Jens Schröter, Galatians 1.6-7, and the Greek Scholars

Since they are included in a collection of essays that is especially associated with historiography and New Testament scholarship, Jens Schröter’s two chapters on Galatians in From Jesus to the New Testament could easily be missed. To my mind, however, they both merit the attention of Pauline scholars. In particular, since Galatians 1:6-7 is such a striking and important verse, I am hopeful that Schröter’s interpretation of this key text in chapter 7 will gain a hearing in the commentary literature and beyond (cf. Joel Willitts appreciation of its significance). And since part of Schröter’s argument involves a reassessment of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, I would be delighted to see this part of the essay subjected to critical evaluation by the group of scholars who are most qualified to assess it—namely, those scholars who have established themselves as leading authorities in Greek lexicography or, more broadly, in the application of linguistic insights to the New Testament. In other words, I hope that this post will provoke one or several of them to respond to Schröter in the Blogosphere or in the context of a conference paper or journal article.

Before turning to two key quotes from Schröter’s essay, however, let me first pause for a moment and encourage all my readers to check out and follow the recently established “Zürich New Testament blog,” which will undoubtedly be a great resource for everyone interested in engaging with ‘German’ New Testament scholarship! Indeed, I am hoping against hope that Zürich might prove to be the first fruits of a full harvest of New Testament blogs associated with leading universities in the German-language sphere. We’ll see.

Returning to Schröter, I will provide two key quotations (only in English this time). The first  will showcase his understanding of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος (this is the part of the essay where I think the Greek scholars among us are especially well qualified to weigh in). The second quotation represents Schröter’s paraphrase and interpretation of Gal 1.6-7 on the basis of his understanding of the overall argument of these verses (evaluating this material thus requires more – but not less! – than an evaluation of his interpretation of ἕτερος and ἄλλος).

I. ἕτερος and ἄλλος (Is he right, Greek scholars?!)

From Jesus to the New Testament (pp. 133-153, esp. 137-146): (141) However, the exchangeability of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, even if it occurs in Paul himself, does not yet prove that the meaning-specific characteristics of the terms were lost, thus that one is to start not merely from a referential but also from a lexical synonymity. … (142) With regard to the sentence in question, one should start from the syntactical observation that ἕτερος is negated through ἄλλος. This speaks against assuming a synonymous relation or de facto replacing ἄλλος through εὐαγγέλιον in the interpretation. … (143) Ramsay emphasized the fact that while both terms can take on the meaning “different,” this does not answer the question of which of the two expresses the higher degree of difference when they are placed in syntactical opposition to each other. … (144) Zahn thus observes very precisely the semantic difference between ἕτερος and ἄλλος when he distinguishes between an additional gospel and the question of its difference in kind. … As far as I can see, among recent interpretations a correct semantic description of the findings is found—besides the already mentioned statement of Brigitte Kahl on the relative sentence in 1.7—only with François Vouga. He writes, “unlike Gal 1.19, but as in 2 Cor 11.4, ἕτερος and ἄλλος are precisely distinguished: the alternative message (alter), to which the Galatians turn cannot be gospel because there cannot be a different (alius) gospel at all.” … (145) the interpretations of Ramsay and Zahn as well as the statements of Kahl and Vouga lead to the right interpretation, which also allows the point of the Pauline argument to appear somewhat different. First, it is rightly emphasized in these interpretations that with ἕτερος, when it stands in opposition to ἄλλος, it is not a greater degree in difference that is expressed but an enumerative sense; secondly, it is pointed out that ὅ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο can hardly be interpreted as a negation of the existence of the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον. Thus Paul’s concern in Galatians 1.6 is not to dispute the existence of a second form of the εὐαγγέλιον. Rather, he grants that there is such an additional form of the proclamation of the εὐαγγέλιον (a ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) alongside his own. This is not, of course, to be understood in the sense of a concession to his rivals! Instead, it follows from verse 7 that it is only through the distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ that the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον becomes an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον, the following of which represents a turning from God.

II. Schröter’s paraphrase and Interpretation of Gal 1.6-7

(146) A paraphrase of the analyzed sentence thus reads: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to another gospel. This would not at all stand in contradiction to the one that I proclaimed to you if certain people would not confuse you and distort the gospel of Christ.” As the result of this section the following can thus be maintained: the argument of Paul in Galatians 1.6-7 is that his opponents wrongly claim that there is another (ἕτερον, alter) legitimate form of the gospel that is materially different (ἄλλο, alius) from his own. With this he does not fundamentally deny that there is another form of gospel proclamation altogether. It is decisive, however, that this other gospel (ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) stands on the same basis as his own. Thus the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον may not be an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον because it would then no longer be εὐαγγέλιον. The contestation of this unity of the gospel makes the alternative form of its proclamation a distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ and thus misleads the Galatians to turn away from God. Thus, Paul is concerned to emphasize the unity of the one gospel in two forms. What this unity consists in will be investigated in the next section.

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Greek Grammar and Linguistics Beyond BDR/BDF: Heinrich von Siebenthal zum 70. Geburtstag

For many English-speaking (and even German-speaking) scholars BDR/BDF epitomizes German scholarship on Greek Grammar. This is, of course, understandable to some extent, for BDR/BDF is a landmark work that can still be consulted with great profit today. At the same time, just as Bultmann did not mark the end of German New Testament scholarship, so BDR did not mark the end of German scholarship on Greek Grammar and linguistic approaches to the New Testament.

With this in mind, today’s post will look at the work of a more recent German-speaking scholar who has made a number of important contributions to the study of Greek Grammar and the relationship between linguistics and Biblical interpretation, namely Heinrich von Siebenthal, who celebrates his 70th birthday today.

