Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Jan 09, 2018 10:30 pm

So you date 1 Corinthians 16 to early 55, 2 Corinthians 9 to late 56, and Galatians also to late 56. Romans you date to early 57.

Goodacre dates Galatians to in between 1 Corinthians 16 and 2 Corinthians 9; you date Galatians to immediately after 2 Corinthians 9 (same quarter of the year). The difference in dating here could be up to a year and a half, or it could be only a couple of weeks!

I am just going to say it. There is no way the overlapping themes of Galatians and Romans can help you slice the dates that thinly.
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:21 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:20 pm
And the reasons for editing one's epistle collection differently than the original epistles were edited would not have to be limited to rectifying such grand mistakes. Paul could have added materials he found edifying, fleshed out arguments which had been a bit too bare the first time through, corrected turns of phrase, and waxed poetic in ways his original letters were not.

...

But I wonder whether anything might be said for an author like Paul interpolating his own letters sometimes, so to speak. Are there any known examples of this from antiquity? Are there any arguments to be mounted in its favor?
I have often wondered whether some passages are 'self-interpolations' by Paul, but I havn't thought about it in this way, that Paul updated a letter after the original had been sent. I have some thoughts on this. First of all, the notion of self-interpolation by Paul could explain why some passages look like foreign interpolations in the eyes of some, but look genuine Pauline and wholly in line with the surrounding context in the eyes of others. Because self-interpolation could easily result in exactly this, that some passages seem to fit in within the letter and the argumentation but then also at the same time seems to be foreign when closely examined. The way I have thought about it is Paul changing in the draft letter in his editing process before he sends the letter. I might add that I also apply this suggestion on gMark and the gospels in general: incongruity doesn't have to mean another source, especially when the incongruity is only partial.

When I post lengthy posts here I typically do some editing in the process where I add or delete or change a passage in the middle of it for clarity or something like that. And if I judge that the new interpolation or deletion in the draft text hasn't caused any severe break in the text so as to make it incoherent, then I don't bother to change the surrounding text to make the editing 'smoother'. If people were to examine my posts with the same crazy extreme diligence which we apply to our reading of Paul's letters, then I'm sure my 'interpolations' would be noticed and discussed. At other times I smooth out the text so that the argumentation is preserved the way I want it to be. Sometimes I care more about the smoothing and sometimes I don't care so much, it depends on a number of things.

But as such this would be an analogy for Paul's editing of his draft letter, before he sends it, and this is how I have sometimes imagined it. Of course it is easier to edit a text on a computer than it would have been for Paul sitting down and working with his scribe. You write:
Paul could have added materials he found edifying, fleshed out arguments which had been a bit too bare the first time through, corrected turns of phrase, and waxed poetic in ways his original letters were not.
I completely agree, but I also think it makes sense to repeat this statement only with the word "letters" replaced with "draft": Paul could have added materials he found edifying, fleshed out arguments which had been a bit too bare the first time through, corrected turns of phrase, and waxed poetic in ways his original draft was not. Paul sent his letters as circular letters, and I think it's clear that he became very, very aware of the fact that his letter-writing had become more than just letter-writing, it had become preaching reaching beyond the concrete addressees of the letters, part of his mission. I think the form of his letter that he wrote to the Christians in Rome, i.e. Romans, or its 'genre' (whatever it is), shows that Paul had now embraced and taken command of this role he had gained as a theological tract writer.

But in a letter such as 2 Cor., often viewed as two letters editited 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. For Paul may perfectly well have been adding (and deleting) in the course of the process of composition as described above, but this time, perhaps because of him being in a more emotional state or for some other reason, he didn't care so much about smoothing things out as he cared about creating the right impact and message for his addressees, and so in this case he left a more messy text. Some people, of course, don't regard Paul's texts as messy at all but as fine rhetorical compositions, such as a teacher of mine, Troels Engberg-Pedersen. I think it's a mess.

So I think much of the data (i.e. the many problematic and contested passages in his letters) can be explained by Paul's own editing in the draft process. One could view this as 'interpolation' also, because it comes across, in one way or another, as a foreign element inserted into the text, which leaves its traces, but at the same time the 'interpolations' can also be seen to fit in perfectly fine. Of course I don't imagine that there are no interpolations at all in any of the letters by others than Paul himself, of course there must be.

