Let Paul Be Paul

by Jimmy Akin

in Bible

A reader writes:

I am studying at a Catholic college and have had the opportunity to take some classes on scripture.  I have been introduced to various methodologies, such as the historical critical method, that have definately aided in my understanding of the scriptures, but there is a point where these modern methods confuse me and don’t strenghten my faith.  One area in particular is in the Pauline tradition.  Because of differences in Greek syntax in different epistles, my professor tells us that Paul probably did not write some of them.  Rather, he believes that someone using Paul’s authority wrote them, which some scholars call Pseudo Paul.  Are you familiar with this assertion?  If so, what are your thoughts on this?  Is there some validity to these claims?  Are there any pastoral repercussions of this problem?

I am indeed aware of this claim, and I am not very impressed with it. A hundred and fifty years ago, F. C. Baur was claiming that there were only four authentic Pauline epistles (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Galatians), and the scholarly community has concluded that he was wrong in this claim and that other epistles in addition  are authentically Pauline. There are still scholars who don’t accept the whole corpus as Pauline, but the force of the evidence has pushed scholars in the direction of greater recognition of their authenticity, and I think those who continue to deny the authenticity of some are simply resisting the evidence and/or using a flawed methodology.

I think there are several problems here:

1) The individuals making this claim are almost invariably applying a hermeneutic of suspicion to the texts. That is, they are looking for reasons to distrust biblical texts or elements of them, with the result that they inappropriately shift the burden of proof onto those who would say that when a biblical text says that it is written by Paul (that is, he identifies himself within the text itself) that one must prove that this is the case.

Such a hermeneutic of suspicion is unwarranted, particularly for persons of faith regarding their own Scriptures, as well as incompatible with the basic purpose of language, one of whose chief goals is to communicate information. Virtually the whole enterprise of language would be undercut if a hermeneutic of suspicion were applied consistently, signalling that the default setting must be a hermeneutic of trust until evidence for the contrary is produced in particular cases.

It can be warranted to assume a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding particular types of claims in particular bodies of work. For example, authorship claims in the Book of Mormon. But in that case we have multiple reasons to distrust such authorship claims–reasons that in no way apply to the Pauline epistles (e.g., they aren’t claimed to be written by someone who cannot be located in history, from a civilization that cannot be located in history, or to be composed in an unattested language on golden plates that were kept hidden in a bag while being shown to "witnesses" of their existence and then translated by a man who kept his face covered with a hat using a "peep stone" as he dictated them to others).

The pedigree of the documents in question–which is both part of Sacred Tradition and which can be evaluated in historical terms–is just too strong to warrant a hermeneutic of suspicion being applied to the authorship claims of these documents.

Looking for internal literary clues like grammar and word choice to prove or disprove Pauline authorship is also virtually useless, for several reasons:

2) The epistles in question are devoted to different subjects, which is going to force significant changes in word frequency.

3) Many of the samples are simply too short to draw any firm conclusions based on statistical analysis of word choice or grammatical usages.

4) Authors vary their styles quite considerably depending on a variety of factors, such as who they are writing for (are they friendly with their audience? do they have strained relations with them? are they intimate companions? are they about to chew somebody out? are they writing for a group or a single individual?), what venue they’re writing in, what emotional effect they’re trying to create, how their skills have developed as a writer over time, and even what mood they are in.

I suspect that the biblical critics in question are not fully sensitive to this fact because they do not write that much and, when they do, they tend to write only in one style (e.g., academic papers or treatises), on a restricted range of subjects, and (most importantly) because they never stop to apply their own authorship criteria to what they themselves have written. If they did, they’d find out that their own books and papers were written by a hodge podge of different individuals and groups with different and conflicting agendas.

Let me give some illustrations of how an author’s style can change that should be immediately apparent to many readers of JA.O, you’ll find a lot more "YEE-HAW!"s on my blog than you will in my writing for This Rock, and my writings in This Rock (because of space restrictions) will have a different style than my books and booklets. You’ll also find a lot more grammatical and spelling mistakes on the blog since I’m doing this in the evening, without a copy editor, without a proof reader, and am basically putting up first drafts that I may well have only read once and then not edited.

5) Paul used amanuenses. These were individuals who would take dictation from Paul and then write his letters, which Paul would then approve and sign (2 Thess. 3:17). We even know the name of one such individual: Tertius (Rom. 16:22), who I’m guessing based on his name was the third child (or third son) in his family.

