On the date of 3 Corinthians: early or late 2nd century?

December 13, 2015
early85

A Bodmer Papyrus (not 3 Cor)

3 Corinthians, which is an apocryphal correspondence between the Corinthians and Paul, is a text that many scholars date to the end of the second century (e.g., Benjamin White, Steven Johnston, Richard Pervo, Gerard Luttikhizen). The argument hinges upon an apparent lack of specificity with regards to the heretics mentioned: i.e., its aim is all gnostics.

On the other hand, several other scholars, myself, Rordorf, MacKay, D’Anna, believe that the heresy appears to agree with great specifity with Saturninus (early 2nd century), as described by Irenaeus, haer. 1.24.
While there has really been no extended arguments with regard to the date of 3 Corinthians, it would seem that much of what goes among late daters is either a case begging the question or a violation of Ockham’s razor. So for example, these scholars also date the Pastoral Epistles late, early second century, and therefore, 3 Cor must be even later. This is a tendency I am starting to resist. I think that  Acts of Paul is dependent on 3 Cor. But I would still wish to propose a date for 3 Cor independently of considerations about the date of the AP lest I fall into circular reasoning or into building a hypothesis on a hypothesis.
The late date of the 3 Cor also depends on viewing Irenaeus’ information of about individual gnostics with great suspicion. Still, they often admit the specific agreement with Saturninus as proposed by Rordorf–but that doesn’t matter. As Johnston writes (MA Thesis, Laval, 2004),

Il semble donc que l’on doive résister à la tentation d’identifier à tout prix et de manière précise l’hérésie combattue par la Correspondance. Par l’identification d’un groupe particulier ou d’un système particulier à partir des notices d’Irénée, le chercheur d’aujourd’hui risque d’être victime de la classification hérésiologique que construit ce dernier. Irénée s’applique en effect à présenter le gnosticisme comme un phénomène systématique, dont les nombreuxes ramifications peuvent se ramener à un ancêtre commun qui est Simon le Magicien, qu’il considère comme le “père de toutes les hérésie”.

[It seems therefore that one must resist the temptation to identify at all cost and in precise manner the heresy combatted by the Correspondence. By identifying a particular group or particular system based on the information of Irenaeus, the contemporary scholar risks becoming a victim of the classification of heresies which Irenaeus has constructed. Irenaeus makes an effort to present gnosticism as a systematic phenomenon, whose numerous ramifications can be assigned to a common ancestor, i.e., Simon the Magicien whom he consider to be the “Father of all heresy”.]
On the other hand, 3 Cor could be an early example of a text which tries to demonstrate the later heresies go back to arch-enemies of the first century; Justin lists Simon and Menander together (1 apol 56); Hegisippus lists  gnostics of the second century as deriving from Simon, Cleobius, Dositheus, and Gorthaeus (in Eusebius, h.e. 4.22.5). There is no reason to think that Irenaeus was the first to do this. The important thing is not so much whether Irenaeus accurately depicts the views of individual gnostics, but whether he accurately depicts the orthodox view of what these gnostics each taught. In that case, we have a very good match of 3 Cor’s opponents and haer. 1.24.
Late daters tend to neglect certain other criteria for dating 3 Cor.  3 Cor exhibits no specific signs of polemicizing against Marcion, no advanced form of gnosticism (like Valentinus or Basilides), and a very primitive church structure (the lead presbyter is a primes inter pares). Its orthodoxy is very similar to Ignatius of Antioch. There is thus no reasons to suggest that it doesn’t belong to the first quarter of the 2nd century, and other reasons why it doesn’t belong to the late 2nd century.

Androclus and the Lion

May 9, 2012

D. R. MacDonald writes that the story of the baptized lion in the Acts of Paul is a case of a Christian revision of the well-known tale of Androcles and the Lion (The Legend and the Apostle, 21-22):

The Ephesus story is a Christian version of “Androcles [or, more corrrectly, Androclus] and the Lion.”  …The story appears in the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius (5.14; ca. 160 C. E.). Gellius borrowed it from Apion’s Aegyptiaca (first century C. E.), but no doubt the story originated in oral tradition.  At the theater in Corinth, archeologists have discovered at the bottom of a wall enclosing the orchestra a series of painting sof human figures fighting with wild animals, under one of which is an inscription reading:  “The lion recognizes the man under the bull as his savior and licks him.”  Since the orchestra wall dates from early in the first century C. E., the tale apparently was popular lore by that time.

