh' [σκόλοψ τῇ σαρκί] as an allusion to an enemy, in view of its use in Num 33:55..."

Num 33:55
“’But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become thorns in your eyes (σκόλοπες ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς) and barbs in your sides. They will give you trouble..."

Since the OT "thorn" was in the eyes, the metaphorical suggestion is of a small/little intrusion that results in a lot of pain for the one being troubled.

If Mark and his first audience were reading Galatians/2 Cor, then the epithet Mark gives Jesus' brother James might have a double resonance: Ἰακώβου τοῦ μικροῦ, James the mikrou, the small/little thorn in the eye of Paul. Or not.

This proverb from Galatians 5:9 is a better match for "James the mikrou": "A little (mikra) leaven leavens the whole lump."
Last edited by gryan on Thu May 26, 2022 5:44 am, edited 4 times in total.
gryan
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

Note: My interpretation presumes that "some from James" who influenced Cephas and "the Jews and even Barnabus" to stop eating with Gentiles came from "James the Lord's brother" (Mark's James the mikrou) -- not from the pillar James -- James son of Alphaeus. This sets up a scenario of two Jameses in Jerusalem, a not-great James (Paul's thorn) and a great James (the great one being a true "slave of all" who gave Paul the right hand of fellowship). The great James, as slave of all, tried to mediate between Paul and the not-great James (James the Lord's brother, who was a "bishop" of sorts, before there was such a thing). The greater served the lesser.
gryan
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

More from U. Chicago prof. Margaret Thrall (International Critical Commentary, 2000, p. 812):

"The description ἄγγελος Σατανᾶ suggests a personal entity, and the verb κολαφίζῃ the activity of a person (Mullins, Thorn, 301). In 11.14-15 Paul has referred to Satan's disguise as 'an angel of light' and to the opponents in Corinth as his servants (Mullins, 302). Now his thought turns to one such particularly... it appears to have been inflicted at some point in the past, in connection, probably, with the heavenly rapture of 12.2-4. And if this was so, and the singular of σκόλοψ and ἄγγελος is to be taken seriously, the implication would be that Paul has been burdened with one major opponent who has been continually dogging his tracks for some considerable length of time. This is implausible, since no such single opponent makes an appearance either in the letters or in Acts."

Implausible? I beg to differ. I suspect that there was "such a single opponent." And there were three encounters. The first was direct: Paul met face to face with James the Lord's brother, the only qualitatively different apostle. The second was indirect: although James the Lord's brother was not invited to the private meeting with the recognized pillars (Paul had prayed that he be taken away), he was represented by the false brothers who came in by stealth, and Paul did go along with the pillars and Barnabus in that they all gave place in submission for an hour ("to whom not" in Gal 2:5 being understood as a textual corruption). The third time was in Antioch. When Cephas/Peter came to Antioch (At Gal 2:12, the textual variant: "when he came" is preferred, not the prevailing "when they came"), he had already decided based on the meeting with "some from James" (i.e. a reference to the false brothers of the circumcision party back in Jerusalem) that he would not eat with Gentiles anymore. That was the third time, and that is when Paul resisted: for Paul "the hour" of giving place in submission was long past. He put into action the teaching of Jesus he had received through revelation: "My power is made perfect in your weakness." He identified with the "weak" Gentiles: "who is weak and I am not weak, who is caused to stumble and I do not burn... I will boast in weakness..." (2 Cor 11:29 and 12:9). Even as Cephas, the Jews and even Barnabus withdrew (i.e. as "A little leaven" was spreading through the whole lump), Paul continued to eat with Gentiles.
ABuddhist
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Re: Was James the Lord's brother Paul's thorn?

Post by ABuddhist »

gryan wrote: Wed May 25, 2022 11:12 am The consultation was between James, the blood brother of Jesus (an expert on the life of Jesus "according to the flesh," having grown up with him)
Such a thing, though, is not said by Paul, nor by letters attributed to James. Indeed, within the Christians' scriptures, only Acts of the Apostles portray James Jesus's brother as a Christian involved with the community after Jesus's death. But Acts is regarded, according to the Acts Seminar, as at best 2nd century historical fiction.