Anyone who has ever tried to take dictation from someone knows that there is invariably a smoothing out process that is done when setting down what someone else has said, because the person will stop in mid sentence, change direction, want to scratch things out, and the secretary will inject some of his or her own style into the resulting document, even proposing things that the dictator may wish to say.

How much of the amanuensis’ style gets into the text will depend on what the author wants to allow. In some cases, the author may just give talking points and let the amanuensis virtually ghostwrite the letter, subject to the author’s final approval. (That might be the kind of thing you’d want to do, for example, if you were in prison and didn’t have much contact with your amanuensis but felt you needed to send a letter.)

Whatever degree(s) of liberty Paul gave his amanuenses, the Holy Spirit superintended the process via divine inspiration, but the fact that he used them at all means that we should expect differences of style as he used different secretaries in different circumstances. (It’s unlikely that Tertius stuck with him for his whole career and was the one used on all of the Pauline epistles, or he’d get mentioned more.)

6) The above considerations are simply literary points that illustrate the problems in challenging the Pauline authorship of various epistles, but there is also a theological problem with doing so: Whatever is asserted by Sacred Scripture is asserted by the Holy Spirit, for the human authors wrote down all that the Holy Spirit wished and no more (Dei Verbum 11).

This means that if a document contains an authorship claim you either have to say that (a) the claim is true, (b) the claim is not an assertion of fact, or (c) that the claim is false, in which case the Christian understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is false.

The last is not an option for an orthodox Christian, which leaves you with options (a) and (b).

(b) is a possibility in particular cases. There are books of Scripture which appear to contain clues that signal the audience that the authorship claim is a literary device rather than an assertion of fact (e.g., in Wisdom or Tobit), but this is going to be very hard to maintain with the Pauline epistles.

It is not credible to claim that none of the Pauline authorship claims in Scripture are asssertions of fact. If you acknowledge any of the epistles as being written by him, and if those same books contain assertions that he wrote them (as they do) then I don’t see how you can regard the authorship claims of these books as being anything other than assertions of fact. (Paul is not going to write an epistle and claim authorship of it in the text as merely a literary device.)

That being the case, if you want to hold that a particular authorship claim is a literary device rather than an assertion of fact then you will need to produce evidence by which the original audience could have recognized the literary device for what it is (as can be done with Wisdom and Tobit).

If no such evidence can be found in the text then the text would seem to be misleading the original audience, and I don’t know how you can square that with a proper view of biblical inspiration.

I have heard no arguments as to why particular Pauline epistles should be seen as having cues in them to tell the original audience that the Pauline authorship claims in them are just literary devices, so I see no way to maintain this in the case of works in the Pauline corpus.

I thus find the whole theory a bunch of hooey.


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John Weidner October 11, 2006 at 6:42 am

I would assign this post to the Pseudo-Jimmy A, who probably was of the School of Jimmy, and may have been a disciple of the Akin himself.
It is unlikely that the simple Texian peasant apologist we call “Jimmy” would write using both the language of folk-stories (science-fictionisms) and also use the terminology of scholars, such as “hermeneutic of suspicion.”

Sifu Jones October 11, 2006 at 6:56 am

John, that’s hilarious.
This question reminds me of another I had: can anyone direct me to a good Catholic bible with notes on the page (not at the end of the testament or book), and that doesn’t buy into the “Matthew wasn’t Matthew”, “Luke was written first” theories? The good hermeneutic bibles tend to be insufficiently notated for my tastes, or have the notes in weird places. Thanks!

Eileen R October 11, 2006 at 7:06 am

Sifu, yes I can! The University of Navarre bible is just what you’re looking for. You can get it in different variations. For instance, here’s the Navarre New Testament.
“This Compact Edition of the Navarre Bible New Testament contains the entire New Testament (RSVCE); short introductions to each of the four Gospels, to the Acts, to the letters and to the book of Revelation; and new commentaries/notes – much less extensive than those in the 12-volume set, and often drawn from different sources. The commentary is drawn from the writings of early Christian authors, Eastern and Western fathers of the Church, Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and prominent contemporary spiritual writers including St. Josemaría Escrivá. All the commentary is designed not only to explain the text, but to clarify its application to daily life.”
I have the 12 volume set with more notes. Or rather my parents have it, and it’s amazing. I haven’t read the Old Testament Navarre yet. I believe the project was initiated by St. Josemaria Escriva, requesting an edition of the New Vulgate that would serve the needs of the ordinary Christian who wanted to deepen their knowledge of the Scriptures.

