If Part I is correct, that Paul lived and wrote in the 1st century BCE, the implications are immense. [For Part 1 see Tag "Reassessing Paul"] What would it mean? Here is a suggested paradigm for understanding Paul in an entirely different context. Does the shoe fit?


Teaser: John Dominic Crossan wrote, "There was a human being who was called 'Divine,' 'Son of God,' 'God,' and 'God from God,' whose titles were 'Lord,' [sovereign] 'Redeemer,' 'Liberator,' and 'Saviour of the World. Most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to...” [See below for the answer].

To review PART I: Paul likely lived and wrote in the first century BCE, and was likely a combatant or agent involved in the Jewish civil war. His incidental terms and people, as mentioned in his letters, seem to be consistent with a timeline in the 40’s to 30’s BCE. If this chronology is correct, Paul would never have heard of Jesus of Nazareth and couldn’t have been writing to Christians as we would recognize them.

Since I am suggesting that Paul was writing in a military context, I will list some straightforward facts about the Roman military of the time as background for how Paul might fit in:
*The legions were only open to citizens of Rome.
*Auxilliaries were military units made up of non-Romans, usually provided by vassal kings.
*The military units were frequently made up of both volunteers and conscripts. At any point when the number of volunteers was inadequate, regions were required to levy or call up draftees.
*Military units were usually posted a good distance away from their homes.
*Cohesion in the ranks was paramount, and the soldiers referred to each other as brothers. The term "love" in the sense of closeness in the band of brothers would be appropriate.
*All meals were shared communally.
*Each legion or auxiliary had specialized individuals exempted from the grunt work of daily training, digging latrines, erecting palisades, etc. These were known as immunes. The immune status applied to positions such as commanders, augers and haruspices (those who read the signs and omens), medicus (healers), weapon/armor workers, etc.
*Legionaries could marry, but had to have special permission.
*Camp followers went everywhere with the legions. These were virtual traveling towns comprising families, tavern keepers, prostitutes, gambling tent keepers, etc.
*The command center for the legions was known as the Praetorium.
*Each legionary took an annual loyalty oath to the imperator.
*Each soldier was required to carry two palisade stakes (stauros) on their backs which formed the structure for the packs of their essentials.
*Retiring veterans were promised land as their inheritance in one of the colonies.
*Loyal soldiers believed that their reward after death would be an afterlife in the Fields of Elysium.
*On Caesar’s orders, Jews were exempted from mandatory legionary service due to the necessity of sabbath observance, prohibiting marching on that day. This did not impact their voluntary service or the auxiliaries.
*On several occasions, Jewish auxiliaries were provided to Roman commanders, including Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius, Caesar Augustus (Octavian), and Pompey. They took part in the Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, the Egyptian war, the second Roman civil war between Caesar Augustus and Marcus Antonius, and took part in its finale with the sea battle of Actium. Julius Caesar had even credited the Jewish auxiliaries with saving his life in Egypt and granted many privileges to the Jews. Antipater and his son Herod both led these Jewish auxiliaries.


*48 BCE Jewish auxiliaries take part in final battle of Pharsalus in the Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, fighting on the losing side against Caesar. In defeat, they changed allegiance and received clemency from Caesar in return for their oath of loyalty.

*47 BCE Jewish auxiliaries rescue Caesar in Egypt: From Julius Caesar: The People's Dictator by, Luciano Canfora Print publication date: 2007, Edinburgh 2012 “ Caesar owed his salvation to the Jews, and this he never forgot.The decisive battle that lifted the siege in which he was trapped in Alexandria was the battle of Pelusium, followed immediately by that of the Jewish Camp. Here Antipater decided the battle against the Egyptians in Caesar's favour, after the Egyptians had overwhelmed the flanking force commanded by Mithridates. According to Josephus Flavius it was Antipater who forced the surrender of Pelusium and entered the city first.”

*31 BCE: Herod’s armies were fighting in the sea battle of Actium on the side of Marcus Antonius. Hundreds of vessels were shipwrecked.

*30 BCE: Herod and his auxiliaries changed sides from Antony to Octavian (Augustus) following Antony’s loss. They received clemency and swore an oath of allegiance to Octavian.

Some of the interesting parallels which I will draw are complicated by the letters of Paul being written in Greek whereas the Roman sources we have were written in Latin. However, reasonable translations of Greek terms back into Latin can be made.

***So why would the question even come up for Paul possibly being a soldier? Well, first because he says so himself... twice.

Phil 2:25 "But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs."

And in Philemon 2, he references "Archippus our fellow soldier". He then goes on to say that "I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do" v. 8.

The first reaction will no doubt be that this should be taken metaphorically (think “Onward Christian Soldiers”). But is that warranted? A general rule is that if there is no reason inherent in the text to take something symbolically/metaphorically, it should be taken literally.  If one takes off the traditional glasses, it would seem rather plain that this is just a straightforward recognition of his status as a superior ranking soldier; taken literally. The phrase "I could order you" certainly sounds more like a chain of command statement than a Christian suggestion. The only reason to take the phrase "fellow soldier" any way other than literally is the prior assumption that Paul and his fellows were not soldiers.

In 2 Cor 2:16 Paul writes, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in “Christ’s” triumphal procession," This illustration references a Roman general returning from a great victory, given a Triumph in Rome, parading with the legionaries, and displaying the spoils of war and plunder, as a spectacle to wow the crowds. It is a military allusion which would be familiar to soldiers. Is it metaphorical?

What is the real situation related to eating together and eating food offered to idols? Is it really likely that a collection of peasants and slaves (the traditional picture of Christians) would have the time and energy to get together after work, perhaps traveling miles from one farm to another? That they would be having fights over grocery shopping? The idea of a group of happy believers getting together over meals is idyllic, but not realistic. However, if they were soldiers, regularly sharing meals would be the rule, not the exception. Observant Jewish soldiers with their food laws and those regulating association and having contact with food sacrificed to idols would have been an issue. This would have been an issue whether their fellows were non-observant (hellenized) Jews or gentiles. The same would be the case with those who were circumcised mixing with those who weren't. How would they be mixed together? Following battles or other calamitous circumstances, holes in the ranks, squads, and cohorts would be filled or combined with other depleted groups. Unit cohesion would be jeopardized. Would this be a viable explanation for the otherwise odd issues faced by Paul's readers?