* For another post on von Siebenthal’s work, see this post on the Zürich New Testament Blog.

I will first introduce four of his publications and then translate an excerpt from his Greek Grammar in which he gives two reasons for rejecting Porter and Campbell’s thesis that the Greek verb does not grammaticalize time, not even in the indicative (my phrasing; cf. Decker).

Select Publications

1) Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament. Neubearbeitung und Erweiterung der Grammatik Hoffmann / von Siebenthal. Gießen: Brunnen, 2011 (cf. LogosVersion and ShortVersion). This 800 page Grammar represents a major contribution to the study of the Greek New Testament. And English-speaking readers will be delighted to learn that von Siebenthal is preparing an English translation! Readers may, for example, be particularly interested in his section on Textgrammatik (pp. 581ff).

2) Wilfrid Haubeck and Heinrich von Siebenthal. Neuer sprachlicher Schlüssel zum griechischen Neuen Testament. 3rd edition.  Gießen, Brunnen: 2011 (cf. here). I have used (an earlier edition of) this grammatical key to the Greek New Testament  for many years now, and I have found that it helpfully complements my more recent use of the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series.

3) “Linguistische Methodenschritte: Textanalyse und Übersetzung.” Pages 51-100 in Das Studium des Neuen Testaments: Einführung in die Methoden der Exegese. Revised Edition. Edited by Heinz-Werner Neudorfer and Eckhard J. Schnabel. Wuppertal: Brunnen, 2006, 51–100. In this chapter, von Siebenthal seeks to show how linguistic insights can inform (the steps of) exegesis. It will be of special interest to scholars of James and Romans since he uses Romans 8.10 (pp. 52ff) and James 1.2-4 (pp. 61ff) as focal texts. I found the emphasis that he placed on establishing the communicative function of a text to be valuable.

4) “Sprachwissenschaftliche Aspekte.” Pages 69-154 in Das Studium des Neuen Testaments.  Vol. 1: Eine Einführung in die Methoden der Exegese. Edited by Heinz-Werner Neudorfer and Eckhard J. Schnabel. Wuppertal: Brunnen, 2000. I found this chapter to be more advanced (and a bit more rewarding) than “Linguistische Methodenschritte”. It contains valuable discussions of a wide range of issues pertaining to linguistics and Biblical interpretation. And it will be of special interest to scholars of Philippians, since von Siebenthal makes Philippians 2.5-11 a focal text for his discussion. And it is also valuable for the way in which he relates Akmajian’s inferential model of communication to the interpretation of the New Testament.

II. H. von Siebenthal on Aspect and Time in the Indicative Mood

Since the Greek verb is a hot topic of late (cf. e.g. here), I thought it would be fitting to select an excerpt on this issue from von Siebenthal’s Griechische Grammatik (p. 310). To help those learning German, I will alternate between English translation and German Original so that they can be read in relation to one another.

In more recent discussion on verbal aspect in Ancient Greek – especially among English-speaking New Testament scholars – the thesis is sometimes advocated (among others by Porter and Campbell; see Campbell 2007/2008) that also the indicative forms have only aspectual meaning; the classification of the intended subject matter as present or past is said to result only secondarily in the individual context (hence, similar to what happens with regard to the relative temporal meaning mentioned under §193b).

In der jüngeren Diskussion um den altgriechischen Verbalaspekt wird – besonders unter englischsprachigen Neutestamentlern – verschiedentlich die These vertreten (u.a. von Porter und Campbell; s. Campbell 2007/2008), auch die Indikativformen hätten lediglich Aspektbedeutung; die Einordnung des gemeinten Sachverhalts als gegenwärtig oder vergangen, ergäbe sich erst sekundär im Einzelkontext (also etwa so, wie es bei der unter §193b genannten relativen Zeitbedeutung geschieht).

In this point we follow here the consensus within Greek philology (cf., among others, Adrados, Meier-Brügger and Duhoux), which assumes a combination of aspectual and temporal meaning in the indicative present, aorist, and perfect (§192f).

In diesem Punkt folgen wir hier dem Konsens innerhalb der Gräzistik (vgl. u.a. Adrados, Meier-Brügger und Duhoux), der beim Indikativ Präsens, Aorist und Perfekt von einer Kombination von Aspekt- und Zeitbedeutung ausgeht (§192f).

In the main, the treatment of aspect offered here corresponds also otherwise to this consensus (and to what the New Testament scholars active in research on aspect – despite all differences in details – advocate in common; see Campbell 2007/2008).

Im Wesentlichen entspricht die hier gebotene Behandlung der Aspekte auch sonst diesem Konsens (ebenso dem, was die in der Aspektforschung tätigen Neutestamentler – bei allen Unterschieden im Einzelnen – gemeinsam vertreten; s. Campbell 2007/ 2008).

In the fine division and terminology we especially depend on the approach of the Indo-European language scholars and Greek philologists Risch and Meier-Brügger.

In der Feineinteilung und der Terminologie lehnen wir uns vor allem an den Ansatz der Indogermanisten und Gräzisten Risch und Meier-Brügger an.

The thesis advocated by Porter and Campbell appears to display, inter alia, the following main weak points:

Die von Porter und Campbell vertretene These scheint u.a. folgende Hauptschwachpunkte aufzuweisen:

a) An understanding of “category” is apparently presupposed that must be designated as problematic. As, for example, the linguist T. Givón (2000: 29–34) shows, categories usually do not encompass clearly delimitable, homogenous segments of reality (which is apparently different from what is assumed in the aforementioned thesis).

a) Man setzt offenbar ein Verständnis von »Kategorie« voraus, das als problematisch zu bezeichnen ist. Wie etwa der Linguist T. Givón (2000: 29–34) nachweist, umfassen Kategorien in der Regel keine klar abgrenzbaren, homogenen Segmente der Wirklichkeit (offenbar anders als bei der obigen These angenommen).

