Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Speaking of Pseudepigrapha

Some interesting comments in the previous post, which I shall have to follow up. Thanks.

I recently got David R. Nienhuis’s Not by Paul Alone from the library, and it looks so interesting I am tempted to purchase it so I can scribble all over it (birthday present, anyone?!).

Essentially, he seems to argue that James, like 2 Peter, is a mid-second century pseudepigrapha, written to provide shape in the developing Christian canon. Indeed, the Catholic Epistles use the names of church pillars (James, Peter and John) in their pseudepigraphal project in an attempt to counterbalance the Pauline dominance in the emerging collection, and particularly its potential (mis)application by Marcionists.

Fascinating! There is something plausible and simple about this thesis which appeals to me.


At 10/15/2008 12:23 AM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

That seems like an uphill argument with James. That particular book distinguishes itself by being one of the few books with neither "Jesus" nor "Christ" in its high-frequency word list. (3 John is the other NT book with strikingly little to say about Christ.) And the book of James enjoyed so much less acceptance than most other letters that whoever might have picked that as a pseudonym for his writing made a serious misstep.

I also wonder: leaving aside the Marcionites, even the proto-orthodox Gentile Christians were less Semitic in focus than, say, Matthew and Mark. I wonder how much the going concerns and religious / cultural assumptions of James can be plausibly dated that late?

It would be an interesting study.

Take care & God bless

At 10/15/2008 3:11 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

I agree with my fellow Cadrist. {g} {wave to WF!} I understand the appeal of trying to theorize that the Jacobin epistle was written in mid-2nd-cent to show a pillar of the early church (and relative of Jesus) quoting material found in the Gospels (thus helping shore up the canon against emerging competition)--especially the appeal that this attempt would have to Jesus Mythers. {wry g!}

But compared to other docs that we're quite sure were written at that time to shore up claims of orthodoxy and canon vs. the contemporary competition, "James" sure looks weak in the orthodoxy department! Heck, 2 Peter looks far more like promoting orthodoxy and 'catholic' concerns; which is precisely why it sometimes gets dated to mid-2nd-c. The content of James doesn't lend itself to anything other than primitivity, on the other hand. (Except for that annoying tendency to quote material that some people would rather safely date later... {g})


At 10/15/2008 11:57 PM, Anonymous Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Jason

Imagine meeting you here!

Anyway, your parenthetical comment ("and relative of Jesus") reminded me of another comment I'd meant to make on whether this could be a forgery. If someone *were* forging a letter in someone's name to piggyback on their reputation, the least they could do is make it a little bit clearer *which* James they meant, esp. if that was their whole basis for gaining acceptance.

And the translations gloss over some of the evidences for how early this work was written. James 2:2 has "your synagogue" in the Greek. Not something you'd expect from a second-century forger.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

P.S. I tried posting this before and the comment box ate my comment. Hope this doesn't end up as a double-post ...

At 10/22/2008 11:56 AM, Anonymous TJ said...

"(birthday present, anyone?!)"

Don't look at me, man! Buy your own stuff!!!

At 10/23/2008 4:10 PM, Anonymous Chris Donato said...

I recoil pretty hard from this thesis. Having taught through James for about a year now, I see a predominant recapitulation of OT wisdom and Jesus everywhere in it. Totally primitive Xian doctrine and practice…

At 12/05/2008 5:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my opinion, any claim that James is a late and spurious work is laughable. As to the accusation against 2nd Peter that it is a late inauthentic addition, consider this: You cannot have an inauthentic 2nd Peter and an authentic Pauline corpus because the only thing that really raises suspicion against 2nd Peter's authenticity is its reference to Paul's epistles as Scripture. Either both are authentic or both are inauthentic, or Paul is inauthentic and 2nd Peter is authentic but two verses of it are not. If you believe that Paul's epistles are inauthentic (such as perhaps that Macrion actually wrote them rather than mutilated them) then it makes sense to believe that 2nd Peter was written to justify adding Paul to the orthodox canon (after the epistles were revised from their Marcionite form be more orthodox) and also to warn readers against interpreting Romans 9 as teaching predestination as based on anything other than foreseen faith, for all Paul really means is that "that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." The problem with this theory, even if you did believe that Paul's epistles were inauthentic, is that forging the entire epistle of 2nd Peter merely to legitimize Paul's epistles seems silly and like overkill. It would be more likely that 2nd Pet 3:15-16 are later interpolations added to a legitimate letter of Peter to legitimize Paul's (or so-called Paul's) epistles. But look, this is all a double edged sword. If you throw 2nd Peter out, you might as well throw Paul out. Yet again, if you throw out Paul you must throw out at least 2 verses from 2nd Peter, i.e. 2nd Pet 3:15-16. But look Paul's claim to canonicity becomes weak without Peter's testimony in favor of his epistles. Paul did not walk with Jesus in the gospels. Nor does Acts does not represent Paul as an apostle of equal authority to Peter, but only really as an apostle of the church of Antioch. Nobody but rank heretics who have no concern or love whatsoever for truth would ever accept the Galatian letter's claim that Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ "not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ," without 2nd Pet 3:15-16's testimony in acceptance of Paul's epistles as Scripture, for it is clear that Paul did immediately confer with flesh and blood when he was baptized by Ananias and that he did go to Jerusalem long before Galatians says and did see the apostles and was known by face to the churches of Judea and that something was added to him in conference by the other apostles and that he did give into the circumcising party and circumcise Timothy. Paul's epistles would not last outside of a rabidly anti-gospel sola-fidean heresy context apart from 2nd Pet 3:15-16 because nobody would feel the need to jump through hoops to harmonize Galtians and Acts without Peter's testimony. So far from 2nd Peter being written to water Paul down in favor of orthodox concerns, therefore, it would have been written to water Peter down and bring in Paul who would have been considered questionable if not heretical prior to his being granted acceptance by 2nd Peter and he never could have enjoyed the status he does now! So far from being an apostle not by man nor through man, Paul's apostleship rests entirely on 2nd Peter 3:15-16 being considered to be authentic words from Peter's pen! He is subject and subservient to Peter, to the extent that throwing 2nd Peter out throws him out. Are you prepared to throw out your favorite apostle? You might have to obey Jesus if you do, because you can't hide behind Faith Only heresy without Paul's epistles to twist in an unlearned and unstable way as you do the rest of the scriptures unto your own destruction.


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