“Rewritten Bible” is a fascinating phenomenon in Second Temple literature.1 Prime examples are often found in texts like Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities, Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, the Genesis Apocryphon, and others.
Discussions of “rewritten Bible” often focus on generic characteristics. The aim is to define what common thread(s) hold together this kind of literature.
The Hermeneutics of Rewriting
Such research is good and profitable. But it certainly isn’t the only dimension of this literature that’s worth exploring.
It’s also quite valuable to contemplate the hermeneutical process that produced a given “rewriting” of a biblical text.
When this process is brought to the fore, there’s also a readier basis for comparing these texts and their hermeneutics with Paul’s letters and his interpretive work in them.
For example, in both 1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor 10:17 Paul quotes the same maxim: “let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”2
In 1 Cor 1:31, the quotation is direct and completes Paul’s claim that his argument is “just as it is written.” In 2 Cor 10:17, the quotation is indirect, but the wording is identical to 1 Cor 1:31.3
Wording like this occurs in Jer 9:23 (MT, OG; ET: v. 24). It also occurs in 1 Kgdms 2:10.
(Generally speaking, 1 Kingdoms is the Greek version of 1 Samuel. But the language Paul quotes to the Corinthians occurs only in the Greek text, not in the Hebrew.)
Among “rewritten Bible” texts, Pseudo-Philo transforms 1 Kgdms 2:10 (LAB 50:2). The Targum of the Prophets reworks Jer 9:23 (MT, OG; ET: v. 24; Tg. Neb. Jer 9:22–23).
Comparing how these works interpret their biblical base texts helpfully illuminates how Paul interprets one or both of these same base texts. In particular, it highlights the Corinthian letters’ world-restructuring narrative of divine action in Messiah Jesus.
If you want to read further, drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll send you a copy of the full article.
Now out from Lexington Books and Fortress Academic is Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians, edited by Linda Belleville and B. J. Oropeza. The volume is the first in a new series that seeks ways forward beyond current impasses in the study of Paul’s relationship to his Scriptures.
This volume is the first to be released from the Society of Biblical Literature’s current “Scripture and Paul” seminar. Three others are forthcoming in the series that will address Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians.
Traditional comparative approaches to Paul and Scripture often index Paul against one or another textual form of his Scriptures. These approaches then “attribute the textual differences to Paul’s creative genius or overactive imagination” (xiii).
Both the seminar and the series of volumes issuing from it, however, are particularly sensitive to how this approach often “overlook[s] the biblical and extra-biblical tradition-history in which Paul stands” (xiii). As such, the series is interested in treatments of particular texts—in this case, within 1 Corinthians. It is also concerned with methodological resolutions for “scholarly gridlock” in the study of Paul’s relationship to Scripture (xiii).
To this end, the 1 Corinthians volume includes an introduction by the editors and a dozen essays from various contributors. It also includes an afterward by Christopher Stanley, the long-time leader of SBL’s prior “Paul and Scripture” seminar. The various essays tend to focus on particular texts or themes and provide methodological reflection along the way.
1 Corinthians 15
Roughly one quarter of the volume addresses various aspects of 1 Cor 15. My own contribution falls within this group. This essay reconsiders an older hypothesis about Paul’s reference to baptism in behalf of the dead (1 Cor 15:29). In particular, I explore this reference as a possible allusion to texts like Lev 21–22 and Num 6 and 19.
Much more could have been said about interpretation than we were able to accommodate in the volume. Since submitting the essay, my thinking on 1 Cor 15 in general and v. 29 in particular continues to evolve. So, watch for further discussion along these lines in the future.
Understanding Paul’s Use of Scripture
Methodologically, ongoing discussion of “Paul’s use of Scripture” continues to be greatly indebted to Richard Hays, especially in his Scripture in the Letters of Paul (YUP, 1989). That indebtedness is clear in this volume as well.
Thematic Coherence as Topical Coherence
I’ve previously tried to nuance and sharpen further the basic criteria Hays proposed for identifying Paul’s fainter references to Scripture. If you’re interested, you can find this in Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions (Bloomsbury, 2013), especially pp. 50–55. In working on 1 Cor 15:29, however, I realized “thematic coherence” is more multi-faceted than is often assumed.
