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Re: Acts as a Legal Brief

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  • Stevan Davies
    STEVAN ... LEWIS ... STEVAN The brief does that, and indeed, so far going along with Jan, is an argument that Xianity is Judaism and so a religio licta
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 31, 1998
      STEVAN
      > > Brief's
      > > point, though, is that laws of the Jews are not actionable in Roman courts
      > > anyhow.
      LEWIS
      > Regarding the last point, the relevant question may be what argument was that
      > meant to answer? Might the accusation have been that Paul was not a member
      > of a religio licta, to which he responds that he is in fact a Jew, albeit one who
      > is accused by other Jews of breaking some Jewish laws, over which Roman
      > courts have no jurisdiction?
      STEVAN
      The brief does that, and indeed, so far going along with Jan,
      is an argument that Xianity is Judaism
      and so a religio licta (against Jan it does not argue that it should
      supercede, but rather that it is a variety of, Pharisaic Judaism).
      And certainly it does argue what you say it does.

      But what of this problem?
      If Christianity is a religio licta then action against Christians
      should be carried forth in Jewish courts. But Luke's brief is
      vehemently against this happening and Paul himself insists
      on being tried in Roman courts wherein he argues a) that he (and his
      religion) are Judaism and religio licta and b) that he will not allow
      himself to be brought before Jewish authority. As is spelled out,
      in Acts he is capable of pulling this off, but only because of his
      exceptional status as a Jewish Roman citizen.

      STEVAN
      > > 2. One can understand the problem of the Roman
      > > administrators, for they cannot convict him of breaking Roman law, and if
      > > they release him they may well do so within an environment where he will
      > > be killed anyhow. Shipping him to Rome would save him, and them.

      LEWIS
      > I'm not sure I understand why the Roman administrators would have cared
      > about releasing him into an environment in which he might be killed. Would
      > they have cared about that danger to him?

      Yes. As Tom said, the events in Acts feature Paul's status as a
      citizen and imply that within his environment it was a very rare
      status and very prestigious. The Roman authorities are willing, if
      not eager, to have Paul given over to Jewish jurisdiction, but Paul
      refuses to permit this and because of his special status they go
      along with him. The repeated accounts in Acts of riots,
      vigilante efforts to kill him, assassination plots, juridical
      eagerness to kill him mean that to release Paul might be to connive in
      his immediate death. He evidently has the legal right to avoid this by
      going to Rome for trial and, when that right is exercised, his and
      his Roman captors' problem is solved. The account assumes that Paul
      has very substantial social status and so his death would not pass
      unnoticed in official circles.

      > > 6. I'm struck by the assumption of the fact that Paul did have
      > > legal authority to arrange the capital punishment of Christians under
      > > Jewish law. I'd been under the impression that Jewish authorities did not
      > > have capital jurisdiction.

      > Number 6 is the only question about which I have any knowledge, and that is
      > limited to knowing that the question of whether the Judaean authorities had
      > capital jurisdiction is one that has been hotly debated. It apparently is
      > possible that they had such power at some times during the Roman
      > administration, but not at others. Greater detail than that, deponent is
      > unable to provide.

      I've looked into Acts in greater detail and see that it is not at all
      clear that Paul had, or claimed to have delegated to him, capital
      authority. So this may well be a moot point.

      As a legal brief for Paul in ca. 63 Acts has a clear purpose.

      But it is not evident to me that it would have had any purpose
      later on. I just read Luke Timothy Johnson's commentary on Acts
      (latter portion) and gather that his position, surely the prevailing
      position, is that the brief for Paul would have had some relevance
      in apologetics to Roman authority in ca. 90 when Acts was supposed
      to have been written.

      Assume ca. 90.
      There is a legal problem for Christians which this brief will help
      solve. What might it be?
      Paul's problem is that he, a zealous Jew from birth, is accused
      of heresy by Jewish authority. ONLY because he is a citizen can
      he defend himself by hiding himself.
      The brief is to a Roman court, and so the central problem, Paul's
      heresy or not heresy, is moot. Whether Christianity is a
      religio licta or not is, in Acts, considered moot by Romans.
      Although Paul would have them declare him a legitimate Jew,
      and Paul argues to that end, they won't. How this will help later
      Christians I cannot say.