It's a very stimulating notion that Paul himself may have been engaged in republishing his own letters, and in that case it makes good sense to imagine the situation you describe here. I can't help wonder, though, whether Paul would have certain reservations in this regard, considering his theological point concerning 'the letter and the spirit'. That he would never have wanted his letters to become authoritative in themselves, to become 'Law' (which of course they did). But maybe I'm just transposing Martin Luther back onto Paul!

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Giuseppe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:21 am

About my view, I am persuaded by Detering that the first visit to Jerusalem was an anti-marcionite interpolation. If Detering had shown so good arguments ALSO against the second visit to Jerusalem, then I would be now a his fan (and not a fan of Carrier).

This to say that the best scholar who has argued for an interpolated Paul remains Detering and only him. If he doesn't persuade you, then no people can persuade you that the epistles are interpolated.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:17 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:21 am
About my view, I am persuaded by Detering that the first visit to Jerusalem was an anti-marcionite interpolation.
I already addressed this in the OP:
Ben C. Smith wrote:I have no very strong feelings about this particular example, and if it does not work for you please feel free to substitute another.
This to say that the best scholar who has argued for an interpolated Paul remains Detering and only him. If he doesn't persuade you, then no people can persuade you that the epistles are interpolated.
What do you think of Winsome Munro or William O. Walker?
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:20 am

Giuseppe just wants to belong to a group. It's astonishing how modern that desire is. Even sexuality is a group identity in modernity. That might be the lasting influence of Christianity. You're still all too Christian if you need to think of yourself as part of a group or act like you belong to a group.
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Giuseppe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:20 am

I mean: Detering has argued the best case against the authenticity of all Paul. Not only of portions of Paul (as Munro or Walker could have done).
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:24 am

But you only think that because you are both part of the same "team"
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Giuseppe » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:39 am

I don't know what do you mean by "team" or "group". Surely it is very difficult to argue that Paul was a post-70 invention and to think him as yet a Jew. If Paul was a Jew, then he has to be before the 70. That is the reason because only considering Marcion as the real author of the original epistles you can push them after the 70. Marcion surely wasn't a Jew.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:31 pm

Stefan Kristensen wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 2:21 am
I have often wondered whether some passages are 'self-interpolations' by Paul, but I haven't thought about it in this way, that Paul updated a letter after the original had been sent. I have some thoughts on this. First of all, the notion of self-interpolation by Paul could explain why some passages look like foreign interpolations in the eyes of some, but look genuine Pauline and wholly in line with the surrounding context in the eyes of others. Because self-interpolation could easily result in exactly this, that some passages seem to fit in within the letter and the argumentation but then also at the same time seems to be foreign when closely examined. The way I have thought about it is Paul changing in the draft letter in his editing process before he sends the letter. I might add that I also apply this suggestion on gMark and the gospels in general: incongruity doesn't have to mean another source, especially when the incongruity is only partial.
Another good post all around, Stefan.

I agree that self-editing in the draft stage of a text can lead to incongruities. I have recently been sorting through various texts to get a feel for the kinds of incongruities that can arise from the use of sources. Assuming Marcan priority, I have come up with some by Matthew and by Luke as they employ Mark; I have also come up with some in 1 & 2 Chronicles as it uses its sources, including 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings, or something akin to them: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3713. I have also searched texts (like ancient novels) trying to find similar discrepancies, to see whether an author composing freely can sometimes fall into the same kinds of incongruities. My investigation is far from complete, and in a real sense it never will be, but I am hoping it will prove enlightening.

But you are correct, and I think things can creep in at all stages: the draft stage, multiple editions, scribal activity, and so on.
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.
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » 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?

See the footnote 43 in that article. More relevant to this threaf, apparantly David Trobisch has suggested that it was Paul himself who took a number of his own letters that he had sent and fused them into 2 Cor. for his ‘friends in Ephesus’.

EDIT: I realise now DCHindley brought up Trobisch above.
Last edited by Stefan Kristensen on Thu Jan 11, 2018 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

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