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Paradise Revisited (2 Cor 12:1–12): The Jewish Mystical Background of Paul's Apostolate: Part 2: Paul's Heavenly Ascent and its Significance*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

C. R. A. Morray-Jones
Stanford, California


Part one of this article examined the Jewish sources that record the story of four individuals who “entered pardes,” three of whom came to grief while R. Aqiba, alone, survived unscathed. The story is preserved within a talmudic compilation of materials concerning maʿaśeh merkabah (an esoteric, visionary-mystical tradition associated with Ezekiel I), in Song of Songs Rabbah, and in two “merkabah-mystical” hekhalot compilations: Hekhalot Zuṭarti and Merkabah Rabbah. Several scholars have adopted the suggestion, first offered by Wilhelm Bousset, that this story indicates the background in Jewish mystical tradition of Paul's account of his ascent to paradise (2 Cor 12:1–12).

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1933

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1 t. Hag. 2.1; y. Hag. 77b; b. Hag. 14b—15b. All three texts are translated in part 1, pp. 210–15.

2 Cant. R. 1.28 (= 1.4.1). Cant 1:4 is applied to Aqiba in the story as recorded in the talmudic sources. For a translation of this text, see part 1, pp. 210—15.

3 In Peter Schäfer, ed., Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 2; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1981) §§338–6 (Hekhalot Zutarti) and §§671–73 (Merkabah Rabbah); also idem, ed., Geniza-Fragmente zur Hekhalot-Literatur (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 6; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1984) 88, lines 6–17 (Hekhalot Zutarti). Translations may be found in part 1, pp. 196–98.

4 Bousset, Wilhelm, “Die Himmelsreise der Seele,” ARW 4 (1901) 147–48Google Scholar.

5 Windisch, Hans, Der zweite Korintherbrief (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1924) 375–76Google Scholar; Bietenhard, Hans, Die himmlische Welt im Urchristentum und Spätjudentum (WUNT 2; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1951) 9195Google Scholar and 161–68; Scholem, Gershom G., Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition (2d ed.; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1965) 1419Google Scholar.

6 Ephraim E. Urbach, “Ha-Masorot cal Torat ha-Sod bi-Tequphat ha-Tanna'im,” in idem, R. J. Zvi Werblowsky, and Ch. Wirszubski, eds., Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershom G. Scholem on His Seventieth Birthday by Pupils, Colleagues and Friends (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967) 12–17 [Hebrew]; David J. Halperin, The Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature (AOS 62; New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1980) 86–99; and idem, The Faces of the Chariot: Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel's Vision (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 16; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1988) 34–37, 199–208; Schäfer, Peter, “New Testament and Hekhalot Literature: The Journey into Heaven in Paul and in Merkabah Mysticism,” JJS 35 (1984) 1935Google Scholar, reprinted in idem, Hekhalot-Studien (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 19; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1988) 234–49Google Scholar.

7 Smith, Morton, “Observations on Hekhalot Rabbati,” in Altmann, Alexander, ed., Biblical and Other Studies (Studies and Texts 1; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963)Google Scholar; Bowker, John W., “'Merkabah' Visions and the Visions of Paul,” JSS 16 (1971) 157–73Google Scholar; Rowland, Christopher, The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity (London: SPCK, 1982) esp. 368–86Google Scholar; Tabor, James D., Things Unutterable: Paul's Ascent to Paradise in its Greco-Roman, Judaic and Early Christian Contexts (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986)Google Scholar; Brad H. Young, “The Ascension Motif of 2 Corinthians 12 in Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Texts,” Grace Theological Journal 9 (1988) 73–103; Segal, Alan F., Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1990) esp. 3471Google Scholar.

8 Part 1, pp. 185–86.

9 See, especially, Segal, Paul the Convert, 40—71; and Carey C. Newman, Paul's Glory- Christology: Tradition and Rhetoric (NovTSup 69; Leiden: Brill, 1992). Further references to scholarship on the traditions concerning the kabod and their crucial importance for our understanding of the christology of Paul and other early Christian writers are given in Part 1, n. 8.

10 Part 1, 207–8 n. 116.

11 See, for example, Hekhalot Rabbati 15.8–16.2 (Schäfer, Synopse, §§213–15).

12 It seems most natural, contra (among others) Jörg Baumgarten (Paulus und die Apokalyptik: Die Auslegung apokalyptischer Überlieferungen in den echten paulinischen Briefen [WMANT 44; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1975] 136—46), to interpret KVpiot) here as an objective genitive, rather than a genitive of authorship. This will be confirmed by the following analysis.