Furthermore, in GMark (earliest surviving gospel), James Jesus's brother is portrayed as rejecting and as having been rejected by Jesus with no reconciliation.
gryan
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

@ ABuddhist

Re: "Such a thing, though, is not said by Paul..."

What about Gal 1:16-19? That includes James the Lord's brother as belonging to the apostles, but as I read it, Paul also says that he discerned him to be qualitatively different, i.e. preaching a qualitatively different Gospel which did not exist anymore.

Re: letters attributed to James

I attribute James to James son of Alphaeus

Re: within the Christians' scriptures, only Acts of the Apostles portray James Jesus's brother as a Christian involved with the community after Jesus's death.

I regard Paul's writings as the primary texts: 1 Cor 9:5 suggests "the Lord's brothers" were Jesus' followers same as Cephas. As noted above Gal 1:16 includes James among the apostles. Acts 1:14 fits that scenario.

That said, in all of Luke-Acts, none of Jesus' blood brothers are ever directly named. That is only done in Mark and Matt. In Acts, the "James" who in Acts 15:19 said, "It is my decision that..." (ἐγὼ κρίνω) is traditionally understood to be James son of Alphaeus, and I agree with tradition on that one. I don't however agree with the same tradition when it identifies James son of Alphaeus with James the less (Mk 15:40, "the less," μικρος, mikros is the opposite of μεγας megas and so the name differentiates him from another greater "James"). The tradition identified James the son of Alphaeus with James the less only to uphold the perpetual virginity of Mary (see: https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm).

It is the natural reading of Mark to understand James the less and Jesus and Joses as brothers, i.e. born of the same woman named Mary (Mk 3:31-35, 6:3, 15:40, and 15:47). But I depart from scholarly consensus when I argue that there was another "Mary" mother of another "James" (Mk 16:1) who was the great one by the standards of Jesus in Mark:

Mark 10:42
And Jesus having called them (the 12) near, says to them, “You know that those recognized (οἱ δοκοῦντες, cf οἱ δοκοῦντες in Gal 2:3, 2:6 and 2:9) and to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones (οἱ μεγάλοι) exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be thus among you. Instead, whoever desires to become great (μέγας) among you will be your servant, 44and whoever desires to become first among you will be slave of all.

The pillar James (οἱ δοκοῦντες, James son of Alphaeus) was "great" by the standard of Jesus when he gave Paul the right hand of fellowship and advocated for the poor. That is the opposite of James the less, i.e. the not-great one, who influenced Cephas and even Barnabas not to eat with Gentiles (Gal 1:12).

So there was a great James, the recognized pillar, James son of Alphaeus (Gal 2:9), and there was a not-great James, James the Lord's brother who inspired "some from James," who preached the practice of circumcision for Gentile converts (Gal 2:12). Both were influential in Jerusalem according to Paul, as I read Paul.

You will not find anyone in print making this argument except me. I've been rereading Galatians now daily going on 7 years. Of late, I'm doing a close reading of Galatians in light of clues from Mark.
gryan
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Re: Was "James the Lord's brother" Paul's thorn?

Post by gryan »

GakuseiDon wrote: Thu May 26, 2022 3:41 am
Reading between the lines, I think I see Paul expressing doubt about the significance of James/Peter's visions, while "modestly" downplaying his own. "Sure, I could talk about MY visions, but I'm too modest to do so!"

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Thanks for your encouraging comments!

I think the revelation story is a boast in weakness inasmuch as it involves the experience of being "caught up" harpazó: to seize, catch up, snatch away. It has to do with being taken by a higher power, overpowered. It was not his choice.

I doubt Cephas's and James's experiences of the risen Lord were quite like Paul's, although I do think they were similar enough that when James and Cephas gave Paul the right hand of fellowship, part of what bonded them was similar conviction that the life of Jesus was ongoing "in" their lives.

Note: Against scholarly consensus, I think the "James" of 1 Cor 15:7/the pillar James of Gal 2:9 was the son of Alphaeus:

"...He appeared to Cephasa and then to the Twelve. 6After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one of untimely birth."
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