Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

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MrMacSon
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:08 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:31 pm
... I think things can creep in at all stages: the draft stage, multiple editions, scribal activity, and so on.
Do you think it is likely that someone like Paul would have gone to all that trouble?

I realise you wrote this in the OP -
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 5:20 pm

what if Paul (as is argued by some scholars) published versions or even collections of his own epistles for circulation among other churches and at least sometimes made up deficiencies from the original epistles?
I guess that's possible, but wouldn't it be more likely that others do those things? Other preachers, would-be prophets, etc? Scribes?

Wouldn't someone like Paul be more likely to just write one-draft letters?

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:45 pm

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.
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by DCHindley » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:14 pm

On page 50 of Trobish's Paul's Letter Collection he has a table that outlines "Three Stages of Development":

1) Authorized Recensions - The author of the letter prepares letters for publication.
2) Expanded Editions - After the author's death these editions are expanded. Further editions of published and unpublished letters are produced.
3) Comprehensive Editions - All the available editions are combined.

Starting on page 55, he provides an example of #1 above:
The Roman politician and famous orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, wrote to his publisher Atticus in a letter dated July 9, 44 B.C., one year before he died:
So far there is no collection of my letters. But Tiro has about seventy now. And some more will have to be taken from you. But I still will have to go over them and correct them. Then they might be published.23 AdAtt 16:5:5
The process is described as follows:
Selection

The first thing the author has to do is to select letters. Cicero’s comments show how carefully he proceeded. He mentions 70 letters. No less than 774 letters of Cicero have survived to this day, and there is decisive proof of the existence of at least 17 more ancient collections of his letters that have been lost.24
...
Why did Cicero choose only 70 letters? The collection he talks about in his letter to Atticus is still extant. It forms the thirteenth book of the letters to his Family, usually referred to as AdFam 13. This collection comprises exclusively letters of recommendation Cicero wrote for friends. They are rhetoric masterpieces, bearing witness of Cicero's excellent style, his high education, fine taste, and persuading arguments.

Editing

Shortly after the publication of this letter collection Cicero was assassinated. After Cicero’s death his slave and secretary Tiro proceeded to publish additional letters. This creates an interesting situation. We have letters edited by Cicero and letters not edited by him. A comparison of both allows us to get an idea of the amount and character of editorial work Cicero put into his letters before he allowed them to be published. The difference is striking. In 1345 the Italian Renaissance poet Francesco Petrarch was the first to rediscover the letters of Cicero in an old manuscript after they had been unknown for centuries. When he read them, he was shocked and disappointed — shocked because of the colloquial language and bad style of the letters and disappointed because the letters revealed a politician full of intrigue, whose poor character surpassed by far his bad grammar.26

Names

An author would be expected to be keenly aware of the names of people still living. There is a strong editorial tendency to delete all names that are unimportant to the reader of the collection.
...
When Paul prepared an edition of his letters, he was very much in the position of an author preparing a second edition. The letters had been written some time ago. The situation had changed. People he had referred to in a friendly way in the original letters might have become enemies in the meantime.

Specific Information

Information valid only for a short period of time is typical for private letters. Very often this kind of information is the main reason for writing. For the public, those reasons usually are not of great interest and an editor might easily deem them unnecessary to reproduce.

Summary

In preparing letters for publication, an author would first of all make a selection. He would either have copies of the letters he sent or he would ask the addressee to send him the originals. Then we would expect him to work on his style. He would try to be as precise as possible. He might be aware of misunderstandings he did not think of when he wrote the original letter. He would carefully check the references to living persons and he would be likely to delete trivial passages that do not contribute to the task of the collection, such as greetings or travel plans.
The specific changes he thinks Paul might have made are:
Greetings

Let us look first at the greetings. Greetings are passages we would expect an editor to abbreviate when preparing a private correspondence for publication.
...
Summary. As I pointed out above comparing the letters of Paul with other ancient letter collections, it is very natural for an author to sum up greetings when he prepares his letters for publication. It is not the omission of the greetings that has to be explained in Galatians and 1-2 Corinthians; rather, an explanation has to be found for the numerous personal greetings Paul left in his letter to the Romans.

Names

The remainder of Romans is even more surprising in that so many names appear in the final passages of this letter.
...
Summary. After looking at proper names in the letter to the Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and the letter to the Galatians, what it boils down to is to find an explanation for the list of greetings in Romans 16, and the greeting of Aquila and Priscilla in 1 Corinthians 16.

Travel Plans

As we have seen, one of the difficulties in understanding the letters of Paul as literary letters in contrast to private letters is the personal greetings. The other difficulty mentioned was information on plans and visits that had already taken place by the time the letters were edited. Because this type of information seems of no value to later readers as we have noted, to delete it would be the normal procedure. If it is not deleted, it is left there on purpose.
...
Summary. The notes on Paul’s travels and plans left in Romans and 1—2 Corinthians give the reader an idea where Paul was at the time when he wrote. Actually, Paul’s travel plans are a major cause of disagreement and thus form an important topic of the Corinthian correspondence. There is only one passage—the sending of Phoebe—that might seem irrelevant to a later reader. It bears information pertinent only for a short period of time.

