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1.1. Thesis

Although 1 Thessalonians 2:14-161 has been considered the locus classicus of

antisemitism in Paul,2 nevertheless Paul should be considered innocent of the charge

when this passage is placed within a socio-literary reading of 1 Thessalonians, and is

understood within the context of Greco-Roman social and rhetorical realities, including

the social conversations of Jewish authors.

In the course of exploring the question of Paul’s relationship to Judaism, I will

deal directly with 1 Thess 2:14-16, a passage containing an apparent indictment of Jews

for the death of Christ and the persecution of followers of Christ, as well as a

proclamation of God’s wrath against “the Jews.” This passage represents the most

extreme example of apparent negative Jewish sentiment in Paul, and must be dealt with

1 Thess 2:14-16 uJmei'" gaVr mimhtaiV ejgenhvqhte, ajdelfoiv, tw'n ejkklhsiw'n tou' qeou' tw'n
oujsw'n ejn th'/ jIoudaiva/ ejn Cristw'/ jIhsou', o{ti taV aujtaV ejpavqete kaiV uJmei'" uJpoV tw'n ijdivwn
sumfuletw'n kaqwV" kaiV aujtoiV uJpoV tw'n jIoudaivwn, 15 tw'n kaiV toVn kuvrion ajpokteinavntwn
jIhsou'n kaiV touV" profhvta" kaiV hJma'" ejkdiwxavntwn kaiV qew'/ mhV ajreskovntwn kaiV pa'sin ajnqrwvpoi"
ejnantivwn, 16 kwluovntwn hJma'" toi'" e[qnesin lalh'sai i{na swqw'sin, eij" toV ajnaplhrw'sai aujtw'n
taV" aJmartiva" pavntote. e[fqasen deV ejp= aujtouV" hJ ojrghV eij" tevlo" (NA27). Throughout this project, I
will be using “Paul” to refer to the author of 1 Thessalonians, except where noted. See pp. 127-128, n. 82.
“Any study of anti-Judaism in the New Testament must at some point come to terms with
1 Thess. 2:13-16,” John C. Hurd, “Paul Ahead of His Time: 1 Thess. 2:13-16,” in Anti-Judaism in Early
Christianity: Volume 1, Paul and the Gospels (ed. Peter Richardson, with David Granskou; Studies in
Christianity and Judaism, Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1986), 21-36. Gregory Baum calls the
passage unparalleled in the epistles as an outburst against the Jews, Is the New Testament AntiSemitic? (2d
ed. Glen Rock, N.J.: Paulist, 1965), 291. A Pauline sympathizer, Donald A. Hagner (“Paul’s Quarrel with
Judaism,” in Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith (ed. Craig A. Evans and
Donald A. Hagner; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 130) calls 1 Thess 2:14-16 “the most notorious anti-
Judaic passage in the Pauline corpus.” No study on antisemitism in the NT fails to look at this passage.


in order to understand Paul’s relationship to and understanding of Jewish people. The

nature of Paul’s polemic in 1 Thess 2:14-16 have led scholars since F. C. Baur to propose

that it is a post-Pauline interpolation.3 Such an attempt to save Paul from these words,

however, lacks manuscript evidence and contextual support.4 The key to understanding

this polemical moment is not through unsupported text critical choices. Instead, Paul

must be read within his particular Greco-Roman social and literary contexts, and

specifically within his Judaistic context. This approach means taking seriously the

realities of Hellenistic and Judaistic cultures, social, rhetorical,5 and epistolary readings

of Paul, and facing the fact that Paul was, and remained, a Judaist6 throughout his life.

My objective, then, is to reframe the debate of Paul and antisemitism by

suggesting that Paul was a Judaist, engaging fellow Judaists in the Judaistic tradition of

prophetic critique-from-within in his use of epistolary typification of his opponents, and

that his polemic is appropriate and expected within the social context of Hellenistic

dialogue. 1 Thess 2:14-16, therefore, functions as a gateway into a historically and

culturally appropriate understanding of Paul and his relationship to Judaism.

1.2. Outline

Chapter 1 establishes the need for a study such as this (1.3), working definitions

(1.4), limitations (1.5), and addresses questions of hermeneutics (1.6). Our goal is to see 1

Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ: His Life and Work, His Epistles and
His Doctrine (2d ed.; rev. A. Menzies; trans. Eduard Zeller; London/Edinburgh: Williams & Norgate,
1876), 2:89-90, 96-97; Baur rejected 1 Thessalonians altogether, though others used his work to create an
interpolation argument. More recently, Birger A. Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: a Deutero-Pauline
Interpolation,” HTR 64 (1971): 79-94. For a bibliography of the discussion, see Jeffrey A. D. Weima and
Stanley E. Porter, An Annotated Bibliography of 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 161-173.
See section 5.1.
We are using the term “rhetorical” in a larger sense than Greco-Roman rhetorical forms, though
we include these forms (particularly in sections 3.3 and 5.2, but throughout ch. 5). When not speaking of
Aristotellian and other rhetorical genera, we mean the art, means, and intention of communication.
i.e., a Jew. See below, section 1.4.3.

Thess 2:14-16 against a variety of social, historical, and literary backgrounds, and much

of this project does just this. In chapter 2 we explore Paul’s Judaistic background. First,

we survey literature concerning the relationship of Paul and Judaism, with a particular

view to the New Perspective on Paul, which offers a helpful self-critical approach to the

question (2.1). Second, we explore the question of whether Paul remained a religio-ethnic

Judaist after his so-called “conversion” (2.2). We conclude that Paul remained a Judaist

throughout his life, and his self-definition is bound up in a prophetic call to evangelize

the gentiles (2.3). In the exploration of social and rhetorical backgrounds of Paul, chapter

3 focuses specifically on the broader Greco-Roman social and rhetorical context. After

surveying socio-historical and social-scientific approaches to the study of Paul and his

world (3.1), we concentrate on the dyadic Hellenistic convention of honour and shame

and the agonistic dialogue that serves the maintenance of this social convention (3.2).

Because 1 Thess 2:14-16 is an example of polemic, we explore the theoretical and

practical uses of polemic as prescribed by Greco-Roman rhetorical and epistolary

handbooks and as practiced by the philosophers (3.3). Chapter 4 concerns the specifically

Judaistic rhetorical background of Paul. We note the peculiar “hermeneutic of prophetic

critique” in Isaiah and Jeremiah and how this hermeneutic develops into the Second

Temple motif of polemical critique-from-within (4.1-2). We then engage in a broad

survey of Second Temple literature, including the Apocrypha and OT Pseudepigrapha

(4.3.1), Qumran (4.3.2), and Philo and Josephus (4.3.3), noting the polemical moments

and the intra-Judaistic battles of the literature. While the Judaistic motif of critique-from-

within does not seem prevalent in Philo, we conclude that it is a normal aspect of most

Second Temple Literature (4.4).


Chapter 5 is a turning point in the project, as the background studies of chapters

2-4 are used in the exegesis of 1 Thess 2:14-16. After establishing the text and dismissing

the likelihood of interpolation (5.1), we explore rhetorical and epistolary classifications

of 1 Thessalonians (5.2). While engaging in detailed historical-grammatical exegesis of

the passage (5.4), a feature of this project is a “socio-literary” reading of 1 Thess 2:14-16

in is epistolary context (5.3; 5.5), which demonstrates Paul’s use of the typification of

characters in his re-socialization of his converts, and the way in which he utilizes the term

“hoi Ioudaioi” in this polemical passage. We then draw the social and rhetorical threads

together (5.6) to ask the question, “was Paul honourable or dishonourable in his use of

polemic?” (5.7). Chapter 6 concludes the project with a summary (6.1) and a

recapitulation of Paul’s use of Judaistic critique-from-within (6.2). The conclusion offers

us a chance to re-evaluate the working vocabulary and to ask the question, “is Paul

antisemitic?” (6.3). While it becomes clear that Paul is not antisemitic, 1 Thess 2:14-16

remains a difficult passage, and much damage has been done by Pauline interpreters in

the use of this passage. With this in mind, we offer ways of reading 1 Thess 2:14-16 that

both respect Paul’s culture and are sensitive to issues for contemporary Jews (6.4). We

finish with an evaluation of the project and opportunities for further research (6.5).

1.3. Statement of Interest

1.3.1. The Significance of the Question

As the horrors of the Jewish holocaust came to light, the question arose as to how

such genocidal hatred could have emerged from Christian communities with little outcry

from European Christians. It is a difficult question, and has led to significant theological

reflection and soul-searching by Christians. My own journey began at the Yad Vashem

museum in Jerusalem as a teenager: the dizzying effect of walking through the Children’s

Memorial, hearing the names of countless murdered children, and the sickening effect of

looking at a lampshade made from human skin. People who have been moved to ask such

questions have discovered that Christian cultures in history have perfected the art of

holocaustism. From primitive pogroms in post-Constantinian Rome to Jewish massacres

in the crusades, from Luther’s call to suppress Judaism to Roman Catholic complicity in

Germany’s final solution, Christians have been participants in and instigators of Jewish

oppression throughout history.

Though Christians have been able to ask these questions of their heritage, the

question of how deep the root of antisemitism goes is a very difficult one, and leads to the

question of antisemitism within the New Testament. Some of this theological questioning

has led to a declaration that the root of antisemitism cannot be separated from the

Synoptic Passion Narratives, Matthean anti-Pharisaism, John’s use of the phrase, “the

Jews,” the intent of Luke and Acts, and Pauline rhetoric and polemics.7

Within popular culture, as well, people have questioned how such atrocities could

occur. The recent public discourse surrounding the long-anticipated release of The

Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson has once again stirred the question of antisemitism

within Western consciences. The result has been a call to Christians to once-and-for-all

suppress the historical image of Jews as “Christ-killers,” and a return to the question of

how antisemitic the New Testament really is. And while the question of Christianity and

antisemitism is once again surfacing in the public square, the state of Israel and the

movement of Zionism have no greater “friends” than the very people who read the

So Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism
(Minneapolis: The Seabury Press, 1974).

Gospels most literally: American fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. Millions

of dollars flood each year into Israel for the support of the Jewish state, even while

Palestinian refugees continue to be displaced. And as liberal intellectual activists try to

hold together their campaign against antisemitism and their condemnation of Zionism,

popular Jewish feminist author Phyllis Chesler has labelled this very anti-Zionism, “the

new anti-Semitism” that takes place for the benefit of what she calls “Islamoterrorism.”8

The issues are complex, not least for the children of Shoah9 victims and the

children of Nazi war-camp exterminators, who each deal with the questions of

culpability, blame, forgiveness, and a God who allowed it all to take place. The question

of whether the action of Shoah was faithful to NT religion requires that Christians look to

their canon to respond to these questions and to ask some of their own. The academic

response to this question has not been overwhelming, and the belief exists within some

theological, academic, and popular circles that the Christian scriptures are inherently

antisemitic. In an attempt to begin to answer the charge, this study will look at one

surprisingly polemical passage by one highly influential leader in the early church and

see if it is driven by an antisemitic tendency. It is an opportunity to respond to a burning

social and personal question today with exegesis that is aware of Paul’s social contexts.

1.3.2. Theological and Exegetical Links between Paul and Euro-American Antisemitism

In the contemporary scramble to determine the ultimate root of antisemitism, the

apostle Paul has become both foe and friend. As Lloyd Gaston admits, “it is Paul who has

provided the theoretical structure for Christian anti-Judaism, from Marcion through

Phyllis Chesler. The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).
“Shoah” is a Hebrew term meaning “catastrophe,” and is preferable to “holocaust,” which has
religious overtones and could be used to speak of such activities as a kind of sacrifice.

Luther and F. C. Baur down to Bultmann.”10 According to Gaston, however, it is

precisely Paul’s most famous exegetical interpreters that have misunderstood Paul and

his relationship to Judaism. For Gaston, a rereading of Paul free from the exegetical

restraints of traditional interpreters, particularly Luther, produces a Pauline understanding

of Judaism upon which new bridges of Jewish-Christian dialogue can be built. Though

there are some exegetical problems with Gaston’s reading that have to be addressed,11

Gaston’s comments represent the tentative and ambivalent understanding of Paul by

those concerned to ask questions of antisemitism in the New Testament.

And there is reason to be cautious about Pauline interpreters of Paul’s relationship

to Judaism. Witness the words of Martin Luther, one of the most important formulators of

Protestant theology, and one who immersed himself in the writings of Paul:

What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?
Since they live among us and we know about their lying and blasphemy and
cursing, we cannot tolerate them. . . .
First, their synagogues. . . should be set on fire. . . .
Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed. . . .
Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer books and Talmuds. . . .
Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any
Fifthly, passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden
to the Jews. . . .
Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from usury. All their cash and valuables
of silver and gold ought to be taken from them. . . .
To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if
this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you may all be
free of this insufferable devilish burden—the Jews.12

Lloyd Gaston, “Paul and the Torah,” in AntiSemitism and the Foundation of Christianity, ed. A.
T. Davies (New York: Paulist, 1979), 48.
For one such response, see E. Elizabeth Johnson, The Function of Apocalyptic and Wisdom
Traditions in Romans 9-11 (SBLDS 109; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), 176-205.
Martin Luther, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” in Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1971), 47: 268-274. Luther gives credit to polemicists Lyra and Burgensis for describing the Jews’ “vile
interpretation,”Works, 47:138, 228; cf. 178-179, n. 40. Burgensis is referenced dozens of times in Luther’s
Works (see Index, 55:245), and Nicholas of Lyra is referenced literally hundreds of times (see Index,
55:232). Luther is less reliant upon Paul in this anti-Jewish tract. Paul is used to confirm that circumcision
is useful (47:162) and that the Jews are a noble race (Rom 9:5, but cf. 47:302 where Luther uses 1 Cor 4:7

What is most frightening about this quotation is that it finds its fulfillments in the nobles

and princes of Germany just a few generations later. In 1938, the synagogues were

burned throughout the Reich. In 1939, Jewish-owned real estate was appropriated and

Jews were forced into ghettos and work camps. In 1940, those Jews who were still free

were taxed oppressively. As the war continued, Jewish books were burned, Jewish rabbis

were murdered, and, finally, six million Jews were exterminated in order to be free of

“those insufferable devilish burdens” that have come to be called “the Jews.” 13

Given Luther’s influence, it is no wonder, then, that people question the link

between antisemitism and the apostle Paul. Indeed, no one in the modern period has more

greatly influenced our reading of Paul, and Luther’s own personal experiences and

Augustinian reading became inextricably linked with his understanding of sin and

justification of faith in his understanding of Paul.14 That an influential reading of Paul’s

understanding of the Jewish law resides in the very person who breathed such hateful

threats against Jews requires a new reading of Paul.

In a book dealing with the key changes that need to be made to avoid

antisemitism in Christian teaching, the Jewish historian Jules Isaac mentions three key

destructive themes: the dispersion of the Jews in 70 C.E. as God’s providential

punishment of Jews for rejecting Jesus, the degenerate state of Judaism at the time of

to argue against their boasting). All other Pauline references are negative, including a repeat of the “wrath”
motif of 2 Thess 2:16 (47:192), that Jews are unspiritual (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 10:2; see 47:175), a horrible
example (Rom 11; see 47:253, 267), and are still behind the veil (2 Cor 3:13; see 47:175).
See Sidney G. Hall III, Christian Anti-Semitism and Paul’s Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1993), 40-41.
Krister Stendahl, “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” in Paul Among Jews and
Gentiles (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 78-96.

Jesus, and the crime of deicide.15 It is no coincidence that these stereotypes find their kin

in 1 Thess 2:14-16:

For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in
Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own
compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the
prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering
us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have
constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God's wrath has
overtaken them at last (NRSV, emphasis mine).

Although the most vivid manifestations of the “Christ-killer” motif in history draw more

from the Gospel Passion narratives than from Paul, this passage is the only one in the NT

that explicitly states that Judaistic people killed Jesus, which is the basis of the deicide

accusations that found fruition through the middle ages and into the medieval European

world. Although there is no explicit mention of the fall of Jerusalem or the Judaistic

dispersion—more creative minds of a later world would link those events—there is an

apparent reception of the wrath of God upon “the Jews” for their persecution of the

Judean churches. Finally, Paul’s characterization of the Judaists—that they never please

God and that they are contrary to all people—has only helped the stereotype of the

“spiritual wasteland” that is Judaism. It seems, then, that any attempt to grapple with the

fundamental problems raised by Jules Isaac requires a grappling with this Pauline text.

It must be granted that Hitler’s antisemitism was not specifically Christian; in

fact, it is often admitted that the Final Solution and other Nazi policies are anti-Christian

in nature.16 Hitler’s desire for Judenrein—a world clean of Jews—far exceeded the desire

or practice of any other antisemite in history. But the issue is not one of degree—Nazi

Jules Isaac, The Teaching of Contempt (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964).
That Shoah is anti-Christian is even admitted by Rosemary Radford Ruether, “The Faith and
Fratricide Discussion: Old Problems and New Dimensions,” in Anti-Semitism and the Foundation of
Christianity, ed. A. T. Davies (New York: Paulist, 1979), 246-250.

antisemitism cannot be matched even by the crusades—or even intent—again, an anti-

Jewish author like John Chrysostom cannot be compared with Hitler—but of nature: is

the nature of Nazi Jew-hatred the same as that of the apostle Paul? The result of such an

inquiry can profoundly affect our reading of Paul on the one hand, and our treatment of

Jewish people on the other. Given the importance of Paul for Christian understanding and

the historical treatment of Jews by Christians, these outcomes are important.

1.4. Definitions

1.4.1. Antisemitism and Anti-Judaism

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “anti-Semitism” as the “theory, action, or

practice directed against the Jews.”17 The curt definition, however, fails to capture the

complexities of Jew hatred on the one hand, and the ambiguous popular reactions to such

a term on the other. Furthermore, this definition does not appreciate the difference

between theological or intellectual disagreement with particular Jewish doctrine, and the

kind of murderous activity that heated the furnaces of Auschwitz. Finally, “anti-

Semitism,” as such, infers that there is such thing as Semitism to be in favour of, and that

“Semitism” is equivalent to Jewish people. Because of these ambiguities in definition,

which are compounded in academic literature, we must explore the term and its

application to the New Testament at greater depth.

A British theologian far ahead of his time, James Parkes, argued that the roots of

antisemitism are found in the conflict between the synagogue and the early Christian

gentile church.18 While Parkes does not explicitly define antisemitism—the nature of

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary: New Edition, 2d ed., s.v.
James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A study in the origins of
antisemitism (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1934, 1974), 374. C.f. Jesus, Paul and the Jews (London:
SCM, 1936); Prelude to Dialogue: Jewish-Christian Relationships (New York: Schocken Books, 1969).

antisemitism was fairly obvious in his day and admitted even by antisemites—he gives

some characteristics: it is a special kind of prejudice, and an antisemite is not concerned

about the accuracy of the prejudicial idea.19 While Parkes separates antisemitism that

developed in the nineteenth century from other kinds of hatred and malice previously, he

is unspecific about when antisemitism, as such, arose in history. He is critical of the early

patristic writings, which describe Christianity as replacing Judaism and which subjugate

Judaism to a villainous role in redemptive history. Parkes does, however, tell a story of

how these early anti-Judaistic writings led to contemporary antisemitism.20

In like manner, neither did Jules Isaac define antisemitism in Jesus and Israel. He

did, however, spend much of his time arguing against specific stereotypes that developed

into the antisemitism he experienced as a Jew during WWII: the hesitancy to recognize

that Christianity was rooted in Judaism, that Jesus was a Jew, and that the Diaspora was

not a curse of God beginning with the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., as well as the

belief that Jews everywhere and in all time rejected Christ, and that Jews were “Christ-

killers.”21 Isaac did not believe that antisemitism was part of Christianity. “Le

christianisme en son essence exclut l’antisémitisme,” Isaac declared, even after his wife

and daughter were lost in concentration camps, and he was forced to flee Nazi forces.22

Another key individual in the question of the roots of Christian antisemitism is

Roman Catholic author Edward H. Flannery, who wrote The Anguish of the Jews, a

history of violence and prejudice against Jewish people.23 Flannery is concerned with the

James Parkes, Antisemitism (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1963), x-xi; 60.
Parkes, Antisemitism, 57-73.
Jules Isaac, Jesus and Israel, 3d ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971).
Jules Isaac, L’Antisémitisme a-t-il des racines chrétiennes? (Paris: Fasquielle Editeurs, 1960),
Edward H. Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism, 2d ed.
(New York: Paulist Press, 1985).

term “antisemitism,” calling it a “misnomer” and a “problem” since it was originally

coined by a racist, and since it has moved past its original meaning of racial antipathy to

include all types of anti-Judaistic hatred at any time.24 Over and over again Flannery

asserts the difference between antisemitism and anti-Judaism:

The distinguishing mark of all antisemitism in the strict sense is hatred or

contempt and a stereotyping of the Jewish people as such. In the absence of either
of these qualifiers antisemitism does not exist. It should be distinguished therefore
from indiscriminate hostility to which all peoples and groups have been prey;
from anti-Judaism, a theological construct, with which it is often intermingled;
and from anti-Jewish manifestations that may lead to—or in history have led to—
antisemitism but do not possess the attributes specified above.25

The definition of antisemitism must, then, exclude: 1) merely theological anti-Judaism,

though it may also be antisemitic; 2) negative prophetic statements; and 3) elements that

may or have led to antisemitism.26 Flannery proposes an alternative term, anti-Judaism,

which he defines as, “a theological or apologetical category, which comprehends all

opposition to Judaism or Jewish opinion insofar as they run counter to Christian belief or

practice, but which falls short of antisemitism.”27 Furthermore, Flannery suggests that

within anti-Judaism, we should separate doctrinal disagreements with apologetical or

theological contemptuous opposition.28 Flannery admits that “anti-Jewish” is an

Flannery, Anguish, 4.
Flannery, Anguish, 4-5. Flannery is forced to re-emphasize the distinction in response to Father
Jeffrey G. Sobosan in “Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism: A Necessary Distinction,” JES 10 (1973): 581-88.
Flannery, Anguish, 33.
Flannery, Anguish, 301. David Larsen, a dispensationalist theologian who argues for an
eschatological role for Jews, and describes with empathy the plight of Jews at the hands of Christians,
admits that antisemitism is first used in 1879 by a “rabid racist” named Wilhelm Marr referring only to
Jews. Yet, it is a term worth defining precisely: “Anti-Semitism is religious and racial prejudice and hatred
directed against the Jewish people. It is to be distinguished from anti-Judaism, which is opposition to the
religion of the Jews (like anti-Mormon means disagreement with Mormonism but not antagonism toward
Mormon people as such) or anti-Zionism, which is opposition to aspects of or the very existence of the state
of Israel. We see anti-Judaism in the New Testament on the part of early Christians just as we see anti-
Christianity on the part of many Jews,” Jews, Gentiles, and the Church: A New Perspective on History and
Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 1995), 79.
Flannery, “A Necessary Distinction,” 584.

unfortunate adjective, and that there is ambiguity within popular circles, but he insists

there should still be precise definitions and distinctions within academic circles.

Focussing on the NT specifically, Marcus Barth set out five theses of which if all

are found true, the author is thus an antisemite: 1) Jews are no longer God’s covenant

people because they rejected and killed their Messiah; furthermore, gentile Christians can

cause suffering for “stiff-necked” Jews; 2) Christ brought complete freedom from Jewish

law, which was not given by God but by another deity or an inferior angel; the law is

actually a curse, and freedom from it is essential to true faith; 3) Jewish religion is to be

abandoned in favour of intense personal experiences; 4) Gentile support is to be won by

conscious syncretism of Greco-Roman thought and abandons Jewish thinking; and 5)

Practices of Jewish Christ-believers are to be condemned (i.e., Peter, James).29 Donald A.

Hagner argues that Barth’s criteria are really anti-Judaism: “Anti-Judaism is theological

disagreement with Judaism. . . . Anti-Semitism, by contrast, is nothing less than racial

hatred of the Jews, a hatred that can take a variety of forms such as prejudice, injustice,

slander, abuse, and even physical violence.”30

Jewish New Testament scholar, Samuel Sandmel, understands the anachronism of

speaking about antisemitism in the New Testament, but because “anti-Judaism” has not

become well used in the circles discussing the issue, Sandmel still chooses to use “anti-

Semitism.”31 Similarly, Rosemary Radford Ruether, in her groundbreaking Faith and

Fratricide, retains the term “antisemitism” and calls theological antisemitism what

M. Barth, “Was Paul an Anti-Semite?” JES 5 (1968): 78–104.
Hagner, “Paul’s Quarrel,” 128; emphasis original. William Klassen argues that “anti” in “anti-
Semitism” doesn’t mean what “anti” usually does, but refers to hatred for Jews: “Any negative assessment
of the contribution of Judaism to a given historical debate should not automatically be termed ‘anti-
Semitism,’” “Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity: The State of the Question,” in Anti-Judaism in Early
Christianity, ed. Peter Richardson, with David Granskou (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1986), 7.
See Samuel Sandmel, Anti-Semitism in the New Testament? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978), xvii-
xviii. Sandmel goes so far as to call the use of antisemitism in the NT “technically wrong.”

Flannery calls “anti-Judaism.”32 Her understanding of antisemitism in the New Testament

is that it is made up of anti-Judaistic polemic and Christological rejectionism, and she

tends to use the terms antisemitism and anti-Judaism interchangeably. John T. Townsend

also chooses to use antisemitism of the New Testament because he argues that early

gentile Christianity included racial motivations as well as religious. Townsend argues for

three kinds of NT anti-Jewish polemic: 1) a Christology of equality with God that still

fulfills Jewish messianic expectations; 2) a Christianity that replaces Judaism; and

3) defamatory polemic, including “Christ-killer.”33

With the call to greater precision in meanings on the one hand, and the reluctance

to be precise by some authors on the other, Douglas Hare proposed a distinction of three

kinds of anti-Judaism: 1) Prophetic anti-Judaism that is comprised of intra-Jewish debate;

2) Jewish-Christian anti-Judaism that criticizes the Jewish community for not accepting

Christianity; and 3) Gentilizing anti-Judaism where Jews have been rejected and

replaced.34 Ruether responded to Hare’s three-part distinction by contesting the very

nature of what Hare calls “intra-Jewish” debate.35 Ruether’s point is that the rejection of

Torah and the displacement of Israel’s ethnic election means that the one professing the

critique is no longer engaged in an inner struggle, but has moved past the basic realities

of Jewishness. Ruether agrees that the issue is religious, and not racial, and that Christian

anti-Judaism is not the same as racial anti-Judaism, but there are lines of continuity and

Ruether, Faith and Fratricide.
John T. Townsend, “The New Testament, the Early Church, and Anti-Semitism,” in From
Ancient Israel to Modern Judaism (Atlanta: Scholars Pr, 1989), 171-186.
Douglas R. A. Hare, “The Rejection of the Jews in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts,” in
AntiSemitism and the Foundations of Christianity, ed. Alan Davies (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), 27-47.
Ruether, “Old Problems and New Dimensions,” 235. See discussion in section 5.6.6. M. J. Cook
makes the same distinction of Jewish identity by claiming that Hebrew prophets always believed that God
would not break the covenant, as Jesus himself believed. It was later New Testament Christology that left
the roots of prophetic critique, “Anti-Judaism in the New Testament,” USQR 38 (1983): 125-136.

discontinuity that “make the Christians responsible in important ways for the possibility

of racial antisemitism.”36 James Dunn, in the Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium on

Earliest Christianity and Judaism in 1989, also questioned the efficacy of Hare’s

categories, but for the opposite reason. Dunn asked how intra-Jewish critique could at all

be considered anti-Judaism.37 Neither is Dunn happy with the terms “anti-Jewish” and

“anti-Judaism.” While the latter is specifically religious, the former does not distinguish

racial, cultural, ideological, or faith critiques.

A helpful revision of Hare’s types of anti-Judaism comes from George M.

Smiga.38 Fundamentally, Smiga agrees with Hare’s first type of anti-Judaism, prophetic

polemic defined by intra-Jewish polemic like the Hebrew prophets, with the caution that

this should not be considered anti-Judaism as such. Hare’s distinction of Jewish-Christian

anti-Judaism that criticizes the Jewish community for not accepting Christianity is,

however, not precise. Smiga prefers instead to refer to subordinating polemic that calls

for a redefinition of Jewish symbols. Hare’s third type of anti-Judaism, gentilizing anti-

Judaism where Jews have been rejected and replaced, is redefined as abrogating anti-

Judaism where the Jewish people as a whole have been disenfranchised. Smiga’s

adjustments mean that Hare’s categories carry no more implication beyond what they

Ruether, “Old Problems and New Dimensions,” 247.
James D. G. Dunn, “The Question of Anti-semitism in the New Testament Writings of the
Period,” in Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70-135: The Second Durham-Tübingen
Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (ed. James D. G. Dunn; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1999), 177-211. Dunn chooses not to offer a solution to the problem.
George M. Smiga, Pain and Polemic: Anti-Judaism in the Gospels (New York: Paulist Press,
1992), 12-23. Norman A. Beck (Mature Christianity in the 21st Century: The Recognition and Repudiation
of the Anti-Jewish Polemic of the New Testament [rev. ed.; New York: Crossroad, 1994], 321-324) lists
three further anti-Judaisms: 1) Christological; 2) Supersessionist polemic; and 3) Defamatory polemic.

infer. Smiga’s types of anti-Judaism also recognize the difficulty of defining normative

Judaism, and the difficulty in separating gentile and Jewish influences in NT writings.39

The imprecision of Christian analysis of the question, often to defend “real

Christianity” in whatever form fits the scholar’s conception, has caused Gavin Langmuir

to push the issue of the definition of antisemitism from a secular perspective.40 Most

Christian writers, Langmuir argues, have made no distinction between Hitler and early

Christians. Langmuir looks back from Hitler, rather than looking forward from Jesus,

determined to create a definition based not on religious instincts but on empirical studies.

Langmuir notes that the definition of antisemitism is often bound up with the Jewish

nature, which gives others a reason to be prejudiced against them. If this is true, then

there is no difference between antisemitism and anti-Judaism. But if Jews are not the

cause, then antisemitism arose at some point in history. Langmuir continues to define

antisemitism as irrational prejudice against Jews, which he traces back to the twelfth

century.41 Furthermore, antisemitism is a term that is semiotically ambivalent, and only

serves to confirm the Aryan myth that Jews are of an identifiable race that is, in the case

of Aryanism, judged as such: “Taken literally, ‘antisemitism’ is most misleading and

thoroughly contaminated with the erroneous presuppositions of the racists.”42 Langmuir

does not go so far to eliminate the use of the term. Instead, he recognizes that the term

Peter Richardson, “On the Absence of ‘Anti-Judaism in 1 Corinthians,” in Anti-Judaism in
Early Christianity, ed. Peter Richardson, with David Granskou (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier Press,
1986), 59-74, indicates five kinds of anti-Judaism: 1) Societal: referring to the general population; 2)
Communal: Christian community conflict including racial make-up, tensions, etc.; 3) Theological:
theological thought about and in contradistinction to Judaism; 4) Historical: hostile events that create an
anti-Judaistic response; and 5) Orthopractic: opposition to Judaism or its practices on ethical foundation.
While those distinctions are helpful in understanding various expressions of anti-Judaism, they are not
helpful in understanding what anti-Judaism is in relation to the definition of antisemitism.
Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1990).
Langmuir, Definition, esp. 4-17.
Langmuir, Definition, 351.

has powerful political implications, and it also identifies the reality that Jewish people

have been the recipients of an unusual kind of prejudice. Langmuir defines anti-Judaism

as “a total or partial opposition to Judaism—and to Jews as adherents of it—by people

who accept a competing system of beliefs and practices and consider genuine Judaic

beliefs and practices as inferior.”43 Therefore, anti-Judaism can be doctrinal, legal, or

popular, and antisemitism developed from anti-Judaism by exactly that path.

Some authors, like Dan Cohn-Sherbok, who is an important figure in the

discussion of antisemitism, refuse to make the distinction between intellectual

disagreement with theological belief and hostility toward a people, by continuing to use

the term “anti-Semitism” to refer to both. Because of this lack of distinction he is able to

conclude that, “for twenty centuries, then, Christian anti-Semitism has served either

directly or indirectly as a fundamental cause of Judaeophobia.”44 In this assessment, he

makes no distinction between the apostle Paul and the fabricators of the Endlösung, that

Final Solution designed to take care of the Jewish problem once and for all.

Most authors are not as free with the rhetoric as Cohn-Sherbok. Clark M.

Williamson is one of those who are attempting to reformulate—both in communication

and creation—Christian theology in light of Shoah. His assertion is that “anti-Judaism is

an inherited ideology of which Christians tend to be unconscious until it is brought to their

attention.”45 Williamson lists various expressions of anti-Judaism: conversion of Jews;46 the

Langmuir, Definition, 57.
Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian anti-Semitism (London :
HarperCollins Religious, 1992), xx.
Clark M. Williamson, A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology
(Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), 1.
Williamson opposes any proselytizing of Jewish people. The Book of Common Prayer
[(Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1962], 41) calls for the conversion of “the Jews:” “O God, who didst
choose Israel to be thine inheritance: Look, we beseech thee, upon thine ancient people; open their hearts
that they may see and confess the Lord Jesus to be thy Son and their true Messiah, and, believing, they may

claim that Jews hated Jesus; painting Jews as hypocrites; the claim the church displaced the

Israel of God in the covenant, so Israelites should cease being Jews and become Christians; this

supersessionist theology worked out in legislation and violence; a teaching of rejection and

inferiority of Jews; the idea of the election and superiority of Christians; the claim that only

Christians can rightly interpret the HB; a model of Judaism as people rejected by God,

unfaithful, opposed to Christianity, carnal, blind, old, etc.; the anti-Jewish statement of

Christianity, “everything new, good, spiritual, and universal that the old, bad, carnal, and

ethnocentric Jews can never be.” Williamson is arguing against the practice where Judaism

serves as the negative foil for Christian self-definition within the basic questions of theology.47

Not all would go so far as Williamson in labelling NT statements as anti-Judaistic.

Daniel Boyarin, a Jewish Talmudic scholar, agrees that Paul’s theology argues for a

replacement of the normative place for Torah in Judaism. Yet, he does not see that argument as

anti-Judaistic. It is, however:

have life through his name. Take away all pride and prejudice in us that may hinder their understanding of
the Gospel, and hasten the time when all Israel shall be saved; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ
our Lord.” The Alternative Service Book [(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980], 558) points out
Jews as ignorant, hardhearted, and containing a contempt for God’s word. These prayers are noticeably
lacking in the American Episcopal version of The Book of Common Prayer ([New York: Seabury Press,
1977], see 279-280). There has been such concerted targeting of Jews qua Jews even as late as 1996 by the
Southern Baptist Convention: “Be it finally resolved, That we direct our energies and resources toward the
proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish people,” “Resolution on Jewish Evangelism,” n.p. [June 1996].
Online: This resolution marks a significant
change in previous statements concerning Jews, which were typically statements against antisemitism (in
1972 and 1981; even 1873). This resolution, and following statements, received quick response from many
groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, “ADL Outraged by Southern Baptist Statements Rooting
Jewish Conversion Appeals in Theology,” n.p. [28 September 1999]. Online: http://www.adl.
org/presrele/ChJew_31/3472_31. asp. Perhaps, though, that there is greater contempt in the choice not to
convert Jews, as in Luther, who felt it was now “impossible,” Luther, Works, 47:137.
In concert with the consensus above, Padraic O’Hare also argues for a distinction between antisemitism
and anti-Judaism, but precisely to show how the former led to the latter. For O’Hare, “the essence of theological
anti-Judaism lies in Christian replacement theology, quite literally Christians’ understanding of themselves
as replacing Judaism in the affections of God, the Holy One,” The Enduring Covenant: The Education of
Christians and the End of Antisemitism (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1997), 7. The
connection that brings anti-Judaism through to antisemitism, which is hating Jews because they are Jews, is
ecclesiastical triumphalism at the root of Christian supersessionism.

Precisely for those Jews a bitter gospel not a sweet one, because it is
conditional precisely on abandoning that to which we hold so dearly, our separate
cultural, religious identity, our own fleshy and historical practice, our existence
according to the flesh, our Law, our difference.48

1.4.2. A Cautious Working Vocabulary

Given this survey of scholarly opinion, it is most precise and most productive to

distinguish antisemitism and anti-Judaism: the former refers to a hatred, prejudice, or

hostility directed at Jewish people; the latter refers to theological disagreement with the

religion of Judaism or some particular aspect of it. Of attempts to understand various

aspects of anti-Judaism, Smiga’s three-part adjustment of Hare’s definitions are the

clearest and most helpful at distinguishing the kinds of anti-Judaism and understanding

how they work without failing to appreciate the complexity of the issue: 1) Prophetic

Polemic: intra-Jewish polemic like the prophets; 2) Subordinating Polemic: a redefinition

of Jewish symbols; and 3) Abrogating Anti-Judaism: the Jewish people as a whole have

been disenfranchised. Antisemitism, then, is when Jewish people are victims of hostility

or discrimination because of their beliefs, cultural symbols, or ethnic identity.

Philosophical or theological disagreement with Jewish religion is not, necessarily,

antisemitic. Such is the reality of the world’s religions, which are all debated, defended,

and (allegedly) debunked on professional, pastoral, and popular planes. The rejection of a

particular Jewish understanding of God only becomes antisemitic when that belief is used

to remove dignity or create harm for the one holding the belief. This definition of

antisemitism focuses the question: did St. Paul engage in hostility or discrimination

against Jewish people? Did he intend his writings to provide theological reasons for

D. Boyarin, “Was Paul an ‘Anti-Semite’? A Reading of Galatians 3-4,” USQR 47 (1993): 61.

violence against Jewish peoples? Though not universally so, the distinction between

antisemitism and anti-Judaism represents a tentative consensus within academic circles.

All definitions, however, have their problems. It must be granted that there is no

such thing as the “Jewish race,” much less a single, Semitic one. “Semitic” refers to a

cultural group larger than just Jews and is a relatively late term used most accurately in

the field of linguistics. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “Semitism” against which

individuals may set themselves. Because of this final reality, I have chosen with a number

of contemporary scholars to use the term “antisemitism,” without a hyphen and with a

miniscule “s,” to refer to this phenomenon of group hatred. Doing so will, I hope,

minimize the damage that is done in using a term that implicitly supports the Aryan racial

myth. I continue to use the term because, frankly, there is none better to distinguish the

unique brand of group prejudice that has been instituted against Jews.49

1.4.3. Jew, Judaist, and Hebrew

“Jew” is a particularly difficult concept to define. It can refer to a member of the

tribe of Judah, an inhabitant of Palestine in the ancient world, someone who belongs to

the ancient line of Jewish people either by conversion or lineage, and someone who is a

Jew because of religious beliefs. In the past, “Jew” has been both a derogatory term (as a

verb and a noun), and also a symbol of tenacious pride for persecuted people. In Greek,

jIoudai'o" refers primarily to “Jew” as an individual or as a people, but may also refer to a

resident of Judea (a Judean). In the plural, it refers to Jews as an entire people, or a

geographic, ideological, or social group within Judaism.

Furthermore, this is the term preferred by Jewish groups such as B’nai B’rit International. On
top of ambivalence about the accuracy of the term “antisemitism,” few people on the street would define
“anti-Jewish” or “anti-Judaism” as mere philosophical or theological difference—it is a term that most
people would think is much more violent. Therefore, caution is important, and precise definitions are
essential, if even in the academic realm.

Despite surprising continuity between early Mediterranean Jews and the fifteen

million Jews today who speak dozens of languages and span the globe, we cannot assume

that knowing something of Judaism today means knowing something of the earlier

Judaism. The religious makeup of first century Judaism is simply different than twenty-

first century Judaism, which contains a significant number of “secular Jews” who think of

themselves as Jews in primarily cultural and ethnic ways, rather than specifically

religious ways.50 Drastically understated, Judaism has grown and changed over time.

Thus, in the attempt to avoid anachronistic assumptions about first-century Jews

and at the risk of being simplistic, henceforth I have chosen to use the term “Jew” to refer

to Jews of European history and contemporary society, and “Judaist”51 to refer to first

century Jews.52 The distinction allows us to remember that knowing what Judaism is like

today may not tell us everything about the Judaism of Jesus and Paul’s day. In fact,

thanks to G. F. Montefiore,53 many scholars today are careful to use the term “Judaisms”

to refer to the religious diversity of second-temple Judaism. Thus when we refer to

Judaism we are not referring to a monolithic, supra-historical entity. Instead, “Second

Temple Judaism” will refer generically to those who called themselves Judaists about two

Laurence J. Silberstein (“Others Within and Others Without,” in The Other in Jewish Thought
and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity [ed. Laurence J. Silberstein and Robert L. Cohn;
New York: New York University Press, 1994], 1-3) credits Ahad Ha’am as the founder of secular Judaism
in the late nineteenth century, which considers being Jewish a primarily cultural identification. See Ahad
Ha’am, Selected Essays, trans. Leon Simon (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1948).
To be phonologically consistent, I will use the term Judaistic rather than Judaic as the adjective
of Judaist, though they are linguistically interchangeable
Donald Harmon Akenson prefers his neologism, “Judahist.” He wants to distance as far as
possible from both “Jew” and “Judaism.” “Judaist,” though, does the job of jarring the reader enough to
recognize the cultural differences, without the philological invention and phonological somersaults of
Akenson’s term, “Judahist.” See Donald Harmon Akenson, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible
and the Talmuds (Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 1998), 28.
Claude G. Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul: Two Essays (New York: Arno Press, 1973; repr.
of The Jewish People: History, Religion, Literature, London: Max Goschen Ltd., 1914). For Neusner’s
“one Judaism” with many “Judaisms,” see also E. S. Frerichs, W. S. Green, and J. Neusner, eds., Judaisms
and their Messiahs at the Turn of the Christian Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

millennia ago,54 and those of Israel who lived before this period will be called

“Hebrews.”55 To say, therefore, that Paul was a Judaist is to say that he belonged

generally with others who called themselves such, whether they represented mainstream

popular movements in Palestine, sectarian or revolutionary movements like Qumran or

the Sicarii, or the various expressions of Judaism within the Greco-Roman Diaspora.

It is important for us to make careful distinctions of communication and identity

in this project, as we do in differentiating “Jew” and “Judaist,” the latter being our choice

of translating into English the Greek word jIoudaivo". In the spirit of this careful

distinction, we needed to find a way to suspend judgment about the use of this Greek

term in 1 Thess 2:13-16, since a key aspect of the exegesis of the passage is the

determination of identity. In this particular passage, it makes a significant difference

whether hoi Ioudaioi are Judeans, Judaistic leaders, particular individual Judaists,

Judaists of that generation, or Jews and Judaists of all time, since the passage leads to

“God’s wrath” upon them. Therefore, we have chosen to simply transliterate throughout

chapter five, using hoi Ioudaioi as we journey through the search of Paul’s meaning and

use of the term.

Though we are careful to make these distinctions for the purposes of historical

exegesis and to avoid anachronism or ethnocentrism, the lexical meanings of the terms
Though strictly 516 B.C.E.-70 C.E., the largest period considered Second-Temple Judaism is 586
B.C.E.-135 C.E., Larry R. Helyer, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for
New Testament Students (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2002), 17; George W. E. Nickelsburg (Jewish Literature
Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981],
1) and N. T. Wright (The New Testament and the People of God [Christian Origins and the Question of
God 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992], 148) define the period as roughly fourth century B.C.E. through
second century C.E. Often, we will speak of first century Judaism specifically, and will use such
nomenclature. We have rejected Spät-Judentum, Late Judaism, because it covers too wide a range
(Hellenistic through Talmudic Judaisms), and is inaccurate in any case.
Making this distinction is not denying that Judaists are Hebrews or in continuity with Hebrew
peoples; instead we are making the distinction for the purpose of clarity, and to distinguish in chapter four
Hebrew prophetic critique (i.e., Jeremiah, Isaiah) from Judaistic critique-from-within (i.e., Wisdom of
Solomon, Jubilees). See discussion as follows.

jIoudaivo", jIsrahvl (Israel), jIsrahlivth" (Israelite), and ‘Ebrai`o" (Hebrew) are not so

cut and dry in contemporary historical usage. Stephen Wilson’s article “‘Jew’ and related

terms in the ancient world,” discusses the use of these terms before and after the turn of

the eras and offers an excellent bibliography.56 Though Wilson’s concern is also to

evaluate whether such terms are positive, negative, or neutral in usage among Judaists,

Greco-Roman writers, and Christians, his study demonstrates that there was variance in

the use of terms, and the variances demonstrate specific trends. “Hebrew” and “Israel”

are Judaistic self-designations that continue into the common era and evoke

“connotations of antiquity, traditionalism and piety.”57 “Israel” can take become a

polemical term, as in Qumran,58 and “Hebrew” can have this sense in 2 Maccabees and

Josephus.59 Paul would not have been unusual among Judaists in calling himself a

“Hebrew” (2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:5), either in polemics or simple self-description.

Philo presses the definition of “Hebrew,” calling converts to Judaism “Hebrews”

by choice, if not by birth (Abr. 251). Typically, however, “Hebrew” and “Israel” are more

definitive in marking boundaries; it is usually in the term jIoudaivo" where “the definition

of the boundary has changed and become more expansive,”60 and includes not only

proselytes, but also sympathizers of Judaism.61 Of particular note concerning jIoudaivo"

is its evolution in usage at about the turn of the eras. Wilson, following especially Shaye

Stephen G. Wilson, “‘Jew’ and related terms in the ancient world,” SR 33 (2004): 157-171.
Wilson, “‘Jew,’” 166.
See section 4.3.2.
E.g., see 2 Macc 7:31; 11:13; J.W. 5.443; see Wilson, “‘Jew,’” 164-167; see also sections 4.3.1
and 4.3.3. John J. Collins, “Cult and Culture: The Limits of Hellenization in Judea,” in Hellenism in the
Land of Israel, ed. John J. Collins & Gregory E. Sterling (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press,
2001), 39, notes that jIoudaivo" also takes on a religious polemical dimension in the definition of Judaism
over against Hellenism in the Maccabean struggle.
Wilson, “‘Jew,’” 167.
Wilson, “‘Jew,’” 160.

Cohen,62 notes a change from a primarily ethno-geographic term to a primarily religio-

ethnic term, i.e., from “Judean” to “Judaist” in our parlance.63 It is noteworthy that this

trend is represented in both Judaistic and Greco-Roman sources. Despite the change in

meaning and the pressure this evolution places upon Judaistic self-definition, “the

function of Ioudaios as a boundary marker is not entirely lost, since it is typically Jewish

practices that define Jew, proselyte, and sympathizer alike as Ioudaioi.”64

As James Dunn notes, our use of words need not be restricted by ancient usage.65

Despite the fluidity of these ancient definitions, for the purposes noted above, we use

“Judaist” in the strictly religio-ethnic sense, and not as a term for proselytes and


1.4.4. Terms of Canonical Reference

I will use “New Testament” (NT) to refer to the 27 books that have been

considered canonical in most Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant circles. Though

there is angst that “New” in New Testament could be interpreted as “better,” movements

to replace the term have not succeeded.

How one might refer to the Old Testament is more difficult. It has been suggested

that the term “Old” is derogatory, and should be changed. Some have suggested “First

Testament” be used, though “first” and “second” can have more than merely temporal

connotations. “The Hebrew Bible” is a popular choice, but is a misnomer for Paul, who

Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties and Uncertainties
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). Another who offers a helpful introduction to the topic that
is similar to Wilson’s and also relies upon Cohen is James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Christianity in
the Making Volume 1; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 260-265. Wilson differs in one area: he is
uncertain that the distinction Dunn makes—that “Israel” is used as a term of self-designation and “Judaist”
as a designation by others or a self-designation from the perspective of non-Judaists—is as precisely
accurate as Dunn supposes.
Wilson, “‘Jew,’” 158-160.
Wilson, “ ‘Jew,’” 160.
Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 264.

predominantly uses the Greek translation of the Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures (the

Septuagint, LXX). To call these scriptures the “Jewish Bible” would presume that the

New Testament is not Jewish. We will therefore use the term “Tanakh”66 to refer to what

Christians call the Old Testament, and includes both the Hebrew Bible and the

corresponding portions of the LXX. The term “Apocrypha”67 will be used according to

academic convention, without intending to engage in the question of canonicity.