      And Paul is not released..... not convicted, but not released.
      So the brief assumes that Paul is possibly to be considered guilty
      under Roman law... certainly the brief argues that he should not
      be considered so, and shows lower courts agreeing, but it does
      not show the actual court with jurisdiction (from the time of his
      appeal, which is early in the story) finding him innocent.
      This does not mean he was found guilty, but does mean that we
      have an awful weak argument from precedent here, if Luke's brief
      is to be utilized by somebody else.

      One might find Acts an argument against the unmentioned execution
      of Paul... but if one thinks of USA circumstances, to argue that
      lower courts found so and so "probably" innocent, but denied
      jurisdiction and kicked the case up to the supreme court, which
      did find him guilty, you have a pretty weak argument. Not nothing,
      but not much.

      Paul's circumstances are a useful precedent... and I think it
      is the prevailing theory that Acts sets forth a useful precedent in
      law.... for Jewish Christian Roman citizens. Of whom there would
      be few, and for whom this brief, which does detail a particular case
      having to do with behavior in The Temple, would be irrelevant.

      I don't get it. Why is somebody in ca. 90 pulling this all together
      and making such a huge deal of it? It is, after all, the Grand Climax
      of the Acts of the Apostles.

      Steve
    • INTERPRES
      ... JAN: See my response to LEWIS. Paul s words in Galatians are not particularly conciliatory, and do not indicate that Paul would be satisfied with his brand
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 1, 1998
        >STEVAN
        >The brief does that, and indeed, so far going along with Jan,
        >is an argument that Xianity is Judaism
        >and so a religio licta (against Jan it does not argue that it should
        >supercede, but rather that it is a variety of, Pharisaic Judaism).
        >And certainly it does argue what you say it does.
        >
        JAN: See my response to LEWIS. Paul's words in Galatians are not
        particularly conciliatory, and do not indicate that Paul would be satisfied
        with his brand of Judaism coexisting with the traditional kind:
        "But what does the scripture say? 'Throw out the slave woman
        and her son; for the son of the slave woman will not share the father's
        property with the son of the free woman.' So then, my brothers, we are not
        the children of a slave woman, but of the free woman."
        The slave woman is "the present city of Jerusalem"--the Temple hierarchy.
        Does Paul say anywhere that accepting Jesus as the Messiah was optional for
        Jews? I'm afraid not. So what talk can there be of coexistence with
        traditional Judaism? Paul is most uncompromising in arguing that because of
        the new promise, the gentiles could now have a share in Abraham's blessing,
        but both gentiles and Jews had to attain salvation through an acceptance of
        Jesus. There was to be no coexistence with Pharisaic Judaism that denied
        Jesus' Messiahship.
        Attacks against the Temple hierarchy are present throughout the passion
        narratives, so much so that they constitute a pattern whose existence calls
        for an explanation. My hypothesis is the ambition of the early church to
        supersede the Temple hierarchy, to "throw out the slave woman and her son".

        Regards,

        Jan
      • Stevan Davies
        ... It s a metonym for Judaic leadership and approach generally. ... I can t find anything here to disagree with. But the specific question is whether this is
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 1, 1998
          > >STEVAN
          > >The brief does that, and indeed, so far going along with Jan,
          > >is an argument that Xianity is Judaism
          > >and so a religio licta (against Jan it does not argue that it should
          > >supercede, but rather that it is a variety of, Pharisaic Judaism).
          > >And certainly it does argue what you say it does.
          > >
          > JAN: See my response to LEWIS. Paul's words in Galatians are not
          > particularly conciliatory, and do not indicate that Paul would be satisfied
          > with his brand of Judaism coexisting with the traditional kind:
          > "But what does the scripture say? 'Throw out the slave woman
          > and her son; for the son of the slave woman will not share the father's
          > property with the son of the free woman.' So then, my brothers, we are not
          > the children of a slave woman, but of the free woman."
          > The slave woman is "the present city of Jerusalem"--the Temple hierarchy.

          It's a metonym for Judaic leadership and approach generally.

