Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Covering all topics of history and the interpretation of texts, posts here should conform to the norms of academic discussion: respectful and with a tight focus on the subject matter.

Moderator: andrewcriddle

User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by Peter Kirby »

The article's footnotes show that he interacts with Doherty, Price, and Carrier.

Skimming through it, I see that he takes a very dim view of interpolation hypotheses. Such an approach, I would agree, leads to rejecting other interpretations of the letters. For example, if the 1 Thessalonians thing is right that the Jews killed Jesus, it's game over for other interpretations.

He also takes a stand on Marcion vis-a-vis Paul, claiming that Marcion excised passages from Paul. Contrast my approach regarding the Shorter Readings of Paul: https://peterkirby.com/marcions-shorter ... -paul.html

To be fair, Doherty and Carrier spend little time developing theories about interpolations in Paul (the same cannot be said of Price), so it does leave them vulnerable to this kind of criticism that doesn't take those theories seriously.

This part of the introduction is greatly appreciated:

“Mythicism”, the view that there never was a Jesus of history, has in recent years attracted increasing interest from scholars. This interest is a positive development, not only because of the increasing attempts by mythicists to engage with scholarship, but even more importantly because of growing Jesus-scepticism among the general public.

The article is an example to others on how this kind of discussion doesn't need to be a tirade to make its points.

The JSHJ article is here: https://www.academia.edu/41622525/The_H ... ls_Letters

There's still some stuff in there that is relevant to those who hold to interpolation hypotheses. I'll need to give it another look to follow all the arguments on all the passages.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by Peter Kirby »

These are the references that Gathercole uses (it's not clear that every single one is considered as an argument, especially since he takes an interest in arguing against other scholars of the historical Jesus that more can be learned about Jesus from Paul than has been admitted):

Gal 4:4 ("born from a woman")
Rom. 5.15 ("man")
1 Cor.15.20–22 ("man," "Adam")
1 Cor 15.47 ("the second man" from heaven)
Heb 4.15 ("in every way like us though without sin")
Rom 8.3 ("likeness of sinful flesh")
Rom 8.3 ("in the flesh")
Rom. 9.5 (Israelite stock)
Gal. 3.16 (descendent of Abraham)
Gal. 4.4 (a Jew in ethnic terms, "born under the Law")
Rom 1.3 ("born of the seed of David according to the flesh")
Rom 15.12 ("root of Jesse")
1 Cor. 9.5 ("the Lord's brothers")
Gal. 1.19 (James the "brother of the Lord")
Rom. 7.4 ("body")
1 Cor. 10.16 ("body")
1 Cor. 11.23–26 ("blood")
1 Cor. 11.24 (breaks bread)
Rom. 15.8 ("a servant of the circumcised")
1 Cor. 7.10 (teaching against divorce)
1 Cor. 9.14 (workers should be paid)
1 Thess. 4.15–16 (instruction about coming in the future)
1 Cor. 11.23–26 (the Last Supper)
Rom. 5.18–19; Phil. 2.8 (obedience to God)
Gal. 2.20 (willingness to die)
Rom. 15.3 (Jesus fulfilled: 'as it is written: “The insults of those who insult youhave fallen on me.”')
Rom. 15.5; Phil. 2.5 (bearing with and serving others)
1 Cor.10.31–11.1 (imitation of Christ)
Gal. 6.2 (bearing's other's burdens)
2 Cor. 10.1 ("meekness and gentleness")
2 Cor.5.21 ("knew no sin")
Rom. 8.35; 2 Cor. 5.14; Phil. 2.1 ("love")
2 Cor. 1.19–20 ("faithful")
1 Cor. 16.23 ("grace")
Phil. 1.8 ("compassion")
1 Cor. 7.25 ("mercy")
2 Cor. 8.9; 13.4 ("poverty" and "weakness")
1 Thess. 1.6 ("suffering")
Rom. 8.17 ("suffering")
2 Cor. 1.5, Phil. 3.10 ("sufferings")
Gal. 6.17 ("wounds")
Rom. 15.3 (verbal abuse)
1 Thess. 2.14–16 (disbelieved by Jews)
1 Cor 11.20 ("Lordly meal")
Gal. 6.14 ("cross" of the Lord)
Rom. 5.6 ("died")
Rom. 3.25–26 ("in the present time")
Rom 4.24; 6.4; 6.9; 7.4; 8.11; 10.7; 1 Cor. 15.12; 15.20; Gal. 1.1; 1 Thess. 1.10 ("from the dead")
1 Cor. 5.7 (sacrifice, passover lamb)
1 Cor. 1.17–18, 23; 2.2, 8; 2 Cor. 13.4;Gal. 3.1; 6.12, 14; Phil. 2.8; 3.18 (crucifixion)
1 Corinthians 2.8 (condemned by rulers)
1 Thess. 2.14–15 (Judaeans were responsible for Jesus' death)
1 Cor. 15.4; Rom. 6.4 (was buried)
Rom. 3.21 ("But now" God has revealed his righteousness)
1 Corinthians 15.5–7 (implied to be known to Cephas and James)