1.5. Primary and Secondary Historical Sources for Paul

1.5.1. Pauline and Deutero-Pauline Letters

There is in academic circles, generally speaking, a consensus that seven letters in

the New Testament are written by Paul: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians,

Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.68 Similarly, the overwhelming opinion of

Pauline scholars is that the Pastoral Epistles—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus—were

not composed by Paul or within his lifetime.69 Of the remaining three NT letters that

claim Paul’s genius, Ephesians is usually considered pseudonymous, there is no scholarly

consensus on Colossians, and opinion on 2 Thessalonians is nearly equally divided.70

Tanakh is a Hebrew acronym containing the first letters of its three divisions: Torah (Law),
Nebi’im (Prophets), Ketubim (Writings).
For definition within the LXX, see section 4.3.1, p. 85-86, n. 12.
The only key exception is F. C. Baur and the Tübingen school, which accepted only the
Hauptebriefe: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Galatians; see Baur, Paul.
There are exceptions. For acceptance of the pastorals, see Gordon Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus
(NIBCNT; 2d ed.; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 23-26; William Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC
46; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), esp. cxviii-cxxix. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor accepts the
authenticity of 2 Timothy as a partial explanation of how the other letters could have been accepted by the
early church, J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 356-359.
Regarding scholarly opinion of authenticity and pseudonymity, see Raymond E. Brown, An
Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 6-7; 586-589; Bart D. Ehrman, The New
Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University
Press, 2000), 261-262; 341-362; Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament: an
Interpretation, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1999), 271; W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the
New Testament, trans. H. C. Kee, rev. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1975), 250-251.

While the Pastoral Epistles contain autobiographical information that might

require us to push the issue in a broader Pauline biography, these letters are remarkably

lacking in specifically anti-Judaistic moments.71 This observation is especially surprising

considering their proposed late date of authorship (even if authentic, they would be

considered among Paul’s latest works) and the supposition of scholars that the conflict

between Jews and the increasingly gentile Christian movement continued to heighten

throughout the last half of the first century. Given the doubt about authenticity and

paucity of pertinent information, they will only be referred to as secondary sources that

have value as letters that paint a picture of Paul as early Christian readers would see him.

Decision about the authenticity of Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians is

essential for those engaged in a more complete study of Pauline theology. For a study of

Paul’s rhetorical and social relationship to Judaism, the issue is far less significant. Eph

2:11-19 and 3:6 include gentiles in the citizenship of Israel and the covenant of promise

through the blood of Christ Jesus and by the Spirit, with the hope of peace between

Judaists and gentiles. The passage is paralleled in Col 1:20-24, yet without reference to

Israel. Of closer interest is Eph 2:14-18, where God has made both Judaist and gentile72

one, broken down the wall between them, abolished the law, and made peace—all of this

by the death of Christ so that all have equal access to the Father. The passage is difficult,

but is primarily concerned with an equality of Christians, both Judaist and gentile (v. 18),

not with the question of the fate of non-Christ-believing Judaists.

Dunn, “Anti-Semitism,” 151-65. See discussion of the law, 1 Tim 1:3-11 and Tit 3:9; see also
the negative mention of the “circumcision group” and Jewish myths, Tit 1:10-14. Indeed the Pastorals seem
to speak favourably of Jewish tradition, see 2 Tim 3 where an opportunity to mention Jewish persecutors
arises, and instead the author affirms the value of Tanakh.
Though not specifically mentioned, but following v. 17, and as Markus Barth has pointed out
(Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 1-3, AB34 (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday, 1974), 262-263, for Paul there are only two groups, Judaists and gentiles.

Within a passage concerned with false spirituality, Col 2:16 says, “do not let

anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons,

or sabbaths” (NRSV). While specifically referring to Jewish customs, it is difficult to

know the authors’ opinion, and whether the recipients are being judged for following

these customs, or for failing to do so. Col 3:11 parallels the Gal 3:26-29 assertion, though

repeating the specifically ethnic elements, declaring that, “there is no longer Greek and

Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all

and in all!” (NRSV). Following this assertion, that lacks the contextual debate of

Galatians, Col 3:12 and following gives ethical commands based upon the reality that

they are God’s chosen people. 2 Thess 2:4 includes “God’s temple” in the authors’

eschatological plan, but it can be in no way seen as a judgment against Jews. With the

possible exception of Eph 2:15, the abolishing of the law, these three epistles display no

polemical or overtly anti-Judaistic moments. They will therefore not be used in our study.

1.5.2. Acts as Secondary Source

Our primary sources, then, are the seven undisputed letters of Paul in the New

Testament. But what about Acts? Very few biographers of Paul would fail to consult

Acts, even if in a contrastive or cursory fashion. The greatest portion of the book of Acts

is devoted to the apostle Paul, and the narrative is filled with moments where Paul is

engaged with synagogues in the Diaspora and with Judaistic authorities in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, we have in Acts the only narrative versions in the New Testament of Paul’s

so-called conversion. We must consider the role of Acts in even the most basic treatment

of Paul and his relationship to Judaism. We cannot in an introduction compare and

contrast fully the theological and biographical pictures of Paul in the Acts and in his

letters; neither can we argue for the accuracy of Acts as history. Given these limitations,

however, we can still determine the role of Acts in historical method.

And that role is simple: methodologically speaking, Acts is secondary literature to

a study in Paul. The apostle Paul did not write the book of Acts. Even the first person

singular speeches attributed to Paul in Acts cannot be demonstrated without doubt to be

Paul’s word for word communication. In the first place, Paul’s letters, and specifically the

seven undisputed letters, should be consulted for information about the life and thought

of the apostle Paul. If Acts confirms details from the letters of Paul, our confidence in the

Pauline account can be encouraged by such a concord. By contrast, using this historical

method requires that if there is a contradiction between something in Paul’s letters and

details recorded in Acts, Paul’s own account should be considered primary.

Though it is clear that Paul’s letters are primary sources, and Acts is a secondary

source, how reliable should we consider Acts accounts that do not contradict Paul’s

letters and are without parallel in Paul? Most Pauline chronologies lean heavily on Acts,

and read it complementary to Paul’s own accounts.73 The first full scale re-creation of

Paul’s chronology under this premise of Paul as primary source and Acts as secondary

source was undertaken by Gerd Lüdemann, and he is significantly critical of the Acts

material.74 John Knox, the twentieth century father of this methodological line and a

significant influence in Lüdemann’s work, allowed that Acts could be used with caution

For example, see Robert Jewett, A Chronology of Paul’s Life (Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1982). It should be noted that even Jewett does not deal uncritically with the book of Acts.
Gerd Lüdemann, Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology, trans F. Stanley Jones
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984). It should be noted that Lüdemann has softened in his analysis of Acts,
though has not abandoned his method: “The more I have worked on Acts the more I have become inclined
to take these passages seriously,” Gerd Lüdemann, Paul: The Founder of Christianity (Amherst, N.Y.:
Prometheus Books, 2002), 27. This recent monograph contains a chapter with a summary of his 1984 Paul.

to supplement Paul’s own epistolary autobiographical moments.75 It must be stated that

regardless of the overall accuracy/inaccuracy of Acts, the method proves true. Since this

work is attempting to understand Paul from his own hand, and not from even the earliest

historical vision/revision, secondary sources will be used only as necessary.76

If Acts were considered as a primary source, there are a number of images that

would need to be evaluated in depth: Acts 8:1-3 (Paul the persecutor); 13:13-51; 14:1-6;

17:5-15; 20:3; 21:27-36; 22:22-23; 23:12-15; 24:5-9; 25:1-7 (Paul preaches and is

persecuted by Judaists); 18:1-17 (Paul stops preaching to Judaists; the judgment of

Gallio); 21:20-26 (Paul engages in Judaistic cultic activity); and 28:17-29 (Paul meets

with Judaists in Rome). Given our method, these moments will only be considered when

they relate directly to historical or biographical information provided by Paul’s

undisputed letters.

One important area where we will look more significantly at Acts is in

consideration of Paul’s so-called “conversion.” Because of the importance of this issue in

determining Paul’s relationship to Judaism, we will be referring to the “Damascus Road”

experience of Acts 9:1-30. Though we will not be departing from our historical method,

we are required by sheer strength of tradition at least to consider Luke’s portrayal of the

pivotal time in Paul’s life in consideration of Paul’s relationship to Judaism.

1.5.3. Other Pauline Sources

A comprehensive study of antisemitism in the Pauline church would also include

other documents that seem to be part of the Pauline church, including but not limited to

Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, possibly Mark, the pseudepigraphal 3 Corinthians, the

John Knox, Chapters in a Life of Paul (New York: Abingdon Press, 1960), 33. Knox and his
theoretical progenitor, F. C. Baur, had a dim view of Acts in any case; see Baur, Paul, vol. 1, 4-14.
Jerome Murphy-O’Conner’s Paul: A Critical Life applies this method seriously.

fictional dialogue between Paul and Seneca, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, and the earliest

patristic documents prior to the Adversus Iudaeos tradition, including the Didache, the

Epistle of Barnabas, the letters of Ignatius, and the schools of Marcion and Polycarp. Our

interest, however, appropriately limits us to Paul’s own accounts and attitudes, not those

of the wider NT or the early Christian church, each worthy of study in their own right.

1.6. Pauline Hermeneutic after Shoah

1.6.1. Post-Shoah Theological Reformulation and Biblical Interpretation

Gregory Baum is one of many Roman Catholic theologians who have called for a

radical self-critique of the complicity of the church in the Shoah: “Here [in Auschwitz]

the theological negation of Judaism and the vilification of the Jewish people that were

part of the Christian tradition were translated into genocidal action.”77 A movement of

post-war Christian theologians, in an attempt to come to grips with the seemingly

unbroken line of development from NT polemic to patristic anti-Judaistic ideology to

European racial anti-Semitism, demands an evaluation of Christian teachings—including

those contained within the NT—in order to account for such a tragedy.

Williamson is one who has done such an evaluation and accounting, and has

reformulated Christian theology in such a way as to remove anti-Judaistic realities from

both theological communication and theological formulation. For Williamson, the reality

of Shoah demands a new understanding of key Christian identities of covenant, scriptural

authority, Christology, ecclesiology, and theology proper, in order to subvert anti-Jewish

ideologies at the core of Christian thought. Without such a reformulation, the Shoah is

bound to repeat itself. Williamson declares:

Ruether, Faith and Fratricide, 8.

The church’s anti-Judaism reflects and reinforces anti-Jewish practice, whether

that practice is internal to the church in how it talks about Jews and Judaism and itself,
in the ideas and attitudes that people adopt toward Jews, or whether it finds its
ramification in more visible and public forms, such as legislation or a willingness to
tolerate violence or discrimination against Jews.78

Another impassioned voice for a reformation of Pauline theology is Sydney Hall, who

goes further in explicitly defining the limits of Christian theology according to a theology

credible to Shoah victims: “These victims of systematic and bureaucratic murder implore

Christians to develop an inclusive yet particular theology of the Jewish people.”79 The

stench of boiling Jewish babies, in Hall’s estimation, demands not only an objective look

at Christian theology and history, but a complete reformulation of belief. Therefore, there

must be a new hermeneutical approach: “One must go where Auschwitz leads.”80

The cautious critic of the approach of Hall and Williamson might protest that to

change historic Christian theology according to a contemporary instinct is to trap such

theology in an historical moment that may prove unsuitable in future generations.

Furthermore, as theologians, are we not then simply giving theology in a way that is

palatable for our world? Williamson responds to this allegation:

To do theology. . .post-Holocaust, in light of this understanding of our orienting

event and norm of appropriateness, is not to take our bearings from “the world.” We
are trying to work out how things look from within a Christian tradition that interprets
and reinterprets itself in relation to changing circumstances. We recognize that the
more drastic the change in our context, the more radical the reinterpretation. . . .81

Williamson, Guest, 7.
Hall, Christian Anti-Semitism, xi.
Hall, Christian Anti-Semitism, 14
Williamson, Guest, 25, emphasis mine.

For Williamson, the nature of Christian theology is changeable and culture-bound. Cultural

changes do not merely require an adapted communication of basic theological principles, but

require a reinterpretation (or re-creation) of central Christian “truth” as cultural cues demand.

When one approaches the exegetical task as one of the foundation stones of Christian

theology, however, are such hermeneutical governors justifiable, or even helpful? The answer

to this question is “no.” These kinds of limitations place requirements on Christian scriptures

that are culturally and historically inappropriate, and adversely affect the exegesis of these

cultural writings. A reading by Williamson and Hall would require exegesis of the NT to

produce a certain limited number of possibilities. If Christians are to root their theology, at least

partially, in the Bible, then a post-Shoah reading, as Hall calls it, cannot reveal a theology that

is at its core anti-Judaistic. Our concern is not theological communication as such, but the

demands it places upon exegetical task, and the possible limitations it can impose if the task of

theological reinterpretation and biblical interpretation are confused.

1.6.2. Lessons Learned and Cross-Cultural Distance

A second move is subtler than theological reformulation and betrays a lack of cultural

awareness. For those of us who have grown up after the Shoah, and for whom the Shoah is a

truly abhorrent event, it is difficult to accept the verbiage of other cultures and other times. For

us, it would be unthinkable to speak negatively in any public way about Jews. Our cultural ears

are tuned to statements that sound bigoted, prejudicial, or that betray stereotypical

understanding that needs to be challenged. Our instinctive aversion to the male personal

pronoun as universal, or our shock at the revival of the word “Nigger” in youth popular culture

is indicative that these kinds of reactions have been woven into the cultural fabric of this


One of the reasons we have these reactions is that we have history to testify to us on

behalf of injustice. We have discovered that although male personal pronouns may have been

used inclusively, they came to be exclusive and continuing symbols of female oppression. The

word “Nigger,” with etymological roots as simple as “black,” became a symbol of contempt for

racists and a symbol of despair to the oppressed black populations of North America. Because

of a growing public awareness of such abuses, we tend to avoid derogatory names and we are

slowly adjusting our speech to use more inclusive pronominal terminology. History has taught

us, and on the surface anyway, we are learning the lesson.

But we cannot project our lessons learned onto past peoples. Even a generation ago,

male and female scholars alike continued to use “he” and “man” to refer to universal human

realities. Had someone with twenty-first century American cultural instincts been able to

demonstrate how the use of words betrays historical and cultural realities of inequality, perhaps

these men and women would have adjusted the way they worded certain statements. But most

were not consciously aware of such a connection until very recently. Why? As difficult as it is

for us to understand now, the rejection of male personal pronouns to represent universal human

reality is not a basic, universal human instinct that has been suppressed. Indeed, it is suppressed

precisely against instinct because it has represented an inhuman treatment of women.

Therefore, we cannot indict past generations for the use of andro-centric language that

is not intrinsically anti-female. To do so would be culturally insensitive. In the same way, we

must not indict past generations for the entire history of antisemitism. Any evaluation of such a

history will find much room for concern without adding the instinctive repulsion of our age.

Other ages and other cultures use language styles, forms of communication, intensities of

debates, rhetorical tools, and political weapons in ways different than we do.

As an exegete, then, with the primary task of understanding an author in his or her

original contexts, one must avoid instinctive reactions that are based on the scholar’s

contemporary context. In terms of antisemitism, the record is plain that Nazi tactics included

justification based upon common stereotypes: a perverted race, deicide, financial usurers, a

people condemned to wander, a people rejected by God. The anti-Christian Nazi extermination

was built upon these stereotypes that were perpetrated within Christendom, and given credence

by Christians like Martin Luther and John Chrysostom. The anti-Jewish realities of a

Christianity in power were based upon the Adversus Iudaeos tradition of the early church

fathers, who were intent on asserting the right of Christianity to exist as a true religion in

opposition to Judaism. These fathers built their arguments upon the heated polemic and

disagreement found within the New Testament. For historians,82 the link is clear: theological

anti-Judaism of the New Testament led to legal or political anti-Judaism of Christendom, which

led to popular anti-Judaism in medieval Europe. With the collapse of Christendom, popular

anti-Judaism formed the basis for the racial antisemitism that led to the Nazi Final Solution.

The bricks of opposition that were formed in the New Testament built the road that led from

the Cross to the death camps of Nazi Germany.

But what if the bricks formed in the New Testament were meant to build a wall of

divide instead of a road of torture? Or, more simply, what if these bricks were to be the

foundation of a great cathedral? Should New Testament authors be responsible for the

interpretation and action of subsequent generations of Christians? The answer is clear: “no.”

Instead, we must be aware of the cultural realities and sensitivities of the generation that

For such a story, see James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2001); Parkes, Antisemitism, 57-73.

produced the material under review. Any judgment of antisemitism or anti-Judaism must be

based upon the realities of the first century context, not the twenty-first century one.

It is on this point that some authors are unclear in their thinking, or choose to be

unclear. One such author is James Carroll, whose Constantine’s Sword is a compassionate and

moving journey of discovery of Christian complicity in Shoah. Carroll understands the

difference between necessary cause (that Christian anti-Judaism was necessary for

eliminationist antisemitism) and sufficient cause (that Christian anti-Judaism was sufficient to

cause eliminationist antisemitism).83 While it is true that Carroll is responding to his own

Church’s culpability for Shoah, and that Carroll thinks it is wrong to place the responsibility for

the Shoah at the foot of the Cross, he still chooses to blur the lines of causality and chooses to

speak of the development of anti-Judaism from the New Testament onward as a “clear

narrative arc.”84 Ruether, who launched in earnest the last generation of Christian theological

soul-searching concerning antisemitism, asserts that there are lines of continuity and

discontinuity between Euro-American antisemitism and NT theological anti-Judaism that make

Christians responsible for the possibility of the latter.85 This misappropriation of causality and

optimism in the anticipation of history does profound damage to historiography, and such

damage is amplified when it is augmented by anachronistic, ethnocentric moral indictment.

By contrast, we must respect the cultural and historical distance between first century

Mediterranean Judaists and ourselves. Both historical and moral evaluations must appreciate

and utilize the conventions of the complex social worlds of the apostle Paul.

Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, 475.
Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, 424.
Ruether, “Old Problems and New Dimensions,” 247.

1.6.3. Inspired Christian Scripture and the Charge of Antisemitism

Entering the exegetical task limiting the theological product of the NT or expecting

Shoah awareness of biblical authors is akin to a third hermeneutical blunder: assuming a priori

that the NT cannot be antisemitic or anti-Judaistic because it is “inspired” literature, because it

is the “Word of God.” If one begins with such an assumption, one is likely to conclude that

indeed there is no antisemitism or anti-Judaism in the Bible. Lloyd Gaston asserts that, “a

Christian church with an antisemitic New Testament is abominable, but a Christian church

without a New Testament in inconceivable.”86 This presupposition, while a true reflection of

the Christian dilemma, limits the possibilities of historical inquiry into the New Testament. For

Gaston, it provides a view of Paul that fits nicely—too nicely perhaps—into the debate.

Potentially, such a limitation could make one naïve to the more difficult realities of the New

Testament text, or, if faced with these realities, could cause one to change the definitions of

antisemitism and anti-Judaism, thus making the NT innocent of all charges.

1.6.4. What Role Does Shoah Play?

As is evident, these presuppositions place inappropriate hermeneutic limitations on the

possibility of our historical inquiry and exegesis of the Christian scriptures. So what role, if any,

can Shoah play in such an inquiry?

I will suggest that there are two watershed moments of shared history that Christians

and Jews must face together: the Jesus-event and the Shoah. It is at each of these points of

history that Christian experience and Jewish experience connect at the most intimate level. That

Christianity is an offspring religion of Judaism, and that the formulators of earliest Christian

thought were, for the most part, Judaists themselves, has meant that reading the NT has always

required an appreciation of the Judaistic people. Clearly, this appreciation has been lacking in
Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1987), 15.

much of Christian history, but the entwining of Jewish oppression and Christian complicity in

the Shoah requires that the original place of the Jew in Christian thought be reassessed. No

longer can cultural stereotypes and surface readings of texts be trusted; they have resulted in

repeated pogroms from the first crusade of 1096 C.E. to the Endlösung of WWII.

Instead, the affront of Shoah provides us with an opportunity to use the question

of the relationship of Christianity to Judaism as a heuristic tool to sharpen our focus in

understanding early Christianity. This relationship of first century Judaistic followers of

Jesus to the non-Christ-believing Judaisms of the day is not a question foreign to the

sources; indeed this very relationship might be one of the shaping features of the NT.

Therefore, in the first place, a post-Shoah reading will focus exegesis to a question that

has existed from the earliest moments in the Jesus story through to this very day.

A second feature of biblical interpretation in the shadow of WWII concentration

camps is our communication of exegetical findings. Although our primary authors could

have no ability to predict the way their views would be understood, we can to the extent

that the last twenty centuries of historical reflection have taught us. We cannot be

innocent of how the human appetite for destruction can use information. Therefore,

Shoah must teach us how to communicate exegetical discoveries in such a way as to

emphasize the cultural distance, but to also offer contemporary ways of grappling with

these first century realities. If, for example, a NT author concluded that the Judaists were

involved in the death of Jesus, it is still incumbent upon the exegete to appreciate the

historical context of the NT author’s understanding, and to push the question further: did

he or she mean, then, that all Jews of all times were responsible for the death of Jesus

Christ? The issue must be pushed because the charge of deicide—“Christ-killers”—in


this case, has been essential to Jewish persecutions at the hands of Christians. What must

be understood, precisely, is how far NT authors contributed to ideas such as these.

Furthermore, it is essential for exegetes to be cautious about universal statements

that are meant for a point and time in history. When an author refers to “the Judaists,”

was he or she meaning the Judaists in the immediate community, the Judaists in

Jerusalem, the Judaists of that generation, the Hebrews and Judaists of history before the

common era, or the Judaists of all time and in all places? The distinction is essential; the

indistinction has been deadly. It is incumbent upon the exegete, therefore, to be vigilant

in interpreting the text in such a way to prevent a resurrection of Judenhaß—“Jew

hatred”—which history has taught us will always lead to indignity, exile, and murder.

1.6.5. Paul and the New Perspective: A Hermeneutical Note

A note needs to be made about the so-called “New Perspective on Paul,” an

approach to reading Paul that has appeared within the last few decades. At its root, the

New Perspective seeks to re-assess Paul’s relationship to Judaism by fundamentally

questioning the Christian understanding of first century Judaism. In one sense this

hermeneutical movement is a critique of Protestant scholarship that has, until recently,

succeeded in situating Paul’s genius squarely within Hellenistic religious thought, and

often in opposition to contemporary Judaistic thought.87 Accompanying this re-

assessment is mistrust in the degree to which Protestant understanding of Paul has been

influenced by Luther and his own context of personal struggle and theological debate.

As if “Judaism” and “Hellenism” were equitable dualities, or in any way dichotomous. See the
essays in Troels Engberg-Pedersen, ed., Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox, 2001): Troels Engberg-Pedersen, “Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide,”
esp. 1-15; Wayne A. Meeks, “Judaism, Hellenism, and the Birth of Christianity,” 17-27; Dale B. Martin,
“Paul and the Judaism/Hellenism Dichotomy: Toward a Social History of the Question,” 29-61; Philip S.
Alexander, “Hellenism and Hellenization as Problematic Historiographical Categories,” 63-80.

This kind of approach recommends itself solely on the basis of a hermeneutical

bias criticizing historical Christian understanding of Judaism, which is also a questioning

of the fundamental relationship of Paul to Judaism. Simply put, the New Perspective on

Paul is asking the right kinds of questions and has the right kind of self-critical bias to

serve as a foundation for this approach to Pauline studies. Although our study is limited

in its scope, and we will not be undertaking an evaluation of Paul’s entire and

theologically complex understanding of Judaism, section 2.1 considers the approach of

the New Perspective and a history of research on Paul and his relationship to Judaism,

and is followed by a biographical assessment of Paul’s relationship to Judaism (2.2), in

order to appreciate Paul in his religio-ethnic88 context. Though we assert that there is

much good in placing Paul within his Judaistic religious-cultural context, we have not

forgotten that Paul was, in all accounts, a Diaspora Jew, who wrote in Greek and carried

his mission to Greco-Roman gentiles. We must, therefore, not forget the influences that

contemporary Greco-Roman culture may have had in the communication of Paul’s

Gospel, and in his choice of rhetorical and epistolary styles. An assessment of Paul’s

social and rhetorical contexts is attempted in chapter 3 (Greco-Roman contexts) and

chapter 4 (specifically Judaistic contexts), before completing an exegesis of 1 Thess 2:14-

16 based on the methodological foundation laid (chapter 5).

By this I mean a group that has religion and ethnicity intimately connected, a theologically
infused ethnicity; see Peter Kivisto, “Ethnicity,” Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, 170-174. Wilson
(“‘Jew,’” 157-171) prefers “religio-cultural.” He argues that about the turn of the eras, “Jew” became a
religio-cultural designation, as opposed to the previous ethno-geographic connotations of the term.



2.1. Paul, Judaism, and the New Perspective: A History of Research

Contemporary Pauline studies have been shaped greatly by Martin Luther and his

subsequent interpreters. For Luther, the doctrine of justification by faith was the crux of

Paul’s theology and the heuristic by which to view New Testament Christianity.1 Luther

argued that humans are completely unable to be saved by works, whether these are works

of their own righteousness or works of the Mosaic Law. Instead, salvation can only come

by faith.2 Luther’s faith-works dichotomy, although strictly speaking in conversation with

the Roman Catholic Church and distinct from Judaism, resulted in an anachronistic

reading of Judaism that essentially blurred the lines between the two historical religions.3

Luther’s reading of Paul, and consequentially his reading of Judaism, became the

standard view of Pauline interpreters for much of Protestant history.

In the nineteenth century, F. C. Baur set in earnest the question of the religious

background of Paul’s theology. Though Baur challenged Luther’s dichotomy of Gospel

“For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost,” Luther, Works,
26:9. See also 26:106; 26:283; and 27:146-9 (echoes 1 Thess 2:14-16). For an analysis of Luther’s theology
in light of contemporary Pauline studies, followed here, see Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the
Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 1-12; cf. Perspectives
Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 3-258. See
also Francis Watson (Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles [SNTSMS 56; Cambridge University, 1986], esp. 1-
21) whose study represents a direct antithesis to the Lutheran approach to Paul, arguing that Paul’s
theological doctrines are not really theological foundations for Paul, but sociological necessities.
Luther, Works, 26:208, 222.
E.g., see Luther, Work, 26:52-53, 150. Cf. Luther’s use of 1 Thess 2:16, “God’s wrath has come
upon it/them at last,” as support for the idea that Rome will never reform, Works, 50:184; 41:147-148.

and law,4 he largely accepted the common view of Luther regarding Judaists and

Judaism, and argued that Paul developed his theology in contradistinction to the early

Judaistic Christian community.5 Discussions following Baur focussed on the question of

the relationship between Paul and Jesus,6 and the religious background of Paul. W.

Wrede, who followed Baur by further separating Paul from Jesus in terms of theology,

also followed Baur, significantly, in questioning Luther’s reading of Paul’s theology,

particularly on the question of justification by faith.7

As the dominant figure in early twentieth century NT Studies, Bultmann entered

into the conversations of Baur, Wrede, and many others trying to appreciate Paul’s

theological influences. For the foundation of his mammoth influence in NT studies on the

relationship of Paul and Judaism, however, Bultmann drew from a stream of scholars

engaged in a different conversation. In 1880, Ferdinand Weber's systematic treatment of

Judaism8 provided a wealth of Judaistic materials neatly arranged to show Judaism

according to traditional Christian stereotypes—as a religion of legalistic works-

righteousness, weighing sin and good works before a transcendent, inaccessible God—of

which Paul’s religion was the antithesis. Wilhelm Bousset was influenced by Weber, and

See discussion of Baur’s response to Luther in Veronica Koperski, What Are They Saying About
Paul and the Law? (New York: Paulist Press, 2001), 2-3.
Ferdinand Christian Baur, Paul, 1:v.
For an excellent study of the development of this question in the period up until Bultmann, see
Victor Paul Furnish, “The Jesus-Paul Debate: From Baur to Bultmann,” in Paul and Jesus: Collected
Essays (JSOTSup 37; ed. A. J. M. Wedderburn; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989) 17-50.
Significantly, “the soul-strivings of Luther have stood as model for the portrait of Paul,” W.
Wrede, Paul (trans. Edward Lummis; London: Philip Green, 1907), 146. Wrede was no innovator in
arguing that Paul rejected the law (p. 145), and uncritically accepts the consensus view of Judaism, but he
did ask interesting and new questions about the relationship of Paul to his Judaistic background: “Paul had
a theology already when he became a Christian. He was naturally unable to fling it away like a worn out
cloak. The new way of regarding things which his conversion brought might indeed recast the old, but must
necessarily take up a good part of it into itself” (p. 138).
Ferdinand Weber, Judische Theologie: auf Grund des Talmud und verwandter Schriften
(Leipzig: Dvrffling & Franke, 1897).

Bultmann followed Bousset’s Judaistic understanding and Pauline counter-thesis, thus

solidifying Weber’s view of Paul and Judaism for subsequent scholars.9

The aforementioned scholars were not without challengers, although their

counter-influence was suspended until the last half of the twentieth century. Jewish

scholar C. G. Montefiore responded to Weber, arguing that he was not sufficiently

sensitive to what Judaism was saying of itself, and that Weber was inappropriately

dependent upon Paul for his analysis of Judaism. Montefiore painted a picture of

Rabbinic Judaism that was significantly more positive than the picture that either the

apostle Paul or Weber had drawn.10 A second scholar supported Montefiore’s critique of

Weber and went further. George Foot Moore, in “Christian Writers on Judaism,”

demonstrated that Bousset was merely derivative of Weber, and Weber had little first-

hand knowledge of Judaism or the Jewish sources. Furthermore, Moore argues that the

inquiry of Bousset was so inadequate that, “it was not Judaism as a religion, but Judaism

as the background, environment, source, and foil of nascent Christianity that he had in

mind.”11 Moore argued that it was contemporary and ancient polemic that led to an image

of Judaism as legalistic and the antithesis of Pauline Christianity.12

It was only logical that if Paul’s thought was the opposite of contemporary

Judaism, then Paul’s theological background was non-Jewish. It became axiomatic, with

See E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 33-59; G. F.
Moore, “Christian Writers on Judaism,” HTR 14 (1921): 242-245. Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: A
History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus (trans. John E. Steely; 5th ed.;
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970). See also idem, Die religion des Judentism im neutestamentlichen
Zeitalter (Berlin: Reuther and Reichard, 1903, 1906), reviewed by Moore, “Christian Writers,” 242-245.
Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul. Monetfiore’s picture of Paul’s pre-Christian Judaism is, an
assumption, but based upon comparison with Rabbinic Judaism (see esp. pp. 126-127). Sanders (Paul and
Palestinian Judaism, 4) points out with irony that Montefiore accepted Weber’s presentation of Paul’s
understanding of Judaism. Montefiore suggested that Paul’s Judaism must have been Hellenistic.
Moore, “Christian Writers,” 245.
Moore, “Christian Writers,” 1. Moore seems to use the term to refer to an anti-Jewish bias that
serves to help pro-Christian propoganda. We define “polemic” as we use it in section 3.3.

no little thanks to Bousset13 and Bultmann,14 and the discussion stream of Baur and

Wrede, that Paul’s Christology came from Hellenistic sources rather than Judaistic ones.

There were some dissenters to this conclusion. Most significant of early detractors,

perhaps, was Albert Schweitzer. His The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle boldly declared

that, “the Hellenization of Christianity does not come in with Paul, but only after him.”15

According to Schweitzer, Paul’s theological background and framework can be explained

entirely by his Jewish eschatological background.16

Despite these critiques, the Weber-Bousset-Bultmann image of a legalistic

Judaism antithetical to Paul’s grace-filled Christianity persisted. It was a generation after

Bultmann before significant critique of the Weberian model succeeded. Pre-eminent in

critique was W. D. Davies, with his modestly named yet monumental Paul and Rabbinic

Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology. While he rejected Schweitzer’s

apocalyptic-mystical Paul, Davies followed Schweitzer in attempting “to reveal how,

despite his Apostleship to the gentiles, he remained, as far as was possible, a Hebrew of

the Hebrews, and baptized his Rabbinic heritage into Christ.”17 Davies followed

Montefiore’s argument about Judaism, but argued that Paul belonged not to a form of

Hellenistic Judaism, but to the “main stream of first-century [Rabbinic] Judaism.”18

See Bousset, Kyrios, esp. 153-210.
See, for example, Rudolph Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting (trans.
R. H. Fuller; New York: Living Age Books, 1956).
Albert Schweitzer. The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (2d ed.; trans. William Montgomery;
London: A&C Black, 1953), viii.
J. Gresham Machen’s critique of Bousset also appealed to Paul’s Judaistic background for an
understanding of his theology, see The Origin of Paul’s Religion (New York: MacMillan, 1925). On a more
popular level, T. R. Glover presented a view of Paul that appreciated his Greco-Roman context, while not
ignoring or polemicizing his Judaistic background, Glover, Paul of Tarsus (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson,
2002; repr. London: Student Christian Movement, 1925).
W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology, (rev.
ed.; New York: Harper & Row, 1948, 1955, 1967), xvi.
Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 1.

It was W. G. Kümmel’s doubt of the autobiographical nature of Paul’s discourse

in Romans 719 that formed the foundation of Krister Stendahl’s historical deconstruction

of Paul in his revolutionary essay, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of

the West.”20 In this essay, and in the essay “Paul Among the Jews,”21 Paul ceases to be

the troubled Western Christian struggling to work out his own salvation in the face of an

oppressive Jewish legalistic system. Rather, Paul has a “robust conscience,” and Stendahl

critiques using Luther’s struggles as a lens for reading Paul. Stendahl’s sensitivity to

Jewish-Christian dialogue and creativity in asking questions about Paul made his work

seminal in key areas of Pauline studies, including the issue of Paul’s conversion or

prophetic calling, the question of the centrality of justification by faith, and a critique of

contemporary understanding of Paul’s view of Judaism.

While there were others at the time thinking in new ways about Paul and

Judaism,22 there is perhaps no way to overestimate the impact of E. P. Sanders’

monograph, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, published in 1977.23 Sanders critiques the

W. G. Kümmel, Römer 7 und die Bekehrung des Paulus (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1929). Martin
Dibelius and Werner Georg Kümmel, in a monograph simply entitled, Paul, argued that, “Paul’s work
broke open the Jewish framework in which primitive Christianity set before him had been confined, and
opened the way to winning the non-Jewish world” (Paul, [Edited and completed by Werner Georg
Kümmel; trans. Frank Clarke; Toronto: Longmans, Green & Co., 1953], 1).
K. Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” HTR 56 (1963):
199–215. Reprinted in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 78-96.
K. Stendahl, “Paul Among Jews and Gentiles,” in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1976), 1-77.
In the midst of this post-Bultmannian re-imagining, H. J. Schoeps entered the discussion with a
critique of popular understandings of Judaism (including Montefiore) and a critique of Paul himself (Paul:
the Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History [Philadelphia: Westminster Press,
1961]). Paul was thoroughly Judaistic in his theology (except in Christology and covenant ideas, see p.
149), and drew from Judaism themes of atonement, suffering servant ideology, and images of vicarious
suffering.. Joachim Jeremias’ work was not simply a recapitulation of Christian stereotypes, Jerusalem in
the Time of Jesus: An Investigation into Economic and Social Conditions during the New Testament Period
(trans. F. H. and C. H. Cave; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969). Ernst Käsemann in his Perspectives on Paul
(trans. Margaret Kohl; London: SCM Press, 1969) and his Commentary on Romans (trans. and ed. G.
Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), was also critical of Bultmann and influenced by Schweitzer.
For a refinement of his understanding of Paul, see E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish
People (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983).

traditional Protestant presentation of Judaism as a religion of legalistic works-

righteousness, and argues based on Tannaitic and Second Temple literature that Judaism

is, by contrast, a religion of “covenantal nomism.”24 According to Sanders, obedience to

the Mosaic Law is the Jewish response to God’s grace in election. Torah-keeping is an

issue of covenant maintenance (“staying in”), while God’s election into the covenant is

by grace (“getting in”). After surveying Palestinian Jewish literature, Sanders compares

Rabbinic Judaism with Paul’s religion to see if they are the same type of religion. While

Paul has much in common with Rabbinic Judaism (a grace-based covenant with ethical

responsibilities for covenant maintenance), “covenantal nomism” does not capture the

participationistic realities of Paul’s soteriology. Sanders comments on the difference:

The heart of Paul’s thought is not that one ratifies and agrees to a covenant
offered by God, becoming a member of a group with a covenantal relation with
God and remaining in it on the condition of proper behaviour; but that one dies
with Christ, obtaining new life and the initial transformation which leads to the
resurrection and ultimate transformation, that one is a member of the body of
Christ and one Spirit with him, and that one remains so unless one breaks the
participatory union by forming another.25

This distinction remains even though Paul is in concord with Palestinian Judaism on the

question of grace and works. On the issue of “righteousness,” the term in Rabbinic

Judaism is one of “maintenance of status,” whereas in Paul it is a “transfer term.”26 It is

in this difference of the meaning of “righteousness,” as well as differences in the meaning

Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 422-3.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 514.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 544. The dikai- cluster of words in Paul has become of
interest in the last few decades, asking new questions about the relationship of “righteousness” and
“justification” in Paul. See esp. J. A. Ziesler, The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul: A Linguistic and
Theological Inquiry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972). See a presentation of the debate and
bibliography from a more traditional approach: P. T. O’Brien, “Justification in Paul and Some Crucial
Issues of the Last Two Decades,” in Right With God: Justification in the Bible and the World, ed. D. A.
Carson (London: Paternoster Press, 1992); Peter Stuhlmacher and Donald Hagner, Revisiting Paul's
Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001).

of sin, the nature of repentance, and the importance of conversion for membership, that

are Paul’s disagreement with Judaism. Contrary to nineteenth and twentieth century

Christians scholars, it is not the “Lutheran” dichotomy of grace and works.

Since Sanders, the literature on Paul and his relationship to Judaism has

proliferated, and it is impossible to follow all the discussion threads in a brief overview,

so I will mention only a few as a sample of various positions and key figures. James

Dunn was one of the first to take up Sanders’ study in earnest, and appropriately was also

the first to coin the term, “New Perspective on Paul.”27 Dunn’s contribution is important,

not least because he produced an important commentary on Romans28 and a study of

Pauline theology29 that displays his work within the New Perspective and attempts the re-

evaluation of Paul’s theology that Sanders began. Dunn’s criticism of Sanders comes

mainly in the relationship of Paul to the Judaism he leaves behind.

There remains something very odd in Paul’s attitude to his ancestral faith
[according to Sanders’ picture]. The Lutheran Paul has been replaced by an
idiosyncratic Paul who in arbitrary and irrational manner turns his face against the
glory and greatness of Judaism’s covenant theology and abandons Judaism simply
because it is not Christianity.30

Dunn’s most significant contribution to the discussion is his definition of the Pauline

phrase, “works of the Law,” as covenant boundary markers like Sabbath-keeping,

Dunn first spoke the term in his essay of the same title in 1982 at the Manson Memorial Lecture
at the University of Manchester. The essay was reprinted in Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and
Galatians (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), 183-206.
James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC 38A; Dallas: Word Books, 1988) and Romans 9-16
(WBC 38B; Dallas: Word Books, 1988).
James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). There
have been relatively few full-scale theological works within the New Perspective. For one in conversation
with Barthian non-foundationalists, comes from Douglas Harink, Paul Among the Postliberals: Pauline
Theology Beyond Christendom and Modernity (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003). Harink largely follows
James Dunn, E. P. Sanders, and Terry Donaldson, but offers significant critique of N.T. Wright. Wright’s
Pauline Theology is forthcoming in his “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series.
Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 187.

circumcision, and food laws. According to Dunn, the issue for Paul is not works versus

faith, but justification by faith as Christ fulfilling the law versus justification coming from

the badges that indicated national covenant. For Dunn, Paul does not disparage

covenantal monotheism; he does not reject the covenant; Paul simply no longer supports

a nationalistic/racial view of the covenant: “What he is concerned to exclude is the racial

not the ritual expression of faith; it is nationalism which he denies not activism.”31

Most authors in the conversation on Paul and Judaism in the last two decades

represent a reaction to or a departure from the work of Sanders and Dunn. Heiki Räisänen

followed Sanders in rejecting a Bultmannian Paul and Judaism, but argued that Paul is

essentially inconsistent in his view of the Law.32 N. T. Wright argued that Paul

formulates a new understanding of Christology and covenant by including Jesus Christ in

the Christian understanding of God and by understanding the death and resurrection of

Jesus as the climactic point of covenant history.33 Rabbi Pinchas Lapide essentially

agreed with Paul’s assessment of Judaism, and argued that:

Whoever looks at all of Paul’s work through Jewish eyes, . . . and whoever
reads him neither through the eyes of Augustine nor the spectacles of Martin
Luther, but wants to read and understand him as a Jew—the way he himself
wanted to be understood, as a Jew and a seeker after truth—knows that . . . Paul
remained a Jewish romantic throughout his life; a Jew who believed that by his
messianic faith he was deepening and fulfilling his birthright as a Jew.34

Terry Donaldson argued that the pre-Christian Paul was a Judaistic evangelist believing

that gentiles must become full members of Abraham’s family through a Torah-based

Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, 198; emphasis original.
See Heiki Räisänen, Paul and the Law (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986).
See N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). For a popular discussion, see his What Saint Paul Really Said: Was
Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997). For a picture of Second
Temple Judaism, see Wright, NT and the People of God, 145-338.
P. Lapide and P. Stuhlmacher, Paul: Rabbi and Apostle (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 47.

conversion. In the “Damascus Road” experience, Paul continued to strive toward

including gentiles in Abraham’s family, but the conversion was based upon belief in

Christ and no longer based upon Torah identity boundaries.35

Based on the New Perspective discussion, some less mainstream theses have been

presented. Gaston, for example, argued that Paul’s dispute with “the Judaizers” in

Galatians was principally a gentile problem, not an issue with Judaism. Gaston’s

exegetical work has been important to those following a “two-covenant” approach to Paul

and Judaism, maintaining that Paul was presenting a way for gentiles, not Judaists. Paul’s

only argument against Judaists is that gentiles have a right to be considered part of the

people of God.36 By contrast, Rabbi Daniel Boyarin concludes that Paul is a Judaist, but

also a “radical” critic of Judaism. Paul is arguing that, “the ultimate inadequacy of the

Law stems from its ethnic exclusiveness, from the fact that it represents the practices of

the Tribe of Israel, and therefore is unsuitable as a way of life and of salvation for the

Universal Humanity which Paul seeks to institute.”37 For Paul, equality, his chief

concern, means sameness, and thus Paul exterminates any cultural distinction for Jews.

There have also been some voices of resistance to the movement championed by

Dunn, Sanders, Wright, et al. Stephen Westerholm, whose Israel’s Law and the Church’s

Faith is a benchmark in Paul and Judaism studies,38 accepts many of the corrections that

Sanders brought to the discussion, but argues for an essentially traditional Protestant

See Terrence L. Donaldson, Paul and the Gentiles: Remapping the Apostle’s Convictional
World (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997). For a summary of his thesis, see Donaldson, “Israelite, Convert,
Apostle to the Gentiles: The Origin of Paul’s Gentile Mission,” in The Road from Damascus: The Impact of
Paul’s Conversion on His Life, Thought, and Ministry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 62-84.
See Gaston, Paul and the Torah.
Boyarin, “Was Paul an ‘Anti-Semite’?,” 47-8. See also Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul
and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). And no doubt his new book will become a benchmark, Perspectives Old
and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

understanding of Paul’s relationship to and understanding of Judaism. Westerholm argues

that Judaism has the Mosaic Law as a path to life, and thus it acts as a kind of works-

salvation. According to Paul, the Law is insufficient because God intended from the

beginning that real life would come through Christ. In the same stream of caution, Peter

Stuhlmacher and Donald Hagner challenge the New Perspective on its de-centralization

and redefinition of Justification by Faith in Paul.39 Seyoon Kim’s recent book, Paul and

the New Perspective, includes a scathing redress to the key proponents of the New

Perspective, and particularly James Dunn. Kim’s concern, however, is chiefly that

Justification by Faith becomes a reactionary doctrine in the New Perspective, and not an

aspect of his “Damascus Road” experience.40 Andrew Das also offers a recent critique of

the New Perspective’s view of Judaism and view of Paul, but suggests he is offering a

“newer perspective” by bringing together a picture of Paul that, although it is much like

the traditional Lutheran one, aims to be clearer on exegetical and historical grounds.41

The relationship of Paul and Judaism remains a lively debate that will continue

for some time. In my own reading of the literature, I have found many creative

hypotheses to explain Paul’s sometimes enigmatic relationship to Judaism, but none that

Stuhlmacher and Hagner, Revisiting Paul's Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New
Perspective; Guy Prentiss Waters, Justification and the New Perspective on Paul: A Review and Response
(Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2004). I am not convinced that the New Perspective must result in the
complete revision of the doctrine of justification. Rather, the new historical understanding can augment the
historical understanding of Pauline justification by faith. The nature of first century Judaism and the
theology of Paul remain distinct questions with influence but not a priori determinacy one upon the other.
See Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul's
Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), esp. ch. 1.
See esp. A. Andrew Das, “Beyond Covenantal Nomism: Paul, Judaism, and Perfect Obedience,”
Concordia Journal 27 (July 2001) 234-252. This article is a summary of Das, Paul, the Law, and the
Covenant (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2001). A further monograph by Das focussing on the relationship
of Paul to Judaism is Paul and the Jews (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2003). It is difficult to know in
what precise way Das is offering a “newer perspective,” since it is, after all, an older one. Das’ contribution
is offering good exegetical work with which to draw theological and sociological threads together. See my
review of A. Andrew Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant. ATJ 37 (2005): forthcoming. For another
response to the New Perspective that is critical and deals with Romans is Simon J. Gathercole, Where is
Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1-5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).

have included all of the data—Pauline or otherwise. What is essential for us as a

methodological starting point is that the New Perspective has the necessary kind of self-

critical bias concerning the reading of the nature of Judaism, and is asking the same

essential question as we are asking: what is Paul’s understanding of and relationship to

Judaism? While we may differ in the precise approximation of the nature of Second

Temple Judaism or Pauline theology, the New Perspective offers fertile ground for the

kinds of questions we are asking about Paul’s background and religious conversations.

2.2. Paul’s Personal Narrative

Of the many debated details of Paul’s life, there is consensus on three issues: Paul

was a religio-ethnic Judaist,42 as part of his religious faith he persecuted the church to

some degree, and at some point he encountered Christ in a life-transforming way.

2.2.1. Paul, the Judaistic Oppressor

Of the autobiographical and biographical notes of Paul in the New Testament

none is more confirmed than the image of Paul as Judaistic persecutor of the Jesus

movement. Paul candidly declares in 1 Cor 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles, who does

not deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” In both Gal

1:13-14 and Phil 3:5-6, Paul lists persecution of the church as an indication of his own

Judaistic zeal. It is these passages that confirm Paul’s pre-“Damascus Road” Judaistic

commitments, going so far as to call himself “the greatest of Hebrews” (Phil 3:5),43 a

If the “history” of Epiphanius of Salamis can be trusted, the Ebionites taught that Paul was born
a pagan Greek, not a Hebrew, and proselytized to Judaism (Pan. 30.16.6-9). Hyam Maccoby (The
Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986], 17-18; 172-183)
concludes with the Ebionites (or Epiphanius’ assessment of the Ebionites) that Paul was not a real Judaist.
Assuming the superlative genitive use, see Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Conner, An Introduction
to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 154. An ironic comparison of this use
exists in 1 Sam 9:21, where Paul’s namesake, King Saul, says, “I am a Benjaminite, from the least of the
tribes of Israel (la@r`c=y] yf@b=v! yN}f^Q~m)! .” The superlative genitive is a debated category in the NT; other
examples may be Rev 19:16 and Heb 9:3, both of which also have cognate lexemes. See Daniel B.

Benjaminite par excellence and by birth, with a zealous Pharisaic commitment to the

Mosaic Law that caused him to be a head above the rest of his peers in “Judaism.”

To what degree Paul was a persecutor is a matter of debate, though he clearly felt

it was a part of his religious expression. Paul gives no firsthand details as to the extent of

his persecution of the church, except that he did it intensely,44 to the point of trying to

destroy it (Gal 1:13). The images of Paul as persecutor in Acts have traditionally filled

Paul’s confessions with detail and degree. Acts 8:1-3 suggests that then Saul approved of

Stephen’s mob killing, and that he was part of a persecution by going from home to

home, “harassing” (lumaivnomai) and arresting Christ-believers. By the voice of Paul in

Acts 22:4-5, he describes with poignant detail his activities: “[I] persecuted this way to

the point of death, binding and delivering into prison both men and women, as also the

chief priest can testify for me, and all the elders, from whom also I received letters to the

brothers in Damascas. . . so that those who had been bound there might be punished.”

Again in Paul’s voice: “Many of the saints I both shut up in prison—having received

authority from the chief priests—and I voted for having them killed” (Acts 26:10).

