Spectrums of Scripture: Introduction

“For this reason, righteousness and peace are far removed, since each has abandoned the reverential awe of God and become dim-sighted in faith, failing to proceed in the ordinances of his commandments and not living according to what is appropriate in Christ. Instead, each one walks according to the desires of his evil heart, which have aroused unrighteous and impious jealousy—through which also death entered the world.”[1]

Sacred ScriptureThus reads 1 Clement 3:4, a passage which scholars have argued over for years. Is Clement building this passage around Isaiah 59:14? Is he citing Wisdom 2:24? What about the reference to the commandments: are there other reminiscences at work? These questions—here raised over 1 Clement’s use of the scriptures of Judaism—serve as paradigmatic queries for a whole host of late antique literature. Not only in 1 Clement but also in almost every other piece of literary evidence from the ancient world there appear reflections and citations of other literary sources.[2] Although scholars of late antiquity have long discussed these literary uses, nothing close to consensus has emerged on how to best understand and discuss these phenomena.

Indeed, within the distinct subfields of those studying late antiquity distinct discourses have emerged to discuss the use of one ancient text in another.[3] In New Testament studies, Richard Hays’s methods from the Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul loom large.[4] For historians and those undertaking historical reception projects, Annewies van den Hoek’s principles from her “Techniques of Quotation in Clement of Alexandria” remain oft cited. For scholars of early Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael Fishbane’s Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel and Julie Hughes’s more recent Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot offer ways forward for trying to understand citations.[5] Textual critics tend to follow the insights of Bruce Metzger outlined in The Canon of the New Testament.[6] In addition, even when following the lead of some notable figure, nearly every scholar examining the use of one ancient text in another produces their own methodological scheme. By carrying on their own sets of conversations about the proper methodology for determining the use of one source in another, these scholars of late antiquity have compounded complexities already present in discussing ancient literature and further reified their sub-disciplines. While numerous scholars have noted the failure to develop a “common methodological language” for discussing ancient textual borrowing,[7] there exists no sufficiently nuanced, interdisciplinary, or methodologically rigorous process for discussing this practice.

The project of this paper is to begin such a task. I contend that by building from what blocks of commonality exist within subfields of late antiquity and by taking into account the insights of these various disciplines, we may construct a methodological framework for approaching ancient literary citations and for offering arguments about what these uses indicate. My chief argument is that a composite methodology for understanding use of one ancient source in another requires considerations of the verbal, thematic, and authoritative schemata through which ancient authors viewed and redeployed the sources available to them. That is, the complexities of ancient literary practice require the application of not one framework for understanding literary citation, but three interwoven spectrums, each of which involve their own series of conversations. The formation of this interdisciplinary grammar intends to offer a framework from which scholars of differing realms of late antiquity may speak to the complexities and multiple forms of ancient literary usage.

Guiding this conversation are questions of how we know when one text is received by another text and what are the ways in which texts are received in other texts.[8] In recent decades these queries have become the purview of two distinct yet related conversations: reception history and studies of intertextuality. After examining the parameters of these ongoing discussions, this paper takes three methodological steps: foregrounding methods, overarching historical-critical points, and spectral correspondences. As demonstrated below, central to the development of a common language for studies of late antiquity are the methodological spectrums of verbal, thematic, and authoritative correspondences between ancient writings.

[1] Bart D. Ehrman, ed. and trans. The Apostolic Fathers: I Clement, II Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Didache (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 40-1. [2] Annewies van den Hoek, “Techniques of Quotation in Clement of Alexandria: A View of Ancient Literary Working Methods,” VC 50.3 (1996): 223. [3] Nancy Klancher, “A Genealogy for Reception History,” Biblical Interpretation 21.1 (2013):105-8. [4] Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989). [5] Michael A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985). Julie Hughes, Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot (Leiden: Brill, 2006). [6] Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). See also Bruce M. Metzger, “Patristic Evidence and the Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” NTS 18 (1972): 379-400. [7] Jennifer R. Strawbridge, The Pauline Effect: The Use of the Pauline Epistles by Early Christian Writers (Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter, 2015), 19-20. Stanley E. Porter, “The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament: A Brief Comment on Method and Terminology” in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals (ed. C.A. Evans and J.A. Sanders, Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 80-1. Christopher D. Stanley, Paul and the Language of Scripture: Citation Technique in the Pauline Epistles and Contemporary Literature (Cambridge: CUP, 1992), 8. Christopher D. Stanley, “Paul’s ‘Use’ of Scripture: Why the Audience Matters” in As It Is Written: Studying Paul’s Use of Scripture (ed. S.E. Porter and C.D. Stanley, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2008), 128. Paul de Man, “Introduction” in Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), xiv-xv. Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception (trans. Timothy Bahti, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 76. Robert Yarbrough, “Adolf Schlatter’s ‘The Significance of Method for Theological Work’: Translation and Commentary,” SBJT 1/2 (1997): 64. [8] Franz Stuhlhofer, “Der Ertrag von Bibelstellenregistern fur die Kanonsgeschichte,” ZAW 100 (1988): 244-61. Thanks to Wake Forest University’s Heiko Oberman for his assistance with the translation of Stuhlhofer.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

One thought on “Spectrums of Scripture: Introduction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: