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:
- 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.
- 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 . . .