Images related to waging war, engaging in battle, acting as soldiers:

Paul used images related to military campaigning, as well as weaponry images. In his earliest (extant) letter, he claims that he brought the gospel message to Thessalonica έν πολλω άγωνι (1 Thes. 2:2). άγών was used in 4 Maccabees 9:23-24 to refer to fighting for one's religion. Athletic metaphors such as αθλησις (striving, contending) and άγών (struggle) were already used by Josephus and, in 4 Maccabees, for military struggle and resistance. However, athletic and military aspects of struggle and contest cannot be separated in the Greek and Roman worlds, and the metaphors' grounding status appears to have been the military setting.

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, a section heavily laden with war-related notions, Paul used seven references linked to the military domain, expressing what transpires in battle. He describes his struggle as waging war (στρατευόμεθα) with weapons (τά ... όπλα ... ού σαρκικά) capable of destroying strongholds (καθαίρεσιν οχυρωμάτων). According to Paul, he also destroys arguments (λογισμούς καθαιροΰντες) and every proud obstacle (παν ύψωμα έπαιρόμενον), in the interest of obeying "Christ", takes every thought captive (αΐχμαλωτί^οντες), while ready to punish (έν έτοίμω εχοντες έκδικησαι) disobedience.

The imagery is indicative of an awareness of Roman military strategy. However, when Paul describes the process of waging war with four participles dependent upon στρατευόμεθα, namely καθαιροΰντες (tearing down), αΐχμαλωτί^οντες (taking captive), έπαιρόμενον (destroying) and εχοντες (being ready), and using terms rare in the New Testament, such as οχύρωμα (stronghold) and ΰψωμα (elevated rampart), the ubiquity of Empire and an awareness of the army's methods are clear. Military imagery reflected and bolstered a consciousness informed by a prevailing presence of military power or action, suggesting that it was not a once-off use of such imagery due to the opposition in Corinth.

He announces that, once he has crushed the opposition, he will take as prisoners the thoughts of the Corinthians in order to assure their submission to Christ. His phrasing implies a military preparedness to punish (10:5-6).

He exclaims in 1 Cor 15:57 “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Relying on military images to assert his authority in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6  - maybe recalling Corinth's demise in 146 BCE at the hands of the Romans - as well as in his other letters, attests to the significance of the images for Paul.

Some military imagery was even connected to divine agency. In 2 Corinthians 2:14, Paul used the notion of triumphal entry of a victorious army (θριαμβεύω) in the aftermath of a military campaign. His deity is portrayed as a victorious military commander leading a procession of those who are loyal (faithful). At times, Paul wrote about his fellow workers in military terms. In Philippians 2:25, Paul referred to his co-worker Epaphroditus as a brother and a fellow-soldier (Έπαφρόδιτον ... συστρατιώτην μου). In Philemon 2, Paul refers to Archippus as a συστρατιώτης. In fact, Paul used military imagery for law. Romans 7:23 refers to the law that άντιστρατευόμενον (wages war) and αΐχμαλωτί^οντα (takes prisoners).

Images related to weapons and instruments of war

Paul used battle and soldiery motifs, but also wrote about believers bearing weapons and wearing armour (2 Cor. 6:7, 10:4; Rom. 13:12), donning breastplates and helmets (1 Thes. 5:8). In 2 Corinthians 6:7, believers are armed with weapons of proper actions (των όπλων της δικαιοσύνης) in both hands.

Subtle imagery:

Word studies, however, do not pick up on all military imagery. In 1 Corinthians 14:8, he refers to the bugle (σάλπιγξ, often translated as "trumpet") as instrument, with its not indistinct (αδηλον) sound and its call to prepare for battle (παρασκευάσεται εις πόλεμον). He also used σάλπιγξ in both 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. More tellingly, Paul appears to have used military imagery in situations where he felt compelled to defend himself. Defending his apostleship in 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 (8), he invoked a military setting with συλάω (to rob) and οψώνιον (rations; cf. 1 Cor. 9:7). While, in Homer, συλάω referred to drawing a bow, it was later used with the meaning of victorious soldiers seizing arms, despoiling fallen bodies in war, or pillaging cities. οψώνιον again were the provisions or rations a soldier received while on active military service. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, σκόλοψ (often translated as "thorn") also describes a "stake" used by the Roman army to impede the enemy's progress or the instrument used to torture enemy soldiers. Paul used the term for an army marching in order (στοιχέω); four out of the five times it is found in the New Testament (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 5:25, 6:16; Phil. 3:16). Other terms such as υπερνικάω (prevail completely, Rom. 8:37) or φρουρέω (to guard [with a garrison]; unquestionably used literally in 2 Cor. 11:32.

In Romans 13:1-5 Paul wrote,
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
Notice several things here:

*Paul demands his readers to submit to the governmental authorities. By definition, these are Roman military authorities.
*Paul states that God has given (Roman) authorities legitimacy.
*Paul forbids rebellion against the (Roman) authorities.
*Paul orders obedience to (Roman) laws.
*Paul considers (Roman) authorities to be servants of God.
*Paul considers the (Roman) sword (military force) to be God’s agency for good.
*He states that only criminals have need to fear those authorities.

If he had been writing in the traditional timeline about Jesus of Nazareth, and if he had been aware of the tradition that Rome had executed Jesus as a wrongdoer, how could he have written the above? Paul is deeming Rome, its government, its military, and its system of justice as being God-ordained and those it punished were miscreants who deserved their punishment. Paul himself speaks as one who has the kind of authority to require this perspective.

The question must arise, Does Paul utilize so many military terms and allusions because the military presence was so ubiquitous in the empire that everyone would be familiar with them, or does his usage of the terms so frequently indicate that his readers were fully immersed in that language because they themselves were members of the military, retired veterans, and family?

His own status sometimes appears as a prisoner of war. His themes are "pistis" and "charis", known to Christians as faith and grace. However, context must guide understanding.

First "pistis": While it can mean belief, it's more common usage is loyalty, or an oath of loyalty. Paul constantly admonishes his readers to remember when they first exercised "pistis" and to remain steadfast in their "pistis". Somehow, this seems less like belief and more like an initial oath and continued loyalty. In the Roman military, the soldiers annually gave an oath of loyalty to their imperator. Additionally, in the Roman civil wars wherein legions fought legions, the losers were regularly given clemency in return for swearing an oath to the conquering imperator.

