Monday, 21 December 2015

The Timing of Gal. 2:1-10

This will surely come as a surprise to those who know me best: I've come to judge as correct a minority position with regard to the timing of the events described in Gal. 2:1-10. I am convinced that these occurred during Paul's second trip to Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 11/12, rather than his third, recorded in Acts 15. The following is my reasoning.

If Acts 15=Gal. 2:1-10 then we have to assume the following. First, that Luke omits a reference to the prophecy that took Paul to Jerusalem in the first place; second, that Luke introduces a trip to Jerusalem unknown from the Pauline literature. If Acts 11:27-30=Gal. 2:1-10 then suddenly we have Luke referring to a prophecy which takes Paul to Jerusalem and locating this during Paul's second journey. Moreover, if we look at what takes Paul to Jerusalem in Acts 15 it's a conflict in Antioch, focused upon Gentile inclusion in the new movement (cf. vv. 1-3): exactly the sort of conflict described in Gal. 2:11-14. Put quite simply, the data coheres better, and provides a ready anwer to the question: "Why does Paul in Galatians mention only two visits when Acts narrates more?" Simple: only two visits had occurred when Paul wrote Galatians. Frankly, as far as I can tell, the only reason to think that Acts 11:27-30 can't equal Gal. 2:1-10 is an argument from silence: Luke doesn't mention that Paul discusses such matters with the leaders in Jerusalem during his second visit. I don't think that's sufficient to overturn the coherence that occurs if we imagine Gal. 2:1-10 describing events that occurred during the second Lukan visit and 2:11-14 describing the struggle that leads to the Jerusalem council (alluded to in Acts 15:1-3). As such I would suggest that he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians in the period immediately running up to the Council of Acts 15.

It is perhaps a datum of some further interest that, according to Acts, immediately following the Council Paul went to what would be considered southern Galatia. I suspect that Paul had heard that the controversy with which he was struggling in Antioch had spread to the churches of that region, so before the Council he writes a letter and after he goes to check on them in person. If you consider that the controversy that took place in Antioch could have arisen in southern Galatia more or less simultaneously (i.e. it didn't have to necessarily start in Antioch and spread to southern Galatia) this hypothesis requires little more time than that which Paul would have needed to draft his letter. The time frame supposed by Acts 15:2 is sufficiently ambiguous to allow for such a relatively brief amount of time.

Getting more specific with regard to time, we need to remember that Luke is remarkably inexact with chronology and here even more so than usual. This means that we have to rely upon other sources to get a better sense of the absolute dates of these events. Luke has Paul and Barnabas being commissioned to go to Jerusalem before Agrippa's persecution of the church in, probably, 41. He then has Paul and Barnabas returning after Agrippa dies, in 44 (cf. 12:24-25; some variants read that they return "to" Jerusalem and some "from," and given the fact that they are next located in Antioch the latter seems to make better sense). That trip could have been anytime in that range, or potentially even some amount of time after Agrippa dies. Here is where Galatians very much helps us. If we suppose, as I think likely, that Jesus died in 30 and that, following Harnack, Jewett, and Riesner Paul was converted approximately eighteen months later, then Paul was converted in 31. If he went up to Jerusalem two to three years later (the "three years" of Gal. 1:18, reckoned inclusively), and a second time eleven to fourteen years after that (the "fourteen years" of Gal. 2:1, reckoned inclusively and dated either from the conversion or from the first visit), then the events of Gal. 2:1-10 take place thirteen to seventeen years after his conversion, i.e. sometime between 44 and 48. Given Paul's itinerary as described in Acts 16-17, and the fact that he spends eighteen months in Corinth before appearing before Gallio sometime between July 1 51 and June 30 52 (cf. the Gallio inscription), it seems to me that 48 remains the best date for the Council, although or year or two in either direction is possible. If we suppose 48, then permit perhaps 47 for the travels in southern Galatia before the Council, then we have the second visit in perhaps around 46. Again, though a year or two in either direction is altogether possible.

