Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Paul’s Apostleship

     At what point Paul was officially recognized as an apostle of Jesus Christ is uncertain. He is not so designated in the book of Acts except in the generic sense of the term. The verb ἀποστέλλω (“I am sending”) is used of his commission to the gentiles (Acts 26:17); accordingly both he and Barnabas are described as ἀπόστολοι (Acts 14:4, 14), lit. “sent ones” (cf. 13:2-3). Paul did possess the ability to perform “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12), but his first recorded miracle was about eleven years after his conversion (Acts 13:11).1 Moreover, a distinction seems to be made in the book of Acts between Paul and “the apostles” (Acts 9:27; 15:2, 4, 22; 16:4).
     In 1 and 2 Thessalonians, probably the earliest of the extant Pauline writings, Paul is mentioned by name only, and the term ἀπόστολοι is applied generically to the three missionary co-authors (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:6). In all subsequent correspondence, except Philippians and Philemon,2 references to Paul's apostolic commission and authority are added. It has been suggested that something must have happened after the apostle’s earliest correspondence that changed his confident silence into embellished expressions of his apostleship, perhaps the conflict in Antioch (Gal. 2:14-21) prompting a defense of his apostolic authority against questions raised by his opponents (J. Murphy O’Connor, Letter-Writer 45-48; cf. Paul: A Critical Life 25-26). However, there is no evidence that the incident alluded to in Gal. 2:11 ff. instigated antagonism toward Paul, and according to the chronology followed here (see K. L. Moore, Critical Introduction 36-46), the Antioch conflict occurred before the composition of the Thessalonian epistles. Nevertheless, the opposition that eventually harassed the apostle probably did not catch up to him until after the letters were sent to Thessalonica (as indicated in Galatians and the Corinthian correspondence).
     Paul is the only apostle described as “called” (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1),3 perhaps a subtle allusion to his unique situation (cf. Acts 1:21-25; 9:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:8-10; 2 Cor. 11:5). Paul’s self-designation as a “called apostle” sets him apart from the other apostles. In referring to “the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5) or to other apostles contemporaneous with him (2 Cor. 12:11; Phil. 2:25; Rom. 16:7) or to the apostles active before him (Gal. 1:17), he does not use the term κλητός (“called”). “The apostles who were known to Paul were ‘sent out,’ either by Christ or by a church, to perform a specific function. Paul holds a unique position in that he was ‘called’ by the risen Christ” (C. Dorsey, “Paul’s Use of πόστολος” 193-200). Paul’s special apostolic position was related to the purpose of his calling, seeing that he was the first person specifically called by the risen Lord to be an apostle to the gentiles (J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship” 263).
     While the word ἀπόστολος (“apostle”) [vb. ἀποστέλλω = to “send out or away”] can be used generically with reference to anyone who is sent as a delegate or messenger (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25; 1 Thess. 2:6), Paul’s frequent use of the term as applied to himself almost certainly carries the special sense of God’s authoritative representative.4 In letters designed to teach and reprove Christian communities, the apostolic appellation makes a fitting introduction (Bailey and Vander Broek, Literary Forms 23-24). Paul is a self-described apostle “of Jesus Christ,” but not a self-appointed apostle; it is “by the will of God” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Ananias laid his hands on young Saul for the express purpose of healing his blindness (Acts 9:12, 17-18a). Another reason Ananias was sent to Saul was to enable him to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17), which occurred in a non-miraculous manner at his baptism (Acts 9:18b; cf. 2:38; 5:32). The exact point in time that Paul received the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit is not disclosed in scripture; his first recorded miracle was performed about eleven years later (Acts 13:11).
     2 These are more personal letters in settings wherein a reminder of Paul’s apostleship was unnecessary (cf. G. Fee, Philippians 61-63).
     3 “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, a called apostle …” (Rom. 1:1). “Paul, called an apostle …” or “Paul, a called apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1). Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     4 Rom. 1:1; 11:13; 1 Cor. 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Cor. 1:1; 11:5; 12:11-12; Gal. 1:1, 17; Eph. 1:1; 2:20; 3:5; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1, 11; Tit. 1:1. On the word ἀπόστολος and its various uses, see BAGD 99-100; D. Müller, NIDNTT 126-35, with C. Brown’s addendum 135-37; K. H. Rengstorf, TDNT 1:407-45; J. A. Kirk, “Apostleship since Rengstorf” 249-64; also J. D. G. Dunn, Theology of Galatians 10-11.

