The Spu­ri­ous­ness of So-Called Pauline Epis­tles Exem­pli­fied by the Epis­tle to the Galatians

G. A. van Den Bergh van Eysinga

From the stand­point of the ordi­nary the­ol­o­gy of the day it is a psy­cho­log­i­cal rid­dle how the Paul of the Four Let­ters can have fol­lowed the his­tor­i­cal Jesus at so short an inter­val. Pier­son opened the eyes of Loman to this fact. It seemed to him that the devel­oped Chris­tian­i­ty of the com­mu­ni­ty and the activ­i­ty of the­o­log­i­cal thought, which form the back­ground of the Four Let­ters, jus­ti­fy the hypoth­e­sis that they pos­si­bly belong to a lat­er time. Loman per­ceived that the work in this direc­tion begun by Bruno Bauer must be done over again. A thor­ough study of Bauer’s work showed him that the let­ters of Paul do not fit into the peri­od where it is usu­al to place them. True, attempts have been made to solve the dif­fi­cul­ty by the sug­ges­tion that Paul was a very extra­or­di­nary man, and not bound by the laws which gov­ern ordi­nary men. It is pos­si­ble, it is true, to go a long way in the expla­na­tion of the let­ters with the help of this sup­po­si­tion ; but the duty of crit­i­cism, when seek­ing an expla­na­tion of his­tor­i­cal facts, is to reject as much as pos­si­ble all solu­tions which assume any­thing unusu­al and extraordinary.

The Tub­in­gen School had explained the fact that the Four Let­ters are not men­tioned till about the mid­dle of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry, and then only by a few writ­ers, by the hypoth­e­sis that Paul was unusu­al­ly pro­found, and that his writ­ings were too advanced to be accept­ed with­out mis­giv­ings by his con­tem­po­raries. But Loman would not lis­ten to this. The fact that the works remained unknown was rather, accord­ing to him, that they only came into being at a lat­er period.

Pier­son and his friend, the schol­ar S. A. Naber, pub­lished in col­lab­o­ra­tion in 1886 a Latin work, called Verisi­m­il­ia, in which they showed how con­fused the Pauline let­ters are — a cir­cum­stance which must be explained as the result of a lat­er recon­struc­tion ; how incom­pre­hen­si­ble they must have been to recent­ly con­sti­tut­ed church­es, which, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, lacked a philo­soph­ic train­ing ; and how the whole of the New Tes­ta­ment is per­me­at­ed through and through by a catholic spirit.

Van Manen was won over about the same time. Hith­er­to he had always been the most dan­ger­ous oppo­nent of the Rad­i­cal School. In 1886, how­ev­er, be open­ly admit­ted that, in his opin­ion, not one of the Pauline Epis­tles is gen­uine. He was con­firmed in this con­clu­sion by read­ing the impor­tant book of R. Steck, of Berne, on the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians (1888). Van Manen prais­es Steck for hav­ing kept the ques­tion of the authen­tic­i­ty of the Epis­tles entire­ly sep­a­rate from that of the sym­bol­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of the Gospel his­to­ry. In Loman’s book these two ques­tions are com­bined togeth­er, and the impres­sion is cre­at­ed that the spu­ri­ous­ness of the Epis­tles is only assumed in order that the sym­bol­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion may be retained. An epoch was cre­at­ed in the his­to­ry of the Dutch Rad­i­cal School by the pub­li­ca­tion of van Manen’s own books on Paul, of which a detailed descrip­tion for Eng­lish read­ers was giv­en by T. Whit­tak­er in The Ori­gins of Chris­tian­i­ty (Lon­don, 1904). First of all, the Acts of the Apos­tles was made the sub­ject of a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion ; then fol­lowed the Epis­tles to the Romans and Corinthi­ans. And his work was made known in the Eng­lish-speak­ing world through his arti­cles in the Ency­clopae­dia Biblica.

In a review of ear­li­er por­tions of this Ency­clopae­dia, van Manen had found fault with the too con­ser­v­a­tive treat­ment of many New Tes­ta­ment sub­jects. In spite of the ener­getic protests of the Eng­lish press, the edi­tors of the Ency­clopae­dia decid­ed to entrust him with the task of writ­ing some of the arti­cles on Paulin­ism. In papers pub­lished in the Feb­ru­ary, March, and April num­bers of the Expos­i­to­ry Times, in 1898, he had already expressed his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the way in which advanced thinkers in Eng­land and Amer­i­ca ignored the sci­en­tif­ic work of the Rad­i­cal School, and blind­ly accept­ed the con­clu­sions of the Ger­man crit­ics. His com­plaint was well ground­ed ; nor is the state­ment dis­proved by the exis­tence of a book by the Rev. R. J. Knowl­ing (Lon­don, 1892), who endeav­ors to con­fute Loman, Pier­son, and Steck from an anti­quat­ed super­nat­u­ral­ism stand­point. That van Manen was not entire­ly with­out recog­ni­tion in the Eng­lish-speak­ing world, appears from what has been already said above, as well as from his elec­tion as an hon­orary Asso­ciate of the Ratio­nal­ist Press Asso­ci­a­tion, Lon­don, in May, 1904 — a dis­tinc­tion which, alas ! he was only able to enjoy for a short time.

After Loman’s death, van Manen and Mey­boom brought out a por­tion of his unpub­lished works, includ­ing an unlist­ed trea­tise on the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians. The present writer has on many occa­sions dur­ing the last ten years argued against the authen­tic­i­ty of the Pauline Epis­tles ; among oth­er things, he has drawn atten­tion to the so-called Epis­tles of Ignatius, the writer of which clear­ly regards Paul not as the writer of let­ters in the ordi­nary sense of the word, but of open let­ters, or trea­tis­es in epis­to­lary form. Pro­fes­sor Bol­land, in an impor­tant chap­ter of his book Het Evan­gelie has also col­lect­ed the most essen­tial argu­ments against the authen­tic­i­ty of the Pauline Epistles.

Are the Let­ters of Paul Real Letters ? 

In order to answer this ques­tion we must first define what we mean by a let­ter. A let­ter is a medi­um for the mutu­al exchange of ideas between two per­sons, or in cer­tain cas­es between the writer and a lim­it­ed cir­cle of read­ers ; hence it is not intend­ed for the pub­lic. Deiss­mann has already dis­tin­guished between the let­ter and the epis­tle, the lat­ter being a lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion which is not real­ly intend­ed for the per­sons to whom it is addressed, but for the gen­er­al pub­lic. In the case of a real cor­re­spon­dence the writer nat­u­ral­ly reveals his own per­son­al­i­ty, and enters at once into the thoughts and feel­ings of the per­son addressed. Such a doc­u­ment, there­fore, enables us to form some idea not only of the writer, but also to a cer­tain extent of the read­ers. Cicero’s let­ters to Atti­cus belong to this class ; be shows him­self in his true char­ac­ter. In his let­ters to his friends, on the oth­er hand (Ad Famil­iares), he reck­ons on oth­er read­ers than trust­ed friends alone, and there­fore they not with­out a cer­tain amount of rhetor­i­cal embell­ish­ment. Towards the end of the first cen­tu­ry A.D. we find the writ­ing of let­ters a reg­u­lar form of lit­er­ary com­po­si­tion. In the schools of rhetoric let­ters deal­ing with some his­tor­i­cal event, and writ­ten under some fic­ti­tious his­tor­i­cal name (the so-called sua­so­ria), were com­posed as exer­cis­es, and became a part of the lit­er­a­ture of the peri­od. Var­ro was the first to write sci­en­tif­ic essays in the form of let­ters, and his exam­ple was fol­lowed by many oth­ers after him. The didac­tic let­ter came into exis­tence ; trea­tis­es on jurispru­dence and med­i­cine took the form of let­ters. The let­ter of exhor­ta­tion we find espe­cial­ly favoured by the Sto­ics ; Panaetius and Posi­do­nius wrote eth­i­cal trea­tis­es in epis­to­lary form ; and Seneca’s Epis­tles, in par­tic­u­lar, may be described as a hand­book of prac­ti­cal wis­dom for every­body. The form of lit­er­a­ture which may be described as the Let­ter of Edi­fi­ca­tion was par­tic­u­lar­ly in vogue with the Christians.

