Spectrums of Scripture: Verbal Correspondence

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

BibleThe verbal correspondence spectrum tracks the levels of verbal similarity between two texts.[1] Prerequisite for discussion of this spectrum is definitional clarity.[2] Although numerous scholars have offered numerous definitions for the terms used here,[3] building from Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett’s work I employ the following definitions.[4] Most generally, “citation” or “reference” indiscriminately signifies of any possible use of one text in another. That is, a citation is a possible quotation, allusion, or echo worthy of examination and plotting. On the end of the spectrum with the highest levels of verbal correspondence lay “quotations.” On the end with the lowest levels of verbal similarity lay “echoes.” In-between are “allusions.”[5]

The differentiations between these terms on this spectrum relies upon the amount of shared language that exists between the sources in question. The more verbal continuity or parallels one text has with another, the more that citation falls into the category of quotation. For example, 1 Clement 39:2-9 recounts a lengthy passage from Job 4:16-5:4. The terminology of this passage corresponds almost exactly with the text of LXX Job, marking it as a quotation.[6] Conversely, 1 Clement 27:1-2 shares a couple of words— ἀδύνατον and ψεύσασθαι—with Hebrews 6:18. This constitutes an echo, where an informed reader may recognize the possible influence of one text upon another, but without significant enough terminological correspondences to demonstrate use convincingly.[7] But how do we define the gray areas, those in-between passages which are clearly not quotations but seem more than echoes? Over the next couple of days, we’ll explore some criteria for clearly defining the forms of verbal correspondence.

[1] Hays, Echoes, 23. Patricia Tull, Remember the Former Things: The Recollection of Previous Texts in Second Isaiah (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), 61. E. Earle Ellis, “Biblical Interpretation in the New Testament Church” in Mikra: Text, Translation, Reading and Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity (ed. M.J. Mulder and H. Sysling, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 692. [2] Gregory and Tuckett, 64-5. [3] Stanley E. Porter, “Allusions and Echoes” in As It Is Written: Studying Paul’s Use of Scripture (ed. S.E. Porter and C.D. Stanley, Atlanta: SBL Press, 2008), 29. Stanley E. Porter, “Further Comments on the Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament” in The Intertextuality of the Epistles: Explorations of Theory and Practice (ed. T.L. Brodie, D.R. MacDonald, and S.E. Porter, Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007), 107-9. Ciampa, 54. Andrew T. Glicksman, “’Set Your Desire on My Words’: Authoritative Traditions in the Wisdom of Solomom” in Scriptural Authority in Early Judaism and Ancient Christianity (ed. I. Kalimi et al, Berlin: DeGruyter, 2013), 174. Leonard, 258. Geza Vermes, Scrolls, Scriptures, and Early Christianity (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2005). George J. Brooke, “The Explicit Presentation of Scripture in 4QMMT” in Legal Texts and Legal Issues (ed. M. Bernstein, F. Garcia Martinez, and J. Kampen, Leiden: Brill, 1997), 67-88. E. Earle Ellis, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 22-25, 155-185. Eugen Huhn, Die alttestamentlichen Citate und Reminiscenzen im Neuen Testamente (Tübingen: Teil, 1900), 272-7. Otto Michel, Faul und seine Bibel (Gütersloh: Band, 1929), 72. Siliezar, 13. See also H.E. Ryle, Philo and Holy Scripture: Or, The Quotations of Philo from the Books of the Old Testament, with Introduction and Notes (London: Macmillan, 1895) and David McCalman Turpie, The New Testament View of the Old (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1872). Noteworthy is Molly Zahn’s program of focusing on textual changes rather than textual similarities. Her classifications include Additions (Additions of New Material, Additions of Material from Elsewhere), Omissions, Alterations (Minor Alterations, Rearrangements, Paraphrase, Replacement with Material from Elsewhere). See Zahn, Rethinking, 17-9. [4] Gregory and Tuckett, 64. Porter, “Use of OT in NT,” 80-8, 94-5. [5] These definitions do not indicate that only references introduced with formal markers are considered quotations, as the level of verbal identity that a text shares with an outside source remains the chief identifier for this spectrum. [6] Donald A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 57. Ehrman, 104-7. Metzger has argued that lengthy passages or references in polemical treatises should be understood as quotations, likely copied from manuscripts. Where present, the use of introductory formulae, “leaves no doubt that an author wants the reader to be aware of his or her source, often because that source is considered in some sense authoritative.” See Metzger, “Patristic Evidence,” 379-80. [7] Leonard, 257. Stephen O. Presley, The Intertextual Reception of Genesis 1-3 in Irenaeus of Lyons (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 43. Porter, “Allusions and Echoes,” 29-40.


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

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