          > Does Paul say anywhere that accepting Jesus as the Messiah was optional for
          > Jews? I'm afraid not. So what talk can there be of coexistence with
          > traditional Judaism? Paul is most uncompromising in arguing that because of
          > the new promise, the gentiles could now have a share in Abraham's blessing,
          > but both gentiles and Jews had to attain salvation through an acceptance of
          > Jesus. There was to be no coexistence with Pharisaic Judaism that denied
          > Jesus' Messiahship.

          I can't find anything here to disagree with. But the specific
          question is whether this is Paul's view in the defense arguments
          found in the latter part of Acts.

          There I don't find Paul arguing
          this way. There he argues that his faith is a form of Pharisaic
          Judaism. It could well be said that Paul here is arguing to save
          himself and fudging things greatly, as he seems to have fudged things
          less in Romans, and not at all in Galatians. Or, if you wish to be
          a sceptic, that he's irrelevant and that Luke is making it all up.
          I'd be interested to know if you can find anything in Paul's defense
          arguments that an imaginary Paul couldn't have explained away as
          consistent with his position in Galatians. Try. You show how it's
          inconsistent and I'll be Paul and show that it isn't.

          > Attacks against the Temple hierarchy are present throughout the passion
          > narratives, so much so that they constitute a pattern whose existence calls
          > for an explanation. My hypothesis is the ambition of the early church to
          > supersede the Temple hierarchy, to "throw out the slave woman and her son".

          I'm sure it is the ambition of EVERY CULT OR SECT THAT EVER WAS
          to supercede the preceding heirarchy and take over. But the specific
          desire precisely to take over the Temple per se and run it I think is
          completely not-the-case. Analogy: it was NOT the desire of Joseph
          Smith to take over the Vatican per se although he sure would have liked to
          take over Christianity generally.

          Steve
        • INTERPRES
          JAN (earlier text) ... Judaism ... STEVEN ... JAN: It s a FORM Pharisaic Judaism alright, with the Messiah Jesus added on (e.g., Acts 28:20). Somewhat like
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 5, 1998
            JAN (earlier text)
            >> Does Paul say anywhere that accepting Jesus as the Messiah was optional
            >> for Jews? I'm afraid not. So what talk can there be of coexistence with
            >> traditional Judaism? Paul is most uncompromising in arguing that because
            >> of the new promise, the gentiles could now have a share in Abraham's
            >> blessing, but both gentiles and Jews had to attain salvation through an
            >> acceptance of Jesus. There was to be no coexistence with Pharisaic
            Judaism
            >> that denied Jesus' Messiahship.
            >
            STEVEN
            >I can't find anything here to disagree with. But the specific
            >question is whether this is Paul's view in the defense arguments
            >found in the latter part of Acts.
            >
            >There I don't find Paul arguing
            >this way. There he argues that his faith is a form of Pharisaic
            >Judaism.

            JAN: It's a FORM Pharisaic Judaism alright, with the Messiah Jesus added on
            (e.g., Acts 28:20). Somewhat like today's "Jews for Jesus."

            STEVEN:
            >It could well be said that Paul here is arguing to save
            >himself and fudging things greatly, as he seems to have fudged things
            >less in Romans, and not at all in Galatians.

            JAN: He's not fudging on the crucial element, i.e., "I have this chain on me
            for the sake of him for whom the people of Israel hope." His whole strategy
            in the upcoming trial depends on being a better, more authentic Jew than
            those who not only rejected "him for whom the people of Israel hope" but
            even plotted to have him killed.

            STEVEN:
            > Or, if you wish to be
            >a sceptic, that he's irrelevant and that Luke is making it all up.

            JAN: Given that Acts ends before it can record the verdict against Paul ,
            Acts can be regarded as "witness for the defense" material, intended to sway
            the upcoming verdict in Paul's favor. Under these circumstances, even if
            Luke makes things up on occasion, he does so in a way that's consistent with
            Paul's position and purpose.

            STEVEN:
            >I'd be interested to know if you can find anything in Paul's defense
            >arguments that an imaginary Paul couldn't have explained away as
            >consistent with his position in Galatians. Try. You show how it's
            >inconsistent and I'll be Paul and show that it isn't.