13 It is assumed in what follows that 2 Corinthians 10–13 is a separate textual unit, probably part of the “severe letter” of 2 Cor 2:3–4, 9; 7:8, 12. For a recent discussion of this issue, including an excellent overview of relevant scholarship, see Taylor, N. H., “The Composition and Chronology of Second Corinthians,” JSNT 44 (1991) 6787Google Scholar. See also Strecker, Georg, “Die Legitimität des paulinischen Apostolates nach 2 Korinther 10–13,” NTS 38 (1992) 566–86Google Scholar.

14 It is not possible to go into the difficult question of the exact identity of Paul's opponents here, but it seems certain that they were Jewish Christians of some kind and claimed “visions and revelations” of their own. See further, Lightfoot, J. B., “St. Paul and the Three,” in idem, St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (London: Macmillan, 1874) 283355Google Scholar, especially 353—55; Käsemann, Ernst, “Die Legitimität des Apostels. Eine Untersuchung zu II Korinther 10–13,” ZNW 41 (1942) 3371Google Scholar; Schoeps, H. J., Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961) 7487Google Scholar; Gerhard Friedrich, “Die Gegner des Paulus im 2. Korintherbrief,” in Otto Betz, Martin Hengel, and Peter Schmidt, eds., Abraham unser Vater: Juden und Christen im Gespräch über die Bibel, Festschrift für Otto Michel zum 60. Geburtstag (AGJU 5; Leiden: Brill, 1963) 181–221; C. K. Barrett, “Paul's Opponents in 2 Corinthians,” NTS 17 (1970–71) 233–54; and idem, A Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (London: Black, 1973) 302–6; John J. Gunther, St. Paul's Opponents and their Background (NovTSup 35; Leiden: Brill, 1973) esp. 298–307; E. Earle Ellis, “Paul and his Opponents,” in Jacob Neusner, ed., Christianity, Judaism and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty (SJLA 12; Leiden: Brill, 1975) 264–98, reprinted in E. Earle Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity (WUNT 18; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1978) 80–115; John Howard Schutz, Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority (SNTSMS 26; London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975) 165–86; Bengt Holmberg, Paul and Power: the Structure of Authority in the Primitive Church as reflected in the Pauline Epistles (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 45–8 and 77–79; Dieter Georgi, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) esp. 32—39; Tabor, Things Unutterable, 21–45; Frances Young and David F. Ford, Meaning and Trut in 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987) 206–20; Ralph P. Martin, “The Opponents of Paul in 2 Corinthians: An Old Issue Revisited,” in Hawthorne, Gerald F. and Betz, Otto, eds., Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament: Essays in Honor of E. Earle Ellis for His 60th Birthday (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans and Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1987) 279–89Google Scholar; Sumney, Jerry L., Identifying Paul's Opponents: The Question of Method in 2 Corinthians (JSNTSup 40; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Newman, Glory-Christology, 229–40; Strecker, “Die Legitimitat des paulinischen Apostolates,” 570–73. The influential study of Hans Dieter Betz, Der Apostel Paulus und die sokratische Tradition (BHTh 45; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1972) has shown that in 2 Corinthians 10–13 Paul makes extensive use of Greek apologetic techniques, especially irony, in defending himself against these opponents. Betz's penetrating analysis of the literary form of these chapters, however, does not justify all of his conclusions regarding their content, and his suggestion that 2 Cor 12:1—12 is merely a parody of a heavenly ascent, not an autobiographical account, is entirely unconvincing. See further, Forbes, Christopher, “Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul's Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric,” NTS 32 (1986) 130Google Scholar.

15 See the cogent arguments of Knox, John, “'Fourteen Years Later': A Note on the Pauline Chronology,” JR 16 (1936) 341–49Google Scholar. See further, Lightfoot, Galatians, 183; Riddle, Donald Wayne, Paul, Man of Conflict: A Modern Biographical Sketch (Nashville: Cokesbury, 1940) 118–24 and 205Google Scholar.

16 See, in addition to the works cited in n. 14 above, Ernst Benz, Paulus als Visionär: eine vergleichende Untersuchung der Visionsberichte des Paulus in der Apostelgeschichte und in den paulinischen Briefen (Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur; Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse 1952.2; Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1952) 77–121; Helmut Saake, “Paulus als Ekstatiker: Pneumatologische Beobachtungen zu 2 Kor. xii 1–10,” NovT 15 (1973) 152–60; Rowland, The Open Heaven, 379–80.

17 See, for example, Georgi, Opponents, 279–80; Hans Lietzmann, An die Korinther I—II (HNT 9; completed by Werner Georg Kümmel; 5th ed.; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1969) 152–77; Hans Dieter Betz, “Der Apostel Paulus,” 97–100; Barrett, Commentary, 305–6; Gunther, Opponents, 100–101; Rudolf Karl Bultmann, The Second Letter to the Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985) 218–30; Tabor, Things Unutterable, 34–38; Strecker, “Die Legitimitat des paulinischen Apostolates,” 577–79.

18 See part 1: HZ/MR, A2b (p. 196); Geniza fragment A/B5 (p. 198); Cant. R. A44–5 (p. 213).

19 Scholem, J'ewish Gnosticism, appendix C, 113; Schäfer, Synopse, §584; Naomi Janowitz, The Poetics of Ascent: Theories of Language in a Rabbinic Ascent Text (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989) 54 (lines 0779–0784); Michael D. Swartz, Mystical Prayer in Ancient Judaism: An Analysis of Maοaséh Merkabah (Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 28; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1992) 242.

20 Maοaśeh Merkabah §26: Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, 113; Schäfer, Synopse, §586; Janowitz, Poetics, 55 (lines 0812–20); Swartz, Mystical Prayer, 242.

21 Morton Smith, “Ascent to the Heavens and the Beginning of Christianity,” ErJb 50 (1981) 403–29.

22 Irenaeus Adversus haereses 5.5.1.

23 M. D. Goulder, “The Visionaries of Laodicea,” JSNT 43 (1991) 15–39, esp. 18–20.

24 Ibid., 19.

25 Barrett (Commentary, 307) observed that Luke uses ὀπτασία of earthly visions; Goulder (“Visionaries,” 19 n. 1) acknowledges this observation, but discounts it.

26 Rowland (The Open Heaven, 242–45) and Segal (Paul the Convert, 58–59) interpret the formula in this way.

27 See Morray-Jones, C. R. A., “Transformational Mysticism in the Apocalyptic-Merkabah Tradition,” JJS 43 (1992) 131CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Compare Tabor, Things Unutterable, 10–19, and Segal, Paul the Convert, 34–71. In the passages cited above, Paul extends this promise of transformation (which is apparently both a future event and an ongoing process) to all those who have become “participating members” of the glorified body of Christ. It seems that the transformational aspect of the heavenly ascent was at an early period transferred to the rite of baptism. This transference is also found in Gnostic and Syriac Christian sources, and a few Jewish texts associate reception of the divine name, which is a key element of the heavenly transformation in the apocalyptic-merkabah tradition, with ritual immersion. See further, April D. De Connick and Jarl Fossum, “Stripped Before God: A New Interpretation of Logion 37 in the Gospel of Thomas,” VC 45 (1991) 123–50.

28 Compare Rowland, The Open Heaven, 384—86.

29 Tabor, Things Unutterable, 23.

30 Hekhalot Rabbati 1.2–2.3 (Schäfer, Synopse, §§81b-93), abbreviated where indicated. On this passage, see Peter Schäfer, “Gershom Scholem Reconsidered: The Aim and Purpose of Early Jewish Mysticism” (12th Sacks Lecture; Oxford: Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies, 1986) 15–16; reprinted as idem, “The Aim and Purpose of Early Jewish Mysticism,” in idem, Hekhalot-Studien, 292—93; and idem, Der verborgene und offenbare Gott: Hauptthemen der frühen jüdischen Mystik (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991) 4144Google Scholar, now available in English as idem, The Hidden and Manifest God (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992) 4345Google Scholar; Halperin, Faces, 440–41; Wewers, Gerd A., “Die Überlegenheit des Mystikers: zur Aussage der Gedulla-Hymnen in Hekhalot Rabbati 1,2–2,3,” JSJ 17 (1986) 322Google Scholar. Wewers has translated the passage in full (excluding Schäfer, Synopse, §93). See also Peter Schäfer, ed., & Uuml;bersetzung der Hekhalot Literatur (4 vols. [vol. 1 as yet unpublished]; Texte und Studien zum Antiken Judentum 17, 22, 29; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1987-) 2. 1–10.

31 The precise meaning of this unique expression is unclear. Schäfer (“Gershom Scholem Reconsidered,” 15–16; idem, & Uuml;bersetzung, 2. 1–10; idem, Die verborgene und offenbare Gott, 41–43) offers: “Greatest of all is the fact that. … “(“Die alle übertreffende Größe besteht darin, daß. … “) but compare Wewers (“Überlegenheit,” 5–9) “One greatness among them all is. …” (“Eine Größe von ihnen alien ist. … “; Schäfer notes that this is possible). Halperin (Faces, 440) offers: “Greater than all of them: …, “which conveys the probable sense of the expression but not the grammatical construction. Wewers (“Überlegenheit,” 9 n. 36) suggests that Exod 18:11 and/or m. ʾAbot 6.5—7 may lie behind the expression.

32 Following Wewers (“Überlegenheit,” 5); Schäfer (Übersetzung, 2. 2): “that they [i.e. the angels] bind themselves to him” (“daß sie sich ihm verbinden”).