This applies not least to the linguistic categories: The reality that is investigated here and has to be described consists in large part of a continuum. Time and again the (category) boundaries between different spheres are shown to be fluid.

Dies trifft nicht zuletzt auch auf die linguistischen Kategorien zu: Die hier untersuchte und zu beschreibende Wirklichkeit besteht zu einem großen Teil aus einem Kontinuum. Die (kategoriellen) Grenzen zwischen unterscheidbaren Bereichen erweisen sich immer wieder als fließend.

In the core sphere of a category we find the typical, i.e. those phenomena that display all the features of this category.

Im Kernbereich einer Kategorie findet sich das Typische, jene Phänomene nämlich, die sämtliche Kennzeichen dieser Kategorie aufweisen.

At the margins, however, one also encounters atypical manifestations in which part of the category markers are lacking.

An den Rändern trifft man jedoch auch auf atypische Erscheinungen, bei denen ein Teil der kategoriellen Kennzeichen fehlt.

The existence of some indicative forms with problematic temporal meaning function are therefore not yet a reason to deny such a function to the indicative as a whole; they can be reasonably assigned to the periphery, which borders the neighboring category without typical temporal meaning function.

Einige Indikativformen mit problematischer Zeitbedeutungsfunktion sind von daher noch kein Grund, eine solche dem Indikativ überhaupt abzusprechen; sie lassen sich sinnvollerweise dem Randbereich zuordnen, der an die benachbarte Kategorie ohne typische Zeitbedeutungsfunktion grenzt.

b) The possibility of mutivalence seems to be too little taken into account. Linguistic signs can – as distinct from non-lingustic signs – be multivalent, i.e. polysemous or polyfunctional: to one element of expression there often corresponds more than one content or one function, a circumstance that ordinarily does not prevent texts from being understood, since what is meant in each case can usually be inferred from other linguistic signals or simply on the basis of the context.

b) Die Möglichkeit von Mehrdeutigkeit scheint zu wenig berücksichtigt. Sprachliche Zeichen können – im Unterschied zu nichtsprachlichen Zeichen – mehrdeutig, d.h. polysem bzw. polyfunktional, sein: Einem Ausdruckselement entspricht häufig mehr als ein Inhalt oder eine Funktion, ein Umstand, der die Verstehbarkeit von Texten gewöhnlich nicht beeinträchtigt, da sich das jeweils Gemeinte meist anhand von weiteren Sprachsignalen oder einfach aufgrund des Kontextes leicht erschließen lässt.

When, for example, imperfect forms sometimes refer not to something past but to the unreal for example, this need not call into question the temporal meaning function of this indicative category; the reference to the unreal is typically signaled via the conjunction εἰ, the particle ἄν or through the meaning of the verb (§198h/i; 284), a situation that is not dissimilar to that of the English past tense (cf., e.g., He went. – If he went.).

Wenn sich z.B. Imperfektformen manchmal nicht auf Vergangenes, sondern etwa auf Nichtwirkliches beziehen, braucht dies die Zeitbedeutungsfunktion dieser indikativischen Kategorie nicht in Frage zu stellen; der Bezug auf Nichtwirkliches wird ja typischerweise durch die Konjunktion εἰ, die Partikel ἄν oder dann durch die Verbbedeutung signalisiert (§198h/i; 284), eine Situation, die der der englischen past tense nicht unähnlich ist (vgl. z.B. He went. – If he went.).

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Christine Jacobi on Social Memory and Jesus Tradition in Paul

Like many readers of The Jesus Blog, I have enjoyed seeing its circle of contributors expand from Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith to include James Crossley and now Christine Jacobi, Brant Pitre, and Rafael Rodríguez.

As a way of celebrating this recent expansion and especially the addition of a Neutestamentlerin from Germany, today’s post will look at Christine Jacobi‘s 2015 book Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus? Analogien zwischen den echten Paulusbriefen und den synoptischen Evangelien. In order to give the reader a better sense of the book, I have chosen to translate four short excerpts rather than commenting on a single key quotation.

Like Benjamin White’s important monograph (cf. esp. pp. 49-54 and 70-107), Christine Jacobi‘s book is one of the first full-scale studies to apply social memory theories to Pauline Studies. Hence, I have taken the first excerpt from the section of her book (pp. 9-20) entitled “Eine neue Hermeneutik zum Vergangeneitsbezug der synoptischen Evangelien: Allgemeine Aspekte des Erinnerungszugangs“. This first excerpt is meant to give the reader a sense of where Jacobi stands in relation to various “memory approaches”. The next three excerpts, in turn, are taken from her conclusion. They are intended to give the reader a sense of the direction in which Jacobi takes her argument. As indicated by the the question mark in her title, part of her argument involves a questioning of the appropriateness of speaking of “Jesus tradition in Paul”. I will alternate between English translation and German original.