To write let­ters in anoth­er per­son­’s name was at that time just as com­mon as to intro­duce well-known per­sons into nar­ra­tives, and to put say­ings and speech­es into their mouths — like those of Jesus, for exam­ple, in the Gospels, or those of Peter and Paul in the Acts. In all this there is not the remotest inten­tion of deceiv­ing. Any­one who had any­thing to say by way of exhor­ta­tion or edi­fi­ca­tion wrote a let­ter, with­out trou­bling him­self about defi­cien­cies in the exter­nal form. Thus the Epis­tle to the Eph­esians is with­out an address, that to the Hebrews with­out a suit­able intro­duc­tion, that of James with­out a prop­er con­clu­sion ; the First Epis­tle of John lacks both intro­duc­tion and conclusion.

At first no one thought of regard­ing these pro­duc­tions as actu­al let­ters writ­ten by the men whose names they bear. Grad­u­al­ly all this was changed. The desire for infor­ma­tion, rev­er­ence for the author­i­ty of the writ­ten word, the for­ma­tion of a canon — these are the fac­tors that brought about the result that, from the time of Ire­naeus (c. 180 A.D.) onward, the thir­teen (or even four­teen) Pauline Epis­tles and the Catholic Epis­tles — nay, all the doc­u­ments of ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty so far as they were accept­ed by the Church — passed for the work of the writ­ers whose names they bore, and were also sup­posed to be intend­ed for the read­ers who were named either at the begin­ning, or the end, or in the title, or by tra­di­tion. This applies also to let­ters which are uni­ver­sal­ly admit­ted to be lat­er com­po­si­tions — as, for exam­ple, Paul’s Epis­tle to the Laodiceans, the Third Epis­tle to the Corinthi­ans, the let­ter of Jesus to King Abgarus, and others.

Mod­ern times brought a reac­tion against this atti­tude. The apoc­ryphal let­ters were reject­ed imme­di­ate­ly after the Ref­or­ma­tion ; lat­er the gen­uine­ness of some of the writ­ings of the Apos­tolic Fathers was also dou­bled ; since Sem­ler, many of the Pauline and Catholic let­ters were added to the list ; the T?bingen School left lit­tle but the four prin­ci­pal let­ters. The Rad­i­cal School has arrived at the con­clu­sion that the so-called let­ters are not let­ters at all, there­by return­ing to the point of view of the time in which they were com­posed. The Mura­tori frag­ment, a list of New Tes­ta­ment books belong­ing to the end of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry and named after the Ital­ian schol­ar by whom it was dis­cov­ered, tells us of Paul : Although the blessed apos­tle writes only to sev­en church­es” — whose names fol­low — nev­er­the­less it is clear that one sin­gle Church was spread over the whole earth. And John, although in the Apoc­a­lypse he speaks to sev­en church­es, nev­er­the­less address­es all church­es equally.”

Where­as in the time of Justin Mar­tyr (c. 150 A.D.) the Gospels were the only sacred books rec­og­nized by the Church, twen­ty years lat­er, in the time of Diony­sius of Corinth, there was quite a con­sid­er­able col­lec­tion of let­ters. All our canon­i­cal let­ters are to be regard­ed as mod­els and types of the epis­co­pal pas­toral let­ters ; they were the admon­ish­ing voic­es of the apos­tolic men who after they were dead, still spake to the Chris­t­ian Church­es, in order to con­vert them from the old Jew­ish stand­point to the new one of the Catholic faith.

The Epis­tle to the Galatians 

Now that T. Whit­tak­er has made the views of van Manen on the Epis­tle to the Romans and the two Epis­tles to the Corinthi­ans acces­si­ble to Eng­lish read­ers, it is per­haps desir­able to devote par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians, espe­cial­ly as it enjoys a great rep­u­ta­tion for authen­tic­i­ty.In my remarks on this Epis­tle I have been able to make use of some unpub­lished lec­tures of van Manen, which have been cour­te­ous­ly placed at my dis­pos­al by his daugh­ters. Com­pare also my book Holl. Rad. Kr., pp. 110 – 112

The Epis­tle to the Gala­tians is con­sid­ered almost uni­ver­sal­ly to be the old­est sur­viv­ing doc­u­ment of Chris­t­ian ori­gin, although we have no pos­i­tive evi­dence for its exis­tence before 180, and even then only the evi­dence of the most uncrit­i­cal of the Church Fathers — name­ly, Ire­naeus, Clement of Alexan­dria, and Ter­tul­lian — men who have pro­nounced almost all the New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings to be of apos­tolic ori­gin, includ­ing even the Fourth Gospel, the Pas­toral, and the Catholic Epistles.

If we real­ly have before us a doc­u­ment called into exis­tence by the cir­cum­stances of the time, then it must be pos­si­ble to explain it as a whole by ref­er­ence to the con­di­tions which are pre­sup­posed by the let­ter itself. Tra­di­tion, title, even the char­ac­ter of the doc­u­ment, all tes­ti­fy that it is a let­ter. It bears the appear­ance of hav­ing been extort­ed from the sender against his will, so that at the end the writer can say, ” From hence­forth let no man trou­ble me ” (6:17). Although ” brethren ” are named as joint authors of the Epis­tle, it is Paul alone who speaks ; his lan­guage is full of ener­gy and pas­sion ; he writes under the influ­ence of strong emo­tion. We feel that there is some­thing that com­pels him to write. He address­es a def­i­nite cir­cle of read­ers, to whom be is not a com­plete stranger — nay, to whom he stands on a foot­ing of close intimacy.

Exter­nal­ly we are con­front­ed with only one dif­fi­cul­ty : it is with­out the usu­al address of an ancient let­ter. Such an address we find else­where in the New Tes­ta­ment — e.g., in Acts 15:23 ; 23:26, and in James 1:1 ; the name of the sender is giv­en in the nom­i­na­tive case ; it is stat­ed as briefly as pos­si­ble and with­out the addi­tion of any titles ; then fol­lows the name of the per­son or per­sons to whom the let­ter is sent, and last of all the word greet­ing.” In our Epis­tle, on the con­trary, the actu­al address is gram­mat­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed from the greet­ing ; the name of the sender receives all kinds of descrip­tive addi­tions ; even in the address itself we find indi­ca­tions of the con­tents of the let­ter ; for exam­ple, it con­tains by impli­ca­tion a reply to those who refuse to rec­og­nize the writer as an apos­tle, in the pas­sage : Paul, an apos­tle not of men, nei­ther by a man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (1:1).

