Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paul’s Jewish Matrix

To mark the ‘Year of St Paul’ in 2009, the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies of the Pontifical Gregorian University, in collaboration with the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the Centre for the Study of Christianity of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Catholic University of Leuven and the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, organized an international symposium on the subject of ‘Paul in his Jewish Matrix’. This was held in Rome from 20 to 22 May, 2009, and was attended by scholars from Italy, Israel, the United States and Belgium, both Jews and Christians. The present volume is a collection of most of the papers and lectures presented at the symposium.
-- Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor, “Editors’ Foreword,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, Bible in Dialogue 2 (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 9.

Emmanuel Nathan and Reimund Bieringer, “Paul, Moses and the Veil: Paul’s Perspective on Judaism in Light of 2 Corinthians 3,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, ed. Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor Bible in Dialogue 2, (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 201-228.

The first part of this essay, “On Paul’s use of καταργέω and τέλος" in 2 Cor 3:7, 11, 13 and 14,” is by Emmanuel Nathan (201-219) and the second part, dealing with the “Glory and the Veil,” is written by Reimund Bieringer (219-228).
In order to clarify the exceptionally difficult and controversial text found in 2 Cor 3:7-18, Nathan enters into a detailed discussion of καταργέω and τέλος to a large extent in response to Hans Windisch’s influential commentary of 1924. A review of the complex exegetical decisions allows him to repudiate Windisch’s position that 2 Cor 3:7-18 offers a negative assessment of Judaism. Yet at the same time Nathan offers a word of caution that the sheer ambiguity of καταργέω and τέλος, together with locating their referents, contributes to the uncertainty of what exactly Paul means. Even though Paul can, and should, be appreciated within his Jewish matrix, he believes that this ambiguity has helped to contribute to the later understanding of the old covenant that is abolished.
In the second part of this essay, Bieringer argues that the main theological concept in 2 Cor 3:7-18 is δόξα, and concludes that in this context it intends to communicate the nature of the deity in its manifestation. Even though Paul in 2 Cor 3:7-18 does not speak about Judaism explicitly, the implications for the Jewish matrix of Paul’s ‘post-Damascus view of Judaism’ become manifest especially insofar as the continuity between the old and new covenant is considerably more evident in this text than has been hitherto recognized by many interpreters. The antithetical terminology is evident throughout the passage and, even though it is not consistent with the emphases of the entire text, great care must be taken not to actualize the dangerous potential that a possible misreading of such antithetical language carries with it.

-- From the introductory essay by Karl P. Donfried, “Paul’s Jewish Matrix: The Scope and Nature of the Contributions,” Paul’s Jewish Matrix, ed. Thomas G. Casey and Justin Taylor Bible in Dialogue 2, (Rome: Gregorian & Biblical Press, 2011) 24-27.

The book is available on the page of the publisher.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Can Textual Criticism Be Exciting?

Ian A. Moir once lamented that textual criticism is often regarded as the “Cinderella” of biblical studies – and as such often meets with contempt and prejudice. Today, this observation still rings true. It seems to me that the general attitude towards NT textual criticism is that it is tedious, troublesome, boring work. There is perhaps some element of truth in that, given the terminologies, methodologies and theories involved, not to mention the demands of acquiring knowledge about the manuscripts, the Greek language and exegetical skills. But is textual criticism really as boring as it is often made out to be? In my experience, there is reason to answer in the negative because textual criticism sometimes only appears boring and scary for similar reason why some of us have a phobia of mathematics – we fear what looks incomprehensible.

Last academic year, I did an internship at the Institut für Neutesta- mentliche Textforschung (Münster, Germany) which gave me the chance to participate in their ongoing project Editio Critica Maior. My major task was the transcription of a manuscript of Mark’s Gospel (the 11th century minuscule 2487) by using a computer program called “jEdit”. I first underwent one full week of learning at the Institute where I was introduced to the fundamental knowledge of Greek palaeography and the Greek NT manuscripts. They also briefed me on how to operate the jEdit program and the instructions concerning transcribing a manuscript electronically. Thereafter, I was allowed to bring my work back to Leuven (so my internship did not interfere with my regular classes).

One of the interesting aspects of my on-the-job training was the study of the characteristics of the manuscript that I was working on, e.g., the handwriting style of the scribe. As you may know, minuscule manuscripts were written in cursive. The scribe also employed ligatures and abbreviations when copying the texts. This made deciphering the texts a very difficult task at the beginning of my transcription. As a sample of the challenge I faced, can you figure out the Greek words in the two pictures below?

Problems such as these are, in my opinion,
actually quite interesting (and dare I say fun) in that they require the sort of keenness and skills of a detective trying to solve a case. To give another example of the “detective” work involved. In the picture below, the letter ε is written above the word αυτους.
Pic 3

The problem is to decide whether the scribe is making a correction or just squeezing the letter ε in by writing it interlinearly above the word αυτους. Figuring it out will require studying the scribal habits – in this case it is likely a correction (from αυτους to εαυτους) because the scribe does not use interlinear letters elsewhere.

So, while textual criticism may appear incomprehensible at first glance, once we overcome the initial fear and really try to tackle it, we will come to see the charm of challenges that textual criticism presents. Also, thanks to this internship, I have become more confidence to read and work with manuscripts (e.g., checking textual variants in original manuscripts). I hope that, by sharing my internship experience, I can inspire more interest in textual criticism as well as in the project Editio Critica Maior.

Loretta H.Y. Man
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