Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Addressee of the Prologus Galeatus

I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't know the identity of the addressee(s) of Jerome's Prologus Galeatus, but other scholars seem to know, but I can't find anyone who actually cites any evidence for their assertions, and scholars are divided on the identity of the addressee(s), into two basic camps, but they don't even seem to realize that there is this split opinion.

Okay, a little background. The Prologus Galeatus is what Jerome calls his Preface to Samuel and Kings, the preceding note he attached to his Latin translation of these Hebrew books. This is his most famous preface because it gives Jerome's list of the canonical books for the OT, and in it he calls the deuterocanonical literature "apocrypha." I myself have written on this preface a few times (see here and here), but I have never wondered before to whom Jerome dedicated the preface.

The problem is that the preface does not actually name anyone as the addressee, though it is clearly addressed to someone. Near the end of the preface Jerome says this: "But I ask you also, the handmaidens of Christ..." Jerome is addressing his audience, and he seems to think this consists of plural females, given the form of the word he uses: handmaidens (famulae). But, he doesn't name them.

Unless you're reading the Migne text, where he does name them: Sed et vos famulas Christi (Paula et Eustochium), rogo ... (PL 29.604a). But there is no manuscript support for this insertion (according to the Roman edition of the Vulgate).

On the other hand, just a little earlier in the preface, Jerome addressed the reader in the singular: obsecro te, lector. So, he possibly gives divergent hints about the identity of his addressee(s).

The old NPNF translation says that the addressees are Paula and Eustochium, friends and patrons of Jerome. This makes a lot of sense; Jerome dedicated many of his works to this mother-daughter pair. This same view is found in the work of Alfons Fürst (here, p. 87), and in an article by Igino Cecchetti (in this Festschrift, p. 81), and in an article by L. H. Cottineau (in this book, p. 56). Again, none of these scholars cite any evidence for this view; they seem to assume that the names Paula and Eustochium are actually in the text. They're not.

Other scholars think that Domnio and Rogatianus were the addressees, or maybe just Domnio. Even though Jerome did dedicate some works to these men (see, e.g., the Preface to Ezra), this suggestion makes less sense to me because of the feminine form of famulae, mentioned earlier. At any rate, for this identification, see Pierre Nautin (TRE 15, p. 310: only Domnio); Christoph Markschies (here, p. 150 n. 117: only Domnio); Megan Hale Williams (here, p. 283: Domnio and Rogatianus). The reasoning here seems to be that at Ep. 48.4 (Vallarsi numbering: 49.4), Jerome says that he sent a copy of this translation to Domnio.

So, which is it? I don't know. I surely wish some scholars would cite some evidence for their assertions. If you have any insight, dear reader, I'd love to hear it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quote of the Day

The art of interpreting the scriptures is the only one of which all men everywhere claim to be masters. 
--Jerome, Letter 53 to Paulinus of Nola, section 7 (395 CE)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Little Gidding and Theological Education

I'm not a poetry guy. I wish I were. I'm not. I don't know what T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding is about. In fact, I haven't even read the whole poem. But today I ran across these lines from near the end of the poem:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

Those lines resonated with me, especially in terms of theological education (I guess in other areas, too). Here's what I mean: if you do advanced study in theology, and come out at the other end still with some faith, you'll perhaps find that you've come full circle on certain topics. You'll find yourself affirming the same things you affirmed in your pre-critical years, things that you thought you had long abandoned once you were introduced to biblical scholarship. Actually, I guess these lines from Eliot sorta summarize biblical scholarship as a whole (except that, for biblical scholarship and for me, the journey continues; or, as Eliot says, the exploration has not ceased).

Example: I was reading Child's The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture, and found that Hugo Grotius in the seventeenth century "disregarded all appeals to the New Testament's use of the Old Testament as possessing any exegetical authority" (p. 231). And, of course, many biblical scholars would continue to affirm such a principle. And yet, after just finishing Hays' Reading Backwards (see here and here), I am very conscious that some major biblical interpreters today would want to argue with Grotius a bit. I think Hays would want to say: "Sure, Grotius, the usual interpretations of Isaiah that you've heard that have relied for their authority on the NT have been way off, and so we should abandon them. But that doesn't mean that the NT has nothing to teach us in regard to how to read Isaiah. Really, it's just that the interpretations you've heard have been bad interpretations, not that their principle that the NT has exegetical authority in terms of the OT is a bad principle. Those interpretations have just misinterpreted the NT's use of the OT, and so necessarily have misinterpreted the OT. But when approached critically, the NT can offer guidance for our appropriation of the OT."

