(Published in Deltion Biblikon Meleton n.s. 11 (1992) pp. 42-48).
Almost one generation ago Oscar Cullmann made a promising suggestion to the christian community. In his Message to Catholics and Protestants,[i] this famous swiss scholar made an attempt to revive in our time the collection project, which St Paul initiated among the Gentile communities of the ancient Church, to meet the same or similar needs with those envisioned by the great apostle. Cullmann’s vision in a time of ecumenical euphoria was to establish a common collection between Catholics and Protestants ¯ Orthodoxy has not made at that time her presence sufficiently felt yet in the ecumenical circles ¯ as a symbolic action of solidarity and fellowship among people who though not in eucharistic communion among themselves nevertheless confess the same name of Christ. Cullmann, in fact, marked the beginning of a new era in scholarly research on the subject, as the number of important monographs and other shorter contributions that came out in the 1960s indicates.[ii]
The main emphasis at that time with regard to the pauline collection project, especially in the two major dissertations undertaken in Europe (D. Georgi’s habilitationschrift[iii] and K.P.Nickle’s doctoral thesis,[iv] the latter being a dissertation under Cullmann’s supervision submitted to the Faculty of Theology University of Basel) was the ecclesiological, ecumenical and eschatological dimension of that pioneer institution of the early christian community. Even today, noone would question the contention that the collection was seen in the early christian community as a tangible token of the unity of the Church, presenting irrefutable evidence that God was calling the Gentiles to faith.[v] Nor would anyone disagree that the collection was to some extent a sort of eschatological pilgrimage of the Gentile Christians to Jerusalem. What was missing from both these dissertations was an analysis of the remaining aspects of that unique phenomenon of ancient christianity.
Reviewing in 1985 in our XAPIÓ-KOINÙNIA-ÄIAKONIA. The Social Character of the Pauline Collection (Introduction and Commentary on 2 Cor 8-9) [vi] both the above mentioned very important contributions on the collection project, we commended that they both contributed considerably to the understanding of St Paul’s view on the subject. We added, nevertheless, that they both by-passed, or at least overlooked and therefore underemphasized, the social aspects of that project,[vii] an observation that did not escape the attention of L.E.Keck, whose successive articles[viii] they were admittedly unable to consult. C.K.Barrett’s remarks on the issue in his commentary few years later were quite characteristic:
There should be little doubt that the primary significance of the collection in Paul’s eyes was that it brought financial help from Gentile Christiants who, though not wealthy (I Cor i.26; 2 Cor viii. 2) were relatively better off, to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem who were poor. This is less striking observation than some hypotheses that have been constructed on the subject but it has the advandage of being in accord with what Paul says, and in harmony with his Christian thinking as a whole...The collection was an act of service (äéáêïíßá; see viii. 4; ix. 1,12,13) and even of grace (÷Üñéò; see viii. 1,6,7,19; ix. 14).[ix]
It was exactly these overlooked aspects of Collection that our study[x] tried to explore, whithout denying its ecumenical, ecclesiological and eschatological characteristics.[xi] Our general conclusion was that the pauline Collection project seen from a modern perspective had far reaching social implicationss: unlike the palestinian model - where a voluntary poverty was excersized and the material goods, property and possessions, were sold and the money distributed among all (Acts 2:44ff; 5:1ff) - the pauline model, without denying private property, aimed at sharing the surplus with the needy of the society at large. In the end, the purpose of the Collection project was “equality” (åóüôçò). But in Paul equality became the goal of social behavior on a permanent basis. According to his argument in 2 Cor 8-9, the implications of that project was the social ideal of equal distribution and permanenet sharing (êïéíùíßá) of material wealth.[xii] That is why he concluded his main theological argument with a reference to the incident of the Israelites’ collection of manna in the wilderness, reported in Ex 16 - “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor 8:15).[xiii]
Reviewing in our thesis the scholarly research on the subject, we remarked that we were expecting with great interest D.H.Betz’s work[xiv] on the subject, after an official announcement he made in 1984 during the annual biblical colloquium at Leuven, Belgium. Dr Betz eventually published his book, under the title 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. A Commentary on Two Administrative Letters of the Apostle Paul, exactly the same year[xv] as we did. The aim, of course, of that most important contribution to the subject was, as its title indicates, to see if chs. 8 and 9 of 2 Cor fall into a letter category by analyzing and emphasizing “administrative language, matters often neglected in N.T. Studies”.[xvi] Dr Betz’s main concern was to examine “whether 2 Cor 8 and 9 constitute independent self-contained textual units which can be interpreted in accordance with Greco-Roman rhetoric and epistolography”.[xvii] However, some of his remarks touch the important issue of the theological purpose of the pauline collection project. It is, therefore, necessary to reopen the discussion on the issue, with the new evidence and arguments produced by Dr Betz’s, in order to enhance our understanding of Collection as Paul conceived it.[xviii]
It is quite remarkable how both Dr Betz and we, though approaching the subject from completely different angles,[xix] on literary and/or historical issues[xx] came in some cases to similar,[xxi] in others even to idendical,[xxii] conclusions.[xxiii] Therefore, the only issue with regard to the Collection, which needs to be re-examined, especially in view of Dr Betz's rhetoric approach, is the theological one, i.e. the ecclesiological and social consequences of that pioneer initiative of the early Church.
