Tag Archives: paul

A Narrative Reading of Apollos and Paul (Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-7)

In our Acts seminar today we had a helpful discussion on the relationship of Acts 18:24-28 and 19:1-7. It seems that a cursory reading of scholars understand Apollos as being a Christian who just needs to understand the Gospel more fully while the disciples in Ephesus are clearly not Christians who need to hear the Gospel from Paul. David Pederson in his commentary on Acts sums the discussion up nicely:

It seems likely that some of John the Baptist’s disciples retained their distinctive beliefs for a while after his death and continued to urge other Jews to prepare for the coming of the Lord by accepting the baptism offered by John. While many of the Baptist’s disciples recognized in Jesus the fulfillment of their expectations, others may have had a mixture of beliefs and practices that fell short of the understanding and experience of mainstream Christianity as portrayed in Acts. Apollos and the Ephesian ‘disciples’ appear to have emerged from that sort of background. Apollos was clearly Christian when Priscilla and Aquila met him, but the Ephesians had not come so far when Paul encountered them1

From my brief examination of the two narrative I think Luke is presenting the two narratives not necessarily to show differences and similarities of the situation but rather the two provide two stories back-to-back that shed light on one another. My reasoning below is brief and I would love to hear any feedback you may have.

When we read these two narratives together we are presented with a more complete picture of the deficiencies of only following the teaching of John the Baptist. I take the story to present Apollos as a Jew who was following in the tradition of John the Baptist and proclaiming a message of repentance.

Acts 18:24-28

First, we can note that Apollos was well-versed in the scriptures, been instructed in the way of the Lord2, presented accurately the facts of Jesus, and was fervent in spirit (Acts 18:24-25).3 On the surface this seems to portray Apollos as a Christian who is preaching but needs further teaching from Priscilla and Aquila. The key caveat is that “he only knew the baptism of John (Acts 18:25).” Without the subsequent episode of Paul and the disciples in the next story we could easily read Apollos as a Christian preacher, as many commentators do, but Luke provides a subsequent story to give a more complete picture.

Acts 19:1-7

When Paul arrives at Ephesus he is greeted with whom he thinks are disciples. Upon meeting them he asks if they have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). When they reply that they didn’t even know of the Holy Spirit Paul quickly asks them how they were baptized (Acts 19:3). They respond that they were baptized in John’s baptism. Paul then tells them that John’s baptism was only a baptism of repentance and that they needed to be baptized in the name of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:4).


This last encounter sheds light on the situation with Apollos. Apollos, who only knew the baptism of John, was, according to the narrative flow of the two stories, only preaching a baptism of repentance. Indeed, he was preaching the things of Jesus and the way of the Lord in the same way that John the Baptist was. The things of Jesus do not necessarily have to refer to the acts and teaching of Jesus but instead could be in reference to the same Messianic expectations that John the Baptist was speaking of. This preaching was in preparation for the Messiah. But the Messiah has now come and the message is to believe on Jesus in order to receive the Holy Spirit and subsequently be baptized in his name.

Luke shows how Paul laid hands on the disciples then they received the Holy Spirit and were baptized. Afterwards they went about speaking in tongues and prophesying. Luke does not need to explicitly state that Apollos was converted at this time. But the similar situation in understanding the baptism of John in the next story makes it probable that he was converted during the “more accurate teachings of the ways of God” by Priscilla and Aquila. This story fills in the gaps of Apollos. Only knowing the baptism of John is only further defined in the subsequent story with Paul and the disciples.

Thus, reading the two stories together we get a clearer picture of why Priscilla and Aquila needed to teach Apollos more accurately the things of God. His message was not contrary but just deficient. It seems a more literary reading of the two stories together gives us a complete picture of Apollos.

  1. David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (The Pillar New Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 524. ↩︎
  2. This should not be understood as a reference to “The Way” as in Acts 9:2; (16:17); 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22. This is the only place with the modifier “of the Lord,” which may imply a reference to John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord. All of references are just to “The Way,” which implies either the Christian message or sect. ↩︎
  3. I take this phrase to be an emotional state and not being fervent in the Holy Spirit ↩︎

Some Thoughts on the Love Passage in 1 Corinthians 13

The love passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is often times used in the context of a wedding ceremony explaining how a husband and wife should love each other. Not that this use of the passage is wrong but I think that by generally only using it in this context we lose some of the radical imperative for the church as a whole.