Helpfully, there is a section highlighting important points in a summary:

Historical Activity

– Jesus, as the seed of Abraham, came. (Gal. 3.19)
– He was known as ‘meek’ and ‘gentle’, which implies interaction with the vulnerable. (2 Cor. 10.1)
– The night before his death, he instructed an audience which he expected to repeat his pre-crucifixion breaking of bread and the drinking of wine. He expected them to do this as a remembrance of him, which can only refer to aremembrance of what the pre-resurrection Jesus did. (1 Cor. 11.23–25)
– Jesus’ death was instigated by Judaeans (1 Thess. 2.14–15), unless refuge is sought in an interpolation, which is by no means certain.
– His death functioned as a ‘proof’ or ‘demonstration’. (Rom. 3.25–26)
– The resurrection appearances, however understood, probably require a recognition of a pre-Easter Jesus. Otherwise, the witnesses would know neitherthat a resurrection had taken place, nor that the person who had died andrisen was Jesus.
– This activity on earth took place in the early- to mid-Herodian era.

Humanity

– Jesus is designated a man, an ἄνθρωπος.
– Jesus is born of a woman, unless refuge is again sought in an interpolation.(Gal. 4.4).
– He is a Jew (Rom. 9.5; Gal. 4.4), a descendant of Abraham (Gal. 3.16) and David (Rom. 1.3).
– He is given a human, Jewish name.
– He had a body with flesh and blood (Rom. 8.3; 1 Cor. 11.23–25 et al.), a body different from his post-resurrection body.
– He belonged between his death and resurrection to the realm of the dead, as implied by the language of resurrection from ‘the dead’ (οἱ νεκροί), a term frequent both in Paul and elsewhere.

Also, assuming authenticity for some of Paul's letters, there is an argument from internal evidence for date:

To begin with, a rough terminus a quo for Paul’s letter-writing can be de-tected from his geographical language. Perhaps most instructive is the fact thatin Philippians Paul calls his addressees Φιλιππήσιοι, a Latinism unique in Paul’susage of toponymics (Phil. 4.15). This term fits the Roman status of the city of Philippi and its colonial name Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. It was initially Antony (after the Battle of Philippi in 42 BCE), and formally Augustus in 27 BCE, who established Philippi as a Roman colony and gave it the ius Italicum. Therefore, 42 BCE is most probable as a terminus a quo if one is relying entirely on evidence internal to Paul.

A terminus ad quem for Paul’s letter-writing can be established in the broadest sense from his reference to Aretas: ‘In Damascus King Aretas’s ethnarch was garrisoning the city of the Damascenes in order to arrest me, but I was lowered in a basket out of a win-dow in the wall and slipped through his fingers.’ (2 Cor. 11.32–33)

There are four Nabataean kings of this name:
Aretas I: early-mid second century BCE.
Aretas II: end of the second century BCE.
Aretas III: c. 87–62 BCE.
Aretas IV: c. 8 BCE–40 CE.

Since the reference to Φιλιππήσιοι has established a terminus a quo of 42 BCE, only Aretas IV Philopatris can be the king mentioned in 2 Corinthians. Therefore the dates of the last Nabataean king of this name, 8 BCE–40 CE, are respectively the terminus a quo and terminus ad quem for Paul’s escape from Damascus.

So a broad range of dating is then given, of Paul belonging to the first three quarters of the first century.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 6161
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by neilgodfrey »

fwiw, I responded to Simon Gathercole's article at the time it first appeared in 2018:

Addressing Simon Gathercole’s “Historical and Human Existence of Jesus” (#1)

Addressing S. Gathercole’s Case for Jesus’ Humanity: “Born from a Woman” (#2)

Addressing S. Gathercole’s Case: “Born from a Woman” (#3)

Addressing S. Gathercole’s Case for Jesus’ “Humanity” continued: Misrepresentations (#4)

Simon Gathercole’s Failure to Address Mythicism: (#5)

Tim also had something to say:

Gathercole Dabbles with Counterfactual History

All are collected here, along with a link to a Richard Carrier response.

