Paul of Tarsus

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An examination of Paul of Tarsus life and teachings as seen in the early Christian literature likely written by him

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Paul of Tarsus Unit Three

The Interpretation of Paul in the Early Church


1. Earliest receptio

            a) within Pauline churches in the NT era

            b) 2 Pet 3.14-16:

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

            c) 1 Clement (AD 96) [Clement of Rome]

ch5: But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes (lit.: ‘those who have been athletes’). Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

Ch. 47: Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you.

Knew: Romans, 1 Cor, (2 Cor), Gal, Eph, Phil, (Col), 1 Tim, (2 Tim), Tit. 'Clement thus provides us with indications that the greater part, if not the whole, of the Pauline corpus was probably known to him and was present to his mind as he wrote in c. 95 AD.' (Hagner, p. 237)

            d) Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35 – 107)

Ephesians 12.2: Ye are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found [JBL: ‘in whose footsteps I would fain be found treading’], when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.

Romans 4.3: I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles of Jesus Christ, but I am the very least [of believers]: they were free, as the servants of God; while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus Christ, and shall rise again emancipated in Him. And now, being in bonds for Him, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain.

knowledge of 1 Cor, also Eph and Phil (possibly Romans and 1 Timothy).

e) Bibliography: A. Lindemann, 'Paul in the Writings of the Apostlic Fathers', Paul and the Legacies of Paul (ed. W.S. Babcock; Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), pp. 25-45. A. Lindemann, Paulus im ältesten Christentum: Das Bild des Apostels und die Rezeption der paulinischen Theologie in der frühchristlichen Literatur bis Marcion (BhT 58; Tübingen: JCB Mohr, 1979). D.A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome (NovTSS 34; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973). H. Rathke, Ignatius von Antiochen und die Paulusbriefe (TU xcix; Leipzig, 1967). C. Trevett, A Study of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria and Asia (SBEC 29; Lewiston/New York/Lampeter: UPA, 1992). W.R. Schoedel, Ignatius of Antioch: A Commentary on the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985).


 Paul of Tarsus

2. The collection and preservation of the Pauline epistles: Corpus, codex, canon Formation

I.                    Importance of Seven churches (Muratorian Canon, Hippolytus of Rome, Cyprian, Victorinus of Pettau): used to prove catholicity of the Pauline Epistles (Dahl; [cf. Rev 2-3; Ignatius by Polycarp]

a.       Muratorian Canon (late 2nd Cent): ‘the blessed Apostle Paul himself, imitating the example of his predecessor, John, wrote to seven churches only by name in this order [Cor, Eph, Phil, Col, Gal, Thess, Rom] … although he wrote twice of the Corinthians and to the Thessalonians, for reproof, nevertheless [it is evident that] one Church is made known to be diffused throughout the whole globe of the earth’.

b.      Cyprian (d. 258), Testimonia, I.20: Cyprian, Treatises [scroll down]

‘Whence also Paul wrote to seven churches; and the Apocalypse sets forth seven churches, that the number seven may be preserved; as the seven days in which God made the world …’

c.       Victorinus’ Commentary on Rev 1.20 (d. c. 304): [Victorinus' Commentary on the Apocalypse]

‘In the whole world Paul taught that all the churches are arranged by sevens, that they are called seven, and that the Catholic Church is one. And first of all, indeed, that he himself also might maintain the type of seven churches, he did not exceed that number. But he wrote to the Romans, to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Thessalonians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians; afterwards he wrote to individual persons, so as not to exceed the number of seven churches.’

d.      repeated pattern of using proof-texts (Is 4.1; 1 Sam 2.5): ‘these texts have led to a combination of the argument for the catholicity of the Pauline letters with traditional, originally Jewish, lists of testimonia for the importance of the number seven’ (Dahl, p. 166)

II.                 The Reception of the Pastoral Epistles

a.       C. Looks, Das Anvertraute bewahren: Die Rezeption der Pastoralbriefe im 2. Jahrhundert (Munich: Herbert Utz, 1999):

                                                                           i.      Lists all possible allusions: Apostolic Fathers, Gnostic Writings, Apologists, Jewish-Christian texts, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Didache, apocryphal writings, martyrdoms, etc. Rated one scale from certain to impossible.