Second "charis": Grace, while an accurate translation is perhaps too full of theological implications. Let's substitute the word "clemency". The meaning is the same, but in making the substitution, we can now view the word without prejudice. As pointed out above, soldiers surrendering to other Romans were given clemency in return for their "pistis", their oath of loyalty to the conquering imperator or legate. This occurred when Julius Caesar conquered Pompey. In fact, Caesar's "clementia" was his regular tactic, and it brought him the adoration of the legions and his eventual deification. It was his defining characteristic. Later, Caesar Augustus (Octavian) gave clemency to the losing soldiers of Marcus Antonius which included the Jewish auxiliaries of Herod who had fought for Antonius. Herod's soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Caesar Augustus and were thus spared. Herod also kept his throne by switching allegiance from Antonius to Caesar.

Above: Coin Indicating Caesar’s Clementia.

Above: Coin Celebrating Caesar’s Clementia and his temple.

But how else does Paul identify himself in military terms? Over and over, he calls himself an "apostolos" (note that Acts never gives Paul that status). But what is meant by "apostolos"? For the second century author of Acts, it was one of the original 12 (minus Judas plus Matthias) who saw the physically resurrected Jesus. But that shouldn't be read back into Paul's letters. He recognizes the existence of many “apostoloi”, some of whom are his enemies.

First, we should note that in the NT, ἀπόστολος is rarely translated from the Greek text. It is transliterated into "apostle" without translation. It has become a technical term to be defined by theological understanding rather from prior attested usage. The reason for this may be because a translation from prior attestation may not make good sense, due to the expectations of the translators.

From A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND OTHER EARLY CHRISTIAN LITERATURE, ἀπόστολος: "In classical Greek; naval expedition, also its isolated cases it means ambassador, delegate, messenger."

ἀπόστολος is a compound word, with the prefix "apo" and the root word "stolos". From Lidell & Scott, ETYMOLOGY Noun στολος: military, naval, fleet or a ship. Appending "apo" to "stolos" indicates the commander of the fleet or ship. Secular Greek writer Demosthenes gives a word picture of "apostolos" noting that it was used to describe a cargo ship (sometimes called "apostolic") sent out with a specific shipment to accomplish a mission. In secular Greek apostolos was used of an admiral of a fleet sent out by the king on special assignment.

Does Paul offer more context to indicate how he might be using the term?

1. 2 Cor 11:25 "I have been shipwrecked three times, and I even had to spend a night and a day in the sea"  Three shipwrecks would seem to be an extraordinary number for the occasional passenger. Would it not be more likely for a regular or frequent seaman?

2. 1 Cor 12:28 "And God has placed in the assembly first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracle workers, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues." Now in Greek "Καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ Θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν." I will offer an alternate translation not assuming the traditional Christian baggage:

πρῶτον ἀποστόλους:  first, commanders
δεύτερον προφήτας:  second, augers/haruspices (readers of signs)
τρίτον διδασκάλους:  third, teachers or trainers
ἔπειτα δυνάμεις:  next, those with strength, fighters
ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων: next, medics
ἀντιλήμψεις:  assistants
κυβερνήσεις:  helmsmen, steering, pilotage of a ship. This is a certain meaning of the word.
γένη γλωσσῶν: translators

Note from Univ of Chicaco lexicon δύνᾰμις [ῠ], ἡ, gen. εως, Ion. ιος, Ion. dat. δυνάμι: (δύναμαι):— power, might, in Hom., esp. of bodily strength, εἴ μοι δ. γε παρείη Od. 2.62, cf. Il. 8.294; οἵη ἐμὴ δ. καὶ χεῖρες Od. 20.237; ἡ δ. τῶν νέων Antipho 4.3.2, etc.: generally, strength, power, ability; outward power, influence, authority, A. Pers. 174 (anap.), Ag. 779 (lyr.); καταπαύσαντα τὴν Κύρου δ. Hdt. 1.90; δυνάμει προὔχοντες Th. 7.21, etc.; ἐν δ. εἶναι, γενέσθαι, X. HG 4.4.5, D. 13.29; force for war, forces, δ. ἀνδρῶν Hdt. 5.100, cf. Pl. Mx. 240d, Plb. 1.41.2, LXX Ge. 21.22, OGI 139.8 (ii B. C.); μετὰ δυνάμεων ἱκανῶν Wilcken Chr. 10 (ii B. C.), etc.; δ. καὶ πεζὴ καὶ ἱππικὴ καὶ ναυτική X. An. 1.3.12; πέντε δυνάμεσι πεφρουρημένον, of the five projecting row of arissaein the phalanx, Ascl. Tact. 5.2,al.

There is nothing in this word indicating "miracles", though translators read that into the text.

Note on κυβερνήσεις: This word is frequently translated a bit metaphorically such as those who guide the church in some way, but it is attested as the one who steers a ship; a helmsman or pilot. This would parallel "apostolos" as a naval commander.

So it would then read, "...first commanders, second readers of signs, third trainers, next the fighters, next medics, assistants, helmsmen, and translators." There is nothing inherently religious or miraculous in this statement unless it is imposed by presupposition. It easily fits with a military fleet.

3. Paul is intimately familiar with the Praetorium: Again, the praetorium was the legionary command headquarters. This could have either been a field military headquarters while the legions were on missions. Alternatively, it could have been the permanent headquarters in Aquilea or any other garrison city. In Phil 1:13, Paul speaks of the knowledge that his situation has become known throughout the whole Praetorium. It is in the same letter where he refers to himself as a soldier. I would submit that the reference to the “Praetorium” is not metaphorical, and its status as the military HQ should give weight to the term “soldier” also being literal. He seems to have been a prisoner of war.

4. The codex: The codex was invented by the Roman military during the 50's BCE for quick communication and reference between the legions. It was almost exclusively used by the military for centuries. The scroll remained the favored format for government and individuals until about the 6th century. But all of our early manuscripts are preserved on codices. Why? Were Paul’s letters originally dispatches included in inter-legionary communications? Could this explain why several of the canonical letters appear to be compilations of several smaller letters? Individual pages in the codex could have each contained a separate communication, later combined as a unit.