By considering that both epistolary units (ch 8 and ch 9) were patterned according to ancient Greek rhetoric,[xxiv] Dr Betz seems to suggest, though not directly, that St Paul does not on his own initiative further theologically reflect on the Apostolic Synod's decision for the Gentiles to assist the "poor among the Saints" of the Jerusalem mother Church (cf. Gal 2:10 and Rom 15:26); instead, he acts as a church official who uses technical administrative language taken from Greco-Roman administration. If this is so, the rich variety of terms employed by St Paul to describe and define that important project, such as ÷Üñéò, êïéíùíßá, äéáêïíßá, but also ëåéôïõñãßá, åõ÷áñéóôßá etc., according to Dr Betz's analysis are not theological, but primarily administrative terms.[xxv] The Cbllection was, of course, defined by him "as a means of bringing about unity within the Church between Jews and Gentites";[xxvi] but the entire project was rather seen as an administrative assignment.[xxvii] Strangely Dr Betz extracts the "ultimate purpose of the collection" not from 8:13ff, but from 9:13f, thus insisting that "in Paul's view (the collection) was spiritual not merely financial. But by stating it in legal and administrative terms, Paul insisted that the spiritual aspect of the collection was not to be divorced from the ecclesiastical and political aspects".[xxviii]
What, however, seems to me even more difficult to understand (and therefore to accept) is the meaning he gives to the key-term "equality" (éóüôçò) in 2 Cor 8:13-15, and consequently to the theological understanding of the pauline Collection.[xxix] Betz believes that in this crucial passage the meaning of equality is determined by the Greco-Roman "give-and-take" (do ut des) principle.[xxx] In other words the crucial phrase "üðùò ãÝíçôáé éóüôçò" (2 Cor 8:14) points to that Greco-Roman principle of reciprocity and hardly to the social ideal of equal distribution and permanent sharing of material means in the christian community and the society at large.[xxxi]
The understanding by Dr Betz of this key-passage (2 Cor 8:13-15) has been solely based upon a comparison with Rhetorica ad Herennium of the classical antiquity, though the O.T. quotation in 8:15[xxxii] could give a more natural meaning to the perception of the difficult term éóüôçò. To a native Greek reader this is more than obvious, no matter whether one accepts the rhetorical approach suggested by Dr Betz, or taking ch 8 (either as an independent epistle or somewhat combined with the preceedings) as the product of an "apostle", whose main task was the expression of radical theological ideas and the organization of communities, not simply the following of the strict rules of ancient rhetoric.[xxxiii]
To sum up: Although I have considerably enhanced my knowledge of the pauline Collection project by reading Dr Betz's commentary on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, I still stick to the conclusions I reached earlier with regard to the ultimate theological purpose (and its consequences) of Collection, i.e. the equal distribution and permanent sharing of the material wealth, without of course denying the ecumenical, ecclesiological and eschatological characteristics of the ëïãåßá. It is this holistic understanding of life, paradoxically underemphasized in our "post-christian" era, that allowed St Paul characterize it as "the ultimate expression of spiritual liturgy".[xxxiv]
[i] Eng. transl. by J. A. Burgess, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1959; cf. also O.Cullmann, “Oekumenische Kollekte und Gütergemeinschaft,” Vorträge und Aufsätze (1966), pp. 600-604.
[ii]For a comprehensive survey of the scholarly research up to 1985 in my book, XAPIÓ-KOINÙNIA-ÄIAKONIA. O êïéíùíéêüò ÷áñáêôÞñáò ôïõ ðáýëåéïõ ðñïãñÜììáôïò ôçò ëïãåßáò (EéóáãùãÞ êáé åñìçíåõôéêü õðüìíçìá óôï B´Kïñ 8-9), Bibliotheca Biblica 2, Pournaras Press, Thessaloniki 1985 (in Greek), pp. 23ff.
[iii]Die Gechichte der Kollekte des Paulus für Jerusalem, Herbert Reich Evangelischer Verlag GMBH, Hamburg 1965.
