Category Archives: paul

Was Paul Against Homosexuals?

The passage which is quoted that shows that the New Testament is hostile to homosexuals is 1 Corinthians 6.9. This reads as follows:
"Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men."
Get that context: Men who sleep with men are "wrongdoers"! A note in the New International Version reads "The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts". The Wescott-Hort version of this reads:
"ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; Μὴ πλανᾶσθε: οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται"
The words that I underlined — ουτε μαλακοι ουτε αρσενοκοιται::oute malakoi oute arsenokoitai — literally mean "nor the soft (μαλακοι) nor men who lie with men (αρσενοκοιται)". The only other two times that the word "soft" occurs in the NT is at Luke 7.25 (But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing [ἄνθρωπον ἐν μαλακοῖς ἱματίοις ἠμφιεσμένον]? Behold, those who are gorgeously dressed, and live delicately, are in kings' courts.) and the Synoptic parallel Matt 11.8 (But what did you go out to see? A man in soft clothing [ἐν μαλακοῖς ἠμφιεσμένον]? Behold, those who wear soft clothing (τὰ μαλακὰ) are in king's houses).
But there's a bit of an oddity here. At least, how it seems to me. It just so happens that μαλακός (malakos) sounds a bit familiar to, uh, μαλακία (malakia) which means to be a person who pleases themselves. The Synoptic evolution between Matt and Luke using this phrase might give it away. Why would Luke reinterpret Matt's people who wear soft clothing living in kings' houses to people who are gorgeously dressed and live delicately in kings courts? Was Luke comparing John the Baptist (who was wearing "soft clothing") which is a "good" thing, to people who live in the king's court, who are ostensibly better off than people living in the wilderness? Does this mean that Matt originally had a pun between soft and masturbate? As in, people who wear soft clothing compared to people who are self-gratifying?
So "the soft" is in male plural form so it probably implies "sissies" or "weak men" who are on the, uh, receiving end of the men who lie with men. On the other hand, Paul might be talking about people who masturbate instead of "soft" men. But the last word that Paul uses – αρσενοκοιται – most definitely means men who sleep with men.
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in early Christianity, paul


What Did Paul Mean By "Another Jesus"?

2 Cor 11:

4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

5 But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”

Here Paul is implying that some “super-apostles” ὑπερλίαν ἀποστόλων or hyper-lian (super-duper) apostles were preaching some “other Jesus” with some “other gospel”. This seems to allude to heretics of some sort.

But there is a bit of an inconsistency with his use of “some other Jesus” and “some other gospel”. For both the other “spirit” and “gospel”, the adjective that Paul uses is ἕτερον yet for the other Jesus he uses ἄλλον. The word ἕτερος or heteros is where we get words like heterosexual or heterochromia. It means “another” of a different type. The word ἄλλος or hallos, on the other hand, means “another” but of the same type. So if I wanted to say “get me an apple and another pear” I would use heteros for “another” yet if I were to say “get me an apple and another apple” I would use hallos.

Using the fruit analogy: If the Jesus, gospel, and spirit that Paul is preaching are apples, then the spirit and gospel that the super-duper apostles preach is a pear yet their Jesus would also be an apple. So the gospel and spirit that these other apostles are preaching is of a different stripe altogether, yet the Jesus is “another” Jesus but of the same… I dunno, “type” of Jesus? What does that mean? And why, if it is the same “type” of Jesus but another, would it be a bad thing for these other apostles to preach about him?

We know what “other gospel” is to Paul because he uses the same term in Galatians (Gal 1.6 ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον). What exactly was the Jesus that these other apostles were preaching at Corinth? I would think that if Paul were talking about something like docetism vs. adoptionism vs. what-have-you, he would also use heteros. But he doesn’t, so those distinctions must not have existed when he wrote. Or at least, he wasn’t aware of them.

This might be more evidence for my observation that all of the variants of Jesus didn’t come about until the first gospel was written (Gnosticism, etc.). The question then becomes what sort of Jesus did Paul have in mind? Was it the Jesus of Marcion, the Jesus of Mark, the Jesus of John, the Jesus of Valentinus, or some “other” (ἕτερος) Jesus?

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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in early Christianity, paul


The Son Of David

It's really striking to me that the phrase “son of David” only shows up in two parts of Mark's narrative. Once when Jesus heals Bartimaeus (Mk 10.46-52) and the second time when Jesus rebukes the “son of David” title, at least as a title for the messiah (Mk 12.35-37). Jesus has no qualms about being the “son of man” (Mk 14.62). But the son of David? Heavens to Mergatroyd!