As a refresher here is the commonly quoted passage in a wedding ceremony:

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NIV2011) — 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Within the context of the letter to the Corinthians this comes at the cusp of Paul speaking about the unity of the church and the different functions of its members (1 Cor. 12). Indeed, much of the letter is a call to the unity of believers within the congregation. Sin within the congregation affects the whole of the congregation and not just the members involved (1 Cor. 5). Internal conflict between Christians should be settled within the Church because they are united by one Spirit and will judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6). Men and women of the church are called to put the needs and concerns of other believers before their own (1 Cor. 8–9). And much more could be said about the call to unity and care to others in the congregation in this letter.

So, the primary context of 1 Corinthians 13 is a call for those in the Church to show this love to one another. It makes me wonder if our use today mainly in wedding ceremonies has lessened the force of this passage. Not only should husbands and wives love each other in this way but even more so should believers in the congregation show this love to one another.

How much better off would our churches be if we rightly recognize that this is the love that members should excercise towards one another? What if we even broadened Paul’s call to love in this not only to our local congregation but to those outside as well. Love is self-sacrificial: being patient, kind and not envious, boastful, or arrogant all go against human nature. It is putting others before our own selfish desires. Indeed, love is the greatest of the Christian virtues.

Without love, we can say with the apostle Paul, “I am nothing.”

QOTD: Paul in Real Life

A good reminder…

“[Paul himself] spent years of his life on the road, carrying (presumably on pack animals) his tent, clothing and tools — not many scrolls, if any. he carried the Bible safely tucked away in his head, where it belongs. As an apostle, he often supported himself by plying his trade. he was busy, traveling, working with his hands, winning people for Christ, shepherding or coping with his converts, responding to questions and problems. And he was very human; he knew not only fighting without but also fears within (2 Cor. 7:5). Paul the completely confident academic and systematic theologian — sitting at his desk, studying the Bible, working out a system, perfect and consistent in all its parts, unchaining over a period of thirty years, no matter how many new experiences he and his churches and — is an almost inhuman character, either a thinking machine or the fourth person of the Trinity. The real Paul knew anger, joy, depression, triumph, and anguish; he reacted, he overreacted, he repented, he apologized, he flattered and cajoled, he rebuked and threatened, he argued this way and that way: he did everything he could think of in order to win some.”

Quoted in NT Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God,  p. 354 from E.P. Sanders, “Did Paul’s Theology Develop” in The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in Honor of Richard B. Hays, p. 347,

A Canonical History of the New Testament Catholic Epistles Collection Pt. 1

<img src="http://www.bookreviews.org/PublicImages/6406.jpg&quot; alt=


The other day I wrote about Nienhuis’ these concerning the Catholic Epistles and their formation along with his new proposal that James is a second century document written in order to close the Catholic Epistles collection. It is placed at the head of the collection because James was one of the most venerated of the apostles and it opens up this “division of labor” well.

Today, I just want to summarize the first half of chapter 1 and give some thoughts concerning his method.

The purpose of Nienhuis first chapter is to address the canonical formation of the Catholic Epistles. He first identifies the method/criteria that he will use and then gives his argument for using an “argument from silence.” He then argues for an early acceptance of 1 Peter, 1–2 (possibly 3) John, and Jude. He consistently points out the lack of quotation or allusion to a letter of James or 2 Peter. Throughout, he argues that there was a recognized “division of labor” (not a division of the Gospel) between James, Peter, and John against the apostle Paul. With this focus on the apostolic pillars it seems unusual that there are no explicit citations from the letter of James.

Criteria for the Patristic Citation to Scripture

Recognizing the difficulty in coming to a conclusion to whether or not one is specifically alluding to a scriptural text, Nienhuis gives four criteria that he will use throughout his book. It is of note that he does say that he “will resist the temptation to compile long lists of supposed allusions to and echoes of James from patristic writers as evidence that the letter is known and used before Origen[1].” He accuses Mayor[2] of having an expansive list of “echoes” that do not have much weight. At this point it would be helpful to engage with Mayor and show specifically why Mayor’s echoes are unwarranted[3]. He also argues that it is near impossible to show whether or not James used 1 Clement and Shepherd of Hermas or vice versa[4]. He notes that Luke Timothy Johnson shows a vast amount of parallels but “makes the mistake of simply assuming throughout that James is the earlier text[5].” With these issues in mind he follows with the four criteria he will be using for determining a patristic use of a scriptural text.