The above of course supposes a fairly high degree of confidence in the Pauline itineraries given in Acts 13-18. I can defend this supposition, which is not assumed arbitrarily but rather is the product of antecedent investigation. That, however, would be an altogether different blog post.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Date of the Disputed Paulines

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that all six of the disputed Paulines are indeed Pseudo-Pauline. There is often an unspoken supposition that they must then have been written subsequent to Paul's life. This does not in fact necessarily follow. There is no reason in principle that one or more Pseudo-Pauline texts might have circulated prior to Paul's passing. Indeed, there are hints within the undisputed Paulines that Pseudo-Pauline literature had begun to circulate during his lifetime: cf. 1 Cor. 16:1 and Gal. 6:11, in which Paul goes out of  his way to indicate that he is writing in his own hand; 2 Thess. 2:2 refers to letters sent "as if from Paul," thus suggesting an awareness of at least the possibility of spurious letters, whilst 2 Thess. 3:17 explicitly spells out that Paul's signature is a mark of authorship, and although the letter is disputed we should not be surprised if this reflects an contemporary or near-contemporary awareness that Paul had such concerns or engaged in such a practice. What this means is that merely establishing that a letter is Pseudo-Pauline does not establish Paul's death as a terminus post quem for its date of authorship. Of course, the opposite would the case: if it can be shown that the letter could not have originated prior to Paul's death then it must be reckoned as Pseudo-Pauline. Pseudo-Pauline origin is insufficient to establish a post-65ish date, but a post-65ish date is sufficient to establish Pseudo-Pauline origin.

So perhaps the thing to ask is whether any of what we are treating as Pseudo-Pauline texts clearly post-date Paul's life. Probably the main argument used to establish that certain of these texts must post-date Paul's life is what we might call the argument from ecclesiastical anachronism: i.e. the ecclesiastical structures evinced in some of these texts is more advanced than that which existed prior to c. 65. It ought to first be noted that this is really only relevant to 1 Timothy and Titus. And when I look at these texts I'm really not convinced that the argument holds. Yes, Paul talks at length about the qualifications of bishops and deacons in 1 Tim. 3, but Philippians 1:1 supposes an identical bipartite church structure. Yes, 3:2 refers to "the bishop," τὸν ἐπίσκοπον, but is a single definitive article really sufficient to establish that we are dealing with a monarchical bishop here? The author elsewhere talks about elders, even though he doesn't deal with their qualifications in chapter three, which leads me to suspect that we are dealing with the well-attested, early tendency to treat the offices of the bishop and elder as interchangeable. This perhaps receives some confirmation from the fact that Titus 1:5-9 talks about the qualifications of elder in a way markedly similar to the way in which 1 Tim. 3 talks about the qualifications of the bishop, and again this discussion does not seem to reflect an ecclesiastical structure more advanced that anything in the undisputed Paulines. As such I'm not entirely persuaded that the argument from ecclesiastical anachronism is empirically sound.

A stronger argument with specific respect to 1 Timothy comes from 5:18, which quotes as a γραφή a passage identical to one found in Luke (cf. 10:7), and only found in Luke. Given the tendency of early Christian writers to cite quotes inexactly from memory the fact that it is verbatim identical is really quite significant. Although one cannot rule out that we are dealing with an otherwise unknown text, including a hypothetical source for Luke's Gospel or a proto-Luke, by far the simplest and most compelling argument is that 1 Timothy is citing Luke's Gospel. Now, the fact that it is referenced as a γραφή does not tell us a great deal about the date of the text: we have no positive evidence telling us that Christian writers couldn't have begun referring to Luke's Gospel or any other writing as a γραφή soon after it was written. It just doesn't seem sufficient to establish a terminus post quem. The real issue comes with what one thinks about the date of Luke's Gospel. If one dates it to post-70 then one would most reasonably conclude that 1 Timothy also must post-date 70, and thus subsequent to Paul's life. If one follows the "early chronology" for Luke-Acts that would see Acts being written at around 63 or 64, and Luke's Gospel sometime before that, then a 1 Timothy written during Paul's life becomes a possibility. This is simply another reminder that questions about the dates of the New Testament are as a rule quite intertwined: a shift in the date of one text can have definite consequences for the date of another.