33 See the following note.

34 According to the majority of the manuscripts: Schäfer (Übersetzung, 2. 9) and Wewers (“Überlegenheit,” 8), assuming to be God himself, translated the preposition by “for” (“fur”), implying that the adept is empowered to pronounce the ban on God's behalf. The use of the construction to mean “to say… on behalf of,” however, would be unusual. Alternatively, the preposition may be interpreted as an expression of the genitive, connecting : “and to pronounce the ban of , the God of Israel.” MS Munich 22, which substitutes for , evidently understands the construction in this way, but expression of the genitive by , rather than , is rare in rabbinic Hebrew. By far the most natural interpretation of is “to say. … to” (or, which amounts to the same thing, “to say… with regard to”). The problem is that this would apparently mean that the adept is empowered to excommunicate God, which seems unlikely. The interpretation, however, is supported by MSS Vatican 228 and Leiden Or. 4730, which substitute for . This can only mean “to pronounce a ban against” and is therefore lectio difficilior. In Merkabah Rabbah (Schäfer, Synopse, §678) the formula: is appended to the name of the angelic viceregent Metatron (see Schäfer, Der verborgene und offenbare Gott, 111), and angels whose names include the -element are very frequently encountered in the hekhalot literature (see further, Morray-Jones, “Transformational Mysticism,” 7–10, and the references cited there). It may, therefore, be that - is here the angelic head of the celestial hierarchy. This interpretation is supported by the observation that in Hekhalot Rabbati 1.2 the adept stands beside (on the right of) God's throne, but opposite . If this view is correct, the meaning is that the adept's authority is second only to that of God himself, that it exceeds that of the heavenly and earthly courts, and that he is empowered to judge and excommunicate even the celestial viceregent and his retinue. Compare 1 Cor 6:3: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?”

35 Schäfer, “Gershom Scholem Reconsidered,” 16 (= idem, Hekhalot-Studien, 293). Compare Tabor on Paul (Things Unutterable, 23; quoted above p. 274).

36 Wewers, “Überlegenheit,” 20–23.

37 Ibid., 21.

38 Rowland (The Open Heaven, 380–82) and Tabor (Things Unutterable, 115–20) interpret the passage in this way.

39 Ralph P. Martin (Second Corinthians [Word Biblical Commentary 40; Waco: Word, 1986] 401–3) and Young (“The Ascension Motif,” 90), for example, have defended this interpretation.

40 Bietenhard, Himmlische Welt, 162–68.

41 Schäfer, Synopse, §§348–52; Rachel Elior, Hekhalot Zutarti (Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought Suppl. 1; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1982) 23–25, lines 59–99. The opening words, “R. Aqiba said: At that time, when I ascended to the Merkabah, a bat-qol went forth…, etc.” are also found in the two manuscripts of Merkabah Rabbah that contain the pardes story (Schäfer, Synopse, §674). See further, Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, 77–78; Schäfer, Der verborgene und offenbare Gotl, 56–59; and idem, & Uuml;bersetzung, 3. 17–24.

42 This word is different in all five manuscripts in Schäfer, Synopse and in the Geniza fragment 7.T.-S.k21.95.B. (in Schäfer, Geniza-Fragmente, 90–91) but none of the versions is meaningful (O: ). (O = Oxford; N = New York; D = Dropsie; M40 = Munich 40; M22 = Munich 22; G7 = Geniza fragment.) In the following gloss, all except G7 give a different form again. (O: ). Schäfer (Übersetzung, 3. 18 nn. 14 and 19) has argued that G7 gives the best reading, since the gloss at least agrees with the text (assuming ʾ to be the preposition “like” or “as”). Scholem (Jewish Gnosticism, 77–78) and Ithamar Gruenwald (Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism [AGJU 14; Leiden: Brill, 1980] 148) both translated “vestibule” on the basis of the gloss (; G7 reads: ). Possibly, (“building”) should be read.

43 Reading (thus O, D, M22) as ʾafaʿel infinitive of (M40: [meaningless]; N omits this word). Compare Scholem (Jewish Gnosticism, 78), “to dwell with,” and see Schäfer, & Uuml;bersetzung, 3. 19 n. 11.

44 This expression is uncertain, but highly significant. The manuscripts read as follows: N: (“to be praised in glory”; Scholem [Jewish Gnosticism, 78] offers “to praise the glory”); M22: (meaning uncertain, perhaps: “to become old [or learned] with honor”; O: ; D, M40: . The above translation is based on O. If the reference is to the divine glory (note that in the previous lines the possessive suffix refers to God), it must mean either: “to be transformed into his glory” (as above) or “… by his glory.” Alternatively, it may refer to the mystic's own glory: “to be transformed in his glory.” D and M40 are identical, save that they omit the possessive suffix. They could therefore mean “to be transformed into the (divine) glory,” or “… by the (divine) glory,” or “… in glory.” Whatever the precise meaning, the reading of these three manuscripts is an important witness to the theme of “transformational mysticism” in the hekhalot tradition.