All this strikes us as sin­gu­lar, to begin with ; but there remain oth­er fea­tures which are not less sin­gu­lar. It appears that the let­ter is writ­ten not by Paul only, but by all the brethren with him. Yet, after a perusal of the let­ter, it will not read­i­ly sug­gest itself to the read­er that oth­ers beside Paul are respon­si­ble for what is writ­ten in it ; every­where the sin­gu­lar num­ber is used with the excep­tion of 1:8, 9. The men­tion of oth­er authors is to be explained as a fic­ti­tious addi­tion, due to an imi­ta­tion of 1 and 2 Cor, where Sos­thenes and Tim­o­thy are named along with Paul, in order to enhance the author­i­ty of the doc­u­ments and to intro­duce them with due eccle­si­as­ti­cal impressiveness.

For whom is the let­ter intend­ed ? The words of the address are : To the church­es of Gala­tia.” It is an old ques­tion, which has been and still is the sub­ject of end­less con­tro­ver­sy, which Gala­tia is here meant — Gala­tia prop­er or the much more exten­sive Roman province of that name. The lat­ter sup­po­si­tion Sch?er describes as a sin­gu­lar delu­sion.” We are not oblig­ed to take sides with either par­ty. Whether we con­sid­er the small­er or the larg­er Gala­tia to be meant, in either case a let­ter so addressed could not be deliv­ered. How many of these church­es were there ? How were they to be found ? It will per­haps be said the let­ter was no doubt put in charge of a mes­sen­ger who knew where to deliv­er it. But in that case how was it passed on ? How are we to explain the fact that we find no direc­tions in the let­ter itself that it should be passed round ? If by Gala­tia is meant the province, then the dif­fi­cul­ty of the prob­lem is increased ; we must remem­ber that the lan­guage and char­ac­ter of the peo­ple in Gala­tia prop­er were not the same as in the towns of Anti­och in Pisidia, Ico­ni­um, Lystra, and Derbe, which belong to the Province of Gala­tia, and to which the let­ter, in the opin­ion of many crit­ics, was also intend­ed to be sent.

When we take all these cir­cum­stances into account, the only pos­si­ble con­clu­sion is that we are deal­ing here not with an actu­al but with an open let­ter, as though one were to write a let­ter To the Chris­tians in Eng­land,” which in such a case is nev­er actu­al­ly dis­patched, and is intend­ed for any­one who has a mind to read it. As soon, how­ev­er, as we real­ize this, we have no longer any rea­son to speak of the per­plex­i­ty and agi­ta­tion of the apos­tle, which is reflect­ed in this let­ter to his church­es, and which has to explain all that is oth­er­wise inex­plic­a­ble in the doc­u­ment. It can no longer be regard­ed as an exhor­ta­tion or a reproof from the dis­qui­et­ed father, who is con­cerned for the wel­fare of the souls of his spir­i­tu­al chil­dren. Where dif­fi­cul­ties occur, it is a com­mon habit of com­men­ta­tors to say there is an allu­sion here to cir­cum­stances well known to the writer and the read­ers, because they stand a foot­ing of such inti­ma­cy with one anoth­er. As soon, how­ev­er, as we admit that we have before us not a let­ter but a lit­er­ary pro­duc­tion, this solu­tion is no longer avail­able. Calvin was right, although not in the sense which he intend­ed, when he wrote : We must not sup­pose, because some of Paul’s let­ters are addressed to par­tic­u­lar towns and oth­ers to par­tic­u­lar indi­vid­u­als, that there­fore they are not equal­ly intend­ed for every­body.” The let­ters of Paul are not intend­ed for spe­cial per­sons or com­mu­ni­ties, but for the whole Church.

It is now appar­ent why there is so lit­tle objec­tive real­i­ty about the actu­al con­di­tions which are indi­cat­ed in the course of the let­ter. The pre­sup­posed con­di­tions of a gen­er­al falling-off from the Gospel preached by Paul must have been true of a great num­ber of places. The whole of the con­tents is rather a dis­ser­ta­tion in the form of a let­ter than a let­ter. Paul’s inde­pen­dence must be defend­ed ; Chris­tian­i­ty must be pro­claimed as the reli­gion of free­dom, and return to Judaism must be cen­sured. The whole Epis­tle is a piece of spe­cial plead­ing. This is why edi­tors in their com­men­taries and intro­duc­tions busy them­selves so much in trac­ing the line of thought of the writer, and explain­ing what posi­tions are being defend­ed. Holtz­mann has tru­ly said that the Four Let­ters are intend­ed to be stud­ied rather than read. But in that case they must be called books, or trea­tis­es, rather than letters,

The rela­tion in which Paul as writer stood to his read­ers is a mys­tery. This is not because we are with­out suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion — in oth­er words, for want of data. The cham­pi­ons of their authen­tic­i­ty would glad­ly make us believe this, but it is not the case. The dif­fi­cul­ty aris­es rather from the fact that the writer is incon­sis­tent with him­self. Paul had only found­ed the church­es a short time before (4:19 ; 1:6). They would then have done any­thing for him ; in fact there exist­ed an almost sen­ti­men­tal attach­ment between the Gala­tians and him (4:14ff.). The ques­tion aris­es, How is this inti­ma­cy, amount­ing almost to affec­tion, pos­si­ble in the case of a num­ber of church­es at the same time ? And how can we make it square with so sud­den a falling-off ? If he real­ly, when he was present with them, con­vert­ed them by the grace of Christ to Pauline” Chris­tian­i­ty, then it is incon­ceiv­able that these Chris­tians who had reached such spir­i­tu­al heights — not in a sin­gle iso­lat­ed case, but all the church­es in Gala­tia alike — should sud­den­ly pro­ceed to place them­selves under the Law and allow them­selves to be cir­cum­cised (1:6 ; 3:1 – 5 ; 4:21 ; 6:2), and that only because they had been incit­ed there­to by cer­tain per­sons” or a cer­tain per­son.” The writer speaks in a tone of com­mand, like a man of author­i­ty, angry and indig­nant (1:1, 6 ; 3:1 – 5 ; 6:17); a moment lat­er he becomes once more the calm instruc­tor, and calls them brethren”; nay, he becomes even more gra­cious, and speaks to them as to beloved chil­dren (4:19).

How sur­pris­ing it is that we obtain no pos­i­tive infor­ma­tion from this com­po­si­tion about the char­ac­ter and ideas of the Gala­tians in the mid­dle of the first cen­tu­ry A.D. Is it con­ceiv­able that a mod­ern mis­sion­ary deal­ing with some actu­al ques­tion could write to a church found­ed by him­self a let­ter so colour­less as this ? We miss here the ele­ment of life and real­i­ty ; instead of this we have a cold­ness and imper­son­al­i­ty which is not mere­ly sus­pi­cious, but fatal to the authen­tic­i­ty of the let­ter, espe­cial­ly when we fur­ther take into con­sid­er­a­tion the evi­dent affec­ta­tion of per­son­al­i­ty, the unsuc­cess­ful attempt to pro­duce a nat­ur­al and human figure.