Frankly, I can't think of any real reason that any of the other Pseudo-Paulines must post-date c. 65. Thus I conclude that of the Pseudo-Paulines only 1 Timothy could not have been written during Paul's lifetime, and this only if Luke's Gospel is dated subsequent to Paul's life. Again, though, I must emphasize: these are not arguments for Pauline authorship. A pre-65 date or even just the possibility thereof is insufficient to establish Pauline authorship. And the statement "Could have been written during Paul's lifetime" is not identical to "Was written during Paul's lifetime." But we should be at least open to the possibility that one or more letters of the canonical Pauline corpus are precisely the sort of forgeries against which Paul perhaps was taking precautions by putting his signature on his letters.

Monday, 14 December 2015

On Authorial Intent

I wrote a brief post this morning on intent in Lonergan and Meyer, about which my friend Justin Schwartz (Ph.D. student at Regis College in Toronto, the Mecca of Lonergan studies) had kind words, suggesting that I place what I wrote here, in this venue. So, that's what I'm doing.

To quote myself, with a few modifications:
If intention is something located entirely in the writer's head then knowing an author's intention is very difficult if not impossible. Meyer's argument, derived from Lonergan, is that intention is not located entirely in the writer's head. If writing is ordinarily a communicative act then we can in principle determine what the writer intended to communicate. This is no different in principle from what we do when we read an email or talk to a friend: one communicates, the other seeks to understand what is being communicated. Now, of course, one must attend to the qualifier "in principle." There are all sort of things that can lead us to misconstrue the writer's intention. The writer might not have adequately communicated her or his intention. We might not have the requisite capacity for understanding the intention. But ultimately that is all that Meyer means by "intention": what the writer meant to communicate. He will give this "intended sense" primacy (his word), but that I think must be understood in a strictly temporal sense: i.e. reading for intention is the first thing for which a reader should aim, but not necessarily the final thing.
 Thus endeth what I wrote on FB. I will add the following.

Let us consider a thought experiment, in which you argue that intention, as defined above, is impossible to know. If that were the case you would not be able to know how intention is defined above. You would not even be able to know that I aimed to communicate about intention above. But if you cannot know how intention is defined above then you could not argue that intention, as defined above, is impossible to know. In short, the moment that you respond to my argument you implicitly concede the very thing against which you argue explicitly. On the supposition that no one would proceed in such a self-reversing fashion I presume that this thought experiment can remain entirely in the realm of hypothesis.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Date of Hebrews

I've been thinking about the date of Hebrews. Hebrews is a notoriously difficult text to work with for those of us interested in what Lonergan calls "basic history": "basic" in the sense of dealing with foundational matters, such as chronology. Out of the twenty-seven books of the NT it is the one text that does not have even a putative author, and the old saw (going back to Origen) that only God knows who wrote the letter is probably not far from the mark. We can however venture some guesses as to when it was written.

There are, I think, four crucial data when thinking about this matter: the apparent references to Hebrews in 1 Clement (notably ch. 36, but upwards of fifty references have been identified at different times by different scholars); Heb. 13:23; the traditional title, "To the Hebrews"; and Heb. 10:2. I have organized the material in this order, as it allows us to consistently narrow down the likely range for the epistle's date.

The Clementine references to Hebrews as well as Hebrews 13:23 together point to a probable date before c. 90ish. 1 Clement is typically dated to the mid-90s, although there have been arguments that would place it around 70 (the strongest argument for which is probably 40-41, which could be read as indicating that the Jerusalem temple is yet standing); for our purposes we can go with the majority date on this matter. Certainly, if there is anything to the traditional attribution to Clement of Rome, 1 Clement can't be much if at all later than c. 100, when Lightfoot dated the end of Clement's bishopric (allowing that, whatever it meant to be "bishop" in that era was probably unlike what the term later came to indicate, this probably does give us a good sense of when Clement flourished). Hebrews 13:23 also points to a similar terminus ante quem: if the Timothy referenced in this passage is the only other Timothy known from the first Christian century, and there's frankly neither good reason to think otherwise nor good reason to multiply entities here, then it is difficult to imagine that a man active in Christian ministry by probably the late-40s and certainly by the 50s (cf. Acts and the Pauline epistles) would still be flourishing much later than the 90s. Both together suggest a probable maximal limit for Hebrews at the 90s. As for terminus post quem, the reference to Timothy gives us perhaps a lower window of c. 50, as we have no clear evidence of his activity as a Christian leader prior to the Jerusalem council, although a date in the 40s probably couldn't be ruled out. Tentatively though we can suggest that Hebrews was most likely written between 50 and 90 of our era.

