RE: [Synoptic-L] Early interpolations
- To: Synoptic
In Response To: Jeff Peterson
On: 1 Cor 4:6b as Interpolation
JEFF: My impression of proposed interpolations to NT texts (so far!) is that
they typically indicate a failure on the part of the exegete to perceive
what's going on in the text.
BRUCE: I think it has been recognized since at least the time of Quintilian
that statements about people don't greatly advance discussions about things.
What, then (moving right along), is the substantive proposal about the thing
here in question?
JEFF: In the case of 1 Cor 4:6, Benjamin Fiore and John Fitzgerald supply an
exegesis of the troublesome line that yields a satisfying fit with the
context, in which Paul addresses the Corinthians as pupils who need to
re-learn the fundamentals (cf. 3:1f, 4:14-21), "not beyond what is written"
being an allusion to the practice of teaching writing by having pupils trace
the outline of the letters.
BRUCE: Paul often enough refers to his converts as his children, up to and
including the pangs of giving birth to them, whether a first or a second
time. Embarrassing but true. Is this one of the cases? One way of putting
this question in a form that philology can deal with it is to ask: What does
Paul mean, or what is the range of things Paul demonstrably can mean, by the
A hasty check of part of the concordance shows that where GEGRAPTAI occurs
in the text of 1 Cor, Gal, or Rom, it is always possible to find a possible
OT reference. Nor is this a forced association, since now and then Paul will
explicitly refer, not merely to "what is written," but specifically to "what
is written in the Law" (1 Cor 14:21 ) or "what is written in the Law of
Moses" (1 Cor 9:9). Reference to a less hasty summary of usage of this word
in NT (eg BDAG sv GRAFH, meaning 2) gives us this: "sacred scripture, in the
NT exclusively so."
Then "Scripture" would then seem to be, for the typical hearer of 1 Cor, the
default presumption. The difficulty with it in 1 Cor 4:6, apart from a
little grammatical roughness, is to find a possible Scriptural reference. I
am reminded of the situation in Matthew, whose OT quotes or allusions are
normally Septuagintal, but in ten passages the language is atypically
Semitic, whether as a stylistic device or because (as some have thought)
these passages are translated directly from the Hebrew, I do not know, but
in either case the ten passages are strongly set apart by this feature from
the rest of Matthew. The word GEGRAPTAI is used to refer to these passages,
and occurs *nowhere else in Matthew.* Again, with one of these ten Matthean
passages, there is a difficulty in finding a Scriptural source, and
commentators have exercised themselves accordingly.
Are they fools? I suspect not; it seems to me that they are asking the
right, indeed the indicated, question. It is just that the answer is
elusive. Were there contemporary texts, not in our OT but accepted as
carrying authority by Jews (or fellow travelers) in the 1c? Jude uses
several, among them Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, and 2 Peter, in the
course of swallowing Jude whole, digests out those noncanonical references
altogether, or replaces them with something less troublesome, or attenuates
them. So yes, the weight of the approved canon is felt (2 Peter puts us at
the end of the 1c), but it was not felt equally and always (Jude is
obviously earlier than 2 Peter; see my SBL 2010 presentation). There might
then be a reference that is outside our present canon.
L L Welborn in his survey of the matter (NT 29  320-346 ends by
suggesting an allusion to Graeco-Roman conciliatory practice. Maybe. It's
not impossible. I have talked with people who shifted their referential
focus this way, and then back again, in the same conversation. My own sense
is that this is not Paul's kind of internal inconsistency.
That SOMETHING is wrong with this sentence is attested by the many efforts
of the copyists and the Fathers to change it for the better. Welborn's
survey gives a good account of this process. It's like the ending of Mark;
we don't know what it was, but repeated efforts in mid-antiquity to provide
one show that the mind of mid-antiquity expected one. So also (mutatis
There it always seems to end. We (and quite probably the audience of 1 Cor)
look for an OT rule, and fail to find one. Proposed solutions then reach
outside the terms of the question, whether to Graeco-Rome or in another
direction. One of the possible directions is that maybe this is not Paul
talking. We know what HE meant by GEGRAPTAI, but that does not necessarily
limit an unknown and energetic post-editor of Paul, some years after his
death; one determined to homogenize Paul, either with himself of with the
trend of the post-editor's own thought. A virtue of this group of
possibilities is that it might explain, not only the puzzle of GEGRAPTAI,
but (see again the copyists' repeated efforts to smooth it out) the surely
related puzzle of the awkward phrase structure in which GEGRAPTAI sits.
In which context, the time is surely ripe to stand back and consider the
Pauline interpolations so far reputably identified, and see if they are so
many independent flyspecks, graffiti by different hands, or whether a common
character or agenda can be found that links at least some of them together
as a single tendency. I have made one such suggestion; I am sure others are
possible. I would be glad to see some of them on this list, or if
individuals prefer, to hear of them privately.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Is scripture expandable? I guess it depends how good you are. More or less a
thousand years ago, the poet Su Shr, in writing his official examination
essay, quoted an especially cogent saying of the (mythical but
authoritative) Yellow Emperor. He passed with honors. After the ceremony,
one of the examiners asked him, By the way, I don't recall seeing that
particular quote of the Yellow Emperor. Where does it occur? Our poet
answered, "Oh, I figured that was what the Yellow Emperor would have said in
that situation." Reinventing Tacitus, you see. One now and again feels, in
the mid and late 1c Christian documents, a reaching out to Scripture for
things that should be there but aren't. What at least some people do in that
situation is to push ahead anyway. One thinks of Matthew. One thinks of
Paul's Abraham example of faith, whereas (and this the author of James is
not slow to point out, with sufficient sarcasm) what Abraham is really an
example of is works; that is, DOING something: acting out of his belief or
his confidence in God. Matthew too, seems to be pushing OT a little harder
than OT itself is comfortable with. Why not an inventory of places where
people are pushing OT beyond what OT itself thinks are the boundaries of OT?
No doubt such exist; I would appreciate a reference.
- Out of curiosity I tried this search on Google Books
interpolation OR interpolated OR interpolate
subject:"Gospels" or "New Testament
I got about 10 hits - far fewer than I expected. On looking at
these (where that was possible) I noted a considerable variety
of usage. One or other of the terms is used (in the books located)
in relation to Mat.27.16; Mk.1.2; Lk 9-18; Jn 1.6-8 & 15; 3.22-30;
Jn 19.35, 21.24; Rom 15-16;1 Cor.1.2-16;Josephus Apion Bk.2,or the
Gospel of Nicodemus
Some are "editorial" interpolations, some are interpolations with
textual evidence, but I think one or two may be neither of these.
As it would seem that writers of the available books don't use the term
much I then turned to the ATLA database of journal articles
with a similar search for
"interpolation OR interpolated OR interpolate" (in full text) AND
subject:"Gospels" Date 1950-2011
This got 44 hits from a shorter span of time, most of them from items
available in pdf, but not showing where the hits are, or what they include.
(To check these one would need to do a lot of downloads and pdf searches.)
Tentative conclusion: it would seem that articles use the term more
than books do, but the snippet results from Google Books provide a
handy list of varied examples from the NT of three different types of
David Mealand, University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
Scotland, with registration number SC005336.