The citation of the inscription at Corinth is of doubtful relevance.  The bull is an element that does not appear in the Acts of Paul.  But more to the point, Apion never presented this story as “oral tradition” but rather as an event he saw with his own eyes.  And why not?  Is it so incredible that Apion, who visited Rome at the time of Gaius Caesar, could have attended a few of the circuses that were the mainstay of entertainment in Rome?  The Romans were accustomed to watching the feeding frenzies of animals trained to devour human flesh.  This was a part of the live entertainment that a visitor could also attend on a circus day in the world’s premier city.  People did retell the story, to be sure.  Apion says so (LCL, 1.427):

“Afterwards,” said he [i.e., Apion], “we used to see Androclus with the lion, attached to a slender leash, making the rounds of the shops throughout the city ; Androclus was given money, the lion was sprinkled with flowers, and everyone who met them anywhere exclaimed : ‘This is the lion that was a man’s friend, this is the man who was physician to a lion.'”

I personally doubt that Apion lied, by taking an oral story and pretended it was something that he himself had seen.  It seems more likely to me that the back story which Androclus told was part of the show.  I.e., there’s a sucker born every minute.  Androclus claimed to have been a runaway slave who healed a lion of a thorn in his paw while hiding in Africa and to have lived three years in the cave on the food that the lion provided him.  Afterwards, he grew weary of the food that the lion brought him, and he returned to civilization only to be arrested for being a runaway and condemned to die in the games.  Then, the lion whom he had succored in the cave was the very same that they released against him. So he claimed.

The whole story was probably just a concoction and that Gaius Caesar was likely privy to the actual facts.  Androclus was more likely a lion tamer and never a runaway slave.  His leading the lion around the streets of Rome on a leash afterwards basically gives it away.  Spectacles often have an element of deception in them, for people want to be shown a good time.


Weißt-du was “messy” bedeutet? On Coptic words of Greek Origin

September 10, 2011

A couple years ago I had the pleasure of meeting James Swanson, a lexicographer of the Greek NT, at a table he was manning at the book exhibition of the SBL conference.  We began to discuss the possibility of restoring a Greek text from a Coptic translation.  If a Greek word appears in the Coptic text, does that mean that that exact word was used in the original Greek?  Swanson responded, “Does the Coptic speaker even know that it is a Greek word?”  Coptic is a language with many loan words from Greek and it is highly possible, after hundreds of years or even a few years, that Coptic speakers were frequently unaware of the etymological origin of any given term.  Coptologists, such as my colleague on the Acta Pauli, Pierre Cherix, are acutely aware of this issue, and Cherix once took issue with me in a meeting of AELAC in Bex, Switzerland, when I suggested that a meaning of a certain Greek word in the Bodmer XLIX must have corresponded with Paul’s use of the term.

A friend of mine, Brigette, who has lived in Canada since her childhood, returned to her native Germany to visit family.  Her cousin brought her into her Schlafzimmer with an apology that her room was “sehr messy”.  Then, she turned to Brigette and said in all earnestness, “Brigette, weißt-du was “messy” bedeutet?”  Well, Brigette found this very funny since her cousin knew that she was fluent in English but somewhat rusty in German, having been in Canada so long, yet the cousin was apparently unaware that “messy” is a German word of English origin.  Of course, when and how the word “messy” entered the German language, I am unable to tell.

As a student of Coptic trying to do exegesis of Coptic texts, I find it a pity that Coptic dictionaries do not list Greek words.  For that one is forced to know the Greek language.  But this can lead to lexical errors, as a specialist like Cherix would be quick to point out.  Imagine if a grade school pupil looking up the word “preservative” in English, and it wasn’t in the dictionary.  The confused child approaches the teacher and says, “Teacher, I can’t find this word!”  The teacher then says, “Oh you have to look that one up in Le Petit Robert because it is a French word.”  So the little child goes to Robert and finds the following (s.v., “préservatif, ive”):

Capuchon en caoutchouc, en plastique très souple qui s’adapte au pénis, employé comme moyen de protection contre les maladies sexuellement transmissibles ou comme contraceptif. [i.e., a condom]

Unfortunately, we need a comprehensive dictionary of the Coptic language that also provides possible meanings for Coptic words of Greek origin.


Logos Acts of Paul Page

June 23, 2011

A couple days ago I noticed that Acta Pauli received a hit from a Logos.com Acts of Paul page. Logos has started a wiki of “Topics” related to biblical studies. I found that they had used material from Wikipedia but had also linked to Acta Pauli and had copied over Jeremy’s bibliography. Later, I tried to edit the page and found that I could because I am user of Logos software and I was already logged in to their website.

