Date: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 14:25:30 -0500
To: Thomas Kopecek 
Subject: Re: Luke 1-2

On Fri, 5 Dec 1997, Thomas Kopecek wrote:

> wrote:
> > 
> > The solution that makes most sense to me, of course, is that the Spirit
> > was interpolated wherever we find it in our Lk/Acts. That Luke 2-end does
> > not have the Spirit is an indication that these passages by and large go
> > to the proto-Luke, the original writings to Theophilus, and they suffer
> > less from the later editorial hand.
> You know what, Yuri? A few years ago I went to a regional SBL meeting
> (for some compelling reason that escapes me now). And I heard a chap
> arguing for interpolations in somewhat the way you seem to do all the
> time, though he was rather more restrained. When it came to the question
> and answer period, I made what I thought was a really good suggestion,
> namely, that the whole regional SBL should suspend work on the NT for
> just one year and translate some untranslated Patristic works and thus
> do something valuable for scholarship. After the meeting, a guy bought
> me a drink and told me that my idea would never work. His explanation
> was that few American NT scholars knew Greek well enough to translate
> those treatises. It is probably true. And I wonder if I could anymore,
> for it has been a little over ten years since I've had time away from
> in-house textbook and anthology writing to do that sort of thing.


This is not to detract from the general validity of your suggestion about
translating all these Greek fathers. But the question about the amount of
editing and interpolation taking place as the canon was being put together
in the 2nd century is nevertheless important too.

Needless to say, anyone coming around and suggesting that interpolations
are rife in _all_ our NT texts will not be too popular with the NT
scholars as a group and a professional class. Obviously, such a suggestion
will open the doors to great complexity in the area that most people would
rather keep simple and straightforward. And any argument for any
interpolation anywhere in the NT can be a very long, convoluted and even
bitter argument, since theological issues will inevitably come into play.
Just look at the situation with the Pastorals. Some assorted commentators
still would wish to consider them authentic in spite of all the evidence
to the contrary!

So, yes, arguments about any passage whatsoever having been interpolated
will be long and arduous, and some parties will always have some excuse to

So what do we do? Should we believe that no interpolations -- none at all
-- have been made ever? This of course will be ignominy pure and simple.

I think we'll just have to go on a case by case basis. The situation with
the 1 Cor 11 for example is one such case where the question about a
possible, indeed probable, interpolation must absolutely be considered. I
see it as a serious and glaring failure of our modern NT scholarship that
this question is never, or hardly ever, raised in our modern commentaries
on 1 Cor 11. This text is far too important for us to fail to ask honestly
when it may have been written. So, in this case, it seems theology is
still lording it over our pretended historical scholarship, strange as it
may sound... 

As far as the Acts is concerned, interpolations, the use of previous
sources, and plenty of editing are rather obvious throughout the text. And
most commentators are certainly not ignorant about this, as some comments
here, including from you, already indicated. It's just that in this case
the difficulties of disentangling various layers are indeed stupendous,
and Loisy actually freely admits this. We may never settle this question
to our complete satisfaction -- our evidence probably will not allow this. 
It is understandable that some commentators, including on this list, will
prefer to throw in the towel even before trying to do it, and will prefer
simply to declare loudly that the whole thing is of a piece and let's just
leave it at this. But this, to me, is simply another version of that
ancient biblical literalism slightly patched up and put to new uses --
emerging rather anachronistically from its dusty tomb of the time long
gone where it should have been left to rest in peace. 

Best wishes,


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