We ask in vain who the men were who formed the church­es to which the writer address­es him­self. Were they hea­then Chris­tians, or Jew­ish Chris­tians ? Both views may be sup­port­ed from pas­sages in the let­ter. Through­out the book both kinds of church mem­bers are pre­sup­posed, which is nat­ur­al enough in a book or trea­tise, but not in a let­ter which is intend­ed for a par­tic­u­lar group of per­sons. We find here sound believ­ers, recre­ant believ­ers, con­vert­ed Jews, and con­vert­ed hea­then, all embraced in the cir­cle of readers.

Although the Epis­tle is a uni­ty, in which a thread of con­nec­tion is not lack­ing from the begin­ning to the end, nev­er­the­less we notice here and there that the writer intro­duced ideas which he has picked up in the course of his read­ing. Some­times these appear in a wrong con­nec­tion, thus betray­ing the writer’s depen­dence on oth­ers. In 2:16 he quotes with­out acknowl­edg­ment a phrase which he bor­rows from the Sep­tu­agint ver­sion of Psalm 143:2 ; he writes down the phrase, with a mod­i­fi­ca­tion of his own, with­out fur­ther com­ment, and leaves us to sup­pose that he is giv­ing us an orig­i­nal utter­ance. There are var­i­ous pas­sages in our Epis­tle which by them­selves are obscure, and only become clear when we place beside them vers­es from Romans and Corinthi­ans. For exam­ple, Gal 2:17ff is only to be under­stood when we have read Rom 6 and 7, where Paul speaks of him­self as dead to the Law by the body of Christ (7:4); 3:29 is illus­trat­ed by Rom 9:7, where a dis­tinc­tion is drawn between descent accord­ing to the flesh and descent accord­ing to the promise ; 4:12 by 1 Cor 4:16 and 11:1 ; 4:19 is explained by 1 Cor 4:14ff.

The last-named fig­ure is par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing. Let the read­er try to grasp the bold — nay, incor­rect metaphor : My chil­dren”, says Paul to the church­es which he has just found­ed — my chil­dren, of whom I labour in birth till Christ Jesus be formed in you.” What an unnat­ur­al pic­ture ! Paul, rep­re­sent­ed not as a father but as a moth­er, one who suf­fers the pangs of child-birth, and that for chil­dren who are already born. Here we trace the hand­i­work of one who seeks to improve on a pre­de­ces­sor ; he is try­ing to inten­si­fy the very nat­ur­al pic­ture of Paul as a father, but he only spoils it. Gal. 5:13 – 18 shows close depen­dence on Rom. 13:8 – 10. When in 6:2 he speaks of the Law of Christ, it almost appears as though Christ were made the giv­er of a new Law. The sin­gu­lar­i­ty of the expres­sion is to be explained by phras­es like Law of Faith” (Rom. 3:27) and Law of the Spir­it of Life” (Rom. 8:2), which, in the con­nec­tion in which they stand as antithe­ses of the Law of Works and the Law of Sin and Death, are quite nat­ur­al and in their prop­er place.

Our atten­tion is also arrest­ed by 6:11, where we come unex­pect­ed­ly upon the sen­tence : See with what large let­ters I have writ­ten unto you with my own hand.” To what do these words refer ? Schol­ars are not agreed in their answer to this ques­tion. Some of them say that the ref­er­ence is to the whole let­ter ; oth­ers that it is only to the con­clu­sion, which is intro­duced by these words. The usu­al expla­na­tion is as fol­lows : Paul was accus­tomed to dic­tate his let­ters ; as an arti­san be was not ready with his pen. Hence, when he adds a few lines to the let­ter already dic­tat­ed, he makes large, awk­ward let­ters, and him­self in this verse makes a play­ful allu­sion to this cir­cum­stance. Deiss­mann, who gives this expla­na­tion, also pro­ceeds to say that this auto­graph post­script is an evi­dence of authen­tic­i­ty, appeal­ing to the state­ment of a cer­tain C. Julius Vic­tor to the fol­low­ing effect : When the ancients wrote to their inti­mate friends, they usu­al­ly wrote with their own hand, or at all events added an auto­graph post­script.” Accord­ing to Deiss­mann, Paul added such an auto­graph post­script to all his let­ters, even where none is to be found now. For proof of this he appeals to 2 Thess. 3:17 : The salu­ta­tion of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epis­tle ; so I write.” ” It is strange,” says Deiss­mann, that it is just these words which are used as an argu­ment against the gen­uine­ness of 2 Thess.” This obser­va­tion of Deiss­mann seems to me to show a sin­gu­lar lack of dis­cern­ment. Many crit­ics, even of those who regard 1 Thess. as a gen­uine let­ter of the Apos­tle, find them­selves con­firmed in their doubts of the authen­tic­i­ty of the Sec­ond Epis­tle by these very words in 3:17. If the read­ers knew the hand­writ­ing of Paul then it was unnec­es­sary for him to draw spe­cial atten­tion to the fact that he had writ­ten it him­self ; if they did not know it, then the state­ment los­es all sig­nif­i­cance. If the let­ter was brought by trust­wor­thy per­sons who were known to the com­mu­ni­ty, then the assur­ance that it came from Paul was super­flu­ous. If they were not such per­sons, then how did it hap­pen that they were entrust­ed with the deliv­ery of so impor­tant a doc­u­ment ? There is no con­ceiv­able rea­son for the intro­duc­tion of the words in Gal 6:11, unless we sup­pose that the writer is mere­ly copy­ing what is assumed to be else­where the usu­al prac­tice of Paul — the prac­tice, name­ly, of adding a line or two to his let­ters as a proof of their gen­uine­ness ; the pas­sage that the writer had in his mind was no doubt 1 Cor. 16:21. But the addi­tion in the case of 1 Cor. is not out of place, because the let­ter itself had been writ­ten by a sec­re­tary ; in our let­ter noth­ing is said of the employ­ment of a secretary.

By these few strik­ing exam­ples, which could eas­i­ly be mul­ti­plied, I have endeav­oured to show how the dif­fi­cul­ties with which we are con­front­ed in read­ing the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians dis­ap­pear as soon as we call in the assis­tance of Romans and Corinthi­ans. The writer evi­dent­ly knew these let­ters, or their sources, and made use in his own work of utter­ances bor­rowed from them, very much as a mod­ern preach­er makes use of expres­sions, terms, and even whole texts in his dis­cours­es, which are some­times only sug­gest­ed by the mere sound of a word, and have no con­nec­tion with the rest of the sen­tence ; so that those of his audi­ence who are not at home in their Bibles are often unable to say what is his own and what is bor­rowed. Hence this let­ter is the lit­er­ary suc­ces­sor of the oth­er three prin­ci­ple let­ters ; the same thoughts and expres­sions which in them appear in their prop­er con­nec­tion are here only arti­fi­cial­ly combined.