That was a few years ago and I have not reviewed what I wrote so I don't know if I would make the same points or use the same tone today.

Regardless of the faults of mythicist arguments, I do recall the case for the historicity of Jesus to be in total violation of the basic rules of historical inquiry as applied in other studies of history.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by Peter Kirby »

I'm going to rearrange these references in the order of Marcion's canon and underline those references that are probably not in it, if we don't include what I have identified as shorter readings of Paul in that canon. I will also put bold on the Lord's Supper passage, with reference to viewtopic.php?t=2019 and viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2650 from spin and Smith, respectively (even though I remain conflicted about it). And bold also on the 1 Thessalonians passage that several think is an interpolation (although "killed the Lord" is attested in Against Marcion 5.15).

Gal. 1.1 ("from the dead")
Gal. 1.19 (James the "brother of the Lord")
Gal. 2.20 (willingness to die)
Gal. 3.1; 6.12 (crucifixion)
Gal. 3.16 (descendent of Abraham)
Gal. 4:4 ("born from a woman")
Gal. 4.4 (a Jew in ethnic terms, "born under the Law")
Gal. 6.2 (bearing's other's burdens)
Gal. 6.14 ("cross" of the Lord)
Gal. 6.17 ("wounds")
1 Cor. 1.17–18, 23; 2.2, 8 (crucifixion)
1 Cor. 2.8 (condemned by rulers)
1 Cor. 5.7 (sacrifice, passover lamb)
1 Cor. 7.10 (teaching against divorce)
1 Cor. 7.25 ("mercy")
1 Cor. 9.5 ("the Lord's brothers")
1 Cor. 9.14 (workers should be paid)
1 Cor. 10.16 ("body")
1 Cor. 10.31–11.1 (imitation of Christ)
1 Cor 11.20 ("Lordly meal")
1 Cor. 11.23–26 (the Last Supper)
1 Cor. 11.23–26 ("blood")
1 Cor. 11.24 (breaks bread)
1 Cor. 15.4 (was buried)
1 Cor 15.5–7 (implied to be known to Cephas and James)
1 Cor. 15.12; 15.20 ("from the dead")
1 Cor. 15.20–22 ("man," "Adam")
1 Cor 15.47 ("the second man" from heaven)
1 Cor. 16.23 ("grace")
2 Cor. 1.5 ("sufferings")
2 Cor. 1.19–20 ("faithful")
2 Cor. 5.14 ("love")
2 Cor. 5.21 ("knew no sin")
2 Cor. 8.9; 13.4 ("poverty" and "weakness")
2 Cor. 10.1 ("meekness and gentleness")
2 Cor. 13.4 (crucifixion)
Rom. 1.3 ("born of the seed of David according to the flesh")
Rom. 3.21 ("But now" God has revealed his righteousness)
Rom. 3.25–26 ("in the present time")
Rom. 4.24; 6.4; 6.9; 7.4; 8.11; 10.7 ("from the dead")
Rom. 5.6 ("died")
Rom. 5.15 ("man")
Rom. 5.18–19 (obedience to God)
Rom. 6.4 (was buried)
Rom. 7.4 ("body")
Rom. 8.3 ("likeness of sinful flesh")
Rom. 8.3 ("in the flesh")
Rom. 8.17 ("suffering")
Rom. 8.35 ("love")
Rom. 9.5 (Israelite stock)
Rom. 15.3 (verbal abuse)
Rom. 15.3 (Jesus fulfilled: 'as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”')
Rom. 15.5 (bearing with and serving others)
Rom. 15.8 ("a servant of the circumcised")
Rom. 15.12 ("root of Jesse")
1 Thess. 1.10 ("from the dead")
1 Thess. 1.6 ("suffering")
1 Thess. 2.14–16 (disbelieved by Jews)
1 Thess. 2.14–15 (Judaeans were responsible for Jesus' death)
1 Thess. 4.15–16 (instruction about coming in the future)
Phil. 1.8 ("compassion")
Phil. 2.1 ("love")
Phil. 2.5 (bearing with and serving others)
Phil. 2.8 (obedience to God)
Phil. 2.8; 3.18 (crucifixion)
Phil. 3.10 ("sufferings")

