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RE: [Synoptic-L] Early interpolations

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Jeff Peterson On: 1 Cor 4:6b as Interpolation From: Bruce JEFF: My impression of proposed interpolations to NT texts (so far!) is
    Message 1 of 73 , Sep 3, 2011
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Jeff Peterson
      On: 1 Cor 4:6b as Interpolation
      From: Bruce

      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
      wordform GEGRAPTAI?

      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 [1987] 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
      mutandis) here.

      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.
    • David Mealand
      Out of curiosity I tried this search on Google Books interpolation OR interpolated OR interpolate subject: Gospels or New Testament Date 1900-2011 I got
      Message 73 of 73 , Sep 12, 2011
        Out of curiosity I tried this search on Google Books

        interpolation OR interpolated OR interpolate
        subject:"Gospels" or "New Testament
        Date 1900-2011

        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
        suspected "interpolation".

        David M.

        David Mealand, University of Edinburgh


        The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
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