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Early Life of Paul the Apostle (Part 2)

Advancements in Judaism

     In making a case against judaizing opponents, Paul describes his Jewish heritage by listing seven personal advantages – the first four were inherited and the last three were chosen by conviction: “[as to] circumcision, on [the] eighth day, of [the] nation of Israel, of [the] tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; according to [the] law, a Pharisee; according to zeal, persecuting the church; according to righteousness under [the] law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6).1
     This is reminiscent of his rhetorical response in 2 Cor. 11:22, where the first three questions asked and answered imply the Jewish heritage of his adversaries: “Are they Hebrews? I also. Are they Israelites? I also. Are they descendants of Abraham? I also.” While these three designations are interrelated, they may respectively be descriptive of the Hebrew culture (as opposed to Hellenistic),2 Israelite nationalism (as opposed to diaspora),3 and Abrahamic bloodline (as opposed to a proselyte).4
     Similarly, the defense Paul makes to the Philippians includes being “of the people of Israel” and “a Hebrew of Hebrews.” H. A. Kent observes that the apostle “may have meant he had no mixed parentage but was of pure Jewish ancestry from both parents. The phrase may also refer to his linguistic and cultural upbringing, which involved the Hebrew and Aramaic languages (in distinction from that of the Hellenist Jews), even though he had been born in the Diaspora (Acts 6.1; 22.2, 3)” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary 11:139). The self-portrayal actually begins with the fact that he was circumcised on the eighth day, a prelude to and reinforcement of the adjoining descriptions. Circumcision on the eighth day after a Jewish male’s birth was the physical sign of God’s covenant with Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 17:10-13; Lev. 12:3). Paul is not a convert to Judaism who received the rite of circumcision later in life (Acts 2:10; 13:43; cf. 16:3); he has been a member since infancy.
     More specifically he is “of the tribe of Benjamin.” Benjamin was the youngest son of Jacob (with his favored wife Rachel), and the only one of his sons born in the Promised Land. The tribe of Benjamin provided many valiant warriors to Israel’s army (cf. Hos. 5:8), as well as Israel’s first king (1 Sam. 9:1-2) – from whom Paul’s Jewish name Saul was likely derived.5 Only the tribe of Benjamin stood with Judah when the kingdom divided (1 Kings 12:20-21; cf. Ezra 4:1), and Mordecai was also a Benjamite (Esther 2:5). J. S. Howson comments, “How little was it imagined that, as Benjamin was the youngest and most honoured of the Patriarchs, so this … child of Benjamin [Paul] should be associated with the twelve servants of the Messiah of God, the last and most illustrious of the Apostles!” (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul 36).
     In addition to what he had inherited, Paul adds, “as to the law, a Pharisee.” The name “Pharisee” [Φαρισαῖος] comes from a Semitic root meaning “the separated ones, separatists …. It was the purpose of the Pharisees to take the pattern of the pious Israelite as established by the scribes, and to put it into practice as nearly as possible” (BAGD 853).6 They were a prominent Jewish sect who exercised significant influence among the people of Israel during the time of Christ and his apostles. They are probably best remembered for their antagonism against Jesus, although not all Pharisees or pharisaic tendencies were bad. Since they correctly acknowledged God’s power to raise the dead (Acts 23:6-8; 26:5-7), they were prime candidates for the gospel. Many of them did become Christians (Acts 2:41; 15:5), the most notable of whom was Paul himself (Acts 23:6; 26:5).
     The recounting continues: “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church,” having done so with a clear conscious (Acts 23:1; 24:6), firmly believing he was doing God a favor (Acts 26:9). “To his mind, this new movement posed a more deadly threat to all that he had learned to hold dear …. Paul was characterized, on his own confession, by a superabundance of zeal – which, indeed, he never entirely lost” (F. F. Bruce, Apostle of the Heart 51). Even though the apostle was a firm believer in God’s grace and forgiveness (Eph. 1:7; 2:8; Col. 1:14), he never forgot about his sinful past (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2, 21; 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:10; 1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:13), using it as a motivator to serve the Lord with even greater diligence (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
     As a devout Pharisaic Jew, Paul’s “righteousness under the law” was “blameless.” The noun “righteousness” [δικαιοσύνη] means “uprightness, justice, to judge justly” (BAGD 196), and he had followed the Mosaic law so closely, he exceeded many of his contemporaries (Gal. 1:14; cf. Acts 22:3; 26:4-5). The fundamental distinction is “between external conformity to the law in areas where men can judge and inflict legal penalties, and the perfect spiritual conformity to it that God alone can truly assess, and by which no one will be justified [cf. Gal. 2:16; 3:11]” (H. A. Kent, Expositor’s Bible Commentary 11:140, emp. in the text).