Criterion of Selection

Why did Paul select his letters to the Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Galatians to be published in the same collection? What is the common topic?
...
Summary. The collection is obviously one of the topics these four letters have in common. It could constitute the criterion of selection — that is to say, Paul’s reason to select these four letters could be closely related to his fundraising campaign “for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Rom 15:26).

To sum up my argument: comparable evidence proves that some- thing must hold the four Pauline letters together. I asked the text, how does Paul connect such diverse addresses as Rome, Corinth, and Galatia? The two relevant passages speak of a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. This is a clue. And indeed, the collection is a topic all four letters share.
My apologies to David Trobisch for selecting a fair amount of text to quote, but it is to answer Ben's question about what Trobisch has to say on how Paul may have self-edited some of his letters (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians & Galatians). I will point out that this is a slim book, and I believe is still in print and cheap, or could be had via used book dealers, again for even cheaper. I'd recommend simply buying a copy.

DCH

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:23 pm

DCHindley wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:14 pm
On page 50 of Trobish's Paul's Letter Collection he has a table that outlines "Three Stages of Development":

1) Authorized Recensions - The author of the letter prepares letters for publication.
2) Expanded Editions - After the author's death these editions are expanded. Further editions of published and unpublished letters are produced.
3) Comprehensive Editions - All the available editions are combined.
Thanks for this, David. I have read this book before, but it was a long time ago; and you are right: I really should get my own copy.

I have a growing collection of quotes from Cicero regarding his own letters, and I think it may have been Trobisch who first inspired me to look to Cicero in that capacity in the first place.
Names

An author would be expected to be keenly aware of the names of people still living. There is a strong editorial tendency to delete all names that are unimportant to the reader of the collection.
...
When Paul prepared an edition of his letters, he was very much in the position of an author preparing a second edition. The letters had been written some time ago. The situation had changed. People he had referred to in a friendly way in the original letters might have become enemies in the meantime.
In 2 Corinthians 8.18 Paul mentions "the brother" who is famous, but fails to name him. I recall some scholar (not Trobisch, though from the above it would not surprise me to learn that he was on board with this) suggesting that perhaps the brother had fallen subject to some kind of damnatio memoriae, his name deleted in an edition officially published by Paul or by one of his comrades.
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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Bernard Muller » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:06 pm

I doubt Paul was rewriting his own letters for a variety of reasons. But there is one piece of evidence he did not for a passage in 1 Corinthians, when after an offending start against women, Paul realized the mistake and immediately tried to correct it. If he did have the opportunity to rewrite the letter, he would have avoided his comments against women in the first place.
Here it is: http://historical-jesus.info/55.html (How do you make a correction when there are no delete keys to use: a lesson by Paul).

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by DCHindley » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:10 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:23 pm
In 2 Corinthians 8.18 Paul mentions "the brother" who is famous, but fails to name him. I recall some scholar (not Trobisch, though from the above it would not surprise me to learn that he was on board with this) suggesting that perhaps the brother had fallen subject to some kind of damnatio memoriae, his name deleted in an edition officially published by Paul or by one of his comrades.
That was also Trobisch, on page 61-62. This is the only place in all the letters where the name of a messenger was intentionally excluded. The other comparables, where they are always named, are: 1 Cor 4:17; 1 The 3:2-5; Phil 2:19-23, 25-30; Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9.
Authors delete names when preparing their letters for a broader audience for two reasons. Either the names are of no interest to the addressee of the collection because they do not know the people, or, if they know the name, the connotation has changed. The first possibility is unlikely because Paul introduces the brother with the words "who is praised by all the churches" and therefore presupposes that the brother was probably well known. Consequently this would mean that the brother mentioned here with praise is no longer a friend of Paul's at the time he edited 2 Corinthians.
I've thought of additional possibilities - one is that he did mention the brother's name in the original letter, and may even have been included in a possible self-edited collection that included 2 Cor, but in a subsequent (posthumous) edition, it was deleted by an editor. Perhaps the man was later deemed an apostate, or at least the publisher of a later posthumous edition thought so. Look at folks like Tatian.

FWIW, Trobisch thinks that the NT Pauline corpus is comprised of:
1) a self-edited set of 4 instructional letters (some may be composite made from further letters, and thus redacted) addressed to communities (Romans, 1&2 Cor & Galatians);
2) a smaller collection of 5 letters addressed to communities (Eph, Phil, Col, 1& 2 Thes), which was appended to #1 at the end; and
3) a collection of 4 personal letters to individuals (1&2 Timothy, Titus, Phlm) is appended after the combined #1 & #2.