            JAN:
            Sorry, I don't really understand what's wanted of me. What "Paul's defense
            arguments" do you have in mind? I do believe the statements he is credited
            with in Acts are consistent with the passage I cited from Galatians, but
            given the purpose of Acts, the emphasis is different. The purpose of Acts is
            to show that Paul is the representative of authentic Judaism. As such it
            emphasizes Paul's Pharisaic credentials, but it nowhere tones down his
            emphasis on Jesus' messiahship, which was the point of the trial.
            >
            JAN (previously)
            >> Attacks against the Temple hierarchy are present throughout the passion
            >> narratives, so much so that they constitute a pattern whose existence
            calls
            >> for an explanation. My hypothesis is the ambition of the early church to
            >> supersede the Temple hierarchy, to "throw out the slave woman and her
            son".
            >
            STEVEN:
            >I'm sure it is the ambition of EVERY CULT OR SECT THAT EVER WAS
            >to supercede the preceding heirarchy and take over. But the specific
            >desire precisely to take over the Temple per se and run it I think is
            >completely not-the-case.

            JAN:
            Why then do the gospels try to lay all the blame for Jesus' death on the
            Temple authorities in general and the High Priest in particular? Does that
            make sense if they were written when the Temple no longer existed and there
            was no high priest in Jerusalem? The High Priest and the Temple Hierarchy
            are accused of having plotted to murder Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Is
            that just a gratuitous accusation, or one made with the definite purpose to
            have the guilty ones removed from their positions? And who else could remove
            the High Priest and the Sanhedrin except the Emperor? Now if you're Paul,
            how do you get the Emperor to act? The only way that occurs to you is to get
            the backers of the Temple to accuse you of propagating an illicit religion,
            a capital offense. It's risky, but it allows you to appeal to the Emperor
            claiming that all along you've been propagating the authentic version of
            Judaism, (the "Jews for Jesus" version) and that your accusers, those who
            reject Jesus as Messiah, are no longer to be considered as Jews. You have a
            talented hack writer write a tendentious story proving that Jesus was the
            "one for whom the people of Israel hope" and showing what callous schemers
            the Temple authorities were, and how they virtually blackmailed the kindly
            and naive Pilate into giving his consent for the execution. The first
            version has some shortcomings, so you have Luke rework it, adding some Stoic
            elements likely to appeal to people high up in the Roman hierarchy (such as
            Seneca and Burrus). Then you have Luke write the story of the shadow
            Sanhedrin (also known as the early church) being groomed to succeed the
            wicked Messiah-killers in Jerusalem. Present the credentials of some of the
            members of this shadow Sanhedrin, with an emphasis on yourself and your
            trials and tribulations.

            STEVEN:
            >Analogy: it was NOT the desire of Joseph
            >Smith to take over the Vatican per se although he sure would have liked to
            >take over Christianity generally.
            >
            JAN:
            Did Joseph Smith accuse the Pope of murder and sacrilege? If he had, I would
            start suspecting that he wanted the Pope's job.
          • Lewis Reich
            ... It might. ... It might have a purpose other than having the guilty ones removed from their positions. For esample, it might have been intended to show
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 5, 1998
              On 5 Sep 98, at 23:16, Jan wrote:

              >
              > JAN:
              > Why then do the gospels try to lay all the blame for Jesus' death on the
              > Temple authorities in general and the High Priest in particular? Does that
              > make sense if they were written when the Temple no longer existed and
              > there was no high priest in Jerusalem?

              It might.

              > The High Priest and the Temple Hierarchy are accused of having
              > plotted to murder Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Is that just a
              > gratuitous accusation, or one made with the definite purpose to
              > have the guilty ones removed from their positions?

              It might have a purpose other than having the guilty ones removed from their
              positions. For esample, it might have been intended to show that Jesus was
              not truly guilty of the offense for which he was crucified (an offense against the
              Empire) but was merely judicially railroaded. That might have the effect of
              reassuring Roman opinion, concerned that the new sect were followers of a
              rebel against the Empire.

              Lewis Reich
              LBR@...
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