According to our described method, Acts is a secondary source, so Luke’s image

of Paul is considered as such. Although the degree of Paul’s oppression is not essential to

Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids:
Zondervan, 1996), 103. It is possible that Paul is making merely a linguistic claim, (“Paul can be simple
and direct, but when he soars, it is into another region of beauty than Plato knew, and with wings uneven. A
bilingual man pays for his gifts, and the Semite who thinks in Greek never quite forgets Jerusalem and the
speech of Canaan; his genitives accumulate, his threads break, and it is in losing his way that he arrives,”
Glover, Paul of Tarsus, 1.), or that he is a Hebrew from Hebrews, i.e., a son of Hebrew parents. See Gerald
F. Hawthorne, Philippians, WBC 43, rev. by Ralph P. Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 185-186.
Paul confirms in Gal 2:15 that he is a Judaist by birth.
The term, “intensely,” is chosen by Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (WBC 41; Dallas,
Texas: Word Books, 1990), 27. Paul’s hyperbolic (uJperbolhv) language tells us simply that Paul did what
he did (persecution) to the extreme, and the translation “violently” (NRSV) can only be inferred from
Paul’s use of diwvkw. Naturally, both diwvkw and porqevw have violent connotations, the latter having within
its semantic range a conative meaning through to the image of the sacking of cities.

determine, what is striking is that the details of Paul’s persecuting fit well behind Paul’s

own comments in his letters,45 even if there are some questions about Paul’s role in the

Jerusalem Judaistic leadership community and the Sanhedrin’s ability to arrest, prosecute,

and execute in Jerusalem and cities as far away as Damascus.46

2.2.2. Paul on the “Damascus Road”

Traditionally, the moment Paul receives the revelation of Christ that he relayed in

Galatians 1 is connected with the story of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus in

Acts 9. It is in this “Damascus Road” experience, while Paul was persecuting the church

that a keystone moment in history occurred.47 There are two significant contemporary

debates rooted in Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience: the degree and manner in which

the experience shaped Paul’s mission and theology, and the question of whether Paul was

“converted” or “called.” While the first discussion is an important part of Pauline

studies,48 the second discussion is essential to the question of Paul and his relationship to

Judaism from the perspective of our social and rhetorical inquiry.

See 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13-23; Phil 3:6. An image confirmed by 1 Tim 2:12-13, where Paul is a
blasphemer, persecutor (as a noun, unique in the NT), and an insolent person (uJbristhv", cf. Rom 1:30)
who acted ignorantly in unbelief.
See Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 65-70.
While Acts remains a secondary source, there is no sufficient reason to doubt that Paul was in
the midst of persecuting when he had the Christ encounter, since Paul consistently includes the detail in his
autobiographical moments (i.e., Gal 1:13-16). Knox, however, is not so sympathetic. Using Gal 1:22-23 as
evidence that Paul could not have been a persecutor in Jerusalem, he (Chapters, 34-36) concludes that Paul
lived in Damascus, and Luke’s accounts must be rejected outright. Granted, there is a certain allure for
scholars of Luke’s mythic “Damascus Road” experience that must be critically resisted. Concentrating on
the major points, however, the images of Paul and Luke come into focus: both Paul and Luke tell of a man
engaged with the Jesus movement in an oppressive, zealous manner, as a reflection of his religion, and both
tell of a man dramatically changed by an encounter with the risen Christ. And in both images, the man
becomes a missionary to the nations. The account in Acts 9 as a whole is complimentary to the picture in
Paul’s letters, and we use the term “Damascus Road” as a symbolic representation of the event.
E.g., see Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (WUNT 2.4; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul
Siebeck], 1981). Responded to by James D. G. Dunn, “‘A Light to the Gentiles’: The Significance of the
Damascus Road Christophany for Paul,” in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament, ed. L. D. Hurst and
N. T. Wright (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 251-266. In turn responded to by Kim, Paul and the New
Perspective, esp. 1-84. See also Richard N. Longenecker, ed., The Road From Damascus: The Impact of
53 Conversion to Christianity or Prophetic Call?

Through to the latter part of the last century, the “Damascus Road” experience

was equated with Paul’s “conversion.” As mentioned above in the survey of literature on

Paul’s relationship with Judaism, Kümmel doubted that Romans 7 represented Paul’s

autobiographical struggle from Judaism to Christianity.49 Reflecting on Kümmel’s

epochal doubt, Stendahl questioned whether “call” might be a better description for Paul

than “conversion.”50 Stendahl argued that there was more continuity than discontinuity

before and after the “Damascus Road” episode. Instead, Paul’s experience described in

Galatians seems more like a prophetic calling similar to Isa 49:1 or Jer 1:5. Even Acts has

the call sense: “my chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15), and “appointed to know, to see, to be

a witness” (Acts 22:14-15). The call was about a new understanding of mission, not a

conversion in the typical sense from one God to another.

Beverly Gaventa declared that, “the Apostle Paul might well be history’s most

famous convert,”51 so this new view of Paul came not without incident. In conversion

theory52 one must always ask, “from what to what?” For our purposes, “Did Paul convert

from Judaism to Christianity?” Few in the larger debate on the question would reduce

Paul’s Conversion on His Life, Thought, and Ministry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), esp. the essay and
bibliography by Bruce Corley, “Interpreting Paul’s Conversion—Then and Now,” 1-17.
Kümmel, Römer 7.
Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, 7-23.
Beverly Gaventa, From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 17. In the draft stage of this project, Mary Hynes, the host of the CBC
Radio program, Tapestry, used Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience as the ideal for all conversions.
See for example, Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1993), 1-20; including an extensive bibliography on conversion, 209-234. By Rambo’s
definition of authentic conversion, it is unclear whether calling Paul’s experience a conversion seems
appropriate, “a total transformation of the person by the power of God,” (p. xii). While Paul’s
transformation is dramatic, is it total? Rambo thinks so (p. 1). See also Ronald D. Witherup, Conversion in
the New Testament (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1994), 57-99. Richard V. Peace (Conversion
in the New Testament: Paul and the Twelve [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999]) describes Paul’s conversion,
but defines it not in the sense of changing religions, but as “turning,” Heb. bWv. “Conversion” is admittedly
not a term Paul would have used, and we use it only heuristically.

Paul’s experience to this question alone, but that is the nature of our inquiry, and that was

the nature of Stendahl’s protest. The discussion will continue for some time;53 I propose

that the dichotomy represented in the debate is neither absolute nor particularly helpful.

By his own account, Paul went from a zealous,54 Pharisaic Judaist to a follower of

a crucified Messiah and apostle to the gentiles who could be considered no less zealous in

his Christ mission: “But when [God]—the one who set me apart from my mother’s womb

and called [me] through his grace to reveal his son in me so that I could evangelize him

among the gentiles—was pleased, immediately . . . I went to Arabia” (Gal 1:15-17). As

Stendahl rightly noted, there is some affinity in this account with the calling accounts in

Jeremiah and Isaiah. Note the linguistic parallels between the accounts:

Gal 1:15-16 (GNT) Isa 49:1 (LXX) Isa 49:6b (LXX) Jer 1:5 (LXX)
oJ ajforivsa" me prosevcete mevga soiv ejstin proV tou' me
ejk koiliva" mhtrov" e[qnh tou' klhqh'naiv plavsai se
mou diaV crovnou se pai'dav mou . . . ejn koiliva/
kaiV pollou' sthvsetai ejpistrevyai ijdouV ejpivstamaiv se kaiV
kalevsa", . . . levgei kuvrio" tevqeikav proV tou' se
i{na eujaggelivzwmai ejk koiliva" mhtrov" se eij" diaqhvkhn ejxelqei'n
aujtoVn mou gevnou" ejk mhvtra"
ejn toi'" e[qnesin ejkavlesen eij" fw'" ejqnw'n hJgivakav se
toV o[nomav mou tou' ei\naiv se eij" profhvthn
swthrivan e{w" eij" e[qnh
ejscavtou th'" gh'" tevqeikav se

There are striking parallels of mother’s womb language, such that Paul’s words are a

precise reproduction of Isa 49:1, and the image of God calling from the womb seems to

See the excellent article by Larry W. Hurtado, “Convert, apostate or apostle to the nations: The
‘conversion’ of Paul in recent scholarship,” SR 22 (1993): 273-84. See also Kim, Origin, 1-66; Paula
Fredriksen, “Paul and Augustine: Conversion Narratives, Orthodox Tradition, and the Retrospective Self,”
JTS 37 (1986): 1-34; Alan Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostalate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee
(New Haven: Yale University Pres, 1990); for a view similar to our own reading of Paul’s prophetic self-
understanding, though with more emphasis on the early Christian prophetic community, see Karl Olav
Sandnes, Paul—One of the Prophets? (WUNT 2.43; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1991).
In response to this chapter, Nikola Galevski noted that Paul’s use of “zeal” is indicative of a
prophetic vocation in his pre-Christ life, and explains the extent to which Paul sought to persecute.

have been a common literary motif that Paul was able to draw from. In both Gal 1:15 and

Isa 49:1, kalevw follows ejk koiliva" mhtrov" mou to speak of God calling the individual

to the task. In 49:6 kalevw is used to refer to the calling of the servant, and tivqhmi,

“setting apart,” is introduced. In Jer 1:5, the womb language is made more intimate, and

the use of tivqhmi, being set apart, is repeated and augmented with “I consecrated you as a

prophet,” a direct translation of the Hebrew (ayb!n` ;yT!v=D~q+h)! . Although the “calling”

language is not exactly the same in Jeremiah, what is the same is the interest in the

nations, the gentiles (e!qna, a precise translation of <y]oG, a word that represents both the

concept of “nations” and the stereotypical use of “gentiles”). In all three LXX passages

cited above, the prophetic calling was with interest to the nations, which is repeated in

Gal 1:15-16 and consistently in Paul (Gal 2:7-8; Rom 1:5, 13; 15:8-17; cf. Gal 2:2).

Besides the image of the prophet being called/set apart from the womb to go to

the nations, within Paul’s language in his epistles there may be two more connections

with the prophetic call: “sending” and “evangelizing.” We have a hint in Rom 1:1-5 of

Paul’s prophetic literary motif:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called (klhVto") as an apostle (ajpovstelo"),

and set apart (fr. ajfwrivzw, cf. Gal 1:15) for the gospel of God (eujaggevlion
qeou')—the gospel which [he] promised ahead of time through his prophets in the
holy scriptures. Through [Christ] we received grace and apostleship (ajpostolhVn)
for obedience of faith among the nations (Rom 1:1-2, 5).

Not only is there a repetition of Paul’s mission as a sense of call (kalevw), but two other

cognate groups are introduced in this passage that have specific Isaianic connections.

First, “apostle” is a cognate noun of ajpostevllw, “to send,” and there may be a

play on words in Paul.55 In Jeremiah, YHWH is the one who “sends,”56 and ajpostevllw

is usually used to speak of God sending true prophets and not sending false prophets.57 A

particularly poignant play on the idea of “sending” is recorded in Jeremiah 50 (LXX; MT

Jer 43): Jeremiah speaks all the words YHWH sent to the people (v. 1), but they accuse

Jeremiah of not being sent from YHWH (v. 2) because of ulterior motives (v. 3).

Jeremiah goes away, and the word of YHWH comes to him (v. 8). He is commanded to

declare that YHWH will send his servant, Nebuchadnezzer, to displace them (v. 10).

Isaiah too uses images of God as sender (Isa 9:7; 10:6, 16; 19:20; 48:16, YHWH’s

Spirit; 58:6), but there are two passages that are important when looking at the prophetic

background of Paul. Isaiah 6 records the call of Isaiah, and 6:8 uses ajpostevllw in an

economic, yet powerful exchange: “and I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘who may I

send (ajposteivlw), and who will go to this people?’ And I said, ‘Look at me—me!—send

(ajpovsteilovn) me.’”58 Isaiah 60:1 repeats the sending motif: “The Spirit of the Lord is

upon me. He anointed me to evangelize (eujaggelivsasqai) the poor; he sent

(ajpevstalkevn) me to heal those who are heart broken; to proclaim the release of captives

and the recovery of sight for the blind.” This covenant renewal chapter begins with the

I stress that this is a play on words in possibility; the development of the phenomenon of
“apostle” in early Christian origins is unknown. There are some indications that it came from the verb;
others suggest from the Hebrew jyl?, which was a rabbinic term for the Judaistic institution of “sent-
men.” It may be that apostle as “messenger” was common in Greco-Roman vernacular. See the survey in F.
Agnew, “Origin of the Term Apostolos,” CBQ 38 (1976): 49-53.
See LXX Jer 16:16; 24:10; 25:9; 31:12; 32:15-27; 36:31; 49:5-6; 50:10 for God sending other
than prophets. There may be wordplay in Jeremiah, for King Zedekiah begins doing the sending until
YHWH pronounces judgment on him, see ch. 44.
See LXX Jer 7:25; 14:14-15; 23:32, 38; 25:4; 33:5; 34:15-16; 35:9, 15; 36:9; 42:15; 51:4; of
Jeremiah himself, see 19:15; 33:12-15; 43:1-2; 49:20-21.
The Hebrew, while inspiring the emphasis of “me” in the LXX, is one step less emphatic. Also,
in the MT, the Lord asks, “who will go for us?”

image of one being anointed and sent to do the work of God, which will lead to the point

where righteousness and joyful worship will rise up before the nations (60:11).

Second, in Isa 60:1, there is a another motif that is at play in Paul’s sense of

prophetic call, which is also evidenced in the second cognate group introduced in Rom

1:1-5: “evangelizing.” Paul frequently (at least 48 undisputed occurrences) uses the noun,

“gospel,” to describe the content and reality of his mission of bringing Christ to the

nations. Paul’s use of the verb is less frequent (only 15 times), but his use seems to come

out of his immersion in the prophets. Four times in Deutero-Isaiah eujaggelivzw is used

(40:9; 60:6; 61:1; 52:7; on the latter, cf. LXX Nah 2:1), each one of them proclaiming the

good tidings of God’s coming activity.59

Our suspicion that Paul has been drawing from these prophetic images to define

his own vocation is confirmed in Rom 10:13-16:

For everyone who calls upon (ejpikalevshtai) the name of the Lord will
be saved [quotation, LXX Joel 3:5, which also has eujaggelivzw as a Joel hapax
legomena]. How, then, may they call upon (ejpikalevswntai) one they have not
believed in? And how can they believe unless they have heard? And how can they
hear without someone preaching? And how can they preach unless they are sent
(ajpostalw'sin)? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet which
evangelize (tw'n eujaggelizomevnwn) good things!” [adapted quotation of Isa 52:7;
closer to the MT]. But not all heard the evangel/gospel (tw'/ eujaggelivw)/ , for
Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” [quotation of LXX Isa 53:1].

The prophetic image of one sent to bring good tidings, a gospel of hope from the Lord of

the nations, come together in Paul’s prophetic calling from the womb.

We may conclude then, that whatever else Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience

was, it was a prophetic calling. In what sense, though, is Paul a prophet? From the

Other significant uses of the word is in Samuel-Kings in a more mundane sense of bringing a
good message. See also LXX Pss 39:10; 67:12; 95:2, and the somewhat strange LXX translation in Joel

reading of the data above and Paul’s use of prophetic allusions when describing his

mission, he is a prophet in the sense that he sees his vocation as being in continuity with

the prophetic corpus: with an Isaianic foundation and a “Damascus Road” twist, Paul

understood his eschatological vocation as evangelizing Christ among the gentiles.

If, as I propose, “conversion” and “calling” are not dichotomous, did Paul also

experience a conversion away from Judaism while maintaining a Judaistic prophetic

calling? Though Paul’s definition of God changed,60 and a profound change of praxis

occurred when Paul spoke of Jesus as “Lord,”61 Paul continued to worship the God of

Israel,62 continued to draw from Judaistic scriptures, and continued to use Judaistic

categories of thought. Decades after the “Damascus Road,” Paul still considers Judaists

who have rejected Jesus, “Israel, my brothers” (Rom 9:3-4), he says outright, “ejgwV

jIsrahlivth" eijmiv, ejk spevrmato" jAbraavm, fulh'" Beniamivn,” (Rom 11:1), and he

holds out some hope for them (Rom 11:26). Paul engages in ministry in the synagogues

in Acts, and submits to punishment from Judaistic leaders (2 Cor 11:24).

Paul has by no means maintained the same Judaistic faith; neither has he left

behind his religio-ethnic heritage. Because the category of “conversion” implies a more

significant detachment of religious worldview,63 it is not an entirely satisfactory term to

describe Paul’s shift in way of being. That Paul experienced a kind of prophetic call

seems evident. However, there is no parallel in the prophetic call literature that can match

See Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998). In critique of the chapter, Nikola Galevski maintains that this change of
definition is evidence of decisive discontinuity between Paul’s life before and after the “Damascus Road”
See also 1 Cor 9:19-20.
Indeed, Luke has him worshipping at the temple according to Judaistic custom, Acts 21:20-26.
It is possible that within definitions of “kinds” of conversions, one can be found to aptly
describe Paul, see Rambo, Understanding, 12-14.

Paul’s shift from a Torah-centred Judaism to a Christ-centred Judaism. One must ask,

then, whether Paul’s Christ-experience meant that he rejected religious Judaism. Has Paul Rejected Judaism?64

There are two passages that must be considered before a conclusion can be

drawn.65 Phil 3:3-7 speaks of Paul’s impeccable resumé, then considers it all loss for the

sake of/on account of/because of Christ (diaV toVn CristoVn). What’s more, in verse 8

Paul considers not just his resumé, but “all things” (taV pavnta) loss compared with the

great privilege of the knowledge of Christ. At first glance, this passage may look like a

renunciation of his Judaistic heritage. The key to verse 7, however, comes precisely in the

continued balance sheet metaphor of verse 8.66 In the column for profits are included his

racial and religious pedigree, as well as whatever Paul has in mind for “all things.” All of

these items are truly beneficial, but knowing Jesus Christ puts Paul “in the black” to such

a degree that any and all other things seem to shift to the deficit column. Paul is not

rejecting Judaism or zeal or his heritage or even his current religious expression; Paul is

giving to Christ the place of utter praise and honour.

In one of the passages that clearly confirms Paul’s Judaistic heritage, he uses the

phrase, “when I was in Judaism,” in what seems to be a past tense (Gal 1:13, pote ejn tw'/

jIoudai>smw')/ . Paul’s emphasis, however, is not a rejection of Judaism. Rather, Paul is

arguing that his gospel has not come to him through the normal human channels of

So, in the religious sense, Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul, 131; Heikki Räisänen, Jesus, Paul
and Torah: Collected Essays (JSNTSup 43; trans. David E. Orton; Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1992), 112-
In 1 Cor 9:19-20, Paul uses the phrase, “I become a Judaist to the Judaists.” The phrase is a
rhetorical device, of course, as Paul also become a gentile to gentiles, as one under the Law to those under,
and as one not under the Law to those who are not.
See Hawthorne, Philippians, 188-189. A rabbinic metaphor according to Ralph P. Martin, The
Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary (rev. ed.; TNTC; Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1987), 148.

teaching (Gal 1:11-12).67 Paul’s gospel does not come from his zealous Judaistic

activities, his visits to Jerusalem, or his meetings with the Jerusalem apostolic

community. Instead, the revelation of Christ and his subsequent commissioning to the

gentiles was merely birthed in his Judaistic contexts, and confirmed by the church. Conclusion

Neither Phil 3:3-7 nor Gal 1:13 can be used by Paul as a rejection of his

“Jewishness,” whether racial or theological, and he is able to say in 2 Cor 11:22,

JEbrai'oiv eijsin; kajgwv. jIsrahli'taiv eijsin; kajgwv. spevrma jAbraavm eijsin; kajgwv.

Even though all things are a loss, and the nature of Paul’s Judaistic expression is clearly

different, Paul is still a Hebrew, and he still worships the God of Israel.68 Later

generations would not be able to hold together the Judaistic and Christian worlds as Paul

does, and this inability of ambivalence eventually led to “the parting of the ways.” But

there is no indication that Paul split the intricately connected religious and ethnic realities

of Judaism and left one of them behind.

2.3. Paul as Christ-believing Judaist in the Prophetic Tradition

We have established, then, that after the “Damascus Road” experience, Paul still

considered himself ethnically and religiously in the same movement he was born into. In

a prophetic call, and in a moment of significance similar to a conversion, Paul went from

persecuting followers of a failed crucified Messiah to calling this man, “Lord,” with all

See Longenecker, Galatians, 20-25.
Confirmed also by Paul’s present-case declaration in Acts 22:3, “ejgwv eijmi ajnhVr jIoudai'o".”
Markus N. A. Bockmuehl (Revelation and Mystery: in Ancient Judaism and Pauline Christianity [WUNT
2/36; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1990], 130-132) notes the contrast in the Paul’s concept of
conversion in 1 Thess 1:9, where there is a turning from idols to the true and living God, and thereby
escaping wrath.

its Judaistic depth.69 This Jesus became for Paul the fulfillment of his Judaistic hope, and

the hope for the nations to enjoy the benefits of Israel’s election.70

It is not necessary to demonstrate at this point whether Paul was right in his self-

understanding. Rosemary Radford Ruether has argued that Paul cannot be said to be part

of this Hebrew rhetorical genre because Paul has in essence rejected Judaism.

The difference between prophetic self-critique and anti-Judaism lies in the

relation of the critic to the covenant and the Torah of Israel. The Hebrew prophet
stands within the Abrahamic covenant and calls the people to become more
faithful to the expression of that covenant in the Torah (however he interprets
this), as the basis for the fulfillment of the future messianic promise.71

According to Ruether, Paul has not done this, but has criticized Judaism from outside of

the Torah path. While Ruether’s question is important for the larger question of Jewish-

Christian relations, what is essential for an understanding of Paul’s rhetorical range

within his social context is simply Paul’s own understanding.72 Paul saw himself as a

Judaist in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets, using prophetic calling language

reminiscent of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and engaging in an Isaianic mission to the nations.

Clearly he would feel free to use genres of rhetoric available to those in the same stream.

Whether contemporary Judaists considered Paul an “apostate,”73 or whether later Jews

could consider Paul a Jew, are questions beyond this inquiry. Paul himself, in his own

self-understanding, saw himself as a Judaist in the great tradition of the Hebrew prophets.

See Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), esp. 108-118, 134-153.
Das, Paul and the Jews, 120.
Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Old Problems and New Dimensions,” 235. See below, pp. 168-
169 for a more detailed response to Ruether in light of the reading of 1 Thess 2:14-16.
It is also a question that begs a definition of who a real Jew is or was, a question not appropriate
for this discussion.
See John M. G. Barclay, “Who was considered an apostate in the Jewish Diaspora?” in
Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 80-98. Barclay suspects that Paul would have been
considered as such.

Now that it is established that Paul was (and remained) a Judaist, we turn to his

Greco-Roman social and rhetorical backgrounds in chapter 3, before proceeding to

survey Paul’s Judaistic rhetorical backgrounds in chapter 4.





3.1. The Sociology and Cultural Anthropology1 of the New Testament World: An
Introduction to the Discussion2

“Humans are constantly engaged in the construction and maintenance of social

worlds that provide the institutions, structures, and patterns for everyday life.”3 While

there have been moments of exegetical interest in social worlds in the last century,4 it has

We make a distinction between “sociology” and “cultural anthropology” for the sake of
simplicity. The disciplines overlap, and there are levels of complexity within each of them. Susan Garrett
(“Sociology of Early Christianity,” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary [6 vols.; ed. David Noel Freedman;
New York: Doubleday, 1992], 6:90) notes an ideal division of the “social historical” approach, which asks
traditional historical questions of the text in its social environment without applying specific sociological
models, and the “sociological” or “social scientific” approach, which complements historical exegesis with
methods and models of social scientists. Garrett notes that although the ideal exists, it is seldom followed:
“Rather, many have held that the most promising approach is one that continues to employ old methods and
questions, but that is also informed by the questions social scientists ask and the models they employ” (p.
6:90, emphasis original). By this definition, our focus is more on those who are engaged in a “sociological”
or “social scientific” approach, and we have called our approach socio-cultural. Garrett does not, however,
distinguish between sociological and cultural anthropological approaches. For our purposes, those in the
former category are interested primarily in social structures, and those in the latter, symbolic forms. Most
authors, however, are social-anthropological in approach, interested in how social structures interact with
symbolic forms (see Norman R. Petersen, Rediscovering Paul: Philemon and the Sociology of Paul’s
Narrative World [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985], 18). J. H. Elliott (Social-Scientific Criticism, 127) notes
that “cultural anthropology” is called “social anthropology” in Great Britain, so the two should not be
confused. Elliott also prefers to separate “social history” from “social scientific” approaches (p. 7), and in
his analysis, the phrase “social scientific” is meant to encompass both sociological and cultural-
anthropological studies. With this distinction, and following the terminology of the authors, we have
indicated the difference between sociological and anthropological approaches. Of the sociological authors
listed, Malherbe and Hock are primarily, but not exclusively, social historical. Gager and Theissen both use
social-psychology in their sociological approach, while Holmberg and Stark are strictly sociological.
Meeks says he is doing social history, but is more sociological in approach. Petersen is admittedly social-
anthropological, but (also admittedly) writes primarily within the sociological stream. Malina, Neyrey,
deSilva, and Wortham are cultural anthropological, and use sociology as a tool for cultural anthropology.
For a different approach to material until 1993, see Elliott, Social-Scientific Criticism, 7-35.
Richard N. Soulen, and R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism, 3d ed. (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 174.
Robert Wortham (Social-Scientific Approaches in Biblical Literature [Texts and Studies in
Religion 81; Lewiston, N.Y.: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999], 5) suggests that the interest was prominent

really been in the last three decades that interest in biblical studies has turned to the

question of how communicative meaning is encoded in cultural and social structures.

The AAR/SBL working group on the Social World of Early Christianity in the

1970s helped spur on important work in the area. In 1975 John Gager produced a

monograph with the same subtitle as the working group that did sociological analysis of

Paul’s Greco-Roman context. Gager explored Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive

dissonance5 with reference to unfulfilled prophecy in the early church, and concluded that

community cohesion and definition was key to the success of the early church.6 In 1979

Ronald Hock also engaged in sociological inquiry to evaluate the role of Paul’s

tentmaking in the development of his mission.7

Pride of place among early Pauline sociological studies goes to Wayne Meeks’

study of the urban realities of early Pauline Christianity. Meeks not only underwent social

inquiry to understand the development and personality of Paul’s movement, but also

sought to demonstrate how his observations affect the understanding of Paul’s theology.8

In 1985 an excellent study by Norman Petersen integrated literary and sociological

studies of Pauline letters by regarding the stories behind these letters as narrative social

among the Chicago School and the German Liberal School (including Harnack, Dibelius, Troeltsch).
Wayne Meeks (The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul, 2d ed. [New Haven:
Yale University, 2003], 51-53), analyses briefly one of these German scholars, A. Deissmann (Light from
the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman
World, trans. L. R. M. Strachan [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1978]), showing that his influential analysis
of early Christians as among the lower social classes is no longer regarded as telling the whole story.
See Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schacter, When Prophecy Fails: A Social
and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (New York:
Harper & Row, 1956).
John G. Gager, Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity (Eaglewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975); for the theoretical foundation see pp. 37-49. Festinger et al joined an
apocalyptic group, and their narrative of the group’s failed prophecy and subsequent increase in
proselytizing is the basis of their theory. Gager argues that community cohesion was early Christianity’s
response to failed eschatological expectations, and thus the resolution of cognitive dissonance.
Ronald F. Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979).
Wayne Meeks, The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven:
Yale University, 1983). We will be using the only slightly updated 2003 second edition.

worlds, and studied these narrative worlds the way a sociologist studies a non-literary

social world.9 Important sociological work in Paul has also been completed by Gerd

Theissen,10 Abraham Malherbe,11 Bengt Holmberg,12 and Rodney Stark.13

Although there is overlap between the disciplines, cultural anthropology is

somewhat of a “late starter” in Pauline studies when compared with sociology. Certainly,

though, Bruce Malina has most clearly sounded the call to cultural inquiry of Paul’s

world. His 1981 The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology is

seminal.14 Malina, joined by Jerome Neyrey,15 has emphasized that there was an ancient

Mediterranean cultural personality, and that this personality is dramatically different from

the personality of Western Europe and North America. Malina’s unceasing insistence in a

Petersen, Rediscovering Paul. In section 5.3-5.5 we will attempt a sociological reading of the
narrative world of 1 Thess 2 that has been influenced by Petersen’s programme.
Gerd Theissen, The First Followers of Jesus: A Sociological Analysis of the Earliest
Christianity, trans. John Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1978); Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity,
trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978); The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on
Corinth, ed. and trans. John H. Schütz (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982); Psychological Aspects of Pauline
Theology, trans. John P. Calvin (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987); Social Reality and the Early Christians:
Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992);
The Religion of the Earliest Churches: Creating a Symbolic World (trans. John Bowden; Minneapolis:
Fortress Press, 1999).
Abraham J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity, 2d ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress,
1983); Paul and the Thessalonians: The Philosophic Tradition of Pastoral Care (Philadelphia: Fortress,
1987); Paul and the Popular Philosophers (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989); The Letters to the Thessalonians:
A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB32B; New York: Doubleday, 2000). See also
his Festschrift, David L. Balch, Everett Ferguson, and Wayne A. Meeks, eds., Greeks, Romans, and
Christians (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).
An excellent introduction to the subject, Bengt Holmberg, Sociology and the New Testament: an
Appraisal (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).
Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1996). Stark discusses why Christianity probably succeeded (cf. Gager, Kingdom and
Community, esp. 114-142). See also Rodney Stark and William Sims, Religion, Deviance, and Social
Control (New York: Routledge, 1996).
Bruce Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology (Louisville:
Westminster John Knox, 1981; 1993; 2001). We will be using the updated and expanded 2001 edition.
See Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient
Personality (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996). Ben Witherington III (The Paul Quest: The
Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus [Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1998]), surveys social inquiry in Pauline
studies in his thematic introduction to Paul, but generally follows the conclusions of Malina and Neyrey.
See also John J. Pilch and Bruce J. Malina, Biblical Social Values and Their Meaning: A Handbook
(Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1993); Jerome Neyrey, Paul in Other Words: A Cultural Reading of His
Letters (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1990).

Mediterranean dyadic (rather than individualistic) personality profile that is socially

constructed (rather than psychologically constructed) has permeated the entire field of

social-scientific biblical criticism.16 Most studies since have followed from this central

distinction, including the study of honour and shame by deSilva with which we will

dialogue with extensively in section 3.2.17

In a field of inquiry that is predominantly constructive, Malina and Neyrey have

the distinction of being critical of most of the key monographs mentioned. Meeks is

ethnocentric,18 Theissen is simplistic,19 and deSilva is uninformed in the social sciences.20

In my estimation, there are two problems that contribute to some remaining confusion in

the social-scientific biblical criticism. First, in the larger disciplines of the social sciences

on method, the fields remain idiosyncratic, with particularistic studies contributing to

eclectic approaches. Second, those who have written “NT Cultural Anthropology” or

“NT Sociology” are never representative of entire fields, but particular approaches within

social scientific fields applied to particular NT questions. For example, Malina and

Neyrey have succeeded in admirable fashion in providing a usable study, but it is quite

limited in its field of inquiry and application. They inquire exclusively of three rhetorical

For introductions to the larger inquiry, see Elliott, Social-Scientific Criticism, which Malina
himself recommends (review of D. A. deSilva, Despising Shame: Honor Discourse and Community
Maintenance in the Epistle to the Hebrews, JBL 116 [1997]: 378-9). See also Robert Wortham, Social-
Scientific Approaches. Although quite good and from a respected scholar, the title is broader than the
monograph allows, using a limited number of social-scientific theories and approaches within his cultural
anthropological inquiries. Poorer is Wortham’s attempt at applying social-scientific theories to 1 Thess 2:14-16
(“The Problem of Anti-Judaism in 1 Thess 2:14-16 and Related Pauline Texts.” BTB 25 [1995]: 37-44).
David A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture
(Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), 17-93.
Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 11.
Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 11-12.
Malina, Review of deSilva, 379.

genres (the Encomium, the Public Defence Speech, and Physiognomics), and could

benefit from the inquiry of deSilva which they reject outright.21

It is for these reasons that we follow Meeks and Wortham22 in adopting an

eclectic approach built upon the foundations of particularistic inquiries. Frankly, our

world lacks “Renaissance Men and Women” who can master the field of biblical studies,

the social history of the Second Temple Judaism, and the myriad of approaches in

sociology and cultural anthropology. Malina himself, for example, is reliant upon the

symbolic anthropology of Mary Douglas,23 as we will rely upon the work of social

scientists. Furthermore, we assert that culturally sensitive exegesis is a diagnostic

undertaking, and we will adopt methods that are appropriate to the kind of inquiry.24

Therefore, we will explore two socio-cultural topics that bear directly upon our

study. The first—the role of honour and shame—has been well established and well used

in recent New Testament studies. We will dialogue primarily, but not exclusively, with

David deSilva for two reasons. First, he accepts the dyadic reality of the ancient

Mediterranean person, as Malina insists, but his recent monograph, Honor, Patronage,

Kinship & Purity captures together the essential expressions of that dyadic reality in the

David A. deSilva, Despising Shame: Honor Discourse and Community Maintenance in the
Epistle to the Hebrews (SBLDS 152; Atlanta: Scholars, 1995).
Meeks, First Urban Christians, xii; Wortham, Social-Scientific Approaches, 1-26.
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (New York: Paeger Publications, 1966); idem, Natural
Symbols (New York: Vintage Books, 1973).
“One exegetical method or cluster of methods may decode one or more semantic levels but will
not decode all available levels. Also, some semantic levels may be more fully explored by some methods
than others,” Wortham, Social-Scientific Approaches, 20. Both our reading sites and the social worlds of
the text we are visiting are complex. We have determined that it is better to do something, even tentatively,
than to do nothing. In this sense, the socio-rhetorical approach of Vernon Robbins commends itself for its
abilities to draw upon the resources of text-critical, sociological, cultural-anthropological, ideological, and
theological fields to provide a useable method for NT students. See Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the
Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation (Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press, 1996).

world of the New Testament. Second, deSilva is simply more conversant than Malina in

Judaistic documents and their peculiarities.25

The second topic, polemic, is one that has been assumed to be a reality of Paul’s

world, but is accepted without critical inquiry. We will attempt to discover the rhetorical

range of polemic briefly in Greco-Roman conversations (section 3.3) and more

extensively in Second Temple Judaistic writings (chapter 4).

3.2. Honour, Shame, and Hellenistic Conversation

“The one fixed principle from which we proceed to the proof of other points is

that the honourable is cherished for no other reason than because it is honourable”

(Seneca, De Ben. 4.16.2 [Basore]). Seneca introduces the ancient Mediterranean value of

filotimiva,/ “love of honour,” which formed the highest and most basic value in ancient

Greco-Roman society.26 The values of honour and shame are the pivotal27 result of the

For an example that captures both realities in Matthew, see Jerome H. Neyrey, Honor and
Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998). There is a third reason
for not following Malina exclusively that should be noted: Malina’s premise, that “there is little evidence
that people change in any fundamental way” (Malina, NT World, xi). Malina’s absolute insistence on
cultural distance is betrayed by his premise of cultural continuity. From the outset, Malina asserts that
knowing something of today’s Mediterranean social worlds is also knowing something of ancient
Mediterranean social worlds. The simple historical fact that Mediterranean cultures have survived
widespread religious change (from pagan to Christian; a split in the Christian church; from Christian to
Muslim; the migration of Jews; European secularization; etc.) should give us pause. I do not deny that there
is some continuity. Ian Miller Williams’ Humiliation And Other Essays on Honor, Social Comfort, and
Violence (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993) is an excellent account of the varying values that fill the
economies of honour and shame throughout ancient Mediterranean, saga-based Nordic, middle and Elizabethan
English, and modern American cultures. In Williams’ comparative anthropology, it remains true for both the
Icelander and the Greco-Roman that “an honorable man could not avoid giving insult if he were to show
himself honorable” and that “these people could not contemplate self-esteem independent of the esteem of
others,” (ix). Malina’s first principle of cultural distance remains primary, and our understanding of ancient
Mediterranean cultures must come from the sources of ancient Mediterranean cultures, as deSilva himself does
(as does Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul). The consistency of Mediterranean culture specifically is
argued by the essayists of J. G. Peristiany, ed., Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society
(London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965). This collection of essays is also considered the genesis of
contemporary studies on Mediterranean Honour and Shame, and both deSilva and Malina are so indebted.
For filotimiva,/ love of honour, see Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.3.13; Hiero 7.3; Demosthenes,
De Cor. 257-258; see Neyrey, Honor and Shame Matthew, 17. Neyrey also notes negative results of
filotimiva,/ Dio Chrysostom, Fourth Discourse on Kingship 84; Plutarch, Lect. 47D. Aristotle saw two
motives for making choices: honour and pleasure (Nic. Eth. 3.1.11; cf. 4.3.9-12; a quick survey of how
Aristotle uses the phrase, “for honour’s sake” reveals its importance). Isocrates concurs, and adds that

dyadic sociological DNA of ancient Mediterranean people, such that their entire system

of thought and evaluation is based upon them. It is therefore necessary to understand this

ancient cultural reality when reading and evaluating Paul. While much of what is spoken

of as “honour” and “shame” in the secondary literature is based upon anthropological

models—there are common traits found in those who have been raised in honour-based

Mediterranean cultures—honour and shame are categories discussed in ancient Greco-

Roman rhetorical handbooks and philosophical writings, which serve to confirm

anthropological models.28 We will now define honour and shame and the acquisition and

maintenance thereof as it is defined in the secondary and primary literature.

Honour is an entirely relational category.29 People can only consider themselves

to be honourable because they embody actions and qualities that their social group

values. The meaning of honour is bound up, as Malina puts it, in “the value of a person in

his or her own eyes (that is, one’s claim to worth) plus that person’s value in the eyes of

her social group.”30 Honour is not just a matter of deed or action, but is the culmination

of one’s own self-estimation and the estimation of those with whom they interact in their

social world. In Paul’s first century Greco-Roman culture, all regarded honour—and its

“pleasure attended by honour is the best thing in the world, but pleasure without honour is the worst,” and
considers honour above safety (Ad Dem. 17 [Norlin]). For Quintilian, honour is the fundamental factor of
persuasion (Quintilian, Inst. 3.8.1; cf. Cicero (De Or. 2.334), who prefers the term “dignity.” See deSilva,
Honor, 23-24. DeSilva also notes several places in Judaistic wisdom literature that betray a similar
importance to honour. Key vocabulary of Honour and Shame includes: “glory” or “reputation” (dovxa),
“honour” (timhv), “praise” (e!paino") and their cognates; opposites are “shame” (aijscuvnh or ejntrophv),
“dishonour” (ajtimiva), “reproach” (o!neido"), “scorn” (katafronhvsi"), “slander” (blasfhmiva), and their
cognates. See deSilva, Honor, 27-28.
The term of Malina, see NT World, ch. 2.
Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew, 6-9. Neyrey himself begins with the anthropological
model and moves to the ancient sources.
deSilva, Honor, 25.
Malina, NT World, 30. Emphasis original. In this sense the deepest separation between Modern
Western individualists and ancient peoples of dyadic personalities can be felt; self-worth in Paul’s culture
was a community affair.

opposite, dishonour—as the “primary axis of value,”31 but different groups filled these

categories of honour and dishonour with different particular values.

Publicly esteemed honour can either be ascribed or acquired.32 Gender,

generation, and geography were key to a person’s group-estimation and thus key to their

honour rating.33 Furthermore, “the glory of a man is from the honour of his father; and a

mother in dishonour is a reproach to the children,” (Sir 3:11 KJV) a proverb no less

important to the larger, non-Judaistic Mediterranean world. Ethnicity, inherited wealth,34

education and upbringing, grants from a person in power, and even an individual’s body35

were all factors in establishing a person’s ascribed honour in his or her social world. It is

worthy of note that even ascribed honour is insecure; so Peristiany: “Even when honour

is inherited with the family name it has to be asserted and vindicated.”36

Honour can be achieved in two ways. First, honour can be earned by one’s public

conduct and by one’s shame.37 Being virtuous, earning a good reputation (name), and

valuing what the group values are key ways to increase in estimation. Second, honour can

also be won or lost in the challenge and riposte typical of “agonistic” cultures (from the

Greek ajgwvn, meaning contest, cf. 1 Thess 2:2). Though difficult for a Euro-American

individual to appreciate, honour was considered a value of limited quantity, and it had to

deSilva, Honor, 25. “Honour is the apex of the pyramid of temporal social values,” Peristiany,
Honour and Shame, 10.
Malina, NT Worlds, 32. Malina is certainly correct that honour is bound up with, among other
things, gender, status and social power, which represent the ascribed and acquired realities of social value.
See deSilva, Honor, 28-9. Peristiany (Honour and Shame, 17-18, n. 4) suggests that the acquisition of
honour can be sidestepped by “saintliness,” which is above honour as a social value.
See Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 92-3.
See Rhet. 2.16.1-3; Plutarch, Wealth.
A sorely underestimated feature of the Mediterranean world, yet so very key. To demonstrate
the importance of the body in social estimation and symbolisation, see Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of
Paul, 100-152 on Physiognomics; Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew, 24-25.
Peristiany, Honour and Shame, 11.
I.e., having respect for the definitions of honour in the social world. See discussion as follows.

be contested for in Greco-Roman culture.38 Neyrey lists four steps in the game of

challenge and riposte: 1) a claim of honour and worth; 2) challenge or refusal to

acknowledge the claim; 3) riposte or defence of claim; 4) a verdict by public witnesses

for either the challenger or the claimant.39 An unanswered or unanswerable public

challenge serves to take honour from the one challenged and give it to the challenger.

“Consider it equally disgraceful to be outdone by your enemies in doing injury and to be

surpassed by your friends in doing kindness” (Isocrates, Ad Dem. 26 [Norlin]). Witnesses

to the game of challenge and riposte are the ones who determine whether the challenger

has increased his40 own standing, or whether the response has been successful and has

either restored honour to the one challenged, or even stripped the challenger of honour.

Gender roles are also key to the preservation of honour and symbolize the positive

aspects of honour and shame. In the ancient Mediterranean, men were public figures

(philosophy, trade, commerce, etc.), while women occupied the sphere of the home

(childbearing, household management, etc.), and outside of their kin group both

interacted primarily with their respective gender. The attributes of a male—manliness,

courage, authority, defence of honour, prestige concerns, social eminence, etc.—

symbolize honour; female attributes—sensitivity, shyness, blushing, timidity, restraint,

sexual exclusiveness, etc.—symbolize shame.41 Men acquire and maintain honour in the

public arena, but women have honour precisely in their display of shame—in their

See Malina, NT Worlds, 81-106. There was the sense that when one gave honour to another, one
lost something in the process, see Plutarch, Lect. 44B; Old Men 787D; Anonymus Iamblici, cited in Neyrey,
Honor and Shame in Mathew, 18.
Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew, 20; see also chart in Malina, NT Worlds, 34.
This is predominantly the public role of the male. See Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew,
Philo, Spec. Leg. 3.169; Xenophon, Oec. 7.19-31; see Malina, NT World, 48-51, and esp. chart,
50; see Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 176-82; Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew, 29-30.

chastity and their success in not bringing shame to the Pater Familias.42 While there was

no concept of equality of men and women,43 the association with women and shame is

not precisely a negative thing. Shame does carry a negative concept with it, for people

who act dishonourably44 are to be shamed into returning to the values of the group, and

men can be shamed by the actions of those in their household. But primarily, shame is

sensitivity to one’s honour, and to the boundaries that the group asserts.45 The English

language captures a sense of this honourable shame in the accusatorial phrase, “have you

no shame?” Mostly, though, this sense has been lost in Euro-American cultures, and there

is certainly no remnant of its being symbolized in female social identity. Shame is not, in

fact, the precise antonym of honour (though it can play that role), but it is the opposite of

honour in the sense that male and female are opposites.

It is evident, then, that honour and shame represent different kinds of social

categories in the ancient Mediterranean than they do today in North America. In fact,

honour and shame do not represent social categories at all for North Americans, but are

personal values. For Greco-Romans, the categories of honour and shame were about “the

coordination and promotion of a group’s defining and central values, [and] about the

strategies for the preservation of a group’s culture in the midst of a complex web of

competing cultures.”46 The complex social system of the Greco-Roman world used the

categories of honour and shame to keep this very dynamic system in dyadic stability, as a

way of helping deviants conform, and as a way of understanding the world around them.

Neyrey, Honor and Shame in Matthew, 30-32.
See Aristotle, Pol. 1.2; Philo, QG 1.27, where he explains that woman was made from man’s
side to demonstrate that women are not equal in honour to men.
Rhet. 2.6 lists a number of areas where men bring shame upon themselves when actions such as
cowardice, injustice, and lack of self-control are known in the community and break the public code.
deSilva, Honor, 25.
deSilva, Honor, 42.

It is clear also that this social system is different than a twenty-first century Western one,

which may use profitability or morality as primary categories of social evaluation.47

Why is this distinction essential for understanding what Paul is doing in

1 Thessalonians? There are two areas where such knowledge can be helpful. First, we

must ask the question as to whether 1 Thess 2:14-16 represents some kind of response

within the riposte system (see section 5.6.5). Second, understanding honour and shame as

the central axis of social evaluation gives us a better critical tool for evaluating Paul’s

polemical statements. Instead of evaluating Paul, in the primary sense of historical

investigation, by twenty-first century categories of productivity (is his speech helpful?) or

morality (is his speech right or wrong?), the cultural categories of honour and shame can

form a basis for evaluation that avoids anachronistic ethnocentrisms. While evaluating 1

Thess 2:14-16, we can now ask the question, “according to contemporary conventions,

did Paul act honourably or dishonourably?” To understand contemporary conventions,

we must look briefly at polemic in Paul’s Hellenistic background (section 3.3), and in

more depth in his specifically Judaistic backgrounds (see chapter 4).

3.3. Polemic

“Polemic,”48 as such, is not one of the Greek or Roman rhetorical categories. Any

use of the term, then, will be heuristic, and by way of rhetorical devices like parrēsia,

pathos, hyperbole, and blame, which are all reflectively considered in the rhetorical and

epistolary handbooks. Disagreement (Lat. discidium; Gr. dialogismov" or ajntilogiva,

deSilva, Honor, 25-6.
The OED defines polemic as “controversial argument or discussion against some opinion,” or
“aggressive controversy,” (OED, s.v.). It comes from the Gr. polemikov" or povlemo", “war.” Occurs ca.
1630, and through to the late nineteenth century the connotation is primarily positive. In English it has
always had a theological connection and is connected with theological argumentation or “divine polemic.”
Though not a long entry, the OED notes Montefiore’s use of “polemic” to describe the Hebrew prophets in
the Hibbert lectures. We are using the term to mean theological or ideological dispute where the rhetoric is
heightened and pointed.

paroxusmov", zhvthma or zhvthsi", filoneikiva) and pointed argumentation is a part of

any culture, and certainly part of Greco-Roman writings that take for granted that

disagreement and the sharing of opinions is part of human discourse. It is surprising,

then, that very little academic attention has been paid. Thomas Olbricht notes:

Despite the recognition of emotional dimensions in texts, literary and

rhetorical critics have failed to set forth well-constructed and reflected upon
guidelines for the analysis of pathos. . . . The reason is in part, no doubt, that the
critics throughout history have failed to give pathos more than passing attention.49

David Aune attributes this lack of interest, even in the rhetorical handbooks after

Aristotle, to the Stoics’ interest in rhetoric and rational appeals, and their concurrent

disinterest in emotion and emotional appeals.50 There is currently a growing interest in

the field,51 and enough work done to create a basic understanding of where the heuristic

of polemic fits within Greco-Roman rhetorical backgrounds, and to follow some uses of

polemic in the philosophical literature.

A close approximation of polemic is found in the rhetorical category of parrēsia

(parrhsiva),52 which is adverse criticism, or as J. Paul Sampley calls it, “frank speech.”53

Thomas H. Olbricht, “Introduction,” in Paul and Pathos, ed. Thomas H. Olbricht and Jerry L.
Sumney (SBLSymS 16; Atlanta: SBL, 2001), 1-2. Olbricht adds: “In fact, most literary and rhetorical
critics offer few suggestions for analysis of emotion in discourse. The editors asked certain key scholars to
submit essays on modern criticism of pathos but without success” (pp. 1-2).
David E. Aune, “Pathos,” The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian
Literature and Rhetoric, 340.
E.g., see the essays in the volume, Thomas H. Olbricht and Jerry L. Sumney, eds., Paul and
In the NT, this word is used idiosyncratically. In Mark 8:32 it is used according to the rhetorical
convention as a rebuke. In John (9x), parrhsiva/ with the iota subscript is used to describe speaking openly
or plainly. In Acts (5x), Hebrews (4x), Eph (2x), Col (1x), 1 Tim (1x), and 1 John (4x), parrhsiva has the
“openness” connotations as well as the bold or frank realities of the Greco-Roman convention. Paul can
carry the connotation of boldness (2 Cor 3:12; Phil 1:20), but can use it according to the rhetorical
convention (Phlm 1:8). In 2 Cor 7:4, Paul turns the convention on its head and uses it to speak of great
“boasting” rather than rebuke.
J. Paul Sampley, “Paul and Frank Speech,” in Paul in the Greco-Roman World: A Handbook,
ed. J. Paul Sampley (New York: Trinity Press International, 2003), 293-318.

