Research on (Re)writing Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence

“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.

Rewriting Boasting

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.


  1. Header image provided by Tanner Mardis

  2. Translations here are mine. 

  3. On direct and indirect quotations, see J. David Stark, Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions: The Hermeneutical Worlds of the Qumran Sectarian Manuscripts and the Letter to the Romans, Jewish and Christian Texts in Contexts and Related Studies 16 (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), 48. 

Confused or Intrigued with Second Temple Hermeneutics?

Second Temple interpretations of Scripture often look very odd to modern readers. That’s because modern readers are missing these interpreters’ worldview context.

Sacred Texts and Paradigmatic Revolutions illustrates how modern readers can work to recover this context.

The volume works with the case studies of the Qumran community and the apostle Paul to illustrate how to recover this context in a way that can be applied in other texts as well.

Audience and Predestination in the Letter to the Romans

A perennial question in the interpretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans is what testimony the letter bears on the issue of predestination.1

Especially in the last few decades, the identity of the letter’s implied audience has also become more of a live question.

Discussing These Difficulties

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Jones, of the Illuminated Word podcast, to discuss both of these issues.

There was a lot more that could have been said than we were able to fit in the time we had.

And for me, the exact contours of Romans’s testimony on each of these issues is still very much an open question—and, therefore, the subject of projects in various stages.

But it was delightful to have the opportunity to chat with Chris through a kind of “interim report” on some of the work I’ve been doing in the letter.

You can listen to our discussion here below or in your favorite podcast player.

In particular, on the issue of

  • Romans’s implied audience, the use of the τε … καί construction in Romans has been discussed. But the regularity of this usage is particularly helpful for understanding the letter’s implied audience (e.g., in 1:13–15).
  • Predestination, there’s quite a lot of exegetical gridlock in the arguments and counterarguments between different positions. But an often overlooked question is “In advance of what (pre-) does this ‘destination’ or ‘appointment’ occur?” (e.g., in 8:28–29). And if we ask this question, Romans might have a surprising answer.

A Resource for Readers

Toward the end of the episode, Chris and I also discuss a free reading guide I created especially for

  • English readers who want to read their Bibles more carefully and
  • Teachers of English Bible readers who want to help their students read more carefully.

The discipline of reading the Bible in its original languages can certainly be invaluable. But that journey’s not for everyone.

So, this guide helps English Bible readers by providing a framework for considering more closely how the English text works.

Get the guide for free, and help encourage closer and more careful Bible reading.


  1. Header image provided by Alex Suprun

Growth in the Land(s) Promised to Abraham

According to the narrative of Genesis, the land promise to Abraham begins modestly near Shechem.1

The promise appears in chapters 12–13, 15, 17, 22, and beyond chapter 25.

In the last phase of course, Abraham has died. But when Abraham’s descendants receive the promise, appeals back to Abraham still appear.

Interpreting the Promise(s)

But within Genesis, the different forms the land promise takes create intriguing intertextual connections within the book.

In addition, each form of the promise provided Genesis’s Second Temple readers with a distinct set of opportunities to read the scope of the promises still more broadly.

This tendency to read individual versions of the land promise more broadly appears in Ben Sira, Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees, Philo, Paul of Tarsus, Pseudo-Philo, and R. Eliezer b. Jacob.

The broadening tendency appears differently in different authors. The Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo, R. Eliezer b. Jacob, and most texts in Jubilees reflect more modest expansions.

The expansionist tendency in Ben Sira, Jubilees, Philo, and Paul is stronger. These witnesses find in the promise to Abraham of landed inheritance a claim for this promise to encompass the whole world.

It is by far commoner for the promise to be interpreted around the land of Canaan. But the expansionist minority reading is itself commoner than is often appreciated.

Conclusion

Within Pauline studies, scholars often note the parallel between Ben Sira and Paul when interpreting what Paul may mean when he identifies Abraham as “heir of the world” (Rom 4:13).

But Jubilees and Philo share the same style of reading as well, despite their giving it very different forms. And although not to the same degree, you can see similar interpretive outcomes in Genesis Apocryphon, Pseudo-Philo, and R. Eliezer b. Jacob.

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.


  1. Header image provided by Claudio Testa

Daily Gleanings: Paul (26 December 2019)

In TC 24, Katja Kujanpää discusses the source of Paul’s quotation in Rom 11:35.

Typically, this is found in Job 41:3. But Kujanpää argues the source is actually a variant form of Isa 40:14.

According to the abstract,

Romans 11:35 is almost unanimously treated as a quotation from Job 41:3. Although it differs significantly from preserved Greek and Hebrew readings of that verse, few have questioned this attribution. In this article, I will argue that Rom 11:35 has nothing to do with Job but is a verbatim quotation from Isaiah. Scholars have mostly ignored the fact that Rom 11:35 agrees word for word with a Greek textual variant, a remarkably well attested plus in Isa 40:14. In the previous verse in Romans, Paul quotes Isa 40:13.

The essay draws attention to the importance of having as full as possible a sense of the Septuagintal textual tradition(s) when working on Paul’s (or the New Testament’s) use of Scripture.

It’s always possible that the source for a given New Testament quotation or allusion is represented in the apparatus rather than in the main text of a modern, critical Septuagint.

There are some cases where this possibility wouldn’t obtain (e.g., if a New Testament text has demonstrably influenced Septuagintal copies). But that doesn’t change the need to be on the look out for this possibility.

For the full essay, see TC 24’s webpage.

Daily Gleanings: Paul (16 December 2019)

In one of his final posts, (the now late) Larry Hurtado reviews Archibald Hunter’s Paul and His Predecessors.

Hurtado summarizes,

Hunter’s thesis was that, although the Apostle Paul was an innovative and impressive thinker and defender of his mission, he was also heavily indebted to “those who were in Christ” before him. Hunter conducted several investigations of Pauline texts to demonstrate this, and he did so persuasively in my view.

As early as 2004, the full text of the revised 1961 edition of Hunter’s volume was made available on Internet Archive by the Universal Library Project.