Saturday, June 10, 2006

A word to the wise

I’m not the only one who’s responded to Dagood:

At 10:49 AM, June 05, 2006, Anonymous said...

RE: Paul's Road Trip

Being the apparently intelligent man that you appear to be, I'm sure you have done all the research necessary to come to the conclusions you did regarding Paul's journey to Damascus.

You've obviously read the relevant portions of Josephus' Antiquitates judaicae xiv, xiii, 3, dealing with the history of Rome and the elevation of John Hyrcanus, the high priest, to "ethnarch", which made him "head of an ethnic community" (cf. F. W. Danker, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd. ed. (2000), p. 276. You probably have read in I Maccabees 15:15ff, (esp. v. 21) that precedence for the high priest to extradite "pestilent men" was given to the high priest by the Romans. It is not unreasonable to assume that the title of 'ethnarch', and its jurisdictional rights were passed on to each succeeding high priest down to and including Caiaphas. He would therefore, have the right to pursue renegades into any Hebrew enclave in the Roman Empire.

You most likely have read the chapters on "Tiberius" and "Gaius and Claudius", from The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. X, (1971) to get some background regarding the political situation. And too, J. B. Lightfoot's article, "The Chronology of St Paul's Life and Epistles," published posthumously, from his lecture notes in Biblical Essays (1893). Further, I'm sure you have at least casually looked at Sir William Mitchell Ramsay's, St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen (1909). You must certainly have seen Kirsopp Lake's, "The Chronology of Acts," in Beginnings of Christianity. The Acts of the Apostles, Volume V, pp. 445-474, (F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, eds. - 1933). These must have given you some context to piece together the time frame regarding Paul's going to Damascus, time in Arabia, and going to Jerusalem. You must have at least thumbed through Charles H. Talbert's, "Again: Paul's Visits to Jerusalem," published in the journal Novum Testamentum, 9 (1967) 26-40, or Robert Jewett's, A Chronology of Paul's Life, 1979, which was published separately as part of his doctrinal thesis.

Then too, you must have at least read one or two of the bibliographic references in Anthony J. Saldarini's article, "Pharisees," Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5, 289-303. (1992) and similarly from Gary G. Porton's, "Sadducees", 892-895, from the same volume. And you certainly have studied Arland J. Hultgren's, "Paul's Pre-Christian
Persecutions of the Church: Their Purpose, Locale, and Nature," Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976) 97-111, not to mention Philip E. Hughes, "The Mention of Aretas in 11:32 and Pauline Chronology," Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 424-428. (1962), where he discusses that Damascus was in the hands of the Romans until Gaius (Caligula) who most likely gave it to (Aeneas) Aretas IV in A.D. 40, or perhaps earlier in 37, since Vetellius failed to march against Aretas once Tiberius was dead. But if you didn't happen to see this, you would also have found mention of Rome's control of Damascus in John McRay's article "Damascus," Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, 5-9. Additionally, you would have found information on Damascus and a discussion of the term "ethnarch" in Margaret E. Thrall's, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Volume II, pp. 763-771. (2000). The change in leadership in Damascus from the Romans to Aretas IV, between the time of Paul's conversion (c. 33-35) and his return from Arabia to this city, some three years later, makes his hostile reception understandable given the relations between Antipas and Aretas.

And of course, if you are to discuss the New Testament critically, you read Koine Greek. You, therefore, understand that both citations from Phil. 3:5, "in regard to the law, a Pharisee" and as you put it, again, "Paul simply claims to be a son of a Hebrew" are idioms correctly used in context. The first emphasizing his interpretation of the law, and does not negate the passage in Acts 23:6, where he says he was "a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee." In the latter phrase, Paul is not simply saying he was "a son of a Hebrew", but literally "a Hebrew of Hebrews" underscoring that he was not a proselyte, but a natural born Jew. One passage is dealing with his ethnicity, the other his religious affiliation. Neither of these are in conflict. But you would understand that being a reader of the Greek New Testament. It just seems like a contradiction based on your semantic shenanigans.

I'm sure that none of the above will convince you differently. As Gene Hackman said in the movie Class Action, "Lawyers never lie, we just tell the truth judiciously to guarantee utter confusion." But that aside, your arguments are more pretentious than substantive, as you are more interested an agenda than finding the truth. This is why most scholars will not respond to your insignificant stultiloquy.


At 10:58 AM, June 07, 2006, Anonymous said...

My reason for posting so late, is that I was only told about your blog about a week ago. The only reason I responded in the first place was that I was practically coerced by a co-worker, who knowing my background, was interested in what I would have to say on the subject. It is not my intention to get drawn into a long, protracted discussion. I’ve been in that situation before, to no avail.

If you “want to have fun” with this, I’d love to have you on a witness stand about now.

Q. “Sir is it your testimony that you do not read Koine Greek?”

A. “Yes, it’s true, I do not read Greek.”

Q. “Did you further stay in your last blog reply that, quote, “I had read Danke’s claim about 1 Maccabees.”

A. “Yes.”

Q. It is therefore your testimony that although you do not read Greek, you have read Danker with reference to 1 Maccabees. You do realize sir, that Danker is the editor of the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, and says nothing regarding John Hyrcanus, and the reference to him in BillH’s reply was only in regard to the word definition of the word “ethnarch”! One can only wonder what you have actually read.

Kidding aside, I must tell you up front, that I am neither a minister, nor a college professor. I guess you would categorize me as an “informed layman”. Yes, I have read the books, and articles I referred to, and, in fact, I not only have read them, with the exception of The Cambridge Ancient History, which I borrowed from our local public library, not being worth the “return on cost” for my purposes, and Jewett’s book, which I have purchased, but has not yet been received, I own the rest, including the journals. (Sorry for the run-on sentence.)