In Paul’s time, however, parrēsia is used only within “friendships.”54 While some have

designated 1 Thessalonians as a friendship letter,55 the frank speech or rebuke of 2:14-16

is directed to those outside of that relationship, and cannot properly be called parrēsia in

the conventional sense.56

Pathos, “emotion” or “passion,” corresponding to the Latin adfectus, “affect,”

was an integral part of Aristotle’s rhetorical construct. In Aristotelian rhetoric, there were

five canons of speechmaking:57 1) Invention; 2) Arrangement; 3) Style; 4) Memory; and

Sampley, “Paul and Frank Speech,” 294. It should be noted that “friendship” in Paul’s time is
not merely a relationship between two equals, but is a social relationship between unequals, played out in
the patron-client relationships of the ancient Mediterranean. See John T. Fitzgerald, “Paul and Friendship,”
in Paul in the Greco-Roman World: A Handbook, ed. J. Paul Sampley (New York: Trinity Press
International, 2003), 319-343; see also the essays in the volume, Friendship, Flattery, and Frankness of
Speech: Studies on Friendship in the New Testament World, ed. John T. Fitzgerald (Leiden: Brill, 1996).
Could Paul have been a patron to the Thessalonians? deSilva’s analysis of Philemon (Honor, 124-126)
argues that Paul can play this role. Malina and Neyrey (Portraits of Paul, 210-211) disagree, arguing that
although Paul makes use of patrons, he does not put his converts in the role of clients. Instead, Paul acts as
a broker between his churches and God. For our purpose, that Paul is “patron” adds nothing to the reading
of 2:14-16, and we will leave the issue sub judice.
Including Bart Ehrman, Karl Donfried, Traugott Holtz, and Johannes Schoon-Janßen; see
section 5.2 for discussion.
For parrēsia in Paul, see Abraham J. Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 58-60. Malherbe’s definition of parrēsia is somewhat larger, but still not
consistent with 1 Thess 2:14-16 (p. 39-40).
Aristotle prefers the first three, which correspond to the letter-writing process (Rhet. 3.1.1). See
Olbricht, “Introduction,” 1; George A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation Through Rhetorical
Criticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 30-38; Martin Kessler, “A
Methodological Setting for Rhetorical Criticism,” in Art and Meaning: Rhetoric in Biblical Literature, ed.
David J. A Clines, David M. Gunn, and Alan Hauser (JSOTSup 19; Sheffield: JSOT, 1982), 2; P. Trible,
Rhetorical Criticism: Context, Method and the Book of Jonah (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 5-9; Duane F.
Watson, Invention, Arrangement, and Style: Rhetorical Criticism of Jude and 1 Peter (SBLDS 104;
Atlanta: Georgia Scholars Press 1988), 8-28; Duane F. Watson and Alan J. Hauser, Rhetorical Criticism of
the Bible: A Comprehensive Bibliography with Notes on History and Method (Biblical Interpretation Series
4; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 110-112. It has been nearly axiomatic in the rhetorical study of the New Testament
that rhetorical speech writing methods were used in ancient letter writing. Jeffrey A. D. Weima, (“What
Does Aristotle Have to Do with Paul? An Evaluation of Rhetorical Criticism,” CTJ 32 [1997]: 462-468)
critiques this assumption, noting that there is no evidence in the epistolary handbooks that ancient
rhetorical forms were used and no evidence of Paul’s rhetorical training. We continue cautiously for the
following reasons: 1) Paul used the forms that were natural to his frame of thought as a popular writer,
which were likely influenced by the rhetors as well as the epistolary experts; 2) Letters were oral/aural
experiences (cf. 1 Thess 5:27); 3) Letters were a substitute for Paul’s personal presence. This is particularly
clear in 1 Thess 1-3, where Paul’s anxiety can only be relieved with a letter. See Abraham J. Malherbe,
Paul and the Thessalonians: The Philosophic Tradition of Pastoral Care (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), 72-
74; Petersen, Rediscovering Paul, esp. 53-54; Carol J. Schlueter, Filling up the Measure: Polemical
Hyperbole in 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16 (JSNTSup 98. Sheffield; Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 77-80;
see also Stanley Stowers’ excellent Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Society (LEC 5; Philadelphia:

5) Delivery. Invention, which concerned the intellectual processes behind the argument,

had three parts: 1) Logos; 2) Ethos; and 3) Pathos.58 Pathos is the emotional aspect of

discourse, the appeal to the human instinct to respond emotively. Aristotle detested the

abuse of emotional manipulation (Rhet. 1.1.3-6), but did not write off the importance of

understanding pathos altogether, dedicating ten chapters of Rhetorica to understanding

the various emotions, how they are in relationship to one another, and how to use them

(see 2.2-11, of which anger is primary in the list). Pathos was generally neglected in the

later rhetorical handbooks, and is generally associated with the genre of epilogue.59 The

epilogue had three parts: a summary, the indignatio, where one arouses hatred and ill will

toward the opponent, and the conquestio, where one arouses sympathy and pity for

oneself (cf. Cicero, De Inv. 1.98-109). Quintilian felt that pathos played an important role

in judicial type argumentation, with the purpose of arousing sympathy for the speaker’s

position, and hatred toward his opponent (Inst. 6.1.9-11). Quintilian’s understanding of

pathos was a little different than Cicero and Aristotle;60 for Quintilian, pathos and ethos

represented two extremes of the emotional coin, with pathos being the stronger, more

violent, more vehement, and most temporary emotion (Inst. 6.2.8-10).

Besides Aristotle’s concern for the overuse of pathos (Rhet. 3.1.3-6), Cicero has

some warnings and guidelines. The use of emotion should be in harmony with the

Westminster, 1986). Steven J. Kraftchick (“Pavqh in Paul: The Emotional Logic of “Original Argument,”
in Paul and Pathos [ed. Thomas H. Olbricht and Jerry L. Sumney; SBLSymS 16; Atlanta: SBL, 2001], 39-
41) argues that Paul coincides with rhetorical conventions not because he was bound by them or even knew
them well, but because he was producing an original argument and doing it well. For a good analysis of the
issues and major movements, see D. L. Stamps, “Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament: Ancient and
Modern Evaluations of Argumentation,” in Approaches to New Testament Study, ed. Stanley E. Porter and
David Tombs (JSNTSup 120; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 129-169.
Aristotle, Rhet. 1.2.3-6, Cicero, De Or. 2.128, 185-211; cf. Cicero, De Or. 2.114. Aristotle only
connects these three to the first canon (or “proof,” see Rhet. 3.1.1) in the later, Rhetorica ad Alexandrum
Aune, “Pathos,” Dictionary of NT and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric, 340.
Aune, “Pathos,” Dictionary of NT and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric, 341.

rhetor’s interests (De. Or. 2.185-6), and they should be genuinely felt by the speaker (De.

Or. 2.189; 3.215-216). The speaker should not begin emotionally, but lead in and build

up toward an effective use of pathos (2.213-214). The point was to win the case, and

Cicero’s encouragement of the use of whatever emotion is most effective stemmed from

his practical approach to the subject.61

Hyperbole is one of the few formal rhetorical devices that Paul may have

mentioned: KaiV e[ti kaq= uJperbolhVn oJdoVn uJmi'n deivknumi, “and now according to

hyperbole I will show you a way” (1 Cor 12:31b).62 Dramatic orientation, including

exaggeration and over-assertion, “is a means value for maintaining and enhancing the

Mediterranean core values of honor and shame.”63 This dramatic orientation may come in

word (boasting, hyperbole) or in deed (heroic activity).64 Spontaneous, extreme emotive

outbursts were normal expressions of a culture that preferred “being” to “doing.” In this

state of Greco-Roman rhetoric, all realities are polarized in the expression of hyperbole.65

Carol J. Schlueter devotes a chapter to the Greco-Roman rhetorical backgrounds

of 1 Thess 2:14-16, and much of that is dedicated to the convention of hyperbole.66

Schlueter notes that Quintilian considered hyperbole and exaggeration to be part of

natural rhetoric.67 The power of rhetoric was in knowing how to enhance the strength of

the words that were used in argumentation (Quintilian, Inst. 8.3.89-90), which Aristotle

calls “amplification” (Rhet. 2.18.4). Amplification was used in various genres of speech,

Thomas H. Olbricht, “Pathos As Proof in Greco-Roman Rhetoric.” in Paul and Pathos (ed.
Thomas H. Olbricht and Jerry L. Sumney; SBLSymS 16; Atlanta: SBL, 2001), 17-19.
Lauri Thurén, “‘By Means of Hyperbole’” (1 Cor 12:31b),” in Paul and Pathos (ed. Thomas H.
Olbricht and Jerry L. Sumney; SBLSymS 16; Atlanta: SBL, 2001), 97.
Pilch and Malina, Handbook, 47.
Pilch and Malina, Handbook, 47.
Pilch and Malina, Biblical Social Values, 53.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 75-110.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 76. See Quintilian, Inst. 8.6.75.

but especially in epideictic rhetoric that is primarily concerned with praise and blame

(Aristotle, Rhet. 2.18.2-5).68 One blames the opponent of things that are the opposite of

good things: the unjust, the unlawful, inexpedient, ignoble, and unpleasant things, as well

as bad appearance, poverty, humble origin and the like, if they lead to bad things.69

Aristotle’s Rhetoric to Alexander lists six ways in which amplification is to be used:70

1. Demonstrate how his (the opponent’s) actions produced certain results, good
or bad.
2. Bring up a previous judgment—good or bad—and compare your own
statement with it, while enlarging the strong points.
3. Compare and contrast two things.
4. Compare and contrast two things in quality; mentioning the opposite trait will
make the trait you are arguing about look either really good or evil.
5. Prove the intentions of the person, showing that he long intended to do what
he did, then did it, then kept on doing it willingly and deliberately.
6. Build your case; bigger is always better with argumentation.

“Amplification is fundamental to the art of persuasion, and hyperbole is the

servant of amplification.”71 Hyperbole takes the art of amplification a step further,

making the argument more pointed. Note Quintilian on hyperbole:

It means an elegant straining of the truth. . . . We can say more than the
actual facts. . . . It is enough to say that hyperbole lies, though without any
intention to deceive. We must therefore be all the more careful to consider how
far we may go in exaggerating facts which our audience may refuse to believe. 72

Although hyperbole was recognized as moving beyond the truth, there is no intention to

deceive, and it is still considered by Quintilian to be honourable (Inst. 2.17.28). For the

Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 80. Schlueter states of epideictic rhetoric, “its main concern
is to praise, to vituperate, or both in a ceremonial setting” (p. 79). See Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.1-4; Seneca, Ep.
94.49; 95.65-66. Stowers (Letter Writing, 93) notes that “blame” is a form of epistolary exhortation.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 81.
Rh. Al. 3.1426a.20-1426b.20; Quintillian (Inst. 8.4.3-36) only has four methods of
amplification: Augmentation (use stronger words; e.g., beaten is not as good as murdered), Comparison
(from lesser to greater), Reasoning, and Accumulation (equal ideas are phrased like they are increasing in
importance); Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 81-85.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 85.
Quintilian, Inst. 8.6.68-74 [Butler].

rhetors, the cause of greater truth prevailed over exact details. Although used in all

rhetorical categories (Inst. 3.4.15), exaggeration was used most in vituperation and

eulogy of the epideictic genre.73 Hyperbole is also widely used by Paul; as a sample,

Schlueter lists the following uses of hyperbole in Paul: 1 Cor 9:22 (all things to all

people); 1 Cor 3:13 (Paul as refuse); 1 Thess 4:8 (verbal shock); 1 Cor 1:5 (hyperbolic

praise, but really just amplification); 1 Thess 1:8 (Thessalonians as an example to all).74

Within the context of friendship communication, ancient Greco-Romans used

parrēsia. Outside of that context, though, rhetors were critically thinking about the use of

pathos, hyperbole, and blame. Among other things, these devices helped stir up feelings

of anger and hatred, and represented a dialectical and polemical tendency to completely

beat the “other”—at least in the rhetorical arena. But did Greco-Roman writers express

polemic in the actual practice of their writing?

The vast amount of polemic in philosophical writings represents the ways authors

put Greco-Roman conventions to use in the struggle between philosophical schools and

the exhortation of followers within the school. Abraham Malherbe notes Dio

Chrysostom’s description of various philosophical schools includes invective and

polemic.75 The resident philosophers are useless, like make-believe athletes who never

actually compete. There are wandering cynics (Dio was one himself) who are described

as charlatans, bastards, hedonists, self-gratifiers, and an ignoble race, deceiving even

sailors and taking their money. Orator-philosophers and rhetors preach only for gain and

glory, and only corrupt listeners. The sophists among them lacked substance to an even

greater degree. The harsh cynics rail into the listener rather than teach, and ruin their

Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 87.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 88-92. Cf. also 1 Cor 15:30-31; Rom 15:19.
Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers, 37-45. See esp. Dio Chrysostom, Dis. 32.

freedom to speak because of anxiety. These people are harsh—not out of genuine

parrēsia, but to make up for lack of content, because of abusiveness and avarice, and

cowardice. Even against the gentle philosophers, Dio accuses them of flattery.

Luke Timothy Johnson catalogues an impressive list of polemical statements in

other philosophical and rhetorical writings, and there is no need to reproduce his work

entirely, but only mention a few examples.76 Dio rails against the sophists, calling them

ignorant, boastful, self-deceived, unlearned deceivers, evil-spirited, impious, self-

gratifying, flattering, useless, boastful, shameless, mindless, charlatans and

demagogues.77 The sophists returned the polemical scorn, accusing of hypocrisy,

dullness, and uselessness, and they paint themselves as the true philosophers.78 Johnson

also records various doctrinal debates between various philosophical schools where,

despite the high level of philosophical acumen, the polemic can seem quite base.79

Johnson notes that slander in philosophical writings becomes a literary topos, and

its main function was to signify an opponent as such.80 Certain clear categories existed

for the slander: hypocrisy, base moral teaching, corruption, hedonism, greed, and the goal

of personal glory rather than edification. This clear demarcation of the “other” in Greco-

Roman language using slander and invective in the context of polemical writing never

causes concern to the authors or their opponents. It is remarkable that the nature of one’s

polemic is never used in a polemical attack by another author. The use of polemic was

taken for granted, and used as a device to achieve the ultimate goal: win the argument.

Luke Timothy Johnson, “The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of
Ancient Polemic,” JBL 108 (1989): esp. 430-434.
Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 430. See Dis. 4.33-38; 11.14; 23.11; 33.30; 54.1, 55.7,
70.10, 77/78.27.
Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 430-431. See Aelius Aristides, Plat. Dis. 307-310.
Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 431-432. Johnson also notes the use of satire as a form of
literary polemic (p. 433).
Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 432.

3.4. Conclusion

After a survey of the recent interactions between biblical studies and the social

sciences, we discovered the importance of honour and shame in Mediterranean social

definition and evaluation, and the possible helpfulness of this distinction in evaluating

Paul’s statements in 1 Thess 2:14-16. We then engaged, as part of that contemporary

social evaluation, in a survey of polemic in Paul’s Greco-Roman literary backgrounds. It

is evident from the sources that polemic was a normal—even normative—aspect of social

conversation and reasoned debate. Writers made use of pathos, hyperbole, and blame to

do their best to win their case for the sake of truth. Within these conversations, there

seems to be no consideration that polemics of the kinds described above are

dishonourable. By contrast, the use of these conventions for the sake of truth can be seen

to be a means to the maintenance of honour.

Paul was not, though, just another Greco-Roman writer. As displayed by the

content of his writings, Paul’s primary influences were specifically Judaistic. In chapter 4

we turn to a survey of Paul’s Judaistic rhetorical backgrounds.





4.1. Self-directed Polemic as Hebrew and Judaistic Phenomenon

One striking feature of the prophets is that they are quite hard on their fellow

Hebrews,1 though readers often pass over such intense polemic without much concern.

The Nebi’im are saturated with self-directed polemic and invective, and these statements

represent a “hermeneutic of prophetic critique”2—a Hebrew literary approach that allows

authors to critique their peers and even their superiors according to the statutes of God

and proper Torah ethics. As Mary Callaway has observed, Israel’s story lacks self-

glorification: “There are no real heroes in the Hebrew Bible. . . . Nowhere is Israel’s

tendency toward self-criticism so apparent as in the tradition of prophetic critique.”3 This

Hebrew self-directed prophetic criticism forges the way for the development of Judaistic
While remarkable, it could be that this prophetic self-criticism was a trait broader than simply
Israel. E.g., see KAI 181:4-6: hxrab ?mk [nay yk /br /my bam ta wnuyw lar?y ilm yrmu (Omri,
king of Israel, oppressed Moab a great time, for Chemosh was angry with the land).
The term “prophetic-critique hermeneutic” is coined by James A. Sanders, “From Isaiah 61 to
Luke 4,” in Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty. Part
One: New Testament (ed. J. Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 1975), 95; idem, “Luke’s Great Banquet Parable,” in
Essays in Old Testament Ethics, ed. J. L. Crenshaw and J. T. Willis (New York: KTAV, 1974), esp. 253.
Used by Craig A. Evans, “1Q Isaiaha and the Absence of Prophetic Critique at Qumran,” RevQ 11 (1984):
537-542; idem, “Faith and Polemic: The New Testament and First-century Judaism,” in Anti-Semitism and
Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, ed. Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner (Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1993), 1-17; idem, “Paul and the Prophets: Prophetic Criticism in the Epistle to the Romans (with
special reference to Romans 9-11),” in Romans and the People of God, ed. Sven K. Soderlund and N. T.
Wright (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 115-128; idem, “From ‘House of Prayer’ to ‘Cave of Robbers’:
Jesus’ Prophetic Criticism of the Temple Establishment,” in The Quest for Context and Meaning: Studies in
Biblical Intertextuality in Honor of James A. Sanders, ed. Craig A. Evans and Shemaryahu Talmon
(Biblical Interpretation Series 28; Leiden: Brill, 1997), 417-442. Cf. Mary C. Callaway, “A Hammer That
Breaks Rock in Pieces: Prophetic Critique in the Hebrew Bible,” in Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity:
Issues of Polemic and Faith, ed. Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 21.
Callaway, “Prophetic Critique in the Hebrew Bible,” 21-22.

critique-from-within in Second Temple literature that is in continuity with the polemical

calls to repentance of the Hebrew prophets. In understanding the social and rhetorical

background of Paul, it is essential to grasp this genre of prophetic criticism. Therefore the

remainder of this chapter is dedicated to a survey of Tanakh prophetic critique (section

4.2), polemic and prophetic critique in the Apocrypha and Old Testament4

Pseudepigrapha (section 4.3.1) and Qumran (section 4.3.2), with a note about polemic

and Judaistic critique-from-within in Philo and Josephus (section 4.3.3).

4.2. Tanakh Prophetic Critique

Without doubt, Paul’s primary resource for theological language is Tanakh. Just a

quick glance at the marginal notes in the NA27 Greek NT, and it is clear that Paul again

and again used the language of Tanakh (in its LXX translation), to describe Christ and the

Christ-life.5 It should come as no surprise, then, that Paul’s rhetoric also carries echoes

and themes from Tanakh. Since Paul viewed himself in the tradition of the Hebrew

prophets, and used language from Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning his calling and mission

to the gentiles, a brief survey of the polemic in Isaiah and Jeremiah will suffice to

demonstrate that a significant prophetic tradition of self-critical polemic existed among

the Hebrew prophets from whom Paul drew his primary Judaistic self-understanding.

“OT Pseudepigrapha” is used here technically, as used in the interfaith edition by James H.
Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985).
The classic text in this area is E. Earle Ellis, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (Edinburgh: Oliver
and Boyd, 1957). Ellis lists nearly one hundred quotations of Tanakh in Paul, and approximately 120
possible allusions (pp. 150-154). Recently the discussion has turned to the value of the Tanakh allusions
and intertextual echoes in Paul’s letters. E.g., see Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of
Paul (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). See the abstract and responses in Craig A. Evans and
James A. Sanders, eds., Paul and the Scriptures of Israel (JSNTSup 83; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1993), esp. the bibliography, 1-2.

Hebrew self-deprecation6 and prophetic criticism is prevalent in the books of

Jeremiah and Isaiah. Within the context of Jeremiah’s calling as a prophet to the nations

(Jer 1:5), the judgment of military offensive is set against Judah because of Judah’s,

“wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshiped the

works of their own hands” (1:15, NRSV). Jeremiah then continues with chapter after

chapter of judgment oracles against God’s people for, primarily, rebellion and idolatry.

The oracles of Jeremiah 2-37 declare that Israel either refuses to repent, or merely

feigns repentance for her faithlessness and adultery. Therefore, YHWH will divorce her

for her unwillingness to be faithful. Jeremiah continues with declarations that God’s

people are ignorant evil-doing fools (4:22), who rejected God’s prophets (7:25-26). Israel

is uncircumcised in heart, even if they are circumcised in flesh (9:26), and God has

brought on Israel all the curses of the covenant because they did not obey (11:7-8, 14).

The prophet then declares, “do not pray for them, for I will not listen, I will show no pity

on them” (7:16; 13:12-14; 14:11-12, 19; 18:21, 23). The images of God’s rejection of his

faithless wife in Jeremiah (cf. Ezek 16) must be set within the context of God’s promise

of rescue (1:19) and of restoration (ch. 33), but Jeremiah’s polemic is noteworthy.

In many ways the polemic is similar in Isaiah. Isaiah is intent on pronouncing

judgment against idolatry,8 and begins with a lawsuit oracle of judgment against Israel as

a rebellious people. There are images of sexual impropriety and feigned religiosity, but

Isaiah’s first oracle ends with hope that Jerusalem would be called faithful again. Isaiah

2, unlike Jeremiah, has an oracle where Jacob is brought low and will not be lifted up (or

forgiven; contrast Jer 23:39), and speaks of the Day of YHWH as a day of dread.

Callaway, “Prophetic Critique in the Hebrew Bible,” 21.
On the lawsuit form of judgment oracle, see Callaway, “Prophetic Critique,” 24-25.
See esp. chs. 40-48—40:19-22; 41:6-7; 42:17; 44:9-20; 45:16, 20; 46:1-2; 48:1-11; 48:14.

Like Jeremiah’s oracles against the nations (Jer 46-51), Isaiah also speaks against

the nations (Isa 13-21; 23) and then speaks to God’s people within that context (Isa 28-

31). Isa 30 is a woe oracle to God’s obstinate children who have non-Godly plans and

who “collect sins upon sins” (30:1). Even in the “Comfort, Comfort” driven hope of the

second half of Isaiah, Israel is judged as blind and deaf (42:18-25; cf. 43:8; 44:9; chs. 6,

59), stubborn (46:12-13; ch. 48), drunk and without leaders (51:17-23), and a rebellious

people who grieve the Holy Spirit (63:10). While Isaiah ends with a note of hope (Isaiah

66), it is not hope without judgment. Isaiah 65 declares that although the nation did not

call on God, and although they were obstinate and idolatrous pig-eaters, God’s wrath will

not destroy them all. Instead, God’s chosen people will inherit, while those who forsake

YHWH will die by hunger and the sword and will be put to shame.

Even in this brief survey it is still clear that quite a range of polemic is used in the

prophetic writings9 against not only the nations, but God’s own chosen people. While

these judgments are mixed with hope, and the people’s faithlessness contrasted with

God’s faithfulness, the oracles are themselves decisively polemical, even declaring that

the people “have broken the everlasting covenant” (Isa 24:5). This is how Isaiah begins:

Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the LORD has spoken:
I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.
The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib;
but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.
Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who
deal corruptly, who have forsaken the LORD, who have despised the Holy
One of Israel, who are utterly estranged! (1:6-8 NRSV).

See also Ezek 23:31-34; 33:23-29; Hos 1:2; 4:6; 5:4; 6:6; Mic 6:1-14; Hab 2:15-17; see examples
of invective listed by Callaway (“Prophetic Critique,” 26-29): Jer 8:6-7; Isa 1:3, 21-23; Amos 6:12; Zeph
3:3; Isa 59:5; Jer 2:21; Isa 5:1-7; Jer 2:20-24; Hos 2:2-3; Ezek 16:45; Exod 19; Isa 28:7-8, 29:9-10; Jer
13:12-14, 25:15-16; Isa 51:17, 22; Amos 4:4-5. Perhaps the prophetic tradition is represented well in Ps 94,
where there is polemic against the “wicked” (94:3), and “you dull-hearted of the people, fools” (94:8). Yet
the promise of God’s faithfulness remains true, “for YHWH will not reject (vf^n)* his people” (94:14; see
1 Sam 12:22; contrast Jer 7:29; 12:7; 23:33; 2 Kgs 21:14)—people who themselves “reject” YHWH in the
tradition (Deut 32:15; Ps 27:9; Isa 2:6; 32:14; Jer 15:6).

It is evident, then, that the Hebrew prophets engaged in a ministry of self-

criticism as part of a hermeneutic of prophetic criticism, bringing the people from a point

of disobedience to a point of obedience in the promise of God’s justice and wrath. What

is interesting about the polemic of Isaiah and Jeremiah is that the prophet is intricately

part of the people that he judged, yet he speaks consistently of the people of God in the

second and third person.10 How is he able to do this? It seems that Israel, who had

distinguished themselves as God’s people in opposition to the “other,”11 particularly other

nations and people groups, spoke in prophetic polemic by making the audience a special

category of “other.” In the literary device of the oracle, the prophet stands apart from

Israel, often as a mediator between YHWH and the people. The result is an “us” versus

“them” style that betrays the intimacy with which the prophet was connected to the

community, and heightens the intrinsic “but I . . . .” The value of the polemic remains,

however. The prophet speaks polemically, and sometimes with great invective, with the

hope that God’s people will return to be the people they were called to be.

4.3. Second Temple Judaistic Polemic

Although the genre of Judaistic prophetic literature was replaced with apocalyptic

literature in post-Tanakh writings, and thus some of the most powerful self-directed

polemic is dulled in Second Temple literature, the self-critical awareness of the Hebrew

prophets continued to some degree in literature of the Greek and Roman periods of the

There are places where the voice of the oracle is in the first person plural as a literary device,
particularly in Deutero-Isaiah. Even then, however, the prophet may still stand against the people. See Isa
24:14-17, where the prophet seems to be pictured in the dialogue, but still as an opponent, “but I . . . .”
For the Jewish construction of the other, beginning in the foundation myths and the portrayal of
Israel’s relationship with the Canaanites, see the essays in Laurence J. Silberstein and Robert L. Cohn, eds.,
The Other in Jewish Thought and History: Constructions of Jewish Culture and Identity (New York: New
York University Press, 1994). On the theory of the other in relation to Judaism and Christianity, see
Jonathan Z. Smith, “What a Difference a Difference Makes,” in To See Ourselves As Others See Us, ed.
Jacob Neusner and Ernest Frerichs (Chico: Scholars, 1985), 3-48. Smith states that awareness of other is as
old as mankind itself, and he is helpful in analyzing the binary oppositions of “us” and “them” (15).

Second Temple age. The apocryphal writings12 themselves may be viewed as a struggle

between different approaches in Judaism to the unavoidable force of Hellenization, both

in Alexandrian Egypt and Palestine.13 The Judaistic pseudepigraphal writings14 also bear

out this social conversation, with greater evidence of various educated groups vying for

ideological victory.15 The community of Qumran stands as a social critique against the

praxis of the Jerusalem Judaistic community, and their writings display anti-Jerusalemitic

polemic as such. Philo and Josephus—like Paul, thoroughly Greco-Judaistic writers—

also engaged in a struggle for Judaistic self-definition, even if they offer their own twists.

It is surprising, then, that the polemic and critical rhetoric of Second Temple

literature has been a generally neglected topic among scholarly writing in this area.16 In

By which we refer to those books contained in the LXX but not part of the MT or the NT. While
the number of books in this category is limited, what precisely is included is different in different traditions,
and there is confusion over the Ezra/Esdras books. In each case are included Baruch (also called 1 Baruch
in Luther’s Bible, and in contrast with pseudepigraphal 2 Baruch, the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, 3
Baruch, the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, and 4 Baruch, Paraleipomena of Jeremiah), the Epistle of
Jeremiah (which is the sixth chapter of 1 Baruch in Luther’s Bible), the six Additions to (the Greek book
of) Esther, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Jesus ben Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, Tobit/Tobias,
the Wisdom of Solomon, and the Additions to Daniel: Prayer of Azariah, Bel and the Dragon, Susanna, and
the Song of Three Young Men (in the furnace). Regarding Esdras (=Ezra), the LXX called the canonical
Ezra-Nehemiah, 2 Esdras (Esdras b, or sometimes b and g), and called 1 Esdras (a) what the Vulgate calls
3 Esdras (and the NRSV calls 1 Esdras), which is most of Ezra, Neh 7:38-8:12, a paraphrase of 2 Chr 35-
36, and an additional story about Darius. There is further confusion in that the Vulgate contains the
pseudepigraphal 4 Esdras (2 Esdras in the NRSV), which is divided today in academic circles: chs. 1-2 are
5 Ezra; chs. 3-14 are called 4 Ezra; chs. 15-16 are called 6 Ezra. In Slavonic Bibles (Russian Orthodox), the
apocryphal 3 Esdras (Vulgate)/1 Esdras (NRSV) is called 2 Esdras, but Greek Orthodox churches called it
1 Esdras. In Orthodox tradition, 3 Maccabees is included also, but 4 Maccabees and the Prayer of
Manasseh are included as an appendix (Slavonic Bibles also include 3 Ezra in the appendix). The Roman
Catholic Church carries 3 Ezra and 4 Ezra in an appendix with Psalm 151 (which has a Syriac version,
including Pss 152-155, two of which are included with Ps 151 when contested in Hebrew in 11QPsa).
Following Luther, the entire Apocrypha was appended as useful but not canonical in Protestant Bibles.
Otto Kaiser, The Old Testament Apocrypha: An Introduction (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson,
Except where noted, we will use James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament
Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985). We have eliminated all sources which are
considered Christian, per James H. Charlesworth, “Christian and Jewish Self-Definition in Light of the
Christian Additions to the Apocryphal Writings,” in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition: Volume 2:
Aspects of Judaism in the Graeco-Roman Period, ed. E. P. Sanders (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 27-55.
See Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from
the Exile to Yavneh (New York: Routledge, 2000), 52-58.
Other than Qumran secondary literature, there are few notable exceptions. One is Luke Timothy
Johnson, “The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic,” JBL 108

conversation with what secondary sources are available, we will briefly look at samples

of the primary sources of the Apocrypha, OT Pseudepigrapha, and Qumran literature,

with a note about Josephus and Philo, to see how Hebrew prophetic critique and religious

polemic continued as a social and rhetorical device even after the genre of prophecy

passed away.

4.3.1. The Literary Polemics of the Apocrypha and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha


Baruch is the more substantial of the Apocryphal Jeremian works, but the tone of

this fictive letter by Jeremiah’s scribe is clearly different than the tone of Jeremiah. Much

of the polemic and invective is missing; instead, Baruch as a whole17 is a record of

confession and repentance in the light of the hope of God’s promise of forgiveness and

return within his everlasting covenant (Bar 2:30-35). The storyline of the book is after the

polemical prophetic call has been given, and the exiles in Babylon respond with weeping

(1:3-5). God’s wrath has been promised (1:13) because they have been sinful from the

time of Egypt until that very generation (1:14-19), but the people are intent on change.

They confess that they brought the Deuteronomistic curses upon themselves (1:20) and

have always rejected the words of the prophets, and chose to engage in idolatry and

(1989): 419-441. Though limited in depth and critical awareness of every issue, it is a fine survey asking,
“when Judaists and other Greco-Romans disagreed, what kind of language did they use?” For a study on
soteriological differences within second temple Judaism, see Mark Adam Elliott, The Survivors of Israel: A
Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). Evans’“1Q
Isaiaha and the Absence of Prophetic Critique at Qumran” (RevQ 11 [1984]: 537-542) defines prophetic
critique as self-critical only in the sense of applying God’s judgment to one’s own group. Although it is
true, as will be seen, that the Qumran community had determines a precise “us” and “them,” with other
Judaists in the “them” category, it is an overstatement to suggest that the sectarians at Qumran did not carry
on the tradition of Hebrew prophetic critique. There are some Qumran scholars who have been helpful on
their notes about Qumran sectarianism; these, and other scholars that have been helpful in a less direct
fashion have been noted in the footnotes. Unavailable: J. C. VanderKam, Manuscritti del Mar Morto: El
dibattito recente oltre le polemiche, trans. Gian Luigi Prato (Rome: Città Nuova Editrice, 1995); P. Bar-
Adon, “jlmh-<y [wjb? rwwyu-la /yub hdwhy rbdm td l? [swn bw?yy,” ErIsr 10 (1971): 72-89.
Most agree that this is a composite work sometime in the second century B.C.E. E.g., see Kaiser,
OT Apocrypha, 56-58; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 109, 113-114.

wickedness in general (1:21). Bar 2:1-3:8 continues the attitude of contrition in prayer,

describing in great detail God’s promised wrath that took place because of their

disobedience, and calls upon God to forgive them as he promised he would. There is

some second-person polemic in the prologue to the wisdom poem (3:9-4:4), but the book

ends with a poem of exhortation to courage and joy (4:5-5:9).

Though Baruch lacks the kind of second person polemic of Jeremiah and Isaiah,

what is remarkable is that prophetic self-critique takes a step further in Baruch, and much

of the critique is in the first person plural voice—it is truly self-directed polemic.18

Anti-Idolatry Polemic

The Epistle of Jeremiah (1 Baruch 6) engages in the full range of anti-idolatry

polemic in the tradition of Jeremiah, with the prominent theme that the gods are not really

gods at all: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber bed, which guards nothing, so are their gods

of wood, overlaid with gold and silver” (Ep Jer 70 NRSV). The polemic of this second

century B.C.E.19 letter to the Babylonian exiles draws from a number of passages,20 and is

similar to Jeremiah 10 and 29, but engages in its own unique indulgence of metaphorical

polemic and the almost liturgical repetition of “do not fear them” (vv. 16, 23, 29, 65, 69).

Jub. 12:1-5, 12-14; 20:8-9, and 22:16-18 also declare that idols are not really gods

at all. They have no spirit in them, they are mute and misleading, and one should not eat

with gentiles who worship them. Abram goes so far as to burn a house of idols, resulting

In the same vein, The Prayer of Azariah (an Addition to the Book of Daniel, inserted in Dan
3:23-24), continues the theme of Baruch: God’s judgment is right because God’s people have sinned, but
his covenant extends even into the exile. See also T. Levi 14-18.
There is a Greek fragment at Qumran (7QLXXEpJer), and it is mentioned in 2 Macc 2:2 (cf. 2
Macc 2:1-10) and Jub. 11-12, so most date the letter to the second century. E.g., see Kaiser, OT Apocrypha
63-64; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 38; contra Carey A. Moore (Daniel, Esther and Jeremiah: The
Additions [AB44; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977], 327-328) who suggests the late fourth century.
Moore (The Additions, 319-323) lists the following: Jer 10; Isa 44:9-20; 46:5-7; Deut 4:27-28;
LXX Pss 134 and 113:11-16.

in his father’s death. This violent purging of idols is a theme within the pseudepigraphal

literature.21 The first eight chapters of The Apocalypse of Abraham are really an anti-

idolatry prologue to the apocalypse as such. These chapters are the story of how Abraham

came to worship the God of gods, the Creator, the Mighty One (Apoc. Ab. 8:1-4).

Abraham’s father, Terah, is a maker of the gods, and after a handful of incidents

Abraham notes that the gods are destroyed and re-made so easily (chs. 1-2, 5). Abraham

concludes that it is Terah who is god to the gods (chs. 4-5), so if there is a god of Terah,

this one is this one true God. Abraham rejects the futility of the gods and worshipping the

elements (ch. 722) and calls out, “If [only] God will reveal himself by himself to us!”

(7:12). At this moment, God does reveal God’s self (ch. 8). The manner of God’s self-

revelation is that Abraham steps out of Terah’s house, and Terah, his great house, and all

that is within his house are burned to the ground (8:4-6). In another story of idol-

destruction, Job describes to his children on his deathbed the details behind his testing by

Satan (T. Job 2-5). Like Abraham’s sensible conversion in the Apocalypse of Abraham,

Job began to doubt that the local idols really created everything (ch. 2). Like Abraham,

God calls to him, and reveals that the idols are really the power of the devil (3:1-3). Job

responds, worshipping the Lord, and begging to destroy the temple, since it is the abode

of Satan (3:4-7). Job is warned, however, that if he destroys the temple, Satan will rise up

See also Jos. Asen. 10:12, where Aseneth grinds her rejected idols to dust. The apocryphal
addition, Bel and the Dragon, carries on the traditions of anti-idolatry purging. In an early version of a
detective story, Daniel, an exilic advisor to King Cyrus, scoffs at the king when he thinks that the idol Bel
is a real god because of all the food he eats (Bel 3-7). Daniel traps the cultic priests in their game of eating
the food set out for Bel (9-20), and both the idol and the priests are destroyed by the king’s order (21). The
king persists in his idolatry, though, and insists that another god, the Dragon, must be a real god (24).
Daniel slays the dragon without a sword (27), demonstrating in two ways that gods are not gods at all.
There are significant textual variants of this chapter, but the poetic movement remains intact.

in wrath—except to the point of death (4:1-5). Faced even with the threat of losing his

children, Job destroys the temple (ch. 5), and this action is the backdrop to his testing.23

The Wisdom of Solomon is an important and popular apocryphal book that

contains strong literary polemic against idolatry in chs. 13-16.24 Idols are described as

inferior to the Master (Wis 13:3), useless (13:13), worthless (13:14), accursed and

perishable (14:8), an abomination, a stumbling block and snare for people (14:11), empty

illusions (14:14), the beginning, cause, and end of all evil (14:27), dead images (15:5),

and “nothing-gods” (15:8). Idolaters are described as mindless and ignorant (13:1),

wretched and hoping in dead things (13:10), hateful to God and godless (14:9), impious

(14:16), child-murderers (14:23), impure (14:24), lustful fools (15:5), in love with evil

(15:6). It is promised that justice will pursue idolaters (14:30), and the author has

particularly choice words for idol artists (15:7-13) and Egyptian idolaters (15:14-19).

Wisdom, the Epistle of Jeremiah, Jubilees, The Testament of Job, and The

Apocalypse of Abraham are not the only examples of Second Temple polemic against

idolatry. This motif is also prevalent in significant sections of Sib. Or. 3; Testament of the

Twelve Patriarchs; Liv. Pro. 3:2; Let. Aris. 134-138; 1 En. 95:5, 99:7; 2 En. 10:6 (cf. 3

Bar 13:4) and chs. 34 and 66; T. Mos. 10:9; T. Jac. 7:19-20;25 T. Sol. 26 (God’s spirit

departs from Solomon for idolatry); and in the classic Judaistic conversion/love story of

See Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 104-105.
Another Judaist writing in Greek, like Paul. Wisdom of Solomon may even be contemporary to
Paul’s Christian mission, ca. 37-41 C.E.; David Winston, The Wisdom of Solomon (AB43; Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979), 20-25; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 184-185; contra Grabbe, Judaic Religion,
87. For the genre of idol parody, and an excellent survey of usage in Psalms, Deutero-Isaiah, Jeremiah, and
the apocrypha, see W. M. W. Roth, “For Life, He Appeals to Death (Wis 13:18),” CBQ 37 (1975): 21-47.
On this book specifically, Maurice Gilbert, La critique des dieux dans le Livre de la Sagesse, AnBib 53
(Rome: Biblical Institute, 1973), esp. 233-243; 252-257.
Paul uses this passage in an amended quotation in 1 Cor 6:9.

Joseph and Aseneth. Aniconic religion is clearly a part of Second Temple Judaism;26

therefore much of the anti-idolatry polemic of these writings generally pictures gentiles

as the idolaters (cf. Wis 15:1-6). However, the pre-occupation with idols in post-Tanakh

literature (and in Tanakh prophetic literature as well), significant stories contained in Liv.

Pro. 3:2 and T. Sol. 26, and warnings such as those given by the voice of Abraham (Jub.

12:1-5; 20:8-9; 22:16-18), indicate that idolatry was a pressing issue in this period.27

Critique Against Leadership

An addition to the Book of Daniel, Susanna, engages in a critique of a different

kind than that of traditional idolatry or the call of repentance to the people: a critique

against the leadership of Israel. Daniel is a detective cast to prove who is right when two

lecherous elders accuse a respected Hebrew woman of adultery. The author begins with

an editorial critique of the leaders’ hearts: “They suppressed their consciences and turned

away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering their duty to administer justice”

(Sus 1:9 NRSV). The castigation of the elders in Daniel’s voice is no less subtle. In the

interrogation, Daniel addresses one elder, “you old relic of wicked days, your sins have

now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments,

condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty” (1:52b-53a NRSV). Daniel accuses

the second elder of being a child of Canaan, not Judah, and he pushes further, accusing

him of perversion and rape (1:56-57). In the end, the elders are found guilty of bearing

false witness. Susanna shares with Daniel the theme that God will vindicate God’s people

Confirmed by Diodorus of Sicily 40.3.3-4, which perceives Moses as the instigator of this anti-
idol religion and the originator of the temple cult that does not think God comes in human form.
Michael Mach (“Conservative revolution? The intolerant innovations of Qumran,” in Tolerance
and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa [New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1998], 61-62) suggest that the Judaistic inner struggle and confrontation
with the world should be brought together in understanding Judaistic self-definition.

against her enemies. What is unique about this account is that the enemies are not

gentiles, but the sons of Judah oppressing the daughters of Israel.28 These leaders are no

longer being Judaists as Judaists should, but are acting like the oppressive pagan leaders.

The polemic of the account is clear: in no uncertain words the author accuses the leaders

of Israel of forfeiting their birthright and oppressing their own people.

The pseudepigraphical Psalms of Solomon is an example of an internal Judaistic

conflict that also has devout Judaists critiquing a corrupt, secularizing leadership:

Their wealth was extended to the whole earth, and their glory to the end of
the earth.
They exalted themselves to the stars, they said they would never fall.
They were arrogant in their possessions, and they did not acknowledge (God).
Their sins were in secret, and even I did not know.
Their lawless actions surpass the gentiles before them; they completely profaned
the sanctuary of the Lord (Pss. Sol. 1:4-8; cf. chs. 2, 4, 8). 29

It is the sin of these “sons of Jerusalem” that results in the defilement of the temple and

the exile.30 The author imagines the gentiles as lawless and rejected by God (7:1-3; 8:23;

see also 1:8; 2:2, 19-25; 17:13-16), although God does use gentiles as his tools of the

punishment of sinful Israel (ch. 8). There is a similar theme in the remains of T. Mos. 7,

where there is an eschatological judgment against self-pleasing, devouring, gluttonous,

unjust, exterminating, godless leaders who have the audacity to say, “Do not touch me,

lest you pollute me in the position I occupy” (7:10). Clearly in the Second Temple age,

Wright, NT and the People of God, 220-221.
See R. B. Wright, “Psalms of Solomon,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H.
Charlesworth, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985), 2:643.
Pss. Sol. 2:2-7. Cf. T. Levi 14-18, which suggests that the sin of the people lead to the problems
in the priesthood; in T. Sol. 5:1-4, destruction, war, idolatry, and temptation of priests and holy people
comes from the demon, “Beelzeboul.”

Judaists were not against critiquing leaders,31 and this implicit and explicit criticism of

the leaders of Israel carries on the Tanakh tradition of Hebrew prophetic critique.

Maccabean Struggle for Self-Definition

1 and 2 Maccabees show the struggle of Judaistic self-definition in the face of the

threat of Hellenization that lies behind much of Second Temple literature. According to

Joseph Blenkinsopp, 1 Maccabees portrays Antiochus IV’s attack as an attempt to arrest

the Judaistic way of life, and the story is told from the perspective of the winner of a

sectarian battle for identity between conservative and reform parties.32 Daniel Schwartz

describes this struggle for definition in his article, “The other in 1 and 2 Maccabees.”33

Schwartz notes that significant differences exist between 1 and 2 Maccabees, not least

their authorial perspective34 and understanding of “other.”

In the attempt to define and understand Judaism in relationship to ever-present

Greek culturization and subsequent pressure, in this case, against temple religion, these

authors develop unique approaches to delineating “us” and “them.” For 1 Maccabees, the

non-Judaistic world is at the outset evil; for 2 Maccabees this is not the case. In both

works, the Judaistic troubles begin with wicked Judaists, but 1 Maccabees says the

trouble begins when Judaists join with gentiles (1:11,15). According to the author of

Not all comments about priests and leadership are negative; Let. Aris. 92 is an example where
the priests are praised for their hard work in rebuilding the city alongside everyone else, and Sirach is
considered supportive of the priesthood, see Joseph Blenkinsopp, “Interpretation and the Tendency to
Sectarianism: An Aspect of Second Temple History,” in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition: Volume 2:
Aspects of Judaism in the Graeco-Roman Period, ed. E. P. Sanders (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981), 14-15.
For lawlessness and apostasy of Hellenizers, see 1 Macc 1:11, 15; 2:15, 19; Blenkinsopp,
“Sectarian Tendencies,”16-17.
Daniel R. Schwartz, “The other in 1 and 2 Maccabees,” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early
Judaism and Christianity, ed. Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1998), 30-37.
Part of the difference between the two books comes from the nature of 1 Maccabees, concerned
to the establish Hasmonean legacy that ousted the oppressive forces of the gentiles. Therefore it condemns
other Judaistic claimants to high priesthood by simply not mentioning them. 2 Maccabees lists these
claimants and praises the last Zadokite high priest, Onias III (thus undercutting the Hasmonean claim). See
Schwartz, “The other,” 30. However, 2 Maccabees is hardly anti-Hasmonean, Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 59.

1 Maccabees, because gentiles are inherently wicked, wicked Judaists want to join them

(1 Macc 1:11, 41-42). In 2 Maccabees, the Hellenizers are simply wicked Judaists, with

no particular desire to be with gentiles (4:11). In contrast to the first book, 2 Maccabees

shows the Seleucids friendly to Judaists, so all gentiles are mortified when a Judaist,

Menelaus, kills the high priest Onias III (2 Macc 3-4). Because all gentiles are wicked in

1 Maccabees, no explanation is given of Antiochus Epiphanes’ attack and temple action,

but in 2 Maccabees his opposition comes after the false rumour of Jewish revolt.35

Accounts of gentiles persecuting Judaists are prominent in 1 Maccabees (see ch. 5), but

only two incidents are recorded in 2 Maccabees (10:15; 12:3-9).

Both authors view the world as Judaistic and gentilic dualism, as well as dualism

between good people and evil people. But how those realities interact is quite different in

each book. One can presume from this delineation that in 1 Maccabees, a “Judaist” is not

just one at birth, but apostasy can take place. Yet despite all of the narrative polemic

against godless Hellenizers who are as wicked as gentiles in 1 Maccabees, it is 2

Maccabees that has the view of “Judaist” and “Judaism” being larger than birth, including

conversion (and by implication, the possibility of apostasy). For 1 Maccabees, though,

Judaistic villains remained Judaistic villains, Judaists that behaved like non-Judaists were

still Judaists, and the polemic of the author stopped short of including the possibility of

apostasy. 2 Maccabees, however, allows for both apostasy and conversion, though it

lacks polemic directed at fellow Judaists that equates gentiles with the category of the

“evil” in the world.

The same contrast exists concerning the joining of Greek Judean cities in the attack against the

Polemical Issues: Calendar Observance

The issue of the calendar observance offers an opportunity to watch heterodox

polemic in practice by what may be a sectarian movement or battle for orthodoxy against

the ruling religious authorities.36 The most vocal movements of resistance to the orthodox

calendar in Second Temple Judaism are the authors of the apocalyptic pseudepigraphal

books 1 Enoch 72-82 and Jubilees. 37

Jubilees is an extended retelling of the Genesis and Exodus stories under the

literary construct of an angel’s transmission to Moses on Sinai. Jubilees shares the post-

exilic self-critique of Baruch and the Hebrew prophets. The self-directed polemic,

however, is a step beyond Baruch, with the angel predicting to Moses that Israel will:

1) Rebel and fill their lives with the idolatry of the gentiles; 2) Kill God’s witnesses; and

3) Be sent into exile (Jub. 1:7-13).38 Paramount of Israel’s sins, however, is that they will

“forget all of my laws and all of my commandments and all of my judgments, and they

will err concerning new moons, sabbaths, festivals, jubilees, and ordinances” (1:14). The

interest in the importance of calendar continues,39 and the author warns against failing to

follow the sabbatical-solar calendar of 364 days (6:32-38).40 For the author, there is a

Grabbe (Judaic Religion, 223) agrees that the issue is important, and suggests that 1 Enoch may
be a sectarian movement, but reserves caution.
Some have argued that the Qumran community holds to a calendar other than the lunar-solar
calendar of Israel; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 133, 149; Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 41, 143; see 1QS X,
1-8. Though there is no explicit polemic on this issue, the context of the calendar comments is in the
critique of wicked priests (1QS VIII) and community punishments (1QS IX), and the larger section has
messianic overtones. The astronomical calculations of 1 Enoch and Jubilees are found in Qumran, with the
1 Enoch calendar fragments found separate from other parts of 1 Enoch; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature,
47-48. Qumran polemic against the Jerusalem temple community will be discussed below, section 4.3.2.
Jub. 15:33-34 goes as far as to predict that some will not circumcise, and they will be cut off
without forgiveness for this “eternal error.”
After all, the full title of the book begins with, “The Account of the Division of Days of the
Law. . . .”
Calculated by twelve months of thirty days plus four extra days. For a sabbatarian author, this
view makes sense despite the problems losing 1¼ days per year will cause: 364 is exactly divisible into 52
weeks. See O. S. Wintermute, “Jubilees,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H.

threat that the moon will lie about the correct days (6:36-38, or sinners misunderstand),

and the people will fail to celebrate the feasts appropriately, so the 364-day calendar must

be followed precisely. In the view of Jubilees, though, it seems expected that Israel will

fail to follow through with this commitment, and is an example of polemic against the

ruling priestly class that the author of Jubilees is competing with.41

Chapters 72-82 of 1 Enoch contain an account of the movements of the sun (ch.

