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RE: [Synoptic-L] Early interpolations

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: David Mealand On: 1 Cor 4:6b From: Bruce Passage seemingly remains difficult. DAVID: but I think it is more probable than not that
    Message 1 of 73 , Sep 4, 2011
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      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: David Mealand
      On: 1 Cor 4:6b
      From: Bruce

      Passage seemingly remains difficult.

      DAVID: but I think it is more probable than not that we have an insertion
      into the text here.

      BRUCE: But does the idea of an inadvertent scribal insertion entirely solve
      the problem? It seems to me that "beyond what is written" (Williams and
      Strugnell) is a funny way for one scribe to describe to another where the
      out-of-place word was. At any rate, later commentators seem to point out
      that such an elaborate note has no parallel, and to that extent, may be an
      extreme solution.

      What we would like, it seems to me, is either (a) a way of making sense of
      this passage as from Paul, perhaps scribally garbled in later transmission,
      or (b) a way of making sense of it as a later interpolation, but ideally
      that scenario should account for (1) what it means and (2) why it was added,
      and the insertion should itself (3) be grammatically reasonable. Previous
      descriptions have faulted both the meaning and the grammar of the passage.

      My own earlier suggestion was that, though Paul (if considered as the
      author) is unlikely to have meant anything but OT by the word GEGRAPTAI
      "what is written," a later, and particularly an Alpha-sympathizing later,
      writer might have had a different lexicon. The question then arises (and I
      here take it up): did the Alpha Christians ever refer to their own writings
      as "scripture?" A quick check suggests that they did not. The only place I
      know of where one Alpha texts seems to refer to another written text is a
      place in the Didache which apparently not only quotes Matthew, but calls it
      "the gospel." The way these texts refer to their doctrine otherwise is as a
      message, not with reference to a specific textual form of it, the two
      commonest terms being Evangalion and Way. Mark uses both, and in the early
      part of that text; that both were current, or anyway known, in later texts
      is shown in Luke-Acts. The Jesus message was precisely a message, not a
      fixed form of words, and it seems to have been treated as such for at least
      the first and well into the second generation of his movement. It was not
      until later that the idea of a second, specifically Christian canon of
      written texts seems to have taken hold. For Paul, and for anybody else
      around just after his death, and involved in editing his writings for final
      publication, that situation does not seem to have existed yet.

      So my suggestion of an Alpha interpolator does not seem to provide for the
      use of GEGRAPTAI in this passage as meaning Christian writings; that meaning
      would still be anachronistic. Going back to the meaning "scripture" (OT),
      then, as the likeliest meaning of that word in this passage (now considered
      as a possible interpolation), who on the scene at that time is big on
      Scripture as setting ongoingly valid rules for presentday Christians?
      Matthew surely bulks large among them. Who on the scene at that time
      provides a maxim against judging others? Again, precisely Matthew, and
      pretty much nobody else. Matthew, to my eye, represents a pullback from the
      Alpha position to a more Jewish "Jewish Christianity." It reinstates the
      whole law, not just the parts of it Jesus retained, and it accepts the small
      pieties of the Pharisees, albeit not as fully sufficient for salvation. Who
      in that period seems to have attracted the sympathy and acceptance of at
      least one major group of Alphas?" On the strength of late additions to the
      Didache, again Matthew.

      I will leave it at that point, with the suggestion that the passage may be
      an insertion, but an intentional one, intending to bring Paul's orders back
      in line with Matthew's rescripturalizing tendency. And perhaps not very
      felicitously done.

      As for insertion prophylaxis:

      DAVID: As for the risk of one's book suffering additions or subtractions,
      the final verses of the Apocalypse show that the author felt it necessary to
      place a curse on anyone doing such a thing to his text.

      BRUCE: Exactly, and all this does is bear witness to the likelihood of such
      additions at that time. The same thing was done in the Han Palace Library,
      with each catalogued text being recorded *together with its length in
      characters,* so that later additions could be detected and presumably
      excised. In at least one case (the Shan/Hai Jing), that effort failed, and
      the present text wordcount exceeds the library record. I once set a group of
      students to work, trying to see what additions would account for exactly
      that much extension of the text. We had to quit midway, but the indication
      was that supernatural stuff was later added to an originally more factual
      account. This in a very general way parallels the highly ritualized
      ("priestly") character of the later layers of the Mahabharata. It may be the
      same trend that we see in Matthew, considered as an extension of Mark (which
      it incorporates virtually entire); the reassertion of the priestly and the
      ritual side of a belief system, along with the texts which embody that side.
      That is, the Scriptures: that which is written and remains permanently


      E Bruce Brooks
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • 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
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        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
        Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
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