Spectrums of Scripture: Historical-Critical Criteria (Part II)

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.

Ancient Syriac ManuscriptGenre: Consideration of genre similarly affects a historical-critical methodology, especially when the texts analyzed belong to two different genres of literature or the pericope in question comes in a genre different than the rest of that in which it appears.[1] For instance the Odes of Solomon, by nature of their composition as liturgical verse, were crafted quite differently than prosaic pieces of Christian literature from the same period. While a parallel term such as “living water” (Ode 6:18) might not suggest, for example, that the prose of the Epistles of Ignatius relied upon the Gospel of John, in a poetic work such as the Odes—which must deal in composite and stylistic elements—the Odist might only reveal his reliance on that Gospel through use of a particular term like “living water.”[2] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Historical-Critical Criteria (Part I)

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.

HistoryThese foundational methodological tenets in place, this paper now considers several overarching historical-critical methodological points. Writ large, these criterion stem from the importance of understanding an ancient work in as much context as possible.[1] Consideration of availability, accessibility, genre, language, and prior attribution remain standard considerations for any historically-oriented study. In addition to these contexts, oral tradition, memory, and textual fluidity constitute additional aspects of the ancient world worthy of attention when dealing with the retrieval of sources. By themselves, these general historical-critical concerns reveal little about specific uses of one text in another. They do indicate, however, the need for nuance, caution, and contextualization before digging into the complexities of the ancient world. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Foregrounding Method

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.

medieval-scienceThe method of reception practice should begin with the recognition of the need to clarify assumptions, the subjectivity of scholarship, and the transformative reception of ancient texts. Amid the winds of postmodern criticism, all scholarly discussions should foreground their confessional, methodological, and/or post-methodological claims. Methodology in the humanities involves drawing boundary lines around that which is studied and then offering comparative explanations for why those concerns are worthy of attention.[1] Thus, method should address the mechanics employed to draw those boundaries and make meaning of what comes within them.[2] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: The Intersection of Reception and Intertextuality

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.

Map of the InternetThis study’s location at the intersection of the ongoing conversations regarding reception history and intertextuality means that several aspects of these discussions are formative in the creation of a composite methodology for understanding uses of one source in another. Most broadly, the terminology of reception and “reception practices” is employed to describe the ancient phenomena of textual use, borrowing, and re-use. Second, reception history’s concern with pattern recognition and mapping are central to this project.  Brennan Breed summarizes the mandate of reception history as the need to “demonstrate the diversity of capacities, [and] organize them according to the immanent potentialities actualized by various individuals and communities over time….”[1] In significant ways, categorization and organization constitute the primary tasks of the methodological outlines below. Third, this project recognizes the limitations of reception history as currently constituted, especially the overemphasis on the literary contexts of texts and relative neglect of other sociocultural factors.[2] To begin addressing these concerns a number of the principles below incorporate theological and sociocultural insights. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Intertexuality

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.

Richard B. Hays

Richard B. Hays

The phenomenon of intertextuality involves the imbedding of portions of one earlier text within a later text.[1] Intertextuality is more than exploring how writers cite other sources, but also why such citations were made and the effect of those intertexts.[2] Although scholars now recognize the practice of intertextuality in literature as ancient as Plato’s Socratic dialogues,[3] the term “intertextuality” itself is only several decades old. Building on M. M. Bakhtin’s notion of all utterances as double voiced (that is, responding to an addressee and a cultural milieu),[4] Julia Kristeva coined the term “intertextuality,” arguing that all texts are simultaneously in conversation with their audiences and their surrounding sociohistorical environments through the recycling of earlier texts.[5] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Reception History

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.

rossano-gospel-good-samaritanSimply stated, reception history involves critical engagement with the history of meanings associated with a particular event or text.[1] As Jonathan Morgan summarizes, reception history moves beyond traditional interpretive practices and “combines various insights and methods drawn from philosophical hermeneutics, reception theory (which is closely associated with both reader-response criticism and audience theory) and certain literary-influenced trends in historiography and the philosophy of history.”[2] When applied to texts within faith traditions, reception history incorporates “texts, stories, images, and characters through the centuries in the form of citation, interpretation, reading, revision, adaptation, and influence” not only in clearly theological texts, but in “visual art, literature, music, politics, and other works of culture” too.[3] Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

Context is EverythingHuman beings often presume our own worldview when trying to make sense of a message or a text. As anyone who has had an argument based upon a misunderstanding knows (think of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine), assuming that other people mean exactly what you think they mean, without making sure that’s what they say they mean, often becomes an exercise in frustration.

The same is true with written texts. Many times modern Christians come to a text such as the Bible and assume that the worldview they hold is precisely that of the specific Bible passage they are reading. While this may (rarely) be the case, more often than not readers of the Bible bring their own presuppositions without even knowing that they differ from those of the Biblical authors (and, by extension for those of us who believe in the inspiration of scripture, different presuppositions than God). This means that reading and interpreting the Bible without seeking to understand the context of the Bible leads to a distorted interpretation of the Bible. And since I would hazard to guess that few people desire to purposefully misinterpret the Bible, it seems important to seek a contextualized reading of any Biblical text. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Bible Reading

Open BibleSome thoughts on Bible reading for your morning:

1. Never read a Bible verse. Always read at least a paragraph, preferably more. Best is reading a whole book (more on that below). You can make any one verse mean any number of things, but considering the larger context of passage places that verse within a more meaningful narrative, making it easier to understand what the verse is saying. So always read verses within their larger narrative context.

2. Keep a couple of different versions on-hand. Having two or three different Bibles around serves as a reminder that English Bibles are translations and that, whatever you may believe about inerrancy and inspiration, translations are neither. Having multiple versions around also enables you to draw upon different renderings of a passage when you try to understand what’s being said. Not all translations are created equal, of course, and which translations you choose will vary based on your preferences and Bible knowledge. But keep a couple different versions around. Continue reading

Scripture in 1 Clement: Bibliography

This post concludes our series on the function and use of scripture in the early Christian writing known as 1 Clement by providing interested readers with a select bibliography of the sources consulted in this study.

Apostle Paul WritingAncient Texts

Clement of Rome. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, trans. Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume One, Loeb Classical Library 24, ed. Jeffrey Henderson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History, trans. G.A. Williamson, ed. Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Philadelphians, trans. Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume One, Loeb Classical Library 24, ed. Jeffrey Henderson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Tertullian. Prescription Against the Heresies, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, ed. Paul A. Boer, Sr. The Anti-Marcion Writings of Tertullian. Veritatis Splendor Publications, 2012.

Continue reading