In between the time I first posted, and today, another journal article has come to my attention that brings even some of my previous ideas into question. Douglas A. Campbell, “An Anchor for Pauline Chronology: Paul’s Flight from ‘the Ethnarch of King Aretas’ (2 Corinthians 11:32-33),” Journal of Biblical Literature 121 (2002) 279-302. This should be on the top of your reading list, as it appears to answer many of the questions you brought up.

My purpose in responding to your blog, is not so much to convince you of anything, though that would be a plus, as to inform you of what material is out there that will perhaps answer your questions.

As to Luke’s being a historian, you could always take the approach of Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul a Critical Life, where he says, “On methodological grounds alone, Paul’s first-hand account is certainly to be preferred to Luke’s second-hand version, which moreover is a tissue of implausibilities.” (p. 6). A view I do not subscribe to. Obviously, when it comes to history, some things may never be resolved simply because we don’t have enough information, or, data simply has not survived (e.g. Tacitus’ books on Gaius).

Seriously, you need to read Campbell on this subject. I think you will find it enlightening.

I also would recommend: The Pre-Christian Paul, by Martin Hengel in collaboration with Roland Deines, 1991. This received a strongly positive review by Scott McKnight in Journal of Biblical Literature 112 (1993), 160-162.


At 12:03 PM, June 07, 2006, Anonymous said...

P.S. Regarding Pompey’s slaying Simon, nobody said Pompey was a nice guy. There were a lot of despicable acts back then, by some very nasty characters. Incidentally, here 1 Maccabees 16, and Josephus Antiquitates judaicae XIII, vii, 4, disagree as to whether or not Simon was actually killed. But this is a digression, and has nothing to do with the subject of Paul.

At 10:24 AM, June 09, 2006, Anonymous said...

Your interest does sound genuine, but in a way you also seem to want the answers all handed to you. You don’t want to have to “re-trace your (my) steps”, but that is exactly what all Ph.D. candidates do—not that either of us are. I don’t mean to sound abrasive, but I don’t want to compose a dissertation.

Nevertheless, my initial thoughts are that Damascus was not under the control of Aretas on Paul’s first visit to Damascus, (which is what I tried to infer in my previous posts) since it happened probably somewhere between A.D. 33-35. At this point Damascus was still under Roman control. If after a period of “many days” he leaves (escapes?) from Damascus as Luke says because of Jewish persecution. He then goes to Arabia for approximately three years. Paul says he returned to Damascus, which was probably around A.D. 37-38 (cf. Campbell). By this time Aretas had either “received” or “captured” Damascus, and Paul’s reference to the hostility under Aretas in II Corinthians would therefore be accurate. This is when he escaped in a basket. [When it comes to Luke’s account in Acts about Paul being let down in a basket. Who’s to say it wasn’t done twice? If it worked once, it apparently worked again. I say this tongue-in-cheek, as it is more likely that Luke has conflated the two events, but I will have to leave that for further discussion.]

As to the Pharisees and the Sadducees working together, I think a previous post was pretty much right when he/she said they were using each other. (Don’t the two parties in the current congress sometimes work together, even though their ideology is in opposition to one another?) The Sadducees were well connected to the Roman government, but the Pharisees had the ear of the people, and the Sadducees well knew it. On the strength of the Pharisees, see Hugo Mantel, Studies in the History of the Sanhedrin, p. 265 passim. While Mantel is discussing a different subject, he says, “The Pharisees knew their strength, and with the people on their side. . .”

If you reside in a large metropolitan area, or near a university or seminary library, they would have copies of JBL with Campbell’s article. Your local public library might also have access to JSTOR, which is an on-line service (available only by subscription) that would also have the full article.

For the past two years I have been corresponding with a friend of mine regarding the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet). Presently we are only up to chapter five. This, in addition to holding down a full time job, and trying to complete an indexing project that I have been working on for the past 35 years, you can see why I am reluctant to get into another lengthy discussion.

I agree that anyone who has studied a subject should be able to “re-explain” them. The problem here is that we are dealing with, not only a considerable amount of data, even if meager by historical standards, and attempting to piece together some detailed biblical / textual minutia. Better men/ women than I have grappled with the problems, and I rely on their judgment as well, which is why I read. My responses regarding Acts 9, will take a considerable amount of time, if I am to be at all thorough, though not necessarily convincing. Please be patient, if I don’t post for a couple of weeks, should I find the required time to do this.


At 5:20 PM, June 09, 2006, Anonymous said...

Your mixing Apples and Oranges! Aretas IV did not die until at least A.D. 40. Coins were still being struck with his image Aretas IV and Queen Shuqailat dated 39/40. Seriously if you keep changing the facts, we may as well quit now. Additionally, you keep broadening the scope of this discussion (your laundry list of “Paul ‘doesn’ts’” we’ll never end this. All of which brings me back to one of my original statements:

It is not my intention to get drawn into a long, protracted discussion. I’ve been in that situation before, to no avail.



  1. Then, perhaps steve, if you are interested you could help BillH out. He seems to be in a bit of a time crunch.

    The most common apologetic to resolve the problem of Paul vs. Luke regarding Damascus is to claim Paul went twice, and Luke was convoluting the two events in Acts 9. That there should be a three-year hiatus somewhere within 9:21-23.

    Can you provide a set of criteria by which we can determine where Luke is convoluting or skipping years, and where Luke is not in his books? Don’t just tell me he “is” or “is not” to suit some problem presented in another book, but come up with a criteria so that we know when Luke is confused, or when he is skipping years, or when he is not, regardless of what is stated in other books.


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