For Hays, “thematic coherence” primarily focuses on determining whether a possible allusion fits the topic of a particular Pauline passage. In Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions, I urged that this “fit” be determined by Paul’s context, not a modern one. But I described thematic coherence essentially as Hays does in Scripture in the Letters of Paul.
Thematic Coherence as Rhetorical Coherence
Looking for this kind of thematic coherence is good and necessary. But as it turns out, looking for this kind of thematic coherence alone is incomplete. Themes emerge not just topically in what Paul argues by means of Scripture. They also emerge rhetorically in how Paul argues by means of Scripture.
That is, “thematic coherence” is not simply a question of topical fit with the argument of any given Pauline pericope. It is also a question of rhetorical fit with the whole complex pattern of hermeneutics we see in Paul’s letters. As that pattern emerges, we get additional information about the kind of behavior Paul exhibits toward Scripture. And with this information, we can then ask whether another potential allusion fits that larger rhetorical-hermeneutical pattern:
as themes emerge in the rhetoric of how Paul uses Israel’s Scripture, similarities in such rhetorical themes—in the ways Paul interprets and deploys Scripture—can provide additional points of comparison for confirming potential transumptions (171).
Regrettably, space constraints didn’t allow more substantive reflection on this point in the essay itself. But it strikes me as another helpful question to ask as we think about how Paul interacts with his Scriptures.
Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians is now available. The whole volume has already received some very kind praise:
“This impressive collection of essays on difficult passages and larger themes in 1 Corinthians offers new insights into matters that continue to stymie interpreters. The contributors show how Paul, as a sophisticated and practiced interpreter, deeply engages with Scripture to shape his arguments throughout the letter despite using only a few explicit quotations. Their meticulous work produces stimulating results that reveal the Scripture’s influence on Paul’s process of reasoning that often goes undetected. This compilation should spark renewed research in this area.” – David E. Garland, George W. Truett Theological Seminary
“The majority of the work on Paul’s use of Scripture comes from Galatians and Romans and so a volume of 1 Corinthians is most welcome. The studies reveal Paul’s deep interaction with Scripture, even when he is not explicitly quoting it. They also show that Paul is deeply indebted to Jewish traditions of interpretation, even while commending his own Christological interpretations. Many of the insights in this book will set the agenda for future studies.” – Steve Moyise, Newman University, UK
“This collection of papers from one SBL seminar has a unique thematic coherence and consistently high quality. The use of Scripture in 1 Corinthians has been underserved but this anthology goes a long way to fill that gap. The kinds of intertextuality proposed here go a long way toward solving classic cruxes about the discipline of the incestuous offender in chapter 5, the traveling Rock who was Christ in chapter 10, and the nature of the problems with resurrection in Corinth that necessitated chapter 15, along with numerous other issues. This volume is a model of what a collection of scholarly conference papers should look like.” – Craig L. Blomberg, Denver Seminary
“Scripture, Texts, and Tracings in 1 Corinthians provides the reader with a remarkable walk through this letter as he or she ponders the complex scriptural matrix from which Paul produced his epistolary gem. While walking, the reader is brought to a fuller appreciation of the soil from which the apostle’s thought has sprung. The many and various ways in which he used the Scriptures of his tradition shed so many shades of light on what he wrote. For example, a rolling stone and baptism on behalf of the dead appear with greater clarity when the reader takes time to ponder Paul’s use of the rich Scriptures of his heritage.” – Raymond F. Collins, Brown University
And for ease of reference, all of the essays included in the volume are:
Paul’s Re-Contextualizations of the Prophets and other Texts in 1 Corinthians 1–2 – Erik Waaler
Paul’s Mystery Thriller: The Use of the Danielic Mystery in 1 Corinthians – Benjamin L. Gladd