                                                                         ii.      Conclusions: fairly widespread influence on early Christian thought, with allusions form throughtout the Pastorals, alongside some commonly quoted texts such as 1 Tim 1.4f, 10, 15-17; 2.4-6. NB. 6 certain uses and 25 fairly probable in Irenaeus.

                                                                        iii.      From review by J.K. Elliott JTS 52 (2001) 877-879.


LINK: On the Letter Collection:  {The previous text is a slightly edited version of the first chapter of Paul's Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1994) by David Trobisch.}

D. Trobisch, Paul's Letter Collection: Tracing the Origins (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994): basically an english summary of Die Entstehung der Paulusbriefsammlung: Studien zu den Anfängen christlicher Publizistik (NTOA 10; Göttingen: Vandenhock & Ruprecht, 1989). Cf. also Die Endredaktion des Neuen Testaments: Eine Untersuchung zur Entstehung der christlichen Bibel (NTOA 31; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1996).

N.A. Dahl, ‘The Particularity of the Pauline Epistles as a Problem in the Ancient Church’ Neotestamentica et Patristica (FS O. Cullmann; ed. W.C. van Unnik; NovTSS 6; Leiden: Brill, 1962), 261-271. Reprinted (with some additional notes) in N.A. Dahl, Studies in Ephesians (ed. D. Hellholm et al; WUNT 131; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000), 165-178.


3. Marcion

a)      Introduction

b)       Harnack’s famous statement that ‘in the 2nd century only one Christian—Marcion—took the trouble to understand Paul; but. . .he misunderstood him.’ (‘Marcion and the Marcionite Churches’, 534, cf. also History of Dogma [ET of 1893; 3rd German edition; 7 vols.; London, Williams & Norgate 1894-1899] vol. 1, 89).

c) Euaggelion and Apostolikon

            d) Antitheses:

18.The Jewish Christ was designated by the Creator solely to restore the Jewish people from the Diaspora; but our Christ was commissioned by the good God to liberate all mankind.

19. The Good is good toward all men; the Creator, however, promises salvation only to those who are obedient to him. The Good redeems those who believe in him, but he does not judge those who are disobedient to him; the Creator, howeve, redeems his faithful and judges and pubishes the sinners.

20. Cursing characterizes the Law; blessing, the faith.

29. The Christ [of the OT] promises to the Jews the restoration of their formaer condition by return of their land and, after death, a refuge in Abraham's bosom in the underworld. Our Christ will establish the Kingdom of God, an eternal and heavenly possession.

30. Both the place of the pubishment and that of refuge of the Creator are placed in the underworld for those who obey the Law and the Prophets. But Christ and the God who belongs to him have a heavenly place of rest and a haven, of whcih the Creator never spoke.

e) Bibliography: Primary Text: E. Evans (ed.), Tertullian Adversus Marcionem (OECS; Oxford; Clarendon, 1972; 2 vols) [Also in ANCL]

A. von Harnack, Marcion: Das Evangelium vom fremden Gott. Eine Monographie zur Geschichte der Grundlegung der katholischen Kirche (2nd ed.: TU 45; Leipzig, Hinrichs 1924); partial ET: Marcion: the gospel of the alien God [ET: J.E. Steely & L.D. Bierma; Durham NC, Labyrinth 1990]). U. Schmid, Marcion und sein Apostolos: Rekonstruktion und historische Einordnung der marcionitischen Paulusbriefausgabe (ANTF 25; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1995) [pp. 315-319 for reconstructed Greek text]. P.M. Head, ‘The Foreign God and the Sudden Christ: Theology and Christology in Marcion’s Gospel Redaction’ Tyndale Bulletin 44(1993), pp. 307-321 J. Knox, Marcion and the New Testament. An Essay in the Early History of the Canon (Chicago, University of Chicago Press 1942). E.C. Blackman, Marcion and his influence (London: SPCK, 1948). R. Joseph Hoffman, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity: An Essay on the Development of Radical Paulinist Theology in the Second Century (AAR Academy Series 46, Scholars Press, Chico, Cal. 1984). NB. Chap. 7 is on "the Constructive Themes of Marcion's Paulinism" (Note critical review by C.P. Bammel in JTS 39 [1988] 227-232); also ‘How then Know This Troublous Teacher? Further Reflections on Marcion and his Church’, SecCent 6 (1987-1988) 173-191.

