Literary Integrity as a Methodological Topos
- To: Synoptic
Cc: GPG; WSW
On: Literary Integrity as a Methodological Topos
Just suppose, for a moment, that we *really* wanted to figure out some text
problem, how would we proceed? As I tried to suggest at the beginning of
this thread (which had its root, as I recall, in certain perfectly OK
Synoptical directionality determinations), it is good to examine details,
but it is questionable to examine one detail and then stop. The perils of
doing so are beautifully illustrated in the recent UBS reinstating (see the
Metzger commentary, ad loc) of what had earlier been accepted as a group of
"Western Non" interpolations in Luke. Judged one by one, with their
magnificent manuscript support, these liturgically consequential passages
only too readily infiltrate their way singly into the text. It is when they
are considered as a group that they arouse due suspicion. That is the
general methodological principle.
We should then consider groups, and not merely specimens, if we hope to get
the answers right, to any text question, including the Synoptic, which comes
under our notice.
As an allegorical parable, I will briefly consider one way in which one
might rationally proceed in the recently discussed case of 1 Thessalonians.
For a start, 1Th can hardly be validly considered apart from the case of
2Th. If, for example, we are disposed to envision Paul as the author of 1Th
(as everybody so far has done), we need at some point,before venturing very
far in that direction, to assure ourselves by evaluating de novo its
credentials as a Pauline product.
One issue that comes up repeatedly in Pauline Epistle discussions is the
question of whether we are dealing with one text or with a conflation of
several texts. These questions are disturbing to many, and thus arises a
theory which might be summarized in this way: There are evil people who
delight to unsettle the faithful by calling into question the canonical
texts. They operate with special outrageousness on the Pauline Epistles.
Does such a gang of Pauline Vandals exist? If so, they have certainly gone
about their work of sowing doubt as to literary integrity in a very strange
way. Consider, with the help of Udo Schnelle (History and Theology of the
New Testament Writings; 1994; tr 1998), the following composite picture of
his comments sv "Literary Integrity:"
Generally Accepted as Pauline:
1 Thessalonians: Disputed
1 Corinthians: Disputed
2 Corinthians: Disputed
Galatians: Undisputed; interpolation suggested
Widely Doubted as Pauline:
2 Thessalonians: Undisputed
1 Timothy: Undisputed
2 Timothy: Undisputed
Not Internally Claimed as Pauline:
Hebrews: Epistolary Conclusion Suspected
Does anyone see a pattern here? I do. It is that (1) every generally
accepted Pauline letter *to a church* (the individual letter to Philemon is
obviously in a different category), save one, namely the very early
Galatians, is suspected by careful modern readers of being conflated or
otherwise doctored, and (2) every generally doubted Pauline letter *to a
church* (Hebrews is in a somewhat different category, since no church
community is implied) is NOT so suspected.
I think this will to some degree support my previous "house text" scenario,
where the proprietors of genuine letters received from Paul have conflated
them and/or interpolated them for reasons of their own, reasons which,
whatever their nature, seem on the whole not to apply to what are called the
Deuteropaulines: texts which according to this data set are more likely to
be one-time literary productions than authority texts protected, and
sometimes fed, over a perhaps considerable time, in the bosom of a recipient
It is further notable, though not visible in the above list, that every
supposed Epistle which is seen to be closely modeled on ANOTHER Epistle is
itself in the Deutero class (Ephesians on Colossians; 2 Thess on 1 Thess).
Whether these authors took as their models a real or a dubious Pauline
letter, they seem to have used that letter as a template for what a Pauline
epistle ought to look like. Their productions were intended not merely to
instruct the churches of their day, but to pass as *Pauline* instructions
for those churches.
What does this do for our subsequent closer scrutiny of 1Th?
For one thing, it tends to orient us in a landscape of textual probability,
where the house text scenario (or something functionally equivalent to it)
looms as likely to be relevant to 1Th, at the same time as it tends to
support the idea of Pauline authorship of 1Th.