72) and the moon (ch. 73). 1 Enoch also depends on a 364-day calendar;42 unlike Jubilees

or Qumran the reason for 364 day calendar is not given at all, and there is no indication it

is connected to the calculation of feast days. The answer may come from 1 Enoch 80:2-8

where the normal cycles will change in the eschatological “days of the sinners,”43 and

people will take these changing astronomical figures to be gods (80:7), implying that

God’s people adapt a pagan perspective when the 364 day calendar is not followed.44

With the exception of 1 En. 80:7-8, where evil will multiply upon and destroy

those who engage in the pagan worship of the luminaries, 1 Enoch 72-82 lacks the overt

polemic of Jubilees. The evidence of these writings, however, combined with that of the

Qumran evidence,45 the dependence of 3 Enoch,46 and the attempted calendrical

reconciliation of 2 Enoch 13-16 (which depends upon 1 Enoch for dating), makes it seem

Charlesworth, 2 vols. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1985), 2:39. For a reassessment of the calculations,
see Liora Ravid, “The Book of Jubilees and its Calendar—A Reexamination,” DSD 10 (2003): 371-394.
“All indications are that the calendar used officially in the temple was a solar-lunar one; i.e.,
months were marked by the phases of the moon. . . . The year was periodically reconciled with the solar
year by the addition of a thirteenth lunar month.” Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 143.
Calculated in chs. 72, 74, and 82; a lunar calendar of 354 days is also mentioned (see 1 En.
79:4). Perhaps this calendar was used with some irony given that Enoch lived 365 years.
Translation, George W. E. Nickelsburg and James C. VanderKam, 1 Enoch: A New Translation
(Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2004), 110; they express doubt that this section is original (p. 6).
There are indications from the Aramaic copies found in Qumran that the Astronomical Book
was originally longer, Nickelsburg and VanderKam, 1 Enoch, 6. They may have been a reconciliation of
the solar and lunar calendars, Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 41.
See above, n. 45.
Charlesworth, OT Pseudepigrapha, 1:670.

reasonable to agree with Nickelsburg that there was a “bitter calendrical dispute with the

Jewish religious establishment.”47 For the author of Jubilees, the issue was important

enough to direct forceful accusations at the presumed opponents, so that they “set awry

all of the ordinances of the years” and “walk in the feasts of the gentiles, after their errors

and after their ignorance” (Jub. 6:35). Those who set aside the 364-day calendar are

“corrupt” and “they will eat all of the blood with all flesh” (Jub. 6:38).

Polemical Issues: Marriage, Adamic and Enochic Traditions, “the Wicked,” Apostasy

Post-Tanakh self-critical polemic is not limited to issues of calendars, idolatry,

corrupt leadership, or the sin of the people of Israel that leads to destruction and exile.

There was a significant debate in the Second Temple era over the issue of intermarriage.

Joseph and Aseneth is a narrative48 that resolves the problem of the patriarchal Joseph’s

marriage to a pagan by describing her conversion from idolatry to Joseph’s religion.

David W. Suter also sees the issue of family purity within the hidden polemic in 1 Enoch

6-16. In the author’s critique of sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men,

Suter believes, there is an implicit critique against impurity and intermarriage,

particularly among the priesthood.49 Andrei A. Orlov argues that there is a conflict

between communities that favour Adam and Enoch traditions, and the Adamic material in

2 Enoch represents polemic against that tradition.50 Though it is difficult to identify “the

Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 48. According to Shemaryahu Talmon (“Anti-Lunar Calendar
Polemics in Covenanters’ Writings,” in Das Ende der Tage und die Gegenwart des Heils, ed. Michael
Becker and Wolfgang Fenske [Leiden: Brill, 1999], 29-30), calendar debates may reflect a situation at its
“heighdays” in the Second Temple period.
Or two narratives, cf. Jos. Asen. 18-20.
David W. Suter, “Fallen angel, fallen priest: the problem of family purity in 1 Enoch 6-16,”
HUCA 50 (1979): 115-135. See also Jub. 20:4; 22:20; 25:1; 27:10; 30:1-15; T. Levi 9:10 (cf. Lev 21:1-15);
Ezra 9-10; Neh 10:30-31; 13:3, 23-29; see Wis 3:13-4:6; Philo Spec.1:110-111; contrast CD V. 8-10.
Andrei A. Orlov, “On the Polemical Nature of 2 (Slavonic) Enoch: A Reply to C. Böttrich,” JSJ
34 (2003): 274-303. Contra C. Böttrich, “The Melchizedek Story of 2 (Slavonic) Enoch: A Reaction to A.
Orlov,” JSJ 32 (2001): 445-70.

wicked” who have “summoned death” (Wis 1:16) in Wisdom of Solomon 2-5, the best

choice for the characters of the oppressors of the righteous are most likely Judaists who

are lawless (2:12) and rebel against the Lord (3:10).51 If indeed the polemic is directed

against fellow Judaists, it represents the continuation of the typification of the wicked and

the ungodly that is common in the Psalms, wisdom books, and prophetic writings of

Tanakh.52 3 Maccabees, one of the few stories in history where deadly oppression against

Jews is abated, tells of those who abandoned their religion under the pressure of

Hellenization and the threat of death (an individual, 3 Macc 1:3; a group of at least three

hundred, 2:30-31, 7:10-15). These transgressors of the law for the stomach’s sake

(3 Macc 7:11) are clearly in contrast to the praised faithful who do not recant Judaism

(4 Macc 4:26) in the book of 4 Maccabees (see esp. chs. 5-8; cf. 2 Macc 2:32-33).


Again and again, apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writers drew on the Hebrew

prophetic self-critical tradition, and they used it to evaluate those in their community.

Sometimes that polemic is directed outward, at foreign oppressors (1 Maccabees) and

idolaters (Wisdom 15-16; Bel and the Dragon); more often it is directed against leaders of

Israel (Susanna; Psalms of Solomon; T. Mos. 7), wicked individuals and groups (the

apostates of 3 Maccabees; the ungodly of Wisdom 2-5), another group in Judaism

(warring traditions in 2 Enoch; the calendar debates of Jubilees and 1 Enoch 72-82; the

intermarriage debates of Joseph and Aseneth and 1 Enoch 6-16; the factions 1 and 2

Maccabees), idolatry within the community (Jubilees; Apoc. Ab. 1-8; T. Job 2-5; Epistle

But see Wis 6:4. See Barclay, “Apostate in the Jewish Diaspora,” 84. See J. P. Weisengoff,
“The Impious of Wisdom 2,” CBQ 11 (1949): 40-65, who surveys major opinions and allows the
possibility for apostate Judaists without excluding non-Judaists.
See e.g., the development of the character of the antithesis to the righteous man in Pss 1-2.

of Jeremiah), or against the Judaistic community as a prophetic call for Israel to repent

(Baruch; Prayer of Azariah; T. Levi 14-18). Though the literary genre of prophecy had

disappeared, Judaists continued to use this rhetorical convention in Judaistic critique-

from-within that occurs in writings of every genre in the Second Temple.

4.3.2. Qumran Critique of the Jerusalem Community

We will not engage in an accounting of the complex social issues of Qumran.53

Our purpose is simply to see if the extant scrolls of Qumran continue in the tradition of

The state of research on the Dead Sea Scrolls changes rapidly, not least on the question of the
communities behind the scrolls, and the areas of interest are quite wide. See George J. Brooke and
Lawrence H. Schiffman, “The Past: On the History of Dead Sea Scrolls Research,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls
at Fifty: Proceedings of the 1997 Society of Biblical Literature Qumran Section Meetings, ed. Robert A.
Kugler and Eileen M. Schuller (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), 9-20; A. S. van der Woude, “Fifty Years of
Qumran Research,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty Years, ed. Peter W. Flint and James C. Vanderkam,
2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 1:1-45; Donald W. Parry and F. García Martínez, Bibliography of the Finds in
the Desert of Judah, 1970-1995: Arranged by Author with Citation & Subject Indexes (STDJ 19; Leiden:
Brill, 1996); Avital Pinnick, The Orion Center Bibliography of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1995-2000 (STDJ 41;
Leiden: Brill, 2001); Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Major Publications and Tools for Study,
rev. ed. (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990). We will use the term “Qumran community” with full knowledge
that there may be a number of communities behind the scrolls, and with no a priori judgment on scroll
origins and the question of the relationship between Qumran and the Essenes. For our purposes, what is key
is that these are Judaistic documents that help sketch a social and rhetorical background to Paul; neither
uniformity or diversity of communities affects our question. See Charlotte Hempel, “Qumran Community,”
Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls 2:746-751. Philip R. Davies (“Was There Really a Qumran
Community?” CurBS 3 [1995]: 9-35) surveys the material and reviews four key works on the subject, but
refuses to give his own conclusions. As Grabbe (Judaic Religion, 69) points out, “The dominant ‘Essene
hypothesis’ has rightly been questioned; however, questioning it does not mean that it is wrong.” For an
example of a rethinking of the issue of a single Qumran community, see A. S. van der Woude and F. García
Martínez, “A ‘Groningen’ Hypothesis of Qumran Origins and Early History,” RevQ 14 (1990): 521-42; this
hypothesis is based upon the exegesis of commentary on Habakkuk by van der Woude, where he concludes
that the “Wicked Priest” is a succession of Jerusalem high priests, “Wicked Priest or Wicked Priests?
Reflections on the Identification of the Wicked Priest in the Habakkuk Commentary,” JJS 33 (1982): 349-
59; critiqued on exegetical grounds by Timothy Lim, “The Wicked Priests of the Groningen Hypothesis,”
JBL 112 (1993): 415-25. Similarly, see Joseph Baumgarten, “The Disqualifications of Priests in 4Q
Fragments of the “Damascus Document,” a Specimen of the Recovery of pre-Rabbinic Halakha,” in The
Madrid Qumran Congress: Proceedings of the International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 2 vols., ed.
Julio Trebolle Barrera and Luis Vegas Montaner (STDJ 11.2; Leiden: Brill, 1992), 2:503-513. Norman
Golb (Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls? The Search for the Secret of Qumran [Toronto: Scribner, 1995])
offered an interesting hypothesis of origins, suggesting that the scrolls originate in Jerusalem and were
smuggled to the caves during the revolt. While offering a solution to the vast number of scribes behind the
scrolls and differing ideologies, it ignores the fact that there was an Essene community in the area (see
Pliny the Elder, Natural History 5.71-73) and the difficulty of escaping a siege with a considerable library,
see Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 69-70. Along the same lines, see Yizhar Hirschfeld, Qumran in Context:
Reassessing the Archaeological Evidence (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004). Stephen Goranson
(“Others and Intra-Jewish Polemic as Reflected in Qumran Texts,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls after Fifty
Years, 2 vols., ed. Peter W. Flint and James C. Vanderkam [Leiden: Brill, 1998], 2:539), has demonstrated

Hebrew prophetic critique in an attempt to understand the expected range of Paul’s

rhetoric. The Qumran community is of interest because it has a distinct view of “other”

and uses polemical invective consistently, and because it is a thoroughly Judaistic group

that offers significant critique of the Jerusalem religious community.

L. T. Johnson notes of Qumran rhetoric: “The Qumran rule of thumb is that you

cannot say enough bad things about outsiders.”54 The Rule of the Community begins with

a commitment to do what is right by choosing, “to love all the sons of light, each one

according to his lot in God’s plan, and to detest all the sons of darkness, each one in

accordance with his blame in God’s vindication” (1QS I, 9-1155). Fundamental to

Qumran religion is a distinctive view of “us” (the sons of Israel, sons of light, those

faithful within the Essene community56) and “them” (including gentiles, non-Qumranic

Judaists [see esp. 1QpHab], and those who have apostatized from the Qumran

community57). These sons of light are a covenant remnant (cf. CD I, 4) and will

annihilate the sons of darkness in war (1QM I, 1-7). In the War Scroll, the sons of

darkness include the various opposing armies, but also include those of the covenant who

are wicked (1QM I, 2; cf. 1QpHab VIII, 8-17; XI-XII; 4QpPsa III, 11-13), those who are

that the Hebrew root of “Essene” occurs as a self-designation in 1QpHab VIII, 1; XII, 4; 4QpPsa 1-10 II, 5,
15. Goranson suggests Dan 11:32 may have influenced the Essenes, which includes both the twqlj that are
rejected in Qumran passages (e.g., 1QHa II, 32) and the y?u at the etymological root of “Essene” (p. 543).
Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 439.
English quotations are from F. García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran
Texts in English (2d. ed.; trans. [from the Spanish] Wilfred G. E. Watson; New York: Brill, 1996). Original
language references to the scrolls come from the electronic edition by Brill (Leiden) in cooperation with the
Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) at Brigham Young University (Provo,
Utah), The Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Reference Library, 1999, which uses García Martínez as the
English translation.
Goranson (“Others and Intra-Jewish Polemic,” 2:539) adds to the list “the exclusive, true
observers of Torah and the true remnant of Judah.”
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 243.

the “seekers of smooth things,”58 and “Manasseh,” the “great ones” who rule the temple

and Jerusalem.59 All of the sons of light should be ready to shed their blood because of

their wickedness (1QM VI, 17; cf. 11Q LXIV, 1-10). Rebellious children and spies are

executed, with one of their slogans being, “Arrows of blood to fell the dead by God’s

wrath” (1QM VI, 3), as the sectarians revel in the death of the guilty ones (1QM XIV).

The ones who seek an easy interpretation of the law host the sword of the gentiles,

engage in prostitution and fornication, and mislead the nation, and there will be no end to

their wounded and dead (4QpNah 3-4 II, 4-7) in the final great battle.

Since the concept of “other” in contradistinction to self-identity is so important to

the Qumran community, it is no surprise that the descriptions of the enemies of Qumran

are frank in all varieties of texts. In the liturgical texts, they are described as, “the

assembly of the wicked” (<yu?r tlhq, 1QHa X, 12), “sowers of deceit, from the

congregation of the interpreters of flattering things” (1QHa X, 31-32), and “sons of guilt”

(hm?a ynb, 1QHa XIII, 7). The Rule of the Community is no more subtle: everlasting

hatred for “the men of the pit” (tj?h y?na, 1QS IX, 21-22, 16; cf. CD VI, 15; 13:14)

and “men of sin” (lwuh y?na, 1QS V, 2, 10), who are spirits of deceit who walk on paths

of darkness (1QS III, 19-21), a path that is characterized by every sin imaginable (1QS

IV, 9-14). The Damascus Document is a significantly sectarian document, and describes

outsiders appropriately: “igniters of fire, kindlers of blazes; webs of a spider are their

Heb. twqljh y?rwd, which Goranson (“Others and Intra-Jewish Polemic,” 542-543) takes to be
a pun on the twklh, those who practice Halakah, the Pharisees.
4QpNah 3-4 III, 8-IV, 1-6; 4QpPsa II, 18. Goranson (“Others and Intra-Jewish Polemic,” 544-
548) suggests that “Manasseh” are the Sadducees, and the Qumran community engages in an extensive
critique of them. He argues against the self-designation of “sons of Zadok,” though it is clear that the
community uses this title of itself. “Sadducees” has clear etymological roots in <yqwdx, so there is reason
for confusion on the issue. I remain cautious about Goranson’s hard and fast sectarian designations in
Qumran, and await his providing more evidence of his findings in 4QMMT, which he fails to footnote (see
p. 548).

webs, and their eggs are viper’s eggs” (CD V, 13-14); stubborn, insolent, proud,

debaucherous, hateful, defiled rebels (CD VIII, 4-8). The commentary on Habakkuk is

particularly directed against non-Qumranite Judaists,60 but other exegetical works also

display a polemical nature. The commentary on Nahum (4QpNah) foretells disasters and

punishments of God that will fall on the wicked Judean religious community, and the

commentaries on Isaiah (4QpIsa-e) speak about the wrath of God being kindled against his

people, against the congregation of “the arrogant men who are in Jerusalem,” who reject

God’s laws and mock the Holy One of Israel (4QpIsb II, 6-10; cf. 4QpIsc 23, 10-19).

Many scholars argue that the Qumran community saw themselves as the true

Israel, in contradistinction to the rest of Israel who fall into the categories of polemicized

“other” described above.61 Lawrence Schiffman describes this view succinctly: “God’s

covenant with Israel was transferred to the righteous remnant—the members of the

Qumran sect and those who would join them in the End of Days. In effect, then, the

sectarians saw themselves as the true Israel.62 It seems that Schiffman is trying to hold

together ambivalent evidence concerning the Qumran community’s self-definition with

respect to the concept of “Israel.” E. P. Sanders’ evaluation of the question63 seems to

read the data well, and is preferred to the view of Wright64 or Mach65 as he tries to bring

See esp. “the wicked priest,” 1QpHab I, 11-15; VIII, 8b-13a; XI, 4-9a; “the man of lies,”
1QpHab V, 9-10.
E.g., see Geza Vermes, with Pamela Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Qumran in Perspective,
rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), 87-88; Nickelsburg, Jewish Literature, 122-123; Wright, NT
and the People of God, 203-209; Mach, “Conservative Revolution,” 61-79; Lawrence H. Schiffman,
“Israel,” Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls 1:388-391. Goranson (“Others and Intra-Jewish Polemic,”
537) prefers “true Judah.”
Schiffman, “Israel,” 1:389. See CD I-V.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 240-255.
Wright, NT and the People of God, 203-209. Wright’s revue is brief, and lacking in a
demonstration of the primary sources on this topic, though probably correct in his assessment of the
Qumran community as a substitute for the temple.
Mach, “Conservative Revolution,” 61-79. Mach’s key contribution is the argument that the
group’s self-designation of “sons of Zadok” is not a Sadducean reference, but an attempt at “declared

together the Qumran community’s layered view of “Israel.” According to Sanders, it

seems as if God has made a new covenant with the community (CD V, 19; VIII, 21; XX,

12; 1QpHab II). Frequently, though, covenant is spoken of in terms of the original

covenant which contained hidden things only now understood by the Qumran

community, resulting in community members being the only covenant people (CD XV,

returning to the Law of Moses is equated to joining the New Covenant; CD III, 10-14;

1QS V, 8-13; 1QpHab VII, 4-5; 1QSa I, 2, where “their covenant” has the antecedent of

qwdx ynb, “sons of Zadok”).66

Granted a Jeremian “new covenant” or a intensified covenant motif, did Qumran

use “Israel” or “true Israel” of itself? Frequently, the sect uses the term “elect;”67 it would

seem natural, then, that they adopt the self-conception of “true Israel.” Sanders argues

that although they occasionally used the term of themselves (e.g., 1QS II, 22), other terms

are preferred, like lar?y yb? (“converts of Israel,” CD IV, 2; VI, 5; VIII, 16; cf.

“converts of the desert,” 4QPsa III, 1; esp. “converts of the son of Jacob,” CD XX, 17) or

lar?y ydyjb (“elect of Israel,” 4QFlor I, 19; 4QpIsae 6, 1). Sanders concludes:

The sect did not, at least very often, think of itself as “Israel” during the
time of its historical existence. The members believed that they had the only true
interpretation of the covenant, but there were other Israelites, the “wicked of
Israel”. . . . [Qumran] was not yet the full body of Israel, although true Israel
could be constituted only according to its covenant.68

conservativism,” where a sectarian group legitimates its existence by connecting itself with ancient
traditions. In this case, the connection is with the high priest, Zadok, appointed by David, supported by
Solomon, and whose descendents led the temple until the time of Jason. Mach does not note, though it
would support his view, that the sons of Zadok play a role in safeguarding, keeping, and setting up the
covenant for the sect: 1QS V, 2-3; 9; 21-22.
For Sanders, the implication is that the Qumran community functionally considered the old
covenant to have been disregarded by most of Israel, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 242.
E.g. see 1QS VIII, 6; IX, 14; XI, 7, 16; 1QHa II, 13; XIV, 15; 4QpPsa II, 5.
Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 254-255; emphasis original.

Israel would join in the end time battle, but the wicked of them would be destroyed by the

sect, God, or the gentiles. Qumran, then becomes the means for the rest of Israel to attain

the covenant promised to all of Israel, by the new/renewed/intensified covenant that has

been made with the sons of Zadok, the leaders of the Qumran community.

The Qumran community appropriated the history of Israel, and declared

prophetically that all true Israel would be Israel through their community. Yet despite

their polemic against the larger Judaistic religious community, they did not appropriate

the term “Israel” exclusively, but rather inclusively in an eschatologically specific sense.

Functionally speaking, then, Qumran did act as the “true Israel,” although the community

continues to maintain a distinction between the larger body of Israel and the gentiles, and

imagine that those who are true Israelites in the larger Judaistic community will join the

sectarians in a great eschatological battle.

Mixed within unprecedented invective and religious polemic of God’s judgment

directed against the Jerusalem Judaistic community, is a hesitancy on the part of the

Qumran sectarians to completely appropriate the concept of “Israel.” That they hold an

eschatological hope for the redeemable within Israel shows that their polemic is, in the

tradition of the Hebrew prophets, self-directed.69 Evidently, some in the Jerusalem

community were too wicked to be saved, and would be destroyed in the final battle.

However, their strict religious praxis, biblical exegesis, and lengthy sectarian writings

served as an eschatological witness to the larger Judaistic community, showing them how

to be Israel, how to honour God’s covenant, and how to do Temple worship. In this sense,

Contra Evans, “Prophetic Critique at Qumran,” 537-542, who must view the sectarian move of
separation as definitive, so that the larger Judaistic community is forever an out-group.

the Qumran community stands in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets in their own

understanding of their vocation, even if their polemic went a step beyond.70

4.3.3. Philo and Josephus: A Note

As yet, there have been no Philo or Josephus scholars interested specifically in

intra-Judaistic polemic, but a note about their polemical rhetoric can be instructive. Philo

Judaeus and Flavius Josephus are both valuable first century Judaistic writers, doing their

writing in Greek in a non-Palestinian setting. Philo’s concern is primarily theological and

philosophical;71 Josephus’ concern is historiographical and an ideological defence of

Judaism.72 Despite their different genres, both authors engage in polemic in the formal

literary sense, and are thus not against the use of invective and polemic against

opponents:73 Philo’s Against Flaccus, and the apologetic On the Embassy to Gaius;

Josephus’ Against Apion.74 In each of their polemical writings, a defence and definition

What can account for this intensity of polemic? It is likely that the perceived oppression and
subsequent separation of the Qumran community made their need for precise self-definition and
justification even more acute. C. Liebman (“Extremism as a Religious Norm,” JSSR 22 [1983]: 75-86),
writing in the context of modern Israel, suggests that it is moderation and apathy that needs to be explained
in religion, not extremism and polemic. A. I. Baumgarten (“Literacy and the Polemics Surrounding Biblical
Interpretation in the Second Temple Period,” in Studies in Ancient Midrash [Cambridge: Harvard
University Center for Jewish Studies, 2001], 27-41) disagrees, and suggests that the great creativity of
devotion and dedication in the period from the Maccabees to the destruction of the temple requires
explanation. Baumgarten’s explanation is that literacy as a social phenomenon led to the interpretation of
biblical texts, which led to the diverse interpretation of texts. Since Judaistic praxis was such that the Bible
was central to their identity, this led to a rise in exegetical polemic.
Larry R. Helyer (Jewish Literature, 311) notes that Philo’s writings represent the first extant
corpus of Greek philosophy after Aristotle.
Wright (NT and the People of God, esp. 171-183) is probably correct that one of the intentions
of Josephus’ writings is to shift the blame of the failed Judean revolt onto a particular group of rebels, and
therefore exonerate the larger Judaistic community, particularly favouring the Pharisees.
Philo, see Legat. 120; 131-132; 162; 166; Contempl. 8-10. Josephus, see Ag. Ap. 1.1-2, 15-16,
59, 225-26; 2.67-70, 81-82, 236, 254; polemic against Apion specifically: Ag. Ap. 2.2-3, 12-14, 26, 37, 66-
71, 86-89, 115, 130-144. For this list, we are indebted to Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 434-435. For
an analysis of all of Philo and Josephus’ apologetic works, see Hans Conzelmann, Gentiles, Jews,
Christians: Polemics and Apologetics in the Greco-Roman Era, trans. M. Eugene Boring (Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1992), 185-225.
This essay of Josephus is not so much against Apion as against those Greek writers who have
critiqued Josephus for making up the history of Judaism in his Antiquities of the Jews. The chief
contribution to scholars of this book may not be its apologetics, but its reflective nature of history and
historiography (see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “History and Historiography in the Against Apion of Josephus,”

of Judaism is presented in the case of gentile persecution (Philo) and the destruction of

Jerusalem (Josephus). Besides the polemic of an apologetic nature, did these authors

engage in the kind of prophetic criticism from within that is evident in other Second

Temple Judaistic writings?

There is little evidence that Philo concerned himself with Judaistic critique-from-

within. In his exegesis, Philo engages with other exegetical schools, but the nature of that

debate is not highly polemical or akin to prophetic rhetoric.75 Philo is not, however,

unconcerned with the issue of Judaistic self-definition. He is specifically concerned with

apostasy from Judaism (Virt. 182, oiJ tw`n iJerw`n novmwn ajpostavnte"). In his On the

Life of Joseph, Philo lists several factors that might lead to a Judaist changing their

customs: the instability of youth, a desire for wealth and social acceptance, dislocation

from the Judaistic home, and being bereft of teachers (Ios. 254). John Barclay notes three

categories of Judaist who have abandoned their Judaistic heritage in Philo: 1) those lured

by social success into repudiating tradition (Mos. 1.31); 2) those who marry gentiles or

whose parents were mixed, therefore having conflicting customs with a temptation to turn

aside the piety path (Spec. 3.29; 1.54-58; Mos. 1.295-305; 2.193; Virt. 34-44); and

3) those who criticize the Judaistic scriptures (Abr. 178-93; Conf. 2-13; QG 3.3).76

History and Theory 27.4 [1988]: 1-11) and because Josephus provides information of sources lost to
historians (see Steve Mason, Josephus and the New Testament [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992], 78).
André Paul (“Flavius Josephus’ ‘Antiquities of the Jews’: an Anti-Christian Manifesto,” NTS 31 [1985]:
473-380) argues that Josephus’ main work, Antiquities of the Jews is also a polemical writing, directed
against Christians. Paul’s assumption that the LXX had already been rejected by Judaists, and the
incredible subtleties of the polemic (they would have to be subtle since Eusebius and Origen quoted them
extensively, Mason, Josephus, 8) make his thesis suspect. Twenty years later, his promised commentary on
the Antiquities has not been published, so it is impossible to follow up on this thesis.
See Grabbe, Judaic Religion, 91; David M. Hay, “References to Other Exegetes,” in Both
Literal and Allegorical: Studies in Philo of Alexandria's Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus,
ed. David M. Hay (BJS 232; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991), 81-97. For a general analysis of Philo’s
argumentation, see Manuel Alexandre Jr., Rhetorical Argumentation in Philo of Alexandria (BJS 232.2;
Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999).
Barclay, “Apostate in the Jewish Diaspora,” 85-86.

Josephus also mentions apostasy, calling it an abandonment of the ancestral laws

and the Judaistic constitution.77 Josephus, unlike Philo, engages in extensive polemic

against Judaists with whom he disagrees. This is true particularly of Jewish Wars, which

does not benefit from the reflected luxury of time in Antiquities of the Jews.78 In his

targeting of the Sicarii and other zealots for the responsibility of the war in Palestine (66-

73 C.E.), his polemic is sharp: they ridicule the Judaistic religion and scoff at the prophets

(J. W. 4.385); they are murderers whose actions defile the Temple (5.400-402) and

assassins of the high priest (2.255-258; cf. Ant. 20.159-167); they are impostors, brigands

(2.264; cf. Ant. 20.172-176), “slaves, the dregs of society, and the bastard scum of the

nation,”79 and more wicked than Sodom and more deserving of God’s wrath (5.566); they

are cruel, liars, oppressors, evil, impious, violent, plunderers, lawless, iron-hearted,

charlatans, and false prophets who are blinded by transgression and fate, and more guilty

than any Judaists in history (5.400-416; 5.343; 5.572; 6.288; 7.254-262). What is striking

about Josephus’ Judaistic critique are the theological conclusions he draws in Jewish

Wars. He considers the temple defiled (5.400-402) and the Temple, Jerusalem, and the

Sicarii are all rejected by God (4.323; 5.419). Furthermore, God’s judgment that the

temple should be razed came long ago (6.25080), God has ordained its destruction by the

hands of the Romans because of rebellious Judaists, and God has joined the side of the

Romans (2.389-390; 5.362-378, 412; 6.110, 250)!81

See Ant. 12.240; cf. 4.126-155; 5.113, 132-135; 8.190-197; 20.145-6 (a proselyte apostatizes);
20.100 (Alexander, nephew of Philo apostatizes); see Barclay, “Apostate in the Jewish Diaspora,” 86-88.
For this survey of Josephus, we are partially indebted to Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,”
436-437. See also Josephus’ literary polemic against other historians, beginning in Life 336.
Josephus, J.W. 5.443-444 (Thackeray, LCL).
This particular idea may be more rhetorical than theological. The passage is concerning Titus
and his intended destruction of Jerusalem, and Josephus shows his allegiance by filling the event with
theological significance.
See Wright, NT and the People of God, 373-378.

Although both Philo and Josephus show a concern for Judaistic self-definition in

their concern about apostasy, it is only Josephus who truly carries on Judaistic self-

directed polemic. On the one hand, his judgments are more theologically muted than the

prophets, and his criticism is as much political as it is religious, agreeing with the

prophets mostly in that God can use gentile powers to carry out God’s justice. On the

other hand, Josephus takes the unprecedented step of declaring that God has changed

allegiance, rejecting the historically chosen people and joining the gentile oppressors.

Despite this strange theological conclusion, Josephus, like the Hebrew prophets, offers a

path of forgiveness and repentance for his enemies, even after the temple is razed, and

offers to trade his family and comfort in exchange for their salvation (J.W. 5.416-419).

4.4. Summary of Conclusions

In Paul’s Hebraistic and Judaistic backgrounds, an important literary motif was

Judaistic critique-from-within developed from the instincts of Hebrew prophetic critique,

which displays an extensive range of the use of polemic. The Hebrew prophets engaged

in an extensive project of self-directed polemic, including a unique literary

characterization of “us” and “them” that was in line with the self-deprecatory nature of

Tanakh writings. The writings of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal worlds seem to

have adapted their definition of “other,” at least in an overt sense, to describe other

Judaists in other groups, but for the most part these writings carry on self-directed

polemic in the tradition of Hebrew prophetic critique. The same is true of Qumran, whose

understanding of “other” was most distinct and segregated, but who carried on their

polemic against the Jerusalem religious community as an eschatological witness to Israel.

While Philo engaged in exegetical debate and a concern for Judaistic self-definition

evidenced by his comments on apostasy, he does not seem to have carried on the

polemical nature of Judaistic critique-from-within. Even after achieving comfort and

status in Rome, Josephus carried on a concern for Judaistic self-definition, and engaged

in a kind of prophetic critique with those whom he considered responsible for the

defilement of the Jerusalem temple. His polemic—whether internally focussed on fellow

Judaists or externally focussed on Greek writers—is sharp, filled with invective,

theologically (and ideologically) weighty, and lacking any regret for having spoken such

words. This survey helps fill in the background to an exegesis of 1 Thess 2:14-16.



5.1. Interpolation? Contemporary Politics and Ancient Polemic

The question of the possible post-Pauline interpolation of 1 Thess 2:13-16, or

portions thereof, must be evaluated at the outset. If it should prove to be an interpolation,

this passage no longer causes problems for a picture of Paul and much embarrassment

could be avoided.1 By contrast, unless this passage is established as coming from Paul,

comparisons with Pauline rhetoric and content elsewhere—including the remainder of 1

Thessalonians—are of little use, and difficult or unique (or even typical) language, style,

and structure will continue to cast doubt upon its authenticity. A survey of the relevant

literature will serve to settle the question of interpolation, and will offer an introduction

to some of the difficult exegetical and historical issues of the passage. It is my aim to

demonstrate that theories of interpolation are entirely lacking in text-critical evidence,

and lacking structural, historical, linguistic or theological foundation.

5.1.1. Evaluation of Textual Evidence

The task of evaluating the textual evidence of the interpolation of 1 Thess 2:13-16

is simple: there is none. There is a single Vulgate manuscript with an independent

reading, leaving out the final sentence, 2:16c, autem ira Dei super illos usque in finem

(e[fqasen deV ejp= aujtouV" hJ ojrghV eij" tevlo"). In the remainder of the manuscript

Beck (Mature Christianity, 83) calls the passage an “embarrassment” for Christians who
consider scripture as authoritative, and excises it. This passage is still part of the Christian canon, and there
is still concern about possible future antisemitic uses of it.

evidence, the entirety of 2:13-16 is intact. The variant is insignificant in value; it does not

warrant even a note in Bruce Metzger’s textual commentary,2 the UBS4 critical apparatus,

or the commentary by F. F. Bruce,3 which notes all significant text variants. The omission

of the phrase, then, seems to be just that—an omission.

Is that enough evidence to preclude interpolation theories? It is my opinion that

those who offer interpolation theories with no manuscript evidence are facing an uphill

battle.4 Manuscript evaluation, however, is not the only factor to consider. Manuscript

evidence tells us that as of the third century C.E., 1 Thessalonians contained 2:13-16.

Until further evidence surfaces, the possibility remains that earlier in the transmission of

the text a passage may have been appended. It is useful, therefore, to consider the other

arguments for interpolation to see if the hypothesis is warranted.

5.1.2. Arguments For Interpolation

In 1845, F. C. Baur was struck by the distinctive nature of 1 Thess 2:14-16 and its

agreement with Acts. Baur determined five key problems with the passage: 1) The

comparison of troubles in Judea and Thessalonica are far fetched; 2) Paul never holds

Judean Christians up for imitation; 3) Paul was the principal persecutor in Judea; 4) No

where else is there a connection between the apostle’s suffering and the killing of Jesus;

and 5) There is unnatural, vague, external polemic against “the Jews.”5 Baur concludes,

Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: a Companion
Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (fourth rev. ed.) (2d ed.; Stuttgart: UBS, 1994),
F. F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (WBC 45; Waco: Word Books, 1982), see 42.
Of those who offer such theories (with or without manuscript evidence), none is more prolific
than William O. Walker Jr., who has published several articles examining interpolation arguments on
particular passages. Of concern for us, Walker questions the issue of text-critical evidence and interpolation
theory in a manner that lists passages of concern with a full bibliography, and anticipates some of his other
work, “Text-Critical Evidence for Interpolations in the Letters of Paul,” CBQ 50 (1988): 622-631.
Baur, Paul, 2:87.

coupled with the lack of Pauline teaching and the lack of necessity for the letter, that

1 Thessalonians is not an authentic work from Paul.6

Though Baur had a following—the so-called Tübingen School—his thesis was by

no means definitive, and most twentieth century commentators rejected the idea that 1

Thessalonians is inauthentic.7 Following Baur, however, some noted that perhaps 1 Thess

2:14-16, or a part of it, is an interpolation within an authentically Pauline letter. A.

Ritschl (of the Tübingen School) and P. W. Schmiedel were key to the development of

the interpolation hypothesis, and suggested that verse 16 and verses 15-16 (respectively)

were post-Pauline.8 The interpolation argument began in earnest again in 1971 with

Birger A. Pearson’s “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: a Deutero-Pauline interpolation.”9 Pearson

was subsequently supported by H. Boers10 and particularly by Daryl Schmidt.11 Those

who contend for a Pauline interpolation offer four key arguments: 1) Historical;

2) Structural and Form-Critical; 3) Linguistic; and 4) Theological.

Baur, Paul, 2:89-90, 96-97; Baur defends his conclusion in 2:314-340, esp. 320.
Todd D. Still (Conflict at Thessalonica: A Pauline Church and its Neighbours [JSNTSup 183;
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999], 24) notes only one exception, A. Q. Morton and L. McLeman,
Christianity and the Computer (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964).
A. Ritschl, Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, 2d ed. (Bonn: Adolph Marcus, 1882), 2:142-144; P.
W. Schmiedel, Die Briefe an die Thessalonicher und an die Korinther (HKNT 2; Freiburg: Mohr, 1891),
17. Cited in Carol J. Schlueter, Filling up the Measure: Polemical Hyperbole in 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16
(JSNTSup 98; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), 25-26. Schmiedel is contested as early as James Everett
Frame, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (ICC;
Edinburgh: T&T Clarke, 1912), 39. See the NA27 critical note, s.v.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 79-94. Pearson’s distinctive contribution, other than re-
starting the interpolation debate, is expanding the interpolation to include the thanksgiving in 2:13.
H. Boers, “The Form Critical Study of Paul’s Letters. 1 Thess as a Case Study,” NTS 22 (1975-
76): 140-158. Boers does not actually add much to Pearson’s argument, but merely supports the form-
critical arguments.
Daryl Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16: Linguistic Evidence for an Interpolation,” JBL 102 (1983):

Historical Arguments

Pearson argues that there are three problematic historical contexts in 2:13-16.

First, there is no evidence of significant persecution in Judea in 44-66 C.E.12 Second,

following Baur, the phrase, “the wrath has come” is most descriptive of the Jewish war

and the destruction of the temple, 66-70 C.E. The aorist, e!fqasen must refer to a

completed event, and there is no other event in the first century that merits the magnitude

of “wrath” as the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.13 Third, Paul’s accusation that the Judaists

killed Jesus is nowhere else attributed to Paul, and contradicts the statement in 1 Cor 2:8,

that Jesus was killed by “the rulers of this age.”14

Structural and Form-Critical Arguments

As it stands, Pearson considers 1 Thessalonians as unique to authentic Pauline

literature in having a double thanksgiving section (1:2-10; 2:13-16). Following the form-

critical work of Robert Funk,15 the “difficulty” of 1 Thess 2:13-16 is solved when 2:11-

12 is seen as the formal introduction of the “apostolic parousia” of 2:17-3:13. Without

2:13-16, the text moves smoothly from 2:12 to 2:17.16 This evidence is shored up by

Boers on the form-critical front,17 and augmented significantly by Schmidt, who uses

sophisticated stylistic-syntactical analysis. Schmidt notes that the embedded sentences

(dependent clauses) of 2:13-16 are significantly different in style from their context of

1:2-3:10. Elsewhere, Paul only uses four embedded clauses in a sentence, but uses as

Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 86-87.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 81-83.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 83-85.
Robert W. Funk, Language, Hermeneutic, and Word of God: The Problem of Language in the
New Testament and Contemporary Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 263-270.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 88-91.
Boers, “The Form Critical Study of Paul’s Letters,” 140-158.

many as seven in this passage. Furthermore, the four embedded clauses of v. 15 are in

individual consecution, whereas elsewhere they only come in pairs.18

Linguistic Arguments

Following the previous argument, there are significant differences not only in the

style, but also the language of 2:13-16. Pearson notes, with Baur, that the imitation motif

of 2:14 is unusual, since Paul never holds for commendation anyone except himself, let

alone Judean Christian.19 Schmidt notes several peculiar aspects of the pericope. First,

kaiV is used in 2:13 uniquely in 1 Thessalonians to link matrix clauses, and kaiV diaV

tou`to is not used elsewhere in Paul’s undisputed letters (cf. the deutero-Pauline 2 Thess

2:11, which uses 1 Thess 2:13 as a prototype).20 Paul never uses the phrase: tw'n

ejkklhsiw'n tou' qeou' tw'n oujsw'n ejn th'/ jIoudaiva/ ejn Cristw'/ jIhsou'; he does use

similar genitival constructs with ejkklhsiva, but never in this combination or abundance.

Schmidt suggests that, “in the process of imitating Paul, someone has put together an

overly-Pauline construction.”21 Similarly, there is an un-Pauline construction in 2:13—

paralabovnte" lovgon ajkoh'" par= hJmw'n tou' qeou'—which can only be accounted for

as an amalgamation of several Pauline constructions.22 Finally, Paul never separates

“Lord Jesus” as he does in 2:15, and in the many occurrences of ajdelfoiv in Paul (more

than fifty times), it always comes in a natural syntactic break (except poss. 1 Cor 15:31);

in 1 Thess 2:14, however, it comes part way into the sentence.23

Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16,” 273.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 87-88.
Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16,” 273.
Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16,” 274.
Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16,” 275-276.
Schmidt, “1 Thess 2:13-16,” 274-275.

Theological Arguments

Pearson suggests that 2:15-16 is generally considered to be traditional and

formulaic, including the Judaistic tradition of the killing the prophets, and is based upon

the post-70 C.E. tradition that the fall of Jerusalem was a punishment upon Judaists for

killing Jesus.24 Although Paul mentions the prophet-killing motif elsewhere (Rom 11:3),

it is never connected to Jesus’ death, and Paul never engages in this kind of gentilic anti-

Judaism; rather, according to Pearson, Paul is proud of his heritage.25 More significantly,

the concept of the finality of God’s wrath for the interminable sins of the Judaists is

“manifestly foreign to Paul’s theology.”26 By contrast, Paul holds the view that God has

not abandoned Israel, and believes that all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). If this is

indeed Paul, it represents “an astonishing volte face,”27 and represents a significant

theological contradiction.28

5.1.3. Arguments Against Interpolation

Historical Arguments

The responses to Pearson’s historical arguments have demonstrated that it is by

far the weakest component of his hypothesis. The first argument, that there was no

outbreak in Judea in the period 44-66 C.E., must be met with the most obvious of

objections: why the limitation? Why must Paul’s comments only refer to a recent event?

By Pearson’s poorly chosen method and by Paul’s own testimony of being a persecutor,

Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 83-84. For this tradition Pearson mentions Luke 23:48, as
well as late second century C.E. authors Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Origen.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 85.
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 86.
Ethelbert Stauffer, New Testament Theology (trans. J. Marsh; London: SCM Press, 1955), 190.
Stauffer notes that in Romans, “all polemic against his persecutors, every touch of anti-Semitism is now
silenced” (p. 191).
Pearson, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 85-66. Pearson suggests that the theological interest of
2:13-16 is, instead, Matthean (pp. 91-94).

the first historical argument falls. The second argument, that the passage definitely refers

to the fall of Jerusalem, is best challenged by Robert Jewett: that the magnitude of the 70

C.E. disaster best warrants the magnitude of the rhetoric in 1 Thess 2:16 can only be

deduced once one has experienced an event like 70 C.E. Pearson benefits from the

advantage of retrospection. To pre-70 folk, other events could be considered to be

“wrath,” including the Passover massacre, where, according to Josephus, 20-30,000

people were killed in Jerusalem 49 C.E. (Ant. 20.112; J. W. 2.225-227).29 The third of

Pearson’s historical arguments, that Paul does not imagine that Judaists killed Jesus, is

difficult to respond to—not because it is terrifically solid, but because it is an argument

from silence. 1 Cor 2:8 in no way precludes Judaistic leaders in complicity for the death

of Jesus, and the best reading of the historical record suggests that some of the Judaistic

leaders and Jerusalem ruling elite may have had complicity in the event,30 and the belief

that this was so was active in early church tradition.31

Structural and Form-Critical Arguments

The Thessalonian correspondence is certainly unique in having multiple or

extended thanksgiving sections, but that Paul can deviate from his epistolary form is seen

in Galatians, one of the Hauptbriefe, which lacks a thanksgiving section altogether.

Pearson follows Funk’s form-critical method in excising 2:13-16, which links the
Robert Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 37-40. Perhaps inflated numbers, but the impact of such an event would be
nonetheless impressive. Jewett also mentions the insurrection of Theudas (44-46 C.E.), the Judean famine
(46-47 C.E.), and the expulsion of Judaists from Rome (49 C.E.). Charles A. Wanamaker (Commentary on
1 and 2 Thessalonians [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990], 30) adds the death of King Agrippa.
Markus N. A. Bockmuehl (“1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and the church in Jerusalem,” TynBul 52 [2001]: 1-
31) provides plausible background to Jewish troubles, including an as-of-yet forgotten persecution in the
eighth year of Claudius. Of course, one must accept that the phrase refers to a definite historical event,
which few take as axiomatic. Though not noted in the literature, alternative backgrounds to “wrath” were
first mentioned by Sherman E. Johnson, “Notes and Comments (I Thess 2:16),” AThR 23 (1941): 173-176.
That Judaistic leaders were capable of such activity, even without the help of Rome, is indicated
by the death of James and other Judaistic Christ-believers in Josephus, Ant. 20.199-203.
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 31.

apostolic parousia of 2:17-3:13 with the formal introduction of 2:11-12. Despite the fact

that Funk does not mention a “formal introduction,” the argument that 1 Thessalonians is

“better” without the 2:13-16 is really just opinion.32 For example, Marshall argues that

2:13-16 “round off the ‘apology’” of 2:1-12.33 John Hurd’s analysis of 2:13-16 and

comparison with 1:2-10 demonstrates convincingly that Paul is intentionally using an

ABA form of argumentation, and the repetition of 2:13-16 has great rhetorical effect.34

Jon Weatherly has, in any case, noted that the emphatic “we” of 2:17 indicates that there

has been a break for 2:13-16, and that there is no need to posit an interpolation on form-

critical grounds.35 Definitive on grounds of form-critical method, J. W. Simpson, Jr. has

noted that if 2:13-16 truly contains tradition material, as Pearson presupposes, it would be

unique to the passage regardless of whether the “redactor” was Paul himself or a later,

post-Pauline interpolator, so there is no need to hypothesize an interpolation.36

In the same work, Weatherly has also definitively rebutted Schmidt’s stylistic

analysis argument.37 As a caveat, Weatherly disagrees with the number of true embedded

sentences in the passage, arguing for six, not seven. What is definitive in his analysis,

though, is that even if 1 Thess 2:14-16 has seven levels of embedded sentences, it is

hardly unique in Paul, and again Pearson narrows his search range for the sake of the

Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 32.
I. Howard Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (NCBC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 9.
John C. Hurd, “Paul Ahead of His Time: 1 Thess. 2:13-16,” in Anti-Judaism in Early
Christianity: Volume 1, Paul and the Gospels, ed. Peter Richardson with David Granskou (Studies in
Christianity and Judaism; Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1986), 27-30.
Jon Allen Weatherly, “The Authenticity of 1 Thessalonians 2.13-16: Additional Evidence.”
JSNT 42 (1991): 81.
J. W. Simpson Jr., “The problems posed by 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 and a solution,” HBT 12
(1990): 42-72.
Still (Conflict at Thessalonica, 32) agrees; records the Schmidt-Weatherly debate (pp. 32-35).

argument. Rom 4:16-19 has nine levels, Rom 15:15-16 has six levels, Phil 1:12-15 has

seven levels, and Phil 1:27-30 has eight levels.38

Linguistic Arguments

Weatherly also addresses Schmidt’s linguistic arguments. Concerning the unique

kaiV that links matrix phrases, Schmidt either misunderstands or misrepresents what a

matrix phrase is, since such uses of kaiV occur on “virtually every page in Paul.”39

Schmidt misses this use of kaiV in 1 Thess 1:6, and unacceptably limits his inquiry to

1 Thessalonians. Schmidt does not do the same with the phrase, kaiV diaV tou`to,

extending the search to all of Paul’s undisputed letters. But in excluding 2 Thess 2:11 as

deutero-Pauline, Schmidt puts pressure on the interpolation process, since he presumes

2 Thessalonians is dependent upon 1 Thessalonians.40 Regarding the multiple modifiers

on ejkklhsiva, Weatherly argues that in 1 Cor 1:2 and 2 Cor 1:1, Paul uses two modifiers,

and adding a third to denote the specific content of 2:14 is not impossible.41 The modifier

“in Christ Jesus,” according to Best, is probably to denote the unity between the

Thessalonian Christians and the Judean ones.42 On the unusual splitting of “Lord Jesus,”

Weatherly grants that it is true that Paul never does this; however, neither does any of the

other NT authors, meaning that the phrase is not only un-Pauline, but it is atypical of the

early Christian writers who may have provided the interpolation.43 Simpson dismisses out

of hand the weight of “Lord Jesus” and ajdelfoiv arguments, and argues that the “un-

Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 94.
Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 91-92. Furthermore, 2 Cor 1:15 is undeniably a connector of matrix
phrases even according to Schmidt’s definition of the most semantically prominent part of the sentence.
Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 93.
Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 95-97.
Ernest Best, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (BNTC; London, A&C Black,
1972), 114.
Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 94-95.

