Sunday, 4 December 2016

"The Petrine Epistles and Jude," Pt. 1

I'm currently working my way through Robinson's sixty-page chapter on the dates of 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. This is his longest chapter, exceeding by five pages that in which he treats the whole of the Pauline corpus. If the number of pages devoted to these three small epistles (Jude is just one chapter) seems disproportionate to their size, that is because they are proportionate to the critical difficulties surrounding efforts to situate especially 2 Peter and Jude in time and place. Generally absent from the letters are the wealth of details regarding itineraries, plans, etc., in Paul's letters, which combined with the Acts data allow us to situate the majority of these letters within, at most, a ten year period, and in some cases a period extending only a couple years. In fact, we are left with very little material that would explicitly peg these letters to a relatively narrow time range. In this post, I'll address just 1 Peter, leaving 2 Peter and Jude to another post (the latter two need to be treated together, given their obvious source relationship). Indeed, the critical matters are complicated enough that, even at 60 pages, one is struck as much by what Robinson does not address as what he does.

Robinson argues our 1 Peter was written in Rome (cf. the reference to "Babylon" in 5:13, which is almost certainly a coded reference to Rome), during the spring of 65: after the Roman fire of July 64, in a context where the rumours that the Christians were responsible were beginning to circulate, but before an outbreak of the Neronian persecution proper (which he argues began in summer of 65).
This argument has a number of strengths over the view that might place it later. These strengths also create certain liabilities for his argument. For instance, as Robinson notes, the tendency to place NT texts such as 1 Peter in the 80s and 90s developed during the course of the 19th century, which developed the idea that 1) that there was a significant anti-Christian persecution under Domitian, and 2) that any reference to persecution in the New Testament could be associated with this Domitianic persecution (this latter supposition is rarely stated explicitly, But it is a clear tendency in certain sectors of NT studies). Robinson rightly notes that the evidence does not generally support the first supposition, and that even if it did we must reckon with the reality that not every reference to persecution in the NT will be to an identifiable or even specific occurrence. A difficulty that I identify in Robinson's work generally, and it's very much on display in this chapter, is that he's replaced this Domitianic "dumping ground" with an Neronian one. Virtually any time that other scholars say "This reference to persecution must be a reference to Domitian" Robinson says "No, it's a reference to Nero." Although this is perhaps an improvement in that at least he is on stronger grounds for thinking that there were significant anti-Christian actions under Nero, I nonetheless suspect that his Nero might be too big.

This weakness recurs in another strength of Robinson's position. A date for 1 Peter during the Neronian persecution permits us to posit 1 Peter originating in Rome at precisely a time when we know that Peter himself was in the city. This is a strength because, frankly, there is really no good reason to dispute 1 Peter's Petrine authorship. In fact, I would argue that the evidence for Petrine authorship of 1 Peter is approximately comparable in strength to the evidence for Pauline authorship of Romans. The data is such that any judgment which doesn't have the letter being written in Rome, by Peter and company (cf. the references to Silas and Mark in 5:12-13) is probably going to have to swim in the pools of inchoate skepticism. But if we've already reason to suspect that Robinson's Nero is too big, might we not have reason to suspect that he has too quickly supposed that the letter had to be written during Peter's mid-60s Roman sojourn? Even though there is very good reason to think that Peter was in Rome during the early-40s, and some reason to think that he was also there during the mid-50s (I'm much more persuaded of the earlier visit than the later), Robinson does not even consider the possibility that 1 Peter could have originated at these times.

As a thought experiment, let us imagine that 1 Peter originated when Peter was (on my judgment) likely in Rome around 42 or 43. There are some definite advantages. 1 Peter's "primitive" character is generally recognized as being not far off from that of James's, and indeed there is no clear evidence that the letter has much awareness of or interest in a Gentile mission (I am aware that the letter is sometimes thought to be written to a Gentile audience, and while the data allows this as a possible reading I don't think it is a necessary one). Related, we have a cluster of data which suggests that from the late-40s onwards both Silas and to a lesser extent Mark were increasingly associated Paul and his missionary activity. We wouldn't lose anything. For instance, in this reading, one would have had Peter fleeing Jerusalem during the Agrippan persecution of 41 or 42 (I think 41 more likely), and thus still have the letter written in a context related to an identifiable persecution (although, as noted, I'm less than persuaded that this is a desideratum of a reasonable account of Peter's origins). This persecution by all accounts did not spread beyond the holy city, and thus we can account for why Peter can tell Christians in Anatolia that they have not yet endured such things.