Ryan Herr October 11, 2006 at 7:32 am

I agree with this post regarding the epistles of Paul, most (all?) of which claim within the epistle to be written by Paul.
However, the Gospels have no such internal claims. They have the traditional titles, but the titles were not on the original manuscripts.
I believe that we should first assume traditional authorship of the Gospels, but should be cautious in assuming “more Catholic than thou” attitudes towards those who legitimately research the authorship.

Martha J October 11, 2006 at 7:49 am

Thanks, Jimmy. Yeoman’s work on a subject that is SO important.
It disturbs me that many Catholics cannot accept the bible as inerrant and infallible, but will uncritically assume that the footnotes in their NAB bibles ARE.
I learned only a short time ago that the USCCB actually gets royalties from sales of the NAB! I feel that this represents a conflict of interest, at least intellectually. They should have no financial interest in any particular translation.

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 7:50 am

Sorry, that last post was me, not my sweet wife, Martha.

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 7:52 am

Oh, and the C.S. Lewis essay was spot on, too.

Juli October 11, 2006 at 8:56 am

Eileen – thanks for the recommendation! I’ve been looking for something exactly like this. I know that Scott Hahn is coming out with some Biblical narratives as well.

Puzzled October 11, 2006 at 9:00 am

Source-criticism is thoroughly discredited. This is different from textual criticism which is the attempt to discern the original text Which varies in about 2% of the text over-all, the only significant elements being the long ending to Mark and the pericope of the woman caught in adultery).
Scholars still working with JEDP today are either not very well educated, or else have an unfaith agenda.

SDG October 11, 2006 at 9:01 am

There are also other problematic assumptions made by historical critics arguing for pseudonymous authorship of certain epistles.
For example, it is often claimed that such pseudonymous writing was an accepted convention at the time. However, when you actually look at the evidence for this claim, it turns out to be very different from the NT material the critics are talking about.
For example, there are OT-era Jewish writings that adopt the names of long-gone figures, and second-century apocryphal “gospels” that borrow the names of NT figures. That’s quite different from a pseudonymous letter being attributed to a late near-contemporary writing to another contemporary figure (e.g., 1 and 2 Timothy). I’m not aware of any precedent for that sort of thing.

Ur October 11, 2006 at 9:22 am

“I learned only a short time ago that the USCCB actually gets royalties from sales of the NAB! I feel that this represents a conflict of interest, at least intellectually. They should have no financial interest in any particular translation.”
Before stating something this scandalous, please make certain that you confirm your facts and know it truly to be actual and true. Something like this is very damaging, making the Church look nothing more than what people already mistakenly envision it and that is a greedy, man-made institution.

Ignoramus October 11, 2006 at 9:53 am

In my grad school coursework, one NT prof remarked to me that the whole Pauline authorship issue was “a house of cards.” It really is.
For more information on what Jimmy described above as “amanuenses”, a great book is Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options, His Skills, by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor. Some parts of the book are odd, but as a whole it’s a marvelous intro to the historical practices of letter writing in the 1st Century. For example, one practice common when using a secretary was for the author himself to pen the last paragraph or so in his own hand as evidence of the letter’s authenticity–which really fits with the way many of the Pauline letters read!

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 10:31 am

Ur –
I shouldn’t have made the statement about the USCCB getting NAB royalties without citing my source. Unfortunately, I can’t find it.
It was from a post at Amy Welborn’s blog, a gentleman who would be in a position to know, but not one I know to be able to speak with authority.
So, mea culpa for not getting my ducks in a row before I spoke.
Can anyone be of help on this? I will e-mail Amy Welborn and ask if she has any recollection. As it is, I have spent too much time already this morning combing through her blog archives.

Ur October 11, 2006 at 11:48 am

No worries, Tim J. Seems you were doing it for sincere reasons.
I would just caution folks that before stating unconfirmed facts, that they be more circumspect about how they go about it and, first and foremost, act responsibly and do some leg work.
We must remember to keep away from the habits of ‘bad journalism’.
The Church already has its fill of scandals. It doesn’t need more than what’s already out there.
Admittedly, we always have to remember that in the Church, the Church is made up of sinners. And we always have to remember that in the Church, we are going to see flawed people because that’s what we consist of – a bunch of flawed people. We have to keep our focus on Jesus. It is Jesus who promised us that he would give the Keys of the Kingdom to Peter and his successors and they would never depart from the Faith; that we would always have that sure word from Heaven – the Truth that Jesus willed us to have. That the Gates of Hell would not prevail against it, the Church. (Mt 16:18)
Even if we have people in the Church who are notorious sinners, their personal lives do not affect in any way the promise and power of Jesus Christ.
Jesus promises that the Church will be here and the Keys of the Kingdom will be here; so, we have to keep our focus properly on Jesus Christ and keep the Faith even when we see such people in the Church – hey, we’re one of them! We’re sinners, too! We have to remember.

Inocencio October 11, 2006 at 12:12 pm

Tim J.,
I think this is the post.
Take care and God bless,

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 12:12 pm

Ur –
Even if the USCCB does draw royalties from the NAB, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it worthy of scandal… just a bad, bad idea. Of course, I might feel less hung up about it if the NAB were a solid translation with reliable footnotes.

Spock October 11, 2006 at 12:14 pm

I don’t know if his books have been translated in English, but Philippe Rolland, french scholar, wrote very interesting books on the authorship of the NT books, particularly on the “pastoral” letters. He shows convincingly how the various New Testament Books echo each others and argues strongly in favour of the true authorship of Paul, Peter, etc…
See “La mode pseudo en exégèse”, “La succession apostolique dans le Nouveau Testament” …

Spock October 11, 2006 at 12:14 pm

I don’t know if his books have been translated in English, but Philippe Rolland, french scholar, wrote very interesting books on the authorship of the NT books, particularly on the “pastoral” letters. He shows convincingly how the various New Testament Books echo each others and argues strongly in favour of the true authorship of Paul, Peter, etc…
See “La mode pseudo en exégèse”, “La succession apostolique dans le Nouveau Testament” …

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 12:19 pm

Thanks, Innocencio. That’s not the post I remember, but IT’LL DO!

Kevin Jones October 11, 2006 at 1:06 pm

How does the Pauline authorship controversy compare to the Shakespeare authorship dispute? Answering that question would make for an interesting essay.

Realist October 11, 2006 at 1:17 pm

JD Crossan and Jonathan Reed in their book, In Search of Paul, review the epistles and archeology of Paul’s world. On page 105 of the book is a list of what is considered to be the authentic and possible “not-so-authentic” epistles followed by a review of why they are judged this way. Even if Paul did not write all of the epistles, the entire collection of letters makes for great Christianity since even the embellishers of Paul were followers of the Good Word (with the exception of the anti-Semitic and anti-feminine rhetoric that crept into some of the non-Pauline works). This is also addressed in the book.

bill912 October 11, 2006 at 1:24 pm

Crossan: “Christ’s body was probably eaten by wild dogs.” Now *there’s* a reliable source.

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 1:26 pm

As I have said before, I am doubtful about the authorship of many of the books attributed to Crossan. Probably the work of certain anaonymous scribes of the Crossanian community, adopting his name as a literary device.
Ironically, some time ago Crossan’s brain was actually eaten by wild dogs.

Ur October 11, 2006 at 1:30 pm

“Of course, I might feel less hung up about it if the NAB were a solid translation with reliable footnotes.”
I can agree somewhat with you there.
In fact, there have been individuals (even in the posts on this website) that have been utilizing footnotes in the NAB as a means to contradict Church Teaching and attempting to drive the point that since the NAB is ‘Catholic Approved’, these footnotes are also; or, worse yet, they mistake them as being ‘infallible’ things that the Catholics must actually believe in, without either really understanding the concept of infallibility or Church Teaching for that matter.
Of course, the NAB being ‘Catholic-Approved’ and the deal with the footnotes is an entirely different story all together.

Ur October 11, 2006 at 1:43 pm

“Ironically, some time ago Crossan’s brain was actually eaten by wild dogs.”
Amen, brutha!

Inocencio October 11, 2006 at 1:53 pm

“…makes for great Christianity…”
This is where you go wrong everytime. We don’t decide what makes Christianity we accept God’s Word as Revelation.
Take care and God bless,

Josh October 11, 2006 at 2:35 pm

I don’t know that source-criticism is completely dead or that pursuing that line of inquiry necessarily means you have unfaithful motives – I consider it uncharitable to make such an assertion. I think the fundamental problem with a great deal of biblical scholarship for the last 150-200 years is that it proceeds on the axiom that the Church is always wrong and that She is incapable of interpreting the Scriptures. I’m a graduate student in biblical studies, and I’m studying Paul under the committee chair of the 1986 revision of the NAB NT this semester. The issue of Pauline authorship of certain epistles is a complicated question, which involves many factors – grammar, vocabulary, the internal theology of the letters vis-a-vis the theology of indisputably Pauline letters, etc. Whether or not Paul himself actually wrote the letters is actually largely immaterial to me; the Church has affirmed their authoritative nature both positively and by traditional usage, and so they are authoritative for Catholics.