            f) LINK:


Paul of Tarsus

4. Gnostic Interpretations

a)   Very complex phenomena, diverse groupings, fragmentary information (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. I; Nag Hammadi Codices).

b)   General: began using allegory, first writers of commentaries (e.g. Heracleon on John)

c)   positively revere Paul as “the apostle”, a gnostic intitiate and primary source of gnostic theology (e.g. Ep. Rheginos, 45.24; see Pagels, pp. 1-12)

e.g. ‘they say that Valentinus was a hearer of Theudas, and Theudas, in turn, a disciple of Paul’ (Clement, Strom. VII.17)

d)   provide evidence for Pauline collection; e.g. Gospel of Philip (Valentinian): knows Romans, 1 & 2 Cor, Gal, Phil [poss. Eph, Thess, Col, Heb] (opposed to pastorals).

e)   reflect Pauline themes, e.g. election, identification with Christ’s death and resurrection, freedom

f)    Claimed that Paul’s own secret wisdom tradition provides hermeneutical key.

Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III.2.1): “When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce: wherefore also Paul declared, "But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world."(1 Cor 2.6)

E. Pagels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters (Phil.: Fortress, 1975).


5. Irenaeus

            a) Introduction

            b) Christian Bible

            c) Irenaeus and Paul:

i) orthodox rule of faith (e.g. Adv. Haer. I.10.1)

ii) Christ's headship and Idea of Recapitulation (Eph 1.10)

iii) Adam typology (Adv. Haer. III.18.2, 7; III.21.10; V.16.3) (cf. Rom 5.12ff).

            d) Adv. Haer. IV.41.4:

Inasmuch as the words of the Lord are numerous, while they all proclaim one and the same Father, the Creator of this world, it was incumbent also upon me, for their own sake, to refute by many [arguments] those who are involved in many errors, if by any means, when they are confuted by many [proofs], they may be converted to the truth and saved. But it is necessary to subjoin to this composition, in what follows, also the doctrine of Paul after the words of the Lord, to examine the opinion of this man, and expound the apostle, and to explain whatsoever [passages] have received other interpretations from the heretics, who have altogether misunderstood what Paul has spoken, and to point out the folly of their mad opinions; and to demonstrate from that same Paul, from whose [writings] they press questions upon us, that they are indeed utterers of falsehood, but that the apostle was a preacher of the truth, and that he taught all things agreeable to the preaching of the truth; [to the effect that] it was one God the Father who spake with Abraham, who gave the law, who sent the prophets beforehand, who in the last times sent His Son, and conferred salvation upon His own handiwork--that is, the substance of flesh. Arranging, then, in another book, the rest of the words of the Lord, which He taught concerning the Father not by parables, but by expressions taken in their obvious meaning (sed simpliciter ipsis dictionibus), and the exposition of the Epistles of the blessed apostle, I shall, with God's aid, furnish thee with the complete work of the exposure and refutation of knowledge, falsely so called; thus practising myself and thee in [these] five books for presenting opposition to all heretics.

e) Bibliography: R.A. Norris, 'Irenaeus' Use of Paul in His Polemic Against the Gnostics' in W.S. Babcock (ed.), Paul and the Legacies of Paul (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), pp. 79-98. R. Noormann, Irenäus als Paulusinterpret. Zur Rezeption und Wirkung der paulinischen und deuteropaulinischen Briefe im Werk des Irenäus von Lyon (WUNT II/66; Tübingen: JCB Mohr, 1994). M. Jouron, ‘Irenaeus’s Reading of the Bible’ in The Bible in Greek Christian Antiquity (ed. & trans P. M. Blowers; The Bible Through the Ages volume 1; Notre Dame: Uni Notre Dame Press, 1997), pp. 105-111. D.L. Balas, 'The Use and Interpretation of Paul in Irenaeus's Five Books Adversus Haereses' Second Century 9(1992), 27-40.; D. Jeffrey Bingham, ‘Irenaeus’s Reading of Romans 8’ SBL Seminar Papers (2001), 131-150.