The tra­di­tion, then, that Paul wrote this Epis­tle to the Gala­t­ian church­es is any­thing but prob­a­ble. In addi­tion to this it finds no sup­port in the Acts. Any one who reads his Bible atten­tive­ly is con­scious at once of a great dif­fer­ence between the rep­re­sen­ta­tions giv­en in the Epis­tle and in the Acts of one and the same event. If the Epis­tle is a gen­uine work of the Apos­tle, writ­ten from Eph­esus about the year 55, then the undoubt­ed­ly lat­er book of Acts has, of course, no right to be heard. To Baur and Zeller, who proved con­vinc­ing­ly that there is no way of har­mon­is­ing the con­tents of the two writ­ings, the author­i­ty of the anony­mous and much lat­er author of the Acts can­not pos­si­bly be set against that of the writer of our Epis­tle, who describes the episodes which he relates with all the full­ness of one who is nar­rat­ing his own expe­ri­ence. What were the rea­sons for this inten­tion­al ton­ing-down ? The expla­na­tion giv­en by the T?bingen schol­ars was this : the writer of Acts was endeav­our­ing to rec­on­cile the two oppos­ing ele­ments of ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty — name­ly, a Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian ele­ment named after Peter, and a hea­then-Chris­t­ian ele­ment named after Paul. But how was it pos­si­ble that a writer who was acquaint­ed with the Four Let­ters, and recog­nised them as the com­po­si­tion of an autho­rised apos­tle of Jesus Christ, should nev­er­the­less have over­looked Pauline Chris­tian­i­ty and the Paul of the Epis­tles ? For this is what the author of the Acts does. Where­as in the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians Paul comes for­ward as the absolute­ly orig­i­nal and inde­pen­dent preach­er of the Gospel, he here stands from the time of his con­ver­sion to his first mis­sion­ary jour­ney (Acts 9:26 – 12:25) in a posi­tion of sub­or­di­na­tion — in fact, as a kind of prot?g ? of Barn­abas and the church at Jerusalem. Accord­ing to the Acts, the uni­ver­sal­ism of Paul is already car­ried out in prac­tice by Peter ; imme­di­ate­ly after Paul’s con­ver­sion Peter bap­tis­es the first hea­then (Acts 10:1 – 11:18). The con­flict between the Legal and the pro­gres­sive ten­den­cies, as it unfolds itself in the Pauline let­ters, is absolute­ly incon­ceiv­able if we fol­low Acts, where Paul is por­trayed as a Law-observ­ing Jew and Pharisee.

The T?bingen schol­ars had only one answer to give to this con­tra­dic­tion : the Paul of the let­ters was an, unprac­ti­cal uncom­pro­mis­ing rad­i­cal. The Catholic Church, which was then in process of for­ma­tion, could only accept him as a canon­i­cal author­i­ty after it had first mod­i­fied his doc­trines so as to make him appear less of an extrem­ist. The Apos­tle of the Gen­tiles, ignored at first, had to be reha­bil­i­tat­ed as an ortho­dox teacher by a Catholic writer.

This hypoth­e­sis, how­ev­er, labours under seri­ous dif­fi­cul­ties. How could the pic­ture which the Acts gives us of the Apos­tolic peri­od receive such ready accep­tance among Chris­tians ? How was it pos­si­ble that the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians should have remained for a whole cen­tu­ry with­out any influ­ence on the devel­op­ment of Chris­t­ian faith and Chris­t­ian life ? Is it prob­a­ble that at the same time and in the same com­mu­ni­ties two mutu­al­ly incon­sis­tent doc­u­ments of the Apos­tolic peri­od — one giv­ing the orig­i­nal pic­ture of Paul, and the oth­er the will­ful mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of it — should have been allowed by the Church to chal­lenge com­par­i­son with one anoth­er ? To name only a few of the incon­sis­ten­cies. Accord­ing to Gal. 1:17, Paul, after his con­ver­sion, goes to Ara­bia ; the writer of Acts knows noth­ing of this jour­ney. Accord­ing to Gal. 1:18, Paul jour­neys three years after his con­ver­sion to Jerusalem in order to make the acquain­tance of Peter ; with the excep­tion of Peter, he sees no one else there but James, and only remains there fif­teen days. In Acts 9:26 ff., on the con­trary, we are informed that Paul is intro­duced to the com­mu­ni­ty of Jerusalem by Barn­abas, has dai­ly inter­course with the church, and preach­es the Gospel — in oth­er words, remains there for some time, and makes the acquain­tance of the whole church. The Epis­tle to the Gala­tians evi­dent­ly intends to enter the lists for Paul as an inde­pen­dent teacher. This is done at the expense of the old­er Apos­tles at Jerusalem ; he stands above them, and has no fel­low­ship with them — nay, he alludes to them not with­out acri­mo­ny : But from those who think they are some­what — what they are is naught to me ; God respecteth no man’s per­son.…” (2 : 6). The Acts knows noth­ing of this hos­til­i­ty, which cul­mi­nates in the con­flict between Peter and Paul at Anti­och (2:11 ff.).

Com­pare also Gal 2:1 – 10 with Acts 15, which evi­dent­ly describes the same event-name­ly, the meet­ing at Jerusalem called by the Apos­tles along with Paul and Barn­abas, in order to dis­cuss the atti­tude to be observed by the Gen­tile con­verts towards the Law. Where­as, accord­ing to Gal. 2:2, Paul goes up to Jerusalem in con­se­quence of a rev­e­la­tion, and with­out any oth­er sum­mons, in Acts 15:2 we find that he is com­mis­sioned by the church at Anti­och to act as their offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The out­come of their delib­er­a­tions is that the Gen­tile Chris­tians should be released from the oblig­a­tion to observe the Jew­ish Law ; while, how­ev­er, accord­ing to the Acts they are com­mand­ed to abstain from meat offered to idols, from for­ni­ca­tion, from things stran­gled, and from blood, the writer to the Gala­tians tells us noth­ing of all this, but informs us instead of the promise of Paul to make a col­lec­tion for the poor of Palestine.

Luke leaves the impres­sion that Paul, on the occa­sion of his first jour­ney to the Gala­tians, could only pay them a hasty vis­it ; and that upon a sec­ond occa­sion, when he passed through their coun­try, he could do no more than con­firm their faith (Acts 16:6 ; 18:23). In no case can it have been Luke’s inten­tion to sug­gest to his read­ers that Gala­tia had been the scene of a life-and-death strug­gle about the most essen­tial ques­tions of faith, as the let­ter teach­es us that it was. More­over, how could this let­ter — on the assump­tion that it was gen­uine — have left no trace of itself in the nar­ra­tive of Luke ? How could he have con­tra­dict­ed its state­ments on many impor­tant points ? Luke can­not have recog­nised the author­i­ty which the writer of the let­ter claims for himself.

Noth­ing is said in the Acts of any let­ters writ­ten by Paul. Nowhere do we find any trace of their exis­tence either in this book or any­where else ; nowhere do we hear a word of any influ­ence that they exer­cise until they crop up in Gnos­tic cir­cles. How did they pass from the pos­ses­sion of the com­mu­ni­ties to which they are addressed into the hands of men like Basilides and Mar­cion ? There is noth­ing to show that in the inter­ven­ing peri­od they were cir­cu­lat­ed and read by oth­ers. When Justin Mar­tyr alludes to writ­ten doc­u­ments used by the Church, he speaks of Mem­oirs” or Gospels,” nev­er of any let­ters writ­ten by Apos­tles. Papias exalts the liv­ing word at the expense of writ­ten works. Is it like­ly that such a con­ser­v­a­tive man should have, done this, if the exchange of sacred lit­er­a­ture had been a reg­u­lar prac­tice of prim­i­tive Christianity ?