Pauline conflations” of 2:13 and 2:15 only look like they are un-Pauline after an

interpolation hypothesis is assumed. Weatherly did not account for what Schmidt calls

the “un-Pauline amalgamation” in 2:13—paralabovnte" lovgon ajkoh'" par= hJmw'n tou'

qeou'—but Hurd critiques the key argument: it is exceedingly difficult to hold together

the arguments of “too Paul” and “not enough like Paul” as evidence for authenticity.44

Schmidt’s stylistic and linguistic arguments fall, then, on poor methodological grounds,

and the data can be accounted for in other ways.

Pearson’s argument of Paul’s use of the imitation motif is a more theologically

nuanced issue concerning Paul’s style. Granted with Pearson that the author is exhorting

the Thessalonians to be like the Judean Christians in the face of oppression, the moment

is unique.45 But that is not what the author is doing. Charles Wanamaker notes the simple

fact that this imitation motif is unique, regardless of the author, because it is not

exhorting that the Thessalonians be like the Judeans; instead it is simply stating that the

Thessalonian Christians are like the Judeans because they stood firm in suffering46—

whether they knew it or not.

Theological Arguments

The theological argument for interpolation is a more difficult one to deal with

concisely. It can be dismissed on methodological grounds, since it presumes that Paul

must be consistent in his thought. Schlueter notes that the scholarly tendency to

theological harmonization is problematic in understanding the passage.47 T. Still argues:

“To say that Paul could not have said something in one place because he did not say the

Hurd, “Paul Ahead of His Time,” 26.
Not entirely unique; the Thessalonians are also a model for believers, 1:6-7; cf. 4:9-12.
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 32; emphasis mine.
Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 62. Schlueter dedicates an entire chapter to demonstrate the
danger of theological harmonization and the need to study the passage in its own right (pp. 54-64).

same thing in another is tenuous.”48 However, Still is among those who argue that the

disharmony is solved by understanding that the Judaists of 2:15-16 are not all Judaists,

but a specific group.49 Donfried argues that 2:13-16 fits well within Paul’s apocalyptic

thought.50 Wanamaker argues that the concept of “wrath” has, in both 1 Thessalonians

and Romans, future and present connotations, and does not preclude God’s grace and

mercy.51 Others have offered a close theological reading of 1 Thess 2:13-16 and Romans

9-11 that demonstrates a lack of theological problems.52

5.1.4. Conclusion

To this day, most New Testament scholars reject interpolation hypotheses.53 Of

note among recent critical commentators, only Earl J. Richard chooses the option for

interpolation, and F. F. Bruce leaves the option for interpolation open.54 By contrast,

many who are engaged in the question of Paul and antisemitism have concluded that this

is an interpolation, and are clearly driven by Paul’s polemic to find a solution by excising

Still, Conflict at Thessalonica, 40-41.
Still, Conflict at Thessalonica, 41-42. Weatherly (“Authenticity,” 86-87) translates not as
“Jews” but “Judeans,” which, he thinks, also solves the problem of the “always” in the passage.
Karl P. Donfried, “Paul and Judaism: 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16 as a Test Case,” Int 38 (1984):
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 31, who questions why Romans becomes the Pauline standard.
E.g., see George E. Okeke, “1 Thessalonians 2:13-16: The fate of the unbelieving Jews,” NTS
27 (Oct 1980): 127-136; Simpson, “Problems,” 42-72; Gene L. Green, The Letters to the Thessalonians
(PNTC; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2002), 146. Ingo Broer (“‘Antisemitismus’ und Judenpolemick im
Neuen Testament: Ein Beitrag zum besseren Verständnis von 1 Thess 2:14-16,” BN 20 [1983] 59-91)
argues that “wrath” should be understood in a de-historicized sense only; see Jewett, Thessalonian
Correspondence, 40.
As Pearson (“1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” 80-81) admits. See the bibliography of Still, Conflict at
Thessalonica, 25-26, n. 4. Though not comprehensive, it is a thorough list of significant scholars until
1999. Since then, those who argue against interpolation include: Markus N. A. Bockmuehl, “1
Thessalonians 2:14-16 and the Church in Jerusalem,” TynBul 52 (2001): 1-31; Gene L. Green, The Letters
to the Thessalonians (PNTC; Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2002), 144-146; Jeffrey S. Lamp, “Is Paul anti-
Jewish? Testament of Levi 6 in the Interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16,” CBQ 65 (2003): 408-427;
Malherbe, Thessalonians, 164-179.
Bruce, Thessalonians, 49.

the text.55 However, the hope of interpolation hypotheses rests on shaky exegetical and

methodological ground. Robert Jewett notes: “Agreeing with him [Beck] about the

theological and ethical implications of 1 Thess 2:13-16, I only regret that the evidence for

an interpolation is so weak. The language, rhetoric and apocalyptic theology of these

verses remain thoroughly Pauline.”56

While the issue cannot be dismissed out of hand, there is no compelling exegetical

or historical reason to consider 1 Thess 2:13-16, or any part of it, a post-Pauline

interpolation. What remains that is objectionable, then, is Paul’s rhetoric, his “vitriolic”57

polemic, which is clearly the key reason for many authors to excise the text. In a

contextual and exegetical consideration of the passage, we will place 1 Thess 2:14-16 in

its rhetorical background. We are asking two questions: 1) What is Paul doing in this

passage? 2) How does Paul’s polemic compare with the polemic of the Hebrew prophets

with whom he connects his vocation, with his Judaistic forbearers and peers, and within

his Greco-Roman literary background? In evaluating the evidence, we will then ask

whether Paul showed honour or dishonour in his method of argumentation.

5.2. Rhetorical and Epistolary Genre

We expressed some caution in section 3.3 in using ancient rhetorical categories to

speak of NT letters, but noted there is value in moving forward.58 It has been important

E.g., see J. G. Gager, The Origins of Anti-Semitism: Attitudes toward Judaism in Pagan and
Christian Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University, 1985), 255-256; Beck, Mature Christianity, 77-84;
Gaston, Paul and the Torah, 137, 195.
Jewett, Thessalonian Correspondence, 41.
Beck, Mature Christianity, 76.
See section 3.3, pp. 71, n. 57. The question remains not only whether the rhetorical and
epistolary forms are prescriptive or descriptive in Paul, but also whether Paul knew these forms and used
them, or whether they are merely a heuristic for reading Paul. The approach applied here is that these
rhetorical and epistolary handbooks had influence in that the popular forms that Paul uses are akin to the
rhetorical forms. In this sense we are leaning toward the “heuristic” use of ancient rhetorical analysis
without negating the possibility and likelihood that Paul’s writings were influenced by these rhetors. As

for scholars in the last two decades to determine the rhetorical and epistolary genres of

1 Thessalonians. The rhetorical genres are generally limited to the three Aristotelian

genera: 1) Judicial (or Forensic); 2) Epideictic; 3) Deliberative (or Political). Though the

genres are complex, the basic focus of judicial is to press for judgment on past action,

epideictic is to advise toward holding or reaffirming a present opinion, and deliberative is

to persuade toward future activity.59 Judicial rhetoric is the genre of the law courts, while

the deliberative genus is often filled with exhortation and concerned with self-interest and

the security of future benefits. Associated with the genre of epideictic are the rhetorical

devices of praise and blame, as well as encouragement of belief, faith, and honour.60

Kennedy argues that 1 Thessalonians is “basically deliberative” because of its

high quantity of exhortation and advice.61 Agreeing with Kennedy, and arguing that there

are enough hints of deliberative rhetoric and not enough in Paul’s intention to praise,

Edgar Krentz argues that 1 Thessalonians is clearly deliberative.62 However, most authors

have not been convinced. Jewett argues contra Kennedy that 1 Thessalonians is

epideictic because of its focus on praise, blame, thanksgiving, and pastoral care.63

Wanamaker agrees with Jewett that 1 Thessalonians is epideictic, particularly because of

the praise and blame content, as well as the affirmative rather than persuasive approach.64

F. W. Hughes engages in an extensive discussion of the rhetorical outline to demonstrate

will become evident, we do not see ancient rhetoric as prescriptive for Paul in the sense that when Paul
chooses a form, the form guides or restricts the content in a significant or identifiable way.
Aristotle, Rhet. 1.3.4; Kennedy, NT Interpretation, 19.
Aristotle, Rhet. 1.3.1-8; Stowers, Letter Writing, 27-28, 51; Kennedy, NT Interpretation, 19-20.
Kennedy, NT Interpretation, 142. Apparently, no commentators view 1 Thessalonians as
Edgar Krentz, “1 Thessalonians: Rhetorical Flourishes and Formal Constraints,” in The
Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis, ed. Karl P. Donfried and
Johannes Beutle (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), esp. 301-304.
Jewett, Thessalonian Correspondence, 71-72.
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 45-46.

his reading of 1 Thessalonians as epideictic. Specifically, the letter contains general

instructions and wishes, as well as consolatory or funeral remarks.65 Schlueter also argues

for the epideictic genre based upon the content of praise and blame.66 For Schlueter,

however, the greater evidence of the epideictic genus is that amplification and hyperbole

were essential techniques of epideictic speech.67

There is less agreement among scholars with epistolary analysis than with

rhetorical analysis. Pseudo-Demetrius, the author of one of the Greco-Roman world’s

most significant extant epistolary handbooks, catalogues various types of letter:

There are, then, twenty one letter styles that we have come across. Perhaps
time, since it is a highly gifted inventor of skills and theories, might produce more
than these. But as far as we are concerned, there is no other type that properly
pertains to the epistolary mode. Each of them is named after the form of style to
which it belongs, as follows: friendly, commendatory, blaming, reproachful,
consoling, censorious, admonishing, threatening, vituperative, praising, advisory,
supplicatory, inquiring, responding, allegorical, accounting, accusing, apologetic,
congratulatory, ironic, thankful.68

Pseudo-Libanius extends the epistolary types to forty-one, including the mixed letter for

authors trying to do various things within the same letter. Attempts to compare

1 Thessalonians with these styles have produced various results. Stanley Stowers,69

F. W. Hughes, “The Rhetoric of 1 Thessalonians,” in The Thessalonian Correspondence, ed.
Raymond F. Collins (BETL 87; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1990), 97-107. Karl P. Donfried (“The
Epistolary and Rhetorical Context of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12,” in The Thessalonians Debate:
Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis, ed. Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler [Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 41-42) agrees essentially with the analysis of Hughes.
Though she notes that this is not her primary goal, but it simply best fits the evidence. Schlueter
also notes Hughes as an influence.
See section 3.3. Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 78-80. See Aristotle, Rhet. 1.9.40.
Quoted in Abraham J. Malherbe, Moral Exhortation, A Greco-Roman Sourcebook (LEC 4;
Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1986), 80. See also idem, “Ancient Epistolary Theorists,” Ohio Journal of
Religious Studies 5 (1977): 3-77; J. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul the Letter-Writer: His World, His Options,
His Skills (GNS 41; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995), 95-98; David E. Aune, The New Testament
in Its Literary Environment (LEC 8; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987), 161-162; cf. Stowers, Letter Writing,
Stowers, Letter Writing, 96; Stowers describes 1 Thessalonians as “an excellent example of a
paraenetic letter.” Although Stowers references these epistolary types, he has re-organized the styles into a

David Aune,70 and Luke T. Johnson71 all consider 1 Thessalonians to be paraenetic,

particularly because of its focus on moral exhortation under the rubric of memory, model,

and maxims. Though amending the paraenetic hypothesis to “pastoral paraenesis,”

Malherbe argues convincingly for the paraenetic character of the entire letter.72 Malherbe

indicates several key features of paraenesis: hortatory imperatives; the self-presentation

of 2:1-12 as the exemplar, reminding the Thessalonians that Paul is trustworthy; the

philosophical self-description of antithesis; the repeated thanksgiving; the highly

affective language, including anxiety from both sides; new language of kinship for

disenfranchised Christians; the focus on behaviour rather than doctrine; and the use of

“you know” as a reminder to unsure converts to do more of the same, which is key to

paraenesis. Malherbe concludes: “The letter aims at nurturing the readers in this faith,

and its paraenetic features perform what we could call pastoral care.”73

A number of authors, however, conclude that 1 Thessalonians is a friendship

letter, picking up on some of the themes that have moved Malherbe to amend his analysis

to “pastoral” paraenesis, including Bart Ehrman,74 Karl Donfried,75 Traugott Holtz,76 and

Johannes Schoon-Janßen, who amends the type to pastoral or parental friendship.77

six-fold epistolary typology: 1) letters of friendship; 2) family letters; 3) letters of praise and blame,
according to epideictic rhetoric; 4) hortatory letters, which included paraenetic, protreptic, advisory,
admonishing, rebuking, reproaching, and consolatory letters; 5) letters of recommendation; and 6) accusing,
apologetic, and accounting letters, according to judicial rhetoric.
Aune, Literary Environment, 206.
Johnson, Writings, 282.
And not just chs. 4-5, which is granted by many. See Malherbe, Thessalonians, 81-86.
Malherbe, Thessalonians, 85.
Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings,
3d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 311.
Donfried, “Epistolary and Rhetorical Context,” 44-54.
Traugott Holtz, “On the Background of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12,” in The Thessalonians Debate:
Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis, ed. Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 70-71.
Johannes Schoon-Janßen, “On the Use of Elements of Ancient Epistolography in
1 Thessalonians,” in The Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis, ed.

Schoon-Janßen offers the most significant evidence for his conclusion: speaking as to a

friend; a parousia and present in the spirit motif; joined in love and unity motifs;

moments of consolation and longing; and reminiscence of joyful times. Although

Schoon-Janßen argues that there are extensive uses of friendship topoi, there are sections

of “nonphilophronetic” material that needed to be read according to 5:27.78

How is one to accommodate the varying approaches to the rhetorical and

epistolary genres of 1 Thessalonians? To a significant degree, it depends on whether one

views rhetorical and epistolary classification as descriptive or prescriptive. For those who

see this analysis as descriptive, these tools are helpful primarily in finding new

perspectives to view the letter’s content and background. For those who see classical

analysis as prescriptive, the choice of genre will help determine the reasons why Paul

chose the literary topoi he did, and to what degree this choice effects meaning.

On the one hand, it can be granted that form does guide content, as Paul clearly

uses the traditional letterform of opening-body-conclusion in his letters.79 On the other

hand, there are significant problems with the prescriptive approach. First, Paul does use

epistolary and rhetorical features, but fills those with significant theological content,

particularly in opening words, thanksgiving sections, and closing greetings. Second,

Paul’s letters are unusually long by Greco-Roman conventions, indicating that Paul is

trying to accomplish something more than the typical correspondence. Third, by the

analyses of the various authors interested in classical rhetorical and epistolary analysis,

Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 179-193. See especially his
history of research with extensive bibliography, pp. 180-181.
Schoon-Janßen, “Elements of Ancient Epistolography,” 189.
See Green, Thessalonians, 73-74. For ways Paul used this form, and its relationship to Greek
letters, see the excellent analysis in M. Luther Stirewalt Jr., Paul, The Letter Writer (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 2003).

there is no instance where any one of Paul’s letters completely matches a rhetorical or

epistolary form. Fourth, there is some evidence that these forms and genera were more

liquid than prescriptive. Quintilian noted: “Let no one however demand from me a rigid

code of rules such as most authors of textbooks have laid down, or ask me to impose on

students of rhetoric a system of laws immutable as fate” (Inst. 2.13.1-2 [Butler]). There

are also significant differences in the classification of letters in the epistolary handbooks,

and Pseudo-Libanius’ “mixed” letter indicates the fluidity of the task.

1 Thessalonians also bears out the fluidity of the forms. Aristotle noted that letters

are most suited to the epideictic genus (Rhet. 3.12.6), and because of this, if one must

choose, epideictic is perhaps the best choice for 1 Thessalonians. There is, however,

ambivalence: the extended narratio is a feature of judicial rhetoric, and 1 Thess 4:13-18

is not merely consolation, as befitting epideictic rhetoric, but is really new teaching and

indicative of the deliberative genus. Clearly, if Paul was aware of the rhetorical genera,

he was not bound to them.

The attempt to confine Paul to a particular epistolary style is even more difficult,

which is betrayed by the adjusted styles of two of the more significant analyses

(Malherbe, “pastoral paraenesis”; Schoon-Janßen, “pastoral friendship”). 1 Thessalonians

displays several styles besides paraenesis and friendship, including commendatory or

congratulatory (1:7; 2:14), blaming or vituperative (2:1-2, 14-16), reproachful (5:14),

consoling (4:13-15), admonishing or advisory (5:12-22), praising (1:6-2:1; 2:13-14; 3:6-

8; 4:10; 5:12-13), thankful (1:2-10; 2:13-16; 3:9-10), and perhaps even apologetic (2:1-

12).80 It seems, then, the best we can say is that 1 Thessalonians is a mixed letter with

significant paraenesis and friendship content.

How can this analysis be significant to the background of 1 Thess 2:14-16? As

noted in section 3.3, parrēsia, or frank speech, is a particularly significant aspect of

friendship communication. It could be argued, then, that Paul was merely using an

epistolary topos in 2:14-16. The most that can be said, however, is that Paul’s friendship

language spills over into the vituperation of the opponent. 2:14-16 is not friendship

critique, and not parrēsia in the strict sense. We have noted that Paul used various kinds

of epistolary topoi within in a single letter; it seems, then, that little can be added

(prescriptive or descriptive) in classical epistolary genre analysis to better understand

what Paul was doing in 2:14-16.

More significant to our passage is that epideictic rhetoric is often expressed using

blame language and hyperbole. These two rhetorical topoi can be helpful in

understanding what conventions Paul was drawing from in forming 2:14-16 within the

letter. Knowing this rhetorical possibility, however, does not tell us why Paul used this

kind of language, since it is clear that he chose various topoi from amongst the various

genera. Instead, what we have is another tool for evaluating Paul’s rhetoric within the

conventions with which he was familiar.

5.3. Paul and the Thessalonians: the Story

5.3.1. The “Plot”

Although 1 Thessalonians is a letter, and not a novel or other storytelling piece,

there is a story told in it. Within the letter itself there is a clear narrative section (perhaps

There is a significant debate about the function (apologetic or otherwise) of 1 Thess 2:12. See
esp. Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler, eds., The Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or
Methodological Synthesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000).

as much as 1:6-3:13; see the rhetorical outlines below), but the story that takes place in

the social worlds of 1 Thessalonians is broader than that section. We will look first at the

referential sequence (the chronological events that occur within the social world of the

text, indicated in numbered sequence) and then compare this story with the poetic

sequence (the events as they are relayed rhetorically by Paul).81

From the details we have in 1 Thessalonians, it would appear that the story goes

as follows: It begins when (1) Jesus and the prophets are killed by Judaistic oppressors,

and (2) Paul82 and the Judean Christians are inhibited in their ministry. (3) Some time

later, Paul and his team arrive in Philippi (2:2; cf. Acts 16). (4) Unfortunately, though,

there are significant problems in Philippi, resulting in suffering and insult for Paul and his

mission (2:2; cf. Acts 16). (5) Paul goes to Thessalonica (1:3, 5-6; 2:1-2, 5-13, 17; 3:4, 6;

4:1-2, 9; cf. Acts 17:1), where he (6) shares the gospel while working hard to support

himself (2:2, 9; cf. Acts 18:2-3). (7) The Thessalonians respond well to the Gospel,

turning from serving idols to serving the true God, even in the face of persecution (1:4-

10; 2:13, 19-20; 3:5-6; cf. Acts 17:1-4). (8) Unfortunately, Paul is torn away from them

early and unexpectedly (2:17; cf. Acts 17:5-10). (9) Paul goes to Athens (3:1; cf. Acts

17:15); meanwhile (10) trials come to the Thessalonians (3:1-5; 2:14), and some have

even died (4:13-18). (11) When Paul can stand having no news any longer, (12) he sends
See the chart in Appendix B. Debt for this language and technique is owed to Petersen
(Rediscovering Paul, esp. ch. 1). For obvious reasons, we have left God, Jesus (as the risen, coming Christ),
and the tempter/Satan out of this historical narrative sequence. When God calls and chooses, or Jesus
returns, or Satan tempts and hinders is really outside of this kind of analysis.
In the character analysis of section 5.3.2, “author” refers to the character of the authors as
portrayed in 1 Thessalonians, and “narrator” is what is in traditional exegesis, the one who writes.
1 Thessalonians is unique in that 94% of the verbs are in first person plural, which is remarkable compared
with other co-authored letters: 1 Cor (27%), 2 Cor (39.5%), Phil (6%), and Phlm (0%), cf. 2 Thess (89.5%);
see Green, Thessalonians, 57, n. 10; Malherbe, Thessalonians, 86-89. Paul’s personality breaks through in
two significant places—2:18 and 3:5—when he can no longer restrain his personal anxiety (and relief), as
well as in 5:27 with a kind of apostolic signature. In this “socio-literary” analysis (section 5.3 and 5.5),
“narrator” and “author” remain separate because the “author” is a character described by the voice of the
“narrator,” though in reality they are one and the same.

Timothy to Thessalonica (3:1-5). (13) Timothy returns to Paul with good news that the

Thessalonians are firm in their faith (3:6-8). (14) In response to the good news, and with

the purpose of including some reminders (4:1-12; 5:1-22) and some new instructions

(4:13-18), Paul writes the letter.83

There are some chronologically uncertain aspects of the story. Within the details

of the letter itself, it is uncertain at what point the Thessalonians become an example to

believers outside the local church (1:7-8), and when these folk made their report to Paul

(1:9). It is difficult to know the degree and nature of the “trials” the Thessalonians

experienced. We know that they suffered trials both because of their acceptance (1:6) and

during Paul’s absence (3:3-5), though Paul’s absence could be viewed as a trial in and of

itself. It could only be that they experienced suffering when they first accepted the

gospel, but Paul’s absence and the death of some believers were enough to cause Paul’s

concern and to be described as “trials” (3:3) and “temptation” (3:5). It seems that Paul’s

use of the verb “to persecute” (qlivbein, 3:4) likely means an outside group of opponents,

so it represents a part in the referential sequence (10).84 There is considerable discussion

in the literature, particularly the critical commentators, on the provenance of

1 Thessalonians. If Acts 18:5 is taken into account, it could be that Paul moves on to

Corinth where he receives his report from Timothy and writes the letter. The language in

3:1 may be indicative that Athens is the provenance, not Corinth, but Paul does speak of

If 2 Thessalonians were authentically Pauline and written second, it would indicate that at some
later point a prophecy or false report came to them (2 Thess 2:2), resulting in a change of behaviour among
the Thessalonians, so that Paul must write again. If 2 Thessalonians has priority, as some suggest (John C.
Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians, 2d ed. [Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1983], 27, n. 1;
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 37-45), a more significant revision of historical sequence of the Thessalonian-
Pauline relationship as a whole would take place, but the basic events as recorded in 1 Thessalonians
remain unaltered. Unclear within the historical sequence is the help the Thessalonians send to Paul (Phil
4:16), though Acts 20:1-6 indicates two further visits.
Malherbe (Paul and the Thessalonians, 47), taking the lead from John Chrysostom, thinks the
ajgwvn (2:2) is both external persecution and internal agony.

“all of Macedonia and Achaia” hearing of his Thessalonian work (1:8). Most

commentators give Acts the benefit of the doubt,85 which requires a move of Paul from

Athens to Corinth after Timothy is sent to Thessalonica (so in referential sequence, 12b).

The referential sequence differs somewhat from the poetic sequence. After a

unique wording within a traditional Pauline form of address (1:1), Paul engages in an

extended thanksgiving that focuses on the relationship between Paul and the

Thessalonians, and their dramatic and powerful conversion that is evident to surrounding

Christ-believers and a testimony to the gospel. The Thessalonians are praised for their

change, but also for their labour and endurance in faith, love and hope. Paul leaves the

thanksgiving to remind the Thessalonians of the great pains Paul and his team went to in

sharing the gospel with them (2:1-12). Paul, in the face of opposition, was pure in motive,

fair in speech, and righteous in deed, as his work and their reception of the gospel knit

them together in loving relationship. After this testimony of kinship, Paul adds a second

thanksgiving (2:13-16), repeating a number of themes from the first thanksgiving,86

including the Thessalonians’ conversion, the theme of endurance, the connection of the

Thessalonians with others outside of Thessalonica, the activity of God in the life of

believers, the oppression of non-Christ-believers, and wrath. The story of the relationship

between Paul and the Thessalonian believers continues (2:17-3:5) when Paul explains

Best, Thessalonians, 11; Brown, Introduction, 457; D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon
Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 346-347; Frame,
Thessalonians, 9; Johnson, NT Writings, 281; W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to the New Testament, 2d ed.,
trans. H. C. Kee (Nashville: Abingdon, 1975), 252; Jewett, Thessalonian Correspondence, 59-60;
Malherbe, Thessalonians, 71-72 (Malherbe argues that it cannot be Athens because of the language of 1
Thess 3:1); D. Michael Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians (NAC 33; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 33;
Leon Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (NIC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959),
24-26; David J. Williams, 1 and 2 Thessalonians (NIBCNT; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992), 10; cf.
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 6-8. Some remain cautious of the Acts report because of the mixed Judaist-
gentile church of Acts 17:1-5, compared with the gentile church of 1 Thess 1:9; see esp. Ehrman, NT:
Historical Introduction, 303.
See Hurd, “Paul Ahead of His Time,” 21-36.

that the result of his early and unexpected departure was not just anxiety and trials for the

Thessalonians, but great anxiety for Paul as well. When Paul can stand it no longer, he

sends Timothy to inquire of their wellbeing. Timothy’s report (3:6-8) reveals that the

Thessalonians are standing firm, and have warm feelings toward Paul and his team. This

brings great encouragement to Paul, and he bursts into prayer of thanksgiving, hoping

that Paul can visit them again for their edification (3:9-10), and ends with a thematic and

educational benediction (3:11-13). Chapters 4-5 move on to matters of doctrinal praxis

about which the Thessalonians need to be reminded (4:1-12, living a quiet, holy life; 5:1-

11, the coming of the Lord) and instructed (4:13-18, those who die before the coming of

the Lord). Typically, 1 Thessalonians ends with some final instructions about relational

matters, as well as a benediction, greeting, and apostolic charge (5:12-28).

There have been various attempts to outline 1 Thessalonians, but they are not

radically different one from another and follow the rhetorical presentation described

above. Typical outlines include: Address (1:1); thanksgiving and the Thessalonian

example (1:2-10); Paul’s example (2:1-12); the Judean example (2:13-1687); the story of

their relationship (2:17-3:13); ethical reminders (4:1-12); instructions about the parousia

(4:13-5:11); instructions about community living (5:12-22); concluding greetings,

admonitions, and blessing (5:23-28).88 Since George A. Kennedy’s New Testament

Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 1 Thessalonians has been the subject of

Morris divides the pericope, dealing with 2:13 and 2:14-16 differently. Some commentators
include 2:13-16 only as a subdivision: Beverly Gaventa (First and Second Thessalonians [Int.; Louisville:
John Knox Press, 1996], 22-39) and Williams (Thessalonians, 36-53) include it as part of 2:1-16; Green
(Thessalonians, 138-150) as part of 2:1-3:13; Malherbe (Thessalonians, 164-179) and Martin
(Thessalonians, 89-95) as part of 1:2-3:13.
See Brown, Introduction, 457. Another way of dividing the rhetorical presentation is by theme
of faith, love, and hope: The Story of Faith (1:2-3:5); The Story of Love (3:6-4:12); The Story of Hope
(4:13-5:3); Living in Faith, Love and Hope (5:4-22); or perhaps by a temporal theme: past (1:2-3:5);
present (3:6-13; 5:4-22); future (4:1-5:3).

analysis according to Greco-Roman rhetoric for the purpose of determining the rhetorical

structure by four key authors: F. W. Hughes,89 Robert Jewett,90 Charles Wanamaker,91

and Kennedy himself.92 Their analyses of the rhetorical outline of 1 Thessalonians

compares as follows:

Hughes Jewett Wanamaker Kennedy

Prescript 1:1 1:1
Exordium 1:1-10 1:1-5 1:2-10 1:2-10 (Proem)
Narratio 2:1-3:10 1:6-3:13 2:1-3:10 (2:13-16, 2:1-3:13 (Refutation,
Digressio) Narrative)
Partitio/Transitus 3:11-13 3:11-13
Probatio 4:1-5:3 4:1-5:22 4:1-5:22 4:1-5:22 (Headings)
Peroratio 5:4-11 5:23-28 5:23-28
Exhortation 5:12-22
Epilogue/Conclusion 5:23-28 5:23-28

The differences that Gene Green considers a reason for pause93 are remarkably small

given the different approaches of each author. Besides Kennedy’s less precise outline,

there are only three key dissimilarities in the outlines: 1) Jewett includes 1:6 in the

narratio; 2) Hughes’ reading of 5:4-22 differs; and 3) 3:11-13 is understood as part of the

F. W. Hughes, “The Rhetoric of 1 Thessalonians,” in The Thessalonian Correspondence, ed.
Raymond F. Collins (BETL 87; Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1990), 94-116. Karl P. Donfried (“The
Epistolary and Rhetorical Context of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12,” in The Thessalonians Debate:
Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis, ed. Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 41-42) agrees essentially with the analysis of Hughes.
Robert Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 63-91, esp. 71-81. Jewett calls his approach “epistolary rhetoric” (p. 63).
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 48-50. Wanamaker acknowledges debt to Jewett for his rhetorical
Kennedy, NT Interpretation Through Rhetorical Criticism, 141-144, cf. 30-38. Thomas H.
Olbricht (“An Aristotelian Rhetorical Analysis of 1 Thessalonians,” in Greeks, Romans, and Christians:
Essays in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe, ed. David L. Balch, Everett Ferguson, and Wayne A. Meeks
[Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], 216-236; see the excellent bibliography, 216-220) offers an outline using
only Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric that essentially follows the opening-body-conclusion form, with a
“statement” in 1:4-10. Bruce C. Johanson (To All the Brethren: A Text-Linguistic and Rhetorical Approach
to 1 Thessalonians [ConBNT 16; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1987], esp. 157-163) does extensive
rhetorical and text-linguistic analysis of 1 Thessalonians, and concludes that this letter does not fit the
rhetorical outline well. See also the essays in Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler, eds., The
Thessalonians Debate: Methodological Discord or Methodological Synthesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Green, Thessalonians, 71. Of note is that Green’s own outline (pp. 75-76) is not substantially
different from the rhetorical ones.

narratio by Jewett and Kennedy, as the partitio or proposition by Hughes, and as the

transitus by Wanamaker. In each case, 2:13-16 is included in the narratio. Wanamaker’s

clarification that it is a digressio is helpful in noting that there is a shift in topical and

rhetorical emphasis, but it is not entirely accurate in that there is a continuation in the

story of Paul, the Thessalonians, and opponents. The value of the rhetorical outlines is

that they draw out the significant narrative element of the letter and make explicit the role

of 1 Thessalonians 1 in establishing good rapport between Paul and his audience.

The traditional and rhetorical outlines are not essentially disparate. The key

divisions are similar, particularly in the movement from introduction/exordium to

story/narratio to exhortation/probatio. There are some interesting differences, however,

between the referential sequence and Paul’s poetic sequence of the events. Based on the

numbers given above, here is how that referential sequence and Paul’s poetic sequence

compare (see the chart in Appendix B):94

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
[5] 7 3 4 6 1 2 8 11 [9] 12 10 13 14

Particularly interesting are the two significant differences between the actual series of

historical events and the way Paul organizes the plot. Many of the events after Paul

leaves Thessalonica (8) are in general order, but by bringing the event to the forefront of

the storyline, Paul chooses to emphasize his own anxiety and desire to be with them (8,

11), and de-emphasize the trials the Thessalonians experience (10). The order of events

leading up to and including Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians is also presented

Sequence numbers in square brackets are implied or assumed (i.e., Paul does not state directly,
“I came to Thessalonica,” yet it is evident that he did).

differently and shows the same pattern of bringing forward events that focus on Paul’s

relationship with the Thessalonians, and places as secondary the troubles experienced

from oppressors. For Paul, it is primary that the Thessalonians responded well to his

ministry (7), and the events that took place in Judea (1, 2), although primary in referential

sequence, form a less significant role in the poetic sequence. 1 Thess 2:13-16 follows 1

Thess 2:1-12, as Paul makes explicit their mutual relationship, and all other relationships

become secondary.

5.3.2. The “Characters”

Every story has characters; 1 Thessalonians is no exception. Traditional commentators

discuss author-addressee as the primary characters, but the social world contained within the

story of 1 Thessalonians includes a complex array of characterization, an intricate relationship

between the characters, and other characters besides the author and addressee.

The character of “author” is complex because it is written from an apostolic team (Paul,

Silas, and Timothy), and most of the time, the author’s voice is plural, representing the entire

team.95 Further, the epistolary typification96 of the “author” reveals several roles: “sender” (3:2,

5); “co-worker” (3:2); “apostle” of Christ (2:6); “brother” (3:2; cf. 1:4; 2:1, 9, 14, 17; 3:7; 4:1,

13; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25); “baby” (2:7); “nurse” or “nursing mother” (2:7-8); “father” (2:10). The

character of “author” is described in terms of ekklēsia function (sender, apostle, co-worker), as

well as familial terms (child, brother, mother, father).

See 1:2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10; 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20; 3:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11,
12, 13; 4:1, 2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17; 5:5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23, 25, 28. Paul, presumably the lead apostle and key
individual in the authorial team, only breaks in three times: in 2:18 and 3:5, when the emotive content becomes quite
high, and in 5:27, where Paul authenticates the letter. Timothy, though part of the “author” character, also has his own
character (3:2-6).
Petersen (Rediscovering Paul, 64) argues that characters “are related to one another within a system of
typifications, relevances, roles, positions, status.” Because of the lack of opportunity for face-to-face adjustments of
the conversation, letters move from the particular to the typical, and the characterization represents that typification
(see pp. 54-57).

The “Thessalonians” as the recipient character also has some depth and displays

typification. They are usually addressed as a group, i.e., “the church of the Thessalonians”97

(1:1), but within the group there is a range of people, from “labourers” (5:12-13)—probably

leaders—to the clearly contrasted “idle-disruptive” (5:14).98 The assembly as a whole is also

referred to in familial language as children (2:7-8, 10), and more frequently as brothers (1:4; 2:1,

9, 14, 17; 3:7; 4:1, 13; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25). Within relationship to the “author” and other believers,

the “Thessalonians” are the hope, joy, and crown of glory (2:19-20), imitators (1:6; 2:14),

models (1:7), and witnesses (2:10).

The author and recipient are not the only characters in 1 Thessalonians. Other believers

in Macedonia and Achaia are introduced as having experienced the positive impact of the gospel

in the Thessalonians’ lives (1:7; 4:10) and telling Paul about it (1:10).99 The connection of the

Thessalonian Christ-believers with others in Greece is extended to include a connection with

those in Judea (2:14), who share in their experiences of suffering for their faith.

Of particular interest in 1 Thessalonians is the multi-faceted character of “opponent.”

The “opponent” is introduced implicitly as causing oppression and insult in Philippi (2:2), and as

persecutors of the Thessalonians (3:3-4). The individual opponents are explicitly introduced in

2:14-16. The author programmatically links the suffering of the Thessalonians with the Judeans,

and parallels that with a description of the oppressors as tw'n ijdivwn sumfuletw'n and tw'n

jIoudaivwn. The characterization of the “opponent” as other is so strong and so singular

that Paul removes himself from his past role as an oppressor (cf. Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6), and

identifies himself entirely with the Judaists and gentiles being oppressed in Judea and


A genitival designation unique to the Thessalonian correspondence.
There are also those who are neither leaders nor disruptive do-nothings, as well as the bereaved.
It may also be that the Thessalonian letter is directed to other Macedonian Christians, see 5:27.

Although the social matrices between characters can be complex, the basic matrix of

relationship is of equality and inequality.100 There is an intentional statement of equality between

the Judean and Thessalonian Christ-believers in that they share the same experience of standing

firm under oppression. Although the “model” motif could be interpreted to presume that the

Thessalonians take a superior position to the other Greek Christ-believers, it seems rather that

other Macedonians have preceded the Thessalonians in faith, and can speak of their progress

from that perspective. The “model” motif, then serves to create an equality of all believers,

Thessalonian, other Greek, and Judean. Similarly, the link between the Thessalonian and Judean

oppressors serves to make their relational matrix one of equality (including, implicitly, the

Philippian oppressors). In the narrator’s characterization, the “opponent” is one single character

who is opposed to the Christ-believer. The arc of suffering extends from Judea, with Judaistic

oppressors, through to Macedonia, with Greek oppressors.

This literary relationship between the “author” and the “Thessalonians” is uniquely and

intentionally constructed. It is clear that Paul and his team are superior in social status (at least

within the ekklēsia) and could assert this superiority if they so desired (see 2:6-7). They are

apostles, teachers, admonishers in the faith, and have a superior relationship to the

Thessalonians. Yet, there are some key moves that serve to bridge the gap of social inequality.

Instead of merely speaking of a parent-child relationship (2:7, 11) as befitting of the superior-

inferior relationship, the narrator casts the “author” so that they “became as babies101 among

Petersen, Rediscovering Paul, 64-65.
The text variation of nhvpioi (#1)/h!pioi (#2) is one of the more interesting and elaborate
debates, well contested in the literature. The external evidence supports variant #1, attested by P65 a* B C*
D* Y* 0150 104* copsa-ms/bo and the Latin tradition. The manuscripts attesting variant #2 show significant
influence of a corrector, ac A C2 D2 Yc 104c 1739 and most of the Byzantine tradition. Fourth century
Alexandrian copiers consistently change their MSS from variant #1 to variant #2. The Greek support is
stronger for #2, but the Latin and Western support lands on variant #1. The Byzantine majority reading is
#2, though there is some less important miniscule support for variant #1. The only external evidence that
causes one to question variant #1 is that the tradition of B-1739 is split. Grammatically, variant #1 works

you” (2:7). Again and again the “author” expresses anxiety, care, and desire to be with them.

Certainly at the root of this desire is that what is lacking in their faith is supplied by the “author”

(3:10), but there is a rhetorical move that eliminates some inequality.

What is the purpose of this rhetorical device of bridging to equality? It seems that this

adjustment of the social matrices serves to enhance the typification of actors in 1 Thessalonians.

As a result, there are only two characters: Christ-believers and opponents. In 1 Thessalonians

there is a clear rhetorical use of the category of “other” that is in contradistinction to the “us,” the

Christ-believer. The letter continues to betray the depth of interrelationships within these

categories; indeed in Paul’s own story he is included in both categories. In this sense, the “us”

and “them” are a literary construct that helps Paul in his pastoral role of encouraging faith

despite oppression as Paul re-socializes the Thessalonian converts into a new sense of identity

and a new place within their real social matrices. Using kinship language, Paul creates a new

family,102 the multi-ethnic ekklēsia, against which all others are contrasted.

much better, though the sense of variant #2 keeps Paul from changing metaphors so quickly (gentle nurse
instead of babe to nurse). Paul would be most likely to use variant #1, statistically speaking, but the same
argument would cause a copier to change h[pioi to nhvpioi. The one occurrence of h[pio" in the NT (2 Tim
2:24) was corrected to nhvpio" in D F G. Scribes were familiar with Paul's “childlike” language (10x), and
fixed the hapax legomena. h[pioi is the more difficult reading in a Pauline setting, though the easier
reading according to sense. All of the major translations prefer h[pioi, except for the TNIV which marks a
significant change from the NIV, and DRA. The commentators (e.g. Best, Bruce, Malherbe, Marshall,
Martin, Richard, Wanamaker; contra Gaventa, Green, Morris; Williams is ambivalent) for the most part
follow the translations, despite the UBS4 (B rating)/NA27 choice of nhvpio". The NA27 choice of variant #1
seems best. The most common reason for choosing “gentle” is dittography, but haplography could also
have taken place. “Babies” is both the more difficult reading and it best explains the origin of the other, the
evidence of Pauline usage, and has the heaviest textual support. The weight of going against the textual
evidence rests on those who choose “gentle.” For those who argue against the commentators in favour of
“babies,” see Jeffrey A. D. Weima, “‘But We Became Infants Among You’: The Case of NHPIOI in 1
Thess 2.7,” NTS 46 (2000): 547-564. Timothy B. Sailors, “Wedding Textual and Rhetorical Criticism to
Understand the Text of Thessalonians 2.7,” JSNT 80 [2000]: 81-98) argues that using the tools of rhetorical
and textual criticism support the “babes” reading. For our purposes, the argument that the narrator is
intentionally decreasing the status of the “author” is only slightly strengthened by the choice of “baby.”
See also Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians, esp. 34-45.

5.3.3. The Role of 2:14-16

It is clear from the analysis in section 5.3.1 that Paul was not simply telling the

story as it happened historically, but plots the story according to a rhetorical strategy. In

doing so, he emphasizes his caring faith-relationship with the Thessalonians in contrast to

the negative experiences of oppression and persecution. Looking at the way the

characters are developed and displayed (section 5.3.2) further emphasizes that distinction

of relationship, and establishes firmly the “us” and “them” categories. On the “us” side,

through adjustments to the expected social matrices including kinship language and

imitation motifs, Paul includes all Christ-believers—the Judeans, the Macedonians

(including Thessalonians, Philippians, and other believers), and his apostolic team. On

the “them” side are all those who fall within Paul’s literary construct of the “opponent,”

specifically the Philippian, Thessalonian and Judean103 oppressors.

1 Thess 2:14-16, then, serves the literary function of establishing the “us” and

“them” categories that are essential to Paul’s approach to pastoral care. There is a re-

orientation of social institutions for the Thessalonians: they accept a new religious

structure (1:4-2:2), they are part of a new family (2:7-12), and they are part of an ekklēsia

that separates them from their local social matrix and connects them with an international

social matrix of Christ-believers (2:14-15; cf. 1:7-8; 4:10; 5:27). The distinction is

essential, for the believers can expect both trials and persecution (3:3-4; cf. 1:6; 2:2; 3:7)

as well as election to salvation (1:4; 2:12, 16; 5:9-10; cf. 2:4, 13). Opponents, however,

have a much different fate than believers: wrath (1:10; 2:16; 4:13-5:10; cf. 2:19; 3:13).

2:13-16 serves to strengthen the resolve of the Thessalonians, by reminding them that

For the question of whether these Judean oppressors are specifically Judaistic, see section 5.5.

God is working on their side,104 and by strengthening their re-socialization into a new

religious social network, a new family, and an international, multi-ethnic ekklēsia.

5.4. Exegetical Analysis of 2:14-16

5.4.1. Persecution: tw'n ijdivwn sumfuletw'n and tw'n jIoudaivwn

Paul’s use of parallelism begins with o{ti taV aujtaV ejpavqete kaiV uJmei'" uJpoV tw'n

ijdivwn sumfuletw'n, “because these things you—you also!—suffered at the hands of your

own fellow-compatriots” (2:14). Paul is explaining in what way the Thessalonians

became imitators of the Judean Christ-believers: in suffering. The nature of this suffering

is not precisely clear in the letter itself,105 but the theme is prevalent. The Thessalonians

are reminded that they “received the word in much tribulation (ejn qlivyei) with Holy

Spirit joy” (1:6). Paul and his team had been previously subject to suffering and insult in

Philippi, and share the gospel with the Thessalonians in the midst of a great struggle (ejn

pollw'/ ajgw'ni, 2:2) and toil (2:9). In the face of Paul’s sudden departure (2:17), Paul’s

team was “hindered by Satan” from returning (2:18); meanwhile, the Thessalonians

experienced trials (ejn tai'" qlivyesin, 3:3), as they had been forewarned (3:4). Paul had

been worried they would be tempted (3:5), but they stood strong and Paul is encouraged

in the midst of his own distress and tribulation (pavsh/ th'/ ajnavgkh/ kaiV qlivyei hJmw'n,

Word of God, not humans’ words, which works in believers, 2:13; churches of God, 2:14; the
opponents displease God and deserve wrath, but the believers receive salvation, 2:15-16.
E.g., Still’s thesis (Conflict at Thessalonica) is that the Thessalonians were targeted for
persecution by Judaists, but particularly by Thessalonian gentiles because they were deemed a deviant
group and socially subversive. Subsequently, they suffered “verbal harassment, social ostracism, political
sanctions and perhaps (some kind of) physical abuse” (p. 226). Jewett (Thessalonian Correspondence, esp.
113-132) argues that the Thessalonians are artisans and manual workers who are in a situation of economic
deprivation that lacked the social strength to fight back against an oppressive political climate and religious
ruling class. J. M. G. Barclay (“Conflict in Thessalonica,” CBQ 55 [1993]: esp. 520-525) argues that the
purpose of 1 Thessalonians is for Paul to convince his converts not to provoke their neighbours, as they had
been doing.

3:7).106 Whatever the nature of the external trials, it is clear that the source of the trials

come from non-believing “fellow compatriots,”107 and it has caused some significant

trouble—at least enough that Paul is concerned for their faith wellbeing.

Paul writes that the Thessalonians suffered at the hands of their own compatriots,

“just as they also [suffered] at the hands of tw'n jIoudaivwn, . . .” Paul hopes that the

Thessalonians can be encouraged by the fact that the churches in Judea have also stood

strong in the midst of fierce opposition. What follows is a string of (if taken

appositionally) descriptions of hoi Ioudaioi:

1. They killed the Lord Jesus

2. They killed the prophets
3. They pressured Paul and the other Judean Christ-believers, which prevented them
from speaking the salvation message to the gentiles
4. They are not pleasing to God
5. They are contrary to all humanity
6. They heap up their sins always
7. But, wrath has come upon them eij" tevlo"

We will deal with each of these accusations in turn before identifying how to approach

the identity of hoi Ioudaioi.

It is difficult to do mirror reading with accuracy against the exhortation sections (chs. 4-5), but
it is likely that someone or a number of people have died, and there is some distress over their
eschatological security (4:13-18). It could also be that there is frustration over these idle-disruptive people
(5:14), and there are some who are disheartened (5:14).
Some authors include Judaists within “fellow compatriots” in accordance with Acts 17:1-5; see
Morris, Thessalonians, 89 (though predominantly gentiles); Marshall, Thessalonians, 78; Donfried, “Paul
and Judaism,” 247-248; Martin, Thessalonians, 89. Green (Thessalonians, 142) points out that “fellow
compatriots” should be considered local, not racial, but in this sense it refers to gentiles. Barclay (“Conflict
in Thessalonica,” 514) argues that it must only be gentiles according to the sense of the word. Best
(Thessalonians, 112-115) is correct in pointing out that “fellow compatriots” is used with “the Jews” as a
parallel to denote that the opposition in each case is from “fellow compatriots,” so means “Thessalonians”
with all the local diversity.