Esau October 11, 2006 at 2:45 pm

You claim, among several things, that parts of the bible are made up by ‘well-meaning scribes’; that Crossan’s ideas are valid and, in fact, true; that there were additions made to the New Testament; furthermore, that there were statements in the New Testament that Jesus, according to you, never made (how you know exactly what Jesus did say or did not say is beyond me).
Moreover, as pointed above, Crossan believes “Christ’s body was probably eaten by wild dogs.”
Now, let’s address one facet of the Gospels and its actual historicity in this regard: the fact is, the Gospel reveals as a matter of history — even if you don’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture (the historical evidence is overwhelming both from Christian sources and those who hated Jesus, those who hated Christianity and those who put him to death), the testimony is unanimous that Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God. If Jesus is the Son of God, he’s claiming to be the ‘only begotten son’ as John 3:16 says. Well then, he’s God; he has the same nature as his Father. Because he called himself ‘The Son of God’, this would make him equal with the Father, having the same nature as his Father. This is the entire reason why he was put to death.
Jesus responded to the High Priest when asked if he were the Son of God: ‘I am and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of Heaven’. That’s a reference to Daniel 7, saying that he’s the Messiah and that he is the Son of God. It’s at that point that the High Priest rends his garment, which no High Priest, by law, was supposed to do. And he says, ‘You have heard the blasphemy’
Now, if he, being the Son of God, could not resurrect from the dead, then, as Paul says:
1Cor:15:17: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Of course, you again might clalim that this was something added to the New Testament and proceed to handpick things in the Bible which you believe are genuine and not genuine.
Then again, who and what is this historical Jesus of yours, whose writings about him (the bible) are merely the stuff of made up fantasies derived from ‘well-meaning scribes’ and whose body was ‘probably eaten by wild dogs’? Wouldn’t this person, at least, this ‘Jesus’ in your construct, be nothing more than a mad man? I mean, here’s a guy who claims himself to be the Son of God; yet, all we have of him, in your account, amounts to nothing more than a bunch of fairy tales who, in the end, the very thing that he was meant to do for the salvation of humanity (and, that is, die for us as well as rise from the dead), the latter of which he could not even do (although he claimed to be the Son of God), since his ‘body was probably eaten by wild dogs’!
In truth, we know as a historical fact that the Gospels were not corrupted. We have Gospels now that go all the way back – such as the CHESTER BEATTY PAPYRUS that go all the way back to the 3rd Century that have the same Gospel that we have today. The bottom line is it is an historical fact: Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God; He proved he was the Son of God through his miracles and subsequent resurrection and he was put to death for claiming to be the Son of God; that he established the Church in order that people would not be (Eph:4:14) ‘tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive’; the Church ‘which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth’ (1Tm 3:15); ‘and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Mt 16:18)

J.R. Stoodley October 11, 2006 at 5:46 pm

I’m staying out of the debate with Realist, since I don’t have time to engage in one of these debates and once I start I can’t stop.
That said, consider J.R.R. Tolkien. What scholar worth his salt would think for a minute that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were written by the same man. Consider the difference in style, the inconsistencies, the very different perspectives on things as important as the Ring, the vocabulary, such as the use of the words “goblin” and “orc.” Clearly they were written by different people. Then consider the Silmarillion. Clearly not written by either of the other two authors, and in fact it different parts of it are so different in perspective, style, etc. that they are clearly of different origin as well. The Silmarillion should probably have at least four authors, maybe more.
Yet we are close enough to his time, and records in the modern world reliable enough, to know J.R.R. Tolkien wrote them all.

naptown October 11, 2006 at 6:28 pm

J. D. Crossan is a genuine scholar whose work is perfectly legitimate.
He just draws absolutely wrong conclusions from his work.
Pray for him, and while you’re at it, pray for all who sin by intellectual vanity.

Tim J. October 11, 2006 at 7:42 pm

I don’t know about that, Naptown.
Legitimate in what way? Only the most bizarre methodology could lead to things like the “wild dogs” fantasy.
Crossan may be well credentialed… that’s no great indicator of reliability, unfortunately.
He may have read and studied a great deal, but that won’t rescue flawed premises. He has built his house on sand, which makes all his hard work rather pathetic.
Prayer is certainly called for.