Really, about the only datum that I can imagine which could exclude this hypothesis is the use of the term "Christian" in 4:16. This datum is often cited as evidence that 1 Peter must be post-Petrine. Nowhere else is this term attested during Peter's life, and therefore must be later. The first limb of that statement is questionable, and the second a non sequitur. The first limb is questionable because of Acts (cf. 11:26), which as we noted a venerable minority, including a luminary no less than the late Harnack, have dated to c. 62-63. Moreover, Acts 11:26 gives us notice that the believers were first called "Christians" in the midst of the discussions of the events of c. 40 or 41. Indeed, interesting enough, this notice is given immediately before Luke's transitional passage that leads to his narration of the Agrippan persecution. Might this be more than a coincidence? In any case, even if we disregard the data from Acts entirely and date that text later than Peter's life, we are still left with nothing but an argument from silence, and in fact are simply speculating about when the term originated. I am not sure that is enough to carry a counter-argument.

I am not arguing that 1 Peter was written in the early 40s. A full exploration would want to consider the evidence that Peter was in Rome in the mid-50s, and consider that as a possibility. It would want to weigh the three proposals: 1 Peter during the apostle's probable first visit to the capital, 1 Peter during his possible second visit, and 1 Peter during his final sojourn. I see such queries as filling in a lacuna in Robinson's account, as his Nero fixation blinds him to the possibility of alternative proposals.

Monday, 28 November 2016

"The Epistle of James"

John Robinson devotes Chapter V of Redating the New Testament to the Epistle of James. Dating it to c. 47-48, he argues that the epistle is likely the earliest Christian text still extant. As we saw in his discussion of the Synoptic gospels, this gets a little tricky, as he holds that a "proto-Matthew" and a "proto-Mark" likely preexist c. 47-48, but puts our gospels of Matthew and Mark proper at c. 60. These proto-text hypotheses become important for his argument, as he argues that the Epistle of James reflects something closer to the early stages of the Synoptic tradition, as he understands it, than to the later stages. I'm less-than-sanguine about such hypothetical proto-texts, but nonetheless I am persuaded that Robinson is on more or less the right track with regards to the Epistle of James.

We can see the strength in Robinson's position if we compare it with that advanced by Dale Allison in his 2013 International Critical Commentary on James. Now, I need to be clear: I think Dale Allison is one of the best NT scholars working today. His careful attention to detail and intellectual integrity make him second to few, if not none. Yet on the question of James's date, I think that he is mistaken. Like Robinson--and indeed most commentators on the epistle--before him, Allison recognizes that the text reflects a Christianity very much marked by the movement's Jewish origins. Indeed, as Robinson emphasizes, there is not even a hint that there are Gentiles involved in the movement at all. The letter, although clearly Christian, envisions a Christianity that is wholly Jewish. On this, Allison and Robinson are largely in agreement, but they differ greatly in what they infer from this agreement. Robinson infers that this points towards a time when Christianity could be conceived as a wholly Jewish movement. Since it is difficult to envision any Christian anywhere thinking in such terms much later than the council of 48, Robinson points to a date in the late 40s. By comparison, Allison infers from the Jewish-Christian character of the Epistle that it was produced by a second-century Jewish-Christian group, such as the Ebionites.