C. Mount, Pauline Christianity: Luke-Acts and the Legacy of Paul (NovT SS 104; Leiden: Brill, 2002).


f) LINKS:        Useful page on Irenaeus and the NT Canon: DAVIS

Online Catholic Encyclopedia on Irenaeus



6. Jewish-Christian Opponents

a)   “The Ascents of James” (from Epiphanius, Panarion 30.16.6-9)

“Ebionite” view of Paul: ‘they declare that he was a Greek, child of a Greek mother and a Greek father. He went up to Jerusalem, they say, and when he had spent some time there, he was seized with a passion to marry a daughter of the priest. For this reason he became a proselyte and was circumcised. Then, when he failed to get the girl, he flew into a rage and wrote against circumcision and against Sabbath and Law.’

b)   Kerygmata Petrou:

Paul as deceiver, supposed commission based on a dream or vision:

‘can anyone be qualified by a vision to become a teacher? And if you say it is possible, then why did the Teacher remain for a whole year conversing with those who were awake? How can we believe even your statement that he appeared to you? How could he have appeared to you, when your opinions are opposed to his teaching? No, if you were visited and taught by him for a single hour and thus became an apostle, proclaim his utterances, interpret his teachings, love his apostles – and do not strive against me, who was his companion. For you have “opposed” me, the firm Rock, foundation of the church. If you were not an enemy, you would not slander me and disparage what is preached by me, as if I were obviously “condemned” and you were approved. If you call me “condemned”, you are accusing God who revealed Christ to me, and are opposing the one who blessed me because of the revelation. Rather, if you really want to work together for the truth, first learn from us what we learned from him. Then, having become a disciple of the truth, become our fellow-worker.’

G. Luedemann, Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989 [ET 'with emendations and additions by the author' of Paulus der Heidenapostel, vol. 2: Antipaulinismus im frühen Christentum (FRLANT 130; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983)]



7. Supplements to the Canon: Apocryphal Acts and Letters

a)   Acts of Paul (c. 190?): model ascetic, miracle worker.

Description: ‘a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel’.


E.M. Howe, 'Interpretations of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla', Pauline Studies (FS F.F. Bruce; eds. D.A. Hagner & M.J. Harris; Exeter: Paternoster, 1980), pp. 33-49; D. MacDonald, 'Apocryphal and Canonical Narratives about Paul' in W.S. Babcock (ed.), Paul and the Legacies of Paul (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1990), pp. 55-70; R. Bauckham, 'The Acts of Paul as a Sequel to Acts', The Book of Acts in Its Ancient Literary Setting (BAFCS 1; eds B.W. Winter & A.D. Clarke; Carlisle: Paternoster & Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 105-152; Peter W. Dunn, The Acts of Paul and the Pauline Legacy in the Second Century, Cambridge PhD, 1996.


b) Epistle to Laodiceans; Epistle to the Alexandrians; Third Epistle to the Corinthians

V. Hovhanessian, Third Corinthians: Reclaimnig Paul for Christian Orthodoxy (StBL 18; New York: Lang, 2000) places the composition of the apocryphal Third Corinthians in late second century period, associating it with other examples (such as Irenaeus and Tertullian) of a rehabilitation of Paul among the orthodox (given its warnings against general gnostic heresies).

G. Luttikhuizen, ‘The Apocryphal Correspondence with the Corinthians and the Acts of Paul’ in The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla (ed. J.N. Bremmer; SAAA 2; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996), 75-91.

J.K. Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993)


Paul of Tarsus

The Interpretation of Paul in the Patristic Period


1. Introduction:

a) Bible interpretation the fundamental activity for church Fathers.

b) Alexandrian (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Dionysius, Didymus the Blind, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa); Antiochene (e.g. Theophilus of Antioch, Diodore of Tarsus, John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Ephraem); and Western tradition (Tertullian, Tyconius, Amrosiaster, Jerome, Augustine): legal.

c) A. Souter, The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul [Oxford: Clarendon, 1927]: Marius Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Augustine, Pelagius.

C.H. Turner, 'Greek Patristic Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles' in James Hastings (ed.), A Dictionary of the Bible (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1904), Extra Volume, pp. 484-532.

T. Oden (general editor), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (Downer's Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999-).

K. Staab, Pauluskommentare aus der griechischen Kirche aus Katenenhandschriften gesammelt und herausgegeben (NTAbh 15; Münster: Aschendorff, 1933) [containing Eusebius of Emesa, d. 359; Severianus of Gabala, d. c. 409; Gennadius of Constantinople, d. 741; Oecumenius of Triccs, VI; Photius of Constantinople, d. 891].