That's what I imagine Hays might say to Grotius. What he actually does say is:
it would be a hermeneutical blunder to read the Law and the Prophets as deliberately predicting events in the life of Jesus. But in light of the unfolding story of Jesus, it is both right and illuminating to read backwards and to discover in the Law and the Prophets an unexpected foreshadowing of the later story. (p. 94)
Here is a way that Hays (presumably--at least it's true for me) has arrived at the beginning and has seen it for the first time. This example seems indicative of the theological enterprise as a whole: you often come back to affirm the things you believed in your younger years, but for completely different reasons from the ones that undergirded your beliefs previously.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The End of Reading Backwards

I've now finished Richard Hays' new book. I'm glad to own it and to have read it. At 100 pages, it's definitely worth a read. It's a book I would want to refer to when thinking or teaching about the christology of the Gospels, and to some extent about the OT in the NT.

The last chapter offers a review of previous chapters and some concluding observations. I found this paragraph interesting:
For my own part, if I must declare my own sympathies with respect to the canonical Gospel writers as readers of Scripture, I find John the most problematical and Mark the most theologically generative in a postmodern era where direct speech about God is not a simple matter. And--candidly--I'm still trying to puzzle out what I think about Matthew. A good argument can be made, however, that if we had to choose just one of the Gospels as a hermeneutical guide for the long haul, Luke offers the most adequate load-bearing narrative framework for the church's reading and proclamation of Scripture. (pp. 102–3) 
The final thing here is a list of "ten ways that [the Gospels] might teach us how to read Scripture" (p. 104). Here is the list, though I omit much of Hays' exposition of each point.

  1. "A Gospel-shaped hermeneutic necessarily entails reading backwards, reinterpreting Israel's Scripture in light of the story of Jesus." 
  2. "More specifically, Scripture is to be reinterpreted in light of the cross and resurrection." 
  3. "Similarly, the Evangelists' diverse imaginative uses and transformations of the OT texts summon us also to a conversion of the imagination." 
  4. "For the Evangelists, Israel's Scripture told the true story of the world." 
  5. "It is important to emphasize that the Evangelists' retrospective reinterpretation of Israel's story is in no sense a negation or rejection of that story." 
  6. "The Gospel writers approach Scripture as a unified whole, but their reading of it is not undifferentiated." (He means that each Evangelist has his favorite parts of the canon.)
  7. "With regard to the question of canon, it is probably worth mentioning something I have been assuming throughout these lectures, though not directly arguing: the Scripture employed by the Evangelists is, on the whole, the Greek Bible (LXX)." (Hays seems not to mean that this has any canonical implications--i.e., which books the Evangelists accept as scripture--but that it does have implications for the text of scripture to be used by the church. This point is one that I would like to discuss further with Hays.) 
  8. "Because the Evangelists are so deeply immersed in Israel's Scripture, their references and allusions to it are characteristically metaleptic in character: that is, they nudge the discerning reader to recognize and recover the context from which the intertextual references are drawn." 
  9. "And now I come at last to the central substantive thesis that has emerged for me with increasing force the more I have tried to work my way into learning from the Evangelists how to read Scripture. The more deeply we probe the Jewish and OT roots of the Gospel narratives, the more clearly we see that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identifies Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel." 
  10. "Finally, the Evangelists consistently approach Scripture with the presupposition that the God found in the stories of the OT is living and active." 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reading Backwards

I'm half-way through Richard Hays' new book Reading Backwards, on the use of the OT in the Gospels. It's a good book, if you like that sort of thing (which I do). Hays argues that the Evangelists' figural reading of Israel's Scriptures arises from and demonstrates their belief in the divine identity of Jesus. Thus, Hays explicitly depends on Bauckham's formulation of Jesus' divine identity.

