Friday, September 25, 2009

Was Paul Really an Apostle? (NT Pod 14)

I released another NT Pod earlier this week, episode 14, in which I asked, "Was Paul really an "apostle"?" The simple answer is, of course, that it depends on your definition. As far as Paul was concerned, this is a table-thumping issue -- and he is insistent on the point (1 Cor. 9:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Gal. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Rom. 11:13; 2 Cor. 12:12, among other texts). But were others reluctant to give him this designation? I argue that this is the case and that you can see this underlying texts like 1 Cor. 9:1-2, 1 Cor. 15:8-11 and 2 Cor. 12:12, among others. And the extraordinary thing here is that the controversial nature of Paul's designation as "apostle" continues at least until Luke writes Acts. Luke is famously reluctant to give his hero the designation "apostle" (only twice, of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 14:4 and Acts 14:14), no doubt because it does not satisfy the definition he gives earlier (Acts 1:21-26).

4 comments:

Richard Fellows said...

Paul applies the term "apostle" to Apollos (1 Cor 4:9), two anonymous delegates (2 Cor 8:23), and Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), so perhaps it is anachronistic of us to assume that the term implied status (in Paul's usage).

I am not sure that 1 Cor 9:1-2 supports your case. It is very doubtful that Paul is defending his authority here, or that his apostleship has been questioned. See Garland or Thiselton (who has 4 pages on the history of scholarship on the term 'apostle').

I would also question whether Paul uses the term 'apostle' in Gal 1:1 to assert his authority. There is little evidence in Galatians that Paul's authority was under attack. Rather it was his motivation and sincerity that was questioned.

Nowadays the term 'apostle' is reserved for those 'greats' in the earliest days of Christianity. Perhaps this is why people assume that the term is a badge of honor/authority and (unlike Luke) get hung up on who is or is not an 'apostle'. Perhaps if we translated it as 'messenger' we would not so easily fall into that trap.

Geoff Hudson said...

If Paul was an apostle, who were the "super-apostles"? (2 Cor.11.5)

James said...

The best evidence (reports adduced 15-30 years earlier than any other) for the resurrection has be Paul’s. Nowhere is his evidence more probative than in I Corinthians 15.

Paul both equates his witnessing of the risen Jesus to that of others’, and allows, as he must, that unlike theirs, his occurred some considerable time--months, years--after Jesus’ death. This late occurrence, he says, was “as if to one untimely born.”

it has to weaken the case for the historicity of the resurrection that I Corinthians 15: 3-8 suggests Paul draws no distinction between the encounters with Jesus the Sunday after the crucifixion and his own months or years later. It’s not hard to imagine that on the road to Damascus, no one but Paul saw the risen Jesus--that it was an internal psychic phenomenon. If so on the road to Damascus, why not on the road Emmaus, too?

Mark Goodacre said...

Many thanks for the interesting comments -- appreciated.