Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does 'Second Century Josephus' Help Explain the Story of the Conversion of St. Paul?

Another possible line of interpretation which emerges from my discoveries regarding the second century author of the Jewish War and his development of a theme in his writing that the Jewish people suffered from following the example of Saul is the possibility that this author was also the one who established the Luke-Acts corpus (owing to a number of arguments cited in a previous post).

I have argued at length that there is no internal evidence from the Pauline letters themselves to suggest that the name of the apostle was 'Saul' in a past life. This claim is wholly developed from the Acts of the Apostles and its author who shares a number of characteristics with the original author of the Josephan corpus). There is no reason to suggest that the tradition that Paul was originally called 'Saul' went beyond the claims of Acts and as such it was certainly unknown to the Marcionites who only ever identify him as 'the Apostle' or 'Paul.'

Is it possible then that the development of Josephus as one who turned his back on the para-suicidal example of Saul that afflicted the Jewish people is in turn sublimated into the figure of Paul who literally changes his name away from 'Saul' and thus sheds his inherent Jewishness and goes over to become a Christian?

I think there is something to this but I haven't worked out all the details yet but here is a CATHOLIC WEBSITE arguing FOR a connection between the two:

Various expositors have noticed the links between Saul and Paul. "Is Saul also among the prophets?" was directly matched by 'Is Saul of Tarsus also among the Christians?'. The way Paul was let down through a window to escape persecution was surely to remind him of what King Saul had done to David (1 Sam. 19:12). They were both Benjamites, and perhaps his parents saw him as following in Saul's footsteps. And it seems Paul was aware of this. The implication is that Paul consciously changed his name from Saul to Paul ('the little one'). It is difficult to avoid seeing the link with 1 Sam. 15:17: "When thou wast little (Heb. 'the littlest one') in thine own sight" , God anointed Saul and made him the rosh, the chief, over Israel. Maybe Paul's parents intended him to be the rosh over Israel; and it seems he would have made it had he not been converted. I suggest that 1 Sam. 15:17 rung in Paul's mind. He saw how he had persecuted Christ, as Saul had David. He saw the self-will within him as it was in Saul. Yet he went on to see the tragedy, the utter tragedy, of that man. He saw how pride had destroyed a man who could have achieved so much for God. And he determined that he would learn the lesson from Saul's failure (as he determined to learn the lessons from those of John the Baptist and Peter). So he changed his name to Paul, the little one. What influence his sustained meditation on one Old Testament verse had upon him! It affected some basic decisions in his life; e.g. the decision to change his name. There was a time, according to the Hebrew text of 1 Sam. 15:17, when Saul felt he was 'the littlest one' (as demonstrated in 1 Sam. 9:21; 10:22). This was so, so pleasing to God. Saul at that moment, captured as it were in a snapshot, as the obvious, anointed King of Israel hid among the baggage, knowing in his heart he was no way suited to be the leader of God's Israel, was Paul's hero. And Paul alludes to it when he says he is less than the least of all saints, least of the apostles, chief of sinners (1 Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15- note the progressive realisation of his sinfulness over time). He earnestly resolved to be like Saul was at the beginning. When he describes himself as " anointed" (2 Cor. 1:21) he surely had his eye on 1 Sam. 15:17 again; when Saul was little in his own eyes, he was anointed. Paul tried to learn the lessons from Saul, and re-apply Saul's characteristics in a righteous context. Thus Saul was jealous (1 Sam. 18:8; 19:1), and Paul perhaps had his eye on this when he describes himself as jealous for the purity of the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:2). " I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision" (Acts 26:19) is surely a reference back to Saul's disobedience (1 Sam. 15:22).

Source here
I am not citing this analysis because I necessarily agree with all of it however I am always encouraged when people from a different perspective than me come to a similar conclusion that I do. 

When given a moment I can refine this argument that Acts and Jewish War were written by the same second century author in 147 CE for the same purpose - i.e. the purification of 'Saul' from Israel. For the now I have to finish what I started and continue with the comparison of Jewish War and Pseudo-Hegesippus.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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