The traditional title, Πρὸς Έβραίους (Pros Hebraious), tentatively points us towards a date in the lower half of the 50-90 frame. Now, of course, the title might very likely not be original to the epistle, although it is not clear that it is secondary. There is, to the best of my knowledge, no positive evidence that the letter ever circulated absent this phrase at the beginning. At the very least, if it is secondary, it entered the textual tradition very early, and it cannot be assumed that such addition was made in complete ignorance of the historical situation of the letter. As such we can tentatively treat the title as evidence for the situation in which the text originated. When doing so it is worth noting that we know of a group of Christians called the Hebraioi (the plural nominative of Hebraios, whilst Hebraious is the plural accusative of the same word): according to Acts, it was one of the sub-groups of the Jerusalem church. Now, the Jerusalem church appears to have dissolved in the 60s, perhaps around the beginning of the Jewish War, and although there is evidence that it was reconstituted in Pella and then in Jerusalem after the revolt there is no real evidence that there was ever again a group within the church that went by the name Hebraioi. Thus, again tentatively (note the repeated italics), I suggest that the epistle was written to this group before its dissolution in the 60s.

On its own the argument from the traditional title is not particularly strong, however. The exact relationship of the letter to the title is too unclear, and even if granted as evidence for the question of date we cannot with a high degree of confidence rule out that the Hebraious of the title do not have a referent other than the Hebraioi of Acts. It is really more suggestive than anything. Heb. 10:2 however likewise points to a pre-70 situation. More than one scholar has argued that the reasoning of Hebrews regarding the temple makes more sense before rather than after 70. If Hebrews' argument is to show that the temple establishment is obsolete then what better way to urge this point than to observe that it no longer operates? This is exactly what the Epistle of Barnabas, a clear post-70 text, will do. I think that in and of itself this argument has some weight, but is not decisive: it turns too much on what we think the author would have done under certain circumstances. 10:2 however is different. It reads, in the NRSV, as follows: "Otherwise, would they [i.e. the temple sacrifices] not have ceased being offered, since the worshipers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin?" One could I suppose argue that Hebrews means something like "would they not have ceased being offered before Jesus came?", but that seems only necessary if we assume a post-70 date. The far more straight-forward reading is that there is an unspoken minor, which makes the logic of the passage proceed as follows: If the sacrifices could cleanse once and for all they would have ceased; they have not ceased; therefore they do not cleanse once and for all. Indeed, writing after 70 the author would have faced the possible rejoinder that they have in fact ceased; that he (possibly she) evinces no concern for this rejoinder seems to make more sense pre-70.

Could Hebrews have been written between 70 and 90? Yes, no question, that remains a viable possibility; nothing definitively rules it out. On the balance of the evidence something between 50 and 70, and perhaps not too close to 70 due to the dissolution of the Jerusalem church early in the Jewish War, seems to make more sense. As for who wrote this letter, I wouldn't even hazard a guess, although we might be able to say a bit more about its situation. I would probably rule out a Roman origin, as the reference in 13:24 to "those from Italy" sending greetings seems to suggest that the writer is not writing in Italy: if she or he is with people who came from Italy then she or he is probably not in Italy. I would suggest that the writer is someone who is at least familiar to or with Pauline circles, due to his companionship with Timothy (cf. again 13:23). Someone not in Rome at the time of composition, active c. 60, and with Pauline connections: that leaves virtually all the usual suspects and even some unusual ones (such as Apollos, Barnabas, Clement himself, Luke, Priscilla, Aquila, Silas) still in play, without any clear way to adjudicate between them, and as such any more precise statement than that and we're probably going beyond what the evidence will allow us to say. We might add that of these Barnabas, Silas, and Luke have known connections with both the Jerusalem church and with Timothy, thus perhaps shifting the balance of probabilities towards such figures (if indeed the author was someone that we know about from broader tradition, which cannot be taken as a given), but truthfully any effort to be too exact is going to be problematic.