Re: [XTalk] Re: Numbers and Markan Style
I'm not sure if you missed the points I was trying to make or what, so I'm going to try again because you did not really address a couple of core issues, and I will raise a few others. Some snipping of the post will occur.
--- On Mon, 9/6/10, E Bruce Brooks <brooks@...> wrote:
From: E Bruce Brooks
KEN: . . . here are some problems with the entire concept of
1. F.C. Baur, based upon sucking down Hegelian ideas of thesis (Paul),
Antithesis (Peter), and synthesis (Acts) invented a "standard" of what
constituted an authentic Pauline letter.
BRUCE: Hegel was a fool (he proved from first principles that there could be
only seven planets, being unfortunately refuted by an asteroid whose orbit,
and whose later return, was successfully predicted by Gauss), though his
reputation survives undiminished in that backwater of the intellect, the
Baur was another fool, to attempt to use second (Hegelian) principles to
prove what history must be like.
But two fools do not make a refutation. The principle of opposition, and one
or more patterns of resolution of opposition, continue to be widely visible
in nature, including human affairs. The flat earth people are fools too, but
that doesn't mean that your farm pond is not pretty level. In an operational
Ken: This may be interesting but what relevance does it have to New Testament studies? The point is that Baur's basis, in deciding what was authentically Pauline, included his notion that Paul was in opposition to the Jerusalem church's views. If that is not a valid way to read Romans or Philippians, etc., then a key a priori of his demarcation of what is Pauline is disallowed. If you cut off one of the three legs of a stool, it falls over. Baur's stool is missing a leg, so no one else should try to sit upon it. The primary _core_ problem that I raised is that it is at the very best gratuitous (actually fallacous logically) to assume that Paul wrote Romans and then use that to measure 1 Timothy. All the judgments made in critical scholarship about what Paul wrote require an a priori that he wrote one or more letters and then that decision, which ought to be demonstrated not assumed, is used to evaluate others.
This procedure is wholly unredeemable. The only valid way to judge the authorship of any of the thirteen letters of the Pauline corpus is to have a separate, validated or authenticated corpus of texts that are known to have been composed by Paul (however he composed things--that is, what degree of freedom he may have given an amanuensis, which is always an open question, though I still Klauck's book to read on that) that we can test against. We don't have that.
Yet, even if we did have such a separate "canonical" set of texts to look at, it is still in principle impossible to say what any ancient (or modern) writer could have or would have said in a given context on a given topic. We can't know. There is no way to make valid comparisons of vocabulary within the Pauline corpus because for such an analysis to be valid you have to a) assume a certain letter or letters as authentic to begin with (an invalid a priori) and you have to know beyond a reasonable doubt that Paul could not have used other words or spoken about other topics or even the same topic in other ways.
Here's an example. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the metaphor of the body, relating individual believers to parts of the head. In Colossians, Paul (in my view) uses the metaphor of the body and makes Christ the head of the body. Some scholars take this as a contradiction and affirm that Paul could not have done the latter. This is invalid. It assumes that Paul's ability to use metaphors was static, that he could not do anything else and could not present a topic from any new perspective. In my adjunct teaching alone, I've presented the exact same topic in slightly different ways. Does that make the latest lecture on the subject inauthentic? No. It only means that scholars hold Paul to a standard they themselves would resist being held to, IMO.
N.B. Before you accuse me of caricature, you need to have read all the things I've read. I've read scholars make this and other claims you consider caricatures. That just means you have not read who I have read, but I can't give all the names as it's been a long time since I looked at that sort of thing.
Whether imagery or vocabulary, it is not valid to say what Paul or Peter or anyone else could have done. Now, if you found a clearly anachronistic thing, like a copy of Ephesians with Greek words in it for microprocessor, quantum particle, or sprots car, then vocabulary analysis would be relevant. Otherwise, I deny that analysis of vocabulary is useful at all in distinguishing authentic from inauthentic texts. We simply cannot know that. Paul likely knew thousands of words he did not put in the thirteen letters we have by him. In my own personal experience, I find myself from time to time writing a word that I've never written before, and I've been writing for quite a lot of years. Sometimes these words are technical for my day job. Sometimes these are colloquial. No matter. If I applied to my own writings what scholars apply to Paul, almost everything I've written of an academic nature in the last ten years would be "inauthentic"
because I never used the word "intertextuality" before 1996. Who could have predicted that I would start doing so? Not I. Likewise, especially when we do not have an exhaustive lexicon of all the words that were available in Paul's culture, which could have been far more than we have written anywhere, we simply cannot say what Paul could have or might have or would have written if he were one of us because he was not one of us.
KEN: 2. We do not have an "independent" group of texts by Paul, Peter, or
else from the early church that we can say, "These we absolutely know are
authentic and they can be used to evaluate other letters." The procedure
follows Baur's approach is like doing a double-blind test where you already
privilege to one group, making its results valid before you start and the
results of the other group invalid before you start. So it is never really a
BRUCE: People who designate things in advance are frauds, they are violating
a basic principle of history. The principle in question is that observations
must precede conclusions. People who bring in preferred conclusions, never
mind from where, are not to be followed. Who *is* to be followed? No person.