If on the one hand we do not have wiggle room in reattributing 1Th, and the
above investigation tends to confirm previous majority opinion in denying us
that room, and if on the other hand we have available the "house text" or
"closely held text" scenario, as from the above investigation seems to be
the case, then passages suspect as interpolations in 1Th which at the same
time do not show up in manuscript variants and are thus likely to be
prepublic actions, have a strongly indicated solution.
I have previously indicated what I think that solution is, and will not here
repeat myself. I only note that the above considerations tend to point,
independently, in the same direction.
We can additionally use 2Th as a check on when a given segment of 1Th
entered that document. 2Th, as noted above, is closely modeled on 1Th.
Schnelle admirably gives us a map of this:
1Th 1:1 / 2Th 1:1-2
1Th 1:2-3 2Th 1:3
1Th 1:6-7 2Th 1:4
1Th 1, 2, 3, 4 2Th 1:11 (extracting from 1Th)
1Th 2:13 2Th 2:13
Transition to Parenesis
1Th 3:11, 13 2Th 2:16, 17
Requests and Admonitions
1Th 4:1 2Th 3:1
1Th 4:1 2Th 3:6
1Th 4:10-12 2Th 3:10-12
The Disorderly in the Congregation
1Th 5:14 2Th 3:6, 7, 11
1Th 5:23 2Th 3:16
1Th 5:28 2Th 3:18
This list of close parallels does not yield a 2Th counterpart to the
disputed 1Th 2:15-16. It might however be worth scrutinizing 2Th 2:14-15,
lying between passages which DO have 1Th counterparts, the former of which
borders directly on our doubtful 1Th passage. Nothing in 2Th remotely
suggests the agitation and hostility present in 1Th 2:15-16. They content
themselves with serene assurances about "good hope through grace."
This directly proves nothing, though for a start it perhaps usefully *fails*
to prove that for the author of the spurious 2Th, the passage in question
already existed in his model text of 1Th, at least not in a directly
. . . we need not stop there. There are also NONcorresponding positions in
1Th. We might thus comb through 2Th (hey, it's not that long) for *any* sign
of a disaster justly befallen the Jews, whether in a position corresponding
to that of 1Th 2:15-16 or elsewhere. Other reports are welcome, but I don't
myself find any such suggestions.
What I do find is that in 2Th 1:4 there is a mention of the troubles
besetting the church at Thessalonica: "Therefore we ourselves boast of you
in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith *in all your
persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.*"
In the Schnelle parallel 1Th 1:6-7 (see chart above), the faith of the
Thessalonians is praised, but their persecutions do not appear. I suspect
that we may have here a transferred and generalized mention of the topic
taken up in the prototype text at 1Th 2:14 ("For you suffered the same
things from your countrymen"). How about the fate of those who oppose the
Gospel, the subject of the problematic 1Th 2:16b? Again, I think we find a
transfer of it, and indeed a transformation of it, in the immediately
following passage, 2Th 1:5-9:
"This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be made
worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering -  since indeed
God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,  and to
grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed
from Heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire,  inflicting vengeance
upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the Gospel of
our Lord Jesus.  They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction
and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his
On this understanding, the mapping of 2Th on 1Th, allowing a certain amount
of transmuting of worldly punishment into much more permanent and terrible
heavenly punishment, is a good deal more intimate than Schnelle's chart,
however initially useful, would suggest. Might not just this change,
replacing a worn-out and now past earthly event, whose news value and thus
persuasion potential had faded, with a safely future, and more impressively
complete, sort of punishment, have been one possible item on the agenda of
the inventor of 2Th? Might it not, in his eyes, have rejuvenated the
slightly stale invective of 1Th?
Paul in 1Th, and somebody else much more strenuously in 2Th, expects the
faithful to labor. If your teenaged son is reprehensibly idle so far this
weekend, set him to work out a better 1/2Th chart than that of Schnelle, and
share it with the rest of us on Monday.
For that matter, if your teenaged daughter is mooning around the house with
no very strong purpose in view, assign her and up to four of her friends to
research the question, never yet asked in the history of metaSynoptic
inquiry, "Why not Galatians?"
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Copyright © 2008 by E Bruce Brooks