5. Galatia (Γαλατία): Paul wrote to assemblies located in Galatia, but where was that? Reading Paul through the lens of Acts, Galatia was in north central modern Turkey. And there was certainly a Roman province located there. But there was another Galatia...same word; it was the Greek name for Gaul, divided into Cisalpina Gaul (this side of the Alps) and Transalpina Gaul. Cisalpina Gaul (Galatia) was assigned to Julius Caesar ca 57 BCE. It was located in Modern northeastern Italy extending to the border of Illlyricum in the east. The legionary headquarters (the permanent praetorium) was located in Aquilea at the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, close to modern Trieste. At that time, when the legions were there in winter, it was the second largest city after Rome. Whether a reference made in Greek to Γαλατία referred to the region of Northern Italy or to Asia Minor would be determined by context. In the letter to the Galatians, there is no context given, therefore which Galatia received his letter must remain an open question. However, given the close proximity between Cisallpine Galatia and Illyricum, it is reasonable to speculate that his visit to Galatia could have occurred during that visit mentioned in Romans 16 (The distance from the Illyrian port of Pola to Aquilea is only about 50 miles. When reading about Paul's travels in his own letters, there is no sequence of travel which would show him ever heading so far inland if Asian Galatia was intended. As an apostolos, potentially a naval commander, visiting the legionary Praetorium at Aquilea while in Illyricum would have been very reasonable. Additionally, if he had been writing to groups in Aquilea, Galatia (Γαλατία), it is almost certain that he was writing to fellow soldiers. The dignitaries from Jerusalem who were upending his deemphasis on the necessity of following Jewish observances were possibly visiting the Jewish auxiliaries and causing dissension in the ranks. (Last summer I toured the vast archaeological/excavation site at this Galatia. It was immense). If these “ekklesia” (assemblies) were actually integrated military auxiliaries, the arguments Paul had with the “Judaizers” pressing “Jewish” cohorts to remain observant would fit nicely.


If Paul wasn’t writing in response to a historical Lord Jesus Christ, how are we to understand his constant references to this character? Or was he?

It has long been recognized that all the early manuscripts contain some sort of shorthand or abbreviations. Copies of manuscripts from later centuries spell out names and titles where those abbreviations occurred in the earlier codices. The purpose of those abbreviations has long been debated, but since we don’t have any contemporary explanations to guide us, the theories are at best guesses. The identification of those abbreviations has always been assumed to be the fully spelled out names as they appear in manuscripts from later centuries. I question that assumption.

First, in brief, here is a description of the common abbreviations and an explanation of how they are assumed to operate. For a few select words/names/titles, there is a shortening of the spelling, thought to be the first and last letter of the term or name intended, with a line over the abbreviation.

The most common of these so-called Nomina Sacra are:

When used as a subject                  When used as a possessive or genitive
ΧΣ  ..................................................ΧΥ
ΥΣ    ................................................ΥΥ

The theory is that the first and last letters appearing in the abbreviation omit the rest of the letters in the term. The number of missing letters is indeterminate. The reader is obviously expected to know what the abbreviations stand for. Traditionally, these abbreviations are assumed to stand for the following, with the missing letters reinserted.

Abbreviation              Full Spelling               English translation

ΘΣ                             Θεός                          God
ΚΣ                             Κύριος                        Lord
ΙΣ                             Ἰησοῦς                        Jesus
ΧΣ                           Χριστός                       Christ
ΥΣ                             Υἱός                         Son

The full spelling is the way it appears in the various critical Greek texts. I would point out that the critical text is an interpretation which may or may not be accurate. The critical text does not exist in reality. It is a reconstruction of all the available manuscripts with the printed reading representing the best assessments of textual critics as to how the “autographs” most likely appeared. As to how the Nomina Sacra is treated is based on two things:

The presupposition of the traditional understanding of the origins of Christian beliefs in general and the assumption that centuries later, the copyists who filled in the blanks knew the original intent. This is the critical issue. How much certainty can be assumed that over a period of development and usage of the text, that the later copyists knew the intent of the author? That problem is brought to the fore as we look at fourth century textual families where some render XS as Christos and some as Chrestos. It is evident that those copyists were engaged in some type of guesswork.

The appearance of later copies containing full spelling is our only connection to the original intent as it appears in the scholarly critical text since there is no legend offered in the early period to decipher the abbreviations.

However, we can go back to Marcion, a second century theologian who claimed that the God revealed by Paul was not the same God as Yahweh who he considered to be a lesser deity with a bad attitude. Neither was IS (Jesus?) the Christ or Messiah; he was the revealer of this previously unknown God’s identity. His Pauline based religion was based on a hitherto unknown and superior God of love and mercy. This new religion was in no way a progression based on the Jewish scriptures or religious tradition. It was totally other. Marcion claimed Paul to be the only authentic religious authority and based his understandings entirely on his writings.

The period of time between when Paul wrote his letters to their first attestation in the hands of Marcion ca 144 CE was many decades. Even in the traditional Pauline timeline, that is a period of 80-90 years. If my paradigm is correct, the period expands to 170 years. The provenance of those letters from the date of authorship to Marcion is lost. It is simply impossible to know how they were handled, copied, even if they were copied, edited, and interpolated until the time Marcion gained possession. We also don’t know how the texts were handled by the proto-orthodox party after Marcion. His critics writing decades later assumed that the text they were reading was the same as that which existed in the time of Marcion, but that isn’t accurate. As the Acts Seminar has noted:

— “Ancient critics thought Marcion cut out texts he didn’t like from an already existing canon, but this is not true.” Westar Institute (@WestarInstitute) October 24, 2013.

— “When we leave aside these assumptions, we can realize that Marcion’s text is a valuable witness to the development of texts.” Westar Institute (@WestarInstitute) October 24, 2013.

The upshot of these conclusions is that the text of Paul that Marcion used had been subjected to editing and additions by the time that they were referenced by his critics decades later. That is why they thought that he had abridged the parts of the letters he disliked. Marcion’s texts may have been closer to the originals, prior to being edited in the decades following his visit to Rome. Having said this, we can be quite certain that Marcion’s manuscripts contained the Nomina Sacra abbreviations. And we can be equally certain that he didn’t understand all of them in the same way as later copyists.

Put plainly, Marcion filled in the missing letters in some of the abbreviated terms differently than did the later copyists.