Conversion to Christ

     Paul is first introduced in the biblical narrative as “a young man” [νεανίας] named Saul (Acts 7:58), probably in his mid- to late-30s. Being from Tarsus of Cilicia, he may have been connected with fellow Cilicians to the synagogue of the freedmen in Jerusalem, where the dispute with Stephen began (Acts 6:9; 7:58). He went on to lead a violent persecution against the Jewish church from Judea to Syria, targeting both men and women (Acts 8:3; 9:2; 22:4), involving threats, arrests, imprisonment, forced blasphemies, beatings, and death (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2, 13, 21; 22:4-5, 19; 26:9-11).
     Paul was then converted to Christ in Damascus of Syria (Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-20). If the “fourteen years” of Gal. 2:1 are counted consecutively from Paul’s previous visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18-19), which had been three years following his conversion (Gal. 1:15-16), the year of his baptism was approximately three years after the church was established, i.e., the year 33.7
     After his conversion, Paul spent the first three years of his Christian life in the Syrian city of Damascus and the adjoining country of Arabia (Acts 9:3-19; Gal. 1:15-18), although the biblical record does not indicate for how much of the three years he spent in either place. Arabia was the Roman name of the Nabatean kingdom, ruled for approximately forty-eight years (9 BC – AD 40) by King Aretas IV, mentioned by name in 2 Cor. 11:32.8 During the Middle Nabatean period (30 BC – AD 70) its boundaries fluctuated but would have included what is today known as the Sinai, the Negev, the east side of the Jordan Valley, much of Jordan, and part of Saudi Arabia (cf. Gal. 4:25). At times it incorporated the cities of the Decapolis and Damascus, and Paul probably did not venture far from Damascus during his time in Arabia. 
     He was in Damascus at least twice during this time: (a) when he was converted to Christianity (Acts 9:8-19), and (b) when he returned from Arabia (Gal. 1:15-17). His initial departure was prompted by a Jewish plot to kill him (Acts 9:23-25), and his second departure was instigated by the governor of Damascus desiring to arrest him (2 Cor. 11:32-33). On both occasions Paul escaped by being let down in a basket through the city wall. Whether he (as a young Christian) went to Arabia for a period of isolation and renewal or as a missionary, the biblical record does not say. Neither does it indicate for how much of the three years he was there. But in view of his preaching Christ almost immediately after his conversion (Acts 9:20-22) and subsequently arousing the disfavor of the Nabatean king (2 Cor. 11:32), missionary activity seems likely.
     Afterwards (ca. 36) Paul spent fifteen days with Peter in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18) before moving back to Tarsus (Acts 9:30). The first gentiles became part of the Christian movement sometime between 36 and 42 (Acts 10:1–11:18), and around the year 42 Saul joined Barnabas in Syrian Antioch, where they labored for a year. Then they traveled to Jerusalem with relief aid around 43 in conjunction with the famine of 44 (Acts 11:25-30). Herod Agrippa I died in early March 44 (Acts 12:23; Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2).
     Commenting on 2 Cor. 11:23-33, P. E. Hughes notes, “the catalogue of Paul’s sufferings which commences at this point (vv. 23 to 33) contains the mention of many experiences which are not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and therefore serves to remind us of how little we really know of the biographical details of his apostolic ministry. The book of Acts, indeed, was not written for the purpose of recounting the lives and achievements of men, albeit apostles, but in order to draw attention to the sovereign activity of God the Holy Spirit in the founding and expansion of the Christian Church” (Second Corinthians 406).
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 The first time the word “Hebrew” (Heb. עִבְרִי, Greek Ἑβραῖος) occurs in scripture, it is applied to Abram (Gen. 14:13). It is then employed as a designation for his descendants through Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 40:15) and also for their language (1 Kings 18:26). This term is most often used to distinguish the Israelite people from other nations (Ex. 1:19; 2:11; 1 Sam. 4:9; etc.), and also applies to the Aramaic-speaking Jews of Palestine in contrast to Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6:1; 9:29). The origin of the name is uncertain. It may have been derived from one of Abraham’s ancestors, Eber (Gen. 11:16). Those who came to be known as the Hebrews descended from Shem, who is called “the father of all the children of Eber” (Gen. 10:21). Another possibility is that the designation is linked to a similar noun meaning “the region or country beyond,” referring to Abraham’s former homeland beyond the Euphrates (Josh. 24:2-3). It has also been suggested that the word is derived from a verb meaning “passing through” and came to describe Abraham and his descendants as sojourners (cf. Heb. 11:13).
     3 The name “Israel” (Heb. יִשְׂרָאֵל, Greek Ἰσραήλ) means “Prince of God” and was first given to Jacob (Gen. 32:28; 35:10), then later used to designate Jacob’s descendants (Josh. 3:17). When the nation divided, the northern kingdom was called Israel in contrast to the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 15:9). After the Babylonian exile, the united kingdom again carried the name Israel (Ezra 6:16).
     4 The only usage of the term Ἰουδαίοι (“Jews”) in 2 Corinthians is in reference to antagonists (11:24).
     5 Acts is the only NT document where the Jewish name “Saul” is used for the apostle (see BAGD 742).
     6 The Pharisee sect originated during the inter-testamental period, emphasizing religious purity in opposition to Hellenized Jews. They were distinguished from the Sadducees by their commitment to the entire Torah and belief in resurrection, angels, and spirits (cf. Acts 23:8). 
     7 Jesus was born in the days of Herod the Great, about two years before Herod died in the spring of 4 BC (Matt. 2:1-6, 14-19). The dating of Christ’s birth six years “before Christ” is due to the miscalculations of the 6th-century Roman monk Dionysius Exiguus, upon which our current system of dating is based. The ministry of John the baptizer began in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign (ca. 26/27), and Jesus began his ministry sometime after when he was “about” 30 years of age (Luke 3:1, 23). The word “about” suggests that he was not exactly 30 but probably older. The ministry of Jesus incorporated at least three and probably four Passovers (John 2:13; [5:1]; 6:4; 12:1), thus about three to three-and-a-half years. Pontius Pilate was prefect of Judea during the years 26-36 (Luke 3:1; 23:1). Jesus was crucified “the Preparation Day of the Passover” (John 19:31) and resurrected on the third day after his death; the Passover was on the 14th day of the first Jewish lunar month (Ex. 12:6), and the church was established fifty days later on Pentecost (Lev. 23:16; Acts 2:1-47).
     8 Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV, was at one time married to Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to AD 39. But Antipas divorced her in order to marry Herodias, who had previously been married to his half-brother Philip I (see Josephus, Ant. 18.5.1, 4), and then he beheaded John the baptist when he opposed this unlawful union (Matt. 14:3-12; cf. Luke 3:19-20; 9:9).



