(Re)configuring Judaism with Paul, Joel Willitts, and Jochen Flebbe

One of the best things about the Annual SBL Meeting is that it gives one the chance to reconnect with old friends from one’s graduate studies, not only because of the rich personal dimension of such friendships, but also because of the extent to which they carry within them an extended history of meaningful discussions about shared topics of interest in the field. Against this background, it was not surprising to me that when I met up with Joel Willitts in Baltimore, our conversation shifted effortlessly from personal matters to research interests, which is not to say that the two are clearly demarcated (cf. Joel’s comparable description of his conversation with Jonathan Pennington at this same conference). Among other things, our conversation reminded me of Joel’s series of provocative blog posts on whether it is more appropriate to say that Paul “configured” Judaism rather than saying that he “reconfigured” it (see here and here; see also rosh pina project). And speaking with Joel about this question, reminded me, in turn, of a key statement on Paul’s relationship to Judaism in Jochen Flebbe’s impressive work Solus Deus: Untersuchungen zur Rede von Gott im Brief des Paulus an die Römer, which I reviewed for RBL in 2010 (see here). So for this blog post I will use Flebbe’s statement as my “model sentence”. As usual, I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

English translation (wmc): “Thus, the alleged/supposed new determinations/specifications can be placed in a framework of scripture and tradition within which they can/must be understood in part as pointed emphases and radicalizations. This judgment owes itself in large part to a changed perspective on ancient Judaism, which should not be viewed, also against more recent opinions to the contrary such as those of P.-G. Klumbies and S.J. Gathercole, as a monolithic block, but rather (must be viewed) in great differentiation as an extremely plural and varied entity that provides/supplies both convictions of diametrical opposition and convictions of astonishing closeness/proximity in relation to the Pauline statements, so that Paul can be placed/located/situated/integrated in this polyphone concert as a pointed voice.”

Solus Deus (pp. 446-447): „Die vermeintlichen Neubestimmungen lassen sich also in einem Rahmen von Schrift und Tradition einordnen, innerhalb dessen sie zum Teil als Pointierungen und Radikalisierungen zu verstehen sind. Diese Beurteiling verdankt sich zu einem großen Teil einem veränderten Blick auf das antike Judentum, das entgegen auch neuerer, anderslautender Meinungen wie der von P.-G. Klumbies und S.J. Gathercole nicht als ein monolithischer Block zu sehen ist, sondern in großer Differenzierung als eine ungeheuer plurale und vielfältige Größe, welche sowohl Überzeugungen diametralen Widerspruchs als auch solche von frappierender Nähe im Hinblick auf die paulinischen Aussagen liefert, so dass Paulus als eine pointierte Stimme in dieses polyphone Konzert eingeordnet werden kann.“ (cf. pp. 17-18, 40, 47, 59, 126n. 251, 176n48, 192, 194-205, 207n148, 298-300, 308-16, 354, 398, 433-35, 446-447; and note that Flebbe explains his use of the shorthand phrase “Schrift und Tradition” on p. 18)

Grammatical Analysis:

1) „Die vermeintlichen Neubestimmungen lassen sich also in einem Rahmen von Schrift und Tradition einordnen, innerhalb dessen sie zum Teil als Pointierungen und Radikalisierungen zu verstehen sind.“

The subject is “die Neubestimmungen”, which is modified by the adjective “vermeintlich” (= supposed/alleged). I generally translate “lassen sich + infinitve” as “can be x-ed” (here: can be placed). “also” is often best rendered as “thus”, which I often move forward to the beginning of the sentence. Rahmen = framework. Zum Teil can often be rendered as partly, in part, or to some extent (often abbreviated as z.T.) “sind zu verstehen” becomes “zu verstehen sind” because it is a subordinate clause (verb always goes to the end). Though this construction can sometimes be rendered woodenly as “are to understand” (or the like) it is usually better to adopt a solution such as “must be understood”, “has to be understood” or “should be understood”, perhaps even “can be understood” (not sure about this point, i.e, whether it can be translated as “can”). The translation of “Pointierungen” is difficult – the wooden “pointings” or the freer “intensifications” might be viable options, but I have gone with “pointed emphases”.

