Spectrums of Scripture: Thematic 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.

a-themeThe second axis on the three dimensional plane is thematic correspondence, where topics, tropes, and themes serve as the basis for determining the use of one text in another. Thematic correspondence ranges from thematic explication—where writings build upon and expand sources—to typology—where a specific concept is utilized—to thematic echo—where passing references to themes are made. In contrast to commentaries or sermons—which talk about the text in question—thematic correspondence talks through the medium of the text. Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Echoes

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.

echoEchoes are made up of a single significant term, enough to make an inquisitive reader or hearer think about another source, but without the enough evidence to confirm that suspicion and leaving open the possibility of another textual source.[1] These reminiscences are too faint to carry the indicative character of quotations and allusions. Indeed, Paul Foster has questioned whether echoes are anything beyond creative contemporary theological reflections upon ancient texts with no basis in the actual intention or meaning of an author or their text.[2] The possibility of non-literary ideas (or ideas freed from their literary contexts) calls into question any methodology which utilizes echoes as a substantial foundation for making claims about ancient authors, their audiences, or intended meanings.[3] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Quotations and Allusions

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.

apostle-paul-preaching-on-mars-hillQuotations involve four or more significant terms.[1] Significant terms are distinguished by their uniqueness to a text,[2] as in the case of 1 Clement 25:2’s mention of the φοίνιξ (the phoenix). A Thesaurus Linguae Graecae search reveals this term applies to a bird in only in Hesiod and Herodotus prior to 1 Clement, making it rather likely that Clement’s use of this term reflects one of those authors.[3] General terminology—such as articles, prepositions, conjunctions, extremely common verbs, and non-specific nouns—does not necessarily weigh heavily when considering verbal correspondences. Common phrasing and word order might prove helpful, though these factors are ultimately secondary in importance given the relative fluidity of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and Syriac sentence construction.[4] In spite of the fact that several ancient authors reflected on the practice of literary quotation—including Aristotle, Quintilian, and Longinus—“no clear theory of quotation emerges from the [ancient] handbooks.”[5] Verbal quotation does, however, given the impression of conveying meaning to an audience,[6] even in cases of modified verbal characteristics of the quotation.[7] Continue reading

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] Continue reading

Spectrums of Scripture: Introducing a Spectral Approach

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.

axes-outline-3d_cartesian_coordinate_systemIn addressing the questions of how to determine when one text is received by another text and in what ways texts are received in other texts, scholarship has turned to two conceptual schemata: the proposal of criteria lists and the use of spectrums. The spectrum or continuum concept remains particularly popular among those working with the Second Temple era literature oft termed “Rewritten Bible.” By using spectrums, Molly Zahn notes, “the various texts that rework Scripture can be plotted, from texts that depart relatively infrequently and in more minor ways from the scriptural text as known from elsewhere to those that make frequent, major changes.”[1] Continue reading

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

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.

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

Memory: The scarcity and bulkiness of texts in the ancient world are often taken to suggest that many texts were accessed via memory.[1] When considering instances of potential textual connectivity, the chief question raised by the consideration of memory is whether or not an author needed to have a text in front of them to think of their recall as literary dependence.[2]  For instance, numerous scholars do not find it necessary to presume that Ignatius of Antioch had immediate access to the sources he was citing in his letters.[3] Additionally problematic is the fact that recalling texts from memory tends to adapt information to known schemata, change details using serial memory, and offer more conservative readings.[4] Continue reading

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

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.

sola_scriptura_forumsPrior Attribution: The principle of prior attribution consults previous scholarship to see if anyone has previously recognized the textual relationship in question.[1] The more previous readers have found a connection, the more likely the connection exists.[2] Of course, this is far from a hard and fast rule. Scholars are fallible human beings after all. Yet this criterion does situate contemporary studies within the long historical reception of a text. As Allison notes, “If a text or series of texts has not reminded any of its earlier readers of a particular…passage, then, as so many of those readers were intent on and capable of catching even subtle allusions to the Bible, should we not be a bit skeptical? The converse also holds. If a Matthean text has turned the minds of at least some informed readers through the centuries back to a specific verse or paragraph in the Tanak, then investigation is probably in order.”[3] Continue reading

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