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Mencius and Paul

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: GPG, Crosstalk From: Bruce There are, as it seems to me, interesting parallels between the way Paul and his Deuteropauline successors made use of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2008
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      To: WSW
      Cc: GPG, Crosstalk
      From: Bruce

      There are, as it seems to me, interesting parallels between the way Paul and
      his Deuteropauline successors made use of prior Jesus tradition, and the way
      Mencius and his Deuteromencian successors made use of prior Confucius
      tradition.

      PAUL

      In the one case, Paul sometimes cites "a word of the Lord," and once
      specifically distinguishes it from a ruling handed down "by me, Paul." But
      in other cases what seems to be recognizable as early tradition (perhaps
      most notably the hymn in Philippians 2) is simply embedded in what he says,
      as though it were *part* of what he says. This appropriated material
      suggests to me that there were probably deep and still largely unsuspected
      connections among early local church practices, early mission checklists,
      and early encyclicals like the Epistle of James, and that Paul, so far from
      being the total innovator that he appears to us today, is really following
      on a whole tradition which is now only visible in a few extracanonical
      documents like the Didache and by excavation from the canonical documents.
      The data sets thus take digging out, and I note that people who do the
      digging out sometimes get different results. Koester in Ancient Christian
      Gospels has one list; others have their lists, and the various lists are
      somewhat divergent.

      Would anyone care to refer me to what they consider to be a careful and
      adequate list, of everything in Paul that is not original with Paul? (I
      already have Hunter, rev 1961).

      MENCIUS

      In the other case, though Mencius himself only once uses what we can
      recognize as a saying of Confucius, his followers in both the northern and
      southern schools do openly quote Confucius (Kungdz). Sometimes they also
      refer to Jùng-ní, which is a somewhat distinctive way of doing it. And
      sometimes, as with Paul, they simply incorporate what to us are recognizable
      "Confucius" sayings into their pronouncements. Sorting all this out (even on
      the imperfect personal sort on which I am here relying) shows that there are
      interesting differences between the two Mencian schools, not only in content
      (the northerners were inclined to be philosophical; the southerners,
      political), but in text affiliation (the northerners were in much closer
      touch with the evolving Analects, and sometimes pick up the new sayings in a
      just released new chapter of the Analects; the southerners didn't pay all
      that much heed to the Analects people back in Lu). Was the northern school
      not simply a breakaway from the southern, a few years after Mencius's death,
      but more specifically a reversion from the Mencian political position back
      toward Lu orthodoxy, just as the early Jesus movement moved very soon after
      his death to revert to his ancestral Johannine practices: baptism, personal
      prayers, and fast days, not to mention the basic Apocalyptic set of the John
      movement.

      A better list than mine would presumably give still more precise results.
      Does anyone happen to know of a really good list, their own that they might
      share, or something published that they could refer me to?

      The large topos here is the use that the cutting edge people make of the
      material that lies behind them: the knife in back of the cutting edge,
      which, as any chef will tell you, is how the cutting edge does its work.

      Thanks for help at either end,

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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