Translation 1 (wmc): Jens Schröter already drew attention to the complex and indissoluble connection between past and present in the Gospels in 1997 in his habilitation Errinerung an Jesu Worte, in which he specified anew the relation between Jesus traditions and the texts that process them. … A Jesus research following on from Schröter takes interest in the different post-Easter pictures of Jesus or the ways of his making-present and representation. It describes the texts as interpretations or “remembrances” of the pre-Easter activity of Jesus. Corresponding conceptions therefore do not necessarily speak of “Jesus tradition” but more openly of “Vergangenheit” and “past” or of “commemorative products” and “memory”. That the Gospels take up older traditions and the task of the exegete cannot exhaust itself in a description of the world of the text is taken into account. However, one does not search for the oldest tradition but the texts as wholes are understood as witnesses of memory, which process themes and motifs from the tradition in various ways and according to the needs of the respective present. The past activity of Jesus molds, together with other influences such as the Scripture, the first Christians’ coordinates of understanding and schemata of perception and contributes to early Christian self-understanding. And, conversely, Jesus’s person and activity are interpreted, in turn, by such patterns of understanding. “Erinnerung” or “(social) memory” are terms used for this nexus, with which a series of current studies in Jesus- and Synoptic scholarship is working.

Quotation 1 (Page 11-12): Auf die komplexe und unauflösbare Verbindung von Vergangenheit und Gegenwart in den Evangelien machte bereits 1997 Jens Schröter in seiner Habilitationsschrift Errinnerung an Jesu Worte aufmerksam, in welcher er das Verhältnis von Jesusüberlieferungen zu den sie verarbeitenden Texten neu bestimmte. … Eine an Schröter anschließende Jesusforschung interessiert sich für die verschiedenen nachösterlichen Bilder Jesu bzw. die Weisen seiner Vergegenwärtigung und Repräsentation. Sie beschreibt die Texte als Deutungen bzw. “Erinnerungen” an das vorörsterliche Wirken Jesu. In entsprechenden Entwürfen ist daher gar nicht mehr unbedingt von “Jesustradition” die Rede, sondern offener von “Vergangenheit” oder “past” bzw. von “commemorative products” and “memory”. Dass die Evangelien ältere Überlieferungen aufnehmen und die Aufgabe des Exegeten sich nicht in einer Beschreibung der Textwelt erschöpfen kann, wird dabei berücksichtigt. Es wird jedoch nicht nach den ältesten Überlieferung gefahndet, sondern die Texte als Ganze werden als Erinnerungszeugnisse verstanden, die Themen und Motive aus der Überlieferung auf vielfältige Weise und je nach den Bedürfnissen der eigenen Gegenwart bearbeiten. Das vergangene Wirken Jesus modelliert zusammen mit anderen Einflüssen wie beispielsweise die Schrift die Verstehungskoordinaten und Wahrnehmungsschemata der ersten Christen und trägt zum frühchristlichen Selbstverständnis bei. Und umgekehrt werden Person und Auftreten Jesu wiederum durch solche Interpretationsmuster gedeutet. “Erinnerung” oder “(social) memory” sind die für diesen Zusammenhang verwendeten Termini, mit denen eine Reihe aktueller Beiträge der Jesus- und Synoptikerforschung arbeitet.

Translation 2 (wmc): Finally, from the findings on the reception of so-called Jesus tradition in Paul one must draw conclusions for the picture of Jesus that is painted in the letters of Paul. Negatively one can say that Jesus as an originator of tradition and teacher is not relevant for Paul. But what is his significance with a view to the so-called Jesus tradition in Paul?

Quotation 2 (page 392): Aus den Ergebnissen zur Rezeption sogenannter Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus sind schließlich Konsequenzen für das Bild von Jesus zu ziehen, das in den Paulusbriefen gezeichnet wird. In negativer Hinsicht kann festgestellt werden, dass Jesus als Traditionsurheber und als Lehrer für Paulus nicht relevant ist. Welche Bedeutung aber kommt ihm mit Blick auf die sogenannte Jesustradition bei Paulus zu?

Translation 3: When Paul describes a new view of reality with expressions such as “in the Kyrios” or “in Christ”, this shows that he does not distinguish between the Kyrios as the Risen and Exalted One, on the one hand, and Jesus as the originator of traditions, on the other hand. The reason for this is again that the event of salvation and the new reality of faith are thought of as connected with the Lord Jesus Christ in the closest way. The Kyrios forms the center of all expressions of faith. In this way the authority of the Kyrios can encompass both Pauline argumentation as well as already circulating traditions taken up by Paul and traditions that go back to the earthy Jesus himself. Therefore, all the admonition of the apostle ultimately takes place in the sphere of validity of faith in Christ, which forms the framework for his own remarks on the Christian self-understanding. The sphere of interpretation in which Paul places topoi, motifs, and contents of tradition, levels out their respectively specific backgrounds.

Quotation 3 (page 393): Wenn Paulus mit Wendungen wie “im Kyrios” oder “in Christus” eine neue Wirklichkeitssicht beschreibt, so zeigt sich darin, dass er nicht zwischen dem Kyrios als dem Auferweckten und Erhörten einerseits und Jesus als Urheber von Traditionen anderseits unterscheidet. Der Grund dafür liegt wiederum darin, dass das Heilsgeschehen und die neue Glaubenswirklichkeit insgesamt mit dem Herrn Jesus Christus auf engste Weise verbunden gedacht werden. Der Kyrios bildet das Zentrum aller Glaubensäußerungen. Auf diese Weise kann die Autorität des Kyrios sowohl paulinische Argumentationen als auch bereits zirkulierende, von Paulus aufgegriffene Überlieferungen und auf den irdischen Jesus selbst zurückgehende Traditionen umfassen. Deshalb erfolgt letzlich alles Ermahnen des Apostels im Geltungsbereich des Christusglaubens, der den Bezugsrahmen für seine eigenen Ausführungen über das christliche Selbstverständnis und den Stand der Adressaten bildet. Der mit “in Christus/im Kyrios” markierte Deutungsraum, in den Paulus Topoi, Motive und Überlieferungsinhalte stellt, nivelliert deren je spezifische Herkunft.