All evidence points to the following differences:

Abbreviation     Traditional Spelling                    Marcion’s Spelling
ΧΣ                   Χριστός  (Christos/Christ)           χρηστός  (Chrestos)
ΙΣ                   Ἰησοῦς    (Iesous/Jesus)               ΙΣ   (IS)

At first, the difference seems subtle; the simple exchange if an i for an e. But remember, Marcion  didn’t connect this word with an anointed Jew/Messiah. His use of the word Chrestos indicates one who is highly esteemed, good, merciful, kind, or benevolent. There are other indications from the second century of the believers being known as Chrestians. The earliest (Christian) inscription is from a Marcionite church building in Lebada, Syria near Damascus, ca 318, was dedicated to “IS Chrestos”). Chrestos is spelled out and is obviously not the same as Christos. In any event, we don’t know that Marcion actually knew the original intent of Paul using the abbreviations, only that the abbreviations were all he had in his Pauline documents, and he was interpreting them in a vacuum, as did later scribes who spelled out Jesus from IS and chose to fill in the missing letters of XS as Christos rather than Chrestos. Other early fathers also used Chrestos, and called his followers Chrestianoi, including Clement of Alexandria who wrote, in Book II of the Stromata, “All who believe in Chrestos both are, and are called, Chrestianoi, that is, good men.”  This all indicates that there was not clarity on the meaning of the abbreviations of the Nomina Sacra in the second century CE. Even the Pagan Tacitus, writing in the second century about this religious group (and he would have derived the spelling from them) uses the “e” in Chrestos rather than an “i” for Christos. (Whether the Tacitus letter is a forgery or legitimate is a matter of debate).

In The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, Walter Shandruk of the Univ of Chicago wrote in his monograph, “The Interchange of ι and η in spelling (in the root) χριστ- in Documentary Papyri”, "Given the semantic issues at play and early attestation to spelling confusion, χρηστιανός was likely an early and contemporary lexical alternative--if not the original spelling.” He notes also that Chrestos is frequently attested in the Septuagint as an epithet for YHWH cf Ps 24:8, 99:5; Nah 1:7. He also affirms that the Nomina Sacra in use in the early manuscripts greatly complicates any conclusions as to the original intent, whether Christos or Chrestos, Christos having messianic implications whereas Chrestos simply esteems one as good, merciful, and benevolent. He even seems to admit to uncertainty as to the rendering of ΙΣ as Jesus.

Chrestos was also attested as a title for a ruler, as the king of Pontus was known as Chrestos Mithradates or Socrates Chrestos, king of Bithynia.

The Codex Sinaiticus in Acts 11:26, 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16 refers to the believers as Chrestianoi Whereas the Alexandrian text uses Christianoi. Even the scribal traditions were uncertain as to how the Nomina Sacra should be rendered.

Moving on to IS which later scribes spelled out as “Jesus”, Marcion kept the abbreviation and referred to his holy messenger as IS or in the genitive ISU. Or to put it another way, his Pauline text evidently contained the Nomina Sacra which he kept without interpretation for the name of this deity, not understanding it as Jesus (or the Aramaic Yeshua). The only point where Marcion actually spells out the name “Iesous” is in his Euangelion where he references Pilate allowing Jesus Barabbas to be released.

Whether Marcion was right or wrong in his interpretive spelling, we can deduce that his Pauline text was using the Nomina Sacra abbreviations, and that the earliest attestation for them neither used the name “Jesus” or “Christ” for the spelling or meaning. Can we have certainty that the later proto-orthodox scribes were rendering the abbreviations according to their original intent? If not, then the critical Greek text is assuming too much and reading orthodox Christianity back into the Nomina Sacra.

But going back to Paul’s original intent, if he was a military officer and a Pharisee in the first century BCE writing to mixed ranks of auxiliary soldiers, what could have been the meaning of his abbreviations? Keep in mind that the first and last letters of terms were the abbreviations with the internal lettering omitted. Since we don’t have a guide for those abbreviations, theoretically any letters could be tried, although none are certain.

ΧΣ as noted has strong early attestation as Chrestos rather than Christos.

ΚΣ has attestation as Κύριος, however, the Christian understanding as derives from the LXX usage of the term for Yahweh; thus we see it consistently rendered as “Lord”. However, in common usage, the term had no religious significance. Its most frequent usage in classical and koine Greek was as a person with secular power or authority, a head of state, the sovereign. It also has attestation of an heir who has come into his inheritance. Understanding Kurios as “Lord” is interpretive and represents an unusual meaning outside of Judaism. I would submit that if Kurios is indeed the correct spelling of the abbreviation, we should allow for all meanings, probably with preference for the more common usage; sovereign ruler.

ΘΣ rendered as Θεός (god) “theos” is probably as good a guess as any. Nevertheless, it is still uncertain.

ΥΣ  rendered as Υἱός (son) is also as good a guess as any.

Now what to do with ΙΣ (IS)? Marcion certainly didn’t know what to make of it, so he simply kept the abbreviation. And for ΧΣ (XS), he went for “Chrestos” eschewing the messianic implications of Christos. For all intents and purposes, he may have been in the same situation as we took at the beginning of this study, simply finding the letters of Paul in a metaphorical cave, or at least a vacuum of meaning, and put them to a purpose originally unintended.

Filling in the letters in the middle of ΙΣ is by necessity speculative. But in the context of the time indicated, 40’s to 30’s BCE, in a military or Roman milieu, I will suggest some possibilities. Since most of the usages occur with ΘΣ (theos), we are dealing with a deity. Here are two suggestions:

IS could be filled out IoueS, which we would transliterate Joves, the old Roman name for Jupiter. Alternatively, IS could be filled out IuliuS, transliterated as Julius. KS could be filled in as KurioS as noted above, and in context it fits. However it can also be filled in as KaisaroS, transliterated into English as Caesar. Suggested renderings: The Benevolent Iulius Kaisaros, god, and son of a god. Or The Merciful Iulius Divus Imperator, god, and son of a god. Imperator forever. Or more fully, Paulus, appointed a commander by The Merciful Julius Divus (Divine Julius), god, son of a god, Imperator forever.

Let’s take a breath and see where this has come from and where it gets us.

*Julius Caesar was deified by the senate.

*He had been named Imperator (dictator, lord) for life.

*He was given the title Father of the Fatherland (Parens Patriae).

*He held the position of Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of all the gods. (The same title as the high priest of Rome today; the Pope).

*His personage was declared sacrosanct (sacred).

*Statues were erected celebrating Caesar as the “unconquered god”, often inscribed with “Caesar’s Liberty”.

*He claimed to have descended from the goddess Venus, thereby being the son of a god.

