Jewish tradition in Paul.

Potential backdrops for various Pauline statements.


At various times throughout his epistles, the apostle Paul seems to refer to concepts that are not immediately familiar to the modern reader. Sometimes, perhaps, those concepts would not have been familiar to the ancient reader, either (since Paul is not always crystal clear), but I think that usually there can be found some precedent for the concept in the cultural heritage behind Paul, and more often than not that heritage will be his Jewish side (though sometimes his Hellenistic side may also peek through).

Philo on the two kinds of men.

Philo of Alexandria, Allegorical Interpretation of the Law 1.31 (English translations by Yonge, first, and by Dodd, second):

The races of men are twofold; for one is the heavenly man, and the other the earthly man. Now the heavenly man, as being born in the image of God, has no participation in any corruptible or earthlike essence. But the earthly man is made of loose material, which he calls a lump of clay. On which account he says, not that the heavenly man was made, but that he was fashioned according to the image of God; but the earthly man he calls a thing made, and not begotten by the maker.

There are two kinds of men. The one is Heavenly Man, the other earthly. The Heavenly Man being in the image of God has no part in corruptible substance, or in any earthly substance whatever; but the earthly man was made of germinal matter which the writer [of Genesis] calls “dust.” For this reason he does not say that the Heavenly Man was created, but that he was stamped with the image of God, whereas the earthly man is a creature and not the offspring of the Creator.

Confer Romans 5.14-19; 1 Corinthians 15.20-22, 45-49.

The term αρσενοκοιτης.

Both in 1 Corinthians 6.9 and in 1 Timothy 1.10 the rare Greek term αρσενοκοιτης appears as the label for a kind of immoral person. The word is a compound of two Greek words, αρσην (male) and κοιτη (bed, often used euphemistically of sexual intercourse; refer to Numbers 31.17, for example). The compound word itself is not found in the LXX (the ancient Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures), but both halves are found together in Leviticus 18.22:

Και μετα αρσενος ου κοιμηθηση κοιτην γυναικος, βδελυγμα γαρ εστιν.

And you shall not lie with a man as with the intercourse of a woman, for it is an abomination.

Leviticus 20.13 also links these two words in the same manner. It is this connection in the LXX that appears to me to provide the basis for the compound word found in the Pauline epistles.

Tongues of angels.

Testament of Job 48.1-50.3:

Ουτως αναστασα η μια η καλουμενη Ημερα περιειληξεν την εαυτης σπαρτην καθως ειπεν ο πατηρ, και ανελαβεν αλλην καρδιαν, μηκετι τα της γης φρονειν, απεφθεγξατο δε τη αγγελικη διαλεκτω, υμνον αναπεμψασα τω θεω κατα την των αγγελων υμνολογιαν και τους υμνους ους απεφθεγξατο ειασεν το πνευμα εν στολη τη εαυτης εγκεχαραγμενους.

So, having stood up, one [of the three daughters], named Hemera, put on her cord just as her father had said, and she received another heart, so as to no longer think on things of the earth, but she uttered in the angelic dialect, sending up to God a hymn according to the hymnology of the angels and allowed the hymns which the spirit uttered to be represented in her garment.

Και τοτε η Κασια περιεζωσατο και εσχεν την καρδιαν αλλοιωθεισαν ως μηκετι ενθυμεισθαι τα κοσμικα, και το μεν στομα αυτης ανελαβεν την διαλεκτον των αρχων, εδοξολογησεν δε του υψηλου τοπου το ποιημα. διοτι ει τις βουλεται γνωναι το ποιημα των ουρανων, δυνησεται ευρειν εν τοις υμνοις Κασιας.

And then Kassia wrapped on her cord and had her heart changed so that she no longer worried about worldly things, and her mouth received the dialect of the rulers, and she gave glory for the making of the high place. On this account, if one wishes to know the making of the heavens, he can find it in the hymns of Kassia.

Και τοτε περιεζωσατο και η αλλη η καλουμενη Αμαλθειας Κερας, και εσχεν το στομα αποφθεγγομενον εν τη διαλεκτω των εν υψει, επει και αυτης η καρδια ηλλοιουτο αφισταμενη απο των κοσμικων λελαληκεν γαρ εν τη διαλεκτω των χερουβιμ, δοξολογουσα τον δεσποτην των αρετων, ενδειξαμενη την δοξαν αυτων. και ο βουλομενος λοιπον ιχνος ημερας καταλαβειν της πατρικης δοξης ευρησει αναγεγραμμενα εν ταις ευχαις της Αμαλθειας κερας.

And then the other one, named Almatheia-Keras also wrapped one on, and she had a mouth uttering in the dialect of those on high, since her heart too was changed when she set aside worldly things, for she spoke in the dialect of the cherubim, glorifying the master of virtues, showing forth their glory. And the one who wishes to receive the remaining traces of the day of the paternal glory will find it written up in the prayers of Almatheia-Keras.

