a tale of two missions (fwd)
- This is a post of mine that was missing in FindMail archives.
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Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 13:32:53 -0400
Subject: a tale of two missions
Here's my review of Goulder that I promised a while back. Hope you will
find it interesting.
A TALE OF TWO MISSIONS
AUTHOR: Goulder, M. D.
UNIFORM TITLE: Tale of two missions
TITLE: St. Paul versus St. Peter: a tale of two missions
EDITION: 1st American ed.
PUBLISHED: Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: xii, 196 p. ; 22 cm.
This is a very well-researched, interesting, and provocative book. It is
written for the general reader, in an easy to read, even somewhat chatty
style, and has few footnotes.
Goulder certainly has a view of his own on these matters. While there are
some things there that I may tend to disagree with, still his main thesis
has a lot to recommend itself. And his main thesis is that during a
certain period of time there had been a great power struggle within the
Church, and the two main factions battling for supremacy were those of
Peter vs. Paul. It seems like the struggle was rather prolonged, for it
continued well into the second century, and later.
According to Goulder (p. 181ff), a good illustration, and perhaps the
highpoint of this struggle can be found as late as in the late second
century. This was the quartodeciman controversy that took place ca. 190
AD, and we know about it through the writings of Eusebius, Bishop of
Caesarea in the fourth century, who compiled, seemingly without too much
concern for historical objectivity, his HISTORY OF THE CHURCH. Myself,
I've always been interested in the quartodecimans, and so I was very
interested to read Goulder's treatment of this subject. According to him,
in 190 the outcome of the struggle was still up in the air, as
quartodecimans were still very strong, and perhaps predominant, in the
The main struggle as Goulder sees it involved basically, on the one hand,
the Jewish-Christian wing of the Church, headed originally by Peter and
James (the spiritual fathers of the quartodecimans of the second c.), and
based at its early high point of influence in Jerusalem before the
destruction of the city in the war of 70 AD. And on the opposite side was
the Pauline Gentile-oriented faction.
So in effect Goulder, as he himself admits (p. 194), has reopened in broad
outline the hypothesis proposed back in 1831 by Ferdinand Baur of
Tubingen. Baur's original Two-Mission hypothesis was broadly accepted at
the time, but there were some problems with it, as pointed out especially
by W. Lutgert in 1908. Baur's thesis seemed to be undermined, and its
acceptance diminished. Goulder claims to have dealt with Lutgert's
"I found answers to Lutgert's difficulties, and worked out many
modifications to Baur's proposal during the 1980s." (p. 195)
Here Goulder cites a number of his more academic publications on the
Myself, I have also explored this subject in some detail, and have posted
about this on Crosstalk. See, for example, my review of another very
useful recent work on the subject by Craig C. Hill available on my webpage
Craig C. Hill, HELLENISTS AND HEBREWS: REAPPRAISING
DIVISIONS WITHIN THE EARLIEST CHURCH, 1992, Fortress.
I don't think one can really deny that there was plenty of conflict
between these two wings of the Church, although I may disagree with
Goulder about some particulars. The letters of Paul contain good record of
some of these early struggles, and Goulder examines this evidence at
length in his book. Here's his basic summary,
"The two missions were agreed about the supreme significance of Jesus, but
they disagreed about almost everything else -- the validity of the Bible,
whether the kingdom of God had arrived or not, sex, money, work, tongues,
visions, healings, Jesus' divinity, and the resurrection of the dead, for
example." (pp. ix-x)
And Goulder deals with all of these matters in some detail.
Here's how Goulder summarizes his task:
"The book tries to tell the story of the early church, and the New
Testament which it produced. It does not attempt the much more difficult
task of isolating what Jesus taught. (p. xi)
This is certainly a very realistic approach, and I find it very
interesting that this approach for the most part parallels what Alfred
Loisy was trying to do in his scholarship. It is my impression that Loisy
was somewhat sceptical about our ability to reconstruct the _ipsissima
verba_ of Jesus, and he was on the whole rather sceptical about the
importance of the Q-source. (It seems like our rediscovery of the Gospel
of Thomas may have helped to cast some significant new light on this
subject, but this was after Loisy's time.)
Indeed, all the early Christian literature that we have is the product of
post-Easter developments. It is reasonable to suppose that it can provide
us with some good evidence for these developments. So we can be reasonably
optimistic, as historians, that this is within our reach: to reconstruct
the earliest post-Easter history of the movement, and how the books of the
NT were composed. This is, I believe, what Loisy has already done very
competently, although his most important work is still being almost
entirely neglected by scholarship at large.