Now consider the shorter list of verses that Gathercole cites in his summary of important points:

Gal. 3.16
2 Cor. 10.1 (‘meek’ and ‘gentle’)
1 Cor. 11.23–25
1 Thess. 2.14–15
Rom. 3.25–26
1 Cor 15.5–7
Gal. 4.4
Rom. 9.5
Gal. 3.16
Rom. 1.3
Rom. 8.3 (flesh)

It's clear to me that Doherty and Carrier could have done more to address the question of interpolations generally and the version of Paul used by Marcion particularly. While I understand that there are always those who will refer to these hypotheses as a "refuge," that's only sometimes apt if they're a parenthetical part of the investigation, invoked whenever a difficulty is encountered. If these problems are placed front and center as the crux of the matter, it's no longer apt. The question of the interpolations into letters of Paul becomes the whole point.

Some people jump from this data to the conclusion that Marcion excised these passages, usually with far too much comfort in immediately going on to ignore it all and treat the epistles as though we practically possess the originals in our very hands.

Here are the arguments remaining after removing the underlined and the bold:
  • He was known as ‘meek’ and ‘gentle’, which implies interaction with the vulnerable. (2 Cor. 10.1)
  • Jesus is designated a man, an ἄνθρωπος.
  • He is given a human, Jewish name.
  • He had a body with flesh (Rom. 8.3), a body diferent from his post-resurrection body.
  • He belonged between his death and resurrection to the realm of the dead, as implied by the language of resurrection from ‘the dead’ (οἱ νεκροί)
Or as he says in the body of the article:

Here the parallel between Adam and Christ is underscored by reference tothem both being ἄνθρωποι. (Paul appears clearly to think that Adam was also historical.) ... To add to this, Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 15 to contrast Adam, the first man, with Jesus who is destined as ‘the last Adam’ (ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδάµ), drawing attention to their analogous positions (1 Cor. 15.45). The passage goes on to contrast the ‘first man’ made from the dust, with Jesus ‘the second man’ (ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος) who comes from heaven (15.47). ...

To begin with Philippians 2.7–8, the statements that the heavenly redeemer(i) ‘came in the likeness of men’ (ἐν ὁµοιώµατι ἀνθρώπων ενόµενος), and (ii) ‘was found in appearance as (or, like) a man’ (σχήµατι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος) could betaken to attribute an unreality to Jesus’ humanity. Likeness and appearance in these Greek terms, however, need not be in contrast to reality; they can justas readily imply reflection of an underlying reality.


To come to Romans 8.3, it is notable that Paul talks there of the ‘likeness of sinful flesh’, which suggests that he may well be thinking that there is a pointof discontinuity between Jesus and other humans in the matter of sinfulness. 2 Cor. 5.21 probably confirms this. Moreover, in Romans 8.3, the ensuing references to Jesus as a sin-offering, and especially the statement that sin is condemned ‘in the flesh’ (i.e. in the flesh of Jesus) mean that it is very difficult toattribute to Jesus a non-human or non-physical constitution.


With respect to his personal name, Jesus is a very standard Jewish name. It is the same as the biblical Hebrew name “Joshua”... whose name in the Greek versions of the Old Testament is spelled Ἰησοῦς, as Paul spells Jesus’ name. According to one calculation, it is the sixth most common male name among Palestinian Jews between 330 BCE–200 CE. Never, as far as I know, is Joshua-Jesus the name of an angel. Here Gullotta’s observations about the prosopography of angels are important. In Paul’s day,the process of naming good angels was not very far advanced among Jews, butthere is a consistent pattern: Daniel mentions Gabriel and Michael; Tobit adds Raphael; 1 Enoch has these three as well as (again, leaving aside demons) Uriel, Raguel, Michael, Sariel (or Sarakiel or Suriel), Jerahmeel, and Fanuel (Penuel),as well as Zateel. Even if there may occasionally be other kinds of names for angels, the overwhelming impression is that these names are formed with the –el suffix. From Jesus’ name, by contrast, everything suggests he is a human being and a Jew.