This is more than likely a misuse of Psalm 110 (the psalm was written to David, not by him*). But aside from that digression, these are the only two times that the title “son of David” is used in Mark so there might be a relationship between the two pericopae. And they appear relatively close in the narrative (i.e. one doesn't occur in Mark 2 and the second at Mark 13). The one person to call Jesus “son of David” is a blind man. Is the author of Mark saying that those who call the messiah a son of David are blind? What are we to make of Romans 1.3: γενομενο[ς] εκ σπερματος δαυιδ κατα σαρκα :: born from the seed of David according to the flesh? Paul most certainly believed that Jesus was a “son of David”.

Or did he?

Look how virulently anti-Marcionite these first few lines of Romans are:

2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures
3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature (i.e. κατα σαρκα) was a descendant of David,
4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God

We should note that Romans has the longest introduction out of all of the authentic Pauline letters:

* Galatians 1.1-2 Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers with me. To the churches in Galatia…

* 1 Corinthians 1.1-2 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. To the church of God in Corinth…

* 2 Corinthians 1.1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God in Corinth…

* Phillipians 1.1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus. To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi…

* Philemon 1.1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother. To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker…

* 1 Thessalonians 1.1 Paul, Silas, and Timothy. To the church of the Thessalonians…

Even the contested Pauline letters have shorter intros than the one in Romans:

* Colossians 1.1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To God’s holy people in Colossae…

* Ephesians 1.1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To God’s holy people in Ephesus…

* 2 Thessalonians 1.1 Paul, Silas and Timothy. To the church of the Thessalonians…

All of these introductions are only like one sentence long until it gets to the addressing phrase (i.e. to the churches in Galatia…). Romans, on the other hand, goes on this relatively long sidebar about the Jewish nature of Jesus and the gospel. To make the Roman letter's introduction match those of the other authentic Pauline letters, it should read like this: “1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God […] 7To all in Rome who are loved by God…

Certainly, this long-ish digression about the Jewish nature of the Jesus religion wouldn't have been in Marcion's canon. Marcion didn't believe that Jesus was a descendant of anyone, nor did he believe that he had come “in the flesh”. Marcion also did not believe that Jesus had been predicted in Jewish scripture (I actually don't think the authentic Paul even believed this) nor that he was “declared” to be the son of god, which implies some sort of adoptionist Christology. I'm willing to bet that Marcion's version of Romans had something like the intro I've just propopsed here; it would match the intro of all of the other letters. And it is also telling that Marcion actually seems like the first Christian witness to Romans. The only other long intro of a similar length that we see in Romans is in one of the pseduo-Pauline letters – Titus (also, I might add, not in Marcion's canon).

So I don’t think Paul wrote this long intro to Romans. The language is not Pauline (the only other time that “Paul” uses the phrase Holy Scripture is in the pseudo-Pauline letter 2 Timothy [3.15]). The long digression doesn’t match other Pauline introductions, and Paul never appeals to the prophets in predicting Jesus’ advent (Paul mostly talks about prophets in relation to apostles. Meaning contemporary prophets) or otherwise goes out of his way to stress the Jewishness of the Jesus religion.

Anyway, in Matthew Jesus is presented repeatedly as being the “son of David”. It might be seen as a subtle correction of Mark's disavowal.

Like I wrote before, this healing pericope is the only time that Mark actually gives the person that Jesus heals a name. And he more than likely named him for a reason. Since the reason for Mark naming Bartimaeus appears prior in the narrative to Jesus rebuking the “son of David” title, again, it might mean that all of this was planned. A deliberate connection between the two pericopes. It could be further evidence that Mark is along the trajectory towards Marcionism; Jesus and the new religion are a novelty and shouldn't be mixed with the old (hence Mark's wineskins pericope). Mark might be subtly saying to his readers that they should stop thinking of Christianity in terms of Judaism and think of it on its own terms. A new age has begun; Jews and Judaism have been abandoned by their god (again, Mark 12.1-10, Mark 13). Thinking of the messiah as being a “son of David” is thinking of things in terms of the old ways.

The teachers of the law (who are “blind”) are the only ones who say that the messiah is the son of David. And we know that the law (in Christianity) is no longer valid.

[*] It seems as though our earliest witness to this Psalm are Christians. Psalm 110 was not found in the oldest collection of biblical works – the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even though the DSS group seemed to have a particular reverence for Melchitsedek. Psalm 110 also seems to merge the two positions of High Priest and King, which first enters the scene of the Jewish nationality with the Maccabean priest-kings. Considering that the DSS group had a not so veiled hatred of the Maccabean usurpers, it could be concluded that Psalm 110 was written by Maccabean sympathizers to legitimate their merging of the two once disparate offices. Which is why this particular Psalm would be written to David and not by him; the Maccabean leadership are implying that David was both priest and king to give credence to their claim to being both priest and king. It would also be why this Psalm was not included among the ones in the DSS – it was written by their political enemies.