45 The magical names are given according to MS Oxford.

46 Following M22. The other manuscripts read for (thus: “and there are those who say… “) but this reading is presumably based on an abbreviation.

47 N reads, “R. Aqiba says… “

48 Compare Rowland, The Open Heaven, 75–189.

49 Schäfer, Der verborgene und offenbare Gott, 56 (compare idem, & Uuml;bersetzung, 3. 20 n. 1).

50 Published by Moriz Friedlander, “Těhillat Piruš Šir-ha-Širim Měʿrab mi-Lašon ʿEber wě-ʿArab,” in Festschrift zum achtzigsten Geburtstage Moritz Steinschneider's (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1896) Hebrew section, 49–59 (the quotation is on p. 58). On the antiquity of much of the material preserved by this source, see A. Marmonstein, “Deux renseignements d'Origene concernant les Juifs,” REJ1 (1920) 195–99; and Saul Lieberman, Midrěšei-Teiman (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1970) 12–19 [Hebrew]; see further idem, “Mišnat Šir-ha-Širim” (appendix D of Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism) 123–24. It is tempting, although perhaps overoptimistic, to conjecture that this tradition goes back to Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, who was the first of six něsiʾim to bear this name and title, and who was allegedly claimed as a teacher by Paul (Acts 22:3).

51 Contra, for example, Käsemann, “Die Legitimität des Apostels,” 63—64, who argues that Paul uses this expression to emphasize the private, incommunicable nature of his experience and to deny that any claim to authority can be based on such experiences. See further n. 64 below.

52 For a useful summary of previous scholarship on this issue, see Martin, Second Corinthians, 410–23.

53 Irenaeus Adversus haereses 5.3.1; Tertullian Pud. 13.6; and Marc. 5.12.

54 See BAG, s.v. σκóλoΨ, 441b-42a, and κoλαφίζω, 763b-64a; and further, for example, Lightfoot, Galatians, 186–91; Neil Gregor Smith, “The Thorn that Stayed: An Interpretation of II Corinthians 12:1–9 “Int 13 (1959) 409–16; F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (NCB Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans and London: Marshall, Morgan, & Scott, 1980) 248–49; Delling, Gerhard, σκóλoφ, TDNT 7 (1971) 409–13Google Scholar; Betz, Hans Dieter, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979) 224–26Google Scholar.

55 Thus, for example: Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief; Schmidt, Karl Ludwig, κoλαφίζω, TDNT 3 (1965) 818–21Google Scholar.

56 Chrysostom Horn. 26 on 2 Corinthians.

57 Thus, for example: Ph. H. Menoud, “L'écharde et l'ange satanique (2 Cor. 12, 7),” in Sevenster, J. N. and Unnik, W. C. van, eds., Studia Paulina in Honorem Johannis de Zwaan Septuagenarii (Haarlem: Bohn, 1953) 163–71Google Scholar; Barre, Michael L., “Qumran and the Weakness of Paul,” CBQ 42 (1980) 216–27Google Scholar; McCant, Jerry W., “Paul's Thorn of Rejected Apostleship,” NTS 34 (1988) 550–72Google Scholar.

58 Mullins, Terence Y., “Paul's Thorn in the Flesh,” JBL 76 (1957) 299303Google Scholar.

59 Price, Robert M., “Punished in Paradise (An Exegetical Theory on II Corinthians 12:1–10),” JSNT 1 (1980) 3340Google Scholar. Price's suggestion is in part anticipated by Windisch, Der zweite Korintherbrief, 382–90.

60 It has generally been assumed that “three times” implies three separate occasions. Given the fact that visions of Christ were a regular feature of Paul's experience (see further below, p. 284 n. 66), and if the reference is to a chronic or recurring complaint, this may be so. Price, however, has pointed out (“Punished,” 35) that the text carries no such implication (compare Mark 14:35–39) and argued that Paul is describing a single event in his visionary experience. Young (“The Ascension Motif,” 81) suggests, plausibly enough, that the “three times” corresponds to Paul's passage through the three celestial spheres.

6 lCompare Segal, Paul the Convert, 33–39. Young (“The Ascension Motif,” 80, 84) is ambivalent on this point. On the one hand, he recognizes the background in Jewish mysticism of Paul's vision, but, on the other, he is anxious to distinguish between Paul's experience (“an extraordinary religious encounter”) and “an extreme esoteric and sometimes self-induced mysticism.” This proposed distinction appears to be motivated by theological considerations, however, and is not supported by historical analysis.