Translation 4 (wmc): From a reception-oriented perspective 1 Cor 7.10-11 and 9.14 in particular can rather be understood as special forms of the much more frequent reference to the Kyrios through the ἐν-κυρίῳ-/ἐν-χριστῷ-expressions. For although in 1 Cor 7.10-11 and 9.14-15 Paul designates the content of the statements as words/sayings of the Lord, he relativizes their content from a christological perspective. Paul sees himself legitimated by the Lord for this work of mediation between the words of the Lord and the world of faith opened up “in Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 7.25, 40; 9.15-18). For the Kyrios as foundation of faith possesses for Paul more weight than the Kyrios as originator of tradition. With this the Pauline perspective on the action of God toward and through Christ becomes apparent, which alongside various other spheres of tradition integrates also the words of the Lord traditions into a common paradigm.

Quotation 4 (page 394): Aus einer rezeptionsorientiertenten Perspektive lassen sich insbesondere 1 Kor 7,10f. und 9,14 eher als Sonderformen der wesentlich häufigeren Bezugnahme auf den Kyrios durch die ἐν-κυρίῳ-/ἐν-χριστῷ-Wendungen verstehen. Denn obwohl Paulus in 1 Kor 7,10f. und 9,14 Aussagegehalte als Herrenworte kennzeichnet, relativiert er ihre Inhalte von einer christologischen Perspektive her. Zu dieser Vermittlungsarbeit zwischen den Herrenworten und der “in Christus” eröffneten Glaubenswelt sieht Paulus sich selbst vom Kyrios legitimiert (vgl. 1 Kor 7,25.40; 9,15-18). Denn für Paulus besitzt der Kyrios als Glaubensfundament mehr Gewicht als der Kyrios als Traditionsurheber. Damit zeichnet sich die paulinische Perspektive auf das Handeln Gottes an und durch Jesus Christus als derjenige Horizont ab, der neben verschiedenen anderen Traditionsbereichen auch die Herrenwortüberlieferungen in ein gemeinsames Paradigma integriert.

Substantive Analysis: In a previous post, I suggested that a comparison between the treatment of the sayings tradition in the work of Francis Watson and Jens Schröter would make a great research project, especially if it also drew upon the multiple exchanges between James Dunn and Jens Schröter on this topic. Having dipped into Jacobi’s fine monograph, I now think that her voice should definitely be added to this discussion, especially since she has already developed it at much greater depth in relation to a wider range of voices.

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Eve-Marie Becker on the Construction of History in Mark, Paul, and Luke

Adding to my other posts on historiography and New Testament scholarship, today’s post will provide a translation of a key excerpt from the work of another leading scholar in this area, namely Prof. Eve-Marie Becker (cf. here) of Aarhus University .

Our quotation is taken from her 2014 essay “Die Konstruktion von ‘Geschichte’. Paulus und Markus im Vergleich“, which appeared in Paul and Mark (ed. Oda Wischmeyer et al). It stands alongside her many other important publications in this area, such as her 2006 book Das Markus-Evangelium im Rahmen antiker Historiographie, her 2014 essay “Patterns of Early Christian Thinking and Writing of History: Paul – Mark – Acts” and her forthcoming book Historiography in New Testament Times (cf. here). More generally, readers of this blog may also be interested in her edited volume Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. Autobiographische Essays aus der Evangelische Theologie.

Let us turn then to our excerpt. Since I will not be providing a grammatical commentary, I will alternate between the German text and my English translation.

Die Konstruction von ‘Geschichte’ (p. 415-16): Markus wählt für seine Erzählung eine ‘personzentrierte Darstellungsweise’. Die Geschichte der Evangeliumsverkündigung ist an einzelne Handlungsträger wie den Täufer, in erster Line aber an Jesus von Nazaret gebunden.

Mark chooses for his narrative a ‘person-centered manner of presentation’. The (hi)story of the proclamation of the gospel is tied to individual agents such as the Baptist, but primarily to Jesus of Nazareth.

Diese Personzentrierung wird nicht zuletzt deswegen möglich und nötig, weil Markus – anders als der Briefschreiber Paulus – nicht im Sinne der Selbst-Referentialität seine eigene Person als narratives Scharnier oder auch als autorisierenden Referenzpunkt seiner Darstellung anführen kann.

This person-centeredness is possible and necessary not least because Mark – unlike the letter writer Paul – cannot bring in his own person as (the) narrative hinge or as (the) authorizing reference point of his presentation in the sense of self-referentiality.

Im Lukanischen Doppelwerk ändert sich die narrative Bedeutung der Personzentrierung wiederum. Indem Lukas nämlich in beiden Werken eingangs die Hetero-Referentialität seiner Erzählung explizit macht, ermöglicht er dem Leser, die Handlungsträger der Darstellung, also vor allem Jesus, Petrus und Paulus, deutlicher von der Rolle des erzählenden Historikers abzugrenzen.

In the Lukan Doppelwerk [or in Luke-Acts] the narrative significance of the person-centeredness changes once more. For by making the hetero-referentiality of his narrative explicit at the outset in both works, Luke makes it possible for the reader to demarcate the agents of the presentation, i.e. above all Jesus, Peter and Paul, more clearly from the role of the narrating historian.