What is to be followed? Recognized (if often violated) canons of judgement,
some of which are literary and some of which are philological and some of
which are archaeological . . .
What we start with, Paulwise, are about a dozen texts which come to us with
Paul's name attached to them. This is then the corpus of interest. We ask of
that corpus: Is this consistent? Or are there internal differences? And so
on through the whole tooklit. If at the end there seems to be no internal or
external reason to doubt the given attributions, we let them stand as a
working hypothesis, up for refutation and modification if any later finding
so suggests. Notice that I do not use the word "prove." The word "prove" is
appropriate in Euclidean geometry, and nowhere else, including nuclear
physics, where working hypotheses about the way nature works at the micro
level are being refined and rejected every day. People have looked at the
Pauline epistles for a long time. They have tended to find an area within
the corpus that appears to be biographically and doctrinally and literarily
consistent, allowing for a modest amount of evolution over time, and for the
appropriate linguistic variation with the topic discussed. On the same
criteria, they have tended to locate texts which are consistent neither with
each other nor with this seemingly consistent area. They crystallize out
into four groups: (a) Colossians and Ephesians, (b) 2 Thessalonians, (c) the
Pastorals, and (d) Hebrews. These have sometimes strong affinities with
texts outside those attributed to Paul, such as Luke-Acts. These
associations are data, not conclusions, but they are data for all observers.
Progress can be made by attending to such data. If, while working on the
data, we designate these latter four groups collectively as Deuteropaulines
(with Hebrews being a slight anomaly, since it does not internally claim
Pauline authorship), it is a useful convenience, not a claim of common
quality. The four groups most likely have different aetiologies, though none
of them is likely to be Pauline authorship.
Ken: Bruce, again you have missed the point. The point is that Ephesians and Colossians are consistent with one another. So I could judge that Paul wrote these two letters and then reject Pauline authorship of Romans. It does not matter how carefully one analyzes the Pauline corpus. Any starting point, i.e., choosing any letter as valid and then using that to reject others, assumes facts not in evidence. The conclusion is determined _solely_ by the starting point. So I look at the texts, and say that the church structure reflected in the Pastorals clearly predates the structures assumed by 1 Clement and Ignatius, then I have to date the Pastorals to an earlier date than 90 A.D. or so. Once I've done that, I can say (though most don't) that these three letters are internally consistent theologically, topically, and linguistically, and that I believe these to be by Paul. Then, if I am arrogant enough to declare that I know what words Paul
could have used (not in so many words, lest you call that a caricature but it is the procedure followed in the reverse direction), I declare that Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians are inauthentic because they do not use the same words or use the same words in different ways, from the Pastorals. It's all about which texts you initially decide are authentic. There is no escape from that. Period. As to the use of the word "proof." I'm not a lawyer, but my impression is that lawyers regularly seek to demonstrate or prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty or innocent. This is done by presenting and assessing data and witnesses. A decision comes down to how compelling one finds the data and how trustworthy one regards the witnesses. Indeed, I was once called for jury duty and asked to tell how trustworthy I think that police are. The process of historical analysis is far more like a court room than a science lab. So when
I say "prove" I am referring to providing data that points clearly in one direction, while other directions are far less likely. I am speaking of using data and "witnesses" to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt the historical probability of some reconstruction. Let's not get distracted by semantics away from the point. I'm asking for really strong data that clearly points in a given direction, as opposed to being one possibility with serious challenges, as is the comparison of vocabulary across the Pauline corpus.
I learned in logic class back in college that something is not greater than the sum of its parts. In our context, this means that a chain of weak arguments does not equal one strong argument. It equals a string of weak arguments.
KEN: If you can produce a corpus of documents of, say, the volume of the
Oxford English Dictionary, which you know are all authentic, and these
documents span absolutely all possible types, genres, lengths, etc., that it
would have been possible for Paul to write, then ou might be able to do a
meaningful evaluation. Short of that, those careful studies you refer to,
such as one I read long ago that counted the number of occurrences of kai
per page have no validity to me. Why in the world should I accept the view
that an author is always going to use the same style and vocabulary all the
BRUCE: No reason. I have repeatedly said, including recently on this list,
that authors do not always write in the same style; one illustration was
Madison, and another was Thurber. Go back and read the archive. This does
not mean that counting kais is a waste of time. As I said at Leiden in 2003
(but in the question period, so it is not in the lecture to which a link was
previously provided), in this area [of stylometrics], nothing works
perfectly, but everything works a little bit. Things that work a little bit
can still be useful to an investigator who knows the limits, but can also
recognize significance if it should happen to turn up. The topic has now
shifted to vocabulary statistics, and there is no argument that much that
has been done in this line is puerile and self-refuting. But the instinct
behind it is sound, and as more sophisticated ways of mapping style, and of
separating style from content, are discovered, better results can be
obtained. The first Wright airplane flew for 12 seconds. Am I in trouble
with my reservation to SBL/Atlanta, which envisions air time of several
Airplanes are a technology. Decisions about vocabulary are a totally different matter that depends upon subjective humans using or not using words available to them or even coining some. The two things are not really analogous.