M.F. Wiles, The Divine Apostle: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles in the Early Church (Cambridge, 1967). [studies commentaries on Paul up to Augustine]



2. Origen (185-254): Alexandrian scholar

a) introduction: Christian parents, AD 203: head of catechetical school in Alexandria (as 17 y.o.), after 231 founded school in Caesarea (tortured under Decius in 250).

b) Textual critic: Hexapla (LXX; vast), commentaries on most books of Bible, many homilies; but many of his writings have not survived (condemned as a heretic), although some ideas preserved in Latin works of Jerome and Rufinus.

c) Origen expounded all the Pauline epistles (except 1 & 2 Timothy)

d) Exegetical method based on analogy from Pauline anthropology (cf. 1 Thess 5.23): threefold level of meaning:

i) literal, verbal meaning (cf. body, offensive and foolish, need to rise above to ...)

ii) moral sense (cf. soul

iii) mystical/allegorical sense (cf. spirit; hidden, allegorical)

e) For general statement see On First Principles, esp. Book IV.

e) Issues raised in Preface to Romans (from Bammel):

f) Centrality of Phil 2.6-11 in Origen's theology: self-emptying, humiliation and submission, restitution of glory; magnificent expression of love (of God).

R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event: A Study of the Sources and Significance of Origen's Interpretation of Scripture (London: SCM, 1959). K.J. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen's Exegesis (PTS 28; Berlin & New York: Lang, 1986). M.F. Wiles in The Cambridge History of the Bible (eds. P.R. Ackroyd & C.F. Evans; Cambridge: CUP, 1970), pp. 454-489. Ruth Clements, ‘(Re)Constructing Paul: Origens Readings of Romans in Peri ArchōnSBL Seminar Papers (2001), 151-174.

Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans Books 1–5. 6–10 (trans T.P. Scheck; 2 vols: The Fathers of the Church 103–4; Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2001, 2002) . ET based on Latin abridgement by Rufinus, as edited by C.P.H. Bammel, AGLB; 1990–98.


Victorinus Afer, Caius/Fabius Marius (4th Cent)

a)      Leading rhetor and teacher in Rome, became a Christian, resigned in 362 (conversion narrated in Augustine, Confessions, viii.2-5), wrote on doctrinal and philosophical topics; see C. Gore in DCB IV.1129-38 for general information.

b)      Mostly wrote on doctrinal and philosophical themes (e.g. Trinity; ET: M.T. Clark, Theological treatises on the Trinity (Fathers of Church 69; Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1981)

c)      Wrote commentaries on Eph, Gal and Phil: earliest Latin commentaries on Paul; A. Souter, The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul [Oxford: Clarendon, 1927], 8-38; W. Erdt, Marius Victorinus Afer, der erste lateinische Pauluskommentar: Studien zu seinen Pauluskommentaren im Zusammenhang der Wiederentdeckung des Paulus in der abendländischen Theologie des 4. Jahrhunderts (Europäische Hochschulschriften. Reihe 23, Theologie; 135; Frankfurt am Main : P.D. Lang, 1980).

d)      For texts: J.P. Migne, PL 8.993-1310; A. Locher (ed), Marii Victorini Afri Commentarii in epistvlas Pavli ad Galatas ad Philippenses ad Ephesios (Leipzig : Teubner, 1972); F. Gori (ed),  Marii Victorini Opera. Pars II, Opera exegetica (CSEL 83; Vindobonae : Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1986).

S.A. Cooper, Metaphysics and morals in Marius Victorinus' commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians: a contribution to the history of neoplatonism and Christianity (American university studies. Series 5, Philosophy 155; New York: P. Lang, 1995).