It is my opinion that only after the above task is accomplished should we
try to go from this to trying to discern, however imperfectly, the
pre-Easter developments. With his book Goulder contributed significantly
to the task of understanding this earliest history of the Christian
Goulder is very good at outlining how the earliest Christian literature
betrays the many echoes of this central "Peter vs. Paul" conflict that is
the subject of his book. Goulder thinks Lk and Jn, the two later gospels,
came from the same basic exegetical school, and are in league with each
other theologically. He carefully points out how Jn betrays his clear
anti-Petrine bias (pp. 21, 51). Goulder thinks that all the NT gospels
with the exception of Mt (which is trying to "bridge the gap") are
basically Pauline in inspiration and theology.
The area in Goulder's book that was most interesting to me personally was
the one dealing with the early Adoptionism. In his book Goulder describes
this doctrine as Possessionism; the early belief, according to him, was
that the Spirit of God "possessed" Jesus (or else "adopted" him) for the
duration of his earthly career. Goulder considers that the Petrines, the
Jerusalem based Jewish-Christians, later known to the Catholic Christians
as "the Ebionites", were all Possessionists, but, according to him, Paul
broke away from this (on this I have my doubts).
RESURRECTION-ADOPTIONISM VS. BAPTISM-ADOPTIONISM
I have described on Crosstalk previously the two types of
Possessionism/Adoptionism that we come across in early Christian
literature, the Resurrection-Adoptionism, and the Baptism-Adoptionism. It
is my belief that Resurrection-Adoptionism was the earliest faith, but
that this was supplanted from early on by the Baptism-Adoptionism. So this
is one place where I tend to disagree with Goulder; by my lights, he
generally disregards some important evidence indicating this very early
evolutionary development. But otherwise, Goulder seems to be right on
target in so far as he recognises that the more traditional early
Jerusalem faith was basically Adoptionist in nature.
"...it seems clear that, even where other views are later associated with
Jewish Christians, a mainstream christology in their communities was the
possessionist interpretation of Jesus." (p. 111)
(In mainstream academic literature these sorts of views are normally
described as "Docetist", but, on p. 117, Goulder notes, quite correctly,
that this term is confusing and "encourages muddle", and that he prefers
to use Possessionist instead.)
>From the point of view of Christology, Goulder believes that thePossessionists' view was that Jesus was fully human, but was possessed by
Christ, who was a sort of an angel, and I agree with him here.
"The Jewish Christian (Ebionite) movement denied vigorously that _Christ
Jesus was revealed in flesh_: they thought that Jesus was a man of flesh
like us, and Christ possessed him." (p. 120)
But the Paulines were the first, according to Goulder, to introduce, as a
weapon in this polemic against the Adoptionists, the joint title,
Christ-Jesus, to stress the unity of the spiritual and the fleshly aspects
of Jesus. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the most influential Pauline
fathers of the Church, and Goulder finds in his writings, as well as in
the strongly Pauline Pastoral Epistles, plenty of such anti-Petrine
"Jesus is referred to about 130 times in Ignatius, and of these 120 are in
the form Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. The Pastorals have Christ alone
once only and the double name (in either order) 30 times. This at once
suggests that both authors are facing the same threat, a christology which
separates Christ from Jesus, and they are alike insisting on his unity by
constantly combining the two names. There's no question that the
opposition which the Pastoral are attacking are Jewish Christians..." (p.
Here's a nice summary:
"The Petrines had Christ leave Jesus on the cross, and Jesus resurrected
independently; ... But for the Paulines Christ Jesus was a single eternal
being, on an equality with God..."
Goulder believes that Jn is essentially a strongly Pauline gospel, since
it incorporates within itself some rather bitter Pauline anti-Petrine
polemics dating from the time of its composition. It is interesting, as
Goulder notes (p. 124), that in Jn Jesus argues not against "the Jews",
but against "the Jews who believed in Jesus" (Jn 8:31ff)! These opponents,
or so it seems, are in fact the Jewish-Christians of the early second
century who were predated into the life-time of Jesus by the author (or
the editor) of Jn.
In his Chapter 18, Goulder says that the Possessionist Christology formed
the original basis, or "underlined" Mk, which would seem to provide some
support for the pMk hypothesis. But this question is too complex to get
into here, and Goulder is generally somewhat vague on the subject.
Here's what Goulder thinks about the Resurrection of Our Lord,
"...we have reason to think that the more concrete elements in the
tradition, the eating, drinking, touching and empty tomb themes, are a
later development: they arise from the controversy with the Petrine,
spiritual-resurrection view, and are composed by Pauline evangelists,
Mark, Luke and John, to support the physical-resurrection doctrine. The
visual evidence [i.e. visual appearances] is from much earlier, and goes
back to the events immediately following he crucifixion. But they should
be understood today as internal events." (p. 179)
A very sensible view, it appears to me.