Here I think that Robinson has the stronger argument. Allison's argument for pushing James so late relies largely upon the lack of clear external attestation for the letter prior to c. 200. Surely, Allison reasons, if it had been written earlier it would be attested earlier. I'm not altogether persuaded. Given the fragmentary nature of our textual witnesses from this period, such lack might not in fact be that significant. I'm not convinced that attestation is particularly probative data for establishing the date of our epistle, apart from setting an absolute terminus ante quem c. 200. Perhaps more crucially, I have difficulty envisioning a scenario wherein Allison's Ebionite James ever makes it into the NT canon. This of course is what sets it apart from other known texts that might have issued from similar circles: it is a historical datum that the Epistle of James ended up in the canon, and thus one must account for that datum. Allison has to envision a form of Christianity so distantly removed from those that apparently generated the canon that it can altogether ignore the presence of Gentile believers in their midst, and I struggle to see how a pseudonymous text from such a form of Christianity made it into the canon. Precisely to the extent that Allison must emphasize the theological and social distance between those who produced the epistle and those who received it into the canon, to that extent he vitiates our capacity to account for that reception at all.

By comparison, Robinson has a ready-made explanation for the canonization of the epistle: it was preserved because it was remembered to have been written by James. If one wants to account for the absence of attestation before c. 200, which might or might not be probative anyways, one can look at the very fact that it does not address a situation that seems to have attained after c. 50: although James's prominence ensured that the letter was preserved, the archaic content rendered it of limited immediate relevance to the life of the developing church. The only other option I can conceive to preserve a later first or even second century date is to suppose that the author is intentionally and quite successfully archaizing, but at that point one might well ask why we need that hypothesis at all, rather than the much easier one of saying that it looks like it fits into the pre-50 period because it indeed dates from that period. Absent compelling positive evidence that it must date to the later first or the second centuries, such an archaizing hypothesis seems to beg the question.

I can imagine only one really substantive objection to Robinson's dating, and that is the argument that the Epistle of James is responding to Paul's teaching on faith and works and thus must postdate his writings. Robinson notes some significant problems with this objection, however. Most notably, if the Epistle is responding to Paul, it fails to engage with or even be aware of the central issue in Paul's discussions of faith and works, namely Gentile inclusion in the nascent Christian communities. For the Epistle, this discussion remains entirely intra-Jewish. Robinson argues that Paul more likely represents a later development in the discussion regarding faith and works than the Epistle of James: what began as an intra-Jewish discussion has in Paul been translated from its initial context to the question of Jewish-Gentile relations. Frankly, this is more convincing than the idea that the Epistle of James is responding to Paul yet studiously ignoring the specific concern to which Paul was writing.

"Acts and the Synoptic Gospels"

In Chapter IV of Redating the New Testament, Robinson treats Acts and the Synoptic Gospels. He argues, on the basis of its ending, that Acts was written around c. 62. He argues, as did the late Harnack before him and Colin Hemer after him, that this ending is inexplicable if Paul had already been executed under Nero. I find Robinson, the late Harnack, and Hemer compelling on this matter. I know that there are alternatives (Harnack spent decades trying to defend several of them), but ultimately none seem to deal with the data as neatly as a date of composition c. 62.

When it comes to the Synoptic Gospels, I likewise find his conclusions generally persuasive. He argues that by about c. 40, an early proto-Matthew had emerged in Jerusalem. In the early 40s, in Rome, Mark used this proto-Matthew to produce a proto-Mark, which perhaps went through numerous revisions through to c. 60. Proto-Matthew was also, obviously, a basis for Matthew's Gospel, which also assumes something much like its "final form" c. 60. It was also, to anticipate Chapter X, a source for the Didache. Luke then used these Marks-in-progress and Matthews-in-progress as sources for his own gospel, written in Caesarea during Paul's captivity there. I think that the basic outline best fits the data, although I would make some revisions.

Notably, I am less-than-enthusiastic about his language of "proto-Matthew" and "proto-Mark." No doubt, the Synoptic tradition recurred in numerous forms; the very existence of three Synoptic Gospels demonstrates this fact. I am not entirely persuaded though that any of the gospels went through the numerous "editions" posited in the heydays of source, form, and redaction criticism. This is not to deny that there are variations in the textual traditions for either Matthew's Gospel and Mark's. Of course there are. But that's not quite the same as largely speculative suggestions that portions of the texts that are omnipresent (but not uniform) in the manuscript tradition were missing from a hypothetical "first edition." This skepticism towards proto-gospel hypotheses alters how I would formulate things.

