Sunday, October 18, 2020

Paul's Preaching of God's Word and the Corinthian Community

In a recent issue of the Journal for the Study of the New Testament is published a new article which is freely available as Open Access.

Timothy Mitchell, “Exposing Textual Corruption: Community as a Stabilizing Aspect in the Circulation of the New Testament Writings during the Greco-Roman Era.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 43. 2 (December 2020): 266–298.

In this paper I look at the publication and distribution practices of the first few centuries of the Christian era. I argue that because books were copied and circulated primarily through social networks in a community, this naturally created an environment where any macro-level changes to the text, literary theft, and plagiarism of these writings was exposed through these same social networks.

In the article I give examples of this phenomena from pagan and Christian sources. Some of the examples are taken from the New Testament. Though these examples from the New Testament discuss communities of Christians that are in a position to expose doctrinal corruption rather than being explicit references to revealing textual corruption. 

One such example that I did not include in the article is found in the Christian Community of Corinth. Paul wrote to the Corinthian community concerning his ministry of preaching and teaching;

"Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." (2 Corinthians 4:1-2; ESV)

Here Paul is declaring that he did not twist or "tamper" with God's word. They simply declared the truth and this was done "to everyone's conscience in the sight of God." Because he taught openly the word of God, the community could see for themselves that he was not twisting God's word.

Paul is here referring most likely to the "exegetical" or "interpretational" tampering of God's word and not to the physical tampering of their copies of the scriptures. This same community would be able, in the same way, to detect where Paul would tamper with the "text" if his ministry ever attempted to do so.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020