Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pauline Interpolations (2) - 1st Cor. 11:3-16

'Pauline Interpolations' - 1st Cor. 11:3-16

Chapter 5 of Walker (2001) deals with 1st Cor 11:3-16.

It begins by noting that the passage "presents serious problems for the exegete".
He quotes G.D. Fee in support:
"it is full of notorious difficulties, including:
(1) the 'logic' of the argument as a whole, which in turn is related to
(2)  our uncertainty about the meaning of some absolutely crucial terms and
(3) our uncertainty about prevailing customs, both in the culture(s) in general and in the church(es) in particular (including the whole complex question of early Christian worship." (Fee, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, p.492)
However, the reader is not tipped off to Fee's actual position on this passage until several pages later:  "Fee characterizes my proposal as a 'counsel of despair' " (i.e., Fee is against the interpolation argument).

A review of Chapter 2 is required in order to fully assess the methodology of Walker, but those interested in textual criticism here will be interested in the short paragraph a few pages into this chapter (pg 95):

2. Text-Critical Evidence for Interpolation

There is no direct text-critical evidence suggesting that 1st Cor. 11:3-16 might be an interpolation.  The passage appears in all of the extant manuscripts - and indeed at the same location in all of the manuscripts.   As was noted in Chapter 2, however, the absence of direct text-critical evidence for interpolation should be seen as precisely what it is: the absence of evidence.  In the face of otherwise compelling arguments for interpolation, this absence of evidence should not be allowed to decide the issue."
Wow!  Internal evidence of whatever strength and nature trumps External evidence.  Why?  Because in the case of 'interpolations', no textual evidence is needed, and no evidence at all of an interpolation is worthless, because textual evidence is meaningless in the face of Internal evidence.

The consequences of this need to spelled out.  In cases where there are no textual variants, Walker is proposing that critics are free to chop, cut and paste the text, because textual evidence in favor of a given form and content of a document are powerless next to 'solutions' that can explain a passage or verse as an interpolation.   This is 21st century textual reconstruction.

Picture how this methodology would work against the most important and difficult textual problems of the NT:  

1)  In case one were to argue that Mark's Ending was authentice, because its existance predates its omission, and every single ancient and modern copy of Mark has the verses, except two 4th cent. Uncials, even this is irrelevant, since "Internal Evidence" of whatever kind, makes all textual evidence, all patristic evidence, all versional evidence, moot.

2)  In case one were to argue that John 7:53-8:11 was authentic, because it is referenced as Holy Scripture from the mid-300's forward, is quoted dozens of Early Christian Writers, and has been considered a part of the text of John for nearly 2,000 years, and that the structural, thematic, and linguistic evidence affirms its origin and position in John, we can throw all that out.   What matters is whether the passage has 'features of an interpolation'.  This will override any and all other forms of evidence and argument, even if that evidence is contradictory Internal Evidence!

Of course, many critics would love to practice a form of "reasoned eclecticism" that allowed such a free reign over the text.  Each such critic would embrace the power power to pick and choose his own NT.   But how far now have we strayed from any and every scientific historical-critical method, in adopting such a subjective, conjectural approach?

What has gone wrong here?  Walker proposes erasing all distinction between conjectures about proto-texts, sources, methods of composition, and conservative textual criticism, which involves the assessment and application of actual hard historical documentary evidence.

In the past, textual criticism was distinguished as the task of discovering the original text, or at least arriving at the earliest and most primitive archetype, using the extant evidence, including manuscripts, patristic, and versional evidence.  It was from the beginning recognized as having higher authority than mere conjectural exercises, or even ancient and respectable church traditions, never mind literary criticism.

Literary criticism was distinguished as an investigation into the composition of those texts, the detection of sources, authors' editorial and stylistic practices, motivations and concerns, purpose of writing, and the process of construction.   This was openly admitted to be a 'softer science' type investigation, a nebulous, conjectural realm, with a tentative and provisional character. 

 In the past, Literary Criticism was a humble, if fascinating inquiry behind the scenes, with much the same authority as movie reviews and excursions into the intent of play-writers.  It never exalted itself to the status of historical investigations, political analysis, economic theory, or theological construction.

But Walker seems to imagine that Literary Criticism now reigns supreme over even the hardcore historicity of extant manuscripts, patristic quotations, and versional disclosure.


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