Michael S. Domeracki, Ph.D. 2016
Assistant Director of Program and Fellowships, Rice University
The Domestication of Paul
Christian Responses to the Rise of Paul in the second century
Michael serves as the Assistant Director of Program and Fellowships, Center for Civic Leadership, at Rice University. He has published a paper on Origen and the possible restoration of the devil in the Journal of the Canadian Society of Coptic Studies 6 (2014): 25-40.
The purpose of Michael's thesis is to account for the prominence of Paul in Late Antique Catholicism. As an apostle and authority, Paul did not emerge as the dominant figure among Apostolic-Catholics until the end of the second and beginning of the third century, and even at that it was done within the context of the authority of the other twelve disciples. I suggest that Paul’s popularity and authority arose first among Charismatic-Catholics, Valentinians, and Marcionites who were frustrated with the emerging doctrinal and ecclesial authority of the Apostolic-Catholic Church. These three movements identified with Paul as a singular authority and rejected, or at the very least, diminished, the authority derived from the other twelve disciples. These alternative churches were growing in influence during the second century and rooted their authority in Paul. As these churches grew, their influence threatened the primacy of the dominant Apostolic-Catholic Church and forced it to engage Pauline forms of Christianity. The popularity of Paul was then first witnessed in these discursive movements, and not, among the Apostolic-Catholics.
Through use of social memory, ritual, and identity theories, I explore the growth of discursive Pauline Christianities in the second century and detail the orthodox reactions. Ultimately, the response to these transgressive movements was seen in two ways. The more Torah-focused Christians rejected the authority of Paul completely and depicted him as the arch-heretic. The Apostolic-Catholics, however, responded differently and maintained that Paul represented the same teaching as the twelve, simultaneously arguing that Paul did not have a private teaching and that their own teachings were definitively Pauline. In the process of incorporating Paul, the Apostolic-Catholics domesticated his image and removed the charismatic, mystical, and scriptural memories of the discursive churches from their image of Paul. It was in reaction to these transgressive communities that the domesticated Paul became the dominant apostle, even if one among many, for the Apostolic-Catholics.