The light which the let­ter throws on the peri­od becomes very unsteady when our atten­tion is drawn to dif­fi­cul­ties of an his­tor­i­cal nature, which we find our­selves faced with as soon as we assume its authen­tic­i­ty. To name only a few. Before his con­ver­sion, Paul was a Jew who was zeal­ous for the tra­di­tions of his peo­ple, and for this rea­son per­se­cut­ed the Church of God (1:13ff); else­where, how­ev­er, he says that only Pauline Chris­tians are exposed to per­se­cu­tion, so that the Jew Paul could have had no rea­son to per­se­cute Chris­tians who were not yet Pauline Chris­tians. In 2:9 we read of an arrange­ment where­by Paul and his com­pan­ions should labour among the hea­then, and the oth­er apos­tles — James, Cephas, and John — among the cir­cum­cised. This sounds rea­son­able, but as a mat­ter of fact it was not fea­si­ble, and was impos­si­ble in prac­tice. Jews were to be found even among the hea­then ; who was to min­is­ter to them ? Or, in oth­er words, was the divi­sion of work an eth­no­log­i­cal or a geo­graph­i­cal divi­sion ? All this pro­fess­es to be his­to­ry, but it is not a record of actu­al events. If it were, why does Paul then not appeal to this arrange­ment in deal­ing with the Gala­tians ? What­ev­er inter­pre­ta­tion we put on that arrange­ment, the old­er Apos­tles could have no right to med­dle with Gala­tia, because the coun­try lay out­side of Pales­tine and was inhab­it­ed by Gen­tiles ; this was, in fact, why they had accept­ed with­out demur Paul’s antin­o­mi­an Gospel.

Once more, Paul appears in a dou­ble light. On the one hand he is jeal­ous for the inde­pen­dence of his own apos­tolic author­i­ty (1:1, 12, 16), speaks of the Legal stand­point as some­thing infe­ri­or (3:2, 3), calls the Gala­tians fool­ish because they wish to live under the Law (3:1, 4:21), con­sid­ers that such per­sons deserve to be shut out from the com­mu­ni­ty (4:30 ; 5:2, 4). And yet the same Paul who says all this is of one mind with the old­er Apos­tles, refers his Gospel to them (2:2); in fact, he is the very embod­i­ment of con­cil­i­a­tion, ris­ing supe­ri­or to all dis­tinc­tions of creed (3:28 ; 5:6 ; 6:15,ff.). It is not con­ceiv­able that Paul can have giv­en expres­sion to both these sen­ti­ments. No ; we have here the work of an ardent dis­ci­ple of Paul, who was advanc­ing in the direc­tion of the antin­o­mi­an­ism of Mar­cion, but whose extreme views were toned down by a less impetu­ous Pauline Writer with Catholic sympathies.

It is use­less to sug­gest that Paul’s denun­ci­a­tions in this let­ter, which are more vig­or­ous than those in Romans and Corinthi­ans, are to be ascribed to over­pow­er­ing emo­tion, for there is also a great deal in the let­ter which shows per­fect self-pos­ses­sion. Such, an alter­na­tion of vio­lent emo­tion and calm restraint is impos­si­ble except in a fic­ti­tious letter.

Every­thing indi­cates that the church­es had long been in exis­tence. Cat­e­chisms are already nec­es­sary for cat­e­chu­mens so that they may com­mu­ni­cate the word to their teach­ers (6:6) ; we hear already the ques­tion raised of exclu­sion from the com­mu­nion of the Church. Hence a very advanced stage of eccle­si­as­ti­cal orga­ni­za­tion must have been reached. And not only of organ­i­sa­tion, but also of doc­trine. The Law is done away with and replaced by Grace ; the breach with Judaism is com­plete. God is no longer con­nect­ed with the Law, although he is the God of faith­ful Abra­ham. The Law was giv­en by the min­istry of angels (3:19), and there is noth­ing to show that it pro­ceeds from God. When we find the Apos­tle urg­ing that the Law has not been able to make of no account the promis­es of God (3:17, 21), we con­clude that he sup­pos­es that it does not pro­ceed from God — nay, that it is rather antag­o­nis­tic to Him. In order to live unto God, we must die to the Law (2:19). Both Jews and Gen­tiles, who for­mer­ly were sub­ject to low­er pow­ers (4:3, 8 – 10), are in the full­ness of time redeemed by the send­ing of the Son. There is thus, in fact, a new rev­e­la­tion of God, although it is true that our let­ter, in its present form, is the work of an adapter who com­bines the new teach­ing with the old, inflex­i­ble, Jew­ish con­cep­tion of God (6:7 – 8). To the Hel­lenis­tic ele­ment belong the equal­i­ty of women and men, and the alle­goric inter­pre­ta­tion of the Scripture.

How could the unphilo­soph­ic Gala­tians under­stand this let­ter ? Loman com­pares it with Hegel lec­tur­ing to the abo­rig­ines of the East Indies. Was it pos­si­ble for men recent­ly con­vert­ed, large­ly belong­ing to the low­er class­es, to under­stand these the­o­log­i­cal dis­cus­sions, which are so obscure even to schol­ars of today ? Let the read­er refer to their com­men­taries, and observe how elo­quent they are when they hap­pen to under­stand some­thing, and how they always fail us when­ev­er there is a dif­fi­cul­ty. And yet we can­not take refuge in the expla­na­tion that the writer of the let­ter finds a dif­fi­cul­ty in express­ing his thoughts, that he is wrestling with a lan­guage which he only imper­fect­ly under­stands. On the con­trary, he is quite at home with Greek, which be must have heard in his par­ents’ house every day and learned to write at school. We recog­nise in the Pauline let­ters the schol­ar trained in the philo­soph­ic schools, and not entire­ly a stranger to rhetor­i­cal arti­fice. It is true that he makes mis­takes, but we may be sure that he would have made many more if he had been oblig­ed to write in Hebrew or Aramaic.


All the incon­sis­ten­cy and vague­ness, of which I have giv­en exam­ples from the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians, but which char­ac­terise all the Four Let­ters with­out excep­tion, are to be explained by the fact that the per­sons addressed are rep­re­sent­ed as the con­tem­po­raries and con­verts of Paul, but are made to do duty as warn­ings and exam­ples to the Chris­tians of the lat­er author’s own day.

The defend­ers of the gen­uine­ness of the Four Let­ters do not sup­port their view by any very cogent argu­ments. They apply the epi­thet hyper­crit­i­cal” to the work of the Rad­i­cal School ; they describe the Paul of the Epis­tles as a per­son­al­i­ty who could not have been invent­ed,” and talk of the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of the let­ters, with­out, how­ev­er, tak­ing much trou­ble to demon­strate its exis­tence. No less a per­son than P. Wend­land adopts the pre­vail­ing tone when he writes : Any one who fails to recog­nise a liv­ing, reli­gious per­son­al­i­ty in the Four Epis­tles of Paul and in the under­ly­ing frame­work of the Syn­op­tic Gospels is not qual­i­fied to under­take any his­tor­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion of this peri­od.” But since when is a liv­ing, reli­gious per­son­al­i­ty the deci­sive fac­tor in judg­ing of the gen­uine­ness or spu­ri­ous­ness of a lit­er­ary work ? Whether the writer of a let­ter mere­ly calls him­self Paul, or real­ly is Paul, makes no dif­fer­ence to the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of his char­ac­ter or the gen­uine­ness of his reli­gious feel­ing. Nay, even when the writer assumes the name of the wise King Solomon, who lived long before his time, he can give us in the books of Eccle­si­astes” and the Wis­dom of Solomon” deep­er phi­los­o­phy than the his­tor­i­cal King Solomon ever had at his com­mand. In the field of his­to­ry and crit­i­cism we must not trust too much to intu­ition. More­over, I have already shown what all this indi­vid­u­al­i­ty real­ly amounts to.

Holtz­mann once put the fol­low­ing ques­tion to the Rad­i­cal, Steck : How is it that what we con­sid­er it impos­si­ble for Paul to have writ­ten, becomes nat­ur­al and rea­son­able in the mouth of a mem­ber of the Pauline school in the sec­ond cen­tu­ry ? In the fol­low­ing sen­tences, how­ev­er, Holtz­mann uncon­scious­ly fur­nish­es the answer to his own ques­tion : The con­tra­dic­tions, in the dis­cov­ery of which Steck shows great acute­ness, are not greater than when, for exam­ple, Schiller’s Don Car­los in the sec­ond act has not yet read any­thing from the hand of the queen, where­as in the fourth he is in pos­ses­sion of a whole pack­et of let­ters, one of which — the one she wrote to Alcala — he spe­cial­ly trea­sures ; or when the sol­diers in Wal­len­stein’s camp, in the sec­ond act, have received dou­ble pay, where­as in the eleventh they have not even received their ordi­nary pay for forty weeks.” Exact­ly so. It is pre­cise­ly in a free com­po­si­tion of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry that con­tra­dic­tions which cre­ate no com­ment in poet­i­cal writ­ings are more eas­i­ly explained than in an actu­al let­ter of Paul.

The well-known schol­ar J. H. Moul­ton, in reply­ing to van Manen, thinks that he can demon­strate the authen­tic­i­ty of the Epis­tle to Phile­mon by point­ing to the fact that the names, Chres­i­mos and Ones­i­mos, are found in the papyri. By the same process of rea­son­ing we might argue that the con­stant occur­rence of the name Piet is a proof of the his­tor­i­cal exis­tence of Piet Smeerpoetis.

In the sec­ond edi­tion of Holtz­man­n’s Neutes­ta­mentliche The­olo­gie, pub­lished after the author’s death, that schol­ar con­sid­ers the fol­low­ing to be the most seri­ous objec­tion to the con­clu­sions of the Rad­i­cal School : this vig­or­ous com­bi­na­tion of Jew­ish ideas with Greek clear­ness of expres­sion is no longer con­ceiv­able in one of the Epigo­ni of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry. To this I reply : But were these two ele­ments such irrec­on­cil­able con­traries, after they bad become so blend­ed with one anoth­er in the Dias­po­ra ? It is only nec­es­sary to remind the read­er of the pic­ture which the French schol­ar Br?hier has drawn of Phi­lo, in which the most strik­ing fea­ture is that Phi­lo does not find it nec­es­sary to seek for any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of his Jew­ish faith with hea­then phi­los­o­phy, sim­ply because he was utter­ly uncon­scious of any antag­o­nism between them. In addi­tion to all this, in the peri­od under dis­cus­sion, Hel­lenis­tic phi­los­o­phy had become sat­u­rat­ed with reli­gious ele­ments, as Reitzen­stein espe­cial­ly has shown us. Such com­bi­na­tions of the Greek and Jew­ish spir­it were there­fore not unusu­al, and we must not sup­pose that the tra­di­tion­al Paul of the mid­dle of the first cen­tu­ry enjoyed a monop­oly in this respect.

What Holtz­mann then pro­ceeds to quote as typ­i­cal the­ol­o­gy of the Jew­ish schools, does not dif­fer from much of the same sort that we also find in Phi­lo, and there­fore does not need to be explained by the hypoth­e­sis that the writer had once sat at the feet of Gamaliel ; he could have acquired it all in the Dias­po­ra. Nay, there is a good deal of it that is the com­mon prop­er­ty of the whole peri­od, in so far as it was under the influ­ence of a Pla­ton­ism with an admix­ture of Pythagore­an and Sto­ic ele­ments, so that it could eas­i­ly regard God as the judge of the world, holy him­self and demand­ing holi­ness in oth­ers. In the Sto­ic Epicte­tus, God is the moral­ly Per­fect One ; His will is right­eous and best ; He implants in us the moral law, and sees that it is obeyed. The pure­ly super­nat­ur­al sys­tem of a his­to­ry which hov­ers between heav­en and earth — such as we find in the Epis­tles of Paul — needs, even less than the alle­gor­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tion of the Scrip­tures, to be bor­rowed from the schools of the Jews. The belief in a rev­e­la­tion was an active force under the Empire : the best proof of this is to be found in the rise dur­ing this peri­od of secret ori­en­tal cults every­where. Every­thing that Holtz­mann fur­ther enu­mer­ates as specif­i­cal­ly Jew­ish in the Pauline Epis­tles was well known in Hel­lenis­tic cir­cles at the begin­ning of our era : the antithe­sis of above and below ; of the present and the future world ; of angels and demons ; the doc­trine that the world will final­ly be destroyed ; the idea of sin and atone­ment, of vic­ar­i­ous suf­fer­ing and redemp­tion — not one of these ideas can be called the exclu­sive prop­er­ty of Judaism.

But, fur­ther, the Rad­i­cal School has nev­er denied that Paulin­ism had a cer­tain con­nec­tion with Judaism ; all that it states is that it arose in a Gnos­tic cir­cle — a fact which appears both from the his­to­ry of the Canon and from Mar­cion’s col­lec­tion of let­ters. For the old­est traces of the for­ma­tion of a Canon are to be found in the heretic Mar­cion. Those writ­ings are called canon­i­cal which can serve as a rule or canon of faith and con­duct. None of the twen­ty-sev­en books of the New Tes­ta­ment was canon­i­cal to begin with ; they only slow­ly became so, often only after much con­tro­ver­sy. Accord­ing to Ter­tul­lian, Mar­cion in his con­flict with the Right of his own days appealed to one Gospel and a col­lec­tion of ton Pauline let­ters. The Gnos­tics more than any one need­ed a new sacred book, because they did not recog­nise the Old Tes­ta­ment as a rev­e­la­tion. Before we hear a word about com­men­taries on New Tes­ta­ment writ­ings in Catholic cir­cles we find them already exist­ing among the Gnos­tics — a proof that these writ­ings already enjoyed canon­i­cal author­i­ty among them.

The Catholics fol­lowed the exam­ple of the heretics and took over their canon, but they attached it to the Old Tes­ta­ment and mod­i­fied the con­tents both of the Gospel and Epis­tles. If Mar­cion had used a sin­gle anony­mous Gospel, the Church recog­nised no less than four, under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the first cer­tain traces of which are to be found in Ire­naeus (c. 180 A.D.). We must regard this expan­sion as an expres­sion of the catholi­cis­ing spir­it, which was anx­ious to give every one some­thing to sat­is­fy his own par­tic­u­lar tastes. And where­as the oppo­nents of the heretics have always main­tained that Mar­cion muti­lat­ed and cur­tailed the Apos­tle’s let­ters, it appears from more than one pas­sage that, on the con­trary, he pos­sessed a more orig­i­nal read­ing of the let­ters than that which stands in our own canon­i­cal edi­tion. The Gnos­tic text of the Epis­tles of Paul was replaced in Catholic cir­cles by the ear­ly Chris­t­ian text.

