Comments

Pages

29 June 2009

a refutation deferred?

Posted by at 9:29 AM Read our previous post

I have lately become fascinated by the Tübingen School of historical criticism and by its inevitable derivate, the Dutch Radical school. I posted some links to a few essays and articles detailing the views of some of these schools' main exponents a few days ago.

Dating back to the early nineteenth century, the findings of these scholars has been all but ignored by subsequent scholarship, whose response to the various arguments posited has basically amounted to little more than a cold shoulder. This is a complaint that I have heard voiced by the very few scholars who remain standard-bearers for this radical approach (e.g. Bob Price and Hermann Detering). It seems clear that the implications of the Dutch Radicals' conclusions are so paradigm-shaking (and thus 'dangerous' for orthodox exegetes) they were all ignored.

I find the arguments for the 2nd century origin of the Pauline corpus advanced by the Dutch Radicals to be cogent and rather persuasive. In an effort to get an outlook on the subject from the other side I started seeking counter-arguments to the Dutch Radicals. If they are so fringe, then it must be easy to refute them, right? But I found very little.

On one apologist site (CADRE Comments), the blogger seemed determined to remedy this dearth of engagement with what he clearly considers a fringe hyper-critical group by starting a series devoted to refuting the radicals. He seems aware of the charge of a conspiracy of silence levelled at contemporary scholarship and he is determined to reveal the errors of the radicals by means of rational exegesis and argumentation instead of scornful dismissal:

I want rather to subject some of their arguments to critical scrutiny, to see whether they deserve the serious consideration which Detering complains has been lacking in the academy [...] ... [T]here are a number of thorny problems with the reception of Paul's letters in the 2nd Century which mainstream scholars rarely if ever deal with, so that the historical Paul ends up being a much more vulnerable target for skepticism than the historical Jesus. In the end I think their views suffer from a number of debilitating flaws, but this must be demonstrated, not simply assumed because of the marginal status of the Dutch Radicals.

Very cool. A commendable notion, and, in fact, his first post of the series is a fairly good introduction to the relevant ideas espoused by the radicals. After sketching a pretty good outline of their arguments, the blogger promises to engage them in detail in a later post (the introductory post dates to April 2008).

I was excited to continue reading after this introductory post, but, as I searched his blog for more entries on the subject, all I found was one more part in his series (dated in July 2008). In this 'part 2" post, he appeals to a work published by Albert Schweitzer in 1912, Paul and his Interpreters.

As regards external attestation, "the position is not so favorable to [the Dutch Radicals] as Loman wished to represent it." 1 Clement attests quite clearly to some Pauline letters and is to be dated no later than the beginning of the 2nd Century. If the Ignatian letters are genuine, "the attestation of the Pauline Epistles is in much better shape than was formerly supposed."

This opinion echoes what the blogger had hinted at in his first post:

Dutch Radical scholars were convinced that the earliest assumed witnesses to Paul and his letters, 1 Clement and the Ignatian epistles, along with Polycarp, are complete forgeries.

This implies that in order for their theories regarding the (in)authenticity of the pauline corpus to stand, the Dutch Radical depend on the inauthenticity of 1st Clement and the Ignatian corpus, which they deem spurious based merely on this need to doubt Paul.

A red flag goes up for me at this point. This is a specious line of argument for a couple of reasons:

  1. The authenticity of the Ignatian letters has been doubted for far longer than that of the Pauline ones (ever hear of Martin Luther?), and for very good reasons. These reasons are very well outlined in this very good article by Dwight P Killen. It's simply ass-backwards to imply that the Ignatian corpus was found questionable only as a result of some imagined need to question Paul's own corpus.
  2. I agree with Mr Killen, but, for the sake of argument, I will entertain the possibility that the Ignatian corpus and 1st Clement are genuine articles of turn-of-the-century Christianity. The problem here is that when I searched these two texts (my internet was down for a few days so I broke out some hardcover references and went to work cross-referencing between them and the NT) for any indications that their respective authors were familiar with letters of Paul I find a few allusions to 1 Corinthians and no more. Moreover, each of these texts seems to know just a small section of 1stCorinthians. Schweitzer, writing in 1912, was simply wrong, it seems, about the extent of their familiarity with the colossal apostle (to borrow a phrase from Bob Price). Walter Bauer, writing in 1934, came to the same conclusion as I did regarding this matter in his Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.