Overrealized Eschatology or Lack of Eschatology in Corinth? – Craig S. Keener
The Incestuous Man of 1 Corinthians 5, Septuagint Banishment Texts, and Eating with Sinners – Kathy Barrett Dawson
Curse Redux? 1 Corinthians 5:13, Deuteronomy, and Identity in Corinth – Guy Prentiss Waters
Paul and the Law in 1 Corinthians – Brian S. Rosner
Loyalty to Christ in 1 Corinthians 5–13 and Loyalty to YHWH in Deuteronomy? Paul’s Covenantal Reuse of Deuteronomy – Erik Waaler
Paul’s Christological Use of the Exodus-Wilderness Rock Tradition in 1 Corinthians 10:4 – Linda L. Belleville
Prophecy in Corinth and Paul’s Use of Isaiah’s Prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:21–25 – Roy E. Ciampa
Baptism in behalf of the Dead at Corinth—and in the Pentateuch? – J. David Stark
A Neglected Deuteronomic Scriptural Matrix for the Nature of the Resurrection Body in 1 Corinthians 15:39–42? – David A. Burnett
Corinthian Diversity, Mythological Beliefs, and Bodily Immortality Related to the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15) – B. J. Oropeza
Afterword: Scripture in 1 Corinthians: Assessing the Status Quaestionis – Christopher D. Stanley
I was able to hear preliminary versions of some of the papers in SBL seminar sessions. These were all quite interesting and thought-provoking then, and I’m sure the more developed versions now in print will are still more so.
Tommy Wasserman discusses a couple potential new 1 Corinthians fragments. The updates at the bottom of the post, as well as the comments following bear reading and helpfully point up a couple important prior posts by Brent Nongbri as well.
On 5–6 April, I attended the annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference. One of the most fascinating papers was that by David Fiensy.
The paper was rather innocuously titled “Interpreting Acts: The Value of Archaeology.” But David delivered a fascinating, eye-opening discussion of disease in the ancient Mediterranean.
David’s primary evidence is archaeologically preserved in bones and (yes) fecal deposits. This may make some of the content a bit awkward. But David’s research helpfully clarifies (and likely corrects) to how we should imagine the authors and audiences of the NT.
Another very interesting paper was by Jerry Sumney on Paul’s use of pre-formed material in 1 Corinthians. Jerry’s argument leads him to paint a picture of Paul in 1 Corinthians as less antagonistic to existing leadership and tradition.
This is ultimately more consistent with the portrayal of Paul in Acts. Jerry then understands Paul’s criticisms in Galatians to derive from the very particular context that letter addresses.
Also included at the beginning of this recording is a short reflection on Christian education that I was privileged to give when the scheduled speaker wasn’t able to attend.
Gabriel Vasquez (also Gabriele Vázquez) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian from the late 16th and early 17th centuries (BnF; Antonio Goyena, “Gabriel Vasquez” CE). In his time, Vasquez was known for a strong familiarity with different authors and schools of thought, and Benedict XIV praised him as a “luminary of theology” (Goyena, “Gabriel Vasquez” CE).
Vasquez did his early schooling at Belmonte and joined the Jesuit order on 9 April 1569 (Goyena, “Gabriel Vasquez” CE). Vasquez later studied Hebrew at Alcalá, where he would later return to teach theology until he died (Goyena, “Gabriel Vasquez” CE). Among Vasquez’s detailed studies were the works of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and other church fathers (Goyena, “Gabriel Vasquez” CE).
My interest in Vasquez derives from the fact that he is one of the comparatively few interpreters to have considered explaining 1 Cor 15:29 by reference to Pentateuchal legislation about corpse contamination. The relevant passage is found in Vasquez’s Commentariorum ac disputationum in primam partem Sancti Tomæ, published posthumously in Lugundi in 1631.
The 1631 edition of Vasquez’s commentary on Thomas’s writings was printed in four volumes. Google has made available some of the volumes, but it appears that only the Bavarian State Library has made all four available from that printing (1, 2, 3, 4).
There seems to have been at least one slightly earlier printing of this work made ca. 1609–1615. But, presumably the later edition is the better one to use if you are also interested in digging into Vasquez’s work (e.g., see Bernard M. Foschini, “‘Those Who Are Baptized for the Dead,’ 1 Cor 15:29: Second Article,” CBQ 12.4 : 380n68).