Every­thing, there­fore, points to the ori­gin of Paulin­ism in Gnos­tic sources. It does not emanate from Pales­tine. If Rab­bini­cal dialec­tic is to be found in the let­ters, this is to be explained by the nature of the polemic ; the writer who is argu­ing against Jews, brought up in the tra­di­tions of Phar­i­sa­ic Legal­i­ty, is most like­ly to be suc­cess­ful by using their own meth­ods of argu­ment. But the Four Let­ters also con­tain a num­ber of pas­sages which show points of con­tact, both in form and mat­ter, with the Cyn­ic Dia­tribe — i.e., with the mis­sion­ary preach­ing of eth­i­cal teach­ers of the Cyn­ic and Sto­ic schools.

The writ­ers of the Pauline let­ters speak Greek and think in Greek. When Paul in Rom. 1:14 (cf. 1 Cor 14:11), calls him­self a debtor, both to Greeks and bar­bar­ians,” such an expres­sion pro­ceeds from the nation­al con­scious­ness not of a Jew, but a Greek. That the man should pray with uncov­ered head and the woman with her head cov­ered was a Greek and Roman cus­tom ; it is Paul’s teach­ing in 1 Cor. 11:4 – 7. When­ev­er he speaks of Jews and Judaism, he always leaves the impres­sion that he him­self occu­pies an out­side stand­point. Take for exam­ple the fol­low­ing pas­sages : If thou (proud­ly) namest thy­self a Jew, and reli­est on thy pos­ses­sion of the Law, and dost glo­ry in stand­ing in a spe­cial rela­tion to God…” (Rom. 2:17); ” Is God a God of the Jews alone, and not also of the Gen­tiles?” (Rom. 3:29); I became a Jew unto the Jews, in order to win the Jews” (1 Cor. 9:20). No one who read these words with­out know­ing who is sup­posed to have writ­ten them could pos­si­bly regard the writer as a born Jew.

The book of the Wis­dom of Solomon, which is part of the Greek Bible and a pre­cur­sor of the phi­los­o­phy of Phi­lo, is among Paul’s sources. It is a thor­ough­ly Alexan­drine pro­duc­tion, per­me­at­ed with Greek phi­los­o­phy. When Paul, in 1 Cor. 15:35, 36, under­stands the res­ur­rec­tion of the dead in a spir­i­tu­al sense, and rejects all expec­ta­tion of a res­ur­rec­tion of the body, this is not Jew­ish. The antithe­ses between spir­it and soul, flesh, body ; between the spir­i­tu­al and the psy­chic man ; between the heav­en­ly and the earth­ly body ; fur­ther, the long­ing to put on the heav­en­ly body, the dou­ble exis­tence of a man in ecsta­sy, the trans­fig­u­ra­tion of form and shape — all these con­cep­tions Paul shares with the hea­then redemp­tion-reli­gions. The same may be said of the idea that this redemp­tion must extend to the cos­mos, the whole cre­at­ed world.

How far from Jew­ish the char­ac­ter of the Pauline Epis­tles is appears most clear­ly from the impres­sion that these writ­ings leave upon Rab­bini­cal schol­ars of our own time. Thus C. G. Mon­te­fiore, although he does not doubt their gen­er­al authen­tic­i­ty, express­es him­self thus : Either this man had nev­er been a Rab­bini­cal Jew, or else he has com­plete­ly for­got­ten what Rab­bini­cal Judaism was and is.” And J. Eschel­bach­er thinks that no Scribe, no one who had ever been at home in the Law, could ever have writ­ten words which evi­dence such a com­plete renun­ci­a­tion of Judaism as we find here. Of any pro­found knowl­edge of the Scrip­tures, or even of wide learn­ing and acquain­tance with what was taught in the schools of the Jews, with­in and with­out Pales­tine, there is absolute­ly no trace of any kind in the Pauline Epis­tles. Eschel­bach­er fur­ther shows that the author of the Epis­tle to the Gala­tians can­not pos­si­bly have been a Jew­ish Scribe, since he uses the Sep­tu­agint trans­la­tion instead of the orig­i­nal Hebrew text, and in con­se­quence of this gives us inter­pre­ta­tions which con­flict with the state­ments of the lat­ter. The favourite idea of the Scribes, of a repen­tant return of sin­ful man to God, brought about by the impulse of his own heart and the belief in the for­give­ness which he will then obtain from the mer­ci­ful God, is not found in Paul. The God of Paul, in what he does and suf­fers, reminds Eschel­bach­er rather of the Fate of clas­si­cal antiq­ui­ty than of the God of the Old Tes­ta­ment. What impres­sion these let­ters made upon Jews learned in the Law, he illus­trates by a sto­ry — which, by the bye, is not his­tor­i­cal — from Epipha­nius. His Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian oppo­nents said that Paul was a Greek by birth, who had fall­en in love with the daugh­ter of a priest at Jerusalem, and in order to win her had gone over to Judaism ; when, how­ev­er, his suit was reject­ed, he came for­ward as an antag­o­nist of Judaism !

When Holtz­mann, in the pas­sage men­tioned above, speaks of the pow­er­ful­ness” of the Pauline let­ters, it is not obvi­ous which let­ters he means. He can­not pos­si­bly refer to all the thir­teen let­ters which have been hand­ed down from antiq­ui­ty under the name of Paul ; prob­a­bly he means only the four prin­ci­pal let­ters, which he sep­a­rates from the rest with­out more ado. But this dis­tinc­tion between prin­ci­pal let­ters and let­ters of the sec­ond peri­od is arbi­trary. The whole col­lec­tion, when com­pared with the let­ters of John, of Clement, or of Ignatius, dis­plays a cer­tain uni­for­mi­ty, as against these oth­er col­lec­tions ; nat­u­ral­ly, because they too are the prod­uct of one cir­cle, although not nec­es­sar­i­ly of one author. More­over, if we have a right to sep­a­rate the four prin­ci­ple let­ters from the rest, we have the same right to take the Epis­tle to the Romans and sep­a­rate it from the oth­ers, and then to say that a com­par­i­son with these oth­ers proves that it is spu­ri­ous. What­ev­er divi­sion is made of the Pauline Epis­tles, there will always remain obvi­ous traces of agree­ment or dis­agree­ment. There is not less dif­fer­ence in lan­guage, style, reli­gious and eth­i­cal thought, between 1 Cor. and 2 Cor., on the one side, and Rom. and Gal., on the oth­er, than there is between Romans, on the one side, and Philip­pi­ans, Colos­sians, Phile­mon, on the oth­er. More­over, the old tra­di­tion knows noth­ing of any spe­cial prece­dence enjoyed by the Four Epis­tles ; to it the gen­uine­ness of all is equal­ly above sus­pi­cion. I am far from wish­ing to dis­pute the pow­er­ful­ness of the Pauline Epis­tles ; but let me say once more : Can this pow­er­ful­ness” be cred­it­ed only to a cer­tain Paul, who, after being a per­se­cu­tor of Chris­tian­i­ty, became con­vert­ed to it three years after Jesus’ death ? Of this con­ver­sion, and all that result­ed from it, it is now time to speak more fully.

From : Rad­i­cal Views about the New Tes­ta­ment, trans­lat­ed from the Dutch by S. B. Slack (Lon­don : Watts, 1912), pp. 59 – 90Endmark







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