I would agree that the Palestinian church, or I would prefer to say the Jerusalem church, probably generated a body of Jesus material by c. 40. This material would have been the core of what we find in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. My suspicion is that we call "M" and "L," the Special Matthean and Special Lukan traditions, probably were largely present in this material; "M" simply represents that which Matthew drew from this material but Luke did not, and "L" what Luke drew but Matthew did not. Given that we have reason to think that Mark was part of the Jerusalem church during this period (certainly his mother was a significant member of the church by the early 40s), I am favourably disposed to think that he was involved in at least a "clerical" capacity in this initial stage of development. I am inclined to agree with Robinson that Mark and Peter went to Rome in the early 40s, where Peter taught about Jesus. Given Peter's prominent role in the Jerusalem church, his teaching about Jesus can be expected to have largely coincided with that developed in Jerusalem in the 30s. Mark then produced his gospel at the behest of the Roman church. By c. 45 or 46, he and Peter were back in Jerusalem, and Matthew got the idea to improve upon Mark's work by adding material to which Mark, writing in Rome and away from the mother church and concerned to remain close to Peter's versions of events, did not have access or feel free to add. This was perhaps completed by c. 50, as contra Robinson I see Matthew's gospel as more reflective of the Christianity of the late-40s than of the 50s. Subsequently, Luke saw what his fellows had produced, and decided that a comparable text more oriented towards the needs of the Greek mission is in order. Lacking the direct connection with Jesus' followers enjoyed by Mark, secretary to Peter, and Matthew, himself one of the Twelve, Luke decided to go to Palestine and meet with such persons. Thus did he accompany Paul on his final trip to Jerusalem, as indicated by the we-passages in Acts.

Does this narrative run contrary to the consensus view in New Testament studies? Yes. Nonetheless, I think that it is the one that makes the best sense of the various data. It also is one that can accommodate the best insights of modern scholarship. It still allows for the Synoptic tradition to develop over time; it merely places that development at c. 30-60 instead of c. 30-90, and injects greater specificity regarding the identities of those involved in the process. It still allows for such things as social memory to be operative; it merely defines more precisely where, when and among whom such operations were taking place. It still allows for source criticism, but specifies the human relations that facilitated the literary ones. It still recognizes the need to consider Sitze im Leben, but actually names the Sitze in question. Etc. The aim is not to replace such approaches to the gospels, but rather to bring them to perfection through more robust historiography.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Educated Galileans?

I've decided to pause my blog through Robinson's Redating the New Testament, in large part because I left my copy at my on-campus office yesterday and do not feel like going in the first snow of the season to retrieve it. Instead, I'm going to comment upon something I've been thinking about as of late, namely the scholarly supposition that persons such as Peter and James could not have been formally educated persons because they hailed from the Galilee. This has real consequences for thinking about such things as the authorship, and thus derivatively the date, of the works attributed to them. There is a significant difficulty with this argument, which rests almost entirely upon a fundamentalist interpretation of NT passages which state that there was a bias against their intellectual capacities because they came from the Galilee. That difficulty is that we have evidence, albeit largely indirect, that there was access to education, and moreover to Greek-style education, in the Galilee.

A century or so before Jesus was born, the Hasmonean dynasty seems to have encouraged migration north from Judea to the Galilee. This is probably best interpreted as the central government in Jerusalem attempting to more fully integrate the Galilee into the Hasmonean state. Such a move would have required administrators, and administrators require education. Now, of course, it is altogether possible that the central government would have adopted a policy of restricting education for such persons to Judea, but there is evidence to suggest that in fact such education was established in the Galilee itself. The signal piece of evidence is that John Hyrcanus sent his son Alexander Janneus to be educated in the Galilee. It's difficult to imagine that a king would send his son to that locale if there were not qualified teachers, and given the activities and interests of the late Hasmonean dynasty it's difficult to imagine that such an education would not have been strongly Hellenistic in flavour. This confirms what we might otherwise have reason to suspect: that the Galilee possessed the educational apparatus necessary for training people who would potentially play significant roles in governance. Even however if potential local administrators were sent to Judea for education, that would still have resulted in educated Galileans.

There is good reason to think that such educational apparatuses persisted and perhaps even expanded in the Herodian period. The Herodians took a keen interest in developing the north, and indeed following Herod the Great's death that would remain the centre of their power. We see Herod the Great developing Caeserea, and Herod Antipas developing Sepphoris and Tiberias. Now, early generations of scholarship probably overplayed the Hellenistic character of these centres, but given their integration into client kingdoms that were in turn integrated into the Roman state, there would have been a likely need for locals with a strong Hellenistic education.

I have restricted my focus to the issue of administrative needs, because I think that the best way to go about making the argument. But the very fact that the Galilee was integrated into the empire, and specifically the eastern half thereof, means that likely there were instances in which persons running private businesses and the like would have benefited from Hellenistic education. They might have been relatively rare, as indeed they likely were across the empire, but it is difficult to imagine that they were absent from the Galilee. Of course, we'd have to look at what we know about individuals, and there is perhaps some evidence that intimates that Peter had limited Greek skills (the fact that Papias talks about Mark serving as his translator or interpreter potentially points to this). With James, the issue will be related to the question of Jesus's education, although one cannot suppose as given that Jesus and James would have received the same quality of education (if, for instance, Joseph was aware that Jesus was not his biological son, as the gospels intimate, but had reason to suppose that James was, it's not inconceivable that he placed greater premium on the latter's education). With the sons of Zebedee, those other most prominent Galilean Christian leaders of the first generation, there is no reason to think that one or both could not have had access to such education, and some indirect evidence that suggests that they might have been exactly the sort of people who we might suspect did have such access (notably, the intimations that their father was not just a fisher but rather ran a fishing concern). Such realities complicate any "They were Galilean, and therefore uneducated" argument.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

"The [Pastoral] Pauline Epistles"

Continuing my discussion of Robinson's treatment of the Pauline epistles in Redating the New Testament, we come to his treatment of the pastoral epistles, viz. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. This will no doubt be the section of Redating's Chapter III that readers are most likely to find objectionable, as Robinson argues that all three pastorals are authentically Pauline. He actually makes clear that no one was more surprised that he reached that conclusion than he himself, as at the beginning of the work that led to Redating he supposed as given the 20th-century consensus regarding their non-authenticity. His research changed his mind. This is the strongest part of his treatment of the pastoral epistles, as he opts to date 1 and 2 Timothy to places in Paul's career that I find difficult (although not impossible) to sustain.

We begin with Titus, which Robinson dates to the first half of 57, around the time of Paul's final journey to Jerusalem. If we grant that Paul wrote Titus, I can see no significant difficulty with this hypothesis. 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy are different questions. Starting with 1 Timothy, Robinson argues that textual details indicate that it was written at around the same time as Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. As such, he dates it to 55. Unfortunately, he never treats the problem of 1 Timothy 5:18, in which Paul quotes as a graphē on par with Deuteronomy a passage that exists verbatim and only in Luke's Gospel. The most expedient hypothesis by far is that 5:18 is indeed quoting Luke's Gospel here. I find it very difficult however to imagine that Luke's Gospel dates any earlier than the Caesarean captivity, which Robinson dates to 57 to 60; and indeed, to anticipate our discussion of Redating, Chapter IV, Robinson does indeed date Luke to that period. It's at that point that, by way of the we-passages, we can put Luke in close sustained proximity with such figures as James, brother of Jesus: precisely the sort of eyewitnesses that he tells us in his prologue he sought out. Strictly speaking, there is nothing preventing us from dating Luke earlier, but I feel that the probability increases exponentially from 57. By my way of thinking, this makes a date for 1 Timothy earlier than 57 improbable. At the very least, Robinson's discussion of 1 Timothy is marred by his failure to engage with 5:18.

Robinson dates 2 Timothy to the Caesarean captivity, c. 58. He does this largely on the weight of connections with the captivity epistles, including not least of all the fact that Paul is in captivity here. There are two flies in this ointment: 2 Timothy 1:17, which states that Onesiphorus found Paul in Rome; and 4:20, which indicates that Trophimus was left ill in Miletus, when Acts 20-21 makes clear that when Paul passed through Miletus on his way to Jerusalem he was in the company of Trophimus and that Trophimus did indeed arrive in the holy city. On the first point, Robinson's argument is, if not convincing, at least plausible: that Onesiphorus came to Rome, searched for Paul, and not finding him there, went to Caesarea, where he did find him. While plausible, it does seem a bit of a strain, and one cannot help but think that Robinson is forcing 2 Timothy into a Procrustean bed. If one feels that with his treatment of 1:17, one feels it all the more when one reads his treatment of 4:20. Here he argues that when Paul says that he left Trophimus ill in Miletus, he does not mean that he was physically with Trophimus at the time of this "leaving." Rather, he is thinking like a general moving soldiers on a map: he "left" Trophimus in Miletus in the sense that he didn't move him elsewhere. Again, while strictly speaking not implausible, it really does seem to strain the text. If 2 Timothy was written by Paul, then 1:17 and 4:20 would seem to best fit a time when Paul is in Rome, after a second, otherwise unknown trip through Miletus with Trophimus.

I'm not here going to give alternative dates for 1 and 2 Timothy, because those are texts that I'm still thinking through myself. I note only what I consider to be weaknesses in Robinson's account, and state that barring better explanations for the contrary data, that I cannot affirm his dates for these texts.

Friday, 25 November 2016

"The [Prison] Pauline Epistles"

With the "prison" epistles--Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon--one encounters a greater number of critical issues than with the "core" Pauline epistles. Most notably, there is the widespread tendency to question whether Ephesians, Colossians, or both are pseudo-Pauline compositions. Suffice it to say, John Robinson finds the arguments for pseudonymity unpersuasive, and I am inclined to agree. The arguments are actually remarkably inchoate. On the one hand we're told that Ephesians and Colossians are too unlike the other Pauline texts to be from the hand of Paul, and on the other that they are too like each other to both come from the same author. Both arguments require careful definition and evaluation: on empirical grounds, what degree of similarity or difference is too great to permit common authorship, and is that degree present among the letters? Moreover, the "too much alike" argument is almost intrinsically absurd. If pushed to the extreme, it would mean that two identical texts cannot have issued from the same author, which is surely wrong. Let us not draw this out, however, but simply note that Robinson judges all four prison epistles to be Pauline compositions. On this one suspects that in this regard he is consistent with current trends in Pauline studies, as again witnessed by Douglas Campbell's strong arguments in Framing Paul (2014) in favour of the authenticity of Ephesians and Colossians.

More interesting for purposes of chronology is exactly when he dates the letters in Paul's life. There are three major candidates: authorship from Ephesus in the early 50s, authorship from Caesarea sometime c. 57-59, and authorship from Rome c. 60-62. Robinson rightly notes that the personalia of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon in particular indicate that they were written in close proximity to each other; the corollary is that while they should be placed in the same captivity, Philippians in principle could date to another. Sticking with those three, there is good reason to think that Caesarea is the place of origin. The personalia of these letters overlap significantly with those persons who according to Acts 20 accompanied Paul to Jerusalem for his fifth and final "Christian" visit, from whence he shortly thereafter was sent into captivity in Caesarea. It is easier to imagine this common personalia if the texts were written relatively shortly after the beginning of Paul's captivity in Caesarea than it is to imagine that they were written three or so years later (Paul probably arrives in Jerusalem around May of 57, and in Rome perhaps March or April of 60). This positive argument is compelling. In addition, Robinson argues that Paul's expectation that he would shortly be traveling through the Lycus Valley (the apparent destination of these letters) fits better with what we know of his plans during this period: he is consistently looking westward, and thus the expectation that he would travel westward from Caesarea by way of Asia Minor towards Rome makes better sense than the expectation that he would travel eastward from Rome. Rome however cannot be properly speaking ruled out. For its part, the strength of the Caesarean hypothesis and the possibility of the Roman virtually exclude the Ephesian, as we have no real reason to even think that Paul was captive in Ephesus in the first place. When it comes to Philippians, Robinson again argues that the Caesarean hypothesis seems strongest. His major piece of evidence here is Phil. 1:13, which associates Paul's captivity with a praetorium: precisely where Acts 23:35 tells us that Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea. Nowhere but in Caesarea are we able to put Paul in captivity in a praetorium.

