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More Cutting and Pasting? Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

I have been discussing instances in the New Testament where letters appear to have been cut-and-pasted together.  The key example is 2 Corinthians, but one could make the case (and many have!) that something similar is true of Philippians.  Here is how I explain it in my book The New Testament:  A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.   **************************************************** The Unity of the Letter The first two chapters of Philippians sound very much like a friendship letter written by Paul to his converts. The occasion of the letter is reasonably evident (see especially 2:25–30). The Philippians had sent to Paul one of their stalwart members, a man named Epaphroditus, for some reason that is not disclosed (until chap. 4). While there ministering to Paul, Epaphroditus was taken ill; the Philippians had heard of his illness and grew concerned. Epaphroditus in turn learned of their concern and became distraught over the anxiety that he had caused. Fortunately, his health returned, and he was now set to make his journey back home to Philippi. Paul [...]

2020-04-03T01:39:22-04:00January 8th, 2018|Paul and His Letters|

My Long Favorite Pauline Letter: Philippians

There is one other book in the New Testament that may be a cut-and-paste job, and as it turns out, it is another one of Paul’s letters, Philippians.  Philippians was for a long time my favorite Pauline letter, back in my late teens when I was first starting to read the Bible.  It contains the first verse I ever memorized: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21); and it is the first book that, a couple of years later, I committed completely to memory, word for word.  Little did I know, back then, that some scholars think it is in fact two different letters of Paul’s that have been spliced together. The evidence of there being two letters in Philippians is not as clear and compelling as in the case of 2 Corinthians, and I suspect, but do not know for a fact, that the *majority* of scholars hold to the “integrity” of the letter.  In this case, the word integrity has nothing to do with “honesty.”  It is the [...]

2020-04-03T01:39:39-04:00January 5th, 2018|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Is 2 Corinthians *FIVE* Letters?

In my previous post I tried to show why most critical scholars think that the letter of 2 Corinthians is actually two different letters that have been spliced together.   When I was back in graduate school, I learned – to my surprise – that there were scholars who thought that in fact 2 Corinthians was made up of five different letters, all spliced together.  At first that struck me as a bit crazy, but as I looked at the evidence I began to see that it made a good bit of sense. I’m not completely committed to that idea, but I’m inclined toward it.  My sense is that this is the view of a sizeable minority of critical scholars, but I have no data, only anecdotal evidence, to back that up. In any case, what matters more is what you yourself might think of it.  I won’t be giving the evidence in full, but here is how I lay it out for students to consider in my textbook on the New Testament for undergraduates.   To [...]

2020-04-03T01:39:47-04:00January 2nd, 2018|Paul and His Letters, Public Forum|

Are There Cut-and-Paste Jobs in the New Testament? The Case of 2 Corinthians

How much of the early Christian writings consist of scissors-and-paste jobs, where later editors cut up earlier writings and stitched them together into one continuous work, so that what we have now are not the originals but only the final edited version?  Are there books like that, for example, in the New Testament?  In a recent post I mentioned how the early Christian writing called the Didache is that kind of thing, with three documents artificially combined into the 16-chapter book we now have.  That prompted the following question from a blog member. QUESTION: It seems like there was a lot of “cutting and pasting” in early Christianity. It reminds me of how I cobbled together different parts of the World Book when I turned in my first high school papers.  Do we know whether or not this kind of editing was a common practice during the first three centuries? RESPONSE: Yes, it does appear that we have other examples of that kind of thing in the surviving early Christian writings – including at least [...]

2020-04-03T01:39:56-04:00December 30th, 2017|Paul and His Letters, Reader’s Questions|

Background to the Interest in Oral Traditions

Just to give a bit of background to the work I’ve just started doing on the question of the oral traditions about Jesus in the years before the Gospels were written, some initial points: 1) I am not, decidedly NOT, the first scholar to think this might be of some interest! On the contrary, it has long been intriguing to scholars, and there are a number of important books that have appeared in recent years, for example, James Dunn, The Oral Gospel Tradition (just last year!) and, even better known, Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (a fat and very important book.) I would make two points about these (and other similar) books: they are not written for general audiences but for scholars, and I fundamentally disagree with lots of their views and claims! My approach will be very different, as, no doubt, will be my conclusions and arguments. 2) I am just at the beginning stages of my work. My plan is to read as extensively as I can over the next three months [...]

Sources of the Fourth Gospel

I have given evidence so far that the Gospel of John is not a single composition written by a single author sitting down to produce the account at a single time, but is made up of written sources that have all been edited together into the finished product. Here I lay out a bit more information about the sources that appear to lie behind this account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. ****************************************************************** Thus the theory of written sources behind the Fourth Gospel can explain many of the literary problems of the narrative. These sources obviously no longer survive. What can we say about them? Character of the Sources in John (1) The Signs Source. Some of the seams that we have observed appear to suggest that the author incorporated a source that described the signs of Jesus, written to persuade people that he was the messiah, the Son of God. There are seven "signs" in the Gospel; it is possible that these were all original to the source. You may recall that "seven" is [...]

2020-04-03T17:15:42-04:00March 19th, 2014|Canonical Gospels|
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