The view that ‘the brothers of the Lord’ just means ‘any baptized Christian whatever’ does not work for 1 Cor. 9.5, since if Paul weretalking about the right of every Christian he could simply have used that gen-eral category without adding apostles and Cephas; it would be especially oddif the most general category of the three were sandwiched between ‘apostles’and ‘Cephas’


First, Paul draws a distinction between the normal physical body which Jesus possessed prior to his death, on the one hand, and his glorious risen bodyon the other. ... References to the glorious body of Jesus are to the resurrection body. In Phil. 3.21, his glorious body is the body he possesses in Paul’s present, and this is also a kind of body attainable by other normal human beings who are Christ-followers. In other words, Paul is not talking here about an exclusively divine or angelic substance unique to Christ. The analogy of Jesus’ resurrection and that of Christian human beings more widely is common in Paul. This analogy suggests strongly that, during his pre-resurrection life, Jesus possessed a body like those of other humans. One can go further and say that the resurrections are not just analogous but organically linked, that of Jesus being the ‘first-fruits’ of the general resurrection (1 Cor. 15.20).


Secondly, to return to the analogy of angels, we can note that the kind of experiences which Jesus goes through according to Paul (birth, suffering, death, etc.) are not typically attributed to angels. In the book of Tobit, the angel Raphael calls himself Azariah but is only pretending to be human, and admitsit in the end: ‘All the days I was visible to you, you watched me, but I did notreally eat or drink anything. You were seeing a vision.’ (Tob. 12.19). There is no sense of Jesus being like this in Paul.


The first and second examples above, about divorce and wages, would to my mind be remarkably quotidian and casuistical as candidates for revelatory material (even without knowledge of the Synoptic parallels).


Jesus is also known for his πραΰτης and ἐπιείκεια,‘meekness and gentleness’ (2 Cor. 10.1); there is a strong probability that this re-fers to an earthly ministry, as it suggests an interaction with the vulnerable.


That Jesus’ life seems to have been characterised by sufferings is sufficiently clear from Paul’s letters on their own. As has just been noted, Jesus was poor and weak in his pre-resurrection life (2 Cor. 8.9; 13.4). Paul’s statement about suffering (θλῖψις) in 1 Thess. 1.6, implies an imitation of Jesus’ suffering, and Rom. 8.17 has the same idea (‘we share in his suffering’). Some of the references to suffering might be confined to his execution (on which see below),but the facts that (a) missionaries see their own non-fatal sufferings reenecting the sufferings of Christ and (b) Christ’s sufferings are plural (e.g. 2 Cor. 1.5: τὰπαθήµατα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, and cf. Phil. 3.10), suggest something more broadly characteristic of Jesus’ life. Similarly, the enigmatic reference to the wounds of Jesus which Paul shares (Gal. 6.17) are perhaps a reference to beatings (cf. Paul’s in 2 Cor. 11.24), though they may refer to the crucifixion specifically. A more extensive sense of suffering is implied in the embracing of poverty for the sake of others’ salvation (2 Cor. 8.9, as noted above).


Other passages strongly imply the physicality of the death. Jesus was a corpse: the language of resurrection ‘from the dead’ (ἐκ νεκρῶν) after burial (on which see below) shows that Jesus belonged, temporarily at least, to the realm of the dead. This is language which Paul uses frequently. It is instructive because it is a standard way of talking about the sphere of the dead: Jesus is not just raised from death, but from the realm inhabited by multiple dead people (νεκρῶν).

To understand the argument being made, we have to understand what is being said about the "mythicist" interpretation of Paul. Most of this comes, ultimately, from interpretations of Doherty and Carrier.

Carrier made the references to angels and a crucifixion in outer space, so that explains the argument about the name Jesus and resurrection from the sphere of the dead. These are arguments specifically against Carrier's view.

Carrier offered this interpretation of "the Lord's brothers," but Doherty thought of them as a particular subgroup.

Doherty made an argument from Middle Platonism that we can understand that some people (e.g. Plutarch) believed that myth "hides esoteric philosophic wisdom within its symbolic covering" (https://shwep.net/podcast/plutarchs-myt ... ic-ascent/). Doherty also made an argument from Hebrews that the myth of a perfect sacrifice there is depicted as taking place in the heavenly Jerusalem (other exegetes essentially agree and believe it's a second sacrifice after his death on earth). It's not necessarily easy to see what kind of language would be "allowed" or "not allowed" if some kind of theory like this were true.