Damit variiert auch der geschichtliche Raum, dem sich der einzelne Autor narrativ zuwenden kann: Während Paulus faktisch nur über den von ihm selbst erlebten Zeitraum sprechen und Markus lediglich die zeitliche Periode, die an das Wirken seiner Handlungsträger gebunden ist, in den Blick nehmen kann, dehnt Lukas den zeitlichen Rahmen seiner Darstellung nach vorne und hinten erheblich aus:

In this way the historical space to which the individual author can turn also varies. While Paul can speak de facto only about the period of time experienced that he has experienced and Mark can only consider the temporal periods that are bound to the activity of his agents, Luke considerably extends the temporal framework of his presentation both forward and backward.

Die ereignisgeschichtliche Darstellung kann dort beginnen, wo der Historiker und Erzähler – für seine Leser erkennbar – seinen Quellen folgt. So kann erst die Explikation der Hetero-Referentialität zur zeitlichen Ausdehnung der ereignisgeschichtlichen Darstellung führen.

The event-historical presentation can begin where the historian and narrator – recognizably for his readers – follows his sources. Thus only the explication of the hetero-referentiality can lead to the temporal extension of the event-historical presentation.

II. Substantive analysis: What I liked about this quotation (and Becker’s essay as a whole) is that it brings the category of history into connection with Mark and Paul rather than relating it exclusively to Luke, while simultaneously showing with great precision how concrete differences in the authors’ perspectives and approaches resulted in important differences in the ways that they construct ‘history’ in their works.

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Echoes and Empire Criticism: Christoph Heilig on Hays, Barclay, and Wright/Elliott

This post falls under one of my favorite categories on this blog, namely “German scholars”. The purpose of this category is to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post will consist of (I) an excerpt (or several excerpts) from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question.

Today’s German scholar is Christoph Heilig (cf. here) of the University of Zürich, with whom I have worked closely this year (cf. here) on our co-translations of Michael Wolter’s commentary on Luke for the BMSEC series and Oda Wischmeyer‘s wonderful essay in God and the Faithfulness of Paul: A Critical Examination of the Pauline Theology of N.T. Wright (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, Forthcoming 2015).

I have asked Heilig to send me three excerpts from his 2015 book Hidden Criticism? The Methodology and Plausibility of the Search for a Counter-Imperial Subtext in Paul, which I read with great profit with regard to its content and with great appreciation for the skill with which he translated his original German manuscript.

I. Echoes and Empire Criticism

On Hays

So what can we conclude on this basis? First, the set of criteria invites the uncritical interpreter to overemphasise certain factors since, in part, Hays’s criteria are only sub-factors of other criteria, and they should not be used as separate touchstones since this would yield an unrealistic result. For example, one could get the impression that it is correct to treat “Satisfaction” and “Volume” as two different arguments – although “Satisfaction” cannot be determined without analysing its subordinate aspects. Second, there is the danger of underemphasising the aspect of “Satisfaction.” Most exegetes probably are not aware of the fact that this factor makes up half (!) of the overall plausibility of an echo because it is only one of seven tests in Hays’s list. Third, another danger in using Hays’s criteria is that parts of the relevant data could be overlooked since the criteria are spread out rather chaotically across the two large factors in Bayes’s theorem and defined rather vaguely. To give just one example: How do we know that we have really covered all the relevant ground to determine the crucial factor of the background plausibility? How do we know the criteria Hays suggested do not leave important gaps in the evaluation of the data? Related to this, fourth, is the problem that the consequences of failing and fulfilling a test are unclear. The criteria function cumulatively, and what is missing in one area in terms of plausibility can be counterbalanced by another. Without a control mechanism, this becomes quite an arbitrary way of weighing evidence.

In light of all of this, it does not seem advisable to use Hays’s criteria as a methodologically sound way to identify echoes. To be sure, it is possible to come to well-founded conclusions on their basis (conclusions that agree with an inference in terms of Bayes), but in these cases it is not the set of criteria itself which guarantees the success, but their wise use, which attributes the correct significance to each of them. The danger of such a methodological procedure is that intuitive decisions, which are made in advance, are sanctioned afterwards by “tests” which have the appearance of scientific method.

On Barclay

When Barclay emphasises that for Paul the real frontier is a cosmic battle, this is probably correct. It would be wrong to negate this and to try to attribute this role to the Roman Empire. Instead, the really important question is whether Paul’s perception of everyday reality was multi-layered or not. Just because he would have agreed with Barclay that the most important conflict is the one between sin and the Spirit, does not mean that it does not affect ordinary decisions and behaviour on a lower level. The foundational conflict in Gal 5:17, for example, is followed in 5:19–26 by very concrete expressions of this battle. Similarly, the book of Acts gives us a good impression of the various local complications of Paul’s mission through his contemporaries, and nevertheless, without further explanation, he is able to say in 1 Thess 2:18 that it was Satan who hindered him from visiting the church. Hence, it would be wrong to say that these “ordinary” things were only peripheral to Paul. The concrete, contemporaneous circumstances do not just float around in space without evaluation just because Paul has a cosmic perspective. Rather, he interprets the events and conditions confronting him within such a wider framework.

We thus have to argue, against Barclay, that Paul’s concrete judgements of specific contemporaneous phenomena as expressions of cosmic forces result from his theological interpretation of the world and do not contradict it at all. On the contrary, if we assume the latter, we should also expect the former, wherever contemporary figures claim roles (saviour of the world etc.) that are attributed to other persons in the divine drama.

On Wright/Elliott

The implicit presupposition of Wright and Elliott seems to be: “If Paul had had free hand, he would have formulated his criticism more openly.” This assumes that the subtext is not an effective tool for persuasion. But is the use of subtext really only explicable in terms of restricting the “actual” opinion? My approach challenges the idea that using the subtext is a kind of second class level of communication necessitated by oppressive circumstances.