4 Criteria for the Patristic Citation to Scripture

  1. In the case of uncertain allusions and echoes there needs to be exegesis of the broader context to see whether it is plausible that the writer was using that specific text.
  2. Refuse to use any parallel that can be traced down to a common previous source[6].
  3. He states that the fathers often “cite(d) apostolic text intertextually (for example, passages from Paul are often supported by appeal to parallel passages from 1 Peter).” For these cases he will show that a cluster of verses cited sometimes have a strong similarity to a James passage but James isn’t alluded to.
  4. One must look at how the church father speaks about a particular apostle. Later he shows that often times the person James is spoken highly of but there is still no citation to the letter of James.

Much of his argument is an argument from silence. In previous studies, arguments from silence were quickly thrown about. But he makes a strong case (building on others) that a well crafted argument from silence can be useful[7].

3 Criteria for an Argument from Silence

  1. Is the silence comprehensive? He notes that if all the Fathers do not echo James then this argument for silence would provide stronger evidence for a late date of James.
  2. Is the silence counterintuitive?
  3. Is the silence contextually suggestive? Can one make a case for the why and how?

Throughout the rest of the chapter he analyzes the texts of Iranaeus of Lyon, Tertullian of Carthage, Hippolytus and Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria to show that both James and 2 Peter are not alluded to or cited.

For each text he does the following:

  1. The Accepted Texts
  2. The Letter of James
  3. Other Ancient Letters Cited
  4. The Figures of James, Peter, and John
  5. Conclusion

So far, Nienhuis has provided a solid argument that the letter of James and 2 Peter were not cited in the above works. I would like to re-read Mayor’s analysis of the use of James in the church fathers to weigh the evidence. But in the mean time his argument by itself seems plausible, defended from a detailed analysis of each text.

  1. Nienhuis, David R. Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and Christian Canon. Baylor University Press, 2007, 30.  ↩

  2. Mayor, Joseph B. Epistle of James, The. Kregel Classics, 1990, xlviii-lxviii.  ↩

  3. At some point I would like to use Nienhuis’ criteria on Mayor’s echoes to James. Much is hanging on his argument that James was not written until the second century so it would have been helpful to have some engagement instead of an one sentence rebuke of his method. Granted, throughout the chapter he does his own analysis to refute the notion that James was quoted early but to show specifically how other commentators are wrong would strengthen his argument considerably.  ↩

  4. He notes that a 1944 article by O.J.F. Seitz, “The Relationship of the Shepherd of Hermas to the Epistle of James”, actually argues for an independent source in which all three are using for certain vocabulary.  ↩

  5. Nienhuis, 31. Again, it would be helpful for some engagement with Johnson on this issue.  ↩

  6. Later he gives an example of Clement’s citation of “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” which seems to be a reference to James 4:6 but the James reference is actually a citation of Proverbs 3:34 (and 1 Peter 5:5). In this case it is difficult to prove (along with not other citations of James) that Clement was quoting James and not Proverbs or 1 Peter.  ↩

  7. For example, “The classic argument from silence sees it as reflecting reality and bases specific arguments on that. This works best when the silence is so comprehensive, yet so counterintuitive, that any general arguments needs to account for it.”, Henige, Historical Evidence and Argument, 175–176 (cited on p. 33 FN11).  ↩

Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon


I just started reading Not by Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and the Christian Canon by David Nienhuis. This is a slight revision of his doctoral thesis under Francis Watson at the University of Aberdeen. It is not a new book (2007) but I had not come across it during my James exegesis class. The book proposes an interesting thesis. Nienhuis argues that “the final form of the Catholic Epistles collection was the result of intentional design on the part of the canonizing community in hopes that it might perform a particular canonical function.”[1] But he also goes one step further in that he is arguing that James was “actually composed with this particular canonical function in mind” and it “was written with the nascent apostolic letter collection in view, in order that it might forge together a discrete collection on non-Pauline letters, one shaped according to a particular logic of apostolic authority (that is, ”not by Paul alone“) in order to perform a particular function in the larger Christian canon.”[2] In other words the letter of James is a canon conscience document, pseudipigraphly written in the second century.[3]

After reading Richard Bauckham’s argument for the letter of James being written by the brother of Jesus[4] Nienhuis’ argument of a late second century date seems far-fetched. But after reading the forward of Francis Watson I have decided that this argument may be plausible and needs to be examined.