Posted by on June 27, 2011 in marcion, paul, son of david


The Word of the Lord

Is 1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 a Pauline quote of Jesus? Let's look at the suspect passages.
1 Thess 4.15-18
15 Spoken in the word of the Lord, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
This is comparable to Mark 8.34-9.1, where Jesus mentions to a crowd that those who are standing there with him will “not taste death until they see the kingdom of god has come with power”:
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
35 For whoever wants to save their soul will lose it, but whoever loses their soul for me and for the good news will save it.
36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 9

 1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
Jesus also repeats the same sentiment at his trial:
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
This implies that the high priest who tried Jesus should have seen the Son of Man descending from heaven during his lifetime.
So was Paul quoting Jesus? Based on these facts alone it would seem pretty obvious. But then there's my previous post that shows Paul's inconsistent use of the non-titular “lord” in his letters. Or, his letters are quite consistent and that Paul thought that Jesus was present at the Exodus (1 Cor 10.9). Complicating things, the phrase “[by the] word of the lord” (λογω κυριου) that Paul uses in 1 Thess 4.14 is a somewhat standard phrase from the LXX (other times being rendered as ρημα κυριου), especially from the Nevi'im:
1 Kings 13.1
…εξ ιουδα παρεγενετο εν λογω κυριου
 …by the word of the Lord [a man] came from Judah
και επεκαλεσεν προς το θυσιαστηριον εν λογω κυριου
And by the word of the Lord he cried out to the altar
Isaiah 1.10
ακουσατε λογον κυριου αρχοντες σοδομων
Hear the word of the Lord rulers of Sodom
Isaiah 2.3
…και λογος κυριου εξ ιερουσαλημ

…and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem
Jeremiah 1.3
και εγενετο λογος κυριου προς με λεγων…

And the word of the Lord came to me saying…
Jeremiah 6
ακουσατε λογον κυριου πασα η ιουδαια

Hear the word of the Lord all in Judah
Ezekiel 3.16
και εγενετο μετα τας επτα ημερας λογος κυριου προς με λεγων

And after seven days the word of the Lord came to me saying
Ezekiel 13.1
και εγενετο λογος κυριου προς με λεγων

And the word of the Lord came to me saying
Hosea 1.1
λογος κυριου ος εγενηθη προς ωσηε…
The wordo f the Lord came to Hosea…
Hosea 4.1
ακουσατε λογον κυριου υιοι ισραηλ…
Hear the word of the Lord children of Israel…
Joel 1.1
λογος κυριου ος εγενηθη προς ιωηλ τον του βαθουηλ

[The] word of the Lord came to Joel the son of [Pe]thuel
Amos 7.16
και νυν ακουε λογον κυριου…
And now hear the word of the Lord…
Jonah 1.1
και εγενετο λογος κυριου προς ιωναν τον του αμαθι λεγων

And the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amatti saying
Jonah 3.1
και εγενετο λογος κυριου προς ιωναν εκ δευτερου λεγων

And the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time saying
Micah 1.1
και εγενετο λογος κυριου προς μιχαιαν…
And the word of the Lord came to Micah…
Zephaniah 1.1
λογος κυριου ος εγενηθη προς σοφονιαν…
[The] word of the Lord came to [Ze]ph[a]niah…
Zephaniah 2.5
ουαι οι κατοικουντες το σχοινισμα της θαλασσης παροικοι κρητων λογος κυριου εφ' υμας χανααν γη αλλοφυλων
Woe to you who live by the sea, you Kerethite people; the word of the Lord is against you, Canaan, land of the Philistines.
…and so on throughout the books of the Prophets (and some Ketuvim like Daniel). So by itself, saying [by the] word of the Lord does not necessitate a saying of the Jesus of the gospel narratives. But I do think that Paul thought that Jesus “said” this, just as Paul probably thought that Jesus was the one giving inspiration to the Prophets.
What's interesting is that Paul doesn't number “the Lord's” παρουσια (arrival). He doesn't mention a “second arrival” (or second coming), which would be something like δευτερο παρουσια, but only “arrival”. Paul also explicitly states that the Lord will come down from heaven. This is consistent (I guess) with Paul thinking that the Lord was present at the Exodus and killed some Hebrews with snakes. Someone who was equal to (ειναι ισα θεω) and in the form of (μορφη θεου) Yahweh (Phil 2.6) and through whom the world was created and sustained by would most certainly have existed during the Exodus.
Many scholars believe that the part of Philipians that I quoted is a hymn that precedes Paul, thus there would have been other Christians – prior to Paul – who thought that Jesus was in the form of and equal to Yahweh. And if Jesus created and sustained the world, then it would make sense that he was present at the Exodus.
So is Paul quoting Jesus? I think he is, but he's not quoting any earthly Jesus. Paul probably got this “word of the Lord” by revelation.
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Posted by on February 11, 2011 in early Christianity, paul


You Foolish Galatians!