This claim is demonstrated – of all things – by the method which the proponents of a subtext-hypothesis adduce: Hays’s scriptural “echoes.” It is astonishing that Wright and Elliott refer to Hays’s criteria but do not spend enough time on the question of what this implies for the character of the literary phenomenon itself. An echo – be it scriptural or imperial – evokes a scenery in the imagination of the reader by means of only a very short phrase. … The effect of an “echo” thus can be much bigger than the one of bare juxtaposition. The reason for this effectiveness is that narrative structures are formative for worldviews, and echoes are able to evoke alternative scenarios in the imagination, which can have persuasive power. Stories are able to challenge other stories and the worldviews they represent much more effectively than purely factual criticism.

This can also be applied to our subject. It is by no means clear that Paul’s best option for expressing the Messiah’s superiority over against imperatorial claims would have been the blunt assertion “We trust in Jesus not in Caesar!” The claims of Roman imperial ideology were not indifferent statements which could be judged in a detached manner. Nor would this judgement have been something which could have been simply appropriated by decision. These claims, rather, included assertions concerning the structure and nature of reality as it pertained directly to the individual. To question them meant to question a worldview and thus to imply alternative stories. Conversely, alternative narratives implicitly contested the existing paradigm. Contrary to the simple stating of antitheses, stories also offer a reason for accepting these dichotomies by offering a superior meta-structure whose acceptance is facilitated by appealing to the imagination. If Rom 1:1–17 really is a “parody of the imperial cult,” this poses the question whether Paul’s echo-like, resonance-evoking formulation could not have been the most appropriate means to express this powerful contrast (instead of simply being the “safer” way of communication). Similarly, when Paul tells the story of the exaltation of the Messiah in Phil 2:6–11, which climaxes in the worship of the κύριος Jesus – a “stilisierte Kurzerzählung darüber, wie ein Hochwohlgeborener sich dafür qualifiziert, die universale Herrschaft zu erhalten” – I am under the impression that it would (a) not have done justice to Paul’s primary aim of discourse if he had denied the Lordship of Caesar directly (Section 2.2.1) nor would it (b) have been more effective to choose such a procedure.

II. Biographical-Biographical Information

After studying theology at the Freie Theologische Hochschule Gießen, Christoph Heilig went to the University of St Andrews where he received a Master of Letters in “Biblical Languages and Literature” in 2013. Having done additional studies in Göttingen, he is now working with Prof. Jörg Frey on a research project funded by the SNF at the University of Zurich. It deals with the question of the role of narrative substructures for understanding Paul’s letters (see further here). He has also worked on various philosophical issues, which is reflected in part in the methodological approach of his book Hidden Criticism. Being influenced in particular by the linguistic emphasis of Prof. Heinrich von Siebenthal, he is currently completing an in-depth analysis of the function of the metaphor of the Roman triumph in 2 Cor 2:14. His strong interest in the enhancement of the dialogue between German and English biblical scholarship is reflected in, among other things, a volume on N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, which he is editing together with Jay Thomas Hewitt and Michael Bird for WUNT II (see here). Further information about Christoph Heilig can be found here.

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Annette Merz on Gender Research and the Quest for the Historical Jesus

Rather than undertaking a detailed grammatical analysis of a single quotation, today’s post will provide a translation of three different excerpts from Prof. Annette Merz‘s essay “Wie verändert die Genderforschung die Frage nach dem historischen Jesus?” as a way of giving the reader a better sense of her overall approach and argument. In my judgment, this essay would be an excellent place to start for anyone who is interested in seeing how this topic is being discussed in recent German (and Anglophone) scholarship.

Like Petra von Gemünden essay on affects in the Synoptic Gospels, Merz’s essay appeared in Jesus – Gestalt und Gestaltungen: Rezeptionen des Galiläers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Gerd Theißen zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Petra von Gemünden, David Horrell and Max Küchler. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013, pp. 597-622.

(1) Translation (wmc): The often heard accusation that gender conscious reconstructions/Bible translations falsify history fails to recognize the complexity of historical research. Historical reconstruction always has to do with judgments of probability and the weighing of plausibilities. I am personally of the opinion that the few cases in which women have perhaps been  wrongly added through gender conscious reconstruction are far outweighed by the number of cases in which they have been wrongly removed from a historical setting. The application of the hermeneutic of suspicion has led to an intensive historical research and to the demonstration of the participation of women in many life spheres in which androcentric history writing of past centuries did not suspect them.

German (602-603): Der oft zu hörende Vorwurf, dass geschlechterbewusste Rekonstruktionen/Bibelübersetzungen die Historie verfälschen, verkennt die Komplexität historischer Forschung. Historische Rekonstruktion hat es immer mit Wahrscheinlichkeitsurteilen und dem Abwägen von Plausibilitäten zu tun. Ich persönlich bin der Meinung, dass die wenigen Fälle, in denen Frauen durch geschlechterbewusste Rekonstruktion eventuell zu Unrecht hinzugefügt worden sind, bei weitem überwogen werden durch die Zahl der Fälle, in denen sie zu Unrecht aus einer historischen Szenerie entfernt worden sind. Die Anwendung der Hermeneutik des Verdachts hat zu einer intensivierten historischen Forschung und zum Nachweis der Partizipation von Frauen in vielen Lebensbereichen geführt, in denen androzentrische Geschichtsschreibung vergangener Jahrhunderte sie nicht vermutete.