Since it is wiki, and anyone can edit that page (just like wikipedia), I’ve decided to keep a mirror site here. I’ve eliminated most of the primary sources and many of secondary sources that Jeremy listed in his bibliography, and have left sources directly relevant to the study of the Acts of Paul, as is appropriate for such a page. Furthermore, I’ve reorganized the bibliography into texts, translations, and studies. I have also removed the Wikipedia content, which is terribly inaccurate, and explain that the Acts of Paul consists of Episodes I-XIV and listed the principle witnesses to each section. Finally, I’ve added links to relevant material directly on the page, making it far easier to access source material directly on the internet. But it remains a work in progress.


Εις Χριστος Ιησους: One is Christ Jesus

June 9, 2011

Papyrus Hamburg 1.18 (Schmidt-Schubart)

It is interesting to note that the nomina sacra in the formula, “One is Christ Jesus” (cf. 1 Cor 8.6) includes the word “one” (εις), as is made clear by the superlineal stroke above the (unabbreviated) word.  There is a tendency for words associated with name of Jesus to be made into nomina sacra, but this is the only instance that I can find of the word “one” and I would happily receive information about other cases like this.


Acts of Paul and Thecla conference in Tarragona, Spain

March 31, 2011

A conference in Tarragona, Spain is going to take place this October on Thecla, and it will be open to the public. Thecla is the patron saint of Tarragona, and this conference looks like it will be pretty good! See the Attachment for the scholars who will be presenting on October 27-29, and also information is available, if you want to attend. Programa

Saint Thecla


Strasbourg, France

January 26, 2010

The Third International Colloquium on Christian Apocryphal Literature took place 14-16 January in Strasbourg, France (see full program).

Strasbourg is a lovely city in Alsace.  We will have to return some time during the summer.  I flew from Toronto Wednesday evening and arrived in Strasbourg only a couple of hours late, though I had feared that the striking air traffic controllers at CDG or the snow in Strasbourg would prevent my arrival.  I roomed at the Hotel de l’Esplanade with Jean-Michel Roessli (University of Sudbury), specialist on the Sibylline Oracles, who has become a good friend.  It was his suggestion that we share the costs of a room, but unfortunately I kept him awake with my sonorous snoring (so he claims, but I know that I never snore)–I hope he was compensated by the savings on the room, for I myself would pay dearly for a good night’s sleep.  Because of jet lag I dozed during some of the papers I attended, but fortunately, I did not also snore during them.

In light of the theme of conference, “Christian apocryphal literature and Jewish Scriptures”,  my paper bore the title, “L’Ancien Testament dans les Actes de Paul“.  The session was sparsely attended, though I was able to distribute few copies in English to those who were interested.  I presented it in French; I introduced the text into Google translator (English to French)–for some reason when I informed the group of this, they laughed; I then made my personal corrections and then passed it by two Francophone scholars (Dr. D. Kambou; and Roessli) for further corrections.  I was impressed that the Acts of Paul demonstrates insufficient evidence of direct knowledge of the Old Testament–the awareness of a few OT stories and brief acknowledgment of creation theology and the affirmation of the OT prophets, could be sufficiently accounted for by catechesis and other oral teaching, and testamonia (a possible written collection[s] of OT prophecies understood to be predicting Jesus Christ).  Prof. Gounelle’s article on the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles which appeared in RHPR 84 inspired my reflections; Gounelle muses in this article that perhaps the authors may not have had direct access to OT scriptures due to the high cost of procuring a copy (see p. 7).  I suggest too that the author of the Acts of Paul, who was a priest according to Tertullian, may not have had a copy of the OT in his parish.  I will later provide a copy of the English here at Acta Pauli, while submitting my French text for publication in the papers.

Prof.  Gounelle has summarized how the papers will be published:

The proceedings will be published as following :
– The lectures on the Bible in Antiquity and Middle Ages will be published in a separate volume, in the Series « Histoire du texte biblique » (Editions du Zèbre).
– The six papers on the Pseudo-Clementine novel will be published in the Series « Cahiers de Biblia Patristica » (Strasbourg).
– The remaining lectures and papers will be published by the « Editions du Zèbre », in one or two volumes.

A glance at the program will show that the majority of the papers, including my own, were in French.  As a result, some of the English speakers tend to form a clique.  I was thus able and happy to meet a couple of delightful Hungarian scholars (Dr. Gyorgy Gereby; Peter Toth) and a fellow American Dr. Helen Rhee, whose own work on the apocryphal acts (in Early Christian Literature: Christ and Culture in the Second and Third Centuries) I was heretofore unaware.

The proceedings will be published as following :

– The lectures on the Bible in Antiquity and Middle Ages will be published in a separate volume, in the Series « Histoire du texte biblique » (Editions du Zèbre).

– The six papers on the Pseudo-Clementine novel will be published in the Series « Cahiers de Biblia Patristica » (Strasbourg).

–  The remaining lectures and papers will be published by the « Editions du Zèbre », in one or two volumes.