Stefan Kristensen wrote: ↑
Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:56 am
Ben C. Smith wrote: ↑
Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:31 pm
Stefan Kristensen wrote: ↑
Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:21 am
But in a letter such as 2 Cor., often viewed as two letters edited together, or even five letters, I think it's acceptable to view it as one letter despite the fact that there certainly seems to be major editing and interpolations, such as for example 2:14-7:4, that seems to be an insertion between 2:13 and 7:5.
And yet evidence is being gathered that ancient letters could be combined differently in different editions: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2225
. I think also of how Psalms 9-10 Masoretic = Psalm 9 LXX, Psalms 114-115 Masoretic = Psalm 113 LXX, and Psalm 116 Masoretic = Psalms 114-115 LXX, and Psalm 147 Masoretic = Psalms 146-147 LXX. So it becomes a game of probabilities, as usual.
Interesting. In the case of 2 Cor. and the general NT hypothesis of composite letters, I have always felt that an accompanying (good or bad) theory of motivation is missing, as Nongbri’s article in the link also points out. Without that any composite letter hypothesis is much weaker, imo. So maybe 2 Cor. are several letters fused together. But if it was intentional, then: why? To create a neater letter collection without too many small letters? To make theological arguments? To combat gnostic opponents? Why do it?
I feel I may
have a plausible answer to this question.
The early church was much exercised in some quarters to ensure that the apostles had written, not only for their own generation (and specifically the addressees of their epistles or of the apocalypse of John, for example), but for all churches for all time. The Muratorian canon, for example, has this to say:
Muratorian canon, lines 46-59:
46 .... Concerning these it is necessary
47 that the single epistles be discussed by us, since the blessed
48 apostle Paul, following the order of his predecessor
49 John, wrote only to seven churches
50 by name, in this order, to the Corinthians
51 first, to the Ephesians second, to the Philippians
52 third, to the Colossians fourth, to the Galatians
53 fifth, to the Thessalonians sixth, to the Romans
54 seventh. Though, granted, it was repeated to the
55 Corinthians and to the Thessalonians for corruption,
56 nevertheless one church is made known to be diffused
57 throughout the whole orb of the earth. For John too,
58 granted that he wrote to seven churches in the apocalypse,
59 nevertheless spoke to all.
In the second century we see the rise of the term "catholic" to describe texts which are addressed or intended for all Christians. The canonical epistles not written by Paul are still called the Catholic Epistles to this day; Eusebius also refers to Dionysius of Corinth's epistles as catholic; and Apollonius, writing against the Montanists, accuses a certain Themiso of writing a catholic epistle in imitation of the apostles. Clement of Alexandria called the letter from the apostolic council in Acts 15 "catholic," as well.
Harry Y. Gamble writes on pages 59-60 of Books and Readers
There is an old theory, mentioned in a number of ancient Christian sources, that the apostle had written to seven churches and that therefore, because the number seven symbolized totality or universality, Paul had addressed the church at large. This idea almost certainly rests on an actual early edition of the letters that presented them as "letters to seven churches." Although no seven churches edition has been preserved, we find its traces whenever the letters are enumerated by decreasing length, with letters to the same community reckoned as one unit: Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, and Colossians (Philemon?). This is an order of decreasing length because the two Corinthian letters are taken together as one length unit, and so also are the two Thessalonian letters. If Philemon were included, it would have been taken together with Colossians. Reckoning length in this way places the emphasis not upon the number of letters Paul wrote, but on the number of churches to which he wrote. ....
Paul wrote to individual Christian congregations about matters that were of immediate and local interest to them. This made it difficult for other congregations to appreciate the value and authority of the letters for them. How could such letters be relevant and useful to other churches even though they were written by an apostle? The textual tradition of Paul's letters preserves indications of an early, certainly first-century, effort to overcome the problem by deleting or generalizing the addresses of some of the letters and sometimes by omitting other locally specific matter as well, thus mechanically conferring on Paul's particular letters the appearance of general letters.
Gamble's book on Romans really drives the point home: both the city of Rome in 1.7, 15 and chapter 16 (with all its personal greetings) are missing in some manuscripts; Gamble argues that the letter had been catholicized, so to speak, by removing signs of its direct address to one particular church.
From a completely different direction, scribes and editor were often motivated to save papyrus or parchment. Ancient and medieval manuscripts which end a bit early on a page or in a quire often add miscellaneous material to fill up the space.
So, if some tradents felt okay about removing "to Rome" and other indications of particularity in the epistles, and if space on the page was at a premium for them anyway, why should they balk at removing personal greetings at the beginning of epistles and personal notes at the end in order to turn them into one long catholic epistle? They would be striking two birds with one stone: both saving space and eliminating superfluous material specific to the particular churches whom Paul addressed. An early edition of Paul, scribed into a codex, may well have combined epistles in such a way as to make each "new" epistle come out nicely on a certain number of quires instead of leaving unnecessary space all over the place or resorting to starting new epistles midpage.
I know this is fairly speculative, but I imagine most answers to "why" must necessarily be speculative to some degree.