Problems with How the Authentic Letters of Paul Survived to the Second Century

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    Oct 09, 2014 3:19 AM GMT
    To Bart Ehrman

    The amazon entry for your book mentioned above, the introduction to the New Testament does not have a “Look Inside” so people can see the Table of Contents. What I’m looking for at the moment is whether or not you have a chapter or a section in a chapter that explains definitively 1) that Paul died in 67 and 2) rationale additional to Paul’s death and biographical info in Acts that the authentic letters of Paul were written before 67 and which of the non-authentic letters were written before 67.

    An independently written narrative of Paul’s life and ministry, found in the Acts of the Apostles, is used to determine the date, and possible authorship, of Pauline letters by locating their origin within the context of his life. For example, Paul mentions that he is a prisoner in his Epistle to Philemon 1:7; based on this statement, J. A. T. Robinson argued that this captivity was Paul’s imprisonment in Caesarea, while W. M. Ramsay identified this as Paul’s captivity in Rome, while others have placed the captivity in Ephesus. One difficulty with this position is * the limited data available on Paul’s historical setting, * and this is especially true with the conclusion of the narrative of Acts prior to Paul’s death. It also assumes that the book of Acts was written by an actual traveling companion of Paul’s. However, as A.N. Sherwin-White has noted, in travel romance literature of this period, it was a normal literary convention to use the first-person plural while characters were on a shipboard voyage, and “we” passages in Acts coincide with such voyages.

    If we have 5 authentic letters of Paul referencing 5 historical cities, we might have 100 members minimum per congregation: 100 Romans, 100 Corinthians, 100 Galatians, 100 Philippians, and 100 Thessalonians for a total following of 500 people: 495 people and 5 leaders of each congregation.

    Dr. Ehrman, with the congregation of Romans yielding a surviving early Christianity, I do not see the remaining four in your Lost Christianities (mistakenly titled Early Christianities in another post I made).

    Also in the Archaeological Study Bible, I do not see pictures or mention of Christian symbols (burials, necklaces, mosaics) from the Congregation of Corinthians, the Congregation of Galatians, the Congregation of Philippians, or the Congregation of Thessalonians.

    Did they survive? Did these four have a bishop by year 125 C.E. and did those bishops become early fathers who wrote about its community’s correspondence with Paul?
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    Oct 09, 2014 3:19 AM GMT
    To Stephen
    From Bart Ehrman

    I’m not sure where you’re getting your numbers of 100 persons per congregation. My sense is that some of them were much larger than others. But I would have no idea how to assign actual numbers. We don’t have much by way of material remains in the first three centuries.
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    Oct 09, 2014 3:21 AM GMT
    To Bart Ehrman

    The numbers of congregants are brainstorming #s towards plausibility for a Paul to write letters to community leaders encouraging them to keep the faith and grow their congregations. Yet, not one of them left archaeological evidence of materializing.

    In Lost Christianities, I haven't yet come across you speaking of any of the early Christianities that received Paul's letters. The Marcionites are not early enough for my interests. There still are the Ebionites and the Gnostics. But the Ebionites may not be early enough for my interests either (before Josephus died):

    "The earliest reference to a group that might fit the description of the later Ebionites appears in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (c. 140). They were led by Simeon of Jerusalem (d. 107) and during the Second Jewish-Roman War of 115–117, they were persecuted by the Jewish followers of Bar Kochba for refusing to recognize his messianic claims. According to Harnack the influence of Elchasaites places some Ebionites in the context of the gnostic movements widespread in Syria and the lands to the east."

    In your book, pages 116 - 120, you have a section called, "The Origins of Gnosticism" but instead of providing a date for this lost Christianity or listing the dates of all Gnostic Gospels and listing the cities where these communities are, we are brought way back to Gnostic theology being associated with the Exodus.

    Was there a community in a city for the disciples of Thomas and the Gospel of Thomas?
    Was there a community in a city for the disciples of Judas and the Gospel of Judas?

    So, as your book speaks about the gnostics, to mention one lost, early Christianity and the battles for scripture and faiths we never knew, I'm seeing the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas texts around which these Christianities developed and maintained themselves. The problem I have with Paul and his 5 early and lost Christianities is a letter of Paul may not have been enough to maintain an early Christianity. Yes, one of the books in my library says Letter to the Roman's is Paul's Aenid by Virgil; but, Rome isn't an early lost Christianity.

    Second, one would think the 5 churches and the Roman church were cohesive around Pauline Christianity (even though Paul did not found the Roman church--to what extent was the Letter to the Romans powerful enough to be the new sacred scripture of the pre-existing Roman church?) Did Paul send copies of Romans (a great piece of writing) to the 5 churches, in addition to their own letters? So, the six churches can be considered a federation or, lightly, a Pauline early Christianity denomination differing from the Johannine community and the Jerusalem church.

    Still, Dr. Ehrman, we have the letters of Paul appearing in the earliest pro forma compilations of a New Testament (second century in Marcion, Muritorian Canon, Papyrus 46). How were these letters called back for compilation in the second century? Would Paul have had Epaphroditus to have a scribe copy these letters before they went out?

    The 5 letters survived into the 2nd century 50 years after they were written and mailed but the 5 churches did not survive 50 years? What was the succession planning of Paul with regards to administering these 5 churches? He invested the time and money to write to them. To whom did he pass on this responsibility? Rome did not care about the Jerusalem Church, unless you state otherwise. Did the first 5 popes keep in contact with these 5 churches. Even if they did, Marcion and the Muritorian Canon are not under the first five popes, or are they?

    Without Paul's letters being archived by the popes

    1) Peter in Syria;

    2) Linus in Tuscia;

    3) Anacletus in Rome;

    4) Clement I in Rome; or

    5) Evaristus in Bethlehem,

    the historicity of Paul's letters being older than 67 C.E. is problematic. What's left is that they were preserved by secular Rome, for example, the Quindecimviri Sacris Faciundis, responsible for the regulation of foreign cults in Rome or by private and personal patrons of Paul.