Watson says:

As a supervisor of this thesis, I would like to put it on record that its starting-point was an interest in intertextual relationships within the Catholic Epistles collection, which long predated the development of the historical hypothesis. There was even an initial prejudice against the assumption that literary relationships were susceptible to historical explanations. If the historical hypothesis eventually took over the entire project, this was because it proved so unexpectedly cogent and illuminating–both to its author and its supervisor. This was genuinely a piece of research, and the outcome was neither foreseen nor foreseeable at the outset.

Some initial question I have are how do you address James 1:1 and its claim to be written to the twelve tribes of the dispersion? Bauckham gives a convincing argument that it was James writing for Jerusalem to the surrounding communities. Also, many (all?) of the allusions to Jesus’ teaching are are not quoted from the Gospels themselves but seem to be allusions to a Jesus tradition. If it were written in the late second century (after the Gospels were “functioning canonically for many Christians by the end of the second century”[5]) then why is there not any direct use of them? If this is a novel thesis, what historical evidence is there for this argument?

I hope to post some of my thoughts on here as I go through this book in the next couple weeks.

  1. He notes that he follows Robert Wall’s approach to the Catholic Epistles closely  ↩

  2. Nienhuis, David R. Not By Paul Alone: The Formation of the Catholic Epistle Collection and Christian Canon. Baylor University Press, 2007, 5.  ↩

  3. He makes a similar statement about 2 Peter saying, "2 Peter is not simply a pseudepigraph, but a canonically motivated pseudepigraph.  ↩

  4. Bauckham, Richard. James: Wisdom of James, Disciple of Jesus the Sage. New Testament Readings. London ; New York: Routledge, 1999, 11–28.  ↩

  5. Nienhuis, 6  ↩

Is Wisdom Synonymous with the Holy Spirit in James?

James noticeably lacks any reference to the Holy Spirit in his letter (except possibly in 4:6) but the idea of wisdom is prominent throughout. This got me thinking, “Is wisdom synonymous with the Holy Spirit in James?” Here are my preliminary thoughts based on an internal argument in James.

First, wisdom is the is from above given by the Father. James begins by saying that if anyone is lacking in wisdom that he should ask for it in faith. Later, he declares declares that every good and τέλειος gift is from above. In this context it seems that any blessing bestowed by God is a part of these gifts but in 3:17 he states that it is wisdom from above. This seems to indicate a narrowing of a good and τέλειος gift, which is the wisdom given to the one who asks in faith. Asking for the wisdom that is from above seems closely linked to Luke 11:13, which says “…how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” and Paul’s admonition “to be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).

Second, 3:17 describes what wisdom is and it is strikingly similar to the fruits of the Spirit in Gal. 3:22–23.

James 3:17: 17 ἡ δὲ ἄνωθεν σοφία πρῶτον μὲν ἁγνή ἐστιν, ἔπειτα εἰρηνική, ἐπιεικής, εὐπειθής, μεστὴ ἐλέους καὶ καρπῶν ἀγαθῶν, ἀδιάκριτος, ἀνυπόκριτος (But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.)

Galatians 3:22–23: 22 ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη χαρὰ εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία χρηστότης ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις 23 πραΰτης ἐγκράτεια · κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος. (22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.)

These are just my preliminary thoughts after recognizing the lack of reference to the Spirit and the emphasis on wisdom. I also came across an essay by J.A. Kirk (NTS, 16 (1969), 24–38) who had these same questions and develops this idea further by seeing if there is other times where the Spirit and wisdom are interchangeably in the Scriptures and other Second Temple literature. I will catalogue his conclusions in a later post.

What are your thoughts? Do you see any connection between the Spirit and wisdom?