62 Tabor, Things Unutterable, 115–16.

63 Compare Maʿaseh Merkabah §24, above p. 271.

64 Those who hold such a view include Käsemann, “Die Legitimität des Apostels,” 67–71; idem, Perspectives on Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 134Google Scholar; Davies, William David, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London: SPCK, 1948) 87Google Scholar, 196–97; Stacey, Walter David, The Pauline View of Man (London: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1956) 139–0Google Scholar; Georgi, Opponents, 277–83; Schmithals, Walter, Die Gnosis in Korinth: Eine Untersuchung zu den Korintherbriefen (2d ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1965) 197206Google Scholar; Lietzmann, An die Korinther, 155, 212; Barrett, “Paul's Opponents,” 244–45; idem, Commentary, 302–6; Gunther, Opponents, 276–77; Russell P. Spittler, “The Limits of Ecstasy: an Exegesis of 2 Corinthians 12:1–10,” in Gerald F. Hawthorne, ed., Current Issues in Biblical and Patristical Interpretation: Studies in Honor of Merrill C. Tenney Presented by his Former Students (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 259–66; Bultmann, Second Letter, 218–30; Andrew T. Lincoln, “'Paul the Visionary': The Setting and Significance of the Rapture to Paradise in II Corinthians XII 1–10,” NTS 25 (1978) 204–20, esp. 211; idem, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul's Thought with Special Reference to his Eschatology (SNTSMS 43; London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981) 71–85; Victor Paul Furnish, Il Corinthians, Translated with Introduction, Notes and Commentary (AB 32A; Garden City: Doubleday, 1984) 542–6; William Baird, “Visions, Revelation and Ministry: Reflections on 2 Cor 12:1–5 and Gal 1:11–17,” JBL 104 (1985) 651–62; Martin, Second Corinthians, 387–424; Ernest Best, Second Corinthians (Atlanta: Knox, 1987) 116–21 (an extreme example of this tendency); Sumney, Identifying Paul's Opponents, 167–68; and Strecker, “Die Legitimitat des paulinischen Apostolates,” 577. Bruce (/ and 2 Corinthians, 245–50) denied a connection between 2 Corinthians 12 and any vision recorded in Acts, but did not downplay the significance of Paul's visions. On the position advanced by Goulder, see pp. 272–73 above.

65 See Tabor, Things Unutterable, 32–34, for a penetrating exposé of the “hidden agenda” underlying this approach, the aim of which is to produce a portrait of Paul that conforms to rationalist Protestant presuppositions. A few of the commentators cited in the previous note have argued that Paul's visions were important for him personally, but irrelevant to his apostolic claim or Christian belief. This is simply absurd.

66 Ibid., 21; Segal, Paul the Convert, 34–71. Baumgarten (Paulus und die Apokalyptik, 143) has also emphasized the frequency of Paul's visionary experience but did not discuss the aspect of practical mysticism, nor did he think that Paul saw Christ on this occasion. See also Reitzenstein, Richard, Hellenistic Mystery Religions: Their Basic Ideas and Significance (PTMS 15; trans. John E. Steely; Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1978) 426500Google Scholar, esp. 468–71.

67 John Knox ('“Fourteen Years Later,'“346-t9; and idem, “The Pauline Chronology,” JBL 58 [1939] 1529)Google Scholar originally held this view but later retracted it (Chapters in a Life of Paul [New York/Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1950] 78 n. 3; see also the second, revised edition [Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987] 34 n. 1). Riddle (Man of Conflict, 62–63, 208–11) accepted Knox's original position, which has also been supported by Charles Henry Buck and Greer Taylor (Saint Paul: A Study of the Development of His Thought [New York: Scribner, 1969] 220–26). Buck and Taylor rightly recognized the importance of the vision for Paul's claim to apostolic authority but wrongly assumed that the basis of this claim was the Damascus road event.

68 Contra Seyoon Kim (The Origin of Paul's Gospel [WUNT 2/4; 2d ed.; Tübingen: Mohr/ Siebeck, 1984] 223–33) whose discussion, although excellent in many respects, rests on a false assumption. See further n. 82 below.

69 Stanislas Giet (“Nouvelles remarques sur les voyages de Saint Paul à Jérusalem,” RevScRel 31 [1957] 329–42) suggested in passing (p. 340) that this passage may correspond to 2 Cor 12:1–12 but, as far as I am aware, this suggestion has never been developed in detail. Robert Jewett (A Chronology of Paul's Life [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979] 54—55) briefly considered the possibility, but mistakenly rejected it (see further below p. 287).

70 Or it occurred three years after his return to Damascus, shortly after the conversion.

71 See Rowland, The Open Heaven, 383–84.

72 Otto Betz, “Die Vision des Paulus im Tempel von Jerusalem—Apg. 22,17–21 als Beitrag des Damaskuserlebnisses,” in Otto Böcherand Klaus Haacker, eds., Verborum Veritas, Festschrift für Gustav Stählin zum 70. Geburtstag (Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 1970) 113–23Google Scholar.

73 Jewett, Chronology, 54–55.

74 Contra Bruce, The Speeches in the Acts of the Apostles (Tyndale New Testament Lecture; London: Tyndale, 1942) 22–25. See, above all, Martin Dibelius, “The Speeches in Acts and Ancient Historiography,” in idem, Studies in the Acts of the Apostles (London: SCM, 1956) 138–85, esp. 158—61. On the speeches in general see, for example, Henry J. Cadbury, The Making of Luke-Acts (London/New York: Macmillan, 1958) 184–93; Martin Dibelius, “The Acts of the Apostles as a Historical Source,” in idem, Studies, 102–8; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles (3d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990) 34–40; Eduard Schweizer, “Concerning the Speeches in Acts,” in Leander E. Keck and J. Louis Martyn, eds., Studies in Luke-Acts (1966; reprinted Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 208–16; Fred Veltman, “The Defense Speeches of Paul in Acts,” in Charles H. Talbert, ed., Perspectives on Luke-Acts (Perspectives in Religious Studies, Special Series 5; Danville, VA: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978) 243–56. Also relevant to this discussion are Benjamin J. Hubbard, “Commissioning Stories in Luke-Acts: A Study of their Antecedents, Form and Content,” Semeia 8 (1977) 103–26; and idem, “The Role of Commissioning Accounts in Acts,” in Talbert, Perspectives, 187–98.

75 See, for example, Dibelius, “Speeches” 158–61; Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971) 628–31; Volker Stolle, Der Zeuge als Angeklagter: Untersuchungen zum Paulus-Bild des Lukas (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1973) 164–66, 210–12; Robert C. Tannehill, The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation, vol. 2: The Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1990) 268—84.

76 Betz, “Die Vision des Paulus im Tempel.”

77 Conzelmann, Hans, Acts of the Apostles (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987) 187–88Google Scholar.

78 Burchard, Christoph, Der dreizehnte Zeuge: traditions- und kompositionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zu Lukas' Darstellung der Frühzeit des Paulus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1970) 161–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Interestingly enough, Burchard was prepared to speculate in a footnote (p. 165 n. 13), developing a suggestion of Menoud (“L'écharde,” 171), that it may have arisen out of speculation about Paul's vision in 2 Corinthians 12. This theory imposes an unnecessary strain upon the evidence. See further n. 81 below.

79 See Dibelius, “Speeches,” 160.

80 Hekhalot Rabbati 13–23 (Schäfer, Synopse, §§198–250). See part 1, pp. 181–82.

82 Cor 11:32–12:1; compare Acts 9:23–26. If Luke used 2 Corinthians 10–13 as a source, he will almost certainly have recognized that 2 Cor 12:1–12 referred to the temple vision that he recorded at Acts 22:17–22. It is, however, inconceivable that this gentile author was so familiar with the merkabah tradition that he was able to make up Acts 22:17–22, with its detailed allusions to that tradition, on the basis of 2 Cor 12:1–12, the language of which is relatively veiled. The account of the temple vision must therefore be derived from a Jewish source. To argue that this source was not Paul himself (see n. 78 above) is to complicate matters beyond necessity of reason.

82 Though not widely accepted, this position has been argued from the internal evidence of Acts by, for example, Liechtenhan, Rudolf, Die urchristliche Mission: Voraussetzungen, Motive und Methoden (AThANT 9; Zurich: Zwingli-Verlag, 1946) 7780Google Scholar; Anton Fridrichsen, “The Apostle and his Message,” (UUA 3; Uppsala: Lundequistaka, 1947) 3–23; Benz, “Visionar,” 91; Paul Gaechter, Petrus und seine Zeit (Innsbruck: Tyrolia-Verlag, 1958) 408–15; W. D. Davies, “The Apostolic Age and the Life of Paul,” in PCB, 874 (§764a); Rigaux, Beda, The Letters of St. Paul (Chicago: Franciscan Herald, 1968) 6162Google Scholar; Blair, Edward P., “Paul's Call to the Gentile Mission,” BR 10 (1965) 1933Google Scholar.

Kim's attempt to refute these arguments (Origin, 58–65) is both conjectural and tendentious. His statement that the temple vision “does not… seem to have been of decisive importance for Paul, for he never mentions it in his letters” (p. 65) is, in the light of the above analysis, completely wrong. The assumption that the conversion and the commission to the Gentiles were a single event is absolutely central to Kim's thesis, which is vitiated by this finding (see n. 68 above). Kim lists several passages of Paul's writings that have often been interpreted as references to the conversion (Origin, 3—31), but many of these may in fact be references to the commission in the temple (= paradise). Newman (Glory-Christology, 164–247) follows Kim's erroneous assumption.