*Out of gratitude to the Jewish fighters who saved him in Egypt, he issued approximately 40 beneficent proclamations to the Jews, chief among them, giving them legal status with protection from interference from anyone, including local Roman authorities. Also Judea was given the highest level of autonomy for any subject nation. For further reading on Caesar’s proclamations for the Jews, see

*Every proclamation Caesar made for the Jews was a “euangelion”, a gospel.

*To the losing fighters, including Jews, who fought on the side of Pompey in the civil war, he offered clemency (Grace) in return for an oath of loyalty (Pistis) to himself. In fact, Caesar’s clemency was his defining characteristic. As Pliny the Elder wrote, “The most peculiar and deepest trait of Caesar  was his royal clementia (gentleness, forgiveness or love of enemies), with which he overcame everyone and brought them to repentance Example of a great soul like no other. " For more on Caesar’s clemency see

*To the legions, he was considered a miracle working god who brought victories. Each victory was celebrated as a miracle.

*He had been given a triumphal entry to Rome following his victories, with people lining the streets and waving palm branches.

*He wore a purple robe suggesting kingship.

*Following his assassination, a formal religion was created as he was celebrated as the divus Julius, the divine Julius.

*Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) was appointed the flamen or high priest of his cult.

*Marcus Antonius officiated at his funeral. He had a wax effigy made of Caesar showing all of his wounds. He had it mounted on a swiveling “T” shaped tropaeum to display to all the crowd.

*A short time after the funeral, a senator proclaimed an apotheosis, that he had seen Caesar’s spirit rise into the heavens where he took his place next to Jupiter, the father god. From this point forward, the Divine Julius was perceived to be a dying and rising god; a living god.

Coin of the deified “Divus Iulius” with the obverse side showing the star-shaped flash of the comet which was associated with his spirit being transported to the right hand of Ioves (Jupiter).

*A temple of Caesar was built in Rome, with similar structures (known as Caesarea) repeated throughout the empire.

*His cult was closely identified with Joves (Jupiter) and was wildly popular among the legions. The temples to Iulius Divus were often shared spaces with Joves (Jupiter).

*His image, likely a mutilated body displayed on a tropaeum similar to the funeral wax effigy, was on display in his temples. cf “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” Gal. 3:1. Literally “impaled or placed on a palisade stake”, cf tropeum.

Roman Tropaeum display. The funeral effigy can be imagined similarly displayed, showing the dead body of Caesar with all the wounds, recreated in every Caesarea temple.

*Corinth, as a Caesarian colony, was a particularly important cult center.

*The cult of Divus Iulius was celebrated with wine and food offerings. His “genius” was associated first with “clementia” or grace. Oaths were taken in the presence of his “genius” along with sacrifices. Augurs would read the signs and omens and guide both state and individual action.

Coin depicting Caesar’s body on the swivel t-shaped tropaeum (possibly a “stauros” palisade stake, always translated in the NT as a “cross”) allowing him to be be portrayed in martyrdom with mourners. *His cult was celebrated as Divus Iulius, also known as the “appearing” god.
This is the base of Caesar’s statue in the temple in Corinth celebrating Caesar the God ca 40 BCE. Corinth was especially associated with the personage of Julius Caesar since he had re-founded the city following his victory at Pharsalus. That the cult was still celebrated well into the first century is evident by an inscription dated ca 45 CE to C. Julius Spartiaticus, referred to as “flamen Divi Iulii” (High priest of Divus Iulius).

*Contrary to popular conceptions, the image (idol) to the god was not believed to be the god himself. Rather, the “Genius” or spirit of the god was thought to flow in, through, and about the image. Loyalty oaths were performed in the presence of his spirit. “ en Chrsestos”?

*Caesar had an heir who he had adopted as his son, Octavian, who took his name, Gaius Iulius Kaisaros Octavianus, soon to be known as Iulius Kaisaros Augustus.

*The cult of Iulius Divus was most popular in the Greek speaking part of the empire. An inscription at Priene  reads “Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior, both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the gospel [εὐαγγέλιον] for the world that became by reason of him.” The presence of Caesar Augustus ushered in the new age. It was truly seen as a gospel. He was the savior. This paralleled sentiment opens the Gospel of Mark, but transferred to Jesus, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the son of God.”

*Augustus took the titles Savior, god, son of a god, Pontifex Maximus, Imperator, Princeps (first citizen), Father, and of course Augustus, the esteemed or sacred one. These are eerily similar to the Nomina Sacra abbreviations and the salutations in Paul’s letters as he is appointed “apostolos” by “The God and Father, and Son the Esteemed One who is the Savior and Sovereign who has inaugurated a new age of clemency (grace) and peace.

John Dominic Crossan acknowledges this in "God and Empire": Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (2007), says that "there was a human being in who was called 'Divine,' 'Son of God,' 'God,' and 'God from God,' whose titles were 'Lord,' (sovereign) 'Redeemer,' 'Liberator,' and 'Saviour of the World. Most Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus." It can be asked if Crossan ever considered that Paul may not have copied from the Divus Iulius cult, but instead was part of it.

*Like his adoptive father, Augustus pardoned (grace / clemency) Herod and his Jewish auxiliaries for fighting on the side of Marcus Antonius after they lost the sea battle of Actium, accepting their oath of loyalty, although many remained in chains until it was sorted out who to trust among the losers. (Who was Aquila who risked his neck and "saved Paul's life" Rom 16:3? It is an odd name since it is the title of the carrier of the legionary eagle standard).

*As Paul spoke of his deity having “appeared” to him and to others, it must be recognized that this description was also used of both Julius Caesar and Julius Caesar Augustus as seen above in the Priene inscription as well as one in Ephesus which reads (in English) “The cities in Asia and the communities and nations worship Gaius Julius, Gaius’ Son Caesar, Pontifex Maximus and Imperator for the second time, Consul, the appearing God coming from Ares and Aphrotide, the common Savior of the whole of mankind.” Is there any reason to think that the appearances Paul spoke of were in any way different than this concept?

*Augustus passed laws to revive the traditional Roman morality, prohibiting adultery and homosexuality. This had more force in the military than it did among civilians. Paul also commanded abstention from those activities.

How did this figure into Hellenized Jewish attitudes toward Caesar. Remember, as Josephus reports, Caesar had given special privileges to the Jews in dozens of proclamations, each of which had been deemed a gospel (euangelion). The answer is that Hellenized Jews were completely devoted to him.