S.A. Cooper, Marius Victorinus's Commentary on Galatians for Oxford Early Christian Studies (forthcoming)

e)      ‘He is an intensely ardent follower of St. Paul, devoted to St. Paul’s strenuous assertion of justification by faith’ (Gore, DCB IV.1137). Justification by faith is especially emphasized in the commentaries (Gore), also Cooper: ‘the first to insist on justification by faith (the scholarly literature is a bit misleading on this point)’ (email 18.9.2002)

f)       Not highly rated as commentator: Lightfoot said 'his work on the Galatians is obscure, confused, and as an exposition almost worthless, but it now and then preserves a curious fact ... and is interesting as the earliest extant commentary on this epistle' (Comm. Gal., p. 231f). Gore wrote: ‘he has no special merits as a commentator … almost all his importance lies in his metaphysical and speculative capacities’ (DCB IV.1131; cf. 1129-38)



3. John Chrysostom (347-407)

a) born in Antioch (interesting and complicated life, layman, monk, preacher at Antioch, bishop of Constantinople), Antiochene emphasis, "golden-mouthed"

b) Greatest of early preachers; 4,000 manuscripts, many spurious works; but over 700 sermons extant. 'Chrysostom is undoubtedly the most comprehensive commentator on the Pauline epistles from the patristic era' (Mitchell, p. 5).

c) earliest extant commentary on Galatians (homilies on other Pauline letters): Text: Migne, PG 61.611-682; F. Field, Oxford, 1852. ET: Commentary of St. John Chrysostom, Archibishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (ET G. Alexander; NPNF I.13; Grand Rapids, 1956), pp. 1-48. [An earlier ET was Oxford: J.H. Parker, 1845]

d) grammatical and historical principles, personal individuality of writers of Scripture; interpretation followed by practical ethical application (Cranfield: 'with his moral earnestness and deep compassion for the poor and weak, Chrysostom is specially strong in exposition of the explicitly ethical sections and specially alert to the ethical implications of what is not primarily ethical', Romans, p. 33).

e) Value as native Greek speaker.

f) Especially devoted to Paul:

"I love all the saints, but I love most the blesed Paul, the chosen vessel, the heavenly trumpet, the friend of the bridegroom, Christ. And I have said this, and brought the love which I have for him out into the public eye so that I might make you, too, partners in this love charm."

g) Used portrait of Paul for inspiration. Key to John's exegesis is 'author-centred devotion to the person of Paul', involving technique of portraiture and biography (Mitchell). Isidore of Pelasium: 'if the divine Paul had taken up the Attic tongue to interpret himself, he would not have done it differently than this renowned man has done' (Ep. V.32; from Mitchell, p. 31). Thus legend of Paul inspiring Chrysostom (pictures).

h) Very controversial (to modern hearers) on Jews and Judaism, and role of women.

notable that he supports the feminine interpretation of Junia in Rom 16.7 (‘To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles - just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was deemed worthy of the title of apostle’.)

i) popular and valued by Erasmus, Luther, Calvin.

R.L. Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late 4th Century (Berkeley: Uni Cal Pres, 1983). Margaret M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (HUzT 40; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000).



4. Theodore of Mopsuestia (350-428)

a)   studied under Diodore, bishop of Tarsus from 378

b)   biblical scholar and commentator; best re. Of Antiochene school: emph on literal and historical interpretation to discover author's intention (opposed allegorical method because undermined historical truth of OT narrative; unlike Paul in Gal 4.24)

c)   392-428, bishop of Mopsuestia (Cilicia)

d)   exegetical task: ‘explain words that most people find difficult’ … ‘give the meaning and do it concisely’, defend orthodoxy (Intro to Comm. John)

e)   wrote commentaries on almost every book of Bible (most are lost); Psalms, Minor Prophets, John (in Syriac trans.), epistles of Paul (Latin trans.)

f)    On Paul: attention to detail, concern for continuity of argument; grasped much of Paul’s theology, especially his eschatological perspective. Opposed predestinarian strands in Paul (e.g. Rom 9.18 is objector whom Paul is refuting, rather than Paul himself).

g) Commendations

g)   Edition ed. H.B. Swete (2 vols; CUP, 1880, 82); ET of comm. on Gal 4.22f in J.W. Trigg (ed.), Biblical Interpretation (Message of the Fathers of the Church, vol. 9; Wilmington, DE: M. Glazier, 1988), pp. 172-177; Discussions: H.B. Swete in Dictionary of Christian Biography (ed. W. Smith & H. Wace; London: J. Murray, 1887), vol. 4, pp. 934-948; M.F. Wiles in The Cambridge History of the Bible (eds. P.R. Ackroyd & C.F. Evans; Cambridge: CUP, 1970), pp. 489-510.



5. Jerome (347-420)

a)   brought up in Christian home, wealthy, good education: Latin, Greek (as Christian in Rome), Hebrew (from converted Jew in Antioch, Ep. 125.12)

b)   Commissioned by Pope Damasus to work on revision of Latin Bible (produced Vulgate)

c)   Bethlehem: teaching, writing, translating, etc.

d)   On Commentaries:

We have to do now with Commentaries. In those which I wrote upon the Ephesians I only followed Origen and Didymus and Apollinarius, (whose doctrines are very different one from another) so far as was consistent with the sincerity of my faith: for what is the function of a Commentary? It is to interpret another man's words, to put into plain language what he has expressed obscurely. Consequently, it enumerates the opinions of many persons, and says, Some interpret the passage in this sense, some in that; the one try to support their opinion and understanding of it by such and such evidence or reasons: so that the wise reader, after reading these different explanations, and having many brought before his mind for acceptance or rejection, may judge which is the truest, and, like a good banker, may reject the money of spurious mintage. Is the commentator to be held responsible for all these different interpretations, and all these mutually contradicting opinions because he puts down the expositions given by many in the single work on which he is commenting? (Apol. I. 16)

e)   Jerome’s commentaries important: learning, variety: philological, textual, historical, exegetical comments; also preserve early exegetical traditions (esp. imp. On OT prophets). Not particularly influential on Paul (not clear that Pauline Epistles in Vulgate stems from Jerome)

f)    Commentary on Galatians (Latin text: Migne, PL 26.331-468; broadly dependent upon Origen?). See M.A. Schatkin, 'Influence of Origen upon St. Jerome's Commentary on Galatians' Vig. Chr. 24(1970), 49-58.

g)    General: H.F.D. Sparks, 'Jerome as Biblical Scholar' in The Cambridge History of the Bible (eds. P.R. Ackroyd & C.F. Evans; Cambridge: CUP, 1970), pp. 510-541; J.N.D. Kelly, Jerome: his life, writings, and controversies (London: Duckworth, 1975).



6. Augustine (354-430)

a) Paul’s writings instrumental in Augustine’s conversion

b) did not know Hebrew, didn't really have an independent knowledge of Greek. Exegetically speaking it is the doctrine underlying the text, rather than the words of the text themselves that is important.

c) attracted to allegorical interpretation in earliest writing (e.g. On Genesis against the Manichees, 389); later, esp. under influence of Ambrose and Tyconius’ Seven Rules of Interpretation (cf. DC III.30.42-56), more historical and typological.

d) Principles stated in De Doctrina Christiana (final form 427).

e) Importance of truthfulness of Scripture. Makes interpretation of Scripture possible.

f) note on Rom 5.12: in quo omnes peccaverunt “in whom all sinned” (never seems to have consulted Greek: exegesis in conformity with Christian Doctrine). In general fondness for allegory and use of Latin text based on Septuagint produced strange interpretations.

g) Importance of preaching (DC IV)

h) Ecclesial context of interpretation (not individual); goal is development of faith, hope, love; Christocentric interpretation.

i) specifically influential in areas such as interpretation of Romans 7.7-25 (as a Christian); and Rom 9 (predestinarian); cf. controversy with Pelagius over free will etc.

j) Controversy with Jerome about Antioch incident (Gal 2.11-14): Exercise.

R.J. O'Connell, 'When Saintly Fathers Feuded: the Correspondence between Augustine and Jerome' Thought 54(1979), pp. 344-364. C. White, The Correspondence (394-419), between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo (SBEC 23; Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1990).  Joseph W. Trigg, Biblical Interpretation (Message of the Fathers of the Church vol. 9; Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1988), pp. 250-95 on "Augustine/Jerome, Correspondence."

k) Bibliography:

Duane W.H. Arnold & Pamela Bright, ed., De Doctrina Christiana: a Classic of Western Culture, Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, vol. 9 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995). Gerald Bonner, "Augustine as Biblical Scholar," in The Cambridge History of the Bible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970) vol. 1, pp. :541-563. Pamela Bright, ed., Augustine and the Bible, Vol. 2 of Bible Through the Ages (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1999. Joseph T. Lienhard, "Reading the Bible and Learning to Read: The Influence of Education on St. Augustine’s Exegesis," St. Augustine Lecture 1995, Augustinian Studies 27 (1996) 7-25. Bertrand de Margerie, An Introduction to the History of Exegesis: Vol. 3: Saint Augustine, trans. Pierre de Fontnouvelle (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Publications, 1995). Gerhard Strauss, Schriftgebrauch, Schriftauslegung und Schriftbeweis bei Augustin (BzGBH = BtrGeschHerm 1; Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1959). Frederic van Fleteren, ‘Augustine's Principles of Biblical Exegesis’ August. Stud. 27,2(1996)107-128.  R.F.Collins, ‘Augustine of Hippo Precursor of Modern Biblical Scholarship’ Louvain Stud.  12(1987)131-151.

Eric Antone Plumer, Augustine’s Commentary on Galatians: Introduction, Text, Translation and Notes (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

P.L. Fredriksen (ed.), Augustine on Romans. Texts and translations of Expositio 84 Propositionum ex Epistola ad Romanos and Epistolae ad Romanos Inchoata Expositio. Society of Biblical Literature, Text and Translation Series (Chico: Scholars Press 1982). Articles by Fredriksen: "Allegory and Reading God’s Book: Paul and Augustine on the Destiny of Israel," Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period, ed. Jon Whitman (Leiden: Brill 2000) 125-149; "Excaecati Occulta Iustitia Dei: Augustine on Jews and Judaism," Journal of Early Christian Studies 3 (1995) 299-324; "Augustine on History, the Church, and the Flesh," Saint Augustine the Bishop, ed. F. LeMoine and C. Kleinhenz (New York: Garland Publishing 1994) 109-24; "Vile Bodies. Paul and Augustine on the Resurrection of the Flesh," Biblical Interpretation in Historical Perspective. Studies in Honor of Karlfried Froehlich, ed. M. Burrows and P. Rorem (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1991) 73-85; "Beyond the Body/Soul Dichotomy. Augustine on Paul against the Manichees and Pelagians," Recherches augustiniennes XXIII (1988) 87-114. An earlier version appears in Paul and the Legacies of Paul, ed. William S. Babcock (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press 1990); "Paul and Augustine. Conversion Narratives, Orthodox Traditions, and the Retrospective Self," Journal of Theological Studies N.S. 37 (1986) 3-34.



Augustine of Hippo

In 1465, Benozzo Gozzoli completed a cycle of 17 scenes from the life of Augustine which surround the choir of the Church of Saint Augustine in the now-tourist-ridden hilltown of San Gimignano. Those frescoes survive in a remarkable state of preservation: Gozzoli's Augustine



7. Some General Issues:

a) Style

b) Manuscripts: whole NT; objects of devotion

c) Lections and Liturgy

d) Iconography

e) Gen 49.27



J.T. Lienhard, ‘The Exegesis of 1 Cor 15, 24-28 from Marcellus of Ancyra to Theodoret of Cyrus’ Vig. Chr. 37 (1983) 340-359.

F.M. Young, ‘Christological Ideas in the Greek Commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews’ JTS 20 (1969), 150-163.



J.A. Cerrato, Hippolytus between East and West. The Commentaries and the Provenance of the Corpus (Oxford Theological Monographs;  Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2002). (From BMCR 2003.10.02 Eugene V. Afonasin)

A clear and detailed survey of the early Christian exegetical commentary (Chapter 2) aims to show that this tradition, rooted in the Hellenistic grammatical and philosophical as well as Jewish Biblical commentaries -- the latter, in its turn, also adapted from Hellenistic academic models -- was typical for the Eastern rather than Western Christian communities. This assumption, if correct, would be a strong argument for the Eastern milieu of the Hippolytan commentaries.


Chapters 11-13 aim to demonstrate the Asian milieu of apocryphal sources of the commentaries. Paul is the dominant apostolic figure of the commentaries. The commentaries rely on Pauline eschatological and soteriological doctrines and other minor points. It is important that the apocryphal works associated with Paul and widely circulating in the east are known and approved by the author of the Daniel Commentary.







Trinity College of Biblical Studies   

Trinity College of Biblical Studies-Undergraduate Studies

Trinity College of Biblical Studies Library

An examination of Paul of Tarsus life and teachings as seen in the early Christian literature likely written by him


Paul of Tarsus Unit Three