* unsure if “setting” or “scenery” is better for Szenerie, but the former seems better? Not sure if”did not suspect them” captures the force of “sie nicht vermutete” or if it would be better to say “never suspected them” or something entirely different.

(2) Translation (wmc): Corley must initially be affirmed as correct in the fact that there are no traditions that can traced back with certainty to Jesus that explicitly thematize the theme of gender justice. Jesus neither took up the cause of the liberation of the woman nor that of the man from patriarchy. But this does not yet mean that the theme of gender definition and gender justice is not, in fact, present in his message, even if it may be implicit and broken by contradictions, which could not be expected to be otherwise in light of the dominant patriarchalism of ancient culture. In my opinion, one cannot convincingly contest the fact that the Jesus tradition reveals a criticism of dominant common-ancient concepts of masculinity and femininity. I am going to discuss thereto four thematic spheres: gender symmetry in a strikingly large number of traditions, countercultural values in the family and gender order presupposed in Jesus logia, criticism of rulership and imperialism as kyriarchy criticism and indirect patriarchy criticism, and the specific form of sexual morality formulated with a view to men and women.

German (615): Corley ist zunächst darin Recht zu geben, dass es keine mit Sicherheit auf Jesu zurückführbaren Traditionen gibt, die das Thema der Geschlechtergerechtigkeit explizit thematisieren. Jesus hat sich weder die Befreiung der Frau noch die des Mannes vom Patriarchat auf die Fahnen geschrieben. Das bedeutet aber noch nicht, dass das Thema der Geschlechterdefinition und Geschlechtergerechtigkeit nicht doch in seiner Botschaft vorhanden ist, sei es auch implizit und durch Widersprüchlichkeiten gebrochen, was angesichts des dominanten Patriarchalismus der antiken Kultur gar nicht anders zu erwarten ist. Man kann m. E. nicht überzeugend bestreiten, dass die Jesusüberlieferung eine Kritik an dominanten gemeinantiken Männlichkeits- und Weiblichkeitskonzepten erkennen lässt. Ich bespreche dazu vier Themenbereiche: Gendersymmetrie in auffällig vielen Traditionen, gegenkulturelle Werte in der in Jesuslogien vorausgesetzten Familien- und Geschlechterordnung, Herrschafts- und Imperialismuskritik als Kyriarchats- und indirekte Patriarchatskritik und die spezifische Form der mit Blick auf Männer und Frauen formulierten Sexualmoral.

*tough paragraph: struggled to translate opening words; gender equality read better than gender justice but the latter seemed preferable in terms of content; not at all sure whether “even if it may be implicit” captures the force of “sei es auch implicit” or whether “could not be expected to be otherwise” captures “gar nicht anders zu erwarten ist”. I very unsure about the force of dazu, which I translated as thereto. Finally, “order” might not be the best translation for “-ordnung”?

(3) Translation (wmc): The aforementioned observations do not intend to re-establish a feminist myth of origin. This has been rightly criticized, and it occurs, by the way, not only in Jesus research but also as a much used problematic model for history (of religion) writing, which has a tendency to glorify beginnings. Rather, my concern has been to place Jesus’s teaching and the way of life of the Jesuanic kingdom of God movement in a nuanced manner into the complex historical context that knew of not one but many gender discourses.

German (618): Mit den genannten Beobachtungen soll nicht ein feministischer Ursprungsmythos re-etabliert werden, der zu Recht kritisiert worden ist und übrigens nicht nur in der Jesusforschung vorkommt, sondern als ein vielfach verwendetes problematisches Muster von (Religions-)Geschichtsschreibung identifiziert wurde, die eine Tendenz hat, Anfänge zu verklären. Es geht vielmehr darum, Jesu Lehre und den Lebensstil der jesuanischen Reich-Gottes-Bewegung differenziert in den komplexen historischen Kontext einzuordnen, der nicht einen, sondern verschiedene Geschlechterdiskurse kannte.

* Another tough paragraph! I sometimes find it preferable to translate mit X … passive verb into X … active verb. Using “intend” to translate soll sometimes seems best. And it seemed preferable to break up the long German sentence here by introducing a full stop. “by the way” is the best solution I have for  übrigens apart from not translating it; writing history (of religion) of the writing of history (of religion) might be better than history (of religion) writing. verklären could perhaps be translated with “transfigure” to make a connection with the “transfiguration” but “glorify” seemed to convey the most important point more clearly. I translated es geht um very freely with “my concern has been” rather than “the concern is” or the like. It might be better to translate Jesuananische with Jesus’s instead of Jesuanic? Likewise, it might be better to simply say “carefully” rather than “in a nuanced manner” for differenziert.

Substantive analysis: Annette Merz is one of those rare scholars who effectively combines (a) advanced theoretical reflection, (b) high quality exegesis, and (c) the ability to communicate her arguments in a clear and compelling manner. For me at least, these excerpts convey something of all three of these virtues. Excerpt 1 immediately turns the tables on the reader who might approaches her topic with reservations or skepticism: Yes, it is true that it is possible to read women into early Christianity in problematic ways. But, no, you shouldn’t dismiss what I am going to say because the danger of reading women out of early Christianity in problematic ways is much greater. In other words, precisely in order to do good historical research, you need to alter your default setting. Excerpt 2 then acknowledges an element of truth in second perspective that runs counter to her own, while explaining why this element of truth does not undermine her viewpoint and outlining how exactly she will develop her argument in relation to the primary texts. Finally, in Excerpt 3 she distances herself from an approach to her topic that has met with criticism, while showing how her approach is not liable to such criticism insofar as it is precisely concerned to provide a nuanced account that does justice to the complex historical context.

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