Fr Martin Fox October 11, 2006 at 8:58 pm

A couple of thoughts…
1. It just floors me when people make assertions on this subject that they have absolutely no business making: “We know Paul didn’t write Ephesians.” Well, no we don’t; in fact, I think it almost certain no one alive knows any such thing. I may be wrong, but I suspect such a thing could not be proven to that level of certitude; at best one can say the evidence is very strong, there is an overwhelming consensus, etc. But in these actual questions, none of that is even close to true. Even the hoary, four-source theory for the Pentateuch doesn’t have that much going for it, and that, plus the “Q theory,” are probably the best-supported theories from the historical-critical process.
2. I’m sure it’s been done, and I missed it: has anyone actually rigorously subjected a more recent author’s works to this same sort of analysis, to see if, say, Dickens or Clemens or Hugo passed the test? It would be hilarious, but also a very forceful illustration of the limitations of this approach.

Eileen R October 11, 2006 at 9:23 pm

I’ve been ignoring Realist ever since he explained that he had a grudge against the Romans for conquering Europe and imposing Latin on those countries. ‘Realist’ is not the word for him.

Ur October 11, 2006 at 10:36 pm

“Crossan may be well credentialed… that’s no great indicator of reliability, unfortunately.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Speaking of credentials:
You know, what with the big fuss over the elections and the voters’ability to select political leaders, we’re hearing an awful lot about a person’s qualifications for a particular job, especially if it involves much responsibility.
So I thought I’d lighten it up a little bit today and give you a “management consultant’s report”.
To: Jesus, Son of Joseph, Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop, Nazareth 25282
From: Jordan Management Consultants, Jerusalem, 26544.
Dear Sir:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you’ve picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now been given a battery of tests. We’ve not only run the results of these tests through our computer but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultants.
The profiles of all the tests are included, and you’ll want to study each one of them carefully. As part of our service and for your guidance, we make some general comments, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional charge.
It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualifications of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. And Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that could tend to undermine morale. We also feel that it’s our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheaus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He’s a man of ability and resourcefulness. He meets people well, has a keen businessmind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. And so we are pleased to recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All the other profiles are self-explanatory. We wish you every success in your new venture.
Signed Jordan Management Consultants.
(Crossan and the star candidate here have much in common – great credentials but let’s just say they both don’t live up to their potential!)

Karen October 11, 2006 at 11:43 pm

I know a lot of the oldest manuscripts are in Greek and Hebrew, but what language(s) would Paul have originally used in his original writings? (I suppose it would depend heavily on the audience).
I ask because, for one, if he were writing in a language other than his native language, then as time goes by he would have learnt different phrasing and implemented new words/phrasing he was able to pick up, thereby changing his “style” somewhat. Same would go for any person he’d dictate a letter to. It’s just a natural progression for those speaking something other than their mother tongue.

KB October 12, 2006 at 3:18 am

Jimmy is so doggone smart! I would hate to be in an argument with him.
On another note, in this section there are a few comments about the footnotes in the Navarre Bible not being reliable. What makes these unreliable? I have been reading these Bibles and the footnotes. I have found many of the footnotes to be quite informative and some not so. Can anyone cite an example of one of these footnotes being flat out wrong? Help!

Fr Martin Fox October 12, 2006 at 6:08 am

As far as we know, almost all the New Testament originated in Greek; there is some question of Matthew having been written first in Hebrew, but if I recall correctly, there’s no actual text evidence to bear that out — i.e., a Hebrew text, or even significant parts of one. If I recall correctly, there might be fragments, which might — or might not — be the Gospel of Matthew. We do have fragments that seem to be of the Gospels, including Matthew, that date very early — in the mid- to late-first century, and they are all Greek.
So all our evidence indicates St. Paul wrote in Greek.
Remember, at the time of these awesome events, there was a great, sprawling Greek-culture and -language zone spread from Greece proper eastward, into Syria and past — the remnants of Alexander’s empire, at this point being incorporated mostly into Rome. The Roman Empire had then, and ever after, two zones — a Latin-culture/language zone, in the west, and in the East, Greek. (Hence Pilate had both, plus Hebrew, used for the Lord’s epitaph on the cross.)
The Bible, beginning with Macabbees, describes this world, in which you had a significant population of Greek Jews, and Hebrew-culture/language Jews; this division is evident in the book of Acts, and in the Gospels, as well as the letters. The early Christians seem to have been predominantly Greek-speaking, as the early Christians embraced the Greek Old Testament; and this had the larger canon that we still have in our Bibles, while the Hebrew-speaking Jews, who did not accept Jesus, would ultimately adopt a narrower canon, excluding Greek-originated works and additions to other books, yielding the Protestant canon. So this division is still with us!