One may argue for the authenticity of the Pauline corpus if one wishes, but I'm afraid that it cannot be done by appealing to attestation in Clement or in Ignatius. Sorry.

Beyond this second post in the blog series, which appeals to authority (viz. Schweitzer's outmoded opinions), the blog which promised "critical scrutiny" delivers nothing of the kind in the end.

This all makes me wonder if Detering is right about how readily the arguments are dismissed out of hand by modern scholars, unexamined (except superficially and patronizingly), after all.

for now . . .


Ó

.

6 comments:

  1. Quixie,

    I'm glad you've taken an interest in the Dutch Radicals and that you thought my first post was a fair summary of their arguments. And as I commented back to you in the first post, I was going to follow up but due to time restrictions and other projects I couldn't. I hope to complete the series over the summer. I have not forgotten about this subject, and actually I took my own reading much further during this time.

    It's always exciting to find a critical perspective one hadn't considered before, especially when it's provocative and potentially groundbreaking. But I hope you will not let your enthusiasm get the better of you, so that you simply regurgitate the arguments without proper skepticism. That your approach is marred by this enthusiasm is evident at several points in this post:

    "In an effort to get an outlook on the subject from the other side I started seeking counter-arguments to the Dutch Radicals. If they are so fringe, then it must be easy to refute them, right?"

    Several problems here. First, being fringe often means that the arguments are so contrived and implausible that serious scholars rightly focus their attention elsewhere. This is clearly the case, for example, with Erik Von Danniken's "Chariots of the Gods". Second, even if the radicals are fringe now it does not mean that they always were, and lack of attention to them may be due simply to the inevitable cyclic trajectory of academic fashion. There was a time when the Dutch Radicals were taken very seriously, as is evidenced by Schweitzer's discussion. I could add H.U. Meyboom, whom even Detering acknowledges as the most sophisticated of the critics of the Dutch Radicals. Unfortunately his writings are in German and available only in seminary libraries, for example his "Marcion en de Marcioneten"; there is also a (critical) dissertation by Harry J. Hager devoted entirely to the Dutch Radicals, unfortunately also only available at seminaries.

    Third, it is not the case that there are no serious critiques of the Dutch Radicals out there. The problem is that most of them are occasional, and arise when someone becomes aware of a small portion of their work, or perhaps just one of their writings. When mainline scholars do critique aspects of their work, the result is usually devastating. To take two examples, Pauline scholar Mark Nanos severely criticized an article by Van Eysinga on Galatians on the grounds that he lacked familiarity with the full range of ancient letters and rhetorical techniques. See the link here. Textual critic and NT scholar John Lupia rips Hermann Detering a new one for his ridiculous arguments based on his misunderstanding of the mechanics of letter production, the different kinds of letters, and travel in the ancient world. See here.

    (cont'd below)

    ReplyDelete
  2. (comment cont'd)

    And criticism has come not only from mainline scholars but even from those who should be ecstatic about yet another re-mythologization of early Christianity. Earl Doherty himself, Jesus-myther extraordinaire, even though he clearly would like to accept Detering's argument and welcomes it, simply cannot do so, because of the utter implausibility of a Roman Empire-wide conspiracy to concoct a letter corpus whose sitz im leben is VERY clearly 1st Century and far removed from the context of the Marcionite and other disputes. See his comments here and here (response to 'Dmitry').

    I should also point you again to the full review by apologist JP Holding, which I linked to in my first article. Holding knows far more about 1st Century culture than Detering and in my view scores some devastating criticisms. See here.

    The other point I should make is that Detering is very selective in his review of Pauline scholarship, and that many of his arguments do not take the latest discussions into account. For example, he heavily cites Lindeman's and Pagels' surveys of Pauline exegesis in the 2nd Century but not David K. Rensberger's important dissertation "As the Apostle Teaches: the reception of Paul's letters in the 2nd Century" (again only available at seminaries), which directly and decisively challenges the consensus about mid 2nd-Century aversion to Paul because of his supposed affiliation with heretics, and especially Marcion. Detering cites the recent challenges to Ignatian authenticity by Joly and Ruis-Camps but not the latest discussions in Bammel, Holmes, Erhman and elsewhere. His case is weakened because much of the recent discussion undermines important planks of his argument, even if they are not directly engaging Dutch Radical arguments.