[iv]The Collection. A Study in Paul’ s Strategy, SCM London 1966.
[v]Even N.A.Dahl, Studies in Paul, Augsburg Minneapolis, 1977 ( a cllection of articles relevant ro our subject: “Paul: A Sketch,” pp. 1ff; “Paul and Possessions,” pp. 22ff; “On the Literary Integrity of of 2 Corinthians 1-9,” pp. 38f) sees the pauline Collection as a “meaningful expession of mutual solidarity”, which “symbolized for him the unity of Jew and Gentile whithin the church” (p.6).
[vii]Ibid, p. 36.
[viii]L.E.Keck, “The Poor among the Saints in the New Testament,” ZNW 56 (1965) 100-129; idem, “The Poor among the Saints in Jewish Christianity and Qumran,” ZNW 57 (1966) 54-78.
[ix]C.K.Barrett, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, Black’s New Testament Commentaries, London 1973, p.27.
[x]See above n. 2.
[xi]Cf. also my articles: “Equality and Justice in Classical Antiquity and in Paul: The Social Implication of the Pauline Collection,” SVTQ 36 (1992), pp.51-59; “Your Will be Done: Reflections from St. Paul,” IRM 75 (1986) pp. 376-382.
[xii]XAPIÓ-KOINÙNIA-ÄIAKONIA, p. 304.
[xiii]Cf. my “Equality and Justice”.
[xiv]XAPIÓ, p. 37.
[xv]Hermeneia Series, Fortress Philadelphia 1985.
[xvi]D.H.Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. A Commentary on Two Administrative Letters of the Apostle Paul, p. xi.
[xvii]Ibid., p. 35.
[xviii]This is short study is dedicated as a tribute to Prof Cullmann in his 90th anniversary; namely to the scholar who was the first to suggest the revival in a new and dynamic way this ancient christian rite (institution), which unfortunately in today’s eccleciastical practice, both Eastern and Western, has been deprived the social and ecumenical dimension which Paul has given it.
[xix]Dr Betz begins with the history of research from J.S.Sempler (1776) to the present (ch I), and then through a detailed literary analysis of 2 Cor 8 (ch II) and 2 Cor 9 (ch III) he concludes that the two chapters form two independent, the former a fragment letter of a mixed type (advisory and business/administrative) sent to Corinth, the latter an advisory letter with the same aim, addressed not to Corinth but to Achaia (pp. 139f).
Our main concern was to find out the theological understanding of the pauline collection, to some extent sill unknown phenomenon of early christianity. Thus, Part A (introductory) headed ËOÃEIA, deals with the overall collection issue, whereas Part B (exegetical) is a Commentary on 2 Cor. In Part A we start (ch I) with an analysis of the term ëïãåßá (pp..21-23), a short history of research on the subject (pp. 23-46), as well as the investigation of all the N.T. data and other direct or indirect references including those of the “antiochean collection” (pp. 46-56). We then proceed to a comparison of the pauline project with all the evidenced parallel religious and social phenomena of that time (ch II, pp. 57-75). Our preliminary conclusion from the investigation in both chapters (cf. pp. 55 and 75) was that the theological meaning of the pauline collection as well as its concequences can be grasped only through an extensive exegetical analysis of 2 Cor 8-9. To do this, we had first to answer (ch III, pp. 76-102) all literary and historical questions of 2 Cor , i.e. unity and integrity of our present 2 Cor, relationship between ch 8 and ch 9, as well as with the rest of the corinthian correspondance, sequence of events concerning the entire project in Corinth, and St. Paul's adversaries in Corinth. Only after such a preliminary investigation did we proceed to a detailed exegetical analysis in Part B (pp. 103-304) ïf 2 Cor 8-9.
[xx]Needless to say that we both have consistently used the historical critical method (cf. H.D.Betz, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, p.xi; P.Vassiliadis, XAPIÓ, pp.76ff.
[xxi]We both came to the conclusion that the delegations to transfer the money, collected by the Gentile communities, to the Jerusalem Church were carefully balanced. Dr. Betz suggests that they consisted of Titus as Paul's representative, a person elected by the communities and a further one who was the apostle's choice (p.78). Our conclusion was that the delegation from each major area (Macedonia, Achaia, Asia, Rome etc) consisted of two persons, one elected by the communities themselves, the other being Paul's choice. Titus was Paul's representative for Achaia/Corinth, whereas the two anonymous à‰ÂÏÊÔ› in ch 8 were the elected one from (8.18) and Paul's representative for (8.22), Macedonia (p. 235).