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Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Early Life of Paul the Apostle (Part 1)

     Παῦλος [Paulos] is the Greco-Roman name of שָׁאוּל [Shaul] of Tarsus (cf. Acts 13:9; 21:39). Acts is the only NT document where his Jewish name is used, mostly in its Greek form Σαῦλος [Saulos]. Only in the accounts of his conversion is the Hebraic Σαούλ [Saoul] found (9:4, 17; 22:7, 13; 26:14). Having more than one name was not uncommon during this period in the Roman Empire (cf. Acts 1:23; 9:36; 12:12; 13:6-9; etc.), making it easier to function in the Jewish, Roman, and Hellenistic worlds. It has been suggested that as a Roman citizen (see below) Paul may have had three names (praenomen, nomen, cognomen), but a third name is not included in the biblical record.1 Outside the book of Acts (and after Acts 13:9) he is referred to as “Paul” exclusively.
     He is first introduced in the biblical narrative as “a young man” [νεανίας] (Acts 7:58),2 descriptive of one between the ages of about 24 and 40 (BAGD 534). He almost certainly would not have been any younger than this, since he is described as Paul the “aged” (πρεσβύτης) approximately three decades later (Philem. 9). This is the same word Zacharias applied to himself (Luke 1:18),3 having earlier been described as “advanced in years” (v. 7); Philo applied the term to a man of 50-56 years (BDAG 863). This would indicate that at Stephen’s execution young Saul was at the very least in his 20s. The fact that shortly thereafter he became such a prominent leader of the persecution against Christians (Acts 8:1-3) suggests that he may have been even older, perhaps in his mid- to late-30s and thus comparable in age to what the earthly Jesus would have been.4