    Speaking of Ignatian authenticity, it is a frequent rhetorical strategy of the radicals to motivate Ignatian skepticism by appealing to famous Christian figures of the past who shared it, like Luther and Calvin. What they don't mention is that there was a powerful ideological motivation for them to do so, as Ignatius apparently establishes a very early proto-Catholicism which the Reformers insisted could not have developed so early after the apostolic age. All these points will be dealt with in greater detail in my subsequent posts (BTW, I hope you realize that Ignatian and Clementian allusions to Paul are only one plank in the mainstream paradigm case, and they aren't meant to carry the full weight of the argument-Schweitzer certainly did not think so-but they do have more evidential force than you allow).

    Price's neat phrase the 'colossal apostle' is a good example of the anachronism of the Dutch Radicals and their inability to enter the mindset of the earliest Christians. The letters of Paul are Scripture now, and cherished as our earliest sources for the Christian movement. But they were not always so regarded. There was a time when, even if full authenticity of all the letters is granted, Paul was just one more Christian missionary among many who established some (not all) churches and wrote some letters, a small fraction of the total Christian literature of the time. He became very important around the end of the 2nd Century in heretical disputes but that does not mean no one had heard of him before then. Suffice it to say that Paul would not have been the colossal apostle from the start.

    I have much more to say but that will have to wait for further posts. I just want to advise you again not to let your enthusiasm get the better of you. In a complex, disputed field like biblical studies, things are rarely straightforward, and ground that seems to be very virgin has often been plowed over more than once

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey JD;

    First and foremost, thank you for the various links. This is precisely the sort of thing I was searching for when I found your quasi-critique. And thank you for taking time to respond.

    JD:Several problems here. First, being fringe often means that the arguments are so contrived and implausible that serious scholars rightly focus their attention elsewhere. This is clearly the case, for example, with Erik Von Danniken's "Chariots of the Gods".

    Q:Sure; I agree. There are some things that I myself have read that defy rational thought and that have left me shaking my head in wonder. In such cases, though, it is fairly easy to discern and highlight any lapses of logic or reason in the arguments. Yes, a belief that space aliens visited Earth long ago and taught the locals how to make pyramids and super-glue is worthy of being rejected as fanciful and ad hoc (nay, loony). It takes but the briefest of surveys of the evidence presented to see the carzy in it.
    But I insist that in this case (Tübingen/Dutch Rads, our focus) there is none of the intrinsic implausibility that the case you cite oozes with. In fact, as you yourself showed in your post, Ol’ Schweitzer commended and praised these men’s rigorous diligence and honesty.

    Question: Do YOU think these men were kooks?

    JD:Second, even if the radicals are fringe now it does not mean that they always were, and lack of attention to them may be due simply to the inevitable cyclic trajectory of academic fashion.

    Q:Good point. But in this case, is it possible to tell whether it is cyclic obscurity or just severe disfavor?
    (I vote ‘yes’)
    Your first post approached the topic rather fairly, but most apologists (that I’ve seen) perish the thought of an “inauthentic Paul” before it even enters their mind. So repugnant is the mere idea to the initiate (whose religion depends on authenticity), so ‘unthinkable,’ that the notion actually “feels” absurd and implausible. But it isn’t really.

    JD:The other point I should make is that Detering is very selective in his review of Pauline scholarship, and that many of his arguments do not take the latest discussions into account. For example, he heavily cites Lindeman's and Pagels' surveys of Pauline exegesis in the 2nd Century but not David K. Rensberger's important dissertation …

    Q:This kinda reminds me of a blog commenter who once chastised me for not taking Bauckham’s ‘eyewitnesses’ book into account in a critique of Craig’s “four-fact” spiel that I had written.
    Two points:
    #1 The commenter mistakenly presumed that, had I read that particular book, all would be made clear to me. The fact is, however, that I happen to own my own copiously-pencil-margined copy of this book (I’d be glad to sell it to anyone out there who might be interested in buying it J )

    #2 So . . . my “selection” of, say, Gerd Lüdemann or James Dunn over Bauckham is not based on my ignorance of Bauckham’s ideas; I simply did not find anything useful there. Everyone “selects.”