[xxii]We both concluded that ch 8 and ch 9 are independent self-contained letters sent by Paul in that order (cf. my XAPIÓ, p. 92) after the material contained in 2 Cor 1-7.
[xxiii]There are, of course, points in which we completly differ. One such point is Dr Betz's chronological placing of 2 Cor 10-13.10 within the sequence of events related to the corinthian correspondence. For us this independent unit is a letter promted by the deterioration of the relations between Paul and the corinthian community caused by the arrival of Paul÷s enemies, who among other things also undermined (cf. 12.14-18) the collection project (XAPIÓ, pp.77ff. 95). Dr Betz on the contrary, following A.Hausrath's “four chapters” theory, places it before the two collection units (ch 8 and 9). For him it is an apologetic letter sent after another one identified with 2 Cor 2.14-6.13;7.2-4, whereas the reconciliation letter is described in 2 Cor 1.1-2.13; 7.5-16; 13.11-13 (pp.141-144). Dr Betz seems to have overlooked the arguments produced by Dr C.K.Barrett (op.cit; cf. also his Studies on Paul, 1982), whose works he made very little use of.
[xxiv]Following the old but still important work of R.Volkmann, Die Rhetorik der Griechen in systematischer Uebersicht, Stuttgart 1885², Betz suggests that the epistolary prescript of the first letter (ch 8) addressed to Corinth was lost, as was also the case with the ending, the peroratio, indicated somewhat in v. 24. For the rest, he identifies (a) vv.1-5 with exordium, (b) v. 6 with narratio, (c) vv. 7-8 with prepositio, (d) vv. 9-15 with probatio (v 9 being the 1st proof =honestum, vv.10-12 the 2nd =óõìöÝñïí, and vv.13-15 the 3rd =éóüôçò˜) (e) vv. 16-22 were considered as the commendation of delegates, (f) v. 23 was the authorization. By taking ch 8 as a letter of a mixed type, vv.1-15 constitute the "advisory" part, whereas vv. 16ff. the "administrative" Betz insists that this second part does not belong to the category of private recommendation, but "it is an official letter sent by an individual writing in an official capacity to a corporate body" (p.134).
In the second letter, addressed to
the wider area of Achaia (ch 9), vv.1-2 form the exordium, vv. 3-5a the narratio,
v. 5b-c the propositio, vv.
6-14 the probatio (v. 7 being the 1st, v. 8 the 2nd, vv. 9-11 the 3rd, v.12
the 4th, and vv.13-14 the 5th proof), and finally v.15 the peroratio.
[xxv]0p. cit., pp. 46, 90 etc.
[xxvi]Ibid., p. 68.
[xxix]There is, of course, a general tendency in modern N.T. scholarship to examine St. Paul's authentic letters exclusively on grounds of the old sola fide justification theory. This theory, significant as it is, has in effect pushed into the background the incarnational/social aspects of his teaching and in particular his expressed views on equality. Even G.Theissen, whose superb sociological analysis of the pauline data (cf. his translated in English book, Social Setting of the Pauline Christianity Philadelphia: Fortress,1979; also idem, Sociology of Early Palestinian Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) has changed our understanding of early christianity (despite Dr Betz' s opposite opinion, p. 67 n. 221, the only reference to Theissen’s views), has not taken seriously into account the theological as well as social implications of the pauline collection project. E.Schüssler Fiorenza, on the other hand, even in one single paragraph admitted that in 2 Cor 8:13ff we have an important reference to Paul's understanding of equality (In Memory of Her, New York 1983, p. 192).
[xxx]Op. cit., pp. 68ff. G.Stählin, who insists that "Paul is obviously making a concious appeal to the strongly developed Greek sense of equality when in his admonition to the Corinthians concerning the Jerusalem collection he uses the motive of "éóüôçò", asks himself whether this understanding "is not a concession to secular, i.e. Greek do ut des thinking", TDNT vol. III, p.348).
[xxxi]Betz, nevertheless, admits that v. 8:14b is very difficult to understand (op. cit., pp. 68ff.).
[xxxii]It is quite interesting that Dr Betz (op. cit., p. 69 n. 248) remarks : "strangely some works on targumic traditions in the New Testament do not commend on 2 Cor 8:15", referring to B.J. Malina' s The Palestinian Manna Tradition, Leiden: Brill,1968 and to P. Borgen' s Bread from Heaven, Leiden: Brill,1981².
[xxxiii]I state this, with all the awareness that much has been invested in recent years in ancient rhetoric, particularly in american biblical scholarship.
[xxxiv]See my XAPIÓ, pp. 281ff. cf. also H.D.Betz, op.cit., pp.105-128, esp. pp.120ff.