Thursday, July 16, 2009

Romans 1:18-2:7:
Textual Issue?

The crosspost at Street Prophets brought on an interesting discussion. Usually between the commentaries at Bible.Org and the notes to the New English Translation (NET) most of the serious textual issues with passages are brought up and discussed. Usually. I guess not so much this time:

I wouldn't call this "revelation". At least not the unspiritual hodge-podge that is strung along after 1:17 (running all the way to verse 8 of Chap 2 in my opinion). It juts into the document like a page of emotional notes inserted by a novice. It’s a series of low reflections trying to hitch a ride on a great letter simply on the brute strength of a few stray scriptural allusions and some lurid detail. It is a poor litany of unregenerate sentiment and philosophic drivel, the dross of a lesser mind than Paul’s - one who cannot approach the level of Paul’s genius.

In my opinion the 22 verses starting at 1:18 bear a tone and form that are distinctly different from that of the Epistle as a whole - not to mention the jumble of uncharitable and uncouth words that do not occur anywhere else in Paul.

I say, accept it at your risk. What I believe is that Jesus himself will hold every fundamentalist responsible for emphasizing this kind of pre-Christian stuff in place of his (or Paul’s) true mission and message.
I asked for some sources and got a very good one:
I find that several ancient Greek manuscripts comprising the most complete collections of NT witings are missing key portions of the first 3 chapters of Romans.

Chief among which, from those called the "Western" group of texts [here is one discussion]:

"D" codex Claromontanus, missing Rom 1:1-7 and 1:27-30
"F" codex Augiensis (in both Greek and Latin), missing Rom 1:1 to 3:19
"G" codex Boernerianus, missing Rom 1:1-5 and 2:16-25

And from those called the "Alexandrian" group:
"C" codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, missing Rom 2:5 to 3:21
"P" codex Porphyrianus, missing Rom 2:15 to 3:5

I do not seek to imply that the gaps in these texts suggest the presence of bogus writing in the "fuller" versions (Sinaiticus or Alexandrinus, for example). But I believe it is rational to conjecture that some of those gaps might have been created as a means of ending the question of strange or variant texts among the earliest pieces of paper on which the Epistle circulated. Where a strange hand or spirit was noticed, eliminate the passage (especially if the same thought appears elsewhere in the Epistle).

The distinct variety of styles present in the Pauline Epistles (between Romans and Ephesians for example) has been a long-debated question. Here I am talking about an abrupt change of style within the first chapter of one Epistle.

But all of the scholars who have proposed interpolations in the text of Romans (profs. H. Weisse and D. Volter in the 19th Century, to name 2) are (rightly, I think) accused of the sins of subjective judgment and arbitrary decision. So I offer my theory only as a personal guideline.
This seems to be an admission that there is no solid uncontested scholarship on this; and that this is subjective for him as well. My question still is:

Anyone know of something I can look at that discusses the textual issue here?

Back to the comment:
I’m saying Romans 1:18 to about 2:3 (I was rash to push it to the 9th verse) sounds to me like rehash and bad faith, it doesn’t sound like revelation, and it doesn’t sound like Paul at his highest inspiration. What I find in it that is at all worthy is said better elsewhere in the Epistle or in other scripture.

However, your statement is not correct
[Me:] this has been attributed to Paul very nearly universally since the earliest of compilations of Paul's letters - and therefore seen by people who knew Paul.
The first "compilations of Paul's letters" were early, but, with respect to the portion of canonical text in question here, I don't think you can go back earlier than 150 AD with those "attributions" to Paul you mention. I didn't find any in the Apostolic Fathers or Justin Martyr, for example.
I really meant authorship in my comment; but I will pick up this challenge anyway. I think it is hard to find anything to support anything prior to 150AD really, so this is quite a challenge. Elsewhere, the critic accepted the following 4 folks as Apostolic Fathers: Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Irenaeus. I will accept that as a given - and add Clement of Alexandria. Certainly, he was not an Apostolic Father - he was a student of Tatian - however he was one of the founders of Christian literature along with Irenaeus; and Origen was his student. Alexandria became the "brains" of Christianity while Antioch was still its heart. He was in the last 30 years of the second century - but long before the codexs the critic has mentioned. So, I have broadened "before 150" to "second century and before".

Now, short of someone saying the links I am about to give are not by the above four Fathers, then I found allusions to Romans 1:18-32 in two of the four, and outright quotes in one of them. The links:
  1. Justin Martyr: none I found
  2. Clement of Rome: Verse 32 (paraphrase);
  3. Tatian: verse 20 (paraphrase)
  4. Clement of Alexandria: Verses 21, 23 and 25, 22
  5. Irenaeus: Verses 18, 21, 25, 28;
I restricted myself to two works at the site:
I believe this meets the requirement to find use of Romans 1:18-32 clearly cited by an Apostolic Father: Irenaeus

However, it doesn't really deal with the textual issue, just the documentary evidence. So, what do you all think about that?

Appendix to the Appendix: The critic addressed the texual issue here

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