And now I will try to outline some areas where Goulder's analysis seems
The most obvious difficulties come probably as the inevitable result of
the very ambitious scope of the theory Goulder is putting forth. He is
proposing a global theory of a very far-reaching and universal opposition
between the Petrine and the Pauline factions. This seems like
over-schematization to me, in a number of areas. (I think Mark G. recently
commented that Goulder always seems to overstate his case.) It seems to me
that in a few areas Goulder is trying very hard to fit the existing data
into a rather too narrow straight-jacket of his hypothesis. And facts are
stubborn things, as has been oft remarked...
One obvious problem that I see is in regards to the question of whether or
not the Petrines/Ebionites were committed to celibacy, i.e. whether they
married. Goulder asserts that they were all "virgins" who condemned
marriage. But much historical evidence indicates otherwise. In fact we
have some reports that they were _obliged to marry_! On this, see
_Patristic evidence for Jewish-Christian sects._, by A.F.J. Klijn and G.J.
Reinink, Brill 1973. Testimonies from Epiphanius found in this volume
indicate that Ebionites had an obligation to marry (which was apparently
introduced at a later stage) (p. 33). Epiphanius even says that they had
to remarry up to 7 times. (According to Klijn, this rather unusual
requirement is not found in Pseudo-Clementine literature which is usually
considered to come from similar Jewish-Christian sources.)
Such a global theory as Goulder proposes, of necessity, will have the most
difficulties in accounting for the very early history of such a massive
split -- of such a split happening within a movement of spiritual brothers
and sisters worshipping the same founding figure. Such a movement, having
been united once, can never have a fast, clean and easy split. Myself, I'm
sure _there was_ such a split in the early Christianity, but I would
assume this split came about over great many years, in fact over
It seems to me that Goulder is best in describing this big split in its
later stages, as traceable in the developments happening in the second
century. But I find many difficulties in Goulder's attempted
reconstruction of the early stages of this split. And here comes the
problem of Paul...
I have written on Crosstalk about this already, and have stated my views.
This is a very difficult subject. It is my belief that the only way to
reconstruct the Historical Paul in a way that would make any human sense
at all, is by taking a much more conservative view about the authenticity
of many of the Pauline writings than is current in mainstream scholarship.
Of course I realize how entrenched is the opposing view, and how difficult
it is to get people even to consider such views. But, in Luther's words,
Here I stand.
It's a whole new paradigm in biblical interpretation as has been proposed
by Alfred Loisy, and further developed by Munro and others. And new
paradigms can never find a quick acceptance...
Goulder is apparently unaware of any such sceptical view re: Pauline
authorship as I've outlined above. To the contrary, his tendency is
actually to accept as authentic even more of the Pauline writings than is
customary among contemporary scholars. Needless to say, in my view, this
creates very considerable problems for Goulder. I will not dwell on this
subject here, except to give some quick examples of what I mean.
This is what Goulder writes about some of the writings of Paul, and,
certainly, this view has been parallelled by scholar after scholar who
tried to make sense of Paul. I have such citations aplenty in my notes for
the book I'm writing now:
"The arguments of the Paulines on the Law are a series of evasions,
muddles and contradictions..." (p. 37)
Well, I think, here we can go even further and say that _most of the
writings attributed to Paul_, if taken as really written by Paul, would
appear like this, in any case... I believe a claim by any mainstream
scholar really to understand Paul is a mirage, contradicted readily by the
claims of any other scholar. I don't think it is really possible to
understand the Historical Paul if we insist on accepting all these
writings as written by Paul...
All through the book, Goulder tries to struggle valiantly with these
"muddles and contradictions", and the results often seem problematic to
me. For example, on p. 148, commenting on Acts 13:13, and Rom 1:3f,
Goulder basically says Paul was an Adoptionist, and so he shared the
doctrine with the earliest Jerusalem Church, later to become designated as
Ebionite. This certainly makes sense to me. And the Adoptionist doctrine
of course presupposed a spiritual, i.e. non-physical, resurrection. On p.
168, Goulder accepts that much. He says,
"Paul taught consistently the traditional Jewish line."
But then he continues with something of a non-sequitur, describing Paul's
"Jesus had risen _physically_, his _body_ had been raised..."
Of course elsewhere Goulder says repeatedly that the Jewish-Christians
believed in no such thing... So there does seem to be a bit of confusion
here. Examples can be multiplied.
Nevertheless, if one glosses over the early history of the Big Split as
described by Goulder, and focuses on his admittedly valid insights for the
later history of this Split, his book is a great contribution to
Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku
Reality is that which, when you stop believing
in it, doesn't go away -=O=- Philip K. Dick