2a) Diese Beurteiling verdankt sich zu einem großen Teil einem veränderten Blick auf das antike Judentum, das entgegen auch neuerer, anderslautender Meinungen wie der von P.-G. Klumbies und S.J. Gathercole nicht als ein monolithischer Block zu sehen ist, sondern in großer Differenzierung als eine ungeheuer plurale und vielfältige Größe, welche

“The subject of the second sentence is “Diese Beurteilung”/This judgment/evaluation. “Verdankt sich zu + dative” can sometimes be rendered as “is due to” or “can be attributed to”, but I think the wooden “owes itself … to” may be better here. The past participle “verändert” has the force of “changed” or “altered”. Here “Blick auf + acc” can be rendered “perspective on” or “view of”, with “das Judentum/Judaism” being dependent upon “auf”. “das” introduces a subordinate clause, which causes the verb phrase “zu sehen ist” to go to the end of the sentence. I have rendered it as “should be viewed” (cf. “sind zu verstehen” above) since “must” could be misunderstood in the sense of “does not have to be” rather than “is not to be” or “should not be”). Its meaning is complemented with the phrase “als ein monolithischer Block”/”as a monolithic block”. It is difficult to translate the word “auch” here – it conveys the force of not only against earlier positions but also against newer positions. It is often best to translate the comparative “neuerer” as “recent” rather than as “more recent” as I have done here. Meinungen, and thus the adjective “neuerer” and the “participle “anderslautender”, is in the dative because it is governed by entgegen = against or contra, “wie der” means “such as those of” – here the dative plural article is short for “der Meinungen”. After “sondern/but” one may supply “es ist zu sehen”/”it must be viewed” which is complemented by “als eine ungeheurer plurale und vielfältige Größe”/as an extremely plural and varied entity”. The construction in 2a-2b is “nichtalssondernals. The very strong word “ungeheuer” could be rendered with “immensely” or “terribly” but I have selected the weaker “extremely” for the sake of readability. The viewing in question is modified by the prepositional phrase “in großer Differenzierung”/in great differentiation.

2b) …, welche sowohl Überzeugungen diametralen Widerspruchs als auch solche von frappierender Nähe im Hinblick auf die paulinischen Aussagen liefert, so dass Paulus als eine pointierte Stimme in dieses polyphone Konzert eingeordnet werden kann.“

The character of the entity in question is then specified with the indefinite pronoun “welche”/which. It is feminine singular because it looks back to Größe and nominative because it is the subject of the verb “liefert” (which goes to the end of the sentence in a subordinate clause). Sowohl … als auch has the force of “both … and”. “Überzeugungen” and “solche (Überzeugungen)” are the direct objects of the verb “liefert”. The –s that has been added to Widerspruch lets you know that this is in the genitive (it is modified by diametralen). The force of the genitive here is comparable with the force of “von … Nähe” in what follows. “im Hinblick auf” has the force of “with respect to” or “in relation to”. It could be better to translate this entire segment more freely as “which provides/supplies both convictions that are diametrically opposed to the Pauline statements and convictions that are astonishingly close to them.” “so dass” has the force of “so that” or “with the result that”. The verb “can be placed” goes to the end of the sentence. It is hard to capture the fuller meaning of “eingeordnet”, which has the sense of “ordered into” or “classified into”. Here “pointierte” can probably be rendered as “pointed”, “sharp“, or perhaps “intensified”. “dieses polyphone Konzert” is in the accusative with “in” here. The fact that he uses the dative in the first sentence and the accusative here could suggest that this segment should be translated as “integrated into” (or the like).

Substantive Analysis:

This post is already far too long, so I will forgo a substantive analysis today, other than noting that I doubt Simon Gathercole would be satisfied with Flebbe’s description of his presentation of Judaism, and to add that it would be interesting to compare what Flebbe says in this statement to what Joel says about John Barclay’s discussion of grace in early Judaism and Paul here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

One thought on “(Re)configuring Judaism with Paul, Joel Willitts, and Jochen Flebbe

  1. Pingback: Bultmann, Käsemann and the Righteousness of God in Paul (Paulus Handbuch Series) | German for Neutestamentler

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