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[HJMatMeth] Re: Persecuting what?

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    Let me begin by focusing on Paul and Damascus, Stevan. I am impressed by the fact that Acts and Paul both mention Damascus, but I do not accept as historical
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2000
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      Let me begin by focusing on Paul and Damascus, Stevan. I am impressed by the
      fact that Acts and Paul both mention Damascus, but I do not accept as
      historical Luke's claim that Paul was on a mission from the Jerusalem
      authorities to persecute Christians in Damascus. I find that much more
      likely as Luke's theological geography in which everything goes out from
      Jerusalem until, at the end of the Acts, Rome takes over as the center of
      Christianity (for Luke). The way I read Paul's almost off-hand mention of
      Damascus in Gal 1:17 is that he was living there at the time. I understand
      his mention of himself as persecutor in Gal 1:13 & Phil 3:6 as follows. He
      probably had an official function within Damascus synagogue(s) in terms of
      general discipline for the Jewish community. The big question then becomes
      this for me: What were some Christian Jews saying/doing that was so
      offensive that the synagogue(s) would approve Paul's persecution? I am not
      imagining by that term any lethal possibilities, but punishments could
      extend from the use of flogging if one wished to stay within the community
      or excommunication by being cast outside (I would consider that a quite
      devastating punishment within its ancient cultural milieu). It does not seem
      to me that claims for Jesus' messiahship would be adequate to create such
      "persecutions." In fact, the only thing I can imagine that would have
      brought down such punishments on Christian Jews was the claim that, since we
      are now in the apocalyptic consummation, God is bringing in the Gentiles
      into fellowship with us Jews and not demanding circumcision from their males
      and probably not any other purity considerations either. (It might even have
      involved, although this is much more speculative, a calendrical change of
      the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.) I am, however, much more confident of
      that first reason for persecution than of the second. What happened to Paul
      in his "conversion" was that he turned from persecuting Christian Jews for
      Gentile-as-Gentile inclusion, not just into letting them alone, or becoming
      a Christian Jew, or becoming a Christian Jew with a mission to his fellow
      Jews, but becoming, precisely, the apostle of the Gentiles. He was, in other
      words, as he saw it, called by God to do exactly what he had been
      All of that concerns Damascus alone. You mentioned "Paul's persecution of
      the Christian Churches of God in Judea down to Damascus." I do not see the
      independent sources saying that or at least saying it as clearly as they do
      about Damascus persecution (Acts: Paul and Stephen? historical?). Paul
      mentions, in Gal 1:22 that he was "not known by sight to the churches of
      Christ in Judea," but then in 1 Thess 2:14 he mentions that those churches
      had been persecuted. I always thought that had something to do with the
      persecutions that we know about only from Acts concerning, for example,
      Stephen, James, or Peter. In any case, those latter two individuals fit well
      into the situation under Herod Agrippa I in the early 40s. But I do not see
      Paul involved here (unless, as mentioned, with Stepen?). You may be seeing
      something that I do not, but in general, I don't find any claims that are
      convincing enough to think of Paul persecuting "in Judea down to Damascus."

      >From: "stevan davies" <sdavies@...>
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Persecuting what?
      >Date: Thu, Mar 2, 2000, 1:24 PM

      > Thank you and Jeff for arranging and carrying through this seminar.
      > I'd like to close by asking you what it was that Paul was persecuting.
      > Paul and Luke, who are generally considered independent sources,
      > report Paul's persecution of the Christian Churches of God in Judea
      > down to Damascus. This persecution took place within a few years
      > of Jesus' death and according to Luke explicitly and Paul implicitly
      > was carried out with authority from high Judean officials. I assume
      > that these reports are true and am very curious as to what you think
      > he was persecuting both in sociological terms (what were these
      > churches of God in Judea?) and content terms (what did they do
      > that would justify legal sanctions by Judean officials)?
      > Stevan Davies
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