Tim J. October 12, 2006 at 6:12 am

“…in this section there are a few comments about the footnotes in the Navarre Bible not being reliable. What makes these unreliable?”
Speaking for myself, I was not referring to the footnotes in the Navarre Bible, but in the New American Bible (NAV).
I understand that the Navarre Bible is better, though I haven’t read it.

Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 6:23 am

To the Catholic college student that asked the original question about the authenticity of Paul’s epistles, check your library for a copy of Crossan and Reed’s “In Search of Paul”. I am sure they have a copy.

Fr Martin Fox October 12, 2006 at 6:58 am

Crossan is crap; worse than a waste of time, destructive to faith.
I haven’t read what N.T. Wright has written particularly about Paul, but what I have read of him is very impressive; he’s an excellent scholar, he engages with all the arguments, and he poses some very fascinating questions and challenges of his own. Yes, he does come down on the side of orthodoxy! Horrors! (He’s not Catholic, btw, but Anglican.)

Tim J. October 12, 2006 at 7:44 am

So, Crossan is “in Search of Paul”.
These people are always “in search” of something.
The Historical Jesus… Ancient Astronauts…
Doesn’t scripture say something about those who are always searching, but never finding?… Always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth?
Oh, yeah. 2nd Timothy Ch.3 –
Paul speaks of some people “having a form of godliness but denying its power”, and those who are “swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”
He says to have nothing to do with such people.
Skip reading Crossan. You will have missed exactly nothing.

Ur October 12, 2006 at 8:58 am

“On another note, in this section there are a few comments about the footnotes in the Navarre Bible not being reliable.”
The NAB mentioned, at least, in my comments were in regards to the “New American Bible”.
There have been many complaints about the NAB and, most especially, its footnotes because of how these footnotes contradict the Catholic Faith, and a lot of people opposed to the Catholic Faith, that I know of, utilize these in order to oppose the Catholic Faith, and, furthermore, there are even those who are under the mistaken impression that these footnotes are ‘infallible’ beliefs that Catholics must actually believe in since the NAB (New American Bible) is considered ‘Catholic Approved’.
This is why I concurred with the remarks made by Tim J. concerning the New American Bible.
The Navarre Bible, on the other hand, is an excellent work done by the superb authority on Catholic Theology, the University of Navarre.
All Catholics are encouraged to refer to and possess these editions as they are faithful renderings of Catholic Teaching and Theology. They’re filled with comments on the passages from the Fathers, history and Church teaching.
Here’s Fr. Corapi’s take on the Navarre Series (for those EWTN fans out there, they’ll know who he is):
“On a practical note, I highly recommend The Navarre Bible, a unique set of commentaries on the New Testament books published by Four Courts Press and distributed in the United States by Scepter Press. It is available from most good Catholic book stores, as well as direct from Scepter Press. This set, prepared by the Ecclesiastical Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, beautifully incorporates all of the principles above stated* in a very simple, readable, and spiritually enriching presentation. It can be a great help to Scripture study groups or to individuals who desire to read the Bible as the Catholic Church does.”

Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 12:38 pm

Dear Catholic College Student searching for Paul,
The contrarians on this blog have not read any of Crossan’s books from cover to cover. They have simply “googlized him”. Since truth needs a review of all references, check out Crossan and Reed’s “In Search of Paul” from your library. The simple fact that your library has the book in its collection means it has some merit. The references cited in the book will also give you added information to complete your Search. Reed’s archeological information regarding St. Paul is also quite interesting and probably not found in other books.

Inocencio October 12, 2006 at 1:07 pm

“The contrarians on this blog have not read any of Crossan’s books from cover to cover.”
Contrarians??? I think you meant Catholics.
Take care and God bless,

Ur October 12, 2006 at 1:19 pm

“The simple fact that your library has the book in its collection means it has some merit.”
I don’t know how if a certain book is actually found in a local library, it can be considered as having merit. There are books in a local library that seriously deal with ritual cult worship as an actual religion and aliens (the X-files-type) as actual beings; yet, these would be far from being considered as having merit. I believe these may just be out there, not due to any actual merit judged on a particular book, but, more likely, to foster an eclectic collection of books for the public.
For heaven’s sake, (if anyone remembers the news story that broke way back when which caused much controversy) there were ‘Playboy’ magazines present in the stacks of certain libraries! Don’t tell me since these were also in the library’s collection, certainly, they too had merit?

Inocencio October 12, 2006 at 1:40 pm

“Since truth needs a review of all references”
I would hope you would follow your own advise and read the CCC and the footnotes which give the references for the teachings of the Chuch.
I apologize in advance for the long post. Below is a section of the class notes from the local Catholic University on the Sacraments.
V. The Sacraments and their meaning. From the Latin sacramentum, a word which denoted an “oath of loyalty sworn” in antiquity. It was first applied by Tertullian around 200 A.D to the Christian mysteries, by which man adhered to God.
The Greek word is mysterion, which means “inexhaustible mystery.”
A. St. Theodore said of mystery: “every mystery points to signs and symbols to things invisible and ineffable. A manifestation and explanation of these signs and symbols is required if those present are to experience the power of mysteries. These mysteries require faith and an understanding of God’s covenant love.”
1. The Church is just not a mystery of Christ, but a profound relationship to Christ that communicates its divine life through the sacraments in its efficacious relationship to Christ. The Church is the Sacrament of Christ.
a. It is the Holy Spirit that is constantly communicating this unique divine relationship between the Church and His Sacraments so as to
give life to His people.
B. In each of the seven sacraments there is an outward sign of the mystery taking place, a sign in matter/deed and word (consider the sign that water plays in the sacrament of Baptism: we are cleansed of sin and born anew)(emphasis added). There are three elements to the sacramental life: (1) sacraments of initiation); (2) sacraments of healing; (3) and the missionary sacraments: Holy Orders and
Matrimony (CCC 1210). When we consider the three elements of the sacramental life consider
Ps.104. 15… “Wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to
strengthen man’s heart.”
1. The Sacraments of initiation lay the foundation of every Christian life, “sharing the
divine life of God bearing a certain likeness to God.” Ultimately the sacraments of initiation lead to the treasures of God (cf. CCC 1212) and wealth of the Church.
And yes, Realist, the professor has his B.A. in History and Theology as well as an M.A. in Theology and is currently working on receiving his Doctorate.
Take care and God bless,

Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 1:41 pm

Dear Catholic College Student Seeking Paul,
If your Catholic college library has a subscription to Playboy, please report this to Ur and the other contrarian Catholics on this blog.

bill912 October 12, 2006 at 1:46 pm

Did Crossan also write that Paul’s body was probably eaten by wild dogs?

Anonymous October 12, 2006 at 3:32 pm


Josh October 12, 2006 at 5:24 pm

I think it is as certain as can be that Paul spoke Greek, though it was most likely not his ‘native’ language. The Greek in the Pauline corpus especially, and in the NT more generally, is heavily influenced by a Semitic background. If you are familiar with classical Attic Greek and start to read any of Paul’s letters, you are immediately struck by how odd the use of certain prepositions are. The best example that comes to mind is Paul’s use of the Greek preposition ‘en’. In classical Greek it takes the dative case and usually means ‘in’ (as in location, not motion toward) or ‘among’ or something similar. Paul quite often uses it to mean ‘by’ or ‘with’ in an instrumental sense. This usage reflects the Semitic preposition beṯ, as in Hebrew and Aramiac/Syriac (I’m not familiar with other Semitic languages), which means either ‘in’ or ‘with’ (instrumental).
The theory that there is a Hebrew original underlying Matthew, given the very Jewish flavor of that Gospel, is definitely interesting. But as I understand it, there is no manuscript evidence to support such a theory, and I don’t think that it is necessary to posit such a thing to explain the Matthean Semiticisms. As with Paul, Matthew was probably a native speaker of a Semitic language, almost certainly Jewish, but, as many people did in the first century, also spoke Greek, as Fr. Fox has mentioned. Being a Jew who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, he obviously would have been familiar with and appealed to Jewish custom and culture in his evangelization work.

bill912 October 13, 2006 at 3:52 pm

There is no currently extant manuscript of Matthew in Hebrew or Aramaic, but St. Jerome wrote that he possessed a copy of Matthew in Aramaic.

Esau October 13, 2006 at 4:19 pm

bill912 is correct, specifically, in the mention of Jerome and the copy of Matthew in Aramaic:
“Among other priceless lost treasures in the library, Jerome knew the copy of the Aramaic (so-called ‘Hebrew’) text of the Gospel of Matthew (See Gospel of the Hebrews).”
The library at Caesarea

Matt McDonald October 16, 2006 at 11:05 am

Good but sometimes limited notes can be found in many Douay-Rheims bible, online here http://drbo.org/. Especially valuable is the Haydock Bible which has copious notes. For a more modern version, I think the best is the Navarre Bible, which uses the RSV, and has exhaustive notes, depending on the version, it even has the Latin Vulgate side by side, which is very helpful in those areas that the RSV slips on, particularly the translation of pornea as “immorality”, instead of “fornication”, which had been the practice since St. Jerome, 1500 years ago, and how the Church understands the expression.

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