At a minimum, I think the reference to ἀνθρώπων, for example, would have to be allowed, especially when sometimes paired with langauge like the "man from heaven" or "likeness of" or "appearance as." A reference to "the last Adam" has to be allowed, especially when contrasting with the first Adam from earth. A reference to "flesh" has to be allowed, especially when it also says "likeness of." A reference to a "body" has to be allowed, especially when man is made in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). A reference to "sufferings" and "death" has to be allowed, especially when a myth of a dying-and-rising savior necessarily must have some kind of mythic content to it. A reference to teaching "from the Lord" has to be allowed, especially when Paul says he has been called by a direct revelation.

The reference to making himself "poor" (2 Cor. 8.9) must certainly be allowed and shows how these words are often wrested from their original context. This is part of a description of how Jesus made himself humble in his death, not a reference to money. The reference to being "crucified in weakness" has the same kind of context.

Should a reference to ‘meekness and gentleness’ (2 Cor. 10.1) also be allowed?

Does a resurrection ‘from the dead’ (ἐκ νεκρῶν) for Paul fit into such a scheme?

Are sayings about divorce and wages too quotidian to be from a revelation?

Is the best explanation of the name Jesus here that it refers to a Jewish contemporary of Paul?

These are interesting points, but the interpretation isn't as easy as it is implied.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by Peter Kirby »

Carrier is as awkward to read as ever. A single example.

Gathercole:

Since we can only deduce from the undisputed epistles (cf. Pilate in 1 Tim.6.13) a chronological position of Jesus relative to Paul’s own, a judgment about when Jesus conducted his ministry depends on a judgment about Paul’s activity.

Obviously this means that 1 Timothy is not an undisputed epistle, so we cannot use 1 Tim. 6.13 as a way to provide a chronological position of Jesus. We can use only the undisputed epistles for this exercise, so we are limited to making judgments (for Jesus) relative to Paul's own chronology.

The abbreviation here means "compare" (conferatur).

Carrier:

He starts though by calling 1 Timothy an “undisputed” epistle, which is wildly false. It is in fact one of the most widely agreed to be a forgery. And indeed among the latest of them, usually dated to the second century. So its reference to Pilate cannot be used to date Paul as Gathercole insists.

I will be more charitable than Carrier and allow that this is an honest mistake on Carrier's part.
User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 6161
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by neilgodfrey »

There is a response in the same journal to Gathercole's article. Unfortunately it's behind a paywall but a library membership should be able to give you access to it at least at a reduced cost.

Zeddies, Michael T. “Communal Incarnation: The Corporate, Collective Jesus of Paul’s Letters.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 19, no. 2 (June 17, 2021): 217–59. https://doi.org/10.1163/17455197-bja10001.

Gathercole effectively concedes that what he is doing is nothing more than a "thought experiment" and it is directed at mythicism, pure and simple. He concludes with a complaint that mythicists do not accept "everyday readings" of certain passages -- thus underscoring his own anachronistic frame of reference and alerting readers to his circular reasoning, or question begging, to arrive at his interpretation.

Zeddies' article is a surprising entry in the JSHJ -- surely it passed only because it repeatedly made clear the virtues of certain of Gathercole's claims and conclusions and declared itself to be non-mythicist. Zeddies demonstrates that in every place where Gathercole sees evidence for a Jesus human figure a corporate figure is a possible, even more likely, meaning of the original text. Anyone who has spent a lot of time translating Bruno Bauer's works on the gospels will immediately recognize that same interpretation as applied to the gospels. Zeddies applies it to the letters of Paul. Bruno offered an explanation for how such a corporate figure, personified as an individual, arose from the community. Zeddies, I think, leads readers to at least a compatible conclusion.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 8483
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by Peter Kirby »

I have a copy of the Zeddies article now. I will be reading it also.
User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 8859
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by MrMacSon »

neilgodfrey wrote: Wed Jun 14, 2023 4:22 pm
Zeddies, Michael T. “Communal Incarnation: The Corporate, Collective Jesus of Paul’s Letters.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 19, no. 2 (June 17, 2021): 217–59. https://doi.org/10.1163/17455197-bja10001.

Zeddies' article is a surprising entry in the JSHJ -- surely it passed only because it repeatedly made clear the virtues of certain of Gathercole's claims and conclusions and declared itself to be non-mythicist. Zeddies demonstrates that in every place where Gathercole sees evidence for a Jesus human figure a corporate figure is a possible, even more likely, meaning of the original text. Anyone who has spent a lot of time translating Bruno Bauer's works on the gospels will immediately recognize that same interpretation as applied to the gospels. Zeddies applies it to the letters of Paul. Bruno offered an explanation for how such a corporate figure, personified as an individual, arose from the community. Zeddies, I think, leads readers to at least a compatible conclusion.