I'm not reading the book for this reason--I didn't even realize this issue of divine identity played such a crucial role in the argumentation. Really I just wanted to see what Hays did with the OT in the NT--I wanted something like Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, a title that Hays says (p. ix) he has joked about for some years as he has worked on a Gospels-focused sequel to his seminal 1989 study Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. This earlier book on Paul was probably, for me, the most mind-shattering book I had read. I guess it was foolish to hope for something similar from Hays on the Gospels, since once he has already shattered my mind, his job was more-or-less done. And so, this new book is not the life-changing read I experienced with Echoes. It's a good book, but I guess Hays (and others) have already taught me how to read scripture, and so much of what Hays is saying in this book makes me nod in agreement rather than stare blankly for an hour as I work through the implications of what I just read.

The book has six chapters: one on each Gospel, plus an introduction in which he explains what figural reading means, with some examples, and a conclusion in which he gathers the argument together and draws some implications (I guess, I haven't read it yet).

A summary of his chapter on Mark will give you a good flavor for what he's trying to do. He argues that Mark subtly presents the divine identity of Jesus, especially in his figural reading of the OT. Hays examines Mark’s intertextual allusions in Mark 1:2–3 (quotation of Isaiah 40); Mark 2:7 (who can forgive sins but God alone?); Mark 4:35–41 (stilling of the storm, echoing Psalm 107:32); Mark 6:34 (feeding the 5000, echoing Ezek 34); Mark 6:45–52 (walking on the sea, echoing Job 9:8–11; Exod 34).

Hays also recognizes that Mark distinguishes Jesus from God: Jesus will sit at the right hand of God (12:35–37; 14:62); only the Father, not the Son, knows the time of the end (13:32); Jesus is the Son (1:11; 9:7; 12:6), not the Father (8:38; 11:25; 14:36); in Gethsemane, Jesus obeys the Father’s will (14:36); the cry of dereliction (15:34).
In light of these elements of Mark’s story, how are we to understand the pervasive Markan indicators that Jesus is mysteriously the embodiment of God’s presence? Mark offers us no conceptual solution to the problem. Rather, his narrative holds these elements in taut suspension. His central character, Jesus, seems to be at the same time—if we may put it crudely—both the God of Israel and a human being not simply identical with the God of Israel. Thus, Mark’s story already poses the riddles that the church’s theologians later sought to solve in the christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries. (p. 27)
I think this is all very good, and it's nice to have it gathered together like this.

He points out a couple of cool things in Matthew: that the word προσκυνέω appears a lot more frequently in Matthew in reference to Jesus (2:2, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17). That is, Jesus receives "worship." The "clinching argument" (p. 45) in this reading of these passages comes from the temptation scene, when Jesus insists--in reliance on Deut 6:13--that only God should receive worship (Matt 4:9–10).
Once this commandment has been forcefully set forth in the narrative, readers have little choice but to interpret Jesus' acceptance of worship (προσκυνήσις) from other characters as an implicit acknowledgment of his divine identity. (p. 45). 
The other thing about his Matthew chapter that was new to me was his linking the theme of Jesus' presence as the Emmanuel (1:23; 18:20; 28:20) with the judgment scene in Matthew 25, when the king separates the righteous from the wicked and the criterion of judgment is treatment of the poor, because "as often as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (25:40). That is, Jesus is somehow present among the poor. Hays also cites Prov 19:17 in this regard, where kindness to the poor turns out to be equivalent to kindness to the Lord (p. 47).

I was a little surprised, given the title of the chapter on Matthew ("Torah Transfigured"), that the concept of Torah played so little a part in the discussion. I expected the Sermon on the Mount to feature more prominently, and other general interaction with "law". Hays sort of relegates it to a note (123n33).

Given Hays' analysis of Mark's subtle allusions to obscure Septuagint texts, there is possibly something to gain from thinking about what Mark thought about his audience's level of sophistication. Hays doesn't discuss this issue. I would think that an author who writes so allusively expects either that his audience will be highly learned in Israel's Scriptures or have great motivation to track down the intertexts. On the other hand, Matthew comes across as dumbing down making more explicit these intertexts--by actually citing the scriptures--which might imply (contrary to the way I've usually heard it) that Matthew didn't expect his readers to be quite so up to par on their knowledge of the Hebrew Bible.

The book is only about 100 pages (not including notes) and I'll enjoy finishing it.