Confer 1 Corinthians 13.1.

An angel of light.

Life of Adam and Eve 9.1-2a (Latin version):

Et transierunt dies XVIII. tunc iratus est Satanas et transfiguravit se in claritatem angelorum et abiit ad Tigrem flumen ad Evam et invenit eam flentem.

And eighteen days passed by. Then Satan got irate and transfigured himself in the brightness of the angels and went away to the Tigris river to Eve and found her weeping.

Confer 2 Corinthians 11.14.

The giving of the right hand.

In Galatians 2.9 Paul writes that the Jerusalem pillars gave him and Barnabas the right hands (δεξιας εδωκαν) of fellowship. This expression appears several times in the Maccabean literature:

1 Maccabees 6.58; 11.50, 62, 66; 13.45, 50;
2 Maccabees 4.34; 11.26, 30; 12.11, 12; 13.22; 14.19; confer 15.15.

In most or all of these instances the giving of the right hand signals a treaty or cessation of hostilities between contending (military) forces.

Jannes and Jambres (or Mambres).

Cairo Damascus A (CD-A), column 5, lines 17-19, and 4Q266, fragment 3, column 2, lines 5-7 (texts from Florentino García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition):

כי מלפנים עמד משה ואהרן ביד שר האורים ויקם בליעל את יחנה ואת אחיהו במזמתו בהושע ישראל את הראשונה׃

[כי מלפ]נים עמ[ד מושה ואה]רון ביד ש[ר ה]אור[ים ויקם בליעל את י]חנה ו[את אחיהו במזמ]תו בהר[שע ישראל את הרישו]נה׃

For in ancient times there rose up Moses and Aaron by the hand of the prince of lights, and Belial stood up Jannes and his brother by his devices during the first salvation of Israel.

Refer to 2 Timothy 3.8.

Origen, commentary on Matthew 27.9 (Latin text from page 192 of the Greek New Testament by Constantin von Tischendorf, translation my own):

Inter ea quae scripta sunt non invenitur hoc Ieremias alicubi prophetasse in libris suis, qui vel in ecclesiis leguntur vel apud Iudaeos referuntur. si quis autem potest scire, ostendat ubi sit scriptum; suspicor aut errorem esse scripturae, et pro Zacharia positum Ieremiam, aut esse aliquam secretam Ieremiae scripturam in qua scribitur. talis est autem textus apud Zachariam prophetam. si autem haec dicens aliquis existimat se offendere, videat ne alicubi in secretis Ieremiae hoc prophetatur, sciens quoniam et apostolus scripturas quasdam secretorum profert, sicut dicit alicubi: Quod oculus non vidit nec auris audivit. in nullo enim regulari libro hoc positum invenitur nisi in secretis Eliae prophetae. item quod ait: Sicut Iamnes et Mambres restiterunt Moysi, non invenitur in publicis scripturis sed in libro secreto qui suprascribitur Iamnes et Mambres liber. unde ausi sunt quidam ep{istolam} ad Tim{otheum} repellere, quasi habentem in se textum alicuius secreti, sed non potuerunt. primam autem ep{istolam} ad Cor{inthios} propter hoc aliquam refutasse quasi adulterinam, ad aures meas nunquam pervenit.

It is not found anywhere among those things which are written in his books, whether those which are read in the churches or those which are referred to among the Jews, that Jeremiah prophesied this. If, then, anyone can know [where], let him show where it is written. I suspect either that it is an error of the scripture, and Jeremiah was put down for Zechariah, or that there is some secret scripture of Jeremiah in which it is written. There is, however, such a text according to the prophet Zechariah. If, then, someone in saying these things manages to offend himself, let him see whether this is prophesied anywhere in the secrets of Jeremiah, knowing that even the apostle offers certain secret scriptures, just as he says somewhere: That which the eye has not seen nor the ear heard. For this is found placed in no regular book except in the secrets of Elijah the prophet. Likewise that which says: Just as Jamnes and Mambres resisted Moses, is not found in the public scriptures but in a secret book which is entitled the book of Jamnes and Mambres. Whence some dared to reject the ep{istle} to Tim{othy}, as if it had inside it the text of some secret book, but they could not do so. Whether anyone has refuted the first ep{istle} to the Cor{inthians} as adulterated on this account has never reached my ears.

Pliny, Natural History 30.2:

Est et alia magices factio a Mose et Ianne et Lotape ac Iudaeis pendens, sed multis milibus annorum post Zoroastren.

There is also another faction of magicians from Moses, Jannes, and Lotapea, deriving from the Jews, but many thousands of years after Zoroaster.