KEN: 4. The same things that you see as imitation of Paul could just as
Paul himself writing on a topic you don't expect.
BRUCE: Not quite as easily. If a difference is in terms of content words,
then the conclusion is vulnerable to differences of topic. If a difference
is in terms of function words, then the conclusion is vulnerable to swings
of mood. If a difference is in terms of implied doctrine, then the
conclusion is vulnerable to suppositions of change in Paul's thought. None
of these by itself is conclusive. The three together, plus nine more I
haven't mentioned, provide indications which, as a group, are not so subject
to any of these factors, and are therefore of more interest.
Ken: They might be of interest but that is a long way from giving a sufficient reason for me to change my view of authorship. They do not create reasonable doubt unless one is already committed to "doubting."
KEN: 6. In spite of assertions, without proof, of scholars to the contrary,
yet to see anyone produce a document that says, "We Christians think that
pseudonymity is perfectly fine."
BRUCE: On the contrary, there are known cases of forged Paul documents
being exposed, and their forger disciplined. The habit of speaking in the
name of a respected person is endemic in antiquity. It is also endemic at
the present time, one familiar form being the preacher's question, about
some contemporary problem, "What would Jesus say?" That of itself is not a
pseudonymous statement. But if the sermon is published and widely known, it
can easily be quoted as from Jesus, rather than from the writer of the
sermon. The suppositious statement drifts, in other hands, into a
pseudonymous statement. Most of the socalled agrapha of Jesus, I should
imagine, are probably of such an origin. It is very easy to see how this
happened. It is also very easy to see how fraudulent documents, including
the Seventh Epistle of Plato, get themselves intentionally written and
accepted. They are addressed to the tuition paying parents of prospective
students at the post-Platonic School of Plato.
Ken: Bruce, the point is that the early church seemed able to detect forgeries and rejected them. That is why 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Revelation, etc., were debated so long. The fact that the entire Pauline corpus seems to have never been questioned (even when Marcion hacked it up) suggests strongly that those who did know Greek more or less as Paul did vocabulary-wise seem to have not had the problems that modern scholars who do not know ancient Greek as well have. This does not prove that all thirteen are authentic but since we know the early church cared about this issue, something more is needed than some perceived doctrinal differences (which I think are exaggerated) before I throw out their historical judgment.
BRUCE: Hm, I seem to detect sarcasm. Not every modern person is
automatically competent in the 1st century (or the 04th, which is where I
mostly work). It takes time, work, empathy, emotional investment,
cancellation of modern newspaper subscriptions, and all that stuff. Harnack
prepared himself for reading the early Christians documents in Greek by
reading all the early *non-Christian* documents in Greek. German
thoroughness, you see. We can't all be German, but the commandment to be
thorough applies to all of us. We do what we can with it. Some of us succeed
better than others. Nobody probably gets it perfect, but some get it righter
than it was previously, and that counts as an advance in knowledge, or anyway a retreat of ignorance.
Ken: The point is that we can never know, no matter how much we study, exactly what every church was like in A.D. 60 or what words Paul had at his disposal or what his reflection on Jesus might have led to over time in terms of what he articulates about its significance. Period. It matters not what we study or read because we have no independent witness outside of hte New Testament to these matters for Paul as a historical person or for the churches of the 50's and 60's.
Ken LitwakAzusa Pacific UniversityAzusa, CA
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- To: Crosstalk
In Response To: Ken Litwak
On: Paul and Authenticity
My previous comments on relevant methodology as I see it, and what it can
reasonably hope to accomplish in the Pauline Epistles area, are included in
Ken's current post, and they still sum up that side of things as well as I
can do it. I can best refer back to them. The gist is: none of the critical
methods applied to NT or other ancient documents works perfectly, but
everything works a little bit, and the cumulative result of a lot of
investigations, all of which work a little bit, can be useful in
scholarship. Sometimes a problem will remain unsolvable with present
methods, and those we try to recognize, and to work around then as best we
can, while waiting for better methods to come along, or for those problems
to be solved in a more indirect way.
Ken sums up his objections, or seems to, in this line from his current post:
KEN: . . . it is not valid to say what Paul or Peter or anyone else could
BRUCE: If that were really true, then the whole subject of Paul would be
beyond the reach of current scholarship, along with every other NT author,
whether known, claimed, or unmentioned. Maybe that really is the case. It's
quite possible that the entire past is beyond our reach, never mind (in some
modern views) the entire present, including the inside of one's own head.
Those who find those ideas congenial are welcome to congene with them.
Myself, I think that the possibilities in general may be more than this, and
that the NT texts in particular, though complicated in many ways (not all of
which have necessarily been discovered), are suitable material for
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst