On top of my usual (research) responsibilities, I have been doing some reading of 19th century NT scholarship, especially as it relates to the life and teaching of the apostle Paul. Last night, I came across an interesting comment regarding the argument about using the book of Acts as a ‘reliable’ source for the life of Paul.
The context for the comment deals with the assertion that Paul trained under the supervision of Gamaliel (Acts 22.3),* and whether or not we can accept this as true in light of Paul’s initial persecution against the early church (Acts 8.1-3; 9.1-2; contra Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5.35-39). The comment is a response to this issue and it reads thusly:
That even this fact, attested in Acts xxii.3, should be questioned, is a proof of the quality of the criticism, now fashionable, which I cannot refrain from noting here. Paul’s subsequent persecuting zeal does not agree with the tolerance of Gamaliel, therefore we must distrust the account of the Acts; that is to say, the developed character of Alexander the Great does not agree with the philosophy of Aristotle, therefore it is false that Aristotle was his teacher, etc.
– W. Beyschlag, New Testament Theology (1895), 2.7 n.1
I love old scholarship.
* Some shameless advertising: I have an article on ‘Gamaliel’ (along with three others) coming out soon in the Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture: A Handbook for Students (eds. M.A. Beavis and M.J. Gilmour).