Each of these subgroups of letters likely represent published editions. As each of these subgroups were appended to one another over time, Trobisch thinks we would have many more important variants if these were collected randomly. In fact, we may not have much if any traces of earlier editions before the final edition that combined the three subgroups, the "canonical" edition of Pauline Corpus, as he calls it. The editor/redactor of the "Canonical Edition" must have had a damn good marketing manager, as this edition underlays all biblical mss that include the Pauline corpus.

So, yeah, this would be a form of damnatio memoriae. :thumbdown:

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Bernard Muller » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:14 pm

I recall some scholar (not Trobisch, though from the above it would not surprise me to learn that he was on board with this) suggesting that perhaps the brother had fallen subject to some kind of damnatio memoriae, his name deleted in an edition officially published by Paul or by one of his comrades.
OR,
Paul was afraid that some Christians (and the Jews) of Corinth, if they knew who the "brother" was, prepared a very negative welcome. Maybe that "brother" was not liked by everyone.
My candidate for that "brother" is Apollos of Alexandria.

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by DCHindley » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:51 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:06 pm
I doubt Paul was rewriting his own letters for a variety of reasons. But there is one piece of evidence he did not for a passage in 1 Corinthians, when after an offending start against women, Paul realized the mistake and immediately tried to correct it. If he did have the opportunity to rewrite the letter, he would have avoided his comments against women in the first place.
Here it is: http://historical-jesus.info/55.html (How do you make a correction when there are no delete keys to use: a lesson by Paul).
When you are copying what you had previously wrote, your "delete key" is to just leave out or re-write the parts that you no longer agree with.

As for the case your blog entry addresses, where he talks about shearing off women's hair if they dare pray in an assembly with an uncovered head. Personally, I have held that this is not a correction, but

1) a shorter rant by an original Paul complaining about Queen Helena of Adiabene, who had adopted observance of the Judean law, and in the case of her sons Monobazus & Izates, circumcision. Paul didn't think any of this was necessary, just the simple faith of Abraham that his "seed" would one day inherit a fruitful land, and that those of non-Judean stock could also participate as a spiritual "child." Now the Queen had made a 7 year Nazirite vow as part of her attempt to observe Judean law, and traveled to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow at the Temple, which involves shearing her hair. A popular rabbi said she could not fulfill the vow on foreign soil (corpse impurity) and she went through the 7 year period a second time while residing in Jerusalem, so she was a thorn in his side that just would not go away. He was probably making fun of her: possibly she was walking about the temple unveiled, and there may have been rumours that she had been an adulteress (she had, after all, offered a golden plaque to the temple with a passage from the law about the adulteress); and

2) a commentary on this rant, by a later editor/redactor of the original letter, who was not aware that Paul was ranting about Queen Helena (the story of the conversions of her and her sons was "in the news" at the time the letter was originally written, and elements of the story are found in Josephus and the Talmud), but thought he was talking about women in general, and being a misogynist, just threw gasoline on the fire. :twisted:

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:22 pm

Pliny's letter collection seems to belong to a larger pattern of collections:

Bronwen Neil, "Letter-Collecting From Cicero to Late Antiquity,", in Collecting Early Christian Letters, From the Apostle Paul to Late Antiquity, page 6: With the possible exception of Book 10, his correspondence with the emperor Trajan, Pliny’s correspondence was – like that of Seneca – meant to be circulated in his own lifetime. Several late-antique collections mirror the structure of nine books of private correspondence and one book of public or business correspondence, including those of the Roman senator Symmachus, author of some 900 letters; Ambrose of Milan...; and the Gallic bishop of Clermont, Sidonius Apollinaris.

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Re: Did Paul sometimes interpolate his own epistles?

Post by Stefan Kristensen » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:22 am

Thanks for this Ben, and DCHindley for the Trobisch bits. It is very enlightening. One can definately imagine Paul also creating a letter collection in an effort to 'catholizise' his message and preaching. I can't help but wonder how he would fit it into his theological understanding of himself and his mission. What would have been his deliberations and considerations in such an undertaking? He definately regarded himself as a very special and even important servant of God and Christ in the whole divine salvation plan of the last days, and if he actually chose to create a 'catholic' letter collection from his private letters that would mean he believed it was part of God's greater plan.

What were the motivations for people like Cicero or Pliny to create letter collections of their own private letters? They obviously enjoyed publishing literary works, but did they regard themselves as serving the greater good of human society through their authorships or something like that? Did they think of themselves as kind of teachers for human society, and in that capacity they deemed it good to create letter collections? Or was it merely popular demand? Do we have any suggestions as regards to this, from Trobisch for example? And how should we compare the motivations of Cicero and of Paul in creating their letter collections?

Anyway, I can see it is not a bad explanation for many of the problems in the letters of Paul to suggest that he himself edited them, perhaps into a collection, perhaps for the sake of 'catholizising'. But as for 2 Cor. particularly, I think the theory is not really that good, if we look for an explanation as to why for example 2:14-7:4 might be an interpolation. It just seems a strange way to edit letters together?

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