Galatians 3:1

You foolish Galatians! Who has tricked you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified.

ω ανοητοι γαλαται! τις υμας εβασκανεν? οις κατ’ οφθαλμους ιησους χριστος προεγραφη εσταυρωμενος

So what does Paul mean when he writes προεγραφη? Why do modern translations have “portrayed”? It looks like Paul is referring to some previous writing. The only other time Paul uses προεγραφη is in Romans 15:4:

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

οσα γαρ προεγραφη [παντα] εις την ημετεραν διδασκαλιαν εγραφη ινα δια της υπομονης και δια της παρακλησεως των γραφων την ελπιδα εχωμεν

Here it is translated as “written”. So Paul must not mean “portrayed” in Galatians 3:1; that has connotations of being some sort of drawing or play or reenactment or something. “Portrayed” is pretty ambiguous. He must be talking about a previous letter that was written, or some sort of scriptures.


Posted by on November 4, 2010 in galatians, paul


Αποστολοι και Προφητες

Apostles and Prophets.

The phrase “apostles and prophets” seems to be unique to Christianity (at least at first glance, I haven’t had a chance to read other Intertestamental works yet). Probably because Christianity first and foremost is an evangelistic religion (as opposed to Judaism). And the obsession with “prophets” is due to the link with Judaism. Anyway, I did a quick search using and here are the few places where the phrase “apostles and prophets” is used in the canonical NT:

Luke 11:49

Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.

1 Corinthians 12:28

And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:29

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

Ephesians 2:20

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

Ephesians 3:5

which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.

Ephesians 4:11

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists (ευαγγελιστας), and some to be pastors and teachers,

2 Peter 3:2

I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Revelation 18:20

Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.

I was thinking that because Luke is the only gospel to use “apostles and prophets” that it had some connection with Paul. However, Paul is unique in that he always lists “apostles” before “prophets” so this might mean that Luke is ony emulating Pauline language. This also might mean that Ephesians is an authentic Pauline epistle since it uses the same type of language in the same order. However on the other hand, it uses ευαγγελιστας (good news-ists) which is a word that the authentic seven never uses.

I’ll have to do a bit further reading in other Christian and 2nd temple Judaism literature to see if there’s a larger pattern.


Posted by on November 1, 2010 in early Christianity, paul


The Traditions of our Fathers

So a little over a year ago I made the argument that Paul wasn’t a Pharisee (which he claims in Philipeans 3:5) based on his apparent ignorance of Hebrew. I inferred this from his argument in Romans 10:

9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Isaiah 28:16) 

12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,

13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32)

Here Paul’s argument only makes sense if Joel 2:32 actually says the word “lord”. He implies that the “name of the lord” that does the saving when it’s spoken is “Jesus”. Joel 2:32 actually says the name of the god of the Jews: YHWH. In the LXX, however, this is replaced with the word “lord” (κυριος in Greek; and it’s actually Joel 3:5 in the LXX). This is the traditional Jewish circumlocution of pronouncing The Name YHWH. This means that Paul was reading from a version of Joel that had “lord” instead of YHWH, more than likely the LXX in order for his argument to make any sense.

From this I made the connection that Paul wasn’t a Pharisee, since Pharisees were trained in Hebrew.

On the other hand, Paul does use a phrase that implies at least a kinship with Pharisaic ideals. He mentions his “zeal” for the “traditions of [his] fathers” (υπαρχων των πατρικων μου παραδοσεων – lit. the still extant traditions of my fathers) in Galatians 1:14. Josephus uses a similar phrase when describing the Pharisees:

Antiquities of the Jews 13.10.6

What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers (παραδοσεως των πατερων). And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side.

Here Josephus uses “traditions of our fathers” to mean the Oral Torah which eventually became the Talmud. Paul’s disdain for the laws of Moses seems to stem from a Sadducean interpretation of the law. As I understand it, the Pharisees were more liberal about following the law as opposed to the Sadducees. A Pharisee wouldn’t have considered the laws of Moses a “curse” (Galatians 3:10, 13) but instead would have simply relaxed its standards. It would be like a liberal Christian all of the sudden becoming a militant atheist. Militancy breed militancy; an all-or-nothing view of the universe. Thus Paul’s total abrogation of the laws of Moses must have come from a more conservative branch of Judaism – one like the Sadducees. The more analogous situation would be going from a conservative Christian to a militant atheist.

It doesn’t seem as though Paul is using “traditions of our fathers” to refer to the Oral Torah, but as a generic term for Judaism.


Posted by on October 14, 2010 in paul, pharisees, sadducees, YHWH, YHWH pronunciation

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