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Re: Loisy on Romans

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  • E. Bruce Brooks
    Topic: Loisy on Romans From: Bruce In Response To: Jeff Peterson (replying to Yuri) On Yuri s statement that the moral part of ERom must be secondary, and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 1998
      Topic: Loisy on Romans
      From: Bruce
      In Response To: Jeff Peterson (replying to Yuri)

      On Yuri's statement that the moral part of ERom must be secondary, and
      indeed must represent more than one addition, there followed:

      JEFF (quoted from his recent post): It may be worth noting that the
      appropriate answer to such fragment-assemblage hypotheses is an exhibition
      of the argumentative unity of the letters in question. Such exhibitions
      have recently been offered for 1 Corinthians by
      Margaret Mitchell (_Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation_, WJKP) and for
      Romans by Stanley Stowers (_A Rereading of Romans_, Yale Univ Press).
      Mitchell argues that the consistent rhetorical/hortatory aim of 1 Cor is
      stated in 1:10ff's appeal for unity, to which end the letter draws on a
      Hellenistic tradition of speeches calling for unity in the polis; Stowers,
      that Romans represents Paul's commendation of his Gospel to Gentiles as the
      antidote to their struggles to attain the Greco-Roman ideal of self-mastery
      observing the commands of Torah. On Stowers's reading, Paul puts before the
      Romans his characteristic appeal to Greeks attracted to the synagogue as
      offering a superior way of life; chaps. 12-14 aren't intrusive or
      superflous but the resolution of the Gentile problems outlined in 1:18ff
      and so an appropriate rhetorical climax to the letter.

      BRUCE: I agree with every word of this except the "the" in the first
      sentence; I would substitute "an." If a text is compositionally singular
      and literarily consecutive, it is surely permissible to demonstrate that
      fact analytically; indeed, the honest analyst could hardly do otherwise. On
      the other hand, I have seen all too often how a mature and sophisticated
      tradition of exegesis can demonstrate the coherence and consecutivity of
      virtually any canonical text, regardless of its actual nature. The hard
      places become, not philological pointers to bumps in the text history, but
      challenges to interpretational ingenuity. I have in mind, of course, the
      Confucian tradition of orthodox explication and synthesis, which in
      magisterial adroitness, and at some points in sheer nerve, rivals anything
      I am aware of in the West. There is a rather useful comparison of the two,
      drawing some general conclusions about how canonic traditions behave, in
      John B Henderson, Scripture, Canon, and Commentary, Princeton 1991.

      Since by current ground rules neither Yuri nor I may mention a book without
      reading from it, here at random is the bottom of Henderson p168:

      "In the West, if not in Confucian China, the scholastic machine was even
      more intent on resolving apparent contradictions in the classics or
      scriptures, on demonstrating that the canon is self-consistent. This is
      true not only of Biblical exegesis, but of Western hermeneutics in general.
      As a recent interpreter of Hellenistic exegesis on Homer remarks, "from its
      beginnings hermeneutics seems to have been bent to the task of reconciling
      apparent contradictions whether within the work of a single author or
      between authors." [n106 q Lamberton Porphyry (1983) 50]. / In ancient and
      mediaeval Biblical exegesis, attempts to resolve such discrepancies helped
      to inspire the development of the best-known of all commentarial strategies
      - the positing of different levels of meaning or interpretation apart from
      the literal sense, the most celebrated of which is the allegorical.
      Commentators in some traditions, especially the Homeric and the Biblical,
      took the appearance of superficial contradictions in the canon as a signal
      calling for a deeper level of interpretation - notably allegory - that went
      beyond the literal sense [n107 citing Wiles on Origen, in Cambr Hist Bible
      1/476]." [My capitalization throughout].

      Given the presence and dominant position of this tradition (what I have
      elsewhere called harmonizing commentary), I am afraid that an integral
      interpretation, though always evidential, and perhaps indeed correct,
      cannot be ipso facto decisive.

      For Mitchell and Sowers, then, both described as "recent," the tough-eyed
      question has to be: Is it only recently that the unity of these texts has
      been correctly perceived? Are the many earlier perceptions of unity in
      these texts erroneous? Are the many different accounts of the unity of
      these texts considered to be alternative, mutually supportive, or
      conflicting? And why? Is it not possible to feel that repeated but mutually
      incompatible demonstrations of unity to some extent cancel out, leaving an
      agenda of unity in the commentarial tradition as the only thing which has
      been decisively demonstrated?


      E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts
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