    I won’t presume to speak for Mr Detering, but it’s possible that that’s all it is. Judging from your description of the above dissertation, I’d be very interested to read it, but, alas, as it is doubtful that I‘ll find myself in a seminary (since I‘ve no desire to become a professional Christian), God will just have to figure out a way to get it to me if I am ever to be informed by it ;)
    But seriously . . .

    (continued below)

    ReplyDelete
  4. (continued from above)

    JD:it is a frequent rhetorical strategy of the radicals to motivate Ignatian skepticism by appealing to famous Christian figures of the past who shared it, like Luther and Calvin. What they don't mention is that there was a powerful ideological motivation for them to do so …

    Q:Sure, I could see that happening. but my point was simply to show that one (Ignatian spuriousness claims) is historically prior to the other (doubt of Pauline authenticity), and not the other way around (which your phrasing vaguely leaves open to misinterpretation). That’s all.

    JD:(BTW, I hope you realize that Ignatian and Clementian allusions to Paul are only one plank in the mainstream paradigm case

    Q:Actually, as I think I adequately demonstrated in my survey of the patristic works in question, it is no plank at all!
    This was the focus of my post.
    Schweitzer claimed Clementine and Ignatian familiarity with the epistles. Tomorrow night, you or one of your apologist colleagues will claim Clementine and Ignatian familiarity with it. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and so on.

    Every once in a while someone with eyes to see will speak up and say, “actually, dude, I looked last night, and he’s right, there’s only a couple of vague allusions to 1stCorinthians and no more“, but apologists will keep claiming Clementine and Ignatian familiarity with the whole corpus.
    If it’s just a minor plank, why is it always the first plank nailed in to the frame of the boat, repeated like a dictum?

    Anyway, you never conceded my position, so I don’t know if you still hold to familiarity. As it is the focus of my post, and as you barely touched on it, about the only thing you seem to object to in my post is my “enthusiasm,”. . . . my style, in other words. My approach is “marred” by my enthusiasm, you said (I thought that particular phrasing was kinda funny).

    JD:But I hope you will not let your enthusiasm get the better of you, so that you simply regurgitate the arguments without proper skepticism.

    Q:Let’s see . . . I took the time to crack open the primary texts in question (I own fifteen different translations of the NT now, I think) and I listed the numerous possible parallels in each work that have been posited and I gave my sober opinion of those connections. Given that I did a hand-count comparison of the primary texts themselves, how exactly (and what exactly) might I be regurgitating?

    JD:In a complex, disputed field like biblical studies, things are rarely straightforward, and ground that seems to be very virgin has often been plowed over more than once.

    Q:You may be right about that, but some things ARE straightforward, such as the demonstrable and verifiable fact that 1st Clement seems to only really be familiar with one fragment of 1st Corinthians and no other Pauline work.
    J
    How we interpret this is up to us. Perhaps you are right, and it is an inconsequential fact for the case at hand, but we must at least admit the fact. Until then, it’s all reactionary, prolix dissembling Yabba Dabba Doo denials to me.

    Perhaps it is apologetics that needs a shot of enthusiasm in its diet, after all, but then I realize that it’s very hard to be enthusiastic while reciting favored dictums.

    Thanks again for the links (for reals). The only one I won’t read is the J.P Holding one, but I promise to give all the others a fair and honest reading.

    Peace

    Ó

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm not trying to double up my comments, but I think it also relevant to this post that I wrote a short response to Quixie's assessment of 1 Clement and 1 Corinthians.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your other post more specifically dealing with the claim that Ignatius and 1 Clement don't know nothing about Paul's letters (except possibly allusions to the opening of 1 Corinthians) has disappeared. But since you repeat the claim here, I'll add this comment directing people to my latest response to your claims:

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/08/ignatius-reliance-on-pauls-letter-to.html

    If you have dropped this claim, it would be better to just say so rather than try and hide the post containing your first analysis.

    ReplyDelete

Comments left anonymously may or may not be posted.

© quixotic infidel (the) is powered by Blogger - Template designed by Stramaxon - Best SEO Template