As such, Robinson dates the prison epistles to 58, in the middle of the Caesarean captivity. In my judgment, he's probably spot on, but neither he nor I would rule out Rome c. 60-62 as a possibility.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

"The [Core] Pauline Epistles"

Chapter III of Redating the New Testament is a bear of a chapter. It's fifty-five pages, making it around 15% of the total monograph. It deals with approximately 50% of the New Testament texts, namely the Pauline epistles. In part due to Robinson's habit of not offering divisions within his chapters, it's not immediately obvious how to divide up discussion of this lengthy chapter. As such, I will offer my own brief rubric for thinking about the chapter, or more specifically the material covered by the material: "core," "prison," and "pastoral" epistles.

The terms "prison" and "pastoral" are not my own, of course. The "prison epistles" refer to Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon: the Pauline epistles that present themselves as written from prison. The term "pastoral epistles" refer by convention to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, even though 2 Timothy really doesn't deal with pastoral concerns. The term "core" is my way of referencing those that remain: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. This particular term is chosen because these texts--especially Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians--are the texts that receive the greatest attention in Pauline exegesis, and with the exception of 2 Thessalonians are by consensus considered to have been written by Paul himself.

Let us in this post then consider Robinson's treatment of the "core" Pauline epistles. There is little here to which many would object, with perhaps two exceptions. One is that Robinson judges 2 Thessalonians to be an authentic Pauline production, whereas many (but certainly not all) scholars would judge it to be inauthentic. My own feeling is that in 2016 the tide is turning towards authenticity. Douglas Campbell's in many ways revisionist account of Paul's life treats it as authentic, which I think probably reflects a greater openness to Pauline authorship of the disputed epistles even among the more "radical" end of scholarship. More interesting to me is the treatment of Galatians, as it gets at a large number of core chronological concerns.

There has historically been a cleavage between "early" Galatians and "late" Galatians. As a rough definition, "early Galatians" refers to those dating schemes that place Galatians prior to 1 Thessalonians, and "late Galatians" refers to those that place it after. Robinson opts for a "late Galatians" dating, placing Galatians in 56. He is generally impressed by the appearance of shared concerns with Romans, and 1 and (especially) 2 Corinthians. I would acknowledge these, but also press Robinson's own observation that these are not decisive for dating. What strikes me as more decisive is the narrative in Galatians. If we suppose, as Robinson does, that the discussion in Gal. 2:1-10 refers to the Jerusalem council narrated in Acts 15, then we must suppose that 2:11-14 narrates the events that led up to that council. Even Campbell, who programmatically refuses to correlate Pauline and Lukan data for purposes of dating, supposes that vv. 11-14 constitute a "prequel" to 1-10. The difficulty is that I see nothing in Galatians that suggests such a chronological break between 2:10 and 2:11. Indeed, I'm not sure if anyone would think to read Galatians 2 in this fashion, were it not for Acts 15. Gal. 2:11-14 does indeed read like it could be referencing events alluded to in Acts 15:1-2a, and in fact I would argue that it does, but I see absolutely nothing in Galatians 2 to indicate to me that Paul intends us to read these events as prior to the those narrated in vv. 1-10.

If we read Galatians 2:1-10 as referring to events that occurred prior to the events of Acts 15 then we have the salutary benefit not only of more closely adhering the narrative in Galatians, but also of accounting for why Paul only mentions two visits to Jerusalem: just as Acts informs us, as of the time just before the council he had only been to Jerusalem twice since his conversion. We also find that the reason that Paul gives for his second visit is identical with that given for Paul's second visit in Acts: response to a prophecy. Galatians becomes a more coherent narrative, and the Lukan and Pauline data cohere much more fully, if we opt for an "early Galatians," around 47 or 48, written prior to the Jerusalem council of Acts 15.

It should be noted that this is my only serious dispute with Robinson's treatment of the "core" Pauline epistles. It's also one that has relatively little impact beyond Galatians itself. I cannot in fact think of any other text whose date is affected by this difference of opinion. As such, as disagreements go, it's relatively minor.