As Seutonius relates in his “Lives of the Twelve Caesars”, describing Caesar’s funeral,
Instead of a eulogy the consul Mark Antony caused a herald to recite the decree of the Senate in which it had voted Caesar all divine and human honors at once, and likewise the oath with which they had all pledged themselves to watch over his personal safety; to which he added a very few words of his own. The bier on the rostra was carried to the Forum by magistrates and ex-magistrates. While some were urging that it be burned in the temple of Jupiter of the Capitol, and others in the Hall of Pompey, on a sudden two beings with swords by their sides and brandishing a pair of darts set fire to it with blazing torches, and at once the throng of bystanders heaped upon it dry branches, the judgment seats with the benches, and whatever else could serve as an offering. Then the musicians and actors tore off their robes, which they had taken from the equipment of his triumphs and put on for the occasion, rent them to bits and threw them into the flames, and the veterans of the legions the arms with which they had adorned themselves for the funeral. Many of the women, too, offered up the jewels which they wore and the amulets and robes of their children. At the height of the public grief a throng of foreigners went about lamenting each after the fashion of his country, above all the Jews, who even flocked to the place for several successive nights.
Above all the Jews.” Their gratitude toward Caesar was profound and noted. Seutonius goes on to recite the chant of the crowd, “Saved I these men that they might murder me?” Can we hear this echoed in the scene in the Gospels where we hear, “He saved others, but he could not save himself.” This was not the first time Jews had esteemed a Pagan ruler. They had given similar honors to Cyrus of Persia.

Appian reports, “When the crowd were in this state, and near to violence, someone raised above the bier a wax effigy of Caesar - the body itself, lying on its back on the bier, not being visible. The effigy was turned in every direction, by a mechanical device, and twenty-three wounds could be seen, savagely inflicted on every part of the body and on the face. This sight seemed so pitiful to the people that they could bear it no longer.”

For further reading see:

And where did they take the body of Caesar? To the place of the skull, the Capitolus, literally the head of Olus, the legendary king of Rome whose skull was supposedly buried there, where we derive the word “capitol”. Cf Golgotha, the place of the skull. cf  also Luke 24:4 “suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them,” in the resurrection narrative. Similar to “on a sudden two beings with swords by their sides” appeared by the body of caesar.

Paul has been interpreted in light of medieval concerns with sin, guilt, and salvation from hell with a view toward eternal life. But if one reads his concerns without that context, he is primarily trying to break down the issues which divide his addressees. Neither circumcision, nor dietary laws, nor ancestry, nor the Torah, nor observing particular days should matter. It is time to get along with each other. All are brothers. They should love each other forgetting dissensions. He quotes Stoic principles. He quotes unknown “graphe” scriptures. He admonishes them to avoid adultery and homosexuality. He tells them that the risen savior and deity has appeared to him. He tells them to remember the clemency which they received and the oath of loyalty they took. He tells them that they are all one in Chrestos or the Kurios (imperator). He reminds them of the proclamations he has announced to them (the euangelion), not necessarily all of the proclamations (gospels) the same. In short, Paul may be an early expositor and enforcer of the cult of Iulius Divus in unifying the troops.

*And where are these people located to whom he writes? They are all in Roman garrison cities and command centers. Rome, the seat of empire. Corinth, the newly built veteran’s colony and garrison city. Thessalonica, one of the garrison cities following the civil war. Phillipi, the other major garrison city following the civil war. Galatia (maybe Cisalpina Gaul,) the Praetorium of the legions in northern Italy at Aquilea.

Is he writing to mixed ranks of soldiers and their families, observant Jews, Hellenized Jews, and Gentiles thrown together in reconstituted cohorts? Were his writings later found by Marcion, misunderstood, and put to a use far different than the original intent? We know that Marcion didn’t quite know what to do with the Nomina Sacra he encountered. Neither did some of the fourth century scribes. Sometime after Marcion, the manuscripts probably underwent significant redaction and interpolation which makes it exceedingly difficult to look back to the originals and what they may have looked like. Marcion invented the idea of the canon and forced the proto-orthodox group to deal with his New Testament, a process which defined its direction and set the course away from the philosophical and mythic version of the early church fathers toward the orthodoxy which ultimately prevailed. There are certainly themes in canonical Paul which don’t fit this scenario, but whether or not they are original or later additions by proto-orthodox editors is impossible to determine.

Coin comparison of the symbol of Divus Iulius with Constantines Chi Rho. Did one symbol evolve into the other?


As a long-time mythicist, I have been aware of the inconvenient absence of a concrete example of a community of mythicist believers. That absence is not a fatal flaw, but it would be helpful to be able to identify something of the groups to whom Paul was writing. The traditional (historicist) position has the same problem of absence; the fictional scenario of Acts is equally absent. First century Christianity is missing. Looking at the letters of Paul for a timeline and some explanation of his purpose in complete separation from the tradition is a challenge requiring a willingness to look outside the box. The reality of Christian origins presents a massive question mark; its very existence in the first century CE is a black hole. The evidence within the authentic Pauline corpus tying him to a certain chronology, while scant, points to, and is consistent with, a first century BCE time period. That same evidence can be pressed or manipulated into consistency with a first century CE chronology, but it requires more explanation and dependence on unevidenced possibility; this is especially so with the Aretas reference.

The strongest datum is Paul’s account of his escape from King Aretas. Paul, the self-described Pharisee who claimed to have been in Arabia, somehow drew the ire of the Pagan king of Petra (Arabia/Nabatea). Since we know that 5,000 Pharisees were included in the allied armies of Hyrcanus of Judea and Aretas III, all of whom spent time in Nabatea, and that many of the Pharisees had committed treason and had gone over to the other side, and since Damascus was the locale of the Roman meeting with the combatants, Paul could have easily been a person of interest to that Aretas. If this is an unwarranted hypothesis, all other alternatives offered to date are much less so. There is no evidence that Aretas IV ever held Damascus, nor has a reasonable motive for him pursuing Paul been forthcoming.

  References to Illyricum, while appearing anachronistic if written in the 50’s CE and which would be more accurate if written earlier, are not conclusive, but if viewed in isolation, would still be weighted to the earlier date.

The greeting from Erastus, aedile of Corinth who paid for the paving of the streets, is most consistent with the commencement of the restoration of the city in the 40’s BCE.

The greetings to the household of Aristobulus and to Herodion (young Herod) in Rome are remarkably coincidental to both parties sharing the same names as the royal people who were in Rome in the late 30’s BCE.

Paulus is a Latin name, and he is familiar with far too many people in Rome to have never been there. But it must be remembered that it is Acts which precludes his previous presence there. In his own letter, Paul simply wishes to visit his friends there on the way to Spain; he doesn’t indicate that he had never been there.

The extensive travels of Paul as shown in his letters appear quite random, and they consistently place him in areas where there had been battles and veterans colonies had been established, along with garrisons of current legions. It must be remembered that travel in that time, for individuals, was rare and extremely expensive. He claimed to have been shipwrecked three times, a remarkable streak of bad luck for a private traveler, but not so much so for a military/naval person. As a self-described Apostolos (with prior attestation as a naval commander) Paul’s travels to battle zones and garrison cities would make more sense than simply going long distances here and there and skipping by so many towns in between if seeking converts had been the true purpose. If traveling as a private individual, who would be footing the enormous bills? Traveling at the expense of the empire might be a better explanation.

Was Paul’s use of “ekklesia” simply the common understanding of an assembly, or was he using the etymological literal sense of “being called out”, such as conscripted troops. If “assembly” or “council” was intended, it could still be a command structure or Jewish auxiliary cohorts taken as a whole.

Was Paul a soldier, writing to brother soldiers? He says so. He uses so many military terms and illustrations that it is hard to think that his recipients were not immersed in that context. His familiarity with high Roman officials, even greeting Caesar’s household, and being known well to the Praetorium would seem to give weight to that conclusion. His list of ranks in the “ekklesia” are easily interpreted as military and immune positions.

It is well known that the Roman Imperators of the east, including Pompey, Antony, and Brutus used Jewish and Samaritan auxiliaries. Julius Caesar himself felt indebted to them and gave dozens of benefits and privileges to the Jews via formal proclamations (gospels). It is also well documented that during the Roman civil wars, the common soldiers on the losing side were almost always given clemency in return for their oath of loyalty to the conquerer. Decimated cohorts were integrated with others to create full strength units. These integrated units made up of observant Jews, Hellenized Jews, and gentiles would have had issues exactly the same as those evident in Paul’s letters. Some feeling superior to others. Some observing holy days while others didn’t. Some being circumcised while others weren’t. Some observing dietary laws while others didn’t. Some willing to eat food sacrificed to pagan gods, while others wouldn’t. In all circumstances, the Jewish auxiliaries were on the losing side in the Roman civil wars and would have been pardoned. Maintaining their loyalty oath would be of ultimate importance. Who was the person/deity of whom Paul spoke? Was it a god-man named Jesus? A cosmic being without historical context? Or was it the dying and rising god-man Julius Caesar and his only son, the son of god, Julius Caesar Augustus? Without exception, these men took to themselves every title and epithet Paul uses for his deities. Their every proclamation was a “euangelion”. These “appearing” savior gods who brought liberty and peace and ushered in a new age, were especially worshiped throughout the eastern part of the empire and were especially adored by the legions. Iulius Divus, the coequal of Jupiter, who rose to the heavens in his new spiritual body, was known most of all for his clemency. His mercy equalized all members of the legions, even former enemies. In death, he was mourned most of all by the Jews.

I would submit this paradigm for further examination; that Paul’s letters, perhaps in mixed pages, sat unused for decades. They were then discovered at some point up to the time of Marcion ca 144 CE, who found the teachings useful, in the milieu of Hellenized Judaism, to fully divorce his movement from Yahweh and the Jewish scriptural tradition; he would have been countering the emergence of Rabbinical Judaism with its internalization of the law, and he found in Paul’s letters, the identity of a new god of mercy and love, with all the arguments in place to show the error of Torah adherence. In opposition to Marcion, the proto-orthodox party likely edited those Pauline letters and created a new biography and context for Paul (Acts) which placed him into the paradigm of Christianity superseding Judaism but remaining a part of the continuum of the Jewish revelation.


While Marcion considered Yahweh a demiurge, rejected the Jewish Scriptures, and presented a new God of love and mercy, he still evidently had some connection to Judaism, although we don't  know what it was. That connection must be inferred, but it had to have been there, otherwise he would not have been opposing it and arguing for a different theology. The question must arise, what stimulus was behind his contention with Judaism? I believe the answer lies in the revolt of Simon bar Kochba, 132-135 CE. While not as much is known of this Jewish war compared with that of 66-70 CE since it lacked a Josephus, it was equally as devestating, and its results were potentially longer lasting. At the end of that war, under Emperor Hadrian, the partially rebuilt temple was scraped off of the temple mount, new temples to Jupiter and Venus were erected there, the Jews were expelled from Judea under pain of death, and the practice of Judaism was proscribed. This resulted in the great diaspora of Jews into the rest of the empire. Jews were faced with an identity crisis asking, How can we remain Jewish without the temple cult and with observances such as circumcision, sabbath keeping, etc now illegal. I would submit that emergent rabbinical Judaism was competing with an emergent and spiritualized theology deemphasizing Jewish practices, but remaining within the Jewish continuum; that is, a variety of Christianities. Into this mix of many thousands of perplexed Jewish exiles, Marcion arrived with his version of Christianity, now wishing to make a complete break with Judaism. Perhaps he had formerly been a gentile convert to a Hellenized Judaism in Asia Minor. In any event, Paul's writings arguing about the lack of importance of Jewish observances and the beginning of a new age were ready made for his purposes. Additionally, his expressions of a new mystery, long hidden, but now revealed, neatly fit into Marcion’s theology. Paul's writings, if directed at integrated military units would have faced precisely the same issues which would have motivated “liberal minded” Jews to avoid persecution by avoiding the prohibited activities. Furthermore, the Nomina Sacra were ready made for new interpretation.

The question left open; Was Paul actually a hellenized Jew or Samaritan soldier, first active in the Jewish civil war of the 60’s BCE and later involved in the Roman wars, a proponent of the new cult of Divus Iulius Caesar, attempting to create harmony in the integrated auxiliaries using theological argumentation? I’ll leave that as an open question. If the answer is yes, then Paul’s letters were later misappropriated for a use quite foreign to their original intent.


Please support us at DC by commenting on and by sharing our posts, or subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon.