Friday, October 13, 2006

Is 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 a non-Pauline interpolation?

A reader asked the following question on my post on Luke 16:9 and the ‘eternal homes’, as I suggested that 2 Cor 6:14 ff could be an interpolation.

He asks, ‘Why would 2 Cor 6:14-15 be an interpolation? UBS 4th lists no TC problems ... do you have inside scoop?’

No inside scoop, at least not like my gematriacal analysis of Bultmann’s full name. In fact, the debate concerning 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 is a rather well known one. The arguments pro-interpolation are legion and should be taken together (here I loosely follow the analysis in Harris who doesn’t accept the passage is an interpolation):

  1. The passage is largely irrelevant to the Corinthians problems evidenced in the rest of the Corinthians correspondence.

  2. The flow of thought between 6:13 and 7:2 is interrupted, and is done so in an abrupt manner.

  3. Indeed, the verbal similarities between 6:11-13 and 7:2-4 suggest that something has been inserted between an original unity.

  4. While the many hapax legomena in the passage can be partly explained by reference to the fact that Paul quotes from other sources a fair deal, this a) doesn’t explain them all, nor b) the fact that the passage evidences a rather unusual usage of such words as righteousness, faith, flesh, spirit etc., ones not normal for Paul, even if possible.

  5. The verses the passage cites are not found anywhere else in the Pauline corpus.

  6. Theologically, some argue that the ‘uncompromising exclusivism’ is rather contrary to a typical Pauline thrust. Actually, this point does not convince me, and I think the ‘promise’ theology could be understood historically as plausibly Pauline (something not touched upon so much in the debate I believe).

I would also suggest that the old ‘no textual critical problems’ argument is perhaps a red herring. It is often cited as evidence, when it is lacking, against interpolation. For example, some have appealed to this negative corroboration in light of the various partition theories surrounding 1 Cor 8-10 such that later editing is made unlikely by the lack of textual evidence. I seem to remember Thiselton adopted this reasoning in his NIGTC commentary. I must admit, I claimed the same thing in an earlier draft of my doctoral work on 1 Cor 8-10, but Harris importantly points out, in relation to 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 that: ‘The absence of any textual evidence for the omission of 6:14-7:1 is no argument against it being an interpolation, for the putative editorial work by a redactor would predate the earliest textual witness’ (Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 23, fn. 48, italics mine)

Come to think of it, I posted an article written by one of my friends here a while ago on this passage. He understands the passage as Pauline, if I remember rightly.

I guess I’m not so confident, but I’m certainly not going to dogmatically insist it is an interpolation. The evidence is explain-awayable, but the above points taken together, noting also the point on the TC issue, would make me (and I’m sure Volker too) pause before basing an argument about Paul on this passage.


At 10/13/2006 10:31 AM, Anonymous Volker said...

"...the above points taken together... would make me (and I’m sure Volker too) pause before basing an argument about Paul on this passage."

Yes, I did indeed pause quite a bit, and I have interacted in detail with these arguments in the article that you've mentioned. So, click on the link and have a read! (-:

At 10/13/2006 1:33 PM, Anonymous J. B. Hood said...

Thanks Chris, helpful way of laying things out. That's what I get for reading Gk text instead of commentators. No, seriously. It's an interesting argument and reading it in context with an eye for it, it's easy to see. And of course there are other such possibilities in the Corinthian letters (1 Cor 14 is more famous here) with a bit more TC evidence.

It is not true, however, that this is "largely irrelevant to the Cor problems evidenced in the rest of the Corinthians correspondence" as it is suggestive of the concern for purity in the church in 1 Cor 5:9-13, and I've argued in the past it should probably be interpreted in preaching at least through that grid.

I suppose reasons for inclusion abound. Maybe some Corinthian scribe, in an early copoy, dropped this passage in from Corinthians A (to which Paul refers in 1 Cor 5:9)? But why here?

At 10/14/2006 1:37 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Volker, keep Tuesday night free, Molty is giving a presentation reading from his new book ...!

"It is not true, however, that this is "largely irrelevant to the Cor problems evidenced in the rest of the Corinthians correspondence"

What?!! You dare to contradict me???!!

OK, good point.

At 10/14/2006 6:07 AM, Anonymous Richard Fellows said...


take a look at Michael Goulder's paper (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 as an integral part of 2 Corinthians, Novum Testamentum 36 1994). He shows that the sequence of thought in chapters 5 and 6 of 2 Corinthians is the same at that in 1 Cor 4-5, and that consequently 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 fits its context. Opposition to Paul causes him to defend his ministry (2 Cor 5:11-6:3 and 1 Cor 4:1-5) and he then proceeds to give a list of trials (2 Cor 6:4-10 and 1 Cor 4:10-13). Next he appeals to his readers as their father (2 Cor 6:11-12 and Cor 4:14-16), and then asks them to shun the opponents, who are corrupting them (2 Cor 6:14-7:1 and 1 Cor 5). As you can see, the sequence and logic of thought are the same in both letters. This demonstrates not only that 2 Cor 6:14-7:1 belongs in its context, but also that not much had changed between the time of 1 Corinthians and the time of 2 Corinthians. In many ways both letters reflect the same situation in Corinth. This has been argued in detail by David Hall (The Unity of the Corinthian Correspondence, JSNT sup 251).


At 10/14/2006 3:36 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Richard, I'll look it up

At 10/14/2006 4:09 PM, Anonymous Volker said...

And don't forget to look up my article too! (-:
I have a long discussion of how 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1 fits the rhetoric of the letter and how it can be understood against the background of a New-Exodus-Theology that is in the background of how Paul uses the catena of OT-citations.


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