Beale and the Latter-Day Justification

The Reformation brought a much needed understanding of justification back into Christian theology. Justification is by faith alone. This idea needed to be hammered home because it had been lost in the church. Salvation was thought of to be based on a person’s own merit and you could lose that if you weren’t working hard enough. But with every theological shift in thinking (whether good or bad) it tends to swing the pendulum to far in the opposite direction. The battle cry became “justification by faith alone” but then any talk about a “future justification” or “works playing into the future justification” makes the reformed community shutter. I am in this group but I always paused at passages like Rom. 2:6 “he will render each one according to his works” or James 2:14–26 where James says we are justified by our works. I first took the idea that this are rewards in heaven because after you have been justified works play into different levels of rewards in heaven. This never made complete sense to me but I went along with it. Then my understanding came to be that works are the fruit of a justified man but this still doesn’t fully satisfy an explanation for the passages listed above. It seems that works play into a final justification somehow but I have never really come across a clear and helpful explanation. Most of the ones I have heard are part of this fear of talking about a final justification (rightly so in some cases, depending on how you are talking about it). I am still working this out for myself but I thought the following was helpful.

This is where G.K. Beale comes in. A good friend of mine recommend that I read ch. 15 “The Inaugurated Latter-Day Justification” in his New Testament Biblical Theology because he gives a good argument/explanation for understanding justification on the last day. Beale gleans much from Richard Gaffin’s book By Faith, Not By Sight. Beale helpfully calls this the twofold understanding of justification. Here is an excerpt below:

On 2 Corinthians 4:16 – This removing of the execution of the physical penalty is a final part of the eschatological, two stage, already-not yet effects of justification

  1. Resurrection of the “inner man”
  2. Resurrection of the “outer man”. (see Rom 8:10–11, 23)

Richard Gaffin refers to this double justification as “justified by faith” and “yet to be justified be sight”. In that the complete overturning of the death penalty lies still in the future, there is a sense in which the full justification/vindication from that penalty is also still yet to be carried out, though this carrying out is ultimately an effect of the earlier declaration of justification from the complete penalty of sin that comes by faith.

He then gives the following analogy that I found extremely helpful

A man has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and has begun to serve a jail sentence. When new evidence has been adduced to demonstrate his innocence, the court nullifies the former verdict and declares him not guilty. However, because of the necessary administrative paperwork, the actual release of the prisoner does not take place for another three weeks. Thus, the prisoner’s justification occurs in two stages:

  1. The court’s announced verdict of “not guilty”
  2. The subsequent bodily release from the prison, which was a punishment of the former guilty verdict that was decisively overturned three weeks earlier, the full effects of which are now carried out.

I thought the prison analogy gave a very helpful understanding of how there can be a twofold nature of justification. In my next blog post I will give his arguments for how good works play into this final justification/vidication.

The Word of Truth in James and Paul


Since the Reformation it has been said that James and Paul contradict each other in a variety of ways especially in regards to works and faith. Regardless of where one stands on that issue there are many other places where James and Paul are very similar. One of these similarities is in James 1:18. He says “βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς λόγῳ ἀληθείας εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων” (Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures). The “λόγῳ ἀληθείας” is a reference to the Gospel in the writings of Paul. In Col. 1:5 he says, “ἣν προηκούσατε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῆς ἀληθείας τοῦ εὐαγγελίου…” (Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel,…) and Eph 1:13 “Εν ᾧ καὶ ⸀ὑμεῖς ἀκούσαντες τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας ⸁ὑμῶν” (in him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation).

James, writing to Jewish Christians, is using shorthand for the Gospel, the word of truth, that gives birth to Christian on the other hand Paul says that the “word of truth” is the gospel of our salvation. Even though Paul is more explicit it seems that James using using it in the same line of thought. James seems to think that there is no need to further explain what he means by the word of truth probably because it was already known to his recipients. God is the author of our salvation, giving birth to us a new life that brings us salvation. For James, salvation is not obtained by humans, for we can not birth ourselves but rather salvation is a “good and perfect gift from above” (Jas 1:17). Both Paul and James see the sovereignty of God in the salvation of his children.

God has changed us from being children of darkness into being children of light, not because of any merits of ours but by his own will

— Venerable Bede on James 1:18