The Earliest Years

     He was an ethnic Jew born a Roman citizen in the city of Tarsus in the Roman province of Cilicia, southeast Asia Minor (modern-day south-central Turkey) (Acts 16:37; 21:39; 22:3, 25-29).5 Tarsus was an intellectual center and “not an insignificant city” (Acts 21:39). Located at the mouth of the Cydnus River approximately 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, Tarsus was a prominent port city. Since Tarsus was not a Roman colonia or munincipium, Paul’s father or another ancestor would have attained freedom and citizenship by way of payment, services rendered, or manumission. Paul may have received Greek education in these early years, becoming familiar with the works of poets like Aratus and Menander,6 and philosophers like Cleanthes and Epimenides (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Tit. 1:12).7 Paul was bilingual, fluent in both Aramaic and Greek (Acts 21:37–22:2), and at some point he also learned the trade of a tentmaker [σκηνοποιός] (Acts 18:3).8
     All Jewish children, from “earliest infancy” (Josephus, Against Apion 2.18), were taught in their respective households (Deut. 6:6-7). Timothy, from nearby Lystra, is typical of one who knew the holy scriptures from childhood (1 Tim. 3:15), thanks to a godly parent and grandparent (2 Tim. 1:5). Paul was raised in an orthodox Jewish home (Phil. 3:5), the beginning of his education in the Mosaic Law. The only other thing we know about his family, besides being the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), is that he had a sister and a nephew (Acts 23:16).
     Another important part of the Jewish educational system was the synagogue. The synagogue was a multi-purpose assembly place for prayer, worship, and scripture reading (Acts 15:21), also functioning as a court, a community center, and a school. Both boys and girls attended the synagogue school from age 5 or 6; boys continued on until around age 15, while girls were usually married by then. According to the halakha,9 at age 13 a Jewish boy was accountable for his actions and became a bar mitzvah (“son of the commandment/law”). Later in life, the local synagogues were primary targets for Paul’s evangelistic efforts (Acts 13:14-43; 14:1; 17:1, 10, 17; 18:4-8, 19; 19:8).

Rabbinical Training

     Jewish boys who demonstrated exceptional promise were sent to Jerusalem to learn from a renowned teacher of the Law (like Hillel, Shammai, or Gamaliel). The typical age of a Jewish boy beginning his training in the Torah was 15 (Mishna, Aboth 5.21) or 16 (Josephus, Life 9-12). Paul says that from his “youth” [νεότης]10 he was “brought up” in Jerusalem, “instructed at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law …” (Acts 22:3; 26:4).11
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 See F. F. Bruce, NT History 235; G. M. Burge, et. al., NT in Antiquity 251.
     2 The noun νεανίας appears in the NT three times: Acts 7:58; 20:9; 23:17. Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     3 The only other occurrence of this word in the NT is Titus 2:2.
     4 According to Irenaeus: “That the age of thirty years is the prime of a young man’s ability, and that it reaches even to the fortieth year, everyone will allow; but after the fortieth and fiftieth year, it begins to verge towards elder age” (Adv. Haer. 2.22.5).
     5 The city of Tarsus had belonged to the ancient Hittite Empire (Tarsa), later ruled by the Assyrians and Persians, then hellenized by the Greeks and particularly the Seleucids. During this latter period, its schools rivaled those of Alexandria and Athens, and its library held approximately 200,000 published works. By 67 BC General Pompey had gained control of the region, and Tarsus became the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia.  
     6 It is debated whether Paul actually quotes Menander in 1 Cor. 15:33, or simply recites a common hellenistic saying that Menander had also used.
     7 On Paul’s potential training in rhetoric, see K. L. Moore, Critical Introduction to the NT 256-63.
     8 A. Edersheim notes that the ancient Jews believed, “whoever does not teach his son a trade is as if he brought him up to be a robber” (Sketches of Jewish Social Life 190).
     9 Religious laws comprised of both written and oral Torah.
     10 The noun νεότης occurs only four times in the NT: Mark 10:20; Luke 18:21; Acts 26:4; 1 Tim. 4:12.
     11 The only historical account affirming Gamaliel’s public teaching is Acts 22:3. Jewish sources do not represent Gamaliel as a teacher, and his name is seldom mentioned in halakic tradition (see Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. “Gamaliel I” by S. Schechter and W. Bacher). Gamaliel died eighteen years before Jerusalem’s destruction, and he occupied a prominent position in the Sanhedrin during the reigns of Tiberius (14-37), Caligula (37-41), and Claudius (41-54).

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