James D. G. Dunn (Jesus and the Spirit: A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus as Reflected in the New Testament [London: SCM, 1975] 97–114) offers a useful discussion of Paul's claim to apostolic authority but also assumes that the conversion and commission were a single event. Dunn also overlooks a crucial difference between Paul's vision of the risen Christ and the “pre-ascension” resurrection appearances to the discipleapostles: Paul's visions are of the heavenly, glorified Christ-kabod. The Damascus road event implies (as argued above) a revelatory descent of the Chhst-kabod or, alternatively, an “opening of the heavens” (as in Ezekiel 1), hence the supernatural blinding light which is markedly absent in the pre-ascension appearances. On the other hand, the commission in paradise (= the temple vision) was associated with a vision of the Christ-kabod enthroned in the celestial sanctuary at the climax of a mystical ascent.

83 Nowhere in Acts 9 is it stated that Paul received his commission to the Gentiles on the occasion of his conversion. We are told only that the knowledge of God's future purpose for Paul was vouchsafed to Ananias (Acts 9:15). Indeed, Acts 9:16 might be taken to imply that Ananias was forbidden to reveal this purpose to Paul (“I [Christ] myself will show him”). Acts 26:12—23 seems to be a compressed version of Acts 22:6—21, in which the contents of both the Ananias episode and the temple vision are assimilated to the Damascus road event. Since both speeches (and perhaps the Ananias episode itself) are Lukan compositions, this has no bearing on the authenticity of Acts 22:17–22 as a traditionial unit deriving ultimately from Paul. At Gal 1:16, Paul does not state that he became aware of his commission to the Gentiles on the occasion of his conversion, merely that he now knows this to have been God's purpose when he first revealed his Son to him.

84 See Knox, '“Fourteen Years Later,'“esp. 341; idem, “The Pauline Chronology,” esp. 23–26; idem. Chapters in a Life of Paul (revised ed.; 1987; see n. 67 above) esp. 3–52; Riddle, Man of Conflict, esp. 13–20 and 185–223; Buck and Taylor, Saint Paul, esp. 3–19; Jewett, Chronology, esp. 7–24; John Coolidge Hurd, Jr., “Chronology, Pauline,” IDBSup (1962) 166–67; idem, The Origin of 1 Corinthians (New York: Seabury, 1965) 3–42; idem, “Pauline Chronology and Pauline Theology,” in W. R. Farmer, C. F. D. Moule and R. R. Niebuhr, eds., Christian History and Interpretation: Studies Presented to John Knox (London/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1967) 225–48; and idem, “The Sequence of Paul's Letters,” CJT 14 (1968) 188–200; Gerd Lüdemann, Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984). See now John Knox, “On the Pauline Chronology: Buck-Taylor-Hurd Revisited,” in Robert T. Fortna and Beverly R. Gaventa, eds.. The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul and John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990) 258–74. Since these scholars have tended to discount Acts as a source of reliable data, it is perhaps hardly surprising that none of them has identified the ascent to paradise with the temple vision, but the identification is consistent with, or requires only small adjustments to, the reconstructions that they have proposed. It allows the expression διὰ δεκατεσαάρων in Gal 2:1 to be taken as consecutive with (rather than inclusive of) μετὰ ἐτη τρία in Gal 1:18, as seems most natural. Thus, Gal 1:15–17 refers to the conversion; Gal 1:18 states that Paul went up to Jerusalem three years after this event; and Gal 2:1 places the second visit to Jerusalem (the “Jerusalem conference”) fourteen years later. It is probable that Gal 2:11–14 is not part of this chronological sequence, but refers to an earlier event (see Lüdemann, Paul, 20–21). It should be noted that Paul's protestation at Gal 1:21 implies that a different account of these events was being promulgated by his opponents, and this could be the basis of the muddled chronology of Acts.

The reconstruction proposed by Dunn, James D. G. (“The Incident at Antioch [Gal 2:11–18],” JSNT 18 [1983] 357Google Scholar, reprinted in idem, Jesus, Paul and the Law [London: SPCK, 1990] 129–81) rests on the assumption that Gal 2:11–14 continues the chronological sequence of Gal 1:13–2:10. Giet (“Nouvelles remarques,” 335–40) has argued that Gal 1:18, “Eπειτα μετὰ ἐτη τρία, means three years after Paul's stay in Damascus, the length of which is not specified, so that more than three years elapsed between the conversion and the first visit to Jerusalem, but this reading of the text seems very strained.