Conclusion

We have seen how Paul’s language regarding Jesus, when considered in its literary and religious context, is participatory and corporate, as are his references to Jesus’ humanity, birth and family. The name ‘Jesus’* itself is a corporate, messianic typology, based on Joshua* son of Jehozadak of the book of Zechariah. The earthly, historical body of Jesus was also a corporate one, embodied by the Jewish pre-Christian community, numerically the same yet different from his risen, individual body. His ministry, teaching, character, and suffering were all characteristics of that community, and his passion was a shared trauma within it. That is the most plausible interpretation of Paul’s undisputed letters, the best available evidence for the earliest Christian faith. Eventually Christians came to recognize the Nazarene as an individual, historical incarnation of Christ Jesus, but that seems to have coincided with Paul’s death. Once Mark’s Gospel began to spread the message of the Nazarene incarnation, Paul’s writings were apparently re-appropriated to support the new doctrine. This was not too difficult, since the Nazarene, as a member of the pre-Christian community, already embodied Paul’s Jesus. And if Mark used Paul’s letters to help construct his image of the Nazarene, it seems unsurprising that the Gospel Jesus came to resemble Paul’s.

My thesis is not meant to be adversarial. If it has any theological or academic implications, I hope that scholars will consider them in a spirit of
charity and reconciliation. Nor do I mean to trouble anyone’s personal faith. Indeed, I expect that the Nazarene will remain at the heart of Christian devotion and theology. Nevertheless, the evidence from Paul shows that when he describes an earthly, historical, and human Jesus, he is not describing an individual person, like you or me. I would say that he is, instead, doing something much more: he is describing a communal incarnation.



Zeddies, Michael T. “Communal Incarnation: The Corporate, Collective Jesus of Paul’s Letters.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 19, no. 2 (June 17, 2021): 217–59. https://doi.org/10.1163/17455197-bja10001.


* And, of course, in Greek or Hebrew the names were the same:
  • Ἰησοῦς, Iésous;a and
  • יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yəhōšūa, or variations thereof eg. שוּעַ, Yēšūa/Y'shua
a Zeddies acknowledges this:
  • p.226, " Ἰησοῦς, ‘Joshua’ or ‘Jesus," at the very bottom.
  • p.237, "the name ‘Jesus’ is simply the name Ἰησοῦς, ‘Joshua’."
Last edited by MrMacSon on Thu Jun 15, 2023 2:14 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 8859
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by MrMacSon »



Collective representation of religious figures, and corporate interpretation or ‘democratization’ of messianic texts, was not unusual in Second
Temple Judaism, and was often connected to an angelic or spiritual identity. For example, 1Q28b (Rule of the Blessings [appendix b to 1qs]) declares that the community’s members are like a heavenly angel. Baruch 3.37–4.1 describes how a divine Wisdom, embodied in the Torah, could manifest the deity in a corporate incarnation, among the earthly community of Israel. Israel was regarded collectively by various writers as the true Adam and the son of God, and Paul connects those collective terms to both Jesus and the church (1 Cor. 15.45–49; 2 Cor. 1.19; Gal. 3.26).36

36 ... there are several texts where Adam is given ‘an identity which is recapitulated by the righteous of subsequent generations, in Israel as a whole and in specific communities within Israel’: see Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology, and Soteriology (wunt, 2/94; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1997), p.144. Fletcher-Louis also describes other traditions of an ‘angelomorphic Israel’ who ‘could see itself embodying, and recapitulating the identity of Adam’, traditions that seem to date to the first century (Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts, pp.165–72 [171]).

Very recently, Marcel Krusche has written of the ‘tendency in the Second Temple period and afterwards to collectivize the divine promises to David’, noting that this tendency also extends to the Suffering Servant figure of Deutero-Isaiah. By the third century ce, rabbis taught that the messianic prophecies of the Bible applied not to an individual, but to the Jewish people collectively. A corporate or communal concept of incarnation seems to fit within this background. Indeed, Paul himself employs corporate representation directly at Gal. 3.29–4.3, referring to the heirs (κληρονόμοι) of Abraham as a single heir (κληρονόμος). And at Gal. 4.21–31, he describes the offspring of Hagar and Sara as children (τέκνων, τέκνα), yet each also s a single child (ἕνα, ὁ).