5.4.2. “They Killed the Lord Jesus”108

One is faced immediately with an historical question and a contemporary

theological problem: did Judaists kill Jesus, and how do we deal with this statement given

Christian history in relation to Jews?109 Nowhere else does Paul make this claim, and

when he uses the prophet-killing motif in Rom 11:3, Jesus is not mentioned. The only

other mention of complicity in the death of Christ is in 1 Cor 2:8, “the rulers of this age,”

not specifically mentioning Judaists. The historical record is that Jesus died by a Roman

style of execution, not a Judaistic one. The gospels tell stories of complicity by Judaistic

leaders and Judaistic mobs, and Acts 2:23 places the responsibility at the feet of the

Judaists, but ultimately it is Pilate who drops the writ on the life of Jesus—despite his

own literary ambivalence. Notably, despite the quick-developed “Christ-killer” motif in

the patristic tradition, both the Apostles’ Creed and the Stations of the Cross reference

Pontius Pilate but lack the condemnation of the Judaists. How are these fragments of

history and ideology reconciled in Paul? We must, for the moment, hold off on the

identity of hoi Ioudaioi, for therein lies the key to reading the passage as a whole.110

In Greek, “Lord Jesus” is split. Morris’s explanation (Thessalonians, 90), that it is to emphasize
both the earthly and divine Christ is better than the suggestion of Frank D. Gilliard, (“Paul and the Killing
of the Prophets in 1 Thess 2:15.” NovT 36 [1994]: 267-268) that the emphasis was to avoid the pagan
understanding of “Lord,” but to Jesus in particular. Gilliard’s analysis of Paul’s use of “Lord” as equivalent
to “sir” is the flawed premise on which he bases his reading of 2:15.
As established in chapter 1, there has been a great deal of damage done to Jews because of the
“Christ-killer” motif that persisted through Christian history, but we must be careful not to allow the
pressure of that history to rest upon the historical exegesis of this text.
Granted that Paul is referring to “the Judaists” as killers of the Lord Jesus, is this a historical
possibility? Many scholars speak of the “traditional material” that lies behind this passage, but the only
extensive treatment that establishes standards for determining the use of tradition, and then evaluates the
passage by that standard, is Jon Allen Weatherly, “Responsibility for the Death of Jesus in Paul: 1
Thessalonians 2.14-16,” in Jewish Responsibility for the Death of Jesus in Luke-Acts (JSNTSup 106;
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 176-194. He concludes that Paul does not use pre-synoptic
tradition that can be connected to Q in any particular linguistic fashion. That there is relative independence
of the tradition may suggest that Judaistic conspiracy in the death of Jesus is not merely a post-Pauline
invention, but lends credibility to the historical possibility. The historical record seems to read that some of
the Jerusalem Judaistic ruling elite had involvement in the death of Jesus, though they were not actually the
executors of Christ. See Martin, Thessalonians, 90-91. y Sanh 43A speaks of the execution of Jesus (yrxwnh

5.4.3. “They Killed the Prophets”

Unlike the motif of the Judaists as “Christ-killers,” the motif of “those who kill111

the prophets” is found elsewhere in Paul and the NT. Within Paul’s prophetic self-

description of Rom 10-11, Paul quotes the LXX, 1 Kgs 19:10, 14, “touV" profhvta" sou

ajpevkteinan” (fr. Heb. gr^h,* Rom 11:3, cf. Neh 9:26). There is a similar motif in the Q

tradition (Q 11:47-51; 13:34-35112), of which Matt 23:31-40 is the more forceful as he

brings together the separate pericopes of Q. Repeatedly Judaists, Jerusalem, or scribes

and Pharisees murder (foneuvw) the prophets, build their tombs, and reject the messengers

of God (cf. Matt 23:31-46). Although it may have been a scribal adjustment to echo the

Pauline tradition (v. 49, diwvkw to ejkdiwvkw), Luke 11:45-51 still echoes the prophet-

killing motif, this time with “apostles” added as victims, and the comment is directed

specifically toward the lawyers. Heb 11:32-38 tells of the suffering and death of the

prophets, but does not describe the aggressors as specifically Hebrew or Judaistic. It is

interesting to note that none of these authors take with him or her Elijah’s accusation that

Israel has forsaken the covenant; by contrast, Rom 11:3 argues the opposite and uses the

remnant motif (1 Kgs 19:18) to demonstrate its truth.

w?y) by stoning was justifiable according to the law, and the Talmud remains the only historical suggestion
that Judaists themselves killed Jesus.
There is the possibility that “the prophets” does not modify, “killed,” but “drives us out.” Best
(Thessalonians, 116) discusses and dismisses the possibility. Most scholars are in agreement that “the
prophets” are Israel’s historical prophets (as the addition of “their own” tries to clarify in D1, Y, and the
Majority readings). Frank D. Gilliard (“The Problem of the Antisemitic Comma Between 1 Thessalonians
2.13 and 15,” NTS 35 [1989]: 481-502) allows for the possibility that they are Jesus’ prophets, because of
the possessive use of the article in apposition to “Jesus,” but his case is not convincing.
Following the reconstruction by the International Q Project; see James M. Robinson, Paul
Hoffmann, and John S. Kloppenborg, The Sayings Gospel Q In Greek and English: With Parallels from the
Gospels of Mark and Thomas (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002), 115, 133. John S. Kloppenborg Verbin
(Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000], 201-206)
notes that these sayings are part of the redaction of Q (Q2) engaged in a battle against a non-repentant
community, and that Q2 aligns Jesus and John the Baptist with “Israel’s epic history” (p. 203).

In Second Temple literature, one finds a motif of the rejection of the prophets

(e.g., Bar 1:20-21; Josephus, J. W. 4.385; cf. 2 Chr 36:11-16), but literature carrying on

the 1 Kings 19 theme of killing the prophets is scarce. Of note, the Lives of the Prophets

records the death of Isaiah (sawn in two, 1:1), Jeremiah (stoned by his people in Egypt,

2:1), Ezekiel (murdered by the ruler of Israel because Ezekiel accused him of idolatry,

3:2, 18-19), and Micah (murdered by his son because Micah accused him of the impieties

of his fathers, 6:1). Jub. 1:11-13 records the author’s view of the faithfulness of Israel:

And they will sacrifice their children to the demons and to every work of
the error of their heart. And I shall send them witnesses so that I might witness to
them, but they will not hear. And they will even kill the witnesses. And they will
persecute those who search out the law, and they will neglect everything and
begin to do evil in my sight. And I shall hide my face from them.

In Jubilees, there is a progression of the people of Israel from salvation in the promised

land, to idolatry, to the rejection and killing of the prophets. The entire book contains the

full expectation that Israel will fail, and there is an implicit justification of a certain

group’s interpretation of things (i.e., calendar observance, see section 4.3.1).113

Is Paul drawing from a Second Temple prophet-killing motif? We are unable to

make this connection. There are no other explicit references to Jubilees in Paul, and our

text of Jubilees has only Greek fragments.114 The Lives of the Prophets is not concerned

with the theme that Israel kills all the prophets of God. As much as the entire book is

concerned with the death and burial of the key Hebrew prophets, some are killed by

members of Israel, some by enemies or wicked Israelite kings, and many die peacefully.

That Paul and the author of Jubilees share in the use of the prophet-killing motif contains some
irony, considering the prediction of Jub. 15:33-34, where “great wrath from the LORD will be upon the
sons of Israel” because they left the covenant by becoming like the gentiles in rejecting circumcision.
The translation of Charles (1895) is based on four Ethiopic texts, the best of which was 16th c.
There is approximately one quarter of the Latin version extant; evidence of a Syriac version discovered
since, as well as Hebrew fragments from Qumran and Masada. See, S. Wintermute, “Jubilees,” 2:41-43.

Although there is no reason to determine that Paul used one source to the exclusion of

another, it does seem more likely that Paul is drawing from the Tanakh motif (as does Q);

this conclusion is supported by the use of clear quotations from the LXX text.

5.4.4. “They Pressured (ejkdiwxavntwn) Paul and other Judean Christ-believers”

Three simple words, kaiV hJma'" ejkdiwxavntwn—one of them a NT hapax

legomena—connects the oppression Paul experienced with that done by Philippian and

Thessalonian aggressors (see 2:2). The semantic range of ejkdiwvkw can include the

intensive prefix (“persecuted severely”) or the ablative prefix (“pressured us to the point

of driving us out”).115 Given the hint that follows in 2:17, that Paul was torn away from

the Thessalonians, it may be that the ablatival sense is preferred, though it is unnecessary

to be exclusive.116 Further into the genitive chain lies the phrase, “preventing us from

speaking to the gentiles so that they might be saved.” The question of whether the i{na

phrase is result or purpose is unnecessary since it is precisely both from Paul’s

perspective: salvation is Paul’s reason for speaking to gentiles, and after speaking to them

they can be saved (cf. Rom 10:14-15). Paul uses these phrases to emphasize the result of

the persecution: his life-mission to the gentiles is being hindered. Though persecution is

expected (3:3-4), and Paul himself had been a perpetrator of persection, it still

destabilizes his converts (see 3:5) and prevents salvation.117

See W. Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
Literature, 3d ed.; ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), s.v.
It is the language of 2:17 and its proximity to this passage that leads Still (Conflict at
Thessalonica, esp. 17; 148-149) to conclude that Judaists were involved in expelling Paul from
Thessalonica; cf Frame, Thessalonians, 110-112. This conclusion presses the language too far, in my
opinion, and depends upon knowledge of Acts 17. Contra Bockmuehl, “1 Thess 2:14-16,” 13.
Paul has the perception of oppression by Judaists (as well as gentiles), but is it historically
possible that Judaists were involved in such persecution? Absolutely. Without even including the evidence
of Acts (13:45, 50; 17:5; 20:3; 21:27; 24:9), the testimony of Paul that he severely persecuted the church
tells us that it was possible for individual Judaists to do damage to deviant groups. See also Bockmuehl,
“1 Thess 2:14-16,” 18-24, who argues that there is other evidence of Judaistic persecution of Christians.

5.4.5. “They Are Not Pleasing to God”

Paul’s accusation of “hindering,” however, does not follow directly from

ejkdiwvkw, but is interrupted by the phrases, they “[are] not pleasing to God, and [are]

contrary to all people.” These phrases need not be read as precisely progressive;

according to Quintilian, rhetorical argumentation used a device of placing equal

arguments side-by-side, with the effect that they appear to be progressive.118 There does

seem to be a connection, however, between “not pleasing” and “persecuting.” For Paul,

ajrevskw has interesting twists in usage. In Gal 1:10 and 1 Thess 2:4 (cf. 4:10) Paul

declares that he does not seek to please people, but seeks to please God. By contrast, in

Rom 15:1-3, Paul exhorts them to please their neighbours, and famously in 1 Cor 10:33,

Paul seeks to please others so that they might be saved. Evidently, Paul uses the word

according to its semantic base, but changes its theological function according to his

rhetorical interest.

For Paul, it is axiomatic that since God specifically called him for the mission to

the gentiles, anyone who impedes this mission is working against God.119 The word that

Paul speaks is not merely a human word, but the word of God, which is at work in those

who believe (2:13). A different energy than “the word” is at work in those who oppose

the mission: the flesh (Gal 5:16-21); as far as Paul is concerned, those who are in the

flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:8).

Inst. 8.4.3-36; As we noted in section 3.3, Quintilian names it “Accumulation”; see Schlueter,
Filling up the Measure, 81-85. The passage has this effect, though there is a general progression to the
“wrath” of 16c. For Paul, though, it is certainly not true that being unpleasing to God is less important than
heaping up sins. Indeed, the progression as Paul uses it fails to bring all of the threads together that could
possibly be brought together.
See also Frame, Thessalonians, 112; Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 116; Earl J. Richard, First
and Second Thessalonians (SP 11; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995), 119-128; Malherbe,
Thessalonians, 170.

5.4.6. “They are Contrary to All Humanity”

This phrase, kaiV pa'sin ajnqrwvpoi" ejnantivwn, taken out of the genitival series,

is nearly grammatically nonsensical. Within context, however, it is not difficult to

understand what is taking place. The adjective, ejnantivwn takes the role of the participle

(or modifies a missing participle of eijmiv) in further describing tw'n jIoudaivwn, and is in

grammatical apposition with “killing,” “pressing out,” “not pleasing,” and “hindering.”

This singular phrase is where many stumble in doubt about the passage’s

authenticity, or consider Paul to have taken over gentilic antisemitic ideas120 for his own

purposes. The Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament lists several Greco-Roman

passages that offer a background to the accusation made by Paul.121 Chiefly, Tacitus

records in his History that the Judaists exemplify extreme loyalty to one another, to the

point where they hate outsiders. Tacitus lists circumcision and their desire to marry and

eat with only other Judaists as evidence. Even converts follow these contrary practices:

“the earliest lesson they receive is to despise the gods, to disown their country, and to

regard their parents, children, and brothers as of little account” (5.5 [Moore]).

Philostratus suggests that the Judaists have long been in revolt not just against the

Romans, but against humanity (Life of Apollonius, 5.33).

The editors of the Hellenistic Commentary are so confident in the background

literature they can say, “Paul is thus here adopting traditional elements of ancient anti-

So Howard, Thessalonians, 79; Hagner, “Paul’s Quarrel,” 135; Richard, Thessalonians, 119-
120; Ekkehard W. Stegemann, “Remarques Sur la Polémique Antijudaïque dans 1 Thessaloniciens 2,14-
16,” in Déchirement, trans. Ursula Braunschweig-Lütolf (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1996), 100. Contra
Frame, Thessalonians, 112; Best, Thessalonians, 117; Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 115-116; Bockmuehl,
“1 Thess 2:14-16,” 15-16.
M. Eugene Boring, Klaus Berger, and Carsten Colpe, eds., Hellenistic Commentary to the New
Testament (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 492. See also Diodorus of Sicily 34.1; Libanius of Antioch,
Epistles 998.2, 1007.2.

Jewish polemic.”122 Is their confidence warranted? Libanius (fourth century) and

Philostratus (third century) are both well after Paul. Tacitus was born after Thessalonians

was written, and he is writing after the fall of Jerusalem. Only Diodorus is writing before

the Common Era, but there is no evidence of any connection between his work and

Paul’s. Josephus devotes space to refuting this charge, so it is clearly current in Rome in

his day (Ag. Ap. 2.121-123, 148-150), but we can say nothing more about what Paul’s

gentile contacts outside of Rome thought about Judaists. We have no reason to confirm,

then, that Paul was drawing on any specific gentile tradition—literary or popular.123

Instead of translating the phrase, “contrary to all humanity,” as those who assume

the gentile background do, if the passage is translated (appropriately), “contrary to all

peoples,” and kept within the context of the verse,124 Paul’s accusation becomes more

specific: in the oppression of hoi Ioudaioi against the Judean churches, they are not

contrary to only Judaists, but also to gentiles because they prevent their salvation.125 This

reading resonates with Paul’s self-understanding far better than the undemonstrated “use

of gentile anti-Judaism” that the authors of Hellenistic Commentary presume.

5.4.7. “They Heap up their Sins Always”

Christians whose images of Jews as blind, corrupt, and degenerate have always

been able to anchor their prejudices to 1 Thess 2:16. But even apart from this

consequence, this phrase contains difficult grammatical choices. First, the verb,

Boring, Berger, and Colpe, Hellenistic Commentary, 492.
Weatherly (“Responsibility for the Death of Jesus,” 187) demonstrates that there is similar
language but no evidence of dependence.
Lacking the kaiv, the connection between “contrary” and “hindering” is clear, Best,
Thessalonians, 117.
See also Frame, Thessalonians, 112; Best, Thessalonians, 117; Morris, Thessalonians, 64;
Traugott Holtz, “The Judgment on the Jews and the Salvation of All Israel: 1 Thes 2,15-16 and Rom 11,25-
26,” in Thessalonian Correspondence, ed. Raymond F. Collins (BETL 87; Leuven: Lueven University
Press, 1990), 285-286.

ajnaplhrovw, has a significant semantic range. There are four key definitions: 1) Fulfill,

carry out an obligation (Matt 13:14; Gal 6:2); 2) Supply what is lacking, fill a gap (Phil

2:30; 1 Cor 16:17—noticeably lacking in 1 Thess 3:10); 3) Occupy a place, fill (1 Cor

14:16); and 4) Make complete, complete the quantity. The key question is whether the

verb in this context refers to completing the quantity (#4), or to fulfillment, as if this was

part of their destiny (#1).

Second, the word “always” (pavntote), is sometimes translated “constantly” as in

the NRSV. In the twenty-seven times Paul uses pavntote, it always means “always.” The

conflict is that there is a sense of finality in ajnaplhrovw and a sense of continuity in

pavntote. This ambivalence indicates that the meaning for ajnaplhrovw is not best

captured with a fulfillment translation (#1).

Third, the infinitive, and its connection to the preceding phrase(s), is difficult.126

Although the options for eij" toV plus infinitive are limited to purpose or result, what

complicates the question is what the infinitive phrase modifies. The antecedent is the

subjunctive i{na clause, “so that they may be saved.” A stronger tie could be made to

kwluovntwn, and it becomes much less of a sensational phrase, “preventing us from

speaking. . . so that/with the result that they heap up sins always.” The antecedent may be

all of the actions, “they kill, persecute, displease God, are contrary to people, and hinder

our mission, so that/with the result that they heap up their sins always.”127 Though it

needs adjustment, the final option seems best. In all of these actions there is one thing in

Infinitives with prepositions can be temporal, but there is no usage in the NT that would
correspond with using eij". The usage is not likely epexegetical, since it follows a subjunctive (or a
participle). Bockmuehl (“1 Thess 2:14-16,” 15) suggests the phrase is “almost epexegetical: in other words,
the persecuting Jews’ affront to God and opposition to all humankind comes to expression precisely in their
hindrance of the apostolic mission for the salvation of the Gentiles” (emphasis original).
See also Best, Thessalonians, 119; contra Stegemann, “Remarques,” 110-111.

common: opposition to what Paul perceives God is doing. The interpretation of the

infinitive must be viewed from Paul’s perspective. From his view, it is purpose. Paul

would acknowledge that hoi Ioudaioi did not see their activity as sin, but they would see

their persecuting activity as connected with their relationship with God. For hoi Ioudaioi,

this activity is godly, as it had been for the pre-“Damascus Road” Paul; in Paul’s current

state of mind, however, it is sin, an activity of the flesh.128 Given the use of pavntote, and

looking at the accusation from Paul’s perspective, the phrase may be best translated, “in

opposition to our mission, they are always doing everything they can to stop us, and this

activity is sin.” In this sense, Paul has turned on its head both the conventional Judaistic

use of the phrase (cf. Gen 15:16; 2 Macc 6:14) and the expectations of hoi Ioudaioi.

5.4.8. “Wrath Has Come Upon Them eij" tevlo"”

We will now look at this notorious phrase grammatically while still suspending

our judgment of the precise identity of hoi Ioudaioi.

“Wrath” in Paul is the provenance of God.129 He uses the word thirteen times in

two temporal perspectives:130 1) Past and present judgment (Rom 1:18; 12:19; 13:4-5);

and, more commonly, 2) God’s future judgment (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9; Rom 2:5a, 8; 3:5;

Perhaps Morris (Thessalonians, 64-65) is thinking similarly, though Morris suggests it is God’s
perspective, not Paul’s, that makes it a purpose clause. Cf. Morris, Thessalonians, 91 (cf. n. 49); Williams,
Thessalonians, 80 (probably purpose); Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 116; as a result clause, Martin,
Thessalonians, 93-94, n. 65; Green, Thessalonians, 147, n. 136.
The scribes of codices D F G and much of the Latin tradition tried to make this more explicit
by adding tou` qeou`. Wrath is also an attribute of the gods in Greco-Roman literature, see H. C. Hahn,
“Anger: ojrgvh,” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1967), 1:107. For God’s wrath in Qumran, see 1QM IV, 1-2; 1QS II, 15-17 IV, 13-14;
V, 12-13.
See Bauer, Lexicon, s.v. However, as Gustav Stählin notes (“ojrghv, ojrgivzomai, ojrgivlo",
parorgivzw, parorgismov",” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols.; ed. Gerhard Kittel
et al.; trans. G. W. Bromiley [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976], 5:382-447), future judgment has a
present element to it, and vice versa.

4:15; 5:9; 9:22). Both other uses in 1 Thessalonians refer to God’s future judgment and

match the eschatological hue of the letter where Christ-believers are saved from wrath.

The verb, fqavnw, is relatively simple in meaning, “to precede, to attain, to have

arrived.” It is used in the gospels to speak of the kingdom of God (Matt 12:28; Luke

11:20), and in Paul to attain the state of righteousness (Phil 3:16). There is an interesting

connection with Rom 9:31 in this second sense, jIsrahVl deV diwvkwn novmon

dikaiosuvnh" eij" novmon oujk e[fqasen. In 1 Thess 4:15, it has the sense of “precede,”

but given the prepositional phrase, “upon them,” it is unlikely that 2:16 should be taken

as such. The plain meaning of “arrived, come” is probably best.

The bigger debate, however, is concerning the kind of aorist Paul is utilizing and

(subsequently) what event is being referred to. That Paul can speak of wrath in the past

sense is possible, so this aorist may simply represent past time.131 The issue is

complicated by the second prepositional phrase, eij" tevlo", “in the end.” If fqavnw is an

aorist in the most typical sense of past tense, what meaning can this phrase have? Given

this question, and the eschatological tone of the letter, some have interpreted this passage

to contain a proleptic or prophetic aorist, “wrath will have come upon them in the

end.”132 The interpretation would be that the activity of hoi Ioudaioi always resisting

God’s messengers has brought eternal, eschatological wrath upon them, which is

contrasted with the “salvation from wrath” assurance of the Thessalonian Christ-

believers. Most commentators, however, attempt to explain the phrase capturing a more

common aoristic sense, which requires, in the first place, an explanation for eij" tevlo".

Some other choices include: constative “wrath has come;” ingressive, “wrath has begun to
come;” consummative, “wrath has finally come;” gnomic, “wrath is generally upon them;” proleptic,
“wrath will have come;” immediate past, “wrath has just now come.”
See Frame, Thessalonians, 114; Morris, Thessalonians, 92; Morris, Thessalonians, 65; Best,
Thessalonians, 119-120; Williams, Thessalonians, 48-49.

Four key options are offered by commentators: 1) Temporal, “at last, finally” (Green133);

2) Temporal, “until the end” (Wanamaker, Malherbe134); 3) Intensive, “uttermost”

(Bruce135); 4) Quantitative, “fully” (Williams136).

Frame, in his classic commentary, has demonstrated reasonably that the parallel

with the previous verse suggests a temporal use:

ajnaplhrw'sai aujtw'n taV" aJmartiva" pavntote.

e[fqasen ejp= aujtouV" hJ ojrghV eij" tevlo".137

Despite this clarification, the decision remains difficult, and there is no NT idiom to

match any use other than “in the end” or “unto the end.” A parallel in T. Levi 6:11,

though containing different readings,138 and although it cannot be determined that the

pseudepigraphal material is not a Christian interpolation,139 uses the idiom eij" tevlo"

with the aorist e[fqasen and is worthy of comparison:

T. Levi 6:11140 e[fqase deV aujtouV" hJ ojrghV tou` qeou` eij" tevlo".
1 Thess 2:16c e[fqasen deV ejp= aujtouV" hJ ojrghV eij" tevlo".

In T. Levi 6, it is clear that the “wrath” has already overtaken the Shechemites, so

regardless of any interpretive link between the two passages, eij" tevlo" must be able to

function in a way that works with an aorist aspect with past tense shading.

Green, Thessalonians, 149.
Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 118; Malherbe, Thessalonians, 171.
Bruce, Thessalonians, 48.
Williams, Thessalonians, 49.
Frame, Thessalonians, 114.
See the various readings in Lamp, “Is Paul Anti-Jewish?,” 416.
Frame, Thessalonians, 115-116; Bruce, Thessalonians, 48; Marshall, Thessalonians, 81-82.
Lamp (“Is Paul Anti-Jewish?) argues that there is a good possibility of an interpretive link between 1 Thess
2:14-16 and T. Levi 6. His comparison of the chapters shows that there is more than simply a verbal link,
but overall his evidence is not enough to be conclusive.
Based upon the reconstruction by Charles, see Lamp, “Is Paul Anti-Jewish?,” 416.

The choice remains difficult, but “until the end” captures the most typical uses of

both the aorist and this prepositional idiom, and fits best within the apocalyptic hue of

this letter. How then does the phrase work? Wanamaker explains with the concept of

wrath being an eschatological yet present reality of those who oppose God’s plan:

What Paul may be expressing here is a belief that because of the “filling
up of the measure of their sins” God’s eschatological wrath has overtaken the
unbelieving and disobedient Jews in that they have been hardened by God and no
longer experience God’s grace. That they had not believed the gospel would have
been proof enough of this for Paul.141

Similarly, Malherbe also opts for the temporal, “until the end” option with an

eschatological emphasis in the phrase:

The contrastive particle de (“but”) introduces an explicit statement of what

has been implicit so far in v 16: The Jews hindered Paul from preaching to the
Gentiles so that the Gentiles might be saved from God’s wrath, in the process
constantly filling up the measure of their sins, leading to their punishment.142

5.4.9. Exegetical Summary

Our exegetical analysis has made clear several issues that have been fuzzy,

especially as they translate into English. While it is not necessary to nail down the precise

meaning of every nuance in the passage, our exegesis has seen significant continuity in

thought in Paul’s statement. His opponents were involved in the death of Christ as is

typical given their consistent historical opposition to and present oppression of God’s

messengers. Because they oppress Paul and his team, they hinder the preaching of the

gospel to the gentiles—which is central to Paul’s prophetic self-understanding—and are,

hence, contrary to the Judaists they oppress and the gentiles they prevent from hearing

the gospel. Opposition to Paul’s mission is equivalent in Paul’s mind to opposition to

Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 117.
Malherbe, Thessalonians, 171.

God, so hoi Ioudaioi are clearly sinful and antagonistic to God’s will. There is irony, in

Paul’s mind, that in hindering Paul’s mission to deliver the gentiles from wrath (1:10;

5:9), these oppressors actually incur that wrath upon themselves.

To summarize the content of the passage, it seems that Paul likens the

Thessalonian converts to the Judean Christ-believers in both their reception of the gospel

as God’s word, and their endurance in the face of pressure—the Thessalonians from their

neighbours and the Judeans from theirs. Focussing specifically upon the oppressors of the

Judean Christ-believers, who were most likely Judaists, Paul launches into prophetic

polemic that calls for the repentance of these particular oppressors (hoi Ioudaioi) who

killed the Lord Jesus, and who stand in the tradition of those who oppose the messengers

of God by opposing the spread of the gospel. These oppressors displease God in their

attempt to keep the gospel from being known to the gentiles, and in doing so are contrary

to all peoples—the Judaists they persecute and the gentiles they cheat of the opportunity

for salvation. It is no surprise, though with some irony, that those who try to keep the

gentiles from avoiding wrath by receiving salvation in Christ are eligible for the very

same eschatological wrath.

5.5. Who are Hoi Ioudaioi? A Socio-Literary Reading of 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

We must turn now to a key question: who are hoi Ioudaioi? Many commentators

have presumed that Paul means all Judaists/Jews143 in general. In arguing that 2:15-16

was not an emotional outburst, Morris states instead that this is condemnation by a man

who knows God’s mind, which is set against, “the principles on which the Jews as a

I use “Judaist/Jew” when I am uncertain if the scholar imagines all Jews before and after Paul,
or just all Judaists up to Paul’s times.

nation had acted at every period of their history.”144 Richard declares that hoi Ioudaioi

cannot be only Judean Judaists, and Eduard Verhoef argues that Paul must be referring to

all Judaists/Jews.145

Most English translations evidently share the view that tw'n in apposition to tw'n

jIoudaivwn is used in an attributive or amplifying sense by placing some form of

punctuation between 2:14 and 2:15.146 Gilliard argues that the article tw'n is restrictive, as

is usually the case in Paul, whereas the comma in English is non-restrictive.147 This

punctual addition serves to set the passage into an antisemitic frame as it is presented to

readers. Gilliard argues that Paul clearly intended a restrictive use, and indicates several

ways Paul could have spoken in a non-restrictive or amplified sense.148

Gilliard has succeeded in making clear what has been often fuzzy in the reading

of the passage, and has won the support of most scholars in the last decade.149 Verhoef,

however, is not convinced, because the prophet-killing motif in 2:14-16 indicates that

Paul was casting aspersion upon all Jews/Judaists.150 This reading, however, is

unnecessary, since (logically) Paul knew that not all prophets were killed by their

fellows, and not all Judaists killed prophets. Furthermore, in his use of the same motif in

Morris, Thessalonians, 90. While Morris’ rhetoric is softened in his later work, he still declares
that, “a nation (or a person) can reach a point in opposition to God where return is impossible,”
1 and 2 Thessalonians, rev ed. (TNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 65.
Eduard Verhoef, “Die Bedeutung des Artikels tw'n in 1 Thess 2,15,” BN 80 (1995): 41-46.
Verhoef is arguing specifically against Gilliard, whose argument is explained presently. Verhoef contends
that although Paul knew that not all Judaists/Jews were guilty for killing the prophets, his empathy for the
oppressed Thessalonians moved him to (unfortunately) become carried away with his emotions.
Most translations follow the NA27/UBS4 (or their predecessors since Westcott and Hort) in
adding a comma after 2:14, including GNB, YLT, RSV, Darby’s, NAB, NJB, NIV, NASB, NRSV, NKJV,
TNIV, and ESV. The ASV and BBE have a semi-colon, and the KJV and DRA a colon. Phillips’ revised
1972 edition lacks the comma, but repeats in eerie fashion “the Jews” throughout the passage. The NLT
places a period after 2:14, and throughout 2:15-16 uses, “some of the Jews.”
Gilliard, “Antisemitic Comma,” 481-502. Gilliard points out (which should be unnecessary)
that there was no punctuation in the passage in the original Greek (pp. 487-488).
Gilliard, “Antisemitic Comma,” 489-492.
E.g., Malherbe, Thessalonians, 169; Bockmuehl, “1 Thess 2:14-16,” 10.
Verhoef, “Artikels tw'n,” 41-46.

Rom 9:3, Paul argues the precise opposite: not all killed the prophets, but there is always

a (unspecified) remnant. The restrictive use of the article is the superior reading of 2:15,

and coincides with a further restriction implied by the parallel between the Thessalonian

Christ-believers suffering under the oppressive Thessalonians, and the Judean Christ-

believers who are likewise suffering under Judean oppressors.151

Given that hoi Ioudaioi is now restricted to those who were involved in Jesus’

death, those who (are likely to) kill the prophets, and those who oppressed Paul and his

mission, and since Paul frequently uses jIoudai'o" in the singular and not the plural to

refer to the Judaist in general (Rom 1:16, 2:9-10, 3:10, 10:12; Gal 3:28; cf. 1 Cor 9:20),

and asking the historical questions of possibility, who are hoi Ioudaioi in this passage?

Granted that it is possible for some Judaistic/Judean leaders to have been corrupt,

there may have been a few individuals who both opposed Jesus, vying for his execution,

and also engaged in restricting Paul’s mission, though there is no individual in any of the

historical records who can be linked to both activities. Acts connects the Sanhedrin with

persecution of Judaistic Christians (Peter and John, Acts 4-5; Stephen, Acts 6-7, though

the mob took over; Paul, Acts 23 trial), but the picture is ambiguous (see Gamaliel, Acts

5:34-40; the Pharisees in Paul’s trial) and the Sanhedrin is not referenced in the death of

Jesus in Luke. Furthermore, Paul never references the Sanhedrin or the Pharisees or

Sadducees that comprised it. In the strictly historical sense, the question of the identity of

hoi Ioudaioi, now restricted, is impossible to answer. Given Paul’s use of the prophet-

That “Judeans” in general is in mind is possible, since Paul asks for prayer in Rom 15:31 that
he might be “delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.” Certainly the question of “who killed Jesus?” is
limited to Judeans; the “killing of the prophets” is not, though Paul is using a motif from Tanakh. Paul
submits to the Judaistic punishment of thirty-nine lashes (2 Cor 11:24), but does not indicate whether these
were specifically Judeans, or folk from the Diaspora. We simply do not have a record from Paul about
whether he received significant Judaistic trouble outside of Palestine, so it is difficult to rule out the option
of translating hoi Ioudaioi as “the Judeans.” See also Weatherly, “Authenticity,” 86-87; “Responsibility for
the Death of Jesus,” 193-194; Gaventa, Thessalonians, 36-37; Bockmuehl, “1 Thess 2:14-16,” 10.

killing motif, however, the opponent he is referencing is more likely Judaists specifically

than Judeans generally, since the activities of opposing God’s messengers in the present

generation of Paul and Jesus are connected with the idea that God’s messengers had been

frequently resisted by God’s people through history. This does not mean that Paul was

speaking to Judaists in general or as an ethnicity; it simply means that Paul saw

continuity among some Judaists in their resistance to God’s will.

The historical question has been answered, albeit unsatisfactorily: no more can be

said about hoi Ioudaioi than that they were people in Paul’s generation who oppressed

God’s messengers in a way that others of God’s people had throughout history. The

geographical parallels prevent a castigation of all Judaists of Paul’s time; the restrictive

clauses prevent a condemnation of all Jews in history. Even with the historical question

answered, we are still left with one key question: what is Paul doing in this passage?

To answer this question, we will draw upon the literary, rhetorical, and contextual

analyses of section 5.3. As we demonstrated, the narrator of 1 Thessalonians is using

consistent and powerful character typification to re-orient the social stratification of the

characters in the social world of the letter. The Thessalonians are no longer baby Christ-

believers, but models to Greek Christ-believers and fellow-sufferers with Judaistic

Christ-believers. Paul is not merely an apostle and parent to his converts, but a brother

and child who suffers alongside them in anxiety. Paul is no longer one of hoi Ioudaioi,

though he was certainly involved in oppressive activities against Christ-believers, and by

his own understanding of God’s work, he was working against God. Instead hoi Ioudaioi

and the Philippian and Thessalonian oppressors remain wholly within the character of

“the other,” as the Thessalonians are also taken out of that category (1:10).

Furthermore, the narrator re-orients the referential sequence of events into a new

poetic sequence that focuses on the relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians. The

character of “opponent” is always introduced as secondary within the letter, even if,

historically, oppression preceded the conversion of the Thessalonians. This re-orientation

of the referential sequence within the poetic sequence of the letter indicates that Paul

emphasized the unity of Christ-believers against the oppressive nature of those who

would seek to hinder the gospel. In doing so, he made them a new family and a new

international ekklēsia, and shares the experience of suffering from Judea through Greece.

This dramatic re-socialization of association and kinship served to strengthen the

community of the Thessalonian Christ-believers as they faced a hostile world outside of

their group—a world, they are assured, that will receive wrath.

Given the use of “wrath” in 1 Thessalonians, the characteristic binary oppositions

of “us” and “them” in 1 Thess 2:14-16, and the extensive use of this typification of

characters in the entire letter, Paul does not have in view “wrath” as a special and unique

providence of God for particular, historical, individual Judaists—though neither is Paul

excluding individual oppressors from God’s wrath. Instead Paul is using the literary

device of character typification to strengthen the resolve of the oppressed and

discouraged Thessalonians Christ-believers.152 Because of Paul’s use of Tanakh literary

With awareness that we are treading upon a large body of literature and an intense debate, one
cannot but wonder whether a similar thing is happening with hoi Ioudaioi in John. Among the seventy uses
in John, the usage in 7:1 demonstrates that “Judean” may well be the best translation (cf. 3:22; 11:7-8, 54),
so Bruce Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 44-46. Frequently, hoi Ioudaioi is used as a functional equivalent to
“Judaistic” (2:6, 13; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 18:33; 19:3, 42). There are times when we do not know if hoi
Ioudaioi are leaders or just people in the crowd (2:18-20; 3:25; 5:15-18; 6:41, 52; 7:11-15, 35; 8:22; 10:19-
33; 13:33). Other passages seem to indicate that hoi Ioudaioi are Judaistic leaders, especially as the literary
ambivalence in John 7 continues, and the crowd of Judaists (if translated traditionally) at the feast of the
Judaists is afraid to speak openly about Jesus for fear of the Judaists (cf. John 5; for “leaders” cf. also 3:1;
9:18-22; chs. 18-19; 20:19; poss. 1:19). Certainly, however, it is Judaistic people or Judeans generally (i.e.,

topoi within historically referential events, there is no one group of Judaists or even a

single Judaist who can be in view at every step. Instead, “wrath” is for the programmatic

“opponent,” who opposes Paul’s mission, and by implication, opposes God’s will. In this

sense, there is no distinction between tw'n ijdivwn sumfuletw'n and tw'n jIoudaivwn; they

perform the same literary role, and have the same theological destiny.153

not leaders) when Mary and Martha are comforted (11:19-45; cf. 18:20), which is evident when some of
hoi Ioudaioi tell the Pharisees of Jesus’ activity, who in turn hold a council with the chief priests (11:45-53,
cf. 12:9-11). Yet in the commentary of 18:14, this council is called “hoi Ioudaioi.”
In 4:9, the usage must either be religio-ethnic (vs. a Samaritan) or Judean in the historical Israel
sense, not the Roman province. The usage in the mouth of Jesus in 4:22 would seem to confirm the tribal or
at least the religious sense, as Jesus says that salvation comes from the Judaists. In the “positive” sense, hoi
Ioudaioi is used in 8:31, “those Judaists who believed in him.” This is the audience that is presumed in the
heated speech of 8:31-59, which includes the infamous bastard-polemic and the struggle for who is really a
child of Abraham and a child of God (vs. a child of the Devil), which ends in mob violence. This is the
passage upon which every Jewish-Christian dialogue stumbles; ironically it begins with the positive
assertion of Judaistic believers in Jesus.
Like in 1 Thessalonians, there seems to be a typification of characters that uses the “opponent” as
a literary construct; also like Paul, that characterization still maintains various levels of depth—i.e.,
historical and personal realities—that does not negate the typification. In Paul, the Judean, Thessalonian,
and Philippian oppressors have a functional equality in their own purpose and in their destiny of wrath. In
John, Judaistic leaders, with the exception of Joseph and Nicodemus, are consistently in the category of
“opponent.” As the tension in the gospel increases, the literary variety of hoi Ioudaioi narrows so that hoi
Ioudaioi clearly becomes “the opponent.” The characterization is so strong that Pilate must ask
incredulously, “I am not a Jew, am I?” (18:35), expecting a negative answer.
That John’s use of hoi Ioudaioi has geographical intimations and is not uniformly negative
(indeed, even positive on occasion) shows that John is not castigating all Jews of all time, so the
translational warning of Malina and Rohrbaugh may be warranted (see section 6.4). Yet translators have
not followed this lead, and some, like Tina Pippen, (“‘For Fear of the Jews’: Lying and Truth-Telling in
Translating the Gospel of John,” Semeia 76 [1996]: 94) argue that to “translate John 8 at all is to betray the
Jews.” Within the literature, the most significant and wide-ranging discussion of these issues occurs in R.
Bieringer, D. Pollefeyt, and F. Wandecasteele-Vannueville, eds., Anti-Judaism and the Fourth Gospel:
Papers of the Leuven Colloquium, 2000 (Jewish and Christian Heritage Series 1; Assen: Royal Van
Gorcum, 2001). The volume contains several exegetical essays, essays on hermeneutics and interpretation,
essays on the question of anti-Judaism (vs. intra-Judaistic dispute), essays on the literary reading of “the
Jews,” and an essential bibliography on the topic (pp. 549-570). See also Ruth Edwards, “John and the
Jews,” ExpTim 113 (2002): 233-235; William R. Farmer, ed., Anti-Judaism and the Gospels (Harrisburg,
Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1999), esp. 120-175; Sigfred Pedersen, “Anti-Judaism in John’s Gospel:
John 8,” in New Readings in John: Literary and Theological Perspectives. Essays from the Scandinavian
Conference on the Fourth Gospel, Århus (JSNTSup 182; ed. Johannes Nissen and Sigfred Pedersen;
Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 172-193; David P. Efroymson, Eugene J. Fisher, and Leon
Klenicki, eds., Within Context: Essays on Jews and Judaism in the New Testament (Collegeville, Minn.:
The Liturgical Press, 1993); John Ashton, “The Identity and Function of the jIOUDAIOI in the Fourth
Gospel,” NovT 27 (1985): 40-75; and see the excellent survey and bibliography in Urban C. Von Wahlde,
“The Johanine ‘Jews’: A Critical Survey,” NTS 28 (1982): 33-60. See also Wilson, “‘Jew’,” 157-171.
While our socio-literary reading has been original, there have been other scholars who have
briefly passed over the possibility of binary opposition as a literary device without specifying it as such.
Barclay (“Conflict in Thessalonica,” 516-517) argues that Paul provides an apocalyptic framework to deal
with social harassment that includes a dualism of insiders and outsiders, brothers and “the rest.” In doing

Our reading of 2:14-16 within the context of 1 Thessalonians as a whole, a socio-

literary reading as we call it, does not negate historical-grammatical work on the passage.

Indeed, it supplements it and is part of the process of exegesis. Neither does this socio-

literary approach negate historical reference in the passage; it is not allegory. Jesus was

still killed and Christ-believers were still oppressed by non-Christ-believers, both Judaist

and gentile. If the prophets were not strictly killed as far as the biblical record is

concerned, they were opposed historically, and Paul draws on that Tanakh motif to

strengthen the case against his opponents and to widen the distance between believer

(who by inference welcomed the historic prophets of Israel) and non-believer.

5.6. Rhetorical and Social Readings of 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

5.6.1. Intertextual Echoes in 2:14-16

As far as we can tell, there are no direct quotations of the LXX in this pericope.

Paul does, however, seem to take up and transform particular Tanakh and Judaistic

motifs, including the killing of the prophets, the filling up of sins, and the coming of


Because of the clear use of 1 Kings 19 in Romans 11,155 the prophet-killing motif

is the strongest of the literary connections between Tanakh and 1 Thess 2:14-16. In

Romans 11, Paul uses the motif in a way similar to 1 Kings 19, where it looks like Israel

so, Paul can include within the variety of Thessalonian ethnoi singular judgments of ignorance (4:5),
children of darkness (5:5) without hope (4:13). Wanamaker (Thessalonians, 114) notes that an attack
against Judaists is an attack against Thessalonian oppressors, and Paul’s comments are to strengthen the
distinction between believer and non-believer. Martin (Thessalonians, 93, n. 64), in conversation with
Wanamaker is concerned that Wanamaker’s distinction leaves the two groups as “Jews” vs. “Christians.”
Instead, the two groups are those who accept Paul’s gospel and those who oppose and reject it.
Paul may have drawn upon tradition for the motif of the killing of Jesus, but as was argued in
section 5.4.3, no particular tradition (i.e., pre-synoptic) can be established; see Weatherly, “Responsibility
for the Death of Jesus.” Furthermore, in section 5.4.6, it was established that there was no direct (or
indirect) literary connection between Paul’s “contrary to all peoples” statement and the stereotypical
statements of Judaists as a people in Greco-Roman literature.
Recognized among patristic authors; see Gerald Bray, ed., Romans (ACCS NT 6; Downers
Grove: IVP, 1998), 284-286.

has abandoned God’s plan, but there is a remnant of faithful ones besides the lone,

persecuted prophet. The remnant motif is not used in 1 Thess 2:14-16; instead, Paul uses

“prophet-killing” within the larger motif of the rejection of God’s messengers. The

rejection motif occurs in Tanakh passages (Neh 9:26; Dan 9) as well as Second Temple

literature (Jub. 1:11-13; Bar 1:20-21; Josephus, J. W. 4.385). This motif, an aspect of

Hebrew prophetic critique, is captured well in 2 Chr 36:14-16 (NRSV):

All the leading priests and the people also [with Zedekiah] were
exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they
polluted the house of the LORD that he had consecrated in Jerusalem. The
LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers,
because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept
mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at his
prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against his people became so great that
there was no remedy.

Using the motif that some of God’s people rejected God’s messengers, Paul is

able to transform traditional elements of gentiles filling up sins (Gen 15:16; 2 Macc

6:14), and use them within the motif of the rejection of God’s messengers. Those Judaists

who hinder Paul’s mission to bring salvation to the gentiles are, for Paul, like the people

who rejected God’s messengers in the Chronicler’s account: they are persistent in their

sin, and they are deserving of God’s wrath.

5.6.2. Paul’s Use of Pathos

In section 3.3 we discussed the role of emotion in rhetoric. Although there is a

general lack of interest in pathos in the rhetorical handbooks, we noted that it was a

feature of judicial rhetoric and the epilogue of a work. 1 Thess 2:14-16 is neither of the

genus of judicial rhetoric (strictly speaking) and is not an epilogue, so Paul’s use of form

and pathos gives us no point of contact between him and the rhetors.

Pathos, however, was not limited to these forms. For the evaluation of pathos

outside of epilogue and judicial rhetoric, Aristotle was concerned that pathetic speech not

be overdone, and Cicero was concerned that the emotion be both genuine and in service

to the argument. Neither of these guidelines, however, is in the realm of discourse about

honour and dishonour, but practical advice on how to win an argument. From Aristotle’s

perspective, perhaps Paul has been too affective, but 1 Thess 2:14-16 is typical in Paul of

heightened speech when opponents are in mind, as is evident in Galatians, Philippians 3,

or 2 Corinthians 10-13. As far as Cicero’s practical genuineness is concerned, Paul is

certainly genuine about both the warm feelings he expresses throughout (especially) 1

Thessalonians 2 and 3, but he is also genuine in his resentment for the hostility to his

gospel (2:2, 14-16). He has felt the sting of Judaistic and gentile oppression (2 Cor 11:23-

28), and even years later, writing to Rome, Paul is concerned about Judean hostility

(15:30-31). In Paul’s mind, his converts have been saved from wrath, so any attempt to

discourage them from the Christ-way incites great intensity of emotion. 1 Thess 2:14-16

bears out that concern in Paul, and Paul shows his pastoral care in action by stirring the

emotions against the “opponent”156 with the purpose of the pastoral re-socialization of the

Thessalonians in their multi-ethnic ekklēsia-family.

5.6.3. Hyperbole

Carol Schlueter’s Filling up the Measure: Polemical Hyperbole in 1

Thessalonians 2:14-16 applies the rhetorical devices of blame and hyperbole within the

convention of amplification.157 That Paul can use hyperbole is clear in that he was

probably not “all things to all people” (1 Cor 9:22). It is no more likely that the

See Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 123.
As discussed in conversation with the primary sources in section 3.3.

Thessalonian converts loved every single Christ-believer in Macedonia (1 Thess 4:10) or

were examples to everyone in all of Greece (1:8-10). It can, then, be granted that Paul

may also engage in an “elegant straining of the truth”158 in 2:14-16.

It is historical probability that demonstrates this straining within the literary

device of “opponent” in 1 Thessalonians. There is no actual historical connection

between Greek and Judean oppressors except their opposition to the gospel; there was no

empire-wide conspiracy against Christ-believers. Furthermore, the historical likelihood

that the same people were involved in Jesus’ death and the persecution of the early

church is not strong. Paul himself was involved in persecution, but there is no historical

evidence he had influence in Jesus’ death. The picture presented by Paul is one of a

monolithic opponent who is able to stop God’s messengers at any turn. While Paul does

not speak falsely that there were Judaists who had influence in Jesus’ death and who

engaged in pressure against the Christ-believers, his words are certainly hyperbolic.159

Again, it must be emphasized that Paul is not using hyperbole to castigate Judaists

qua Judaists. His polemical hyperbole is part of his literary device of the typification of

the character of “opponent.” Paul is no more interested in distinguishing the (judgment)

fate of Judaistic opponents from gentile opponents than he is interested in distinguishing

the (salvific) fate of the Thessalonian converts from the Macedonian or Judean converts.

Using a series of accusations of varying strength, Paul uses hyperbole and amplification

Quintilian, Inst. 8.6.68 [Butler]. Whether Paul’s exaggeration is elegant or not is a matter of
taste. It seems Paul’s rhetoric in his letters is effective (2 Cor 10:10), so it practically suits the purpose.
For a more extensive appreciation of Paul’s use of hyperbole, see Schlueter, Filling up the
Measure, esp. 111-123. Schlueter’s analysis could have benefited from our socio-literary reading that
appreciates Paul’s use of the “opponent” as a literary device. Although failing to appreciate the construct of
the Judaist-gentile opponent, Schlueter does note that the hyperbole serves to strengthen the social identity
of the Thessalonians (implicitly) in opposition to the “opponent” (see p. 120-121).

to build his argument to the point of the judgment of wrath against those evil people who

oppose the spread of the gospel.160

5.6.4. Blame and Rhetorical Genres

As we noted in section 5.2, there are formal rhetorical conventions where “blame”

is used, including the epideictic genus, the epistolary category of praise and blame, and

parrēsia in the friendship context. As much as it seems evident that Paul did use

conventions available to him, such as hyperbole or pathetic devices, it cannot be

demonstrated that rhetorical and epistolary forms are prescriptive for Paul. Furthermore,

there is no consensus on the classification of 1 Thessalonians with which to support a

prescriptive reading. No author suggests that Paul is writing in the epistolary category of

praise and blame, and 2:14-16 is not a friendship speech (so not parrēsia in the

conventional sense) even if it is within a friendship letter. Praise and blame, which both

occur in 1 Thessalonians, are characteristic features of epideictic rhetoric, but until it can

be demonstrated that this genus formed the content and character of Paul’s polemic the

only thing that can be noted is that within epideictic and other common forms of Greco-

Roman speech and letter-writing, blame was an appropriate approach. This is not an

insignificant observation, since we are asking the question about Paul’s honourable or

dishonourable use of polemic, but one must be careful not to overstate the case.161

5.6.5. Challenge and Riposte

The question of whether Paul was engaging in the public agonistic game of

challenge and riposte is difficult to answer. We have no primary sources from any of

Paul’s opponents to know first-hand the nature of any challenge to which Paul might

See Rh. Al. 3.1426a.20-29; Schlueter, Filling up the Measure, 121.
As Schlueter (Filling up the Measure, 79-80) is almost in danger of doing.

choose to offer a riposte. Using Paul’s own rhetorical argument, challenge and riposte

seem to be behind some of Paul’s letters.162 On the one hand, the source of a public

challenge to Paul’s honour is more difficult to perceive in 1 Thessalonians since the

specific activities of oppression are not mentioned.163 On the other hand, Paul tells us that

oppressors were involved in inhibiting Paul’s work among the Thessalonians (2:2) and

successfully forced Paul to end his work early (2:17).