Themes of messianic incorporation, participation, and solidarity in Paul’s works and his scriptural sources have been emphasized by N. T. Wright, whose approach has been recently developed and defended to some degree by J. Thomas Hewitt and Matthew V. Novenson. James D. G. Dunn also emphasizes the importance of these themes for Paul. As Wright explains, in Paul, ‘The usage of Χριστός is incorporative: that is, Paul regularly uses the word to connote, and sometimes even to denote, the whole people of whom the Messiah is the representative’.42 Wright has written that in intertestamental literature,
The concept of Israel as God’s son occurs frequently, sometimes explicitly linked with the divine ‘sonship’ of the Davidic king. Some references to the king are actually reinterpreted as referring to the ‘true Israel’, which can be narrowed down to the elect and righteous within the nation, and which points forward to the hope of the Messianic ‘son of God’.43
42 Wright, Climax, p.46. See also N. T. Wright, ‘Messiahship in Galatians?’, in Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978–2013 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), pp.510–46, especially 529–44, although Wright still points to the historical Nazarene.
43 N. T. Wright, ‘Messiah and the People of God: A Study in Pauline Theology with Particular Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans’, Ph.D. diss., University of Oxford, 1980, p.13.


Russell Phillip Shedd mentioned various scriptural passages ‘which describe the “Anointed”, but apply the title almost without distinction to the people. The representation of the king is realistic enough for “anointed” and “people” to be synonymous.’44 Shedd notes that Paul seems to identify both Christ and the church with the Son of Man figure from Dan. 7, and writes:
If Paul actually sees the Church as the fulfilment of Daniel’s corporate figure, an obvious link is closed between the Old Testament conception
of the ‘righteous remnant’ identified with the Messiah and the Church as the True Israel constituted through Christ. Thus, the saints which form
the corporate personality of the Messiah before His death (i.e. of Jesus) are reconstituted after His resurrection as the reincarnation of the personality of Christ, which is His Body.45
44 Russell Philip Shedd, Man in Community: A Study of St. Paul’s Application of Old Testament and Early Jewish Conceptions of Human Solidarity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), p.30.
45 ibid. pp.139–41 (140). See also Hewitt and Novenson, ‘Participationism’, pp.406–409.



User avatar
neilgodfrey
Posts: 6161
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Re: Simon Gathercole: "The Historical and Human Existence of Jesus in Paul’s Letters"

Post by neilgodfrey »

The value of the case advanced by Zeddies is that it offers a half-way decent explanation for

-- the origins of Jesus as a figure of worship,
-- as a heavenly messiah,
-- for the absence of historical details about Jesus in Paul's writings,
-- the explanation for how Paul found Jesus in the Scriptures,
-- and it ends the debates back and forth about Jesus being born of woman, etc.
-- and especially for the glorification of such a figure so soon after the proclaimed crucifixion.

It also explains Paul's dogmatism in his account of the resurrection in contrast to the narrative technique of introducing doubts in the gospels where a more narrative-realistic account is being created.

I always had some difficulty with the idea that Christianity began when Jesus was so soon deified and made messiah after the crucifixion all because of visions or inner convictions of the followers. That seemed like just another way of saying "insert a miracle here". When visions change the course of history they come in an environment that is for identifiable reasons open to change and receptive to the message of the visions. They cannot explain the origins of a new social movement, I don't think.

The interpretation of Zeddie also explains the Stoical arguments and nature of the gospel message in Paul's letters. It explains how one can be "in Christ" as the Stoic is "in Reason". So much else in Paul is Stoic philosophy (here, Troels Engberg-Pedersen more than Bauer).

The idea has the potential to make everybody happy: the historicists can still say there was a historical Jesus behind it all and the mythicists can deny that view and all can agree on what Paul is saying just the same.

Bauer started to come to the same view after his study of the Gospel of John. It was then that he understood that a gospel could be written as complete fiction on the narrative or historical level but be true and meaningful as a personification of the community for whom it was written.

The community, Bauer said, had evidently come to such a mature state that it could clearly see itself in a personified figure that could be depicted in ways that mirrored its own experiences.

Of course, we also know how Judaism of the time was able to create heavenly figures to represent collective bodies. Jacob was used as the name and figure to represent the people of Israel while at the same time having a spirit or angelic type of existence in heaven, for example.
Post Reply