It seems, then, that we are unable to postulate a specific public challenge of words

to Paul’s honour; the most we can suggest is that the oppression of Paul’s opponents

serves as a challenge as such. If such a challenge existed, and Paul interpreted it as a

challenge to his honour, a riposte would be appropriate. The letter to the Thessalonians

would likely never have been read by oppressing Judaists or gentiles, but the response to

an honour-challenge within the letter would appeal to the Thessalonians as a third party

witness that Paul’s honour should be retained. Furthermore, it seems clear that the

accusations of 2:14-16 serve to shame the oppressors for their activity. Those who hinder

the gospel—no less, Judaists who should know better—should be shamed because they

E.g., see Dietmar Neufeld (“Acts of Admonition and Rebuke: A Speech Act Approach to 1
Corinthians 6:1-11,” BibInt 8 [2000]: 375-399; J. Paul Sampley, “Paul, His Opponents in 2 Corinthians 10-
13, and the Rhetorical Handbooks,” in The Social World of Formative Christianity and Judaism: Essays in
Tribute to Howard Clark Kee, ed. Jacob Neusner et al. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), 162-177. See
also Stanley K. Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press,
1981); while not strictly about challenge and riposte, the conversation literary style of diatribe
approximates the social event.
There is a convoluted argument about whether 2:1-12 serves as an apology or not, see most
recently Jeffrey A. D. Weima, “An Apology for the Apologetic Function of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.” JSNT
20 (1997): 73-99; Karl P. Donfried and Johannes Beutler, eds., The Thessalonians Debate: Methodological
Discord or Methodological Synthesis (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000); Weima and Porter, Annotated
Bibliography, 149-161. Aside from apologetic hypotheses (that Paul is combating accusations that Paul is a
charlatan who took off quickly at the first sign of trouble), Frame (Thessalonians, 109) offers the
suggestion that Paul is responding to an accusation by Thessalonian Judaists that Christianity was a false

dishonour God.164 Paul’s attempt to shame his opponents comes in the form of several

accusations and the pronouncement of judgment in the name of God, whom Paul calls

upon implicitly as a third-party confirmation of Paul’s honour in the face of shameful165

oppression. Paul and the Thessalonians are vindicated in their fidelity to the gospel by the

fact that those who oppose the gospel receive wrath.

Such a response would likely serve to strengthen Paul’s position in the eyes of his

Thessalonian converts. The role of 1 Thessalonians 2-3 is to remind the Thessalonians of

Paul’s personal sacrifice for them, their mutual relationship, and their facing together the

oppressive realities of those who seek to hinder the gospel. But would Judaistic

oppressors have been shamed by Paul’s accusations? The accusation of oppression and

hindering would be considered, for these oppressors, a matter of fact, and hardly a reason

for shame since that was their intent. It is also unlikely that they would have been shamed

by the accusation of killing the Lord Jesus, and y. Sanh. 43A argues that Jesus’ execution

was justifiable according to the limitations set out in Mishnah. Instead, what would have

been more effective would be Paul’s use of Judaistic motifs of killing and rejecting the

prophets and filling the measure of sin against his Judaistic opponents. These accusations

would have been familiar to Judaists, and their response might have been one of

incredulity that someone like Paul166 could accuse them of being hostile to God’s

purposes. If, like Paul, their activities stemmed from their religious zeal, then the idea

Kloppenborg Verbin (Excavating Q, 203) notes that the similar use of the “prophet-killing”
Tanakh motif in Q demonstrates that they were engaged in a battle against a non-repentant community, and
that this motif aligns Jesus and John the Baptist with “Israel’s epic history” and acts as a shaming technique
to their opponents.
The oppression would be shameful in two senses: the oppressors’ persecution was an attempt to
shame Paul and the Thessalonians into an honourable role in society, and Paul would consider the
oppression a matter of the oppressors’ shame.
It is not necessary to establish the precise reason why Judaists or even gentiles would oppress
Christ-believers. For one such attempt, see Still, Conflict at Thessalonica.

that their commitment was actually untrue to God’s work in the world would have been

dismissed as ridiculous and perhaps even ignored with indignation.

In summary, it is possible that Paul was responding to a social pressure that acted

as a challenge to his honour. His response is for the benefit of his Thessalonians converts;

in that sense, it was an effective riposte that called upon God as a third-party witness in

the accusation and judgment of oppressors. The precise response of Judaistic oppressors

is difficult to discern, but the rhetoric is not for their benefit in any case. In good Greco-

Roman fashion, Paul was not outdone by his opponents in doing injury, just as he could

not be outdone in showing praise for his friends the Thessalonians.167

5.6.6. Polemic and Prophetic Critique

In sections 3.3 and 4 we established a range of the use of Greco-Roman polemic

and the Hebrew tradition of prophetic critique that developed into Judaistic critique-from-

within in Second Temple literature. How does 2:14-16 sit against this background?

In comparison with the polemic of Greco-Roman philosophers, 2:14-16 is tame.

Outright castigation and name-calling were regular features of philosophical intergroup

debate, and is generally lacking in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, though it occurs elsewhere in

Paul when the fate of his converts is at stake (e.g., Phil 3:2). Even the reasoned Tarsian

scholar Dio Chrysostom seems excessive when his rhetoric of Discourse 32 is compared

with 1 Thessalonians.168 In both Paul and the philosophers, however, the literary topos of

See Isocrates, Ad Dem. 26. Only actual witnesses of the challenge and riposte between Paul and
his opponents could judge whether Paul actually succeeded in restoring honour and causing shame for his
opponents. That this was Paul’s intent seems evident.
See also the discussion, above section 3.3.

opponent as “other” is at play,169 and Paul uses rhetorical polemic well within the limits

established by his fellow Greek authors.

How does 2:14-16 compare with Judaistic authors, since that is where Paul

situated his primary vocational base? Although Paul is using the typification of characters

as a literary device to strengthen the Thessalonians’ resolve in the face of the “opponent,”

Paul maintains the depth of characters in the “opponent” as he does within the character

of the “author” or “the Thessalonians.”170 In his literary construct, Paul has not forgotten

that the opponents, both Greek and Judean, have faces and represent real people who

have caused him pain. It is no surprise, then, that Paul’s harshest words are reserved

specifically for his Judaistic oppressors. Typically, the Judaistic Paul had no reason to list

the sins of gentiles;171 their opposition to the gospel was expected. Paul’s fellow Judaists,

however, knew better, and he expected their response to be different. God’s people knew

that opposing God’s messengers is opposing God, and they had suffered greatly in the

past because they did not always heed the prophets (2 Chr 36:11-16). Drawing upon these

motifs of rejection, Paul expresses his frustration and disappointment that some Judaists

choose not to bless Paul’s mission to bring God’s word to the gentiles.

In these accusations, and within them a call to repentance to return to God’s will,

Paul stands in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets. Paul’s self-conception includes a

prophetic sense of calling and vocation akin to Jeremiah and Isaiah, and he stands also in

that tradition in calling his people to repentance. That Paul says “wrath” is the judgment

upon God’s people is also typical of Isaiah and Jeremiah in their call to repentance (e.g.,

see Isa 5:25; 9-10; 13; 60:10; 63; Jer 4:26-27; 21:12; 32; 37-39; 43:7). Like the prophets,

See Johnson, “NT Anti-Jewish Slander,” 432.
See section 5.3.2 above.
Hurd, “Paul Ahead of His Time,” 34.

Paul uses a literary device that does not include himself within the “people” as those who

are judged for their sin. And like Jeremiah and Isaiah, Paul acts as a kind of prophetic

mediator bringing the word of God to God’s people.

In section 3.3 we surveyed Second Temple literature and determined that the

hermeneutic of prophetic self-criticism developed into a motif of Judaistic critique-from-

within. In much of the literature, and in particular in the Qumran community, the rest of

God’s people were called upon for repentance and allegiance to God’s will. Not all of this

self-critical literature is polemical; instead, there is a spectrum from the surprising lack of

polemic (Baruch; 1 Enoch 72-82) to the surprisingly polemical and pointed (Jubilees;

Qumran). Paul’s polemic fits well within this spectrum in both his call of repentance to a

sinful people, and in his judgment of wrath in the face of oppression.

We must now deal with Ruether’s assertion that Paul cannot stand in the tradition

of Hebrew prophetic critique because he is not calling people to the Torah-path:

The difference between prophetic self-critique and anti-Judaism lies in the

relation of the critic to the covenant and the Torah of Israel. The Hebrew prophet
stands within the Abrahamic covenant and calls the people to become more
faithful to the expression of that covenant in the Torah.172

Ruether has two assumptions that speak directly to her evaluation. First, Ruether

presumes there is a monolithic, normative first century Judaism that is Halakhic in

contrast to Paul’s Christ-religion. The religion of Qumran is evidence enough that

Judaism had no such norm. The Qumran community stands in critique and

contradistinction to the Jerusalem community. We no longer have the luxury of

pretending that such a central core of Judaism existed, since Qumran itself recapitulates

the understanding of covenant and people according to their eschatological expectations.

Ruether, “Old Problems and New Dimensions,” 235.

Second, Ruether presumes that Paul is not interpreting the Christ-faith according

to Torah. While it is true that Paul’s appreciation of Torah is unique, Paul’s presentation

and appreciation of the Christ-event is intertwined with his understanding of Torah.

Although Paul can speak negatively about the law, he is not uniformly negative,173 and

there is a sense where the Christ-life fulfills the law (e.g., see Rom 8:3-4).174 Certainly,

Paul has re-oriented his reading of Tanakh according to his Christ-experience, which is

evident from the hundreds of quotations from and allusions to Tanakh within the Pauline

corpus. It cannot, then, be deduced a priori that Paul rejected Torah in such a way as to

exclude himself from being able to speak critically to fellow Judaists. It is true that Paul

introduced a new interpretation of Judaism, but that does not make him any less a

Judaist.175 While we merely established Paul’s self-understanding in chapter 2, and that is

all that is necessary to establish for his appropriate use of Judaistic rhetorical devices, and

although Paul may have been viewed as an apostate by some fellow Judaists,176 it can be

argued that Paul remains within Judaism, even if he is a sectarian or dissonant voice.177

W. D. Davies, “Paul and the People of Israel,” NTS 16 (1969–70): 19.
We cannot attempt a full appreciation of Paul’s view of Torah here, which is in itself a life-
study. For a helpful introduction see Veronica Koperski’s What Are They Saying About Paul and the Law.
For recent discussions from various viewpoints, see Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on
Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics; A. Andrew Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant; N. T.
Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology; James D. G. Dunn, Jesus,
Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians; Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah.
Daniel Boyarin, “Israel Reading in ‘Reading Israel,’” in Reading Israel in Romans: Legitimacy
and Plausibility of Divergent Interpretations, ed. Cristina Grenholm and Daniel Patte (Romans through
History and Culture Series; Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 2000), 250.
See Barclay, “Apostate in the Jewish Diaspora.”
Bockmuehl, Revelation and Mystery, 130-132. Bockmuehl argues that Judaism became less
tolerant to dissident voices after 70 C.E. Davies (“Paul and the People of Israel,” 4-39) asserts that Paul’s
critiques are “intramural” (p. 19), and not uniformly negative against the law or Judaism. Ingo Broer
(“‘Antisemitismus’ und Judenpolemik im Neuen Testament: Ein Beitrag zum besseren Verständnis von 1
Thess 2:14-16,” BN 20 [1983]: 59-91) argues that the polemic of 2:14-16 represents a time when
Christianity was still within the Judaistic fold, and must not be read against the background of Judaism and
Christianity after the parting of the ways without doing damage to the text.

Instead of an anti-Judaistic dissident, Paul remains a “radical critic of Judaism”178

operating in a Judaistic critique-from-within that is in line with the Hebrew prophetic

tradition in which Paul bases his vocational understanding. Both rhetorically, in the

literary casting of Judaists as “other” in the opponent category, and in polemical usage,

Paul remains well within the realm of Second Temple Judaistic conversation. Moreover,

Paul lacks the invective of Qumran and the theological re-tooling of Josephus.

5.7. Did Paul Act Honourably? A Conclusion to the Reading of 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

The basic question remains, then: Did Paul act honourably or dishonourably in the

rhetoric of 1 Thess 2:14-16? While the rules for evaluating honour and shame are not

precise, there is no evidence whatsoever to judge Paul, within his own Greco-Roman and

specifically Judaistic environments, as dishonourable. Instead, Paul drew upon Judaistic

traditions and Greco-Roman rhetorical devices to face opponents who had the power to

cause great damage to his mission. Because Paul remained a Judaist, he did not twist

Hebrew and Judaistic traditions to his own anti-Judaistic understanding; instead Paul

used these traditions as prophetic Judaists would to call their compatriots to greater

faithfulness to God’s will. It is true that Paul’s comments are emotionally heightened and

polemically heated. In no sense, however, does Paul overstep the moral bounds of honour

as defined within his society. He uses hyperbole and blame, but uses them conventionally

and, as far as we can tell, honourably. In the various ways that we have established to

evaluate Paul’s speech, in none of them does Paul act inappropriately or dishonourably.

By contrast, his rhetoric is both appropriate and expected.

Boyarin, “Was Paul an ‘Anti-Semite’?”



6.1. Project Summary

In chapter 1 we set the stage for this study by demonstrating the pressing need for

attention to the question of antisemitism with relation to 1 Thess 2:14-16. We introduced,

as well, the discussion of antisemitism and anti-Judaism in history and in the NT. After

establishing method, definitions, and limitations, we then discussed the inefficacy of

hermeneutical governors that are placed upon the exegesis of difficult texts by those who

seek social or theological reformulation or are working within a canonical framework. In

chapter 2 we surveyed the discussion about Paul in relationship to Judaism with a

particular interest in the so-called New Perspective on Paul, and then established that not

only did Paul consider himself to be a religio-ethnic Judaist after his “conversion,” he

saw his Christ-mission to the gentiles as part of his Judaistic prophetic calling. In chapter

3 we set the stage for appreciating Paul’s social and rhetorical backgrounds by surveying

the literature, by discussing the role of the agonistic maintenance of honour and shame

values in Paul’s dyadic culture, and by exploring the range of polemic utilized within

philosophical Greco-Roman works. Chapter 4 explored Paul’s specifically Judaistic

rhetorical backgrounds. We noted the hermeneutic of prophetic critique within the

Hebrew prophetic writings, particularly within Isaiah and Jeremiah, and we noted that

this hermeneutic transferred into a genre of Judaistic critique-from-within that forms an


arc of continuity from the Hebrew prophets, through Second Temple literature, and into

first century Judaistic writings. Finally, in chapter 5, after establishing our text, we

engaged in an extended discussion of social, literary, and rhetorical approaches to

1 Thess 2:14-16. Complemented with traditional historical-grammatical exegesis, the

seemingly harsh polemic of 2:14-16 came into focus within Paul’s social background

(Greco-Roman Judaistic Christ-believer facing opposition) and his literary intentions.

We have explored several entries into the text of 2:14-16, each with one feature in

common: literary analysis placed against Paul’s social background. We noted that Paul

and his converts faced social pressure and persecution in many places. For Paul, this

persecution was a genuine danger because it hindered his ability to fulfill his prophetic

calling to take God’s gospel to the gentiles. We discovered that Paul is using hoi Ioudaioi

in 2:14-16 as part of a literary device within 1 Thessalonians to strengthen the resolve of

Christ-believers in the face of an “opponent” who represents this oppression. This

typification of the oppressive “other” serves to solidify Paul’s re-socialization of the

Thessalonians into a multi-ethnic ekklēsia that functions as a new family and the new

base of their dyadic self-worth. We noted that Paul’s use of pathos, hyperbole, and blame

functions as common aspects of literary and rhetorical communication within Paul’s

honour-based culture. While Paul was not bound to use these techniques because of

rhetorical and literary conventions, he was free to use them honourably and in the

maintenance of his honour. Paul’s polemic, therefore, is both appropriate and expected.

6.2. Polemic and Judaistic Self-Critique

Of the rhetorical and social approaches into exegesis, one approach is particular to

Paul’s Judaistic background. In chapter 4 we noted that there was an arc of continuity of

self-critique from the Hebrew prophets through to Second Temple literature. Although

not prevalent in Philo, authors from Isaiah and Jeremiah to the Apocrypha and OT

Pseudepigrapha and even to Josephus engaged in a polemical critique of fellow Judaists.

Even the Qumran community, which had segregated itself from the rest of Judaism and

incorporated the Hebrew story into their own unique identity, did not completely

eliminate the wider Judaistic community from God’s purposes, but continued to speak

prophetically to other Judaists. Their polemic is unprecedented and unmatched, but their

critique of the Jerusalem community was done with the hope and expectation that those

who are true within Israel would join the Qumranites in the great eschatological battle

against evil and oppression. The nature and varieties of the polemical critiques varied, but

each one has in common a call of repentance and obedience to God’s people. Even when

it is expected that Israel would fail (as in Jubilees), the call was still made.

Paul stands within this trajectory. Both in his prophetic self-understanding, and

within the diversity of first-century Judaism, Paul remained a Judaist and engaged in

Judaistic critique-from-within. Although his interpretation of Torah and use of Tanakh

was unique and, perhaps, radical, Paul still continued to offer this prophetic critique

within what he supposed was what God was doing in his Isaianic/Jeremian bringing of

light and good news to the gentiles. It became axiomatic for Paul, then, that those who

hindered this mission—whether Judaist or gentile—were deserving of the wrath from

which Paul was trying to rescue the gentiles. The level of emotion in 1 Thess 2:14-16 is

evident of Paul’s disappointment that of all people, there were Judaists (who should know

better) who opposed his project. In Paul’s view, their repentance was needed, and Paul

offered the call using typical Tanakh and Judaistic polemical motifs.

Paul is not alone in the early Christ-believing community in offering a prophetic

critique of fellow Judaists. The accusation of “supersessionism” is frequently levelled

against NT authors.1 It is not necessary to discuss whether this is fair, or whether

supersessionism is a positive or a negative thing,2 but granted that it is a reality, and that

the key figures of the early Christ-believing movement were Judaists, it is evident that the

polemical calls of repentance within the NT are inner-Judaistic critiques, not gentilic anti-

Judaism. If, as is supposed, early Christ-believing Judaists take over the symbols of

Judaism and transform them according to their belief, of course critiques of non-believing

Judaism are, in their own right, prophetic calls to obedience to God’s will. Paul, Jesus

and the early Christ-believing Judaists may have been wrong in their belief, as may have

the Qumran community, or the authors of Wisdom of Solomon, Jubilees, and Jewish

Wars, but the hermeneutic of Hebrew prophetic critique continues through them all.

The early church did not remain, however, Judaistic. Increasingly, gentiles

became the primary leaders in the church and the Judaistic dimension of Christendom

was lost.3 William Horbury notes that from the perspective of the Epistle of Barnabas,

E.g., Sandmel, Antisemitism in the NT (esp. his Hebrews discussion); Williamson, Guest, esp. 1-
7; Ruether, Faith and Fratricide. Ruether does not believe that Jesus taught supersessionism, “Old
Problems and New Dimensions,” 230. Padraic O’Hare’s entire project (The Enduring Covenant) is devoted
to arguing for the rejection of supersessionism within Christian theology.
Supersessionism is frequently assumed to be negative. Wright laments the assumptions
concerning supersessionism: “If [Paul] had abandoned Judaism and invented a new religion, he would be
regarded by many as anti-Jewish. If he had claimed that Judaism’s long story had reached its climax, its
fulfilment, in Jesus of Nazareth, he would be regarded by many as anti-Jewish. Heads I lose; tails you win,”
What Paul Really Said, 40. Boyarin (“Israel Reading in ‘Reading Israel,’” 250) notes that supersessionism
is not in itself a bad thing, since Judaism is the supersession of polytheism. There is also the question, of
whether the supersessionism is inclusive of Judaists or exclusive, and what role rejection and election play.
It is unclear when “the parting of the ways” took place. It is presumed to have begun in earnest at
Jamnia, but this is by no means certain. See the essays in Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways. In
the UBC Diamond Lectures in Jewish Law and Ethics, March 24-25, 2004, lecturer Daniel Boyarin
indicated that he considered there to be a considerable dialogue between Judaists and Christians well into
the fourth century. The literature that we survey in the second century is indicative not only that a concept
of “other” foreign to the NT exists, but also that there is still a significant relationship. See also Martin
Hengel, “Early Christianity as a Jewish-Messianic, Universalistic Movement,” in Conflicts and Challenges
in Early Christianity, ed. Donald A. Hagner (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1999), 31-40.

the split between Judaist and Christian had already taken place.4 For the pseudepigraphal

author Judaists are not merely a literary “other,” but a sociological and theological

“other” in opposition to Christians.5 What begins in Barnabas is an Adversus Iudaeos

tradition that takes Tanakh, Judaistic, and NT moments of prophetic self-critique and uses

them against Judaists.6 It is this move of interpreting biblical and Judaistic traditions in

unimagined ways that begins the troubling trend of apologetic anti-Judaism that

transforms into political and eventually popular and racial antisemitism. The (mis)use of

tender Judaistic critique-from-within moments by authors beginning with the Epistle of

Barnabas demonstrates the key difference in how Paul used this hermeneutic, and betrays

how inappropriate it is for non-Judaists to do so.

6.3. A Hellenistic Culturally Appropriate Vocabulary: A Re-evaluation of Terms

In sections 1.3.1-1.3.2, we made a distinction between antisemitism and anti-

Judaism, the former being instrumental (despite inaccuracies) in discussing ethnic hatred,

hostility or discrimination, and the latter referring to theological or ideological

disagreement. A further defining of anti-Judaism by Smiga7 revealed three key levels:

1) Prophetic Polemic: intra-Jewish polemic like the prophets; 2) Subordinating Polemic:

a redefinition of Jewish symbols; and 3) Abrogating Anti-Judaism: the Jewish people as a

whole have been disenfranchised. Having engaged in extensive exegesis of 1 Thess 2:14-

William Horbury, “Jewish-Christian Relations in Barnabas and Justin Martyr,” in Jews and
Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70-135: The Second Durham-Tübingen Research Symposium on
Earliest Christianity and Judaism, ed. James D. G. Dunn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 315. There is
wide acceptance of the range 70-135 C.E. because of the reference to the destruction of the temple, but the
expectation that a new temple would be built.
See aujtoiv (2:7; 14:1, 4) and esp. the adversive ejkeivnoi (3:6; 8:7; 10:12; 13:1; 14:5); see
Horbury, “Barnabas and Justin Martyr,” 215. “The Law” in Paul becomes “their Law”(3:6), and there is an
exclusive choice made between the Judaistic covenant and the Christian covenant (ch. 13).
See also Beck, Mature Christianity, 55.
Smiga, Pain and Polemic, 12-23.

16 within the context of Paul’s undisputed letters and against Paul’s rhetorical and social

backgrounds, where does Paul fit among these definitions?

It should be abundantly clear by now that Paul should not be considered

antisemitic. He does not engage in racial hostility and displays absolutely no ethnic

hatred. Paul does not consider all Judaists/Jews cursed and deserving of God’s wrath, and

has not engaged in discrimination by excluding Judaists as an ethnicity from God’s path.

By contrast, Paul’s program is one of Judaist and gentile together in fellowship, and Paul

expects his ethnic fellows to support his mission. There is no historical analogy between

the events in modern Germany leading up to Shoah and Paul’s ministry and writings; the

nature of Paulinism and Nazism with reference to Judaism are simply not the same.

What about the question of Paul and anti-Judaism? We must grant that Jews can

become anti-Jewish or antisemitic, and the ambivalent life of the prominent figure of Karl

Marx is sufficient testimony. Therefore, it is possible that Paul can be anti-Judaistic.

Based upon our three levels of anti-Judaism, it is clear that Paul engaged in the first,

prophetic, intra-Judaistic polemic. Indeed, that is our central thesis, that Paul should be

read as engaging in a prophetic styled Judaistic critique-from-within. Though perhaps

outside of our data field for providing satisfaction to the definition of symbolic

transformation, Paul did engage in symbolic redefinition by taking over the “filling up of

sins” motif and including it within his prophetic call to repentance. This detail, included

with other symbolic transformations like the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and the redefinition

of YHWH, means it could be said that Paul engaged in the second, subordinating

polemic. It is clear, though, that Paul did not engage in the full sense in the third,

abrogating anti-Judaism, where the Jewish people or Judaism as a whole have been

disenfranchised. Paul continues to have expectations for Judaists along with gentiles.

Can it then be said, with Donald Hagner, that Paul engaged in “anti-Judaism?”8

While there is essentially nothing “wrong” with engaging in theological debate and

critique, which Paul did, the terms “anti-Jewish” or “anti-Judaistic” hardly seem

appropriate for Paul since he was still engaging in intramural, inner-Judaistic critique. As

James Dunn asks, “How can prophetic critique of priest or people be described as an

example of ‘anti-Judaism’?”9 We have no a priori reason for rejecting the claim that Paul

is anti-Judaistic: we are not constrained by historical possibility, canonical authority, or

even a twenty-first century concept of morality or productivity. There are, however,

consequences for saying that Paul engaged in anti-Judaism. It means that Josephus,

Qumran, and various authors of the Apocrypha or OT Pseudepigrapha also engaged in

anti-Judaism, since they were also fellow Judaists engaging in Judaistic prophetic

critique. No quantitative difference between Paul and these other Judaistic authors has

been demonstrated in the literature that accuses Paul uniquely of anti-Judaism.10 If, then,

any Judaist who is not a direct forerunner to Rabbinic Judaism and engages in a

theological critique of other Judaists is thus engaging in anti-Judaism, what power or

efficacy is there in the term? In the goal of sparing Paul from the charge of antisemitism,

Donald Hagner and others are not making any progress in admitting Paul’s anti-Judaism.

By contrast, this kind of historically inequitable accusation only serves to weaken the

term. Furthermore, given popular semiotic and religio-ethnic ambivalence, “anti-Jewish”

Hagner, “Paul’s Quarrel,” 130.
Dunn, “The Question of Anti-semitism in the NT,” 180-181.
Furthermore, a paragraph in a short letter cannot be used to castigate an author. If we only had
Jewish Wars we may never have known that Josephus was a staunch defender of Judaism and Judaists.

is a very poor choice of words for Paul,11 and any rhetorical use of it in such a manner is

really rhetorical abuse. Instead, our call for terminological precision gives us “anti-

Judaistic” as a less emotionally charged term to describe theological debate and critique.

From a historian’s perspective, as we noted in section 1.6, it should also be clear

that not only is Paul not antisemitic, he cannot be held responsible for any continuity

between 1 Thess 2:14-16 and the activities of subsequent interpreters.12 What of those

authors who continue to press the weight of two thousand years of Christian history and

interpretation upon Paul? Ironically, those who continue to accuse Paul of cultural

impropriety are doing the very same thing. First, they13 refuse to respect Paul’s Judaistic

spirituality as such. Presumably, none of these authors would dare judge the “Jewishness”

of contemporary Jews or even the founder of secular Zionism, Ahad Ha’am, yet they

have no hesitation in doing this to Paul. Second, they refuse to place Paul within his

ethnic and cultural environment. Authors who insist on accusing Paul of antisemitism

because of 1 Thess 2:14-16 simply are not judging Paul based upon the values of his

Greco-Roman Judaism, but based upon twenty-first Western sensibilities. It is hard to

imagine North American or European scholars placing limitations on Guatemalan

writers, or judging sub-Saharan Africans by Western standards, yet this is what they have

done to Paul. Such a hermeneutical expectation of Paul then is not only anachronistic—

since Paul is unable to anticipate Christian and non-Christian interpreters—but is also a

“Anti-Jewish” is simply not functionally equivalent to “anti-Christian” or “anti-Lutheran,” as it
should be for the term to be an accurate representation of theological or ideological dispute.
If Romans 11 is an indication, Paul would have been disappointed to find out that only a
generation later some Christ-believers would engage in extramural anti-Judaistic hostilities.
In identifying “they” we would be presuming that authors who accuse Paul of antisemitism (i.e.,
Ruether, Sandmel, Cohn-Sherbok) would not respond to this critique and appreciate Paul within his social
and rhetorical environments and according to the cultural values of his own time and place.

kind of racism: these authors engage in culturally inappropriate and prejudicial profiling

of Paul.

Therefore, there is no heuristic value or intrinsic truth in using “antisemitism” as a

label in Paul. By contrast, the term causes damage and betrays cultural and religio-ethnic

insensitivity on the part of the one who would judge Paul as an antisemite. In my view,

this kind of prejudicial, moralistic, and anachronistic reading has no place in

historiography or exegesis.

6.4. An Informed Twenty-First Century Reading: Post-Shoah Christian Interpretation and


This project represents an attempt to inform those in the dialogue of antisemitism

and Paul so that culturally inappropriate comments are not made by ignorance. I

recognize that the term “antisemitism” has contemporary rhetorical significance; I have

used it myself in this attempt to help Bible readers deal with difficult texts in culturally—

both our culture and Paul’s—appropriate ways. I also recognize that Jews have received a

kind of protected status because of the Christian and secular traditions of holocaustism.

Jewish people have been victimized, and Christians must take responsibility for their part

in this heritage. Sensitivity to this issue and empathy with this history, however, does not

mean that one must become rhetorically abusive and ethnically insensitive in the use of

terminology, as those who continue to interpret Paul in this way are in danger of doing.

Even understanding Paul’s social and rhetorical backgrounds and appreciating his

personal, religious, and ethnic experiences, however, does not take away the reality that

1 Thess 2:14-16 is a difficult text. How do contemporary Bible-readers and devoted

Christians who view scripture as authoritative read and apply this passage to their own

lives and within their own communities?


As demonstrated in section 5.1, some deny that this passage is from Paul’s hand.

Even if this is true, which we have demonstrated is only a far-fetched possibility, it is

only a quarter measure: the text of 1 Thessalonians as we have it remains in Christian

Bibles because it remains canonical. Those who excise the text only confirm (or limit)

Paul’s own spirituality or theology, and are no help in appreciating and applying 1 Thess

2:14-16. Some Christian traditions have responded by removing it from the lectionary, as

is the case with the Revised Common Lectionary and the U.S. BCP.14 As Beverly

Gaventa points out, however, this merely means that church leaders have no opportunity

to comment on the passage: “To say nothing about these troublesome verses abdicates

responsibility for them to those who will readily speak hate-filled words.”15

Another solution is found in translation. The New Living Translation is one of the

only English translations16 to represent the tw'n at the beginning of 2:15 as restrictive:

For some of the Jews had killed their own prophets, and some even killed
the Lord Jesus. Now they have persecuted us and driven us out. They displease
God and oppose everyone by trying to keep us from preaching the Good News to
the Gentiles, for fear some might be saved. By doing this, they continue to pile up
their sins. But the anger of God has caught up with them at last (2:15-16,
emphasis mine).

Of the other updates to the most popular versions (TNIV, NASB, NRSV), only the CEV

has chosen this path. None of the most significant translations have chosen “Judeans”
Lectionary for Worship: Revised Common Lectionary, 3 vols. (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress,
1995-1997). According to the Episcopal Church (“Revised Common Lectionary,” n.p. [cited 3 March
1995]. Online:, the Revised
Common Lectionary is used by the American Baptist Churches (in the U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran
Churches in America and Canada, the Anglican Churches of Australia, Canada, and South Africa and the
Church of England, the Presbyterian Churches in the U.S.A. and Canada, the Christian Church (Disciples
of Christ), the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the United Church of Canada, the United
Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ. The Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. is using the
Revised Common Lectionary as a trial under Episcopal oversight. The Canadian Book of Common Prayer
includes all of 1 Thess 2:1-16 for the evening prayer on January 3 (see p. xix), but the American Episcopal
Book of Common Prayer omits 2:14-16 in the reading for Proper 26, leaving only 1 Thess 2:9-13, 17-20.
Gaventa, Thessalonians, 38-39.
See section 5.5, p. 149, n. 146.

instead of “Jews.” While “Judeans” may not represent the most specific reality of Paul’s

vision of oppressor, it is a translation true to the text and true to Paul’s literary use of

“opponent,” and may represent a solution for popular translators.17

Norman Beck’s project, Mature Christianity in the 21st Century, is of note not

simply because it excises 1 Thess 2:14-16 from Paul’s corpus, but because it is a large-

scale project that seeks to “repudiate”18 anti-Judaistic/anti-Jewish polemic from the entire

New Testament. Beck’s project is laudable for his breadth of coverage (the entire New

Testament) and for his honest presentation of his own biases and presuppositions (e.g.,

religious pluralism; a view of biblical infallibility as idolatrous). It is unfortunate,

however, that Beck never honestly attempts to read Paul or any of the NT writers within

their respective cultural backgrounds.19 What is unacceptable for Beck as a twenty-first

century American scholar is unacceptable for first-century Judaistic Christ-believing

authors. For Beck, blame, polemic, Judaistic self-critique, and agonistic struggles are not

expected and appropriate first-century realities, but signs of the adolescence of

Christianity. It is, of course, appropriate for Beck from his own perspective to use “anti-

Christian” polemic in the repudiation of things he feels are not appropriate, but it remains

inappropriate for Paul to have done so within Judaism.20

It is the choice of Malina and Rohrbaugh, John, 44-46. They argue that it is inappropriate to
translated hoi Ioudaioi as “the Jews” in any of the seventy occurrences in John, and opt for “the Judeans.”
For Beck, following the decrees of some Lutheran groups, “repudiation” means refusing to
accept certain traditions as valid or binding; it is not rejecting texts or excising portions of them, Mature
Christianity, 71-72. Beck’s chief concern for repudiation is that of defamatory polemic in the NT, and
supersessionist and Christological polemic need only be re-formulated, not repudiated.
The only cultural background that counts for Beck is the struggle between Christianity and the
synagogue in the late decades of the first century, which he assumes but does not demonstrate.
Beck declares that self-criticism is good and healthy within a religion, yet denies that
prerogative to Paul, Mature Christianity, 54, 73. It is clear that Beck considers Pauline religion to be
something other than Judaism; he offers no justification for his judgment of the spirituality of another
person of another culture, ethnicity, and religion.

While Beck’s project seems arrogant and ethnocentric, his concern to critique a

living tradition of anti-Judaism, and its possible development into antisemitism, is also

our concern. It is our hope that violent antisemitism will slip away from public reality;

history and contemporary events teach us, however, that this is not a likely scenario. The

public sentiment against antisemitism on the European continent is always tentative, there

was a recent attack against a Jewish school in Montreal, and Americans have been

generally uncritical in the acceptance of traditional Jewish stereotypes in the popular

media, as is evident in the literary choices of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

Furthermore, Christianity is spreading rapidly and with relative freedom from Western

Christianity in South America and Africa.21 Sleeping giants do not slumber forever: Los

Angeles erupting in race riots that echoed across the globe in 1992, and the worldwide

incidents of ethnic cleansing of the last decade are stark reminders of this fact. Christian

anti-Judaism and popular antisemitism are by no means past concern; to believe so is to

have confidence in a human machine that has proved less than competent.

It is my contention that Beck’s instinct for a mature Christianity is right, even if

his project borders on racism.22 First, in theological communication, there is no longer

any need for Christians to continue to use the binary opposition of “Christian” versus

“Jew/Judaist.” Christianity has a rich scriptural and theological heritage, and there are

many wells for communication and explication from which to draw, making antiquated,

It is unclear how these movements will treat Judaism. In a recent conversation with Diane B.
Stinton, author of Jesus of Africa: Voices of Contemporary African Christology (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis
Books, 2004), Stinton indicated that Jewish symbols were prevalent in African Christian spirituality, even
among those who would have no social connection with Jews. She was unable to comment on my concern
about anti-Judaism as it has developed historically, and how that might look in the African context.
It should be clear to the reader that even cursory look at Mature Christianity should indicate that
Beck is not a racist, and his desire is to be embracing of cultures, rather than exclusive. In 1985, when Beck
wrote the first edition, NT sociological study was just beginning. There is no excuse for a NT scholar,
however, to ignore and disrespect the cultural distance when his 1994 revision took place.

often misunderstood, and potentially dangerous comparisons with Judaism unnecessary.

Fortunately, there is new work being completed with the New Perspective on Paul (see

section 2.1) to help reframe the relationship of Christianity and Judaism in a way that is

helpfully self-critical in attitudes toward Jews and Judaism.

Second, Christians should be made aware of the socio-cultural backgrounds of the

first century. Bible readers need to understand the way in which social discourse took

place, and the foundations upon which this discourse were built. For example, as we

discovered in chapter 3, stereotyping based upon ethnicity, geography, and class were

essential to the dyadic formation of Paul’s culture. This social interplay, and its

stereotypical foundation, is completely foreign to Western contemporary Bible readers.

The concept of the “other” in Paul’s literary construct, in philosophical and

Judaistic writings, and in the Hebrew prophets themselves invites a discussion that we

have only hinted at throughout the project: contemporary Western society’s belief that

“otherness” is in and of itself evil.23 This instinct against otherness is held in tension with

the resistance to global assimilation, as is evidenced in Quebec’s (albeit artificial)

designation as a “distinct society,” or the hardening of ethnic identities in Eastern Europe,

sub-Saharan Africa, and southeast Asia within recent years.24 While cultural paradoxes

are not uncommon, since cultures have evolving personalities that are affected by both

individual madmen and individual geniuses who are in turn socially constructed, it is

My thinking on this issue has been greatly clarified by Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace:
A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996). Volf’s
project is in full understanding of the issues of victims and otherness, but is seeking to address the question
of perpetrators and otherness. In doing so, Volf recommends a Christian theology of the willingness to
embrace the guilty while still holding to nonexclusionary judgment. His project of considerate inclusion is
in dialogue and critique with modernist and postmodernist thought, and concludes that “exclusion” is itself
an evil, but not every act of particularism or judgment is exclusion. Volf does not address 1 Thess 2:14-16.
Is there a third instinct, that of postmodernity, which encourages an individualistic and radical
disengagement from enforcing either of these social preferences?

difficult to know how to respond to these instincts since it is at once “wrong” to assume

“us” and to say “them.” One thing is certain: ideally, our culture no longer forms

identities based upon stereotypes and the typification of the “other.” In reality, this still

takes place, but it is really unnecessary for Christians to engage in such a practice. There

are plenty of avenues for social debate and reasoned, critical engagement and

disengagement with culture that Christians need not resurrect rhetorical devices from

other ages and other cultures.

Some might argue that being faithful to Paul means being faithful to his rhetorical

and social constructs. This intonation, however, is in profound disharmony with actual

practice: while biblical language and social structures have been formational in Western

culture, we as Christians do not communicate in Koinē Greek (or Hebrew or Aramaic),

we do not dress or engage in social conversation like Paul did, and even the strictest

literalist has re-interpreted “a Holy Kiss” in 1 Cor 16:20 into something along the lines of

“a holy embrace” (The Message) or “a loving handshake” (LB). Furthermore, to choose

to say “I must conceive of ‘the other’ as Paul did” profoundly misunderstands the

unspoken question that anyone knowing Paul’s biography must ask: which category did

Paul belong to? Did Paul belong to the “Christ-believer” category, the “us,” or to the

“oppressor” category, the “them?” It is clear, and a powerful theological statement, that

Paul the Judaist belonged to both categories; Paul both hindered the gospel, and was the

faithful oppressed Christ-believer. While Paul uses culturally appropriate typification of

the “other” in his writing, his theological statement is one that eradicates the necessity of

“other” conceptualization and typification within the paradigm of Christ’s love and

forgiveness. The categories are not fixed, and in that sense, not universally applicable.

Third, this awareness of Paul’s socio-cultural background leads us into another

area for Christian interpretation: Bible readers need to understand that they are witnesses

to a conversation into which they are not invited. This is particularly true of the inner-

Judaistic struggles recorded within the New Testament. Simply put, neither Christians

nor Jews today are first century Judaists. To take arguments from Paul or Jesus or John

the Revelator, and apply them to Jews of today is both a radical misunderstanding of

one’s role as reader, and a radical misappropriation of the inner-Judaistic debates of the

first century. It is essential for Bible readers to appreciate the cultural distance that exists

and to respect the hermeneutical horizons. This assertion of distance is not to take the

scriptures out of the hands of Christians; by contrast, it is to equip Christians with a

stronger reading of their canon, with the expectation that contemporary interpretation and

application will be significantly more meaningful.

Fourth, and finally, Christians must learn to be self-critical of their understanding

of Judaism, and their application of NT texts that are critical of contemporary Judaists.

Jules Isaac wrote Jesus and Israel while estranged from his murdered wife and daughter,

and hiding in barns and basements in Nazi-occupied France. As we witnessed in section

1.3, Isaac argued that key persistent Christian stereotypes were partly responsible for the

great atrocities against Jews in Europe. After Shoah, social commentators and Christian

theologians—including pastoral preachers, apologists and evangelists, and the

dispensationalists who support Israel, but for whom “the Jew” is merely an eschatological

character—cannot afford to be lax in their talk about Jews and Judaism. Education about

ancient Judaisms and contemporary Judaisms is essential to appreciate the great diversity

and complexity of Judaists/Jews and Judaism. One cannot read the inner-Judaistic

debates of the NT without an appreciation of Second Temple Judaisms and the context in

which and into which the NT author is speaking. Specifically, not only in Christian Bible

reading but also in the academy, there is no reason to continue the Judaistic ignorance of

Weber, Bousset, and Bultmann, or to renew their false reading of Judaism as a legalistic

weighing of works-righteousness before a remote God. Norman Beck is right that the

self-sacrificial centre of Christianity is powerful enough that we can appreciate others and

be sufficiently self-critical as to hopefully avoid the damaging results of contemporary

Christian anti-Judaism and antisemitism.25

6.5. The Value of the Project and Further Research

The limitations of this project have meant that not every avenue and aspect of the

question that could have been explored has actually been explored; the limitations,

however, enhance the intrinsic value of the project and opportunities for further research.

First, we limited our inquiry not only to Paul and his seven undisputed letters, but

specifically to 1 Thessalonians. The next necessary step would be to follow this analysis

through to the remaining six undisputed letters and the six letters attributed to Paul. For

those who continue to debate for themselves the authenticity of these letters, the

conclusions here can be used in the discussion: specifically, did Paul’s self-understanding

or his understanding of and relationship to Judaism change from the undisputed corpus to

the so-called deutero-Pauline letters? Outside of the authorship debate, the question of

anti-Judaism in the Pauline church and the rest of the New Testament is worthy of further

study. In our various approaches to 1 Thess 2:14-16, none of them have precluded similar

Beck, Mature Christianity, 72. Again, his instinct is correct, even if his subsequent analysis is

evaluation of other difficult passages that reference Judaists or Judaism.26 As far as can

be ascertained from the available resources, this project is the only extended work that

takes the hermeneutic of prophetic critique and its Second Temple application of

Judaistic critique-from-within, and uses it in a reading of particular passages.27 The study

of polemic and Judaistic critique-from-within may also be helpful in the study other

difficult NT passages.

Second, this work represents another project within the larger field called the New

Perspective on Paul. The value of this field, as we discussed in section 2.1, is that it has a

self-critical bias in its understanding of Judaism and its relationship to Paul. While the

analysis of 1 Thess 2:14-16 does not come directly from this field, our entry into the

literature and our self-critical approach is influenced by the New Perspective. The value

of this project, then, will speak to the value of the New Perspective on Paul as a whole.

Third, our project begs the question of Paul’s understanding of soteriology and

non-Christ-believing Judaists. A number of authors with whom we have dialogued solve

the ultimate question of Paul and Judaism by asserting that Paul in one way or another is

soteriologically inclusive of non-Christ-believing Judaism, including Gregory Baum,

James Carroll, John Gager, Lloyd Gaston, Sidney Hall III, Douglas Harink, John Hurd,

Rosemary Ruether, and Clark Williamson.28 Is soteriological inclusivism, or some form

It is possible that of the NT authors, Luke is not a Judaist, so our analysis of Judaistic critique-
from-within can only be helpful in analysing Luke-Acts once the issue of his religious and ethnic identity is
This perspective is referenced in other works, and is referenced occasionally throughout Evans
and Hagners’ Antisemitism and Early Christianity, but this thesis is the only study of this length to
approach a text from this perspective.
Some authors arrive at this conclusion from an exegetical position (Gager, Gaston, Hall, Hurd);
others from a more theological reading (Baum, Carroll, Ruether, Williamson). Norman Beck is, by
contrast, a pluralist, not someone who has come to a view of Paul as soteriologically inclusive of Judaism.

of “two-paths” theology, necessary to appreciate Paul and be sensitive to contemporary

Jewish-Christian dialogue?

These really are two questions. The first question—is Paul a soteriological

inclusivist?—has not been answered in our project. My own understanding awaits

extensive exegesis of the rest of Paul, particularly Romans 8-11, with which our passage

has several linguistic and theological links. Granted the more traditional view that reads

Paul as requiring that all people, Judaist and gentile, must give allegiance to Christ, and

granted that Romans 9-11 teaches there will be some kind of eschatological Jewish show

of allegiance, and our research has unveiled one possible Judaistic parallel. In section

4.3.2 we surveyed literature from Qumran, a sectarian yet thoroughly Judaistic Second

Temple community. In Qumran literature, they do not take over the title “Israel” or “true

Israel” exclusively; instead, they hold out hope that those who are true in Israel will join

them in the great eschatological battle. In this sense, the Qumran community is

exclusively redemptive, yet remains inclusive of Israel as God’s people. Like Qumran,

Paul never unambiguously appropriates the title “Israel” (see Gal 6:16; cf. Eph 2:12).

Yet, like Qumran, Paul does engage in some redefinition of who Israel is (Rom 9:6).

Finally, Paul also has an eschatological hope that those who are true in Israel will join in

allegiance with the Christ-community. In both communities, based on this tentative

reading, there seems to be a “particularistic-inclusivism” with regard to Israel. The key

differences, of course, are that Paul’s redemptive centre is Christ, not strictly the Christ-

community, and Paul’s vision includes gentiles in allegiance with God. Again, this

reading is tentative and based on traditional readings of Paul,29 but our reading of 1 Thess

One such reading in full view of the Jewish-Christian dialogue and the foundation provided by
the New Perspective on Paul is A. Andrew Das, Paul and the Jews.

2:14-16 and the possible background of Qumran can be helpful to further exegesis on the

question of Paul and the soteriological inclusion or exclusion of Judaists qua Judaists.

The second question—is soteriological inclusivism necessary in sensitivity to

Jewish-Christian dialogue?—betrays a concerning trend within ecumenical and inter-faith

conversations: a prerequisite of pluralism or inclusivism for inclusion in the dialogue.30

In one sense, such a prerequisite makes sense: if humans only achieve true humanity

through conversion to Jesus Christ, what value does interfaith communication have? In

this view, those who are soteriologically exclusive can only be viewed as interested in the

conversion of others. This question remains difficult,31 and the protest is understandable.

But there is potentially great danger to Jews if the Jewish-Christian dialogical community

takes this opinion. If it turns out that a faithful reading of Paul and the New Testament is

that of soteriological particularism,32 this kind of pluralistic-exclusivism pushes

traditional, restorationist, and fundamentalist Christians into choosing between

faithfulness to the NT and the label of antisemitism. To suppress a theological position

that is not inherently hateful toward Jews (as most supersessionism, soteriological

particularism, or dispensational inclusivism is not) may end up doing damage, and

unnecessarily excludes people from Jewish-Christian dialogue. It is true that

soteriological particularists have no real place in formulating a new pluralistic

My own thinking about this question was sharpened in conversation with Bishop Michael
Ingham at the Canadian Theological Students Conference in Toronto, February, 2004. Ingham’s Mansions
of the Spirit: The Gospel in a Multi-faith World (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1997) remains a good
introduction to religious pluralism from a Christian perspective. Ingham was insistent that one cannot
believe in conversion and engage in dialogue. Bishop Ingham’s pluralistic fundamentalism was made clear
later that afternoon in a polemical castigation of evangelicals and other conservative the world over.
One attempt to address dialogue and mission from an evangelical perspective is by John R. W.
Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove: IVP, 1975).
For a discussion of different options for the place of Israel in Christian theology with an interest
in ecumenism, see Gabriel Fackre, Ecumenical Faith in Evangelical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1993), 147-167.

appreciation of world religions and their access to God/gods/the divine. However, all

Christians with an interest can play a role in interfaith dialogue with Jews in several

areas, including the combating of antisemitism, addressing anti-Judaism in Christian

theology, addressing anti-Christian polemic in Jewish writings, mutual religious

awareness, social action on the level of local communities, and, of course, appreciating

and understanding Second Temple Judaism and the religious phenomenon of the Jesus

movement within it. It does not seem necessary, then, to exclude soteriological

exclusivists from Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Fourth, regardless of the question of soteriology and Israel, this project has value

in adding to the Jewish-Christian dialogue in that it demonstrates that 1 Thess 2:14-16 is

not antisemitic, and will only be read as such by those who are not interested in knowing

what Paul was intimating anyway. Taking Paul’s Judaistic context seriously, and

asserting that Christians and contemporary Bible readers have rights as readers but not as

participants in first century inner-Judaistic debate, shows that we are taking seriously the

importance of cultural distance in biblical exegesis, as well as the importance of the

Jewish-Christian dialogue for the well-being of our community.

Fifth and finally, besides contributions to Jewish-Christian dialogue, the New

Perspective on Paul, and an understanding of Pauline Christianity, our project also

represents an attempt to bring together social and rhetorical backgrounds of Paul. Our

study shows that paying attention to Greco-Roman and specifically Judaistic rhetorical

conventions and social realities, as well as doing a close socio-literary reading of

1 Thessalonians, complements historical-grammatical exegesis of the text in a way that


bears significant fruit. While we have noted some cautions,33 there is enough fruit in our

method to demonstrate the need for further study in rhetorical studies,34 Paul’s Judaistic

background, Paul’s prophetic self-understanding, and Paul’s Greco-Roman socio-cultural


I am unconvinced that Greco-Roman epistolary and rhetorical conventions are prescriptive in
reading Paul; Paul and the Jesus movement are unique among Second Temple Judaists in their
interpretation of Torah.
Including the heuristic application of “New Rhetoric,” see C. Perelman and L. Olbrechts-
Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre
Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969).